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

 

Campfire cooking – grill marinade

This marinade is perfect as it stands – one needs go no further in dressing ocean fresh* fish for the grill.

But equally it can be used as a building block to greater things, by adding thyme, oregano or marjoram, rosemary, mustard or fresh shoreline wild garlic leaves.

Good for a couple of meals for 3–4

Ingredients

lemon juice 100ml, 2–3 lemons
– extra virgin olive oil 150ml
garlic cloves 3 peeled and crushed
sea salt 1 tsp

Combine all the ingredients in an airtight container and store in a dry bag in a cool place and out of the sun and shake before use.


*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 – ocean fresh calamari caught, cooked and served in an hour.

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.

 

Campfire cooking – Italian arrabbiata in wilderness Scotland

Bulked to the bulwark with a ballast of pasta and rice on sea kayak trips, this is a classic recipe on standby — just in case the fish don’t bite.

Arrabiata is a rich tomato based pasta recipe using basic ingredients such as passata and items from a boat’s dry-packed stowage larder. Most items are bottled or dried and impervious to the rigors of being at sea for stretches of time. It’s just the bruises on the onion that might need explaining.

Fresh herbs

In addition to the onion I prefer to pack some fresh items which make every bit of difference to morale – garlic cloves, fresh chilli and fresh parsley. And, depending on which shores an expedition passes, wild thyme can be found on a south facing, well drained sandy dune whilst ransoms garlic thrives on shady shorelines during early spring.

Lighter foods

Dried survival foods are handy for the likes of packing–light mountaineers but think of your kayak like a mule and it will do all the hard lugging for you – a sea kayak can pack as much as a yomping Marine, with considerably less effort. Just don’t let you’re beautiful craft know you think she’s a stubborn beast of burden.

Load capacity

A sea kayak with a carry capacity of 400 pounds and a paddler weighing 11 stone will safely allow for about 50 to 80 pounds of kit. There are online forum discussions on the matter of kayak load ratios but a sensible maxim is to ensure your combined weight (paddler and equipment) remains at about 50% of a kayak’s recommended load. That’s a lot of capacity for onions.

Load cap

Traditionally arrabiata is eaten with penne but I prefer spaghetti which is more efficient with space when packing a sea kayak. The very tubes enabling penne to hold rich sauces also pack air taking up valuable space in a small boat. On the other hand packing items containing air makes one’s bags more buoyant which is useful in capsize but that’s probably another discussion.

Penne prima

Don’t produce this recipe if you have Italians in your group, they can get awfully touchy about their penne.

Recipe feeds 4 people.

Ingredients

Olive oil
– Two onions, diced
– Five garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 1 x fresh red chili, deseeded and sliced
– 700g passata
– Fresh parsley
– 
Handful of ransoms garlic, chopped
– Sprigs of wilde thyme, ripped
– Handful of black olives
Salt and pepper
– 300gsm spaghetti
Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Heat the pan for a minute, pour in three tablespoons of olive oil
  2. When oil is hot, add onions to soften
  3. As onions glisten, add garlic and chili. Sauté for another 2 minutes
  4. Pour passata into the pan
  5. Once bubbling, add olives. Add salt
  6. Simmer slowly for at least an hour with lid on. The richness comes from the amalgamation of flavours condensed over time – the longer this sits on the campfire, the richer the reduced sauce becomes
  7. About 15 mins from serving, get a water pan onto the coals for pasta
  8. Once simmering, add enough spaghetti to feed your crew – noting recommended cooking times (ave. 10 mins for dried spaghetti)
  9. Sieve the pasta and add to the sauce for 1 min whilst still on the heat. The porous pasta will absorb the sauce and combine flavours
  10. Serve with a few sprigs of fresh wild thyme, freshly chopped ransoms garlic leaves and parmesan shavings

To serve

If there are any disgruntled Italians about, agog at being served arrabiata with spaghetti, this is your chance to win them back – only now break out the pepper from the kitchen and offer some. Italians never cook pasta sauces with pepper, it is always added to taste on the plate. You might have just recovered the penne situation.

Forgiven

Apart from with Bolognese, Italians also never pour pasta sauce onto pasta on the plate. Pasta sauce is otherwise always added to the pasta in the cooking pot for a couple of minutes so it absorbs the juices and flavours of the sauce. If your Italian guest sees you do this all is forgiven.

Probably.

Gastro campfire cooking – crab cakes

The brown crab is the most popular edible crab in the British Isles and, with a lung full of air and a wet suit, catching one for a delicious campfire treat is an afternoon well spent.

The brown crab has a dimpled edge to its body giving this guy a comic resemblance of a Cornish pasty but all playfulness stops there – this crab has the charm and nuance of a British army battle tank.

Rust coloured, robust and heavy set, with a bone hard shell and a low gait defensive profile it has powerful claws menacingly accentuated with black tips at the business end. These pincers are used to sever flesh and break bones on the seabed and can take a finger – for this reason it’s best to dive his domain to his rules – with a heavy pair of gloves.

Ingredients

For the crab cakes
– 2cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled
– 2 red chilies, seeds removed
– 250g white crabmeat
– Handful fresh coriander
– 2 spring onions, finely sliced
– 2 free-range eggs
– 7-8 tbsp breadcrumbs
– Plain flour, for dusting
– 25ml olive oil

To serve
– Sweet chili jam
Salad leaves
Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– One lemon

Preparation method

1. Finely chop ginger and chili
2. In a bowl combine the chili and ginger with the crabmeat, coriander and spring onions
3. Crack in one egg and mix well, then stir in 4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs
4. Divide crab cake mixture into 6 equally and roll to patties
5. Place on a tray and chill in fridge for about 20 minutes before cooking
6. Prepare good campfire embers (Preheat oven to 180C / 365F / Gas 4)
7. Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with one tablespoon of water to make an egg wash
8. Place some plain flour and the remaining breadcrumbs in separate shallow dish
9. Dredge crab cakes in flour, dip into the egg and coat with breadcrumbs
10. Heat oil in frying pan and fry crab cakes for 2-3 mins each side, or until crisp golden-brown all over
11. Wrap crab cakes in tin foil (or place on baking tray for oven) and bake for 5-10 mins, cooked when piping hot through to centre

Serve the crab cakes with a slice of lemon each and a sprig of dill. Sweet chili jam, a few leaves of dressed salad, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Eat the ocean fresh* cakes from a cliff top looking out to sea.


* 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 made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean fresh. Simply put, it means caught and eaten same-day.

Food on the paddle – potato, pepper + pistachio salad

This Mediterranean salad has plenty of carbs, sugars, nutrients and proteins, is full of flavour and easy to make before setting out.

Something so simple travels and packs well and is good for cold-packed lunches on kayak expeditions to replace lost energy from a hard morning’s paddling.

This everyday recipe has been pimped over the years to an expeditioner’s needs  – the pistachio serving has been doubled for its energy content, the egg serving is increased for its protein and, with spring onion in the recipe, the chives have been banned for their canny lack in contributory value – parsley, dulse or ramsons garlic have made good substitutes!

The following recipe feeds 4.

Ingredients

– 4 medium potatoes
– 2 red peppers
– 3 spring onion, diced
– ½ cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
– ½ cup black olives, chopped
– ¼ cup capers
– ½ cup pistachios
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– ½ cup olive oil
– 1 tsp. dried thyme
– 4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
– Fresh parsley / ramsons garlic / dulse
– 50 gm grated parmesan
– 6 boiled eggs, quartered
– ½ tsp. Smoked paprika

Method

  1. Scrub potatoes + cube
  2. Boil potatoes until al dente, drain
  3. Dressing: mix olive oil, dried thyme, vinegar + garlic
  4. Mix onion, tomatoes, olives, capers + pistachios + toss with dressing
  5. Add salt, pepper to taste
  6. Place egg quarters on each serving
  7. Sprinkle parmesan + parsley to serve. Finish with a sprinkle of Smoked paprika

Serve

— Eat, carry on paddling

Gastro camp cooking – wild caught crab cake

The brown crab is the most popular edible crab in the British Isles and, with a lung full of air and a wet suit, catching one for this gastro campfire recipe is an afternoon well spent.

The brown crab has a dimpled edge to its body giving him a comic Cornish pasty appearance but looks deceive – he has the charm and nuance of a frontline battle tank.

Reddish brown in colouration, robust and heavy set with a bone hard shell and a low-gait defensive profile – brown crabs have powerful claws menacingly highlighted with black tips at the business end.

The claws are used to sever flesh and to break bones with the convenience of using the seabed as a chopping board. He’ll take a small finger and, for this reason, it’s best to dive for crabs with a heavy pair of dive gloves, a crab stick and a glass half full.

Crab cakes

– 2cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled
– 2 red chilies, seeds removed
– 250g white crabmeat
– Handful fresh coriander
– 2 spring onions, finely sliced
– 2 free-range eggs
– 7-8 tbsp breadcrumbs
– Plain flour, for dusting
– 25ml olive oil

To serve

– Sweet chili jam
– Salad leaves
– Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– One lemon

Preparation method

  1. Finely chop ginger and chili
  2. Combine in bowl the chili and ginger with crabmeat, coriander and spring onions
  3. Crack in one egg and mix well, then stir in 4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs
  4. Divide crab cake mixture into 6 equally and roll to patties
  5. Chill in fridge for 20 min before cooking
  6. Prepare good campfire embers (preheat oven to 180C / 365F / Gas 4)
  7. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon of water to make an egg wash
  8. Place some plain flour and the remaining breadcrumbs in separate shallow dish
  9. Dredge patties in flour, dip in the egg and coat with breadcrumbs
  10. Heat oil in pan and fry crab cakes for 2-3 mins each side / until crisp golden-brown all over
  11. Wrap cakes in tin foil and bake for 5-10 mins, cooked when hot to centre

Serve the crab cakes with a slice of lemon each and a sprig of dill. Sweet chili jam, a few leaves of dressed salad, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Eat from a cliff top looking out to sea content in the knowledge your fish is 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.

The scallop diver’s dram

I was introduced to this recipe by a scallop diver of over 40 years. He said the brew was his most faithful fan – insisting, only whilst drinking it, were his tales quite so compelling.

One such story was told around a campfire on the beach at Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull. As we sat facing the sea with our backs resting on my upturned kayak, a tarp over our heads and a hot whisky Scallop Diver’s Dram in hand he quietly regaled the story in his softly spoken Hebridean lilt:

“Wearing leaded boots and using a long rubber tubed snorkel to the surface, I would walk along the sea bed in search of good scallop beds and keep my haul in a rowing boat on the surface above me. This I would tow all the while until I was satisfied with the value of my day’s scallop catch for market.”

Whilst sipping the dram his eyes lit up in recollection: “The seemingly un-captained and mysterious rowing boat above me would often be seen from a distance by captivated hill walkers and ramblers as it evidently and unnaturally made slow but steady headway along the shore against tides, currents, wind and logic.”

With a wrye wrinkled smile, the diver continued…

“Such busy people, walking hills in fluorescent macs, often incomers and, lacking in a little ken, always eager to believe a good tale from the highlands”

“So when returning to town for their cakes, coffees and souvenirs, incomers reported their sightings of the mysteriously wandering boat. Islanders revelled in earnestly telling the townies they had been lucky to have witnessed the rare and ghostly boat of Big Willy McIvor, a  wreck-salvager and scallop-diver of great repute who long ago discovered a shipwrecked sunken whiskey cargo containing more cases of the finest malt than one man can count.”

“The discovery was a bonanza and Big Willy McIvor soon fell in love with ‘diving the dram’ as he fondly came to call it. Word spread Big Willy had, deftly devised and perfected the art of sitting for a break on the sandy sea bed to take a wee dram by opening upturned bottles and drinking through a straw pointing upwards into the bottle. All the while he worked dervishley at the surrounding salvage.”

“The wreck kept him in pocket and the dram kept him un-focussed. He was blissfully unable to see his life otherwise, or at all. But, you’ve got to take the pleasures which come your way he thought and, in a blurry way, he had found much contentment.”

Taking a slow sip o’ the dram, the diver’s upbeat delivery slowed…

“Tragically Big Willy‘s career took a tumble as it became evident among professionals he was anymore unable to dive sober. Times were changing and quite unfairly his work with commercial wreckers dried when rumours of dripdram, his patented diving device mixing whiskey vapour and oxygen to a divers underwater respirator, circulated in port.”

“Sadly Big Willy McIvor has is said to have died of a broken heart on discovering he’d drunk the last dram of the last bottle from the last submerged case in cargo.”

”Others who knew him better, say he saved the last bottle for this looming occasion and, calmly sitting back on the ocean bed to finally admire his underwater fiefdom, opened the flow of dripdram. His body is sitting somewhere offshore to this day, staring to sea, perfectly-poised and perfectly-pickled.”

“The abandoned and ghostly boat can sometimes still be seen following the old submerged and disused clamming routes offshore. People say the lonely vessel searches for its lost captain whilst others say drunken Big Willy McIvor has at last found a new case.”

The diver looks to us all, “To Willy” he said, raising his glass. “To diving the dram”, I say raising mine.

Scallop Diver’s Dram Recipe

– boil some water
– insert cloves to the rind of a lemon slice
– place lemon slice in water

– spoon a little honey to the steaming mix
– stir with vigour
– pour in whisky to taste

Stories have never sounded so good.


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. We have 8 methods of sourcing wild food.

**Ocean fresh – on the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old as the term fresh fish is of course relative. 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 through calimari’ – ocean fresh calimari caught, cooked and served in under an hour