What a great summer we have had, and even now in November it is still very mild,
FOOD TOURS AND COOKING WORKSHOPS
I have had a busy year developing my food tours and classes, with some wonderful trips across Scotland showing visitors this beautiful country that is Scotland. I have been lucky enough to have worked with some other businesses to provide these trips and cooking workshops and also with “Welcome to Fife” at Fife Council, a small but perfectly formed team that make up the tourism arm of the council, They work tirelessly to help those of us like me to promote this amazing region.
I have made a short video which is available on you tube to promote them please do share.
VEGETABLE COOK BOOKS
As most of my readers will know I have embarked on a project of writing small cook books to promote single vegetables, the idea for these came from the many people who, during my cooking demos and workshops asked for ideas on cooking vegetables as they only had three or four. I always publish them about now in time for the Christmas market, yes unashamed promotion. I suppose I should bring each one out in its season but as the books are available year round and in lots of book shops people can buy them when the vegetable is actually available, My latest one is called Tomato and like the the others has 30 recipes, I was about to add, “for the vegetable” but of course a tomato is a fruit! Suffice to say I have treated it as a vegetable in this book (as we do most of the time!) although there is one sweet dish with green tomatoes. There are now 6 books in the series Beetroot, Kale, Courgette, Carrot, and Cauliflower and I have decided to package them altogether to produce a boxed set which will make a very fine Christmas gift. The pack is sturdy and easy to wipe clean as it will live next to the cooker!
The books are on sale now on my website at Waterstones and at many good shops across Fife, Perthshire and Angus
I will also be selling them and The Hairy Bakers cook book at
Eden court fair Inverness November 16th 17th and 18th
Easterbrook Hall Dumfries November 19th 20th
Strathmiglo fair Saturday November 24th
Scone Palace Christmas fair
St Andrews Farmers market 1st December
Dumfermline Farmers market 8th December
And a book signing at Waterstones St. Andrews late opening November 29th
One aspect of my business is to provide consultancy for food related businesses and whilst this often is about looking at a small business from the staffing point of view or the positioning of the business in the market place and of course the financials, which are all core to a successful hospitality business, I also like to talk about two things, the story and the place. I recall at college being lectured to on the three most important elements of a hospitality business which were “Location Location and Location” but I think these themes today are no longer as important, as the world will beat a path to your door if you create a product that people want.
On the face of it the Newport is not a great location, it’s in a sleepy little Tayside town off the beaten track. But let us look at the positives, one such is of course the owner Jamie Scott, one time winner of Masterchef, which in itself is not necessarily a blank cheque, then there is the great setting, once you actually make the effort to get to The Newport in Newport ( one immediately thinks of the other great restaurant which has the same name as its location, also in Fife –The Peat Inn) the views over the “silvery Tay” really can be silvery and stunning, and Scott has created a focus on the outside in conjunction with his architect and designer. It’s a great place to be. Then look at his skills in the social media world, and his understanding of “putting himself about” He appears at food festivals and shows throughout the year talking about his passion and his food, spreading the word like an evangelist.
Ok, so as to the product, well here is the thing, which no amount of consulting can bring, only experience and skill. Jamie Scott has all the attributes of a great chef, he can cook, he can source good materials, he has a complete understanding of seasonality, how wonderful to see salsify on a menu, ( how many chefs know what it is let alone put this wonderful crunchy vegetable on a menu) there was pigeon and cauliflower and blood oranges! In season yes, maybe not grown here but this is when we get them. And then he has that rare skill of marrying flavours in a bold but successful way.
On paper “Peasemeal gnocchi, mussels, caramelised sprouts and chestnuts” is intriguing, but as a whole it works brilliantly. Bright green just cooked sprout leaves interspersed with comfortingly solid gnocchis and the odd splash of fresh mussel all bound up with that sweet tasting, reassuring chestnut. It is a brilliant dish and so cleverly conceived but simple in construction. Another successful dish was “Coley marinated in tequilla, avocado and blood orange” His use of Coley for a start is courageous, it is not a well known fish but available in Scottish waters year round and a perfect texture for eating raw. I am always fearful of raw fish in restaurants because I am afraid there will be that tell tale ammonia smell of the fish just past its best. This smelled simply of the sea and the marinade of tequila balanced nicely with the blood orange and the texture of avocado, another thoughtful but simple and delicious dish.
The Newports “small plates” way of serving is modern and works well you can have a simple “light lunch” or a full blown feast as and when you want! Go there! Jamie Scott has created a truly remarkable destination eaterie. Finally you cannot run a successful restaurant without good service and we were so well looked after by Leanne whose skill was her gently shared knowledge and obvious pride in what she represented,
Oh and the consultancy tip ? Tell a story and look after your people, and customers will beat a path to your door
The Newport by Jamie Scott
As the Summer kicks in there is loads to see and do in Fife and so with an eye on our Innovation Architecture and Design theme I have pulled together some ideas of what to see and do whilst enjoying the great outdoors in Fife. Every one of these ideas offers the opportunity to see some great buildings experience amazing history and art and join in with celebrating art music food and culture right across the region. Get out, look up and down!
Fife coastal path
Take a walk along this superb foot path which takes you round the entire coastline of Fife see lots of fascination buildings and take time to visit the villages along the way, not to mention cafes and restaurants. For information about the path go to their website https://fifecoastalpath.co.uk/ or for some idea of the amazing scenery on route head over to their Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/FifeCoastalCyclePath/
“The great British Dog walk” Hill of Tarvit Mansion House grounds 5th june
Walk your dog in the garden of this Edwardian house, in aid of deaf awareness
Balgove Night market 8th june
Balgove has created a fun buzzy atmosphere for the night markets on the 8th June they are celebrating Myxology and street food
Crail food festival 11th – 12th June
A wonderful celebration of Fife food and cooking skills in this picturesque former fishing village. The Sunday event by the pier has become renowned
Visit a Fruit farm
Time to either to pick your own or buy superb fruit from one of the many in Fife, always innovating, Fife fruit farmers are the envy of the world
Beach Highland games Kirkcaldy 11th June
Kirkcaldy 4 all organise this fun beach event, a unique highland games!
Cupar arts festival 18th – 25th June
An eclectic mix of all genres of art from the grounded to the distinctly abstract. This year street food is celebrated – yours truly will be there on Saturday 18th to cook with local produce
Barbeque at Tentsmuir beach
perhaps a party for the longest day on this stunning beach!
Enjoy an ice-cream from one of Fifes many artisan parlours;
East Neuk festival 22nd June– 3rd July
The East Neuk festival has grown over 10 years to be recognised as one of the great rural music festivals in the world with venues ranging from ancient churches to old barns and the famous sand sculpture every year in front of the honeypot cafe in Crail
Well this was one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had to do:
Take a bunch of guys around Scotland on a ……….. Whisky tour!
It’s great how my website brings in all sort of enquiries from cooking with children, men, women and family groups to after dinner speaking at Tourism or business events, talking at Book festivals and organising food demonstrations all over Scotland – Ballantrae? Watch this space.
So it was, I got an email from Dubai – bunch of guys on a stag do with the “bachelor” passionate about Malt whisky. After much deliberation and to-ing and fro-ing I created a whisky tour for them which not only they will never forget but neither will I!
The stag stuff was sorted very quickly with a nightclub in Glasgow; I had nothing to do with that!! But earlier in the day my friend Brenda from Tasting Scotland https://www.tastingscotland.com/ took the guys on a wonderful walking tour around Glasgow showing all aspects of the Glasgow food culture from Indian through to Chinese and Italian. They loved it. It’s good to have friends in the right places!
We set of on the Sunday of that amazing week of sunshine driven by the characterfull Gordon from William Sleigh https://sleigh.co.uk/ transport to our first Distillery – Auchentoshan https://www.auchentoshan.com/ which happily was a perfect first stop. Their “Ultimate Experience” tour was just that, with an excellent in depth explanation and tasting from the cask we were on our way. Two more distilleries Deanston and Gleggoyne and then to an excellent lunch at the Old Mill at Killearn https://www.theoldmillkillearn.co.uk/ Then onto Balquidder where I put my trust in my old friend Tom Lewis at his superb Monachyle Mhor https://mhor.net/monachyle-mhor-hotel/ who produced the most amazing dinner with each course matched to a whisky. Tom of course came into our private room between courses to explain what it was next, and why he matched the whisky. The boys loved it.
After a great night at the hotel and superb breakfast we set off for Speyside by way of Edradour and Dalwhinnie, the day time high light was lunch at the Auld alliance in Kingussie where Lydie Bocquillon https://www.auld-alliance.com/ the chef owner cooked a great lunch and we were beautifully looked after by her lovely daughter Sky.
The evening highlight was a visit to Glenfarclass, https://www.glenfarclas.co.uk/ which is one of the favourite whiskies of our “bachelor” so we arrived and I introduced him to John Grant as the owner! He was overwhelmed, more was to come on this memorable visit, Calum the distillery manager took us on a tour where we were actually able to put our hands into the spirit stream in the “safe”. Now for those in the know the spirit safe is where the excise man usually steps in and has everything padlocked but here Calum opened it up and plunged his hands into the stream and encouraged us to do the same and rub our hands together to smell the barley!
And so to dinner with John Grant himself the highlight of highlights here as each person was invited to pick a bottle from the shelf from his birthday year and pour himself a dram! There was even one for my year!! Again I had a friend locally who put me in touch with John Grant who now has many more Glenfarclass Ambassadors!
Next day brought two more distilleries – Glenglassaugh and Strathisla and so onto my next surprise for the group. I had hired Glentruim https://www.glentruimestate.co.uk/ castle for the night where I cooked dinner of local venison and a simple cranachan, which they helped prepare in the kitchen. On the journey up we had a discussion about Cullen Skink as they has had some in Glasgow, so I was able to get the ingredients and make that with them as well, a real Scottish food experience. I had also managed to source a few whiskies they had not yet tasted, so the evening developed into a good session around a roaring log fire long into the night.
A slightly delayed departure next morning! took us onto the glorious road to Fort William, and after Gordon showed us Neptune’s staircase at the end of the Caledonian canal, we had a quick tasting at the Ben Nevis distillery before we headed for Oban and lunch at Coast https://www.coastoban.co.uk/ – local shellfish and Halibut from Gigha were excellent. On down to Carradale where we spent our last two nights with some excellent local food at Dunvalanree https://www.dunvalanree.com/ owned and run by Alan and Alison Milstead who cooks brilliantly, and we made a dent in Alan’s excellent whisky collection too.. Final full day was a tour by Frank McHardy of Springbank distillery which was thoroughly enjoyed.
What a great trip it was – Scotland looking fantastic and I provided an experience which could not be bought off the shelf aided by great friends and acquaintances – old and new, along the way!
Can’t wait for the next one now – who’s interested – get in touch!
Last week I had the great pleasure of hosting a group from Dubai – guiding them around a few distilleries to show them just a flavour of what we can offer here in Scotland for the food and drink connoisseur.
Find the full story in my next blog – but here’s a glimpse for now!
Day 1 – www.auchentoshan.com followed by Deanston & Gleggoyne then great food at www.theoldmillpitlochry.co.uk, Balquidder and an evening at Monachyle Mhor Hotel.
Day 2 – Edradour & Dalwhinnie, lunch at www.auld-alliance.com in Kingussie, then Glenfarclass and dinner with John Grant the owner.
Day 3 – Glenglassaugh & Strathisla, with a surprise overnight stay at Glentruim and my own culinary delights.
Day 4 – Fort William to see Neptune’s Steps, Ben Nevis Distillery then on to Oban for lunch at Coast; www.coastoban.co.uk
Day 5 – Full day tour at Springbank
Our final evening – tired but happy!
The east west divide
For some time now I have been doing demonstrations at both Fife farmers markets and at Loch Lomond Shores and it is interesting to consider the differences. In effect my job is to chat to the stall holders and get small amounts of produce from them and then cook simple dishes using that produce to give people ideas as to how to use it. Whilst the meats remain constant. Beef lamb chicken etc. I can celebrate the seasons using vegetable and herb accompaniments, and in the summer I can use berry fruits for pudding ideas and in the winter apples pears and plums even though most markets don’t sell these they also go well with game dishes so i use venison more at that time of year.
Loch Lomond shores is limited in what it has in he way of prime products ( meat game etc ) and not helped by the reluctance of some stall holders to see the merit in giving me product. In Fife they are all very happy to do so. So First difference! Fifers understand how promotion works and see the benefit of having their product used in a dish, indeed its very satisfying that at times I can cook a dish using a specific product and that stall holders sells out of it! Luckily for me both markets have good vegetable stalls, I can do a lot with veg and it’s cheap! It is also the way to show the seasons as I mentioned before. Loch Lomond has a very friendly veg man and veg forms the base of all my work there. Otherwise the only enthusiastic suppliers are the wonderful Thomson from Nethergate Larder who gives me great pork and he has just started to experiment with curing his own beef. And then the fish stall, who often have good lesser known fish such as Hake. Look out for those markets on alternate Sundays
In Fife This Saturday Barbara the organiser has given the market a fruit theme which is great so that I can plan in advance what I might cook. There will be summer pudding, fruit tarts a fruit fool and then using fruit in meat dishes such as pork with gooseberries and venison with rowan berries ( yes foraged fruit too!) It’s all happening at Kirkcaldy this Saturday and Fife farmers markets occur on every Saturday First is at St. Andrews the second is Dunfermline the third is at Cupar and the last Kirkcaldy the variety is far better than on Loch Lomond with Ian Spink actually cooking his smokies live! There are wonderful chocolate drinks from Sophie at the Cocoa tree and often two veg stalls including an organic one and all meats from Puddledub buffalo to seriously good venison.
See you there
It’s interesting to consider one’s prejudices; a fish and chip shop is a fish and chip shop, Right? Well no actually it can also be a rather good eatery, and an ideal pit stop before the cinema or any other evening event you might consider.
When the Tail End first opened in St Andrews I welcomed it as another fish shop to provide some competition to the only fish monger in town and pretty soon the friendly welcome received at the new place won me over and it is now my first port of call in St. Andrews for fish, what it lacks perhaps in variety, is made up for in freshness and quality, some pale smoked haddock recently was superb, ideal for the Cullen Skink I was making for a local event. But I am sure if you ask the Spink family to get you something – anything! They will source it.
So much for the fish. I have also used the chip shop, as I have been at some late night events and coming out @ 9.30 and starving I remembered the fish and chip there from my youth – Joe’s I think it was? And tried out the new one and it has become my favourite pit stop, excellent fresh fish and great chips. I would occasionally peer into the back shop where I could see the restaurant tables but never went further, not being my idea of a “proper” restaurant. Normally after a film or concert we might pop into a local ethnic restaurant of which there are many in St Andrews but to be honest none of them really do much for me in town so we decided to try the Tail End and I have to say it will be my pre or post film stop from now on.
It’s a very family affair! On the night we chose the owners’ daughter was in the chip shop bit and son was the fryer and Jess, his wife was in the restaurant/cafe ably supported by Chloe. A friendly welcome and knowledge of the product are cornerstone qualities for any eatery for me and Tail End has that in spades. The menu is simple, covering all the things you might expect, burgers and the like but there is also a specials board with that days’ fresh fish. There was Halibut, farmed Sea bass Hake and Lemon sole to choose from. Very fresh and simply cooked with a salad and chips “just ask for more if you need them” was a very welcome statement!
Big surprise was the quality of the wine list a fabby chenin from South Africa and a beautiful rose from Planeta in Sicily,
The family have expansion in mind and there will be a Tail End fish shop opening in Dundee soon so I have learnt something today – don’t judge before you try! And Tail End is worth a visit.
I will pick you up from Rosyth (or port of arrival) and personally take you on a coastal tour of Fife travelling east to the beautiful East Neuk. I will give you stories and information of all the great food produced here as well as other historical facts. We will call in to a cheese maker a smokehouse and visit a chocolate maker.
As well as visiting the small former fishing villages which make up this charming part of Fife. We will visit the ancient university town of St Andrews ‘the home of golf’ where there will be an opportunity for shopping and we will visit a specialist cheese shop for samples and then a simple lunch of local produce at Balgove Larder.
We will return to your ship via the famous malt whisky shop of Luvians and the organic farmstead of Pillars of Hercules in Falkland where the palace used to be the playground of the kings of Scotland.
As this is your tour there will be opportunities for stopping for photos. All stops are subject to availability and I may change the route or stops as required. Cost from £100 per person for a group of four. I can do more or less people. You can book online at or pay on the day.
I am also available to go wherever you choose, such as Edinburgh where I can base any tours on your interests eg. distilleries, Michelin starred restaurants, foraging.
Please contact me with any questions.