A tale of two cheeses

My assignment for this year’s Crail Food Festival made me very happy, not only did it involve one of my favourite foods but also one of my favourite Fife producers, the wonderful St Andrews Cheese company – who make their unique selection of Anster Cheeses.

So what makes Jane Stewart’s cheese so special?

  1. The unpasteurised milk comes straight from her husband’s own herd of Holstein Friesian cows, meaning that they have complete control over the whole process – from cow to cheeseboard.
  2. They use special cultures developed using bacteria to help give Anster Cheese its complex flavours and aroma.
  3. Unlike many cheese producers Anster Cheese mill their curd through a traditional peg mill which contributes to the lovely crumbly texture.
  4. The use of traditional cast iron presses also helps achieve just the right texture for Jane and Robert’s cheeses.
  5. Finally, Anster Cheese is allowed to mature naturally.

Ordinarily when faced with a lovely block of Anster Cheese I will simply munch away with an oatcake or 10 and perhaps a wee bit of chutney here and there. However this assignment involved me getting my pinny on and doing a bit of actual cooking.

After visiting St Andrews Cheese farm and chatting to their fabulous chef I decided to buy a huge block of Anster Cheese and one of Red Anster which is flavoured with garlic and chives.

My original intention was to cook a trio of cheesy dishes including Cheese and Chive Scones, Cheese Straws and a Cheese Soufflé. But I am ashamed to say that I completely ducked out of attempting the soufflé as after just returning from eating my way round Belgium it seemed a bridge too far!

Red Anster Cheese Straws with Paprika

Cheese Straws are irresistible aren’t they? You always mean to have one or two with a glass of wine before dinner and boom they are gone before you know it. They are great favourites with kids as well, if you don’t mind being surrounded by a carpet of flaked cheese straw at all times.

I briefly considered making my own pastry but to be honest (apologies to all the great bakers out there) life just seems too short when a respectable puff pastry can be bought. The results were very pleasing. Red Anster gave the cheese straws a lovely rich colour and the cheese and chive added to the flavour burst of the paprika.

Ingredients

175g shop bought puff pastry, paprika to flavour, two generous handfuls of
Red Anster, some flour to scatter on your work surface

Method

  • Pre heat oven to 200 ˚C
  • Roll out the puff pastry and scatter over most of the cheese before folding in half.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin.
  • Cut into 1cm strips, then twist the strips 3-4 times.
  • Lay on a baking sheet, scatter over more cheese and paprika to taste and bake for 12 mins, or until golden.
  • Leave to cool, then keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days (but let’s be honest they will never last that long!)

 

anster cheese straws

Anster Cheese and Chive Scones

This is familiar territory for me, having recently gone through savoury scone frenzy. Cheese and Chive is a classic and traditional combination which seemed just right for the noble Anster Cheese. The result was a lovely light scone with fabulous tangy cheese undertones. This is my standard scone recipe to which I add all sorts. Anster cheese and pancetta would also be a fabulous combo to try out.

Ingredients

350g self-raising flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt, 50g butter cut in pieces, 1 tbsp olive oil, two large handfuls of grated Anster Cheese, one small handful of chopped chives, 300ml full fat milk, 1 egg, beaten, to glaze.

Method

  • Pop the flour baking powder and salt in a bowl and combine
  • Add the butter and rub into the flour until you get a nice crumbly mixture.
  • Add the cheese and chives and combine.
  • Make a little well in the relatively dry mix and add the oil and milk.
  • Using a knife stir the mix into soft sticky dough. Don’t be tempted to add more flour as this soft stickiness makes the scones nice and light.
  • Flour your hands and a work surface and make a round from the dough which is around 3cm thick and cut into 8 pieces.
  • Pop onto a tray lined with baking paper and glaze with some beaten egg.
  • This goes into a preheated oven (200 ˚C) for around 20 minutes or until the scones have a lovely brown hue.

anster cheese scones

Anster Cheese represents everything that is great about local producers in the fabulously foodie Kingdom of Fife. They are fiercely passionate about their product and by adhering to traditional processes they make a stunning cheese for us to enjoy.

I like knowing the provenance of the food on my plate and it doesn’t get any better than this, a completely local process from cow to my cheeseboard.

Thank goodness for producers like Jane & Robert who are amongst a very merry band of wonderful people putting Fife firmly on the food map.

Author: Hazel Cameron
Website: www.the grumblingtummy.org
Twitter: @thegrumblingtum

Producer: St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company
Website: St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese
Read More: Visit to St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company
Read More: Risotto with Anster Cheese

 

Down on the farm – 10 reasons to visit Balgove Larder on your holiday

When I’m on a self-catering holiday an important and very enjoyable part of the whole experience is always to try out some local food and drink, whether I’m abroad or just in a different part of the UK. Fife, with its acres of farmland and proximity to the sea is fast becoming the Kingdom of quality local food producers. So for holidaymakers this equals foodie paradise!

Balgove Larder Where could be more authentic for local food than a local farm shop? I suggest that if you want to sample the best of Fife and beyond then get yourself to the granddaddy of Fife farm shops, Balgove Larder just outside St Andrews. Here are 10 reasons why you should:

1. Farm-fresh

Since it opened in September 2010, Balgove Larder has grown phenomenally and is particularly famous for its huge meat counter, most of which comes from the farm itself. In particular I could not recommend the steak burgers to you enough, they are perfect for BBQs. Fruit and veg are also great with lots of choice – don’t miss the strawberries from the local Pittormie Fruit Farm and Tentsmuir in the summer. Balgove Larder is also starting to grow its own veg this year, so you can reduce your carbon footprint even more and buy veg fresh from the field.

balgove-butchers-500

2. The sheer scale of it

Following an expansion in May 2013, Balgove Larder is bigger than your average farm shop and it doesn’t do things by halves. It’s like a wonderful treasure trove of delicious goodies, a place where food shopping is a pleasure, not a chore. It really does have all the best local food and drink produce under one roof like nowhere else I know. Definitely not somewhere to go on an empty stomach, though: you have been warned!

Balgove Farm Shop

Lobsters from the East Neuk of Fife

Fruit and Veg

3. The steak barn

Did I mention the steak burgers? (*Drools*) Well you can eat them as well as some real steak on site during the summer months (from Easter weekend until September) at the Balgove Larder steak barn. Just a short distance from the shop building, it’s a truly charming and (thankfully) covered place for a relaxed, outdoor lunch or dinner in the country, sitting at long benches tucking into some of Balgove Larder’s delights. Not to be missed.

What’s more the barn is also just about to become the venue for something new in the area: The Night Market. This is starting on Wednesday 14 May 2014 and will offer a different range from the Fife Farmer’s market with produce from Fife and beyond, freshly prepared food to snack on while you shop, a variety of drinks (maybe even a cocktail or two), live music and a big emphasis on fun. I can’t wait to check it out! (http://www.facebook.com/The NightmarketSA and @NightmarketSA on Twitter.)

Year round Balgove Larder also has its popular indoor cafe, just beside the shop. There is a new seasonal menu coming soon.

Balgove Steak Barn

Delights of the Balgove Steak Barn including burgers and local beer

4. Hot smoked salmon

Balgove Larder stocks lovely fresh hot smoked salmon, which is my favourite type of Scottish salmon, from the nearby East Neuk fishing village of St Monans. The hot part describes the smoking process, not the salmon itself. It’s much meatier and less slimy than regular smoked salmon. Simply serve with a potato salad and some green leaves for a quick, healthy and extremely tasty holiday meal.

5. Ready meals

Too tired from all that sightseeing to cook tonight? Balgove Larder’s delicious ready meals are a cut above supermarket ones. They are made on site, using as much of the farm’s own produce as possible. Creamy macaroni cheese and hearty Beef Bourgignon are guaranteed to satisfy even the fussiest eaters in your group and there are lots of other meals to choose from.

6. Cartmel sticky toffee pudding

Admittedly not local (it comes from the village of Cartmel in the Lake District) but surely the best premium sticky toffee pudding in the UK is available at Balgove Larder. No fuss dessert heaven which is perfect for holidaymakers with a sweet tooth.

7. Dip Nation

Balgove Larder also stocks the amazing local Dip Nation dips. Combined with strips of either fresh carrot or toasted pitta bread, these are my first port of call for holiday snacks and new varieties seem to be appearing all the time. Dip Nation also do a great pesto for instant pasta perfection.

balgove-goodies-500

Goodies from Balgove, including salmon, ready meals, Cartmel sticky toffee pudding and Dip Nation houmous

8. Craft beer and cider selection

Local beers from St Andrews Brewing Company and Eden Brewery’s local beers are winning loads of awards for good reason and Balgove Larder has a great selection of them. I love St Andrews Brewing Company’s Crail Ale and Eden Brewery’s Blonde. If you’re not a beer person try the Thistly Cross Real Ginger Cider, a ginger-flavoured premium farmhouse cider from East Lothian. It’s my favourite cider ever and is perfect over ice on a summer’s evening. Well you are on holiday!

9. King-sized sausage rolls

Only once has Mr ENB managed to leave Balgove Larder without buying and promptly scoffing on site one of their hot and luxuriously large and meaty sausage rolls and that was under severe duress, which I suspect will be complained about for years to come! (Especially good if you have ignored my advice in number 2 above not to go to Balgove Larder on an empty stomach!)

10. Highland coos!

Last but not definitely least the farm’s Highland coos (cows) have a lot of personality which adds to any visit to Balgove Larder. Many visitors can’t resist stopping their cars to take photos of them in the fields outside, myself included! Black and white photos of these peculiarly Scottish characters adorn the shop walls and there are also brightly-coloured, extremely cute pig paintings in the cafe.

Highland Coo Balgove

Think someone needs their fringe cut! Highland cow, Balgove

So there you go – 10 reasons why you should make Balgove Larder part of your holiday in the East Neuk. Balgove Larder is on the A91 just outside St Andrews, on the way to Leuchars (just past the Old Course hotel) and is open 7 days a week. They will be offering a selection of their products at the Crail Food Festival 2014, including ready to eat homemade treats such as their popular scones and lots of things for you to sample.

Find out more about Balgove:

Website:  www.balgove.com
Facebook: Balgove Larder Farm Shop and Cafe
Twitter:@Balgove

By Sara Scott aka East Neuk Blogger at Rose Cottage
Website: http://rosecottageeastneuk.blogspot.co.uk
Twitter: @RoseCottageFife

 

Fife Food Network – Bringing Fife’s Food Heroes Together

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.”

Viv with Food From Fife leaflets

Viv Collie from Fife Food Network – reproduced with kind permission

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 From Fife collage

Reproduced by kind permission from Food From Fife

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.

Recipes from Fife Food booklet

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:

www.foodfromfife.co.uk/Upload/Documents/fife_food_guide_2012_0.pdf

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.

Anster Cheese Risotto

 

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…

Panna Cotta

Find out more: 

Food from Fife website: http://www.foodfromfife.co.uk
Like Food from Fife on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FoodFromFife?fref=ts
Follow on Twitter @FoodFromFife

This article has been submitted to Crail Food Festival by Edinburgh food blogger Caroline Rye. You can read more by visiting Lonely on a Sunday or send me a Tweet @the_elfherself

 

 

 

The Fife Diet

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

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:

Langoustines in Wild Garlic Butter


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?

Locally Caught Langoustines

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 Escabeche


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.

Mackerel

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?

 

Fife Diet with the Smoothie Bike

Find out more about The Fife Diet from their website or on Facebook or follow Mike on Twitter.  All photos for this article were sourced from The Fife Diet website.

This article has been submitted to Crail Food Festival by Vohn McGuinness.  You can read more about my love of food and cooking at my blog Vohn’s Vittles or send me a Tweet @vohnmcg

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