Back down the West coast of Scotland in the VW camper – and home at last!

We found the most beautiful campsite on the way back down the West coast, not far from Arisaig (opposite the islands of Muck, Eigg and Skye).  We highly recommend this site, as you are simply a few steps away from white sandy beach wherever you’re pitched – in our case, there was even a slide down to the beach! We arrived when the tide was high, but when it went down a marvel of rocky islands and sandy inlets were revealed, and the sunset was to die for!   See www.invercaimbecaravansite.co.uk

Frustratingly, it started to rain soon after we arrived (can’t have it perfect all the time!) so we all sat in the campervan for supper.  Actually, it turned out to be rather delicious – a simple cauliflower risotto with crushed crisps (a good alternative to fried breadcrumbs) and parmesan sprinkled on top.

Cauliflower and crisp risotto, camping style

olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 cauliflower, chopped

1 cup risotto rice

1 stock cube

1 glass of white wine

salt and pepper

grated parmesan, to serve

1 small packet of crisps, crushed

method

Soften the onion and garlic in the oil over a moderate heat.  Add the cauliflower and rice and coat in the oil, and cook for a few minutes.

Crumble the stock cube into the mixture, and gradually add water and wine, stirring over a low heat until the rice is absorbed and cooked.  Check for seasoning and add to taste.

Serve with grated parmesan and crushed crisps sprinkled liberally on top.

The weather was beautiful the next day, so in between checking out the glorious sunset, we cooked up a paella, the recipe for which can be found in Family Camping Cookbook.  We used sugar snap peas in this one, instead of normal peas – and we omitted the prawns as we felt we’d slightly overdosed on seafood lately!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paella

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
200g/7oz chorizo, chopped
400g/14oz/2 cups paella rice
1l/35fl oz/4 cups chicken stock
a pinch of saffron
100g/3½oz/1 cup frozen peas
large king prawns
chicken, cut into chunks
1 handful of parsley leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
lemon wedges, to serve

method

1 Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the peppers and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

2 Stir in the paprika and chorizo, cook for 1 minute, then put the pan over a high heat. Add the rice and mix well, then add the stock and saffron and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20–25 minutes until the rice is just tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add a little water if the paella becomes dry.
3 Add the peas and prawns and cook for about 5 minutes until the prawns are pink and cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

             

 We had two lovely breakfast mornings at the same campsite, the first was a simplified version of our blueberry pancake recipe also found in our cookbook  (we used ready-made Scotch pancakes and sprinkled blueberries on top), the second a Jim special – bacon and marmalade sandwich!

Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup

For a camping trip, make up a tupperware pot of the dry ingredients.  Double or treble the quantities so you’ve got a few breakfasts sorted.

Serves 4. Makes 8 pancakes. Preparation time 5 minutes. Standing time 10 minutes. Cooking time 3 minutes per pancake.

ingredients

120g/4oz/⅞ cup self-raising flour

½  tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 egg

175ml/6floz/⅔ cup milk

60g/2oz butter (¼ pat), melted, plus a bit extra for frying

200g/7oz/1½ cups blueberries

maple syrup for serving

method

1  Mix all the dry ingredients together (preferably before you leave on your camping trip).

2  In another bowl or a jug, whisk up the wet ingredients with a fork.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet ingredients, gradually whisking them in.  Leave the mixture to stand for 10 minutes.

3  Meanwhile, heat up a frying pan with a knob of butter.  Pour 1/8 of the mixture into the pan, and as soon as it starts to set on the bottom scatter with a few blueberries.  When cooked on the bottom, flip the pancake over to cook the other side.  Serve drizzled with maple syrup.

 

 

Continuing up the West coast of Scotland in the VW camper to the Loch Torridon area

We really feasted on the sea in the Loch Torridon area, with an abundance of mackerel, pollock and shell-fish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We gutted and filleted the mackerel we caught immediately on the boat . . .  The best way to do this (to eliminate the messiness of bones) is to first cut off the head and tail and then insert a knife along the back if the fish, on one side of, but as close to, the back bone as possible.  Then open the fish out and remove the guts form the middle.  Then, as demonstrated in the picture below, slip the knife under the back-bone and slice along to the other side and remove.

The finished product is shown in the picture below right, ready for cooking . . .  or not as we decided with some of the fillets . . .They were so fresh, we sliced bits off and ate them raw with soy sauce as sashimi.  Our friend Lucy, couldn’t get enough, it tasted so good!

 

 

 

 

 

My son and his friend had particularly big catches.  The pollock, on the left, we turned into a delicious South Indian fish curry.  Pollock is not as overfished as cod, but makes a good alternative – It’s not quite as tasty, but perfectly good in a curry.  The recipe for this can be found in our Family Camping Cookbook, which although not as widely available as last year can be found in many major book shops as well as online.

 

 

 

 

 

Keralan Coconut Fish Curry (South Indian)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 onions, finely sliced

4 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped

1 in of ginger, finely chopped (optional)

1 fresh green or red chilli, finely chopped or 1 tsp dried chilli or chilli powder (optional)

a bunch of fresh coriander chopped

3 tsp garam masala or other curry powder

400g/14oz tinned tomatoes or 5 ripe fresh tomatoes , diced

400ml/13floz (1 tin) coconut milk

800g white fish fillet (Cod, Haddock, Kingfish, Pollock, Hake)

250 g cooked or raw large or king prawns, optional

juice of ½  lime (optional)

seasoning

method

1 Soften the onions in the oil over a moderate heat for 10 minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger and chilli and  half the fresh coriander and cook for a further 2-3 minues, stirring while you do it.

2 Add the garam masala and stir in to coat the onion mixture. Then add the tomatoes, the coconut milk and plenty of seasoning and simmer over a low heat for 20 to 30 mins.

3 Add the fish by placing the pieces gently into the sauce and stir carefully so as not to break up the pieces. The fish should take five minutes to cook. If adding cooked prawns, add them just a minute before the fish is cooked to allow them to heat through. If the fish is not skinned or boned, carefully remove from the pan and scrape the skin off and try to pick out the bones.

4  Then put the fish back in the pan, add the remaining fresh coriander and serve with boiled basmati rice or Indian naan bread, and a  squeeze of lime on top.

 

 

 

We were also fortunate to harvest yet more lobster, crab and langoustines, which we boiled up and enjoyed.  This time we brought them to the boil in cold, salted water to cook them – boiling the langoustines for only one minute, the lobster for four and the crab for seven.  Delicious simply with Lucy’s homemade mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon!

Because it was quite early in the season to harvest crab up on that area, there wasn’t that much meat in the crab.  However, there was certainly enough to make Thai crab cakes, recipe below.

Our final day in this area was beautiful.  We caught yet more mackerel, and cooked them there and then on the beach.  Fuelled with a simple mackerel sandwich – it needs nothing more than a bit of salt and pepper, between two slices of brown bread – we walked the seven mile walk home from where we had been brought by boat!

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Crab Cakes

  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 250g/9oz crab meat
  • 1 bunch roughly chopped coriander
  • 4 spring onions finely sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 handful bread crumbs
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 1 tsp sesame oil & sunflower oil for frying
  • sweet chilli sauce
  • salt and pepper

method

  1. Combine the chilli with the crabmeat, coriander, sesame oil and spring onions. Crack in one egg and mix well, then stir in half the breadcrumbs.
  2. Form the crab cake mixture into patties. Place on a tray and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes before cooking.
  3. Dredge a crab cake in the flour, then dip into the remaining egg (beaten) and coat in the breadcrumbs. Shake gently to remove any excess breadcrumbs. Repeat with the remaining crab cakes, and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the crab cakes for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden-brown all over. Transfer the crab cakes to a baking tray and bake for 5-10 minutes, or until piping hot all the way through.
  5. Serve the crab cakes with sweet chilli sauce.

Back to mainland Scotland in the VW camper!

A beautiful drive round Loch Lomond took us to the wonderful Comrie Croft in Perthshire (www.comriecroft.com) which we highly recommend as a fantastic place to camp (or glamp!) just over an hour away from Edinburgh and Glasgow.  We stayed in a fully equipped kata (Nordic tent) just because we never had, and loved sleeping on sheepskins with a wood-burning stove keeping us warm.  They’ve also got a little farm, and fantastic mountain bike trails to keep everyone entertained.

For us though the main focus as ever was our supper, and we cooked up some delicious marinated lamb steaks, which we had with quinoa and roasted pepper salad:

 

 

 

 

Yogurt Marinated Lamb Steaks with Roast Pepper salad

For the Lamb Steaks:

4 lamb steaks

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp yogurt

1 tsp garam marsala

salt and pepper

For the Roast Pepper Salad

4 peppers

4-6 medium tomatoes, diced

1 onion, finely sliced

olive oil

vinegar (or lemon juice)

salt and pepper

For the Quinoa

1 cup dried quinoa

salt and pepper

Method

Combine all the lamb ingredients in a plastic bag and leave to marinate in a cool place for as long as possible (at least an hour).

Meanwhile, roast the peppers over a hot flame until charred and softened.  Leave to cool for a while, and then to peel them place them in a plastic bag and rub until all the skin comes off.  It’s fine for some to stay on as it adds to the charred flavour.  Deseed and slice.  Add to the other ingredients with oil, vinegar and seasoning to taste.

Next cook the quinoa by boiling in cold water.  Drain and season, and toss with a little oil.  Cover and put to one side.

The coals should have burnt down a bit by now – perfect for the steaks.  Put them on, season and barbecue to your liking.

Serve with the quinoa and salad.
After Comrie, we headed off to friends in Aberdeenshire. We roasted some of their pork loin lightly marinated in soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chilli. We then brought the marinade to a simmer and and served with rice and brocolli.  A great quick supper!

 

 

From there we headed back West past Loch Ness,along the beautiful Five Sisters route towards the Kyle of Lochalsh.  We stopped in a campsite near Morvich but instead of cooking, went to the local pub in Kintyre and enjoyed our first Cullen Skink (Smoked haddock chowder) of the trip – Recipe below!

Cullen Skink

An authentic Scottish recipe from www.clans.org.uk

A soup from Cullen in Morayshire using smoked haddock for a rich flavour.

Ingredients

- 1 large smoked haddock of around 2 lb
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine.
- 1 and a half pints (900ml) milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 8 oz mashed potato
- Salt and pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- Chopped parsley
- Water
- Toast as accompaniment when serving

Method

  • Cover the haddock with water in a shallow pan with skin side down.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes turning once.
  • Take the fish from the pan and remove the skin and bones.
  • Flake the fish and return to the stock.
  • Add chopped onion, bay leaf, salt and pepper.
  • Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  • Strain off the stock and keep it ready – discard the bay leaf and keep the fish warm.
  • Add the milk to the fish stock and bring to the boil.
  • Add mashed potato to make a rich and thick soup.
  • Add the fish and check the seasoning – add more if needed.
  • When serving, add the butter in small pieces so it runs through the soup.
  • Serve with chopped parsley on top, and toast by the side

And over to the Isle of Jura in the VW camper!

We’ve been on Jura for the last six days, and have continued to enjoy the great food of the British Isles . . .

Here we are picking mussels off the beach which we later enjoyed after 2 days of rinsing in nets in the open sea.  Our moules marinieres recipe below can be found in Family Camping Cookbook.

MOULES MARINIERES for 4

2kg mussels, scrubbed and rinsed

55g butter

2 onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp pepper

2 handfuls of parsley, finely chopped

1 1/4 cups dry white wine

method

Soften the onions and garlic in the butter over a medium heat.  Add most of the parsley, the wine and 2/3rds cup of water.  Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the liquid has reduced slightly.  Tip the mussels in, cover and cook for five minutes until all the mussels have opened. Discard those that do not open, stir in the rest of the parsley and serve with crusty bread.

Lots of fishing opportunities also meant lots of opportunities for grilled fish – both trout from the loch, and mackerel from the sea.  From the excess mackerel, we made a delicious pate, similar to the sardine pate also in Family Camping Cookbook.

MACKEREL PATE

Mackerel, cooked, skinned and filleted

Cream cheese

Lemon juice

Salt and Pepper

Method

Combine and add quantities to taste.  Serve with crusty bread and crudités.

 

But the highlight of the week wasn’t cooked by us -  A magnificent sea-food platter of freshly caught lobster, langoustines and scallops!

Heading North in the VW camper: from Lincolnshire to Scotland

I’ve learnt a lot about touring since my last entry – it’s very different from camping! You’re never quite sure for a start where you’ll spend your next night, but I suppose that’s half the fun of it, and although the setting up and packing up is generally quicker than when you’re camping, you have to do it a lot more and you have to be a lot more organised about it, especially when it’s raining.  It’s a bit like doing one of those tile shuffle mini-puzzles – you have to move one bag in order to make space for another which in turn makes space for another.  But we’ve still managed to eat well!

At our campsite in Lincolnshire, we enjoyed the samphire we picked on the Tollesbury salt marshes, in a simple but delicious pasta with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

SAMPHIRE AND SALMON PASTA

dried pasta

bunch of samphire, cleaned and chopped

Smoked salmon, chopped

Cream cheese

Boil the pasta, and add the chopped samphire 5 minutes before cooked. Drain, and mix in salmon and cream cheese.

However, instead of cooking at our next stop overlooking Robin Hood Bay on the northernmost coast of the Yorkshire moors we trekked down to the town, a former smugglers’ cove, and explored its windy cobbled streets before enjoying some Whitby scampi.

 

 

The scampi itself was delicious and perfectly cooked, but it would have been even nicer in the fresh breadcrumbs Tom used in his oyster scampi!

We all went off to explore Durham the next day, when Jim and I were both at university. We tried to find some stotties for a picnic lunch, but had to make do with ordinary baps! Still, sitting on the riverbank, gazing at the staggeringly beautiful cathedral made up for our loss. From there we drove over to Corbridge where we stayed with some friends for the night – and it was quite nice to sleep in clean sheets and wallow in a bath!

From there, we headed back to the coast to Bamburgh Castle for a picnic on the beach, before visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Interestingly, while we were in Durham not only did we visit the relics of St Cuthbert, but we also saw that the most complete collection of the Lindisfarne Gospels was on exhibition. Sadly we couldn’t get tickets, but we learnt enough about the gospels and St Cuthbert to know that although both the gospels and the saint’s relics were originally kept at the priory on Lindisfarne where St Cuthbert had lived and served before his death, following numerous Viking raids they were taken all around the north of England and Scotland before ending up at Durham Cathedral.  Pretty much our route!

We were keen to cross into Scotland that evening, but because we’d left it late and because it was a Friday, we knew we couldn’t be fussy about where we could stay. And sure enough we ended up at the most dilapidated, run-down caravan park – the perfect setting for a gritty movie. But it served our purpose well – it had water, we could light a fire, and our dog Roma had the place pretty much to herself.

We cooked up some pork chops, bought in Corbridge from a local butcher earlier that day, and enjoyed them with a couscous crudités:

PORK CHOPS WITH COUCOUS CRUDITÉS

Pork chops

Salt and pepper

1-2 peppers

4-6 spring onions

2-3 tomatoes

1 cup couscous

Half a stock cube

Whilst barbecuing the seasoned chops, dice the vegetables, pour just over a cup full of boiling water onto the couscous and stock cube in a bowl. Cover and leave for a few minutes before mixing in the crudités. Serve with the chops, with Dijon mustard.

For breakfast, Jim invented the eggy bread bun with bacon:

EGGY BREAD BUN WITH BACON

Oil or butter for frying

4 eggs, whisked

4 breakfast buns

Bacon

Mustard, brown sauce or ketchup

Fry some bacon and keep warm. Dip each half of the bun in the egg and fry egg side down. Sandwich bacon between each side of the bun, add condiment of choice and eat!

Fuelled on this hearty breakfast we drove all the way across Scotland past Loch Lomond and down to the Kyle of Bute to a quiet little campsite. We decided not to cook and instead treated ourselves to some scallops and fresh mackerel from a local restaurant called the Creggar’s Inn on the shores of Loch Fyne. Highly recommended!

 

 

 

First stop for VW camper: Tollesbury, Essex coast

Okay, so it’s not exactly oyster season, but you can’t come to Tollesbury and not pull a few (rocks not natives, of course).  Not being the right time to eat them raw, Jim shucked the basket-full in the photo, and my brother turned them into ‘oyster scampi’, which were scoffed in no time by all of us – see above!  So all in all a good foodie start to our UK tour. . . Let’s hope we can be as exotic at our next stop: we’ve picked masses of samphire – found in abundance in the salt marshes, which we’ll take with us . . .Lincolnshire, here we come!

RECIPE FOR TOM’S OYSTER SCAMPI

a basket full of rock oysters, shucked

egg, beaten

bread crumbs

lemon zest

pepper

For the GARLIC TARTAR

chopped capers or cornichons

crushed garlic (more than you think)

mayonnaise

lemon juice

pepper

METHOD

First, make the garlic tartar by combining all the ingredients.

Remove all juices from the shucked oysters, and dip individual oyster into egg and them bread crumbs. Flash fry in very hot oil, and serve with wedges of lemonade and the garlic tartar.