Taste Islay and Jura

It has been a week of climbing hills, giggling dogs, sunshine and smiles

washed down with delicious produce from the Taste Islay and Jura food festival.

If you passed the pottery yesterday and it was closed it was because I was AWOL in Bowmore Square enjoying the celebrations and feast of flavours that the Taste Islay and Jura food festival unveiled. Hand dived scallops, harvested from the seas enveloping our island shores, seared in butter and served with crusty bread. The delicious scent of fresh, local lobster sizzling on a barbeque before being served up ‘naked’ or with a bisque or chilli sauce, thanks to the Kilted Lobster, and washed down with the nutty flavour of Colombian coffee as we were treated to the delights of local artisan Argyll Coffee Roasters who had made the short journey across from the mainland. My bag was laden with the freshest of produce from Nerabus Farm as young entrepreneurs Heather and Kevin were showcasing produce from the vegetable boxes they sell across the island and delicious strong cheese from the Isle of Mull cheese producers. Then there were the canapies from the talented foodie, Ghillie Basan, arriving on platters. Apricots stuffed with harissa paste and other delights, that left a myriad of flavours tingling on your tongue. Smoked salmon, venison and the most delicious home baked oatcakes laced with the exquisite smoky flavours of Laphroaig whisky from Emma at Glenegedale. The spicy chorizio and pork sausages from Porter’s Butchers, who were sharing new recipes as they showed off their vacuum-packed products allowing people to purchase a whole lamb for their deep freeze. A lamb born and bred on the Porter’s family farm on Islay.

In the nearby Harbour Inn it was a cocktail fest of gins, wines, whiskies and ales all produced on Islay. I was ‘driving’, and with the Happy Farmer, who would have happily partaken in sampling the ‘sweeties’ on offer, back at the farm, sailing the Good Ship Persabus, I just enjoyed soaking up the buzzy atmosphere as people huddled round the various stands enjoying sampling the best of Islay and Jura.

Back at the farm it has been a bit of a food fest too. Pheasant, casseroled with red wine, bacon, mushrooms, carrots and kale, simmering away in the Aga whilst I raced the Happy Farmer up to the top of the hill across from the farmhouse. With the cows in the fields, the dogs and I have made the most of the late afternoon sunshine and have gone for ‘after work romps’ up the hill. A hop skip and a bit of a jump and you are transported into a wilderness of hillocky terrain, a boggy burn to circumnavigate and quite a steep climb up to the beautiful panoramic views from the trig point on the farm. Our children spent their childhood playing out on the hill at Persabus. It provided a spectacular back drop for ‘Lion King’ adventures. Battles were fought with home-made bows and arrows; swords and shields made from sticks and ferns. Natural rocky outcrops were transformed into kitchens and houses in the vivid imaginations of our young family. Of course, if you are lucky enough to persuade the Happy Farmer to accompany you on the adventure you get treated to tales of memories of a childhood spent clambering up these hills to gather in the livestock. A quick ‘hello’ is necessary as we clamber past the Happy Farmer’s ‘Old Boy’, my lovely late father in law, who now rests peacefully out on the Persabus Hill.

Until next time…