Thursday, 11 September 2014

2014 - A Summer of Food and Fun

We had a fantastically busy summer and managed to squeeze in a lot of Food and Fun along the way. Our first two weeks were spent holidaying in Italy but once back home there were still lot of adventures to be had...

Muddy Boots
We had a fantastic day in Fife at Muddy Boots. Farm shop, cafe, play area, pig racing, soft play, duck racing, picnic areas, grass sledging, zorbing, jumping pillows, quad train, welly boot dogs and lots more! Totally recommend it for a fun filled visit.

Hot Air Balloon
After close to two years of trying and numerous cancellations we finally got up into the skies in a big red balloon. An amazing experience flying over FyvieCastle and the beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside. Well worth the wait in the end. A fantastic adventure from start to finish - one more scored off the bucket list.

Kyle's Birthday
My baby boy turned 12. How is that even possible?! With no kitchen he cooked himself an alfresco Birthday breakfast of Pancakes, Bacon and Maple Syrup. His sophisticated tastes in birthday cake came in the form of macarons from Almondine. Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Balsamic, Raspberry, Lemon, Passion Fruit, Strawberries & Cream.

Commonwealth Games
We spent a fantastic three days in Glasgow taking in the sights and sounds of the Commonwealth Games. Gymnastics at the Hydro where we witnessed a Scottish Gold Medal. The final night of the Athletics at Hampden complete with Usain Bolt and the somewhat soggy end of the Women's and the start of the Men's Cycling Road Races followed by a late lunch on the way home at Gloagburn Farm Shop

Black Isle Show
A visit 'home' for The Black Isle Show. It's the local agricultural show where I was brought up and has always been a much looked forward to annual event. Plenty to see and do and lots of tasty goodies at the food fair. Lovely to catch up with my fishbox friends from Coast & Glen

Belladrum Festival
Lots of fun at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival. We've been going from this start but this year splashed out on a Tipi and did it in style and comfort. Glamping is definitely the way forward. Not sure I'll be able to go back to slumming it now. There was a fantastic choice of food (and drink!) on offer throughout the weekend Some of it cooked up by the happy campers at our Tipi.

Glenbervie Flower Show
I'm often a Pipe Band Widow during the summer as Foodie Loon plays the pipes with Newtonhill Pipe Band. Boy has now joined on the Snare Drum and girl is mastering the Chanter. One of my first ever blog posts was about The Great Glenbervie Bake Off. It's always a fun event to tag along to and see all the exhibits of baking, preserves, fruit and vegetables.

Fly Fishing on the River Dee
I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever attempt at Fly Fishing on the River Dee. Alas no beginners luck but it was an amazing experience. Wonderful setting, mesmerising water, great hospitality in the bothy and only a touch of fisherman's arm the next day. The consolation prize of a whole smoked salmon was most welcome.

Lonach Highland Gathering & Games
Another event which I've blogged about in the past. The Lonach is a highland games like no other. The historic Parade of the Lonach Highlanders is a sight to behold. They had been marching since 8am with six official stops for a dram and goodness knows how many unofficial ones. The corporate hospitality was fantastic and both the big and little kids were thoroughly impressed by the amazing skill of the balloon modeler. A grand day out which provided a fitting end to the summer holidays.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Tenderstem Broccoli Arround the World Recipe Challenge

Imagine the stupidity of taking on the blogging challenge of cooking five Tenderstem Broccoli recipes when you don't have a kitchen? What was I thinking! Thankfully the Tenderstem Around the World Challenge came with the opt out of staggering the dishes across a few weeks. I'm hoping nine weeks counts as a few... 
Tenderstem Broccoli Arround the World Recipe Challenge
My challenge kit arrived back in June just before we headed off to Italy on holiday. Returning to a distinct lack of kitchen facilities I decided to tackle the first recipe. Asian Sticky Salmon with Tenderstem Two Ways. Our broccoli was only one way, as I only had one camping stove ring to work with! The dish went down really well with all except girl who refused to eat the broccoli stems despite my assurances that the trunks tasted just as nice as the leaves.
Still without kitchen I next attempted One-pan Bake with Italian Style Lemony Pork Meatballs, Tenderstem and Roast Squash. I cooked this on the convection setting of our combination microwave which worked reasonably well but some of the chunks of butternut squash were still a bit on the hard side. This was however the first time I'd ever cooked squash without peeling it, will definately do that again. Much less hassle to prep. The dish itself was really quick and easy to make - a perfect one pan supper. This time I'd bought Tenderstem Tips which seems to kinda defeat the purpose but girl was happy to eat them.
Mexican Beef & Tenderstem Fajitas were the first dish to be cooked on my new induction hob. Still no finished kitchen but a working hob and ovens at last. I absolutely loved the Tenderstem in a fajita and would definitely include it again. It added a completely different texture to the dish and really bulked it out.

The day before the kitchen floor was due to be laid we had Spanish Baked Paella with Prawns, Tenderstem and Peppers. This was a big hit with the whole family. Girl loved the prawns but still no luck in persuading her to eat the stems no matter how tasty I told her they were.

Last dish to be tried was Moroccan Chicken & Tenderstem Tagine. By this point we almost had a finished kitchen and were able to eat round the dining table. I swapped out the chicken for cubed lamb leg steaks. The flavours in this were amazing and the cous cous soaked up the spicy juices a treat.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole Tenderstem Experience even in challenging circumstances at times. I'm sure that the Paella and Tagine in particular will become regularly made family favourites. As for introducing my slightly picky eater to Tenderstem? Alas she still can't be convinced to try the trunks. But she did love the funky activity tablemats and colouring pens.

80 brand new inspirational recipes from around the world 

Disclaimer: Tenderstem provided me with shopping vouchers to buy the ingredients required for this post. All views expressed are my own.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

#HiddenGems Ballathie House & Tasting Menu

The timing could not have been better. An invitation to head off on a #HiddenGems Press Trip in beautiful Perthshire and get away from the stress, dust and chaos of #ProjectNewKitchen for a couple of days. I wasted no time in replying in the affirmative. 2014 Food & Drink had lined up a excellent showcase for us of food products not traditionally associated with Scotland, namely sushi, wine and chilli.
Our accommodation was the the CIS Award Winning Independent Hotel of the Year Ballathie Country House Hotel and Estate. Located on the banks of the River Tay it provides an idyllic and picturesque country retreat. Charm oozes from the magnificent building and spectacular grounds. My bedroom with adjoining turret bathroom had a touch of Downtown Abbey about it. Despite its looks there was absolutely no stuffiness about Ballathie and there was a warm welcome and unobtrusive service from all the staff.
And so to the #HiddenGems. We visited Lov Sushi and Chillilicious to learn about, taste, make (sushi) and grow (chillis) their wonderful products. Separate blog posts on both to follow. Our Scottish wine came to visit us with Linzey Cairns from Cairn O' Mohr Fruit Winery and Ciderhouse. I'd previously briefly met Linzey on a visit to Craigies Farm so I already knew a wee bit of the story behind the business.
Our taste buds were tantalised with Gooseberry (medium), Strawberry (medium sweet) and Bramble (dry & spicy) wines all of which were eminently quaffable. The fruit used in the wines comes from as locally as possible and the quality and provenance of ingredients is very important. Good quality berries make good quality wine. The fruit used in every single bottle can be traced back to source if required. Foraging has a big role to play in both the early and late season with foraged elderflowers, oak leaves and elderberries. It was very interesting to hear the role that community goodwill plays in their business success an example of which being foraged goods repaid in kind (i.e. wine!) This kind of support and community spirit is something that tends to feature a lot in the Scottish food and drink community.
Following on from our wine tasting we headed downstairs for pre-dinner cocktails. Gin isn't so much of a hidden gem in Scotland these days but you may still be surprised to discover that 70% of all UK Gin is produced in here. Our cocktail was a delicious mix of Strathearn Distillery Heather Rose Gin and Ginger Ale. Gin and Ginger Ale was a new one on me but it worked really well.
Our host for the evening was General Manager of Ballathie Jody Marshall. With his relaxed and endearing style he guided us through the evening and shared his passion for Ballathie, working in the hospitality industry, Scottish produce and wines from around the world.
A further #HiddenGem had appeared at our place setting. A Scottish Fortune Cookie from Cracking Cookies. Mine was Mint Chocolate but they do a huge range of flavour from Pecan Pie to Chocolate and Chilli. My fortune was a conversation starter. What piece of advice would you give your younger self? An excellent question that certainly broke the ice around the table.
Our five course dinner was created, prepared and introduced by 2014 Food and Drink ambassador chef Tom Lewis of Mhor. A vivacious character with a real passion for food Tom kept us entertained and wonderfully fed throughout the evening ably assisted by his Head Chef Marysia. My photos undoubtedly don't do this wonderful meal justice but we were treated in both looks and taste to a fantastic showcase of the very best of Scottish produce.
Hunthill Estate Grouse, Garden Runner Beans, Arran Mustard and Anchovy Dressing
Pinot Noir Eradus 2013

Balquidder Chantarelles, Crisp Monachyle Hens Egg, Rapeseed Oil, Hazlenut
Lofthouse Riesling 2010

Smoked Inverawe Eel, Tamworth Pork, Apple, Nettle Puree and Watercress
Pinot Blanc Auxerrois
Cave De Cleebourg 2012

Puddledub Buffalo, Spicked Aubergine, Clyde Valley Tomato, Arran Blue Cheese
Chateau Bel-Air Graves de Vayres 2009 Fut De Chene

Warm Invergary Brambles, Heather Hill Honey, Sourdough Crisp, Katy Rodgers Creme Fraiche and Brown Bread Ice Cream.
Chateau Septy 2010

After so much delicious food and drink the sensible thing would have been to retire to bed. But the hotel bar beckoned for a nightcap and it was the early hours before we all finished up. After a fantastic nights sleep the smells of cooked breakfast beckoned. Despite the previous nights indulgences it would have been rude not to have gone for the full Ballathie Scottish Breakfast with lashings of tea and toast. What better to stave off any hint of the morning after the night before and prepare for the day ahead at a Scottish Chilli Farm.

To be continued...

Disclaimer - Press Trip courtesy of Scotland Food & Drink 2014. Any views and opinions expressed are my own. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Project New Kitchen - Work In Progress

I blogged back in June that I'm getting a new kitchen. Work has been in full flow for the last 7 weeks but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Photo heavy round-up of how things are progressing so far. We were on holiday for the first two weeks of demolition and rebuild hence no week 1 photos. Below is what were were faced with after a fortnight in Italy. Back to reality with a bump!

End of Week 2

End of Week 3

End of Week 4

End of Week 5

Jam Jar lights arrive

The kitchen fit begins...

Kitchen Fit Complete!

Glass Splashback being made

New Bar Stools

A huge change from start to finish but still a wee bit to go. Flooring to be fitted, taps to be swapped out and boiling water tap installed as the wrong ones were ordered, jam jar lights to be fitted, splashback to be delivered and be fitted, snagging list to be tackled. Only after that can the cleaning and putting everything back commence. Once that's done I might just get round to some cooking.