With winter having finally set in; the snow on the ground, the icy mornings and the Cairngorm Reindeer getting saddled up for their Christmas time duties, the Cairngorms National Park is in the heart of it’s most magical season. Winter sports enthusiasts travel north in the thousands to experience the landscape, indulge in adventure and breath the crisp, fresh air, but what I have always loved about the region is the range of ways (well, ok, food and drink!!) to kick back, relax and warm the cockles. This month, all in the name of research, What’s On ventured around the Park to explore the yummiest, tastiest and best loved dishes and drinks to keep you cosy on these chilly days. Go on..indulge yourself!
The Whisky Castle has been selling the finest Malt Whiskies of Scotland from its premises for 100 years and more, including perhaps a few illegal crofters barrels from the Braes and Glens of the Central Highlands at the turn of the 19th century. Based in the village of Tomintoul, at the centre of the Cairngorms National Park and run by Mike and Cathy Drury, the Whisky Castle stocks over 500 different bottles of Single Malts. Mike is a whisky aficionado and tells visitors about the history of the drink as well as leading them through a comprehensive tasting. The walking, whisky and wildlife tours will pop into the shop where visitors will be able to sample the whisky and see the origin of the world’s largest bottle of whisky now at home in Edinburgh!
Visitors to the Cairngorms National Park can also get a tour of three of the six distilleries situated within the area – Glenlivet, Royal Lochnagar and Dalwhinnie. Each produces some of the world’s finest whisky and a tour of the distillery will allow visitors to understand the comprehensive process that each drink goes through to create the perfect wee dram!
We know! Ice cream is not a winter warmer, but how can we leave out Andersons Ice Cream when we are talking about indulgences in the Cairngorms National Park? Anderson’s Restaurant in Boat of Garten has been famed for 5 years for its dedication to using the very best local Scottish produce to make the most mouthwatering of dishes. However, chef Steve Anderson and Claus Andersen are making taste buds zing with a range of scrumptious homemade ice cream. Flavours change all the time, but include blueberry meringue pie, chocolate chip and marshmallow, whisky and honey and the most unusual – baked potato flavour. Cross the ingenuity of Heston Blumenthal with the ultimate smoothness of an Italian gelato and you have Andersons ice cream.
With eleven successful years under their belt, the Cairngorm Brewery has established a world-wide reputation for producing the finest international ales. Having amassed several high profile awards for many of their beers means that you are sure to find a pint to suit your tastes. What’s more, the beer names are enough to give you a giggle in front of the fire – try a Sheep Shagger, Santa’s Sledgehammer or Nessie’s Monster Mash and their latest – Ginger Rodent named after Danny Alexander. It’s the perfect end to a day skiing the slopes of the Lecht, CairnGorm Mountain or Glenshee.
The Majestic Monarchs of the Glen are synonymous with the region. Their image conjures up visions of our stunning landscapes; their roars are heard across the glens during the stag rut and their meat is enjoyed as steaks, burgers, in stews, haggis and in vindaloos! Many of the local estates around the Park rear their own deer on their land where they have a peaceful, healthy life eating the grasses within and on the forests and hills. This makes for some of the finest produce in the world – so tender, moist and simply delicious. We spoke to the chefs at one of our top local pubs and restaurants – The Old Bridge Inn – who was kind enough to give us one of their winning recipes.
The Old Bridge Inn’s Venison Stew
- Pre-heat oven to 160 ®C
- 1kg venison haunch (cut into large pieces)
- 2 chopped onions
- 3 peeled and chopped carrots
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- Handful of thyme
- Fresh beef / chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
- Sunflower oil
- A general splash of red wine and Madeira
- Brown the venison in a very hot frying pan in small batches.
- Place into a colander to drain excess oil and fat
- Deglaze pan with red wine and Madeira
- Place venison in an ovenproof dish with the onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and thyme.
- Cover with fresh stock and add the liquid from the deglazing.
- Cover over and cook for several hours until meat is tender.
- Remove the venison, pass the stock and reduce by half.
- To serve, add some roast root vegetables and season to taste.
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