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l'escargot blanc - Scottish Larder Series
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L'Escargot Blanc
17 Queensferry Street,
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0131 226 1890
Open Mon-Thurs 12 noon-2.30pm and 5.30pm-10pm. Friday and Sat 12 noon-3pm and 5.30pm-10.30pm. Closed Sunday.

Heritage meat from The Ark of Taste

When you think of extinct species it’s orangutans and pandas that spring to mind, not cows and sheep.   

In the seventies and eighties though, native Shetland cattle and many breeds of Hebridean Sheep were identified as being in danger of extinction. John and Morna Cuthbert now rear black-fleeced, horned sheep (*cuteness alert*) at Ardoch Farm in the Ochil Hills and Jacob Eunson farms the native ‘Kye’ cattle at Urudale in Shetland.

I am about to eat both in l’escargot blanc in the form of lamb caillette and various cuts of beef. 

Frederic Berkmiller is an active ambassador for Scottish produce in his restaurants, l’escargot blanc et bleu, and both the sheep and the cattle are listed in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.

Other Scottish heritage foods in The Ark include Rouge d’Ecosse Wheat, Musselburgh Leek, Barra Snails, Mr Little’s Yeltholm Gypsy Potato, The Bloody Ploughman, Native Black Bees and Prestonfield Rhubarb.

I am at the first of a Scottish Larder series of events showcasing Scottish produce transformed into French cuisine, Fred’s speciality. 

True to form he has purchased whole carcasses for some nose to to tail dishes. 

First up is hogget caillette which is a traditional recipe from Tours where Fred is from and is a haggis-shaped casing of offal and hogget. In the UK this is traditionally known as a faggot. Purslane from Newton Walled Garden where Fred grows his veg is garnish. Its freshness complements the sweet meat which is less greasy than lamb.

Sheep graze on non-mono culture grass contributing to biodiversity and adding to flavour through the herbs ingested. They are slower maturing, and the result is officially known as hogget (between lamb and mutton). Meat is classed as mutton when it is two years old while commercial lambs lives only 4 months. 

Next is the Kye beef which has full organic status and has been served juicy and rare. The cattle have superior levels of omega 3 and 6 as well as zinc and iron.  As with the Ardoch sheep, because the animals are matured slower than commercial beef, the meat develops distinctive flavour from ageing and being grass fed. The aftertaste coats your mouth and lingers.  Al dente red and white cabbage is a wintry accompaniment, and I detect subtle spicing of nutmeg and star anise. On the side, we have big copper pots of braised shin of beef which has been made into what Fred's wife Betty (also French) presents at ‘your cottage pie'. Parmentier potatoes have been forked into crispy peaks. 

Ile flottante with crème anglaise is a delicious dessert, and a fellow diner met in the Ladies says:" I would happily order this for my last meal."
Enough said. 

The first in this series of suppers at l'escargot restaurants was a roaring success so I am confident we can look forward to more seasonal local produce throughout the coming year. (S. Wilson)

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