We’ve just had a mini holiday last week where for five days, we sailed on the North Sea with good friends as their boat needed to be transported from Shetland to Dundee. We missed the first few days of the expedition but took the ferry to the Orkneys and joined the expedition there. Orkney is full of Neolithic monuments and when we came off the boat we went to spend midnight at the ring of Brodgar, a huge stone circle that originally consisted of 60 stones. This is a truly magical place and as we’re still close to midsummer there was a constant sunset in the sky. It is really baffling how these people quarried and moved these huge slabs of stone with wooden and stone tools only.
Back to the boat for a few hours of sleep but before bed, we had a wee nip of Caol Ila (a lovely whisky and also the name of the boat) accompanied by a slice of citrus polenta cake. I had made this cake beforehand as I had lots of polenta to use up and was inspired after Keiko’s post on kumquats. The cake was very easy to assemble although I went slightly wrong caramelizing the fruit for the bottom layer as the pan wasn’t hot enough. But once I got past that, I ended up with this lovely moist batter (even though I added too much polenta). It travelled remarkably well and was very tasty but would have benefited from the vodka mascarpone in the original recipe (we solved this problem with custard in the following days).The next morning we explored the island, which included a guided tour of another beautiful Neolithic structure, Maeshowe and a few visits to the local fishmongers. We decided to have a seafood feast for Barry’s birthday and went all out with spoots (razor shellfish), scallops and lobsters. Then we set sail for about 4 hours to move a bit further south to a bay just off the Scapa flow. This was a magical spot where we anchored right next to one of the Churchill barriers, which was the perfect location for our dinner. We went for a plain salad and traditional scones to go with the meal as we didn’t want to detract from the great flavours of the seafood. We just boiled the lobsters and fried the scallops in garlic butter. The spoots needed a bit more effort as they needed to be left in water for about 15 min to get rid of all the sand. Then you pour boiling water over them to get the shells (I think this would have been the point to remove the stomachs, but we didn’t realize we had to do that and ended up with some added sand) to open and finally they were quickly fried with garlic butter as well. Everything tasted so lovely and fresh and we were all well stuffed towards the end of the meal. Finally we had another nightcap (this time Dutch bitter, which is what we used to have back on the boat in Holland) with Banoffi pie that was lovely and rich. The next morning we set off early for a 16 hour leg to Fraserburgh, but due to the lack of/southerly wind we had to motor all the way. The main distraction was watching puffins and guillemots trying to take off (but failing and just nose diving into the waves), swinging off the haliet and eating lots of nice food.
In Fraserburgh we lost half our crew due to other commitments and to much seasickness :-( , which was a shame as the next day we finally got to sail properly and saw a big whale playing in the waves!! I looked over and noticed this huge white and black shape clearing the water, at first I wasn’t sure if I’d seen it right but then there were a few spouts of water and the whale jumped up two more times. It was truly amazing and we were just soooo excited for a long time after. So to celebrate that evening we decided to go for a scrumptious 8 course meal consisting of crayfish tails in a sweet chilli sauce, parcels of pepperoni, sun dried tomatoes and rum soaked cashew nuts (a variation on Johanna’s wonderful skewers), battered and fried squids, rolls of pastrami filled with grated carrot and spring onion dressed with soy, Portobello mushrooms stuffed with parsley, cashews and blue cheese, Emma’s excellent broccoli with ginger soy and marmalade (!), a perfect fillet steak and finally, crepe suzette (although not lit as that would be a bit risky.) This was all accompanied by some G&Ts, Chablis, pink and red sparkling wine and a great singsong.
Needless to say, the next morning was a bit of a struggle but we had to get up early to make it to Arbroath in time. We didn’t get quite so far and moored in Montrose where Barry came to pick us up. Utterly exhausted and pretty land sick (everything was moving sooo much) we had a final farewell dinner with everyone in Dundee and then went off to bed to get rid of all the moving motion in my head. But it was a really wonderful experience and hopefully we’ll do it all again very soon….