Over the last year and a half, I have had the pleasure of talking to some of the people behind Scotland's food and drink businesses – the country’s best producers, growers and suppliers – about what they do for my weekly article.
Our country is blessed with a world beating, natural store cupboard stuffed full with a staggering range of produce, and from the safety of my kitchen, I have interviewed amazing foodie folk across the length and breadth of the land.
Amongst my standout favourites has to be the heartwarming tale of Poppaloomas Chocolate Emporium run by mother and daughter duo, June and Poppy Calder Thomson. Nine year old Poppy wanted to make a difference to people's lives, so her mum decided that they should act on that sentiment and they now manufacture and sell their chocolates with profits being donated to charities.
• READ MORE: Scotland's Larder: Poppalooma's Chocolate Emporium
I was also incredibly moved talking to Judith Vajk from Caledonian Oyster company about the adversities she has faced running her oyster farm near Oban. She shared her pearls of wisdom about life, and love and you can find her shucking her fresh oysters at Perth's farmers market on the first and third Saturday of December.
• READ MORE: Scotland's Larder: Judith Vajk from Caledonian Oysters Co
Their life stories have made me appreciate even more what we have on our doorstep and the effort it takes to produce them. I've discovered so much more about life from these incredible unsung heroes. Scotland's Larder is filled with great food and produce, but it is also packed full of interesting hard working, passionate characters, whose stories need to be told. I have learned lessons in determination and fortitude and I am more convinced than ever of the importance of supporting these food and drink businesses. I believe if you learn a little of their lives, you will want to support them by buying their wonderful goods and be rewarded by a true taste of our nation.
Chloe founded Chocolatia, a year ago whilst on furlough from her dream job as Chocolatier at Gleneagles, she has left that job to concentrate on her sideline venture. At this time of year she has her head down tempering high end Valrhona chocolate to create her Christmas collection, which will include 12 and 24 day advent calendars filled with different flavours of festive bonbons, alongside her existing Signature chocolates.
There may also be a few other festive surprises like hot chocolate bombs, ganache filled Christmas trees and little Christmas stars to look out for. So if you have a chocoholic to buy a present for this year check out her website.
• READ MORE: Scotland's larder: Chloe Oswald owner at Chocolatia, Perth
Scotland's food history and heritage is legend and someone who knows a fair bit about that is unofficial smokie ambassador, Iain R Spink. He is the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the fish trade, as most of his income comes from attending events he said, "Covid has virtually wiped out my business." But you can find him smoking haddocks in a whisky barrel, the old fashioned way at St Andrews and Cupar farmers markets on the first and third Saturday of the month. If you don't live nearby you can order online and he will post them to you, last posting date is Monday 20th December with last orders taken on 15th December. This traditional method of smoking fish had all but died out and it is down to his sheer determination that it still exists.
• READ MORE: Scotland’s Larder: Iain R. Spink's Original Smokies from Arbroath
I had expected to talk to Rob about all things to do with sourdough bread, but instead he shared with me his story of how his dramatic health scare led him to reconsider his career options. Following two and a half months of rehabilitation he decided to follow his dream and work in the kitchen, a path which eventually led him to making bread. The illness affects him, he told me, "It is a bit of a worry and I still get moments; which is why making sourdough bread works so well for me, it can take a good two days to make a loaf. My speed of thought is a lot slower than it used to be and I find it difficult to react quickly to things." However he still has a wicked sense of humour, as can be seen when it came to naming his shop in Peebles.
• READ MORE: Scotland's Larder: Rob Paton from The Fat Batard Bakery, Peebles
This artisan coffee Roastery is based in Selkirk in the Borders and is named after triple summits of the nearby Eildons. The couple were cautiously optimistic about 2021 when I spoke to them earlier in the year, although they had to reschedule their wedding they have now married. So things are now looking great. They are in the middle of building a new state of the art roastery, So if you are looking for a gift for a coffee fan, they run workshops or you could drop in for a brew in their cafe, with their freshly roasted coffee available to buy. Open Tuesday to Friday 9 to 4 and on Saturdays 9.30 to 4.
• READ MORE: Scotland’s Larder: Richard Keeling and Jessica Jericevich, from Three Hills Coffee Roastery in Selkirk
With the weight of over 300 years of family history heaped on his shoulders, things looked grim last year at the start of lockdown, but Stewart was determined not to see his family fishing business fold on his watch. "we couldn't sell our lobsters - I thought 'what are we going to do? How are we going to feed the baby?'. Instead they set up a catering trailer at Fenton Barns to sell their freshly prepared lobster and seafood dishes. They have a special Christmas menu you can order with delivery or collection on Christmas Eve with whole North Berwick Lobster with a choice of sauce, Thermidor sauce, Garlic and coriander or Honey Cajun butter.They are planning to be open throughout the winter, our usual Fridays Saturdays and Sundays 12-4 ish (depending on daylight)
• READ MORE: Scotland's Larder: Stewart Pearson, The Lobster Man
In Ayrshire you will find Scotland’s only graduation thorn salt tower which produces salt crystals by evaporation. West Coast sea water is slowly trickled through the twigs and branches of this impressive structure. Nothing is added so what you get is pure, natural and simple sea salt. Husband and wife team, Whirly and Gregorie have been busy this year letting people know about their product and when celebrity chef, James Martin said this about your product, "the most amazing salt you will ever see!" you know that you are onto a winner. Available to buy in 120g, 240g, and 1.4kg packets online.
• READ MORE: Scotland’s Larder: Gregorie Marshall from Blackthorn Salt
A dynamic mother and son team run this award winning company, Susie Upton and Jamie Brown, they make a point of using local produce, and their pastry cases are made with Mungoswells Flour and meat is supplied by John Gilmour Butchers and seafood by Ross Dougal fish merchants. They are currently in the process of upgrading their bakery in Eyemouth to keep on top of demand and have just launched their Christmas Pie which contains chicken in creamy gravy, bacon, sprouts, chestnuts and cranberry sauce encased within pastry. They also deliver pies direct to your door via pies by post, the cut off date for ordering is 15th December.
• READ MORE: Scotland’s Larder: Jamie Brown from Jarvis Pickle Pies
The Monarch of the Glen is an iconic emblem of Scotland, but it took an enterprising Dutch couple, Anja and Jan Jacob Baak to realise the full potential for wild red deer charcuterie. They run their business from the old butchers shop in the village of Roy Bridge, in the Highlands. Jan Jacob has perfected the tricky art of producing high quality venison charcuterie from the best of Scotland's wild Larder
• READ MORE: Scotland's Larder: Jan Jacob and Anja Baak from Great Glen Charcuterie
Selina Cairns makes award winning cheese from the milk produced by their sheep and goat herds on the farm in Lanarkshire. You can buy her Errington Cheeses at Edinburgh farmers Market every Saturday before Christmas and Partick Market on 11th and 23rd December plus there is a chance to buy from the farm itself between 20-24th between 1pm and 4pm
• READ MORE: Scotland’s Larder: Selina Cairns from Errington Cheese
Jeni Iannetta from Bad Girl Bakery from Muir of Ord is obsessed with cookery books, and she chatted to me about how she ended up baking cakes for a living in the Highlands. This year saw her realise her dream of publishing her very own cookery book with Kitchen Press
• READ MORE: Scotland's Larder: Jeni Iannetta from Bad Girl Bakery, Muir of Ord