Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Happy Easter one and all,

Across the country chocolate Easter eggs are being demolished and butter slathered on to toasted hot cross buns.

A time to reflect on new life and re-birth.

Whatever Easter means to you and whatever it may bring...enjoy.

Hot Cross Cookies (see previous for recipe)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Recipe - Apple Pecan Muffins (Gluten-free)

Not particularly seasonal but these delicious, light, fruity (gluten-free) muffins make a great tea-time or even breakfast-time treat (why not, it's the holidays after all).

Recipe - Apple Pecan Muffins (Gluten-free)

Ingredients (makes approximately 15)

310g gluten-free self raising flour
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
165g caster sugar
2 green apples, cored, peeled and coarsely grated
50g of chopped pecans (plus a small handful to decorate)
2 eggs
15g butter (melted)

Optional (to decorate)
20g of icing sugar and water
Small handful of pecans, halved


Pre-heat the oven to 180C (gas mark 4).

Combine the flour, cinnamon, apple and pecans in a bowl. Add lightly beaten eggs, milk and melted butter, stirring until combined and smooth.

Spoon the mixture into a muffin baking tray or muffin cases on a tray and bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Mix sifted icing sugar with a little water until smooth, using a piping bag drizzle the icing over the muffins. Place half a pecan on top.

Mini Muffins (perfect for Afternoon Tea)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Recipe - Hot Cross Cookies

As Easter is nearly upon us, I thought I would bring you a seasonal but not so traditional recipe for Hot Cross Cookies. If you do not have the time to make classic simnel cake or hot cross buns why not try these quick and easy cookies.

Recipe - Hot Cross Cookies

Ingredients (makes approximately 15 cookies)

200g softened butter
100g caster sugar
1 egg
50g mixed peel
100g sultanas
1heaped tspn ground cinnamon
250g plain flour
1tspn baking powder
150g white chocolate pieces


Pre heat the oven to 180C (gas mark 4).

In a large mixing bowl beat together the sugar, egg and butter until smooth.

Gradually add to the bowl the sifted flour, cinnamon and baking powder, combine to make a dough.

Stir in the mixed peel and sultanas.

Using a spoon place golf ball sized balls of the dough on to a lightly buttered baking tray, pat with the spoon to flatten slightly. Ensure each cookies is spaced approximately 2cm apart, as they will spread.

Bake in the oven for approximately 12-15 minutes until lightly golden.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring that the bowl does not touch the water. Whilst melting the chocolate keep stirring until smooth.

Once the cookies have cooled completely use a piping bag or, if you are feeling brave, a spoon to decorate the cookies with two lines of the melted chocolate forming a cross.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring has not quite sprung

It is officially Spring time, Easter is nearly upon us and the clocks are about to go back.

However, the freakish weather has left thousands of Scottish residents without power for several days now. We are fine here, although I wasn't feeling so fine following a six hour delay to my flight on Friday, which meant I arrived in cold, dark Luton at 3:00am...urghhhh

The daffodils are blossoming and sheep are lambing despite the snow, blizzards and freezing conditions.

A good excuse to stay in the great indoors by a hot, toasty oven, just wish I could have taken the newborn lambs with me but not to eat I might add.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dangerous Triangular Flapjack

Yes, you read it right... triangular flapjack has been deemed "dangerous" by an Essex school after a child was hit in the face by a flung oaty treat.

A seven year old pupil suffered a ‘sore eye’ when he was accidentally struck in the face by an oaty treat thrown by another child at Castle View School on Canvey Island, Essex.

The pupil is said to be recovering well with no serious harm caused, but headteacher Gill Thomas took drastic action and quickly banned kitchen staff from baking the triangular treats, however, rectangular or square shaped ones are still permitted.

Go Get 'Em Granola bar
A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said,  "We often come across half-baked decisions taken in the name of health and safety, but this one takes the biscuit (loving the puns).
"The real issue isn't what shape the flapjacks are, but the fact that pupils are throwing them at each other - and that's a matter of discipline, and has got nothing to do with health and safety as we know it.
"We're happy to make clear that flapjacks of all shapes and sizes continue to have our full backing." 
Thank goodness for that. 
Festive Flapjack
Check out my "Go Get 'Em Granola Bars" and "Festive Flapjack" recipes. It's OK  they are safe, they have four sides.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Recipe - Tablet

Tablet, a Scottish speciality that I have been on a mission to master for the business (think hospitality trays in the bedrooms and pouches for sale). For those of you that haven't experienced tablet, it is a more-ish sweet, similar to fudge, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

After much reading, experimenting, probing and stirring, this is my best recipe to date.

I have discovered the secret to making good tablet is to use a reliable, heavy-based saucepan, you do not want the sugar to stick and burn.


Ingredients (makes approximately 50 small squares or 20 bars)

125g unsalted butter
1kg golden granulated sugar
300ml full fat milk
200ml condensed milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
a pinch of salt


Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat.

Add the sugar, milk and salt. Heat gently and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

That's a lot of sugar

Turn up the heat and bring to the boil, then simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add the condensed milk and simmer again for approximately 10 minutes. The mixture should bubble away, keep stirring to ensure it does not stick. If using a thermometer it should reach 115C/240F.

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Beat straight away with a hand-held electric mixer for approximately 5 minutes (it will take about 10 mins by hand).The mixture should stiffen slightly and become a little grainy.

Pour at once into a buttered baking tray.

Cut into squares or bars once nearly cold.

Leave to cool completely then store in an airtight container.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Recipe - Ginger Cake with Orange Icing

Someone close to me requested a ginger cake and owing them big time for recent favours (including inebriated late night lifts home), I thought I should do the right thing and endeavour to bake them my best ever ginger cake. Here is the outcome...

Ginger Cake with Orange Icing (approximately 10 slices)


225g self raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
175g butter
3 eggs
6 pieces of stem ginger (from a jar)
2 tbspns of ginger syrup (from the jar)
1 large tbspn of blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
Half a teaspoon of ground chilli
1 heaped teaspoon of allspice

200g of icing sugar
Freshly squeezed juice of one small orange and a small handful of very finely grated peel.


In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Beat the eggs and add them gradually to the mixture, beating as you go until the egg is thoroughly mixed in.

Fold in the ginger syrup and molasses.

Gradually fold in the sifted flour, ginger, chilli and allspice, a little at a time, then stir in the stem ginger pieces.

Pour the mixture evenly into a greased cake tin and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for approximately 50 minutes, or until the cake is risen and firm to touch.

Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then turn it out on to a wire rack.

Wait until the cake is completely cool before you ice it.

For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix with enough orange juice to make the consistency of thick cream. Stir in the finely grated orange peel.

Pour the icing over the top of the cake.

Slice and decorate with small pieces of ginger.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Recipe - Florentine Bites

Practice bakes for the business have started. 
My plan was to re-create a "Veronique" as sampled at Pollys Tearooms (Marlborough, back down South, see previous post), with a Bakewell base and a Florentine top. However, lacking in bravery and opting for something easier I decided to make for small, bite-sized Florentines instead. Perfect as part of an Afternoon Tea spread.

I tried two different delectable recipes, "White Chocolate and Cranberry" and "Stem Ginger and Dark Chocolate".

Florentine Bites (each recipe makes approximately 12 small bites)

Florentine Bites

White Chocolate and Cranberry


2 tablespoons candied mixed peel
50g dried cranberries
30g flaked almonds
30g chopped pistachios
2 tbsp butter
75g golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons of flour
75ml crème fraîche
150g white chocolate


Pre-heat the oven to 180C (gas mark 4).

Gently toast the almonds and pistachios in a frying pan over a medium heat until lightly golden.

Add the butter, sugar and flour to a pan and heat whilst stirring continuously until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.

Gradually add the crème fraîche, stir until thoroughly combined.

Add the almonds, pistachios, peel and cranberries. Stir until well mixed.


Place teaspoonfuls of the Florentine mixture onto a lightly greased baking tray. Space out the portions of mixture (approx 1 inch) so they don't merge together.

Pop in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Once cool enough to touch but still pliable scrunch the mixture into a bite-sized shapes then transfer to a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, bring a little water to a simmer in a saucepan. Place a heat-proof bowl over the water (avoid allowing the base of the bowl to touch the water). 

Break the chocolate into pieces, add to the bowl, heat gently and stir until smooth and melted.

Dip each "Bite" in to the melted chocolate, then place upside down (so that the melted chocolate in on top, not touching the surface) on a suitable surface e.g. a baking tray.

Once each bite has been dipped and placed on the tray, place in the fridge to cool and set.

Stem Ginger and Dark Chocolate

Same method, substitute the pistachios for extra almonds (60g in total), 2 tablespoons of chopped stem ginger (from a jar) in place of the cranberries and use dark chocolate.

A tinful of Florentines
Verdict: Thumbs up from the local "Am Dram" group, with the tin returned nearly empty.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Knockderry House - Mother's Day

Mother's day, an opportunity to treat Mum, and very well-deserved from having to put up with a lot of me recently.

Initial thoughts were of Afternoon Tea at Knockderry House.

Knockderry House Hotel, Shore Road, Cove,  Argyll & Bute

When I rang to make the booking I was informed that it may not include scones, obviously this put me off at once. Afternoon Tea without scones? No thank you, Mother would not be happy.

   Tempted by the good-looking menu, I opted for lunch instead.

For starter, I ordered the smoked seafood.

Assiette of Smoked Seafood

It was delicious, if not a little small...the same went for the gnocchi Main Course.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Nouvelle cuisine rarely goes down well with my family and our "healthy" appetites. Still feeling hungry and knowing Mum was feeling the same, I uncouthly asked for more bread rolls and "how big are the puddings?"

Chocolate Fondant with Honey Ice cream

The pudding was big enough to leave us feeling content. We left beautiful Knockderry happy, just about full and making plans to go back.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Och aye the Bru!

The Scottish thirst for Irn Bru, a modern myth? Apparently not, 12 cans are consumed here every second, affirming its status as "the nations other drink".

The bright orange fizzy drink was concocted in 1901, the company A.G. Barr is responsible for bringing it to the masses.

"Irn Bru , gets you through"

The top secret recipe contains 32 ingredients and is said to be known by only three people in the world, all members of the Barr family.

Earlier this year a book of poems published in 1913 was discovered, featuring an ode to this famous drink. Penned by a man called John Murray, the poem praises Iron Brew for its ability to get people through all sorts of situations. A wee excerpt:

"Barr's Iron Brew it beats them a,
There's nocht tae equal it ava,
If you are hot 'twill cool ye doon,
If you are sick 'twill bring ye roon.
Drink of it deep, you'll no get fuddled,
Nor will your tiny brain get muddled,
Correct in every P & Q,
Is Barr's far-famed Iron Brew."

Originally named Iron Brew, the phonetic spelling Irn-Bru was introduced in 1947 following concern over proposed changes to food labelling regulations.
Be wary of the Bru turning your chest orange, particularly if you are a bird. According to a newspaper report feathered Irn Bru addict, Skye the budgie, has developed an orange "beard" on his chest from drinking too much.
"There's nothing like Irn Bru when you have just been laid". Skye has possibly taken this advertising slogan too literally.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Scottish water makes the best cuppa?

"What a good cup of tea"

"That'll be the water"

It is true, the water here does make a mighty fine cuppa and gone are the days of pesky limescale.

The water here is soft and, therefore, more gentle than hard water on appliances and the skin. On the negative side, it does not contain so many minerals. A recent report conducted by the Foundation for Liver Research stated that: “Scotland’s drinking water is almost uniformly soft and there is considerable experimental evidence implicating magnesium deficiency in alcohol-induced liver damage. Results suggest for the first time that the water supply may be a significant factor in explaining this." 

Why oh why is nothing ever simple? Think it's time to put the kettle on.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

It's the wee things - Scottish food

Some of my foodie observations since moving up here to Scotland:

"Irn Bru Gets You Through"
People really do drink Irn Bru -  I've been told it's brilliant for hangovers, I may find out tomorrow.

Tattie scones are available everywhere. Otherwise known as potato scones, don't be misled by the name, they are not like scones at all. A soft, savoury, pancake-like speciality made with mashed potatoes (potato and butter, no milk, salt to taste) and plain flour. Made into a dough, rolled out then traditionally cooked on a griddle. Often served as part of a Scottish breakfast (more to come on breakfasts, with preparations for the B&B well under way).

Scottish tablet is a fudge-like, melt in the mouth sweet which seems to be strategically placed on every shopping counter shouting, "buy me" as you settle up the bill (unable to resist picking up a packet). Word of warning- it is basically one big sugar hit, made from sugar, condensed milk and butter. A recipe which I am going to have to master shortly for the business.

An abundance of fish & chips shops, round these parts anyway. Luckily, the local "Wee Kelpie" is fantastic, with an impressive range of local seafood.

Scottish baps a.k.a Morning or Breakfast rolls - light, white, fluffy flour-dusted rolls. Ideal for filling with grilled bacon and a runny egg. 

Lorne sausage, a.k.a square sausage -  usually made with pork or beef set into a square and sliced into pieces of about 3 inches and half an inch thick. Often served as part of a traditional breakfast or in a morning roll.

I have made many cups of tea and coffee (lots of visiting tradesmen) all thus far have taken it white with two sugars.

Not everyone likes whisky.