Spirit of inspiration

Martine Nouet introduces two superb whisky recipes courtesy of innovators from the famous grouse experience and trhe Macallan
By Martine Nouet
Continuing with our mouth-watering tour of distillery restaurants and catering, hungry visitors will not regret calling in at Glenturret Distillery, near Crieff. The distillery has undergone a few changes in the last year and has become the home for The Famous Grouse. The Edrington Group has spent £2.5m upgrading the facilities and adding an interactive show featuring The Famous Grouse. I have not visited this new centre yet since it was only at the planning stage on my last visit to Glenturret. But I truly enjoyed the relaxing time I spent there, especially at lunchtime!Young Executive Chef Steve Craik is full of inspired ideas when it comes to cooking with whisky.

Not only is the distillery itself worth a visit – do not forget to pay homage in front of Towser the champion mouser’s statue (the distillery cat) – but the famous restaurant and bar are the perfect place to enjoy a taste of Scotland. In their guide Visiting Distilleries, Wendy and Duncan Graham praised the catering: “This could be the best in the distillery business. This is Scottish fare at its best.”

Executive Chef Steve Craik is only 27, but having worked for a major French catering company, he has had a wide range of experience, and benefited from training with chefs with different specialities. He enjoys cooking for the self-service restaurant – the haddock in whisky batter is a favourite there – as much as concocting fancy dishes for the à la carte menus or corporate dinners served in the Gloag Room or Grouse Room.

Steve was born in South Africa, where he spent his formative years. He has been working at Glenturret for three years and shows great enthusiasm for cooking with whisky. “I use whisky in all sorts of dishes. I don’t limit my experiments to sweet dishes. I like finishing sauces with vintage malt, or accompanying venison with a plum and home-smoked garlic sauce to which I add the vatted Famous Grouse 12-year-old. It combines superbly with the fruit. I serve it with a thin peppercorn and chive savoury biscuit to bring in a contrast of textures: the crunchiness of the biscuit versus the smoothness of the sauce.” Steve is the only chef I have met who works with new make. He values the strength of the alcohol and the spirity nature of the aromas for marinades such as salmon gravadlax which he serves with a mango sauce laced with Glenturret 12-year-old.

I experimented with new make myself last May when hosting a dinner at Aberlour Distillery. I used it in an amuse-bouche, as a nibble, mixed into a coconut and avocado cream with roasted spicy shrimps and also with a herb and spice roulade. It was served in tiny glasses (just a splash) to accompany the dish, reduced to 50% abv and chilled in the freezer like vodka.

I am convinced that a lot of malt aficionados would enjoy new make in the same way as vodka if they could buy it. It is not yet whisky – but think of the fragrant peaty notes of an Islay clearic (new make) with oysters or a seafood salad! Maybe a good tip for distilleries in constant quest of innovation!

Steve not only considers whisky a brilliant ingredient in food, he also enjoys it as a drink and wants to improve his knowledge. He regularly goes to Glasgow where he attends nosing sessions with John Ramsay, Edrington’s Chief Blender. With a portfolio like Edrington’s, cooking with whisky is exciting: Steve does not limit his creations to The Famous Grouse and Glenturret. He experiments with Glenrothes, Tamdhu, The Macallan and Highland Park as well. One of his most acclaimed desserts is an icemint parfait with flambéed strawberries. The strawberries are flambéed with Highland Park and stirred into heather honey, then served with refreshing mint ice cream; an inventive way of combining hot and cold on a plate. Among other dishes, visitors should try the beef tomato stuffed with barley risotto and asparagus. Whisky is added to the stock for cooking the risotto, which is creamed with mascarpone. The vegetables are whisky flambéed to add more flavours. Pinenuts bring in a touch of nuttiness.

At The Famous Grouse restaurant, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays you can enjoy a three-course lunch served in the Grouse Room just for £10. That leaves you enough money to go for a superb dram!

Don’t expect to see grouse on the menu. As a marketing and sales director commented, “We don’t want to kill the brand!”

Lamb wrapped in a wild mushroom parfait with roasted figs

Steve Craik’s recipe

Serves 4


  • 11/4 lb (565g) loin of lamb

  • 8 slices of smoked duck breast

  • 8oz (200g) assorted wild mushrooms

  • Salt and pepper

  • 2 eggs

  • 100ml thick cream

For the whisky sauce

  • 4 small onions

  • 2oz (50g) butter

  • 1 dram of Highland Park

  • 150ml venison or lamb stock

  • 2 sprigs rosemary

To garnish

  • 4 big figs

  • 1 tbsp heather honey

  • 2 tbsp port

  • Salt and pepper

1. Seal lamb. Place sliced duck breast on cling film. Stir-fry the mushrooms for 5 or 6 minutes until the juice has evaporated. Cut the mushrooms into small pieces and mix with eggs and cream. Season.
2. Cover the duck breast slices with the mixture. Wrap the loin of lamb in duck breast and then in cling film, ensuring it is tightly sealed. Leave wrapped in the fridge for 1 hour.