Hell or high water – an afternoon cuppa

Not one to break with England’s favourite tradition, a warm brew is a boost for morale and hydration and, an aside not many know, tea may be the very reason why the industrial revolution happened in Britain. Although carry on kayaking sounds very British, to do so at 4pm, simply won’t do.

Tea is as British as some of our most famous exports including punk rock, queuing, fair play, football and hooliganism and, Octane being miles from civilisation is no reason to lower standards. Come hell or high water, the Scottish seas offering much of both, we stop for a cuppa at 4pm.

Boiling water

The Kelly Kettle, for its pure simplicity of design, is a much loved means of boiling water the world over – it can be fuelled with heather or small twigs alone eliminating the need for transporting heavy fossil fuel or prolonged drift wood gathering sessions and takes water to boiling point quicker than any gas cooker on the market.

When in need of a cup of tea, with no wood fuel available as is often the case on Hebridean islands, the Kelly Kettle comes into its own. So efficient is its conduction of heat that the process of making tea can be done with minimum fuel (such as dry sprigs of heather or small twigs) and with minimum time. I know of no other method of boiling water as quickly.


Furthermore, the fire heating the water within the kettle is sheltered from wind by the internal tube shape of the kettle itself – a most useful feature on exposed wilderness Hebridean islands.

Avoiding dehydration

A 5% reduction in the body’s hydration levels can result in a 50% reduction in paddling performance. In summer months in Scotland an active sea kayaker should be drinking about two litres of water a day as well as eating well for dehydration is cause by the loss of water, sugar and salts combined.

Drinking little and often is the best method of avoiding dehydration and two or three litres is quite a few cuppas – not necessarily not a problem for the British who drink 60 bullion cups of tea a year.

Starts with tea

Many other countries were as technologically advanced as Britain in the early nineteenth century yet the industrial revolution started here – why so?

The manning of industry’s factories required an urban density never achieved before elsewhere because plague and pestilence traditionally limited urban population growth. Accordingly, densely populated areas were often decimated by plague during population peaks. However, because the British started to boil their drinking water first to make new found Indian and Chinese teas, their water was purified killing all harmful bacteria and protozoa. Furthermore, as way of belt and braces, the tea leaf itself is a natural disinfectant.


Empire links with India gave Britain tea and trade links with the West Indies gave the same people sugar soon making a national virtuous circle of tea lovers, sugar addicts and shopkeepers. This holy trinity enabled urban populations to increase to unprecedented levels thus supplying manpower to those dark satanic mills.

Food for thought

So, the discovery of a rather modest drink created a virtuous circle of trade, cleanliness and addiction fuelling the industrial machine to define the modern world in which we live today.

Worth pondering next time you sip a cup of afternoon Rosy Lee.


Campfire cooking – blueberry orange muffins

After a day’s kayaking, line fishing and catching lobster this simple campfire pudding almost cooks itself – and, for entertainment value, these babies are bulletproof.

Don’t beat yourself up over the instant nature of this pudding, after a hard day’s paddling guests will love cooking these zesty treats. After all – it’s not often one gets to bake cakes around the campfire.


Muffin mix
– Blueberries
– Four empty half orange skins


  1. Squeeze four oranges, keep peeled halves and put juice aside for breakfast
  2. Fill one half of emptied orange with blueberry muffin mix
  3. Cover the filled orange half with the empty half and wrap in three layers of foil
  4. Place on hot embers
  5. Turn aluminum balls every minute, baking may take 10 minutes
  6. Check one after 8 minutes, return to heat until they are firm at the centre

When these blueberry orange muffins are ready they will emerge from the campfire like victorious steamed puddings that have just been Tangoed.

Unwrap and eat with a spoon.


Alone at sea

Aleksander Doba, trailblazing wilderness expeditioner and 67-year-old Polish adventurer, proved age is just a number by kayaking solo 6,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

Doba set off in October 2014 from Lisbon, shored in Florida six months later and, on his arrival, he was greeted offshore by a flotilla of sea kayakers who joined him for his last leg in. It was the longest open-water kayaking expedition ever across the Atlantic and was voted by National Geographic as the 2015 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year.

Kayaking world first

The Polish explorer departed from Lisbon in 5 October 2013 with the plan to paddle 5,400 miles across the Atlantic‘s widest point to arrive in Florida mid-February 2014. By the time he had finished he had traveled a 7,716-mile transatlantic journey, in his 23-foot kayak called Olo. Unexpected weather and equipment failure forced Doba to add an extra 1,300 miles and two extra months onto his journey. No one had ever kayaked across open sea for this length of time or distance.

Fighting the elements

Doba averaged about 30 miles per day and, when the temperatures were too high, he paddled at night. Indeed, once he was out of sight of shore, he found paddling life more comfortable naked.

Loopy lupe

Doba fought with 30-foot waves and wrestled winds and currents that pushed him in loops around Bermuda adding 40 days to the crossing. Three times, Doba paddled hundreds of miles, only to get pushed back by winds and currents, he beat off a shark with his paddle and he ate flying fish landing in his boat.

Maverick expeditioner

Not bad for a man who considers himself a tourist on the water and who didn’t start kayaking until the age of 34 – he did no training for the crossing.

Campfire cooking – shoreline crab linguine and wild garlic

This is a Hebridean pimped version of the Italian favourite so it can easily and quickly be knocked up on a remote shoreline or cliff top.

The original Italian version of this recipe uses a rocket garnish which I normally replace with wild ramsons garlic picked fresh from the shoreline. Attempting to keeping rocket or any other loose leaved salad garnish fresh in the hold of a sea kayak during the heat of summer is only to end in disappointment.

Catching the crab is an entirely separate affair. These underwater battle tanks have strong opinions regarding being taken from their sea bed home – click here to see how to catch a brown crab.

Red pesto (Feeds 4)

– 500g of sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
– 100g of garlic purée
– 20ml of lemon juice
– 500ml of olive oil
– 250g of pine nuts, toasted


– 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
– 1 onion, sliced
– 3 celery sticks, sliced
– 1 leek, green leaves only, sliced
– 500g of butter


– 300g of linguine
– 5l of water
– 200g of table salt

To serve

– 1 red onion, thinly sliced
– 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
– 4 cherry tomatoes, halved
– 50g of wild garlic
– 1 tbsp of crème fraîche
– 10g of pine nuts
– 1 lemon
– 50g of white crab meat, picked and cooked
Olive oil
Vegetable oil
– 1 red chili, sliced at an angle
– 50g of chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Pesto. Blitz a third of all the ingredients apart from the olive oil with pestle and mortar until a paste forms. It is best to make the pesto in three batches, so only use a third of your ingredients at a time
  2. Slowly pour a third of the oil into the mortar and blitz. Repeat these steps until all ingredients are used then set-aside
  3. For the emulsion, melt half the butter in a hot pan until it starts to foam. Add the carrots, onion, celery and leek, season the mixture and cook until golden brown. Fill the pan with cold water and bring to the boil
  4. Simmer this vegetable stock for 20 minutes, then strain off the vegetables. Return the liquid to the heat, whisking in the remaining butter until smooth and emulsified
  5. To cook your pasta, bring 5 litres of water to the boil in a large pan and add the salt. Separate the pasta as you drop it in and leave to cook for about 4–5 minutes. Strain off the pasta and add a little olive oil to stop it from sticking together
  6. Add a little vegetable oil to a hot sauté pan and add the red onion and spring onion. Once golden brown, add pine nuts and sliced chili. When pine nuts have begun to colour, deglaze pan with 50g of your vegetable emulsion
  7. Squeeze in juice of half a lemon and bring to boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of red pesto with the crème fraîche and mix thoroughly. While sauce is coming back to boil, drop the linguini into a pan of boiling water to heat up
  8. Once sauce thickens, add parsley along with drained hot pasta. Toss in pan to ensure pasta is well coated
  9. Using tongs, twist pasta to give it shape and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the white crab meat over the top along with the cherry tomatoes and rocket, then finish with a final splash of olive oil and lemon juice

This pasta recipe is a wonderful source of slow release energy carbohydrate suitable for long paddling stints across open water.

Octane offers gastro wilderness expeditions and, employing Octane’s Eight* methods of sourcing wild food for the pot, we eat the world’s best food, ocean fresh**.

*Octane’s Eight is our philosophy. We believe our travelling guests, being closest to the world’s wildest fresh foods, might quite like to eat the world’s wildest fresh foods.
1. we line fish, 2. we lobster pot, 3. we spear fish, 4. we sea forage, 5. we land forage, 6. we stalk, 7. we seed the sea, 8. we seed the land. Why is it campers and ramblers feel obliged to consume biltong, baked beans and instant coffee?

**The term fresh fish is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old so, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago it was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean fresh. Simply put, it means caught, prepared, cooked and eaten same-day.

See ocean fresh in practice with the post ‘Drive through calimari’ – ocean fresh calimari caught, cooked and served in under an hour

Campfire cooking – cinnamon breakfast buns

Sitting on wilderness white sands with a hot cup of coffee in the morning as the sun rises over Ben More, these piping hot sweet buns, filled with exotic aroma, remind me how wonderful the Scottish Hebridean coastline is.

The following recipe feeds 6 people.

Dough Ingredients

– 4½ cups flour
– 2 tbsp baking powder
– 1 tsp salt
– ¼ cup sugar
– ½ cup butter
– ½ cup milk powder
– 1½ cups of water

Filling Ingredients

– 2 tbsp butter
– ½ cup brown sugar
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– ¾ cup nuts
– ¾ cup raisins


If you are out in the wild you will need to build a campfire large enough to create large embers for your Dutch Oven.

Making the dough

  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar
  2. Use a fork to work the butter into the mixture until the consistency is crumb like
  3. Add milk powder, water and egg powder, stir and combine. Consistency should be pliable but firm, not sticky. Add more water or flour if necessary.
  4. Place mixture on a floured surface (use the bottom of a kayak hull if necessary) and knead gently until smooth.


  1. Use a wine, beer or water bottle to roll the dough into a ½ inch (1 cm) thick rectangle
  2. Spread butter across the dough, leaving 1 inch (2cm) bare at one end
  3. Sprinkle remaining ingredients evenly across the dough, leaving 1 inch (2cm) bare at one end
  4. Roll dough into a sausage toward the bare end and pinch the end into the side of the roll to seal
  5. Cut the roll into 1 inch thick pieces. Lay slices in a greased baking pan in Dutch Oven
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 mins, or until golden. Insert skewer, if clean when removed buns are cooked

Grilled codling with pistachio pesto

It’s always handy to have a pot of sauce in readiness for any fish caught and I choose to keep pistachio pesto – an expeditioner’s green–sauced flavour wonder punch.

Others include horseradish and aioli but this is perhaps my favourite.


– 1c pistachios, shelled
– 1c fresh basil
– 1/4c cilantro
– 2 garlic cloves
– zest of 1 lemon
– 3T grated parmesan cheese
– 1/4-1/2c olive oil
salt to taste

codling steaks
olive oil
salt and pepper
lemon wedges

Method for pesto

– Finely chop all the ingredients and add to a pestle, using just 1/4c olive oil to start
– Mortar to blend and drizzle olive oil until desired consistency is achieved
– Store in an airtight container in cool place until ready to serve

Method for codling

– Rub codling steaks with olive oil, and season both sides with salt and pepper
– Grill on one side, about 5 minutes, then flip and repeat*
– Top with Pistachio Pesto and serve over mashed potatoes or rice with lemon wedges

*Cook until there is nice color on the steaks and the fish is just about cooked through (opaque), being careful not to overcook and dry out. The fish should flake easily with a fork. The time it takes for your fish to cook will depend on the thickness of your steaks and the temperature of your grill

Octane offers gastro wilderness expeditions – employing Octane’s Eight* methods of sourcing wild food for the pot, we eat the world’s best food, ocean fresh**. 

*Octane’s Eight is our philosophy – we believe our travelling guests, being closest to the world’s wildest fresh foods, might quite like to eat the world’s wildest fresh foods. 1) We line fish, 2) we lobster pot, 3) we spear fish, 4) we sea forage, 5) we land forage, 6) we deer stalk, 7) we seed the sea, 8) we seed the land. 

**Ocean fresh – the term fresh fish is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old so, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago it was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean fresh. Simply put, it means caught and eaten same-day.

See OCEAN FRESH in practice – with the post ‘Drive-by calamari’ – ocean fresh calamari caught, cooked and served in under an hour.

Flaming banana banock

Sautéd sizzling banana in butter, maple syrup and cinnamon stacked over a pile of banock. Served with whiskey aflame

And, if that’s not enough dramatics, stand on the cliff-top with a set of bagpipes and play Mull of Kintyre waving your sporren to America.

A banana too far

Extra ripe bananas in a sea kayak’s stowage compartment are unwelcome. However, this recipe is one of my favourite ways to utilise them whilst making breakfasts noteworthy.

Banana state

There are two methods in producing this recipe and both are dependant upon the state of your banana as follows: If the banana is mushy it can be added to the pancake mix for whiskey flaming maple syrup over banana pancakes and, if the banana is in a respectable state, it can be dice-cubed for flaming whiskey sauté bananas in syrup over pancakes. 

For the pancakes

– 1 cup flour
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 2 eggs
– 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
– 2 tablespoons melted butter
– 1 ripe banana, mashed / diced

For the syrup

– 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 3 tablespoons Whisky

To make banana pancakes

– Heat a non-stick* griddle or skillet over medium heat
– In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter (and mashed banana). Whisk until the batter is combined
– Using a cup for consistently sized cakes, scoop batter into preheated pan
– Flip the pancake when the bottom is golden and bubbles form on top, about 2 minutes per side or until cooked through. If your cakes brown before being cooked through, turn your heat down a notch. Repeat with remaining pancakes
– Serve the pancakes with whisky syrup (instructions below)

To make syrup

To a small saucepan over medium heat, add the syrup, butter, and cinnamon. When the butter is melted and the syrup begins to bubble, add the whisky. Simmer steadily for 60 seconds to allow the alcohol to cook off. Remove from heat and serve the hot, dark, buttery, boozy sauce poured over a giant stack of banana pancakes – a little piece of banach banana breakfast heaven.

*Note: I use a non-stick skillet for pancakes and I do not grease the pan with butter or oil, because I have found that I get prettier, more evenly-coloured pancakes when I do not grease the pan. However, if you are using a griddle or skillet that is not non-stick, I recommend greasing the pan for easier flipping