In her latest book, food and travel writer Caroline Eden recounts a year of fascinating journeys to places as diverse as Uzbekistan, Turkey, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine. One of the most magical moments featured, however, happened much closer to home. 

On a misty Highlands morning, hiking in the hills above Glen Almond, Caroline discovered a holy grail for foragers: the delicious, elusive, near-mythical cloudberry. “It was quite something,” she admits, with a smile. “I really was not expecting it to happen. Cloudberries are so rare. They grow mainly in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, and they’d been on my mind for years, but I had never seen one in the wild. “I just knew immediately what it was: this little bit of orangey-gold gleaming against the dark, mossy landscape. It was very precious.”

LIFESTYLE | Cara Laing takes 'natural step' at family whisky firm

In her book, Cold Kitchen, published by Bloomsbury on May 9, Caroline describes the moment in exquisite detail. “My heart began thumping,” she writes. “Without doubt, it was a single cloudberry – wrapped, like a gift, in a gauzy spider’s web. “Golden-red, the colour of cognac, and shaped like its cousin the raspberry, but with fatter, yet fewer, juice-filled drupelets, its solitariness hinted that its life had begun as a seed dropped by a bird, a fugitive out on its own, not part of a patch. 

“Typically found in remote and scattered locations, cloudberries elude even the best and most hyper-local of foragers. So few in number are they, that they seem unreal – the fruits of mountain fairies or goblins.”

So sought-after are cloudberries, in fact, coordinates are kept classified. “Flora Celtica: Plants and People in Scotland states that ‘knowledge of good cloudberry patches tends to be a closely guarded secret among pickers’. I like the idea there might be secret patches of cloudberries no-one lets on about.” Cold Kitchen is a beautifully written book, part-memoir, part travelogue, part recipe collection, with snippets of history and literary heritage, culinary insights and stories of the people Caroline meets along the way.

Back home in Edinburgh, she brings it all together as she recreates autumnal strudels, winter melon salads and summer soups of beetroot and feta. As much as it is about travel, Cold Kitchen, explains Caroline, is about “slowing down and using the kitchen as a portal to other parts of the world”. She explains: “I love food. I’m not the best cook, but I love trying to recapture my travels when I get back home through cooking. Hopefully that’s quite relatable – we all do it, try to ‘recreate’ our holidays through food, maybe using different spices or oils.

LIFESTYLE | Coorie Retreats: A Scottish glamping trip with a sense of adventure

“I’m not just taking these recipes away from the places I visit, I’m reinterpreting them, while trying to be as sensitive to places and cultures as possible. The recipes are like a postcard to the reader, almost, to allow them to taste the journey along with me.” Caroline is an award-winning writer and critic. Her previous books include Black Sea and most recently, Red Sands, winner of the prestigious André Simon Award. Her first book, Samarkand, grew out of a desire to “right an injustice”, she explains.

“I’d done a bit of travelling, particularly in Central Asia, and it seemed in all the guides, people were so rude about the food. I wanted to show people that was unfair. In places like Uzbekistan, for example, there was no tourism culture, no little cafés or restaurants you could pop in to sample the local cuisine.  But if you ate in someone’s home, the food was really good, and there was fantastic produce on offer at local markets. I wanted to explain that, show them the other side.”

Cold Kitchen also contemplates the importance of feeling “at home” in the world, says Caroline, for whom home means the Edinburgh flat she shares with husband James and inquisitive dog Darwin. Having lived in London, where she worked as a bookseller, then in a draughty old farmhouse in Yorkshire, it was the basement kitchen that sealed the deal when she and James began looking at properties in the capital. “It felt like a world within a world,” she recalls. “The wooden beams reminded me of Yorkshire, and I just loved the subterranean feel of the place.”

At the heart of Cold Kitchen, in addition to a selection of tantalising recipes, are Caroline’s stories of some of the most special places she visited and the people she met. “Food is a lovely way in to writing about a country and the people you meet. You can sit in a café or a restaurant, or in someone’s home, and just start chatting – and, of course, it is soon never just about the food, it’s about the history, the agriculture, the culture – a little bit of everything. I think you can tell any story through food.”