Enjoy Argyll’s Secret Coast on your plate
If there's a recipe which best defines the Secret Coast’s balance between the forest and the sea for me, it's spruce tip gravad lax, or cured salmon
The different aspects of the landscape working together to make something simple and delicious.
Spruce tips are the new growth you find at the ends of spruce branches in the spring.
They are softer and a paler green than the rest of the branch, and have a fresh taste of citrus and pepper, which works really well with the salmon.
On the Secret Coast, Norwegian spruce are easy to come by. However, if you can't find a spruce, most conifer tips will do the job well. All coniferous needles are absolutely packed with vitamin C and have long been used to treat coughs and colds, although they're best avoided if you're pregnant. The only species to avoid outright is yew, which can be mistaken for a conifer, but is highly toxic.
Foraging is great fun, and there's a sense of real achievement in preparing a meal using ingredients you have brought home from your latest adventure. However, if you're not too familiar with the species you're looking for, it's best to take an identification book or app with you, so you can be sure you're picking the right thing.
1 side of salmon
1 generous handful of fresh dill
2 generous handfuls of washed, freshly picked spruce tips
125g of course sea salt
250g of white sugar
20g of white peppercorns
5g of coriander seeds
Preparation time: 10 mins
Curing time: 32 hours
Step By Step
Get your boots on and go exploring in the woods to find your spruce. You'll only need a couple of handfuls for this recipe, but be careful not to take too much from the same tree, so you don't affect its natural growth.
Once you're home, line a large, shallow dish with clingfilm, leaving enough hanging spare over the edges to allow you to fully wrap the salmon once you're done. Evenly spread the fresh dill on the cling film, and lay the side of salmon on top of it, skin side down.
Crush the white peppercorns and coriander seeds using a pestle and mortar then, in a decent sized bowl, combine them with the sea salt and sugar until throughly mixed.
Rub the salt and sugar mixture into the flesh of the salmon, and sprinkle with the spruce tips.
Fold the edges of the clingfilm over the salmon, and wrap it as tightly as you can. Put a few heavy books on top of the wrapped salmon to force out the liquid, and leave it in a cool spot for about 8 hours, then lift off the books and move the salmon to the fridge to continue to cure for about 24 hours.
Once cured, rinse the gravad lax well in cold water, pat it dry with a clean towel and serve it immediately in thin slices.
And there you have it. From the depths of the sea lochs to the tips of the treetops; Argyll’s Secret Coast on your plate.
About the author
Michael Hartley has run his lifestyle and local interest blog, The Secret Diary (www.secretdiaryargyll.com) since 2019, writing about food, life and adventure on Argyll’s Secret Coast.
How to make the perfect cup of cafetière coffee
Put the kettle on! Warm your cafetière using about a cupful of water that’s just off the boil (ideally around 94 degrees). This will ensure the water used for your coffee doesn’t lose temperature when it’s poured into the cafetière – something that could impair the brewing process.
As a rule, for a filled 1 litre cafetière you’ll want around 60 - 70g of ground coffee. Use this ratio for other sizes. So for 250ml cafetière use around 17g of ground coffee.
Throw away the water used to warm the cafetière and add the appropriate amount of ground coffee using the 60 - 70g per litre ratio. Pour about one third of the just off the boil water into the cafetière. If you’re not sure about getting a just off the boil temperature, just wait three to four minutes after the kettle has boiled.
Allow the coffee to ‘bloom’ for a minute. This lets the gasses release from the coffee. Then give the mix a stir – a wooden spoon or spatula is ideal – before adding the remainder of the water.
Leave for a further three minutes. Break the crust and give it another small stir then plunge! If it is very hard to plunge, your grind is probably too fine.
Now simply serve immediately into a warmed cup, add milk if desired, and enjoy! The key is to serve it straight away. If the coffee sits too long it will become bitter and over extracted.
About the author
Eve MacFarlane's roastery opened in 2018, and as members of the Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) she is trained in green coffee, barista, brewing and roasting.