Cream of Campbeltown

Cream of Campbeltown

Martine Nouet savours Campeltown's whiskies before creating a menu that reflects that lush pastures, beautiful landscape and gentle light of Kintyre

Food | 16 Apr 2001 | Issue 15 | By Martine Nouet

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There are very few activities in this world that can truly be described as being very special. Contrary to popular belief, driving down the Mull of Kintyre along the A83 on a sunny summer evening is a very special treat. No, really. Imagine the sun melting into the tranquil waters, its low-angled light reflecting glowing copper hues. The wind drops to create a soothing atmosphere in harmony with the surroundings and one can't help but relax while listening to the sounds of silence. Is it the memory of its now defunct whisky distilleries which makes this long strip of land so peaceful and so vaguely nostalgic?

Nowadays, it is no more than farming land that unwinds its grassy meadows as it reaches towards Campbeltown. Campbeltown itself is no more than the ghost of a former distilling town, no longer prosperous and bustling with life. Yet, probably out of consideration for its past splendour, it is still regarded as a significant region in the geography of single malt. The remaining single malts distilled in Campeltown - Springbank, Longrow, Glen Scotia - have their own distinctive characters. However, I believe that Springbank, in spite of all its individuality, captures something from the nearby grassy meadows - ideal pastures for the creation of exquisite dairy products. I have often found a creamy texture and buttery aromas in Springbank: the 12-year-old has an oily and salty mouth-feel. I remember a Springbank 1979 which expressed an outstanding fudginess, more of a salted butter fudge. Sadly, it has long been sold out but I am sure anyone who has sampled it will remember its rich complexity.

When cooking with single malts such as Springbank, it is better suited to a recipe that calls for smoothness. Cream, butter and milk (possibly coconut milk) play an harmonious duo with the whisky in that menu, they concur to give the dishes a very soft, smooth, round mouth-feel but without the tiniest sensation of fat. Lime in the starter and raspberries in the sweet give the menu a slightly acidic balance with the richness of avocado or ground almond.

Kintyre's 'dairyland' is surrounded by the sea and open to outer influence and, with this in mind, to give the dishes a more vigorous style I chose to mix dairy products with a touch of the exotic: coconut milk, mediterranean prawns, coriander and Italian macaroons, for example, are ideal.

The colour of what we eat is very important to bring in a sense of harmony. In this menu, all the ingredients are light in colour: pastel green for the avocado cream, white for the blancmange. The main dish, panfried whisky flavoured prawns with broad beans stewed in soft spices, have the same shades. That menu will be especially enjoyed in late spring or early summer when the temperature calls for refreshing dishes. Apart from Springbank or Glen Scotia, not so easily available, other single malts will perform perfectly in this menu. They need to have a touch of saltiness or sea haze and a smooth creamy taste together with grassiness. On the soft side, I would recommend Oban 14-year-old or Old Pulteney 12-year-old. On a sharper side, I would go for Clynelish 14-year-old (Flora and Fauna). The fudginess of single malts like Aberlour works well with that menu but the distinctive sherry tone makes it too heavy for the subtle flavours and the combination of ingredients.

Yet whatever single malt is your preferred choice for this menu it must act as a reminder of Kintyre's lush, green pastures, beautiful landscape and gentle light.


Whisky flavoured coconut and avocado cream


Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 250ml coconut milk

  • 200ml chicken stock

  • 2 tomatoes

  • 3 ripe avocados

  • 1 lime (for the juice and ½ tablespoon grated zest)

  • 3 small onions

  • 1 creamy yoghurt

  • 4 tablespoons whisky

  • coriander leaves (about 10 sprigs)

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • a few drops tabasco

  • salt and pepper to taste



PREPARATION
1. Infuse 3 tablespoons of whisky in the coconut milk for 20 minutes. Then mix with chicken stock.
2. Plunge the tomatoes in to boiling water for 30 seconds, this will enable you to skin them easily, then de-seed and dice them. Pour the last tablespoon of whisky over the tomatoes, add salt and pepper. Allow to marinate in the fridge.
3. Peel and stone the avocados, and mix them in a blender with the lime juice, chopped onions, leaves from two coriander sprigs, coriander seeds, yoghurt and half of the coconut milk. Blend at least one minute to get a perfect cream. Pour into a bowl, add olive oil and the remaining coconut milk. Season with salt, pepper and tabasco.
4. Finely chop the leaves of two coriander sprigs into the avocado cream. Serve in bowls and allow to cool in the fridge for two hours.
5. Before bringing to the table, mould a tablespoon of tomato concasse in the middle of the avocado cream and top with a sprig of coriander.


Malted blancmange and raspberries


Serves 6

To be prepared the day before.

INGREDIENTS

  • 500ml milk

  • 7 oz ground almonds

  • 3 oz caster sugar

  • 1 teaspoon potato flour

  • 2 leaves of gelatine

  • 2 drops of almond essence

  • 50ml whisky

  • 200ml double cream

  • 3¾ oz Italian macaroon

  • 4½ oz fresh raspberries



METHOD
1. Boil the milk, pour it on the ground almonds and allow to infuse for 30 minutes. Then put through a very thin sieve and press firmly to release the maximum amount of liquid (save the almond powder for a pudding).
2. Let the leaves of gelatine soak for 10 minutes in cold water then press tightly. Heat the 'almond milk' and add sugar and flour. Mix well. After the preparation has thickened, remove from the heat and melt the gelatine into the almond cream. Give the mixture a good whisk and set aside to cool down. Then add the almond essence and the whisky and stir again.
3. Whip the cream until it just starts to thicken. Blend with the cooled almond milk. Crush macaroons and divide into six glasses. Pour the blancmange in, nearly to the top of the glasses, and set to cool in the fridge for twelve hours.
4. Just before serving, top the blancmange with raspberries.

Serving suggestion

You can also serve the macaroons separately and the blancmange into a lightly greased mould. It is safer to add two more leaves of gelatine in the almond milk to avoid problems when turning out.
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