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!