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Launch of Provenance Toolkit

March 31st, 2010

Last week saw the launch of a new initiative by the Scottish Government, the Provenance Toolkit.  This toolkit has been designed as a Code of Practice for caterers, which clarifies the legal requirements and best practice guidelines for food and drink origin requirements on menus, providing clear, accurate and consistent info to consumers eating out. 

To find out more about the toolkit click here or to have a look at the toolkit itself click here

Shirley Spear Speaking at Launch of Provenance Toolkit

Shirley Spear Speaking at Launch of Provenance Toolkit

Shirley and Eddie Spear are the owners of The Three Chimneys restaurant in Skye.  Shirley spoke about the importance of Provenance to her business at the launch of the toolkit, saying:

“It is exactly 25 years since my crazy first night as chef at The Three Chimneys in remote, north west Skye, and I can say with my hand on my heart that those years have been devoted to promoting everything to do with Scottish food and Scotland’s fantastic culinary heritage.

My husband Eddie and I deliberately moved home to Scotland with a very firm intention in mind: to help to improve the reputation of eating out in Scotland and to do our bit to re-establish the country’s rightful place on the culinary world stage. 

Scots have been cooking amazing food with the most fabulous produce, for generations before us; we just temporarily forgot how good we were at doing so and like so many things, we Scots lost all sense of pride and importance in recognising the ingredients reared, fished, grown and produced in our amazing country. 

We also forgot what great cooks we have been in the past – especially women! Scottish kitchens had been run by marvellous women for generations. And provenance was the understated watchword of the Scottish kitchen over all these years.  So where did Scotland lose the way?

We can blame the advent of supermarkets, mass production, over emphasis on exports, putting money making before healthy living, fast food, convenience shopping, working mums and all sorts of other aspects of modern life that we come to accept as ‘normal’ rather than retain respect in the roots and culture of our fabulous land.

Eddie and I come from very ordinary backgrounds with no specific training as chefs or entrepreneurial restaurateurs. But of one thing we are absolutely certain – our success is all about provenance.  We have taken pride in sourcing ingredients locally and encouraging local growers and fishermen to take pride in their work and products too.

A restaurant’s menu is an important sales tool and our menu is spattered with the local names that are the source of our dishes. And all of this has been made easier since we first began, because now we have a fantastic community interest company in Skye and Lochalsh called Food Link. This is a model of how well we can link local suppliers with retailers operating throughout a wide and scattered area. In many ways, Skye and Lochalsh has led the way in Scotland in how well small businesses – particularly in a rural area – can succeed by working in partnership.

Not only is The Three Chimneys a good example of using Scottish provenance to augment our reputation.  But, do you know, the public loves it!  The vast majority of our customers are, in fact, Scottish, and our world-wide reputation built upon Scottish food and welcoming hospitality have helped us to build – and sustain – a successful business in one of the most remote, fragile areas of Scotland.

If we can do it, then everyone can! Taking pride in all things local and all things Scottish has been the making of The Three Chimneys and has made me very proud to be a Scottish chef too. 

If there is anyone out there who does not believe that taking pride in Scottish ingredients is not going to benefit their business and personal lifestyle, then take a look at our story.

I truly hope that the provenance toolkit, this long needed, long overdue move by our Scottish government to widen and improve the use of our nation’s delicious, natural larder by giving it the business emphasis and recognition that it has long deserved, will be a massive driver towards a far better, healthier, wealthier, more sustainable Scotland.

After all – Wha’s Like Us?!”

Many thanks to Shirley for allowing us to share her story. 


Lamb and Fig skewers

March 22nd, 2010

Join me this week in trying these lamb and fig skewers.  They are great as a starter, or as part of a main meal, and best of all only take about 15 minutes to make.  There are lots of recipes online combining these two foods, probably because they are such a great taste combination. So, here is one of my favourites:
Turn on grill to preheat.  Thread boneless lamb shoulder that has been cut into chunks onto rosemary branches – three or four per skewer.  Do the same with some figs.  Do not mix meat and figs on same skewer.  Brush the lamb and fig skewers lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Mix together 100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, two chopped cloves of garlic and a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary, and brush a little of this mixture on lamb and figs. Grill, turning skewers as each side browns and taking care to avoid flare-ups – total cooking time should be from six to 10 minutes for medium-rare meat, and four or five minutes for the figs.

Let me know how it goes!


Scottish Farmers’ Markets get a boost

March 5th, 2010

NFUS Head Office was jam packed with people yesterday, Wednesday 3 March, here for the Inaugural Meeting of the newly formed Scottish Farmers’ Markets Partnership initiative.  The meeting brought together individuals from all over Scotland who have an involvement in farmers’ markets. The aim of the new partnership is to promote, support and build capacity for farmers’ markets in Scotland on a sustainable basis.  An initial 3-year funding package of £120k has been awarded from Scottish Government, in collaboration with industry partners, through a number of sources including Scottish Government Core Grants, private sector contributions, and the SRDP.  These funds will not only help to develop and grow farmers’ markets around the country, but will ensure that efforts across groups are co-ordinated, and that opportunities to save costs through collaboration are maximised. 

Scottish Farmers’ Markets Partnership Management Group
Scottish Farmers’ Markets Partnership Management Group

For the full story, have a look at the News and Events section. 

Richard Lochhead MSP, who addressed the group concerning his commitment to the initiative as part of the wider National Food and Drink Policy, was captured on film later in the day at The King’s Wark in the Leith area of Edinburgh.  He is speaking about the role of food in Scotland’s booming tourism industry.  If you are interested in watching the piece just follow this link


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