Well, I took Rock Salt on the road again, but I have to say that Doune the Rabbit Hole was much less about food and much more about booze, mud and general hilarity. I had the greatest time. I loved camping in a big group (there were nine of us in the main camp, with a camper van annexe housing two more). I drank a lot of cider. I bought a t-shirt. I fell in a ditch. Twice. I spoke in a hokey Noo Yoik accent until my throat was sore. I joined in with innumerable renditions of We Built This City and Roxanne, rewritten to amuse ourselves and, no doubt, bemuse others. I talked to a magical speaking tent, and laughed myself weak at other people doing the same thing. I won a game of Scabby Queen. I ska danced in my wellies. It was an extraordinary weekend, which is still making me grin like a fool and occasionally laugh like an idiot, and for that I thank the residents of Funsville, Tent City.
Even among all these activities, and more, we did eat plenty. Sadly, the variety on sale wasn’t the same as the Kelburn Garden Party, which had so many places to eat that it required a part one and a part two. Doune had two main contenders, one of which was Wild Rover Food. Those guys hit the mark once more, providing a concentrated menu of good, Scottish food to keep us all warm and full. I was too shy to re-introduce myself but I did get snaps of about half the menu, and here they are.
The Wild Rover were the only serious contenders for breakfast foods on Saturday – I could have had doughnuts or porridge, but by Jove I needed something heavier to make a dent in the Appalling Hangover of Doom that I had after we overshot the mark on Friday night and ended up hosting an unofficial open mic stage in heart of the campsite. The above photo shows a big roll and scrambled smokies – scrambled eggs with Arbroath smokies and fresh parsley. Arbroath smokies are a smoked haddock from the North East of Scotland, a real delicacy that you should try if you get the chance. This generously buttered and filled roll went a long way towards sorting me out, alongside a glass of orange juice and a walk in the unexpected sunshine.
Cullen Skink is another traditional Scottish food. It’s our equivalent of a chowder, and the key ingredients are smoked haddock (again), potatoes and milk. This version also had onions, leeks, wholegrain mustard and fresh parsley on top. Whatever else was in there I’m not sure but it was buttery, savoury and, as advertised, warmed the cockles of my heart. The rabbit stew was a cheeky addition to the menu for a festival called ‘Doune the Rabbit Hole’; I enjoyed a chuckle when I saw the menu board. This was the first time I’d had rabbit that I hadn’t cooked myself (see my rabbit stew here) and, again, I enjoyed every spoonful. It was somewhere between a soup and a stew, and it did begin with a similar base to the Cullen Skink but with added bay leaves, meat (or chicken?) stock instead of milk and, of course, the bunny. It’s great to see local, fresh ingredients being showcased at festivals instead of processed burgers and soggy chips. Not that there weren’t times when I didn’t want a box of chips or, indeed, Twirly Tatties. We missed those a lot.
A bit of a revelation for me was finding the stall for Smoak, who are a Glasgow company specialising in, as you would imagine, smoked meats, fish and cheeses. At Doune, they were serving up pulled pork or pulled Aberdeen Angus brisket, on a brioche roll with FIXINS. The fixins included gherkins, jalapenos, coleslaw and pickled cabbage. Both meats were delicious, but I have to confess that I preferred the pork just a little; it was just packed full of flavour and spice, incredibly moist but still meaty and, overall, enormously messy. I tried to get some photos but it was hard to get the good side of these rolls – a festival isn’t the finest place to get good food photography, what with the background of mud and the polystyrene containers. And, OK, the cider does take a certain something away from my pictorial skills.
These guys were so passionate about their food, so friendly to all of us tipsy and hungry festivallers and, to top it off, they went and bought a load of bacon so they could do us bacon rolls on Sunday morning. You can’t knock them, absolute top marks for effort and execution.
The final mention I want to give is for the bar staff at Doune. There were more than two of them, but these guys were the volunteers to have their photo taken, and represent a far bigger crowd of hard-working lovelies. Again, they were so friendly and, you know, gave us booze for three days. Top folks. I salute them.