I’VE visited Dubai before, as my wife Michaela spent some years working there at the iconic luxury hotel, the Burj Al Arab.
She still has many friends there, so we’ve been together on holidays and even took our two eldest boys there a couple of years ago. It’s a place that really fascinates me as it’s such a melting pot of cultures and cuisines.
My most recent trip was quite different though, as I went along with over 20 Scottish companies, and – although I champion Scottish ingredients and producers each and every day – the visit was a reminder of just how proud we should be of our local food credentials.
Hosted by Scottish Development International, the aim of my trip was to introduce outstanding, inspirational Scottish food and drink companies to a new audience. It was the perfect opportunity to shout about the provenance, traceability, quality and variety of our wonderful offering. As part of the trip, SDI organised a wonderful Scottish market, showcasing everything from the best shellfish around and Scottish salmon, to homely Highland baking, Scottish shortbread and some exceptional Scottish cheeses.
I also spent some time with three fantastic local rapeseed oil producers – Supernature cold pressed rapeseed oil, Summer Harvest Oils and Cullisse Highland Rapeseed Oil. Rapeseed is in fact the third largest source of vegetable oil in the world. There’s been a real rise in use of rapeseed oil in home cooking, largely thanks to an increasing number of artisan producers who are creating hand-pressed oils with real care and passion.
Rapeseed is part of the brassica family which is why it has a slightly cabbagey taste, but thanks to our rich soil, cool climate and long growing season here in Scotland, we’re producing some lovely oils thanks to the cold press methods being used. Light, buttery and fresh tasting, it’s a great addition to cooking as well as marinades, salads and even simply dipping bread into.
When I was in Dubai, I was also lucky enough to get the chance to host an evening reception at the luxury Jumeirah Beach Hotel, where I served our guests an array of Scotland’s finest seafood – scallops in their shell, razor clams or spoots as we call them in Scotland, lobster with escargot butter and a lovely fresh Scottish salmon tartare.
If you fancy celebrating our great Scottish produce at home, these recipes offer a true taste of our great Scottish shores.
Lobster with Buerre d’escargot
For the lobster
2 lobsters (about 500g each)
salt and pepper
For the buerre d’escargot
2 tsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
250g Parma ham, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
50g fennel, trimmed and finely chopped
50g button mushrooms, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
250g butter, softened
1 tbsp grain mustard
1 tbsp ground almonds
20g Parmesan cheese
To prepare the lobster
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a handful of salt so the water tastes salty. Plunge the lobster into the boiling water for 1 minute. This kills it instantly and humanely.
Remove the lobster from the pot and leave to cool for 2-3 minutes before proceeding. Cut the lobster in half, starting at the head and working towards the tail. Remove the claws and submerge them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Leave to cool and then remove all the meat from the claws. Remove all the meat from the halved body as well as the coral. Set aside.
To make the buerre d’escargot
Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add a little cold pressed rapeseed oil. Add the chopped Parma ham to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now add the shallot, fennel, mushrooms and garlic with the rest of the rapeseed oil and sweat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chopped herbs, stir well, then remove from the heat and let cool.
In a separate bowl, whisk the butter until creamy then add the cooled vegetables and ham and stir to combine. Add the mustard and ground almonds and mix well. Spoon the butter on to a sheet of cling film and roll it in the cling film to form a log. Twist the ends to secure then refrigerate to firm up.
Assembling the dish
Unwrap the savoury butter and cut into generous slices. Add the lobster meat and claws to the butter. Spoon the mixture back into the lobster body and sprinkle with Parmesan. Place on a baking tray and put into a hot oven, 190C/Gas 5, and cook for 8-10 minutes.
Sprinkle with some fresh herbs and serve straight away while hot.
Salmon Tartare with Apple & CrÈme FraÎche
300g fresh Scottish salmon fillets, skinned
2 tbsp finely diced shallots
2 tbsp chopped chives
juice of 1½ lemons
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
cold pressed rapeseed oil to drizzle
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Granny Smith or other crisp green apple
1 red apple
50g dried cranberries chopped
100ml crème fraîche
If you have time, put your chopping board in the freezer for 20 minutes before you start preparing the salmon; this will help you achieve a fine dice. Check the salmon for pin bones. Using a very sharp knife, cut the salmon on the chilled board into small dice and place in a bowl. You can do this ahead and set the bowl over ice to keep the salmon chilled.
Just before serving, add 1 tablespoon shallots, 1 tablespoon chives, the juice of 1 lemon, the soy sauce and rice vinegar to the diced salmon. Add a drizzle of cold pressed rapeseed oil and mix together, seasoning well with salt and pepper; set aside.
Quarter and core the apples, then cut into fine dice. Place in another bowl with the remaining shallots, chives and lemon juice, the dried cranberries and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss to mix, seasoning with salt to taste.
To serve, place the salmon on individual plates and top with the diced apple mixture. Finish with a spoonful of crème fraîche and a grinding of pepper.