Shortbread for Hogmanay with food historian Kimberley Connor


2021 HAS been a difficult year and our New Year’s celebrations may be a bit smaller than usual but it can still be infused with tradition and good cheer.

Some of my favourite traditions come from Scotland where the celebration is called Hogmanay. If, on New Year’s Eve, you happen to have a tall, handsome, dark-haired man around the place then send him out just before midnight so that he can be the first guest to pass the threshold in the new year to bring good luck.

Traditionally the ‘first footer’ would carry gifts that represent the good things the new year would bring: coins for fortune, coal for warmth, whisky and shortbread or black bun for good food and company.

To make your own shortbread for first footing, or just to accompany a wee dram, there are lots of different versions available.

Classic recipes rely on just three ingredients – butter, sugar and flour – but most modern recipes include either rice flour or cornflour to adjust the texture.

For something more historical, try adding comfits (candied fennel or caraway seeds; brightly-coloured versions called mukhwas are available in Indian grocers) and candied citrus peel as in this recipe, published in the Australian Town and Country Journal in 1874.

“Scotch Shortbread. – Take one pound and a quarter of flour; rub into it half a pound of butter and one pound of sugar; then add half a cup of milk, and rub all together; then put into a shape, or roll it out rather thing, and cut it into shapes, and strew comfits and slices of candied peel upon the top.”

To see the original recipe, visit

For more historical recipes, visit Kimberley’s blog Turnspit & Table at


By Kimberley G. CONNOR, food historian and historical archaeologist

Leave a Reply