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Partan bree




Partan bree is another Scottish delicacy defined simply in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) as “crab soup”. According to DSL, the type of crab used is “the common edible crab”. (Partan is, of course, the Scots word for a crab.)


The dish was documented in 1909 in the Cookery book of Lady Clark of Tillypronie. DSL also cites this from another cookbook; F Marian McNeill’s The Scots Kitchen (1929):


“Partan Bree with rice and cream intill't [into it]”. It is usually made with crab, crab liquor, rice, cream and/or milk with chives for a garnish.



At what must have been quite a feast, the menu for a dinner given by the Honourable Elizabeth Semple was reported in the Aberdeen Press and Journal of November 1935 and


“… included partan bree, Aberdeen haggis wi’ chappit neep tatties, roast muirfowl, and Scots flummery”.



Another dinner featured in the Aberdeen Evening Express of August 1978, this time described as “A Taste of Orkney”, with the following menu:


“Guests and overseas journalists joined for such traditional Orkney fare as partan bree, Orkney beef, clap shot and bere meal Bannocks”.



And at a Gallowgate pub in January 2020, a Burns’ Night menu was unveiled consisting of:


“Kedgeree Scotch eggs with vinegar peas, locally caught Scottish crab, celeriac and apple on wholemeal bread, served with a mug of partan bree (Scottish crab soup), and sugar-sweet Barras-inspired doughnuts are all on the menu”.


Perhaps partan bree will take over as a starter instead of cockaleekie at some Burns Suppers.


This Scots Word of the Week comes from Dictionaries of the Scots Language.

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