Sharing Najma’s Hidden Garden Vegetable Curry & Chapatis and learning Eileen’s Torta Pasqualina.
An early start for the CK Relay as we left behind Glasgow and threaded our way through the industrial hinterlands and fields of wind turbines that line the M77. Our first stop was a visit to Dunlop Dairy at West Clerkland Farm, near Stewarton in Ayrshire. Here at the farm, Ann Dorward has been producing award-winning cow and goat’s milk cheeses for over 20 years.
Ann showed us around the diary while cheese making was in full swing and explained the differences in production techniques that create her famous Dunlop and Bonnet cheeses, as well as a range of fresh soft cheeses. While the soft cheeses can be produced in a matter of days, the smooth Dunlop and crumbly, white Bonnet cheeses are matured for over a year, making each round a precious investment.
Dunlop Dairy won silver and gold prizes at last year’s International Cheese Fair at Nantwich for their Scottish cheeses so look out for them at farmer’s markets and specialty cheese shops. Visitors are welcome at the farm and can collect cheese fresh from the diary, as well as meet the farm’s herd of charismatic Sannen goats.
Our next stop was Petrie Fine Foods, a farmhouse producer of traditional and contemporary savouries, cakes and puddings, with a special interest in tasty vegetarian and ‘free-from’ foods. Based near Fenwick, Eileen and Howard Wilkinson proudly source most of their ingredients from local producers and growers and are keen supporters of the Slow Food Saltire and Ayrshire Farmer’s Market networks.
Eileen welcomed us into her beautiful farmhouse kitchen and introduced her ‘Torta Pasquelina’ recipe; a Scottish take on a traditional Italian festive recipe. Najma and Donna helped Eileen cook the Hidden Garden’s Vegetable Curry from Day 1 and in return Eileen steered the Hidden Garden cooks through the Torta Pasqualina recipe.
Over a lunchtime feast in front of the farmhouse, we discussed the challenge of creating a more affordable local food system in Scotland. Howard introduced us to the variety of fantastic local products available from Ayrshire Farmer’s Markets in Paisley, Kilmarnock, Kilwinning and Ayr and got us thinking about the importance of linking with local food movements internationally.
Our final destination of Day 2 was a visit to Heal the Earth Ayrshire. Cast in soft evening sunlight, this beautiful community-managed walled garden offered a peaceful end to a busy day. Sitting down with the gardeners to share the vegetable curry made that afternoon, we learnt about the beginnings of Heal the Earth and how local volunteers had given a new life to an abandoned Victorian kitchen garden in Dean Castle Country Park as part of a wider effort to inspire a more sustainable future for Kilmarnock.
For all our recipes and more information about the Culture Kitchen programme of events, including the CK Relay, visit www.hiddengarden.org.uk