Akshay Borges's Pan Fried Hake

by Elizabeth Atia -

Originally from Goa, India but raised in Mumbai, Akshay Borges has a passion for food. Combining the freshest ingredients available in Shetland with the spices and dishes of his past, he serves up a fusion of Shetland-Indian cuisine from the kitchen in The Scalloway Hotel.

Being a chef came naturally to Akshay. As a child he was always helping his mother to cook food for house guests, earning a little bit of pocket money in return for chopping ingredients. He's always enjoyed working in the kitchen, being creative with ingredients, and even enjoys the pressure of working to a deadline.

In India, as part of the education curriculum, older pupils are encouraged to try out different occupations for six months at a time, from hotel management to house keeping, etc. It was in the kitchens Akshay found the most fulfillment, and he enrolled on a hospitality/management course with the local university; a branch of the Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.

He completed the first two years of his degree in India before finishing off his final year in Edinburgh, where, after graduation, he soon found work in The Balmoral. A successful application for the Fresh Talent – Working in Scotland Scheme allowed him to remain in Scotland.

While in Edinburgh Akshay saw a job opportunity for a trainee chef in Shetland. "Where is this place?" he thought. As we all tend to do these days, he checked Google. This was before Google Maps had mapped out Shetland, and his search results revealed a white patch of land in the middle of nowhere. So, he fired them off an email.

Co-owner of the Scalloway Hotel, Caroline McKenzie, who had placed this job opportunity, happened to be visiting Edinburgh at that time. A casual interview was held in the city, and he was offered the position. He was also offered a position at the Michelin Star Sat Bains Restaurant in England and was torn between which job to take, so he flipped a coin.

Shetland it was!

He left for Shetland the very next day and hasn't looked back. This was five years ago, and Akshay has made quite a name for himself as a chef in the Scalloway Hotel.

The Scalloway Hotel has gone on to be awarded two AA rosettes for culinary excellence. From the AA website:

"AA Rosettes are awarded solely by AA Hotel and Restaurant Inspectors with no influence from hotels, restaurants or other guides. The AA Rosette scheme is long established and successfully recognises cooking at different levels nationwide. The success or failure in achieving Rosettes is based on at least one visit to a hotel or restaurant. Essentially it’s a snapshot, whereby the entire meal including ancillary items are assessed. Of all the restaurants across the UK, approximately 10% are of a standard which is worthy of one Rosette and above."

The latest inspection late in 2014 which led to them achieving their second rosette, said the "Cookery was a wow, superb provenance, bold cookery, excellent quality of ingredients and cookery, dinner comfortably achieving two rosettes."

The Scalloway Hotel also won the 2014 Certificate of Excellence award from Trip Advisor. Located six miles outside of Lerwick in Shetland's old capital Scalloway, the waterfront location offers superb views over the harbour, 22 simply styled but comfortable bedrooms and excellent dining in either their award winning restaurant or in the lounge bar.

As Junior Sous chef in the restaurant, Akshay and the head chef are left free to do what they want, as long as the customers are happy! He has big plans for the place - from sourcing more locally grown produce, from the freshest seafood to seasonal vegetables, to turning the small area of land behind the hotel into a small kitchen garden for home grown herbs.

When asked what it is about Shetland that keeps him here, Akshay replied:

"Well, apart from the weather! It comes down to the people. The people are very welcoming and accommodating. They were really helpful when I first moved up here.

Akshay likes to put his own personal twist on his recipes, like this pan fried hake on Shetland Black Tattie and Tomato Rasam with Coconut Chutney. The catch of the day varies depending on what is available first thing in the morning during the seafood auctions, and the day I visited this catch was hake.

I had the pleasure of watching my meal being cooked (a mouth watering experience!) and having a wee chat with Akshay, and he kindly agreed to share his recipe with A Taste of Shetland readers. This recipe was obtained on a recent visit he made back to India, when his home cook taught him how to make it.

This dish was one of the best meals I've eaten in awhile (and I'm not just saying that as I've been eating diet food while trying to shift a few pounds gained from all the munching around Shetland I've done over the last year - see my article in the latest issue of 60 North about the Shetland Food Trail!). The fish was cooked to perfection - tasty, flaky and succulent, while the spiced flavours of tomato rasam and cooling coconut chutney complimented each other perfectly.

You can find The Scalloway Hotel on Facebook and Twitter, and you can follow Akshay on his Facebook group Shetland Cook, Bake, Forage, Wine & Music where he frequently shares his recipes.

Tomato Rasam

Course: Main

Servings: 4 people

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients
  • Tomatoes - 8
  • Vegetable Stock - 1 litre
Lentil Mix
  • Fresh coriander leaves - 1/2 bunch (use the stems too for their concentrated flavour)
  • Piece of fresh ginger root - 1/2 thumb sized
  • Garlic cloves - 6
  • Yellow lentils - 1/2 cup
  • Red chillies - 2
Tempering Mix
  • Curry leaves - 8-10
  • Cumin seeds - 1/2 tbsp
  • Vegetable oil - 3 tbsp
  • Asafoetida - 2 shakes
  • Mustard seeds - 1.5 tbsp
  • Ground turmeric - 1 tsp
  • Salt and pepper - (to taste)
Instructions
  1. Night before : soak the lentils in the veg stock.
  2. Morning after: Drain the lentils but keep the stock water, we will use it later.
  3. In a mixer, grind the Lentil mix, ( adding a little of the veg stock as needed , so its a thick paste like consistency). Set aside.
  4. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and blitz them up ( Seed, skin, everything; you want to extract maximum flavours, while keeping it simple).
  5. Add the oil and the tempering mix to a pan, turn the flame to medium and stir about till you hear the cracking of mustard seeds.
  6. Add the lentil mix to the tempering mixture, stir it about and then add the blitzed up tomatoes and the rest of the veg stock. Leave to simmer over a medium-low flame for 30 mins or until the lentils are cooked. (You can add more veg stock depending how thick or thin you want your rasam).
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Boiled, sliced Shetland Black potatoes are added to the tomato rasam and served with pan fried hake and coconut chutney in the Scalloway Hotel dish prepared by Akshay.

 Print this Recipe

Coconut Chutney

Course: Main

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients
  • Fresh green coriander - 1/2 bunch
  • Desiccated coconut - 1.5 cups (since it's hard to get a hold of fresh in Shetland)
  • Garlic - 4 cloves
  • Fresh ginger root - 1/4 thumb sized piece
  • Limes - 2 (juice only)
  • Chillies - 3
  • Coconut milk - 1 400ml tin
  • Salt and pepper - (to taste)
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until well combined. Simple.
 Print this Recipe

Posted in: Recipes, Restaurants