Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Flying Scotsman Train and Salmon with Sauce Raifort

‘Flying Scotsman' poster, Leo Marfurt, 1928

The legend of the Flying Scotsman began in 1862. The name was bestowed upon the lightening fast 10am train that ran between London and Edinburgh on the Special Scotch Express line –– in 1928 that became the Flying Scotsman Service.

Flying Scotsman, 1928

With speeds that reached 126mph, it was a grand ride for over 50 years (it was the first train to break 100 mph). As a steam train, it was finally sidelined in 1963. This engine is a legend among train aficionados.

Sean Connery on The Orient Express in From Russia with Love, Guardian

Raise your hand if you’ve always wanted to indulge in the old-world luxury of travel on the Orient Express or the Flying Scotsman trains. Mine is high in the air for this one –– a bucket list entry for sure. When I was sent a copy of a book on the venerable Flying Scotsman, I dove right in.

Flying Scotsman: The Most Famous Steam Locomotive in the World was written by James Baldwin –– a man possessed with the train. Specifically, possessed with the legendary engine called the Flying Scotsman –– a name synonymous with speed and luxury.

Flying Scotsman 1963

Allan Pegler, formerly involved with the British Railway, called the train ‘the lady of his dreams’ and bought the Flying Scotsman engine (rechristened with the original number 4472), taking it all around the country until British Railways put a stop to it in 1968 (it had been the only steam train allowed to use British Rail tracks –– other enthusiasts complained).

The train toured America, ending up in California but met an ignominious end in Stockton due to collapsing finances. There, many of the cars were dismantled for scrap. Some were repurposed for the Victoria Station restaurant at Universal Studios in LA –– the engine languished in storage.

Royal Scotsman 2002

The engine was repatriated to England in the 70’s where it was restored and refurbished.  In an odd way, the story reminded me of an iron version of the story Black Beauty (my favorite book as a child), with the train going through highs and lows through various owners -- snatching fame from the jaws of doom multiple times and still much loved.  After Pegler, it saw 2 more owners before reaching its final home.  All of the owners were crazy about the train –– a very, very expensive mistress (her spa visits cost millions).

The book tells the story of the train from its 1862 beginning to its latest restoration at the Railway museum – it’s quite a tale, sure to delight any railway enthusiast and full of photographs of the old girl from the beginning to various stages of undress during the refurbishing. Who knew so much went into a train!

You can look into the progress of the restoration of the iconic train engine HERE.  It should be ready to roll again in 2015.

View from The Royal Scotsman window, Peter Jordan/Time Life Pictures

Although train enthusiasts think of the Royal Scotsman as an engine, the romantic notion of the Royal Scotsman as a passenger train has been reborn. Once again it ferries passengers in total luxury touring Scotland whilst indulging in fine and fabulous food in gorgeous train cars that look like something out of Murder on the Orient Express. No wonder, the same company owns both trains (in a nod to progress, for better or worse, the Belmond Royal Scotsman uses a diesel engine, not coal-powered steam like the original train).

With only 36 passengers and a 3 to 1 staff ratio, it is indeed a luxury (starting at £2,350 for 2 nights, £4,330 for 4 nights, for food, drinks and tours –– you can book it HERE). I can't think of a better way to see the natural beauties of Scotland than from a train (they even stop at night so you can sleep without the motion of the car on the tracks).

Although most of the cars are 1960 vintage, they have been retrofitted to feel like an Edwardian train (a dining car is 1928 vintage). Kilts and/or and black tie are required for some of the dinners.

The first class restaurant car on the Flying Scotsman, August 1928. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Davis/guardian.co.uk


Day One Dinner 


Tian of Scottish Salmon, Marinated Cucumber, Dill Crème Fraiche 

Main Course 

Supreme Of Guinea Fowl, Chateau Potatoes, Sautéed Wild Mushrooms, 

Tarragon & White Bean Cassoulet 


Strawberry & Vanilla Crème Brûlée, Orange Shortbread 

Day Two Lunch 

Main Course 

Roasted Sweet Pepper & Pesto Risotto, Chargrilled Asparagus, Parmesan Tuile, Red Wine Reduction 
(Can Serve With Meat and Fish Options) 


Milk Chocolate & Pear Cheesecake, Roasted Baby Pears, Raisin & Pecan Compôte 

Day Two Dinner 


Beef Consommé, Oxtail Ravioli, Tomato & Barley 
Main Course 

Baked Fillet of North Sea Halibut, Wilted Spinach, Boulingère Potatoes, Crayfish Butter Sauce 


Timbale of Seasonal Berries in a Rose 

Royal Scotsman sample menu

Every review of the Royal Scotsman that I read talks about the food on the train. The website for the train even includes recipes (HERE) for some of the dishes that are served in the dining cars –– things like monkfish and cod casserole, Fillet of beef with horseradish mash and whiskey panna cotta with raspberry sorbet.  These are so evocative of the Scottish spirit, using products the Scots are justly famous for. Local food is used as often as possible. It is brilliant food.  Gazing at the full menu the company sent me, I can say I would be a very happy camper feasting on wheels.

When I first thought about doing a post on the Flying Scotsman, the first thing that came to mind was salmon.  I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to make the magnificent Sauce Raifort, a creamy classic sauce made with horseradish and walnuts and this seemed like a perfect occasion. See how things fall in to place?

one of the Flying Scotsman's 2 dining cars

Escoffier’s original was served to him in the Haute Savoie on a fish poached in white wine. Elizabeth David recommended it for salmon. Walnuts, horseradish, cream and salmon are so right for a Scottish meal, aren’t they?

Elizabeth David’s Sauce Raifort

2 oz shelled walnuts
2 T freshly grated horseradish
1T sugar
pinch salt
¼ pint heavy cream
juice of ½ lemon

Pour boiling water over walnuts and when they are cool enough to handle, rub off the brown skin leaving the white flesh of the nuts. It’s a bit of a pain to do but makes a better sauce. Toss them in a blender with the rest of the ingredients except the lemon and pulse a few times. Add the lemon and let rest covered for a short time to blend the flavors.

Serve with any poached, grilled, sautéed baked or smoked fish –– hot or cold.

Flying Scotsman (made famous by Harry Craddock of the Savoy Bar, London)

1 ½ oz. Scotch
1 ¼ oz. sweet vermouth
1 t bitters
1 t simple syrup

Stir with ice and strain into chilled glasses. Serve with a twist of lemon

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Barbara said...

There are times I'd like to be shot back to those days of travel elegance. And then, not. :) But we can dream, looking at your photos.
I had a great aunt who was a world traveler all her life. When she became ill and she didn't have much time left, she told her daughter the one thing she had never done and dearly wanted to. (Read bucket list here!) That was travel on the Orient Express. And by God, they did it! They had to come home unexpectedly, but she got her ride!
Happy Thanksgiving, Deana.

La Table De Nana said...

To travel in those days was epically glamourous.
Everything looks just so..just right.
Old world elegance.
I love that era.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving:)

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Yes I would LOVE to go on the orient express...someday....I didn't even KNOW about this train! And through Scotland no less (also on the bucket list as i'm 1/2 scottish with a Scottish grandmother).
Love your little joke about spa treatments ;-)
This sauce sounds wonderful. I've never attempted to take the skin off a walnut but I'll try it if it makes all the difference. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Gail Gallagher said...

Love this!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What an incredible train journey! I would love to travel like that. It's very romantic and has an air of intrigue and mystery with so many books set on a train!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

I am finally here, with train ticket to a lovely past in hand, and hungry enough to devour this feast. Deana, good glory woman, your recipes coupled with a good story just get my long-lost culinary skills out of the pantry. First of all, that salmon with the walnut sauce looks outrageous. Salmon is my favorite fish and this has to be on my menu for Christmas or New Years.

I am thankful for young people like you who care about the treasures of the past and keep them alive with such class and refinement. Your writing is professional, your critiques and histories always of superior quality, and your recipes a must-have. Wishing you a fabulous Thanksgiving no matter where you are. Thanks also for coming by....yes, I will fill in the void of no family with memories and new memories made here in my home.


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

What an amazing trip to do, and thanks for the link to the recipes. We love salmon so that dish would go down well in this house. Hope that you are well and that the Dr is well again. Take care Diane

Anonymous said...

Amazing post, Deana! I've said this before....when are you getting a book publishing deal?
-Jeff W.

Linda said...

Fantastic post! Thank you so much for sharing.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What a glamorous ride it must have been! Certainly wouldn't mind sitting across the table from the young James Bond either :)

The sauce recipe sounds wonderful and one I'd love to try on any fish but especially salmon.

The cocktail sounds much like my favorite Rob Roy.

Karina A. Fogliani-Ahmed said...

I have a nice promotional brochure on the Royal Scotsman printed in 2002, which I used to write a mystery story that was published in the "Vanguard" cat club magazine. A seriously expensive and notorious train, offering high end cuisine.