Scottish wine? Yes, like there are Scottish birds, so the title of my bird watchers book says. I.e. birds to be spotted in but not confined to Scotland. Depending on species and season one can come across them in Iceland, Senegal and, mind you, England too. And so Scottish wine: wine one can buy in supermarkets in Scotland. Tesco in my case.
The dining part I tried to keep as local as possible: venison, (British) chicken, and of course: bog myrtle.
Bog myrtle, also known as sweet gale or Scottish gale, is an aromatic shrub growing in boggy places in the North-West Highlands. It was used to keep fleas (in mattresses), moths (amongst the linen) and flies (in the kitchen) at bay (Chris Lowe, Torridon, the Nature of the Place, p. 183). It is also said that midges won’t bite you if you tuck some leaves behind your ears. Well, I can’t say I have seen that happening. But there is definately good use for it in the kitchen: under the skin of a chicken and in the venison stew (use it like bay leaf but the fresher the better, and as with bay leaf do take the leaves out before you serve the food). Bog myrtle provides a tasty, herbal flavour.
Crispy bog myrtle chicken
Just rinse the bog myrtle to get rid of little beetles or flies, though I seldom find them. Shake of the water and push leaves liberally under the skin of a ‘happy’ chicken. The leaves are small, so you will need a handful. Salt, pepper, a little paprika. That’s all. You could add some garlic under the skin as well, but why not go for the bog-myrtle-total experience? Roast the chicken until crisp and thoroughly (being in the Nanny State I feel inclined to add this adverb) done. A few green vegetables or a salad, a new potato, no more is needed.
What to drink with this savoury dish? A light red wine would do best (Pinot Noir, Gamay, Fer Servadou) but an aromatic white is also a good choice. I paired it quite satisfactorily with Tesco’s Finest Gavi, an Italian white from Piemonte.
Venison stew (serves 2)
There seems to be hardly a butcher left in the Highlands, except for the ‘bigger’ cities, but some small local supermarkets get a biweekly supply of venison (and maybe also of beef and lamb – I didn’t pay that much attention) by a big retailer from, in my local shop, Kyle of Lochalsh. Excellent meat, and happy by the supermarket’s initiative, though I do miss the butcher who cut the steakes from a huge leg before my eyes, pointing with his knife to the other side of the loch where the animal had roamed not long ago.
I still had some bog myrtle left, so I opted for the diced venison. Fry an onion till soft and transfer it to a plate. Add some more oil and/or butter and fry venison till brown. Add some salt, the onions, a sprig or three of bog myrtle, chopped garlic, a little red pepper (freshly chopped or flakes), two small fresh tomatoes and a drop of vinegar. Fry for one minute, than add a splash of red wine and some water. (Less is more here; the juices of the venison should give this dish its taste, not the wine or the tomatoes.) Let simmer for about two and a half hours at least. Serve with roasted parsnip and crushed potatoes. In the glass a good claret or a red Rioja, preferably one that is not all vanilla and dried plum. As we were out of those, we settled for a Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand: Oyster Bay 2014. A decent Pinot for just under 10 pounds, fruity, no New-World sweetness here if rather high in alcohol (14%). It did the job well enough.