Our regular food blogger Rosemary Moon has been sampling more of Orkney's finest produce this month. Keep reading to try her recipe for yourself.
If you are into bread-making you will know that a sponge, or flying ferment, is the first stage of a very traditional bread-making process. Orkney itself has been like an absorbent sponge for centuries, soaking up the traditions of incomers and the skills that they have brought to these shores.
Now, adding to the established fine bakeries producing traditional Scottish and Orcadian loaves and bakes, we have two sourdough artisans, both recently arrived incomers to the islands.
Philippa and Ian Torritt of the Eviedale Bakehouse moved to Orkney in February 2017 to take over the Eviedale campsite after 10 years of loving holidays in the islands. They wanted a business and the site had been a cafe in the past so they set out to develop the seasonal hospitality venture into a sourdough bakery. Ian had a passion for bread-making having done several cookery courses, although his trade was as a luthier making classical guitars. Ian and Philippa moved to Orkney from Perth and had previously worked together in set design and behind-the-scenes theatre work, as well as creating seasonal themed events for large public spaces like shopping malls.
Their mission for the cafe on-site was to serve really good coffee and soup with their breads, for which demand quickly grew. A trial at the monthly farmers market in Kirkwall was a great success and The Brig Larder readily agreed to stock their breads. Soon Philippa had developed a network of outlets as far south as Seaview Stores in Burray and with the BayLeaf Deli in Stromness being their most westerly retailer. They had scaled up from a clay oven in the bakery to a more sizeable artisan bakery oven and were ready to meet the demand which was definitely there.
Ian is influenced by the Mediterranean in his choice of ingredients and flavours, although there’s a touch of the San Francisco food scene too. The popular pizza offer in the evenings at their Eviedale bistro helps to balance the books and make the most of the tourist season - booking is definitely essential.
A week before Christmas in 2018, a second sourdough bakery began - the Orkney Sourdough Company. Karin Jonsson is the one-woman business creating breads with the flavours of her native Sweden and the other Nordic countries she has worked in as a chef after catering college. Karin’s mother is a very good baker and, whilst Karin’s chef skills have taken her from Scandinavia to Zanzibar and South Africa en-route to Orkney, she says that her family still find it amusing that baking has now become her passion and income, as she was happy to let her Mum do the baking at home.
Karin met her husband Jesse, a scallop diver, in South Africa and they moved together from Zanzibar to Orkney for his job. Karin says that food shopping in Zanzibar was very restricted and she feels she is in heaven here with a cornucopia of ingredients easily available. She didn’t plan to start a bakery - it was her longing for Scandinavia-style sourdoughs that made her do it! Managing a four-year-old with a bakery is not easy but Karin gets things done by starting work at 05.00, long before her son wakes up, and her breads are collected to be in William Shearers on Tuesdays and Saturdays and in Kirkness & Gorie on Fridays shortly after 10.00. Karin’s breads are completely handmade and the process takes 48 hours from start to finish. She is delighted at the reaction to her breads but has no plans to grow the business much more at the moment - it has to work with her being a Mum.
Both bakers are protective of their starters or mothers - the natural yeast ferment that activates the dough to rise. They either have to be entrusted to someone reliable to feed them if they have a holiday (they need equal quantities of flour and water regularly to keep them live), or the starter goes on holiday too! Both bakers are also prescriptive about the quality of the flour that they work with - it must be organic and unbleached. Orkney’s own beremeal features too and Karin uses rye flour from Golspie Mill to create her Scandinavian breads. To make a sourdough properly takes a lot of effort and it is all about Real Bread: quality ingredients, natural methods and time, the essential ingredient that has been removed from so much modern food. Artisan sourdoughs will never be cheap to buy and nor should they be. For Orkney to have two sourdough bakeries adds so much to our already mouthwatering food scene - the breads are just perfect with our delicious local butter!
Artisan breads are a star ingredient so I am just offering a hearty soup to accompany your sourdough in a time-honoured combination of simple, satisfying food. I call this BendiSkink - my take on Cullen Skink. It is the haddock and tattie classic meets chowder - I hope you like it.
Serves 6 (but you can easily scale the recipe up or down - my quantities are absolutely just a guide). Broccoli stalks are an essential - they add so much flavour to soup so please don’t throw them away!
- 800g mixed vegetables, including potato, shallots, chard or celery, carrots, squash or neep (swede) and broccoli stalks
- 1 or 2 double fillets of Orkney smoked haddock
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- Pinch of saffron strands (optional but delicious)
- 2 bay leaves, broken in half
- 1litre of whole milk
- Freshly chopped parsley for garnish
- Orkney sourdough and butter for serving
- Chop dice or slice the vegetables - keep them fairly small as this soup will not be blended. Shallots or onions, squash and carrots will need the most cooking so keep them together, then the potato, chard stalks and broccoli stalks. Shredded chard leaves or other greens and a few finely chopped broccoli florets will be added at the end with the smoked haddock.
- Cut the smoked haddock into 6-10mm dice - the more you add the more satisfying the Skink.
- Heat a large saucepan, add the oil, shallot, carrot and squash with the seasonings and cook, covered, for 6-8 minutes. Stir, then add the potato, chard and broccoli stalks, some salt and pepper and the milk. Bring to a slow simmer, cover and cook for a further 6-8 minutes - the time will depend on how finely you have chopped the vegetables.
- Add the smoked haddock along with any remaining green vegetables and simmer slowly for 4-5 minutes. Season to taste and serve garnished with freshly chopped parsley to accompany some Orcadian sourdough and butter.
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.
Rosemary also writes and vlogs about whisky and is particularly interested in whisky and food matching. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and on her rosemarymoon.com and myorkneylarder.com websites.
The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.