St. Margaret of Scotland

Cooking Through the Christian Year


Raimondi, Marcantonio. St Margaret holding a palm in her raised left hand, a dragon at her right. Engraving. 4 1/4 x 4 5/8 in. (10.8 x 11.8 cm). The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1948. New York City, New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This engraving depicts St. Margaret standing with her body in three-quarter view and her head turned slightly to the left, gazing down at the dragon at her feet. In her left hand, she holds a palm branch, which symbolizes her victory over death and her martyrdom. The dragon at her feet is depicted as a large, serpent-like creature with wings and a long, pointed tail. The dragon is a common symbol in Christian art, and in this case, it represents the devil or evil, which St. Margaret is said to have defeated through her faith and martyrdom.

The engraving itself is rendered in a highly detailed and intricate style, with fine lines and cross-hatching used to create texture and depth. St. Margaret’s flowing robes and hair are particularly well-detailed, as are the folds and curves of the dragon’s body. The overall effect is one of dynamic movement and intense emotion, as St. Margaret is shown triumphing over her foe and celebrating her victory.

St. Margaret of Scotland – November 16th

Margaret is the epitome of a Christian leader and the patron saint of Scotland. Despite her royal lineage, she had a difficult upbringing, with her family often in exile or starving for the English throne. While escaping from England, her family became shipwrecked in Scotland, where King Malcolm offered them protection and Margaret a hand in marriage.

As a pious Christian woman, who had seen how the church was operating all over the continent, she initiated reforms. She was a good influence on her husband and, in many ways, ruled with him. She became an example of what a “just ruler” should be. She helped establish many monasteries, including Dunfermline, where she was buried, and restored the famous Abbey at Iona. She also believed that it was the ruler’s vocation to assist the poor and needy with the giving of alms.

To honor this saint, we are having warm and buttery Scottish shortbread biscuits. They are simple, yet a perfect winter treat, often associated with Christmastide. Legend has it that it was St. Margaret’s descendant and future Scottish ruler, Mary Queen of Scots, who had the Scottish shortbread invented. Mary was highly devoted to St. Margaret, so much so that when she was in difficult labor with the future King of England James, she had Margaret’s head exhumed and brought to her. Margaret is still an inspiration to all leaders, especially women, who follow in her footsteps.

Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Cookies

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Difficulty: Easy

Shortbread cookies are a type of cookie that originated in Scotland. Traditionally, shortbread is made from a simple combination of butter, sugar, and flour. The name "shortbread" comes from the high fat content of the butter, which makes the texture of the cookie "short", meaning crumbly or tender.

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  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2/3 cup confectioners sugar

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into thin slices


  • Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle position.
  • Pulse 1/2 cup rolled oats in food processor until they are as fine a powder as possible.
  • Using a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment, mix the 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 2/3 cup confectioners sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt with the oats on low speed until combined.
  • Add the slices of butter one piece at a time and mix until a dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Place the collar (don't use the pan bottom) of a 9" springform pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the dough evenly into the collar, smoothing the top of the dough with your hand and the back of a spoon. Using a 2" round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out the center of the dough and place the round center piece on the baking sheet outside the collar. Replace the cookie cutter to the center of the dough. Open the springform collar but leave it in place around the dough.
  • Bake for 5 minutes at 450°F. Reduce the oven temperature to 250°F and continue to bake until the edges are pale golden, 10 - 15 minutes.
  • Remove baking sheet from the oven and turn off the heat. Remove springform collar. Using a knife, score the surface of the shortbread into 16 even wedges, cutting down about halfway through the shortbread. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, poke 8 - 10 holes in each wedge. Return the shortbread to the oven, propping the door open with the handle of a wooden spoon. Let the shortbread dry in the turned-off oven for about 1 hour.
  • Remove shortbread and let continue to completely cool outside the oven for an additional 1 - 2 hours. Cut shortbread on scored marks before serving.