Scoffing in Scotland! Luxury lunches & dinners on a barge.
A very important part of the cruise was the fantastic, faultless food, prepared by the Slovakian Chef, Sasha, and served by Sophie, the Waitress/Housekeeper.
I don’t think we ever saw Sasha without a big smile on her face. She giggled a lot, despite the long hours that she worked in her small galley.
All the food was locally sourced, with Sasha’s original twist on traditional Scottish dishes.
She always got it right, and seemed to sense what the weather was going to be like!
All the meals were served with a selection of wines that went perfectly with the food.
And twice a day, Sasha made and baked different flavoured breads.
One day I asked her if she could get some shortbread, as the other passengers, who came from Australia and America, had never tried it.
By the afternoon, she’d made four flavours of shortbread in little moulds!
Every day, while we were eating, Dan would come and tell us what was going to happen that day. We were welcome to visit him in the wheelhouse any time, except when he was manoevering through the locks.
Sunday, we were collected by Helen, the Guide/ Crew, at a hotel, and driven to the barge, which was moored at Inverness, where we were greeted by Cap’n Dan and Sophie, and given a glass of Champagne.
Dinner that evening was Cock-a- Leekie Mousseline with Dijon Hollandaise.
Cock-a-Leekie is usually a filling stew, but I much preferred it this way.
This was followed by Pan-Fried Salmon on Creamy Marrow, sweet peas, dill and crispy potatoes.
Cranachan, which I love, was the sweet.
The cheeses were Isle of Mull extra mature Cheddar, and Dunsyre Blue, a mould-ripened, unpasturised cheese from Lanarkshire.
Monday lunchtime, we had Pan-fried Haddock in an oat crust, crushed parsley potatoes, steamed broccoli, and a home-made tartar sauce.
We didn’t have a sweet at lunchtimes; we had a cheeseboard.
Today it was Isle of Kintyre Applewood-smoked mature Cheddar, and Black Crowdie, which is a soft cheese, rolled in crushed oats and peppercorns.
In the evening, Helen drove us to a nearby hotel for dinner. The building and grounds were lovely and the staff were professional and attentive.
One of them sang us a song in Gaelic.
But quite honestly, the food wasn’t as good as our Sacha’s, and we missed our floating home-from-home.
Tuesday was a sunny day, and Sasha had prepared a cold buffet of Peat cold-smoked salmon, Hot Oak-smoked cold salmon, roast gammon ham, Dijon chicken, herbs and honey-roast turkey, beef pastrami, salted top of beef, and a selection of salads and home-made dressings.
We filled our plates and took them outside on the deck, to watch as we sailed along the canal.
Tuesday evening, we had Orange smoked duck on a salad of celery, grapes, orange, kale flowers, watercress, and an orange reduction.
This was followed by Rack of lamb on a Scotch broth ‘risotto,’ a clever twist on the original Scotch broth, served with mint oil.
The sweet was Glayva mousse with strawberries.
Glayva is an award-winning Scottish liqueur, a bit like Drambuie.
The two cheeses were Corra Linn, a sheep’s hard cheese, named after a waterfall on the Clyde, and Jezebel, which is a Goat’s milk Brie.
Wednesday, another sunny day, for lunch we had Cullen Skink, which is a Finnan haddock broth, and home-made bread, of course, followed by Garlic mature Cheddar, and a local Gouda.
Dinner was Scallops with black pudding, eggs, watercress, and a Thai-style curry sauce.
Tenderloin of venison was served with honey-glazed carrots, fondant potatoes, broccoli and a Sherry sauce.
Sweet was Rhubarb and blackberry crumble, vanilla ice-cream and rhubarb reduction.
Sacha apologised because she hadn’t had time to make the ice-cream!
Smoked Dunlop, which is smoked over beechwood, and Inverlochy goat’s cheese ended the meal.
Thursday, Sacha had made Forfar Bridies, which is Scotland’s version of the Cornish Pasty. It was served with a mixed salad.
The cheeses were Isle of Kintyre mature Cheddar with herbs, and Tain Truckle.
The evening’s feast was Marinated Woodland pigeon breast on celeriac mash, wilted spinach and a Port Jus.
Next came Poached lemon sole on steamed butternut squash, golden and red beetroot, and caper butter.
The hot pud was Clootie dumpling, chocolate whisky sauce, and milk ice-cream.
Clootie dumpling is an old Scottish steamed fruit pudding, wrapped in a cloth and boiled for several hours.
But Sasha had done her own version; small individual puddings, which made them much lighter than the original recipe.
The cheeses were Cromal, a light, crumbly. lemony cheese, with a flavour that varies from season to season, and Morangie Brie, which is enclosed in an edible white rind.
Friday, and Sasha got it right again!
The weather was warm and sunny, and we had a Chicken Caesar Salad, which I took onto the deck, to eat in the sunshine.
Then I popped back in again to sample the cheeses, which were Isle of Kintyre mature Cheddar with herbs, and Tain Truckle. A Truckle is a small, barrel-shaped cheese.
Friday evening is the night when the Captain dines with us, so we all dressed up a bit more than usual!
Sophie and Helen laid the table beautifully, and the food was as excellent as it had been all week!
To start, we had Haggis with Clapshot and a whisky sauce.
The Aberdeen Angus steaks were all perfectly cooked, just as we’d ordered it.
It was served with grilled tomatoes, balsamic mushrooms, greens and a selection of sauces.
Then we had Orange flavoured Chocolate Mousse, all smooth, without a dent in any of them!
They were delicious, flavoured with a liqueur, but quite honestly, they could have been half the size as it was a very rich dish. None of us could eat the lot.
The cheeses were Isle of Kintyre mature Cheddar, flavoured with single Malt whisky, and Strathdon Blue.
Boil or steam equal amounts of potatoes and turnips.
Drain and mash them together, with butter, and optional cooked onions, or some chopped chives.
This is traditionally served with haggis.
1 ½ lb peeled potatoes
1 onion, chopped
2 pts water
1 lb Finnan Haddock, or other smoked white fish
Boil the potatoes and the onion in the water until the potatoes are almost soft, but not crumbling.
Lay the fish on the top and put a lid on the pot.
Cook for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the fish and skin, bone and chop it.
Partially mash the potatoes in the pot to thicken the soup, and then return the fish to the pot and mix thoroughly.
Add enough milk to taste, stirring. Some people like a thicker soup than others!
Gently re-heat the soup without boiling.
Serve with thick, chunky bread.
1 lb Shortcrust pastry
1 lb Rump Steak
2oz beef suet
2 onions, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten.
Divide the pastry into 4, then roll them out into an oval shape.
Beat the steak with a rolling-pin or other heavy object, and cut into thin strips.
Place in a mixing-bowl, season and stir in the suet and onions.
Place equal amounts on each pastry oval.
Dampen the edges of the pastry, fold it over and seal well.
Cut a small hole in the top of each, and glaze with the beaten egg.
Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350F and bake for 30-45 minutes more.
Serve hot, but warn everyone that they’re very hot inside!
125G/4 1/2OZ Coarse oatmeal
400ml/14fl oz Double cream
Whisky, or a liqueur; a few drops to flavour.
Place the oatmeal on a baking tray and lightly brown, shaking the tray a few times to allow the oatmeal to brown evenly. Cool.
Whip the cream until stiff, and gently stir in the oatmeal, sugar and alcohol.
Stir in the fruit, or layer the cream and fruit in glass dishes.
Top with a couple of raspberries and mint leaves, or some grated chocolate.
NB Don’t use porridge oats. They’re completely different to oatmeal!