Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2014

As the title might suggest, this September, from the 6th to the 21st (yes it’s not quite a fortnight, more 16 days), there is a nationwide celebration of Scottish Food & DrinkScottish Food & Drink Fortnight

. The aim of the campaign is to get people more involved with food & drink from their local area by taking part in events or buying from local producers.

One of the campaigns is to aim to eat only Scottish produce for the length of the campaign. I’ll be honest, it’s not something I often pay attention to when buying food, especially fruit & veg so it’s something I think is worth giving a go. In particular, I’m interested to see if there’s a difference in taste & quality compared to what I normally buy. With the number of farmers markets & local artisan producers, there’s no excuse really for not buying Scottish. To find out when your next farmers market is, you can find out through the Visit Scotland site here (NB – the Scottish Farmers Market website appears to have been hacked as Google would not let me open the page)

Ok so I’ve mentioned buying Scottish food but what else is there on to get involved I hear you ask? There are a whole host of events lined up that you can view via Scotland Food and Drink. Here are my pick of the events coming up:

Loch Lomond Food & Drink Festival, 6-7 September

This year’s Loch Lomond festival promises to be bigger than ever! With a range of food producers, there is a lot of variety of Scottish produce to buy from companies such as Ochil Fudge Pantry, Eden Brewery, Hebridean Food Co  & Wwoof UK. There will be cookery demos from James Morton (of Great British Bake Off Fame), and others on the day. This year also sees the first Lochtober Fest, hosted by Loch Lomond Brewery, which will showcase beers from breweries all over the country. Entry to the festival is free during the day & there is ample free parking if coming from further afield!

Eat Drink Discover Scotland, Edinburgh, 12-14 September

A new festival celebrating all things foodie & Scottish based in Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Hall. Eat Drink Discover Scotland promises to be full to the brim of things to see, do, eat, drink & buy! There are over 100 Scottish producers attending with products covering all aspect of food groups & drink categories that you can think of! Ones to watch out for include Berry Good, Galloway Chillies, Plan Bee & The Wee Fudge Co.
[EDIT – after publishing this, the organisers have informed me that readers can get discount tickets by using the code EDDS2014]

In addition to all of that food & drink, there will also be chef demos from well-known Scottish chefs including Mark Greenaway, Tony Singh & a host of others. There will also be masterclasses on offer (for an additional fee) & skill sessions.

Living Food Festival, Cawdor Castle, 21 September

In it’s 9th year, the Living Food Festival in the Highland’s original food & drink festival, focussing on local, artisan & organic produce. On the day, there will be 50 producers selling their wares, family entertainment including face painting & balloon modelling & musical entertainment. In association with Slow Food Scotland, there will be 10 Scottish Ark of Taste products on display, allowing visitors to find out the stories behind some of Scotland’s most interesting food heritage.

Whether it is buying food from a local shop instead of the supermarket, attending one of the many events on offer or even going for a meal at your local independent cafe/bar/restaurant, Scottish food & drink is definitely something we all need to embrace a bit more often!

Disclaimer: I have not been asked to include any events or producers in my post. All are of my own choosing. 

Review: Rice n Spicy

I came across Rice n Spicy through the wonderful world of Twitter. They are a small company, focussing on the creation of authentic Punjab meals. All meals are made from scratch & contain no artifical ingredients or preservatives.

Partial to a good curry, I decided to venture across the city to the Clarkston Farmers Market where they have a stall on the fourth Saturday of every month. Having spoken over Twitter, I introduced myself & asked which curries they recommend.

I was advised that the slow cooked lamb curry was one of the best they have but as I’m not much of a lamb fan, I decided to pass on it. I did, however, decide to branch out & try two curries I’ve never had before – Punjab Kofta & Tarka Daal along with much anticipated Stornoway Black Pudding pakora & their namesake Spicy Rice.

Rice n Spicy Curries

The much anticipated Black Pudding Pakora!

On opening the packets, I noticed that the curry was a lot more fragrant & didn’t have that standard curry smell you normally find from your local takeaway. We tried the black pudding pakora first & it was divine! The black pudding was soft yet somehow still in a perfectly shaped ball & went well with the additional spices in the pakora batter. Al questioned how they managed to get the black pudding to stay in shape considering how delicate it is (Rash – one you could answer??). It came with a pakora sauce & raita. I have to say, the raita was the better of the two, very light & the taste was perfect. The pakora sauce on the other hand was very light & different from the usual pakora sauce. It was lacking a bit of a kick that you would normally expect.

Black Pudding Pakora!

The punjab kofta which is a tomato based curry with small beef meatballs was very tasty. I am not a fan of meatballs so I wasn’t sure if I would like this curry but the texture was more like lamb koftas you get at barbecues – soft & fall apart quite easily. The sauce wasn’t much to my liking as I could really taste the tomatoes (I can’t stand tomatoes!) but Al who isn’t a fan of tomatoes either couldn’t taste it & he loved it. The tarka daal was different from what I had expected. As it’s made mainly of lentils, I had expected a thick, stodgy curry. Instead this tarka daal was light & spicy yet filling. A total treat! The spicy rice was different from your bog standard pilau rice as it was mixed with peas & chickpeas & you could taste some other spices it had been mixed with. It didn’t have the big kick I was expecting giving the name but it went well with the curries.

I would definitely recommend that you check out Rice n Spicy & their range of products. They do packs for home delivery & are present at several markets during the month. If you’re a curry lover, you won’t be let down & as you can see, they are a sell out!
A successful day's selling

Nucoco Chocolate Making Class

I’d heard of Nucoco Chocolate before when popping into the Good Spirits company but hadn’t tried any of their products. When I heard via Facebook that they were going to be running chocolate making classes at the store, I figured I would go along & see what it’s all about.

 

          Dark Chocolate & pistachio / Dark Chocolate & rum soaked cranberries (my fav!)

For those who haven’t heard of Nucoco, they are a Scottish company who pride themselves on making good quality chocolate. They have a few products including bars, smash bars(larger slabs, smashed up into bitesized pieces) and drinking chocolate. The mix of flavours are also quite different, including Rum soaked cranberry & tablet.

Walking into the room, each desk had a bowl, spatula, apron & printed book per person on it. At the front, there were a couple of machines along with a LOT of chocolate. Before we got our hands dirty (and they got very dirty!), Jackie told us a bit of background about Nucoco & the chocolate that they make. It was really informative & always a good to get a background into a company. Then the time came for us to get stuck in!
                             
                            Jackie prepping the chocolate

One of the larger machines on the table, we were told, was a chocolate tempering machine. What that roughly translates as is, you can melt chocolate in it without burning it or ruining the colour. We were given the choice of making a slab of chocolate or individual bars – I opted for the bars. After receiving our freshly melted chocolate, it then had to be transferred to the moulds. This was a lot messier than it seemed. After putting  the chocolate into the moulds, you then have to scrape the excess chocolate off and bang the mould to get all of the air bubbles out.

                                
There was an array of toppings for the chocolate bars. The good thing about making the bars was that you could use pretty much all of the toppings on them. However, as the room was a bit cold, one of my sets of bars had started to set so we weren’t sure if the toppings would stick. Jackie gave me a slab to make as well just in case the bars didn’t turn out ok. More chocolate is never a bad thing!
                         

Whilst the bars were cooling in the fridge, Jackie gave us some background into the world of chocolate. We were told about the origins, the different types of cocoa & the different forms it takes before you see it in the bar form you’re probably more used to. 
                                
                          Cocoa beans, cocoa plants, cocoa nibs & cocoa butter
The bars were taken out of the fridge once set & as you can see, they turned out not too bad!
                               

The class overall was a good experience, learning about what you’re making as well as being very hands on. At a bargain of £20 for the introductory class, it was very good value for money! The next class will be on the 9th of February, costing £30 per person or £50 for 2. Even if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, the class would make a good present for any chocoholic!