Think of the drink you would enjoy on a summer evening, what would you savour after having sunned yourself all afternoon (even in Britain, such miracles do occur)? Would you go for a heavily sherried malt such as The Macallan?
Would you be happy with a Highland Park 25-years-old? Or would you crave for a grassy Lowlands single malt such as the flowery Glenkinchie or the lemony Bladnoch? Perhaps a refreshing Highland malt such as the minty Royal Lochnagar or the Glen Garioch with heavy liquorice? And what about a pale and dry Caol Ila from a second or third refill cask, with its distinctive sea-breeze aromas and its clean cereal touch? So many choices. Which one is the perfect malt to sip leisurely, "sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away..."?
These are definitely summer drams, more likely to be enjoyed outdoors than indoors. Carry out this experiment: taste a single malt in your lounge one evening and the same one in your garden the following evening and compare your tasting notes. You will be astonished by the differences you will have noted on the nose as well as on the palate. If you are lucky enough to taste an Islay malt by the sea, let the summer breeze rush into your glass: its iodine quality will mingle with the seaweed nose of the whisky. Heaven by the shore! So leave your after-dinner full-bodied favourites for The Winter's Tale and save the younger, fragrant, floral or fruity easy-going whiskies for A Midsummer's Night Dream.
The key-note of that summer menu is sweet and sour, in the taste as well as in the colours: the sweet touch of carrots combined with the sharpness of orange rind and pimento in the spicy cream of carrots; the delicacy and lightness of shellfish enhanced by the bitter hint of saffron; the straight acidity of the lemon curd tempered with the mild tone of strawberries. The colours of the dishes mirror that summer atmosphere, like the various shades of the sun in a day: from bright yellow at sunrise to fading pink at dusk, after a flaming orange at sunset.
Look for romantic, subtle single malts such as Glen Moray mellowed in chenin, Glenfiddich Special Reserve, The Glenlivet, Knockando, Glenmorangie, Isle of Jura and Rosebank. They will elegantly combine with this light and original menu which leaves a refreshing taste. Just the same sensation you enjoy when walking in a fragrant English garden on a late afternoon, when the earth and plants are breathing in before exhaling the warmth and smells of a summer day. Romance is in the air!
Shellfish and salmon in a saffron and whisky nage with basmati rice
- A large fillet of Scottish Salmon (12oz)
- 7 oz queen scallops
- 12 king prawns
- 1½ Ib mussels
- 1Ib cockles
- 13 oz basmati rice
- A large pinch of ground saffron
- 4fl oz double cream
- 2 yolks
- 2fl oz malt whisky
- A pinch of saffron threads (in a little water)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sprigs of chervil
1. Cut the salmon fillet into 6 pieces (carefully remove the bones). Place the salmon pieces into a gratin dish with the shelled queen scallops. Place the prawns on a foil sheet. Check the mussels, beard them and rinse them. Rinse the cockles. Put mussels and cockles in a pan and steam them open over a high heat for 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Shell them and place them into the gratin dish. Put the mussel stock through a sieve and set aside.
2. Cook the rice in plenty of boiling water (follow the instructions given for cooking time on the pack of rice).
3. Preheat the oven (180°C - gas mark 6).
4. Put the shell stock in a pan with the ground saffron and cream. Bring to the boil and allow to reduce at a high heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the saffron threads and pepper but no salt (the mussel broth is naturally salted!). Stir in the yolks one by one. Return to the heat and keep stirring remembering to keep it below boiling heat. When the sauce starts to thicken, remove from the gas and add whisky. Keep warm.
5. Cover the gratin dish with a foil and put into the oven with the prawns. Take care not to over-cook the fish and scallops (5 minutes should be enough). Top with the saffron and whisky nage. Garnish with chervil sprigs. Serve with basmati rice. You could alternatively serve the dish with steamed spinach or courgettes.
If the mussel broth is too salty, use only half of it and do not reduce the sauce.
Whisky flavoured strawberry and lemon charlotte
For the shortbread base
- 2½ oz ground hazelnuts
- 1 oz chopped hazelnuts
- 1 egg
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 5 oz flour
- 4 oz unsalted butter
For the lemon curd and strawberries
- 3 lemons (juice and grated rind)
- 7 oz caster sugar
- 3 oz unsalted butter
- 2 leaves of gelatine
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons malt whisky
- 10 oz strawberries
For the coulis
- 10 oz strawberries
- juice from ½ lemon
- 3 tablespoons malt whisky
- ground pepper
- a few drops of balsamic vinegar
1. Prepare the shortbread base. Beat the egg in a bowl. Add sugar and salt. Fold in the flour with ground and chopped hazelnuts. Mix to a firm dough. Cut the butter into pieces and rub it in, using your finger tips. Then knead the mixture together to form a soft but not sticky dough. Set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Prepare the lemon curd. Let the leaves of gelatine soak for 10 minutes in cold water then press them tightly. Cut the butter into small pieces and put it into a bowl which will be placed over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie). Add the sugar, lemon juice and grated rind and stir until the sugar and butter are melted. Add the leaves of gelatine and stir them until they are melted too. Whisk the eggs in a bowl and pour into the lemon juice while continuing to whisk. Stir until the preparation thickens (8 to 10 minutes). When it coats the back of a wooden spoon, it is cooked. Remove from the bain-marie and allow to cool for a few minutes then stir in the whisky.
3. Preheat the oven (200°C - gas mark 6/7). Roll the pastry out about 1/4 inch thick on a thinly floured table. Use stainless circles (1½ inches high and 2½ inches wide) to cut 6 rounds in the shortbread. Place each round with its circle on a greased baking sheet and cook in the oven for 15 minutes. Then place the rounds with their circles on a tray.
4. Rinse the strawberries, tail them and cut them into two halves. Line the inside of the circles with the strawberries, putting the flat side of the strawberry against the circle. Fill in with the lemon and whisky curd up to ⅔ of the strawberries. Keep the charlottes in the fridge for 4 hours at least (or one hour in the freezer).
5. Prepare the coulis. Keep six small strawberries to garnish the top of the curd. Mix the rest with the lemon juice, the pepper and the whisky. Put through a sieve. To remove the charlottes from the mould, gently heat the circles with your hand and tip onto the centre of six plates. Drizzle strawberry coulis round the charlottes and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.