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Highland Diary January 2020

Food and whisky - two of our favourite things, paired!

Towards the end of last year I was lucky enough to spend an evening learning more about food and whisky pairing at the Cairngorms culinary institution that is The Mountain Cafe, Aviemore. In the hot seat, and the creator of an extraordinary smorgasbord before us, was Ghillie Basan. Ghillie is a cook, writer, broadcaster, and food anthropologist who has the sort of well-travelled and varied CV that makes you feel that yours has been a sheltered life, spent in rather drab surrounds.

Ghillie was at the cafe to introduce her newest book, Spirit and Spice, and had created an exquisite tasting menu for us, which we enjoyed to the accompaniment of The Glenlivet "Captain's Reserve". Whisky is a notoriously difficult drink to pair with food, but in the hands of an expert like Ghillie, we were led through the different complimentary (and complex) tastes of this delicious newcomer to the Glenlivet stable.

Whilst we ate and drank, Ghillie gave us a snapshot of her incredible life - in conversation with Kirsten Gilmour, owner and head chef at The Mountain Cafe. We followed her from an upbringing in East Africa, via a Cordon Bleu Diploma in London, then to a BSc in Social Anthropology from Edinburgh University. We listened as she told us anecdotes from her work and travels across Europe, Turkey, the Middle East, North America, India, Southeast Asia, and vast chunks of Africa as English teacher, journalist and food and travel writer.

She and her two small children finally settled around 20 years ago in Glenlivet -in a house so remote that it must really have felt as if "The Moon's Our Nearest Neighbour" - the title of another of her books. There are over 40 in total, some translated into many languages, giving an indication of just how prolific and talented this woman has been throughout her career. Clarissa Dickson Wright called her "One of the best writers on Middle Eastern Food".

If all this talk of whisky and delicious food has whetted your appetite, you'll be delighted to hear that we're now offering a cookery workshop experience with Ghillie in her Glenlivet home, as the newest addition to our extras menu. Read more about it here.