Highlights From Slow Food Edinburgh at Edinburgh Food Festival

Slow Food Edinburgh were delighted to collaborate with the inaugural Edinburgh Food Festival within Assembly, George Square Gardens on the 30th July - 2nd August. The aim behind the festival was to celebrate the finest Scottish food and drink, by combining a schedule of food-related talks, debates and special evening events alongside stalls featuring a selection of local producers and street food vendors.

We took the opportunity to host three debates on topics significant to Slow Food whilst also running a daily stall, showcasing a range of Scottish produce featured in the Slow Food Ark of Taste; a project which aims to protect and promote traditional foods and the way they are cultivated and processed.

Included below is a fantastic summary of we got up to at the Festival written by Steph Marsden, a committee member who tirelessly volunteered on the Slow Food stall during the festival!



Slow Food Ark of Taste Daily Stall 

Created in 1996, the Ark of Taste is a catalogue of forgotten or marginalised foods that are in danger of disappearing forever. We also ran a programme of 3 debates at the festival. 

On each of the days of the fest we selected different Scottish Ark of Taste produce to allow members of the public to sample and engage with these rare products and be inspired to use them to cook with in the future.

Wednesday 29th July: Make a meal of it  

On the first day we demonstrated beremeal (a product of bere barley used in the making of bannocks and shortbreads) and peasemeal (a ground dried meal from made from green peas) in collaboration with Barony Mills; Orkney; Golspie Mill, Sutherland; and Real Foods

We made simple, traditionally griddled beremeal bannocks served with a tasty pate made from peasemeal, creme fraiche and wild garlic. For those with a sweeter tooth, there was homemade beremeal shortbread, a lovely crumbly shortbread with a distinctly nutty aftertaste. Real Foods were also on hand to sell both beremeal and peasemeal for anyone who was inspired to try these simple recipes. 

Thursday 30th July - Dulse and other seaweeds

For the 2nd day Xa Milne joined us on the stall from her business Mara Seaweed, which sells dulse (AOT product) amongst a variety of seaweed seasonings. Though fantastic with both fish and eggs, we showcased the tangy dulse as a seasoning on both tomatoes and cucumber to suit the summer sunshine. We also had samples of dulse flavoured oatcakes, generously provided by Breadshare who had their own stall selling bread that day.

One of the festival attendees who came to the stall told a fascinating story about dulse being a memorable part of her childhood in Northern Ireland. She said that as a snack they would eat dulse alongside Yellowman, which is a chewy toffee-textured honeycomb candy. This traditional combination is still eaten in Northern Ireland at the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle, Country Antrim. Hearing stories like this is always one of the best parts of being part of the team of volunteers who work on the Slow Food Stalls.

It was also fascinating to discover that some people found this seasoning to be really distinctive whereas others didn’t find it to have a particularly strong flavour. I must admit, ever since this day I’ve been adding dulse to my scrambled eggs, and find it really tangy with an eye-catching purple tone!

Friday 31st July:  Reestit Mutton

Reestit Mutton is a traditional cured, smoked air dried mutton which we presented on our Friday Ark of Taste stall in collaboration with Hammond Charcuterie. The night before the stall, we prepared the reestit mutton to be used within a vegetable soup of potato, carrot, onion, turnip and thyme. The smell of this salt cured mutton soup was absolutely incredible and very distinctive. In fact the brine within the stock is so salty and strong that only a small proportion of the overall reestit mutton stock need be used with the mutton and vegetable broth!

 Saturday 1st August: Musselburgh Leeks

On the Saturday we prepared a pearl barley risotto made from Musselburgh Leeks, the nearest AOT recognised ingredient to Edinburgh that was once grown traditionally in Musselburgh and generously provided for us by Phantassie. We combined the leeks in the risotto with the fabulous flavour of Dunsyre Blue cheese, made by Humphry Errington in Lanark.

Some members of the committee spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying many of the free talks that were available during the Food Festival, however Martin and Andrew had to take a long car trip to the Borders to pick up some Shetland Black potatoes for the next day’s menu... Long story short, our parcel of potatoes hadn’t arrived in the morning’s post and the Borders were the nearest place we could source them from, proof indeed of their rarity! 

Sunday 2nd August  - A Taste of Shetland

For our final day on the Ark of Taste stall we teamed up with John Meecham from First Coast Restaurant and cooked a perfect Shetland Sunday roast, featuring Native Shetland Lamb supplied by Richard Briggs from Briggs' Shetland Lamb, with Shetland Black potatoes from Carrols Heritage Potatoes and finished off with some Kale from Phantassie Organics.




Slow Food Edinburgh Talks and Discussion

Thursday 30th July - 'Can Food Procured for the Public Sector really be Good, Clean and Fair'.

For our first discussion, chaired by secretary Andrew Marsden, we were joined by Andrew Stirling, Director of Stirfresh, Vivian Maeda, from Food for Thought, Scottish Business in the Community, Robin Gourlay, part of the Food, Drink and Rural Communities programme and Jim Millar, Director of Strategic Sourcing in National Procurement. It was a fascinating insight into some of the issues involved in the procurement process and the challenges faced in being able to use more local and sustainable companies within the public sector. 

Andrew Stirling shared his experience of changing his business model to allow him to tender for public sector contracts and gave us some insight into the technicalities of due diligence, and some examples of what may soon be possible for smaller local businesses. I believe Vivienne's examples of her work, educating children to promote healthier eating and knowledge of food issues, demonstrated how hands-on education really does help inspire children to engage with, and demand better food both within their school and home environments.

There was also a lot of discussion from Robin Gourlay and Jim Millar about budgetary constraints within procurement, and the incongruities between 'cost' and 'value', which are especially relevant to issues surrounding healthcare provision. Overall the topic of discussion was clearly a subject we could have all discussed for longer, if only there was time!

Sunday 2nd August: Slow Food Edinburgh Double Bill

“Do women have to struggle for a leading place in the food industry?"

Moderated by Gillian Rodger, our second discussion featured a bumper panel of Caroline Rye (Chair of Slow Food Edinburgh) Frances Bentley (Wine buyer and former Sommelier) Eleanor Cunningham (Owner of Edinburgh Larder Cafe and Bistro) Denise Walton (Peelham Farm) and Holly Reid (owner of Lovecrumbs and Twelve Triangles).

The discussion began with each panelist providing a brief outline of their background and business, and whether they felt issues of gender and/or sexism affected the advancement of women within their chosen career paths in the food and drink industry. As many of the panel owned their respective businesses it transpired the majority had experienced less issues of sexism as they gained greater control over who they worked with and as they sought to integrate their own ethics and character into the nature of their business.

Frances shared some contrasting, though amusingly recounted, experiences from her unique work within the wine trade, both highlighting the particularly strong businesswomen she had encountered and also the slightly outdated opinions she had experienced from former male colleagues. Finally, Denise discussed the happy division of labour in her business between herself and husband Chris, identifying that in order to work most efficiently as a team they played to their natural strengths within the business.

“Can Organics Ever be more than a Niche Market?’

Our final discussion of the festival was moderated by Pat Abel and began with a lively and attention-grabbing slideshow from Pete Ritchie from Whitmuir Farm based on statistics relating to health, economy and the organic and other food industries. Nutritionist Kate Swaine next provided considerable insight into the significant health benefits of eating an organic diet, including some very telling recent statistics. Eleanor Cunningham also spoke of the reasoning behind her decision to predominantly source organic local produce for her business and also the financial limitations she faces in striving to provide an affordable and predominantly organic menu for both the Edinburgh Larder Bistro and Cafe .

During the later discussion, Denise Walton from Peelham Farm went into further detail about their organic farming methods and how the business has developed since meeting farmers from Italy at Terra Madre and moving into the production of charcuterie. This led perfectly on to an unsurprisingly stimulating Q and A session, where the audience also benefited from the extensive knowledge from Hugh and Sacha Grierson of Hugh Grierson in relation to organic farming methods of chicken and beef.

During our time at Edinburgh Food Festival, we managed to attend many other talks and events, including those by Plan B, Common Good Food, Galloway Chillies, Hardeep Singh Koli, Bread Matters and Neil Forbes from Cafe St Honore. It was a really enriching and fun week and lovely to witness new people interact and engage with our growing Slow Food Edinburgh community. We were delighted and unsurprised to hear this first Edinburgh Food Festival was considered a success by all and we look forward to being involved in next year’s event.

A huge thanks must go to Stacey Smith, the producer of Edinburgh Food Festival, and to everyone mentioned above who voluntarily contributed their time to working on the Ark of Taste Stall and/or participating in our discussions.

Here's to EdFoodFest 2016, Cheers!