Wilderness Hebridean holiday heaven

Octane expeditions venture to World Heritage Coastline islands – the closest true wilderness of note to London. Our expedition bothy is an hour from Oban which in turn is a sleeper train journey from London.

Octane is located within one of Britain’s last remaining traffic warden free zones. There are no roads or cars and, if frappuccino is de rigueur with your wifi there’s going to be tears. That having been said, with solar powering our connection with near space satellite orbits, we’ve probably got wifi covered.

Wilderness beaches

Despite our apparent lack of mochalatte frappiatos we do have a wilderness coastline with azure blue waters and pristine white coral beaches. There are sea eagles and golden eagles soaring gracefully above world famous basalt pillar rock formations and seals diving alongside if eyes are averted whilst practicing the art of looking bashful.

Wildlife

Passing whales will gently and gracefully make your paddling efforts look pedestrian and there are famous basalt caves people have traveled from the farthest corners of the world to marvel at.

The archipelago of Staffa and the Treshnish Isles is some of Scotland’s most protected coastline – home to little otters and enormous orcas alike. Dolphins, seals, porpoises and basking sharks pass alongside whilst gannets fold their wings to dive from 60 feet in the air through the waves like spears to catch smaller fish below.

Gastro wild camping

We eat the wild food we catch and do not believe campers should survive on a diet of baked beans, biltong and instant coffee. Our gastro campfire recipes keep guests fuelled for each day ahead:

  1. Tender summer squid with chorizo + aioli
  2. Seaweed rosti with baked trout + wild garlic
  3. Baked cod with tomato, garlic + shoreline herbs
  4. Shoreline crab linguine and wild garlic
  5. Squid, chickpea + chorizo salad
  6. Hebridean hobo haversack
  7. The scallop diver’s dram
  8. Blood orange seared wild scallops
  9. Baked wild sea trout and shoreline herbs
  10. Wooded shoreline double garlic risotto
  11. Blueberry orange muffins
  12. Cinnamon breakfast buns

Live light

So kick back and relax – all food, provisions and equipment are included. If you forget to pack something it’s more than likely it can be purchased from our store. Not that much requires bringing – sleeping bag, waterproofs, torch, walking boots, swimming trunks and some money for your train or plane home. Sourcing food amongst stunning, wild remote islands is most enjoyable whilst traveling light – an Inuit saying ‘live life like you are in a kayak’ is a good starting point for packing a bag for expedition.

The folding kayak

Our craft of choice is the Folbot Cooper Expedition. Folding Kayaks give Octane the ability to travel more lightly and to be more mobile. Other kayaks types don’t fit on a rib or indeed in the pickup truck rear bucket.

Aluminium has long since replaced the wooden frames making it lighter, stronger and smaller when stowed. Furthermore it is more buoyant at sea giving the craft a superior load capacity for expedition provisions.

Closer to the sea

I prefer folding kayaks because the give of the canvas makes me feel closer to the sea. Others prefer the sleekness and sheen of fibreglass kayaks making them a great deal faster and I love them too – they save energy in paddling and are the Formula 1 of the kayak world. But they still don’t fit in the rib or in my truck.


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.

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

Chorizo, the fridgeless expedition wonder

Chorizo’s coming about as a provision well suited to extended expeditions is due to the preservation qualities of the spices within.

Chorizo is an intensely flavoured hard Spanish sausage made using pork and, richly seasoned with smoked paprika, garlic, and salt, it’s delicious raw.

Deep flavour

However, when cooked, the oils and paprika diffuse and intensify to create a deeply rich and salty flavour.

Every boat

Chorizo can be finely chopped into scrambled eggs for breakfast or sauté sliced with kale, samphire or seaweed as a dish with rice. Chorizo is the perfect addition to staple camp recipes such as arrabiata but can equally be enjoyed lightly fried until crisp to enhance soups, stews, salads and rice dishes. A couple of recipe suggestions using chorizo follow, one warming stew and the other a salad:

Tender summer squid with chorizo + aioli
– Squid + chorizo with rice, beetroot + apple
– Squid, chickpea + chorizo salad

Under wraps

Indeed every boat, however small, should stow a large chorizo under the deck cover. But keep chorizo dry and well wrapped – the rigours of kayak confinement will otherwise surely challenge it’s hard earned reputation for endurance.

Keep one onboard, sometimes there’s just no guarantee of fish.

Food on the paddle – tuna taco salad

On remote windswept wild beaches, this lunch requires no ceremony, is full of energy and is simply handy in tacos.

With the complexities of a folding kayak to captain and supper to catch – a lunch this simple’s gold dust.

And, if it’s ceremony you want, this simple recipe is fun to make the night before, or the morning of, under the tarp and in the windbreak of the kayak, admiring the ocean in front.

The following recipe feeds 4 people.

Ingredients

– tacos
– 8 oz tuna (in olive oil)
– ½ cup mayonnaise
– ½ cup celery, diced
– Three spring onions, diced
– Fresh parsley
– ½ tsp fresh wild thyme
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– 1 pinch paprika
– 1 pinch cumin

Method

— Mix ingredients, fill tacos

Serve

— Eat, carry on paddling

Gastro campfire recpies – Baked cod with tomato, garlic + shoreline herbs

Baked fish, straight from the sea and steeped in herbs from its very own shoreline is simply a fine combination.

Serves 4 people.

Ingredients

—700g cod
—1 lemon, juiced and zested
—2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
—1/2 cup fresh parsley, wild thyme + diced ramsoms wild garlic
—1 pinch salt
—1 pinch black pepper
—1 can chopped tomatoes
—2 tbsp finely chopped onion
—1 drizzle balsamic glaze

Instructions

Campfire

—Prepare a campfire and fuel up until enough large hot embers are produced to heat a Dutch Oven

Fish

—Place the cod in a foil wrap
—Combine the lemon juice and zest, olive oil, wild Hebridean herbs, salt and pepper and pour over the fish
—Leave to marinate for 2 hours
—Pour the tomato + onion over the fish
—Bake the fish, covered for 20–30 minutes, until white through and flakes easily
—Pour on the balsamic glaze to taste

Sit back and bask in the accomplishment of eating ocean fresh fish.


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 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. AtOctane 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–by calamari’ – ocean fresh calamari caught, cooked and served in under an hour.

Campfire baked fish in newspaper – tastes better than it reads

We arrive ill–prepared – Hebridean beaches are known for their absence of banana leaves yet we have brought no substitute foil to bake our catch. We make do with a well–thumbed copy of The Scotsman.

This method of cooking small whole fish keeps the flesh moist and traps all the flavour within the paper shell whilst allowing our catch to steep in the fresh herbs. Catching wild fish and baking it that same day on the shore from which it’s caught makes it, in my definition ocean fresh*.

Cocoon

Season each fish liberally all over with sea salt and stuff the fish cavity with slices of lemon, garlic and fresh herbs. Wrap the fish in about five sheets of paper, wetting each sheet first before applying the next layer.

Cook the parcels for about 15 minutes a side (longer for larger fish) in the hot embers of a campfire – the paper won’t burst into flames, but you may need smear some water on the paper once in a while if the edges smoke.

Fish parcel

The parcel will blacken and the fish skin should come away with the paper to reveal beautifully cooked and succulent white flesh within.

Thankfully, by this stage, The Scotsman might be entirely illegible.

 

––––––––––
* 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 your fish 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.

 

Catching brown crab

Not easy to find but, if you know the types of nooks they live in, patience and a lung full of air is all you need to catch a fair size brown crab for the pot.

On this occasion the sea is choppy and, not wanting a kayak anchored on the surface whilst diving, I swim to a reef previously spotted from cliffs above, take a lung full of air and dive to orientate myself with the lie of the bed.

On a second descent I start my sweep at the deepest part of the reef where the rock meets a sandy gully. Visibility is limited today to about thee metres and I swim and wriggle and pull myself along looking under rocks, ledges and cracks in a methodical manner so as not to miss any ground.

Wearing dive gloves I am mindful that a veteran could otherwise have fun with my fingers. Its claws are designed to sever flesh and to break bones and any animal cornered is treated in much the same way as a car meeting its life’s end at the hands of the wrecker’s claw.

First, the saw claw cuts and sevvers flesh and sinew and then the other club claw squashes and breaks bone and cartilage. Both claws are differently shaped for efficiency with each separate task. If the crab is attacking crustaceans it uses the two claws in reverse to above.

A dimpled edge to their body gives them the comic resemblance of a Cornish pasty. This said they have the charm of a battle tank. Red brown in colour, robust and heavy set, with a bone hard shell and a low gait defensive profile; their powerful claws are menacingly highlighted with black tips at the business end.

The brown crab is the most popular edible crab in the British Isles and the one most likely to be seen on ice in supermarkets.

A decent sized crab is a good meal full of vitamins and minerals and the sure way to know how ‘full’ a crab is under its armour is by judging the age of its shell – if it’s covered in barnacles and marks it is mature and the crab will be sure to have grown into its shell suit. If on the other hand the shell is new then it is likely the crab within is still growing.

Before completing my sweep around the reef I find a crab. Decent sized and aware of my presence, he has backed up under a ledge making it hard to grab his claws. I reach down to my ankle strap where I keep a crab hook by way of a fashioned coat hanger and slowly pass the tool over the his back and behind into the rock cranny to stop him backing up further. I carefully pull the crab towards me, his claws snapping at my fingers, both of us stare at each other all the while.

Running low on fuel, I know that if I did not have him swiftly on the open sand I will have to the surface. As he slides into the open I use the hook to keep him low to the sand with a downward pressure on his carapace whilst I grab beyond his claws for the forearms.

With the hook between my teeth I swim to the surface, both my hands holding claws. I gasp for air at the surface and wonder which is more difficult: swimming to shore laden with dive weights, both hands occupied with an angry crab or treading water in choppy sea whilst trying to put the warring beast into a dive bag.

Either way supper will be delicious.