Thursday, 26 June 2008

Royal highland show

Last week saw the 168th Royal Highland Show, which ran from Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd of June. With it's promise of a wealth of local produce and producers, I could hardly turn down the opportunity, so I went along on the Thursday.

This was my first visit to the Highland show, though I have been to other agricultural shows before, most notably the Lincolnshire show which was the destination of a few school trips when I was growing up.

My first destination on arrival was, of course, the food and local produce area. This was crammed full of stalls, some from familiar names and many that were unfamiliar. But, the best bit was that nearly all of these stalls were giving away free samples, which given the number of them, meant that it was almost (but not quite) unnecessary to buy lunch.

The first stall we came to was an Orkney Cheese stall. Here, I learned that there are no less then 2600 diary cows in Orkney. Not bad for a population of just under 20,000. I am told that there are many more sheep, but I don't know how many. Of course, I had to sample some of the cheese, which was actually one of the brands that featured in my cheese tasting back in February. I sampled both the mild and the mature versions and both were very good.

Next, we came across Fletcher's of Auchtermuchty, who were there promoting their Fletcher's Game and in particular their venison. Now, as I've mentioned once or twice before, I'm quite a fan of venison. I got chatting to the guy on the stall and he told me that deer have never been domesticated, which is something I'd never thought of before. Unfortunately, there were no free samples here! :-(

Actually there seemed to be a lot of cheese stalls. We visited the stall from the Snowdonia Cheese Company next. They had a number of what I would call 'special' cheeses, which were a basic cheese mixed with herbs or fruit. Two in particular stood out in my opinion, which were the Green Thunder, made with a mix of garlic and herbs and the Red Devil. The later, as the name might suggest, was made with chili pepper combined with Red Leicester cheese. Both were delicious, but I think my favourite was the Green Thunder.

Also present were Rowan Glen, which also featured in my last cheese tasting and one I hadn't heard of before; McLelland, who had some strange names for their cheese, such as "Seriously farmy Cheddar". Now, it was very good, but what on earth does 'seriously farmy' mean? How can a cheese be 'farmy'? Even after several free samples, I still didn't get it.

It wasn't all cheese however. I also spoke to people from Scarlett's (Scotland) Honey, who currently have around 1000 hives. I thought that sounded quite a lot, but when the lady explained to me that they also have to move the hives around during the season so that the bees get more variety, it occur ed to me that this must be seriously hard work! By moving the hives, the bees are exposed to a greater variety of flowers, which makes for a different flavour to the honey then if they were simply left in the one place.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises was a company called Mash Direct, who are making and selling ready mashed vegetables. Now, normally I am deeply sceptical of such things and always tend to give the pre-chopped salad, pre-grated cheese and pre-mashed vegetables a wide berth at the supermarket. However, whilst working my way through my free sample of mashed potato and turnip (which was very nice, I have to say), I got talking to the guy running the stall. He explained that their thinking was that by pre-mashing the vegetables, the appearance was no longer so important. We've all heard about supermarkets being so fussy about what vegetables have to look like before they can be placed on the shelves. Apparently, by cunningly avoiding this problem, Mash Direct are able to use older and more flavoursome varieties of vegetable. To be honest, I didn't buy it, I think the real issue is that we need to move away from this idea that every vegetable has to look a certain way, rather then resorting to pre-mashing our vegetables so that no one has to see how ugly they are.


Me said...

What mashed veg were they offering? I tend to only do potato varieties.

Dr. B said...

All sorts of things; potatoes, carrots, parsnip. I didn't write them all down, but I did notice the other day that they have started to sell these in Sainsburys.