- Published: 18 June 2019
Sleat | Isle of Skye
I may be a far cry from the golden sands and palm-tree coastline of Maceio, in the North East of Brazil where I was born, but how lucky am I to be living on Skye. This beautiful island, not quite so remote anymore, with its tranquil beauty, breath-taking views, rugged skyline and adventurous terrain, has become more infamous year on year.
Food has projected Skye onto the world’s culinary map, making it one of the most popular destinations on the planet. The calibre of dining on this 50-mile-long island, has superseded many otherwise populated towns on Scotland’s mainland and it is without a doubt the sheer determination of those individuals striving years ago to make it so. Claire & Godfrey Macdonald opened the doors of Kinloch Lodge in 1972. Claire was one of the first serious foodies to offer hotel guests the ‘real’ Skye landed produce, years before others followed on and it became a given to expect local produce’. She was also ahead of the game with the desire to serve seasonal menus, another heavily used phrase nowadays. All before she became a world-renowned cook, writing numerous cookbooks and receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.
Another food hero to me would be Peter Macaskill, who was just one of a handful of local producers, working tirelessly to grow his business with the help of Skye & Lochalsh Food Link, which was launched in 2000. Food Link comprised of a group of restauranteurs, hoteliers and producers who met to discuss ways in which local food could be better distributed. The objective was to encourage increased use of local food within the area.
I was delighted to find myself next door neighbour’s to Peter and his wife Sheena of Loch Eishort Mussel Culture, when I relocated my family to Skye 12 years ago, from the hustle and bustle of south-east England. Especially as our sons, Max and Alex, then 7 and 5 years of age, already had very adventurous taste buds!
Once they had managed to fight their wellies on and literally roll down the steep slope of our garden, it was a short walk, passing a small brook to play pooh sticks and teach our young collie puppy, Skye, how to swim….something she really didn’t need help in, but she obliged in their instructions and always did as she was told, not something I so readily remember with the boys! Then we would collect our pre-arranged net of clean rope-grown mussels from Peter, before heading back to the house to help prepare for supper.
My boys became obsessed with fishing and water and we’d head down to Loch Eishort, at the end of our road for an adventure. Quite often watching Peter sail out to fetch his harvest. The boys would play pirates, collecting pebble treasures and getting up to all kinds of mischief with pieces of old rope and mussel shells and the odd crab claw.
Today the members of ‘tastelocal’ food link have increased, giving even more coverage and better access to fantastic produce. John Corfield of Isle of Skye Smokehouse has been helping me with our very own Bespoke hot Alder Smoked Salmon. John collects our curing mix from the Kinloch kitchen door and with it, he enhances the flavour of the best quality Scottish salmon, brined and infused for 24 hours. John’s woodfired smokehouse uses locally sourced alder wood which is processed by hand. The alder generates the heat and smoke required for the 9 hours gentle hot smoking, to help retain the flaky texture, creating a unique flavour.
Once our consignment is delivered, it’s put to its uses! Featuring on our breakfast, afternoon tea, lunch and dinner menu; Kedgeree, finger sandwiches, smoked salmon and spinach pancakes and more recently, enjoyed on a delicious savoury scone with a heavenly spoonful of cucumber, shallot and wild garlic dressing.
Back then and to this day, Kinloch has been very privileged to be able to Showcase and celebrate local produce. It has always been on the very top of our agenda. It is a great honour for me to be invited to take part in the forthcoming Skye Food & Drink Festival now in its third year, firmly placing Skye on the culinary tourism map. Increased to a four-day islands-wide festival food and drink trail between 24th-28th June, with funding from the Connect Local Regional Food Awards, backed by the Scottish Government, the festival will exhibit a range of produce grown, harvested and landed, on this very gourmet island. It will give the chance for visitors to follow the food trail incorporating local businesses, some of which are in remote rural townships. I’m looking forward to doing battle with Scott Davies of The Three Chimneys to kick start the event with a ‘Ready, Steady, Cook-off!’
Another festival very worth of a mention was this year’s first BEO – two days of fantastic Gaelic music played in the enchanting grounds of Armadale Castle and Gardens. With some renowned bands across west coast Scotland. Incorporating music, culture and heritage of the Highlands and Islands with some fantastic food stall to feed the party revellers – again a chance for all to enjoy good Scottish produce the hog roll served with black pudding and bacon and the prawn and crab seafood roll, both being very popular with the Tully Clan!
Lastly, a mention that this year is a big celebration for my wife Claire and I – both turning 50 and if that wasn’t enough, also the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Godfrey and Claire Macdonald! Very worthy causes all-round and excellent excuses to gather with friends, family and the very best Skye ingredients!