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Cheesy Yoghurt Topped Haddock

This week, like the skeilie Flag webmaster Alastair McIntyre, we visit the Fife burgh of St Monans. Alastair is staying in the town for a  few weeks - very handy for bar lunches with Marilyn and Peter Wright!
St Monans is perhaps the most typical fishing village in the East Neuk, huddled against the sea wall right on the shoreline. The burgh was originally called Inverin, meaning the village at the mouth of the Inverin burn. St Monans took its present name from the presence of a shrine said to contain the relics of St Monan, the Irish missionary companion of St Adain. The shrine, which became known for its healing powers, attracted pilgrims and a settlement grew up around it to provide shelter, food and souvenirs. A wounded David II, King of Scots, visited the shrine in 1362, His wounds healed, and as a mark of his gratitude he built a church, now a distinctive landmark on the shore west of the village. The Auld Kirk of St Monans became ruinous after the Reformation, but was reroofed in 1646 to become the town's parish church. Further restoration was carried out between 1826-8 under the supervision of architect William Burn and the interior was restored in 1955. In the clifftop graveyard skull-and- crossbones- decorated mariners' graves are regularly washed by salt sea-spray. In death as in life the St Monans people can say, in the words of their burgh motto, Mare Vivimus ( We live by the Sea).
Beyond the church stand the ruins of Newark Castle, built by the Sandilands family and bought by General Sir David Leslie in 1649. He led an army of Covenanters who fought for the freedom of the Scottish Kirk and defeated the Marquis of Montrose and troops loyal to Charles I at Philiphaugh, near Selkirk, in 1645. The Scottish Covenanting army, under Leslie's command, changed sides and supported Charles II against the English Parliamentary army under Oliver Cromwell, but were defeated at Dunbar in 1650. In spite of this defeat the Scottish army invaded England but were defeated at Worcester in 1651, and Sir David Leslie was taken prisoner. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London, but on the restoration of Charles II, Leslie was released and given the title of Lord Newark. In the 19th century, the architect Sir Robert Lorimer developed a scheme to restore Newark Castle for Sir William Burrell, the wealthy Glasgow shipping merchant. If the plan had gone ahead, the Burrell Collection might have ended up in St Monans, instead of Glasgow! Beside the Castle stands a 16th century beehive-shaped doocot, which supplied the lairds with fresh meat during the winter.
As we have seen from the burgh's motto the sea has always been important to St Monans, and boats have been fishing out of the town since it was founded. The original pier, on the site of the present pier, was a very simple one, thought to have been built by Baron Newark in the mid 15th century and improved in the early 16th century. In the 18th century, St Monans boats were catching haddock and cod to sell locally and in Edinburgh, and herring for export. To better accommodate larger boats, a new harbour was built, paid for by the local fishermen in 1865, who could then afford to extend it westwards in 1877-79.St Monans' other industry was boat-building, with the first company in the burgh, James Miller & Sons Ltd, established in 1779. Although the boatyard closed in 1992, boat-building has been revived on a smaller scale under the Miller name.
Evidence of another industry can be seen on the Pittenweem side of the burgh. A restored windmill is a reminder of the short-lived salt industry in St Monans. Sir John Anstruther and Robert Fall set up Newark Coal and Salt Company and, in 1771, began extracting low-grade coal at nearby Coal Farm. The windmill was used to evaporate sea water in iron pans along the shore. The salt produced was transported along a wooden, horse-drawn waggon-way to Pittenweem harbour for export. The settling tank and channel can still be seen while recent excavations have revealed the remains of the nine pan-houses. Salt production was abandoned by 1823.
In SNP circles, no mention of St Monans can be made without invoking memories of the late Provost James M Braid. A stalwart local councillor from his return to St Monans, after war-time service in the RAF, James M Braid along with fellow Fife SNP colleague Dr James C  Lees, in conjunction with SNP National Organiser Ian MacDonald,  was responsible for the massive increase in the ranks of the National Party during the 1960s. He was also responsible for organising massive turn-outs of some 20,000 at the annual SNP Bannockburn Day Rally. He fully deserves his place amongst the list of those who served the National Cause well, although the importance of his role in the Party's upsurge appears to be lost on historians of the National Party.
As fishing has played a major part in the life of St Monans over the centuries, this week's recipe has to be fish based and Cheesy Yoghurt Topped Haddock is just the ticket.
Cheesy Yoghurt Topped Haddock
Ingredients : 1 1/2 lb (750 g) fresh or frozen haddock fillets, defrosted; 1/2 pint (300 ml) unsweetened natural yoghurt; 1 teaspoon dry mustard; freshly ground black pepper; 6 oz (175 g) Edam cheese, grated; parsley sprigs, to garnish
Place the haddock in a lightly greased shallow baking dish. Mix together the yoghurt, mustard, pepper and 4 oz (100 g) of the cheese.Spread over the fish. Bake in a moderate oven (180 deg C, 350 deg F, Gas Mark 4) for 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes until cheese melts. Garnish with sprigs of parsley.

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