Posts by Octane

Octane offers gastro wilderness expeditions to islands beyond the horizon

Frittering time

Someone once told me time should never be killed so I’m wondering whether instead it’s fine to fritter? So long as apples are involved I’m told.

Either way, I believe cooking this quick and easy recipe for apple fritters is time well spent.

Sugar, fruit, dough and syrup after an energetic, if tiring, day spearfishing is a reward much anticipated.

Ingredients

– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 large egg
– 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
– 4 apples
Vegetable oil, for frying
– Canadian maple syrup + icing sugar

Instructions

– whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar + salt
– in a separate bowl, whisk the egg + buttermilk
– whisk together the two mixtures
– slice apples into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, discard centre core (keep slices in water to prevent discoloration)
– add 3 inches of oil over medium heat
– prepare a surface with paper towels
– when the oil reaches heat, dipping each apple slice in batter, carefully lower rings into the oil
– flip the apple slices occasionally to brown on all sides
– transfer fritters onto the paper towel
 

To serve

Serve immediately with Canadian maple syrup + a dusting of icing sugar. Alternatively the fritters can be coated in cinnamon and sugar.

Notes

Ensure the temperature of the oil is between 325 and 360. However, if no thermometer is available check the oil is ready for frying by inserting a dry wooden spoon into the oil — if it is up to temperature bubbles will form around it. Otherwise place one drop of batter to the pan, if it sizzles the oil is up to temperature.

It’s important to shake off as much excess batter as possible to ensure the apple rings fry quickly. Maintain the oil temperature to avoid soggy fritters, do not overcrowd as this will lower the temperature. Do not let oil smoke.

Baiting lobster

This is not a top ten ways to infuriate an armoured crustacean but more a useful post describing how to prepare tempting morsels for a lobster pot.

Whilst three day hung game might be many people’s gastro delight, a three week aged mackerel is sure to turn the heads of many a lurking lobster.

Giddy for gurnard

Just as humans like aged steak, lobsters go giddy for rotten old fish many people turn their nose up to.

Fishy familiarity

However, not all have wives happy to get to know gurnard quite so well. So, a sure way to age fish without it rotting is to place it in six inches of sea salt for two to three weeks.

Stop the rot

Ensure the fish is completely submersed and all sides of the fish are covered. The salt will draw the moisture from the flesh and stop it from rotting all the while. The fish will be dried, crispy, rigid and, most importantly, irresistible to homarus gammarus.

Twice as nice

It’s best to salt a few fish. Twice the pots, twice the chance. Also, with a number of lobster pots in a line, all dispersing the smell of aged mackerel into the current, the scent drift area will be wider.

Whiff

Lobsters ‘smell’ their food by using four small antennae on the front of their heads and tiny sensing hairs covering their bodies.

News travels

A lobster’s sense of smell is finely tuned and can sniff out a single amino acid that tags its favourite food from hundreds of metres.

Lobsters are typically local dwellers and keep to within a mile or so wide area – expect every lobster in the area to get news of your fish.

Big George

The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association claimed a record when they caught ‘Big George‘ in 1974 off Cape Cod. The lobster weighed 37.4 pounds with a total length of 2.1 feet.

… we’re gonna need a bigger pot

How George fitted in the pot remains a mystery.

The search for Staffa sea bass

Keen to prove resurgence in Hebridean sea bass is no myth we set off with folding kayaks. 

Our destination is a sandy bed off a small beach on Staffa’s east coast close to a nearby skerry.

It is extremely remote, impossible for commercial fishermen to access, unlikely to have been fished regularly and probably not at all this year. Only a kayak can pass between the narrow gap between the skerry and Staffa.

Virgin water

Sea kayaks give access to waters that might otherwise be difficult with a larger boat and they are also more fun to fight a fish from.

It’s extremely peaceful travelling without the urgent sound of outboard motors and individual kayaks give paddlers in a gtoup the chance to choose which waters they might prefer to fish.

Fishing restrictions

The Minimum Landing Size (a measurement regularly set for all fish types to ensure none are taken that have not yet spawned) was set at 36cm for sea bass 10 years ago.

Brussels blunder

Unfortunately the clipboard toting beaurocrats at HQ EU got it horribly wrong as many sea bass that size have yet to spawn.

Bass numbers crashed partly due to this oversight and partly due to a recent increase in popularity of the fish in restaurants.

There is talk of increasing the Minimum Landing Size to 42cm and, in March 2015, the EU limited recreational fishers to catching three sea bass per day around most of the UK. This is controversial as commercial drift netters continue to take industrial catches measured in tones.

No shrimp

The ban does not extend to western Scotland for a good reason – sea bass do not often venture this far north.

However, Scottish waters are warming and there have recently been reports of sea bass catches within the Hebrides at Wigtown, Luce Bay.

St Kilda tuna

Indeed, in September 2013 the boat Orca III caught Scotland’s first recorded tuna – it had been spotted in a shoal chasing mackerel off St Kilda and, weighing in at 515 lb. and measuring over seven foot long, the fish was no shrimp.

Before we head out for Staffa I notice a westerly breeze. Our destination will be in the lee of Staffa but nevertheless, I am reminded of my checks: there is a 15 knott westerly wind, the sea is choppy. The outlook for 48 hrs is calm. I call Tobermory RNLI, informing them of our route, departure time, ETA, craft type and name, passenger numbers, passenger names and edtimated return time.

Wrong clothes

Our journey into wind and through cresting waves is uneventful if a little choppy but, if a kayaker waited for millpond-sea in the Hebrides, he’d be a patient man or a disappointed one.

I subscribe to an attitude commonly misattributed to the fell walker Alfred Wainwright – there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. It rhymes in both Swedish and Norwegian so it is likely to originate in Scandinavia but they can fight amongst themselves for credit for the author is lost to posterity.

Wilderness island

We arrive to an island deserted of people – just us, diving gannets, comical puffins and inquisitive grey seals.

I already know where my sea bass is lurking: the sand eels are on the sandy bed, the pouting and mackerel are over the eels and my bass is in the kelp patiently eying up all three.

Fussy eater

I congratulate myself for my succinct understanding of the intricate dynamics of the food chain below me. And then I remember how bass also like shore crabs, hermit crabs, green peeler crabs, baby brown crabs, squid, prawn, ragworm, lugworm, sand eel, sprat, baby flatfish, baby lobster, mussels, clam, scallop, pouting, mackerel and whelk.

Indeed bass like to eat anything that can’t eat them. He could be anywhere.

The water is clear so I am fishing the mid depths with a sparkling spinner in pursuit of a set of pristine white mackerel feathered hooks. If he’s lurking in the kelp either side of the sandy channel, he’ll go for my offering – the shiniest of glittering mouthfuls in and around Staffa. The spinner chases my feathers and, he’ll soon chase the spinner.

Caught

I stick at it in expectation of an orgy of leaping silver fish but there is no bite from the bass and the mackerel I slowly accumulate have answered the call for supper.

I string the accumulating number of mackerel through the gills and keep them fresh in the cool seawater strung to the kayak’s side. My bass remains ever elusive.

Deftly dangle

I decide to fish the deeper water and drop a mackerel and lugworm cocktail baited hook to a within a few feet from the seabed, irresistible to any self-respecting bass. The hook is raised off the bed to stop crabs and other unwanted crawling critters from stealing my bait.

Deeper

I enjoy fishing the lower depths as it leaves plenty of time to do almost anything else. I think of a story told by, Rosemary Nicholson, the housekeeper at nearby Ulva House:

”My father was ploughing at the time, it was a sunny day, when these two Lancasters came over very low, and the horses went haywire, jumping and bucking all over the place, so he had to unhitch them from the plough, and by the time we got them in the stable you could cream the foam off their backs in great scoops, they were so scared. Anyway, we heard a double thudding, and very quickly, the Lancasters came back. You see, they had found a submarine on the surface off Staffa. The [Royal Navy] fleet was in Loch Na Keal. It’s deep all the way up. And someone told me this, I don’t know if it’s true: that at Fingal’s Cave shortly after, there, carved at the very back, were the initials of submariners, dated that very day. You see they had surfaced to see Fingal’s Cave, and carved their names, and been drowned. Where’s the wreck? No one knows. They may have got a little way before they sunk”.

Soon

Fishing the lower depths leaves plenty of time for wandering minds. At this rate I’ll have time to break the German submarine’s Enigma code so, reluctantly, and despite fishing with the patience of a monk from neighbouring Iona, I accept there may well be no bass north of Jura. Yet.

Hebridean seas are warming and the bass will come.

Ode to E numbers

Worried whether the lobsters we catch are red enough, the hand dived wild scallops shiny enough or whether our hickory cured ocean fresh fish tastes smokey enough, we stay abreast of chemical options with which to improve upon nature.

Afterall, when a lobster ain’t quite like the catalogue, surely it can always be pimped with additives — retail’s Photoshop equivalent.

Keep calm

Here follows a list of E numbers in ode to their contribution to world cuisine as made available to consumers by our discerning supermarkets who, having come to the realisation natural food is so passé, enable us to keep calm and carry on consuming.

Although keeping calm whilst consuming attention deficit disorder inducing E133 Brilliant Blue can be a rather twitchy challenge but that’s probably for another post.

Carry on

The purpose of the list is simply to reassure — where nature fails there is a supermarket solution. Albeit wonderfully chemical.

Artificial colours — a rainbow of carcinogenic colour

E100 Curcumin
E101 (i) Riboflavin (ii) Riboflavin-5′-phosphate
E102 Tartrazine
E104 Quinoline yellow
E110 Sunset Yellow FCF; Orange Yellow S
E120 Cochineal; Carminic acid; Carmines
E122 Azorubine; Carmoisine
E123 Amaranth
E124 Ponceau 4R; Cochineal Red A
E127 Erythrosine
E128 Red 2G
E129 Allura Red AC
E131 Patent Blue V
E132 lndigotine; Indigo Carmine
E133 Brilliant Blue FCF
E140 Chlorophylls and chlorophyllins
E141 Copper complexes of chlorophyll and chlorophyllins
E142 Green S
E150a Plain caramel
E150b Caustic sulphite caramel
E150c Ammonia caramel
E150d Sulphite ammonia caramel
E151 Brilliant Black BN; Black PN
E153 Vegetable carbon
E154 Brown FK
E155 Brown HT
E160a Carotenes
E160b Annatto; Bixin; Norbixin
E160c Paprika extract; Capsanthian; Capsorubin
E160d Lycopene
E160e Beta-apo-8′-carotenal (C30)
E160f Ethyl ester of beta-apo-8′-carotenoic acid (C30)
E161a Flavoxanthin
E161b Lutein
E161c Cryptoaxanthin
E161d Rubixanthin
E161e Violaxanthin
E161f Rhodoxanthin
E161g Canthaxanthin
E162 Beetroot Red; Betanin
E163 Anthocyanins
E170 Calcium carbonate
E171 Titanium dioxide
E172 Iron oxides and hydroxides
E173 Aluminium
E174 Silver
E175 Gold
E180 Litholrubine BK
E181 Tannic acid, Tannins

Artificial preservatives — food for eternity

E200 Sorbic acid
E202 Potassium sorbate
E203 Calcium sorbate
E210 Benzoic acid
E211 Sodium benzoate
E212 Potassium benzoate
E213 Calcium benzoate
E214 Ethyl p-hydroxybenzoate
E215 Sodium ethyl p-hydroxybenzoate
E216 Propyl p-hydroxybenzoate
E217 Sodium propyl p-hydroxybenzoate
E218 Methyl p-hydroxybenzoate
E219 Sodium methyl p-hydroxybenzoate
E220 Sulphur dioxide
E221 Sodium sulphite
E222 Sodium hydrogen sulphite
E223 Sodium metabisuiphite
E224 Potassium metabisulphite
E225 Potassium sulphite
E226 Calcium sulphite
E227 Calcium hydrogen sulphite
E228 Potassium hydrogen sulphite
E230 Biphenyl; diphenyl
E231 Orthophenyl phenol
E232 Sodium orthophenyl phenol
E233 Thiabendazole,2-(Thiazol-4-yl) benzimidazole
E234 Nisin
E235 Natamycin
E236 Formic acid
E237 Sodium formate
E238 Calcium formate
E239 Hexamethylene tetramine
E242 Dimethyl dicarbonate
E249 Potassium nitrite
E250 Sodium nitrite
E251 Sodium nitrate
E252 Potassium nitrate
E260 Acetic acid
E261 Potassium acetate
E262 Sodium acetate
E263 Calcium acetate
E264 Ammonium acetate
E270 Lactic acid
E280 Propionic acid
E281 Sodium propionate
E282 Calcium propionate
E283 Potassium propionate
E284 Boric acid
E285 Sodium tetraborate; borax
E290 Carbon dioxide
E296 Malic acid
E297 Fumaric acid
E1105 Lysozyme

Antioxidants — life’s better without air

E300 Ascorbic acid
E301 Sodium ascorbate
E302 Calcium ascorbate
E303 Potassium ascorbate
E304 Fatty acid esters of ascorbic acid
E306 Tocopherols
E307 Alpha-tocopherol
E308 Gamma-tocopherol
E309 Delta-tocopherol
E310 Propyl gallate
E311 Octyl gallate
E312 Dodecyl gallate
E315 Erythorbic acid
E316 Sodium erythorbate
E319 Tert-ButylHydroQuinone
E320 Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
E321 Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Artificial sweeteners — side effects without bitterness

E420 (i) Sorbitol (ii) Sorbitol syrup
E421 Mannitol
E950 Acesulfame K
E951 Aspartame 
E952 Cyclamic acid and its Na and Ca salts
E953 lsomalt
E954 Saccharin and its Na, K and Ca salts
E957 Thaumatin
E959 Neohesperidine DC
E965 (i) Maltitol (ii) Maltitol syrup
E966 Lactitol
E967 Xylitol

Emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners and gelling agents — a potpourri of improvement

E322 Lecithins
E400 Alginic acid
E401 Sodium alginate
E402 Potassium alginate
E403 Ammonium alginate
E404 Calcium alginate
E405 Propane-1,2-diol alginate
E406 Agar
E407 Carrageenan
E407a Processed eucheuma seaweed
E410 Locust bean gum; carob gum
E412 Guar gum
E413 Tragacanth
E414 Acacia gum; gum arabic
E415 Xanthan gum
E416 Karaya gum
E417 Tara gum
E418 Gellan gum
E425 Konjac
E432 Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate; Polysorbate 20
E433 Polyoxyethylene sorbitan mono-oleate; Polysorbate 80
E434 Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monopalmitate; Polysorbate 40 
E435 Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearate; Polysorbate 60
E436 Polyoxyethylene sorbitan tristearate; Polysorbate 65
E440 Pectins
E442 Ammonium phosphatides
E444 Sucrose acetate isobutyrate
E445 Glycerol esters of wood rosins
E460 Cellulose
E461 Methyl cellulose

E463 Hydroxypropyl cellulose
E464 Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose
E465 Ethyl methyl cellulose
E466 Carboxy methyl cellulose
E467 Sodium carboxy methyl cellulose
E468 Crosslinked sodium carboxy methyl cellulose
E469 Enzymatically hydrolysed carboxy methyl cellulose
E470a Sodium, potassium and calcium salts of fatty Acids
E470b Magnesium salts of fatty acids
E471 Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E472a Acetic acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E472b Lactic acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E472c Citric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E472d Tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids

E472e Mono- and diacetyltartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E472f Mixed acetic and tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids
E473 Sucrose esters of fatty acids
E474 Sucroglycerides
E475 Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids

E476 Polyglycerol polyricinoleate
E477 Propylene glycol esters of fatty acids
E479b Thermal oxidised soya bean oil interacted with mono & diglycerides of fatty acids
E481 Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate
E482 Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate
E483 Stearyl tartrate
E491 Sorbitan monostearate
E492 Sorbitan tristearate
E493 Sorbitan monolaurate
E494 Sorbitan monooleate
E495 Sorbitan monopalmitate
E1103 Invertase

Acidity regulators, anti-caking agents, anti-foaming agents, bulking agents, carrier solvents, emulsifiers, firming agents, flavour enhancers,  foaming agents, glazing agents, humectants, packaging gases, propellants and sequestrants — because you’re worth it

E170 Calcium carbonates
E260 Acetic acid
E261 Potassium acetate
E262 Sodium acetate
E263 Calcium acetate
E270 Lactic acid
E290 Carbon dioxideE296 Malic acid
E297 Fumaric acid
E325 Sodium lactate
E326 Potassium lactate
E327 Calcium lactate
E330 Citric acid
E331 Sodium citrates
E332 Potassium citrates
E333 Calcium citrates
E334 Tartaric acid (L-(+))
E335 Sodium tartrates
E336 Potassium tartrates
E337 Sodium potassium tartrate
E338 Phosphoric acid
E339 Sodium phosphates
E340 Potassium phosphates
E341 Calcium phosphates
E343 Magnesium phosphates
E350 Sodium malates

E351 Potassium malate
E352 Calcium malates
E353 Metatartaric acid
E354 Calcium tartrate
E355 Adipic acid
E356 Sodium adipate
E357 Potassium adipate
E363 Succinic acid
E380 Triammonium citrate
E385 Calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetate; calcium disodium EDTA
E422 Glycerol
E431 Polyoxyethylene (40) stearate
E450 Diphosphates
E451 Triphosphates
E452 Polyphosphates
E459 Beta-cyclodextrin
E500 Sodium carbonates
E501 Potassium carbonates
E503 Ammonium carbonates
E504 Magnesium carbonates
E507 Hydrochloric acid
E508 Potassium chloride
E509 Calcium chloride
E511 Magnesium chloride
E512 Stannous chloride
E513 Sulphuric acid
E514 Sodium sulphates
E515 Potassium sulphates
E516 Calcium sulphate
E517 Ammonium sulphate
E520 Aluminium sulphate
E521 Aluminium sodium sulphate
E522 Aluminium potassium sulphate
E523 Aluminium ammonium sulphate
E524 Sodium hydroxide
E525 Potassium hydroxide
E526 Calcium hydroxide
E527 Ammonium hydroxide
E528 Magnesium hydroxide
E529 Calcium oxide
E530 Magnesium oxide
E535 Sodium ferrocyanide
E536 Potassium ferrocyanide
E538 Calcium ferrocyanide
E541 Sodium aluminium phosphate
E551 Silicon dioxide
E 552 Calcium silicate
E553a (i) Magnesium silicate 
(ii) Magnesium trisilicate
E553b Talc
E554 Sodium aluminium silicate
E555 Potassium aluminium silicate
E556 Aluminium calcium silicate
E558 Bentonite
E559 Aluminium silicate; Kaolin
E570 Fatty acids
E574 Gluconic acid
E575 Glucono delta-lactone
E576 Sodium gluconate
E577 Potassium gluconate
E578 Calcium gluconate
E579 Ferrous gluconate
E585 Ferrous lactate
E620 Glutamic acid
E621 Monosodium glutamate
E622 Monopotassium glutamate
E623 Calcium diglutamate 
E624 Monoammonium glutamate
E625 Magnesium diglutamate
E626 Guanylic acid
E627 Disodium guanylate
E628 Dipotassium guanylate
E629 Calcium guanylate
E630 lnosinic acid
E631 Disodium inosinate
E632 Dipotassium inosinate
E633 Calcium inosinate
E634 Calcium 5′-ribonucleotides
E635 Disodium 5′-ribonucieotides
E640 Glycine and its sodium salt
E650 Zinc acetate
E900 Dimethylpolysiloxane
E901 Beeswax, white and yellow
E902 Candelilla wax
E903 Carnauba wax
E904 Shellac
E905 Microcrystalline wax
E912 Montan acid esters
E914 Oxidised Polyethylene wax
E920 L-Cysteine
E927b Carbamide
E938 Argon
E939 Helium
E941 Nitrogen
E942 Nitrous oxide
E943a Butane
E943b Iso-butane
E944 Propane
E948 Oxygen
E949 Hydrogen
E999 Quillaia extract
E1200 Polydextrose
E1201 Polyvinylpyrrolidone
E1202 Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone
E1404 Oxidised starch
E1410 Monostarch phosphate
E1412 Distarch phosphate
E1413 Phosphated distarch phosphate
E1414 Acetylated starch
E1420 Acetylated Starch
E1422 Acetylated distarch adipate
E1440 Hydroxyl propyl starch
E1442 Hydroxy propyl distarch phosphate
E1450 Starch sodium octenyl succinate
E1451 Acetylated oxidised starch 
Polyethylene glycol 6000
E1505 Triethyl citrate
E1518 Glyceryl triacetate; triacetin
E1520 Propan-1,2-diol; propylene glycol

Alternatively, if one is happy with eating food not designed to stay fresh some time into the next century, one can catch for the pot ocean fresh*


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 deer stalk, 7) we seed the sea, 8) we seed the land.

Ocean fresh is our quality standard and the term fresh is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh 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 made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean fresh. Simply put, it means caught and eaten same-day.

Campfire cooking – blueberry pancakes

Pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries, on a wilderness beach with a hot cup of fresh coffee first thing.

A breakfast hard to beat.

Ingredients

– 3 cups whole-wheat flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– ¾ tsp cinnamon
– 6 tsp vegetable oil
– 3 fresh eggs (or 3 tbsp egg powder)
– 3 cups milk, made from powder
– handful of blueberries

Method

  1. Before setting out, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and egg powder and store in a plastic bag.
  2. When ready to make pancakes, combine the mix with the oil
  3. Add milk and stir until mixture is a thick soup like consistency
  4. Heat a griddle with oil, test heat with a drop of water
  5. Spoon circles of the mix onto the griddle, fry on one side until bubbles form
  6. Flip pancakes and cook for about half the time on the second side
  7. Add berries to the mix as an optional extra and top with maple syrup

To serve

Sieve icing sugar over pancakes

The sterheid rammy

An argument on the stairwell. As told by a Glaswegian…

“To understand the dynamics of the sterheid rammy, I must take you back some 50 years before Glasgow Corporation raised the auld tenements tae the grun, there was a peculiarly democratic code that existed in the mair or less dingy closes of the tenements.

lavvy

What you need to understand is that a close would comprise maybe three levels, each called a storey, and each, except the ground floor having a half-landing, which would house a stinking latrine called a lavvy.

loaby

Each level may have a mixture of say three, sometimes four, flats containing families of up te half-a-dozen or more individuals. There was invariably a ‘singalend’, or more elusively called ‘butt-and-ben’, a ‘through-and-through’, and a ‘twin’ flat where the kitchenette lay side by side with the room, adjoined by a ‘loabby’. The loabby was where bikes were kept – accessed using a pulley, and a stout wooden bunker was sited against the wall to house the domestic coal reserves.

loacked lavvy

It is worth saying here, in case you were wondering, that the lavvy had to serve about 25 people. Naturally, people (of other families, so I’m told), thought nothing of pissing in the sink if the lavvy was loacked. However I digress.

Picturing then, this three dimensional geography, the scene is set for the playing-oot of the sterheid rammy. Only one further ingredient was necessary. Flagrant contravention of ‘the code’ of the ‘tinnamint close’.

One day, I remember it well, I was sitting in the half-landing lavvy, reading a sheet of the newspaper that was subsequently tae be used tae wipe ma erse, when I heard Mrs McIlwraith mouthing off, tae ma horror, some really unutterable oaths, quietly but gettin louder.

ya dirty bastard

From behind the door, which I was holding shut, on account of the lock being broken for fifty years or so, I could hear her shuffling up and down the stair with a low swearing. All of a sudden, she erupted, “Ca yersell a hoosewife ya dirty bastard Henderson“, and then she disappeared intae the hoose and shut the door wi a slam.

Next, I could hear auld Mrs Henderson‘s door open. It had its ain peculiar kind of creak. Sitting, as I was, mair and mair puzzled, I could hear auld Lizzie scuffling aboot on the half-landing.
 “A’ll housewife ye, ya jumped up wee tart. Away an bugger yersel“. And once again all fell silent, as I heard Lizzie’s door creak shut.

aloon on the sterheid

Noo, I was only about seven or eight, and this was a first. Unbeknowns tae me, there were clouds forgetherin, the like ae which I had never seen before. Suddenly Mary McIlwraith‘s door
 opened and a tireade of abuse about Lizzies lazy domestic talents was unleashed. It was clear, however that Mary was all aloon on the sterheid. “Ye huvnae done they effin stairs fur three effin weeks” The effins went on for a minute or so and she shut the door again, with a slam.

I was shitting myself, oh aye.

ya wee shite

Next, it was Lizzie’s creaking door, and then she was all alone on the landing. “A’ll effin stairs ye, ya wee shite. It was your turn onywey.” Then her door shut again… with a slam. It was a ritual.

I managed to get out of the lavvy during this lapse in the hostilities and sat doon at the front of the close tae play wi some tar that was always aboot. Though it was only minutes later that 
Mary started to bang on Lizzie’s door in a highly threatening way. I could hear it all the way up the close.

Even I knew. This was it…

oot o’ a Coal Heaver’s mooth

Lizzie, a tall skinny woman came fleein oot her door an landed a
cracker right on Mary’s ‘coupon’. There were real screams. This was a full-fledged sterheid rammy, no holds barred. There were raised female voices, and mair Effin an’ Blindin than ever came oot o’ a Coal Heaver’s mooth.

motherogoad

It went on for a long time and doors were banged, reopened, banged shut and plates were being broken. Shouts of ‘holymarymotherogoad‘ coud be heard as well as ‘orangebastard’, whatever that was.

Jist at that, Alec Harrison who lived on the tap fler, made his way up, acknowledged the wimmin, and just walked up tae his hoose through the battle. This was another wee ritual. Now this was part of the code. Naebody else got involved.

The rammy just went on-and-on-and-on, until such time as it was time tae make the dinner for the menfolk, who were hiding inside.

Well, you are no doubt wondering how such a standoff could be put right. This is where the menfolk came in, using their time honoured social skills.

wimmin

When Jimmy McIlwraith contrived to meet Rab Henderson on the stair, an hour later, there was yet another code. “Aye, Rab, that’s they wimmin fightin again, so it is“.

Ach, a know, Lizzie’s goat an awful temper when she gets sterted. A’m glad its goat nuthin tae dae wi us” says Jimmy.

Yer right there Rab, see ye at McNivens pub, eight o’cloack. By-the way Rab, d’ye see Big Tommy’s goat a new greyhound. It wid eat yer haun oaff

–––––––

Written by Glenallen

Footnote: A peculiarly Scottish code is to exchange embarrassed pleasantries whilst pretending something closely related to yourself doesn’t really exist. Whether folk were brought up in tenements or fisherman’s hooses or cottar hooses the effect was the same. People lived so closely together and were so interdependent that when any one of a hundred minor calamities occurred they had to get on.

Fattoush, a paddlers’ bedou banquet

I first ate fattoush with bedou tribes in desert sands besides warm Arabian waters and, as I sit on Mull looking seaward, I realize the two landscapes are similar (aside from the cool breeze, regular and intense rainfall, lush green grass, rich biodiversity, cold nutrient rich water, staggeringly high cliffs, abundant wildlife, driving winter snow and merciless winds) – both are utterly deserted by man.

Why choose desert bedou fattoush to tackle the cold Atlantic swell you might ask. Arabs controlled the spice trail through the Middle East and, if anyone can pimp a salad an arab can. Besides, despite lobster, scallop, salmon and muscles all busy idling below our kayaks, one shouldn’t eat such luxuries too regularly lest they become the everyday we seek to surpass.

Salad pimping

This version is therefore a pimps salad, pimped. The added feta and hard boiled eggs, both add slow release energy to the recipe – much needed for tackling the swell.

Extra calories

Qataris refer to Fattoush as gulf salad but this may have been simply a palatable phrase for tourists for it is known regionally as fattoush (fattush, fattoosh or fattouche). The bedouin version included finely sliced hard-boiled eggs and, being far superior for a calorie hungry sea kayaker, this is the version I am describing. I can however find no reference to eggs in other fattoush recipes. My second addition is feta cheese, diced to cubes. Whilst, in Qatar, the cheese may not have been a feta, it was doubtless a goat or sheep white cheese, so feta will do.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

Dressing

– 4 Tsp. ground sumac, soaked in 4 teaspoons warm water for 15 minutes
– 3 Tbsp. (or more) fresh lemon juice
– 2 Tbsp. (or more) pomegranate molasses
– 2 small garlic cloves, minced
– 2 Tsp. (or more) white wine vinegar
– ½ Tsp. dried mint
– ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes

Salad

– 2 x 8-inch-diameter pita breads, toasted until golden brown, diced
– 6 x hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced smaller than quarters
– 100g feta, diced to cubes
– ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil 
– 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
– one x 1-pound cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
– one whole red pepper, finely diced
– 6 x spring onions, thinly sliced
– 2 x little gem / baby romaine lettuces cut crosswise into ¾-inch strips
– 2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
– 1-cup fresh mint leaves 
– Ground sumac (optional)
Sea salt flakes

Preparation

Dressing

  1. Combine sumac mix, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, garlic, vinegar and dried mint in a bowl
  2. Gradually add oil, whisking constantly, until well blended
  3. Season with salt; add more lemon juice, molasses or vinegar to taste

Salad

  1. Mix tomatoes, cucumber, spring onion, lettuce, parsley, red pepper and mint in a bowl
  2. Add ¾ of dressing, toss to coat, adding more dressing by tablespoonfuls as needed
  3. Add pita, toss once
  4. Carefully place diced eggs
  5. Place pita pieces over salad
  6. Sprinkle extra sumac over, if desired
  7. Season with sea salt flakes to taste