Food was a major highlight of our first month. Our host Martin was an unbelievable chef and he made sure we tried a wide variety of cuisines during our stay. Part of the fun was acting as sous chef while assisting with the morning and evening prep. Working in a Tea Garden we had access to decadent cakes and scones as well as soups and stews that were made daily. All of our meals were spectacular but there are a few that truly stand out.
We entered the kitchen one evening to see an assortment of raw fish, sauces, veggies, and sushi rice along with makeshift work stations. We were going to roll our own sushi! We jumped in and started making fun combinations. The first ones needed improvement but by the end we really got the hang of it. After a day of hiking our eyes got the best of us and we may have overdone it. We rolled dozens of rolls and feasted on fresh sushi with a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc.
Mick has dreamed of making fresh pasta for years, but we assumed that our first chance to do so on our trip would be in Italy. It turns out Martin wanted to try it too! We got out the pasta roller (is that what it’s called?) and got to work. We stuffed our ravioli with spinach and homemade ricotta, topped it with a brown butter and sage sauce, and finished with fresh-baked focaccia on the side. Ricotta is surprisingly easy to make all you need to do is simmer milk and add vinegar. Rikki makes bread constantly so we left the focaccia up to her. Though they weren’t the most visually pleasing, it was the best meal of the month by far.
Being on an island in the ocean, it would have been wrong to not have a seafood night. Martin went into Oban and came back with an amazing assortment of fresh seafood. Crabs, lobsters, prawns, oysters, salmon, pickled herring (this was a true first), and jumbo scallops with the orange roe. We had potatoes, bread, and remoulade to round out the meal. The best part? While waiting for the ferry earlier that day we saw all the crabs in cages, but we didn’t know they’d be our future dinner.
We had a breakfast station in the barn with a hot plate. Rikki made sourdough bread and I (Ellyn) often cooked veggies and eggs for myself and the boys. We drank coffee and ate breakfast in the garden every day and these mornings became routine. It was nice to slow down and relax, read, or just chat before our busy days. No crazy commute or cell phone connection. Just enjoying the start of the day.
Working is the Tea Garden was such a valuable and fun way to spend our days. We made scones, cakes and soups which combined with shooting the shit made for some really entertaining days. We learned so many great recipes to bring back and techniques for stepping up our home cooking. Most importantly, however, being in the kitchen gave us a chance to get to know each other. Cheers!