Our regular food blogger Rosemary Moon is now officially Orkney's Food Tourism Ambassador. Keep reading find out more and taste-rest another special recipe.
I met a couple on the beach and started chatting to them, as you do. They’d had a fabulous holiday and said, “the food has been brilliant - we weren’t expecting that!” It turned out that my new friends were not new friends at all. She had just retired from the development team at Dean’s of Huntly, the shortbread makers, and had helped to host a Guild of Food Writer’s visit that I had been on about fifteen years ago. It’s an increasingly small world but, if you love food, there is always something to chat about and I wanted to know why they had not been expecting great food up here. We could have talked for ages but I had a recipe test on the go for Orkney Cheese’s new website and had to get home.
So many people are surprised at the wonderful food and drink produced in Orkney and I am really pleased to have taken on the voluntary role of Orkney’s Food Tourism Ambassador for the next two years, to help make Orkney a destination for people who love their food and drink. I am part of a team of twenty-five like-minded people across Scotland and together we aim to make Scotland a real foodie holiday hot-spot in a project jointly run by Scotland Food and Drink, Visit Scotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance.
Orkney Cheese is one of the visits suggested in the brand-new Taste of Orkney Food and Drink Trail. There’s a viewing gallery from where you can see into the cheese room to witness the hand-salting and stirring of the curds of this PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) cheese and you will be advised about the best time to visit to see this happening when you phone in to book. The cheese is widely available throughout Scotland and all the diary farmers in Orkney are part of the co-operative, formed to utilise the vast amount of surplus milk in the islands after the troops left at the end of WWII. While you are here you will be able to try the deliciously nutty and tangy extra-mature Orkney Cheddar which, at the moment, is only available in the islands.
Many whisky lovers have made the pilgrimage to Highland Park to see the traditional floor maltings, glimpse the unusual chariot-like barrows used to move the malt around the floor and to see the hand-turning of the malt, a process which can lead to the monkey shoulder strain if not done properly. Then there’s the lure of a dram or two, according to which tour you choose.
Even dedicated whisky drinkers don’t always realise that the Scapa Distillery is also in Orkney and their tours offer a very different experience to that up the hill at Highland Park. A different era, a different building and a different dram. Then there’s the wonderful view from the Still Room across Scapa Flow, right over the site where the Royal Oak was sunk during WWII, instigating the building of the Churchill Barriers.
Over the winter I will be working on several ways to whet your appetites for your Orkney food experiences, whether it will be your first or next visit to our shores. I want to help you to taste the very best of the islands while you are here. I will tell you about the restaurants, the cafes and street food trucks which offer Orkney’s fabulous ingredients in traditional, contemporary and international dishes; about where the local beers are good, the spirits are plentiful and the memories are made.
We are also busy planning the first Taste of Orkney Food Festival - yes, we should be looking at the third one by now but of course everyone’s plans have been disrupted over the last couple of years. If all goes well, we hope to be celebrating Scotland’s Year of Stories with a foodie’s celebration in 2022 and, as soon as the dates are fixed, you’ll find out about it here. For now, I’ll return to the dishes that I have been creating for Orkney Cheese, for their updated website in the making, and share with you one of their new recipes.
Spiced cheese on toast
This is so different, so easy and so delicious! The cheese mix can be used as a toast topping or as the filling for a toastie. I used Panch Phoron or Bengali Five Spice, a mix of fenugreek, cumin, fennel, brown mustard and nigella seeds. Make your own with a spoonful of each and store in a jar - it’s such an easy seasoning for rice and lentil dishes - or use 1/2-1 tsp of curry paste.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 150g Orkney Cheddar
- 1 small onion
- 2 tsps mango chutney
- 1/2 tsp Panch Phoron or curry paste
- 2-3 slices of bread
- Fresh coriander or parsley to garnish and mango chutney to serve
- Grate the cheese into a bowl and then grate the onion on the same coarse grater and mix it into the cheese with the chutney and spices or curry paste.
- Preheat your grill. You can either toast the bread under the grill or in a toaster. Some people only toast the bread on the underside for cheese on toast but I prefer the bread a bit more crunchy so do it on both sides.
- Load the cheese mixture onto the toast on the grill pan rack and spread it out evenly. Cook under a high heat until the Orkney Cheddar is melted and starting to brown. Serve garnished with chopped coriander and with extra mango chutney. Alternatively, make up two sandwiches with the cheese mix, place in toaster bags and cook in a toaster for about three minutes.
Rosemary Moon ‘retired’ to Orkney after a long association with the salmon industry in the islands. The author of 19 cookery books and countless more recipes, including writing for Waitrose and Lakeland, she has brought journalists and food writers to Orkney in the past to show off our diverse and delicious food and drink. After several holidays here Rosemary and her husband Nick have settled in South Ronaldsay but, once a cookery writer always a cookery writer, Rosemary is finding it impossible to stop jotting down the new recipes that she is creating with the island produce.