BBC Good Food Show Scotland 2012 – was it really?

I have just returned from a mainland excursion.  As usual, we try to cram in as much as we can and this was no exception.  A week’s trip included a visit to the BBC Good Food Show Scotland at the SECC, Glasgow, reviewed below. More of the other visitations another time.

BBC Good Food Show Scotland, SECC Glasgow 19-21 October 2012

I am a Good Food Show virgin and the promise of discovering new suppliers of fine quality Scottish produce was a draw I could not resist.  I went on the Friday, anticipating it would be a bit quieter than the weekend days, and it wasn’t too bad, no enochlophobia or elbows in the face.

The entry cost was £17.50 each (discount for OAPs, under 17 free), so this plus a car parking charge of £6 meant it wasn’t a cheap day out, so my expectations were perhaps too high.

There were in the region of 170 producer’s stalls in the hall.  A proportion (at least a third) were not specific to Scotland but no doubt tour the circuit as the Good Food Show brand moves around different UK venues. These included wine merchants, book sellers, supermarket stalls and a disappointingly small number of companies marketing their kitchen gadgets – something I had hoped would be better represented at this show designed primarily to attract food lovers and home cooks.

Although there was plenty to sample, I could not conceal my disappointment and indeed dismay that a high proportion of the stalls products were pre-prepared, albeit often good enough quality products.  To be fair, I think my disappointment stemmed from my perhaps unrealistic expectation that the event would feature artisan producers of the best of Scottish/British cheese and dairy, charcuterie, etc, which is probably much more of a niche market. The cost of this generic event would also no doubt be prohibitive for many of the small producers I was looking for. The array of cheese exhibitors on display sums this up.  Only 6 cheese companies were represented and most shocking of all, only one of these was from Scotland.

So, there was plenty preserves and chutneys, condiments, dips and marinades to take home, if you were so inclined, which I was not.  The inexplicable vogue for cupcakes is still not on the slide, and everywhere I turned there was a display of garish (aka pretty to some) cupcake creations. In order to satiate our nations sweet tooth even further, there was a range of inordinately sweet rums, vodkas and liqueurs.  Toffee seemed to be the flavour of promotional choice.

Despite these quite personal disappointments, I was pleased to see the promotional focus on Love Food Hate Waste in the showguide catalogue. The stage for the campaign was also drawing a lot of interest all day.

As ever, the culture of celebrity was central and the show certainly ticked the boxes on that front, if that’s your bag.  Book signings and cookery displays by celebs attracted big crowds and I get the impression it is a major part of the pulling power of the show.  I deliberately side-stepped all celebrity events, so it wouldn’t be valid for me to comment on their worth or otherwise.

Scottish cold pressed rapeseed oil taste test

The highlight of the show for me was the chance to taste test cold pressed Scottish rapeseed oil.  At least 5 producers were represented.  I must admit, I always reach for the olive oil first and have been slow to convert to the more recent trend to use this oil.  However, it is a Scottish product with all the health benefits of olive oil and more appropriate to use in some recipes and dressings, so I have been using it.

I tried Stark Rapeseed oil produced from crops in Arran. I liked the oil, but the flavour did not sing out, possibly due to the nonabsorbent grissini offered to dip. Two oils stood ahead of the rest: Cullisse Highland rapeseed oil based in Tain and Supernature rapeseed oil, produced from crops in the Lothians.

I decided to have another taste test at home, including the oil I have been using (as this was what was to hand last time I needed it from the supermarket) – Macintosh of Glendaveny (Aberdeenshire).  Described as extra virgin, I had decided this oil was at best nondescript. In fairness, I wanted to put it up against the other two.

I set up a blind tasting for The Man Named Sous – I had a bit of a cold so my palate could not be entirely trusted. Each was tasted using our standard wholemeal loaf to dip. Results summarised below:

1st – Winner –  Cullisse Highland Rapeseed Oil

I saw this at the show and noticed the very appealing packaging was, in part, selling this product, with purchasers commenting on the ‘lovely bottle’ and it would ‘make a nice present’. Packaging did not interest me and in fact, made me more cynical about the virtues of the flavours within.

However, you get a double-whammy with this oil – great packaging and more importantly, outstanding flavour.  This oil is everything a rapeseed oil should deliver in terms of flavour.  The smell exudes freshness and hints at the flavour, reminiscent of a combination of freshly podded young peas and grass with a subtle aftertaste of red skinned peanuts.

A ‘Oh wow’ from The Man Named Sous in our taste test, number one in the blind test for him and also my favourite. Will be saved for recipes where I want the fresh punch of rapeseed oil to come through. Packing is a unique design compared with other Scottish rapeseed oils seen; classy, unfussy and timeless. It has the bonus of a pourer under the cork bottle top. Nice touch for a first class product which has made me see rapeseed oil in a new light. I am a convert and will think twice before my habitual reach for the olive oil…

2nd – Runner up – Supernature rapeseed oil

This oil stood up very well to our winner and offered a similar distinctive pea-nutty flavour. We were unanimous in deciding it should be runner-up. The flavour was more subtle than Cullisse, but this did not detract from the quality of the oil.  It would suit recipes where the strong personality of Cullisse is not required and where it therefore may dominate a little too much.

As testament to our confidence in the flavour of this oil, I bought a 2.5 litre container.  At £15, this represented excellent value for a quality rapeseed oil. Smaller quantities are packaged in a long, thin bottle much like the Macintosh of Glendaveny shown in the photo.  In fact, most rapeseed oils we saw were in this bottle design so it may be harder for their products to attract attention in the way the packaging of Cullisse does.

3rd – Wooden spoon – Macintosh of Glendaveny

I’m afraid this oil accounts for my previous lacklustre interest in rapeseed oils.  This was qualified during our taste test.  This oil was not only outclassed by the other two by some way, but was genuinely awful.  It tasted like vegetable oil that had been previously used to fry fish and had a definite fishy aftertaste. Comment from The Man Named Sous was ‘Euggghhhh!’ Unlike the other two oils tasted, it had no smell whatsoever – not even a faintly fishy one.

To be entirely fair to this product, we suspect there is something very seriously wrong with the batch that this bottle came from.  We checked and it was in date and being stored as per the instructions.  Interestingly, the label also reads ‘Slight variations in our oil’s colour and flavour may occur’ – No shit!.  We also tasted it at the show and it was not outstanding, but did have some of the qualities of the other two that at least told you it was rapeseed. The label states it won a ‘Great taste gold 2011’ award  so our bottle can’t possibly be representative of the product, one hopes!

At season’s end

The last North Uist Angling Club outing of the year always merits attendance  – for the final season swan song, if nothing else.  The forecast was not shaping up well in the morning with northerlies and increasing rain forecast, winds about 25-30 mph.  Not particularly unusual fishing conditions for Uist.

Loch Dusary – both dreich and dour

Loch Dusary on the west side near Bayhead was the venue.  A loch that purports to contain salmon and sea trout but in my limited experience, I have yet to be convinced.  The rain hit as soon as we got out of the car and it was quite frankly Baltic and the most foul weather of all NUAC outings this season.

Not to be deterred, we started fishing at the north end of the loch where the outlet burn flows.  A good start – my first cast was an out of season brownie which took my point fly – a large double hook blue fry mimic (droppers were a kingfisher butcher and a big muddler with red tail).  The brown trout safely returned, I commenced fishing southwards down the west bank.

The wind swung WNW and this combined with the surface ripples made a long cast easy without the need to be concerned about presentation.  Not that it mattered.  With little water flowing through the outlet burn and no rain to speak of over the last week, it was clear any fish within would not be fresh and would have to be returned. This was confirmed later when one of our keen-as-mustard attendees returned a black 3lb fish.

After 3 hours without another touch and no feeling left in my left hand or my feet, we decided to call it a day. The highlight was the acrobatic display of an overhead merlin in pursuit of two meadow pipits. Apparently unable to decide which to target, like us, it left without success.

The day would have been a complete damp squib had it not been for surprise bounty of 2 greylag geese kindly gifted to us by a fellow angler.  These will hang until Tuesday, so more on them at a later date.

I am The Red Queen

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass

It is peculiar how, through life, particular quotes can re-surface in different contexts. For me, none more strikingly so than that by Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen. It has been a while since I have thought about her.

My first encounter was inevitably in childhood and the wonderous world of fantastically surreal drama of Carroll’s book which left me quite frankly bewildered but intrigued – and with a fleeting fascination for mirrors and chess.

Last time I thought about her she unexpectedly appeared when I studied co-evolutionary theory as a zoology undergraduate. Although The Red Queen Hypothesis explains two different evolutionary phenomena: the advantage of sexual reproduction between individuals (micorevolutionary) and the constant evolutionary arms race between competing species (macroevolutionary). Either way, the central premise is that continuing adaptation is needed in order for a species to maintain its relative fitness amongst the systems it is co-evolving with. Matt Ridley’s work of popular science on the subject ‘The Red Queen’, is a book guaranteed to generate a storming debate and is a thought-provoking read for scientists and non-scientists alike.

Gardening here always does seem to be an arms race of a non-evolutionary sort – given the constant battle to outwit predators preying on my vulnerable produce.  However, my thoughts returned to The Red Queen over the last couple of months, and specifically to the running-to-stand-still aspect of her being, which has been my experience of late.

I’m sure the experience of frenetic activity is the same between August and October for anyone growing produce.  This is for me exacerbated by full-time work, the start of the migratory fish season and ripening of fruit and berries to forage – not to mention producing a stack of canapes for an open day for The Man Named Sous to welcome customers and friends to his new workshop! The open day was a success. Sadly there wasn’t much food left over to indulge in! Recipe for the canape below can be found here

Broad bean and pea puree with frizzled chorizo on a seeded cracker

As usual, I have written nothing down, but at least used my iPhone to catalogue food-related events.  I had the inevitable glut of veg – kilos of tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, peas, broad beans and carrots, too many cauliflowers but not enough pak choi, my first raspberries (exciting!) and a forest of herbs. Fishing yielded well with plenty brown trout and mackerel. A mainland forage for rowan and an exceptional bramble crop on Uist put lots of jelly on the boil.

Chutneys and relishes ensued – beetroot relish, piccalilli, rhubarb relish, veg ale chutney.  Courgettes and cucumbers were eaten fresh by the kilo in various guises from bread (courgette) to salads, the rest preserved by light pickling using numerous different experimental recipes from spicy to sweet. It is a delight to say that in my third tomato-growing year, and due to our exceptional summer, for the first time, I did not have to resort to green tomato chutney.  So lots of roasted tomatoes sauces in the freezer to look forward to over the winter.

Herbs too were exceptional.  I decided to stick to growing about 15 this year, mostly the usual suspects I find it impossible to live without. Basil contributed to fresh pesto.  Its numerous forms included the classic recipe plus variations with rocket, parsley and nasturtiums. Although coriander has to be cropped quickly as it bolts as soon as your back is turned, I did manage a steady supply by sowing weekly over the summer and it is a must for curries and mexican dishes. A trout wouldn’t be the same without dill and the fresh brownies and dill will be sadly missed over the winter. For me the most versatile of all is parsley.  Fortunately I can usually keep a year round supply growing.  Just as well, I add it to almost everything. It also made a significant contribution to my vegetable bouillon recipe.

So, while I have put plenty food in the store cupboard and freezer, not much progress has been made on completing the fruit cage or dry stone wall.  No excuses now however.

I could go on ad infinitum, so it is perhaps fortunate that my apple and marmalade cake needs to come out of the oven….

Broad bean and pea puree with frizzled chorizo on a seeded cracker

The ratio of peas to beans can be changed according to what’s available, or use just one or the other.  The amount of horseradish is up to you, depending on how much heat you like, so keep tasting as you add!


250g each of peas and broad beans, cooked; broad beans shelled

100g creme fraiche

3-5 tblsp fresh grated horseradish, to taste

couple of mint sprigs

chorizo, cut into chunks 1cm x 2cm approx

salt and pepper

To make:

Simmer peas/beans in boiling water for 5 mins and plunge in ice cold water to retain colour.  Shell the broad beans (it is worth the effort and produces a more refined texture), blitz in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients except the chorizo.  Taste and adjust seasoning/horseradish as required. Pass the mixture through a chinois or sieve (unless you want a coarse puree). Put mixture in the fridge as piping is easier if it is cooler and hence firmer.

Put the chorizo pieces in a dry frying pan on a medium heat and fry until the fat runs out and the pieces crisp and blacken at the edges.  Drain on kitchen towel and cool.

Fill a piping bag and using a 1cm plain nozzle pipe a small amount of the mixture onto the cracker. Top with the chorizo and any other garnish you like.  I used chives, mint would be an obvious choice.

Two seed crackers

Replace the seeds with your favourites, or to complement the topping. I often use caraway, but my home grown seed is a bit to potent and overpowers this delicate puree, so linseed and poppy seed were added.


250g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tblsp linseeds

2 tblsp poppy seeds

60g chilled salted butter, cut into small cubes

125ml cold water


To make:

Oven: 180 oC

Sift flour, baking powder and salt, add seeds and pepper to taste. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually mix in the cold water with a flat-bladed knife until the mixture comes together. Gather the dough into a ball, do not knead or overhandle it.

Roll the dough between 2 sheets of cling film until it is 2mm thick – get it as thin as you can.  You may need to divide the dough and roll it in batches.  Don’t be tempted to use parchment or silicone instead of clingfilm – I found this mixture sticks to both. Cutter size is up to you.  I find for canapes 4 or 5 cm is about right, any bigger and the canape is more than a mouthful. This makes about 30 crackers. Put on a baking tray and prick with a fork.

Bake for about 25 minutes until just golden. Store in an airtight container. If you don’t need to make a big batch, the dough can be frozen and used at a later date.