|Busy Saturday at Edinburgh Farmers’ Market.|
No matter how skilled or inventive a cook is, unless they use quality ingredients it is very difficult to produce really great food. Wherever possible when cooking, I like to know exactly where the produce I use has come from, and ideally it should be as local as possible. That way, it’s much more likely that I can be sure they are consistently of great quality.
In my grandparents’ era meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, bread etc. would all have been purchased from specialist retailers, in the days when our high streets were home to butchers, bakers, fishmongers and greengrocers, instead of phone shops and bargain basement clothes emporiums. But times have changed, and now the vast majority of us get our food at the supermarket. And whilst not all supermarkets are totally villainous in terms of how and where they source their produce, their massive buying power means that some of their suppliers might not receive the fairest price for their produce.
I, for one, am not keen on purchasing ‘fresh’ food which has travelled many hundreds – if not thousands – of miles and is ‘out of season’ in the UK, just because supermarkets now have the ability to fill their vegetable aisles year round with Peruvian asparagus or Kenyan fine beans. The provenance of ingredients is also important to me. The recent scandal of horsemeat being passed off as beef provides a stark warning of the risks associated with a food supply chain where goods pass through multiple suppliers (and potentially a multitude of countries), with the result that big retailers cannot always be totally certain of where particular products have originated, nor indeed can they guarantee that they are as described.
All is not doom and gloom, however. Thankfully, the last decade has seen a resurgence in independent suppliers and retailers providing great quality produce and products, and Scotland is home to an impressive selection of these. I will be dedicating occasional blog posts to highlight some of those Scottish-based suppliers I often turn to when sourcing the ingredients I cook with, starting with Edinburgh’s Farmers’ Market.
Taking place every Saturday in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, on the aptly-named Castle Terrace, Edinburgh Farmers’ Market has been running since 2000. Regularly attracting over 50 specialist food producers, it has been voted the best farmers’ market in Britain. The majority of stallholders are “primary producers” growing what they bring to market. As you might expect from a Scottish market, there is an excellent range of stalls selling top quality meat, including pork, lamb, chicken and beef as well as venison and even locally-reared buffalo. Depending on the season, there is often a good range of locally-sourced game on offer.
Edinburgh Farmers’ Market isn’t only about meat, however. There are a number of stalls providing a terrific array of seasonal fruit and vegetables (including organic veg). Free range eggs and cheese are also to be had, as well as fresh fish from around the Scottish coast. And in addition to the primary producers, there are also stallholders who prepare their own products, including bread and cakes, honey, chutneys and jams, and drinks (of both the soft and alcoholic variety). Is anyone else’s mouth watering, yet?
By way of an illustration of how great and diverse a range of products on offer, I’ll walk you through my shop last Saturday to obtain ingredients for cooking a crab and asparagus tart, (details of which will be posted in my next blog update).
First port of call was Phantassie Food (organic fruit and veg) to pick up some wild garlic (just out of shot), with which to give the salad, accompanying the tart, a bit of a kick. Mushrooms looked tempting, too!
Onwards, to Tay Valley Fruits for the asparagus, and very nearly some rhubarb – maybe next time. Half a dozen lovely organic eggs were then purchased at Brewsters.
Picked up the dressed crab for the tart from Eyemouth-based fishmongers, A&D Patterson.
And finally, a smashing tray of Aberdeen Angus beef sausages from Well Hung and Tender – nothing to do with the crab and asparagus tart, but everything to do with Sunday breakfast!