Au­tumn is the BEST sea­son to en­joy Scot­land on a plate

In­tro­duc­ing a tal­ented new chef in­spired by sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents and tra­di­tional Scot­tish recipes

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - by Emma Cow­ing Graeme Tay­lor’s Au­tumn Larder starts on Mon­day.

GRAEME Tay­lor rum­mages around in his freezer and emerges, tri­umphant, with a Tup­per­ware box. ‘You have to try this,’ he says, open­ing it up and prof­fer­ing a spoon. ‘It’s lemon thyme ice cream.’ Like ev­ery­thing he makes, it is both ex­quis­ite and sim­ple, full of strong flavours and un­de­ni­ably de­li­cious.

Tay­lor, 43, is a food writer with a dif­fer­ence. From his ten­e­ment kitchen in Glas­gow’s South Side he con­jures up fab­u­lous dishes which he shares on his wildly popular food blog, A Scots Larder. It bulges with recipes show­cas­ing the very best Scot­tish pro­duce, such as beef, veni­son, pork and game.

With ev­ery­thing from skir­lie to stews, stovies to, well lemon thyme ice cream, it is the sort of hearty, sim­ply cooked, no-fuss food that makes au­tumn worth wait­ing for.

Start­ing in the Scot­tish Daily Mail on Mon­day, Tay­lor will be pre­sent­ing his very own au­tumn larder, of­fer­ing five days of sump­tu­ous recipes for the sea­son.

You’ll find dishes such as wild veni­son with port and whole spice, brisket and pot roast hogget, soups in­clud­ing Cullen skink and lentil, easy fish dishes such as kedgeree and smoked cod risotto with Lil­let, tasty desserts like bram­ble and cas­sis cheese­cake and bar­ley pud­ding, plus a lav­ish se­lec­tion of pies in­clud­ing veni­son bri­die, shep­herd’s pie and game pud­ding.

A self-taught cook, by day Tay­lor works as a se­nior process en­gi­neer for Chivas, spend­ing his nights and week­ends dream­ing up recipes in the kitchen. His phi­los­o­phy on food is sim­ple.

‘I don’t think you need a lot of in­gre­di­ents, I think you just need good pro­duce,’ he says.

‘Sim­ple food cooked well is what it’s all about. It’s about adding flavour, not adding in­gre­di­ents.

‘Most of my dishes won’t have any more than about five in­gre­di­ents. The more you can strip out, the more you let the main flavour stand out rather than hid­ing it.

‘I like to throw a few in­gre­di­ents in the pot, stick it in the oven and out it comes.’

Tay­lor de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in food as a child grow­ing up in Pais­ley. His par­ents were keen cooks and gar­den­ers, and his fa­ther would take him to the Chi­nese su­per­mar­ket for au­then­tic in­gre­di­ents.

‘It was prob­a­bly dur­ing that time that I started to re­alise what food was all about,’ he says. ‘A lot of peo­ple I went to school with weren’t hav­ing stir-fries. Their Dad wasn’t grow­ing rocket and try­ing to grow mel­ons in the green­house.

‘I was in­tro­duced to flavours when I was still rel­a­tively young.’

TRIPS to the coun­try­side with the Scouts also played a part. ‘When I was about nine or ten I went to cub camp and the Scouts made roast chicken on a fire over coals,’ he re­calls. ‘I re­mem­ber tast­ing it and think­ing, “Wow, that’s proper flavour”. I re­alised that flavour was about sim­ple in­gre­di­ents.’

The ice cream – a per­fect ex­am­ple of Tay­lor’s phi­los­o­phy on sim­plic­ity and flavour – is a rem­nant from a sup­per club he held for friends the pre­vi­ous week, pair­ing Scotch malt whiskies with au­tumn dishes.

The seven-course menu had dishes such as pork belly paired with Scapa, Granspeck-wrapped pi­geon with a ten-year-old Aber­lour, and a veni­son haunch with skir­lie, pota­toes and kale paired with a 12-year-old Strathisla.

‘I love to cook for oth­ers,’ Tay­lor says. ‘I re­alised as a young man that cook­ing and feed­ing peo­ple is a great way to meet peo­ple be­cause they’re al­ways happy to be fed. But they only want to be fed if it’s good.’

Au­tumn is his favourite sea­son, not least for the cook­ing opportunities.

‘The kitchen is prob­a­bly the warm­est room in the house and at this time of year you want that heat and warmth of be­ing in the kitchen cook­ing with the oven on all af­ter­noon,’ he says. ‘I like go­ing out for a walk on a cold day – get­ting hats and scarves and go­ing for a walk for a couple of hours – and a stew be­ing ready when you get in the door. That is what au­tumn is all about.’

Tay­lor has a 24-year-old son and two girls, aged nine and ten, and loves noth­ing more than an af­ter­noon out­side pick­ing black­ber­ries with the girls, or stay­ing warm in the kitchen, while teach­ing them to whip up sim­ple dishes.

‘We nor­mally make bread once a week as it’s some­thing that they can get into and we can all take a turn knead­ing it and mea­sur­ing things out, as well as things like cakes and pan­cakes,’ he says. ‘They help me with risot­tos as well, and the older one can make a good omelette.

‘Sim­ple things that they can un­der­stand and things they can learn to cook by them­selves.’

He wor­ries that while to­day’s chil­dren may have ac­cess to more in­gre­di­ents than his gen­er­a­tion, they are of­ten one step re­moved from where food comes from and how it ends up on the kitchen ta­ble.

‘When I was younger we went to the butcher, the green­gro­cer, even the farm, whereas this gen­er­a­tion sees ev­ery­thing come from the su­per­mar­ket,’ he says. ‘They might


not even go into the su­per­mar­ket, they might just see it be­ing de­liv­ered. I know one school where they teach the kids about food by tak­ing them to Tesco.

‘I’ve made a point of tak­ing the girls out to a friend’s farm a few times so they can see the an­i­mals and have an un­der­stand­ing of where their food comes from.’

Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, when it comes to his own cook­ing he is keen on meat, par­tic­u­larly game, a sta­ple of the au­tumn larder.

‘I re­ally like strong flavour – veni­son, pi­geon, beef,’ he says. ‘I gen­er­ally cook red meat or seafood when I’m at home.’

Tay­lor has al­ways cooked ‘on in­stinct’, de­vis­ing his own recipes and adding flavours as he goes.

In his 20s, work­ing on his PhD while study­ing in Belfast, he briefly con­sid­ered be­com­ing a chef. ‘I did think about it,’ he says. ‘But I look at these guys in the kitchen and think, “how do you do that day after day?”. I love to cook but I can’t see be­ing a chef, work­ing in a restau­rant, as my ca­reer. It’s a dif­fer­ent world from be­ing a cook in your own kitchen.’

He be­gan writ­ing A Scots Larder in 2011 to share his dishes.

‘I re­mem­ber when Jamie Oliver first ap­peared in the late 1990s and he seemed to strip ev­ery­thing back to a few flavours. I re­alised you didn’t need thou­sands of com­plex in­gre­di­ents, you could sim­plify food,’ he says. ‘From then on I cooked for my­self con­stantly.

‘I go to the farmer’s mar­ket or a friend’s farm shop and see some­thing there and in my mind I’ll know what I want to cook with it, then I’ll write down the recipe and test it. I don’t tend to for­mu­late things in my head be­fore­hand.’

In his up­com­ing Au­tumn Larder se­ries, this method is ev­i­dent in his pies, stews and win­ter warmer recipes. Spiced lamb shoul­der, pig cheeks with ap­ple and cider, smoky chilli mac­a­roni cheese – clas­sic dishes with a twist, food for the fam­ily that won’t break the bank or use ev­ery uten­sil in the kitchen, but taste de­li­cious.

HE has lit­tle time for the clean-eat­ing bri­gade who now dom­i­nate the food writ­ing scene. ‘I just don’t like the word clean,’ he says. ‘You think, “Well, what’s ev­ery­thing else, dirty?”. I will al­ways cook with but­ter, oil, drip­ping, and I’ll buy cuts of meat that are fatty. As long as you’re hav­ing good, proper food then surely that is clean.

‘If you’re talk­ing about tak­ing a piece of an an­i­mal and then cook­ing it, what’s not clean about that? I’ve never re­ally gone in for fads. I just like real food. Put it this way – I don’t have a spi­raliser.’

In­stead, Tay­lor says, we should em­brace food Scot­land pro­duces, and eat it in a sus­tain­able way.

‘I don’t eat meat ev­ery sin­gle day and I try to eat sea­son­ally. That’s one of the rea­sons I like au­tumn so much. There is so much fresh pro­duce around and so many things we can do with it.’

Pick of the sea­son: Black­ber­ries are both de­li­cious and nu­tri­tious

Scots Larder: Graeme Tay­lor’s blog shares his finest recipes

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