As I sit in (covid) isolation, in a cycle of home-made meals and continual bread baking. (Yes I too am a victim of the sourdough craze), I yearn for a time when culinary exploration meant more than an essential trip to the supermarket or new recipe.
My lust for travel and discovery isn’t quite sated by the batch of lorghitta, (hand-twisted pasta loops) that I whipped up the other night. They might be an Italian dish and home-made, but let’s be honest, it’s not the same as sitting on a street in Rome, eating fresh pasta surrounded by noisy Italians as you watch the sunset.
So with the idea of home and travel in my mind I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane to my other “home” and first taste of oysters.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland I moved to New Zealand as a youngster and am lucky to call both the Pacific and Europe home. Nine years ago, when I was living in Britain, I spend a memorable Autumn weekend visiting my “home” country. My visit to Scotland was a meld of all the things that I love about travelling- discovering new tastes and sights and the sense of becoming an explorer- coupled with a comforting sense of nostalgia.
After driving from Glasgow to Loch Lomond, I decided to follow my stomach-standard travelling procedure-and took a 60-minute detour to Loch Fyne in search of local seafood. Despite being the beginning of autumn, in a country well known for cold and rain, the sky was clear and bright sunshine followed us as we drove towards the west coast. These ideal conditions provided the perfect atmosphere to have my first taste of raw oysters.
Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, like all good seafood restaurants, is reassuring close to its food supply. It sits on the edge of the Loch, where the langoustines and oysters are sourced from.
Oysters then are a must and I also can’t pass on the West Coast langoustines, which remind me of my youth. When I was younger Langoustines, known as “scampi” in the fish and chip shops meant lots of deep-fried crumb and paper-wrapped parcels of grease and vinegar.
That is not the case today and the table is a seafood lover’s dream with no deep frying in sight. The oysters are plump and full, velvety smooth, filling the mouth with a sweet ocean fragrance. The garnish of bright purple shallot vinegar is surprisingly bland for its colour and lacking that sweet vinegary bite that one expects. The garnish, however, is irrelevant, for what shines through is the pure quality and freshness of the oysters.
Armed with claw crackers I dive in to the towering plate of Langoustines, breaking off heads and cracking claws. Shells fly, bits of langoustine landing in my hair and on the table as I eagerly peel back the sharp-edged shells to get to the white flesh within. The flesh is surprisingly fragrant, yielding a clean, sweet taste far beyond any ‘prawn’ (the local name for langoustines) I have ever tasted. Rather than overpowering this delicate taste, the subtle tomato mayonnaise enhances their inherent sweetness. These delightful flavours send me back to the shell bowl, again and again, combing for any remaining morsel that may have been overlooked or still waits to be unlocked from the tiny claws.
Reminiscing about this meal makes me wonder what other delights still wait to be uncovered in Scotland and when I will next be able to venture “home”.