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Sip Smoke Savor is proud to publish this first of a series of articles developed exclusively for our website by Sheila McConachie and Graham Harvey, distinguished chefs, restauranteurs and authors of the award winning cookbook "The Whisky Kitchen - 100 ways with whisky and food".



Whisky and Food - Part One


sheilagrahamCreating a recipe begins with understanding the relationship between all of the ingredients and how they will work together to produce the final dish.  Matching whisky and food is merely an extension of this process.  Do you want to capture the nose, the background flavours or the finish?  Is it your intention for the dish to taste of the chosen whisky, or are your trying to create a subtle layer of flavour that changes what you are cooking from a very good dish to one that is utterly sublime?  So, to start, stick your nose in the glass and sniff.  With each whisky you will find a host of different aromas; peat, wood-smoke, tea, dried fruits, sea air, liquorice, vanilla, toffee, honey, almonds, citrus - the list goes on and on. 


Some whiskies can give you a hint as to how they would prefer to be used.  Take a nose of Springbank 10 year old and it will cry out to be used in your next Christmas cake.  Have a whiff of Glen Moray 16 year old and it will be telling you to get the chocolate out.  Do you enjoy the sweeter notes found in Speyside malts or the heathery background so often present in Highland whisky?  The citrus notes of Aberlour want to be matched with a delicate, oily fish like salmon.  When you taste the whisky it might give you a few more clues.  Cragganmore is an extremely complex whisky which is very versatile and works so well with a range of foods, from a classic Onion Soup, through Roast Belly Pork, all the way to Rhubarb Queen of Puddings.  The unmistakable peppery background of Talisker is a great seasoning for many a dish.  Graham swears that Royal Lochnagar smells of woodland mushrooms and that is why it works so well with chantarelles, ceps and wild boar.  Like wine it takes time to get to know the complexities and individual personalities of all the different whiskies, but what a wonderful journey of discovery.  Have fun! 


Whisky also makes a great difference in marinades.  Create a basic marinade by adding olive or hazelnut oil to your chosen whisky, lemon or lime juice and herbs for fish, vegetables or other light dishes.  Add Worcestershire Sauce and thyme to add strength and depth of flavour for beef, orange juice and spices for duck, basil for Mediterranean vegetables and so on. Just remember not to marinate fish or beef for longer than 30 minutes and you can go ahead and make your own delicious marinades.


Just as there can be endless debate about which Scotch is the best to drink, so there is similar scope for further discussion about which whisky goes best with certain dishes.  If we can in any small way be held responsible for fueling the passions of those involved in this debate, we will be very pleased indeed.


For this first article, we have decided to introduce you to cooking with whisky with a simple yet very pleasing recipe taken from "The Whisky Kitchen - 100 ways with whisky and food".  Creamy prawn pots are so easy yet thrilling to eat...Enjoy!



Creamy Prawn Pots


Talisker 12 year old's peppery flavour and strong finish, lift this dish to new heights.  This is an incredibly easy yet very glamorous starter.


prawns1Serves 4


1 ounce butter

2 plump shallots, finely chopped

14 ounces medium/large raw prawns or shrimp, shelled

2 tablespoons Talisker 12 year old Single Malt Scotch

1/4 pint heavy cream

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces grated cheddar cheese


Garnish with fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped


Start by buttering 4 ramekins lightly or use a nice teacup!  Now melt the remaining butter in a pan and fry the chopped shallots very gently until soft - do not brown.  This will take about 3-4 minutes.  Now add the prawns and heat through, quickly add the whisky and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Stir in the cream and heat again but remove the mixture from the heat before it reaches boiling point.  It is very important not to overcook the prawns or they will be rubbery and tasteless.  Add the chopped chives and stir in.  Season to taste and spoon into the ramekins.  Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and brown under a hot grill. Serve immediately, garnished with chopped parsley and toast triangles on the side.


Variation - vary the cheese you use.  Try replacing the cheddar cheese with a very thin slice of goat's cheese log.  You will then have a completely different dish that is equally wonderful!


Visit Graham & Sheila at Craggan Mill Restaurant in Grantown -On- Spey, Moray, Scotland:




 The Whisky Kitchen - 100 ways with whisky and food, this website article text copyright 2008/2010 Graham Harvey

and Sheila McConachie, photographs reproduced with permission - copyright 2008 Graeme Wallace.

"The Whisky Kitchen - 100 ways with whisky and food" GW Publishing 2008, ISBN  978-0955414572 2nd edition (9 Dec 2008).







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