Friday, 26 November 2010

Rather tasty

I have just spent a delightful few days with two friends of mine at their homes on the east coast of Scotland, one in Arbroath the other in Newport-on-Tay.

A number of years ago a good friend of mine, Judy, bought a little place in the historic town of Arbroath, as a getaway-from-it-all retreat. It sits right on the edge of the beach looking out across the North Sea, with occasional fishing boats ploughing their way in and out of harbour in what were fairly rough seas, the swell of the water and the breaking waves making for a dramatic framed picture through the French windows.

Arbroath is the largest town in the area of Angus and lies just north of Dundee. During the industrial revolution Arbroath boasted 34 mills making jute and sailcloth and was also prominent in the making of lawnmowers, supplying the nearby St Andrews Old Course. Today its best known export is the Arbroath Smokie.

The Smokie actually originates from a small fishing village just north, Auchmithie. Legend has it that the Smokie was born when a barrel of haddock preserved in salt caught fire one night and the cooked haddock found the next morning was found to be “rather tasty”. Typically it takes less than an hour of smoking and having tried it in a cream sauce wrapped up in a thin pancake, I can confidently agree that it is rather tasty.

It was bitterly cold the following day but we ventured a little further north to Montrose to visit the statue of Bamse, a St Bernard dog that belonged to a captain of the Norwegian Navy during WWII. Bamse lived with the crew on board the ship, even sporting his very own tin helmet. He performed many acts of heroism, rescuing fellow crewman that were attacked or drowning overboard and would even break up fights between crewmen. He was also well known for escorting crew back to the ship when in port in time for their duty. To round up his crew he would travel on buses and so they bought him his own bus pass. A truly remarkable dog, he died in July 1944 and was buried with full military honours in Montrose and in 2006 HRH Prince Andrew unveiled a bronze statue of him on Wharf Street.

Further up the coast is a fabulous long beach called St Cyrus, with the North Sea on one side and high dunes on the other. It was so bitterly cold and near the end of the day that unfortunately we had only a fleeting visit, but I vowed to return one day.

On my final day, as I headed back in the direction of Edinburgh, I stopped off in Newport-on-Tay to see another friend of mine, Louise. Having met at the train station in Dundee we headed off to the picturesque university town of St Andrews. It is estimated that it has been a place of importance since its earliest churches in the 8th century and today it can boast having the third oldest university in the English-speaking world. Of course its most famous institution is that of golf. Founded in 1754 it is the ruling authority on the game of golf everywhere, except for Mexico and the USA, though they work together to form the rules.

Louise is an excellent cook and that evening she dished up venison in a lovely sauce with roasty-veg and made the whole thing look effortless. Just like the Arbroath Smokie pancake it was another supreme meal that was “rather tasty”.

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