Orkney – a cook’s paradise

It was salmon that first brought me to Orkney almost 20 years ago – I fell for the Islands the moment that I stepped off the plane to look at the local aquaculture for Waitrose. After several holidays here Nick was as hooked as me, and it seemed perfectly natural to sell up in Sussex and start a new and exciting life 700 miles north as soon as we were free to do so.

Friends were concerned that, as a cookery writer, I would be starved of ingredients to inspire my culinary creativity. My larder here on Orkney is, in many ways, more inspiring and diverse than it was in the South. There are cattle and sheep a-plenty and traditional butchers; there are veg growers and a small glasshouse industry, and a dairy sector also producing glorious butter, ice cream and cheese. Orkney specialities include water buffalo and beremeal, the flour from an ancient strain of indigenous barley. Then there’s the salmon, and wonderful shellfish including spoots or razor clams, which we both love. And chocolates too, an absolute essential for a contented life, as well as other confectionary.

This blog will record my discovery of all the ingredients in My Orkney Larder, which literally is all around me! I shall meet producers and hear their stories before I use their ingredients in some of my favourite dishes from almost forty years of recipe writing. I’ll be meeting retailers too, to hear about their favourite local products and how they cope with the extremes of Tourist Orkney and Winter Orkney. There are also two whisky distilleries, at least 3 gin distilleries and one producing rum, a fruit wine company and two breweries to sip and sample my way around.

I’ll be extending my larder into our garden and attempting to grow the herbs and veg such as chard that I really enjoy and have not seen on sale here. This will be a big challenge in salt-laden winds but we’ll give it a go!

I’ve always been a fan of the local food movement’s rallying cry “Eat The View”. On these windswept, beautiful islands it is going to be a real culinary adventure.