Bute is a little island half an hour from Glasgow that is accessible only by ferry. It is a verdant and beautiful island with a textured, rich landscape. I was there last month for eatBute08, the first of a new annual event held in conjunction with the Mount Stuart Trust and Petersham Nurseries. The idea is to celebrate local food production on the island and the wider area of Argyll.
With me were Jeremy Lee of London's Blueprint Café and Rory O'Connell of the Balleymaloe Cookery School, which is based near Cork in Ireland, and the three of us were to create a seasonal feast using produce from the area.
I was thrilled to be there: local sustainable food is close to my heart, plus this was a chance to cook a meal with two of my favourite chefs.
The location for dinner was the great marble hall of Mount Stuart, a vast and rambling Victorian house that almost tumbles into the sea, and with 185 guests – including almost all the farmers and producers on the island – it was a warm and boisterous affair. Mount Stuart itself has a huge, beautiful Victorian kitchen garden that is ready to burst into life.
While this time of year in Scotland is still fairly barren, we managed to find some beautiful salad leaves as well as fennel, cauliflower, baby leeks, horseradish, flowering chives and wild garlic from the woods.
We started with langoustines, caught just outside the house in the bay below, which we served with a simple mayonnaise and delicious bread made by Rory. This was followed by the tenderest hung beef, served with green sauce, horseradish cream, baby leeks, flowering peppery rocket and little Bute potatoes so sweet, nutty and tender that they cooked within minutes of going into the pan.
Finally, we finished with Jeremy's delicious rhubarb crumble, laced with caramely brown sugar and served with a vanilla ice-cream that was made on the nearby Isle of Arran, before talking late into the night, relieved that we had managed to pull the whole thing off.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries. Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627
Poached langoustines with lemon mayonnaise
3 free range egg yolks
The juice of 1 lemon
200ml/7fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
20-30 langoustines (five per person)
First make the mayonnaise. Place the yolks and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk to combine. Pour in the olive oil as slowly as possible, whisking continuously as you do so, until all the oil is finished and the mayonnaise is thick and emulsified. Season with the salt and pepper.
Place a large pot of water on to boil and add a really good pinch of salt – the water should be almost as salty as the sea. When the water has boiled, drop in the langoustines and cook for one minute. Scoop them out and allow to cool. It is important not to overcrowd the pan, so cook them in batches if necessary. Thenpeel and eat with the mayonnaise.
Roasted fillet of beef with green sauce
3kg/6lb trimmed fillet
Plenty of sea salt and black pepper
For the green sauce (make this as close to serving as possible)
1 bunch rocket (leaves only)
1 bunch mint (leaves only)
1 bunch basil (leaves only)
1 bunch tarragon (leaves only)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (leaves only)
1 tbsp capers
2 cloves garlic
8 good-quality anchovies packed in olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
25ml/1fl oz good-quality red wine vinegar
220ml/8fl oz good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to the highest setting. Season the beef generously all over. Place in a roasting pan and dry-roast for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, wrap in foil and rest in a warm place for 40 minutes. Slice thickly and serve with the green sauce.
For the sauce, roughly chop all of the herbs and place in a bowl. Finely chop the capers, garlic and anchovies and add to the herbs. Add the mustard and vinegar and stir well to combine. Add the olive oil. Season with pepper if necessary.
Rhubarb and almond crumble with home-made vanilla ice-cream
675g/22oz rhubarb, cut into 2.5cm lengths
50g/2oz caster sugar
For the crumble
110g/31/2 oz white flour
55g/2oz caster sugar
50g/2oz muscavado sugar
55g/2oz chopped unpeeled almonds
For the ice-cream
1 pint/600ml double cream
1 pint/600ml milk
2 vanilla pods split in half lengthwise
9 organic free-range egg yolks
170g/6oz caster sugar
Stew the rhubarb gently with the sugar in a covered casserole dish until just soft (about eight minutes). Taste and add more sugar if needed. Spoon into a 1 litre/2 pint pie dish and allow to cool slightly.
For the crumble, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add both types of sugar and the almonds. Mix lightly and sprinkle over the rhubarb. Bake in a moderate oven at 180C/350F/Gas4 for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is cooked and golden. Serve with the ice-cream (see below) or thick double cream.
For the ice-cream, place the cream, milk and vanilla in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.
Then place the yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat well to combine. Return the milk to a gentle heat and pour over the egg and sugar, beating as you do so. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring until it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon; this may take up to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain into a bowl and set aside to cool. Once cooled completely, pour into an ice-cream maker and churn until thickened. If you do not own one, place the mixture into a container in the freezer, removing after an hour or so to stir. Then return to the freezer to set.
The Forager by Wendy Fogarty
Petersham's food sourcer on where to locate some fine Bute ingredients...
EatBute08, which ran over two days last month, was a more than just a showcase of the best produce from the area. As well as a farmers' market, the festival included activities and workshops for children, run in conjunction with local charity Achievement Bute, field trips, a Young Green Fingers project and, of course, the celebratory feast. It will be repeated next year. www.eatbute.com
Where to buy
Local langoustines are available from Colin McArthur in Rothesay, tel: 01700 500 498.
Charolais and Limousin-cross beef is available from Sandy McIntry of Auchentirrie Farm in Rothesay, tel: 01700 502 607.
Bute potatoes are available from James Lyon of Little Kilchattan farm, tel: 01700 831 244.
Milk and cream are available from Ninian McCalister of McCalister's Milk, tel: 01700 505173.
Arran oatcakes and ice-cream are available from Taste of Arran (www.taste-of-arran.co.uk)
Numerous other ingredients came from the Mount Stuart kitchen garden (www.mountstuart.com)
Websites for local information: