Tidy scran in the Neuks of Fife: Food from Fife
When it comes to food from Fife, there’s an organic revolution of sorts taking place. There’s markets in fife selling organic produce and food festivals taking place with the most innovative produce! This guide will help you get some of the best taste from Fife!
A few nights ago while pub-hopping, me and a few friends were discussing where to head for dinner, when a friend mentioned how he loved mussels. Scottish mussels to be precise; of how satisfying it is to order a kilo or so and then scoop up the sauce with bread.
What took me by surprise though was when he asked me where I was from and when I replied with “Goa” he said “Oh, so you were lucky to get fresh fish! I know the more inland you are, you keep away from fish!”, and he was right!
I remember summer holidays in Goa where as a child, I eagerly waited for the fishmongers to turn up with the catch of the day. Usually, a wide variety, as the Indian Ocean is generous that way, but sometimes with surprises like ‘kalvan,’ i.e. oysters or ‘chonak’, Giant sea perch.
It was cleaned immediately, some salt, turmeric, chilli was applied to it, and deep fried later served with some rice and curry. Heavenly!
Mussels here are mostly smoked in a sauce, and it isn’t just mussels that remind me of the different ways food can be prepared, it’s almost all ingredients, everywhere in the world!
A couple of weeks ago when I went to Fife, it wasn’t any different. Mussels are a favourite in Edinburgh, but in Elie, Fife there was a lot more happening than just mussels. There was cheese, langoustines, bread, chocolate and an organic rising of sorts taking place unknown to many.
I was glamping in Fife by the sea and experiencing a whole new side to Scotland. The east coast receives more sunshine than the west, and, the proximity of the Firth of Forth makes it more high-yielding leading to fresher, tastier produce; something that the locals had caught onto.
Organic markets and farms in Fife
Food weekends at Bowhouse Market, Fife
Locals were conscious of additives added to vegetation and ensuring natural elements were used effectively with the least amount of intervention. They were also attentive of lending a helping hand to artisans who were keen on the art and the process and would rather concentrate on that, than the tedious tasks of marketing, financing and infrastructure.
Which is precisely what Toby Anstruther, who was a founding director of the Fife Food Network and its Food from Fife initiative had taken upon himself to help the local farmers and producers with. He’d come up with Bowhouse market held at Easter Kellie Farm, where a food weekend is held almost once every month.
“Producers with a vision can take up spaces for event and food production and commercial kitchens and keep away from the hustle and bustle of administrative tasks. They’re happy to do so and are keen to start off with peace of mind that they’re doing what they’re good while keeping losses at bay or to a minimal with things they’re unaware of” Anstruther says. His voice is full of happiness and passion for coming up with a creative outlet for the community.
Bowhouse Market located in the heart of the East Neuk, between St Monans and Elie, was the answer he came up with while speaking to a local chef who could see veggies growing on the farms in Fife but had no access to them as almost all of it was being exported. He had to buy the same ingredients from outside town for almost double the price.
Fife was rich in seafood, deer, game, beef, broccoli and potatoes to name a few raw ingredients and all of these were on display at Bowhouse Market, by themselves or in the form of fantastic products. Locals conversed with the farmers, made connections which could turn them into loyal, long-term customers and serve as a direct medium to gain feedback.
There were food trucks and live music too, and some innovative products like dried seaweed flakes from Mara Seaweed, spicy Italian sausages from Minick Artisan Butchers and cheese by St.Andrews Farmhouse Cheese made from their herd of cows! As the market was covered, even if weather played spoilsport, one could still spend the whole day having fun here, and if it was sunny, you could take Alpacas on a walk around, which were brought there by Bowbridge Alpacas who were selling wool inside.
Location | Bowhouse Farm, St Monans, Anstruther, Fife, KY10 2DB
Price | Entry is free
Ardross Farm shop – A Traditional Scottish farm shop
I’d always wanted to take a walk through a rapeseed field and was delighted when I saw one next to the Ardross Farm shop. However, I was amazed when I realised it was kale flower buds! Claire and Nikki, who run Ardross farm shop, were taking us around the field and introducing us to the ways of the farm.
“Winter a couple of years ago was harsh. We couldn’t get out and tend to the farms. Almost everyone stayed indoors for a few days. One of the cows was to give birth, and we were worried we wouldn’t get to it in time to help out. The harsh cold passed, and the first thing we did was rush out to check on it.
As anticipated, the cow had given birth, and both the cow and calf were healthy without any issues. The calf was running around on the hills, fit as a fiddle, in the cold! We were pleased but a little taken aback that we didn’t have to help out at all. We realised that we all were made to reproduce, and nature had taken care of it after all!”
Hearing Claire say this isn’t shocking to me as it’s true.
Things are kept simple here, from farm to fork. The shop is full of organic products, and lots of items like venison, homegrown beef and tiny cups made from chocolate caught my fancy. They’d delivered a bunch of breakfast items to our lodge at Catchpenny too, and they were all delish.
Location |Ardross Farm, Elie KY9 1EU
Price | Entry is free
Cafe’s and produce at Pillars of Hercules and Barnsmuir Farm
Bruce Bennett is the owner of Pillars of Hercules, one of the oldest organic farms in Scotland growing salads, vegetables, and keeping laying hens. He has been rigorously looking after the farm every day since 1983 looking at new and improved ways to keep ingredients healthy yet cheap.
Tim Stockwell who owns Barnsmuir Farm that grows strawberries, raspberries, broccoli and cauliflowers does the same. He takes us around showing us the different varieties on the farm while we pick a few and eat them on our way. They’re super sweet and plump!
He tells us how operating the farm is less of a business and more like a family chore. All of the workers on the farm care about it and prioritise it! A few of them are from Romania and Tim’s worry is evident when one of us asks him about how the current political situation might affect him. He’d like to continue to have them as they’re now aware of the workings inside out but it may not work out too well depending on how things turn out.
Barnsmuir supply fruit to Tayport Distillery making it obvious that many local entrepreneurs depend on each other, making it a self-sufficient chain that helps keep costs low and the features dependable.
Pillars of Hercules also has a café, open daily 9-5pm serving delicious meals, cakes and gluten-free food and a farm shop by the side that sells the veggies and some lovely plants.
We visited in the evening, and unfortunately, the cafe was shut by then, so I got some beautiful succulents from the shop and proceeded to Lindores for some drinks and music.
Location | Pillars of Hercules, Falkland, Fife, KY15 7AD & Barnsmuir Farm, Barnsmuir Farm, Anstruther KY10 3XB
Price | Please check website for further details
Craft Gin and Aqua Vitae in Fife
Lindores Abbey Distillery
I’m instantly all ears when I hear someone say we are going to have our own Apothecary experience in a distillery. As we’re walking around Lindores Abbey distillery, I’m surprised to learn that the first recorded account about the production of Scotch Whisky (‘Aqua Vitae’ as it was known in the 1400’s) in Scotland is recorded to have happened here, at this very site, at the Abbey, which fell to ruins due to political unrest in the 1600’s.
In 2017, the McKenzie Smith’s revived Lindores Farm and the distillery and Aqua Vitae started being distilled here once again.
I’ve had the fortune of visiting a handful of distilleries around the world but the one at Lindores Abbey had a very homely feel to it.
I can smell the malt in the air, while the distillation process is explained to us. We’re taken through the cloisters, containing snippets of history about the monastery and the monks, leading to The Stillroom which includes the Visitor Centre, shop, Refectory, production area and Legacy Bar and three bright copper pot stills.
The whisky tour ends at the Apothecary where Tim is waiting eagerly for us to introduce us to the art of making our own Aqua Vitae.
The smell of alcohol lingers in the air as he demonstrates how to add the various components to the alcohol base, depending on how we’d like the Aqua Vitae to turn out.
Vials containing various liquids, with the prime ingredient and the alcohol percentage written on it are present on the table. There’s Douglas Fir, Lemon verbena, Herbs, Spice, all grown on the grounds of the Abbey and I walk around sniffing and trying to decide how I’d like my Aqua Vitae to taste. I measure the ingredients I like, making my Aqua Vitae a blend of Lavender, Orange Peel Douglas Fir and Cubebs.
Pleased with my invention, which I get to keep, I then head to the cloisters again which now has a long table set in the middle, for an evening of poetry and dinner, providing the perfect setting for a local cultural get-together to end the day.
Location |Abbey Rd, Newburgh, Cupar KY14 6HH
Price | Tours cost £12.50 per person and include a tasting of Lindores Abbey Distillery Aqua Vitae. £2.50 of this is then redeemable against a purchase of a bottle of Aqua Vitae
Tayport Distillery (Never 25)
Kecia is super excited to see all of us and the very first thing she does is offer us some Eau De Vie. There are Apple, Raspberry, Strawberry and Blueberry flavours to choose from, I pick Blueberry and wander around the room until everyone has a glass. I notice tiny bottles neatly placed on a shelf labelled ‘Shakira’ + Juniper, ‘Major Lazer + Coriander’ and ‘Tiesto’ to name a few.
Curious, I ask Kecia what they are. She laughs and says, that when she’s experimenting with new flavours and is unsure what to name it, she gives it the name of the song she was listening to when making it!
Amused by her answer, someone then asks her why the name Never 25.
Years ago, she was upset and unsure, when she left everything in Ohio, to be with her husband, Duncan. When flying to Newark, the lady sat next to her was kind and listened to her. Before leaving she then took Kecia’s address promising her to send something to her in the U.K.
Weeks later a package arrived at Duncan’s place. A small glass bluebird ornament with a note ‘Wishing you happiness’.
Kecia wanted to name the business ‘Bluebird’ but wasn’t advised to do so due to legal issues. She forgot about her 25th anniversary trying to come up with a name for the business and when she realised what had happened, ended up naming the venture ‘Never 25’!
Kecia’s eyes were brimming by the time she finished the story which she then tried to cover by taking us to the distillery.
Eau de Vie, a Scottish fruit spirit, literally translated from French means ‘Water of Life’ which is also what Whisky translates to in Gaelic (Uisge Beatha)! Fruits are the prime ingredient used unlike Gin, where Juniper berries are used as the chief element. The grain used to produce alcohol is local too, and no sugar is added in the process, thus creating an intensely smooth fruit-flavoured spirit for connoisseurs looking for something different!
The versatility of the drink is evident as Rory and Sam, the brand ambassadors, whip up many cocktails for us to taste as we continue with our visit.
Location | Unit 2, Shanwell Court, Tayport, Fife, DD6 9DX
Price | Please check website for further details
Unique experiences for eating out in Fife
While there are numerous options available for all budgets and tastes, here are a few unique places to eat in Fife.
Places to eat in Fife
The Newport Restaurant
Stunning views of the river Tay greeted us as we sat down at The Newport Restaurant by Masterchef professional winner Jamie Scott for lunch. Minutes later, a humble entree was placed in front us, peas in a pastry case. While one would instantly make the error to dismiss it as ‘simple’, as I took a bite of the mini tart in my mouth, the sweet, crunchy peas together with the creme fraiche created a fantastic flavour explosion in my mouth!
An array of dishes followed the peas. Ox tail with artichoke done three ways, Okonomiyaki, Chicken fritters made with buttermilk ending with strawberry and white chocolate macaron served with clotted cream vanilla ice-cream.
Everybody silently devoured the dishes, each distinct, remarkable and innovative put together by using local ingredients.
My favourite was the Okonomiyaki, savoury yet delicate, with numerous toppings, almost like having a garden served on a plate!
Location |1 High St, Newport-on-Tay DD6 8AB
Price | Please check website for prices and updated menus
Cambo Estate and Nosebag Cafe
We’re taken for a walk around the walled garden at Cambo Estate while being told of the history of the place and I notice the last of the tulips making an appearance. We’re off to pick rhubarb, that Christopher Trotter would be using in his cooking demonstration later.
There are numerous flowers everywhere I turn, and cherry blossom trees are placed methodically, giving the Victorian garden some fascinating Japanese vibes.
However, what makes the garden charming, is it’s ‘burn’, a glow that’s spread everywhere, right to the sea, as Cambo Estate even has it’s own remote beach!
We then took the Rhubarb indoors to Nosebag cafe in the converted stables, where Chris first prepared some rabbit and then made a simple sauce and added the rhubarb to it.
After gobbling it down, we were then treated to homemade stovies made by the couple that run the cafe. I’d been to Scotland thrice before my visit to Fife and was surprised I’d never had stovies before! One of the most comforting dishes ever, made with potatoes boiled in milk with beef added to it, I had two helpings while we spoke about food and our travels.
Location |Cambo House & Estate, Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8QD
Price | Please check website for updated timings and prices
A picnic at Crail Harbour
It was a beautiful day to have a picnic, and there was no better spot to have it than at Crail Harbour. We strolled via Crail Pottery down to the harbour and its seafood shack ‘The Lobster Hut’ and grabbed a bench while we watched fishermen bring in the catch of the day, mainly colourful lobsters!
We were being treated to a seafood picnic, including crab, bread in different flavours, some condiments and spreads from Trotter’s. We had been carrying some dried seaweed flakes with us, which we’d brought along from Bowhouse and we used that too.
After having our fill, we walked up the road to capture the most beautiful view of Crail harbour, and I could see why it was one of the most photographed harbours in Scotland!
Location |Crail, Anstruther KY10 3SU
A weekend of indulging in delish food was almost drawing to a close, but we weren’t done yet! We had grabbed some langoustines from Langoustines in a box at Bowhouse Market, and May and Laura tirelessly put them onto the outdoor grill at Catchpenny. We then grilled some asparagus and roasted marshmallows as it wasn’t glamping without s’mores!
We shared stories and ate as Fife presented us with a fiery sunset with hues of pink, purple and orange.
I’d experienced the natural larder of Scotland, food that didn’t include haggis and scotch pie, and while it’s synonymous with Scotland for good reasons, truth be told I hadn’t missed it!
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