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12 of the Scotland's Larder features - from Gow's Bakery to La Pastina Deli

Catriona Thomson has told the stories behind Scotland's food-and-drink businesses. In the final article of the series, she looks back at some of her recent foodie favourites

Published: August 10, 2022
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Scotland and its people have a reputation for being a nation of inventors and creators, not to mention passionate and hard working, and the food-and-drink sector exemplifies this.

During the time that I've written Scotland's Larder (the first article was October 2020) the world has been turned upside down and every week I have heard first hand about the changing problems the businesses have faced.

The series acts as a slice of social history, recording the trials and tribulations of this time. 

I have listened to tales of triumph over adversity, starting out or pivoting during the pandemic or coping with the changes to buyers habits as a result of lockdown easing.

More recently I have heard about the challenges of rising costs, energy prices, as well as staffing issues, and how the cost-of-living crisis is biting.

Every one has been an inspiration with their endless capacity to adapt and change, and I owe each one of them a debt of gratitude for allowing me to glimpse a little insight into their lives.

Although I write Scotland's Larder, it is a team effort, so thank you to all the photographers, sub editors and designers who have crafted headlines, corrected my copy or brought the pages to life with their talents.

I remain convinced of the vital importance of supporting our food-and-drink businesses and I still hope to be able to champion them.

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As always, I urge you to put your hand in your pocket and buy from them and you will be rewarded by a unique taste of our nation.

However, all good things must come to an end, (but you can still read the 80 articles online at the Scotsman food and drink website.)

Simon Clark of Clark Brothers

Clark Brothers Fishmongers, Musselburgh
Squid on sale at Clark Brothers Fishmongers, Musselburgh. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Simon runs his fishmongers with help from his father, his wife, and two sons who are the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the fishtrade in Musselburgh.

Simon's great grandfather started the business in 1920 after the First World War. Simon recalls spending his own childhood in the old fish shed learning the ropes from his grandfather.

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He told me: "I remember him teaching me how to fillet a herring when I was eight. It was all done without a knife, just with your thumb and fingers; in the summertime herrings are that soft." READ MORE

Blair Blacklock of Moffat Toffee

The Moffat Toffee shop
Blair Blacklock owner of Moffat Toffee. Photo Lisa Ferguson

I talked to owner Blair, 85, about what running his family business has been like since he began working there full time in 1959.

His childhood in a sweetshop might sound idyllic, but he told me: "I had to work for it."

Blair's favourite treat is Moffat toffee. He said: "I always have a tin of that in my car," adding the correct way to eat it is to "suck it, and don't chew it.”

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Although retired, he likes to keep an eye on his workers, who are continuing the Moffat Toffee tradition but with a modern twist.

They now sell new flavours which include: Irn Bru, Soor Plum, Blue Raspberry, Kola, Strawberry and Cream, Pineapple, and Vim Toffee (Vimto). READ MORE

The Wee Folk of the Woods

The Wee Folk of the Woods Foraging
Lindsey Laing and her partner Gerry Murphy have turned their foraging hobby into a business. Photo: Cat Thomson

Lindsey Laing and her partner, Gerry Murphy, have turned their hobby of foraging for wild food into a thriving business.

Lindsey grew up as a bit of a tomboy. She said: “I was that kid that always came back in berry season with a carrier bag full of brambles, most of them all over my face.”

While Gerry spent his childhood outdoors, he explained being in the forest feels like home. “They are magical and absolutely beautiful places.”

However, following a health diagnosis of a condition exacerbated by stress, the decision to become a full-time forager was easy to make.

The couple now supply the Kitchin Group with foraged goods as well as running walks and talks. READ MORE

Fraser Gow of Harry Gow's Bakery

Harry Gow's Inverness
The family run business Harry Gow's Inverness runby sibings; David, Sarah, Jane and Fraser

Harry Gow's is a family-run bakery in Inverness, best known for their award-winning bakes and their local delicacy known as 'The Dream Ring.'

The Gows are descended from a long line of bakers, but Fraser's dad struck out alone in 1979.

Fraser told me there was no pressure to join the bakery business; he and his siblings were all just inspired by watching their father's efforts.

Fraser explains, fortunately, all the siblings get on, saying "we tend to get on 95 per cent of the time.

"Don't get me wrong, though, we have disagreements and when we don't agree, sometimes things can get heated and it might just have to go to a vote."

Recent award-winning success came for their vanilla and raspberry slice which was named as Best Individual Cake in 2022 at the Scottish Baker of the Year Awards. READ MORE

Gareth Young of Epochal Brewery

Gareth Young Epochal Brewery
Gareth Young of Epochal set up his small brewery in Port Dundas. Photo John Devlin

Gareth first studied and taught philosophy at Glasgow University before making the decision to switch careers.

In the same week as gaining his PHd in Philosophy, he also won the UK national homebrew awards, and a £5,000 prize; he had been runner-up the previous year.

That win gave him the impetus to turn professional.

He said: "All homebrewers fantasise about running breweries and what beer they would make if you opened one."

As a self-confessed "craft beer nerd," Epochal brews wood-aged beer in a historic Scottish style in Port Dundas. READ MORE

Sunny Mollah, Baba's Sauce

Baba's sauce
Sunny Mollah with his mum Suraya. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Sunny Mollah of Baba's Sauce in Dundee told me about his late father’s top-secret sweet chilli sauce recipe.

Sunny's late father was originally from Khulna, in Bangladesh and created this signature sauce in the late 70’s and it was used in his Dundee restaurants.

Sunny describes the taste. "It is a sweet chilli sauce which has a layered kick on it – so you will get a sweet taste first then the chilli kicks in after that.

"It is more than 'just' another sauce, it is all handmade by myself and my mum. You won't taste anything like it, there is nothing like it out there on the market." READ MORE

Loren McBay of The Lobster Shop

Ivar McBay Jnr , Jackie McBay(mum) Loren McBay, Grace Hunter, Ivar McBay snr, Jason McBay. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Fishing runs in Loren McBay’s family, based in the picturesque harbour of Johnshaven in Aberdeenshire.

The family always had an inkling that there was a market locally for prepared and cooked seafood.

“Visitors who came to the fish house would always say, if it was cooked I'd have liked to buy one.”

So the family opened a retail shop to help attract customers to Johnshaven to sample the finest sustainable seafood. READ MORE

Can Misirlioglu of Écosse Éclair

Écosse Éclair
Can Misirlioglu of Écosse Éclair Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The Écosse Éclair shop on Easter Road wouldn't look out of place in a posh London street.

Owner Can Misirlioglu (pronounced Jan) is neither French nor Scottish –  he was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Istanbul.

He moved to the UK and worked as a professional pastry chef for over 15 years. But a holiday to Scotland captured his heart and he and his wife moved to Scotland. His wee éclair shop is now his pride and joy. READ MORE

Steph and Billy Anderson of Fingerpost Produce

Billy Anderson Fingerpost Clydesdale
Billy & Steph Anderson of Fingerpost Produce and their two Clydesdale horses Dickie (lighter) and Davie Photo: Lisa Ferguson.

Steph and Billy Anderson, of Fingerpost Produce, grow vegetables the old-fashioned way on their market garden in The Borders.

The horsepower of the business is provided by the Davy and Dicky, two Clydesdale horses who do all the hard work on the smallholding.

Steph adds: “They are our tractors fed on grass not gas. The old-fashioned methods are the most environmentally friendly in my eyes and it is such a nice thing to be a part of.” READ MORE

Nikki Storrar of Ardross Farm

Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Back: Sisters Claire, Nikki, Tara with Nikki's children and Robbie (3) and Jamie (6) with granny, Fiona in the front. Photo: Cat Thomson

Nikki Storrar told me all about their family-run farm and farm shop in the East Neuk of Fife.

The farm diversified to grow and sell direct to customers. They now produce home-grown beef, lamb, mutton and vegetables which they sell direct from Ardross farm shop near Elie, along with other local produce.

The whole family are passionate about the environment and producing grass-fed meat by regenerative agriculture methods. READ MORE

John Traynor of La Pastina Deli

La Pastina Deli Glasgow Fresh Pasta
John Traynor of La Pastina Deli Byers Road Glasgow. Photo: John Devlin

Glaswegian born John Traynor who, despite having no Italian family connections, still managed to scoop the best deli in Scotland prize at the Italian awards.

His previous career as a chef means there is no shortcuts in making the homemade pastas entirely authentically. READ MORE

Mark Bush from Summer Harvest Oils

Mark Bush of Summer harvest Oils
Mark Bush of Summer harvest Oils Ferneyfold Farm, Madderty, Crieff

Mark Bush used to work as an IT consultant on a trading floor of an investment bank in London before moving North to help out on his father in his mixed arable farm near Crieff.

Mark decided to produce high-quality cold pressed rapeseed oil from the seed rape they grew on the farm, which he then sold direct.

He has since expanded the range to include dressings, marinades and mayonnaises as well as oil. READ MORE

Catriona is a freelance writer based in the Scottish Borders, and a nominee for Food and Drink writer at this year's Scottish Press Awards.

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