Thursday, 19 October 2017

Meet the Producer - Talking Turkey with Barra Bronzes

Meet the Aberdeenshire producer. Talking Turkey with Craig Michie of Barra Bronzes. Great Taste award winning free range slow grown Scottish turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Last year our turkey came from Aberdeenshire's Barra Bronzes. My whole family agreed that it was the best we'd ever eaten. So succulent and flavourful and so much meat in places I've never seen meat on a bird before. Absolute 5* Quality and super quick and easy to cook. Before and since then I've been following Craig Michie and his birds on both social and traditional media. He created quite a stir with Countryfile and The Mart appearances, both Craig and the turkeys proving to be natural TV stars. 

As a foodie, cooking at Christmas is of course one of the main events. Over the years I've served up a variety of birds for the big day and tried pretty much all the methods of cooking them. The quest, particularly when it comes to turkey, is to avoid it drying out. Easier said than done. I must admit that last year when Craig told me that no basting, brining, bacon, butter or tinfoil was required for my Barra Bronze I was somewhat sceptical. However undeterred we collected our bird from the farm where it had been expertly trussed, wrapped in greaseproof paper and individually boxed. Inside the box was a pop up thermometer and a sprig of herbs. All I needed to add was an onion in the cavity and follow the cooking instructions provided. Nothing complex, season with salt and pepper and cook breast side down for all but the last 40 minutes. The upside down thing is because most of the fat is on the back of the turkey so this allows it to percolate through the breast. This self basting makes the meat juicy and also allows the bird to cook much, much quicker. 

After having tasted the product I wanted to find out more about what made it so special, so on a bright Autumnal day I headed to the outskirts of Inverurie to meet the Turkeys. All 2,000 of them. What an amazing sight to see - and hear. Boy are they noisy! They are also very inquisitive and quickly surrounded me and followed me around the field like the pied piper. Strangely I didn't feel at all threatened by them, they pecked at my boots but weren't in any way wild. They seemed very contented, healthy and happy with plenty of freedom and room to roam. I'm not sure how intelligent they are but they definitely all seemed to have their own personalities, not to mention looks.

The birds arrive on the farm at the end of May at a day old which by Christmas time makes them the slowest grown in the country. To begin with they need constant monitoring night and day which is hugely labour intensive. They remain penned indoors with a heat source for the first few weeks until the beginning of July when they get outdoors. Here they can sup up the scenery with views of Barra Hill to the East and Bennachie to the west. During the day they have free range to forage and are fed on a home mix of cereals all grown on the farm. Two huge mesh sided tunnels house the turkeys at night and throughout the day should they wish to shelter from the elements. These are equipped with automated feeders, fresh water and roosting platforms.

The turkeys grow slowly over a 26-27 week period to ensure optimum quality in terms of flavour and texture. This is almost 3 times as long as a standard turkey. To keep them safe throughout this time two Alpacas look after the flock and will make short work of any badgers or foxes. They scared me a lot more than the turkeys did! When it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas the Turkeys are processed onsite at the farm butchery which ensures minimum stress to them and greatly improves the quality of the meat. They are dry plucked and finished off by hand before being hung in a cold store for a fortnight which allows the meat to mature and develop even more depth in flavour. Time to say goodbye to the turkeys but as we were leaving I suddenly realised I hadn't heard any 'Gobble Gobbles'. Turns out that it's only the males that say this and they are seriously outnumbered by the girls. Every day's a school day.

Meet The Producer

What's your name and where do you come from?
Craig Michie from Lochend of Barra, Inverurie

How did you end up farming turkeys for a living?
I had a real passion to produce something special, something different and with that Barra Bronzes was formed

What's the best and worst thing about your job?
The best thing about the job is seeing happy customers leave on Christmas Eve with a Barra Bronze.
Worst is working against the clock to pluck lots of turkeys - Christmas can never be delayed!

What makes Barra Bronzes different? 
There is not one thing that makes a Barra Bronze different - there are many. Our birds are the slowest grown in the country which gives you a fuller flavour. They are all female as the eating quality is better. They have twice the space of the free range standards to ensure the best welfare and final product. We also feed them on a special diet from the cereals we grow on the farm. This ensures they grow really slowly to enrich flavour.

Where and how can people buy your products? 
People can buy our product online at for both home delivery and farm collection

Lastly, share the love and recommend another Aberdeen/shire producer? 
Esker Gin (great choice Craig - check out my recipe for Gin & Tonic Mussels made with Esker Gin)

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Disclosure: This is not a paid post however I have been and will be compensated in Turkey! As always, all views expressed are my own. 
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me as a passionate Scottish Food Blogger to continue to share my Edible Food and Travel Adventures with you. I’m super choosy who I work with and promise to bring you only the cream of the crop.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

New Store - HomeSense Union Square Aberdeen

Post in collaboration with HomeSense

There's a new store in Aberdeen's Union Square Shopping Centre. If you love TK Maxx home, you’ll find lots more to adore at HomeSense. It's an Aladdin's cave of treasures for interior and homewear lovers.

When it comes to shopping for clothes, shoes, handbags and the likes I'm really not all that fussed. I sure ain't no fashion blogger. Homewear and kitchen bits and bobs on the other hand - I simply can't pass an interesting looking shop by. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that HomeSense were opening a store in Aberdeen. If you've never heard of them you'll know exactly what I mean when I describe the premise. Basically they are part of the TK Maxx group and they stock all the wonderful living, dining, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and furniture bits and pieces. A store opening practically on my doorstep with over 15,000 square feet of goodies across two floors - I may have actually squealed!

The Aberdeen store which is located in the Union Square outdoor shopping park (between Dreams and Hobbycraft) is the first stand-alone HomeBase store in Scotland. It officially opened its doors at 10am on Thursday 12th October, but along with a group of Aberdeen bloggers and social influencers I was able to get a sneaky peek in advance. It's the 51st store in the UK and the second in Scotland (check out the one in Edinburgh) and has provided a boost to the local economy with the creation of 40 new jobs. As part of the TK Maxx family it operates an 'off-price’ concept always up to 60% less than the RRP. The really exciting bit for me is that you never know what you are going to find as they have such an eclectic and ever changing mix. This does however mean that if you spot something you have to grab it there and then to avoid missing out. Frequent deliveries mean thousands of new items each week, so there's always the thrill of a new find, every time you visit.

When I shared with my Facebook followers that HomeSense was coming to town there was huge excitement all round. The post had a reach in excess of 70,000 with over 7,000 reactions, comments and shares. Aberdonians are of course known for liking a bargain and they aren't going to be disappointed. The store itself is an absolute treasure trove. It's light, bright and well laid out by room, product type and colour. There are nifty wee pull along trolley baskets as well as traditional large trolleys and if you buy anything too big staff are happy to help out.

Split across two floors downstairs you'll find decorative items, soft furnishings, stationery, seasonal goodies, bath & body, clocks, mirrors, art, candles (more than I've ever seen!) and lighting whilst upstairs it's bathroom, bedding, towels, cookware, kitchen, dining, food, children and pets. Pretty much everything you need to make your home look gorgeous at a great price.
Without further ado here's a quick visual tour of the shop and a rundown of what I bought at the preview event...

SO many gorgeous things, I could quite literally have browsed and scoured the shelves and aisles for hours. With a restrained trolley basket of goodies I headed for the till. No prizes for guessing what my current favourite interiors colour scheme is - yup it's all about the copper and rose gold tones. I picked up a pot rest, cooling tray, storage bin and pumpkin candle. Keeping with the pumpkin theme I also bought Pumpkin Spice coffee syrup. My eclectic collection of foodie themed Christmas tree ornaments was extended with a stand mixer and a fish. For the kitchen there were dishcloths, tongs and a terrine tin and from the decorative goodies a couple of quirky trinket dishes. Santa may also have done some shopping but of course he can't share his purchases.

Final piece of excitement of the night was at the till. Whilst the TK Maxx receipts are red (which always makes them super easy to find in your handbag or purse) the HomeSense ones are green. I'm easily pleased! I've a feeling I'm going to be seeing rather a lot of those green receipts. Whilst at the till I also used my Treasure card for the first time which is the new TK Maxx and HomeSense loyalty card. Pick one up next time you're instore and register it online for rewards, invitations and surprises. 

Discover the new HomeSense Aberdeen store at 
6/7 East Terrace, 
Union Square
AB11 5RD

Opening Hours
Mon - Fri 10am - 8pm
Sat 10am - 7pm
Sun 10am - 6pm

Disclosure: This is a commissioned post for HomeSense. As always, all views expressed are my own. 
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me as a passionate Scottish Food Blogger to continue to share my Edible Food and Travel Adventures with you. I’m super choosy who I work with and promise to bring you only the cream of the crop.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Salted Caramel Cookie Frozen Yogurt Bark

Post in collaboration with Maryland Cookies

This frozen yogurt bark with salted caramel cookies, pistachios and dried cranberries is quick to put together and tastes delicious. A no bake treat that's fun to make and an ideal recipe for kids to help out with. The perfect combination of crisp, creamy, and barely sweet.

Cookie Monster will do anything for a cookie and after trying the new Maryland Thins I'm on pretty much the same wavelength! Maryland are the UK's no.1 cookie brand with just the right balance of chocolate chips & cookie dough. Their new offering is ideal for anyone looking for a lighter snacking option. At half the thickness of a standard Maryland Cookie the Thins weigh in with less sugar and calories but all of the taste. They are available in two variants - Milk & Dark Choc Chip and Salted Caramel (rrp £1.49/128g). Now I'm a complete sucker for all thing salted caramel so no surprises what my favourite is. Two cookies come in at a respectable 79 calories (or 4 syns on Slimming World), of course the only issue is stopping at two... Their taste and texture is undeniably moreish.

When it comes to eating a cookie there are plenty of options - not just popping it into your mouth whole. Dunk one in a dessert, sandwich with Ice cream for a Cookiewich or dip into a hot cuppa. Cookie Crumbs can be used to form the base for a pie or cheesecake, to pimp up a milkshake or as a garnish for a cocktail - I'm thinking Espresso Martini with a Salted Caramel Cookie Crumb Rim! But that will need to wait for another today. Today's recipe is for Salted Caramel Cookie Frozen Yogurt Bark. This is such a delicious recipe that is super quick to make. It's a great snack and much healthier than chocolate bark or ice cream. Once you have the basic principle you can ring the changes with what you add in terms of fruit (fresh or dried), nuts, seeds, coconut, granola etc.  Frozen Yogurt Bark works well as a snack, dessert or even for breakfast. Any legitimate excuse to enjoy cookies for breakfast and I'm there. Such a great recipe to make with kids too - providing they have the patience to wait until it's frozen. 

Salted Caramel Cookie Frozen Yogurt Bark 

2 x 400g Tubs of Vanilla Yogurt 
60g Pistachios, roughly chopped 
60g Dried Cranberries 
12 Salted Caramel Cookies 

Line a 23cm x 32cm shallow baking tray with greaseproof paper and create a space in you freezer where it will fit.
Mix together the yogurt, 40g of the pistachios, 40g of the cranberries. Crumble in 6 of the cookies and combine well. Tip into the lined tray and smooth out. 
Decoratively arrange the remaining pistachios, cranberries and broken cookie pieces on top of the yogurt base then freeze for at least 2 hours. (make sure that it's sitting perfectly horizontally) 
Remove from the baking tray and chop into large shards.
Eat immediately or store in the freezer in a sealed bag or tub until required. (can be frozen for up to 2 months)

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Disclosure: This is a commissioned post for Maryland Thins. As always, all views expressed are my own.
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me as a passionate Scottish Food Blogger to continue to share my Edible Food and Travel Adventures with you. I’m super choosy who I work with and promise to bring you only the cream of the crop.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Scottish Mussels with Cider and Venison Chorizo

Post in Collaboration with Scottish Shellfish

Scottish Mussels combine with Cider from Angus and Wild Venison Chorizo from the Highlands to create a mouthwatering dish of Moules in celebration of Seafood Week. Quick and easy to cook and surprisingly cheap there's no need to be scared of preparing, cooking and eating Mussels at home. 

Having been commissioned in 2016 to develop a recipe using Mussels to celebrate Seafood Week I was delighted to be approached again by the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group for 2017. But how could I top last year's effort of Moules Écosse - Scottish Gin & Tonic Mussels? The answer had to be to combine my favourite shellfish with two more fantastic products from Scotland's Larder. Apples from Angus and Wild Scottish Venison from the Highlands. I reached out to two wonderful Scottish producers for my recipe. Cider Bothy and Great Glen Charcuterie. Combining their products with Shetland Mussels produced a dish that's most definitely worthy of celebrating Day Two of Seafood Week 2017 which focuses on the mighty mussel.

Cider Bothy is the sister company to the fantastic Gin Bothy who I visited on my recent press trip for a Wee taste of Angus and it's Larder. Owner Kim was firstly an accidental Gin maker and is now also an accidental Cider maker! When sourcing local fruits for use in her infused gins she often came across the response of 'we don't have rhubarb/raspberries/strawberries but we do have lots of apples'. Hence the birth of Cider Bothy. 100% local and natural with both still and sparkling variants. 
Great Glen Charcuterie based in the Highlands use sustainably sourced local wild venison from the surrounding area to produce their range of award winning Charcuterie. I've been a long time fan of their products and have met owner Anja an her family at a number of markets and events over the years. For this recipe I used their Venison and Pork Chorizo which works particularly well in cooking as it has a higher fat content that their pure venison chorizos. 

Many of us love to eat Mussels when dining out but are more wary of cooking them at home thinking they are fiddly to clean and dangerous to eat. There is really nothing to be scared of as long as you follow the 4 simple steps below you really can't go wrong. With their plump and sweet tasting flesh they are one of the best and most affordable Scottish shellfish out there. The old myth about only eating mussels ‘when there is an ‘R’ in the month’ is incorrect and they are perfect to enjoy any day of the year.
  1. Store mussels in a bowl, covered with a damp cloth, in the bottom of the fridge. Apart from when cleaning, don't store or submerge the mussels in water or you'll drown them. 
  2. Sort through the mussels to check that they are all closed. Give any that aren’t a gentle tap on a surface to see if they close shut. Discard those that don’t close, along with any that are cracked or damaged. 
  3. Scrub the mussels well with a stiff brush under cold, running water and use the back of a knife to remove any barnacles. Pull away any tendrils or ‘beards’ from the sides of the shells. Rinse well again. 
  4. Cook the mussels according to your recipe and discard any shells that have not opened up.

Scottish Mussels with Cider and Venison Chorizo
(Serves 4 as a Starter or 2 as a Main Course)

For the full Eat Scottish experience I used Cider Bothy Sparkling Cider and Great Glen Charcuterie Venison & Pork Chorizo.

25g Salted Butter 
4 Shallots, finely sliced
2 large Garlic Cloves, crushed 
60g Chorizo, peeled and sliced 
500ml Cider 
1.5 kg Scottish Mussels 
1 handful Flatleaf Parsley, chopped 
Salt & Pepper 
Double Cream/Crème Fraiche - optional

  1. Wash the mussels under cold running water and pull out any beards. If any are open, give them a wee tap to see if they will close shut. Discard those that don’t close, along with any that are cracked or damaged.
  2. Melt the butter in a large heavy based pan. (Make sure it's one that you have a well-fitting lid for) 
  3. Gently fry the finely sliced shallots until soft. 
  4. Add the crushed garlic and sliced Chorizo and cook for a couple of minutes more.
  5. Turn up the heat and pour in the Cider. When it comes to the boil add the mussels. 
  6. Cover with the lid, turn down the heat and simmer for four or five minutes, occasionally shaking the pan, until all of the mussels are opened. 
  7. Add the cream (if desired) and parsley and season with freshly ground salt and pepper. 
  8. Serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up all the juices.

♥ Pin me for later... Scottish Mussels combine with Cider from Angus and Wild Venison Chorizo from the Highlands to create a mouthwatering dish of Moules in celebration of Seafood Week. Quick and easy to cook and surprisingly cheap there's no need to be scared of preparing, cooking and eating Mussels at home.

Disclosure: This is a commissioned post for Scottish Shellfish. As always, all views expressed are my own.
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me as a passionate Scottish Food Blogger to continue to share my Edible Food and Travel Adventures with you. I’m super choosy who I work with and promise to bring you only the cream of the crop.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Elie Select - Luxury Holiday Homes in Fife's East Neuk

Post in collaboration with Elie Select

A selection of personally chosen unique luxury holiday homes in the delightful village of Elie in Scotland's East Neuk of Fife. Sleeping from 6 to 22 they are ideal for family holidays, get-together's or celebrations. 

With an already busy line up of a trip to Dublin for three days with girlfriends followed by two days in London at School of Fish (including a visit to Saturday Kitchen!) I resigned myself to having to reply in the negative when I received an email from Elie Select inviting me to a house party in not just one, but three of their newly launched holiday homes. However all good intentions of catching up and staying at home after five days away went out the door when I took a look at the properties and their location. I have a real soft spot for the East Neuk of Fife so that was a big plus point and then there was the holiday homes themselves. They are simply stunning. Here's the blurb.

Elie Select offers a choice of lovely holiday houses in Elie, each personally chosen for its unique style. From a 16th century turreted house with four gardens to a 17th century beach house filled with fabulous art and a contemporary eco house right on the beach, we can offer somewhere truly special for your family holiday, get-together or celebration. 

I was smitten. And my BFF could come too. Husband and kids would just have to fend for themselves for another couple of days...

Our accommodation was in Davaar a spacious and newly refurbished traditional house with huge rooms and stunning views right on the 17th hole of Elie's Links Golf Course. It's a three storey property with an annexe sleeping up to 16. Our twin room was on the third floor and the views were absolutely stunning - especially from the shower! The house was immaculate and it would seem that all needs are catered for with a welcome platter of foodie goodies from the local area, children's games, firewood, beach towels and rugs, toiletries, wifi and hotel quality linen and towels. Of course all the good parties happen in the kitchen and the one at the front of the property (there's a second open plan kitchen/living area in the annex) is huge, bright, sits 16 at the dining table and has the most amazing window seat from which to relax and admire the idyllic views. 

It seemed that no sooner had we looked around and settled in at Davaar than it was time to move onto the next house for pre-dinner drinks, canapes and a gin tasting. For this we headed to Midrock. Wow. Just, wow. This contemporary eco beach house is like something straight off Grand Designs. I was absolutely smitten with each and every thing about it. The views, the decor, the quirkiness, the minimalism, the views, the cosy sitting areas, the lighting, the sedum roof, the views, the wood burners, the nautical touches, the terrace and oh did I mention the views?! We were lucky enough to be there on a gorgeous evening and as the sun went down we had a tremendous vantage over the Firth of Forth. However I can imagine it would be an equally enticing location to cosy up in on a wild and stormy night looking out at the power of the sea and the flashing lighthouse. 

The property sleeps 12 in 4 double/twin rooms and a quirky dormitory style wooden clad annexe for 4. This would be the perfect den for teenagers as it also has it's own fantastic downstairs seating area. There is just so much clever space and light in this house and such careful attention has clearly been made with furnishings and decor to give a touch of the beach without becoming twee. The large windows make you feel like you are actually on the sea shore and have been positioned to take full advantage of the stunning views and natural light. Despite it's show home looks this is a holiday home in which you would most certainly be able to feel at home in and kick back and relax. It has all the style but none of the pretentiousness. 

We were all so taken by the property that we had to be coerced to sit down around the dining table in order to partake in a Gin tasting. On arrival we'd been greeted with Darnley's G&T's accompanied by canapes however poor Scott the visitor centre manager at Kingsbarn Distillery barely got a look in as we were all so busy oooh-ing and aaah-ing over Midrock. But Gin beckoned and we tasted three variants - Original, Spiced and Navy Strength whilst learning a little bit about the history of Gin and the new distillery and visitor centre which we were visiting the next day. My BFF who doesn't like gin was even converted! Turns out that it's the tonic she's not keen on and a Gin & Ginger Ale went down a treat. Out taxi again awaited for our final port of call of the evening where a locally inspired dinner would be served. 

It was dark by the time we got to to West House so we had to wait until the next morning on our walk to breakfast to admire it in all it's seafront beauty. The interior of this 17th century house was different again. Much more colourful, arty and 'chintzy' (is that even a word?!). In the spacious kitchen and dining room we feasted on a wealth of local produce expertly prepared by local private chef Patrick Gilmour. One of the things I love about a self catering holiday home is that it offers me the the freedom to dine out and sample local restaurants combined with the facilities to cook for myself with goodies bought from local farm shops and producers. It really is the best of both worlds and in Elie and surrounds you are spoilt for choice in this regard. Patrick showcased produce from Ardross Farm shop in a menu comprising of Sharing Platters of locally available cured hams, smoked fish and anti pasti. This was followed up with a melt in the mouth main course of Short Rib of Ardross Beef with a bordelaise sauce, roasted new potatoes, celeriac puree, greens and crispy shallots. 

Following dinner which was rounded off with the most amazing Scottish and French cheeseboard (including a new favourite - Paddy's Milestone) and homemade chilli fudge, we made the short walk back to our beds at Davaar. Cup of tea and a chat in the kitchen was the perfect end to the evening before retiring to our superbly comfortable beds. Next morning the option of a run along Elie beach had been suggested. Alas I'd forgotten to pack my trainers ;-) However my BFF headed out for a jog to blow the cobwebs away and take in the morning beach views. We were invited to The Ship Inn for breakfast and took a leisurely stroll there to enjoy their locally sourced offerings. I had a sneaky peek at the evening menu which looked right up my street as did their beachfront beer garden.

Suitcases packed and farewells said we headed off to visit some of the producers from the night before with tours of Ardross Farm and Kingsbarn Distillery. We also had a wander around some of the delightful shops in Eilie, lunched at East Pier Smokehouse in St Monans and popped in past Crail Pottery. We'd barely had time to scratch the surface of all that Elie and the surrounding area has to offer. To me the East Neuk seems to have it's own micro climate with sunshine, golden sands and an abundance of good food, drink, leisure and shopping opportunities. Close to St Andrew's for golf and so much more, Michelin starred dining at The Peat Inn, one of Scotland's loveliest coastlines with ample opportunity for walking and cycling. There are so many reasons for me to return to Elie. All I need now are 11 friends who fancy joining me for a weekend in Midrock House. Alternatively does anyone have a significant birthday or hen weekend they'd like to include me in?!

Apologies to Hege Morris for photobombing her scenic shot but thanks for letting me share it - I think it's rather atmospheric! Visit her gorgeous homes & interiors blog to read her perspective on our Visit to Midrock House.

♥ Pin me for later... A selection of personally chosen unique luxury holiday homes in the delightful village of Elie in Scotland's East Neuk of Fife. Sleeping from 6 to 22 they are ideal for family holidays, get-togethers or celebrations.

Disclosure: I ate, drank and explored the East Neuk as a guest of Elie Select
As always, all views expressed are my own.
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me as a passionate Scottish Food Blogger to continue to share my Edible Food and Travel Adventures with you. I’m super choosy who I work with and promise to bring you only the cream of the crop.