David Dickson reviews Wild Hearth Bakery and Belhaven Smokehouse

Wild Hearth Bakery, Comrie

The bread baked by Wild Hearth Bakery of Comrie by John Castley is to be found being served at Gleneagles Hotel. The late Andrew Fairlie endorsed it thus - I thought I had tried the best sourdough in the world in San Francisco – that was until I tasted Wild Hearth’s. It is so exceptionally good I am proud to say I serve it to our guests in the restaurant. Comrie is the new home of remarkable sourdough. Sourdough may be seen as artisanal and the in thing; however, do not scoff. (Isn't that what you're supposed to do with it? - Ed) It is healthy, nutritious, good for your gut and more easily digested than bread made by the commercial Chorleywood bread process introduced in 1961. It keeps longer and, as the helpful leaflet which accompanies the bread points out, it can be easily revived but after a day or two makes fantastic and satisfying toast. The hydration is the key to crumb and the characteristic holes in the bread. The bakery uses a wood fired oven to bake its products which, in itself brings another flavour dimension. A quick look on the website indicates they deliver across central Scotland. Sadly, not to the outskirts of Glasgow. No problem, said enthusiastic Hamish, one of John's staff, put in your order and just add a note saying I said we would deliver. True to his word, at 0820 on Wednesday morning, 3 large paper bags of assorted breads arrived to be divvied up en famille. There is currently a minimum spend of £15 for free home delivery but, if you can get a few friends together and you take delivery of the bread, that drops to a minimum order of £8.

The bread itself is truly exceptional. The Swiss Highland Rye is based on a recipe from the Walliser region of Switzerland, made using Scotland the Bread’s wholemeal rye flour and is a subtle sweet delight. The Yorkshire whole wheat has is a robust, nutty and deeply flavoursome loaf made 100% Yorkshire grown and stoneground wholemeal flour. The fig and walnut was delightfully paired with a sharp blue cheese and glass of claret. Finally, the French baguette was true to its word: beautifully light yellow crumb with great aeration. Apart from bread, Wild Hearth also provide a variety of sweet yeasted pastries in both richly buttered and vegan variants and will even deliver coffee from the Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters based in Aberfeldy.

Belhaven Smokehouse, Dunbar

The fish to be found at Belhaven Smokehouse can be ordinarily found in numerous top end restaurants, including at Number One at the Balmoral Hotel, Rufflets and The Witchery. Unlike Wild Hearth Bakery, the fish farm does have a small retail shop which is currently open for over the counter sales on specified times and days. They sell a wide range of fresh fish whether shellfish or wet fish. However, they come into their own with salmon and trout. Trout is farmed on the doorstep with the salmon coming from Orkney. The award winning salmon, however, is smoked in-house and a wide range is available.  Whether you fancy your smoked salmon traditional or smoked with NB gin, you’ll find it here.  Our current favourite is one of those ordinarily available only wholesale. It is charcoal smoked salmon with a light charcoal rim. Sublime atop a slice of Wild Hearth’s Swiss Highland Rye with its dark, dense, sweet crumb and the slight hint of coriander (although none is included). If you ask nicely (as we always do being regular customers), you may even find yourself going home with a side of salmon for around £24: that ended up as 10 good sized fillets. If you are very lucky, they will throw in those skirts of the salmon. I am told that restaurants remove these and use them for pate as they distort the shape of the fillet. The in-house smoked trout is also a joy: beautifully pink and tender.

Wild Hearth Wood Fired Bakery, 15A Cultybraggan Camp, Comrie, Perthshire PH6 2AB

07909 295596     www.wildhearthbakery.com/

Belhaven Smokehouse, Beltonford, Dunbar, East Lothian, EH42 1ST

01368 864025   www.belhavensmokehouse.co.uk/

About the reviewer: David Dickson came into my life many years ago as Distinguished Literary Editor of the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland. He has ably assisted my researches for numerous Tom Eats! columns. In real life he is a solicitor advocate, cook and baker extraordinaire, gourmet, raconteur, wit, etc, etc.

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