The search for Scotland’s best-kept secret ingredient: Greater Glasgow and the Clyde Valley
This week’s blog focuses on Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley. Now, this is a region that knows its food! There are wee deli shops all over the place that proudly stock specialty cheeses and meats from across Scotland. So you’re never stuck for quality staple ingredients.
Before we go any further, I can’t be in this neck of the woods and not mention the drink made from girders. Love it or loathe it, there’s no denying Irn Bru’s place in Scots life. It’s been produced by AG Barr in Cumbernauld since the early 20th century and outsells Coca Cola in Scotland. In fact we’re the only nation not to have Coke as its top-selling soft drink. It’s a bit too sickly sweet for me, but to be fair, I don't like any fizzy drinks!
Sticking with famous brands, did you see the dancing Tunnock’s Teacakes at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony? These cheeky wee mallow, chocolate and biscuit treats, which have been produced in Uddingston since the 50s, flew of the shelves as a result of their appearance on the telly. One leading supermarket claims that sales rose by 62% in the 24 hours following the ceremony. I wonder what recipes would benefit from the addition a teacake, or Irn Bru for that matter. I’ll leave you to think about that one!
Moving right away from the big brands to the sheltered slopes of the Clyde Valley. With their well-drained soils and moderate rainfall, this area is home to dozens of orchards, yielding more than 53 varieties of fruit including apples, damsons and plums. Historically, they would have been traded in Scotland, but due to huge increases in overseas imports, the orchards are now at risk of being lost from the landscape forever.
It was a very similar story for the tomato-growers of the Clyde Valley. Cheap imports started to send the industry into decline after its peak in the 1970s and 80s. But in 2012, David Craig and Scott Robertson (tomato entrepreneurs) stepped in and took over the largest remaining set of greenhouses. And boy, have they turned things around. Clyde Valley Tomatoes sell across the country in markets, supermarkets, farm shops – and even directly to chefs like me. It’s great for us all to be able to access home-grown aromatic, and extremely flavoursome tomatoes once again.
There are thousands tomato recipes – so it would be great to find out what you do with them. I did something rather special with them on Sunday. If you saw me on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, you might have noticed I made tomato and goat meat tartare. I used some coeur de boeuf toms from the Clyde Valley as their meatiness married perfectly with the delicate flavour of the goat.
Travelling south, you might find yourself on the High Street in Lanark. If you do, make sure you visit Damn Delicious and try one of their amazing Scotch pies. But pies are just the tip of this meaty iceberg. At the family-run farm just outside Biggar, they rear Aberdeen Angus beef, grass-fed lamb and free-range pork which can be bought as cuts, or as burgers, sausages and, of course, pies. If you can’t make it to Lanark, they’ll deliver straight to your door from their online shop.
Just to confuse you, next on my list is Ramsay of Carluke’s Ayrshire bacon. I know, we were in Ayrshire last week, but it’s the Ramsay family of Lanarkshire who are famous for using the traditional Ayshire curing method for over 150 years. The cured pork is matured slowly, with nothing added, ensuring an intense flavour. Lovely in a sarnie, and great to keep in the fridge as a tasty addition to a quick meal.
When you think of Scottish produce, the fortune cookie is unlikely to spring to mind. But Cracking Cookies in Motherwell are creating a whole new kind of cookie using some ‘cracking’ flavour combinations (sorry) like lemon, vanilla and honey, and orange and cardamom. Not an ingredient per se, but they’re a good example of how to be creative with a traditional recipe idea.
Another Motherwell producer, Just Gluten Free Bakery, makes excellent bread and rolls that can be enjoyed by everyone, not just those of you with a gluten intolerance. Obviously a sandwich is unlikely to make the cut in the cook-off, but for a recipe that requires breadcrumbs, this might be a great product to use.
We Scots do love a bit of sugar. And of course, we must watch how much we consume, but a wee sugary treat now and again won’t do us any harm. I can remember how excited I was as a child to be given a piece of tablet or fudge. It was about as exciting as a trip to the toy shop! Two Glasgow-based producers you really should try are the Wee Fudge Company and Katie’s Homemade Tablet. I think I’ve tasted most of the Wee Fudge Company’s range now - the Hebridean Sea Salt and Caramel flavour is my favourite. And Katie’s tablet is simply heavenly. Both might make great ingredients to use in a dessert.
I’ve running out of space here, so if you’re looking for a whole host of inspiration under one roof, pay a visit to the shop on the Ardardan Estate on the banks of the River Clyde. You’ll be able to pick up some great dairy and meat products with a strong Scottish provenance. And of course, there’s nothing like a trip to a farmers’ market to buy great food and meet the producers. There’s a website with a list of every market in Scotland. So there’s no excuse not to be starting your own search this weekend!
Remember, I want you to get in touch to tell me what Scottish ingredient you use to make your favourite recipe. If it’s produced in Scotland, it’s eligible. Just tell me what it is, and describe how you use it.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 www.eatdrinkdiscoverscotland.co.uk for terms and conditions.
Next week will be the last in my food tour of Scotland, so make sure you join me as I explore Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and the Forth Valley.
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