I recently attended the Royal Highland Show as a guest of Quality Meat Scotland and was fortunate enough to catch up with Jak O’Donnell, Chef/Patron of The Sisters restaurant, after her demonstration of cooking with Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork. After a good chat about Scottish food I was delighted that she agreed to share some of her passion for cooking with the best this country has to offer in an interview.
My motto is KISS. Keep It Scottish & Simple
You are clearly a champion of Scottish food. What in your mind defines the food of Scotland and what excites you about it?
Every element from the actual produce to the people who spend their life dedicating time and hard work to growing, or rearing, or catching it. We are blessed to have access to such produce on our doorstep!!
You said that good cooking is 90% about good shopping, with more of a focus on eating local and sustainably how do you think people can best get back to shopping locally and supporting local suppliers in that ‘good shopping’
Good shopping is the most important ingredient on any list or recipe, shopping local and getting to know the producer is a small step to reassure the consumer, to allow them to make that informed decision of, yes this really does taste better!!
We spoke about the requirement for people to start eating seasonally again and how this is the next big focus for sustainability, which Scottish season is your favourite and why?
I guess like everyone summer has to be the best because so much is in abundance! However Scotland has such varying seasons i.e. daily!! However there is a monthly calendar which is your best bet to watch what is available.
Which is your best kept Scottish kitchen secret?
The best secret for me is doing literally nothing to serve the best Scottish culinary feast e.g shell a hand dived scallop thinly slice drizzle with your favourite Scottish tipple and serve. We could even do that on the boat!!
What Scottish foods defined your childhood and make you nostalgic?
The most nostalgic piece of Scottish food for me has to be homegrown rhubarb. I was handed a poke of sugar at the back door and my love affair for homegrown food began, I still love dunking young rhubarb spears in a wee paper cone of sugar! Then my Grannie called me in for rhubarb crumble and custard, and the rest as the say is history!!
Do you think that Scottish food is shaking off the ‘deep fried’ misconception it has in so many minds? If so how do we continue the journey?
Although the “deep fried” nonsense sends me to orbit, it is such a small minority that focus on that word, we all have to continue flying the flag for Scottish food & drink. It’s not just about 2015 being the year of Food & Drink, for me it’s been the past 18yrs of serving and cooking with Scottish produce. We have to be as passionate about it every year as we are this year!
If you could give people three Scottish ingredients to get them cooking from scratch with fresh produce which would you give them?
Super easy to think of lots as we are spoiled but it’s hard to narrow it down to 3!!! So I’ll give you the choice of two dishes of three ingredients….
Gorgeous piece of Scotch beef, large bunch of local wild garlic & a splash of great Scottish cream
Gorgeous wild venison awesome Scottish raspberries & Scotch raspberry vinegar (cooked in 5mins heaven)
These would both work very well. My motto is KISS. Keep It Scottish and Simple….
That is something I’d definitely agree with, thanks to Jak for the time taken to share her thoughts.
Jak O’Donnell is Chef/Patron of The Sisters restaurants in Glasgow. Having worked with some of the biggest names in Scottish food and beyond she is firmly focused on cooking with the best produce Scotland has to offer. A finalist in The Great British Menu in 2014 representing Scotland, you can catch her on STV in Jak and Eddie’s Scottish Kitchen.
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All images copyright of Jak O’Donnell