Behind the Scenes - Blog
February 2021 - From Mull to Madagascar
Greetings from Sunny and crisp Isle of Mull. Although we have no further updates regarding opening and regulations, I thought I’d take the time to tell you what earth-shattering excitements we are up to on the restaurant croft. A spate of bright weather has brought on the coconutty-smelling drifts of fluorescent yellow Gorse flowers. Using kitchen alchemy, I will turn the blossoms into a tasty syrup that will be used in my handmade chocolates, ice cream and other delectables.
Just February, but still not too early for the husband and I to trim
the myriad of creeping feelers of the brambles that are trying to
colonize the restaurant track and eventually take over the world.
Trimming brambles is somewhat like sumo wrestling with a
truckload of barbed-wire octopuses. Any excuse for me to shave
most of Jonnyfisherman’s head and force him into a rather
dubious loin cloth…(sorry, no photos available)
At the stove…I have been further investigating the cuisine of
Madagascar. I am using local wild venison instead of the zebu
cattle meat that is used there. I’ve obtained some Voatsiperifery
Pepper (Piper borbonense, jungle pepper) that was carefully
foraged from a natural Madagascan forest, and am having fun
experimenting with it. It tastes like black pepper, but sweeter and
milder, with a slight undertone of skunkweed/herby marjoram.
Other ingredients used in the cuisine are manioc leaves (which
I have concocted a mixture of garden chard, cavolo nero and primrose leaves, as a worthy substitute), ginger, tomatoes, peanuts, rice, onions, mild curry and more interestingly a smoked beef called kitoza and fermented zebu cheese curds. The first result: a main course of venison loin coated in a rub of smoked Madagascan coffee, jungle pepper, powdered wild mushroom and powdered galangal -which will be accompanied by a modern take on some of that magical island’s street food. All going well, Malagasy food will make its debut on the Ninth Wave menu in 2021.
Other delights this month will include: playing “Find the Oca” (a questionable game involving the detection and harvesting of the leafless New Zealand yam tubers in our mud garden with an old map and a toasting fork), fending the rabbits off the tulips with garlic spray, revarnishing the oak restaurant tables, watching Jonny finish building his new boat trailer and making a killer-hot kimchi.
Venison dish with jungle pepper &
experimental spice rub
Playing the Heirloom Herb Lottery
It’s been a couple of weeks since I planted the last shipment of live plants that I ordered from Apple and Tree Man Nursery in Perth. My approach to choosing what to put in my garden is “The weirder the better”. I ordered culinary plants that are no longer used much. I’d never even heard of most of them quite frankly. I’ve always been a word lover so some of them just stuck out...especially orpine (which to me, sounds like swooning Shakespearean maid, and hottentot fig (which could have been a 1920’s dance). A bit more pre-purchase research would have been handy. I ended up with some inappropriate and downright absurd things just because of their name.
The purple plantain & sweet cicely specimens sadly demised within 2 days of planting. Fisherman husband Jonny was very supportive during this traumatic time, supplying copious amounts of tissues, cups of soothing tea and a large plastic tuba for comic relief.
Results of Carla’s Nursery Herb Lottery
Pineapple Sage smells like pineapple and tastes very green , like grass. Not much like normal sage
Black Peppermint is refreshing but disappointingly (for a chef with her gothic moments) not black!
Variegated Herb Gerard is a kind of ground elder( I googled it too late). We already have lots of unwanted elder rampaging on the croft . It tastes a bit like celery and can be used in soups and salads, and apparently “super green smoothies” something that never sees the light of day in my hedonistic kitchen. I grow celery leaf and celtuce for this flavour profile already.
White Chives. Same problem as the Black Mint. Not white. Like normal chives, disappointing.
Total loss on the Lime Mint and Grapefruit Mint as they both seem to taste and smell, well…. like mint. I already have a half acre of it thanks to an over-zealous applemint that broke the bounds of its pot 20 years ago (and is busy trying to thrash its way to Peebles).
Orpine, also called Live Forever, is my new favourite because of : its name, cheerfully fleshy countenance and saucy sense of humour. The leaves have been used in salads and the roots in stews especially during the Middle Ages.
*It is very small right now though and I think I have a few years to plan recipes for this one. It has a very subtle sweet taste that I can only compare to Butter Lettuce, which was one of my mom’s garden stand bys in the Canadian prairies.
Eastern lemongrass is still alive after a couple storms but is turning purple so maybe it’s too cold for it here.
Sweet woodruff was wilted and dodgy at first, but thriving now with lots of new leaves. It is traditionally used in much German cooking : sausages, wacklepudding, icecream, beers and wines. It has a vivid taste like no other, containing a strange chemical also found in cinnamon.
* I’ll make ice cream and woodruff shortbread
Chocolate Root or Water Avens. The blanched young leaves can be used in salads and the Elizabethans ground the dry root producing a clove-like spice.
It is also known as Indian Chocolate as Native Indians used to make a delicious drink from it.
*I plan to use the powdered root in Vanilla Bavarois and the leaves in a Seafood Cocktail.
Curry plant is one of the few new arrivals I had tasted before. John and I ate lots of tasty bowls of fried curry leaves on spicy noodles during our foody travels in Sri Lanka. It has an earthy curry taste.
*We use it in our Massaman Curry Leaf & Peanut Sauce that we serve with our Mull aged Venison Fillets and in my Paratha bread
The Wild Bergamot ( Beebalm), a member of the mint family is a sweet, fragrant plant and tastes like a cross between mint, oregano and Earl Grey tea.
*I plan to try it as a fresh-picked tea. We currently serve Lemonbalm & Applemint teas on the menu. Jonny daringly dashes outside in his kilt during service, often in the rain, to pick them for our diners. When it blooms I also hope to use the petals in salad dressing.
I also bought 2 Japanese Wineberry plants, 2 Hottentot figs (a minx of a South African succulent), 2 Black Mulberry, and a Marshmallow. I’ll let you know how they do.
Last year we built a granite-walled herb garden built outside our kitchen door. Brimming with the usual culprits like thyme, sage, chives, dill, oregano, savoury, nasturciums, and rosemary it still has a few more spots where I could possibly squish in another plant or two. I am hoping all my lottery winners flourish enough to be used in autumn experiments in the Ninth Wave melting pot we call the kitchen. If not, I’m sure the ineffably Scottish husband will be on hand with suitably unsuitable blandishments to help pick up the pieces.
March 2021 - Happenings from the Edible Croft…
March is now moving along but, like many people, we are not much closer to knowing when it will be feasible to open the restaurant. We are very fortunate though, whatever may be happening in the world at large, Mull remains an oasis, as spring rolls in on waves of narcissi, primroses and the scent of newly blooming gorse.
We have also had excellent news on the book front. Birlinn have agreed to re-issue my book The Ninth Wave: Love & Food on the Isle of Mull (out of print as a hardback) as a paperback coffee table book. Thanks to all you wonderful people who kindly put it on your Amazon wish list and emailed the publishers. The new book will have a few updates on the inside to keep everyone up to speed on our awards and my MasterChef the Professionals adventure. There is also the possibility that Ninth Wave will be included in a television series about restaurants in Scotland, a tantalising prospect that we will keep you posted on!
On the food front there are busy goings-on around the croft…. I started off the edible dahlia corms and tuberous begonia tubers in pots in the greenhouse this week. I love edible begonia petals and leaves. They taste sharp and lemony , similar to sorrel as they too contain oxalic acid. I deep fry the leaves until crunchy, sprinkle Hebridean sea salt on them, and use them as a garnish on seafood. Dahlia corms are a new experiment for me. The ancient Aztecs used to grow the starchy corms as a food crop. Different varieties can taste smoky, earthy or fruity. As I was trowelling Dahlia compost out of an open bag like a mad woman, I was horrified to see an earth-covered gargoyle leap out of the bag onto my arm. At first, it looked like the Creature from the Black Lagoon but was upon frantic inspection, only a poor, shy toad. After flailing around in my flannel pajamas (yes pajamas) and frightening the toad off, he went to hide under an empty seed tray and I went to hide under the living room davenport with a cup of tea.
Mulching around the sea buckthorn and blue sausage plant bushes has commenced and Jonny has broken the first soil of 2021 with the rotovator in the tattie patch. A sleepy hedgehog was seen on the croft last week by Jonny-fisherman while he was out on one of his many nightly forays, rousting the deer out of my herb bed. It’s always nice to welcome the hedgehogs. I just wish there were more of them to wage war on the slugs and snails.
The flowerbeds have been weeded, the tomato seeds planted, the seed potatoes are chitting and all is well in the happy land of green things. New fishing creels have arrived and our fishing boat the “Sonsie” is awaiting a new coat of paint in the restaurant parking lot, then will be sliding back into the water later this month.
We will monitor government announcements and let you know of any relevant developments We are very keen to be open for all you lovely people again as soon as we reasonably can.
Love and Mashed Potatoes,
Carla & Jonny
Ninth Wave Restaurant. Isle of Mull
Blog highlighs from previous years
Ninth Wave has just won RESTAURANT of the YEAR 2015 . In the highly competitive best restaurant category at the Highlands & Islands Food and Drink Awards, we beat out 5 other entries including michelin-starred Eriskay Hotel and The Whitehouse, Localine to win. It was a wonderfully decadent event at The Kingsmill Spa Hotel in Inverness. Presenter Fred Macaulay read out " The very freshest of seafood , outstanding provenance and the enthusiasm and knowledge of its charming staff, along with a highly original chef and foraged croft ingredients made Ninth Wave our 2015 winner!" This is the second time Ninth Wave has won the award, the first being in 2013. Shirley Spear, co-owner of the acclaimed 3 Chimneys restaurant was the first to congratulate us as we stepped off the stage after receiving our award.
"The contest was fierce and we were surprised to hear our winning name announced. Supported by our unbeatable staff, we have tried very hard to keep our standards up, and endeavoured to improve every year." Says Chef Carla Lamont
In 2013 we won restaurant of the year
Restaurant of the Year winner in the HIFDA’s in 2013, Ninth Wave is a destination organic seafood restaurant on the wild Isle of Mull. Menu ingredients are picked fresh from their kitchen garden or 7 acre Hebridean croft. John, a local fisherman himself, will not only catch your lobster and crab on his wee fishing boat the “Sonsie”, but will also be your waiter and wine steward for the evening.
This environmentally friendly restaurant takes its name from Celtic sea mythology, where the “land of other-worldly delights” begins at the ninth wave.
In an industry where words like “freshest” “local” and provenance are used with annoying and increasing frequency and sometimes questionable accuracy, Ninth Wave stands a cut above.Where fresh means lobsters brought in, live in a bucket an hour before service by the fisherman-owner, …where foraged means handpicked with care by the chef on the restaurant croft that day.
“Amazing to have beat out such stiff competition to win Restaurant of the Year again. Such a wee place…such a massive honour!”
Local Restaurant Putting Mull on the Food Map
The Ninth Wave Restaurant is helping the Isle of Mull to become one of the top food destinations on Scotland’s West Coast. Fionnphort’s seafood restaurant is proud to be featured in a four page spread in the June issue of Scottish Field, after only one season in business. With a readership of over 100,000 people Scotland’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine is providing this fledgeling eatery with excellent exposure.
In the recent past, Mull has primarily attracted outdoor and ecotourism travellers. However, since the launch of the Ninth Wave in 2009, this small but perfectly formed restaurant has raised the island’s gastronomic profile, by doing what it does best: serving fresh seafood in a unique casual but elegant manner.
“Opened last year, Ninth Wave’s intention is to showcase the plethora of local seafood, wild foods and organically farmed meats that abound on Mull.” Archie Mackenzie,Scottish Field
Ninth Wave restaurant falls in naturally with current food trends: local produce, organic meats, slow-food principles and seasonal foods. With the tourist season swinging into gear again 2010 seems set to put Mull on the food map.