Flying north to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands came as something of a relief: the heatwave then had been relentless and I’d forgotten what it was like to be ambient. As we touched down and the plane doors opened, the air
was cool and crisp and grey clouds stretched overhead to form a drab but welcome blanket.
The car hire company gave me a bright white MG SUV, which was slow and cumbersome on the winding roads to Ullapool, a port village about 45 miles north-west of Inverness and bewitchingly remote. Car aside, this rurality was welcome too – as we arrived, the only busy spots were the fish and chip shop, where a queue had formed, and, later, the pub – at the back of which a talented man covered Queens of the Stone Age tracks with a light-up accordion. He had a drunken Scottish growl of a voice. It was superb – as was the local hake we had overlooking Loch Broom. Never had I seen so much vinegar glugged on to chips.
I’d been sent to Ullapool as part of a tour of Scottish restaurants, so despite inhibited inclinations, there isn’t really any need for me to talk about being struck by the beauty of the lochs, the sweeping, rugged terrain. I will for the next paragraph or two discuss my first breakfast, served at The Dipping Lugger guesthouse after a whisky-soaked time at the local boozer.
It was an Eggs Hebridean (sometimes called Eggs Balmoral), which sees a muffin topped with black pudding, a poached egg, and hollandaise. At The Dipping Lugger, the muffin was light, the Stornoway black pudding rich, and the egg perfectly poached. In lieu of hollandaise here, a whisky cream, with plenty of finely chopped chives.
It was a stunning way to begin our first day in the Highlands, providing sustenance abound for walks and loch spotting. I really can’t think of many more satisfying breakfasts. Before leaving, I asked head chef David Smith for the recipe. Here it is.
For the MUFFINS:
1 tbsp sugar
3g dried yeast
100ml water @ 45˚C
25g butter, melted
300g plain flour
A little polenta, for dusting
For the WHISKY SAUCE:
1 tbsp oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 sprigs lemon thyme
250ml dark chicken stock
250ml double cream
25ml whisky, more can be added if you’re having an indulgent day….
2 tbsp chopped chives
Salt and pepper
4 medium eggs
4 generous slices of Charles McLeod
Stornoway Black Pudding
(can be made in advance)
Warm the milk and add the sugar until dissolved, cool until lukewarm.
Add the yeast to the warm water and leave for 10 minutes.
In the mixer combine the milk, yeast, butter and half of the flour and beat until smooth.
Add in the salt and remaining flour and knead, then place in a greased bowl and allow to proof.
Once proofed, knock back and roll out to 2cm thickness.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and sprinkle with polenta.
Cut out dough with a muffin cutter and place on a baking sheet, then dust the tops of the muffins with a little more polenta.
Allow to proof for another half hour.
Place a griddle pan on a medium heat and once warm, cook muffins for 10 minutes on each side then transfer to a warm oven until cooked.
When cooked, allow to cool and they can be frozen for future use if required.
(Can be made up to 2 days in advance)
Warm the oil in a saucepan on a medium heat, add the shallots and garlic and cook slowly until translucent, add the thyme then add the stock and reduce by half.
Once the stock has reduced, add the cream and reduce by half again, add the whisky and season.
Once seasoned, pass through a fine sieve, then add the chives to finish. (If you are preparing in advance, omit the chives and add once reheated)
Toast the muffins.
Poach the eggs in a pan of simmering water with a splash of white wine
vinegar for 3 minutes, whisking the water before you add the eggs helps
to keep their shape.
Grill or pan-fry the black pudding until it has a nice crust, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Place the muffin on a warmed plate, place the black pudding on top and
the poached egg on the black pudding, then pour over the sauce and have a great breakfast!