The Perfect Barbecue
Photo: Riof Ocean Cottage
One good day is all it takes for the hard-core outdoor dining enthusiast to get excited about the coming barbecue season. We were fortunate to have an amazing day of sunshine last weekend so it was inevitable in our food obsessed office that our attention would turn to our culinary plans for the year ahead. These are just a few of the things that excite us, some recipes, locations and places to stay that we look forward to enjoying in 2017.
Food just tastes better outside, even better if you have just cooked it yourself, better still if it features fresh and local ingredients. Want to make it perfect, then how about adding in sunset on a remote beach or a view over the mountains and a group of your closest friends.
There doesn’t seem to be a single distinctive Scottish barbecue recipe to speak of but with such an abundance of high quality ingredients available in even the remotest locations you can’t go far wrong if you start with something local.
Beach House, as the name suggests sits right on the shoreline. If you were really keen then you would launch your kayak from right in front of the house and catch your dinner. For those not that intrepid (or lucky) then Portree is only a few miles away. Make a beeline for Anchor Seafoods, the best independent fishmonger in the area and pick up some west coast salmon. The outdoor fire and cooking pit here make it really straightforward to prepare. My personal preference is not to adulterate it too much. I think it’s best steaked and cooked simply with some salty butter and precious little else.
The pier at Miavaig where you can buy direct from local fishermen is only a few miles away from Riof Ocean Cottage. You could have a lobster from sea to plate in a matter of hours. There is a gas barbecue to make preparation as easy as possible and wooden decking goes right round the house enabling you to sit outside with a view over the sea where your dinner was swimming around in earlier. Lobster feels like the opposite of putting something like sausages on the barbecue. It’s a special occasion, a treat that demands you to make a bit of an effort. Fresh herbs, garlic and lime juice ought to be sufficient to create something memorable. Serve with a Cuillin ale as the sun sets.
Photo: Branxholm Park House
The Old Farmhouse has a charcoal barbecue on a deck overlooking Loch Lomond, it is a great family house so time to light the coals for some family favourites. Burgers always seem to go down well with young ones but making your own with some home grown organic beef directly from the farm where you are staying means something way more wholesome and healthy than standard takeaway fare. To make it a bit more Scottish and turn a burger into an actual meal then try adding some Portobello mushrooms, black pudding, Dunsyre blue cheese and deep fried potato scones.
It’s unfortunate when it happens but occasionally it does rain in Scotland. Branxholm Park House has one of the most fantastic solutions to the problem of how to eat outside when the weather is slightly questionable. Their Finnish Grillkota barbecue hut seats 20, arranged in a circle. With the grill in the centre it is practical as well as being extremely sociable. A purist might argue that it’s not really eating outdoors but once you try it you want one in your garden. The Borders are home to some of the finest lamb in the country. To do it justice, marinade it overnight in olive oil, rosemary and garlic. Poke small holes in the meat with a sharp knife and insert rosemary and garlic slices into the gaps. Serve with fresh potato salad. Branxholm also has a pizza oven in the garden so if you were feeling peckish you could sneak outside for a midnight feast and a glass of wine under the stars (just don’t tell everyone else)
Game is not the most traditional of barbecue choices but venison steaks cooked outside are a true taste of the Scottish Highlands. Fresh is not always best here as the meat is traditionally hung for 10 - 14 days to tenderize and to allow the wonderfully woody, almost fruity flavours to develop. Achnacloich has an amazingly secluded barbecue spot away from the main house but with spectacular views over Loch Etive. The charcoal barbecue will keep the occasional midgies at bay and allow you time for a wee aperitif as the coals smoulder. For venison it’s best not to overpower the natural flavour with too much seasoning, a simple marinade will suffice for preparation. Cook quickly, serve pink and add a crunchy green salad for simple perfection.