1 A recent Ferret ( https://theferret.scot/ ) article by Rob Edwards about the effect of the coronavirus lockdown on traffic emissions made for interesting reading. Friends of the Earth Scotland analysed air pollution levels for 2020 and found that nitrogen oxide from traffic exhaust fumes was down by 30% from its 2019 figure. While that sounds like progress, it happened only because levels fell significantly from March to June when there was so much less traffic on our roads but air pollution went back up again from July onwards. Hope Street in Glasgow which is aye top of the Dirtiest Air League just managed to come in under the legal limit of 40 microgrammes of nitrogen dioxide in a cubic metre of air: its 2020 average figure was 35.87 compared with 55.67 in 2019. Then came Lochee Road in Dundee with an average of 31.09 compared with 42.96 the year before. Both the Scottish Government and COSLA have made commitments to reducing air pollution in our cities with the establishment of low-emission zones and the encouragement of walking and cycling areas, though the Green Party, quite rightly nipping at their heels, feel they could be doing much better and doing it faster.
One thing that’s been deaving me more and more as I walk in my local area is the number of selfish drivers sitting in stationary cars with their engines running. Inevitably they’re on their phones and many are well under-dressed: in t shirts or similar on a chilly day. I thought engine-idling was illegal under the Road Traffic Vehicle Emissions Fixed Penalty Scotland Regulations of 2003; there’s a fine of a whole £20 for offenders but I can’t say I’ve seen this ever being enforced. As you walk past, you can smell and sometimes even see the build-up of noxious gases and it’s no surprise that they’re so dangerous for folk with asthma and other respiratory problems or heart disease. And they wont be doing the rest of us any good either.
I can’t say it’s worked out too well the three times I’ve challenged such drivers. It’s high time that the 2003 Act was enforced more vigorously; collecting a lot more £20 fines would pay for warning notices on lamp posts and an advertising campaign stressing the risks to the health of us all.
2 I was very pleased recently to read that our Minister for the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon, had decided to bring in a licensing scheme for driven grouse moors although the Werrity Report of 2020 had recommended doing so in five years time. The noted nature writer Jim Crumley did an excellent job of demolishing the oh-so-predictable arguments that came steaming out of the likes of Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Countryside Alliance. Have a look at his article in The Courier on 1 December entitled “Scottish grouse shooting industry ‘has only itself to blame for the Government’s licensing decision'” or read it on the RaptorPersecutionUK blog on its 2 December page.
3 Earlier last year, I was equally happy to see the Scottish Parliament bringing in a ban on the mass culling of mountain hares with the animals given protection under the Animals and Wildlife (Scotland) Act 2020. Their killing alas can still take place if NatureScot issues a special licence and the ban does not come into force until March this year; January and February are two of the open season months and I fear that hare corpses are being piled high as I write this. Nor am I naïve enough to think that licences will not be handed out by NatureScot, nor that the ban will be fully respected by all landowners.
( See also: “…. and little hunted hares” on https://splendidbella.wordpress.com/2019/9 )
The illegal killing of birds of prey has continued in parts of Scotland with few prosecutions resulting and both the SSPCA and the police find themselves overstretched when it comes to investigating and proving crimes against our wildlife. A task force set up by the Government to investigate wildlife crime which was to have been set up last summer has been majorly delayed with a starting date of “later this year”. I was horrified to hear that stronger powers for SSPCA officers were first proposed in 2011 – a good ten years ago!
1 As you may know, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to cranachan, being the founding, and so far the only, member of the Campaign for Real Cranachan. The only permitted ingredients are cream and toasted oatmeal, with a few raspberries thrown in if it’s a special occasion. I have absolutely no truck with the more recent additions of honey or whisky.
It was with a mix of horror and amusement then that I read through the ingredients in chef Paul Wedgwood’s recipe for Cranachan with Brambles in The Herald Magazine on 16 January. I have no quarrel with the brambles (in their season or out of the freezer). He does include cream and oats, but he also wants white chocolate, butter, demerara sugar, flour, bicarb, salt, milk, egg yolk, more sugar, honey, whisky and vanilla. Instead of toasting the oats, whipping the cream and then combining the two, he wants us to palaver about boiling cream and then whisking with the chocolate before cooling overnight; next day we’re to whip it again before adding the brambles, then make a biscuit-type mixture to be baked and broken into a crumble; after that, we’ve to make a kind of fancy custard using yet more cream before adding the honey and whisky which have been boiled in a separate pan and cooled. I could but won’t go into the further details of piping, sprinkling, drizzling and garnishing. I’m sure it’d be lovely to look at when put in front of you in a fancy restaurant but if attempted at home, I’d be weeping from exhaustion at the state of my kitchen.
2 I recently had a go at the Free Church over their links with slave-owning states but I have to say they make a damntie fine pancake. I got the recipe from a Free Church recipe book via cousin Mairi and while my previous attempts had resulted in old bits of leather, from this recipe I turned out something recognisable as a traditional pancake in appearance and taste. You need 10 oz of self raising flour, 2 oz caster sugar, 1 level teaspoon of bicarb and the same of cream of tartar, a pinch of salt, 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon of syrup (maple or similar is fine) and just over a quarter pint of milk. I know though that however often I practise, I’ll never approach the standard of the doyenne of pancake-making – Mairi’s auntie, the late Ella MacLeod of Ardgay.
3 With Monday night’s left over mashed tatties, I made a few potato scones yesterday, eating some with my re-heated haggis and neeps. I had the last of them cold today and they were just fine, unlike pancakes which I think need to be eaten when freshly made. I was looking at a Jamie Oliver recipe for gnocchi recently and it struck me that the ingredients – potato and flour – were exactly the same as for the scones. Then I saw Meera Sodha’s recipe for Tattie Rotis in The Guardian on 23 January: combine mashed Maris Piper, rapeseed oil, salt, nigella seeds and plain flour, then roll out and cook on a girdle (or similar) for one and a half minutes on each side. These were to accompany her vegan haggis kheema. When I can track down some nigella seeds, I’m definitely trying out these rotis.
My first two tattie scones from yesterday’s batch – a bit well-fired maybe, but the first ones are always a test run anyway.
4 Finally, I’m lamenting the disappearance from shop shelves of Paterson’s triangle oatcakes which I was praising in my post on Oats: still supporting the people in January 2019. I used to be able to get them in Tesco, and when they disappeared from there, I got them in my local Morrisons but now I can’t find them at all. In fact, when I get off here, I’m going to email Patersons to ask just what they’re playing at. Though I see the company is now called Paterson Arran which does not bode well.
5 That wasn’t “Finally” at all, cause I’m back on to praise Claire Rennie of the drinks firm Walter Gregor, based in Aberdeenshire; she’s had the imagination and the gumption to produce a tonic water with a neep flavour which, alas, is only a limited edition one. I’ve tried it, and it definitely has an aroma of neep but I feel the taste could be stronger – if she makes more in future. She’s recommending customers to pair it with Ogilvy, a vodka made in Angus from ‘wonky’ potatoes which would otherwise have gone to waste for not being a satisfactory shape for selling to supermarkets. They started doing this in 2014 and have been selling 10,000 bottles a year, so good on them too.