Scottish Barbecued Chicken

Barbecued Chicken à la Mrs James Young. It looks an axe murder but trust me—it truly is delicious. But the chicken should have been carved before the sauce was poured over it.

Back in the 1960s the wife of eminent soldier-diplomat Sir Fitzroy Maclean, a spectacularly lovely woman named Veronica (1920-2005), published Lady Maclean’s Cook Book (Collins, 1965), a classic which I have dipped into from time to time. Charmingly illustrated with woodcuts and simulacrums of aristocratic notepaper, its 234 pages contained a compilation of typed and handwritten recipes contributed by Lady Maclean and her friends, a heady crew ranging from Nancy Lancester (Nettle Soup) to Pandora Astor (Pâtés Vertes, Watercress Soup) to the Duchess of Devonshire (Chocolate Cake) to Lady Birley (Devilled Sardines). Even Elizabeth David, the woman who changed British cookery with her adventuresome tastebuds and matchless joie de vivre, was part of the bunch, as was Sir Fitzroy, whose offerings included a fantastic hot pudding called Whisky Bananas.

One individual who supplied recipes for many favourite dishes was Phyllis Young, wife of Colonel James Young of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; they owned The Portsonachan Hotel near the village of Dalmally in Argyllshire, Scotland. I haven’t tried all her entries but Mrs. Young’s Barbecued Chicken is delectable, even if our production of it looks a bit messy as seen in the photograph above. The introduction to the recipe is charmingly practical: “We find this a good way of roasting chicken which has been deep frozen and is rather lacking in flavour.” Sign me up—what store-bought chicken doesn’t share these characteristics?

“It doesn’t look very appetizing,” my husband said once the platter was carried to the table, “but we really should have carved the chicken as directed—I didn’t notice that part of the recipe.” As for the taste, he noted, “It was wonderful. Not really barbecue-like, more tomato-like, with a tang.”

We turned the leftover meat into a chicken salad for the next day’s luncheon, binding it with a bit of mayonnaise and mixing in thinly slice celery and a dash of fennel seeds. The leftover sauce was added to the chicken bones, mixed with water, and turned into a broth for risotto.


Recipe by Mrs. James Young of The Portsonachan Hotel, Argyll, Scotland

SOURCE: Lady Maclean’s Cook Book by Veronica Maclean (Collins, 1965)



1 roast chicken [about 4 pounds]

1 teaspoon any mustard

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoonful salt

Ground black pepper

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

1 onion

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Tomato sauce [4 ounces or to taste]

HP sauce [order it from Amazon here]

Tomato purée [10-ounce can]

1 clove garlic


[Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.]

Chop onion finely and sauté in the butter, then add garlic, and all the liquids. Cook for half an hour [over a low to medium heat] and strain.

Put the chicken in a roasting pan. Mix the dry mustard, ginger, salt, and pepper together and rub well into the chicken and place the roasting pan in a hot oven and cook for 20 minutes. Pour the basting sauce over it and baste every 15 minutes until cooked [about 1 hour]. [Be sure to baste as directed, otherwise the barbecue sauce will burn.]

Carve the chicken and arrange on a platter. Skim fat from the sauce and reduce a little on top of the stove. When thickened pour over the carved chicken and serve.

Duck + Beer + Grapes

Duck cooked with beer and grapes—and garnished with sliced tomatoes.

Last night we dined on another culinary surprise from the pages of Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Cuisine de France, a 1961 classic that has been too long overlooked and out of circulation—canard à la bière aux raisins, or duck with beer and grapes.

The ingredients don’t sound exactly appetizing but trust me on this combination. Even when my husband looked in the refrigerator for some beer to use and could only come up with a couple of bottles of Guinness stout, it worked. I have a feeling Mme de Toulouse-Lautrec intended a golden lager instead of a dark Irish brew. Still it worked. Presumably the French-cookery icon intended green grapes in her recipe too, but I imagine seedless red grapes would work just as well and might be strikingly attractive.

FYI: We cooked the duck for almost an hour and 15 minutes in a classic Le Creuset French oven, only to find the bird was still a bit bloody. So it was taken off the flame, covered with the lid, and placed in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes to speed things along. That did the trick.

For those of you following the reactions of our eight-year-old daughter to our culinary experiments, she actually applauded the roast fowl, saying she liked it almost as much as chicken. She thought the hot grapes were odd though.


SOURCE: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion, 1961)



4- to 4-1/2 pound duck

1 onion

6 tablespoons butter

10 ounces beer (presumably lager)

Bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley)

1 large bunch seedless grapes (presumably green)

Salt and pepper


Prepare the duck as for roasting.

Chop the onion very fine. Heat the butter in a large pan, and when very hot, sauté the duck and onion together, turning the duck so that it will brown lightly on both sides. Add the beer and the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until tender, basting often. When the duck is cooked, remove it from the pan and keep hot.

Remove the bouquet garni from the sauce and add the grapes. Simmer for a few moments.

Divide the duck into serving pieces. Cover with the sauce and serve with boiled rice.