Friday, 29 March 2013

About a Boy

I'm in trouble. Boy has been looking at my blog and discovered that some of his foodie exploits haven't as yet appeared so I promised him a post of his very own to redeem myself. First up are his fruity planets created for a Space project at school. Each planet is represented in relative size by a fruit, from tiny peppercorn Mercury to giant watermelon Jupiter. 
5 a day in Planet form...
Sticking with the fruity theme he wanted to buy some Lemon Curd when were were in a farm shop recently due to the fact that I said we could make some together but had never got round to it. Bad Mum. Swiftly rectified and left him pretty much to his own devices to whip up a batch following a recipe from Grandma's Readers Digest The Cookery Year. Tasted so good and all very quickly eaten. Can highly recommend it on a lightly toasted hot cross bun.
Santa clearly knows about his foodie tendencies as he brought him a sausage making kit in his Christmas Stocking. Very fiddly to make but good fun and he was suitably proud of the tasty end result. One of the Cumberland swirls is in the freezer awaiting BBQ weather.
Both boy and girl are big fans of School Dinners and opt for them over packed lunches. Friday 8th March was the first International School Meals day and there was an American themed menu on offer. Nick Nairn tweeted seeking photos of lunches on that day so off boy went with his camera. Wasn't sure what the reaction would be following the Martha Payne Never Seconds blog but Dorothy the cook was more than happy to let him take a photo.
The menu for the day was:
Chicken Noodle Soup

Butchers Beef Burger in a Bun
Southern Fried Chicken Goujons
Mac & Cheese (Macaroni & Cheese)
Sweetcorn and Salad
Served with Extra Thin French Fries

“Big Apple Pie” with Ice-Cream

I have to say that I always love the sound of all the meals on the Aberdeenshire Council Primary School Menus. The sheer variety of cuisine and choice of dishes are a far cry from my own recollections of 70's and 80's school dinners.
On the back of the menu planner is a recipe for one of the dishes from that term. Because he loves it at school, boy wanted to recreate Lentil Dahl at home. I'm guessing the recipe has been scaled down from industrial catering size so we had to alter it a bit to make it work for us.

SALMON & LENTIL DAHL
200g red lentils
3 salmon fillets
100g chopped fresh tomatoes (we used frozen chopped tomatoes)
1tbsp oil
1 onion - chopped
vegetable stock cube/250ml water
large pinch chilli powder
1tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp ground cumin
fresh corriander
Saute the onion in the oil and add the ground spices. Add the lentils, tomatoes and vegetable stock and simmer until the lentils are soft. This should take around 20 minutes and you may need to add additional boiling water. Skin and chop the salmon fillets. Stir through the lentil mixture for about 5 minutes until cooked. Mix through chopped fresh corriander.
School Dinner Salmon and Lentil Dahl
Last on the menu for now is a dish created by boy following our visit to the Lostbus Cafe. He had a Sweet Potato Wrap and wanted to try and recreate it at home. I suggested that we roasted wedges of sweet potato, along with pepper and onions however I was swiftly informed that to recreate the dish we also needed some mashed sweet potato. So one large boiled and mashed potato was spread over the wraps which were then filled with the roasted veg, folded up and toasted in the George Foreman Grill. 
So it looks like I've created a mini foodie. Which is no bad thing especially when he brings me breakfast in bed. He'll make someone a good wife one day.
Kyle Cooks

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Baking a rod for my own back

For the last eight weeks I've been undergoing training to become a Volunteer with Homestart. This is a fantastic organisation which supports families with children under five who for whatever reason are struggling to cope with what life has thrown at them. I personally experienced the emotional and practical difference that a volunteer can make following the birth of my son when I suffered from Post Natal Depression. At the time I promised myself that I would "return the favour" when I was able to do so.
However at the first training day I made a fundamental error. When there were no biscuits to accompany the morning coffee I admitted that I was a keen baker and could perhaps throw together something for the next session. So the following week I duly rocked up with a tin of Fairtrade Dark Chocolate and Ginger Flapjacks.
They went down a storm and I smugly thought my job was done. Alas I'd done too good a job as when I arrived empty handed the following week there was mass disappointment. In order to redeem myself the following evening I brought two bakes. Squidgy Chocolate Brownies and Double Chocolate Cookies. A slight cheat as I didn't actually make them myself. Boy and Girl made them for the Fairtrade Fortnight Bake Off.
There was no going back now. I was obliged to turn up accompanied by my trusty biscuit tin at each session. I turned to classic Mary Berry for my next bake. Anzac Biscuits from the Baking Bible.
The following week a twist on a favourite was destined for the biscuit tin. Ginger Shortbread. I've previously blogged about my Grandma Monearns Shortbread recipe. I hope she would approve of my addition of stem ginger balls.


GRANDMA MONEARN'S GINGER SHORTBREAD

12 oz plain flour 
8 oz butter (room temp) 
4 oz caster sugar 
2 oz cornflour 
4 balls stem ginger

Put everything, bar two of the balls of ginger, in a food processor and blitz until it comes together. Finely chop up the remaining two balls and mix them through by hand. Roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Transfer on to a baking tray and prick with a fork. Cook for 30 minutes at 150 degrees. Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with caster sugar.
For our final session I wanted to make something a bit special so I browsed through the "Great British Bake Off - How To Bake" book and opted for Sticky Maple-Apple Traybake. The cake itself was no problem and I utilised a couple of items from my recent Lakeland order - Brownie Pan and Cake Release. Really impressed with both products. However when it came to the cream cheese frosting I messed up. I chucked everything in the bowl at once. Big mistake. The butter remained in tiny lumps and Googling and Tweeting told me there was no way back. Cue an early morning trip to the supermarket for further supplies. Worth it in the end as it tasted absolutely amazing.

So training over and I'm ready to be allocated to my first family. Exciting and a wee bit scary. Really hope I can make a difference in some small way. If all else fails I guess I could always bake them something. Will leave the last word to my chum Kirstie, a staunch Homestart supporter. 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday - The Four Day Week

I'm on holiday countdown this week as we're off to Tenerife on Friday. Cant wait. In dire need of some heat and sunshine. Rundown on last week before I get demob happy with the four days of this. Boy wanted to recreate the Sweet Potato Wraps we had last Sunday at the Lostbus Works Canteen and made a pretty god job of them. Very tasty and really filling.
Mince, tatties and doughballs was a big hit. Perfect comfort food for this cold weather. I wasn't aware that "doughballs" was Scottish terminology but apparently for everyone else they are dumplings. Who knew. And so to Cumberland Sausage making with a kit from Lakeland and pork mince from Haigs Food Hall. Lets just say it was very fiddly. Perhaps Santa should have read the reviews online before delivering this in boy's stocking. We won't be setting up our own production line anytime soon.
The weekend didn't go exactly as planned as disappointingly boy's Scout camp was cancelled due to the bad weather. To make it up to him we decided to go out for Sunday lunch. Destination of choice was the recently opened Jamie's Italian in Aberdeen. I was there a few weeks back for lunch prior to its official opening and wasn't overly impressed with the food or service. However credit where its due, we had a fantastic lunch this time round with excellent food and service. Lets hope it has turned a corner.

And so to this weeks four day #mealplanningmonday

Monday - Tomato and Roast Pepper Soup
Have some peppers languishing in the bottom of the fridge needing to be used up so will concoct a soup. Tin of Heinz tomato on standby for girl.

Tuesday - Salmon and Lentil Dahl
This is at the request of boy. Its currently on the Aberdeenshire School Dinner Menu and he loves it. Think he might be the only one as its disappeared from the new terms menu that comes into place after the Easter holidays. Recipe is on the back of the menu planner so you can make it at home.

Wednesday - Pork Milanese with Sweet Potato Chips

Thursday - Butternut Squash Risotto
Another dish to use up whats lingering in the veggie cupboard.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday - fly to the sun for a week all inclusive - absolutely no cooking or meal planning required!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Lostbus Works Canteen New Pitsligo

Prior to our our Glamping trip last weekend I asked our High Seas Hobbit Hostess Carole for any recommendations of where to eat in the area and she tweeted me " there's a really cool place called The Last Bus, its in the countryside nr New Pitsligo, very quirky + super cheap"  So I Googled and found the Lostbus Works Canteen and instantly knew it was right up my street and we absolutely had to visit. 
There is no way you would stumble across this place. A true hidden gem in the back of beyond. We struggled even with directions but the sat nav did the trick leading us all the way to a disused quarry. Even on a soggy, wet and cloudy day the setting and structure was impressive.
Inside was no less spectacular and we got such a warm welcome in its cosy interior. The decor could be best described as eclectic. But even that doesn't do it justice. It's a quirky little word of its own. Well worn bus seats, gramophone, train set running round the ceiling, cuckoo clock, road signs, posters, vinyl records, huge assortment of musical instruments, christmas decorations, kitchenalia. A game of eye spy would be near on impossible.
The menu is 100% vegetarian (may possibly even be vegan?) but you certainly don't miss the meat. Between us we opted for chilli wrap, falafel & ratia, sweet potato wrap, apple and berry pie with soya custard plus muffin and yoghurt, coffees and hot chocolate. All were absolutely delicious and very reasonably priced.
The staff could not have been more laid back, attentive or welcoming. Boy and Girl were treated like guests of honour and are desperate to return. The visitors book and TripAdvisor reviews tell exactly the same story.
My absolute favourite feature was the cutlery carousel. A rotating knife, fork and spoon holder made from an old bicycle wheel. I am seriously considering designing my dream kitchen around one. They had a similar set up with an old cable reel for herbs and spices.
After the whisky barrel toilet at High Seas Hobbit the funky circular outdoor loo at the Lostbus didn't phase us at all. The whole area surrounding the cafe was full of strange buildings and abandoned vehicles. There's even a recording studio and two converted double decker buses on site. Next time we're going to ask for a guided tour.
Different, special, quirky, unique, magical, surreal, random. If you're not sure what to expect go with an open mind. I guarantee you will love it. I only wish we lived closer. Get the sat nav out and plug in AB43 7RA.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Glamping in a High Seas Hobbit

I do love an unusual place to stay. Remember my night in a Treehouse for my 40th Birthday? A couple of months ago I spotted a retweet about a High Seas Hobbit House here in Aberdeenshire and had to follow @HighSeasHobbit and find out more. It was love at first sight and I just knew we would have to visit. A plan was hatched with me giving Foodie Loon a "message in a bottle" gift voucher for his Birthday (yes, the circus murder mystery one) and a date was set to visit in March.
It was to be our first experience of the "glamping" phenomenon (glamorous-camping) We've done regular camping in the wild, at organised campsites and festivals but the idea of turning up with no tent to pitch and no need to take everything and the kitchen sink very much appealed. Particularly in March.
Unfortunately the closer we got to the Hobbit the further the weather deteriorated but we were determined to carry on regardless and had packed our wellies and waterproofs. Much excitement when we at last spotted it and we couldn't wait to meet Carole our hostess with the mostess and explore our new abode and all its facilities and quirks. Boy and Girl soon found their own favourite spots. Girl cosy in the hobbit watching TV and boy tending the fire like a good cub scout should.
The Hobbit itself was well equipped with crockery, cutlery, fridge, kettle, microwave and fan heater. Even tea, coffee, sugar and milk. Outside in a big chest was a selection of pots and pans, washing up kit, kindling and firewood. All we had to bring were sleeping bags, pillows and towels.
After a couple of false starts due to the drizzle we got the fire going. In anticipation I had bought a selection of meaty goodies from Andrew Gordon Butchers - chicken kebabs, burgers and sausages - and they were cooked to perfection over the fire pit. 
Post meat feast it was time for the obligatory marshmallow toasting and boiling up the kettle for a cuppa. There was a cookie jar of homemade shortbread awaiting us in the Hobbit and combined with a proper china teapot and cups and saucers it seemed as far removed from camping as you could possibly imagine. I must confess that I was very tempted to misappropriate the cute milk carton shaped jug. But I resisted.
The beds were very comfortable and the Hobbit itself was super cosy and clearly well insulated. Not a hint of a draught. We used the fan heater to give a wee boost of heat but no one was ever cold. Hot chocolate, beer and Baileys coffee before bed and a great nights sleep in the one double and two singles. Awoke to a view of sheep grazing on neeps outside our door. Time to light the fire again for a hearty breakfast. Tattie scones, bacon, square sausage, haggis, black pudding and eggs. Hobbits breakfast well.
One of the issues with camping, particularly at festivals, are the loos. No such problem here as the Hobbit has one of the quirkiest toilets you are ever likely to come across contained within an upcycled giant whisky barrel. It even won an award in the Loo of the Year competition for the best home throne. There's a rustic private shower room too. A far cry from communal facilities.
No need for any four legged friends to feel left out as there is a small barrel dog kennel available for them. There are some permanent two legged residents in the form of a brood of rusty metal hens. In the spirit of St Patrick's day we shared a Guinness with one.
Despite the inclement weather we all enjoyed our High Seas Hobbit glamping experience and would thoroughly recommend it - mud and all. We will definitely be back for another visit and hopefully the weather will be kinder and we can explore some of the amazing beaches and villages in the surrounding area. I have great plans for what else I want to cook on the Hobbit fire pit. There's really not much difference between Rosehearty and Middle Earth.