Whisky Magazine Issue 3
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Whisky is not just whisky, says Claire Macdonald, proprietor of Kinloch Lodge on Skye. What's great with smoked fish might not work with pudding.
Until 15 years ago I had seldom used whisky in cooking. Brandy, yes; wine, of course; rum, calvados – all these and frequently. But not whisky. What kick-started me into using whisky in the kitchen was an invitation to do a cooking demonstration for the Scotch Whisky Association. I began to experiment, and became more enthused with each recipe I adapted. Whisky proved surprisingly versatile; I discovered that it complements a wide variety of foods, both savoury and sweet.
But whisky varies enormously, possibly more than any other alcohol with which we cook. Brandy is brandy from a taste point of view in combination with food, but with whisky one can exploit the differences. For example, I prefer to use a lighter whisky, such as Highland Park, with smoked fish, whereas a more densely flavoured whisky, such as an Islay malt, is, to my taste, better suited to red meat. On the other hand, I like our local whisky here in Skye, Talisker, for the pheasant (or chicken) breasts in creamy sauce with its hint of curry. I also like to use a Spey or Orkney malt in sweet recipes. Whisky, lemon and honey in combination have uses far beyond their medicinal function. Mind you, as far as a remedy goes for soothing the symptoms of a common cold, it is really impossible to beat a properly made hot toddy. Perhaps Whisky Magazine should do its own investigation of the medicinal aspects of whisky: I'm quite sure that it wouldn't be hard to find some willing guinea pigs.