Ian MacTamick eats almost anything, but he does have a few rules about food. He never eats steak by daylight, veal except when he’s in Italy or fish when he’s more than twenty miles from the sea. He has one exception to the Fish Rule: he will eat fresh Scottish trout and salmon anywhere in the Highlands.
Ian firmly believes the old Scots saying: “S mairg a ni tarcuisair biadh– He who has contempt for food is a fool.” He loves the Scots favorites: Scotch Eggs, Scotch Broth, Neeps and Tatties, Smoked Haddock (Finnan Haddie), Fish-And-Chips, Cock-A-Leekie and Rumbledethumps. Of course he enjoys the traditional Scottish breakfast: porridge, eggs, grilled tomato, sausage and/or bacon and scones. Like many men from the British Isles, he thinks breakfast should be served with strong tea and a dark beer.
When he is not drinking MacTamick’s, Ian enjoys: Guinness draught, Woodchuck Pub Cider, Maker’s Mark, Jamison’s, Bushmills, the dark molasses-flavored rums of the Caribbean, semi-sweet white wines from Germany and Italy, Sangria made with good Spanish reds and German honey liqueurs. Of his Scotch competitors, he likes Laphroaig, Balvenie and Isley Scotches the best.
Ian is glad that so many American liquor stores and supermarkets sell Red Stripe, because otherwise he would have to drink American beer.
Ian can cook. Moira, his sainted Mother, insisted that he learn, because, in her words, “a man who can’t cook is a pathetic thing, and likely will marry the first girl he meets, whatever she’s like.”
Ian makes his favorite Scottish breakfast, except for the scones. Ian does not bake. Here’s how he does it:
Eggs, as many as you need
White wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
Mix the eggs with a splash of water, a few drops or more of vinegar (depending on the number of eggs) and the salt and pepper to taste. Let the eggs sit while you melt the butter on a high heat. When the butter froths, add the eggs and reduce the heat to low. Stir continuously until the eggs are as done as you want. (Ian likes them dry.)
Bacon, Tomatos and Toast
Do not prepare your bacon in a skillet. Lay out the strips on a rack and cook them under the broiler, turning once. Lay them briefly on a towel to soak up the excess grease. Toast your bread by buttering it and putting on the broiler rack briefly, butter side up. The tomato should be halved, sprinkled with salt and pepper and roasted cut side up till the edges brown. If you are having sausage alongside or instead of bacon, prepare your sausage the same way, but you don’t need to turn sausages.
Start with good Scottish Oatmeal Porridge, which you will spread out on a pan and put under the broiler until the edges of the flakes brown slightly. Then prepare as directed according to the package. Add some butter. DO NOT cook it with raisins, nuts, apples, brown sugar or anything else. Add these things later. (Ian will sometimes add raisins or diced apple. Don’t YOU add anything else, either.)
Ian loves to fish in the Grampian Mountains. He eats what he catches the same day. This is how he makes his fish:
Cleaned Trout or Salmon (as many as you caught)
Wild Garlic (fresh picked)
Wild Herbs (in the Highlands, usually Thyme, Rosemary and Wood Sorrel)
Salt and Pepper
Gut the fish, but leave the heads and tails. Pack the middle of the fish with the minced wild garlic, fresh-picked wild herbs, onion slices, bacon, salt and and pepper and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. Tie the fish closed with the twine. Wrap the fish in aluminum foil and cook until done in the campfire. If you are making this dish at home, use lemon grass instead of wild sorrel and set the oven at 400 degrees. The cooking time will depend on the size of the fish.
Ian is a stoic. He does not mind discomfort or misfortune. He accepts them as man’s lot in this world, where we are called upon to be patient because our reward is in Heaven. Ian is therefor an excellent baster, because he doesn’t mind opening hot ovens and ladling juices over a roast or bird. He’s been doing this since he was 14. He has accumulated some observations on the art of basting.Basting from pan juices can be a problem. They might burn, especially if you’ve got a long cooking time. Have more basting liquid ready, and keep it warm on the stove.
Don’t add sugar, molasses or such to your basting liquid. It will stick to your roast and burn. Pure butter will also burn. Use clarified butter, and if you want some sweetness in your basting liquid, go for a bit of apple cider or sweet wine.
A good formula for basting anything would be: stock, light oil or clarified butter, garlic, cloves (for poultry), cracked mustard seed (for red meat), bay leaf, a touch of red or white wine vinegar, a bit of sweet wine or cider, thyme, rosemary, onion and celery seed. Brandy is a good addition, but don’t bother with the good stuff. Use something small and cheap. Marinade in your basting liquid for at least a couple of hours first.
Poor quality meat or a sad-looking bird can come out tasting excellent if you marinade first and baste well after.