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Reviews / The love and wonders of Scottish sea produce

With the Taste of Shetland festival on this weekend, Erin Rizzato Devlin delves into the pages of a new book that celebrates Scottish seafood

FROM the crispy bite of a fire-cooked mackerel from Loch Fyne to the delicate taste of Orkney crab linguine, to the Caledonian variation of classic Oysters Rockefeller: this new book embarks on a journey to explore the new and old flavours of Scottish seafood, along with the stories of all those who catch, cook or savour it.

With her new collection of stories and recipes, the Highlands-based writer Ghillies Başan accompanies us on an exploration of seafood that departs from Ayr, on the West coast of Scotland, to the Western Isles, then navigates northwards to Orkney and Shetland, before following the coastline to Fife and East Lothian.

In this journey Başan brings together the voices of all those who live close to the sea, as her renewed respect for fishermen and appreciation for the quality of seafood in Scotland grows stronger.

The result is a book that reflects on the coastal communities of this country, while keeping close the flavours of their tradition and turning a gaze to the practices of ancient times.

Traditional recipes are mixed with modern and multicultural ones, weaving stories of the past with tales of the present, as people who have always lived here and people who have travelled from afar are brought together by the love and wonders of Scottish sea produce.

In fact, the book adapts recipes from a variety of cultures across the world to what the Scottish coastline can offer: in this way, a hearty Cullen Skink, or traditional Arbroath smokies, are served along with a Saigon Seafood Curry, Mexican paella or Creole fish patties.

Amongst these, Shetland’s local produce stands out in the recipes of Marian Armitage, with the roasted monkfish tail that she prepares alongside her grandchildren, and by Akshay Borges who enjoys blending his roots when cooking Shetland mussels in a South Indian tomato rasam.

Although Scotland is one of the biggest exporters of shellfish in the world, this book is moved by a need to explore ways in which people who live in Scotland can cook and become more inventive with the seafood that our coasts have to offer.

This is a book that will lead you to appreciate the stories of Scottish shellfish, as well as fall in love even more with the sea that bares them – it’s a catch!

Seafood Journey: Tastes and Tales from Scotland by Ghillie Başan will be published by Birlinn on 2 November, priced at £25.


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