Wonderful to have so many food bloggers and enthusiasts join us for the 2013 Crail Food Festival. You can find links to all the stories here. Do let us know if we’ve missed any!
Wonderful to have so many food bloggers and enthusiasts join us for the 2013 Crail Food Festival. You can find links to all the stories here. Do let us know if we’ve missed any!
Crail Food Festival 15-16 June is all about celebrating the best local produce in this beautiful part of the world. Whether it’s an artisan cheese nurtured like a newborn, fresh seafood from the icy North Sea, microbreweries that know their stuff or simply a decent piece of home baking in a local cafe, the Kingdom of Fife has much to offer. Bringing together the many producers, chefs, businesses and organisations in the area is the Fife Food Network, an initiative set up three years ago to promote and develop the region’s food and drink. Under the Food from Fife banner the network aims to establish and strengthen connections between all those involved and give them a platform to tell as many people as possible about the fantastic produce that can be found here in the east.
Viv Collie, one of the directors of Fife Food Network explains, “Fife’s a relatively small area, but we have an abundance of quality food and drink producers. These vary from top restaurants to small cafes, large scale producers to cottage industries, but what they have in common is a shared belief that the food and drink we produce here is some of the best in the world.”
Fife Food Network seeks to champion all that’s good about the region’s local produce and develop the local food economy for the benefit of individuals, businesses and communities. Through a collaborative working approach, businesses and organisations have come together to build on Fife’s reputation as a producer of fabulous food and drink, including a focus on training and development to create an ongoing legacy for the future.
Key to this has been promoting Fife’s food identity and heritage as an attraction for those visiting the region. Whether you’ve travelled here from Edinburgh or Edmonton, there’s a food and drink experience for everyone to enjoy. Something Food from Fife has been instrumental in is helping businesses to develop and promote local produce as part of the overall visitor experience. The Fife Food network organises training courses to help small businesses such as B&Bs develop their foodie offerings, such as breakfast workshops, making preserves and how to make the most of all that wonderful local food.
“It’s something that visitors to Fife and Scotland in general want and look forward to as part of their experience ” says Viv. “Scottish food and drink is now recognised worldwide for its quality and we’re helping local businesses to make the most of that by showing their customers what Fife has to offer. The taste of free range eggs and bacon for breakfast from the farm down the road is second to none and that’s something visitors remember and talk about when they return home, encouraging more people to visit in the future. We have all this quality produce on our doorstep so it’s important to show it off to the outside world and help make Fife a destination on the culinary map.”
All this is fantastic for the local food economy and especially local businesses in Fife; it’s great that a small producer of soft fruit or sausages or chocolates can network with a local restaurant or guest house and get their products out there. Or that talented chefs are passing on their knowledge and enthusiasm for local produce onto the next generation through training at local colleges. But what about your average glutton (myself included) who wants to get their hands on some quality produce and find out where it came from and what to do with it? Or perhaps you’re planning a weekend away and want to know where to go in Fife to explore and find fabulous farm shops, famers’ markets, specialist delis or romantic restaurants?
As well as promoting training, alliances and networks, Food from Fife has developed information and resources for anyone wanting to know more about where to access good food and drink in the area. There’s an informative website www.foodfromfife.co.uk with news and events, a calendar of what’s in season, an interactive map of producers and recipes from local chefs showing how to cook with these ingredients once you’ve got them home. Produced in association with The List Guides Scotland, Fife Council and the Fife Tourism Partnership, the Fife Larder Food Map includes a comprehensive listing of markets, shops and restaurants, perfect for planning your foodie journey around the Kingdom. Accompanying the map is the Fife Larder Guide to Fife’s Food & Drink. This acclaimed publication including the stories behind the people producing the finest food and drink in the region and more information on what to buy and where to eat. Both are now in their second edition and can be picked up at tourist information centres.
A Fife Food booklet has also been produced including recipes using local ingredients to encourage visitors to cook with some of these during their stay. This beautifully photographed publication highlights some of the many great places and people that are really making a difference in raising Fife’s food and drink profile and has lots of tasty ideas to try (see link and the dishes I’ve cooked from it below).
Food festivals such as the Crail Food Festival are growing in number in Scotland every year and they’re an ideal way for more people to enjoy the cornucopia of food and drink available north of the border. Food from Fife has been involved with several festivals in recent years, celebrating food and drink within communities and continuing to engage with them to promote access to local food. On Saturday 15 June at this year’s Crail Food Festival Food from Fife will have Jenny Thomson from Courses for Cooks doing a cookery demonstration. She’ll be talking about the Fife Breakfast initiative and the work Food from Fife have been doing with B&Bs and guesthouses to promote the use of local ingredients. On Sunday 16 June they will have Jim Knox – a local shellfish supplier – doing crab dressing demos and talking about local shellfish. He is working with Marie Clare James (from the Federation of Chefs Scotland and Seafood Scotland) who will be demonstrating simple, healthy fish dishes and talking about sourcing and using sustainable seafood.
This is all really informative, accessible stuff and at the heart of Fife Food Network’s aims to develop a strategy to improve supply, distribution, quality and communication of food and drink in the region. With so much current debate around food sovereignty and the whole issue of where our food comes from it’s heartening to hear more about those making a difference to reconnect us with our food. If you’re thinking of heading to Crail Food Festival this year pick up a copy of the Food from Fife map and make a weekend of it. Good food has always been connected, indeed rooted, to the place and region from which it came. With so much to explore in Fife you won’t be disappointed.
As part of the Crail Food Festival Blogging Project, I’ve had the opportunity to try out two recipes from the Fife Food booklet mentioned above. These recipes and many more can be found in the pdf version here:
Risotto with Anster Cheese
Anster cheese from St Andrew’s Farmhouse Cheese Company is a tangy, crumbly semi-hard cheese produced using unpasteurised milk from the Stewart Family’s own herd of Holstein Friesian cows. This risotto recipe calls for only 25g but because it has quite a strong flavour you don’t need too much (I did sprinkle extra over the top though, down to greed more than anything!). The recipe uses 200g seasonal vegetables – I used asparagus and young leeks which were a perfect match for the earthy, pungent taste of the cheese. Sautéing the veg keeps their colour and makes this risotto very vibrant and green – a real taste of spring and early summer. In the unlikely event you have any left over this is wonderful reheated for lunch the next day.
See fellow blogger The Grumbling Tummy’s visit to St Andrew’s Farmhouse Cheese Company.
Pannacotta Recipe from Ostlers Close Restaurant, Cupar
This recipe is included in the Fife Food booklet alongside an autumnal seasonal fruit compote of cinnamon, cranberries, plums and damson gin. Because it’s (nearly!) summer I served the Pannacotta wth fresh Fife strawberries and raspberries instead. This pannacotta is a wobbly delight. It looks impressive with its freckles of vanilla seeds but is easier to make than you’d think. It’s rich and creamy but the acidity of the fruit cuts through this and the berries also provide a balance of textures. I could probably eat it all on it’s own though! Any small ramekin or mould will do to set the pannacottas in but make room in the fridge first – not fun reassembling your fridge in one hand balancing a tray of them in the other…
Find out more:
I first heard of the Fife Diet several years ago, when it was reported with incredulity in the local media that a group of friends had challenged themselves to eat food only from Fife for one year. As is often the case, the facts were slightly different to those reported and the group were actually attempting to eat as much local food as possible and to stop using air-freighted goods from supermarkets. They were also being realistic and allowing themselves some things from outside Fife – a diet without salt and pepper would not appeal to many people!
The Fife Diet has since evolved into a much larger consumer network of people passionate about local food and is now the largest local food project in Europe. It is free to join and their key aim is to help people move towards a healthier, tastier and more sustainable food system. This creation of a more localised food system has become a focus for much more than just food, also now encompassing environment, health, community and boosting the local economy.
Being part of the Fife Diet doesn’t mean you must commit to 100% reliance on Fife foods but is more about each individual finding a balance that works for them. The aim is to eat 80% or more of our food from local sources and up to 20% from elsewhere. This is something we can strive towards no matter where in the world we live. The simplest way to demonstrate this is using two recipes from Fife Diet’s own website. The first recipe is:
For me personally, langoustines are the most luxurious shellfish and I’ll take them over lobster any day. Not that I can afford to eat them any day but, as an occasional luxury, they are really very special. Langoustines are fished mostly by trawling, which can cause enormous damage and disturbance to the seafloor and the habitats that can be found there. However langoustine in Fife is caught sustainably, often using the creel method, so is not only better for the environment but also tastes better. Much of the catch is exported to Europe, where Scottish langoustine is a much sought-after delicacy. So, how lucky are we to have them right on our doorstep?
They are such a delicate shellfish that they are best cooked quickly and served simply. The most humane method of cooking is freezing, so they go to sleep, and immediately plunging into boiling water – for details see the Fife Diet website here. Langoustine are in season April to November so, at the start of the season when wild garlic is also out, I like to go foraging for wild garlic and serve the langoustines with wild garlic butter. Again the Fife Diet website provides a lovely simple recipe here - simply mix chopped wild garlic with butter. So, what could be more luxurious – langoustines in wild garlic butter – and all 100% sourced within Fife!
The next recipe also showcases locally-caught fish but demonstrates that sometimes it can be helpful to source some ingredients from elsewhere. As they say at Fife Diet “we are not the diet police!”. The aim is to source from elsewhere only those ingredients that it is simply just not possible to source locally, for example exotic spices.
Mackerel has courted some controversy this year, firstly being downgraded by the Marine Conservation Society, with consumers being told it was too rare to eat regularly. Then in May it was upgraded again but with the caveat that it must come from sustainable shoals and that Icelandic and Faroe mackerel was still to be avoided. Once again in Fife, we are lucky to have a fishing fleet which strives to use sustainable fishing methods to fish sustainable sources of fish. So mackerel is well and truly back on the local menu.
Escabeche is traditionally a Mediterranean dish and this lovely recipe by Fife Diet also has some Asian influences. The mackerel (or sardine) are dusted with a powdered spice mix, fried gently and then pickled in a hot spicy wine vinegar mix. They are delicious served at room temperature with flat breads. This recipe demonstrates the 80/20% Fife Diet ethos very well – the main ingredients are still sourced locally and it is only the additional flavourings of the more exotic spices, which cannot be found locally, which are sourced elsewhere.
One of the joys of this way of eating is the need to explore a bit more to find your food. This can range from taking lovely walks in pretty and green areas to forage some of your own food, to seeking out new suppliers from farm shops to farmers markets to roadside stalls. It can be an exciting adventure and the sensational tastes you will discover from eating local, seasonal food will reward your efforts time and again.
For a Fife foodie adventure this weekend, come along to the Crail Food Festival (15th and 16th June), where you will be able to taste a wide variety of food from all over Fife. The Sunday will be a harbour special where you can taste for yourself the spectacular seafood I have been drooling over. A great group of people from the Fife Diet will be on hand to tell you more about themselves and they will even have their infamous smoothie bike. Do you have the pedal power to blitz your own smoothie?
And remember, wherever you are, try to aim for the Fife Diet ethos – eat 80% or more of your food from local sources and up to 20% from elsewhere
Although the street food scene has exploded in London, it has taken a little longer for Scotland to play catch-up. But with Wild Rover Food on the scene, you can be rest assured that Scotland will soon boast the same reputation. I spoke to Cat, co-founder of Wild Rover Food, who told me about her journey so far.
It’s a sustainable food business specialising in healthy and tasty food options for festivals, markets, private parties, weddings and events. We travel around Scotland in our 1961 Land Rover and pop-up ex-army field kitchen, using the best in naturally grown and local produce to deliver delicious wild food catering. We really care about food provenance and contributing to a local, sustainable economy, so we work directly with the people who hunt, fish, grow and forage – as the food seasons change, so does our menu.
We met three years ago and found that we shared an ambition to do something different with our lives. We both took redundancy and with Rob’s passion for growing and my interests in sustainable development, we decided to take a few months out to volunteer on organic farms. As a result Wild Rover was born.
Good food, sourced locally, cooked simply and enjoyed by all!
We met Graham (the Event Manager) last year and shared his passion for bringing people together via food. We couldn’t help but get involved.
There is no doubt that trading in Scotland brings its challenges – not least the weather. Last year we were finalists in the British Street Food Awards in London and that provided a real insight into how street food can take off in a city environment. In Scotland’s cities, it is notoriously difficult to obtain a licence/pitch and with the economic downturn, it hasn’t always been easy to stand alongside a traditional burger van and persuade people to spend 50p-£1 more on a food option, even though it may be tastier and healthier. But we are making good progress and I’m always encouraged to see how many young people queue up at our field kitchen at music festivals, with an appetite for something different. There is definitely an education of food provenance and food interest happening here in Scotland.
We really have to drill down our figures while trying to stick to our principles. This isn’t always easy, but offering a full menu range certainly helps. We try to make our food reflect a sensible approach to sustainable eating: a little less meat, a little more veg and perhaps a fish option. We don’t eat meat 7 days a week so it wouldn’t sit right to only ever offer meat options, which are more expensive for our customers and less sustainable than a varied diet.
We are aware that we drive an old vehicle that is heavy on petrol, but we try to offset this with other commitments: we recycle as much as we can, we use Vegware for all our food options, we have very few food miles and we promote all of our producers. Our wild game is inherently of the highest welfare standards – this is something that interests us in all the farms that we use.
Be prepared for a very tough journey, but a journey that will be made less challenging and more satisfying by knowing and believing in your product, defining your brand and understanding how others perceive it, and, of course, by being brave!
Thanks to our guest blogger, Chiara, whose Wine and Olives blog is a treat to read.
The weekend of 15th-16th June 2013 in Crail is all about food – where to buy it, who makes it, sinful treats to sample and all manner of delectable delights to tantalise and satisfy, not to mention helping those taste buds move up a gear into overdrive. Crail Food Festival spills into the village during the weekend and undoubtedly brings people flooding in to soak up the foodie atmosphere. So, imagine my delight when I was asked if I’d blog about the 3 cafés in Crail: Julia’s Eatery, Art & GIfts, The Honeypot Guest House and Tearoom and Crail Harbour Gallery and Tearoom, looking in particular at their plans for Crail Food Festival. Who doesn’t love seeing what other people are up to and sampling cake! So, on a sunny Thursday in May, I set off for a lovely day of café visiting and wandering in Crail.
First stop was Julia’s Coffee Shop. I arrived just in time for the unveiling of the day’s scones, fresh and steamy from the oven. Lovely cheese ones, yum! Glad I didn’t have breakfast! Along with a lovely big cup of coffee and a comfy sofa, I settled down for a blether with John, who owns Julia’s. He filled me in on the coffee shop’s plans for the weekend which started with their inclusion in the Crail Food Trail.
The Crail Food Trail was conceived by Graham at the Honeypot – more on him later! – and has been designed to encourage people to spend a little longer in Crail discovering the foodie treats that lie hidden within the village. It is the perfect way to enjoy a leisurely lunch heading around the lovely wee village of Crail whilst seeing the sights and soaking up the atmosphere of the Food Festival. Each of the three cafés is offering a different food option to tempt you and, with the help of a wee hand sketched map, will help you to navigate around Crail’s eating places. (Copies of the map will be available from the Food Festival Market amongst other places.)
Julia’s are planning to offer a mackerel and beetroot pâté with Pittenweem oatcakes, all locally sourced. Add a perfect cup of coffee or a wee pot of Suki tea alongside it and of course, cake afterwards.
And, if that isn’t enough to tempt you, on Saturday night, Julia’s will be offering a special 2 course meal featuring such lovely things as a seafood platter and a fresh fruit pavlova. Yum!
After a quick browse around the local artworks displayed on the walls of Julia’s and an admiring glance at the painted cottages on each table, I took my leave and headed back along the road to the Honeypot, where yet another warm welcome awaited me. I’ve got to say this about Crail’s cafes – everyone is so friendly and chatty and welcoming. You can’t say that about certain chain coffee shops that will remain nameless. Support your local café, I say, for a true welcome and a warm, happy glow!
The Honeypot was buzzing with a group of local ladies who are obviously regulars, so I squeezed myself into a corner, ordered coffee and awaited Graham. Like a blast of fresh air, he arrived, sharing his enthusiasm for local produce, the Food Festival and the Crail Food Trail in a flurry of chat and greetings.
He is the brains behind the Food Trail and is receiving much local support for it. All great news! Understandably, he is keen for the Food Festival to introduce people to all that Crail has to offer, highlighting the wealth of great produce and enthusiastic people involved with it, not to mention encouraging Festival visitors to venture into the wider community to continue their foodie adventures.
The Honeypot, as part of the Trail will be offering a Seafood Chowder or a Veggie Chowder as its contribution. Nestling alongside Cream Teas with local strawberries, beer from Fife’s local breweries (yes, they are licensed) and a sunny, sheltered spot in the Honeypot’s tranquil garden, who could ask for a better place to enjoy the sun and pass a few relaxed hours dreaming of the next meal?! Keep your eye out for the Crail Food Festival t-shirts too as modelled by his staff during the weekend!
Up to the gunnels with coffee by this stage (never a bad thing!), a gentle wander towards the harbour saw me arrive at my final stop of the day: Crail Harbour Gallery and Tearoom. A traditional fishing cottage with bunting outside and plant pots propping open the door awaited me. A stone-paved floor, lovely balcony overlooking the sea and low beamed ceiling give the Tearoom plenty of character, and set the scene for a lunch-time visit. The Harbour Gallery were the talent behind the beautifully simple and artistically conceived Food Trail map – and the creativity flows throughout the gallery with its display of seaside themed gifts, paintings and trinkets.
Food-wise, the Crail Harbour Gallery and Tearoom are offering an East Neuk Dressed Crab. Just what you’d expect for a café so close to the harbour and a perfect treat! If it is anything as lovely as the sweet pickled herring that I devoured for lunch it will be one not to miss. With simple and tasty cakes on offer alongside stunning views of the sea, the Harbour Gallery is another place to add to the ‘to do list.’
Feeling full and enthused I headed back to the car. Without a doubt, the three cafés in Crail don’t fail to please. Whether you’d like a great coffee, some local seafood or a warm welcome, there is something for everyone. Plans for the Food Festival are exciting and, the enthusiasm is catching. Make sure you take time to wander the lanes of Crail and sample the treats available on the Food Trail. You’d be daft to miss it!
Find out more:
Crail Harbour Gallery and Tearoom - Website
This article has been submitted to Crail Food Festival by Kathryn Baker, who has recently taken over as Manager at the Kellie Castle Café which was featured in our article last week. Kellie Castle is a National Trust Property, and well worth a visit when you’re in the East Neuk of Fife.They’re on Facebook too if you’d like to connect.
It’s quite an odd thing to be asked to watch two people meet for the first time and then write about it. That’s exactly what happened the other day when our festival manager travelled down to Edinburgh to meet an acclaimed chef from Edinburgh’s dining scene and talk about cooking with foraged leaves as part of the 3rd Annual Crail Food Festival.
Paul Wedgwood is Co-Owner and Head Chef of Wedgwood The Restaurant and Graham Anderson runs a guest house and Café in Crail. They have three things in common, food, passion and enthusiasm. Paul was talking about his recent trip to Barbados as part of The Celtic Festival while Graham did say that it might feel a bit different in Crail.
“That’s where I found my first sea rocket!”, exclaimed Paul, who has been foraging since he was a young lad in the Boy Scouts. When that discussion turned to what sort of things could be found on the forthcoming foraging walks at Crail Food Festival the list was endless. Something with an intense peppery flavour could be expected, an explosion for the taste buds and far more exciting than commercially grown products often found in our summer salads.
That was the moment when Paul and Graham talked about their vision for cooking and holding a food event at a harbour. Graham’s vision when starting the Crail Food Festival came from the inspiration of seeing an event run at a harbour many years ago. Both turned rather dreamy when starting to think of the possibilities of the wild larder around our coast – sea rocket? Yes that was the catalyst.
Crail Food Festival are pleased to confirm the Foraging Walk event with Mark Williams from Galloway Wild Foods, which is being organised by Fife Diet on our Harbour Sunday. If you would like to go on the walk, email: email@example.com for one of the remaining places, stating whether you would prefer the morning or afternoon walk (morning walk at 11:30 am has most places at time of posting). Paul will accompany Mark on the first walk, and on return to Crail Harbour, will be demonstrating how to use some of the ingredients which are found, as well as being on hand to answer questions about foraging and wild food.
Fancy a sea aster Panna cotta? Join us at Crail Harbour Sunday 16th June from 11.00am.
More about What’s On on Sunday 16 June at Crail Food Festival
When my assignment for The Crail Food Festival pinged into my inbox I almost whooped for joy. My mission, which I most definitely chose to accept, encompassed two of life’s greatest pleasures – cheese and cake. I was to visit two restaurants that pride themselves in using local produce, the St Andrews Cheese Farm Company’s restaurant and Kellie Castle Kitchen Cafe.
The St Andrews Cheese Farm Company is the only farmhouse cheese-maker in Fife and as well as producing unique cheeses from their own herd of Holstein Friesian cows, wherever possible they also “fly the flag” for Scottish Farmhouse Cheese-making. As Jane Stewart, who runs the business along with husband Robert says “we are all about food provenance … visitors want to know what cheeses we make and they are extremely interested in the process, keen to taste the product and invariably want to know where and how they can purchase it on their way home” .
I’m not surprised that Jane’s visitors are keen to buy their famous Anster Cheese; I can testify that is indeed delicious. I’m a long standing fan and regularly buy it at my local farmers market. However, gobbling it down in record time with a box of oatcakes is about as far as I have travelled in terms of culinary experimentation. I was about to experience a whole new world of cheese in Jane and Robert’s restaurant.
The restaurant is large, bright and airy with beautiful views across the East Neuk countryside. Jane explained that their cheese is incorporated into the menus wherever possible “whether it be omelettes, sandwiches, soup, or in other speciality dishes”.
Jane’s hot tip from the menu was their most popular dish - Hot Smoked Salmon served on crushed potatoes and topped with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. That indeed sounded irresistible…. until I noticed one of my personal food heroes on the menu – Stornoway black pudding, served with a potato and Anster cheese rosti alongside beetroot chutney.
The Stornoway black pudding was, as ever, utterly melt in the mouth divine, the rosti was lovely and loose, unlike some cremated versions I have tasted in the past and the Anster cheese complimented it beautifully . The whole dish was brought together perfectly with the beetroot chutney. As John Torode would say it was “a beautiful thing”. My mum and husband who had come along for the ride enjoyed a cheese and ham omelette and the Special Ploughman’s lunch. Both made all the right noises and clearly hit the mark.
We would have loved to stay on to sample the famous meringues but time was ticking and we had a cake appointment elsewhere. But we didn’t leave before browsing some of the other local food heroes available to buy. Dalchonzie Chutneys, Galloway Lodge Preserves, Summer Harvest Oils, Chrystalls shortbread, Barnett the Bakers Cheese Oatcakes, Adamson’s oatcakes, Trotters Independent Condiments and St Andrews Brewing Company are just some of the local producers on display in the small retail area. We settled upon a jar of onion marmalade from Dalchonzie and chutney made by St Andrews Cheese Farm which was so fresh the label was not yet on – yum.
Five minutes later we found ourselves in the beautiful grounds of Kellie Castle, which lies 5 miles North of Pittenweem. A National Trust property dating from 1360, it is renowned for its lavish interiors but should also be renowned, in my opinion, for its baking. The Kellie Castle Kitchen Cafe may be small but it’s perfectly formed – rustic and utterly charming. Kathryn Baker, whose own history is steeped in baking, has recently taken over the running of the cafe and is working towards “making the most of as much local produce” as she can.
The Kellie Castle Kitchen Cafe doesn’t have to look far for inspiration either, with many of the products used coming from their very own kitchen garden – you don’t get much more local than that! Kathryn believes that being able to actually show visitors where the fruit in their cakes come from is “a great way to interact with customers”. The local food heroes at Kellie Castle are their own gardeners who produce a whole host of goodies – from herbs and vegetables to salad and fruit.
Kathryn, a hero in her own right, is full of enthusiasm and passion for her produce and this shines through in the way she talks to her customers and tells them all about what Kellie Castle Kitchen has to offer.
On the day I visited, it was all about the rhubarb – seasonal and perfectly tasty. I am one of those people who were under the misguided impression that rhubarb was plain old rhubarb. Kathryn soon enlightened me. The Castle garden produces at least 30 varieties of the pink stuff, including Whitby, Fenton’s Special and Hawkes Champagne.
Fortunately or perhaps unfortunately for my waistline, we chose a table right next to the beautiful “dresser of temptation”. Amongst the cakes on display were a plump Victoria Sponge, a Citrus and Rhubarb cake, Rhubarb Crumble muffins, peppermint slices and a chocolate ginger tray-bake. My husband chose the Victoria Sponge, Citrus Rhubarb cake won the day for mum and it had to be Rhubarb Crumble Muffin with whipped cream on the side, for me (the cream is not really needed but I am a bit greedy, so there!). We also felt the need to take a peppermint slice and a chocolate ginger slice home with us for later (because we needed more cake).
The Rhubarb Crumble muffin was Kathryn’s top tip and she was not wrong in recommending it: a crunchy top, moist light sponge and lots of fresh juicy rhubarb to surprise you in the middle – delightful.
The large slice of Victoria Sponge tasted exactly as every Victoria sponge should taste, but often doesn’t – moist and light as a feather. My mum wolfed down her sponge and I didn’t get the chance to taste it but it definitely got the thumbs up. As for mini me – she was too busy looking for princesses, to eat cake! I hate to say it but I am very glad I don’t have Kathryn’s talent for baking as I would be the size of a house, her produce is truly stunning.
As well as cakes there were soups and savoury herb scones on offer. Kathryn told us about the Swiss Chard, herbs and wild garlic that are flourishing at the moment and as the contented Camerons rolled out of Kellie Castle we could smell the beautiful aroma of wild garlic all the way back to the car park.
I would take on an assignment like this every day of the week. As well as tasting stunning produce and learning more about the food on my plate, it was a joy to encounter such a depth of passion from the people running both businesses.
Thankfully the importance of food provenance is gaining momentum in this country as our desire to understand more about the journey from field to fork increases.
The St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company will be displaying their wares at this year’s Crail Food Festival and for one can’t wait to taste their wonderful produce once again. Kellie Castle Kitchen Cafe and The St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company are good places to visit on your way to or from Crail Food Festival this year.
Find out more:
St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company: www.standrewscheese.co.uk
Kellie Castle: www.nts.co.uk
It has been a couple of weeks since my last visit to Penman Butchers in Crail. My last trip was in search of some lamb leg for a spiced, slow roast dish as part of a curry night with the guys. Predictably, I had given in to the temptation that is a very well presented counter and ended up with a few extras for the freezer. Alas, with that all gone, it was time for another trip to satisfy a very different need – fast food.
Our social calendar has been somewhat hectic in the last few weeks and this weekend gone was no exception. Straight from work on Friday to see the Crail Festival’s Salsa Celtica gig in Crail followed by a kids party Saturday morning (ouch) followed by a lunch with friends. I had predicted that a good lunch with good company and good wine would inevitably lead to an entire afternoon/early evening of socialising, so had wisely planned to stock up on something fast, simple, nutritious and tasty for Saturday night’s dinner. It had to be steaks with new season asparagus.
I was very impressed with Penman’s during my last visit – everything had obviously been sourced, prepared and displayed with care and pride and I was hoping for more of the same. Wasn’t disappointed.
Now, fillet steak may not be the most exciting or flavoursome cut around, often bringing out a sigh or exclamation of the passé amongst us foodie types, but I maintain that, with the right quality and cooking treatment, it is still a thing of joy.
It was great to see Keith behind the counter, still bouncing with enthusiasm – and quite rightly so. Penman’s is a fantastic shop, with a wide range of quality, locally sourced meats, pies and preserves that will get soon get anyone with the slightest interest in food equally enthused.
Just as before when I bought the lamb leg, the whole fillet, beautifully trimmed, was brought out for me to choose the side and size of the cuts I wanted. Two generous 1 ½ inch pieces for the other half and myself, two hearty 1 inch pieces for the offspring. I may not be the carnivore that I was in my late teens, but even now good quality, raw fillet makes my mouth water.
I had the foresight to leave these out of the fridge in a cool room so that they’d be ready to cook as soon as I was back – and just as well. My predictions were correct and several hours and glasses of Rioja more than planned, we made it back for our dinner.
Cooking was simple. Season the steaks well and get them on a very hot griddle. Roast asparagus. Cook some mushrooms in butter, add garlic, tarragon, wine and wholegrain mustard. Turn steaks. Rest steaks. Add cream to mushrooms. Plate up. Eat.
Perfect – especially with that one last glass of Rioja……..
Thanks to Keith, Caroline and the team at Penmans.
38 High Street South, Crail, Fife, KY10 3RB
Opening times Mon/Tue & Thu–Sat 6.30am–1pm, 2–5pm; Wed 6.30am–1pm. Closed Sun.
LAST YEAR at the request of a friend, Robert Corrigan was asked to produce a vegetable pie for sampling at the Crail Food Festival. The pies went down a storm and this year he’s keen to showcase his full range of award-winning pies.
Robert owns and runs the Fife-based Mr C’s Hand Crafted Pies and was keen to tell me how he got involved with this year’s festival:
‘Last year my good friend Christopher Trotter, Food Writer and Consultant (Fife Food Ambassador) phoned me and explained he was doing a platter at the festival but everything contained meat. He asked if I would I be able to make a vegetable pie for sampling, and of course, I said “yes”.’
Although the vegetable pie was a resounding success, Robert currently has no plans to add it to Mr. C’s range but is looking forward to giving visitors a proper taste of his products this year:
‘I would rather have people taste pies that they can actually buy, rather than one with my name on that they can’t and I really want to let the people of Fife try them; this year I’m delighted Mr. C’s will be at the festival.’
In 2006 Robert was looking for a new catering project and while representing the UK for Slow Food at Terra Madre in Turin, he attended a workshop where he learned of farmers’ frustration with chefs neglecting so called lesser cuts of meat in favour of prime cuts and not utilising the whole animal.
On his return to the UK, Robert came up with the idea of a high quality, hand-made pie similar to a Melton Mowbray one.
He spent time with some of the best pie producers in Britain, honing his skills by studying their techniques. Combining that knowledge with a trusty pork stuffing recipe, Robert now had a finished product.
Robert tells me about the recipe for his Savoury Pork Pie:
‘The recipe is one I’ve used for about 27 years; in various hotels I worked in I instructed the chefs to use my recipe for the stuffing for Christmas. I just took out the breadcrumbs, egg and chestnuts and that became the Savoury Pork Pie mix.’
Robert’s pork, leek and pancetta pie gained the company award-winning status very early on in the life of the business and Mr C explained how that mix came to life:
‘The pork, leek and pancetta mix was actually a sausage mix from Crombie’s (of Edinburgh) that I using to make pies and selling back to them. I did not know Crombie’s had a UK producer’s number so I could not use this mix for other customers.
‘I knew Lord Hopetoun was a fan of these pies I made with that mix and decided to make up a mix of my own for a presentation pie to celebrate the opening of the Hopetoun Farm Shop. I made the first batch myself and the rest went in the freezer for another day.’
‘The mix for Lord Hopetoun was the very first pork, leek and pancetta mix I had ever made and he was happy with it. I froze the other pies from that same batch the week before and sent one to the British Pie Awards where it won me gold! I hadn’t even tasted it!’
This is an incredible honour, especially for a business in its infancy; I wondered how Robert reacted when he found out:
‘I was actually making pies with a friend and an email came in (this was around three weeks after the awards) saying I could now order the gold sticker and I said to my friend, “What are they on about?”
‘So I phoned up the Melton Mowbray Pie Association and asked about the email and she replied “Oh, you won gold!” and that was how I found out I had won! So did I expect it? No, I didn’t even check the results; I was too busy making pies!’
Despite stacking up a host of awards since and being championed by food broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli, Robert decided to rebrand the company. Originally known as Acanthus pies, he wanted to give the company a more personal touch and told me how this came about:
‘I wanted something personal to me but that’s also not hard to pronounce, as many people couldn’t pronounce Acanthus and didn’t know what it meant.
‘My surname is Corrigan which I didn’t want to use because in Glasgow there’s Bernard Corrigan’s, the fishmonger.’
‘You then have Richard Corrigan the chef, which was another potential mix up. Then I remembered many of the staff in the numerous hotels I’ve worked in called me Mr. C. At the end of February, we changed from Acanthus and launched Mr. C’s.’
Using the best produce is very important for any artisan producer and Robert is no different. He sources his produce from suppliers such as Ramsay’s of Carluke, who supply him with outdoor reared Scottish pork, Smoked Streaky bacon and black pudding, Shipton Mill for organic flour and Highland Game venison.
Asked if he was keen to add to his impressive tally of medals this year, Robert responded modestly:
‘Eh, who knows? I’d rather say nothing and if I win something you’ll hear about it!’ (As we prepared this article Mr C found he’d won the Richard III award – A Pie fit for a King – at the British Pie Awards).
Make sure you pop by and taste the Mr. C’s delicious pies at the Crail Food Festival – we should be proud of the artisan producers we have here in Fife!
Along with the celebrated Pork, Leek and Pancetta pie and Savoury Pork variety, you can also enjoy fillings such as Savoury Pork, Chicken and Ham (Bronze award, 2012) and the bronze award-winning Piggy Black (pork, leek and pancetta with black pudding) from various stockists.
The pies are available at Donald Russell of Inverurie, Crombie’s of Edinburgh, Hopetoun Farm Shop, Peelham Farm, Cornerstone Deli , Loch Leven’s Larder, and the Wee Pie Company, Campbells Prime Meats, Fortnum and Mason London, Forman and Field London, Inverawe Smokehouses, East Coast Deli – Ullapool, The Spey Larder Aberlour, Gloagburn Farm Shop, Lochbyre Rare Bread Meat – Newton Mearns and The Scottish Cafe, The Mound, Edinburgh.
Find out more:
I was really pleased when I was asked by EdinburghBakers’ cake lady, Susan McNaughton, if I’d like to contribute a blog piece for the Crail Food Festival. When the list was sent out, I found that my ‘victim’ was a young artisan baker by the name of Murray Barnett. He runs a rather good wee bakery, G H Barnett & Sons, in the East Neuk – in Cellardyke near Anstruther to be precise. As it happens, it appears that we have a fair bit in common; we both adore Mary Berry, Doyenne of the Cake, and the King of Bread, Master Baker Paul Hollywood, has judged us both for our baking! Another thing that connects us is we’ve both been baking since we were very young, which is why I suggested to Murray that the theme for this article should be on our ‘Childhood Memories’.
When did you start baking and who taught you?
Murray: The first time I can remember baking was when one of guys couldn’t make it into work at the bakery one night and, as I was so young, I couldn’t be left in the house on my own. I was brought to the bakery and put on doughnut duty! My task was to flip doughnuts and sugar them! Heath and safety would blow a few gaskets these days if they caught a wee six-year-old laddie working with boiling oil! Fortunately, back then, there didn’t seem to be an issue and I loved every moment of it.
Most weekends throughout my childhood, you find me working in the bakery. It wasn’t until I left school that I started baking full time.
My father mostly taught me but I’ve spent time at our bakeries picking up some tips too. Some of my experience was through a lot of old fashioned trial and error, so part self-taught too. I think this is the best way to learn once you know the basics.
Lea: My earliest memories aren’t anywhere near as much fun or exciting. I remember going round to my grandmother’s (my dad’s mum) for Sunday lunch at about the age of three. Being a Yorkshire woman, her Yorkshires were amazing, huge and billowing. Always served before the meat and drowned with gravy made with the meat juices from the joint. The gravy was poured into the centre of the pud and as you cut through the wall, the gravy would flood the plate. To this day, I can’t make a Yorkshire like that. And her apple pie – no one has ever come close, not even me!
What was the first thing you made?
Murray: As I said at the start, doughnuts were the first thing I ever made. I’d love to give you a recipe for them but all our recipes are closely guarded family secrets. We still hold a very traditional view for Scottish baking (even with our modern twists) and all I can say is our doughnuts are still a traditionally fired cake ring doughnut.
Lea: My mum was useless in the kitchen, it wasn’t until she got married that she found out that gravy wasn’t just an Oxo cube and hot water (my nan couldn’t cook either). Like Murray, my dad taught me to bake when I was four. I’d kneel on a chair at the kitchen table. He’d make the pastry and I’d be allowed to roll, cut then fill the pastry with jam. And, if he’d been baking a cake, every child’s earliest memory must be licking the spoon and bowl clean of cake mix.
Were there any particular books, people, chefs who inspired you when you were a kid?
Murray: To be honest, I don’t follow or look up to any celeb bakers. I do love Mary Berry, though, but who doesn’t? I guess if any, my biggest inspiration has to be Heston Blumenthal and his approach that anything is possible if you want it to be!
Lea: I have fond memories of watching Fanny Craddock with my mum back in the 1960s. I have no idea why she liked to watch cookery programs, as she didn’t like cooking. When I was a teenager in the 70’s, I watched the likes of Graham Kerr the Galloping Gourmet, Delia and Mary Berry.
Today my influences come in the guises of the likes of Dan Lepard, Yotam Ottelenghi, Pierre Herme and Clare Clark.
Murray can be found at the bakery:
GH Barnett & Son
35 Rodger Street,Cellardyke,Fife,KY10 3HU
Tel: 01333 310205
Opening times Mon/Tue & Thu/Fri 8am–5pm; Wed 8am–1.30pm; Sat 8am–1.30pm.
If you have childhood memories of learning to bake, please feel free to add your comments below:
The temperature outside is still under three degrees. It’s sleeting, and I’ve forgotten what sunshine looks like, but as I sit in the warmth of Penny Turnbull’s kitchen, I am discovering that the poor weather of the last year or so has had at least some positive effects.
The delicious vinegars made by Penny of the Little Herb Farm, she tells me, were an accidental sideline of her herb nursery business, introduced last year because of the impact of the poor weather on plant sales. But they were a sideline that took off in a big way, and Little Herb Farm vinegars are now being sold through Ardross and Balgove farm shops, First Fruits in Crail and at the Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem, as well as at farmers markets, galas and events throughout the region. They are also available online via the Little Herb Farm website.
After scaling back a successful professional career to start the Little Herb Farm, the first two years were not without their challenges, hit by a lack of sunshine, low temperatures and rain. “The poor weather meant that events like farmers markets and galas were poorly attended,” Penny says, “Car parks were full of mud and gardening was the last thing on peoples’ minds.” Not the best time to start a gardening business while continuing to juggle family and business commitments.
But Penny’s commitment to the quality of her products has paid off. What makes the Little Herb Farm’s vinegars different from other commercial vinegars is their high fruit content. “They are made by hand in small batches,” she says, “and with 46 per cent fruit content in the final products, a little goes a long way.”
Varieties range from Raspberry and Rosemary to Blackcurrant and Thyme, Tayberry and Sage, and the deliciously Christmassy Mulled Bramble. In our house they have become a storecupboard staple. A popular winter starter was goats cheese glazed with Mulled Bramble vinegar, and my 10 year old will no longer eat a salad without a small bottle of Little Herb Farm vinegar on the side. The combination of the best quality soft fruit from Fife, along with the variety of herb combinations makes them not only delicious but also more versatile in their uses. They can be added to sparkling water or wine as a cordial, to gravy to sweeten in the same way as redcurrant jelly, to meringues, to stewed fruit, and to cocktails. They can even be drunk straight as a tonic, which Penny does herself (this was a popular Victorian remedy to maintain good health).
But of course there is another side to the Little Herb Farm, the herbs themselves, and the Herb Farm grows many varieties not easily available elsewhere, such as salad burnet, sorrel, sweet mace, and summery savory. Ornamental and medicinal herbs are grown alongside the culinary varieties, and brushing past the pots of lemon and rose scented geranium set out in the warmth of the polytunnel is a sensuous experience in itself.
Penny sells different types of herbs with different requirements, and can advise on the right type of herb for certain conditions. If they don’t have a dedicated vegetable patch and want to grow herbs amongst their flowers, she can advise on more ornamental versions. “Our herbs are born and raised in Pittenweem and grown without artificial heat,” she says, “so that they are more likely to survive than plants raised in artificial environments.” The garden is peat free and Penny uses organic gardening methods.
In future Penny hopes to expand the range of vinegars on offer, and plans more open days in her own garden. She is creating new herb beds and borders so people can see what their chosen plant will look like once it has grown up in its natural environment. With plans for herb flavoured salts, edible flowers and her ever popular Turkish delight, there is plenty to look forward to from the Little Herb Farm in coming months. And with all this talk of scented herbs, and temperature having risen to the lofty heights of eight degrees, I can almost taste the sunshine.
Two time winner of the Chef of the Future competition, my “hungry cygnet” likes her food. This is her perfect tomato salad recipe, which she says can’t be made without the Little Herb Farm’s raspberry and rosemary vinegar.
Tomatoes (we use a combination of big plum ones and cherry ones, the plumpest and freshest we can get, and home grown when we have them.)
Little Herb Farm Raspberry and Rosemary vinegar (or Tayberry and Sage)
Basil (sometimes parsley or mint)
Extra virgin olive oil
Slice the tomatoes, place in a sieve and salt. Leave for 20 minutes. This is very important. Leave out this stage and it just isn’t the same.
Place tomatoes and basil leaves on large plate. Mix two parts Little Herb Farm Vinegar with one part balsamic vinegar. Then add an equal quantity of olive oil and beat with a fork. Drizzle over tomatoes. Add black pepper to taste. Leave at room temperature for a further 20 minutes.
Taste and if necessary drizzle over either more vinegar or more oil to taste (the hungry cygnet likes hers pretty vinegary, and sometimes she has an extra bowl of vinegar on the side for dipping!)
There are more recipes and serving suggestions on the Little Herb Farm website.
Find out more:
Facebook page: The Little Herb Farm
Twitter page: @littleherbfarm
This article has been submitted to Crail Food Festival by Kirsten McKenzie. You can read more by visiting www.kirstenmckenzie.co.uk or www.pittenweemplot.wordpress.com, or join me on Facebook – Kirsten McKenzie or send me a Tweet @kirstenmckenzie
I still remember vividly the tsunami of chocolate envy that engulfed me when I first read Joanne Harris’ evocative description of Vianne Rocher’s “Grand Festival du Chocolat”. Her graphic description of sensuous encounters of the cocoa kind was almost too much for any chocolate-loving girl to endure. And so it was with a definite frisson of anticipation that I arrived in Pittenweem on Easter Monday to take part in a promisingly entitled “Chocolate Making Workshop” – just one of the events in Pittenweem’s Grand Festival of Chocolate.
The festival was the brainchild of Sophie Latinis, founder and chocolatier at The Pittenweem Chocolate Company and proprietor of the town’s Cocoa Tree Café. Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone so well versed in chocolate etiquette, Sophie is Belgian by extraction. However, to lead the workshop, she had invited a fellow chocolatier, Charlotte Flower from Acharn near Aberfeldy. Charlotte is a weel kent face in Scottish chocolate circles, and her fascination with foraging means the flavour of her unique chocolates varies according to what is in season at any time, which could be rosemary, lavender, Scots Pine, wild mint or soft fruits, among others.
Perhaps ironically, one of the first things I discovered when I reported to Pittenweem Church Hall on Monday afternoon, resplendent in my favourite Snoopy apron, was that neither Sophie nor Charlotte is particularly fond of the term “chocolatier”, which they feel tends to conjure up connotations of – in their words – “men with extremely tall hats and egos to match.”
Job titles duly dispensed with, it was quickly evident to the four apprentice chocolatiers for the afternoon that our two mentors were knowledgeable and passionate about every conceivable aspect of chocolate, from pod to final product. Both spoke animatedly about the difficulties and benefits of encouraging larger chocolate companies to source their beans from Fair Trade producers. They also talked in reverent tones about their occasional sorties to the Salon de Chocolat in Paris, where the top chocolatiers (resplendent in their tall hats, bien sûr) battle it out in the various disciplines of the chocolate championships. To the four of us, sitting mesmerised by their ready flow of information, it all sounded like another world: a world with a chocolate centre…
Multifarious white, milk and dark chocolate concoctions were dotted around the kitchen in a cornucopia of pots, pans and other heating devices, so the temptation to dip one’s finger into the beckoning mixtures was at times excruciating. However, we all dutifully managed to retain our self-control for the first 10 minutes, as Charlotte and Sophie had stressed the importance of making sure that the chocolate was adequately “tempered” before we began working with it.
Charlotte explained: “Chocolate is an amazing substance, and cooking with it is like being in a scientific laboratory. If you look at chocolate under a microscope, you’ll see an emulsion comprised of a medium of cocoa butter in which are suspended small particles of cocoa solids and tiny particles of sugar.
“When cocoa butter crystallises,” she continued, “it can form into any one of 6–7 different structures, which makes it a rather fickle product to work with. If chocolate callets (like thick chocolate buttons to you and me) aren’t melted and cooled correctly, the chocolate won’t form the correct crystal structure.” Apparently, that means it won’t snap and – quelle horreur! – that it may well develop a bloom (the familiar unattractive grey residue that we sometimes see on chocolate).
We were shown how to test for correct tempering by pouring a sample of molten chocolate onto a strip of plastic to see how well it set – if the chocolate is correctly tempered, when it hardens it should be shiny and make a distinctive “snap” when broken in two. As it transpired, the melting chocolate wasn’t quite ready for our ministrations at that point, so instead we turned our eager attentions to the equally fascinating art of truffle making.
Charlotte produced several bowls of gorgeous ganache (a mixture of chocolate and cream) in a variety of flavours including plain dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate ginger, and chocolate flavoured with lavender. She then demonstrated how to make a white chocolate ganache flavoured with real lemon zest. It looked utterly amazing, its rich, golden yellow colour being surpassed only by its tantalising lemon taste which transported one’s taste buds straight to Sicily.
As instructed, we each rolled ourselves a selection of “ganache balls” and once they had set firm, we dipped our truffles tentatively into bowls of different types of molten chocolate. Fortunately, we had been equipped with the requisite “dipping forks” for this precarious process and were able to remove all our mini-masterpieces safely without having to dive into the bowls of molten chocolate after them (although admittedly, that prospect was not an unpleasant one…).
Myriad sprinklings (ranging from crunchy strawberry balls to cocoa tips to slivers of caramel) were provided for decorative purposes, and we were also given tiny piping bags so we could add ornamentation in contrasting colours of chocolate. Truffles duly completed, we turned our attentions to making – and decorating – a bar of chocolate. This process began with the rather unlikely task of “polishing” the inside of the moulds with wads of cotton wool, as Charlotte warned us that any greasy fingerprint or other imperfection on the inside of the mould would spoil the shiny appearance of our finished bar.
Next we ran the moulds under the inviting fountain of milky brown chocolate emanating from the magic chocolate melting machine, and scraped off any excess before knocking the mould firmly (but carefully) on the table surface several times, to bring to the surface and burst any lurking air bubbles. Last but not least, there was another flurry of sprinkling as we “personalised” our bars with our choice of tempting toppings.
While the chocolate and truffles were setting, Sophie talked us through the many and complex processes involved in chocolate production, starting by showing us a genuine cocoa pod containing still damp cocoa beans (each pod contains around 30), which looked a far cry from the dried and roasted beans which she showed us next.
She explained that the beans are removed from the pod and then fermented (for anything from three to ten days, depending on the producers’ patience and schedule) before being dried, roasted and ground to create a cocoa paste. It was certainly mind-boggling to learn how many processes the humble cocoa bean undergoes before ending up as the melt-in-the-mouth chocolate we know and love. All of which brought us neatly to the culmination of the workshop: a chocolate tasting session featuring three different types of pure dark chocolate. Sophie forbade us to bite the chocolate samples, instructing us instead to allow each piece of chocolate to melt gradually on our tongue, so that we could pick out the characteristic flavours.
It goes without saying that I was in my element: talking about, working with and learning how to “taste” chocolate properly. There really was no better way for a self-confessed chocoholic to spend the afternoon of Easter Monday. However, sadly all good things must come to an end and before we knew it, it was time to pack our truffles proudly into smart golden boxes and slip our customised bars of chocolate into see-through cellophane sleeves. It had been a truly wonderful afternoon characterised by laughter, creativity and, above all, a shared passion for chocolate – Vianne Rocher would most certainly have approved.
This article has been submitted to Crail Food Festival by food, family and lifestyle blogger SquareSparrow. You can read more by visiting http://square-sparrow.blogspot.co.uk/ or join me on http://www.facebook.com/square.sparrow or send me a Tweet @SquareSparrow.
The village of Anstruther in Fife’s East Neuk has a history of French connections, not least the fact that it is twinned with the French town of Bapaume. Maybe it is no surprise then that this is where Frenchman Julien Poix decided to open his French deli, La Petite Epicerie (“The little Deli”) in 2009. Julien, who has over 15 years’ experience in the restaurant and catering industry, moved from France to Scotland over 10 years ago. Why Anstruther? He was drawn to the wealth of local produce and beautiful, peaceful surroundings and hoped that the steadier hours of a deli would be a better balance between his passion for food and his family than the long hours of working in a restaurant.
I think France and Scotland both share a passion for food but was interested in Julien’s take on the culinary differences between the two countries. He said that in France people tended to eat later in the evening, giving them more time to prepare food and there is a big focus on quality ingredients. I wish I spent a bit more time cooking with better ingredients rather than rushing home from work and chucking another dubious ready meal into the microwave! Fortunately, I discovered that La Petite Epicerie’s treasure trove of the best of local and continental food could help me. How? By providing the key ingredients to better everyday meals which are good value and easy to make.
I bought a hamper and a steak pie from La Petite Epicerie last week. Armed with these goodies I was able to whip up four delicious dishes tout de suite:-
1. STEAK PIE HEAVEN - La Petite Epicerie quite simply sells the best steak pies I’ve ever tasted. Julien makes them in the shop using steak from local East Neuk butcher extraordinaire, J.B. Penman of Crail. I first discovered their hearty, moreish charms one New Year’s Day, when one large La Petite Epicerie steak pie disappeared very quickly into six hungry mouths! This time round I cooked the pie with simple parmentier potatoes (local new potatoes par boiled, cubed and roasted in the oven with a bit of Very Lazy’s garlic, chopped onion, rosemary and oil or butter) and some local carrots and leeks (chopped and fried with a little olive oil and a splash of Calvados). A simple but oh so génial evening meal!
2. CLASSIC GAULISH STARTER – La Petite Epicerie’s incredible selection of imported terrines and pâtés make for a simple, superfast but delicious starter or snack, paired with biscuits or just toast. There are lots of duck and other meaty terrines as well as tempting seafood ones – I went for the Wild Boar Terrine for my hamper because it was a bit different and French, the sort of thing which Asterix might have eaten in ancient Gaul. I selected some Italian Bruschette Maretti mixed cheese flavour biscuits to go with it.
3. FIFE FARFALLE - I made a simple weeknight supper with two fantastic fresh, seasonal local ingredients from the deli – Wild Garlic Pesto from Fife’s Trotters’ Independent Condiments (the colour and smell of which is wonderfully intense) and Anster cheese with chives from the St Andrews Cheese Company, near Anstruther. I simply boiled some dried pasta, roasted chopped peppers, cherry tomatoes and onion in the oven and put it all together with the Pesto, some olive oil and the Anster cheese grated on the top, Quick, fresh and garlicky – fantastique!
4. MOROCCAN MID-WEEK MARVEL - Finally I used the Gustosecco Tangier Couscous (which has apricots, almonds and vine fruits in it) and homemade Mint Infused Olive Oil from La Petite Epicerie to make another quick but superbly tasty mid-week meal. I chopped chicken breast, coated it with some Harissa paste and seasoning and pan fried it. Meanwhile I made the couscous – which couldn’t be simpler – and mixed in pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs, seasoning and some of the olive oil. I served the chicken and couscous with some supermarket-bought tzatziki on the side and a cheeky wee glass of vin rouge.
By the end of the week it was clear that I’d been eating better, more exotic, fresher meals, without the pain of spending huge amounts of time cooking, stressing or looking for recipes. Magnifique!
Julien is always on the lookout for great new local and continental products for his customers but La Petite Epicerie is not just about quality products. It’s clear that Julien is genuinely passionate about providing great service to help his customers. He recently introduced some recipe cards into the shop to help customers who are having trouble deciding what to buy. I think this is an excellent idea which more shops should be doing. The deli also offers a free home delivery service within a 10 mile radius, a service Julien started to help out elderly customers who were stuck at home, unable to travel to the shop in bad weather. In a nutshell, as one customer said, the deli “brings back the France-Scotland Auld Alliance to our community and treats us to wonderful service and foods.”
Julien hopes one day to open a second deli but right now he’s busy expanding his outside catering service (he’s already catered for dinners, birthdays, christenings and even weddings). Any time off is spent with his young family, recently enlarged by the birth of his second son.
The Crail Food Festival is “a fantastic opportunity to showcase local food suppliers and what a community spirit the local area has”, he says. We’ll have to wait and see which local and continental products La Petite Epicerie will be selling at this year’s Festival to help us improve our everyday cuisine (though dressed crab and game terrine are in season so they could be amongst them). Whatever they are I can’t wait to do my bit for the Auld Alliance and try them out!
This article has been written for the Crail Food Festival by Sara Scott aka The East Neuk Blogger. You can read more by visiting http://rosecottageeastneuk.blogspot.co.uk or send me a Tweet @RoseCottageFife.
The opportunity to chew the fat with a fellow foodie is always welcome – and this certainly proved to be the case last week when I popped in at Seriously Good Venison’s state-of-the-art production premises at Jamesfield organic farm, near Abernethy, for a chat with dynamic company director Vikki Banks as the run-up to Crail Food Festival begins. On reflection, it would be more appropriate to describe our discussion as “chewing the lean”, since Vikki is quick to point out that one of venison’s major attributes is its incredibly low fat content.
“Venison is high in omega 3 and high in iron – so it’s good for mums-to-be,” she explains, adding enthusiastically, “And it contains less fat than skinless chicken breasts!” This is sweet music to the ears of Yours Truly, who is extremely fond of venison. Confirmation that it is one of the healthiest meats around means that in future I can ladle it on to my plate with a crystal clear conscience.
A fine food aficionado with an impressive track record in mail order, Vikki began her career working at Scotland Direct in 1996. After that she consolidated and widened her retail experience by running her own online speciality food company for several years in partnership with a friend. In September 2009, she joined Fletchers of Auchtermuchty as a manager, initially working alongside owners John and Nichola Fletcher before buying them out completely on 31st March last year.
Vikki speaks with a genuine passion about deer. She points to her computer screen, where the background photo features a strapping stag called “Rascal”, of whom she is evidently particularly fond. “He’ll never end up on a plate,” she says firmly, although she proceeds to tell me candidly about her state-of-the-art butchery facilities which we can see clearly from her office window. As we talk, Master Butcher Paul Douglas and his QMS apprentice Andrew McKeen are busy preparing and packing meat for a forthcoming local farmers’ market. Most Seriously Good venison (47%) is sold directly to customers at such markets; 28% is sold online, having been cut to order and vacuum packed; and the remainder is sold on a wholesale basis.
When she took over the business from the Fletchers, Vikki was keen to retain the impeccable welfare systems which the company founders had already put in place at their farm at Reediehill, near Auchtermuchty. So the deer are still culled out in the field by a single shot to the head, thus avoiding the stress of them being rounded up and transported in a lorry to the alien environment of an abattoir.
This aspect of Seriously Good Venison’s deer husbandry is not only beneficial from a welfare point of view; it also ensures the meat is exceptionally tender, as there is no rush of toughening, stress-induced adrenalin.
The deer at Reediehill are out at grass all year round, with the calves being weaned from their mothers before winter and kept indoors during the coldest winter months to build up their strength. They are put out to grass again, usually around April, and then live free range on the extensive pastures. They are given no antibiotics, so the meat does not require a withdrawal period. Moreover, it is hung traditionally and is “trimmed within an inch of its life” (to quote Vikki!) to ensure optimal quality and flavour.
The recent press circus surrounding meat contamination held no fears for Vikki, whose products follow a clear provenance path from the field to her FSA-approved butchery facility. “In the past month, we’ve had inspections from the EHO (Environmental Health Officers) and the Food Standards Agency,” she tells me, smiling and relaxed. “But they’re welcome to come whenever they like, as we’re definitely not hiding any horses here!”
Asked if she feels the horsemeat crisis has had a tangible impact on her business, she replies: “Well, we certainly haven’t had to push our product. I think people are understandably becoming more discerning when buying meat, and that’s very much in our favour.”
When I enquire about what the future is likely to hold for Seriously Good Venison, Vikki talks excitedly about her plans to move the herd to a new home near Cupar, Fife, in the coming months. She will also be undertaking a re-branding exercise, which will see Seriously Good Beef and Seriously Good Lamb added to the company’s product portfolio.
Of course, it would have been rude to leave without purchasing a couple of packs of venison – purely for research purposes, of course… Naturally I ask Vikki, being the expert in such matters, for a couple of suggestions and she recommends serving the steaks with either a blue cheese sauce (see recipe below) or a rowan jelly jus. Back at home, a family vote came out in favour of the latter, so that’s what was on the menu chez Sparrow last Friday evening. As a result, I can happily confirm that Seriously Good Venison more than lives up to its name!
Free download: SGV Steak tips for you to Download
Free recipe for you: Haunch Steaks in blue cheese sauce
Find out more:
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/SeriouslyGoodVenison?fref=ts
Twitter page: @SGVenison
This article has been submitted to Crail Food Festival by food, family and lifestyle blogger SquareSparrow. You can read more by visiting http://square-sparrow.blogspot.co.uk/ or join me on http://www.facebook.com/square.sparrow or send me a Tweet @SquareSparrow.
One of our aims as a community festival is to help small businesses who work with us to learn from others about how they use some of the tools available to promote their business. We hope you’ll enjoy this insight into how two of our producers are using Facebook to promote their business.
Founded in 2004 as a way for college students in the USA to keep in touch with one another, Facebook has become part of everyday life and connections between friends for many people world wide. In the UK, over 50% of the population has a Facebook account, and anyone with a Facebook account can create a page for something they’re passionate about – which could be you, and your business!
Two of the businesses who are returning for the 2013 Crail Food Festival are run by Tanya Muttitt (Days Gone Bye Jams and Home Made Preserves) and Darren Mollan (Chilli Papas). We spoke to them about how they promote their business using Facebook.
Tanya started her business selling Jams and Home Made Preserves back in 2010, selling at car boot sales and progressing to selling at events throughout Fife (and beyond). Her aim is to reintroduce our clients to the taste of “real ” jams and preserves. Just like your granny would have made – full of fruit and taste. Tanya’s business is currently in the process of setting up a shop in Newport, Fife where she will sell her preserves, as well as providing a base for other local crafts people and artisans to trade.
How does Days Gone Bye Jams and Homemade Preserves use Facebook?
Darren Mollan of Chilli Papas also has a home-based business, creating curry mixes and spice and herb blends to help people make delicious low-fat home cooked meals from raw ingredients. Darren set up his business in 2010, just as we were devising the plan for the first ever Crail Food Festival. Looking for a low cost way to reach potential customers, Darren set up his Facebook page as a central part of his business strategy, and has made a huge effort to grow the Facebook following for his page.
How does Chilli Papas use Facebook?
Crail has many things. Wonderful seafood, a glorious harbour, a fantastic annual food festival, and …it’s very own beer! What initially started as a one off brew to mark the second year of the Crail Food Festival, has proved to be a hit with the locals across Fife and beyond.
Produced by the St. Andrews Brewing Company, the idea for the beer came with a brief – it had to complement one of the festival’s best assets, its fish, whilst still giving enough of a punch to help wash down a curry. The end product was a 4.5% pale ale, with fresh citrus hops, and Munich Malt, which helped to give the beer its unique flavour and a delicious grapefruit finish.
Beyond the Festival, Crail Ale went out to the Brewery’s stockists in July 2012, where rave reviews soon followed – Peter Wood of the St Andrews Wine Company was particularly fond of the beer, giving it 91/100 in his review.
The Ale has now well and truly taken the local beer world by storm, with stockists across Britain, as well as heavy demand for the product online – more than 5,000 bottles have been sold since its launch at the Crail Food Festival in 2012. Each bottle plays homage to its origins, with a label dedicated to the Crail Food Festival.
Crail Ale’s sister product, Strawberry Crail, also proved to be a hit. Lovingly made with local Crail strawberries, this ale will be available during strawberry season at the Fife Farmers Market and the Crail Food Festival 2013. In addition to these fantastic brews, there will also be a Crail Special and Neuk Special on offer at the Festival. A 7.4% IPA and a 6.6% dark Ale, you’ll find something to keep that thirst at bay.
News Update (May 2013):
Only last week the beer also won another prize which came as a real surprise, I entered the Sainsburys Great British Beer Hunt regional competition. Up against a number of well established Scottish breweries the Crail Ale was voted by members of the public as the winner, and will now be stocked in Sainsbury’s stores across Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Obviously as a small one-man business with only one year’s trading this is all exciting news and an opportunity to get a wider audience for my beers but also for the Crail Food Festival, which is mentioned and advertised with the website on the side label.
I’ll be down at the festival this year selling all my range on the Saturday market and I’ll be helping to serve the beers at the evening event where I’ll have Crail Ale and Fife Gold on tap.
Cheers and hope to see you at this year’s festival,
We’re a community festival, currently staffed entirely by volunteers. What we like to do is spread the load so that no one person has too much to do. That’s our notion of how communities work well together.
We provide lots of ways for locals and those further afield to get involved and support our efforts to spread the word about our Festival and the abundant quality food produced by the many enthusiastic producers throughout the county of Fife.
For the 2013 Crail Food Festival, we’re planning a series of articles to be published on this website, one per week for the 10 weeks leading up to the Festival. In previous years, our fabulous volunteer Chiara, who writes so beautifully on her Wine and Olives blog has interviewed producers and participants and helped as our Festival has developed from small beginnings and a dream back in 2010.
If you currently write a blog about food or drink, and would like to be involved, please read the requirements below and let us know by commenting with your contact details, and we’ll be in touch to discuss how you can be involved.
We’re looking for one article per volunteer, on an aspect of cooking, eating, enjoying, preparing or reviewing fabulous Food From Fife. The article will be published here on the Crail Food Festival website, and promoted via our Facebook page and Twitter profile. We will include links to your own website, with appropriate credits. It would be helpful if you can also include at least one photograph to illustrate the article.
Depending on the type of blog post you will be creating, we can supply you with a recipe to follow, or ingredients to use, or contact with a producer for you to carry out an interview. We have a (small) budget for this to ensure that some expenses of the exercise are met. Let us know if there’s some aspect you’d particularly like to write about, or if you’d like to be issued with a challenge!
If you’re going to be taking a stall at our Food Market on 15 June 2013, or at our Harbour Fun Day on 16 June 2013, get in touch and let us know you’d like to be involved in the publicity we’ll be creating about our event. We’ll put you in contact with one of our team of volunteer bloggers, or supply them with one of your ingredients to cook with or sample. This is an ideal way of spreading the news about the delicious food you produce, grow or prepare. We will be promoting information about all of our producers who get in touch in the lead up to the 2013 Crail Food Festival.
To discuss you can email susan [at] 2crail.com, or respond by commenting on this post below.
Our 2012 Crail Food Festival Market Event welcomed over 600 people to Crail Community Hall on Saturday 16 June 2012 to enjoy meeting the producers who had brought their wares to sample, and to watch the varied cookery demonstrations going on in our Chef’s Kitchen.
Early customers at the Food Market
Nichola Fletcher’s Pigeon Breasts with Raspberry and Whisky Sauce
Craig C Millar’s Sea Bream with Mussels, Thai Broth and Kellie Castle Vegetables
Despite rain on Saturday, Sunday’s Harbour Lunch Event was held in (mostly) dry conditions and once again the Crail Harbour provided the perfect backdrop to an afternoon of tasting, music and friendly foodie chatter, while the children were able to play games on the Harbour Beach.
Crail Harbour was bustling with visitors eager to taste the fine food on offer.
The combination of Penman’s Pork Sausauges and Chillilicious UK’s chillies and chilli relishes were voted Chillitastic by customers of Jones and Son’s Bespoke BBQ.
Commissioned to sing until the sun shone, Kenny Anderson actually did!
Chilli Papas, staunch supporters of the Crail Food Festival, talked to us about all things spice ahead of their appearance at the festival this weekend.
What can we expect from you at the festival this year?
We can announce that Chilli Papas newly launched Fajita and 2-in-1 Mandalay mixes will make their food festival debut at Crail this year. Our range has doubled in size compared to last year, and we are very excited about the future. We will also be preparing tasters for the Harbour on Sunday.
Why did you decide to get involved again?
Crail Food Festival is very close to our hearts. The festival gave us our first foray into this environment, and having supported them in its inaugural year, I see us growing together in the years to come. The organisation, passion and commitment from those involved guarantees this will be a success.
How has Chilli Papas developed over the past year?
The experience of Crail Food Festival gave us the confidence to expand our range (Vindaloo Medium and Hot) and to try other food festivals. Our hampers and curry bags have proved very popular as we have diversified our commercial offerings to our customers. With a strong following on social media and an expanding range of stockists, Chilli Papas is continuing to grow.
Did your participation in the festival last year help raise awareness of your product?
Crail Food Festival was key in raising awareness of Chilli Papas. It gave us the opportunity to reach a food-loving audience, while giving us the confidence to go forward and grow our business.
Why do you think Fife produce is a talking point?
The Fife food basket is brimming with a wealth of traditional and varied produce. From The Little Herb Farm and their herb and fruit vinegars which can be used with champagne, to traditional producers like Seriously Good Veninson and Lucklaw Farm, treating us to the highest quality produce. Fife produce is, and will continue to be, a talking point across the nation.