We must admit that we were pretty spoilt for good local produce to cook on our stay-at-home nights in Stockbridge, Edinburgh. When we checked into our elegant apartment the owner told us there were a few speciality food shops worth visiting in our neighbourhood, as well as a Farmer’s Market held beneath Edinburgh Castle every Saturday. We took note.
While having a good supermarket such as Waitrose nearby (which we wrote about in our Price Check post) is convenient, I prefer to head to a speciality shop for the key ingredients of each dish that I make, whether it be fish, poultry, meat, or cheeses for dessert. Not only can these purveyors tell you exactly who made what they’re selling, they’ll have no hesitation in telling you what to choose and how to prepare it.
The Edinburgh Farmer’s Market(Saturday 9am–2pm) is Scotland’s best fresh food market and even in the depths of winter there was plenty of purveyors selling everything from oats to home-made venison pies. We especially enjoyed the home-made porridge from Stoats and pork rolls from Oink. But we decided to shop in Stockbridge for our ingredients for a three-course dinner I planned to make, but more on that meal in the next post.
Our favourite purveyor in our neighbourhood was George Bower, ‘Butcher, Poulterer & Game Dealer’. When we first dropped into the store, Burns Night was only a couple of days away and the window was filled with haggis of all sizes, while inside game birds hung on the wall, and the display case was filled with venison. After about 15 minutes chatting about the lovely produce, we left with a haggis for two and some fantastic venison loin. The beast had been shot and butchered by the owner himself. We also left with strict cooking instructions for both items, which I followed to the letter as I never argue with people who are clearly very handy with firearms.
Just across the road, George Armstrong Fishmonger was notable for the long lines of locals who patiently queue each day for the fish and seafood carefully chosen for the discerning clientele. They have some fantastic local seafood but we went there specifically for the smoked haddock – and left impressed by the quality of the fish and how delightfully smoky the fillets were.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the cheesemonger, I.J. Mellis. We knew that there was great cheese in Great Britain from our visit to Neal’s Yard Dairy in London in the beginning of the year. After visiting I.J. Mellis we can safely say that Scotland is doing it’s bit for fine cheeses in the United Kingdom. We selected a few local cheeses after sampling about a dozen happily dispensed by their knowledgeable staff. There were a few oddities in the shop as well, including some locally-made fresh mozzarella, but we chose some cheeses more traditionally found in Scotland.
Between our purchases from these three shops we had the makings of a fine local meal, something I’ll tell you about in my next post on our locally-themed three course meal.