The Seafood Shack: Food & Tales from Ullapool by Kirsty Scobie and Fenella Renwick was published by Kitchen Press on November 3rd 2020. The book, including all 91 recipes, is now available in full on ckbk.
Kirsty and Fenella are co-owners of the Seafood Shack in the village of Ullapool on Scotland’s northwest coast. Launched in 2016, the Shack opens from April to November, serving the freshest local seafood, coming straight off the fishing boats and onto the daily-changing menu.
The cookbook, which won the Jane Grigson Trust Award 2020 for a U.K. debut title, draws the reader into the local community with its beautiful photography, storytelling and unpretentious recipes.
The Shack’s bestselling dish is the Haddock Wrap – here’s the recipe so you can try it for yourself at home.
4 fresh haddock fillets
50 g plain flour
4 white tortilla wraps pesto
4 handfuls of mixed salad leaves
sliced veg to serve (we use cucumber, red pepper, tomato and red onion)
salt and pepper
FOR THE TEMPURA BATTER
150 g plain flour
100 g cornflour
10 g baking powder
FOR THE LEMON MAYO
4 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
juice and zest of ½ lemon
vegetable oil, for deep frying
Check the haddock fillets for obvious bones by running your fingers down the sides and middle of the fillets - small bones will disintegrate when you cook the fish.
To make your batter, add the 150 g plain flour, cornflour and baking powder to a bowl. Using an electric or hand whisk, slowly beat in about 150 ml cold water until your batter is a thick but runny consistency. It should stick to your finger when you dip it in and there should be no lumps. Season the batter well with salt and pepper.
For the lemon mayonnaise, just mix the mayonnaise and lemon juice and zest together until smooth, then season to taste.
Heat about 7 cm vegetable oil to 180°C in a large pan or deep fat fryer - the oil needs to be deep enough to submerge at least one fillet of haddock. Put the 50 g plain flour in a bowl and dip a piece of fish first in the flour, then in the batter, making sure it is completely coated. Place carefully into the hot oil (giving the pan a gentle shake, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom) and cook for around four minutes or until the batter is a light golden brown and crispy. Only fry one or two fillets at a time depending on the size of your fryer or pan - if they touch in the oil they will stick together. Remove and drain on some kitchen roll to soak up any oil. Repeat with the remaining fish.
To assemble, put a tortilla wrap on the table and spread with pesto and lemon mayonnaise. Add a handful of salad and a few slices of cucumber, tomato, red pepper and onion - or whatever else you fancy - and then place your fish on top. Season, wrap and enjoy!
Q How do you know each other, and what makes The Seafood Shack so popular?
A Ullapool is a small village so you kind of know everyone but we’ve been good friends for about eight years. We started The Shack with the aim of serving fresh, local and simply cooked seafood and we’ve always stuck to that initial idea. When we tell people that the langoustines have just been dropped off that morning and are fished less than a mile of the coast of Ullapool it’s not a lie.
Q What sets your book apart?
A The connection with our suppliers is vital. Most restaurants have a middleman but for us we go straight to the fishermen, and this is why we wanted to include interviews with them. Not many other books have that connection.
We also feel the book is different because we aren’t trained chefs. We are just two girls who love to cook, so our recipes aren’t full of fancy and flair. They’re relatable. You don’t need to have spices that you’ve never heard of before or buy that one expensive ingredient you’ll never use again. You’ve just got to have some good quality produce and some good old enthusiasm to get cracking some crab shells, and maybe get a bit mucky along the way!
Q What do you want to get across to readers?
We want to get out there was that anyone can cook seafood. We get a lot of customers coming to the shack wondering how and where to start when cooking scallops, lobsters, etc. There’s this misconception that you can ruin seafood easily. We really hope the book relaxes people and encourages them to just go for it – nothing can go that wrong!
Another huge part was to encourage more young people to open similar businesses. It was a scary and daunting for us. We where both in our early 20s with not a huge amount of money behind us but with determination and support we did it. We hope it shows that others can too.
Q Your book profiles of the fishermen and suppliers. How important is that?
A Without the fishermen The Shack wouldn’t exist. We are so lucky to live in Ullapool. We aren’t limited to just langoustines or white fish – we can get our hands on scallops, oysters, crab, mussels, lobsters, squid... Everything is dropped off at The Shack alive or fresh, nothing frozen.
Also it’s such a lovely part of the shack to experience the fishermen dropping off their produce. It brings everything back down to reality and shows us how simple things can be the best.
Kirsty and Fenella spoke to Gilly Smith about their book for the Cooking the Books podcast. You can listen to the episode below.