As Scotland prepares to celebrate Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight there are probably those who question what this means. At Great British Chefs we asked Scottish food blogger Graeme Taylor of A Scots Larder to tell us more about Scotland’s food scene. Through his post you’ll discover how Scotland is proud of her produce and wants to share it with the world.
As Scotland prepares to celebrate Scottish Food Fortnight there are probably those who question what this means. A nation that apparently revels in being the heart disease capital of Europe with a penchant for deep fried Mars Bars, haggis and lager. This to many an untrained eye is what food and drink means in Scotland. Those who look closer will find a natural larder that is the envy of the world and a thriving food scene that celebrates this abundance and is packed with talent, creativity, passion and commitment. Scotland is proud of her produce and wants to share it with the world.
Sun setting across Applecross Bay
Scotland is a land of contrasts, it has a largely wild landscape with beautiful unforgiving mountains, heather filled glens and great lochs. It is interspersed with arterial rivers which once carried a people to the new world on ships, returning with produce to trade in the large conurbations. Surrounding it all are briny seas and oceans. This landscape is ideal for a huge array of creatures to make their home. Deer, both red and roe as well as rabbits and hare all thrive. In the air are any number of game birds: pigeon, partridge, pheasant and the most celebrated of all, the grouse, are found in forest and glen. When the land meets the sea in places like the Solway you’ll find wildfowl such as mallard, wigeon and teal.
The majestic rivers Tweed and Spey were once teeming with wild salmon, however unfortunately due to the decline in numbers wild sea trout is now the best alternative. In the sea lochs and you’ll find lobster, crab, langoustines, mussels and hand dived scallops, many or most of which will never see a Scottish table as they are immediately shipped to the appreciative plates of Europe and beyond.
Fish counter at Loch Fyne Oysters
Herring were once the staple fish of many a Scottish coastal fishing village and though less abundant are still landed along with haddock, cod, coley, hake, mackerel and much more. Ancient preservation techniques for these result in Arbroath smokies, kippers and bradan rost amongst others.
When wild food gives way to farmed then Scotch Beef is king and above all is the beef lovingly organically reared and grass fed with varieties such as the world famous Aberdeen Angus and Dexter. Scotch lamb is also very much back on the menu as is rare breed pork. In addition to meat from these animals there’s also many ‘by-products’. Stornoway black pudding has European protected status and the great chieftain, the haggis, is ubiquitous when celebration of Robert Burns or St. Andrew is the order of the day. Add to this cheeses like Dunlop, crowdie and caboc; soft fruits like raspberries and strawberries, craft beer, Scotch whisky plus barley and oats and you start to get a picture of the flavours of Scotland. As broad ranging, welcoming and diverse as the people who are proud to call themselves Scots.
Pork belly lunch at Cail Bruich, Glasgow
With all this natural produce available it’s hardly surprising that the food scene is booming. Shirley Spear blazed a trail in the mid-80s with The Three Chimneys as did Nick Nairn at the same time and whose TV appearances in the 1990s increased the profile further. These days guys like Tom Kitchin and Andrew Fairlie are instantly recognisable, showcasing Scottish produce to the highest standards at their restaurants. There’s a huge array of talented chefs including Neil Forbes, Mark Greenaway and Chris Charalambous treating their guests to this wonderful Scottish food and also happy to share their knowledge and advice with home cooks via Twitter. Meanwhile Derek Marshall serves stunning seafood at Gamba in Glasgow as a proud member of Sustainable Restaurant Association highlighting the importance of sourcing standards. The future of Scottish food is in safe hands to the extent that choosing a restaurant to eat in is not a decision filled with trepidation but filled with excitement.
The food boom isn’t confined to the big cities of the central belt, but is country wide. Gordon’s Restaurant in Angus was named 2012 Best Rural Restaurant, The Wee Hurrie in Troon Best Takeaway Restaurant, Aberdeen’s Cock & Bull Best Pub Grub and I have to add my beloved Applecross Inn to the list of wonderful places around Scotland, a list that is more exhausting than exhaustive.
Seafood platter at Applecross Inn
If you prefer more informal, perhaps more adventurous dining experiences then pop-ups, supperclubs and even crowd funded events are now proving popular. With people like Aoife Behan delivering Burgher Burger guerrilla dining where tickets sell out in minutes and create:eat, an extravagant crowd funded dining event to showcase the brightest and the best of Edinburgh’s food, drink and design talent. Many others will line up to open their houses to you of an evening, I only wish I had their courage. Farmers Markets in practically every town and city, farm shops, committed artisan producers, bloggers and food groups like Total Food Geeks in Edinburgh and Glasgow add to the landscape of food lovers celebrating Scottish food as we enter this Scottish Food Fortnight. Now. Who’s for a deep fried mars bar? Thought not.
You’ll find a host of recipes from some of Scotland’s finest restaurants over on Great British Chefs site. Let us what some of your favourite Scottish food & drinks are.