Texan food memories, harvests & foraging

September marks a turn of the seasons and bountiful harvests: feasts for the table and surplus for preserving to savour over the winter months. Our forefathers knew how to make the most of our natural wealth and there is a welcome resurgence with an increasing number of chefs and enthusiasts salting and pickling, jam-ing and drying, curing and smoking, foraging and growing. This is a proven route to good economy and a healthy diet. Across the country, Scottish Food Guide members have been taking part in Foraging Fortnight, Scottish Food Fortnight and Slow Cheese: the former two now well-established in Scotland; the last one held biennially in Italy with some holding our own Scottish events in the spirit of Slow… Cheese Tasting Experience at Errichel & Farm Visit & Lunch at Errington Cheese Co however Cheese Champion was postponed due to circumstances beyond my control but there is a fabulous mini version Cheese Lovers running in November instead.

Also foraged events at … Ballintaggart & Scottish Wild Food Festival including my “Flowering Meadows & Wild Harvests – Lessons from croft living in Sweden & Scotland” with all events ticketed online on links.


I often listen to the radio when cooking and the other day I came across a favourite of mine on Sounds, John Buchan’s “Thirty Nine Steps.” Not only did I enjoy the ripping yarn but it reminded me of the wild beauty of Galloway, often unforgivably passed over by tourists in their race to Edinburgh or the Highlands. The classic book has kick-started a new slot in my monthly news: a highlighted region to reawaken travellers to the food, culture, nature and history of Scotland’s rich and varied shires. This month, Dumfries & Galloway.

Craigadam Country House Hotel & Country Larder

With its Dark Sky status, rolling hills, stunning valleys and vast seascapes it holds a natural beauty that fair takes your breath away…and of course that same nature provides a bounty of farm animals, wild foods, fertile fields, lush meadows for dairy cattle (and delicious artisan cheese) and bustling harbours. The roads can be winding at times but all the more beautiful for that and there are so many wonderful places to tarry awhile. Home to the famously beautiful Belties (Belted Galloway cattle) and rich in biodiversity, the region has it all: from shimmering estuaries to atmospheric castles with tales to tell. In the far west by Portpatrick is the picture perfect Knockinaam in its own secret bay steeped in history, where Sian and David welcome you to dine and stay in luxurious surroundings. Travelling eastwards there’s the country estate of Craigadam with Richard’s game larder and Celia’s dinners. Over by Kirkbean is Cavens Country House, a gracious mansion where Angus and Jane will treat you to Georgian grandeur with comfort and charm. All are wonderful people running established award-winning family businesses of excellence with their own personal touches.

One of the Swiss Brown girls at Kedar

While exploring the byways you can pause at the extensive Loch Arthur Farmshop and café brimming with good food and gifts, and the bonnie miniature café and farmshop, Kedar Pantry by Dumfries. Both are renowned for their fine cheeses as are Galloway Farmhouse Cheese and The Ethical Dairy. Elsewhere in the region, Sheena is our go-to herb & chilli expert at Galloway Chillies and the Ferguson family has just opened a Demijohn at Glenlair Steading to go with their online shop and in-store concessions.

The Texan power of food memories

Paddy piping

Recently we hosted a series of cook-ins with the most delightful extended family of Americans from Texas, New Jersey and Florida, all wishing to re-live the powerful memories of previous generations. Still Scots at heart, they fondly recalled their grandfather’s stories from his life in Coaltown of Wemyss. We made potted hough (with thanks to guidance from John Lawson), smoked mackerel with homemade oatcakes (from oats grown at Ardross walled garden), stovies, John Lawson’s black pudding, Cadzow beef, Hardiesmill haggis, mutton bridies, Dunlop crowdie, Anster and Westray cheeses, cranachan, shortbread and much more. On the final night they celebrated with a party, each singing a ‘party piece’ (mine was Skye Boat Song).

I can honestly say it fair warmed my heart to share our home with these fabulous folk and Food Tourism doesn’t get much better. Whilst in Scotland they were supporting the many producers and farmers I bought produce from, the fantastic young Aberdour piper I engaged, and the village businesses they supported. They enriched our lives but also the rural economy.

Shetland black oat at Ardross

Harvest time at Ardross

Multi-coloured strands of wheat, Ardross

Bosse has been harvesting his heritage grains at Ardross thanks to the Pollock family’s kindness allowing him to sow a selection in their walled garden. This year he’s focussed on Hebridean rye, an ancient Nordic wheat and Shetland black oat and although he has gathered in a fair amount I have also learned some choice Swedish lingo relating to the voracious sparrows in competition with Bosse! We have heard from others that sparrows have been thwarting their harvest too – we are obviously all growing something very tasty!

New Scottish Food Guide members

Cornerstone Seafood Restaurant, Mallaig

I’m delighted to welcome The Cornerstone Seafood Restaurant with rooms where we dived into their mouth-watering seafood menu, and The Old Quay Bakehouse with marvellous sourdoughs and pizzas, both in bonnie Mallaig. Elsewhere in Scotland, The Orkney Dairy and Barony Mill bring you fantastic produce from Orkney (more on that trip next time) and last but not least the beautifully restored Othin House Bakery, Deli, Coffee House & Kitchen in Helmsdale. Welcome to our Scottish Food Guide family.

… and on the subject of bread, the end of October marks the next deadline for Edinburgh Bakers Trust grants so if you have a bread-related project or initiative and wish to apply for funding click here to find out more about the grants and previous recipients. Following the success of last year, The Scottish Bread Championship 2024 will be held again at Bowhouse, Fife, in February so start honing your skills and perfecting your recipes – we can promise a robust panel of judges and some great activities and stalls too.

In the meantime, we look forward to meeting some of you at the Scottish Wild Food Festival next weekend & The Scottish Smallholders Festival at Ingliston in October.


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