Monday, 24 February 2014

A weekend of food and fun in Edinburgh and The Lothians

What a fantastic long weekend we had in Edinburgh and the Lothians. Our stay at Blue Hue Houseboat was only part of the story. We set off on Valentines day so a romantic breakfast was in order to start the day in the right mindset. Rabbie mug courtesy of Gillian Kyle and the stamp for the toast from the pound shop. Boy had made me the love heart eggy toast for my supper on Valentine's eve. He'll always be my sweetheart.
Valentine Breakfast Food
Love Heart Egg Toast. Valentines Day.
We don't really do valentine pressies but Foodie Loon surprised me with a gift. He knows me so well. Gin and Peanut Butter is a winning combination. I reciprocated with a card endorsing the sentiment. I resisted inserting almost.
I'd asked on Twitter for foodie recommendations for our trip and Vhon's Vittles gave me some excellent suggestions for stopping off points en route. The first of these was Loch Leven's Larder. An amazing deli, farm shop, gift shop and restaurant in a lovely setting. Beats Kinross Services hands down. Well worth a wee diversion off the M90. We only had coffee and cake on this visit but the full menu looked very tempting. Absolutely loved their pods. Would be perfect for a special occasion.
After getting lost trying to find both (neither postcode works with sat nav) we did also stop off at Vohn's other recommendations of Hopetoun Farm Shop and Craigie's. Some more Sat Nav fun and we reached our Houseboat. Read all about it. Blue Hue, A Houseboat Holiday in Edinburgh. The Bridge Inn at Ratho had been recommended by the owners of Blue Hue so we had booked in there for a Valentine's Meal. Perfect location less than 50 yards from our boat. We were the only table of four in the restaurant surrounded by couples. Clearly not the done thing to dine en famille on the 14th of February. We were also the only table drinking milk and fizz.
The restaurant, staff and food were all fantastic. An interesting menu with great provenance and Scottish produce. I really love to find out a wee bit more about places where I eat and the story behind them and their ethos so was delighted to read the "words from the owners" on the back of the menu.
Wood pigeon breast, potato fondant, caper dressing, pickled vegetables
Scallops, pan seared, spiced chicken nugget, corn beignetts, sweetcorn puree
Tain venison loin, sticky red cabbage, haggis, braised shoulder boudin
Affogato
Cinnamon Creme Brulee
Myself and boy both opted for the same starter (the scallops) and main course, the Signature Pork Board. It looked and tasted amazing. Loin in smoked bacon, crisp skinned belly, pudding, popcorn, apple sauce and baked beans. The pork comes from The Bridge Inn's own herd of Saddleback pigs who live just across the towpath. Food yards rather than miles. Also across the canal lies their walled garden with a full time gardener working to provide produce for the kitchen all year round.
We headed into Auld Reekie on Saturday morning via Park and Ride. First stop was Edinburgh Farmers Market in the shadow of the Castle. Alas the weather was somewhat soggy but that didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the fantastic variety of stallholders. The remainder of our day in the city was spent visiting Camera Obscura and the National Museum of Scotland.Both of which are well worth a visit.
I'd been told to keep a look out for Oink's pulled pork rolls and they didn't disappoint. Haggis, pork, apples sauce and crackling hit the spot even in the drizzle. Hot apple juice from Laprig Fruit kept our spirits up as we wandered round the stalls and enjoyed lots of tasters. Unfortunately we weren't in a position to buy very much as we were spending the rest of the day and evening in the city. Thankfully the German Mixed Nut Bread that I bought from Falko survived a day in my handbag.
Sunday saw us paying a visit to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho. What a fantastic facility situated inside an old quarry. Three of the party headed up the rock face and one stayed in the cafe eating cakes and watching the Winter Olympics. No prizes for guessing who did what. A trip to Ikea in the afternoon to buy things I didn't even know I needed. Elk shaped pasta, paper napkins, milk bottles, tray, drinking straws, plastic bags, bag clips and biscuits. Just the essentials. Undoubted highlight of the Ikea trip was the Gingerbread Milkshake. This I need more of.
Back to the boat and a sneaky trip to The Bridge Inn for a Sunday afternoon tipple. I opted for the Pinkster Gin which I'd spotted on the way out the door on Friday night. Amazing dispenser but alas the promised hint of Raspberries was seriously faint.
Monday came all too soon and it was time to say goodbye to Blu Hue. It was also Foodie Loon's birthday so we headed to the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune for a celebratory trip on Concorde. Fantastic place with so much to see, do and discover. Great wee cafe too. A truly supersonic time was had.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Blue Hue, A Houseboat Holiday in Edinburgh

Another item scored off the Bucket List. This was a surprise trip to encompass Half Term, Valentines Day and Foodie Loon's Birthday. Nothing like killing three birds with one stone. We spent three nights on the Blue Hue Houseboat moored on the Union Canal in Ratho, just outside Edinburgh. I was very impressed that the Foodie Bairns managed to keep both our destination and accommodation a secret. Girl in particular is not known for her discretion in such matters.
Blue Hue Houseboat Edinburgh
It was love at first sight when we arrived at our moorings. An idyllic situation right next to a bridge, with our own flock of ducks and a pub literally on our doorstep. It was picture postcard perfect. The ducks provided much entertainment throughout our stay. I'm also able to confirm that the Tooth Fairy does indeed visit houseboats, despite concerns from the newly toothless girl. She brings double on such occasions. Useful to know if you should find yourself in a similar situation.


Blue Hue is kitted out with all mod cons and fantastic duck egg blue decor. It has a surprising amount of storage and is super cosy thanks to central heating and a wood burning stove. Logs, kindling, firelighters and matches were all provided. The kitchen was well quipped with gas cooker, toaster, kettle and fridge and a good range of utensils and dishes.

We were spending Valentine's day on the water so I brought along some romantic foodie treats. Bread, Cheese and Fizz. Godminster Organic Brie stamped - not entirely successfully - with alphabet cutters. Brie Mine. It was more like The Love Boat than a Narrowboat.
Brie Mine Valentine Cheese Hearts
Cooking breakfast onboard was a wee bit challenging due to space restrictions and the lean of the boat. The kitchen area was compact and bijou, but it did the job. We had our feathered friends keeping a close eye on proceedings throughout.
Square sausage with haggis and black pudding eyes from Hopetoun Farm Shop. German Mixed Nut Bread from Falko at Edinburgh Farmers Market. Eggs collected from the chickens at Craigie's Farm.
Living on the water brought its own quirks. The foodie bairns were fascinated with the life raft for our keys. Thankfully not required. I loved the fact that we had our own number plate. The toilet facilities were much like those on an aeroplane with the use of a pump system making a bit of a scary whooshing noise. The shower was more powerful than many I've experienced onshore and plenty of fluffy towels.
We took a wander down the canal side tow path on the sunny Sunday morning. A very busy place clearly popular with cyclists, dog walkers, runners and families. Seriously regretted not packing my running gear. A lovely walk with plenty to keep your interest enroute.


Our long weekend gave us a real taste of houseboat living and I'm now more determined than ever to tick off a further item on the Bucket List. Next time we won't be static. Its got to be the full monty of locks, stopping off at pubs en route and sailing along whilst watching the world go by. Rosie & Jim have a lot to answer for. Next stop, the Norfolk Broads.
 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Foodie Parcels in the Post

It's always nice to receive a parcel in the post but even nicer if its edible (or drinkable). Quick blog up of what foodie goodies Mr Postman has been bringing me over the last few weeks that were worth eating. Bills and junk mail don't taste so good

Peanut Hottie
I couldn't get the kettle boiled quick enough when this arrived. I'm a huge Peanut Butter fan so I was very intrigued to find out how the flavour of peanut butter could even work in a drink. Wouldn't it just stick to the roof of my mouth?! You do need quite a hefty amount of the powder to make a decent sized mug, 4-5 heaped teaspoonfuls. The resulting smell and flavour is amazing, really smooth, velvety and peanutty. Like a liquid Reese's. A great new way to indulge those peanut butter cravings. Awesome for biscuit dunking. I'm completely hooked.

Castello Cheese
My lovely postman Adrian couldn't contain his laughter when I opened the door to him dressed in my giraffe onesie. But it was worth it as the parcel he had for me contained a fantastic selection of Castello cheese. Tickler Devonshire Cheddar, Danish Blue, Creamy Blue, Creamy White, and Pineapple, Papaya & Almonds. Regular readers will know that I'm a huge Cheese lover. I've tried my hand at making it and I even had a Birthday Cake of Cheese. The contents of this parcel made its way to a night in a lighthouse and on to my festive cheeseboard. The big surprise for me was the Pineapple, Papaya and Almond Halo. I fully expected not to like it but I'm a complete convert. Particularly amazing on a digestive.

Le Range Mesurier
I've always got a good selection of condiments in my fridge. They are the perfect bit on the side. My parcel from Le Mesurier contained Cranberry, Claret & Red Onion Chutney, Horseradish Mustard, Pickled Shallots and Saffron & Garlic Mayonnaise. I do love a pickled onion but the shallots in balsamic vinegar took them to another level. Perfect for a posh ploughmans. The saffron and garlic mayo is wonderful on a sandwich and the chutney certainly shows that cranberry's are for life not just for Christmas.

Barny
My kids are always on the lookout for new snacks for playpiece and after school so they were delighted to see Barny on my kitchen table. (Thankfully not the big purple dinosaur) We were supposed to go on a winter adventure to try them but the current inclement weather saw girl opting for a Teddybear's picnic. The bears and the kids loved them although my 11 year old said he would only eat them in secret as they were too babyish. His secret is now out. Individually wrapped, 4 different flavours and no artificial colours or preservatives. Much more palatable than a singing purple T-rex. 
This post is an entry for Britmums 'Winter Little Adventures Challenge' sponsored by Barny, individually wrapped bear-shaped sponges with a hidden filling. Find out more about Barny here.


A #firstwordproblem tweet led to an emergency bottle of garlic rapeseed oil arriving by jiffy bag. I'm a total convert to rapeseed oil for pretty much all culinary uses and I love the versatility of the flavoured versions. I fessed up to the folk at Borderfields that I hadn't tried their's before but I was delighted to see the wee Scottish flag on the bottle. They tell me that garlic is their most popular infused oil and I can see why as I've already used a third of the bottle #sendmore


Kikkoman
I'm a huge fan of Kikkoman soy sauce. So much so that I normally buy the catering size 2 litre bottle from Costco (which I then refill the iconic small bottle from). This parcel arrived just in time for Chinese New Year celebrations.  I use it in everything not just Chinese/Japanese dishes. A splash really livens up soups, stews and casseroles and makes a fantastic basis for salad dressings. Their Sukiyaki stir fry sauce was a new one on me. At the moment it's only sold through independent shops and oriental supermarkets but will hopefully be more widely available soon.
I used my soy sauce and garlic infused rapeseed oil to make Poppa Wan's (Gok's Dad) Simple Soy Glazed Chicken. Absolutely love this recipe. Beats take out any day. This is exactly the perfect type of dish to substitute garlic infused oil in.

Nothing But & Fru Snax
Boy thought this was astronaut food whilst girl found the idea of freeze dried vegetables even more off putting than the real thing. Very interesting taste and texture. Like crisps but not greasy and a really fresh taste. The veggie bags count as one of your 5 a day and both are low calorie. The beetroot was my favourite from the veg. I'm not a big fan of either peppers or parsnips so probably no surprise that I didn't take to them in their dehydrated form. Boy and Girl both wolfed down the Peach and Vanilla Yoghurt Melts and requested I get more. Unfortunately no national distributor yet but keep an eye out in independents.

McVities
Such a clever package from McVities to promote their new #Sweeet campaign. Loving my personalised biscuit tin and a framed quote from my Baking a rod for my own back blog post. The foodie bairns had the biscuits devoured before I even got a look in. We are all absolutely loving the new adverts. I'm slightly freaked out by the Jaffa Cake monkey but the kittens and the puppies are totally #Sweeet


Disclosure : Thanks to Peanut Hottie, Le Range Mesurier, Castello Cheese, Barny, Borderfields, KikkomanNothing ButFru Snax and McVities 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, do get in touch.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Valentine Cake Club in Aberdeen

Aberdeen cake club time again and love was in the air with a Valentine theme. Alas I was feeling more stressed out than loved up as had a ridiculously busy week with no time for baking. Rather than bail out or turn up empty handed I opted for a romantic assembly job and set to making Hot Dog and Cheese Valentine Canapes with the assistance of boy and girl.
Valentine Hot Dog and Cheese Hearts. Heart Dogs.
Surely nothing can say love like mechanically recovered meat? If that hasn't put you off and you'd like to share the love you'll need hot dogs, cheese, cocktail sticks and a protractor. The protractor is perhaps overkill but you do need to get the angles right or you will have somewhat dodgy looking hearts. Cut off the end from a Hot Dog on the diagonal. Use this as a template to cut a matching half and skewer together with a cocktail stick. Finish off your cupids arrow with a triangle of cheese for the arrowhead and a V-shape for the feathers.

I jokingly posted on Twitter that I was worried that I might be thrown out for what I was bringing. However the joy of Pinnies and Petticoats is that there are no rules, competitive element or criticism. Last year in a similar vein I made Cherry Tomato Hearts. But also accompanied them with a real bake of heart shaped Cheese Oatcake Crackers.
A fabulous spread of goodies were on offer for Valentine's 2014 with a mix of sweet and savoury. As always great to see some new faces among the bakers but sad to be saying goodbye to founder members Tom and Martin. We look forward to hearing all about the soon to be formed Liverpool branch of Pinnies & Petticoats.
Chilli pesto and Gran Padoro Cheese Pastry Hearts
Cinamon Apple Puff Pastry Roses
Potato and Walnut Scones
Cheesy Biscuits
Vanilla Swirl Cookies
Chcolate and Rolo Brownie Hearts
Red Velvet Brownies with Cheesecake Topping
Pistachio & Rose Cookies
Rose & Cherry Sweet-Tarts
Chocolate Cupcakes with Mallow Icing
Rose Cupcakes with Vanilla Icing
Chocolate Sponge Cakes with Chocolate Hearts
Chocolate Heart Loaf
Gingerbread Loaf
Treacle Flapjack Tart
Sometimes love can be a bit of a Rocky Road
Marmalade Loaf
Malteser Scones
Chocolate Cake with Coconut Cream Icing
Chocolate flower pot Cupcakes with chocolate soil and a Cherry-Rose cake pop.
These surely had to be the recipient of the Star Baker award. Such a labour of love to make and so pretty. Girl was delighted when I brought one home in my tupperware box so she could have it the next day for her play piece.
Our next meet is Wednesday 12th March and the theme is "All natural ingredients - No processed food". Following on from that the proposed themes for the first half of the year are: 
April - Cocktails and Canapes
May - Cheese
June - Commonwealth Games
July - Picnic food
August - Back to School 
All welcome. 7pm at Tiger Tiger Aberdeen.

Fromage Homage
I'm entering this blog post in the February Cheese, Please! challenge where the theme is Cheesy Romance.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Kingussie Food on Film Festival

"Anyone fancy going to Kingussie for the Food on Film Festival?" I tweeted mid January. Little did I expect anything would come of it but Michelle from Snow Marketing said she was up for it and a plan was hatched. We'd been tweeting each other for a while with common interests of Food, Gin and the Highlands and had met up when she was visiting Aberdeen on a recent market research trip. I hoped that I'd gleaned enough information to know that she wasn't a mad axe murderer off the interweb.

2014 was the 7th Kingussie Food on Film Festival which encompassed four days of film, food, drink, debate, competition and demonstration. Alas we were only able to be there for the Saturday daytime Food Hall and the evening showing of Gosford Park. On our arrival the Food Hall was buzzing with a fantastic range of producers sampling and selling everything from cheese to coffee and charcuterie to craft beer. The stage was constantly busy with BBC Radio Scotland's Pennie Latin compering the cookery demos. A great job was done throughout by pupils from Kingussie High who brought the food and wine matching samples to the assembled audience. Yes we were the guilty ones who downed our desert wine before Lydie Bocquillon had even finished making the desert.
For the Seafood Ceilidh demo by Dry Island Shellfish, Pennie very gamely dressed up in a Lobster costume. Unfortunately I couldn't contain my giggles from the front row and was duly called up onstage to assist with the presentation of the dishes and subsequent handing round to the assembled audience. It was a great demo to round off the afternoon with producers from the hall getting well and truly involved supplying supplementary ingredients to work alongside the scallops, mussels, langoustines and squat lobsters.
We were supposed to be going to an afternoon film showing however a combination of spending too much time in the food hall, too long getting ready at the B&B and the lure of G&T proved too much.  After arriving late and missing the start of the film we settled ourselves in to the lounge bar at The Silverfjord Hotel. Slippery slope as we had already had a sneaky Hendricks and Elderflower tonic in teacups at the B&B. Michelle was very impressed with what I keep in my toilet bag.
A quick change in the toilets and we had turned into 1930's glamour pusses ready for the Gossford Park screening. If truth be told our outfits were more 20's than 30's but we fitted in well with the Charleston dancing Carrbridge dancers. So well that we were twice mistaken for being part of the troupe!
Our bed for the night in Kingussie was at Slemish B&B. We received a warm welcome from our hosts Lorraine and John and it certainly deserves its Visit Scotland 4 Star Gold Rating. Contemporary spacious rooms, centrally located and lots of nice, but not twee, personal touches. The breakfast on offer was the perfect antidote for the morning after the night before and definitely hit the spot.
A wee bit fresh air was required to blow away any cobwebs and Michelle suggested a walk to the Green Loch in Glenmore Forest Park. Apparently the green colouring is due to the fairy's washing their clothes in it. Or it could be something to do with the surrounding rocks and trees. Either way it was a truly magical place which I fell totally in love with. It reminded me very much of our trip to the Fairy Pools in Skye
A quick coffee before heading our separate ways turned into a late light lunch at the Mountain Cafe in Aviemore. I opted for Sweet potato, coconut and Lime Soup with a savoury scone and a glass of homemade grapefruit lemonade. The range of cakes and bakes on offer looked truly amazing and I particularly loved the floury bread art. Clearly a popular place due to the fact that there permanently seemed to be a queue of folk on the stairs waiting for a table.
Homeward bound with my foodie purchases, not forgetting pressies for boy, girl and Foodie Loon. A great haul of goodies as follows
Windswept Brewing - Blonde, Wolf, APA
Great Glen Game - Venison Pepperoni, Chilli Venison Chorizo and Venison Salami
The Isle of Skye Baking Company - Black Olive with Garlic Lavosh
Charlotte Flower Chocolates - Sea Salt Caramel and Smoked Hebridean Sea Salt and Java Milk Chocolate Shards
The Forest Kitchen - Traditional Handmade Tablet
The Cheese House - Nettle Gouda
George Gow Butchers - Venison Haggis, Pork Pies and Game Pie
A great weekend was had at Kingussie Food on Film but its always good to know that you've been missed. I would have felt very guilty upon seeing my note from girl had I not purchased that wee bag of sparkly tablet hearts for her. Great job done by the organisers and volunteers that made the festival such a success. It was undoubtedly one of the friendliest foodie events that I've ever been to with great crack throughout. That's the Highlands for you.

Check out our weekend from Michelle's perspective on the Make It Snow Blog