Scotland's Seasonal Spring Foods

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Scottish Seasonal Springtime Foods

by Vivien Devlin

Launched in the summer of 2010, Scotland's Year of Food and Drink
focuses on celebrating and enhancing Scotland's global reputation as
a land of fine food and drink.

scottish strawberries
Scottish Strawberries

To complement this foodie festival, the Scottish Government's “Eat in Season” is a campaign to encourage chefs, shops and households across Scotland to source locally nurtured meat, fish and home-grown fruit and vegetables. Freshly prepared food is good for a healthy diet and assists Scottish farmers and producers.  

The initiative, launched by Rural Affairs Minister, Richard Lochhead, is based on research that shows most people have become accustomed to foods being readily available all year round, and few know which foods are in season.



Scottish Rhubarb

Strawberries in summer, leeks and turnips in winter – most of us eat seasonal food without realising it. Not only does it tastes better, it’s often cheaper because it’s sourced locally and not flown thousands of miles.

Seasonal fruit, vegetables, meat and fish simply means that this is when they’re naturally ready to eat, at their ripest, freshest best time for consumption. Eating fresh, in season food gives you the vitamins and minerals you need, offering a varied diet all year round. 

So what’s in season in April and May?  There is a huge variety of Scottish foods that are currently at their peak flavour level, or are about to come into their own, including rhubarb, sprouting broccoli, wild garlic and mushrooms, Spring lamb, new potatoes, asparagus, and wood pigeon.


Rhubarb

Introduced to Scotland around 1760 by the Royal Botanic Garden’s first Regius Keeper, Dr John Hopea and a few years later Tobias Smollett later reported its successful cultivation at Atholl. 


Spring Lamb


Spring Lamb

Imported lamb from New Zealand may be available all year round, but in season Scottish lamb is of excellent quality, juicy taste and texture. 

In late May and June, lamb is at its most tender, but as the season progresses the flavour develops. Spring lamb is fantastic for roasting simply with garlic.

Early spring lamb has a delicate, pale and tender meat with a fine grain and white crumbly fat to keep it succulent. Allow the joint to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving to allow the meat to relax and the juices to disperse.

 


Wild Mushrooms


Porcini (Ceps)

The Scottish climate offers ideal conditions for wild mushrooms to grow. Morel mushrooms are one of the wild mushrooms which should not be eaten raw as they can cause stomach upsets. When cooked, morel mushrooms have a distinctive aromatic taste. They can be found in various red, brown, black colours growing in forests and orchards at the start of the Spring season. 

Scottish wild mushrooms are so good that some visitors come to Scotland to gather them – and you may meet Italians travelling to Aberdeenshire in search of Porcini (ceps), (available in the Autumn), the king of all mushrooms, they are meaty, rich and versatile.

At the exquisite Lutyens-designed Edwardian mansion house Greywalls Hotel in the tranquil countryside of East Lothian, you can enjoy the dining experience of contemporary French cuisine inspired by the classic dishes of Albert Roux.  As Head chef Robert Bates explains, “ We take great pride in dealing with local farms and suppliers who are as passionate and committed about the produce they grow or cattle they rear as we are about the food we serve at Chez Roux”.


Dining at Greywalls - Chez Roux Restaurant

To give an insight into some of the dishes which will be served throughout Springtime, the focus is on garden peas, lamb, beef, rhubarb, and asparagus, such as Veloute of Garden Pea with Free Range Poached Egg with Broad Beans.

Greywalls is blessed with a wonderful garden in which there is an abundance of fresh produce to use throughout the Spring and Summer months: Free Range Eggs, collected daily from their own chickens, and peas and broad beans will be available in a few weeks.

And of course Spring lamb is on the menu – “Pan Fried Rump of Borders Hogget, Pea Puree and Broad Beans, Cream of Capucins.” Scottish Lamb will be available in the late Spring, supplied by Neil Udale in the Scottish borders. 

Rhubarb and ginger is a wonderful combination, famously used in jam. For dessert you can sample Warm Vanilla and Rhubarb Chiboust Tart, Poached Rhubarb and Confit Ginger Ice Cream.   With the Rhubarb picked from the garden whenever possible and otherwise sourced from the local supplier Mark Murphy.  During the short Spring season, Asparagus will be offered everyday on the Du Jour Menu, sourced from John Warnick, near Aberlady only five miles from the Hotel.


Wild Garlic

“Eate leekes in Lide [March] and Ramsins [wild garlic] in May and all the yeare after physitians may play”.

Also known as Ramsons, wood garlic or bear’s garlic, wild garlic grows in deciduous woods and forests. The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw in salads and lightly cooked in soups. 

Wild garlic grows in the early spring, and flowers in the weeks before leaves start to grow on the trees. It is particularly delicious when stirred into pasta and rice dishes during the last minute or two of cooking, added to sauces for meat and fish dishes and used as an alternative to parsley.


Sweet Cicily


Sweet Cicily

A perennial with aromatic foliage used as a salad herb, the leaves have a flavour rather like Anise with a scent like Lovage. Rather like Hemlock with a fresh green colour, the fruit is large, dark brown and well flavoured.

The leaves taste as if sugar had been sprinkled over them.  Add fresh leaves to salads, soups and stews and cook with sour fruits such as rhubarb or gooseberries which will add natural sweetening, rather than using sugar.

The multi award winning, Michelin-starred Head chef, Charles Lockley at Boath House, near Nairn is passionate about local produce which they  buy, forage or grow in the hotel kitchen garden.  Let Mr Lockley tell the story of Springtime food he will be cooking:


Boath House, near Nairn

“Lamb is usually Laikenbuie, organic which is fantastic. We buy the whole lamb so we would serve say a piece of quick cooked saddle with slow poached shoulder, tongue, wild garlic puree, new potatoes, and wild garlic flower fritters.

“Wood Pigeon is served as a starter, the breast is taken off the bone rolled in angelica leaves then poached at 65 degrees and served with lentils and asparagus shavings. 

The Wood Pigeon comes from Cawdor estate, and the asparagus and new potatoes from Hardmuir Farm just half a mile up the road.

 

 

Towards the end of May we are fortunate to get garlic scapes and wet garlic from the Really Garlicky Company, just a mile up the road, to be served with Free range Chicken.”

“We also serve Asparagus as a starter with local duck egg, cooked asparagus, shavings and sweet cicely.   Rhubarb is mainly used for desserts my favourite one being  Rhubarb, custard and jelly.

The rhubarb is poached at 50 degrees  so it keeps it nice and crunchy, we make a vanilla custard and serve this in small dish with an elderflower jelly and a small drink of rhubarb and ginger juice.  Rhubarb will also be served as shavings in salads to garnish certain fish courses."

Chef Lockley says, “We look forward to this time of year in the kitchen and the first foraging starts in the grounds with my favourite Sweet Cicely, Ground Elder, Jack of The Hedgerow, Hawthorn leaves, Chickweed and Elderflowers.  From the Hotel garden we pick kale, comfrey, radish, rhubarb, micro-herbs and edible flowers. "


Asparagus


Strathearn Restaurant - Gleneagles

There is a thriving asparagus industry in Scotland and many top chefs at Luxury Scotland hotels are passionate and enthusiastic about cooking with this fresh spring vegetable in a diverse range of dishes.  Scotland’s climate is ideal for its cultivation and the Scottish variety tends to be slightly lighter in colour with a delicate taste.  The Spring season is short, for about six weeks from the second week of May to the end of June.  

In particular, Perthshire’s rich soil and cool climate allows asparagus to grow slowly. One of the leading suppliers of fine Scottish asparagus is Eassie Farm, at Glamis, for its green, tender stalk with a thick skin to preserve the flavour.

 “You needn't tell me that a man who doesn't love oysters and asparagus and good wines has got a soul, or a stomach either.” Hector Hugh Munro.

In the heart of the green, Big Tree Country, is the renowned Golfing and Spa resort, Gleneagles. Executive Chef Alan Gibb is looking forward to preparing local, fresh farm meat and vegetables as we head towards Easter. 

The new Spring menu at the grand and gracious Strathearn Restaurant includes a selection of artistically designed dishes: - Sautéed Pigeon – bacon wafer - wild mushrooms – thyme; Scotch lamb - loin – shoulder - haggis - fondant potato - whisky jelly;.  Textures of rhubarb – sorbet- crumble – fool. 


Fresh Scottish Asparagus

 

Scotch lamb is often at its prime later in the season and at present the lamb being served is from Uist, reared on grass and seaweed from their natural habitat – the meat is lean and excellent.

Asparagus is sourced from East Lothian, Wild garlic is picked around the Denny area and Sprouting Broccoli is from farms in Perthshire.


New Potatoes


Ayrshire New Potatoes

 

Nutritious, delicious and versatile, the potato is by far the most important and beloved vegetable in Europe.  How impoverished would our national cuisine be without golden roast potatoes, thick-cut chips or creamy mash? Having long been cultivated in South America (Peru), the vegetable was introduced into Spain in the 1550s and then the British Isles. 

Somewhat surprisingly, potatoes weren't grown in North America until they were taken by Irish emigrants in 1719 and they travelled to Australasia with Captain Cook on his voyages.

In Britain, potatoes were initially an exotic and expensive food with a reputation as an aphrodisiac.  It was more than a century later before they became a staple food. 

Many chefs regard the Epicure new potato from Ayrshire as one of the best – a variety with white skin, creamy flesh and good flavour. Picked fresh from the ground, rub the skins, boil in salted water until just tender and serve with butter, mint or chives. 

Christopher Trotter, our good friend and food consultant is a great fan: “The early new potatoes in Scotland invariably come from Ayrshire.  As a chef I wait while my greengrocer offers me Jersey Royals then perhaps Cornish new potatoes until the real thing arrives! Still smelling of the rich soil there is nothing quite like an Ayrshire new potato.”

An interesting fact: A spud is a small, narrow spade that was once used for digging potatoes.

Jason Galea, Executive Sous Chef at Turnberry Resort in the heart of rural Ayrshire relishes the new potatoes and all the local produce Mother Nature provides on the West Coast of Scotland.  When using the word local he and his kitchen team really do mean local.  “Our Asparagus comes from three miles down the road from Dow Hill Farm, straight from nature to plate in under a few hours. The taste of one of these solitary green soldiers is beautiful and floral.  We do not over complicate the cooking and allow their natural flavour to speak for itself.”


Dining at Turnberry Resort

Wild Garlic is picked from the woods, just a short walk from the Turnberry's back door. Use only the flowers and the leaves of the Wild Garlic. Never taking the bulbs to ensure a good crop of garlic for the following year. 

Wild Garlic is the Swiss Army knife of produce for omelettes, stir-fries, salads, sauces, seafoods and a speciality lobster casserole. 

This Springtime visit Turnberry to sample all these delicious locally grown foods including this delicious light and tasty dish: Dow Hill Farm Asparagus, confit egg yolk, hazelnut and sauce bordelaise.


Sprouting Broccoli


Sprouting Broccoli

Roman epicure Marcus Gavius Apicius, creator of one of the earliest known recipe books, describes preparing broccoli "with a mixture of cumin and coriander seeds, chopped onion plus a few drops of oil and sun-made wine."

From the same family as the cabbage, it is closely related to cauliflower. As well as the more familiar tight green florets, purple sprouting broccoli is a fine Spring vegetable.

 Broccoli is grown in Scotland, particularly in Perthshire and prefers a cooler climate for growing. Also known as Scotch kale, it is rarely if ever destroyed by any sort of bad weather. 

It requires very little cooking to preserve the nutrients.  Purple sprouting broccoli is the perfect alternative while we wait for Scottish asparagus. You can prepare it just the same, boiling quickly then serving with hollandaise sauce as a starter or with fish as a main course.

You can be assured to sample the finest seasonal produce at the five red-star Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa in St Andrews.  The Road Hole Restaurant has views over the 17th hole, West Sands beach and out to the North Sea and offers a choice of Table d’hote and gourmet eight-course tasting menus. Sands Grill specialises in seafood and steak, and is ideal for a more casual lunch or dinner.  

Simon Whitley, Director of Food & Beverage, is a strong supporter of the Government’s Eat in Season campaign and sourcing local produce. He is very enthusiastic about the new Spring dishes on offer,  “ Crab from Fife's East Neuk, pork ribs from farms within a short drive from St Andrews, rabbit from our own Duke's Golf Course at Craigton and beetroot from hills that overlook the town -  we do all we can to source the freshest local food and drink.”  

Key suppliers include Buccleuch meats, Braehead for Gressingham duck and fine cheese, Fresh Direct for fruit and vegetables, Get Juiced smoothies, fruit juices and lemonade and exquisite rich and creamy artisan chocolates from Iain Burnett Highland Chocolatiers. 


Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa

For Easter, taste Potted Craigtoun Farm Rabbit and a seriously delicious, fishy-cheesy East Neuk Crab Macaroni. 

With enticing Mothers’ Day, Easter and Spring break packages, you may like to plan a visit to the Old Course Resort during April and May. 

Springtime menus have creative and rather exotic new dishes such as light and frothy Courgette Soup with Lavender Cappuccino, sticky Pork Ribs with Tomato salsa and marinated Tiger Prawns.


Wood Pigeon


Wood Pigeon

Spring is the ideal time of year to enjoy pigeon, found across the fields and woods of Scotland.

As with grouse, young Scottish wood pigeon offers a tender meat and the flavour is improved if fed on barley, which farmers sow on the fields in springtime.

Wood pigeon is one of the smallest game birds, usually serving one person, and can be braised slowly or pan fried quickly, until pink in the middle. 

Aberdeenshire beef is renowned worldwide and you can taste certified Scotch beef from McIntosh Donald of Portlethen in the Conservatory Restaurant at the Marcliffe Hotel, Aberdeen.  Scottish Lamb will be on the menu from June so this year Easter lamb will be from Devon or further afield while local Pigeons do start to fatten up by April. 


Marcliffe Hotel, Aberdeen

Asparagus comes from Glamis, rhubarb from local small holdings and a range of fruit and vegetables from Turriffs of Montrose.

The new and very appetising Conservatory menu runs from early March to 22nd April and highlights the local provenance of freshest seasonal food direct from Aberdeenshire farms and fish markets: 

Salad of Woodland Pigeon with apple, sorrel and hazelnuts, Butter roasted North Sea Monkfish, kedgeree risotto, braised leeks, and Loin of roe deer, venison pastry, new season Broccoli, lyonnaise potatoes.

April and May is a wonderful, blossom-flourishing time to tour around the countryside, cities and coastline of Scotland, so why not plan a visit some of these fine Luxury Scotland hotels to experience imaginative, gourmet dishes and delicious fresh-tasting cuisine for Springtime. 

Luxury Scotland
Tel: +44(0)1786 821 860 
Fax: +44 (0)1383 825 700
E: dorothy@luxuryscotland.co.uk

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