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Easy Crispy Potato Wedges

This week we resume our look at Scottish towns with a visit to one of Scotland's newest cities, the 'Capital of the Highlands', Inverness. Created a burgh by David I, King of Scots, Inverness is one of the oldest historically recorded towns in Scotland. The river name 'Nesa' is first mentioned in the 7th century and the name Inverness means 'at the mouth of the Ness'. The city lies at the lowest fording point on the river and good access to the sea means it has been an important centre for travel throughout the centuries.
 
There has been settlement on the site since 6000 BC when a Mesolithic camp was established on what is now Castle Street. In the 6th century, the Picts controlled the area, establishing a powerful kingdom. Their leader, King Brude, was converted to Christianity by St Columba who visited in 565 AD, enountering it is claimed the Loch Ness Monster on his way to Inverness!
 
The medieval town grew up along the east bank of the river. Before the construction of the first wooden bridge in the 13th century, the main fording point across the Ness was at Friar's Shot. The main street ran along the present day line of Church Street, from the castle at the top down to harbour, on the present day site of Waterloo Bridge and Portland Place. After the bridge was built, the focus of the town shifted towards the castle, and the present High Street was established.
 
Medieval Inverness was a thriving centre for the export of wool, hides, timber and salmon. It was also an important shipbuilding centre and in 1249, the Count de Pol ordered a ship to be built in Inverness for the Crusades. Shipbuilding, sail-making and rope-working continued in the town into the 19th century and the opening of the Caledonian canal in 1822 made travel through the Great Glen faster and allowed better access to markets in the west of Scotland and Ireland.
 
The development of the railways in the 19th century and air travel in the 20th, mean that tourism has become an important part of the city economy. Indeed Inverness is now a major player on the tourist and conference front. The Scottish National Party has for many years held its Annual National Conference in the town's Eden Court Theatre on the banks of the Ness and will return again in September 2004. As the tourists, of all nationalities, enjoy the attractions of Inverness, the River Ness continues to draw people to the Highland Capital as it has done for the last 8,000 years.
 
For the next eight days The Inverness Gathering 2004 will prove a major draw, as all roads will lead to the banks of the Ness. The biggest party staged in the Highlands will start on Saturday 24 July 2004 with the City of Inverness Highland Games in the Bught Park. Founded 182 years ago, the Games will feature the very best in tradional Highland sports. Music and Dancing Competitions, the biggest Clan gathering ever seen in the Highlands, a giant fun fair and almost 100 stalls (Adult Ticket 5 - Concession 1). The gates open at 11am and the spectacular opening ceremony starts at 11.45am and will climax with a RAF Hercules flypast. On Sunday 25 July sees the North of Scotland Junior Golf Open and Family Fun Day at Loch Ness Golf Course, Fairways, Inverness (Free entry). The action then moves to the Northern Meeting Park for the 53rd Inverness Tattoo which takes place at 8pm every evening, Monday 26 July - Saturday 31 July 2004. The spectacular Tattoo will feature massed Pipes and Drums Bands and Military Bands and displays by the Golden Lions Freefall Parachute Display Team and the 19th Regiment royal Artillery (Adult Ticket 7 covered/5 open air - Concessions: half price).
 
Potatoes have played a major part in the diet of the Highlands, indeed all of Scotland, for several centuries and it is a healthy tattie alternative to chips or roast potatoes which is this week's recipe - Easy Crispy Potato Wedges - serves four.
 
Easy Crispy Potato Wedges
 
Ingredients : 4 baking potatoes, about 225g each; vegetable oil, for greasing; 2 x 15ml sp olive oil; pinch of salt; black pepper
 
Clean and scrub potatoes thoroughly. Slice each potato into eight equal sized wedges. Transfer into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water until the potatoes are covered. Leave to stand for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 220 degreesC/ 425 degrees F/ Gas Mark 7. Lightly grease two baking sheets with vegetaable oil. Drain the potatoes, then dry thoroughly on sheets of kitchen paper. Put the potatoes back into the bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss gently until potatoes are evenly coated. Transfer the potatoes to prepared baking sheets. Bake for 40 minutes or until soft in centre and crisp and browned on the outside. Swap baking sheets halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Serve wedges with a variety of dips or as an accompaniment to a main meal.

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