Last year the Scottish Government, VisitScotland and EventScotland gave us Scotland the year of Homecoming, and along with the tremendous sporting events of Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, Scotland was certainly a focal point for the rest of the world. My love for Scotland is no secret and so when it was announced that this year, with the help from my own industry, we plan to celebrate and showcase our country in an outstanding Year of Food and Drink, I was like a kid in a toy shop!
You see, just like last year, we rightfully deserve all the positive attention that comes along with our fanastic food and drink. This year we will celebrate our seasonality and the provenance of Scotland’s amazing natural larder as they plan to roll out a different monthly theme to inspire you, and the industry, to get involved and celebrate all that we have on our shores, hillside, farms and woods. I am perhaps a little biased, but if you take some interest in this campaign, you will see how incredibly lucky we are to have such outstanding and diverse produce throughout the year. Produce, that in my opinion, nowhere else in the world can match. For all the information you need, visit www.scotlandfoodanddrink.org
I’m looking forward particularly to the month of May when we celebrate whisky! This was started in 2009 as part of the Homecoming Scotland programme, and it’s a month long celebration of Scotland’s famous national drink. Scotch whisky is like no other single Scottish product; it counts for 75% of our drink exports and supports a staggering 40,000 workers. Thanks to the fantastic marketing its impact to our direct economy is £3.3bn.
For most, a dram is something to be enjoyed after your teenage years; it took me till my mid-twenties to appreciate the ‘fire-water’ but since then I’ve had my eyes opened to an incredible selection of malts from distilleries all over Scotland. Each have their own flavours and finishes that make whisky tasting with friends and at the restaurant a great learning experience for all.
For those who want to like it, but just cannot get their taste buds to agree I can highly recommend a food and whisky evening! Food matching with whisky is taking off in a big way and is probably one of the reasons why our domestic intake is set to increase. We had a Macallan Dinner recently with some ‘not yet convinced’ friends and it was a huge success. We served some Christmas cake, fresh dates, smoked hams and cheese, honey and good bread and we munched and sipped away all night. Before the end we were all rolling our R’s and broadening our accents!
Please do remember that whisky is not wine by any means when it comes to the alcohol content…. My advice is to ‘tak heed’! I do not wish to be blamed for any hangovers!
Cooking directly with whisky is still is a bit of a struggle for me; it is something I rarely do unless preparing classic Scottish dishes during Burns night or adding it to Cranachan with our amazing Scottish rasps. As a side note, this is one of my favourite desserts and can all too often be overlooked. However, the more we drink it and the more we become aware of its subtle flavours then the higher our confidence will be. Go on, stick a bottle in your cooking larder!
Interestingly, whisky collectors have a slightly easier time than those who fill their wine cellars, a well stored whisky will taste the same – if not better – 200 hundred years from now. It would be rare for a wine to do the same! However, once opened the timeline does decrease. A nearly full bottle will last a year or so but a fifth remaining at the bottom of the bottle may begin to ‘rust’ within a month due to the air content. My advice is to get some friends round for a drink or add it to marmalades, jams or something a bit closer to home like a brilliant Dundee cake!
I certainly plan to be showcasing it heavily throughout May on all our menus and I’m also planning to pull out the other themes across the year of Scotland Food and Drink 2015. I’m hoping you will join with me, and the rest of our nation and enjoy all the magic that our land has to offer.