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The search for Scotland’s best-kept secret ingredient: Scottish Borders

The Scottish Borders is an impressive land of rolling hills, farmland and rugged coast - from the Southern Uplands to Berwickshire, the hills and valleys are home to farmers committed to producing food of outstanding quality.

Robert Burns once described southern Scotland as a ‘land o’ cakes’. He didn’t mean desserts, but oatcakes and barley bannocks that would have been baked on an iron girdle over the fire. We don’t see many barley bannocks these days, but if you can make your own quite easily using barley flour milled by John Hogarth Ltd in the Borders town of Kelso. Just heat some milk with a knob of butter and a pinch of salt, and add the flour until it swells into a pliable dough. Then bake in the oven until it’s thin and crispy with a slightly moist centre. And eat them hot!

The Borders produces some top quality meat. The Carmichael Farm near Peebles rears single estate venison, lamb and beef. Their sirloin steaks were awarded two gold stars at the Great Taste Awards 2010 and classified 'faultless'.

Over towards the east coast, you’ll find Peelham Farm and its organic pork, lamb, mutton, ruby veal and beef. As well as selling many different cuts they also make a range of sausages, burgers and charcuterie. And if you’ve ever fancied owning a rare-breed pig, you can. Peelham will rear a Tamworth on your behalf and even let you help with the resulting butchery and processing.

Farne Salmon and Trout in Duns is one of the largest smoked salmon facilities in Europe. They still use traditional methods of dry-salting and smoking in old-style kilns to enhance the flavour, whilst preserving the fish.

If like me, you love a good meringue (who doesn’t!) make a bee-line for Border Meringues in either Jedburgh or Kelso. They launched in 2005 making a few meringues in a garden shed, and now they sell to national suppliers. I use meringue in my Modern Eton Mess dish to add some delicately sweet texture.

If you like your dishes to have a bit of a kick, Ooft! hot pepper sauce is worth adding to your larder. It’s made in small batches in a tiny artisan workshop in the Borders.They lay the sauce down (like fine wine) for over a year before bottling. Perhaps this process helped them to win a Scottish Food and Drink Excellence Awards this year.

Do you use any of the products I’ve mentioned in this blog to give your favourite recipe the X-factor?

Or it could be any product from Scotland? Anything from meat to seafood, condiments to herbs, or even alcohol. As long as it’s produced in Scotland, it’s eligible. Just tell me what it is, and describe how you use it.

Email me at before Friday 15th August 2014 and you could be in with a chance of being selected to join me in a cook-off at Eat Drink Discover Scotland.

Visit for terms and conditions.

Join me next week as I explore the Dumfries and Galloway.

Eat Drink Discover Scotland, which is taking place at the Royal Highland Centre between 12th and 14th September, will bring to life the rich diversity of Scotland’s brimming larder by featuring exhibitors from the length and breath of the country. One for the foodies, it will be offering something for every palate, plate and price range and with a regional focus, it will be providing opportunities for smaller rural food producers to share centre stage with more established brands. The weekend will also include demonstrations and masterclasses such as chocolate workshops, cocktail making, game butchery and craft bakery.

Follow the search on Twitter @EatDrinkSco


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