Updated: Aug 6, 2021
As the days grow longer and warm summer evenings beckon, it’s important to make the most of it – especially in Scotland. So, fire up the BBQ, invite your friends over, and create the ultimate Scottish summer feast with locally sourced meats.
Aberdeen Angus is a cattle breed that is seen as one of the best by many farmers. Angus were bred to be robust and sturdy so they could thrive in the cold Scottish winters, and so they developed more muscular bodies. The meat is known for its exceptional marbling, which means that the fat is dispersed evenly against the actual cut of meat, and it is believed to contribute to its superior texture, incredible tenderness, juiciness, and flavour. Purchase ready-made burgers, such as Donald Russell’s grass-fed Aberdeen Angus beef burgers, or make your own using Aberdeen Angus mince.
Buffalo meat is different from beef in many respects, but primarily it has a lower fat content, and its fat is milky white compared to the yellow-white fat of beef. The attractions to water buffalo are countless – they produce a very healthy meat that is lower in cholesterol, higher in mineral content and less than half the total fat content of conventional lean beef. It’s actually healthier than lamb, pork, and chicken too. As well as containing 24% protein per 100g of meat, buffalo meat has only 1.5% of fat compared to beef which contains 22% protein and 19% fat on average. Buffalo meat is also darker in colour and has exceptional flavour, which is a result, it is argued, of buffalo having not been subjected to many of the modern intensive farming practices. The Buffalo Farm has Scotland's largest herd of water buffalo, and the buffalo roam the hills at Clentrie Farm in Auchtertool. Their Buffalo Tuscan Burgers won a Great Taste Award, and boast subtle flavours of smoked pancetta and pecorino cheese, whilst their Buffalo Braveheart Burgers combine buffalo meat with peppercorn sauce, homemade haggis, and smoked streaky bacon. A guaranteed hit at any BBQ this summer.
Venison comes from the four wild deer species found in Scotland: roe, red, sika, and fallow. Roe and red deer are native species, whilst sika and fallow are East Asian and Mediterranean species respectively, and have become established as a result of deliberate releases and escapes from deer parks between the 11th and 19th century. With no natural predators, wild deer populations require management because of their impact on other land uses, causing damage by grazing and trampling, as well as their impact on the public (such as road traffic accidents). ‘Taking’ of wild deer is governed by open and close seasons that are different for each species and each sex, primarily ranging from March to October. However, because of these differences, and also because deer that damage crops and forestry can legally be shot out of season under a General License, it is possible for wild venison to be sourced all year round.
Tender and with a much lower fat content than that of beef, wild Scottish venison has a rich, gamey taste and a melt in the mouth texture. Venison can be enjoyed in many forms, such as sausages or burgers, and for the perfect Scottish BBQ few things are better than a venison steak. Sliced thinly and tenderised to release its sumptuous flavours, all a venison steak really needs before it is placed on the grill is a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Castle Game in West Lothian stock a full range of venison and also provide a variety of cuts including haunches, mince, burgers, and sausages.
Similarly, Highland Game in Dundee has been popularising venison since it was founded in 1997 by making it more accessible and available through mainstream retail channels. At the time, venison was not widely consumed in the UK, and just 5% of the venison produced in the UK was consumed domestically, with the remaining 95% exported to France and Germany primarily. Highland Game has since successfully helped to raise awareness and sales of venison, now supplying most UK supermarkets with the product, as well as caterers and restaurants.
Scotch lamb contains important nutrients and is a rich source of protein. It is also naturally low in sodium, and a natural source of potassium which helps maintain normal blood pressure.
Over 80% of Scottish farmland is not suitable for growing cereals and vegetables but ideal for beef and lamb production. Our farmers follow certain practices to help them farm sustainably and produce the highest quality Scotch lamb. Production plays an important part in sustaining the diverse landscape for which Scotland is famed. Scotland’s hill livestock farmers typically farm both cattle and sheep – a mixed grazing system which benefits landscape biodiversity, according to Scottish Natural Heritage.
Farming also plays an important part in social sustainability with over 50,000 jobs depending on the Scottish red meat industry, often in fragile rural communities. Scottish livestock farms typically remain in the same family, allowing farming skills to be passed down through generations. This includes invaluable knowledge of the terrain and conditions, as well as animal care skills. Livestock production has played a key role in Scotland’s social heritage for centuries, with cattle farming remaining at the heart of rural communities throughout the country.
Hebridean sheep are slower maturing than other sheep breeds, and the meat is generally referred to as ‘hogget’. Hogget is the word used to describe a lamb in its second spring or summer – so aged between one and two years. While still tender, a hogget’s extra time on pasture allows it to develop a flavour that is richer and fuller than lamb, but not as pronounced as older mutton. It is this satisfying depth of flavour, together with hogget’s texture, sweetness and versatility, that is helping the meat find new fans among chefs and home cooks. The meat itself is very lean and dark, with a succulent, tender texture, making it very different from more commercially available lamb meat. It also has a subtle gamey flavour, and no greasiness due to the lower fat content. Studies have also shown that Hebridean hogget meat is a healthier product than conventional lamb, with significantly lower cholesterol present in the meat and higher levels of Omega 3. A Hebridean rack of ribs with a sweet and sticky glaze would make a popular addition to any Summer BBQ.
Alternatively, use diced Scotch lamb meat for kebab skewers. Macbeth’s Butcher and Game Dealer in Forres, recommend marinading the meat with lemon and lime zest and juice, white wine, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, crushed coriander, white peppercorns, crushed fennel seeds, thyme and rosemary for unbeatable garlic lamb kebabs.
BBQ TOP TIPS:
Use high quality charcoal – and less of it. Think of this as an ingredient itself, a small amount of good quality charcoal can go a long way and make a real difference!
If you are cooking with gas, pop a chunk of smoking wood near the burners to add that traditional smoky BBQ flavour.
Use the best quality meat you can afford.
Use a digital probe thermometer for accuracy and confidence in your cooking. Remember the carryover. Most meat carries on cooking, going up a few degrees when you take it off the BBQ. Allow for this by taking meat off a few degrees before your target temperature.
Have fun! BBQs are all about trying new recipes, ingredients and techniques, and eating good food with even better company. Enjoy it!