Delicious Discoveries



Delicious Discovery: Fallachan Blaand

Is that not one of the most Scottish-sounding names you’ve ever heard?

Ok, you’re going to think I’m insane with this one, and to be fair, you’re not alone. Even the waitress clearly thought I was crazy when I ordered it at A Room in the Town the other night. But the thing is, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve become a risk-taking eater, to some extent. The crazier something sounds on a menu, the more I want to try it. So when I spotted Blaand on their puddings menu with the other after-dinner drinks and saw that it was a liquor made from whey (the leftovers from making cheese), I thought: ‘that just sounds too bizarre to pass up!’

When the waitress came back around I passed on pudding but asked for a glass of the Blaand. She stared at me and asked, ‘Are you sure? Do you know what it is?’ I smiled pleasantly back and said I did. She hurried off to fetch me a taste before pouring a full glass, probably figuring she was dealing with a tourist getting in over her head and anticipating me spitting a glassful right in my husband’s face, which would be a pain to clean up.

Back she came with a glass of honeysuckle-colored liquor, which surprised me. I guess because I had cheese on the brain, I half expected it to look milky, almost like a white Russian or something. This was soothingly familiar looking, like a glass of a rich chardonnay. I sniffed, I tasted.

I liked.

It’s like nothing I’d ever drunk before, and I used to write a wine column, so I’ve tried a fair number of quaffs. The first flavor is an eye-opening saltiness that says: “This is not your average after-dinner drink. Brace yourself.” But then it moves right along to a tasty sour note tempered by a lightly sweetened edge, like honeyed Granny Smith apples. To finish, there’s a slightly earthy flavour that, I’m ashamed to admit, I couldn’t quite place, but it was quite pleasing and left me wanting more. The shocked waitress obligingly brought me a full glass, which I polished off slowly. This, like most after-dinner drinks, is a sipper, and it was actually wonderfully refreshing on a summer evening. The menu advises you try it with cheese (makes sense, it being the product of a cheese byproduct), and yes, it would be an excellent accompaniment to a fairly strong or heavy cheese that needs something to cut the richness. It would be marvelous with a blue, for example, or even a creamy brie.

Having raved about it, I have to admit that this probably isn’t for everyone. I got the distinct impression that you either love this stuff (me) or hate it (waitress), but it’s definitely worth trying, even if it’s just so you can say you did it.

Blaand actually has a nice long history in Scotland, even longer than the whisky this country is so well known for. It was brought over by the Vikings way back when, and it has the distinction of not being classifiable as a wine, a spirit, or a beer because of what it’s made out of. It has about the same alcohol content as wine and is served in similar quantities.

Blaand was produced on a small scale throughout Scotland for years, mostly by farmers and crofters who were making cheese and hated to waste the whey. It was used for medicinal purposes and sailors used to take barrels of it on board ship to help them stay warm. With the advent of more mechanized farming and cheese production in the 20th century, the production of Blaand petered out, only to be revived in the last few years by a historian-turned-Lanarkshire farmer named Humphrey Errington (who is also credited with creating the now-famous Lanark Blue cheese). Errington was looking for a way to use the whey on his farm and found an old recipe for Blaand. He whipped some up, aged it in oak casks, and named it “Fallachan,” which is Gaelic for “hidden treasure.”

A most apt name, I’d say.

Delicious Discovery, Trotter’s Hot Pepper Jelly

My husband likes things spicy. Really spicy. He’ll eat scotch bonnet peppers raw. So when he came over here and realized there was a superabundance of pepper jellies that claimed to set your tongue a’tingling, he was excited. And then he tried them and was bitterly disappointed. See, manufacturers don’t make jellies for people like my husband. They make them for people who like just a tiny bit of a kick. The ones who order their curries medium and feel really daring and have to drown the taste in naan and rice. We were about ready to throw in the towel and wait for our pepper plants to mature and make our own jelly, but then we discovered Trotter’s.

Trotter’s took a stall at the Stockbridge Market not long ago, and because we’re rather hopeful people, we stopped to try their Hot Pepper Jelly, expecting the usual assault of sweet followed by a tiny hopeful flicker of heat at the end. We were so, so wrong. This jelly doesn’t mess around. They make it with scotch bonnets from a recipe founder Byam Trotter’s great aunt Dina developed. God bless great aunt Dina. This stuff is fantastic on just about anything–crackers, a bit of cheese, even on sweet items like pancakes and chocolate cake, for those who are more daring. I’m considering stirring a bit into my oatmeal one morning just to see what it’ll be like.

For those who really can’t handle much spice, it’s not an all-out assault, just a shot across the bow, if you will. It’s just hot enough to make things interesting, which is more than can be said for most commercially produced hot peppery jellies. The company also produces chutneys (I rather like their “Bloody Shame” Bloody Mary-inspired concoction) and some of the best mostarda I’ve had outside of Italy. Sensational on cold meats (and also in porridge, according to the man manning the booth at the market).

Trotter’s products can be purchased online at foodisan.com (mainland UK only) and peppercornsdeli.co.uk (probably also UK only). You can also find them atseveral stores throughout Scotland and Northern England.

Delicious Discovery: Chocolate Latte

image by B takeaway

image by B takeaway

I headed out to John Lewis to pick up my husband’s oyster knife (a fool’s errand, as it turns out–the knife is mysteriously in Leith) and decided to take the route that brought me right past the Hotel Chocolat on Frederick Street. We stopped in last weekend and I tried their cocoa infusion (essentially a tea made from cocoa beans), which I found intriguing. It had a slighty watery chocolate smell, but no chocolate taste; instead, it was like a light, fairly earthy tea. Like a very gentle puh-erth. This time, I wanted to try one of their lattes, which you can get made with either two shots of espresso or two shots of roasted cocoa. I can get an espresso latte anywhere, so of course I went with the cocoa.

Like the infusion, this was intriguing. It lacked the astringincy of espresso and instead delivered an earthy, mushroom-like flavor, led by a rich butteryness from the milk and the cocoa. It’s not sweet, and it doesn’t taste like chocolate. I enjoyed it…for a while. Eventually, however, the novelty wore off and I started to feel like I was drinking mild creamed mushroom soup. Good creamed mushroom soup, don’t get me wrong, but a mushroom soup nonetheless. That flavor is pronounced, and once you place it, you can’t get it out of your head that this is mushroom, not cocoa. Having had the experience, I don’t feel a strong desire to keep repeating it, but maybe I’m being a bit too harsh. I’m sure it took me a while to start really liking lattes and other espresso drinks too. It’s possible that, given enough time, I’d get used to this and even possibly start craving it. Maybe it’s an experiment I’ll try sometime.

Delicious Discovery: Supernature Oils

bottles_seedOne of the things I love about the Sunday Stockbridge market is that you never quite know what the vendors are going to offer up, or even what vendors are going to be there. There are certainly some that are there every week (we got some outstanding scallops from the fish vendor, for instance) but others swap in every once in a while. This week, we discovered a (to us) newcomer: Supernature cold-pressed rapeseed oil. The unfortunately named stuff is big over here (and, for those who are curious, takes its name from the Latin for turnip: rapa or rapum) and having tasted it, I can see why. It’s got a wonderful clean flavor, and apparently it’s not too shabby on the health side, containing those omega-3s everyone says we should be eating.

Supernature grows, processes, and bottles their oils at Carrington Barns Farm, a family-run farm located in Midlothian just eight miles from the city. It doesn’t get much more fresh and local than that. For those concerned about chemicals, they don’t use any herbicides or fungicides on their plants.

You can buy plain oil from them, or try one of their excellent flavored oils: garlic, ginger, lemon, and chili. We picked up garlic and chili and I’ve been using them ever since in our dinners–chili has an excellent slow burn that managed to stand up to the fairly aggressive flavors in last night’s stir fry–not something I can say about many supposedly “hot chili” oils. Garlic is great drizzled over potatoes or a homemade pizza, or in a salad. We tried all of them at the market and I have to say, as much as I love olive oil, I really preferred these flavored oils to any flavored olive oil I’ve ever had. The olive-y flavor of OO is always going to get in the way of any flavoring, but this oil just delivered a nice, clean flavor burst.

Supernature oils are available at various farmers’ markets throughout Scotland or online at realfoods.co.uk.