CHEF Gordon Ramsay is everywhere these days—he’s at the centre of a fresh row after cooking baby gannets for his new TV show. In this story he describes in his own words how he flew to the Outer Hebrides to taste the guga – pickled birds – described by the Scots as a great delicacy.
The Hell’s Kitchen star will demonstrate on Thursday how they are killed and cooked on his new Channel 4 show The F Word—he claims “that’s food not rude”.
Animal rights campaigners say eating guga is “barbaric” because the birds are killed and decapitated using sharpened sticks.They accused Ramsay of using the dish as a publicity stunt. A Channel 4 spokeswoman said it was not meant to be offensive. Read Ramsey’s own words on the subject on the next page.
MY dad used to accuse me of eating like a gannet.By this he probably meant I ate too much to suit my mum’s very limited weekly housekeeping.
What he certainly wouldn’t have envisaged is me eating the poor bird.Just when you think you have tasted every culinary delight there is, you come across a well-kept secret after a trip to Stornoway, on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis where London seems an inter-galactic journey away.
This is where we landed with the F-Word film crew to investigate the annual culling of a little-know delicacy: the gannet.
Delicacy is perhaps a little misleading for here we have the time-honoured staple diet of the Hebridean fisherman when boiling seas demanded boats remained safe in their port.
Researching this is a bit like looking into the bank accounts of the Mafia, so close are cards held to a culler’s chest.The secrecy of this annual September activity ensured we saw little more than a trawler returning laden with gannets which have breathed their last.
When we went out to meet the ship and its protected cargo in our semi-rigid ex-RN inflatable, diving through the waves at 45 knots, we failed to find the welcome we had hoped for and instead had to return to shore and stove to carry on the adventure.
As with the culled seal, the gannet meets its end with the help of a club.
This is not the PC way nowadays and may well explain the cloak-and-dagger approach of the players. Once dispatched the gannet will be soaked in brine to preserve it for the weeks ahead.
From the kitchen, where the bird will be boiled and served with tatties, came a taste of duck mixed with mackerel,all to be washed down with milk.
If this is their idea of a winter feast then let’s add root vegetables, cardamom pods and star anise to the pot in order to produce a gannet soup of unrefined strength and taste.
A rare delicacy that maybe wouldn’t just remain in the Western Isles but would be flown around the world to the delight of foodies with big cheque books.
To date it is not to be found on the menu in my restaurants. But maybe soon.
The F-Word, Thursday, C4, 8.00 pm