It is Scotland and Scottish cuisine, however, that really continue to exercise Craig’s passion for his work and fuel his enterprise, Fallachan Dining.
‘I think we have to have a massive reference to the history of our food – without it being twee or short-bread-like,’ he says. ‘Blood was a big thing. Oats are a big thing, obviously, the whisky, the peat, grains, root vegetables… Seaweed, you know, is a massive part of our history – dulse and potato soup, a classic Scottish dish. Sometimes we don’t need to change, you know, if haggis is good then maybe have the balls to just serve a really good haggis on its own.’
He has a theory, ‘We have such amazing produce, it has to be massively influenced by the terrain. You’d have to be blind not to believe that! There’s deer running everywhere, there’s rabbits everywhere, there’s birds flying round, there’s amazing greenery… We have wild mushrooms that you’ll find in a three michelin starred restaurant in France, growing abundantly. Our langoustine, our scallops, are found in Tsukiji market in Tokyo, from Scotland. So for me, Scottish food is about the husbandry of that product, taking it from the beginning to the end and massively caring about it every part of the way, respecting the ingredients, and understanding them I think.’
Foraging comes into play here. In Craig’s words, ‘There’s a few things cooks are driven by. Adrenalin being one!’ he laughs, ‘Creativity, experimenting. And with the wild food you are continually inspired by your surroundings because you consistently find new ingredients. And then you can bend what you do with them, like, making a dessert with girolle mushrooms. Or knowing that when you first pick a girolle mushroom it smells like an apricot, and that gives you a new pairing.
‘In the winter, especially on Islay, where we’re trying to be almost self-sufficient with what we’re cooking, it’s tighter, it’s harder to work with the ingredients because we don’t have so much, so then you have to be super-creative. Like at the beginning of the year, all we had to work with was leeks, and we had crab available. So we made a dish from 5 different ways to prepare leeks, including using the roots.
‘So this is the beauty; it’s never going to stop. It’s never going to stop for the rest of my life. I’ve got a multitude of ingredients to play with. And the limits are your imagination, basically.’