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Pentland Soup

In direct employment terms farming is no longer the major employer it once was in Scotland but interest in agriculture and the countryside remains high and some 150,000 visitors are expected this weekend at the four-day Royal Highland Show 2004 (Thursday 24 June - Sunday 27 June). Organised by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society (instituted in 1784) the annual show has been held on a permanent site at Ingliston near Edinburgh Airport since 1960. Prior to that the show was held in  different venues throughout Scotland, and as you would have guessed there was a fell argie-bargie over the decision to have a permanent site. Farming columns in newspaper such as the Dundee Courier and Aberdeen's Press & Journal led the charge against the Edinburgh move. More than forty years on, expansion at Edinburgh Airport threatens the Highland Show site and we can expect a fierce fight for the retention of the Ingliston Show site. However that lies in the future and hopefully good weather will ensure that the huge daily crowds enjoy the very best in Scottish agriculture.
 
A slightly smaller but just as enthusiastic crowds will enjoy two events recalling the Battle of Bannockburn on Saturday in Ceres and Stirling. Since 1314 the Fife Burgh of Ceres has held annual games to celebrate the return of the men from Ceres who helped ensure the victory of Robert I at Bannockburn and Scottish Freedom.
 
            'For this is June's gala day,
            When men rin wud and youngsters play;
            The day that marks the glad return
            Of Ceres men frae Bannockburn,'
 
The annual Ceres Highland Games on the Bow Butts offer a cherful mix of piping, dancing, wrestling, cycling, running and heavy events but best of all there is free entry for all spectators. Visit www.ceresgames.co.uk for full details.
 
Meanwhile in Stirling SI stalwarts Denholm Christie and Peter D Wright will be in the Colour Party leading  the annual march of the Scottish National Party to the field of Bannockburn. The Rally will be slightly later this year and starts from the Golden Lion car park at 3.45pm. Oliver Brown Award winners, premier Scottish folk duo Gaberlunzie will provide the entertainment with Cairdies Brig at the Bannockburn Day Ceilidh in the Tartan Arms, 43 Main Street, Bannockburn, following the SNP March and Rally. Tickets 6 available from another SI stalwart Alistair Walker (Tel 01786 814523).
 
But we return to Edinburgh for the inspiration for this week's recipe for Pentland Soup from Elizabeth Craig's 'The Scottish Cookery Book'. The Pentland Hills have long been held dear by the citizens of our capital, such as Robert Louis Stevenson, and form the perfect back-drop to Scotland's first city.
 
Pentland Soup
 
Ingredients : 2 oz butter; 2 dessertspoons flour; 2 pints hot milk; 1 peeled clove of garlic; 2 separated eggs; salt and pepper to taste; 3 tablespoons grated nippy cheese; 1 dessertspoon chopped parsley; fried croutons.
 
Melt butter. Stir in flour. When frothy, gradually stir in milk. Add garlic. bring slowly to boil. Remove from stove. Leave until cold. Remove garlic. Stir a tablespoon or two of the milk into the yolks, then stir yolks into milk in pan. Return pan to stove.Stir till piping hot. Season with salt and pepper. Add cheese. Stir only until melted, then add stiffly beaten egg whites and parsley. Serve at once in heated soup cups with fried croutons. Serves 4 or 5.

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