Photo: Rooms with a View: Along the Oban esplanade there is a long row of lovely old houses, many converted to B&B accommodation, and hotels.
It’s potentially risky booking a B&B, as I’ve had a few experiences with the Fawlty Towers management style. Yet the temptation of a full-on cooked breakfast generally wins out in the end.
Once I have the breakfast card, my inner school-mistress emerges, with each and every available option enthusiastically ticked off. On a cold and frosty morning, the anticipation of the feast to come is enough to have me leaping out of bed at the allocated time without a second thought.
And Oban does not disappoint. Generous layers of cream and whisky to the porridge are lavish and delicious enhancements.
Oats and Scottish cuisine seem inextricably linked. Later in the day at lunchtime, soup is served with oatcakes and for dinner, the entrée selection includes an interesting range of local specialities (some that include oats as a binding ingredient) such as:
- Haggis with Mashed Neep Tower (mashed swede or turnips)
- Classic Home-style Cullen Skink (a soup made from smoked haddock, potato, onion, milk and parsley)
- Haggis Bon-Bons (deep fried crumbed haggis balls)
- Rummblethumps (sautéed onion and cabbage mixed with mashed potato, topped with cheese and baked and sprinkled with toasted oats).
All the ingredients are readily available and cheap, and are often based on previous meals e.g. rummblethumps! Thriftiness abounds in Scottish Haute Cuisine.
The haggis has a highly distinctive flavour, aroma and texture and the next day and as I pass the butcher shop and see locally made haggis on sale, I go in and ask how it is made. I can see why the secret is almost safe, as I get my head into gear to firstly to decipher the thick Scottish accent and then the list of ingredients. It is with sincere apology though that I have to ask the question three times!
It’s a fairly technicolour description and I almost convert to vegetarianism for the coming three months. There is minced heart, liver and lung bound together with oats, onions, coriander, mace, nutmeg and stock, this colourful concoction is then stuffed into the stomach lining of a sheep to form a large ball and then boiled for 3 hours!
“Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” springs to mind … could this be Shakespeares’ Macbeth cauldron inspiration?
The temerarious collection of haggis ingredients reminds me too, that like so many things Scottish, there is an edgy sort of rugged vibrancy here – from the food, to men wearing tartan skirts and the endearing yet chaotic music of the bagpipes. Aye, I think I am going to like it here …. A lot.