IAM fanatical about the wonderful ingredients we have access to in Scotland and I feel lucky to be a chef here.
But I’m also proud to see a craft drinks revolution happening in Scotland right now. When we opened The Scran & Scallie last spring, we set out to find the best local artisan drinks producers and we’ve been on an incredible journey of discovery, meeting producers and suppliers of beers, ales, gins and whiskies who share a genuine passion and expertise in what they do.
Gins created in Scotland are plentiful and it’s wonderful to see so many producers perfecting the careful craft of distilling, from Edinburgh Gin, to The Botanist from Islay, to Darnley’s View Gin, also from Edinburgh. Pickering’s Gin, handcrafted in Edinburgh at Summerhall Distillery, opened the first gin distillery in the capital for more than 150 years.
Gin typically consists of juniper berries, citrus peel, coriander and cardamom seeds, angelica and orris root, but many of these Scottish producers are also using local and regional botanicals in their gins to make them distinctive. It’s been wonderful for our teams at our restaurants to try these premium local spirits, and we are proud to create seasonal cocktails for our guests so they can try something new and local every time they visit.
Scotland is also helping to drive the craft beer movement and it’s an exciting time for the industry. A good quality beer will make it much easier to pick up notes and flavours to match with your food, or it can be used in your cooking. Most of these modern ales are cask or bottle conditioned, which means you get plenty of flavour and often natural carbonation. The beers we serve span from as far afield as the Orkney Islands and the Hebrides to more local brewers such as Harviestoun Brewery, Fyne Ales, Williams Bros Brewing Co, Isle of Skye Brewing Co, Stewarts Brewery and The Highland Brewing Co.
It’s also wonderful to see new whiskies being launched so more people can enjoy and discover our national drink. I recently cooked for, and hosted, the launch of David Beckham’s Haig Club single grain whisky made at Cameronbridge Distillery – the oldest grain distillery in Scotland. One of the dishes I served was whisky panna cotta, using the new Haig Club blend. It was an honour and pretty nerve-racking for me, cooking for these familiar faces from sport, music and fashion, but what made me really proud was the spotlight it shone on Scotland – our wonderful landscape, produce and hospitality.
Not just for drinking or creating cocktails, these artisan drinks boast such natural, wild flavours they can often work well in cooking too, from batters and sauces, to sweet treats and puddings. Sláinte!
Beer-Battered Cod Cheeks
600g cod cheeks
Sift the flour, yeast and a pinch of salt into a large bowl and whisk in the beer to give a thick batter. It should be the consistency of very thick double cream and should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Thickly coat the cod cheeks with batter, carefully place half of them in the hot sunflower oil and fry at 180 degrees for four to six minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from the pan, drain and place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper, then keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining fillets the same way.
Apple Crumble cocktail
50ml North Berwick Gin
35ml apple juice
1 egg yolk
pinch of cinnamon
20ml lemon juice
20ml sugar syrup
Put all of the above ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice to combine and double strain into a martini glass and serve with a slice of apple and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Whisky Panna Cotta with Caramel and Orange Syrup
For the panna cotta
70g caster sugar
3 leaves of bronze gelatine
juice of ¼ lemon
50ml whisky of your choice
2 large oranges – segmented
handful of mint leaves
2½ inch ring mould
For the caramel and orange syrup
50g caster sugar
100ml orange juice
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. In a heavy-bottomed pan on a low heat warm the milk, cream and sugar until the sugar has fully dissolved. Remove the gelatine sheets from the water and squeeze out any excess liquid. Add to the milk, cream and sugar. Then add the lemon juice and whisky. Once cooled, pour into moulds or glasses and leave to set in the fridge for approximately two to three hours before serving with the caramel and orange syrup, segmented and sliced orange and a sprinkling of mint leaves.
In a heavy bottom pan gently caramelise the sugar until it is golden. Carefully add the orange juice and water taking care not to let the caramel split. Allow to boil for two to four minutes then remove from the heat. Add a little whisky if desired.