This is an exciting feature, and certainly of interest to those of you who are a dab hand in the kitchen – or indeed if you’re brave enough to actually forage for food and trust your abilities not to poison yourself. Hot off the press at Bowmore Single Malt whisky comes the announcement that they’ve teamed up with the UK’s leading expert forager John Wright, and top chef Gill Meller – both of whom come from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s mighty River Cottage – to create a series of delicious seafood and dessert recipes using forageable ingredients to “pair perfectly with Islay’s first Single Malt”.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – pouring your whisky into food? Why not smoke £20 notes as well! However, we’re not talking much – just a splash here and there. Besides, these people clearly know what they’re doing, and I imagine the smokiness of the Bowmore can go quite nicely with certain dishes. Anyway, here’s what the new partnership has to say about Bowmore whisky being combined with food. Check out down below, as there are four whisky-based recipes to try out, should you fancy a go yourself at the weekend.
Some food and drinks just work together – strawberries and champagne, port and stilton, to name a few. The finer things in life combine together as only produce of the highest quality can. Bowmore 12 Years Old is exceptional with seafood – the gentle peat smoke; heather honey and lemon zest perfectly complement the freshest seafood.
Bowmore 12 Years Old reflects the raw essence of Islay – the magical island off the west coast of Scotland and home to Bowmore – with its thrashing waves, windswept landscapes and generation upon generation of tradition. Bowmore Distillery and its legendary No.1 Vaults, the warehouses beneath sea level where the whiskies spend their long lives, are positioned uniquely on the edge of Loch Indaal, as such, you can taste Islay’s rich peaty, salt spray and seaweed infused breeze in every mouthful. This inherent saltiness is part of the reason this whisky is perfect for a seafood partnership.
As Bowmore is truly a product of its environment and the aroma and flavours are created and influenced by nature, it is best enjoyed in the fresh air and therefore the perfect reward after an outdoor experience such as foraging. It is this factor together with the seafood alliance that the ‘Bowmore Foraging and Food Pairing’ project was born.
Having explored Islay, John and Gill have marvelled at some of the finest and most sought after seafood in Europe such as muscles, lobster, crab, scallops and magnificent oysters. From their findings, they have created these mouth-watering recipes:
• Bowmore Dry Cured Oak and Peat-Smoked Sirloin and Crispy Gutweed
• Pine-Fired Mussels with Spear-Leaved Orache
• Wood-Roasted Lobster and Scallops with Wild Sorrel Sauce
• Sea Lettuce, Clam, Potato and Oyster Rostis
• Devilled Dressed Brown Crab on Toast with Bowmore 12 Years Old
• Chocolate and Seaweed Pannacotta with Bowmore Butter Shortbread
• Chocolate and Bowmore-Soaked Prune Fondant
Gill Meller, Head Chef at River Cottage, comments: “Bowmore 12 Years Old is a complex yet perfectly balanced whisky which goes incredibly well with fresh seafood and these recipes I have created complement the notes of peat smoke and Atlantic sea-salt brines. I hope people will be inspired to recreate these dishes at home and host their own Bowmore food pairing dinner party”.
Foraging Expert, John Wright, says “Foraging is an activity that anyone can try their hand at. The UK has a treasure trove of fantastic ingredients waiting to be discovered, gathered and turned into recipes. As Bowmore is the perfect reward after an outdoor experience you will have something to look forward to after your foraging foray”.
It’s not just the 12 Years Old that is so well matched; all five whiskies in Bowmore’s core range have food alliances. Bowmore 15 Years Old ‘Darkest’ is delicious on its own but to really bring out its rich fruitiness and the trademark Bowmore smokiness; it should be enjoyed with rich, dark chocolate. Bowmore has also partnered with Master Chocolatier, Paul A Young, who will be revealing the result of this collaboration in the autumn.
John Wright & Gill Meller’s Bowmore Food-Pairing Recipes:
~ Bowmore Dry Cured Oak and Peat-Smoked Sirloin and Crispy Gutweed ~
This dish was devised to reflect some of the characteristics of Bowmore 12 Years Old whisky. You’ll need to have your own hot smoker for this recipe and familiarise yourself with using it. Not only is the prime Islay Sirloin cured in a little whisky but it then goes on to be smoked over peat and oak – just like the malted barley that is used in the production of Bowmore; smoked with peat and then aged in oak. Here I’ve fried a seaweed called gutweed to accompany the beef.
1kg aged sirloin, boned and trimmed
100ml Bowmore 12 Years Old Whisky
4 bay leaves shredded
1 tsp. black peppercorns coarsely crushed
• Combine all the cure ingredients in a bowl except the whisky, just before you’re ready to salt your meat
• Take a small plastic tray or something similar that is large enough to hold the beef. Pour the whisky over the sirloin then rub the cure in
• Allow the meat to salt for 1 ½ – 2 hours
• Rinse the cure from the meat under a cold running tap; allow it to dry for at least 6 hours or overnight in the fridge
• Hot smoke the sirloin over a combination of oak woodchips and a little bit of peat for 30mins. Check the sirloin is cooked to your liking, if not, heat the smoker up with more shavings and peat and continue to hot smoke
• Allow the beef to rest before serving
For the gutweed
• Wash the gutweed in several changes of fresh water. Do this by filling two large bowls and place the gutweed in one and gently agitate it to free any sand and grit; then lift it into the next bowl and repeat
• Squeeze all the excess water from the gutweed and then layer it out over a clean dry tea towel set over a tray
• Let the gutweed dry for several hours; this can be done by leaving it in the sun
• Bring 3-4 inches of sunflower oil to a heat of 160°C, add the gutweed in small batches. Be very careful and standby with a lid because it spits profusely
• When cooked after 1-2mins, remove and drain on absorbent paper. Scatter with some fine salt and serve
~ Pine-Fired Mussels with Spear-Leaved Orache ~
This dramatic method for cooking mussels must be as old as the hills. It imparts a fantastic flavour to this forgeable shellfish. I’ve combined them with a delicate seashore vegetable – spear-leaved orache, which is similar to spinach.
2 kg mussels (make sure the mussels are clean and de-bearded. If you have foraged them yourself they will need to be thoroughly cleaned and checked over)
1 forager’s basket full of very dry pine needles
Splash of Bowmore 12 Years Old
1 Clove of garlic
2 handfuls of spear leafed orache
1 knob of butter
1 tbls olive oil
• Scatter a layer of malted barley over a large metal tray measuring about 40-50cm in diameter, set this somewhere outside
• Take the clean mussels and lay them all hinge side up and side by side in a big circle, then lay a stack of pine needles over the top about 20cm high
• Set fire to the pine needles in several different places all up wind of the tray and give it a good blow to get it going. Make sure you have chosen a suitable place to cook your mussels, as the fire is quite dramatic. I cooked ours on top of a Bowmore cask
• Once the pine needles have burnt up (5–10mins) the mussels are ready to pick out. Be careful because the shells can be hot
• Place a pan over a medium heat and add the butter, olive oil and garlic. Cook the garlic for 1min then add the spear-leaved orache, place a lid on the pan and cook for 2–3mins
• Add the picked pine fired mussels and season with salt and pepper and heat through
• It’s very important to cook the mussels properly, especially if you’ve foraged them yourself, so if in any doubt bring to a simmer and cook for 2mins
• This dish is lovely served in clean oyster shells
Spear-leaved orache is one of many spinach-like wild foods. It is common on beaches but also in allotment gardens as a persistent weed. Another, more familiar species, is Fat Hen – although bane of the vegetable gardener – it should be cooked and not thrown on the compost heap! For those who love seaside foraging, the sea beet is the one to go for; succulent and sweet it puts spinach to shame.
~ Wood-Roasted Lobster and Scallops with Wild Sorrel Sauce ~
This is one of the best ways to enjoy fresh seafood. Cooking the lobster over the fierce heat of an open fire gives it a fantastic flavour. Of course, all this can be done in your kitchen at home but it’s much more fun on the beach, particularly if you have spent the afternoon foraging for the ingredients!
2 medium lobsters
6 hand dived scallops cleaned, shells reserved.
300g fresh Wild sorrel, larger leaves stripped from the stalks, roughly shredded
1 – 2 tablespoons double cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Firstly, make a nice hot fire using a combination of hard wood and charcoal. You will need a grill that will sit over it
• Prepare your lobster for cooking by putting it in the freezer for 1 hour
• Remove the sedated lobster from the freezer and put it on a large board with the head towards you. Place the tip of a sharp, heavy knife on the cross that you’ll find at the top of the lobster’s head and press down firmly, cutting through the head towards you
• Turn the lobster round so the tail is now facing you, carefully cut from the split in the head down though to the tip of the tail in one firm motion. Try and keep the blade central so you end up with two even halves
• Remove the sand sack the lies behind the eyes and the dark vein that runs throughout the tail
• Thread the scallops on to a couple of kebab sticks and season with salt and pepper
• Season the two cut surfaces of the lobster and trickle with a little olive oil. Put the lobster halves, cut side down, on to the bars of a grill set over the fire. The embers must be white-hot, so as to get the caramelised flavour you’re after and after 4–5mins, add the scallops and turn the lobsters over. Cook for a further 2–4mins or until the tail and claw meat is cooked through and the scallops are golden but just cooked on the inside
• If you plan to do this in the kitchen at home use a hot, hot grill to cook the lobster and a pan to sear you scallops
To make the sorrel sauce
• Place a saucepan over the heat of the fire; add the butter and the finely diced shallot
• Cook the shallot for 2-3mins without colouring
• Add the shredded sorrel leaves and cook, turning them in the butter, until they begin to wilt and darken – this will happen pretty quickly
• Add the cream and cook for a minute or two to reduce the juices a little, and then season with salt and pepper
• Thin the sauce down slightly with a spoonful or two of Bowmore 12 Years Old
• To serve, take the meat from the lobster shells and divide between 6 clean scallop shells. Add a scallop to each shell and spoon over the hot sorrel sauce
• Eat straight away with fresh bread
Sorrel is one of the commonest and most easily collected of wild foods. Available all year from roadsides and pasture, it is best in the spring and autumn when fresh “basal” leaves can be collected in abundance.
~ Sea Lettuce, Clam, Potato and Oyster Rostis ~
This dish makes a lovely and hearty foragers lunch or a more sophisticated evening meal.
Perfect with a dram of Bowmore 12 Years Old
750g large white potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
1 onion, finely sliced
400g clams steamed open and picked from their shells
4 – 6 oysters, shucked and roughly chopped with out there brine
100g sea lettuce, washed and boiled for 1 to 2 hours
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
• Squeeze as much liquid from the grated potato with your hands then dry it with a clean tea towel – it’s important to remove as much moisture as possible
• Thoroughly mix with the onion, clams, oysters and finely chopped sea lettuce, season with salt and pepper
• Heat the olive oil in a large, frying pan – it’s important to use a good non-stick frying pan
• Add the grated potato and shellfish mixture. Flatten the surface with a spatula, making sure it is level and all of a consistent thickness
• Cook over a medium-low heat for about 10-12mins. The potato needs to cook and brown on the base, so avoid trying to turn them too soon
• Turn the rosti carefully and cook the other side for a further 10mins
• Slide the rosti out the pan on to a board and serve
The splendid seaweed ‘dulse’ is excellent in this recipe to replace the sea lettuce, as is gutweed.