A foodies guide to the best of Lanarkshire
A round-up of what's grown, reared, made and brewed in the Scottish region
Looking to discover a taste of Lanarkshire? This round-up by Jay Thundercliffe introduces you to what's grown, reared, made and brewed in the region
FRUIT & VEG
Lanarkshire's fruit cultivation was famously based along the Clyde Valley, but these days it's not as prominent as in the past. John Hannah Growers, now the only commercial strawberry grower in the area, produces tons of berries a year from their 20,000 plants and their fruit finds its way to numerous local shops and farmers' markets. Apple orchards were once widespread in the area, and community cooperative group Clyde Valley Orchards are dedicated to restoring and utilising what remains in the region, selling their apple juice at local outlets.
From humble beginnings boiling beetroot, Airdrie's Albert Bartlett supplies one in five of the potatoes eaten in the UK so there's a good chance most people have tried lots of them already, including their popular Rooster variety. Bartlett is also home to the Scotty Brand, whose range of fresh Scottish produce from a collection of farms plus soups and cakes from their kitchen can be found on major supermarket shelves. On a much smaller scale, a local organic box scheme is run by The Whole Shebag, with fresh fruit and veg from a farm which straddles the north-east boundary of South Lanarkshire.
Making use of the yesteryear gluts of Lanarkshire fruit and veg has left a strong tradition of preserving in the region. R&W Scott still produce jams in Carluke, though no longer with fruit from the founding brothers' own farm as they did for about a century from beginnings in 1880. Others in the area have taken up small-batch preserving including East Kilbride's Wild Fig, a catering and consultancy company who also produce marmalades and chutneys – utilising Scottish whisky and rum in their award-winning creations. Miller's Larder, set up by Jean and George Miller in Stonehouse, produce a range of chutneys and jellies using traditional methods, with their Perfyit Piccalilli served up by hotel groups and at The Open golf championship, with jars available from select local retailers. Also stirring their preserving pans in Lanarkshire are Overton Farm, Biggar Flavour and Big Red Barn.
Of course, there would be little of anything without plenty of bees. Plan Bee are beekeepers and a hive management service, who move bees from job to job, and they also produce the award-winning Origin Honey range, with varieties produced from their Scottish hives. They also make Honeygar – a blend of aged cider vinegar and their honey, which mixes salad dressing with health tonic.
The Organic Blending Company, based at East Kilbride, have a history of producing herbs and spices that stretches back for a century. Their range, available at numerous shops across the region and online, now includes sprinkles, marinades, and mixes for gravies and stuffings. Smoky Brae produce a range of smoked seasonings, sugars and rubs from their base near Strathaven.
BEEF, LAMB, GAME & OTHER MEAT
The fertile pastures covering much of Lanarkshire have helped create outstanding meat, including the animals born, bred and slaughtered on the Carmichael Estate, with lamb, venison and beef offering total traceability, similarly with the top-quality meat from Overton Farm Shop & Butchery. Long-standing family businesses such as Ramsay of Carluke have perfected not just renowned cured bacon but also black pudding capable of casting a shadow over any in the country, even from Stornoway. The meat from Damn Delicious is exactly that – from cattle reared on Michael Shannon's farm at Thankerton and sold in his farm shop and online.
Strathaven-based St Brides Poultry are renowned for their slow-reared chickens, which find their way into local restaurants as well as onto Michelin-starred tables. They also raise ducks, guinea fowl, turkeys and capons, and will take orders for their birds online. Also near Strathaven is Harris Farm Meats, rearing high-welfare animals such as rare-breed pigs, boer goats and native breed sheep, which can be ordered for delivery or picked up at their weekend farm shop.
BREAD, CAKES & CHOCOLATE
It's hard to imagine that anyone in the Western world wouldn't recognise a teacake from Tunnock's, such is the prevalence of this treat throughout Scotland and beyond. A rival teacake is produced by Coatbridge-based confectioners Lees, along with a range of chocolate cream bars and more.
Border Biscuits, founded in 1984, have become so recognisable a sight in shops that the chance to taste their famous dark chocolate gingers is never too far away. Shotts-based Bells Food Group manufacture an array of pies and cakes, available across the UK, including scotch and steak pies and their headline Kirriemuir gingerbread. Another large-scale cake manufacturer is Lightbody, part of the Finsbury Food Group and based in Hamilton, where it began as a family bakery back in 1885. It is the UK's largest supplier of celebration cakes to major retailers. On a much smaller scale, Simple Simon's Perfect Pies, says it all about these quality pastry products handmade near Biggar.
Those wanting traditional bread are well served in Lanarkshire which has a wealth of independent bakehouses and high-street outlets (see also Where to Buy section). Battlefield Bakery, based near Strathaven does a range of farmhouse loaves and breads as well as biscuits and sweet treats – pick up their products in sister outlet Duke's Deli in Lanark or at various markets across the region. In Strathaven itself, long-standing Alexander Taylor dishes out bakes and cakes from its bustling Waterside Bakery.
Artisan chocolatiers are satisfying the region's sweet tooth including Joanne Whiteley's Chocolat Blanc outlet in Hamilton, and Cambuslang-based Raven Chocolate, who produce a range of luxury, ethically minded vegan bars, hot chocolate and more. Having a sugary treat was once frustrating for those with dietary intolerances, until Lazy Day Foods developed their range of free-from products, including biscuits, bars and tiffins.
Good grazing country means milk – sheep's milk in the case of the famous unpasteurised Lanark Blue made by Errington Cheese using milk from their own flock. They also make a ewe's milk hard cheese, Cora Linn. Production doesn't get much bigger than at Wiseman Dairies, now part of Müller, who supply about a third of the UK's milk – easily recognisable from their cow-pattern livery. On a much smaller scale is Clyde Organics who produce organic milk and cream on their farm in the Clyde Valley, available from smaller outlets across the region.
Rather than cheese, much more milk in Lanarkshire goes into the making of the many ice-cream offerings, including popular varieties by Soave's and Equi's available at a number of outlets across the region. Taylor's of Biggar are a long-standing churner, selling their ice-cream from Cones and Candies in the town. Close to East Kilbride is Thorntonhall Farmhouse Ice Cream, often to be found selling their creamy concoctions at farmers' markets, while the ice-cream being made at New Lanark has become a serial award-winner and is available at World Heritage Site The Mill Cafe as well as various shops and tearooms in the area.
WHISKY, BEER & OTHER DRINKS
Lanarkshire has got in on the gin renaissance recently with two producers selling the juniper-infused spirit. Micro-distilling on site is the Wee Farm Distillery, where beef farmer Jenny McKerr has designed her Drover's Gin to complement a prime Scottish steak. Brothers Euan and Stuart McVicar are also doing the research and development for their Biggar Gin near the town, while also growing some of the botanicals on their old mill site. Their gin, whose greyhound logo harks back to the historic Biggar Coursing Club of wine and spirit connoisseurs, is currently distilled in Perthshire but with planning permission now in place 2019 should see them distilling in South Lanarkshire.
There may not be whisky distilling in Lanarkshire yet but there is still plenty of whisky around. Inver House Distillers have warehousing and blending facilities in Airdrie, where they can handle half a million barrels from their five distilleries in Scotland. East Kilbride is bottling home to Burn Stewart Distillers for their brands including Black Bottle and Tobermory single malt.
For a taste of local beer, try Strathaven Ales and their range of beers made at historic Craigmill Brewery. Cumbernauld is becoming something of a beer centre with two craft brewers based there – Out of Town Brewing and Lawman Brewing Company. North Lanarkshire is the home to that most iconic of Scottish products: Irn-Bru, made by AG Barr near Cumbernauld.