Travel and holiday has always meant food for me. Whether paella cooked over orange wood in Valencia, oysters from Étang de Thau, or squats lobsters from Applecross, its always been about first experiences, about aroma and flavour of the local cuisine. Recently holidays have been all about Scotland and it has been an adventure expanding my understanding of the produce and dishes of my homeland.
Last year, via an introduction from Jillian of Fresh Food Express I had the pleasure of meeting Matthew Smith in Arbroath, on a day trip from St Monan’s in Fife where we holidayed, and his story is one I’ve been wanting to share since that day last July. Matthew is a fisherman turned smoker in the famous Angus town, and as the fire burned and the haddock cured, he spoke at length about the time honoured tradition of smoking. Arbroath smokies are tied together and smoked in pairs, little did I know that the timing is key not just for tenderness and flavour, but as they’re hung to be smoked leaving them in the heat too long causes the tail to break and a pair of haddock head to the bottom of the kiln for more than just smoking! As he presented freshly smoked bloaters (whole herring), mackerel and of course, Arbroath Smokies, he asked if we fancied lobster. A quick call to a boat in a harbour meant that dispatching and cooking this wonderful crustacean was about to be added to the day’s education!
150 miles north and on the west coast in Aultbea on the banks of Loch Ewe sits Isle of Ewe Smokehouse who I’ve written about before, but the produce just gets better and better, with hot smoked sea trout and gravlax style trout cured in aquavit to name but two. This little haven three miles off the main road is a joy to behold. In between sits Rothiemurchus Farm Shop where I’ve stopped on more journey than I can remember in the past twelve months. Venison topside for roasting, highland beef braising steak for stewing, and fresh caught rainbow trout for barbecuing have all been bought, not to mention beremeal and course oatmeal from Golspie and Barony Mills.
The natural larder off Scotland from Angus and Fife, to Speyside, and on to Wester Ross and Sutherland is truly outstanding. And when you include seasonal vegetables, and the odd bit of foraging for gorse, wild garlic, blaeberries, and more then a road trip in Scotland becomes a gourmet adventure set to a stunning backdrop. Enjoy the journey.