In our exclusive interview, James Martin shines the spotlight on Scottish produce and tells us about his favourite places, ingredients, and whisky
What made you want to focus on Great Britain for this series? Do you think that the perception of British cuisine has changed?
It’s changed massively over the years without a shadow of a doubt and it’s going to change again in twenty years’ time. It’s just a different place. Now you’ve got amazing restaurants at your doorstep. And, whether you’re in Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, you’ve still got great producers producing.
Which Scottish ingredient impressed you most?
The crab in Scotland was the best I’ve ever tasted. Seafood in general in Scotland is amazing. It’s the cold waters you’ve got—great crab, great lobsters, amazing scallops. But I think probably the crab was one of my favourites. I think you have amazing venison and game and all that sort of stuff but the crab is very very special. That blew me away in the Orkney. Definitely. That was the highlight. And actually the first dish I cooked on the show. It was a bit that stuck with me ever since then. After all eighty dishes that we did, that is the one that I keep going back to. Scotland’s got the best larder in the world. I genuinely believe it.
Often home cooks can be intimidated by more luxurious ingredients like shellfish. Do you have any tips for cooking with seafood at home?
Well, simplicity’s always the key. That’s what we’re trying to do. You can’t talk about Scotland without talking about scallops and lobster and crab and all that kind of stuff. The sad part is that people aren’t buying it because they’re nervous. But it’s up to us chefs and cooks on TV to start picking it up. And whether it’s prawns or whatever it is, you start with the basics and work your way from there. We have crevettes grises, little brown shrimps, to make potted shrimp—it’s always the best place to start and then work your way from there.
What is your favourite Scottish whisky?
Edradour. I went there about ten years ago and filmed there. I ended up getting a barrel of whisky and signing it. So I actually went there as a little homage to taste it. It’s not quite ready yet, and it won’t be for another ten years I think, but I’ll have that for my sixtieth. I’ll open the barrel and have a wee dram of that. I fell in love with the place, the people. You fall in love with the concept as well as just the product—it’s everything about it.
Do you have any travel advice for exploring Scotland?
The Orkneys blow you away. It’s just an amazing, amazing part of the world. If I could go back anywhere on my trip it would be Orkney, definitely. I’ve always wanted to go there, and it was ten times my expectation, a hundred times my expectation. I thought the whole place was beautiful, I thought the people were amazing, the produce was amazing. I love the fact that it’s untouched, and you’ve got the modern stuff that’s happening in there as well as embracing the old.
It’s not like anywhere else. But also if you look at that middle area of Scotland – Glasgow and Blair Castle and right up to the Highlands – you see amazing scenery that I suppose Scots often take for granted really. I say this all the time, when you’re driving from A to B, don’t just look at the end point. Sometimes just stop, get out of the car, look out over the hedge. You’ll be amazed at what you can see. That’s what we did, and we were driving along and saw something we liked, we pulled over, and asked if we could film it, simple as that.
James Martin’s Great British Adventure, Quadrille, £25.