My passion to bring the best Scottish produce to the kitchens of Scottish restaurants has led me to David Oakes, who has been diving for Scallops on Skye since 1987. What is remarkable about David amongst many other things, is his longevity, diving is a young man’s game and David remains fit enough to still dive daily – testament to his drive and passion. With age (he may not thank me for saying) comes experience and this he has in abundance. From our twenty minute chat in his cosy, peat fire fuelled sitting room on the banks of Loch Sligachan, David told me enough to not only swell my knowledge, but to persuade me that his Scallops should be found in the very best restaurants on the mainland. I look forward to expanding me knowledge further over the coming weeks, months and years and sharing this with you all. As we travelled round Skye we always noticed David’s Scallops on the best menu’s ahead of other divers, he has been supplying The Three Chimney’s for the past 12 years. David has a Several Fishery order for Loch Sligachan; which gives him the ability to be truly sustainable as well as supplying the best and most consistent product.

What is a several fishery order?

Our sea-beds are available for anyone to fish, however a very select few are granted a several fishery order that gives them the right to cultivate and manage an area that nobody else can touch. After a rigorous vetting process David is amongst only a handful on the UK coastline to be granted such an order. They are incredibly rare. David’s order covers an area of about 40 hectares on Loch Sligachan. This order allows David to manage cultivate and look after his area over the long term. With no pressure from others taking Scallops that are not ready to harvest. From a consumers point of view this allows David to pick you the most consistent sized and best quality Scallops.

Double Dived, what does this mean?

David’s several order gives him the security to lift Scallops from deeper waters on Loch Sligachan and “finish” them in the shallower waters, where the plankton is thicker and the Scallops can feed and achieve their full potential, giving a higher yield and a better taste, the “finishing” takes over two years. You can tell that David’s Scallops are in optimum condition when they are presented as the flat side of the shell starts to gently bulge and curve.

Quantities and Price

The number of Scallops that David can harvest is limited and we are very lucky that David has granted us the option to 100kg per week, about 400 Scallops. This number could increase, but there is a two year lead in time, as David would have to increase the number of Scallops he brings up from the deeper ground to the shallows! Double diving and the several order does mean these special scallops sell at a premium to regular hand dived scallops, but the increased yield from the shallow water finish does mean that it is in fact better value not to mention the improved taste. David tells me that the yield from the double dived Scallops averages about 25% compared to about 17% for a dredged Scallop and somewhere between the two for a dived scallop depending on the quality of the diver. There are many more fascinating bits of information David told me , such as sea water temperature rises and the effect (positive) this as had on Scallop reproduction. I’ll save that for another time.


Sadly, we are no longer able to collect David’s Scallops due to government regulation.

A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to visit a cottage in Haddington that has been converted into a chocolate factory. The experience left me convinced that I had discovered one of Scotland’s finest producers and products. Yes, quite a statement given some of the ingredients available in Scotland’s larder; from the best Shellfish to the finest Whisky and I am saying that Chocolate made in Scotland is up there.

Bean-to-bar revolution.

The bean-to-bar chocolate movement follows the ever increasing desire among consumers to know more about the food they eat, and of producers satisfying this need by creating locally crafted less processed ingredients. This trend in chocolate follows in the path of craft beers, small scale cheeses and artisan charcuterie and of course fine wine.
The bean-to-bar Chocolate movement has been slower to catch on due to high equipment costs and difficulties sourcing the ingredients, but catch on it has the bean-to-bar chocolate movement is now firmly established in North America with small scale craft chocolate makes such as Rogue, Ritual, Dandelion, Patric and Soma starting in the mid-naughtiesm and today seen as some of the best Chocolate in the world.

Food trend from America to Europe

Ali and Friederike Gower started making bean-to-bar chocolate from their base in Haddington about ten years ago, have been one of the early adopters of this side of the Atlantic making them one of the most established and experienced makers alongside michelin starred Parisian chef Alain Ducasse.


Ali’s background is as an artist and is the creative brain and Frederike is an extremely skilled mathematician, which is useful when you consider there are 500 chemical compounds within a cacoa bean, and an extremely talented pastry chef.


The past ten years has been spent sourcing and visiting their farmers in Peru, Madagascar, Columbia and Venezuela making sure they are using the best native strains and fostering good relations.
It has also involved much experimenting and constant improving of the chocolate making processes and have picked up some of Scotland’s leading chefs such as Geoffrey Smeddle of The Peat Inn and Scott Davis at The Three Chimneys.
Geoffrey Smeddle is quoted below;
”For more than a decade I imported Amedei Chocolate from Italy because I believed it was the best I could find but since January 2015 I have used only chocolate from The Chocolate Tree. Ali and his team not only offer a diverse range of chocolate, with complex aromas, absorbing flavour and outstanding texture but they do all this with two key differences from other producers: they make chocolate form bean to bar, with ethical links to the source and they do all this right here in Scotland. The result is a gorgeous chocolate I can trust and love.”

Single Estate Cacao and its benefits to flavour and the environment.

Most of us have grown used to chocolate made from a blend of Cacao from different strains and regions often made with high yielding non native varieties, which in turn drain nutrients from the soil and have an adverse effect on the local ecosystem and thus the very flavour of the end product.
The craft bean-to-bar movement has begun a process persuading small, often very impoverished farmers, to grow native varieties over higher yielding stains in return for a better price. These native varieties are conducive to creating a far better and more natural ecosystem that benefit local biosphere, which ultimately determines the varying different flavour profiles of each Chocolate .

Region, Flavour and Taste

Each origin and cacao variety has a distinct effect on the flavour resulting in completely varying tasting chocolate for example
Peru Maranon Dark 70%
A classic dark chocolate made from pure national cacao and grown on small farms in Peru. The are distinct in that they have 40% pure white bean, an unprecedented discovery according to Dr Lyndel Meinhardt Lead Researcher, USDA. Three Michelin starred restauranteur Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York, describes the Maranon beans;
“I am a chocoholic. This chocolate made with Peruvian Pure Nacional beans is the best chocolate I have ever tasted”.

The Fruit and Flora notes in the dark beans and nutty flavor notes in the white beans are perfect for infusions.

The legacy of purchasing these chocolates

Other than purchasing a product with stunningly distinct flavours made right here in Scotland, you are also purchasing a Chocolate that you can trace right back to the single farm and farmer who grows them, Ali makes an effort to try and visit every one he works with, you are also supporting rare native strains and encouraging the revival and securing the future of rare native strains of Cacao for the next generation. These native strains are vital for local biospheres all sorts of different plants, fruits, insects and ultimately the very taste of the Chocolate that ends up on your plate. A noble pursuit I would say.

On sale from Ochil Foods

Peru Maranon 70% – £22.90/kg


British Rosé Veal – Why we must Champion it?
Veal has been a dirty four letter word since the 1990s. But thanks to some enterprising, ethical farmers across the UK, it is beginning to rightly be viewed as one of the most sustainable meats available.
We must continue to support and Champion British ethically produced Rosé Veal. This article attempts to explain why.

What is Veal?
Veal comes from the calves of milking cows. Although Veal can come from calves of both sexes, the majority comes from bullocks, as they can’t be used for milking. If there is not enough demand for veal consumption the bullocks are killed at birth and disposed of, hence why we should all encourage the eating of Rosé Veal, the most sustainable of meats.

What is Rosé Veal?

Rosé Veal in the UK is raised under strict welfare guidelines. Its name comes from its pink colour, which is a result of the calves being slaughtered at around 35 weeks.

What is White Veal?

White Veal calves are kept in confined spaces on slats or concrete or even in crates so they can’t eat anything else but milk. They stay on milk for 20-22 weeks and consume up to 22 litres per day. White Veal is not to be encouraged for these reasons.

What is the life cycle of a Rosé Veal Calf?

On Veal Farms, the calves are kept in spacious natural light-filled open sheds, with open sides on thick straw beds to keep out the damp.
The calves are fed solely on milk for the first eight weeks of their life. The quantities consumed are closely monitored to ensure healthy calves. They are fed a maximum of seven litres of milk a day, followed by a starter pellet and then a blend. They are kept up until they are 8 months old, living a comfortable, happy, healthy and spacious life.

Why we should eat Rosé Veal?
If we don’t eat the bullocks of dairy cows, what happens to them? Despite the recent upsurge in popularity and understanding of Rosé Veal, large numbers are still shot at birth. In 2009, 260,000 calves were killed at birth as a waste product of the UK dairy industry. Of those that were spared some were exported and raised as white veal, which was banned in the UK in the 1990’s. (Matt Walton 2009 (
Which ones are the lucky ones is a matter of your point of view.
I think this gives a pretty compelling argument as to the ethical and sustainable reasons for choosing British rose veal.
It is therefore our responsibility as farmers, producers, suppliers and chefs to champion Rosé Veal.






What Cuts of Veal are available?
o Veal Topside
o Veal Silverside
o Loin
o Knuckle
o D Rump
o Rib Eye
o Shin B/in
o Diced Shoulder
o Liver
o Sweetbread
o Cheeks

The Farmers
We work with Buitelaar Rosé Veal, based in Wrexham, North Wales. Ethically reared through their integrated and fully traceable supply chain, their multi-award winning British Rosé Veal is renowned for exceptional tenderness and eating quality.
Their Rosé Veal animals are reared to the highest of welfare standards on family farms which has seen their supply chain win the 2019 Compassion in World Farming Good Calf Award. Their full traceability allows them to track every animal processed from farm to fork. They provide regular on-farm support to their farmers to ensure they meet their stringent specifications and techniques required throughout production.


The earliest records of Lobster fishing can be dated back to 12th Century, when they were caught using crook nets. It is more common today to catch Lobsters using bated creels. The majority of landings come from the East Coast, Hebrides, Orkney and South Minch.

What they feed on?

European Lobsters tend to live on hard ground in shallow waters on the edge of Kelt beds. Their diets consist of benthic invertebrates (crabs, sea urchins, star fish etc.) and also plants and fish.

How long do they live?

Lobsters can grow very old, the oldest recorded lobster being 72 years old. The potential reproductive lifespan of a female is 40 years old.
A year in the life of a lobster

June and July

Eight Five per cent of all lobster shed their shells (moult) during June and July. After moulting the new shell is very soft. The result of this is that the weight of a lobster is made up of more water than meat, up to 90% after first moulting. A soft shelled Lobster is therefore very expensive, as you are paying for a lot of sea water!
Lobsters mate just after shedding their sell, which is another reason for not buying soft shelled lobster (or any crustaceans).

July to September

Feeding time!!
During this time the Lobsters build up the strength of their shell and are in a feeding frenzy, the meat content rises to a peak, so they are ready to face the hard winter, when they hibernate. The end of summer/beginning of autumn is therefore the best time to have lobster on your menu.
The meat content is so much higher at the end of the summer that even if the price per kg of a whole lobster was three times that of when it first moulted, it would still be cheaper per kg of lobster meat.

September and October

The lobster starts to slow down its feeding and get ready to hibernate for winter. This is still a good time to have lobster on your menu, because they are both high in meat and also still being caught in good numbers by the fishermen, so the price tends to be good.

November – February (Hybernation)
Over the winter months when the water temperature drops lobsters go into hibernation to conserve energy. They hibernate in deep water, which makes them harder to catch.

March – May

As water temperatures start to heat up, lobsters return to more shallow ground, after few months in hibernation they are hungry and they go on another feeding frenzy, making spring another good time to put lobster on the menu.

Making lobster fishing more sustainable

Fishermen in some of the most remote and wild corners of Scotland, would not be able to survive and provide for their families if they only could fish for lobster in late summer, early Autumn and spring. Therefore modern techniques/technology have been adopted to extend the seasons and also make fishing more sustainable.
Rather than putting soft shelled lobster back into the water to grow, they now put them into tanks and transport them to sea cages on shallow beds, where they mate. The males are kept in the cages and sold as food over the winter months, which allows the fishermen a continued income over the tougher winter months. The females who carry their fertilized eggs for 9-11 months before hatching are returned to the wild. The “berried” females are very difficult to catch during this time, nature!
During the moulting months these fishermen also grade out the harder shelled fish that don’t moult (15%) and also those that have not moulted yet, allowing them to sell these ones during the summer months.

What to look out for when buying a lobster

The majority of fishermen are honest and trustworthy, like anything there are also a few out to make a quick buck, who would happily sell a soft shelled lobster. The most important things to watch when buying a lobster are, in this order.
Is the lobster carrying eggs?
How hard is its shell?
Only after working out these two things should you look at price per kg

Interested in buying Scottish Lobster
All our lobsters come from Arbroath and Orkney.