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November

Chestnuts, winter squash and pheasant: November is rich in autumn flavours. The season for wild duck and much other game is in full swing, so watch out for the shot.

November

Chestnuts, winter squash and pheasant: November is rich in autumn flavours. The season for wild duck and much other game is in full swing, so watch out for the shot.

Calendar Key

  • Best quality
  • Limited availability
  • Reduced quality

Fish & seafood

Cod Haddock

A member of the cod family, haddock is not usually available beyond 3.5kg so is not good for steaks or suprêmes. The flesh has a slightly sweeter taste, making haddock the best whitefish for smoking. Finnan haddock originated in the Scottish fishing village of Findon, and Arbroath smokies are small whole haddock, gutted and headed, then dry salted and hot smoked.

Seafish

Langoustine

Creel-caught langoustines are fished for all year round, subject to the weather. Langoustines moult in May, when they can be more difficult to catch as they bury themselves underground. The ultimate langoustine will arrive live in your kitchen capable of drawing blood! However this is not easy to achieve as they are difficult to transport live. Many fishermen will chill langoustine before packing them, so they are lifeless but remain extremely fresh.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Lobster

Lobsters are available all year, but it’s good to be aware of females with eggs – for obvious reasons, these are best left in the sea. Most lobsters moult in summer and hibernate in winter: as a result their meat-to-water ratio is normally highest in spring/early summer and autumn, which makes the higher per kilo prices at that time deceptive.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Monkfish

An ugly fish with a huge head, accounting for half the fish’s weight. Usually only the tails are sold: once skinned, trimmed and the membrane removed, the tails yield some fantastic meat, with a firm, meaty texture and a taste similar to langoustine. In the 1970s monkfish was only fished commercially as a cheap scampi substitute! The liver is also highly prized, and is a delicacy in Japan where it determines the price of the fish.

Seafish

Mussels

Rope grown mussels are farmed and grown from the sprat of wild stock, and in Scotland have been granted Sustainable Status by the Marine Stewardship Council. Recommended over wild, they are sustainable and give a better product: free of grit as they don’t touch the sea bed, with thinner shells and more meat. Although mussels are available all year, production will be limited during an algae bloom (on average twice annually).

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Razor clams

There are several varieties of clam; all are round and stone-like except the razor clam [nicknamed spoots in Scotland], so called because it resembles a cut-throat razor. Amande, hardshell, Venus and razor clams are the most common varieties. Palourdes (or carpet shell) are considered the finest clams and command a much higher price.

Seafish

Ling Megrim Coley

An alternative to cod and haddock, also known as saithe. A long tapered body, with a slight blue tint, coley range from 500g to 6kg but are usually only available as fillets. Coley can be a good buy, but needs to be as fresh as possible. The flesh is often a dull off-white colour which lightens during cooking, and has a fine flavour.

Seafish

Hake

Surprisingly not more popular in the UK – a large proportion of the UK catch goes to the Spanish, Portuguese and Italians. A long, round, slender body is mainly grey and silver in colour: its shape makes it great for cutting into steaks or loin suprêmes. The flesh is quite soft, but firms up on cooking and has a good flavour.

Seafish

Lemon sole

Lemons have an oval body, more rounded than a Dover, with a lighter, yellowy-brown dark side. Sweet delicate flesh is ideal for any sole recipes, and works especially well with creamy white wine sauces. As well as being a great fish cooked on the bone, fillets are always popular, and are great for rolling around a filling (delice), then steaming or baking.

Seafish

Mackerel

Ranging in size from 200-800g, mackerel has a bullet shaped body and silvery-blue skin with dark wavy stripes. One of the richest sources of omega-3, mackerel has greyish flesh with a rich flavour, which is best grilled or baked. As with most oil-rich fish, it is good for smoking, and makes a great paté. While herring provides the best alternative, mackerel is closely related to tuna, bonito, kingfish and wahoo.

Seafish

Oysters (native)

Three main varieties are available in the UK – native, Pacific (or rock), and Portuguese. The native (available September to April) is considered the best, but takes twice as long to grow, making it more expensive. Pacifics are available year round. Oysters should feel heavy for their size and be kept with the round ‘cupped’ part of the shell facing downwards to retain the moisture.

Seafish

Oysters (Pacific)

Three main varieties are available in the UK – native, Pacific (or rock), and Portuguese. The native (available September to April) is considered the best, but takes twice as long to grow, making it more expensive. Pacifics are available year round. Oysters should feel heavy for their size and be kept with the round ‘cupped’ part of the shell facing downwards to retain the moisture.

Seafish

Plaice

Unlike Dover sole, plaice is best eaten as fresh as possible as the flavour quickly fades. Whole fish are easily identified by distinctive orange spots, which also indicate freshness – the brighter the spots, the fresher the plaice. As pronounced a flavour as lemon sole, it takes sauces and other flavours very well, and is great for battering. Best avoided when in roe (around February to April), as the flesh is thin and watery.

Seafish

Sprats Witch

Meat & game

Duck (wild)

September 1 – January 31 inland (20 Feb below high water mark)
Mallard ducks are shot in the largest numbers and are the most readily available. Shot in much smaller numbers, as well as being much smaller birds, are teal, widgeon and tufted duck – to get your hands on these you either need to be at the top of your game dealer’s Christmas card list or know someone who flights duck: either way they are few and far between. Even rarer are gadwall, goldeneye, pintail, pochard and shoveler.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Common snipe Duck (wild)

September 1 – January 31 inland (20 Feb below high water mark)
Mallard ducks are shot in the largest numbers and are the most readily available. Shot in much smaller numbers, as well as being much smaller birds, are teal, widgeon and tufted duck – to get your hands on these you either need to be at the top of your game dealer’s Christmas card list or know someone who flights duck: either way they are few and far between. Even rarer are gadwall, goldeneye, pintail, pochard and shoveler.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Goose

It is illegal to sell, exchange or barter wild geese, so you can’t sell wild goose in your restaurant, but you could go out and shoot one just to eat with friends and family. However, the free range farmed alternative is widely available mainly at Christmas and a delicious alternative to turkey.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Grouse Hare (mountain)

Although hares are an excellent addition to a menu, not everyone is keen to see them on there as they are not consistently plentiful. That said, hares can carry disease-spreading ticks that can be devastating to the red grouse population and other birds, particularly on moorland. In these cases, it is important to control numbers for good moorland management practise. The largest volume of mountain hare tend be shot in February when gamekeepers have more time on their side: don’t be afraid to put hare on your menu out of season as lots of good food will have been put in game dealers’ freezers, which shouldn’t go to waste.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Lamb

Lamb is the term used for the meat of a sheep in its first year. Over one year old and it is referred to as hogget and the meat of an adult (two years and older) is known as mutton. Lambing takes place later the further north one goes, and therefore new season lamb will become available later. In Scotland ewes generally only give birth in the spring when the weather is better and the grass starts to grow. Although lamb is Easter’s traditional food, very little Scotch lamb is ready then: it is at its best and most plentiful from August until January. The lambs fatten on their mother’s milk and then grow on quality summer grass, which is a cheap, nutritious and natural feed. The delicate flavour of lamb is influenced, among other factors, by the age of the animal and the flavours of the pastures on which it grazes. In Scotland this can be grass, clover, heather moorland or even the saltiness of the seashore.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Partridge Pheasant

Pheasants are the most plentiful and common game bird found in the UK. This is reflected in the price: you can pick up a whole pheasant from your local game-dealer at a significant discount to a cooped-up barn reared chicken. We recommend swapping chicken suprêmes for pheasant breasts in any dish from curries to stir fries.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Ptarmigan Red deer hinds

Found predominantly in the Highlands, in open moorland and mountains, they are the largest breed of deer in the UK. Stags can be hunted between 1 July and 20 October, but the majority are shot between August and October – they are harder to stalk in July as they tend to be on higher ground. The average stag weighs between 160kg and 220kg. The smaller hinds (females) are in season from 21 October to 15 February, and weigh between 120kg to 170kg. Despite the legal seasons for shooting red deer, landowners can be licensed to protect their forestry from male deer all year, and thus the major processors generally have a year-round supply of venison.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Roe deer doe

A lowland deer, found throughout the British Isles in large numbers. They are quite small, ranging from 15 - 35kg. Though there are also seasons around roe deer, like red deer the bucks can be shot year round to protect forestry and farming interests. Roe deer are extremely tender and flavoursome, often preferred by chefs to red deer: on the flip side they are much smaller and slightly more expensive.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Sika deer hinds

First introduced into the UK in the 1860s, until recently sika had not established themselves in Scotland, but are now becoming more prevalent. In size they fall between a roe and red deer, and many argue are tastier than red deer as, being mainly forestry-based, they keep their condition better year round. Sika aren’t one to put on the menu full time due to consistency of supply, but are ideal for putting on as a special when one becomes available.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Woodcock

These beautifully tasty wild migratory birds are a delicacy on any menu. They are quite hard to come by, partly because not huge volumes are shot compared to other game birds, but also our European neighbours are fond of them and prepared to pay accordingly. If you want to see this on your menu you’ll have to show the colour of your money – but trust me, it is worth it.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Vegetables

Broccoli (calabrese) Beetroot

The most versatile of vegetables, beetroot has so many uses. It can be boiled; peeled and served cold in salads; grated raw and stir fried very quickly in walnut oil and flavoured with orange zest and juice; or grated and put into cakes with chocolate, to name but a few. " Fiona Burrell Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School " Probably Scotland’s most neglected and versatile vegetable is available almost all year. Baby beet is one of the first veg of the year – sweet, with tops like its cousin ruby chard, it needs no peeling. Different varieties have different sweetness: the glorious stick-of-rock chioggia, startlingly golden with its pink concentric circles, is not really sweet at all.

Patricia Stephen

Owner of Phantassie Organic Growers

Brussels sprouts

Finely shred the sprouts and stir fry with some bacon and garlic; add leftover ones to mashed potato for bubble and squeak, or make sprout bhajis by slicing and adding to a spicy batter before frying and serving with mint and yogurt dressing. Don’t put crosses in the base of sprouts before boiling, as they go soggy.

Fiona Burrell

Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School

Cabbages

So many and so old fashioned, or a source of good food value? Spring greens love bacon, pyramid cabbages hug butter, winter cabbages sup up gravy, while hard cabbage is good at slow cooking and at being raw and crunchy. All are easily available, and even if the outer leaves are a little ragged or tired, their heart will be in the right place.

Patricia Stephen 

Owner of Phantassie Organic Growers

Celeriac Celery (green & winter) Horseradish Jerusalem artichoke

These nutty, knobbly little tubers are wonderful in soup but they pair well with fish and game, either roasted or puréed. They can be sliced and put into a dish with sliced potatoes, sweated leeks and garlic, covered with cream and grated cheese and cooked until soft. Serve with roast lamb.

Fiona Burrell

Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School

Kale

Once the peasant winter staple producing food for the farmer and his animals, kale is now widely available nearly all year round. Italian black kale (cavalo nero) comes first, Scots and Russian kale last and for longest. As well as steaming or braising, turn it into winter pesto or vitamin and mineral-rich crisps. The newest veg on the block is a brussels/kale cross variously called Brukale or FlowerSprouts. Small heads are less brassica-ish than brussels and more substantial than kale, though need very thorough washing.

Patricia Stephen 

Owner of Phantassie Organic Growers

Kohlrabi (purple) Leeks

Leeks are very versatile, and team well with other ingredients such as smoked bacon and mature Scottish cheddar cheese in a quiche. They can be used instead of onions in a chicken and ham pie, put into soup with potatoes, cooked quickly with fish and shellfish or puréed to go into a leek and cheese soufflé.

Fiona Burrell

Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School

Onions Parsnips

When roasted, parsnips become sweet and caramelised, but they are also delicious if boiled and then pureed with a little butter and cream. Grate them with potato and cook as individual rosti or potato cakes. They work well in soup with a little cooking apple and can be used instead of carrots in a carrot cake recipe.

Fiona Burrell

Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School

Radish (winter) Romanesco Salsify Shallots Swede Turnips Winter squash

Amazing varieties from tennis ball-sized rolet gems to massive Crown Princes grow well in Scotland. They give a lot of vegetable bang for your buck: the dense flesh varies from honeyed to chestnutty, and the seeds can be roasted. They prefer being stored at room temperature. So far butternuts need southern warmth, but Scottish growers are trialling varieties constantly.

Patricia Stephen 

Owner of Phantassie Organic Growers

Herbs & wild food

Chanterelles Sea buckthorn

The East Lothian coast abounds with this spiny, silver leaved shrub. The bright orange berries ripen in early winter and are best collected when frozen, as they squash easily. It has an electrifying taste and an amazing vitamin and mineral line-up. Richly fruity, it goes well with game or made into drinks and sorbets.

Fiona Martynoga

Forager and Writer

Chestnuts Chives Common sorrel

Best in June, but available in many months where grass is cut, wild sorrel leaves have a fresh tang that will quickly flavour soup or sauces. Add them late to the cooking or use the youngest and most tender leaves in salads – they look like a small, smooth-leaved dock, and are in the same family as wood sorrel. The plant is common and will thrive on harvesting.

Fiona Martynoga

Forager and Writer

Crab apples Field mushrooms

Found from June until November, a field habitat is critical to identification. Be sure of this, especially to avoid yellow-staining mushrooms which cause sickness. If you don’t know your fungi, find a collector who does to enjoy the real, earthy flavour of mushrooms that cultivated ones seem to lack.

Fiona Martynoga

Forager and Writer

Garlic mustard

Its other name, Jack-by-the-hedge, describes the habitat of this biennial very well. The new growth of pale, heart-shaped, slightly crinkly leaves appears around October and can be harvested from then until the spring. Take only a few small leaves as they are pungent. Use in sauces or salads.

Fiona Martynoga

Forager and Writer

Lemon balm Marjoram Mint Oregano Reedmace Rose hip

Prolific in most years, the red hips of Rosa canina are easy to harvest from October to December. Mix with crab apples (or cooking apples) to make excellent jelly or syrups. You can also dry them slowly, whole, for tea. A dozen infused in a thermos for four hours makes half a litre of mellow tea, redolent of autumn.

Fiona Martynoga

Forager and Writer

Shaggy ink caps Sloes Wood hedgehog

Appearing from September to November, this is the latest of the common edible fungi. Wood hedgehogs are usually found under beech trees, though sometimes with birch or conifers. There is no other putty-coloured toadstool with spikes instead of gills. Their firm, white flesh is well flavoured and can be dried or frozen.

Fiona Martynoga

Forager and Writer

Fruit

Apples

The apple tree was the earliest to ever be cultivated. In Scotland, a recent surge of interest has seen new orchards being planted with heritage cultivars. Good Scottish varieties to look out for include: Coul Blush, our most northerly growing apple from Coul in Ross-shire – gold coloured, with sweet tasting, soft flesh; James Grieve, pleasantly acidic and refreshing, was developed at the end of 19th century, and Beauty of Moray - first recorded in 1883 - originated in the Moray Firth area. A green apple, it has crisp white flesh.

Donnie Macleod
Founder and Director of Macleod Organics

Pears