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Celebrating Our Year of Food and Drink: Guest Blog & Recipe from La Barca

In her latest guest blog, owner Cara Nikolic of La Barca Spanish Tapas and Wine Bar in Helensburgh shares her experience of the recent Sea Change Festival in Cove and Kilcreggan and offers us a wonderful summer recipe for steak and seafood from husband and chef Milan.

Happy reading and eating, folks!

It’s fantastic to see the people of the Peninsula getting behind the Year of Food and Drink.

We were delighted to be part of the first Food and Drink Fair recently as part of the fourth annual Sea Change Festival in Cove and Kilcreggan. Undeterred by the overcast weather and lurking midges we at La Barca set up our pitch outside Cove Burgh Hall with a handful of other well know food faces.

There is something about getting your apron on and cooking in the open air that excites everyone from chefs to onlookers alike. Even the kids, with hands appropriately washed, were desperate to get in on the act and made great helpers popping fresh mussels into our infamous giant paella.

Just next door our friends at Scozzese Wood Fired Pizza had arrived much earlier as they told me it takes them two hours to get their impressive portable pizza oven and stall up and running.

We rolled up a little before lunch having had a busy weekend but supporters of the event weren’t fazed when we told them our paella would be another ten minutes. They were there to try a bit of everything and entered into the spirit of things by starting first with pizza before a second course of paella.

Pitched opposite us was Helensburgh Advertiser columnist Sue Montgomery from Ardardan Estate in Cardross; and it was great to put a face to the name I’ve enjoyed reading in this column for such a long time.  She was there with a selection of delights from her farm shop ranging from home baking to the many cheeses she is so knowledgeable about.

Inside the hall was Helensburgh Chocolatier Melanie Neil whom I’d been hoping to meet having swapped emails with her in the past about our forthcoming seafood and steakhouse Cattle and Creel. Her gorgeous stall, offering beautiful boxes of handmade chocolates and bags of brownies tied with ribbon was a magnet for everyone and her wares disappeared faster than a chocolate fireguard. Melanie has an idea to make petit fours exclusively for Cattle and Creel and we talked excitedly about the possibility while those around us tucked into pizza, paella, chocolate and refreshments from Lomond Fine Ales. Not a bad lunch for a Sunday afternoon in Cove.

Our paella was also dispatched to our fellow stallholders who happily reciprocated - after all, it’s always nicer to eat something someone else has cooked.

My sons Ross and Lewis went off to Ardardan with a fiver to buy Areo cake and came back with their goodies and their fiver delighted that they’d “got it for free” from Sue. Then off they went to Scozesse Pizza for juice and duly came back happier than ever with pizza, two cans of juice and their fiver still intact. Next minute Milan appeared with some of Melanie’s chocolate brownie to which Lewis remarked: “It’s great here, everything’s free!” Well, son, that’s what is known as the old fashioned barter system and a lot more fun than paying for things with cash.

The afternoon was rounded off perfectly as we sat outside listening to a musical performance from talented Scots actresses and musicians Joyce Falconer and Annie Grace. Playing a whistle, small pipes and accordion, they had us all in stitches as we sat there sipping wine and listening to their repertoire which included the apt foodie number ‘The Jeely Piece Song’.

We all sang enthusiastically along and were determined not to be put off when the midges decided it was time for their tea. For a first time foodie event, this one was rich on quality local produce served with lashings of community spirit and fun. We for one will be back next year.

(Chef Milan Nikolic pictured above with presenters of STV Glasgow Riverside Show)

Summer Recipe from La Barca Helensburgh

Filete con Langostinos a la Plancha by Milan Nikolic of La Barca Restaurant Helensburgh

Scotch Rib Eye steak with grilled Langoustines served with Spanish sherry cream sauce


250g of Dry-aged Scottish rib-eye steak

4 fresh West Coast Langoustines

50ml Pedro Ximenez Sherry

50ml double cream

50ml garlic infused extra virgin olive oil

Finely chopped rosemary

Pinch sea salt


Season steak with garlic infused oil, sea salt and rosemary. Place on to hot griddle pan and cook each side for about 3 minutes or till medium so it's still pink in the middle. Put aside to rest and cover with tin foil.

Add Langoustines in the same griddle pan, add garlic infused olive oil and sea salt and cover with lid so they steam also whilst being grilled which will keep them juicy and moist. When pink in colour they are ready so place them on a plate with rested steak. Use the juice from the rested steak and add to the pan then pour in a splash of sherry and cream.

Cook for a minute and serve together with this surf & turf sauce with a Spanish twist.

Find out more about La Barca Helensburgh and discover more bars, restaurants and cafes on our Food and Drink page.


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