Peat And Heather
Main: Pan fried cured partridge breast, confit legs, carrot, orange and chipotle chilli puree, kale, sweet chestnut and crispy Serrano ham | Dessert: CranachanWritten by Kieran Creevy | Photography by Claire Burge
It’s late afternoon. You descend into twilight with the special buzz of contentment and strangely dry clothing that can only come from having had a rare blue sky day of winter climbing in the Scottish highlands.
Seeing firelight and smelling turf smoke from the valley below your pace picks up, knowing other teams have already arrived at the bothy and soon the table will be filled with innumerable bottles of whisky, whiskey (I’ve been reliably informed that the spelling makes a huge amount of difference – one signifies Scottish origin, the other Irish), grappa, eau de vie, myrto, gin, wine, beer and enough food for a Himalayan expedition.
I had the good fortune, years ago, of spending Hogmanay in a northern highlands bothy after a long day in the hills and can vividly recall the smell of 30 sets of gore-tex, and fleece slowly drying near a roaring turf fire, tin whistles, banjos, fiddles and bottles being pulled from rucksacks and bothy packed to bursting with happy climbers.
Anyone who jokingly refers to the Scots as having deep pockets and short arms has never spent a freezing winters night in one of these amazing wilderness refuges. The recipes below hopefully reflect some of the signature flavours of the highlands (excepting the chilli and orange).
4 partridges (ask your butcher to joint into breasts and legs, leaving the wings on the carcass – these can be used to make a brilliant game stock)
4 thick slices Serrano ham, thickly cut
1 chipotle chilli
Double handful sweet chestnuts
Double handful curly kale
Zest and juice of 2 medium oranges
150ml olive oil
Salt and pepper
For The Cure
2 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp whisky (in a cup)
Dessert: Cranachan (serves 4)
200ml double cream
400ml greek style goats yoghurt
85g porridge oats
7 tbsp whisky
4 tbsp runny heather honey
450g fresh raspberries (if you prefer a more winter alternative to fresh raspberries, use cranberries, but remember they will be more tart so adjust the honey accordingly)
Method – Advanced Preparation
Skin the partridge breasts, dip them into the whisky taking care to fully coat, lay a thin layer of salt and sugar on a plate and place the breasts on top. Sprinkle the remaining salt and sugar on top and leave overnight in the fridge. The following morning, carefully rinse the breasts in cold water for 3-4 minutes and pat dry. Wrap in greaseproof paper.
Season the partridge legs with sea salt and black pepper and then pour 100ml olive oil into a small pan, heat to a simmer and add the legs, making sure that they are fully covered, if not add extra oil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Store overnight in the fridge.
Split the chipotle chilli and toast for 5 minutes on a hot, dry pan. Remove from the heat, add 2 tbsp warm water and leave to sit for 10 minutes. Dry on kitchen paper and slice thinly.
Peel and slice the carrots, bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the carrots and half the juice, cover and cook until the carrots are cooked through and strain.
Add the butter, orange zest, remaining orange juice and chopped chipotle to the pan, bring to a simmer and add the cooked carrots.
Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes and blend all ingredients until smooth. Allow to cool, store in a tupperware container.
Make a thin slice in the chestnut skin, roast in a 180c oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and peel.
In the Bothy
Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the kale and cook for 3-4 minutes. Strain and pat dry.
Crisp the ham beside the fire, or on a dry pan. Once crispy, lay over the kale
Warm the carrot puree in a pot.
In a separate pan; toast the chestnuts, add the confit legs, and kale and mix together for 2-3 minutes. Remove to a warm plate.
Add 50ml olive oil to the pan, when hot add the cured breasts, and cook each side for 1 minute, drain on kitchen paper and slice.
Spoon 2 tbsp of the carrot puree onto each plate and smear, top with the sliced partridge breasts.
Add the kale and chestnuts, lay the confit legs on top.
Break the crisp Serrano into big shards and scatter over the plate.
Dessert: Cranachan – In The Bothy
Toast the oats in a skillet over an open fire, stirring frequently and taking care not to burn.
Mix the double cream, goat yoghurt, whisky and honey together.
Fold in the oats and raspberries, leaving a few aside for decoration.
Serve in glasses (assuming all the available glasses aren’t full with drinks for toasting!) or bowls.
In addition to fifteen years work as an international mountain leader and trekking guide on five continents, Kieran has nearly two decades experience of catering for some of the most demanding customers – fellow instructors who want nutritious food with a bit flair, lots of it, now and don’t care that it’s minus 10c and snowing!Twitter @kierancreevy
Claire has been described as part chaos, part rocket fuel. When she is isn’t racing down mountains on her bicycle, you will find her behind a lens and licking the wooden spoon.Twitter @claireburge
Lizalet Oosthuizen is a dietitian and food enthusiast with a love for cooking and adventure. She has joined the team as the food stylist, but mostly it’s an excuse to taste Kieran’s delicious food.