Life at the end of the road

July 20, 2009

Spoots Fearnley-Whittingstall

Filed under: boats, daily doings, food — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:08 pm

It’s been a while since I was on here and the memory is pretty rubbish but I’ll have a go at recalling the last few days events.

More rabbit

Saturday was a little damp and I arrived at work just in time to catch the Ronja Viking heading north past Raasay pier on her way to Portree.

Ronja Viking

Ronja Viking

The inclement weather meaning the days painting efforts were restricted to a coat of red gloss on the fire main and engine room vent covers. Lunch consisted of a rabbit soup that turned into a rather hot casserole due to over zealous addition of hot things by ‘the man from Gourock’ though he emphatically denies it.

Only having new potatoes that would not really do much for a soup, we started them off in a seperate pan, giving them good long boiling in salted water. I then got the remains of yesterdays bunny, which was basically everything from the rib cage up and chopped it into 4, heating another large saucepan with olive oil, crushed garlic and freshly crushed peppercorns. When that was good and hot I added the rabbit and then a whole chopped leek. Once all that was nicely sealed I tipped in the spuds and their water. After which things start to get a little vague, not because my memory is rubbish (which it is) but because both of us kept adding things without the others knowledge. I definitely saw some lentils and about 8 whole cloves of garlic going in and I think I spotted a chopped red pepper lurking in there and whilst I never saw the jalpeno chilli’s in there, the jar they were in looked decidedly emptier than it did before the concoction was finished.

The amount of time it spent on the back burner simmering away waiting for the arrival of the oyster starter from Paul McGlynn of meant that by the time I ate it, it was more of a casserole and certainly did not require a spoon. Sadly ‘the man from Gourock’ was bunnied out so had two lamb chops instead, actually I think he knew just how many chilli’s he’d put in it so left it all for me 🙂

Hot rabbit, cool oysters and home made humous :-)

Hot rabbit, cool oysters and home made humous 🙂

The home made humous was given to us by a customer and went down great with the oysters 🙂

Spoot fishin’

It was just a pity that the razor clams did not arrive sooner for they would have made a fine accompaniment to the oysters.  The razor fish or ‘spoots’ as they’re called in these parts because of the spout of water they issue if you walk near them on the beach, where given to me by a friend traveling on the ferry. I last saw Robin  few years ago when we both featured on HFWs ‘River Cottage fishing special’, though previous to that he was a regular visitor to Raasay in search of the elusive ‘spoot’.

Bundles of spoots

Bundles of spoots

Dwindling scallop stocks, various shellfish poisoning scares and just plain inquisitiveness have at times sent me ‘spoot fishing’. However a temperamental market and various disasters soon forced me to abandon this particular fishery.

How not to catch razor clams

My first spoot venture prompted by good prices and a local buyer in Broadford started in around 1985 when I lived on Scalpay using a 2″ Honda water pump as a suction dredge. The pump was kept on the boat which had to be anchored fore and aft to stop it swinging. The end of the hose was then directed at the sand  to blow it away and reveal the spoots which were then harvested in a bag. I also tried it with a ‘Y’ piece on the end so that the venturi effect of the pump sucked away the sand and deposited it behind you. Both methods worked of a fashion but much heed had to be taken over the direction of the tide to try and clear away the silt.

Not being too impressed with this method I then resorted to using a 4″ airlift made from  a 6m length of soil pipe and a huge compressor powered by a 4 cylinder Lister diesel engine 🙂 This proved to have a few unforeseen problems, whilst it certainly did shift both the sand and the spoots, it did occasionally get blocked thus turning the neutrally buoyant uplift into a 6m long Polaris missile. The poor chap who was sharing the 23′ boat with the 40hp compressor had to be very quick at shutting off the air or he was in danger of being hit by the rapidly accelerating projectile 🙂 It also damaged so many of the spoots that we soon abandoned this method and I returned to the much safer pastime of diving for scallops 🙂

Other methods I’ve tried are the traditional method of walking backwards on the beach with a spade, then as soon as you see the spout of water you dig like mad. This method works well but is of course limited by the tide. Another method is to use rock salt and water in a squeazy bottle and whilst I’ve never really had much success myself others swear by it. So much so that for a time you would struggle to find any salt in the grit bins at the side of the roads on Skye, or so I’m told 🙂 My good friend and skipper Willy Eyre, or at least I think it was he, told me that the best way was to go to your selected beach at low water with a full moon and a friend. You then get a long rope  stretch it across the beach and drag it over the sand. This pulls out all the spoots that have come out to see the moon!

My friend Robin just drags then out of the sand using his bare hands, a method that I’ve never been able to master but which he has down to a fine art. In all honesty I’m sure I could have got the hang of it had I persevered but the fickleness of the market and the long hours spent under the water at this game made me stick with the scallops.

Glamaig hill race

The mountain that dominates my working week and has been wearing a grey wig of cloud for days seemed to clear in the afternoon just long enough for the hill race at 15:00

At 4.5 miles and a very steep 2500′ it has been done in under 45mins!

The late Saturday sailing had me going to the for a most excellent dinner of ‘Borodale haddie and ham rarebit’ a fine dish of local haddock covered in ham and cheese which was preceded by the herring in sherry. Wifey had a smoked venison starter followed by chicken supreme, all of which was delicious. The late sailing also had me heading straight for my bed when I finally got home at 22:45.

The good thing about the longest day ( Saturday ) is that it is followed by the shortest day which is of course Sunday. A day of cleaning, maintenance, drills and of course washing the Land Rover and checking it over for on Friday. It’s also the day I feed the pigs before leaving for work at around 8:30, giving me chance to see how much they’ve grown since Tuesday and it never ceases to amaze me. As well as the 8 spotty piglets, the 5 spotty boars on the hill and the 3 tamworth gilts on the croft putting on weight. Shona our next ‘Old spot’ sow due to farrow seemed to have filled out some.

Whilst not actually late for work the rest of the crew were already busy doing an anchor drill with our new recruit.

Anchor drill

Anchor drill

After cleaning the whole ship from stem to stern and servicing the port genny we did a boat drill.

Boat drill

Boat drill

Razor clams in olive oil, wine and paprika

After our hard labours I headed home followed half an hour later by my two shipmates who were joining us for dinner of pot roasted venison made by my wife, sticky toffee pudding made by my son and his two friends and ‘spoots Fearnley Whittingstall’ made by me 🙂

Another reason for my lack of enthusiasm at the razor fishery was the fact that I could never cook them properly and no matter what I did to them they tasted like really nice rubber. Everyone says don’t over cook them but it wasn’t untill HFW himself showed me how that I realized just how little.

Spoots Fearnley-Whittingstall

Spoots Fearnley-Whittingstall

Basically just chuck a load of olive oil and paprika into a frying pan, get it hot add some wine then throw in the spoots until they open and that’s about it, divine 🙂

Much more (eventually)

Today has been quite eventfull but I’m too tired to tell you about it so I’m off to bed and perhaps I can upload some pics Tomorrow 🙂

and please Simon, Neil, Chris, Ed, Stoney  and Rienza forgive me for not commenting but I really am ‘tired and shagged out after a long squwak’ as John Cleese would say 😦

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