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Partan Bree

There is a splendid statue of Field Marshall James Francis Edward Keith ( 1696 - 1758 ) looking seawards to the Continent in the Aberdeenshire town of Peterhead. The statue was gifted by Wilhelm 1, King of Prussia, to the townspeople of the Blue Toun, in recognition of the great service by Keith of Inverugie to Frederick the Great and the Prussian Army. The original statue , by the artist Taesart, stands in Berlin along with images of Keith's military contemporaries. As a Jacobite, James Keith of Inverugie had left his native land following the 1715 Rising and after returning to take part in the 1719 Rising, he saw service in the Russian and then Prussian armies. This weeks column gives three versions of an anecdote concerning his time in the service of Russia. On behalf of the Russians he fought major campaigns in both Poland and the Ottoman Empire, rising in rank to the highest level. The anecdote concerns the time he was campaigning in what is now the Ukraine against the Turks. It was common at that time for armies to break off hostilities at the end of autumn and go into winter quarters. As was normal a Turkish emissary approached Keith and asked if he would meet with a Turkish General, and after the normal guarantees of safety were concluded a private meeting duly took place on neutral ground with no attendants present. The supposed Turkish General opened the exchange "Ar ye Keith o Inverugie?" "A am" replied Keith. "Weill, A'm the soutar o Fyvie's son."

Another version of the story has Keith meeting with a Turkish Grand Vizier who arrived in Oriental splendour mounted on a camel. When the two men were alone the Vizier tore off his false beard and revealed himself as a former classmate of Keith's from the same parish school in Aberdeenshire who had mysteriously disappeared thirty years previously. "Foo's a' wi ye, man?" he greeted the astonished Keith.

Yet another version, which first appeared in print in 1850, was that following a truce meeting between Keith and a Turkish Vizier, at which negoiations were conducted through interpreters, the Grand Vizier took Keith by the hand and told him that he was "unco happy" to meet a fellow countryman in such an exalted position. "Dinna be surprised," the Vizier continued, "A'm o the same kintra as yirsel. A mynd weill seein ye an yir brither, whan louns, passin by ti the schuil at Kirkcaddie; ma faither wis the bellman o Kirkcaddie."

There is every reason to believe that Scots in foreign service did meet in such circumstances. The record of Field Marshall James Keith's exploits on behalf of the Russians and Prussians is well recorded and many Europeans captured in the Mediterranean by Turkish ships were commonly inducted into the Turkish services. This would explain how a 'Scottish' Turkish General/Vizier was carrying out truce negotiations. But whether the Turkish General/Grand Vizier came from Aberdeenshire or Fife, he would, like Field Marshall Keith, be well aquainted, from their youth, with this weeks recipe - Partan Bree - a delicious crab soup.

Partan Bree

Ingredients: 1 large boiled crab; 3 oz long grain rice; 1 pint chicken stock; 1 pint milk; quarter pint single cream; half teaspoon anchovy essence; salt and pepper

Remove all the meat from the crab and set aside the flesh from the large claws. In a pan boil the rice in the milk until soft but take care not to over cook. Add the crab meat ( except from the claws ), and rub the mixture through a sieve into a clean pan. Bring to the boil gradually, stirring in the chicken stock. remove from the heat and add the anchovy essence, the meat from the claws and salt and pepper to taste. reheat but do not boil, stir in the cream and when hot serve immediately. Serves 4.

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