Food news and views from a modern Scottish perspective
TV first as chef creates dish using halibut roe before two million viewers
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THEY have the smallest carbon fin-print imaginable, they are sustainably grown, and they are local. Welcome to halibut roe – Scotland’s newest on-trend ingredient. The fish eggs, harvested from premium organic Atlantic halibut grown in the southern Hebrides by the award-winning Gigha Halibut, have never been used as a cooking ingredient before.
But they were set for stardom when Pamela Brunton, head chef at Inver restaurant in Strachur, Argyll, prepared them live on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, which attracts an audience of almost two million.
Her specially created dish of pan-fried Gigha Halibut roes with potato dumplings, peas, broad beans, flowers, herbs and baked potato broth, was a first on UK television. Fellow chef Jason Atheron, host Matt Tebbutt and the designer David Emmanuel offered their (effusive) comments after tasting it.
The soft, cream-coloured sacs are tiny compared to cod roe, and unfurl from their membranes when pan-fried in hot butter. They are sure to surprise even the most honed taste-buds, for their delicate flavour suggests eggs rather than fish. “Like mellow scrambled eggs, or sweetbreads with a gentle spring flavour,” says chef Brunton, whose restaurant in a former ferryman’s cottage on the shores of Loch Fyne has gained critical acclaim since opening in 2015. (Continues below photograph...)
Pamela Brunton, chef-patron of Inver restaurant at Strachur in Argyll, with her first delivery of Gigha Halibut roe - a first in Scots cuisine
Brunton, who was born in Dundee and grew up in Carnoustie, has worked at international Michelin-starred restaurants such as Noma in Denmark and Faviken in Sweden, as well in France, Belgium and London, has been praised for her “New Nordic” approach to cooking.
But her own ethos is “modern take on traditional Scottish cooking”, and her menus often use ancient indigenous ingredients such as barley, beremeal, seaweed, kale and native lamb. She also uses traditional Scots methods such as fermenting and smoking, which have also come back into foodie fashion.
She said: “Gigha Halibut roe appeal to me because they are a totally new Scottish product from a sustainable source, unlike wild Atlantic halibut which are endangered and which I’d never use.
“Halibut roe have nothing to do with New Nordic or Scandi cuisine. We’re Scottish and we don’t have to reference other cultures. This is contemporary Scottish cooking, with a nod to the traditional techniques that once made Scotland one of the big foodie countries of the world.
“I’m excited to be preparing this dish for Saturday Kitchen Live. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to reclaim our historic cooking tradition in a very modern way.”
Alistair Barge of Gigha Halibut said: “It’s chefs like Pam who made us aware our roe is a delicious additional ingredient. We look forward to interest from more progressive chefs like her.”