Thursday, 24 April 2014

Grand Opening of the new AGA Shop, Back Wynd, Aberdeen

What's your thoughts on AGA's? I'm guessing it's a subject that all foodies have preconceptions and opinions on. I know I certainly had. In a nutshell I thought that they were slightly scary, tricky to regulate the temperature of and difficult to cook with, but came in some gorgeous colours which looked stunning on the pages of glossy homes magazines. I also knew that Mary Berry was a big fan. That surely says something for them. No soggy bottoms in an AGA due to the radiant heat.

There's been an AGA shop in Aberdeen's Rosemount for the last 17 years. I knew it was there but had never ventured in. Surely you would have to already have one, or be seriously considering purchasing one, before you would cross the threshold. I've also spotted them at shows and events where the open frontage of the stalls have made them much more accessible to wander over and have a drool and dream about how amazing one could look in the right setting.
As a self confessed AGA virgin, I was excited but slightly apprehensive when I was contacted by shop manager Nathalie who invited me to visit the new Aberdeen showroom. The granite city team have relocated to new premises at 12b Back Wynd. Slap bang in the city centre just a couple of doors down from Nick Nairn Cookschool. The two floor 90 square meter shop provides a fantastic setting to showcase the full range of products. A far cry from the abandoned Hope shop on the Haudagain roundabout where AGA's were originally sold from in Aberdeen.
First surprise was that they stock so much more than just AGA and Rayburn cookers.There's a range of cool refrigeration, cosy stoves and a fantastic colourful collection of cookware, textiles, kettles, bakewear, KitchenAids and accessories. I immediately fell in love with the AGA Iconic range featuring a repeat print of six funky enamel shades. Even if you can't have the real thing right now you can aspire by way of a mug, oven gloves or apron covered in cute little mini AGA's.
The AGA itself is a true British design icon, instantly recognisable and still being made to this day in Shropshire, England. Each AGA is handmade for you to your chosen specifications. They have fantastic green credentials with 70% made from recycled materials such as car gearboxes, lamp posts, drain covers and old cast iron cookers. How lovely to think of an old much loved and well used AGA being reincarnated as part of a new one.
When you enter a kitchen with an AGA in you are immediately physically drawn towards its warmth and comfort. No moreso than within the first floor of the new Aberdeen showroom which has been kitted out with a beautiful fully operational demonstration kitchen from local Aberdeenshire company Lethenty Cabinetmakers
A few of my preconceived myths were immediately busted. They are always ready to use at exactly the right temperature, there's nothing they can't cook and lots of interesting things that they can do that a conventional cooker would struggle with. My mind was somewhat blown by the fact that you can get an AGA with a 13 amp plug. It was even more frazzled when I discovered that there's one that you can control remotely with your iPhone.
It's definitely not a case of one size fits all when it comes to AGA's. There's a whole host of specifications to choose from when finding the one perfectly suited to your kitchen and lifestyle. Whilst they all have the traditional boiling and simmering plates and simmering and roasting ovens, the bespoke options afterwards are plentiful. 2,3,4 or 5 ovens. Gas, oil or electric fuel. AGA Total Control with state of the art control panel and independently controlled hotplates and ovens. AIMS - AGA Intelligent Management System. Stand alone or integrated modules to provide the additional versatility of gas or ceramic hob cooking.
I was very intrigued to learn some pretty amazing things that they can do. Make criss-cross toast on the boiling hotplate with the wire toaster rack, cook pizzas straight on the oven floor and fat free fried eggs on the simmering plate with the aid of Bake-o-Glide. Flavours of dishes won't merge in an AGA oven, you can open the door and your cakes won't drop, you can even use it to air and iron your washing. 
The store had its official grand opening event today (24th April) where Dawn Roads, AGA Food Editor, cookbook author and AGA expert was on hand with a fantastic array of AGA cooked treats. Savoury Palmiers, Marmite & Cheese Whirls, Smoked Salmon Pesto Blinis, Cossack Potato Bites, Boursin Croistini, Coffee Marscapone Mini Meringues and Tipple Chocolate Mini Cupcakes. All washed down with celebratory fizz. 
The opening event showcase continues over the next three days (Friday 25th - Sunday 27th April). Dawn will be demonstrating alongside a range of local producers and retailers including Around the World in 80 Teas, Haigs Food Hall, Sunnyside Home Farm, OCaykx and Oryza Sushi. They will be serving up duck eggs, tea tastings, sushi making and sake tasting, cupcakes, sausages and barbeque pulled pork.
Dawn will be whizzing through two demos on both Friday and Saturday. The Introduction to AGA menu includes sweetcorn pancakes with grilled bacon, oatmeal porridge, roasted finnan haddock, steamed rice, asparagus and goats cheese tart, AGA dried tomatoes and Aberdeen angus beef, mushroom and lettuce cups. For those with a sweet tooth there will be marmalade and poppy seed traybake, poached apricots and lavender shortbread. The Time for Tea with AGA demo includes beer bread, finnan haddock frittata, toasted brie and grape sandwiches, rhubarb and almond cake, rose petal roulade and coffee mascarpone meringues. 
Do pay a visit to the new AGA shop in Aberdeen's Back Wynd. I can guarantee that you'll get a warm welcome. They might even let you cosy up to one. The big question remaining has to be if you were to get an AGA, what colour would you choose? I'm torn between Heather and Duck Egg Blue. 13 colours to choose from may be considered unlucky but any AGA owner will be sure to tell you that they are the lucky one.

Disclosure : I was commissioned by AGA to write this post. All views expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Canapés and Cocktails at Pinnies and Petticoats

A Cocktails & Canapé remit for the April Pinnies and Petticoats baking club meet couldn't have been more up my street. It was the exact theme that I had for my 40th Birthday Party. No penguins making an appearance on this occasion but I opted to make another novelty animal featuring olives. I give you Ladybird Cracker Canapés.
Ladybird Canape. party food, cute food, nibbles

Ritz Crackers
Philadelphia Cream Cheese
Black Food Colouring
Cherry Tomatoes
Black Olives

These are a bit of a last minute assembly job as you don't want your crackers to go soggy. 
Mix together some cheese and food colouring for the spots. Be warned - you will need a LOT of black to colour the white cheese.
Spread your cracker with cheese and top with cherry tomato quarters for the wings, an olive head and chive feelers. Do ladybirds even actually have feelers?!
Pipe on the spots and your ladybird is ready to fly away home.
250g Self Raising Flour
50g Marg
100g Mature Cheddar Cheese Grated
mustard powder
1 Egg
Bunch of Wild Garlic

Sieve together the flour, salt, cayenne and mustard powder. Add these to your own taste - anything from a small pinch to a teaspoon.
Rub in the marg until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir through the grated cheese.
Finely chop wild garlic and add to the dry ingredients. Again the quantity used  is very much to your own taste
Crack the egg into a jug and lightly whisk. Make up to 150ml with milk.
Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the egg and milk mixture and combine with a knife.
Tip out onto a floured surface and kneed very lightly before rolling to a 1.5-2cm thickness.
Cut out your scones, glaze with milk and bake at 200 degrees.
These canapé sized ones only took 8 minutes so increase cooking time accordingly for larger scones.
Wild Garlic and Cheese Scones
We had a big turnout of bakers for this event including a new gentleman in our midst. He immediately put us all to shame with his amazing sponge, creme pat and strawberry mousse canapé. Our new abode at Amicus Apple had a fantastic Cocktail menu befitting of the occasion. Needless to say I left the car at home for this one.
Pina Colada Cake - I reckon Del Boy would LOVE this!
Strawberries & Cream Scones
Genoise Sponge with Creme Pat and Strawberry Mousse
Enriched Sweet Crust Tartlets with Mocha Mousse, Mango Mousse and Strawberry Mousse

Pesto Pastry Twists
Smoked Salmon Mini Muffins
Parma Ham and Sage on Polenta Toasts
Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Crescents

Mint Aero Treats
Almond Cookies
Mudslide, Bloody Mary, Pina Colada and Lady Godiva Cupcakes

Ladybird Canapes
Smoked Salmon Mousse Blinis
Sage and Parmesan Palmiers
Red Onion, pepper and Crynoch Blue Cheese Tarts

Olive and Artichoke Poppers
Parmesan Baskets filled with prosciutto, soft blue cheese and balsamic pears
Salted caramel and Apricot Florentines

Parmesan Profiteroles with Bacon and Cream Cheese
Sundried Tomato Buns with Chilli Pesto & Goats Cheese
Hot Chilli Cheese Straws
White Chocolate & Cranberry Truffles rolled in Coconut
Chocolate Meringues with Fresh Cream
Mini Yorkshire Puddings with Goats Cheese and Caramelised Red Onion

The next meet is scheduled for Wednesday 14th May where the theme will be CHEESE. This is the second time we've had this theme. Check out our first fromage feast for some cheesy inspiration and sign up on our Facebook event page if you'd like to come along.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Foodie Parcels in the Post - April 2014

A long overdue roundup of the foodie parcels I've been receiving in the post over the last month, two months. Where is this year going? Was it really February when I did my previous roundup?! It's always nice to receive a parcel in the post but even nicer if its edible (or drinkable). Here's what Mr Postman has been bringing me of late...

These goodies were sent to me for Fairtrade Fortnight which ran from 24th February until 9th March. I do try to buy Fairtrade products when I can - particularly in relation to bananas, sugar and chocolate - but its always good to be reminded of where else you can make a real difference with your purchasing decisions. There are some fantastic stories behind these products. Take a look at Nadali Vanilla Pods, Liberation Nuts and Equal Exchange Coffee and be inspired. The campaign this year focused specifically on Sticking with Foncho to make Bananas Fair. Whilst around one third of bananas sold in the UK (by value) are Fairtrade, only three supermarkets currently stock 100% Fairtrade bananas, namely Sainsbury's, Co-Op and Waitrose.

I'm not normally one for RT and follow competitions on Twitter but I make an exception where Gin (or cheese) is involved. Blackwoods had actually been on my Gindar for a wee while being as its one of the many small batch Scottish Gins. It hails from the very far north on the Shetland Isles and is made to a slightly different recipe each year depending on the quality and quantity of local botanicals available at harvesting time. I was out when the postie delivered this parcel. I suspect that never has anything so wonderful ever been left under a wheelbarrow. The citrusy flavour works well with a premium tonic and lots of ice. Very smooth. I really must try the suggested Shetland Storm cocktail. 

Does lightening ever strike twice? It would appear so and I got lucky in another twitter Gin comp. This time receiving samples of Opihr Spiced Gin. This was one a new one that I'd spotted, on social media primarily due to its funky elephant branding. The miniatures came in a cute hessian sack complete with ingredients and a recipe for Opihr Chai Brew. If its too early to legitimately drink gin - pour it in your tea. I've not tried the cocktail yet but have sampled the elephant with tonic. Perhaps a wee bit heavy handed on the cardamom and light on the juniper for me. But if you like your G&T spicy this may well be the one for you.

My truffle oil from Supenature didn't arrived in the post but rather in person at a food writers and bloggers event that I attended at Craigie's Farm. Lynn of Supernature Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil was there to tell us all about its health benefits, provenance and versatility. Supernature is light in colour and taste and works very well with infusions. They have an impressive range of 13 flavours. I requested the White Truffle for my take home sample. Its flavour is intense and instantly transported me back to our Tuscan holiday. I'm been sparingly using my 100ml bottle to drizzle on risottos and pasta and for crusty bread dipping.

I attended an event at the Marcliffe Hotel towards the end of February promoting the Taste Our Best quality assurance scheme. Always great to catch up with local producers and suppliers who are passionate about their products. One such person was Anne Thompson of Bouvrage (the old Scottish word for drink) and Ella Drinks. Based near Brechin in Angus their range of juices are made solely with local berries and fruit. Their Angus Apples is most probably the best Apple Juice I have ever tasted. Such a fresh, crisp, tart taste comprising 100% pressed juice. The apples are picked from the walled gardens of country houses in Angus. There they find many long forgotten orchards containing ancient varieties of apples that were previously going to waste. A win win situation.

More rapeseed oil. It's pretty much my favourite thing to both cook with, marinade and drizzle these days. Olive Oil has taken somewhat of a backseat in my cooking. The high smoke point makes it perfect to use for roasting and stir frying. These are from Mackintosh of Glendaveny based right here in Aberdeenshire near Peterhead. They are extra virgin and cold pressed. Garlic and Chilli are my usual purchases in terms of flavoured oils and I really wasn't too sure about lemon but it worked really well drizzled on salads and pasta. Great to catch up with local loon MD Gregor Mackintosh at the Taste Our Best Event. 

Disclosure : Thanks to Fairtrade Foundation, Blackwoods, Opihr, Supernature, Bouvrage and Mackintosh of Glendaveny for providing the above products. I was not obliged to review positively in return. All views expressed are my own. If you're a brand who'd like to have your product featured here, please do get in touch

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Countdown To Easter - Cakes, Makes, Food & Bakes.

My Foodie Christmas Advent Calender proved so popular I though I'd do a #CountdownToEaster in a similar vein with an Easter post every night at 8pm on my Foodie Quine Facebook Page. Thankfully I'm only doing 7 days as opposed to the 24 that I did in December. It was definately one of these things that seemed like a good idea at the time... If you missed them catch up here Advent Calendar 2013 Days 1-12 and Advent Calendar 2013 Days 13 - 24

Back to Easter. If you've not been following on Facebook or missed some along the way here's a round up of what I've made so far. I'll be adding daily until the Easter Bunny arrives on Sunday. I'd love to hear about any successes (or failures!) if you give any of them a try.

Fried egg, Black Olives, Cheese String, Streaky Bacon

100g Marg
3 Tbsp Golden Syrup
200g Digestive Biscuits
120g Maltesers (1 box)
200g Mini Eggs
300g Milk Chocolate

Melt the marg and syrup in a saucepan and remove from the heat. 
Put the digestives, maltesers and 100g of the mini eggs in a sealed bag and bash with a rolling pin. 
Mix the bashed ingredients into the melted ones. 
Spoon into a greased tray bake tin and flatten. 
Melt the chocolate and pour over the top of the biscuit mix. 
Bash the remaining 100g of Mini Eggs and sprinkle on top of the chocolate. 
Refrigerate until set then cut into chunks. 

300g White Chocolate
200g Mini Eggs
170g Mini Marshmallows
Hundreds & Thousands

Melt chocolate, allow to cool slightly before you mix through marshmallows and bashed mini eggs. 
Spread in a greased/lined swiss roll tin. 
Sprinkle with hundreds & thousands. 
Refrigerate until set. 
Cut into slices as large as your mouth allows 

Tunnock's Teacakes
Mini Marshmallows
Giant Chocolate Buttons
Milk Chocolate
Royal Icing Sugar or Ready made White Icing or White Chocolate

Melt your chocolate and brush it on to completely cover the teacake. 
Stick on the mini marshmallows in a single layer all the way round the bottom of the teacake.
Continue in layers until the whole teacake is covered. 
Pop your sheep body in the fridge to set.
Make up icing, melt white chocolate or use ready made icing to draw sheepy faces onto the giant chocolate buttons. I used black nonpareils to give them pupils. Attach the faces to the marshmallowed bodies with either chocolate or icing. Herd them back in the fridge to set.

Jus-Rol Bake-it-Fresh Cinnamon Swirls Dough (in the chilled section next to ready made pastry)
Sliced Almonds

Cut the dough into 6 slices. 
Use 4 for bunny faces and form the remaining 2 into 4 sets of ears. 
Assemble with raisins for eyes and almonds for buck teeth. 
Bake as per instructions on the pack.

These were made by Foodie Boy & Girl. You'll need blue and yellow plastic eggs, a black Sharpie, googly eyes and a hot glue gun.

Cut the top third off hard boiled eggs and scoop out the yolk.
Mash up with mayonnaise and spoon or pipe back into the cavity.
Use slices of black olives for eyes.
A slice of carrot with a triangle cut out forms the feet and the triangle is the beak.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Scottish Gin Tasting with Gin Infused Canapés

There really is no denying my love of Gin. A quick flick through my Facebook, Twitter and Blog posts will see the juniper infused tipple cropping up with alarming regularity. My own drinks cabinet of gins has grown from the standard Gordon's, Beefeater and Bombay Saphire to encompass more boutique offerings such as Martin Millers which I discovered at a Gin & Teatime Tasting Event. My current selection includes Hendricks, 3 flavours of Edinburgh Gin (Elderflower, Spiced Orange and Raspberry), Caorunn, Blackwoods, Martin Millers, Gordons Crisp Cucumber and Opihr plus my own homemade Rhubarb, Bramble and Raspberry Gin infusions.

It might surprise you to discover that over 70% of UK Gin is produced in Scotland. Seems like its not just whisky that we're good at. With this in mind I'm delighted to announce a Foodie Quine presents... GIN event. I know there are a number of my followers on the blog and social media who this will appeal to and I hope to meet some of you on the night. 
To be held at Dunnottar Wines and Sprits in Stonehaven there will be education and lubrication in the form of 5 Scottish Gins. There will also be sustination from Gin infused and inspired canapes. Cool Gourmet in Stonehaven recently held a Gin themed dinner which unfortunately I couldn't attend so I'm delighted that Isla will be providing canapes for this event.

Book your place via my Eventbrite page below. Any questions drop me an email

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Savoy Fare Cajan Food Truck

October last year saw me heading along to Hammerton Store in Aberdeen for a Book Signing, Cajun Cook In, Meet & Greet and Cajun Music with Sarah Savoy to mark the launch of her book, The Savoy Kitchen. The sun shone and bemused Aberdeen shoppers almost cracked a smile when greeted with an impromptu busking session in the street.

It was a delight to meet Sarah and see her cooking up a Chicken & Sausage Gumbo in store on her very first visit to Scotland. She's been cooking since the age of 3 and has an absolute passion for sharing her love of authentic Cajan food and music. 
Eating authentic Gumbo and drinking beer in the sunshine sure beats a soggy Cajun chicken sandwich. A fab wee film clip made during Sarah's visit to Scotland gives a real flavour of what the book is about Meet the holy trinity of Cajun seasoning - salt, pepper and cayenne. Don't mess with Sarah's Gumbo.
Inspired and armed with first hand knowledge I was ready to make my first ever roux and subsequent gumbo. Sarah had warned me it would take a lot of time and a lot of patience and it would stink. The basic premis is that you cook up flour and vegetable oil for a very long time, stirring constantly until it turns a very dark brown in colour. That's your roux. Its certainly a labour of love. The flavour of my Gumbo was amazing but I reckon I overcooked my chicken as it pretty much turned to mush.
After 7 years of steadily building a very strong reputation for her cooking through restaurant events, catering, cooking demonstrations, international TV appearances, radio interviews, and The Savoy Kitchen cookbook, Sarah is now aiming to take her passion fro Cajun Food to the next level. Its a big ask but she's looking for crowdfunding support of €60,000 to establish the Savoy Fare Cajun Food Truck.
Its an ambitions project but Sarah is more than persistent and passionate enough to make it happen. She's lined up a fantastic range of rewards for potential investors. Everything from hot sauce and beer coozies up to Cajun cooking lessons or a full scale Cajun party with food and music for 150 people. Take a look at her quirky video below and have a read of the project proposal. I really hope someone see's the potential. Any dragons or business angels out there?