Blog Archives

2nd place!

While all has been quiet on the blogging front, it’s been far from quiet in real life.  Moving house, expecting my first baby, meeting my new born niece- stuff has been happening.  Good stuff.  Just not blog appropriate stuff.

After a few terrible years, 2012 seems to be looking up.  Long may it last.

Right now I am sitting in remotest Sutherland on a day that would not go amiss in the depth of winter, at a hotel which combines the charm and warmth of the hotel from The Shining, cross with a bit of Faulty Towers. However, there is minimal wifi connection, which has given me the chance to jot a few overdue words.  I should chose these word wisely- if our initial impression of our hotel is anything to go by, they may be my last.

….I am not feeling full of wisdom today, so instead I will just have a wee gloat- that photography competition, the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year at The Mall Galleries in London….

Woo Hoo!

And here’s the picture:

And here it is, hanging on the wall of the Mall Galleries and me, trying to look cool calm and collected after the winners were announced:

Sweet!

Feeling pretty chuffed.  And, it’s available to buy!  Here: http://www.pinkladyfoodphotographeroftheyear.com/gallery  

Next stop, National Portrait Galleries!

Oh broth-er, where art thou?

BROTH.

Winter in Scotland. Long, dark, cold, wet, windy.  Four season in one day, except the two best ones. Harsh.

Yet, there is something splendid that happens every winter that makes us, even at the height of summer, long for these days of  wind stung faces, nippy ears and numb noses.  Scotch broth. A big steaming bowl, so thick you could serve it in slices and stand your spoon upright.

It’s with a smirk on my face I announce that it is officially broth season.

Traditionalists would probably insist it is made with lamb or mutton.  I love lamb, but for some reason I’m not a huge fan of it in a soup, so I prefer mine with chicken and all the lovely cold fighting goodness this brings with it.

The hero of the broth is a Scottish speciality, imaginatively named, Scotch Broth Mix….

You can buy this everywhere in Scotland.  I’m not sure about how readily available it is elsewhere, but if struggling the magic ingredients are dried red lentils, pearl barley,yellow split peas, green split peas and marrowfat peas.

Now there are probably a thousand different recipes and the truth is that I have probably never made the same pot twice.  But, that’s the beauty of it.  Many winter veg lend themselves easily to this soup.  Leek, turnip (swede to those outside Scotland), carrot, parsnip, kale.  All would live very happily with their pulsey brothers in broth, so I use what I happen to have.  Simples. My most recent batch also included butterbeans and extra marrowfat peas.  I love these peas in a soup.  These are the gems I dig for at the bottom of the bowl, like little tasty emeralds of joy.

So, there you the secret to surviving Scottish winter.  Enjoy!

Chicken broth.

Chicken Stock

Scotch broth mix

dried butterbeans

dried marrowfat peas

onion

leek

carrot

parsnip

chicken meat

parsley

water

salt and pepper

Soak a couple of handfuls of the broth mix with a handful of butter bean and a handful of marrowfat peas for 6-8 hours. Rinse then add to a large pot and just cover with chicken stock.  I’m not precious. Use ‘real’ chicken stock if you have it because it’s awesome, but i won’t beat you for using stock cubes.  Life is hectic- if you have time to make fresh chicken stock all the time, you need to get out more.

Simmer for 2o minutes.  While this is bubbling away dice your onion, carrot and parsnip.  Add this to the pan and top up with some water.  Not too much- Remember, you want your spoon to stay almost upright in the soup once it’s ready.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes giving it a stir every now and again to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Towards the end check the butter beans and peas are cooked.  I find the best method it to simply put some in your mouth and chew. Easy.

If you’re happy they are cooked through throw in some shredded chicken, ideally brown meat for the best flavour along with some chopped parsley.  Stir and check the seasoning.  If needed add a bit more salt and pepper or extra stock.

Now the hard part.  Allow to cool and transfer to the fridge overnight in an appropriate fridgeable container.  The second day soup rule is an essential part of amazing broth.  It’s worth the wait.

Slice a wedge of soup from the container and heat making sure the butter beans and peas are toasty hot right through then transfer a mountainous lump to a bowl and eat with a big spoon and a bigger grin.  This will make you wish winter could last forever.

 

 

 

 

2011- A Food Odyssey

It’s been a good year….for my belly.  I feel I should pay homage to the last 12 months of eating and the 12 lbs gained as a result.

 

        

Some I made. Some I had made for me. All delicious and memorable and so more-ish.

2012 has a lot to live up to.

 

 

Let Glasgow Flourish!

With recent jaunts up and down the West Coast, I’ve neglected somewhere I love very much.  Glasgow.  So I’ve dedicated some time recently to reacquainting myself with my favourite city.  To start, the new Riverside Museum.

 

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Silence of the Jams

Post holiday blues.

Often comfort eating is the answer, but on this occasion, like many other occasions, comfort cooking is just the ticket.

We visited Grandpa, who lives in a cottage which seems to border both the countryside and another, simpler, era.  There we turned our hands to the therapeutic, almost trance inducing practice of blackcurrant picking.

Hours passed.  Sheep idled by, eyeballing us, wary of the busy worker bees that had descended on Grandpa’s blackcurrant bushes.  They made lousy guard dogs.  We plundered most of the ripe berries without much interference, other than the odd midge bite, and we slept well that night with rosy countrified cheeks and purple fingers.

Then we made jam.  Lots and lots of jam.  And Jelly.  Lots and lots of jelly.

And it was good.

🙂

Highland photo journal, part 4- Applecross (a foodporn installation)

I promised foodporn…. but I also have to share my journey here and the provide a bit of background on the place that makes me happiest in all the world.

Having returned to Mallaig, we just managed to catch the calmac sailing to Skye.  Here’s our little adventurercar on board.

We skipped across Sleat and off over the bridge.

It may seem a long way round to sail to Skye, drive through it, then off again over the bridge, but it was much quicker than driving up over the mainland.

On arrival at Applecross we set up camp and made a spot of lunch using the local hot smoked salmon.

Yes, it was pretty amazing.

We then headed straight for the Potting Shed in the Walled Garden for carrot and walnut cake and a glass of wine.  The garden was looking beautiful, even in the light of the slightly greyed skies.

 

The last time we were here was in March when everything was suffering after the harsh winter.  It’s hard to believe the garden could have recovered, so it was nice to see how lush and colourful it was.  It looked like a scene from a fairytale.

 

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After the rain…comes more food

Summer is late this year in Scotland.  Very, very late- even by our standards.  After 40 days and 40 nights of rain (I may exaggerate, but it feels like an age), finally the clouds parted and out came the lovely warming, vitamin D enriched sunshine I have been missing these last few weeks.  Aaaah.  This could only mean one thing….

….Bike!

My trusty steed and I did our first cycle in weeks tonight and it was magic.  It felt good to get the wind through my hair, a face full of midges and muddy from head to toe.  

 

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Cooking and eating and cooking some more

Things have been quiet lately. We seemed to have returned to autumn so the bike has been feeling rather dejected, as I been spending a lot of time with the cooker.  Good thing happen when the cooker and I hang out together. Here are just a few examples:

Magical chowder…

Saute one small chopped onion in olive oil with a sprinkling of thyme leaves. Once soft add one large Maris piper, or other floury potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes. Season well and allow to heat through before adding a good glug of white wine to the pan. Stir, allowing the wine to completely soak in before adding two teaspoon of plain flour. Stir though allowing the flour to cook off for a few minutes before adding one or two bay leaves. Gradually add some milk. Allow to thicken each time before adding more. Once the potatoes are half covered, season and put a lid on the pan. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. If sauce gets too thick, add some water.  Add a good drizzle of double cream to make sauce nice and rich, and season.  Add a handful of frozen peas. Chop a large undyed smoked haddock fillet into large pieces an layer on top of the potatoes and cook for a further 5 mins.  Add some chopped parsley, cooked prawns and a large handful of spinach.  Stir through- the fish will start to break up. Once the spinach had wilted it’s ready to serve! Check seasoning before piling into warm bowls. No need for bread, this is a monster or a meal!

Ok, next rainy day dish…

 

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Sun, soup and cycles-a wholesome Easter weekend

It’s been a good week.  A wholesome week.

I have been a busy girl.

First, I feel I should really mention my first whisky tasting experience.  Wednesday night I attended Tam’s Drams’ whisky tasting dinner at MacSorley’s bar in Glasgow. I was worried I was going to be a bit out of my depth.  I had visions of old men with beards and Aran sweaters, scowling at the young pretender.  I was wrong.  It was fabulous.  Informative but unpretentious and nobody was taking themselves too seriously.  Now, I would normally have photos, but please bear in mind there were 6 whiskies to get through- 2 before the starter, 2 between courses and 2 after the main dish.  After the second whisky, thoughts of photos went out of the window, but you can probably imagine….

I have to mention the food, of course.  Brilliant.  Really really brilliant.  The menu is amazing and I can’t wait to go back.  It’s definitely worth checking out the website using the link above to get a sample of how imaginative and tempting everything sounds.  And, they do stovies!   This pleases me lots. Not enough places serve stovies.

Anyway, on with the wholesomeness…

Soup.  I make it all the time, but I was feeling a bit experimental this week and I was so delighted with the result of my Sweet potato and Squash spiced soup with lentils and coconut milk, I have added it as my first recipe in my Small Kitchen Diaries.

Delicious.

Today involved more food, but it was well earned.  Once more I took to my bike and ventured out along the local cycle paths.  It was a beautiful day.  Not too warm, not too windy.  Perfect cycling conditions.  We peddled for hours through the countryside stopping only to do some shopping and eat ice cream.  We finally made it home where we sat on the picnic blanket in the garden and ate olives and drank red wine out of tumblers so not to spill it everywhere, as I so often do when trusted with a wine glass outdoors.

 

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exciting possibilities…by boat and by bike

Today, I am pretty excited.  Plans for our next adventure are coming together and, I think, they are rather special.

We will be covering Arisaig, Knoydart, Sleat and Trotternish on Skye and, of course, Applecross.  Arisaig, Skye and Applecross will be repeat visits.  I know what awaits me there and I can’t wait to get back.

Given the remoteness of most areas this involves some careful travel and accommodation planning.  Passenger boats, car ferries, bikes and kayaks will all be making a contribution to our journeys up and around Scotland’s west coast.  I think it sounds amazing!  I can’t wait to get paddling again, it’s been too long…

However, I am actually starting to see the appeal of canoeing instead of kayaking- It’s a bit more flake advert and a bit less Bear Gryls.

I am particularly looking forward to experiencing Knoydart, totally inaccessible by road and can only be reach by rather lengthy hike through mountains.  Alternatively, and this is our preferred route, by boat from Mallaig.

As well as seeing these stunning places, I am excited as this trip will give me the opportunity to eat at some fabulous food establishments.

1. I can’t wait to try the Knoydart prawns!  I here they are a major contender to the infamous Applecross bay prawn I am so partial to.

2. The possibility of eating at The Three Chimneys.  I’ve done this once before and it was outrageously good.  I would love to repeat it and hopefully we can get a table- better book now- it can take 2-3 months for a reservation!

3. Jann’s cake shop in Dunvegan, Skye. You have not had a muffin until you have had one of Jann’s muffins, topped with home made chocolates!

4. The possibility of eating at Kinloch Lodge, Claire McDonald’s restaurant.  Another michelin star restaurant on Skye (in addition to The Three Chimneys).

5. Prawns at the Applecross Inn! -an oldie but a goodie.

6. Dinner at the Potting Shed in the Applecross Walled Garden.  It’s been too long!

7. Dinner at the Shieldaig Coastal Kitchen again, hopefully outside on the roof terrace.

8. Cooking big pots of squat lobster on the camping stove or steaks on the barbecue and eating them al fresco (the weather will, of course, be amazing and there will be no midges).

With all this eating I have in mind it’s a good thing we plan some serious outdoor activities.  I was unfortunate enough to have my bike stolen from under my bedroom window in the middle of the night just a month or two ago.  The cheeky so and so’s wheeled it right by my front door at 4 in the morning.  What’s worse, is the noise of the wheels squeaking actually woke me up but I couldn’t figure out what it was and didn’t until we found the cut security chain dangling lamely from the drainpipe a few days later.  Luckily it was insured and I now have a shiny new bike which I have been getting some practice on recently.

It’s easy to forget what you have on your doorstep and this is something I have been guilty of lately.  I should really make good use of the cycle network my house sits on and since the weather took a turn for the better I have been doing this when I can.

Until I journey off next, I have a feeling I am going to be getting quite familiar with the cycle network and I am looking forward to it.  Since I must be burning off at least ten thousand calories an hour I already feel justified in the extra food intake of late.  I do need my fuel after all!  Speaking of which, the picture of Jann’s cake has put me in the mood…I’m off for a rummage in the fridge.

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