Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Meet Walter Gregor, the first Scottish Tonic Water

My love of Gin is well known in these parts. I've now built up quite a collection of different ones, many of them Scottish. If 3/4 of your G&T is the tonic you need to use the best. Up until now that has meant going outwith Scotland. An invitation from Aberdeenshire's Summerhouse Drinks to an Edinburgh event with Tipples & Nibbles for the launch of a new Scottish Drink had the intriguing hash tag of #JUSTTHE. Could the missing word be tonic?


I always love the train journey south from Stonehaven to the capital, especially when the weather is good. Stunning scenery particularly on the coast. The Dundee and Forth Railway bridges are real landmarks along the route and at the moment there's the opportunity to view the progress being made on the second Forth road bridge. My accommodation for the night was at ibis Edinburgh Central South Bridge. This was a great location, less than a 10 minute walk from Waverley Station, just off the Royal Mile and around the corner from The Museum of Scotland.


Check in was friendly and efficient and my room was bright, spacious, spotlessly clean and very welcoming. The shower in the pod like bathroom was positively huge. Free wifi is essential these days. I really can't understand how some hotels still get away with charging for it. The room contained all the facilities you would expect whilst air con ensured the perfect temperature. There's a Tea/Coffee tray in the room and a Nespersso coffee machine in the foyer was an added bonus.


It's always good to catch up with fellow foodies and it was great to finally meet the blogger behind the fantastic Keep Calm and Fanny On. Big thanks to Fanny for being my plus one. We kicked off with a Popeye and Ginger Jack at Hula Juice Bar before it was time to head to the function room at Dragonfly Cocktail Bar to meet the newest member of the Summerhouse Drinks team.


My hunch was right and the new drink was indeed Scotland's first tonic water. In a departure from the existing Summerhouse Drinks branded range of Hint O'Mint, Misty Lemonade, Rasperry Lemonade and Lavendar Lemonade the tonic comes by the monkier of "Walter Gregor's"

The Rev. Walter Gregor was a 19th Century minister in the historic parish of Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire. A renowned academic, folklorest and plantsman, the botanics for his new tonic are now being grown in the garden of his former manse at Peathill. He is described in his biography as a 'cheerful, humorous man'. Perhaps he might have enjoyed a wee G&T himself?!


Walter Gregor's is an all natural tonic water with Quinine from cinchona bark, citric acid and a secret combination of infused botanicals. It has been developed in conjunction with Caithness's Rock Rose Gin and our welcome drink was a perfect serve topped off with Rosemary. The taste is crisp, clean and refreshing. It went down very well. This was followed with a further two Scottish Gin pairings. Walter, Hendricks and Cucumber and Walter, Botanist and Grapefruit. The promised nibbles to go with the tipples kept up the Scottish theme with a fantastic range of canapes from Fresh Food Express

Bombay Potatoes from Angus & Whisky Chutney

Arbroath Smokie Pate, Summer Harvest Lemon Dressing and Local Beetroot

Great Glen Wild Venison, Trotters Wild Garlic Pesto & North St Dairy Cream Cheese Pinwheels

Hot Arbroath Smoked Salmon & Gin Soaked Cucumber

I had a great nights sleep in my ibis hotel room, nothing to do with the amount of Gin consumed but everything to do with my super comfy bed. A high tech bed base and matress, fluffypillows and a super soft duvet. The breakfast buffet offered a fantastic selection of both continental and cooked. A plate of bacon, tattie scone and haggis followed my initial selection below. I was very impressed with my fist experience of an ibis hotel. Next time I'm keen to experience an ibis styles hotel. Budget friendly and individually stylish. Perhaps even serving both Scottish Gin and Scottish Tonic. 


Walter Gregor's is currently only available online through Fresh Food Express but will be coming to retailers and bars soon. 


Disclosure - Ibis Hotels provided me with a complimentary stay and I attended Walter Gregor's launch event as a guest of Summerhouse Drinks. All views expressed are my own.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Hamlyns of Scotland - Porridge Oats, Oatmeal & Giveaway

Hamlyns of Scotland, producers of Scottish Oatmeal and Porridge Oats are celebrating their 50th Birthday this year. That's a lot of porridge for breakfast even by Goldilocks and the three bears standard. Their traditional range of Oats and Oatmeal is produced from premium Scottish oats, grown and milled in Scotland - 100% Scottish from seed to mill to finished product. Hamlyns work closely with a network of farmers across Scotland, with the majority of their supplier located in the north east of Scotland, near their oat mill at Boyndie in Banffshire, in the heart of Scotland’s oat growing countryside. 


Hamlyns sent me the full selection of their products to try out. I was already very familiar with their Porridge Oats and Oatmeal but they also offer the convenience of new porridge sachets and instant porridge pots. These are a quick and convenient way to cook delicious porridge just in two minutes. Both products are available in three varieties - Original, Golden Syrup and Mixed Berry. If you prefer to make your porridge from oats or oatmeal, their traditional range includes Scottish Oatmeal, Scottish Porridge Oats, Scottish Porridge Oats & Bran and Pinhead Oatmeal in a re-sealable tin. All four varieties can be used to make a delicious porridge, each with a different distinctive taste and texture. A general rule is the finer the porridge oats or oatmeal, the shorter the cooking time required. The cooking time is reduced further if you choose porridge oats, as the oats are lightly steamed in the mill before they are rolled.


The eternal question is of course how do you take your porridge? I'm salt all the way whilst my children love it with sugar, honey or syrup. Unlike my sassenach offspring I just can't do the sweet thing. Scottish traditionalists will insist that porridge should contain nothing more than oats, water and salt. That's a wee bit too austere and brose like for me. I like milk in mine and a good sprinkling of oatmeal on the top is an absolute must. My childhood porridge came in a Royal Doulton Bunnykins porrindger and was always accompanied by a bowl of milk on the side and the rhyme "How many rabbits running round the plate? Quick eat it up before its too late!"


There's a lot more to Porridge Oats and Oatmeal than breakfast. Cranachan and Skirlie are particular Scottish favourites and of course oatmeal features in haggis and black pudding. A quick look back through my own posts found plenty of baking recipes for Oatcakes, Muffins, Crumble and Flapjacks.



I used some of the pinhead oatmeal to make an affa fine tea. Real traditional fare but it fair hit the spot. Herring in Oatmeal. Make up a paste with English Mustard and a wee splash of milk. Brush it on the herring fillet and press on a coating of Pinhead Oatmeal. Pan Fry oatmeal side down in Scottish Rapeseed Oil until golden then flip over and fry the skin side. It received a lot of love on my Facebook page along with a comment which I absolutely loved which one of my likers shared. Her mum had a saying about herring "fry me belly then my back said the herring to the fat!"


Hamlyns have provided a fantastic 50th Birthday Celebration Hamper as a giveaway for readers of Foodie Quine. Worth around £200 it contains a Sophie Conran for Portmeirion white china breakfast set for two, a Hamlyns teddy and apron, a wooden spurtle and the full range of Hamlyns traditional and instant porridge and oatmeal.

Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below. To enter, let me know in a comment "What do you put on/in your Porridge?" For additional bonus entries you can follow me and Hamlyns on Twitter, Tweet about the Giveaway or like me on Facebook. Giveaway ends 13th May 2015 12:00am. Good Luck! 





Disclosure - Hamlyns provided me with product and commissioned me for writing this post. All views expressed are my own.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Spring Woodland & Coastal Foraging and Wild Garlic Pesto Pinwheels

What a fantastic way to spend the Easter weekend. Outdoors with Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods and 40 eager participants on our two Foraging and Wild Food Events. We headed to Skatie Shore on Saturday for Coastal foraging and Dunnottar Woods on Sunday for Woodland and Hedgerow. Luckily the weather was kind to us on both days, only a little drizzle on the Saturday and glorious sunshine on Easter Sunday.


Galloway Wild Foods & Foodie Quine - Spring Coastal & Woodland Foraging



Mark was armed with his trusty foragers kit bag and all the participants had duly heeded the advice of waterproofs, warm clothes, wellies or walking boots. Whilst supping Elderflower Champagne the format for the afternoon was outlined and a veritable abundance of edibles were identified and tasted within only a few yards of our meeting point. Pretty much all of which most of us would have walked straight past on any other day. Our voyage of discovery had begun. 



Skatie Shore - Foodie Quine - Spring Coastal Foraging

Skatie Shore - Foodie Quine - Spring Coastal Foraging



As always with these round ups I refer you to Mark's website for the foraging know how and I'll just attempt to share a wee bit of what we got up to and give you a flavour of what we did, saw and ate over the two days. Competitive pignut digging was definitely a highlight as was the discovery that troublesome weeds such as Ground Elder and Japanese Knotweed were tasty edibles. 



Many of the participants were particularly interested in the seaweed side of things. Risk assessment and simple common sense meant that 20 of us couldn't actually physically all go out clambering on the slippy wet rocks. Mark was however prepared with some 'here's what I forraged earlier' tasters. Such intense and unknown flavours. So difficult to describe. Like giving an artist a completely new colour.

Skatie Shore - Foodie Quine - Spring Coastal Foraging

All too soon it was time to head back and establish base camp. Teas, Coffees and Easter treats first, followed by cooking up some mouthwatering wild food. Common Hogweed fried in butter, Wild Garlic Hummus and a Barley, Smoked Fish, Smoked Egg and Wild Greens Risotto.

Foodie Quine - Spring Woodland & Coastal Foraging

On Easter Sunday we had fantastic support from the local Bodging group based in Dunnottar Woods. Whilst we didn't need to make use of their tarp on this occasion were grateful for the access they gave us to their cabin, fire, general local knowledge and in particular their green woodworking skills. They also provided us with a very tasty slow cooked leg of venison. The perfect Easter Sunday roast.

Foodie Quine - Spring Woodland & Coastal Foraging

One of our fist stops at Dunnottar, and the one I was personally most excited about was Birch Tapping. A wee bit of specialised kit required in the form of drill and spigots or spiles. Once the tree was tapped the flow of sap was instant and plentiful. The taste was however a bit underwhelming. I think I was expecting something akin to maple syrup. 

Birch Tapping - Foodie Quine - Spring Woodland & Coastal Foraging


Like many wild foods its what you do with it once harvested that makes all the effort worthwhole. In our case we used it as the base for the drink of our walk. Into the Cauldron (nitrous oxide infuser) went all the edible plants, sap and roots found along the way. It can also be used to make syrup, wine, beer and vinegar or drunk as a mineral water.


Birch Tapping - Foodie Quine - Spring Woodland & Coastal Foraging



Following our 3 hour woodland and hedgerow wander down to the River Carron and the swathes of wild garlic it was time to head back to back to base camp to enjoy a foraged wild food feast in the sunshine. Venison and Smoked Chicken & Wild Greens Risotto were washed down with the tasty Cocktail of our walk. 



Venison - Foodie Quine - Spring Woodland & Coastal Foraging

Foodie Quine - Spring Woodland & Coastal Foraging

Wild Kedgeree - Foodie Quine - Spring Woodland & Coastal Foraging

As is always the case on our joint events there was plenty of edible and drinkable treats along the way. Below are links to some of them plus recipes for my Wild Garlic Pesto and Wild Garlic Pesto Pinwheels.


Wild Garlic Pesto

WILD GARLIC PESTO

100g Wild Garlic
75g Pine Nuts - toasted
75g Parmesan Cheese - grated
150ml Scottish Rapeseed Oil
Salt & Pepper

Wash and pat dry the wild garlic leaves, toast the pine nuts in a dry non stick pan and grate the Parmesan. Place everything in a food processor or blender and blitz until it reaches the desired consistency. 

This recipe will make a larger quantity of pesto than you need for the Wild Garlic Pesto Pinwheels recipe. Store the remainder in a jar in the fridge or freeze in individual ice cube portions. Great stirred through pasta for a quick meal, served on top of lamb chops, steak or fish or mix some into a soup, risotto or mashed potatoes for a fresh garlicky kick.

Wild Garlic Pesto Pinwheels
Wild Garlic Pesto Pinwheels

WILD GARLIC PESTO PINWHEELS

250g plain flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1/4 tsp salt
175ml Milk
1 tsp lemon juice

3 Tbsp wild garlic pesto
60g parmesan grated

Sieve together the dry ingredients in one bowl and milk and lemon juice in another.
Bring together by pouring the wet into a well in the dry. 
Mix well and add a wee bit more flour or milk if needed to make a dough.
Knead lightly and roll out into a rectangle approx 1cm thick.
Spread over the pesto and sprinkle with 40g the parmesan.
Roll up like a swiss roll and cut into slices. Sprinkle with the remaining 20g of Parmesan.
Bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Wild Garlic Pesto Pinwheels

If you'd like to go on the mailing list to be informed about future foraging and wild food events with Mark and myself drop an email to claire@foodiequine.co.uk At the moment we're planning a Fungi Forage in October and hopefully a Botanical Booze Walk in the Summer.

Meanwhile why should the grown ups have all the foraging fun? If you've got youngsters who would fancy joining myself and Mandy from Mud Pie Adventures on a Wild Garlic Bear hunt there are a handful of places still remaining for our events in Dunnottar Woods on Sunday 3rd May.

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Friday, 17 April 2015

Carrot Cake Muffins and Apple & Custard Lasagne

Carrot Cake is one of my favourites. If it's on the menu in a coffee shop I'm hard pressed to see past its charms. The Good Family Food Facebook Page asked me to come up with a spring recipe with a hidden vegetable so it was the obvious choice. Although having watched the contestants tackle vegetable cake showstoppers on the recent The Great Comic Relief Bake Off I was tempted to experiment with beetroot, courgette or even parsnip.


CARROT & ORANGE MUFFINS
Makes 12

Ingredients
225g Plain Flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ginger
75g Golden Castor Sugar
60g Porridge Oats
75g Sultanas
1 Free Range Egg
90ml Scottish Rapeseed Oil
110g roughly grated Carrot
1 Orange - rind and juice

Cream Cheese Frosting
60g Cream Cheese
120g Icing Sugar
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract

Crystalised Carrots
1 Carrot
50g Sugar
100ml water



Method

Preheat the oven to 190c and place paper cases in a 12 hole muffin tin.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, raising agents, salt, spices and sugar. Then add the porridge oats and sultanas.

In a separate bowl beat the egg with a fork before adding the rapeseed oil, grated carrots, zest of the orange and the juice of the orange made up to 180ml with water.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry mixture and stir until just combined.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes until tops are lightly browned.



Cream Cheese Frosting

Allow the muffins to cool completely before attempting to ice. Ensure the cream cheese is at room temperature prior to sieving the icing sugar into it. Add the vanilla extract and mix with a spoon. You may need to add some extra sugar to get a spreading consistency depending on the fat content of cream cheese that you use. Spread the frosting over the top of the muffins with a knife.



Crystalised Carrot

Peel and finely shred the carrot using a spiralizer, juilenne peeler or mandolin.

Bring the water and sugar to the boil in a small pan stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.

Add the carrot, turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Strain through a sieve and discard the syrup.

Arrange in small bundles on a cooling rack and allow to firm up before placing on top of the frosted muffins.


If you can use vegetables in cakes then why not fruit in savoury dishes? Next up is a desert lasagne. One of the ladies at my Tuesday afternoon community cookery class mentioned this idea to me and I was intrigued. Apple, Custard and Pasta. Could it really work? There were mixed opinions on its success and it was definitely a talking point on social media. The pasta itself was a wee bit chewy so next time I'd either use fresh lasagne sheets or preboil it for a couple of minutes. 


APPLE & CUSTARD LASAGNE
8 apples, peeled cored and sliced
75g sultanas
6 sheets lasagne
1 tsp cinnamon
750ml custard

Preheat oven to 180c and grease a lasagne dish.
Simmer the apples, sultanas and cinnamon for 15-20 mins with a splash of water until softened but not totally mushy.
Layer half of the apple mixture in the dish followed by 3 sheets of lasagne and half the custard. Repeat and sprinkle the top layer of custard with some extra Cinnamon.
Bake for 30 mins



I asked my fellow food bloggers if they had any recipes to share with vegetables used in baking or deserts and fruit used in traditionally savoury dishes. Here's what they came up with, plus a couple more from me




Disclosure - QMS commissioned me and compensated me for my time in creating the Carrot Cake Muffin Recipe for their Good Family Food Facebook page. All views expressed are my own.

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