Dish of the Day: How to… forage and cook with whisky

The Cocktail Lovers

IMG 0009 300x199 Dish of the Day: How to… forage and cook with whiskyClose your eyes and think of the warm, almost bourbon-vanilla notes of a typical Islay Single Malt whisky and what comes to mind? Wisps of a camp fire perhaps? The saltiness of the sea? Or how about rugged landscapes and fresh country air?

Wherever your thoughts take you, the outdoorsy, natural elements will probably be around somewhere, which is why the Bowmore Foraging and Food Pairing project works so well.

It’s where John Wright, foraging expert teams up with Chris Onions, top chef at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage to pick out zingingly fresh ingredients from the Dorset coastline to pair up with Bowmore Small Batch Reserve Single Malt Whisky.

“Foraging is an activity that anyone can try their hands at,” says Wright. “The UK has a treasure trove of fantastic ingredients waiting to be discovered, gathered and turned into recipes.”

See recipes below. Serve with a dram of Bowmore Small Batch Reserve, of course.

John and Chris’s foraging tips:

• The seashore is the very best place to find wild food.

• Always check the tide. It should be a spring tide (a big tide) and out. This will expose the clams and seaweeds.

• April to September is the best time to go as that is when the plants and seaweed are at their best and when crabs, lobsters, shrimps and prawns are close to shore.

• Remember that habitats are extremely varied beside the sea. There are rocky shores for seaweeds and putting out crab pots, sandy shores for brown shrimps, muddy sand for razor clams, plain mud for marsh samphire, cockles and clams, pebble beaches for sea kale and rock samphire. And don’t forget the seaside carpark where you left the car, here you might find fennel, alexanders, sea beet and more.

Mussel, razor clam, sea beet and bacon gratin

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter

5 tablespoons of Bowmore Small Batch Reserve

1 shallot, diced

500g mussels, scrubbed and debearded

500g razor clams, purged, drained and living

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little more to finish

150g smoked bacon or pancetta, diced fairly small 1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped

About 400ml whole milk

50g unsalted butter

50g plain flour

500g fresh sea beet, thoroughly washed, tougher stalks removed

A squeeze of lemon juice

100g marsh samphire, thoroughly washed and any woody bits removed

75g fresh white breadcrumbs

50g Cheddar or Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper

Place a large pan over a high heat and add 2 tablespoons of Bowmore Small Batch Reserve, 2 tablespoons of water and the shallots, bring to the simmer then throw in the mussels and cover with the lid. Let them steam open in the pan for 3–4 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice.

Remove the mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon (discarding any that have remained firmly shut) and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. Pick the mussels from their shells and set aside. Strain all the cooking liquor through a fine sieve, or a coarse sieve lined with a cloth. Repeat the process with the razor clams, this time trimming of the stomach section. Cut the razor clams into similar sized pieces to the mussels.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and sauté gently until starting to crisp up. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl.

To make a béchamel sauce. First, combine the reserved mussel and razor clam cooking liquor with enough milk to make 500ml and heat gently in a pan. Melt the butter in a separate pan. When it is foaming, add the flour and stir well to make a smooth roux. Gradually add the warmed milk, stirring well after each addition to prevent lumps. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 4–5 minutes to give a smooth, creamy sauce.

Drop the sea beet into a large pan of boiling water and cook for just a minute. Drain, leave to cool a little, then squeeze out excess water with your hands. Chop roughly. Repeat the process with the samphire.

Fold the bacon, mussels, razor clams, sea beet and samphire into the béchamel sauce. Season with freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the remaining Bowmore Small Batch Reserve to refresh the flavours. Divide the mixture between 4 buttered shallow ovenproof dishes (or 6 ramekins if you’re serving it as a starter) or spread it evenly into one large buttered gratin dish.

Crispy seaweed and Bowmore hot smoked lamb loins

Makes 8 portions

2kg lamb loins (organic if possible)

200ml Bowmore Small Batch Reserve

Sunflower or groundnut oil for deep-frying A

handful of gutweed, rinsed and patted

Sugar and salt for seasoning

Heat about 8cm depth of oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan until it registers 180°C on a frying thermometer or until a cube of stale white bread dropped into the oil turns golden within a minute. Deep-fry the gutweed in batches: carefully lower into the pan using tongs and fry for 4–6 seconds only, then remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain while you deep-fry the rest.

A lovely way to combine the flavour of the smokey, oak wood chips and release the beautiful aromas of the Bowmore Small Batch Reserve is to soak 3 good handfuls of the oak wood (or any hard wood) shavings in the whisky, leave for at least an hour to soak up the juices.

Cure the lamb loins in a mixture of 50/50 salt and sugar for 1 hour. When ready, wash off excess cure using cold water and pat dry. Hot smoke over the now alcohol infused hard wood shavings until pink and leave to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle the gutweed over the sliced lamb. Eat straight away.

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The Cocktail Lovers say:

Try the recipes at home, or better still, get cooking outdoors on a camp stove or barbecue.

This week we’re loving:

The inspired collaboration between Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum and Paul Simonon, the artist formerly of The Clash. Check out his limited-edition Flash Collection for the brand including leather jacket, T-shirt and neckerchief. Available from

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