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Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon, Basil, and Salmon

The organiser’s of the 15th Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy have revived an old Scottish fishing tradition and banned whistling in the run-up to the festival which runs from Friday 20 to Sunday 22 June 2008. Last year the event fell foul of bad weather which the organisers hope to avoid in 2008. Their tongue-in-cheek suggestion arises from the old superstition that if you whistled at sea or near the sea, you were mocking the Devil and he might retaliate by sending gale-force winds. The festival, which is run by volunteers largely from the town’s 1,800 population hope that the ‘whistling-ban’ will ensure that the 20,000 visitors to the event will be blessed with good weather. The event features music, dance and food as well as boating demonstrations. The theme for 2008 is ‘Salmon Cobles and Silver Darlings’ which reflects that in its commercial heyday Portsoy handled both salmon and herring. Visit for full details.

Other nautical superstitions dating back for centuries include a suspicion of all things left-handed with seafarers encouraged to lead with their right foot when stepping off their boat. Rats leaving a ship was said to be a sign of trouble to come, but the presence of a black cat was seen as a good omen for sailors. Pigs, rabbits, salmon, meeting the minister were all included in Scottish fishing superstitions in past centuries. When at sea words such as minister, kirk, swine, salmon, trout, dog and certain family names were never said. Substitute words were used eg the minister was called ‘the man wi the bleck quyte’.

This column is not superstitious in the least but fingers-crossed for good weather for the Portsoy festival – and the recipe contains one of the banned fishing words – salmon!

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon, Basil, and Salmon

Ingredients:  1/2 pound whole-wheat spaghetti pasta; 1 clove garlic, minced; 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning; 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 4 (4-ounce) pieces salmon; 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves; 3 tablespoons capers; 1 lemon, zested; 2 tablespoons lemon juice; 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

Method:  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add the garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine.

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Add the fish to the pan and cook until medium-rare, about 2 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove the salmon from the pan.

Add the basil, capers, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the spaghetti mixture and toss to combine. Set out 4 serving plates or shallow bowls. Place 1/2 cup spinach in each bowl. Top with 1/4 of the pasta. Top each mound of pasta with a piece of salmon. Serve immediately. 

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