Midge repellent, waterproofs and Wellington boots: not items that usually make it into the suitcase when you’re packing for a culinary workshop. However, at Kinloch Lodge on the mist-wreathed shore of the sea loch Loch na Dal, on the Isle of Skye, the new autumnal cookery breaks involve outdoor activities. You don’t have to sing for your supper but you can catch it – and cook it on the banks of a rushing river.
Kinloch Lodge, the seat of the Macdonald clan and once an old hunting lodge, is now a luxury hotel as well as the home of the doyenne of Scottish cookery and author of countless cookbooks, Lady Claire Macdonald. These days Lady Claire takes more of a back seat, and Marcello Tully heads up the Michelin-starred kitchen.
Salmon and trout fishing in Skye’s lochs and rivers, meanwhile, is under the guidance of Mitch Partridge (skyeghillie.co.uk). Mitch takes guests to the River Snizort which flows into Loch Snizort about 45 minutes away, north of Portree, and the River Brittle where you can catch wild brown trout and sea trout near the loch shore against the backdrop of the majestic Cuillin mountains.
I’m sticking closer to home, however, tramping with rod in hand down to the burbling burn that flows from behind the lodge into Loch na Dahl, a prime spot, Mitch tells me, for wild brown trout. I’ve only tried my hand at fly-fishing a couple of times but Mitch is patient as he teaches me how to cast the line and before long I’ve reeled in my first wriggling trout – to cook on a fire on the pebbly shore river-to-plate style.
You can also take your catch back to the hotel kitchen for a filleting and cookery lesson from Marcello. As far as the hotel kitchen is concerned, however, I’ve bigger fish to fry. The bespoke seasonal cookery classes and ‘catch and cook’ options take place in a working Michelin-starred hotel kitchen. But you can also opt for a half-day stint helping to prepare a couple of courses to be dished up in the restaurant that day.
The night before I’d savoured a five-course tasting menu at the ‘chef’s table’ perched on a stool looking through a large window at the kitchen theatre unfolding before me. Now grabbing an apron, I was in the thick of it. Not that this even vaguely resembled a heated Gordon Ramsey-style scene – it was more artfully choreographed ballet than Hell’s Kitchen.
Today we were making pea soup – or rather ‘soupcon’ to be served in tiny shot glasses. All soups start as purees Marcello tells us. The peas are blitzed then passed through a sieve to remove the skins. Then the onions are chopped and lightly fried and the peas added. Tasting is done at every point. First we taste the pure pea puree. Then Marcello adds a splash of cream. We taste it again. Then salt. We taste it. Then Tabasco. Same again. Then sugar.
“This is the chef’s skill,” he explains, “being able to season dishes well and take them to the next level.”
He doesn’t use pepper in his cooking at all – apart from venison and steak. To get the heat he wants he uses Tabasco. “It has so much more flavour than pepper. It has a vinegar-iness, of course, but the salt takes that away.”
Finally we get to the theatrical part and put the mixture through ‘a gun’. The gas inside the canister aerates the liquid when you pull the trigger. And there you have it: a light green shot of soup –with foam on top. We sip it. It’s silky and sweet with a hint of spice: a simple pea soup transformed into a sensory experience, Michelin style.
Dinner, B&B at Kinloch Lodge costs from £170 per person per night (kinloch-lodge.co.uk). Fishing (available February to October) costs from £250 per day, seasonal cookery courses with Marcello £99 per person for 2.5 hours, including afternoon tea. Or, sign up for Kinloch’s new Gourmet Getaway experience from £850pp including three nights’ dinner, bed & breakfast, two cookery classes and a tour of the island’s culinary hotspots.
Written by Lucy Gillmore, August 2016
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