Stephen Jardine: A St Andrew’s Day to savour

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jon Savage

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jon Savage

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HAPPY St Andrew’s Day. For years, our national day has been an occasion in search of a purpose. With Burns Night celebrated internationally, St Andrew’s Day badly needed a focus, and this year it has it in the shape of food and drink.

And why not? While St Patrick’s Day has become a marketing exercise for Guinness, in the US Thanksgiving is all about a feast, and that is the model we should be aiming for here.

This column often reflects the success of Scottish food and drink in the international export marketplace. Just this week, a delegation led by Scotland Food and Drink has been in India exploring new opportunities for our produce on the international stage.

That is good news, but too often it is overlooked at home. St Andrew’s Day gives us a chance to savour the turnaround in our food and drink culture that has placed it on a world stage.

The fact that this year it falls on a Saturday helps. It’s a day when we all have a bit more time to shop local and eat the best we possibly can. If Burns Night has haggis, on St Andrew’s Night we are spoiled for choice. Scotch lamb is still in season and will be a popular centrepiece for a celebration, but at the end of the day St Andrew was a fisherman and produce from the sea is where we excel.

It doesn’t have to be something fancy. While some may serve oysters and lobster, a family fish pie is just as good a way to feast for Scotland.

For chefs up and down the country, this is a chance to showcase their talent and Scottish produce at it’s very best.

At last night’s St Andrew’s Food and Drink Festival dinner that meant venison stew and loin of red deer. In London, Tom Kitchin served up hogget and hake Cullen skink at the Downing Street celebration while Roy Brett has smoked haddock chowder on the menu at today’s St Andrew’s event at Loch Fyne in Argyll.

Food minister Richard Lochhead will celebrate tonight with industry colleagues at a special dinner in Aberdeen featuring slow-braised pork belly with hand-dived scallops, all cooked by Nick Nairn.

Meanwhile in Edinburgh, a Scotsman food columnist is putting his money where his mouth is. For years I’ve called for this day to be made into a food and drink event, so now it’s time to step up to the mark.

I’ve accepted a very kind invitation from Porto and Fi to spend tonight in the kitchen helping deliver their St Andrew’s Night dinner. My two St Andrew’s night specials on the menu are lamb and salmon, and they will be served with some fear and terror.

That said, I’m really looking forward to being at the sharp end. All my tips from the night are going to the Scottish charity Mary’s Meals, which feeds hungry children in Africa. I hope St Andrew would approve.

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