This photo may have you guessing … I couldn’t get quite the right perspective on it but let me explain … you’re looking upwards to a roof. Below you, there’s a hopper collecting the stuff in the next picture. Those round things that look as if they have wire cables coming out of them are in fact extruders, squeezing out waste products, like toothpaste maybe. As the ‘cord’ lengthens, it drops off, leaving this:
Any guesses? Clue: it’s not generally used for human consumption, although I believe it would be safe to eat. Instead, it’s fed to the dairy cows in the next door farm, as a rich supplement to their normal feed. These contented cows have recently won a contract with Graham’s, one of the biggest milk businesses in Scotland, so clearly their diet works for them. But what is it?
Last week I had a fascinating visit with my friend Kate to Carrington Barns Farm in Midlothian, near Gorebridge. This is the home of Supernature rapeseed oils, and since visiting their stall at the Cupar Farmers Market several months back, I’d been intending to pay them a call. So – a lovely lunch with Kate, and off we went.
There’s been a lot of investment and innovation in the Scottish rapeseed farming industry over the last ten years or so. Many chefs have begun to recognise the good provenance of the cold-pressed versions of the oils, and are using it where in the past, olive oil would have reigned supreme. My young Greek and Italian friends on the Food Innovation course look aghast at the mere suggestion of substituting their beloved homeland oils and I guess I’d be the same if I were far from home. But hey – food miles and all that; Scottish jobs; sustainability … we have to think about these things.
Lynn and Chris Mann launched Supernature in 2011 and have already won a number of awards. Follow this link to see them pictured with Jay Rayner, no less. Chris showed us round last week and explained that they are tenant farmers and were looking for a bit of an edge in a difficult era for farmers. They were already rotating their barley/wheat crops with Spring Rapeseed, selling the rapeseed on for mass production; and thought they would have a go at doing it themselves. However they are doing it the gourmet way.
So – back to the top picture which as you will now have realised, is the machine which crushes the little black seeds (between peppercorns and mustard seeds in size), feeds the oil through a filtering process, and squeezes out the remaining sediment which is used as cattle cake. It smells nice and cakey and fresh. The filtered oils are blended with natural flavours to produce a wide range of delicious oils for use either raw or cooked (rapeseed has a much higher boiling point than olive oil so doesn’t spoil at high temperatures).
The prices above, if you can make them out, are discounted if you go to the farm; I usually pay an extra pound or two at the farmers’ market. They’re pretty good value in my view.
The Guild of Fine Food awards (3 stars for their Black Truffle; 2 stars for their Dill and their Chilli; 1 star for most of the others) led to Supernature Cold-Pressed Rapeseed Oils being sold in Harrods Food Hall. This in turn has led to important contracts with leading stores in Dubai and Hong Kong; and foreign sales are now as important to the business as home sales. And all this in six years of trading?
Anyway, impressive as this record is, I just want to say – I haven’t tasted all the oils yet but intend to do so. I have used lemongrass, ginger and basil and they are all absolutely delicious. I especially like the lemongrass, as using the fresh ingredient is a bit of a footer – not always available or easy to obtain, and you can’t use it all at once. So a prize-winning oil with lemongrass already infused in it is a handy thing indeed.
I’m not being sponsored for any of this, in case you’re wondering! And there are lots of other farmers doing great oils. But if you’re still hesitating over the rapeseed vs. olive question, I urge you to give this one a try.