25/01/2013 Burns night food: star-gazing in Scotland
Burns nightfood: star-gazing in Scotland
Burns night is the timeto celebrate the new wave of Scottish chefs cooking world-class dishes with thecountry's first-rate produce
It's a very big day in Scottish cooking– our skills at mincing sheep offalandbashing turnips are being celebrated all over theworld. But Burns' birthday is not such a popular date in thecalendar of the modern Scottish chef, who, frankly, would like to be known fora rather more than boiling puddings. Or deep-frying Mars bars. (Actually, abattered fried Bounty is far nicer.)
Scots aren't touchy on the subject of poor diet, of course, but thegovernment will inform you on arrival atScottish airports that this is "one of the world's great lands of food anddrink". It is probably true that, if not home to a culinary revival(what's to revive?) Scotland is a better place to eat now than it was 20 yearsago. A migration of young, enthusiastic chefs, coupled with cheap rents andcheap labour, has put new life into hotels, cafes and restaurants across a landonce notorious for serving the most dismal food in Europe, and then only until7pm.The dockside pubs of Leith, where once Irvine Welsh's junkies mugged tourists,are now home to a clutch of smart restaurants, two with Michelin stars. Infact, Edinburgh has five of the fat tyre man's medals,more than anywhere else in Britain outside West London – most of them earned inthe last few years. Restaurants in Scotland's cities are closing in the recession,but most sites so far seem to swiftly sprout new ones. Some of those aredefiantly high-end and challenging, like the new venture from local favourite Mark Greenaway, aBlumenthalesque laboratory chef who serves dishes such as frozen shortbread and"the enigmatic paint".
Food publisher Relish next week releasesa second volume of recipes tocelebrate the New Scottish Cooking (a second one,note, Wales: how many stars have you got?). A total of 23 chefs from WesterRoss to Peebles are represented in it. Tom Kitchin is the brightest example ofthe new breed. He went to Perth catering college, worked at Gleneagles Hotel –then one of the few places in the country that could deliver haute cuisine –and did hard time in the kitchens of Paris's grandest restaurants, with Pierre Koffmann, Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy.
In 2006, aged just 28, Kitchin opened a restaurant in a Leith warehousethat would bring classical French technique to Scottish ingredients – mostpeople thought it would last six months. In fact, that was how longThe Kitchin took to get itsfirst Michelin star.
Kitchin now has a second starred restaurant in Edinburgh, whose chef is another Scottish young gun, Dominic Jack."It's all about the ingredients," says Kitchin. "I was fortunateto work in some of the greatest restaurants in the world; I never failed tonotice all the Scottish produce that we used. Fish, shellfish, excellent game,wonderful meat, along with berries and mushrooms. It is simply the best producethere is."
You can still eat appallingly in Scotland, as anywhere, and people do.We still consume more sugar than anyone else in Europe. Even our gnarly meatpies aren't economic – the great meat processor Halls of Broxburn, temple of the dubious Scottishpink sausage, is about to close, with the loss of 1700 jobs. But Scots arespending more in farmers' markets than any other part of Britain – you can getyour mince and tatties local and organic now.