Monday, 29 September 2014

Fruit and Preserves: Guest Blogging at Edinburgh Foody

There's still time this season to preserve some of nature's bounty. The soft fruit may be nearly finished but there are the last of the plums, then brambles, apples and pears to enjoy. This summer I was delighted to write some guest posts for Edinburgh's most popular food blog Edinburgh Foody, on the subject of soft fruit and berries, how it's grown and how to cook it, plus a few tips on preserving.

If you're starting to feel a tiny bit nostalgic for summer past, have a read over at Edinburgh Foody about my visit to Cragie's Fruit Farm (the last one remaining near Edinburgh!). Also be sure to sign up for their newsletter to get all the latest info about what's happening on the foody scene here in the East, and to learn more about founder Danielle's journey in France training to be an artisan baker.

Friday, 1 August 2014

#ScotFood Chat 4 August, Edinburgh & Lothians

I'll be co-hosting the next #ScotFood Chat on 4 August, which this time focuses on Edinburgh and the Lothians. If you're interested in chatting about what's good, new and interesting about food in this area of Scotland, get on Twitter and meet some fellow foodies to discover more.

It's a great way to promote your event, business, product, blog or just to find out what's happening in Scottish Food and Drink.

It's simple to get involved, just respond to the questions below and join in. The chat goes quickly, so you can schedule your answers first to send time and then interact with others and post photos or links. Don't forget to use the hashtag #ScotFood.

#ScotFood Chat starts at 9pm, 4 August, hope to see you there!

  • 9:00 Q1 Introduce yourself, first part of your postcode, reason for joining #ScotFood chat
  • 9:05 Q2 Name one restaurant in Edinburgh you haven’t yet eaten in, but would like to, and why? #ScotFood
  • 9:15 Q3 There are lots of great food events during the summer in Scotland. Tell us about some you’ve visited. #ScotFood
  • 9:25 Q4 Where would you suggest to someone looking for a Foodie Hidden Gem in Edinburgh? #ScotFood
  • 9:35 Q5 Tell us about your favourite food market and what do you buy there? #ScotFood
  • 9:45 Q6 Anything else about the Scottish Food & Drink scene you’d like to share this month? #ScotFood
  • 10:00 #ScotFood ends for this month.  Next month Glasgow, Central Scotland & Clyde valley host on 1 September 2014 with @Eat_Scottish

Check out these pages if you’d like some more information about how to host or how to participate.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Recipes in The Bruntsfield Links magazine

As you may know I'm quite active in the community of Bruntsfield, helping to set up Dig-in Bruntsfield Community Greengrocer. I've also had the pleasure of contributing some seasonal recipes to the new Bruntsfield Links magazine, which is available online or you pick up a copy in local shops or cafes.
Sea Bass with Herbs

The latest July edition features Sea Bass and Broad Beans, and you can view May's delicious Asparagus Quiche online and also in the Meadows Directory magazine for June on the same website.

Do check out the Bruntsfield Links and like them on their Facebook page!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Crail Food Festival 2014 14-15 June

This weekend sees the 4th Crail Food Festival take place in the East Neuk of Fife and this year looks to be bigger and better than ever before. Across the two days highlights include special Children’s Workshops, Food Trail and The House of Sugar playing host to a Crail inspired 3D cookie art installation created by local company Sucre Coeur.

Over 50 local foodie participants are taking part with a special Tasting Theatre and Food Market with food samples to try all day. Local food and drink on offer will include cheese, venison, smoked fish, gin, and craft ales. One of the local producers taking part are Ceres' Chillilicious. Read my article about them on the Crail Food Festival website from earlier this year here

There will also be Meet the Producer workshops ranging from whisky and chocolate matching to cheese and wine pairing and a Cookery Theatre featuring demonstrations by a range of local cooks and chefs using seasonal produce.

The Crail Museum will use the festival as an opportunity to tell visitors about the historic local delicacy, the Crail Capon, a haddock smoked traditionally in a chimney. It's fascinating to learn more about these old histories and traditions, and I for one will be stopping by the museum to find out more. 

On Sunday Crail's picturesque harbour will play host to Sunday Lunch with street food vendors and local producers offering a cornucopia of fabulous local food. Shellfish from the sparkling waters off the East Neuk, traditional smokies, real ice cream, potted shrimp and home baking will all be available to enjoy.

Read my blog post from last year's festival here. I'll be heading up on Sunday to take some pictures, eat lobster and generally get involved. Let's hope it's a sunny day!!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Chocolate and Beer - Made For Each Other

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a new Beer and Chocolate tasting at the Eden Brewery in St Andrews, makers of specialist craft beers and one of the participants in this year's Crail Food Festival taking place this weekend. The brewery started in 2012 on the site of the old paper mill in Guardbridge, on the banks of the Eden Estuary. They began, as the Eden team put it, on the 'the micro side of micro breweries'. With the rise of craft ales new, independent breweries have been springing up across Scotland over the last few years and Eden are one of the new breed creating beer on their own terms.

The Beer and Chocolate tasting event is, along with brewery tours, market stalls and other tastings is one of the ways Eden Brewery are engaging with customers to make them more aware of the variety and versatility of beer. For these events they've teamed up with Hello Chocolate!, an artisan chocolatier based in Dunfermline to show how the flavours of both beer and chocolate go hand in hand.


On arrival we learned a little about the history of the site. In the 19th century there was a distillery there owned by the Haig family. They moved the distillery in 1860 and turned the site into a brewery and paper mill, but the brewery closed in 1882. The area had a long history of breweries and distilleries and in the 18th century there were 91 breweries in the parish of St Andrews. However from 1902 till Eden began in 2012 that number was zero; the rise of industrial production methods meant small scale breweries were no longer viable and their traditions, flavours and diversity were lost.

The Process

Then we looked at the brewing process. Making beer requires four key ingredients, malt (from barley), hops, yeast and water. The malt brings colour, sugar, sweetness, while the hops bring aroma and flavour, bitterness to offset the sweetness of the malt. Eden get their hops from Kent and Australia, and give their beer plenty of time to brew. They're keen on a random approach with 25 varieties and growing, with the focus firmly on creating beer with amazing flavours and character, from hoppy blonde ales to a toasty porter made with brown malt. Their wood cask conditioned ales use old rum, bourbon and whisky barrels to create intense flavours. The barrels are used only once, then recycled into furniture such as bar stools. The breadth and scope of flavours, taste and effect on the palette are every bit as complex and fascinating as wine or whisky.


Gill from Hello Chocolate! Took us through the process of transforming chocolate from the cocoa pod, bean, and nib to the cocoa solids and cocoa butter which then magically realign to make chocolate. We tasted a few pieces of 100% cocoa solids, bitter and intense, and 100% cocoa butter which melted in the plam of our hands to soften the skin! Dark, milk and white chocolates all contain different levels of cocoa solids, butter, milk, sugar and vanilla which Hello Chocolate! uses to create its artisan range. From their Dunfermline base Hello Chocolate! are now supplying chocolates for Gleneagles and the Balmoral Hotel , and can be bought online and at specialist suppliers.

Pairing Notes

The beers and chocolates were paired up, starting with the 'Oak Wood Series Highland Whisky' and the 'Cinnamon Tea cake'. The idea is that you take a sip of beer, taste it, then a bite of chocolate and then beer again, to see how the chocolate changes and brings out different flavours in the beer. The vanilla, spice and citrus in this hoppy beer were enhanced, yet any bitterness softened by the sweetness of the chocolate, a white chocolate ganache with cinnamon, citrus peel and ginger.

The 'St Andrews Blonde' was paired with the 'JFK Strawberry Daiquiri' a cute heart shaped chocolate topped with red glitter. The beer is zesty and light, one of Eden's first award-winning beers. The strawberry and rum in the chocolate worked with the fruitness of the beer to make this combination (too!) easy to enjoy.

Next up was the 'Oakwood Series Bourbon Barrel' and the 'Sticky Toffee Pudding' chocolate. This beer is conditioned in bourbon casks for 60 days and at the stronger end of the scale at 6.5%abv. Rich and smooth, both combine notes of chocolate, caramel, toffee and vanilla. The effect on the tongue is indulgent, warm and relaxing.

Lastly we sampled the 'Islay Oak Aged' and the 'Salted Caramel Picasso'. Another cask-conditioned ale, this time using whisky barrels from Islay. It's a strong peaty flavour due to the beer spending three months in the barrels to get a really intense, almost medicinal aroma and taste. Smoky and tobacco-like, the flavour of the beer is cut through by the salt and softened by the sweetness of the caramel.

It's an interesting and unusual concept, but one which could very well catch on, following similar beer and wine tastings which are now commonplace. After all, what's not to like, chocolate and beer combined! The Eden Brewery hopes to run the tastings twice a month for visitors to the brewery. As well as continuing and experimenting with their range of beers, this summer also sees the founding of a whisky and gin distillery on the site, continuing the proud history of brewing and distilling in this part of the world.

Eden Brewery will for the first time be taking part in this weekend's Crail Food Festival, with a stall at the Crail Community Hall and tastings with Mr C's Pies. Find all the details here.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Slow Food West Scotland Supper

Good, clean and fair in the West: A trip across country reveals some of Ayrshire's local delights

Earlier this month I was delighted to attend a recent supper organised by the Slow Food West Scotland convivium. After various Slow Food groups setting up across the area over the years they have now joined forces to grow the Slow Food movement in Glasgow and more rural areas. With the long standing Ayrshire Food Network and Glasgow's varied and expanding food scene, there is plenty of potential for Slow Food in the west.

The dinner had been organised to celebrate some of Ayrshire's finest producers and raise money for Slow Food. A wiggly but beautiful two hour drive from Edinburgh on the back roads, we arrived at the village hall in Dunlop for the dinner, the village associated with the traditional hard cheese of the same name. It really is incredible countryside once you leave the M8 behind and looked stunning on a warm spring evening.

Nearly 50  local producers, friends and supporters were there, with some making the train journey from Glasgow. With the support of the aforementioned Ayrshire Food Network we enjoyed a delicious meal starting with cheese canapes from Dunlop Dairy and Barwheys Dairy, with Haggis Scotch Eggs from Aye Love Real Food. Wines were provided by wine expert Pieter Rosenthal.

 The meal continued with onion soup and delicious sourdough bread from a baker in Oban. We then helped ourselves to a buffet-style meal of wonderful cold meats, raised pies and colourful salads. The emphasis was on local and on taste. The meats and pies from Nethergate Larder were incredible, with the pies full of herbs and a good crust.

The danger of a buffet!

For dessert we tried ice creams from two different producers, Lime Tree Larder and Wester Highgate Ice Cream. One more vanilla-ry, the other contained the spice of black pepper. They were served with a pipette of balsamic reduction - I haven't used a pipette since school! We relaxed with coffee from new Ayrshire artisans Roundsquare Roastery, and handmade chocolates. There was also a showing of short films about Ayrshire's many wonderful producers, which can be found on the Ayrshire Food Network website.

What really impressed me on the night though was Slow Food West Scotland's hard work to make the supper happen. They did everything themselves to organise the evening, including devising and cooking the menu and serving it. With generous help from suppliers and supporters, a raffle to raise funds included prizes such as whisky, coffee, Easter eggs and even artwork from a local artist. I came away empty handed from the raffle but delighted to meet so many inspiring food producers making good, clean and fair food happen on the other side...

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A Slow but Busy Time

It's been a bit quiet on here recently, but that's not the case in the offline world! As well as my recent projects, I've recently taken over as the Chair of Slow Food Edinburgh. The Edinburgh convivium is one of the largest and most active in the UK, and it's a privilege to take it on. We here in Edinburgh are very fortunate to have some of the country's best producers on our doorstep, not to mention the many great chefs and restaurants that have made Edinburgh a city with a world-class restaurant scene.


On top of that, we have a thriving community of foodies, bloggers and the like, but more importantly a vast network of people and organisations campaigning for a better food system in Edinburgh and beyond. To name a few... Nourish and Edible Edinburgh (with whom Slow Food worked with on last year's Feeding the 5000), Edinburgh Garden Partners, Abundance, Transition groups, Soil Association Scotland, Greener Leith, Pilton Community Food, Shandon Food Group, The Engine Shed, FEDEGA, Federation of Community Gardens and Farms, Edinburgh Community Food Initiative, Bridgend Allotments.... and there's more out there, if you have a similar group or project to tell me about, do let me know!

London Calling

It's an exciting time to be campaigning for good, clean and fair food, for a better way to eat here in Edinburgh. Not only do we have all this activity going on in Edinburgh but for Slow Food itself. One of my first actions as Chair was to attend the Slow Food UK AGM in March. A quick flight down to London and along with some fellow Slow Food members from north of the border I was there to vote on some important proposals which would shape the future of Slow Food in the UK. Armed with my proxy votes from fellow members I arrived at the University of West London in leafy Ealing, all daffodils and English quaintness as the city sprawl gives way to the suburbs.

After meeting many of my fellow convivia leaders and members of the Slow Food UK board and team, it was time to get down to business. The big vote for the future of Slow Food UK rested on a proposal to set up Slow Foods Scotland, England and Wales/Cymru, and then a vote for representatives from each to sit on the UK board. The aim is for the devolved groups to be able to campaign more effectively and have a real voice at a local level. The new structure will also help revive old convivia, grow existing ones and help new groups get started. The votes were passed nearly unanimously and everyone was positive about a new future for Slow Food in the U.K.


Following the voting, we were treated to a cookery demonstration by young chefs at the university, and then talks from Slow producers, including our own Richard Briggs. Finally we were inspired by a speech from Paulo Di Croce, Secretary of Slow Food International. Listening to Paulo's experiences in Africa about Slow Food in action was really thought provoking and insightful. In it he takes the example of the cost per 100g of raw potatoes, straight from the land being sold at a market trader's stall. He then compares it to the cost per 100g of potato crisps being sold in a western-style supermarket. It's a simple but ingenious way to explain the differences between Slow Food and 'fast food' and why what we grow, how we grow and how we eat matters.

For us up here the formation of Slow Food Scotland should mean good things for the people that make, buy and eat the food we care about. The next steps will see the formation of a regional body that will see other convivia grow and bring producer and co-producer closer together. For Slow Food Edinburgh, we're committed to growing our membership to 100 members this year, to working closer with food communities, to promoting Ark of Taste products and of course telling everyone about upcoming progress on our 10,000 Gardens Garden in Africa, which we successfully raised funds for in 2013/14.


Of course Slow Food is also all about the pleasure of eating, enjoying and appreciating good food. To this end we've been enjoying the Slow Food Big Table Dinners this year, the second Monday of every month. we've had some great producers, speakers and dishes so far, and these are set to continue in 2014. To get a flavour of the Big Table and what it's all about, see a previous post from me or check out food blogger Sophie's review here.

We've also got plenty going on with upcoming Farmers' Markets, Slow Food Week in June, Film Nights as well as visiting Terra Madre in October. For me, as Chair and leader, I see my role to inspire new people to get involved with Slow Food, and help to make those connections between us that can strengthen a better food system.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a dinner organised by Slow Food West of Scotland and Glasgow last week, a gathering of food lovers and producers in a tiny village in the heart of Ayrshire. I'll be posting an piece about it here shortly, but in the meantime read about it here.

If you'd like to get involved with Slow Food Edinburgh, don't hesitate to visit the website!