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‘We had to make 400 scones with a household mixer’: Skye chef pulls off afternoon tea for 200 people using some tools from home

Opera gateaus.
Opera gateaus.

Calum Montgomery of Edinbane Lodge on the Isle of Skye overcame many challenges to create the treats, including having to wait two hours for butter to melt.

While many of us have become used to the abundance of dine-at-home experiences that chefs and bakers have been churning out across the country these past few months, residents on the Isle of Skye were in for a treat on Valentine’s weekend as local chef Calum Montgomery got to work on making afternoon teas for 200 customers.

Chef proprietor of Edinbane Lodge, which he bought in November 2017 and opened in August 2018 after a major refurbishment, Calum came up with the idea a week before Valentine’s weekend, having not had his kitchen open since before Christmas last year.

But with the afternoon teas selling out just two days before Valentine’s, Calum had to get to work immediately if he was going to meet the demand.

Calum Montgomery.

He said: “Overall, it took us a weekend to make everything. We started doing them on the Friday, then continued all day Saturday and and Sunday, up until people came to collect them between noon and 4pm. So, it was quite a push but it was good – there was a lot more demand for it than I thought there would be.

“We gave people a week to order. It sold out by the Friday, which was actually the last day for the orders. I’d ordered some afternoon tea stands from a company in Ireland, which made them quite unique in a way, but also made them easily portable. It was 100 stands that we sold overall but they each fed two people so it was really 200 people we were making food for.

“It’s also something we’d never done before. The largest we normally do is a tasting menu only as we’re a fine dining restaurant with rooms. We haven’t done afternoon teas before so I wasn’t really sure how it would go down but it was something a bit different for Valentine’s Day and something that people could share and get that restaurant experience in their own homes.”

At-home experience

Though many residents on Scotland’s mainland have almost become used to the various at-home meal and treat options now available, residents of Skye haven’t had as big a variety, making Calum’s afternoon teas one of the only options available to choose from.

He said: “It’s something a bit different that nobody in Skye is really doing at the moment, at least not from a restaurant point of view anyway. I’ve worked in five-star hotels before that have done afternoon teas before so I wanted to bring my experience from there into it.

Some of the finished afternoon teas.

“I put a lot of work into it and was working right through the night on Saturday and didn’t get to go to bed. I did that to make sure that everything was going to be as fresh as possible because I didn’t want people getting cakes that had been made days before.

“We literally made everything from scratch, because the kitchen has been completely closed since December 22. There wasn’t even a block of butter in the place, so we had to get everything we needed in from last Friday so we could make sure everything was super, super fresh.

“Even the likes of rolling shortbread before cutting it took a while and the Opera gateau, which was a two-day process in itself to make. I didn’t want it to be basic cakes, I wanted it to be nice things.”

Opera gateau.

Butter wouldn’t melt

One of the challenges Calum came across was that he didn’t have an industrial mixer in the kitchen, and so had to bring one in from home to help make the 400 scones that were on order.

He said: “The reason for using the household mixer was that, despite it being a professional kitchen in which everything was made, we’re just a 30-cover restaurant, so I have never had the need for anything more than the small mixer. I actually bought it for my wife for Christmas about five years ago and somehow it’s made its way into work. I’ll be ordering a bigger one though, especially if we do afternoon teas again. Though it took us three days, I probably could’ve done everything in half the time with a proper, industrial mixer.

“We had to make 400 scones. So to make a 600g batch of scones makes only 20 of them, which meant I had to do that 18 times. It was a case of weighing everything out, cutting the scones, bake them and then repeat.

Making macarons.

“To be honest, I think the biggest challenge of all, which was unexpected, was softening butter. We have a temperature gauge in the kitchen and the place didn’t go above 8ºC for the three days. Even with all the ovens on, it didn’t move as it was so cold outside.

“I don’t have any microwaves in the kitchen, which is something I have always prided myself on. But it could’ve come in handy for buttering sandwiches and pretty much everything in the afternoon tea needed softened butter. So we had to cube it all and put it under hot lights for about two hours until it was at the right temperature.”

Showcasing local produce

With Scottish produce in abundance, Calum also wanted to pay homage in his afternoon teas to many of the food producers on his doorstep, so brought in beef, langoustines, eggs and cress from Skye-based businesses.

He continued: “I wanted to also use as much local produce as we could. There was something local in every sandwich – there was beef from 30 miles away from Mrs Mack’s Farm Shop in Torrin. Then we had langoustine sandwiches which was another thing I underestimated because I couldn’t even picture what 200 of them were going to look like.

Langoustines for the sandwiches.

“I’d ordered six kilos of langoustine tails from my uncle, off his fishing boat, then when it got to about halfway through making them, I realised it wasn’t going to be enough. So I had to phone up a good friend, who has a creel boat in Portree, on Saturday afternoon to ask if he had any tubes of prawns left and luckily he was just landing that morning.

“Halfway through baking some cakes I got in my car and drove the 20 minutes to Portree and managed to get another two tubes of langoustines.

Collecting the extra langoustines from a boat in Portree.

Click and collect

With so many restrictions facing the country at the minute due to the ongoing pandemic, one of those affecting hospitality at the minute is that food needs to be offered as takeaway or click-and-collect. For Calum, customers were required to turn up to Edinbane’s carpark between noon and 4pm on Valentine’s Day to pick up their afternoon teas.

He said: “On the Sunday, we started properly assembling the afternoon teas and I kept looking out towards the car park as collection was between noon and 4pm. Obviously we had a few people turn up at half eleven, quarter to 12, which had me worried for a second. But it was fine, nobody was really waiting or anything. By 1pm, the car park was looking like a McDonald’s drive-thru.

The 100 stands set up for the afternoon teas.

“It was collection only. So we set up a click and collect system online and there was minimal interaction when people came to pick them up. Once people arrived, we asked them what their name was then brought their stand out to the car for them.

“It was so windy on that Sunday as well, so I had images in my mind of people knocking over stands and things blowing away. It was about 70mph winds, so it was a bit blustery. But everything went good and we will do it again.”

Feeding back

After so many customers got in touch after receiving their afternoon teas, Calum says he is so grateful for the feedback and that the concept is something he will be looking to do again in the future.

After this weekend we won’t be eating for a week 🤣 aye right! What a treat this was – Afternoon Tea from Edinbane Lodge…

Posted by The Boys Eat Scotland on Sunday, 14 February 2021

He added: “It was nice to be back in the kitchen and I was really delighted with the feedback. It was also nice to do something different than what we usually do.”

“I think we are looking at doing them for Mother’s Day or Easter Weekend – but there will definitely be bigger mixers next time!”