My early memories of holidays in Scotland always revolved around great food and drink. Whether it was cooking fresh beef steaks by the loch side, eating haggis and eggs for breakfast or eagerly anticipating lots of thick slices of fresh Scottish smoked salmon simply dressed with lemon juice and cracked black pepper, it was always amazing. Dining out never seemed a problem too, I used to love going to the pubs around the Trossachs sampling such local delicacies as Collops, steaming bowls of Scotch broth with pearl barley and creamy, smoky Cullen Skink.
People would laugh at me when I told them that after Italian food, I considered Scottish cuisine to be second to none, the perfect food for all seasons. In autumn and winter its heavy, rich warm sauces, thick cuts of gamey meat and hearty earthy vegetables that make my wet and damp walk from work bearable, while summer months see an influx of salmon, shellfish, fresh fruit and peppery salad leaves. Of course, the reason the Sassenach laughs at the cuisine of his northern cousin is the perception and myths that have built up around Scottish food in the last ten or twenty years. Horror stories about deep fried pizzas, Mars bars, haggis, Scotch pies have flooded English newspapers. While London and her provinces have been dining on the imaginative works of food fantasy inspired by Heston Blumenthal et al, Scotland has been perceived to be deep frying animal, vegetable and mineral at will. Ok so there is some truth in this, and I myself have sampled it, nothing as extreme as a Scotch pie or Mars bar (though I hear that they are both exquisite) but I have found myself eating deep fried haggis on the royal mile at two in the morning. But Scotland does have so much more to offer than these offerings to the great god of cardiac arrests! While we were filming in Aberdeen we came across some of the best looking fish I have seen in a while, straight out of the North Sea and landed in Aberdeen. The selection of shellfish and smoked fish was fantastic and a lot cheaper than anything to be found ion the supermarket. The butchers shop also revealed a wealth of local, seasonal produce with some fantastic home made beef sausages and thick, deep ruby red steaks with just the faintest hint of fat marbling its way through the meat. The real highlight for me, and the thing which makes me wish I was studying up in the granite city, was Mellis’ Cheese shop. If folk in the south think that Scotland is somewhat stationary in terms of gourmet produce they need to check out the quality available in terms of artisanal Scottish cheeses. I was staggered to be eating a Lanark blue that could have quite easily been the most rich and decadent Dolce Latte, or the Cromarty goat’s cheese which would give any French stuff a run for its Gallic money! Favorite cheese of the day would have to be the Blarliath smoked cheese, a fantastic light and clean tasting cheese that would swing even the most ardent hater of smoked cheeses into its corner. I literally scratched the surface of Aberdeen and cannot wait to delve a little more into the culinary underbelly of this historic city.