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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 the 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 then, 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 that week to buy each version we could find, 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 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.

Members’ News…

We welcome new Members Galloway Chillies

& Yester Farm Dairies to Scottish Food Guide with their delicious produce.

On Radio Scotland 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

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

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

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