MY YEAR is taken up with thinking about food, and we are in the middle of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, of which I am proud to be the patron, so all of us need to take a moment to reflect on our home-grown successes.
These 14 days are dedicated to celebrating the best of our amazing larder. Proof that the wide range of foods produced throughout Scotland are the very best is to be found is the ever-increasing demand for Scottish foods throughout the rest of the world. Food exports are at an all-time high, unimaginable even a few years ago, and food is one of the greatest contributors to the Scottish economy.
I am convinced one of, if not the, major strength behind food production in Scotland lies in the fact the really successful producers are families and, in many cases, ones in their second and third generations of food production. Take haggis, and the Macsween family. In their third generation, they are exporting globally and are the best-known name in the world for their top-quality haggis, both meat and vegetarian. Then, when it comes to dairies, the Graham family continue to expand their wonderful range of produce, with delicious ice-cream now joining their milk, cream, butter and fabulous Jersey dairy products. Then there is the Macbeth butcher’s family, in Forres, now in its second generation, and producing wonderful meat, award-winning meat products, and distributing throughout Scotland. Those are just three examples of how families create such successful quality businesses. This is Scotland’s strength.
Tomato, cucumber, lemon and mint gazpacho
We buy our tomatoes from Ryefield Farm Shop (Muir of Ord, Ross-Shire, IV6 7SB, 01463 811276). This is so simple to make, delicious to eat and packed with nutrition.
• 1lb/450g ripe tomatoes, washed, halved and seeds scooped away – if you leave them the soup can taste bitter – the tomato halves chopped
• ½ cucumber, peeled with a potato peeler, halved lengthways and the seeds scooped away with a teaspoon, the cucumber then chopped
• 1 tablespoon chopped chives
• Small handful of mint leaves – no tough stalks – preferably applemint
• 1 pint/570ml stock, either chicken or vegetable
• Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
• 1 teaspoon salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper
Put the chopped tomatoes and cucumber into a food processor.
Add the chives, mint leaves, salt and black pepper, and finely grated lemon rind and whiz to a pulp.
Still whizzing, pour in the stock. When everything is smooth, tip the contents of the processor into a large sieve over a large bowl or measuring jug.
Sieve the puréed ingredients, using the back of a ladle to press through the sieve. When you have finished, and pressed out all you can, taste the soup and add more salt or pepper, or a tablespoon of lemon juice if you think it is needed.
Chill the soup until required, but serve it at room temperature to maximise the flavours within. If you like, serve it with a small mint leaf floating in the centre of each serving.
Raspberry and lemon fool
This looks pretty served in individual glasses.
• 1lb/450g raspberries – reserve 6 raspberries for garnish
• ½ pint/285ml whipping or double cream
• ½ pint/285ml natural yogurt
• Finely grated rind of 1 lemon and its juice
• 3oz/85g caster sugar
Put the raspberries into a bowl and crush them with the back of a fork.
Whip the cream, adding the caster sugar. When the cream is fairly thick, fold in the finely grated lemon rind and juice, and the yogurt and crushed raspberries.
Divide this simple “fool” evenly between the 6 glasses, and put a raspberry on top of each.
Blue cheese cake with oatmeal base
Excellent oatcakes are produced throughout Scotland and any make can be used for this recipe, but I use Nairn’s rough oatcakes.
For the base
• 200g – 1 packet – Nairn’s rough organic oatcakes, pulverised to crumbs in a food processor, or bashed with the end of a rolling pin in a deep bowl
• 2oz/55g butter, melted
Thoroughly mix the melted butter into the oatcake crumbs, then press this
firmly over the base and up the sides of a flan dish measuring about 9in/22cm in
Bake in a moderate heat, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes, then cool.
For the filling
• 8oz/225g Scottish blue cheese of your choice – Dunsyre blue, for example.
• 3 leaves of gelatine, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
• ½ pint/285ml warmed stock – I use good stock substitute such as Marigold powder made up with boiling water
• 4 tablespoons crème fraiche
• 10 grinds of black pepper, a grating of nutmeg
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
• 2 large egg whites with a pinch of salt
Lift the soaked gelatine leaves from their cold water bath, dripping off all water, and drop them into the hot stock.
Stir until the gelatine dissolves, which will be almost instantly. Leave till cold.
Put the blue cheese, cut into bits, into a food processor. Add the black pepper and a grating of nutmeg, and the cold gelling stock. Whizz till smooth. Add the crème fraiche and, briefly, whiz to combine it into the blue cheese mixture. Scrape the contents of the processor into a bowl.
Add the pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk them up till stiff. With a flat metal whisk thoroughly fold the whisked whites through the blue cheese mixture, adding the chopped parsley, then pour this into the cooled oatcake crumb base. Leave for 3-4 hours to set. Serve with a mixed leaf salad with a mustardy dressing.
• TOP TIP: The Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight runs until 16 September, www.scottishfoodanddrinkfortnight.co.uk/
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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