St Andrews Day - Meatball Thistles and Seasonal Soups Giveaway

Thursday, 27 November 2014
We don't really make as much of a fuss about St Andrews day as we should. It's the 30th of November in case you don't know. The Patron Saint of Scotland seems to get overshadowed somewhat by Rabbie Burns. I was asked to come up with a fun St Andrews day idea for the Quality Meat Scotland Good Family Food Facebook Page to put a meaty twist on proceedings. I pondered upon Saltires, bagpipes and tartan but settled on the iconic Scottish Thistle.
Skewer some Scotch Beef meatballs onto cocktail sticks. Peel and slice raw beetroot into thistle flower head shapes (disposable gloves will save you from purple fingers!) Top the skewers with the beetroot, brush with Scottish Rapeseed Oil and roast in the oven.

There's not much that can beat a bowl of hearty seasonal Scottish soup and there's 52 of them in recently published Fraser's Seasonal Soups. Fraser Reid is a Dundee greengrocer who’s been teaching the city to cook with his weekly soup bags. Following a career U-turn from Arts Marketing to Fruit & Veg Man he's now celebrating 5 years in business. When he opened his doors there weren't any other greengrocers in Dundee city centre and many considered it a nonviable proposition. Proving the doubters wrong the shop became a thriving community hub and he began to sell weekly soup bags containing a recipe and all the ingredients for a batch of soup for 4. This ingenious idea helped everyone from busy mums, OAPs and starving students to get a healthy, cheap home-cooked meal on the table.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Jen Collins and has a lovely back to basics no nonsense feel to it. The recipes are simple but unusual. No huge lists of ingredients or complicated instructions. This is a soup bible for everyone from complete beginners to seasoned cooks. Organised month by month the recipes reflect the changing seasons and produce available. I'm totally with him on the pointlessness of making your own vegetable stock. Cube or stock pot for me every single time. The particular soup calendar entries that have caught my eye are:

January - Spicy Kale & Noodle
February - Sweet Potato, Lentil and Blood Orange
March - Granny Smith Green
April - Golden Dahl & Spinach
May - Asian Noodle Broth
June  - Jamaican Curried Banana
July - Brock-A-Leekie
August - Roasted Pepper, Butterbean & Rosemary
September - Creamy Cauliflower & Coconut
October - Pumpkin & Lemongrass
November - Smoked Chilli, Sweet Potato & Barley
December - Beetroot, Parsnip & Horseradish

Recipe reproduced with permission of Kitchen Press

Butternut Squash, Coconut & Apple Soup

Serves 4

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil or Butter 
1 Onion peeled and roughly chopped
1 Teaspoon Garam Masala 
1 Butternut Squash peeled, deeseded and diced
1 Apple peeled, cored and roughly chopped
2 Stock Cubes
1½ Tablespoons Creamed Coconut
Salt & Freshly Grount Black Pepper to taste

Heat a pot on a medium-low heat and add the oil or butter. Fry the onion, carrot and garam masala for 5 - 10 minutes.
Add the squash and apple and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
Pour in 1.2 litres of boiling water, and add the stock cubes and the creamed coconut, stirring to make sure it dissolves. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Blend the soup until smooth, and then season to taste.

Foodie Loon is the soup dragon in our house so he cooked up a pan of Butternut Squash, Coconut & Apple Soup. A couple of wee changes to the recipe. He used Scottish Rapeseed Oil as opposed to Olive Oil or Butter and a whole sachet of Creamed Coconut. No idea how you would measure out 1½ Tablespoons. The soup tasted fantastic and touch of sweetness Looking forward to trying out some more and have bookmarked Split Pea, Pear and Mixed Spice and Sweet Chilli Lentil for December

Kitchen Press have provided a copy of the book as a giveaway for readers of Foodie Quine. Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below. To enter, let me know in a comment "What's your favourite soup?" For additional bonus entries you can follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure - QMS commissioned me and compensated me for my time in creating a St Andrews Day idea for their Facebook page and Kitchen Press provided me with a copy of Frasers Seasonal Soups for review purposes. All views expressed are my own.

Christmas Fair Cake & Candy Makes and Bakes

Monday, 24 November 2014
No more sticking my head in the sand. Christmas is definitely on its way. Even the weather seems to have a festive chill about it but thankfully no sign of snow yet. There seems to be an endless round of festive fairs at the moment all with requests for home baking, raffle prizes and donations for the chocolate tombola. Our school held its Christmas Fair at the weekend so with the help of boy and girl and some festive cake decorating goodies supplied by Hobbycraft we set to work on our contribution for the cake and candy stall.

Our first item is a crafty make rather than a bake but it contains food so I feel justified in its inclusion. Rudolph Candy Canes. So simple but really effective. Candy Canes from the pound shop and googly eyes, pipecleaners and pom poms from Hobbycraft. Top tip. Glue the candy canes together first. Hot glue gun works best for this and for attaching the eyes and nose.
Next came top hats with a festive twist. Into the cute wee festive paper cases went melted chocolate, followed by a marshmallow, more melted chocolate and topped off with M&S Jolly Jellies shaped as Santa, Snowmen and Reindeer. Pop them in cellophane bags and tie with spotty festive ribbon.
Mars Bar Krispy Reindeer were next on the menu. This is a no bake cake which we cut into triangles and placed into disposable icing bags from the pound shop. More pipecleaners, googly eyes and pom poms plus the hot glue gun turn rice krispies into reindeer.
Mars Bar Krispies

3 Mars Bars
3oz Butter
1 Tbsp Golden Syrup
3oz Rice Krispies
6oz Milk Chocolate

Roughly chop up the mars bars and melt them in a pan with the butter and syrup. Remove from the heat and mix in the rice krispies. Press into a greased tray-bake tin. Melt the chocolate and spread over the top. Once set cut into squares - or reindeer!
Last but by no means least came Mini Jolly Holly Cakes. Boy and Girl both love working with fondant icing so this was right up their street. The holly plunger cutters were very easy to use and the resulting holly leaves looked really effective. Mary Berry's fairy cake recipe was used for the mini cakes and squiggly icing secured the decoration. 
A bumper box of treats all set for the Cake and Candy stall. I really should have dug out the Christmas CD's to play when we were making them but they are still up in the loft with all the Christmas paraphernalia and decorations. I must confess that I do however already have a tree up. It arrived last week from UK Christmas World who spotted the perfect location for one of their outdoor trees in the wee seating alcove outside our new kitchen. How fantastic does it look growing out of my bistro table! It's a Cherry Blossom Tree in warm white and the lights are multi action so it has loads of fab flashing settings. I reckon I can get away with it this early by calling it a Winter Decoration as opposed to a Christmas one. Who am I kidding?! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Disclosure : Thanks to Hobbycraft and UK Christmas World for providing products for this post. All views expressed are my own. 

Shortest Day Festive Food in the Wood

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Following on from successful Wild Garlic Bearhunt, Blaebery Bash and Bramble Ramble events I'm teaming up again with Mandy at Mudpies for some seasonal food and fun in the forest. Come and celebrate the shortest day of the year with us. If you are coming to the afternoon event please bring a torch with you. We will be finishing at dusk and whilst we will have some lights you can’t beat a game of torch tag on the way back to the car!

Shortest Day Festive Food in the Wood

Sunday 21st December
10.00am - 12noon or 1.30pm - 3.30pm

Join Mandy from Mud Pies and Claire the Foodie Quine for family woodland Christmas Crafts and some hands on Festive Foodie Fun at Countesswells Woods, Aberdeen.
We’ll be foraging for wood sorrell, collecting sticks, cones and greenery to make festive heart and star decorations, tracking tangerines, lighting a camp fire, cooking Panettone french toast, drinking mulled apple juice, roasting Tunnocks Teacakes and if the snow shows signs of stopping, we'll have some corn for popping!
£8 per person
Suitable for age 3-12 and their grown ups

Book online at

Christmas Pudding Recipes for Stir Up Sunday

Thursday, 20 November 2014
Stir up Sunday is fast approaching (23rd Noverber 2014). I must admit to never having heard of it until I started food blogging and assumed it was something developed by supermarket PR departments! However apparently it dates back to Victorian times and falls on the last Sunday before advent. A tradition of the Anglican Church coming from a passage in the Book Of Common Prayer. 

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Following the Sunday Service the family would leave church to go home and teach the children how to stir up the ingredients for the pudding. Everyone gets a turn to mix, and an opportunity to make a wish. Stirring should be done East to West in honour of the Three Wise Men who came to visit baby Jesus. Breaking with tradition we've already eaten one Christmas pudding and made another for Christmas day!
A boozy pudding arrived in the post from Chef Neil Forbes at Cafe St Honore. These are available to buy in his Edinburgh restaurant for £12.50 but he's also shared the recipe if you fancy making your own. 

Neil Forbes, Cafe St HonorĂ© 
Christmas Pudding
Serves 4 (1 pudding)

125g sultanas
125g currants
125g raisins
20g glacé cherries, chopped
20g mixed peel
½ bramley apple, grated
20g carrot, grated
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
40g prunes, stoned and chopped
50g plain flour
20g ground almonds
60g bread crumbs
1tbsp milk
50g soft dark brown sugar
75g proper beef suet
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 egg
Pinch each of salt, mixed spice and cinnamon
Glug each of brandy, sherry and rum
4 tbsp stout

Place the sultanas, currants and raisins in a large bowl. Add the alcohol and leave to soak overnight.
Line a 2 pint pudding basin with muslin, leaving enough spare to tie at the top.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl of soaked fruit and mix well.
Fill the lined pudding basin with the mix and tie up the muslin with a piece of string.
Gently steam the pudding for 2 hours in a lidded pot (water covering half the pudding basin). Don’t allow to boil dry.
Before serving, check that the centre of the pudding is piping hot.
Serve with brandy sauce or pouring cream.
Of course in the interests of food blogging we had to try out the pudding in advance of Christmas so steamed it up and served it with custard for Sunday lunch desert. No point in doing it half heartedly though so the brandy was unearthed from the back of the drinks cabinet and the pud was duly set alight. It was amazingly fruity, suitably boozy, moist, unctuous and perfectly spiced. We all loved it, even girl who is a devotee to her granny's one.
Now to my own Christmas Pudding. This is the one that my Mum has made for as long as I can remember. I assumed that it was my Grandma Monearns Recipe (she of the famous shortbread) however upon quizzing turns out that it might have come via my Mum's Auntie Mabel. Whatever the source it's a great pudding. Really quick and easy to make and nice and light and most suitable for an all year round steamed pud, not just at Christmas. Boy and Girl were in charge of making it this year with girl having the particularly important job of wrapping and hiding the charms. We all had a go at stirring and made our Christmas wishes.
Seven Cup Christmas Pudding

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants
1 cup shredded suet
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon 

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir in the milk and beaten egg.
Pour into a well greased 3 pint pudding bowl. 
Cover with greaseproof paper and tin foil and steam in a lidded pan for 3-4 hours. Don't allow it to boil dry.
Freezes well so can be made in advance and steamed again on the big day to reheat. 

I made a steamed marmalade pudding at one of my AGA demonstrations a couple of weeks ago. When I came to remove it from the pan a couple of the attendees were very impressed with how I'd given it a string handle to make it easier to remove. I think it may have been the top tip that they took away from the event! This is the way I've always seen my mum do it so I just do the same. Sheet of tinfoil and a sheet of baking/greaseproof paper. Fold a pleat in the top to allow for expansion. Tie beneath the rim of the bowl with a double length of string then make a handle over the top to lift in and out of the pan. Simples!

With pudding made and in the freezer it seems an opportune time to reveal the festive version of my logo which has been pimped up with a bit of Christmas bling by my fab designer Camilla at
All together now, best singing voices. We all want a figgy pudding...


Glamping Domes, Loch Tay and Mhor 84

Sunday, 16 November 2014
Regular readers will know that as a family we enjoy staying in unusual places. So far these have included...

Treehouse, Fernie Castle, St Andrews

Lighthouse, Buchan Ness, Boddam, Aberdeenshire
Hobbit House, Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire
Houseboat, Blue Hue, Ratho, Edinburgh
Hobbit House revisited 
Gypsy Caravan, Stirling

The October holidays saw us venturing to Loch Tay for a couple of nights in a Glamping Dome. The domes looked amazing online but were even better in real life. Definitely the most spacious of all the glamping accommodation that we've stayed in. 18 square meters to be precise.
It was rather dreich when we arrived but we soon made ourselves at home in our dome. There's a wee village of domes and ours was called Linnhe. They are kitted out with giant beanbags, a double bed, 2 single fold up beds and a woodburning stove. No electricity but candles and paraffin lamps. Outside are fire pits and picnic benches but alas the weather meant we didn't make use of them.
We dined at the onsite Bistro and then retired to our dome for a cosy evening of boardgames, candles, nibbles, fizz and gin. The rain continued to persist but it sounded much worse pitter pattering on the roof that the reality when you headed outside in a mad dash to the toilet block. We breakfasted next morning in the Campers Kitchen which was a great set up with cooking, dining and TV facilities.
With all the rain we'd had the Falls of Dochart at Killin were even more spectacular than usual. The water came roaring and crashing down and the autumnal colours provided a fantastic scenic backdrop. 

Next stop was Mhor 84 for a late lunch. This is part of the Mhor group owned by the inimitable Tom Lewis who I had the pleasure of meeting and eating with earlier in the year during a #HiddenGems press trip. The decor, food, drink and general relaxed ambiance of Mhor 84 combined to make a fantastic dining experience.

You can't fail to notice the groaning table of cakes, pastries and giant meringues as you enter and its definitely worth leaving room for something sweet. The whole menu was tempting, including a great Wee Menu offering for children. There's also a fab games room with jukebox, pool table and Xbox to keep any fidgety big or little kids occupied. We dined on mussels, crab, burger and macaroni cheese. All were amazingly good.

The restaurant contained a real mixed clientele with everyone made equally welcome from soggy dogs to drookit walkers and cyclists. The quirky decor was somewhat Highland Shabby Chic with plenty of antlers and the occasional badger. I doubt there are a pair of matching chairs in the place.
Back to the dome for another night in front of the fire. Gin and Rhubarb was the tipple of choice. The Sylvanian Families also thoroughly enjoyed their glamping experience.
Typically the best of the weather saved itself for our last day. Fry up in the campers kitchen but alas no toast as we had to save all of our bread to feed the ducks.

So where to stay next? I do have a few places shortlisted but I'm always keen to hear of more so do let me know of anywhere special that might be suited to an adventurous family of four. Mhor's Pilot Panther Wagon is looking like a good bet at the moment.
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