9/03/2011

Our Delicacy...

It's that time of year again...and instead of writing about our delicious meal again, I'll re-post last year's post about our delicacy. 



Today, we are having our most expensive meal of the year.

The girls have also left home. You may find it odd, but there is a connection between these two statement.

You want to know what it is?

Well, first I want to show you our kitchen.


And now, I want you to breathe in deeply through your nostrils.

You done? Did you smell the aroma?

NO?! Well, it's there. And it's strong. And this is the reason ...

...You ready for this?

Okay, you asked for it. Here's our delicacy.

....uuhhh. Hold on. 

This is his good side.

oooor, maybe not.

Anyway. This is the Guga.

And this is the story of the Guga.

Every year, around ten Ness men sail out to Sulasgeir.


This is Sulasgeir.

It's a rock situated about forty miles north of us here, at the north of the Isle of Lewis.

The men go there for the guga, the young gannets which inhabit this outpost. It's a tradition in Ness, and has been, possibly, for centuries. The annual event even has special dispensation from the European Union (I'm glad you can't see my face as I type these two words. Mmmm) to harvest 2000 birds every year.

And so they arrive back with our delicacies, and we get to cooking it.


Here's the guga this morning.


I wash each piece with hot running water and Fairy Liquid. It's the only way to get rid of the grease. I'm no kidding.



Then into the pan the pieces go. They go into cold water, and are placed on the cooker.



....when the water boils, it's drained off


and the pan is refilled with cold water.

I did this twice.... to lessen the grease and to lessen the salt.


And finally it's ready.

The taste is very difficult to describe. It really is like nothing you've ever had before.
Unless you've had the guga!
I've heard it described as a cross between kipper and steak.

I think it's simply incomparable. But it's definitely an acquired taste.

Almost nobody outside of Ness can bear the sight of it, the smell of it, and certainly not the taste.
But my friend, at No Place Like Home, loves it.
She's a Niseach at heart, that girl.
No doubt about it

I'm afraid I spoil things by using a knife and fork. Apparently the proper way to eat it is with your hands. 

The Builder and the Big Brother just looked at me and rolled their eyes when they saw the cutlery coming onto the table.

But I've just got to draw the line somewhere. Knife and fork it is.

There are some photos of the men of Ness on Sulasgeir here.

And this book has some fabulous photos of, and information on, the annual trip. 





... and this was today



Yes, the Fairy Liquid was necessary again...



Cover the guga in the pan with cold water...

When it comes to the boil, pour off the water, and refill the pan with cold water. Then bring to the boil and cook.

And there you have it: guga and new potatoes.

Worth every penny...





21 comments:

  1. Ohh!!! I thought it smelled like the kitchen had just been painted when it was cooking. I had three bites and remember it distinctly. That's all I'm saying.

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  2. Well....the name is um, interesting....Ben and Anna said they would try it, but I am older and wiser--I think.

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  3. So very interesting. I always love seeing what people eat. I like that it has been eaten for so long. I think it is amazing that you have to wash it in dish soap. Maybe sometime I might get to sample it.
    I have eaten bear, and wild boar and moose. Not to mention the Menudo and tamales made with beef head. So It is always interesting to eat food that others might be afraid to try.
    So glad you posted it today.

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  4. That is so strange how it is flattened I have been googling it trying to read some more is that the gannet bird? I am sure it has a very unique taste like anything wild does. They must have all that fat to keep them warm in those cool ocean waters. Well enjoy your Guga I hope it was the best Guga ya ever had hehehe ~Love Heather

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  5. Okay, I am having a serious case of kitchen envy. Your kitchen is beautiful. So, the Guga looks like a dish to enjoy with fingers for sure. .

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  6. Wow. That's all I can say. Wow. ;)

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  7. The guga makes me "gaga". I am trying to think if there is something we eat in the states that would be considered so strange as the guga seems to be. I have not thought of anything yet....crawdads? Is that weird enough? I think it is a cool tradition. Gonna research it sometime as I LOVE to learn about other cultures. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Katie Jo ... crawdads?? Haven't a clue what that is, so I'm off to find out!
    Rachel E... I must have had a big tidy-up before I took that photo, cos my worktops are never normally that tidy!

    Laurie.... that didn't sound too encouraging, having shared our delicacy with you last year. Ahem!

    And yes, Heather, they've got their fat to keep warm, but they're the young of the gannet. The adult gannet are not killed or eaten...

    Thank you all for joining me for our lovely meal ;)

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  9. Hmmmmm. Glad you enjoy it but pretty sue it would be a no no for me ! My senses very much impact on my ability to eat certain things and smell /texture can really put me off !

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  10. Hmmmmm. Glad you enjoy it but pretty sue it would be a no no for me ! My senses very much impact on my ability to eat certain things and smell /texture can really put me off !

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  11. Yes, Crawdads get the same sort of comments when people say they're eating them (I haven't). Strange fishy things that live under the ground and make cylindrical towers like huge worm casts.

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  12. You have an absolutely beautiful kitchen! And the view from your window looks like it is probably pretty, too, but being where you are, how could it not be? :)

    Have a great day!

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  13. I would totally try it once, and go from there. :)
    Thanks for sharing!
    :)
    ~Heather @ The Welcoming House Blog
    PS---Absolutely LOVE your kitchen. :)

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  14. Just listened to radio play from BBC Scotland,The Blackhouse which featured the gannet cull and your recipe has made it all the more real. Not sure whether I'd like to try guga though.

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  15. This is something I've never heard of before - not sure I'd be brave enough to try it, either! I have a question about your range: is it an AGA? I would like to get a coloured range, and the AGA is available in Canada, but I've read mixed reviews. What do you think of it?
    If it is something different, would you mind telling me about that type, too? Thanks.

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    1. Hi Marcia,
      No, it's not an Aga. It's simply a Rangemaster. The ovens are electric, but the hob on top is gas. I *love* it. It's a *fraction* of the price of an Aga (I can't tell you too much about Agas, never having had one, but I do know they're expensive!). We've had this range for almost eight years and it's had *constant* use. It's never given us any trouble. Well, when I say that, we had to send for a wee thing on the top that sparks the gas (don't know the technical name!), but we got it very cheaply online and my husband fitted it. One side of the grill also needed replacing: again, we got the part online and it was no bother to fix.
      All in all, it's been a great appliance for us. Two double ovens, a warming/storage drawer, a grill, and 6 gas rings of varying sizes.

      Hope you find something suited to what you want. :)
      Anne x

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  16. Thanks for the advice, Anne. I don't know if Rangemaster is sold in Canada, but based on your experience, I'll take a gander. I recently was directed to your blog by my cousin in New Jersey - what a small world this is. I've read only a fraction of it, but have enjoyed it all.
    Your photography of Stornoway makes me yearn for a trip to Scotland again. I was there as a teenager (1980) and stayed with a lovely lady in Oban, Mrs. Morrison. Her son, Angus, was the minister at the Free Church there. We also saw Edinburgh and Holyrood, but not much more.
    Thanks for taking the time to answer; I'll be reading again. Marcia

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  17. I thought it might be a thrill to you to know what an exclusive range you have, at least by Canadian standards. I found a retailer who has just your model for $7900! Here they are sold under the AGA label, no reference to Rangemaster, and they are priced accordingly. The AGA cooker in cast iron is double that price. The salesman told me they are for a "niche" market. I'm just not sure I fit in that niche!

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