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Don’t Beat about the Bannock!

Who would have thought the Selkirk Bannock could cause such a stooshie? Actually I thought it might!!

As Leader of Slow Food Scotland’s Ark of Taste I research traditional heritage foods and landrace breeds along with the SFS’s Ark Commission. For our 50th heritage food we boarded the Selkirk Bannock at SFS AGM on Sunday.

For those in need of a quick resumé, The Selkirk Bannock is a famous Border baked treat, a richly fruited bread dough, individually hand made, traditionally served at afternoon tea. It is recorded as the only thing that Queen Victoria would eat when she visited Sir Walter Scott in 1867 and The Selkirk Bannock is first mentioned in 1819 in Scott’s poem The Bride of Lammermoor.

One of the few speciality regional breads to have survived industrialization in Scotland, most commercial versions have margarine, e-numbers, vegetable fat and/or preservatives in order to mass-produce for a long shelf life. These are not for the Ark and never will be!

It was at this year’s Royal Highland Show I first tasted Iain Campbell’s Selkirk Bannock. Iain is 7th generation of his family’s business, Campbells Bakery His is rich and buttery, totally traditional, handmade and delicious with not an e number in sight. Oh joy. Slow Food celebrates the product: that it still exists, meets their exacting standards and can be heralded as ‘the way it should be.’ Based in Crieff, Iain runs classes in traditional Scottish baking, including his family’s Selkirk Bannock, so his expertise can be shared across Scotland.

Since Sunday, the Selkirk Bannock has been the talk o’ the steamie as folk have flagged up other possible candidates, all of which I had researched. Such was the buzz on social media, we actually visited Selkirk this week to buy each version we could find, to read the labels and double check - none of them fitted the bill for The Ark. A sad indictment of much of modern baking I would say…yet we came across #genuine, #original, #only, #true, #handmade, #100 year old recipe… profusion - excuse me, at what point in 1819 did they have emulsifier, vegetable fat and a host of E numbers? I don’t think so!

So here we are again with transparency on labels, honesty and integrity of food. Might I suggest there are a few cavalier descriptors, disingenuous claims, perhaps clinging to a name without respecting the probity of a heritage product? This is one of the reasons why I so uphold the values of Slow Food’s Ark of Taste as it gives an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the authentic Selkirk Bannock, as it was, as it is and as it can be if more folk bake with only natural ingredients. This is what top notch food quality is about.

There are those who will be displeased with this blog but I am only stating facts. Bakers make choices which ingredients to add; consumers decide which to buy. You pay your money and make your choice. But I would add that natural ingredients make for a far more sustainable environmental world to pass on to our children.

Other wonderful foods researched and boarding the

Ark this week are Hebridean Sheep, a small ancient breed with great depth of flavour that more than compensates for their diminutive size; Arran Victory Potato, a tasty heritage potato if ever there was one; James Grieve Apple, famously first brought on by an Edinburgh worthy; Gordon Castle Plum, one of our few native plums, sweet and juicy; Guga, Gaelic for Gannet, harvested and prepared by the ten men of Ness once a year on the isle of Sùlaisgeir, and lastly, for now, Rouge d’Ecosse Wheat, our first Scottish heritage grain for over a century thanks to the sterling efforts of Scotland the Bread Now that really is something worth celebrating!

Members’ News…

We welcome new Members Galloway Chillies , Ardshealach Smokehouse and Yester Farm Dairies to Scottish Food Guide with their delicious produce. Such lovely products and great folk.

On Radio Scotland today we had a debate about food and tourism on the back of the research published yesterday. Scotland's report card might well read 'could do better' but it has some wonderful places and we do have shining examples you will find recommended on

East Haugh are hosting their annual Game Food Weekend and there may be a few places left so do get in touch

Firebrick are launching their festive and cocktail menus so be ready for Christmas and check out details now

Come and share a sparkling Highland Winter at Ballintaggart – the woodpiles are stacked; the fires crackling, and bold brilliant and comforting flavours on their menus

New Christmassy Treats for the Festive Season from Demijohn - charming miniature 40ml Apotheker bottles and all sorts of other goodies online

Whitmuir has a big range of organic and eco products to make the

holiday season one to remember. These include their own Whitmuir Turkeys reared on the farm, Christmas veg boxes packed with seasonal Scottish veg, Vegetarian pies and nut roasts for the people who don’t eat meat, and stuffing, streaky bacon and chipolatas for those that do!

Macbeths is delighted to say that after a significant time in the planning, their new website is up and running (wish I could say the same…. we are nearly there…the latest version of will launch soon!).

Christmas spice and all things nice with Contini Restaurants …so click and take a peek

Not only …but also…..!

Ceann na h-Àirigh on the wee isle of Grimsay (there’s a causeway) is a Hebridean community hub with Post Office, versatile space, regular local produce market and café. The centre’s sensitive and creative design reflects its past life as a church.

Currently this charming venue operates with home bakes, teas and coffees, but with a super kitchen and great location it is currently looking for someone to run it as a bistro too. Get in touch if you are skilled in the kitchen and fancy a slice of island life!

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