Keep taking the tablet

Forget about Belgian chocolate and Italian Ferraro Rocher if you really want to spoil an ambassador and his guests try some tablet.

It’s a delicacy that has graced the table of the highest and most lowly in this land and beyond for more than 300 years. The first known mention of it in the Household Book of poet and songwriter Lady Grisell Baillie (1665-1746) but even by then it was regarded as a ‘traditional’ confectionary.

tablet

Generations of Scots have had their own secret recipes which have been handed down through families the world over.

Versions can be found in cookbooks as widespread as Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Australia, Canada, Russia and New Zealand.

Made with sugar, condensed milk and butter it is the ultimate in luxury and comfort food which can be found in the finest restaurants and corner shops alike.

Some people like it hard with a bit of bite while others prefer it smooth and melt-in-the-mouth.

“Everyone in Scotland considers themselves to be a tablet connoisseur,” said Carole Inglis who set up Isle of Skye Fudge Company in 2002, and Isle of Skye Chocolate in 2010.

Carole Inglis

Carole Inglis

“My great grandfather owned two sweetie shops in Glasgow at the turn of the century and the recipe we use was passed down through the family.”

Carole, a former food and drink development manager for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, started the business after spotting a gap in the market for a quality Skye-branded tablet.

She started with a domestic cooker in a utility room connected to her home overlooking a sea loch on the Isle of Skye but, as demand grew, she was forced to convert a byre in the garden into a purpose-built kitchen and recruit a team of people to help. She now has one full-time and three part-timers working with her.

boiling fudge

As a firm believer in the idea that ‘small is beautiful’ and that micro-businesses are the backbone of the rural economy Carole is convinced companies like her’s appeal to an increasing swathe of the population who would like to know where their food comes from and the ethics behind its production.

“We use Scottish butter and fair trade sugar in our fudge, local Gaelic whisky in our truffles, a Highlands-grown company for our deliveries and we religiously recycle what we can,” said Carole.

Each batch is made with pure butter, sugar, full cream, condensed milk cooked slowly in open pans for a rich colour and intense depth of flavour.

Over the years Carole has expanded her repertoire by adding versions with ‘Talisker’ Single Malt Whisky or ‘Drambuie’ liqueur with a hint of heather honey and herbs alongside the more traditional tablet.

While a lot of sales are to tourists visiting Scotland – her tablet and chocolates are sold through a number of major visitor attractions such as Dunvegan Castle and Eilean Donan along with 40 other outlets across the Highlands – the internet has opened up a whole new customer base keen to experience a traditional taste of Scotland.