20th to 23rd June, 2013
I love visiting an agricultural show, especially as I am a country girl at heart. It’s fascinating to dip into farming life for the day. The time worn phrase “There’s something for everyone.” is true at the Royal Highland Show – Edinburgh’s annual Scottish extravaganza.
I enjoy meandering amongst all the farm machinery —some of it absolutely huge—wondering what on earth that bright green twirly thing does. I stand fascinated as men shin up telegraph poles in seconds flat and gawp at the immaculately dressed horsemen and women parade round the ring and gazing at the beautifully presented animals is always a treat.
But of course, for me, the visit is all about the food. Food at the Highland Show is much more varied than at a food festival. Here you will find large retailers showing their support for local producers and products. Quality Meat Scotland always has a fascinating presence. One year they got us tasting different breeds of beef and what a difference the breed and where it was raised can make.
Street Food comes to the Show
Each year a region of Scotland is celebrated. This year it’s the turn of the Highlands. Four well-known chefs from the area will be cooking street food in the Countryside Area.
One chef, Bruno Birkbeck, Head Chef of the Torridon gained 3 AA rosettes in his first year at the hotel. He is well known for his nose-to-tail menus featuring Highland Beef (you can see the beauties at the top of this post) and pork from Tamworth pigs raised on the Torridon’s farm.
You’ll find Street Food in the food hall, where you will be able to savour Bruno’s gourmet Highland Burgers, a seafood salad and dessert created by his wife pastry chef Emma. Bruno will be cooking and also giving two demonstrations in the Cookery Theatre on Friday. Look out for Muji Rahman of Cafe India in Dingwall and David Coubrough of Cafe 1 and Steven Devlin of Rocpool in Inverness on other days at the show.
Cookery Demonstrations to Inspire
I always learn something new from the cookery demonstrations which for me are an essential part of the visit. Before they head off to the show, I have a chance to speak to Paul Wedgwood of Wedgwood Restaurant in Edinburgh and Suzanne O’Connor of the Scottish Cafe.
I catch up with Paul just as he’s got home from a day foraging. After having a diverting conversation about what he’s gathered (that will be another story) we chat about the show. Having enjoyed his cookery demonstrations previously I ask him how much advance preparation he does beforehand. His answer is rather unexpected “I rarely do much preparation, I’ve always made the dish before but I need to set myself a challenge. I like to put myself under pressure to perform on the day, and so far, nothing’s gone wrong. The dish he’ll be preparing will be fascinating to watch and as Paul explains exactly what goes in it, the more I want to taste it.
He’ll be preparing a seafood sundae. Yes, the dish in the photograph is savoury! For those of you who have dined at Wedgwood, you might be familiar with the lobster pannacotta. Paul has created the sundae using the savoury custard recipe and flavouring it with scallop, lobster and langoustine. The “wafer” is a parmesan crisp.
The Scottish Café take to the stage for the first time this year. Chefs Suzanne O’Connor and Carina Contini will appear together and there’s plenty of Scottish Italian banter promised. Suzanne is particularly excited as she will be using home grown produce in her demonstration which will focus on dishes that are simple to make at home.
The Scottish Café’s garden has been a labour of love and is possibly the first garden on that scale in Scotland. They planting heritage varieties and looking at forgotten foods when planning Suzanna explains “To have the privilege of planning your menu to what is growing a few miles away is really something that most chefs and kitchens dream of. We have had so many of our dear and wonderful suppliers help us which has been amazing including Cuddy Bridge Apple Juice, Scotherbs, Phantassie vegetables, Mr Patullo’s asparagus, Clyde Valley tomatoes”.
A Taste of Scotland
Last but no means least, taste and buy from Scottish producers in the Food Hall. A quick tip, with so many producers from the Highlands, East Lothian and all over Scotland, the Food Hall can be overwhelming. If you can, go early or late to avoid the largest crowds! It’s always lovely to catch up with our favourite producers and to find new ones.
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Read about a previous visit to the Royal Highland Show.