Scottish Fruit de Mer

Stanislava Dimitrova

I left for Scotland with no expectations whatsoever. The forecast predicted rain and cold weather. Foodwise, my anticipations didn't stretch far beyond meat pies and hearty meals or the popular Fish and Chips. My first stroll along The Royal Mile confirmed the cliché – every pub offered “unique” Fish and Chips recipe, dating back 200 years and more, and what appeared to be, the most popular Scottish delicacy – Haggis. Haggis, however, is another story.

The pleasant surprises started with the nice Scottish weather (high clouds, blue sky and sun, peeking through the clouds), and continued with the trip to Oban. Oban (An t-Oban in Scottish Gaelic, meaning The Little Bay) is a small town on the southwest coast of Scotland. It is a popular tourist destination, because of the ferry port, linking the mainland with the northwest islands.

Oban is a fisherman's town. The sea scent is mixed with the aroma of freshly cooked seafood dishes. The blackboards in front of the small seashore restaurants are crammed with the variety of fresh fruit de mer offered inside – oysters, prawns, langoustines, mussels, scallops, huge lobsters and crabs, smoked salmon, cod and haddock fish.

We headed for the port side itself, where the fishermen were relaxing in front of a few sheds and workers were snacking. Rich garlic aroma wafted from a skillet placed over a portable hot plate. Large scallops were steamed in a garlic-buttery sauce. A grinning lady offered us smoked salmon, freshly taken out of the Smokehouse. The fishing baskets in front of the shed were filled with quarrelsome crabs, which were offered in a variety of salads and platters to the visitors.

Steamed Mussels with Garlic and Herbs

1-1 1/2 кg mussels
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
6 garlic cloves
1 onion
1/4 tbsp. red pepper flakes
1-1 1/2 glass white wine
handfull of parsley
1-2 bay leaves

Rinse the mussels well under cold water discarding any broken mussel shells. Cook the garlik, onion and the red pepper with the oil and butter in a large pot, 3-5 minutes.

Add the mussels, wine, bay leaves, thyme and half of the chopped parsley. Cover the pan and cook, stirring the mussels every 2 minutes. Cook until all the mussels open up. Add the remaining parsley and serve.

We snacked a dozen of oysters, a few crab claws (the meat was simply delicious) and a smoked salmon sandwich, and sat out for Loch Fyne (Lock Fìne in Scottish Gaelic, meaning Loch of the Wine).

Loch Fyne is a sea loch connected to the Sound of Jura and the Crinan Canal. It houses a huge production of oysters, salmon and mussels. We explored Inveraray's streets with pretty views across the water and left for Edinburgh.

To enjoy really good and tasty food in Edinburgh, leave the central area of the city, where crowds of tourists line up in front of the pubs, waiting to be seated. The Shore of Leith (Lìte in Scottish Gaelic), the old port of the city offers a number of small seafood restaurants with wonderful view of the Water of Leith and great seafood specialties. This is where we ended our culinary journey with a pot of Loch Fyne Steamed Mussels with Garlic and Herbs, and a couple of cold Old Speckled Hen Ales.