In My Scottish Kitchen, September 2017

One of the most common complaints of the traveller is the dearth of vegetables served along the way in any type of eatery, cafe, restaurant or pub. Despite veggies being in vogue, we don’t see many on the plate, other than a token salad or a potato, the latter usually in the form of the dreaded chip. After 6 weeks on the road, we were longing for our own apartment or little house, just to be able to cook a pile of vegetables, a soup or vegetable bake, as well as catch up on some washing. It’s rather ironic really, that these simple domestic tasks become so overwhelmingly desirable when you no longer have them.

View from our York Kitchen. Had to pick some wild weeds along the way- purple buddlea is the local weed, growing out of walls and concrete paths. Adding a homely touch to the plastic ikea plants and slate tiled York roof tops.

Our first pot of soup, a leek and potato soup, seemed fitting for our little kitchen in Aberystwyth, Wales. Our York apartment, a spacious Ikea fitted out place in a converted office building, provided the means to cook, but as we were also visiting friends that week, we had little chance to use it. My dear friend JA made some wonderful salads and dishes loaded with veggies from her Lottie ( affectionate English name for an allotment garden), the most memorable dish being her Summer Pudding, filled with plump, ripe blackberries picked from verges, along with raspberries and blueberries cured inside a mold of organic white bread. Ecstasy. There’s an art to making these carmine concoctions that taste like berry velvet.

View from JA’s apartment, overlooking the Minster, York. JA’s Australian roots have given her a passion for freshly grown vegetables.

Now that we’re in Skye, our little stone cottage by the sea has enabled some real cooking to take place. But first, before driving across to the island, we did a big veggie shop in Inverness. Vegetables are much cheaper in Britain than Australia, so long as you stick to seasonal ingredients that are locally grown. My big bag of vegetables, including a cute Wonky cabbage, cost very little, necessitating a few little add ons, such as box of raspberries, some odd looking flat peaches, French butter, lovely cheeses, some Scottish and others a bit too French, and of course, a bottle of single malt whisky. All in the name of keeping up with the locals, of course. Or as the late Angus Grant, fiddle player from Shooglenifty would say, in the only words I have ever heard him sing, ‘Suck that mother down,’ during his live solo on the tune ‘Whisky Kiss.’

On special for 16 Quid. Going down nicely. In memory of Ian Channing.

Wonky vegetables are NQR shaped produce, an idea that has also taking off in Australia. We don’t need perfectly shaped vegetables thankyou, and we definitely don’t need them wrapped in plastic. Most of my bargain veggies came pre -wrapped or bagged in acres of plastic. I’m wondering if the ‘War on Waste’ campaign is happening in Britain and Scotland. The other aspect I found unusual about the local supermarkets was the volume of pre-prepared foods. You name it, it’s available, pre-cooked and ready to ding. Fish cakes, fish pie ingredients, including the sauce, pre-cooked mussels, all sorts of meals, mash, even mashed swede. I’m not sure that Jamie Oliver has made much impression on the English diet.

Wonky Cabbage, 45 p

I was hoping to find a farmer’s market on Skye to supplement these goods. It turns out that farmers markets are quite rare, but then given the climate, I can understand why. We found one at Glendale in the north-west of Skye, a longish drive. We arrived early to find 7 stalls huddled together against the wind: one lady had a pile of fresh organic chicken carcasses for stock, another chap had one small bag of rainbow chard and black kale, nearby was the cucumber specialist, with two kinds on offer, on another table were a few carrots and apples and further down a lady with some sticky buns. And in the midst of all this I found the lady from Tinctoria, a specialist hand spinner and dyer from these parts. She has been hand dyeing since the 1980s and grows her own herbs to make the most extraordinary colours. Needless to say, I wanted them all.

Green ball, dyed from Brazilwood then over dyed with Indigo, the pink is Brazilwood and the blue is from Woad. Not quite kitchen goods but probably made in a kitchen. Dyewoods are woods providing  dyes for textiles. Some of the more important include: Brazilwood or Brazil from Brazil, producing a red dye. Catechu or cutch from Acacia wood, producing a dark brown dye. Old Fustic from India and Africa produces a yellow dye.

My vegetable stash is lasting well. In my Skye kitchen I’ve made lentil and vegetable soups, swede, onion and Orkney cheddar bake, pan scorched green beans with garlic and lemon, ( loving the very skinny beans here), caramelised whole shallots in olive oil, butter and beetroot glaze, Cullen Skink full of undyed smoked haddock, pasta with veggies, mushroom risotto, cauliflower cheese and loads of salads. My cooking has taken on a distinctive Scottish style- the view outside my kitchen window, the rain and the ever-changing Skye light having a profound effect on my cooking and pastimes. It’s odd, given my gypsy tendencies, how homely and settled I feel here.

Simple foods, just vegetables, some butter and cheese. The swede bake layered with onion and Orkney cheddar was a winner.
A bag of shallots become caramelised in olive oil, with some fleur de sel butter, and a reduction of balsamic and beetroot dressing.
Cullen Skink, with smoked haddock, potato, leek, and parsley. Crofter’s bread and French butter.

Fat Raspberries, sweet and seasonal, lead to the obvious choice of dessert- Cranachan- except that I was rather heavy-handed with the single malt and the toasted oats. It ended up more like an alcoholic breakfast. Mr T has promised to pick some neglected black berries along the verges, down near Maelrubha’s well; before we leave this special place, I’ll try to make a more restrained blackberry version.

A heavy-handed Cranachan. Too many oats and way too much single malt.
Crafting and Crofting. My travelling project, a bramble berry scarf, in memory of Skye.

I could go on and on about the wonders of Skye and how inspired I feel here, but I’ll save it for another time, another ramble into the mist. The media file below depicts views from our cottage. It’s hard to stay sane around such ever shifting beauty.

Thanks once again to Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings for hosting this monthly series.

Tidal cottage on Breakish. I could stay here for a few months or more. Celtic dreaming.

42 thoughts on “In My Scottish Kitchen, September 2017”

    1. Thanks Lois. we do lots of walking in the rain between these snuggly things and Mr T’s playing of his new travelling Uke, playing it like a blues man, writing, reading and peeping out the door. Oh how much I love it here.

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    1. It’s only for 2 people only Liz, not two couples. There are many self catering cottages on the island. we found this one through Air B&B. The most important thing to note is to book early as anything nice books up very quickly. I would begin the research now. I can recommend the Breakish area for seaviews and quiet, still within a handy drive to shops for supplies.

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        1. Ah good to hear. It’s so hard and painful getting to Europe and Britain, the flight is so long, and as we get older, we wonder how many long haul flights we have left to do. So given all that, it’s important to put all the places you love on the list and to take things slowly. We decided on 4 and 1/2 months. Regretting not putting Ireland on our list this time- another country that I find profoundly moving. The outer Hebrides, Barra, Lewis and Harris are lovely too, if you have a little time to pop on a ferry.

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          1. Also Ardys, if Skye is back on your list, book accommodation now. Places are full everywhere and apparently this doesn’t ease up much in October. I can recommend this little cottage, Tidal Cottage, right on the sea at Breakish, a quiet spot but not too remote. But then Air B& B has a fair selection of lovely cottages, which is where we found this one. Enjoy the plotting.

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  1. Utterly selfishly: how would you ‘translate’ ‘gloaming’ ? Such a romantic word for someone like me! ‘Eha’ may look short but it does mean ‘the last light of the day’ in my birth country of Estonia – methinks this is similar. Could not believe you would put out a ‘kitchen’ post at present but absolutely love the place and what you have bought and what you have made and I would not like to leave either tho’ ’tis always better to go when matters still run high . . . “Cullen Skink’ = Potage Parmentier without the fish 🙂 ! And, oh, that wool . . . .

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    1. When I’m here , twilight and dusk don’t seem to cut it. The Hebridean light is so different, soft and long. Eha, the last light of the day, how beautiful. Were you born then? You must tell the the correct pronunciation as I have no idea.
      I’ll keep doing the IMK posts on route as we have a few more kitchens to experience along the way. We both like our writing time, interspersed with hobbies such as my berry scarf, his ukelale played like a blues guitar, long walks, finding history, and reading. Slow travel.

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      1. My very romantic dad saw me in my Mom’s arms for the first time about 9pm on a June evening: they had agreed on ‘Mai’ after my Swedish grandmother but Dad promptly changed his mind: glad he did 🙂 ! Mom did not want kids and he had been waiting for a long time and so wanted a girl!! I teach the pronouncing thus: ‘What on earth is the problem? Three letters! Say ‘ha’ putting a French ‘e’ with an ‘accent acute’ in front of it – ie ‘eh-ha’ 🙂 !!! Yes, the Estonian evening light is also soft and long . . . have to look up: pretty close to the same latitude methinks . . .

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    1. And lots of other precooked stuff- sad. Thanks Signorina, I think I saw one of your posts a while back and I may have forgotten to comment. I’ll do some back searching soon. Always love your cake days.xx

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  2. Oh how marvellous of you to do an IMK post while you are travelling Francesca. We really loved Scotland and the Isle of Skye when we were there years ago. The nights were so black that you could not walk for more than 100 metres without a torch. Yes daily chores are quite special when you are away from home. It’s almost fun to do laundry and cooking 🙂 thanks so much for joining in this month and have a great trip ! Cheers sherry x

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  3. I can’t remember whether the Northern Hemisphere celebrate a change of season on the 1st or the 21st of the seasonal change! Weird the the Equinox is celebrated in Australia on the 21st but all seasons are dated the 1st. No wonder so many immigrants are confused! In keeping with our tradition Happy Aussie Spring! For we wet tropical folk it’s an end of a beautiful season but an intro to hot – wet and hot, unbearable hot, melting hot, and really horribly hot – lucky we have a river at our door-step that is 220C all year round – now that’s COOL!

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  4. Wonderful IMK post! It is daunting finding ingredients in places you are not familiar with. The UK generally does have lots of veg, but they do like their tatties and brassicas. Great portrait of the pointed cabbage, by the way. They are one of my favourites – sweeter and more tender than their round cousins. Enjoy your various kitchens. I’m sure you will have interesting experiences in each one. Love the beautifully coloured wool… Makes me want to get the knitting needles out.

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  5. Gorgeous, wonderful post! So you Francesca 😃 Shifting beauty .. I can see it. I wouldn’t mind one of those eggs either btw. Or some of that wonderful tucker you have been cooking. But sad to say no scotch for this girl .. hubby would join you though. Happy holidays ..

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  6. Oh, what gorgeous photos. We spent a couple of weeks in Scotland in late July/early August. We only had a night in Skye, but then had almost a week in the Outer Hebrides, finishing in Stornaway for their annual Hebcelt music festival (If you’re a Shooglenifty fan you’ll love Skerryvore.). I adored the Hebrides and would quite happily go back for much longer. That hand-dyed wool looks so beautiful, but I found all the wool I saw to be very scratchy.
    Did you get to the Three Chimneys restaurant in Skye? It is fabulous.

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    1. Hi Amanda, We spent a few weeks in the Outer Hebrides a few years ago- Barra, Harris and Lewis. Would have loved to have caught the Hebcelt music festival, what a treat. Shall check out Skerrymore. Have a vast celtic collection back in Australia. The hand dyed wools in Skye were quite soft. And expensive,
      Yes, we got to the three chimneys. ( second time now) Should I do a little post?

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  7. Even after a couple of days away I crave vegetables. If we eat out, our plates are loaded with meat (expensive) but few vegetables (cheap). I found this a particular problem walking the West Highland Way in Scotland. Skye looks beautiful.

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