the Kitchen on the Kelvin

Recipes, news and reviews from my cubby-hole of a kitchen on banks of the River Kelvin, Glasgow


3 Comments

Back to basics: fish and chips

A number of years ago, I spent a very happy, carefree semester in Brisbane, Australia, as part of my law degree. I lived in a traditional Queenslander house not far from the winding river named after the lovely city it meanders through.

When I first arrived, I couldn’t believe how great everyone looked. The lifestyle there is one of fresh air and fitness and the people seemed to be exposing their bronzed, taught bodies in a very breezy, relaxed fashion. Within seconds of arriving, I had resolved to become a part of this fresh-faced, glowing club. However, one delicious stumbling block stood firmly in my path, almost literally (in the true sense of the word).

At the end of sunny Heidelberg St, just a few steps from my front door, stood a sandwich board proudly boasting ‘Australia’s best fish and chips’. Down a few steps and across a small, unassuming car park was a chippy I can’t even remember the name of, but a chippy with a difference. More like a fishmonger, instead of ready-fried fish, sausages, pies and even pizzas languishing greasily in a heated cabinet, rows of snapper, salmon, barramundi, cod and calamari glistened appealingly on a bed of crushed ice, only to be fried once the lucky customer takes their pick. Albeit fantastic, this wasn’t enough to prove a vice in my pursuit of wholesomeness.

The beer battered chips, however, were another story. What I had previously known of ‘beer-battered’ was an airy and crisp coating on a piece of haddock or cod. These chips, however, had no such crust. What they did have was a slightly coarse, flavourful bite on the outside and a steaming hot, plump and fluffy character in the middle. The name itself might be a little misleading and what they’d done with them exactly was a mystery to me but, goodness, did they taste good.

Needless to say, I enjoyed those hot chips more often than was wise in bikini culture Brisbane. It wasn’t before long, though, that I moved home to the other side of the world, far away from such temptation. That was until Old Salty’s opened just down the road a few months ago.

I’m very lucky to live just a couple of minutes from what has become the trendiest hub in the city of Glasgow. Crabshakk, The Finnieston, Kelvingrove Cafe and The Gannet (which is wonderful, for the record)  have turned a slightly dogeared part of the west end into the place every scenester wants to spend their Saturday night – and Sunday morning for brunch, snatch. While dining out at any of these establishments comes at a cost, a new and affordable breed of fish and chip shop-cum-cafe has opened its doors right in the thick of it and I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker.

One wet and windy Friday night, Craig and I decided to give the place a test run after I ‘d spotted its opening a couple of days before. The curious name itself was enough to tempt me, not to mention the eclectic look of the place. While that classic chip shop counter remains, don’t expect to find any greasy plastic furniture here; traditional Victorian tiled walls are teamed up with tile-top tables laden with condiments, candles and a bottle of wine if you fancy (which, to little surprise, we did). Arriving at rush hour on a Friday night, particularly busy as you can also take away, we had a few minutes to wait but it wasn’t long until we were shown to a table by a woman, seemingly the owner or manager, with a lively attitude and a smile you couldn’t help but return. The place was certainly buzzing with the anticipation of the treat of a fish supper on a Friday night and it was clear to see that a real melting pot of people were excited about this new haunt.

Both of us were in the mood for a straight up classic of haddock and chips (a very reasonable £7.95 when sitting in) and waited with baited breath – sorry, these fish puns are impossible to avoid – while it was fried to order and delivered to our table piping hot. The chunky fish was beautifully fresh, the batter triumphantly light and crunchy and the chips – forget the triple cooked gourmet variety – were traditional chippy chips done well. My dad, veteran chippy connoisseur, has a real dislike for what he calls “burst chips” and I can safely say these weren’t anything of the sort. As his chippy protege, I’ve made it my mission to visit a few good fish and chips shops over the years (including the award winning one at Anstruther which I felt was a little overrated, especially after 30 minutes of queueing) and, in all honesty, this one, all too conveniently just a couple of minutes from my front door, is right up there with the best. So thank you and screw you for ruining my wholesome, health food ambitions Old Salty’s!

The best comfort food there is

The rarely disputed king of comfort food. Made even better with wine.

Sitting in or taking away, if you’re looking for a satisfying feed at a reasonable price with real atmosphere, Old Salty’s is a very delicious no brainer.

Advertisements


2 Comments

Ardnamurchan and the Isle of Mull, Scottish Highlands

A couple of years ago, my dad upped-sticks and moved from the bright lights of Glasgow to one of the most remote places in the whole of the UK: Ardnamurchan. This peninsula in the Scottish Highlands boasts the title of most westerly point of the British mainland and, as a result, it’s a place of genuine rugged beauty. Just getting there is no mean feat, taking around four and a half hours by car, but the scenery encountered along the way makes it well worth the journey. The route winds along the western banks of Loch Lomond before taking on the drama of Glencoe. A short sail on the Corran Ferry marks the halfway point before an unnerving couple of hours on the meandering single track road which connects Ardnamurchan to the rest of the world.

Glencoe

The majestic Glencoe on an exceptionally beautiful day – we hit the jackpot!

Whenever I visit my Dad, I know I’m in for a very good feed. He’s always been an excellent cook and now that his skill is paired up with the beautiful produce from the area, mealtimes are pretty special. Whether it’s venison fillet from the local estate or pork belly from his friend Angy’s farm, the quality of life of the animals grazing there is directly translated into the quality of the meat produced. With an unfettered freedom to roam an area untouched by pollution, the livestock are living a similar life to the one they would have done a hundred years ago, unaffected by industry or modern ‘cram-as-many-in-as-we-can’ farming techniques. It reinforces my belief that free range food – aside from being ethical, too – just tastes better.

The stunning view from my Dad's at Achosnich to Sanna Bay and the islands

The stunning view of Sanna Bay and the islands from my dad’s at Achosnich

I was smart enough to pick up some venison mince to take home with me from the local shop, but now I’m kicking myself that I wasn’t smart enough to buy more of it! Coming in at less costly than decent beef mince, it represents excellent value for money and is incredibly lean. I cooked it up with just a smidgen of oil, chopped onions and beef stock for about 30 minutes. I’ll admit that I expected it to be a little on the dry side, but I was willing to trade this in for a healthy alternative to beef. In fact, it had a beautiful texture and that intense, meaty flavour I can’t get enough of. If I had a regular supply of it at this great price, I would seriously consider using it as a tastier alternative to beef mince in my bolognese and chilli.

This dandy little gent pays my dad a visit for breakfast every morning

This dandy little gent pays my dad a visit for breakfast every morning

We also enjoyed a great little day trip to the quaint harbour village of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull which – despite being on an island – is the nearest hub of action to Ardnamurchan. Just 35 minutes from Kilchoan on a cheery wee Calmac ferry and we arrived at the paintbox-hued seafront which must be one of the most commonly depicted views in Scottish art and photography.

Tobermory seafront, Isle of Mull

Iconic: the village of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull

As the seafront comes to life with tourists during the summer season, it’s home to many gift shops punting locally produced arts and crafts as well as pub, after pub, after pub: our kind of place. Inevitably, our visit centred around the liquid offerings of Tobermory, but we did enjoy a decent haddock and chips for lunch at Macgochans where it was actually warm enough to sit outside in the beer garden and take in the chocolate box views. After spending a couple of hours sampling the Isle of Mull Brewery Island Pale Ale, we paid an impromptu visit to the Tobermory Distillery shop where Craig treated himself to a bottle of the 10 year old malt. As I’m not a big whisky drinker myself, I declined to taste it but now that I’ve read that it offers a hint of spicy gingerbread on the palate, I might just have to reconsider. We’ll see how Craig feels about that . . . Flavour aside, it’s housed in a beautiful green bottle which I plan to upcycle into a striking candle holder when the golden liquor’s long gone.

Craig enjoying a pint of Isle of Mull Brewery Island Pale Ale

Craig enjoying a tasty pint of Isle of Mull Brewery Island Pale Ale

An unusually pleasant Saturday afternoon was topped off when, emerging from the Co-operative having been instructed to pick up some custard doughnuts for my dad (his vice), our path was crossed by a curious, oil-slicked creature dashing only three or four feet in front of us. Incredibly, we had intersected an otter on its way from the sea to its nest somewhere nearby! I only wish I’d managed to capture this rare moment on film, but the sneaky little guy was too fast for me. What had already been a fantastic day became a truly memorable one thanks to our chance encounter with a ballsy little otter.