Val Buchanan on food from local allotments
The Larder: Chef's Choice
Nothing compares to fruit and vegetables freshly dug from a plot around the corner. Val Buchanan, of Buchanan’s Bistro, tells us why produce grown on local allotments is becoming an increasingly prevalent feature on her menu.
Being part of a real food community is why we work the crazy hours we do. Transforming food into a plateful of goodness for the soul and soil as well as the stomach underpins our menu and philosophy. At Woodend Barn we are surrounded by allotments and enthusiastic growers – more than 100 plots are in varying stages of development. Seasoned gardeners and complete novices all learn together – families and single people; biodynamic, organic and traditionally sceptical; methodical measurers of drills and rows and free-form planters. Among this, a virtuous circle of compost-to-café plate and back is gradually taking shape along with a local exchange network. Some recent results have included the season’s first rhubarb – cropped, delivered and served within a two-hour window; a bulging carrier bag of rain-kissed chard to make a colourful risotto, the leaves stripped and blanched and the stems softly sautéed; bright green, faintly luminous gooseberries paired with rich organic butter in a zesty crumble or served puréed with an oily mackerel salad; and green garlic resting in an oily confit for dressings and marinades.
The other regulars at the back door are our egg ladies, who bring trayloads of local free-range eggs on a weekly basis. Rich and bright yellow, the eggs make the best pastry as well as an eye-catching egg mayonnaise.
With all these items, freshness is absolutely vital yet wholesalers are often not interested because of rapid deterioration or a lack of wide appeal. Using local food like this makes things more exciting for both ourselves and our customers, not less.
●Val and Calum Buchanan run Buchanans Bistro at Woodend Barn, Banchory, www.buchananfood.com.
●For Woodend Allotments contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 01330 825431.
●Eggs, organic meat and charcuterie from Jenn & Dugie Foreman www.warkfarm.co.uk