Sunday, 29 June 2014

I'm getting a new Kitchen! #kitchentales

So, I'm getting a new kitchen. This is both very exciting and very scary. When we bought our house one of the main reasons I fell in love with it was the size of the kitchen. It was however somewhat dated. That was 14 years ago. We have revamped bits and pieces over the years. New worktops, flooring, sink, hob, tiles, redecorating etc but now its time for the biggie. A whole brand new kitchen.
The scariness factor comes from a number of things. First the cost. Ouch. Its a biggie. However we're only going to be doing this once and theoretically we have been saving up for it for the last 14 years... Second, are all the decisions to be made along the way. What if I make the wrong choice on something vital? What if I don't actually like the finished kitchen? Every step of the way there are choices and compromises to be made. Life has become a whirl of architects, builders, structural engineers, plans, building warrants and kitchen showrooms.
But its not just a new kitchen. We're also extending a wee bit, knocking through to join the dining room and kitchen, installing patio doors, moving internal walls and rebuilding some of the existing kitchen in the office to make a utility room. In for a penny, in for a pound. Rather a lot of pounds.
We've gone with Kitchens International for the design, supply and fit of our kitchen. From the outset I felt that they listened to the ideas I had, understood how I envisaged using my kitchen, and took on board all the concerns I've had along the way. The whole process so far has run very smoothly. Long may this continue! We've opted for a German Leicht kitchen. The design is Contino and the colour Mohair and Oak Smoke Silver. Where do they get the names from?! I wont be sorry to say goodbye to my honey pine cupboard doors, although I will see some of them again in the utility room. I certainly wont be sad to see the back of the rotating pan cupboard from hell. That wonky carousel is sworn at on a daily basis. I do have a few things that I'm very excited about, namely a Quooker boiling water tap, my handmade fused glass splashback and Kilner Jam Jar lighting.

At the moment I'm surrounded by empty cupboards and full boxes. To add to the stress we go on holiday on Friday and the builders move in on Saturday. Only time will tell if this is a good or a bad plan. They're going to feed the fish when we're away so that's a bonus. Not quite sure what we'll return to but the next person who asks if it will be finished when we come back from Italy will get a punch in the face.
This post is an entry for the “My Kitchen Story” Linky Challenge, sponsored by Fairy Platinum in association with Brit Mums. As part of the challenge I was sent a sample of Fairy Platinum to try out. The day it arrived my dishwasher broke. The law of sod. For the last 3 weeks I've been washing dishes by hand. All going to plan I'll get a chance to try them out and report back at the end of August.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

North Hop Festival, Inverness & Brewdog #PunkAGM2014

A guest post on the blog today. I met Michelle online (not on a dating website as has been suggested!) and we bonded over a shared love of gin, food and the highlands. She answered my tweet for an accomplice to attend the Kingussie Food Festival and I generously offered my services to be her plus one at the recent Brewdog shareholders AGM. 
Over to you Michelle...
Hello there foodie friends, I’m Michelle from Snow Marketing and call me completely insane but I am just in the process of organising the Highlands biggest craft beer festival, North Hop, due to take place at Eden Court in Inverness on the 29th & 30th August 2014.  North Hop was born out of, well, a number of factors…a new found love of craft beer, an ongoing love of gin and the realisation that it was about time Inverness got with the times and embraced something new! 


From running my own marketing and events management company in Inverness for the last 4+ years I am well aware that folk in the Highlands sometimes require a bit of persuasion to try something new. Change isn't always welcomed with open arms but with North Hop I decided to take the risk and jump in, feet first and I am delighted to say that the response so far has been immense.
So what is North Hop all about you might ask…well put simply it is a brand new project for Inverness celebrating craft beer, artisan gins, creative cocktails, Scottish food, homegrown music and more, the Highland Way! This is being done through a number of special intimate tasting events, being classed as ‘A Taste of North Hop’, regular monthly ‘Hop’Up’ meet ups, which will begin in August and of course the main festival itself.
The first festival, North Hop 2014 has already got a pretty impressive line-up and there is still more to be added. 10 breweries within the beer hall, over 30 live music acts spread across the main stage and an acoustic stage, a cocktail lounge featuring creative cocktails, artisan gins and refreshing non-alcoholic options, street food stands from across Scotland, and a few additional surprises too!
The 10 breweries confirmed for North Hop 2014 are as follows…Windswept Brewing Co., BrewDog, Cromarty Brewing Co., WEST, Eden Brewery, Inveralmond Brewery, Loch Ness Brewery, Thistly Cross Cider, William Bros Brewing Co. and Fallen Brewing Co…pretty damn tasty eh!? Within the cocktail lounge we have got the super talented guys from 10 Dollar Shake shaking up a storm on the cocktails and gin front, with a strong focus on craft beer cocktails, gin cocktails and Scottish gins. Joining them we will have Summerhouse Fizz with their delicious range of lemonades and Super!Natural with their natural energy drinks.
Foodie wise…well this line-up we are keeping under wraps…for the moment, but we can confirm that you will not be disappointed with the selection of Scottish street food that will be on offer. North Hop will consist of two sessions, Friday 29th August 2014, 4pm till midnight (£15), Saturday 30th August 2014, 12pm till midnight (£20) or you can purchase a weekend pass for £30. Ticket price includes a branded glass, a sample of North Hop beer and a festival programme.
So with lots of exciting plans still brewing up make sure you check North Hop out on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and then visit www.northhop.co.uk or call the Eden Court Box Office on 01463 234234 to book your tickets.

This blog post was written whilst on the train enroute to Aberdeen to meet up with Foodie Quine to hit up the BrewDog Punk AGM 2014! 

It's probably a good thing that the above post was written by Michelle on the way to the AGM rather than on the way home. A great time was had by us both but some people were more fragile than others the morning after the night before...
With in excess of 4000 people at the event Its fair to say that there were some issues early on with the time taken to get served. 50 minutes is a long time to wait for a beer. Even a quality one like Brewdog. With drinks finally in hand we sat down to watch the AGM presentation. The highlights of which included details of new bar openings, rebranding of bottled beers, outtakes from Brewdogs TV show and a guest appearance from Simcoe the dog.

The Brewdog artwork being created at the event was awesome. Particularly loved Mr Beardy Bloke. Reminiscent of Roald Dahls Mr Twitt but with cans and bottles instead of scraps of food lodged in his hairy face. We attended the Brew By Numbers and the Cromarty Brewery meet the brewer and tasting sessions. Great beers at both but the funniest moment of the whole day was Cromarty's Craig regaling his story of a pine martin in his loft. I reckon Michelle should book him for a stand up set at North Hop. Much hilarity and great banter from my fellow Black Islers in the audience.


Brewdog will of course be one of the breweries at North Hop. Fab wee video below to give you more of a flavour of what to expect. Brewing up the perfect festival takes time.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Summer Holiday Blaeberry Bash - August 2014

Following on from our successful Garlic Bear Hunt Event I'm teaming up with Mandy from Mud Pie Adventures for some more family food and foraging fun. This time we're heading to Countesswells woods on the outskirts of the city. Please note, the Forestry Commission now charges £1.50 to park for up to 3 hours at Countesswells. (You can also buy an annual season ticket for £30 that gives unlimited access to several woods in the area). 
Blaeberry (also known as bilberry)
This is a deciduous shrub of low to medium height which has light green oval leaves. It forms a dense carpet on woodland floors and heath banks. In spring they produce small compact pink bell-shaped flowers, which may be solitary or in pairs. In the mid summer they produce an edible purple-bloomed black berry, with red juice. The leaves turn to shades of red and yellow in autumn, before dropping off. In winter the shrub is not so visible without its leaves.


Summer Blaeberry Bash

Monday 4th August
10.30-12.30pm or 2-4pm

Monday 11th August
10.30-12.30pm or 2-4pm

Join Mandy from Mud Pies and Claire the Foodie Quine for a family foraging Blaeberry Bash and some hands on Foodie Fun in Countesswells Wood, Aberdeen.

We’ll be foraging for blaeberries and other tasty wild treats, collecting sticks, lighting a camp fire, baking pancakes, making jam, blitzing smoothies and toasting marshmallows.

£7 per person
Suitable for age 3-12 and their grown ups

Book online at



Places MUST be booked in advance via the Mudpie Adventures Website
Any questions email Mandy info@mudpieadventures.co.uk or myself claire@foodiequine.co.uk

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Warburtons #CookOffBeforeKickOff Team Japan

A world cup challenge with a food theme? Count me in! Warburtons - the bread people - have challenged their Facebook Fans to come up with a half time snack inspired by world cup teams with the chance to win a VIP box full of exclusive Warbs goodies and a £30 supermarket voucher. As a 'foodie expert' I was asked to provide some initial inspiration for the Japan v Greece match taking place at 11pm on Thursday 19th June.

I was excited to be assigned Japan. They might not have much chance in the football stakes (200 to 1 outsiders for the trophy) but in food terms they are definitely winners. My package from Warburtons arrived and I was delighted with the contents and keen to get experimenting. Forget the Sandwich. Bring on the Sushiwich.


Teryaki Chicken Pita Pockets
Serves 4
Teryaki Chicken Pita Pockets
Ingredients
Warburtons 4 soft White Pitta Halves
250g Chicken
2 Tbsp Teriyaki Sauce
1 Carrot
2 Spring Onions
I Tbsp Oil
1/2 a Pepper
75g Cashew Nuts
Teryaki Chicken Pita Pockets
A wee bit of prep to do before the match for this one to ensure that everything is ready to go at half time. 
Slice your pepper, peel and cut the carrot into matchsticks, wash, trim and slice the spring onions. 
Next chop the chicken into 1 cm strips and pop everything into the fridge to keep cool. 
You can help yourself to a beer whilst you're there.
Teryaki Chicken Pita Pockets
When the half time whistle blows put a wok or large frying pan on to heat and add a tablespoon of oil (I used a garlic rapeseed oil)
Then add your chicken and fry for around 5 minutes until it starts to brown.
Pop the 4 Pitta Pocket halves into the toaster.
Mix through 2 tablespoons of Teriyaki sauce, throw in the veggies and nuts and cook for a further 3 minutes.
Carefully open up the toasted pitta pocket halves and fill with the stirfried teriaki chicken mixture.
Teryaki Chicken Pita Pockets
Teryaki Chicken Pita Pockets

Smoked Salmon Sushiwich
Makes 24 Rolls
Smoked Salmon Sushiwich
Ingredients
Warburtons 3 Soft White Easy Roll Wraps
200g Smoked Salmon
1/2 a Cucumber
100g Cream Cheese
Wasabi
Sushi Ginger
Soy Sauce 
Smoked Salmon Sushiwich
Spread a generous layer of cream cheese over the whole of one side of your wrap. 
Follow this with a smear/sploge/mountain of wasabi to taste.
Lay slices of smoked salmon over two thirds of the wrap.
Slice cucumber into matchsticks and lay at the front edge of the wrap.
Smoked Salmon Sushiwich
If you've got a bamboo sushi mat you can use it to roll up your sushiwich. If not, hands work just as well. Roll it as tightly as you can. Slice into 8 equal pieces and serve with a dipping bowl of soy sauce, pickled sushi ginger and wasabi.
Smoked Salmon Sushiwich
Smoked Salmon Sushiwich
Peanut Butter and Strawberry Dorayaki
Serves 4
Peanut Butter and Jam Dorayaki
Ingredients
6 Warburtons Pancakes
Peanut Butter
Strawberry Jam
Handful of sliced Strawberries
Peanut Butter and Jam Dorayaki
Dorayaki are a traditional Japanese desert sandwich consisting of pancake like patties served with a sweetened red bean filling. 
This peanut butter, strawberry jam and fresh strawberries version couldn't be simpler. Spread, Sandwich, Slice and Serve.
Peanut Butter and Jam Dorayaki
Peanut Butter and Strawberry Dorayaki

I hope I've given you some inspiration to create your own Cook Off Before Kick Off snack. To enter the competition add a photo of your Greek or Japanese Warburtons snack to the promotional post on their Facebook page before 23:59 on Thursday 19th June. Full T&C's here


Disclosure: I am taking part in this campaign in association with Warburtons and Foodies 100. Warburtons provided the ingredients and have compensated me for my time.


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Footplate Fryup at Deeside Railway

I love how social media can make amazing things happen. No sooner had I favourited, retweeted and replied than I was in touch with James by email and plans were made for me to come and cook breakfast on the shovel of Salmon the steam train.


The Royal Deeside Railway is a standard gauge steam and diesel hauled heritage railway. It runs from Milton of Crathes Station for about a mile alongside the River Dee. The railway is operated on a 100% voluntary basis with no paid members of staff. We'd visited for a trip on a diesel service on Easter Sunday, complete with hot cross buns and chocolate eggs, and had promised boy and girl that we would come back again when a steam train was timetabled. At that point I had no idea that our next trip would include a very special breakfast.

I guess I've always had some sort of interest in railways and steam. My Dad is a vintage tractor, stationary engine and steam enthusiast and as a child I was dragged to Beamish Museum and the Steam Engine Rally at Hazelhead Park. There comes a point as a child when it's futile to resist. Steeplejack and Traction Engine aficionado Fred Dibnah soon became a much watched TV show. The connection goes back further as my Great Grandfather was Stationmaster and Postmaster at Redcastle Station on the Black Isle Line between 1913 and 1943.
My Great Grandfather - Stationmaster Alex Holm 

Cooking breakfast on the footplate surely required some quality produce. I headed to Sunnyside Farm for some duck eggs, sausages and bacon. I'd also been visiting Elizabeth at Capability Brown's in Inverness. She's currently busy making Plum Duffs to sell at the Good Food show and when she said they were good fried up as part of a cooked breakfast I knew exactly what had to be done. With basket of supplies in hand we headed to Milton of Crathes Station.
Salmon was all fired up ready and waiting. First surprise was that it's not the actual coal shuffle that gets used for cooking on. There's a nice clean shiny one kept especially for the purpose. The fire needs to die down a bit for cooking so we were breakfasting before the first train of the day departed at 11am. It was still pretty hot on the footplate and even hotter in the firebox.
Plenty of oil on the shovel and on with the sausages. No low fat cooking on a steam train. The most important technique is keeping the shovel level and not letting it tip too much forward or down. This could result in the oil catching alight or even worse your breakfast disappearing into the flames. Enamel dishes were warming awaiting the cooked sausages whilst we moved on to bacon and slices of plum duff.
Great smells wafting by this point as the railway volunteers began to lurk in the hope of a spare rasher or two. Last to get cooked were the duck eggs. Even more oil before they were cracked into two perfectly sized hollows at the bottom of the shovel which looked like they were made exactly for the purpose. As for the eggshells? Straight into the fire.
Rolls and red sauce at the ready it was time to serve up. Never has breakfast tasted so good. The duck eggs were runny in the middle and the bacon uber crispy. Much dripping of yolk down chins and onto the platform. 11am was fast approaching so the Fireman fueled Salmon up and we jumped onboard to enjoy a leisurely 20 minute trip to the end of the line and back again.
The fun wasn't yet over however as next up was the opportunity to be a 'Driver for a Fiver'. We all jumped at the chance to take control of a vintage diesel locomotive complete with L plates. Fantastic experience.
Huge thanks to James West and all the Volunteers at Deeside Railway for having us. This is a tremendous heritage attraction in the heart of Royal Deeside only a short drive from Aberdeen. Do visit and support this registered charity which is working hard to preserve, educate and entertain. In addition to a variety of special events throughout the year private charters are available which have included school parties, birthday celebrations and weddings.

The full timetable for Diesel and Steam Services is available on their website