As the new Drumossie Hotel in Inverness opens its doors to diners and holidaymakers once again, executive chef Euan Walker stops by to tell us about what influences him and what his favourite season is for local produce.
Heading up the kitchen at Inverness’ Drumossie Hotel, executive chef Euan Walker is no stranger to the fast-paced environment that such a role brings, having worked his way through the ranks of the same kitchen.
But much of his inspiration came from his young years and growing up around his dad who was also a chef.
He said: “I was brought up on The Black Isle and I found my passion for cooking at 14 years old when I was working as a kitchen porter. I found it exciting and inspiring to watch the chefs prep and cook and take the time to finish the plates.
“My dad is a chef but, as comes with the job, he wasn’t always at home to do the cooking. I do, however, remember him showing me how to make a good mince and tatties, which had so much flavour in it. The onion was fried off with various spices and he emphasised the importance to me of getting the flavour in at the start of the cooking process, and not the end.
“I keep that ethos to this day. For example, when making soups, I try to layer the flavours from the beginning.
“I think the time spent with him in that setting was a real driver towards getting me interested and I went on to work for him as a kitchen porter at the country house he worked at.”
Getting in the kitchen
Following on from working at the local country house his dad worked at, Euan then found himself in the kitchen at the Drumossie Hotel.
He added: “Later, I felt that a move to becoming a commis chef at the Drumossie and spreading my wings was a good option and that’s when I met then executive chef, Kenny McMillan, which was about 13 years ago. He gave me a good grounding in the kitchen, not only with cooking but also with discipline.
“When I heard that Kenny was back at the hotel as general manager last year, I jumped at the chance to come back and help drive forward the kitchen and the business.”
When it comes to cooking seasonally, Euan’s favourite time of year for ingredients is spring into summer, with it lending itself well to the Drumossie Hotel’s regularly-changing menus.
He said: “I’m a big fan of fresh, clean flavours and I think spring and summer lend themselves well to that.
“This month I will be cooking with as many seasonal ingredients as I can get my hands on and we talk to our suppliers regularly to see what is at its best each week. The many components of our menu are then pulled together from there.”
Since being unable to work during the first lockdown of 2020 due to the pandemic, Euan has been enjoying his return to the kitchen at the Drumossie Hotel, with a typical day starting around 9am and finishing around 10pm.
“It really depends on what’s going on in the hotel and the time of year, but generally I get to work for 9am and have a morning meeting to go through the business for the day and week ahead, “said Euan.
“From there the team will start all the prep for the day, such as fresh scones and cakes for the afternoon teas, fresh bread for the restaurant and so on. We will do this until our family meal time at 5pm when all the staff take time to enjoy a break in the day and enjoy some calm before service kicks off at 6pm.
“That takes us through to 10pm or 11pm when it’s then time to clean down and get ready to do it all over again the following day.
“We have a really unusual team here at the venue in that almost all of the management have a background of working in the hotel’s kitchen. I worked my way up to my current role, our operations manager is also a former chef and our general manager is a former regional executive chef.
“It gives the team a real ‘family feel’ and a unique understanding of how the kitchen fits into the other parts of the business.”
Rump of Scotch lamb, feta, mint and cucumber with wholegrain mustard mash and pea puree
For the rump of lamb:
- 1 rump of lamb, square cut, boneless with sinew removed
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- Sea salt
For the pea puree:
- 500g frozen peas
- 100ml chicken stock
- 100ml double cream
- Truffle oil
- Seasoning, to taste
For the feta, mint and cucumber:
- 50g feta
- 1 mint sprig
- ¼ cucumber
For the wholegrain mustard potato cannelloni:
- Arran wholegrain mustard
- 5 large red rooster potatoes
- Double cream
- Unsalted butter
- Oil for frying
- To make the rump of lamb: first heat a heavy-based frying pan on medium heat and add a drizzle of oil. Season the lamb generously with sea salt, brown and caramelise all sides of the lamb rump in the pan and place in oven until its core temperature reaches 50C.
- Once it’s reached that level, take the lamb out of the oven and add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and butter. Use a spoon to carefully baste the lamb with the butter over a medium heat.
- When the butter turns nut brown, take the lamb out and set it aside to rest for five minutes.
- To make the pea puree: Place the chicken stock and cream in a pan and bring to the simmer.
- Warm the peas from frozen in the microwave. Once warm, put the warm peas in a food blender and start to blend at full speed. Carefully and slowly add the cream mix until you get your desired texture and thickness. Season with salt and truffle oil to taste.
- For the feta, mint and cucumber, cut the feta into 1cm cubes and the mint into thin strips. Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthways and then slice.
- Finally, to make the wholegrain mustard potato cannelloni: Peel and cut four of the potatoes into even cubes and wash under cold water.
- Cover the potatoes with cold water and add a pinch of salt. Place on a high heat and boil until tender.
- Drain the potatoes and put them back into a dry pan on a low heat to remove any excess moisture. Be careful not to burn them at this stage.
- When the potatoes are dry, put them through a ricer or mash them.
- Bring some cream to the boil, then add to the mash. Add a bit of butter at a time while stirring continuously until the mash is at the desired texture.