The search for Scotland’s best-kept secret ingredient: Loch Lomond, Trossachs and Forth Valley
Nestled in the heart of Scotland, this region is renowned for its excellent game, beef and lamb producers and you can find a great selection at Blairmains Farm Shop, nestled at the foot of the picturesque Ochil Hills. They also sell milk, butter and cheese made from milk from the neighbouring farm.
There may be no coastal shores in these parts, but it’s where you’ll find one of my favourite fishmongers. The Lewis family’s Mhor Fish in Callander is piled high with all that’s great from the lochs and seas of Scotland, and you can have a seriously good fish supper in the restaurant too if shopping makes you feel a bit peckish!
Let’s continue with a wee drink. We’re best known in Scotland for our malts, but we also produce some amazing ales. In Alloa, William Brothers Brewing Company continue the historic tradition of brewing in this area. They have over 25 beers to choose from, but my favourite is their heather ale (leann fraoich) and as they’re the only brewery still following this ancient Gaelic recipe, it might be a perfect secret ingredient. Further west is the family-run Loch Lomond Brewery. They make a lovely rich ‘Silkie’ stout with hints of chocolate, coffee and orange. Stout and chocolate cake maybe?
For those who like to add a wee drop of the water of life to their food, seek out the Glengoyne Distillery at Killearn, on the banks of a river that flows into Loch Lomond. It’s one of just a few distilleries producing whisky in this part of Scotland today. The toffee notes in their 10yo malt would be a very nice way to soak your cranachan oats!
Thinking of desserts, I absolutely love using IQ Superfood Chocolate from Stirling. Their original bean-to-bar organic blend is genuinely one of the best dark chocolates I’ve tasted and definitely competes with French and Belgian brands. When I did the Great British Menu last year, I won the dessert round. And guess what I used? Scottish chocolate. So don’t think you have to miss out on making a chocolate-based dish because you need a Scottish ingredient to enter. There are some superb chocolatiers right here in Scotland. We should be shouting about it from the hilltops!
Mark Greenaway Knot Chocolate Tart 2 (2)
Knot Chocolate Tart
Of course, one of the best places to discover new ingredients in a region is at a farmers’ markets. Try the popular Lomond Shores market in Balloch on the first and third Sunday of each month. You’ll be able to pick up unique products like Churchill’s Wild Scottish Venison and Lomond Chillies’ range of hot chilli sauces. And you’ll also find some fabulous local goodies from The Ochil Fudge Pantry, handmade confectionary from Threepwood Fayre, Crystal Shortbreads, and Fiona Brown’s Home Baking.
Sadly, this is my last ‘Secret Ingredient’ blog post, so if you haven’t entered already, I hope this inspires you to send in your best recipe using a product from Scotland. The deadline is next Friday, the 15th August. Just tell me what your best-kept secret ingredient is, and describe how you use it.
Email me at email@example.com 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.
I look forward to looking though all the entries. The selected shortlist will be announced on the Eat Drink Discover Scotland website on Friday 22 August.
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