I am the chair of the Levenmouth Tourism Association, and we try to keep communication open with all “customer facing” enterprises in the region. As chair I also attend the regular meetings of the chairs of all of the regions within Fife, of which there are six. Cupar and North Fife, St Andrews, East Neuk, Kirkcaldy, my own region of Levenmouth and Dunfermline and west. I try to keep in touch with what other groups are doing so that I might learn from them and incorporate ideas here. Recently I got in touch with Jack Pryde who is in the Dunfermline region and in normal circumstances runs “Discover Dunfermline tours” and we agreed to meet up for a walk through his region. “This is the first tour I have done since January 2020!” he told me. But his enthusiasm for his home town was undiminished, and even though we did not go very far, there were stories on every corner. From Margaret’s cave to her grave by the Abbey and the pub where Dunfermline Athletic football club was founded. One of his stories concerned the building of the city chambers and the carved faces on the walls, one such can be interpreted in several ways. A local councillor nursing a hang over ( surely not) or the architect groaning as he sees said councillor approaching. Once we are allowed out again I plan to do another walk with Jack and would thoroughly recommend them to any visitor. I think that having such a tour through Levenmouth would also be hugely popular as there is history and stories galore. We need to create some such offering for when the train finally comes to town.
From Fife’s Food Ambassador
Given that we are all in lock down at the moment and trying not to travel far for anything, this is a good time to see what is available locally for you to celebrate spring and Easter. Many local food businesses have created online ordering and delivery so do have a look on line and see what is available. Now it is more important than ever to support your local economy and keep food miles to a minimum. Fruit farms will have difficulty harvesting and distributing their fruit. Please check to see if the fruit you buy from a supermarket is Scottish! Here is a little list of what is in season this month and will be being produced somewhere in Fife NOW!
On your one walk a day, gather wild garlic and nettles to make nourishing soups . There are lots of recipes on line
Keep safe Buy local
Early salads, cauliflower, purple sprouting, spinach, rocket, broccoli, radish, turnip,
Samphire, nettles, wild garlic, sorrel
Young nettles,- pick the tips with some rubber gloves on, wash thoroughly and use in place of spinach in a soup- delicious, full of iron!
Conger eel, crab, lobster, mackerel, mussels, oysters, salmon, sea trout, langoustines
Roe deer buck
Asparagus, broad beans, salads, watercress, Ayrshire new potatoes, kohlrabi, rocket, peas, radishes, spinach or chard, spring onions.
Kohlrabi- when young can be eaten without peeling, just a little trim, faintly nutty mild turnip flavour use grated in salads or in place of apple in a Waldorf salad also cut into chunks and roasted with lamb
Rhubarb, cherries strawberries ( just!)
Wild garlic, Chick weed, nettles
Cod, coley, conger eel, crab, herring, John dory, lobster, mackerel, plaice sea trout
Roe deer buck, pigeon, rabbit
Suppliers do check websites for details
Ardross Farm shop is doing a delivery service Elie https://www.ardrossfarm.co.uk/delivery/ardrossfarmshopdeliveries.php
Fish vans are still delivering
Woodmill game Collessie for pies, sausages, venison and dog food!
Pillars of Hercules – Falkland
Bowhouse are doing an on line service St Monans
Food from Fife will have updates
Balgove Larder St Andrews
Muddy boots Kettlebridge
Trotters Independent Kirkcaldy now offering delivery of meals
Reasons to be Cheerful
I have been an Ian Dury and the Blockheads fan since I lived in London and saw them live once when Ian was still alive at the height of their fame and then again years later in Dundee without Dury. I was with my son Byam who loved the album “New boots and Panties” The hall was almost empty when they came on and said simply “Can you tell everyone in the bar that the Blockheads are on”! and launched into a number from the album. I remember Byam looking in disbelief and saying “It sounds just like the album!” and they were brilliant. Despite the small audience and no Dury, this band played like it was the Lewisham Odeon in 1979. In spite of everything they still had it, and that was a reason to be cheerful.
So my reason to be cheerful is that we have so much to be thankful for, here in beautiful Fife where from a food point of view we are a microcosm of Scotland as a whole. Although I am unable to work, as most of my business is based on people and events! I watch the cruise ships across the Forth probably with skeleton crews , knowing that the four food workshops I had booked with them probably wont go ahead this year. But all is not lost! My project of 2019https://www.facebook.com/fifeseasonal/?modal=admin_todo_tour Celebrating Seasonal Fife can be celebrated all over again. https://www.ardrossfarm.co.uk/Ardross Farm has just announced that their purple sprouting broccoli is available. We celebrated this last year with a series of demonstrations and I visited two schools to share my enthusiasm for seasonal produce. Please, when you go food shopping look out for it, those lucky enough to have veg boxes will probably be getting it soon.
One thing I am able to do is to work on my next little vegetable cook book which will be Leek! As we are still able to get vegetables and my photographer wifehttps://carolinetrotter.co.uk/ Caroline can still take pictures. So here in self isolation we work away. But let me share a recipe from my last book with you which was Broccoli and PSB comes under that banner, but please when you source the ingredients, spare a thought for your local economy, look for British broccoli or PSB Follow the seasons and buy local
Keep safe and don’t eat a bat
PSB with anchovies and olive oil
Rowley Leigh has to take credit for this idea ( although he credits Simon Hopkinson)
This makes a delicious first course.
8 salted anchovy fillets
Juice of a lemon
50 mls extra virgin olive oil
Tsp crushed black pepper
1 Chop the anchovy fillets and then pound them in a mortar with the lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper.
2 Cook the psb as per recipe page.. until just cooked, drain through a colander and shake to remove excess water.
3 Toss in the anchovy dressing, serve immediately
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
There is so much to see at the Chillilicious base in Ceres and so much which connects with our theme of Innovation Architecture and Design
Tricia and Stacy are nothing if not Innovative, a chilli farm in Fife for a start! It’s the first in Scotland and they have been growing chillies since 2011. That’s not all, Their pest control is done not by chemicals and sprays but by natural means. If you visit the farm – it’s open every weekend from Friday – Tricia will tell you that the farm was on the site of a former linen mill, whilst all the buildings from then have gone, the remains of the pond where the flax was broken down to make linen is still there and every season frogs congregate and produce……… more frogs! And these little chaps spend their days eating all the slugs which might damage the chillies! A natural pest control. What next for these innovative girls – frogs legs? And if that isn’t enough they also buy in a mass of ladybirds which eat all the nasty bugs that might also damage the chillies, The word for a mass of ladybirds? A loveliness!!!
Without going too deeply into the private lives of the Chillilicious owners, you have to look at their wonderful house as you drive into the farm. It’s on the right as you approach the little farm shop. The roof is based on a church roof and is one of the steepest in Fife! And the window is a Norwegian based design so, when you are there just look around and image all the comings and goings in history, look to your left and the banks which now graze sheep were where the linen was dried after the soaking in the pond and to the right of the house Tricia’s kitchen where all there condiments are made is a log cabin.
Stacy is an artist who has worked with Liz Rowley the well known stained glass artist and she brings her design skills not just to her glass kitchenware available in the shop but also to the designs for the labels of the condiments and her “take” on the Burns’ Selkirk grace is painted on the ceiling of the shop
Visit soon and the studio for open Studios the first week end in May
Some hae heat and canna eat
And some would eat that want it
But we hae heat and we can eat
And sae the chilli be thankit
About a month ago I was asked to put together a unique list for the website “Welcome to Fife” that encompasses many of the elements of my project with Fife Council linking Fife food with the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, for places to visit at this time of year.
This post was far from difficult to compose – a list of those places that I love to visit; businesses built by friends, through hard work and determination; and communities who appreciate the architectural development of their surroundings influenced by food and lifestyles. Admittedly, the hardest part was what to leave out, so have a read and then let me know what you would put on your list, and why.
Continuing the theme of food connected to Innovation Architecture and Design, here are some interesting places to visit in Fife and most of which you’ll also be able to eat at! Enjoy this blog by Fife Ambassador Christopher Trotter.
1 Falkland Pillars of Hercules – fantastic organic cafe and farm shop, but also worth a visit is the toilet block! Designed by a local architect in conjunction with Bruce Bennet, Pillars’ owner, using local timber and composting toilets and fused glass windows by a local artist.
2 St Andrews – the Byre Theatre in Abbey street is on the site of an original cow Byre which was on the edge of town in days gone by. The current building is the third theatre on the site.
3 Dunfermline – The Bruery, home of De Brus Brewery named after the family of Robert the (De) Bruce. Admire the classic Georgian Building in the heart of the town just along from the Alhambra theatre and the Abbey.
4 Glenrothes. The town of Glenrothes was built on farm land after the war, and today several buildings have already been listed . St Columba’s Church is very near the town centre and is worth a visit.
5 St Monans – the East Pier Smokehouse. This building was an old smokehouse and fish processing plant and current owner James Robb has reinstated the smokehouse and converted the rest into a cafe, which is now open for the season.
6 North Queensferry – The Wee Restaurant, owners Craig and Vicki Wood have recently renovated their interior its worth a visit, quite apart from stunning view of all three of the Forth bridges from the door!
7 Cupar – the sugar beet factory. It’s not possible to get in just now, but this remarkable symbol of Scottish farming Innovation stands as a beacon on the way into the old market town of Cupar. The only one of its kind in Scotland!
8 Pittenweem – the Walled Garden Kellie Castle. The National Trust properties will all be open again for Easter but the walled garden is open all year round, designed in the tradition of Medieval houses to provide both fruit vegetables and medicinal plants for the household, Kellie is still run on organic principles and has one of the oldest collections of Scottish apple trees
9 Auchtermuchty – Archibald Findlay’s packing factory. With a plaque going up on the wall of this building to commemorate the great potato breeder, Auchtermuchty is worth a visit not just for its musical output!
10 Ladybank – Off the Rails exhibition.“People Eating” The former station master’s house at Ladybank Station now houses an arts space and this is worth a visit any time but the exhibition is fascinating!
I have just bought my seed potatoes in readiness for planting shortly and it made me think about the all the Fife connections to potatoes and how the IAD theme fits in. Well, needless to say you don’t need to look hard. In Auchtermuchty, there is a bronze plaque to Archibald Findlay who developed many potato varieties and helped feed a hungry nation during the first world war. Such Innovation is typical of a Fife farmer, as a result of his pioneering spirit other businesses linked to his potatoes grew up in Auchtermuchty.
So when you are visiting Fife call into Auchtermuchty not just for Jimmy Shand and the Reid Brothers but to see the building Findlay used to store his seed potatoes.
You will see “tattie” boxes all over Fife with the names of the farm or grower on their side. The steak barn at Balgove Larder is built with them!
So here is a recipe for you to use with this most fabulous healthy ingredient;
I have used Mayan Gold potatoes for this recipe but why not Innovate yourself and use a different variety maybe even one that Archibald Findlay developed. Pentland Dell and Maris Piper were both developed from his breeding stock.
4 large potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
A little cold pressed rape seed oil
Sea salt such as Hebridean
Set the oven to the 250C gas 9
Cut the potatoes into chunks lengthwise
Wash in cold water and dry on a t towel
Coat lightly in the oil and spread over a roasting tin and cook for about 30 minutes shaking occasionally until crisp and browned.
Welcome to 2016 and to Fife Year of Food in Innovation Architecture and Design, in the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of launching this exciting new project, here is a little more about it.
This year has been deemed by our promotion bods at Visit Scotland and The Scottish government as the: – Scotland – year of Innovation Architecture and Design. In the same way as last year was Scotland- Year of Food and Drink. I have teamed up with Fife Council Tourism partnership team to ask you to bring your our own take on this. Let’s promote our wonderful food and produce and celebrate our fantastic seasonal produce with a rolling calendar of events, festivals, open days, celebratory dinners based on Fife’s remarkable history of its people and its buildings. Just consider for a moment the enormous impact both food and Architecture, Design and Innovation has made on our landscape, culture and history.
Look at all the fishing villages, where fish have been landed, processed and distributed for hundreds of years, sustaining communities who have risked the lives of their men folk to go out to sea, building up traditions and connections over the years, and to the women who have sustained both the industry and their families.
Look at the conversions of buildings once created for a food related purpose and now re -used in a manner more suited to our times. The Byre Theatre in St. Andrews which in its original incarnation housed cattle on the edge of town and now it is a thriving arts centre under the auspices of the University where it has flourished since rising phoenix like from the ashes last year. It was there that as part of the St. Andrews festival last November I hosted a couple of “Food Conversations” with some notable food connected people, such as Geoffrey Smeddle Chef proprietor of the Peat Inn who has recently redesigned his premises to give it a more contemporary feel. Bruce Bennett at Pillars of Hercules, whose wonderful organic farmstead and shop has developed “organically” over the last 30 years. Through his Innovations making best use of up to date but environmentally friendly ideas, he has created a series of buildings which reflect his landscape. All the wood is taken from the estate, with an unheated area to display the organic vegetables for sale, through to the shop and cafe with wood everywhere. Not to mention the composting toilets. Innovation? Architecture? Design? Look no further. Another of my guests was Owen Hazel whose family own and run Janettas ice cream shop with a cafe next door. This has also recently undergone renovation, a new design, connecting shop and cafe.
Consider all the farm steadings in Fife, converted for residential use each one a unique reflection of an architects’ innovative use of unique features within a prescribed building. All based on an original need and now redesigned for a modern use. The town of Glenrothes was built as a new town on farm land. Designed as a brave new place to house the growing population, Areas such as Caskieberran and Cadham were all farms before the new town was built. Farmers themselves are Innovative in their methods. Look at the beet factory in Cupar, the only one in Scotland, it took Innovative Fife Farmers to build that and Broccoli was first farmed commercially in Fife as well as espalier grown cherries. When it comes to Innovation in agriculture Fife’s farmers lead the way.
Rocca February 16
Rocca is the Italian style restaurant within the Russacks hotel right on the edge of the golf links, in St Andrews, American visitors must love this place with views straight onto the old course not to mention golf paraphernalia everywhere, our view of the R and A golf club was about all you could see on a dreich February evening but as the days get longer we were in pole position for the 18th green. Rocca has been a separate entity within the hotel for a number of years and there is a distinct Tuscan/ Italian theme going on, they also have their outpost of a deli in Bell Street. My first impression was favourable with a warm welcome from the word go. They obviously look after their staff well as Liam (who welcomed us) the assistant Food and Beverage manager had been on a wine and food trip with the company and used his knowledge to perfection even though it was a Portuguese red he recommended to me, his skills and knowledge were stand out for me. He took a pride in what he did, his knowledge and how he communicated that to us. How lovely to be able to understand a description of a dish from someone whose first language is one’s own! I have often said that a meal can be made or broken by the service and Liam certainly made it.
At this time of year the menu is quite sensibly reduced in size, in busier times they offer a tasting menu with wines to compliment, However although choice is easier there was still enough variety, and you also know that the food is going to be fresh. Never trust a large menu! And in spite of the Italian connection it was still very locally and seasonally grounded with Scottish produce really to the fore, beetroot and kale are always good to see for those of you who know my books! But smoked salmon, game terrine, Orkney beef and Scrabster turbot all appeared on the short set price menu.
Little “snacks” of parmesan puffs and haggis balls reflected the Italo/Scottish marriage and very good they were too, and these are just while you look at the menu.
And the amuse bouche (the French do get everywhere) of a mushroom veloute with a “spumante” topping brought us an earthy mushroom soup with a delicate creamy topping. Liam was the consummate host helping with both food and wine choices answering questions and generally making you feel comfortable and looked after.
Quibbles? Well you know me, Liam was perfect in every way except when describing the herb on top of our little soup, he stated it was tarragon when it was actually thyme, pernickety? Me? Oh and one other thing, the duo of salmon pretty as a picture on the plate, even if the salmon wasn’t raw (it was smoked) it still should be spelt tartare not tatare. Otherwise Liam will wow the Americans. Petit Chablis “a hint of hazelnuts on the finish”? This description did make me raise my eyebrows. But he was absolutely right. Thank you Liam you made our evening.
At the beginning of November I held my pop up dinner which promptly sold out, hurray!!
But it did mean a few missed out, so I said at the time that I would be able to squeeze in a few private dining experiences before the big day – (a month tomorrow by the way).
For bespoke dining experiences at a similar cost to a good restaurant meal, in the comfort of a venue of your choice I will prepare and serve a meal based on your tastes.
Here is the Autumnal menu I had from my pop –up…
Nibbles with a glass of sparkling wine
Beetroot humous and dips
East Neuk Fish soup with crab, lobster and monkfish
Kale bubble and squeak with spinach and Kingsbarns poached egg
Loin of Isle of Mull Venison
Red cabbage and sultanas
Buckthorns Apple pie
Salted caramel chocolate torte
If you’re not sure if it’s for you, just give me a call and find out, I look forward to a good foodie chat.