From Bowdrill to Bone – The Guga

A package arrived in the post for me yesterday from my sister Tina in the Isle of Lewis: our annual treat of Guga.

Guga is salted young gannet – my family are amongst those allowed to undertake the annual Guga Hunt to a rocky island called Sula Sgeir off the coast of the Isle of Lewis every August. The hunt is covered by the Protection of Birds Act 1954 – the men are allowed to catch up to 2000 birds a year. A great description of the whole hunt can be found here – The Guga Hunters of Ness.

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The Guga Claw – Loved by my kids

Guga has a very strong taste and smell (which I love, however my wife Alison is not so keen) so I tend to cook it outdoors. This year I decided to get the kids doing a bit of bowdrill to light the fire and we soon had a good ember going.

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Bit of Bowdrill to get an ember

Next the ember was popped into a bundle and then we took it in turns to blow into it to spread the ember so that it would catch.

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A huff and a puff

In no time we had a bit of flamage and I think in the top right picture below we got an appearance from Daffy Duck – can you see him?

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Flammage

The Guga gets boiled for an hour with one change of water in that time (due to the salt, oils and fat). After half an hour I put the spuds on as well.

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Guga and spuds are on

For this meal I used two different cranes. The Guga was hung on my Mortice and Tenon crane (I have not blogged on how to make this crane yet) and the spuds went onto the Lap Joint crane. Both are ideal for this type of cooking as I could easily adjust the heights of the pots to control the rate of boiling.

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The Guga takes an hour (with one change of water)

After an hour all that was left to do was to eat the Guga and spuds. The kids had their friends round and they liked the Guga meat but would not ‘sook’ on the claw. Catherine and Finlay were introduced to the Guga as babies by sucking on the claw (this tradition dates way back in time) so they love the taste of it.

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Yum

There was a little left over for me and Alison even had a bit this year saying that it was not too bad: ‘Tastes a bit like anchovies.’

Thanks to my sister Tina and my brother Finlay for sending me my annual Guga and to Uncle Dods and the rest of the crew for making the trek once again to catch them.

Cheers

George

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