News you can trust since 1817

Scotland’s Larder: Liz Bingham from Litty's Larder, East Lothian

Liz Bingham is a talented baker who creates ethical and delicious cakes from her home kitchen, and is influenced by the nature that is found near East Lothian.

Published: April 12, 2021
Categories: ,

Originally from Alnmouth in Northumberland, Liz grew up spending a lot of time on the beach or birdwatching.

Speaking of this, she said: "I have always had a connection with the coast. I would be out looking for visiting geese in spring and autumn and waiting for the swallows to come.

"That link with nature, is something I try to bring into the baking by using seasonal produce - which could be fruit, vegetables or even foraged botanicals."

Rock and Roll

After school Liz studied Geology at Edinburgh University and earned a PhD in Environmental Science from Glasgow University, she said "I was the first person in my family to go to university.

"I always had a fascination with the environment and rocks. I used to do a lot fossil hunting along the beaches and outcrops of the Northumberland coastline. I am very scientifically minded."

However she began baking as a child with her mother, and said: "we always made banana loaf, and Brack loaf, where you soak the dried fruit in tea over night before you bake it."

Liz explained her mum always made a massive effort baking birthday and Christmas cakes. She said "she put a lot of love into it to make everybody feel special. "

Liz fondly recalls, a magical fairy cake with turrets and a rabbit cake decorated with desiccated coconut.

Her grandparents also cooked homely meals from scratch, so she said "I picked up a lot of things from them."

Vanilla and Sea Buckthorn cupcake with edible flower
Vanilla and Sea Buckthorn cupcake with edible flower

Get Outside

The study of geology is fieldwork based which she explained, "suited my personality. I just love the outdoors and I joined the mountaineering club. We would go away at the weekends to bag Munros and Corbetts."

She met her future husband Robert on the "very romantic Beinn Dorain mountain in the Bridge of Orchy hills."

Robert is an Antarctic Scientist who lecturers at The University of Edinburgh, so the couple share the same views on caring for the environment.

Liz's love of the outdoors means she is also a fan of free food snaffled off a bush, and said, "brambling was something we did all the time as kids."

She now passes that foraging knowledge onto her own children, Rachael (8) and Alexander (6).

Forage

Liz said "It is great I can teach them, what a bramble looks like and that there are lots of other bits of free food."

However she explains that for her own baking, "I don't forage all the ingredients myself, the foragers code means that you have to be 100 per cent sure  and a little bit more that you know exactly what you are taking.

"There are certain plants which look quite similar, so I buy them wholesale from a couple of great places, it is also important to me to support other small local companies.

  Scotland's larder Dr Robert Graham of Graham's The Family Dairy

"For example Sweet Cicely which I use quite a lot in baking because I love the aniseed flavour but can look very similar to Hemlock.

"I use Sweet Cicely on wedding cakes and birthday cakes, I also incorporate it into kids dinosaur themed cupcakes and put a dinosaur foot print beside it because it looks like an ancient fern.

Litty's Larder brings foraged ingredients to a bigger audience
Litty's Larder brings foraged ingredients to a bigger audience

"The kids really love that and it is important to make the wild Scottish larder accessible to children as well as adults."

Liz feels that it is really important to teach children to cut out e- numbers, by using a lot of natural fruit and vegetable colourings.

She loves gathering ingredients like Sea Buckthorn, " I absolutely love it. There is so much in East Lothian, the colours are amazing," she said.

Foraging then becomes a family outing, where she can teach her children about nature.

She said, "they will see fieldfares and redwings snaffling up the berries and the kids will then help me pick them, and we can make it into cakes."

She also buy that direct from, Sea Buckthorn Scotland

Family values

Running her own business from home, "works really well, it allows me work around the kids."

After she had her second child, she fell out of love with science and decided to make a career change.

Initially she started baking more for friends and family and writing a blog and as a result Litty's larder was born in 2018.

She said, "although I am very scientific, I've always liked the idea of being a baker so I'm pleased I made the switch. I think I should have done this ages ago."

Her name is Elizabeth, but her nickname growing up was Little Mouse, which was shortened to Littymouse and then Litty.

She said, "not many folk have a nickname like Litty so thought Litty's Larder would be fun name for the business."

Liz Bingham a natural baker
Liz Bingham, a natural baker. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

"I love the creativity, thinking about the different flavours, what the bakes are going to look like and I get to merge that with the science of baking."

At her first Christmas market,  she said, "people absolutely loved it." Her best sellers were birch syrup in a vegan brownie and peanut butter, pear and chocolate cake.

She then ran a stall at Canteen by Rogue Village at Archerfield, where children got involved decorating bakes.

She said, "I loved showing kids and parents that you didn't need to use e-numbers."

Instead she used organic edible flowers, blueberries and naturally coloured sprinkles to let the  kids experiment with the different textures and natural flavourings and toppings.

Naturally decorated biscuits from Litty's Larder
Naturally decorated biscuits from Litty's Larder

She said, "I'm very much into collaborative working with companies who share the same ethos as I have, I did a pop up stall for Steampunkt's summer fair.

  Scotland's Larder: Jim Shanks from Standhill Farm, Hawick

"I made elderflower cordial and put that into the donuts, and again used edible flowers including gorse, for the children to decorate.

"It is never too early to educate kids and show them that there are better ways of doing things, it is good to change with more knowledge so we can improve things for the environment and the health of folk."

The Bigger Picture

However key to Litty's business is her use of sustainable produced and ethical sourced ingredients.

She uses as much local produce as possible including; Mungoswells flour, local eggs from East Fortune and local cold pressed black and gold oil  from outside Haddington, and seasonal fresh vegetables and fruit including Kilduff pumpkins which make an appearance in autumn.

Liz said, "I'm very much into the seasonality of foods, but I also like playing around with flavour combinations and textures as well as visuals."

She likes to experiment, "I just try different flours with whole grains, or older grains like spelt and buckwheat, to add an extra element to the baking. "

The chocolate she uses comes from The Chocolate Tree she said, "I love the whole ethos of the company, they buy direct from the grower, so they know where the cocoa pods come from, and it is an entirely transparent relationship."

Birch, Seabuckthorn and Orange Brownie Box
Birch, Seabuckthorn and Orange Brownie Box which she posted out during lockdown.

She even tries to use ethical sugar as much as she can and support cooperatives, like Greencity wholefoods and Suma Wholefoods.

She said, "I use Steampunkt Coffee a lot of my baking as well, which is another local company again ethically sourced.

"It is really important to me that the baking not only looks good, but it also packs a punch with flavour.

"I always look at my ingredients and think how can I improve on this and make it more ethical? so the folk who are growing the raw ingredients are getting a better deal, and have good working conditions. That is really important to me."

Waste not want not

Pre lockdown she was delivering to locals in re-useable plastic boxes because she was really conscious about packaging getting chucked away.

However, due to lockdown she had to switch to Vegware, an Edinburgh company, who create sustainable packaging made from cardboard and PLA products.

She said,  "It is just really important to cut down packaging and I make an real effort to buy in bulk, I want to get towards zero waste as much as I can."

Sweet treats

Lockdown also saw her launch a seasonal sweet treat selection box which was delivered locally to East Lothian/Edinburgh and Brownie boxes which were posted further afield.

  Day in the Life: Jill Clark, co-owner of Connage Highland Dairy

Over the last 10 months she used a whole range of foraged items and seasonal ingredients in bakes, which she said "was fun to do during lockdown."

She said, "I didn't specify exactly what would be in the box but I gave an indication of the flavours."

For example; blood orange, rhubarb, pear and sea buckthorn, or a simple sponge flavoured with pineapple weed syrup or other seasonal foraged flavours.

The idea was to offer a combination of six different bakes with different flavour combinations for the customer, there might be a cup cake, a donut, a cake pop, a mini brownie or a blondie.

Cake Pops
Naturally delicious Cake Pops

Around 75 per cent of the orders she got were gifts for others, she said, "so it was to be a lovely surprise delivery from their friend or loved one which was really nice to be involved with."

She tells us, a lady placed an order for her parents because she couldn't get to see them. Liz said, "on delivery the guy was just so happy, with a great big beaming smile. It was just a lovely thing for me as well, to play a little part in their bigger story."

She has recently decided to take a step back from baking to order like this, to concentrate exclusively on recipe development and further refinement.

Her exact plans for the future are still evolving but she is keen to explore the idea of sharing ideas and recipes with people online via social media and her website.

She also admits to wanting to write a book, which she said, "has always been a bit of a dream."

Sea Buckthorn Cake
Sea Buckthorn Cake baked by Litty's larder

She said, "there are very few businesses if any, who are using wild foods in the baking and I really like the fact I do. Foraging can be quite exclusive in a sense.

"What I try to do with my baking is to bring wild ingredients into it. This way you can try a foraged ingredient, and everyone loves a cake, "

Although, some people may think, 'she just bakes from home' She points out,  "actually it is so much more than that, I try and create a sense of community around food and baking."

She adds, "My love for the environment and making people feel welcome safe, kind of extends from my family and people seem to like that. It is my whole life so I can't separate the two."

Who knows what the exciting future might bring for this natural baker.

Litty's Larder

East Lothian

littyslarder@gmail.com

 

• READ MORE: Scotland’s Larder: Stewart Pearson, The Lobster Man

Catriona is based in the Scottish Borders and works as part of the audiovisual team at the Scotsman but she reviews restaurants for Scotland on Sunday and writes for Scotsman Food and Drink in her spare time.

Let us know what you think

comments

©JPIMedia Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.
Cookie SettingsTerms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram