Chefs' choices: Key chefs pay tribute to the food of Fife
Praise for Anster cheese, Falkland beef and locally-grown fruit and veg
Geoffrey Smeddle on Anster Cheese
Fife is hugely fortunate to have its own landmark cheese production farm, the St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company, home of Anster cheese. Ever since first tasting this traditional, unpasteurised cheese, we have always had their Anster on our trolley of Scottish cheeses, and sometimes even on the menu itself. Made by Jane Stewart with milk from her husband’s dairy herd just a few miles from here, it is a crumbly textured and complex flavoured cheese of which all locals can be justly proud. There is even a viewing gallery where visitors can admire the cheese production process, before you buy some to take home. Try it.
In 2010 Geoffrey Smeddle of The Peat Inn won ‘Chef of the Year’ at the CIS Awards, as well as his first Michelin Star.
Richard Brackenbury on local fruit
Here in Fife we’ve got such wonderful fruit right on our doorstep. A local guy brings us all sorts of berries right through the summer – gooseberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, the lot. He’ll phone us up and say, ‘Look, I’ve got a couple of kilos of blackcurrants, do you want them?’ They’re picked and with us the same day. We’re a small hotel, so we can mix and match our menu and make use of these things. At other times he’ll arrive with some wild garlic, or lovely pencil thin rhubarb, or some sloes – those were used in some sloe gin which made a sauce we used through the winter with some mulled pears or apples from the autumn crop. And it’s all from a couple of miles up the road.
Richard Brackenbury is the head chef at the Inn at Lathones
Christopher Trotter on Falkland beef
There has been a history of beef on the estate at Falkland for centuries, including the eponymous Falkland cow. While this has not been bred since the 19th century, there are cattle grazing its fields again. Last year’s were Limousin cross breeds and I roasted them on the spit at the Big Tent festival. The meat was loose grained and full of flavour, and made excellent eating. This year Estate Manager Amelia Stevenson has bought some Belted Galloways from their heartland in Dumfries and these will be ready for the festival – I will be roasting them again on the spit but also using the lesser bits for burgers. The whole process of production from ‘field to spit’ will be within a 25 mile radius.
Christopher Trotter is a Fife-based chef, writer and consultant. He organises the One Planet Food Village at the Big Tent Festival. His book The Whole Hog is published in September 2010.
Craig Millar on lobster
When I started at the St Monans restaurant 12 years ago we bought all our fish from Pittenweem. Nowadays it’s mostly just lobster that’s available, but the Fife coast is ideal for them with its rocky beds. We use four or five guys who have small boats – you might even see them in the harbour or out picking up creels when you’re eating in the restaurants. Although lobster is still seen as a luxury we get them at such a good price we don’t need to put on a supplement. Our open lobster sandwich,a poached in garlic butter, then served in a brioche, just flies off the menu when it’s on. And it all gets used: we’ll use knuckle meat in a risotto, shells to make a bisque, and we did a shellfish jelly in a martini glass not long ago, with a wee bit of poached lobster on top.
Ian McEwan on great local veg
I’ve been dealing with my fruit and vegetable supplier, Ivan Wood & Sons, for 15 years now and we have a great relationship. Everything is brought in daily, and cooked daily, so it’s always fresh and great to work with. In winter I’ll roast their parsnips with a bit of heather honey, and in spring I’ll get rhubarb which we serve roasted with duck. One of the best sellers in the restaurant is scallops with black pudding and fennel purée – that’s fennel from Ivan and Malcolm Wood again. It’s all delivered fresh to the door and sometimes it feels that we can’t get it out on the tables quick enough.
Craig Wood on his fish supplier
I’ve worked in Australia and the States, and regularly go to France on holiday, and I really believe that Scotland undersells itself with its fish. The cold waters lend themselves to great quality. Even in Australia where everyone was raving on about their fish, I’d be thinking, this isn’t a patch on what we have in Scotland. David Lowrie is a family-run fish merchant and wholesaler from Anstruther and he supplies all the best restaurants in Fife. He seems to have all the right contacts with the fishermen to get the best langoustine and lobster coming into places like Pittenweem and Anstruther. It’s right off the boats and always so fresh. When you touch it, feel it, work with it, it gives you the satisfaction and confidence as a chef that your dishes are going to be great.
Craig Wood is the chef/proprietor at the Wee Restaurant, North Queensferry.