Ardmaddy Castle – Day 1 : Fishing on the open seas : 30 mackerel, 3 crabs, no lobsters!
Day 2: Raid of the vegetable garden; raspberries, broad beans, courgettes to name a few!
Day 3: 1 rainbow trout and rain
What a spoiling way to start the holidays. For four glorious days we frolicked around the west coast of Scotland; fished, swam, rode, raided. It’s a wild, beautiful, barren land, sparsely populated and utterly intoxicating. We were the lucky ones to be staying on the breathtaking ‘Ardmaddy’ estate; with views down the sea loch to the island of ‘Scarba’ and beyond, and a sun that refused to go down till past 10 pm, it felt like we had hit gold, that was until day 3, when in true Scottish style it rained, it bucketed and was a wee bit miserable!! That however soon blew over and in no time we were once again in baking sun firmly in the belief that this little pocket of paradise is Scotlands’ best kept secret.
I am not sure what makes the perfect holiday and to be honest the components change as time and life march on. Once upon a time roughing it in Africa ticked the box for me, at some stage in my ’20’s’ St.Tropez was the answer to all our criteria, now I laugh at the thought of pitching a tent on the edge of Lake Malawi or the ‘little people’ eating at ‘Le Club 55’ and traipsing down the Pampelonne beach. I guess it’s all part if life’s rich tapestry and so may explain why I just loved our Scottish jaunt so much, after all it was just over the hill at Loch Melfort that my own family had spent many a happy holiday throughout my teenage years. Our trip to ‘Ardmaddy’ was hence familiar in many ways and not in so in many others.
Having established I am deeply fond of this tranquil and stunning pocket of Scotland let me explain what really resonated with me; the food! Wild food from the land and from the sea. We were hunter gatherers of the highest order. On day 1 we caught no less than 30 mackerel. I’m not joking it was like a scene from ‘Jaws’, all at once every line bent in half and we were left hauling in our trawl. The lobster pots did not provide lobsters for us (they did days later, 3 were caught) but we lucked out on the crab. Our wonderful female host caught a cracking rainbow trout and our host provided us with venison that had been shot some months earlier. The ‘Ardmaddy’ walled garden was stuffed with every conceivable vegetable and salad component. It was bliss, particularly for a food obsessed geek like myself.
Thirty mackerel I hear you say. Unbelievable, yet within 3 days the whole catch had been consumed. Fresh on the bbq, smoked and made into pate, gougons with almonds, even the lobster pots got some. The ‘blue one’ was so taken with the haul that he would have eaten it ‘sushi style’ on the boat had anyone been game for some gutting on board. As for the crab, I now totally ‘get’ why ‘handpicked white crab meat’ is practically more expensive than gold. Boy it’s time-consuming to do, but I don’t think I have ever tasted such a sweet delicate flavor. Added to this array of foraged and hunted food, we had the freshest broad beans, artichokes, salad, new potatoes, beetroot and endless other homegrown vegetables, we ate like kings and rolled south to England rather blue at having to leave such a haven behind. Of course now home we are living it up on our own somewhat more modest vegetable patch, concocting the freshest of summer salads and basking in the sun, dining at dusk and watching the barn owl out hunting. Long live summer and happy dining.
Garden Salad with ‘Mint and Yogurt’ dressing or a ‘Dijon and Yogurt’ dressing
A foot note on garden salad;
This is all about what’s in the garden, what needs to be eaten and what is going to satisfy the taste buds. Given how balmy it has been recently the salads above are all about clean distinct flavours, they are light yet have crunch in the form of ‘mini-mini’ carrots, raw beetroot and radishes. I use courgette flowers, I mean why not, any herb flowers will do, chives are lovely but rosemary and sage flowers are also very pretty, and for a little luxury double podded broad beans but only because I have so many! All of these are cushioned on a mountain of freshly picked leaves. Most salads like this taste so good they rarely need anything more than a splattering of really good olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar and a pinch of Maldon sea salt and ground black pepper. That said, I do think one can get rather blaze at this time of year hence the need for a little ingenuity in the salad dressing department.
So to pep up those leaves and to rev up the salad stakes here are 2 of my absolute all time favorite dressings. A little heavier than your standard ‘French Dressing’ and rather good because of it!
Dijon and Yogurt Dressing
3 tablespoons of good olive oil
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of runny honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk the mustard and honey together until combined and then very slowly whisk in all the olive oil – it will become very thick and almost mayonnaise like – don’t fret though as the addition of vinegar will loosen the dressing – then add the yogurt and whisk again, followed by a pinch of salt and grind of pepper. If the dressing is too thick loosen it off with either a little cold water whisked in slowly or a little lemon juice. Serve over salad immediately. This dressing will split if left – just whisk again and it will come back together.
Mint and Yogurt Dressing
1.5 large tablespoons of natural organic full fat yogurt
1 small teaspoon of honey
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large handful of freshly chopped garden mint
1 lime – zested
Salt and ground black pepper
With a mini balloon whisk, whisk the honey and yogurt together and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. A bit like the Dijon dressing the yogurt with split from the oil but a quick whisk soon solves this. Add in the mint and lime zest, salt and pepper and serve with salad!
For more information on Ardmaddy Castle, have a look at the website : http://www.ardmaddy.com
The gardens are open all year, dawn till dusk, there is a wonderful array of plants for sale and seasonal fruit and vegetables. Possibly the best courgette flowers I have ever laid eyes on! Don’t miss out, if you are in the area it is absolutely worth a visit.