Ballintaggart Farm - a refined Rural Destination in Highland Perthshire

Friday, 27 January 2017
It's always nice to have something in the diary to look forward to after Christmas as once all the hussle and bussle of the festive season has passed, January can seem rather dreary in comparison. At the start of December I'd received a rather intriguing invitation to pay a visit to Ballintaggart Farm and sample their foodie offerings to include either a Cookery Masterclass or Feast Night, plus an overnight stay. A quick look at the Ballintaggart website and their January Seasonal Suppers class caught my eye. 

Kick start your 2017 with a boost to your recipe repertoire. Leave with a new understanding of everyday ingredients, top tips and inspiration to feed your family and friends wholesome, seasonal dishes with flair. 

It sounded to me like the perfect start to a new year, my friend K agreed so we popped the date in our diaries for a girlie weekend of food and an escape from children and husbands!

Now I must admit that when I first looked at the Ballintaggart website and location it was the word 'Perth' that stuck in my head. It was only the week before our trip when I turned to Google maps that I realised rather than the Fair City it was actually Highland Perthshire. Still no problem until the snow started to fall rather heavily and their Facebook page began to share beautiful, but at the same time slightly concerning, photos of how much snow they had. Nevertheless we set off on our way with an emergency kit in the boot consisting of shovel, grit, screenwash, scraper, de-icer and carpet tiles! As it turned out the roads were absolutely fine with the only real snow being on the final 7 mile stretch after we turned off the A9 just north of the Hermitage. Now I had my bearings with Ballintaggart falling midway between Dunkeld and Aberfeldy. Whilst we made it safely to the bottom of the farm road, passing a rather picturesque Monarch of the Glen style pheasant shoot on the way, there was no chance that my wee Fiat 500 could make it up the sheet ice farm track. It was abandoned and the snow boots were pulled on for the final part of the journey. 

Our hosts for the weekend were Chris and Rachel Rowley. They moved to Ballintaggart Farm in April 2016 to create a refined rural destination with Kitchen, Garden and Rooms. Previously they had founded Edinburgh's first supper club, Charlie and Evelyn's Table which was a sell out success from 2009-14. This led to a stint at 2 AA Rosette restaurant The Gardener's Cottage in Edinburgh for Chris and the duo decided to leave their corporate past behind and that a full career change was in order. Relocating to London Chris retrained as a chef undertaking the Leiths School of Food and Wine Diploma. From then, he worked freelance as a private chef and gained restaurant experience in London and Cornwall before returning to Scotland. 

First impressions of Ballintaggart were idyllic. Admittedly the snowy scene probably played a part but the setting itself is stunning with the traditional stone farm buildings nestled in rolling hills with spectacular views over the Tay valley. The welcome was warm both in terms of greeting and a roaring log fire. We were shown to our rooms which were a wonderful combination of minimalist chic style, comfort, attention to detail and luxurious touches. A large guest sitting room with huge windows was the location for morning coffee and cakes (homebaked of course!) and meeting up with the other six course participants. When he managed to get a word in edgeways amongst all the chatter, Chris talked us through the format for the day before we all donned our aprons and headed to the kitchen.

The class itself was very relaxed and informal and suited to all abilities. After a quick health and safety briefing (still a bit gutted that I never got to shout 'hot pan') we all got stuck in and worked individually, in pairs and in teams of four to cook our lunchtime feast. The kitchen worked really well as a teaching space with everything that we needed to hand. The lovely Rowan kept on top of our washing up and along with Chris ensured that we had everything we needed. I could be doing with a Rowan in my kitchen! We all had recipe booklets to work from and were encouraged to ask questions and seek help along the way. Some dishes were demonstrated but most we prepared ourselves. 

On our lunchtime menu was...
Kale Pesto, Beetroot & Carrot Fritters, Rocket, Hazelnut & Pear Salad, Sesame Farro Salad, Avocado & Tahini Crostini, Butternut Hummus, Lamb Neck, Baked Pita and Fig Salad and for desert; Orange and Pommegranate Cake. 

The selection of dishes showed that for comfort food in the winter months you don't necessarily have to head down the road of beige and brown stodgy calorie laden carbohydrates. There's plenty of colour to be found in seasonal produce even at this time of year and simple carbs such as potatoes, rice and pasta can be replaced with more complex ones such as pulses and grains. Lunch was served in the stunning Library adjacent to the spacious barn venue space. We all thoroughly enjoyed eating the fruits (and vegetables) of our labour washed down with a couple of glasses of wine (glad we were staying over!). Back to the kitchen with full bellies to prepare the final dish of the day Kale and Taleggio Barley Risotto. 

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to the rest of the class as they headed home. Time for some fresh air and a quick explore around the grounds. Alas the weather wasn't conducive to either a knock about on the tennis court or an explore on the trail bikes which was a particular shame seeing that my friend K's husband is a tennis coach! We wandered up through what is the summer meadow to the orchard and visited the chickens before a slippy stroll down the hill, past sledging children, and a wander into Balnaguard Village. For those who wish to venture further afield there is a set of 6 postcards available which each cover half day or day trips in the surrounding area providing ideas of where to eat, shop, stroll, hike, picnic, explore and generally sup up the scenery along the way. Such a great idea and also supporting lots of other local businesses.

As if we hadn't already eaten enough, tea and cake was awaiting us on our return and we tucked into a slice of delicious honey, lemon, rose and rosemary cake with a pot of tea whilst candles burned, the fire crackled and flickered and the light outside dimmed. Much excitement when snowflakes once again started to fall and we thought that perhaps we might get stranded and have to stay another night - that would have been a real hardship... Chris appeared with a menu for what Rachel had described as a Simple Seasonal Supper. I was thinking this would be the risotto that we'd prepared earlier in the day. How wrong was I. A Ballintaggart simple supper is much removed from such a meal in my house. I hope my family don't start getting ideas. The focus was again fresh, local and seasonal and the food was simply wonderful and full of big flavours. After coffee, tablet and a wee G&T it was time to retire for the night with the promise of breakfast at the original Charlie and Evelyn's Table in the morning. 

A wonderful sleep was had in the most comfy beds ever. By this time we knew that breakfast wouldn't disappoint and despite still being stuffed from the previous day we stoically went for pretty much the full monty. The porridge would have been a step too far but we managed the homemade granola, fruit and yogurt followed by toast and croissants and the stunningly coloured daily special which was Poached Ballintaggart Egg with Crispy Organic Bacon, Smashed Avocado with Beetroot & Gooseberry Puree. Alas the overnight snow had been only a flury and we weren't blocked in so it was time to say goodbye. Ballintaggart Farm was the perfect place to get away from it all, eat well and recharge our batteries whist learning some new skills at the same time. The whole set up was utterly charming but not at all twee. A real home from home where we felt like house guests rather than residents. An absolute hidden gem which I can't wait to return to. A Feast Night experience is definitely on the cards. I suspect that Ballintaggart Farm may well become Scotland's answer to River Cottage.

Saturday Masterclasses 2017/2018 10am – 3pm, including a light lunch, £125 

New flavours, colours and fresh inspiration for Autumnal suppers and balanced lunches. 
A chance to bake a selection of delicious loaves from scratch including focaccia and sourdough. 
The most important of all culinary skills. Learn to chop with skill, speed, accuracy and style. 
Local speciality roasters take you on a journey from bean to cup and how to make consistently good coffee at home. 
Secrets to planning and preparing impressive menus without compromising on flavours, presentation or sanity! 
Renowned chocolatier Charlotte joins us to share an introduction to making chocolate, foraged flavours, and edible gifts. 
Beautiful, decadent canapés perfectly balanced with nourishing, vibrant Winter recipe ideas. 
Beginners’ guide to different types and cuts of meat, cooking techniques and secrets to the perfect ragu, roast and steak. 
The most important of all culinary skills. Learn to chop with skill, speed, accuracy and style. 
Beginners’ guide to Scotland’s world-class ocean larder and how to fillet and cook fish and shellfish. 
New flavours, colours and fresh inspiration for Spring suppers and balanced lunches. 
A chance to bake a selection of delicious loaves from scratch including focaccia and sourdough 

Tickets are £45/person

Feast Nights are passionately-executed, seasonal social experiences. Founded on the concept of communal dining, join us, bring your friends and share some of the very best ingredients the seasons and the area have to offer. We work with incredible local suppliers to create exciting menus with big flavours. 

Our latest 2017 dates are: 

♥ Pin me for later... Ballintaggart Farm - Kitchen, Garden, Rooms, Cookery Masterclasses and Feast Nights. A luxury refined Rural Destination in Highland Perthshire

Disclosure: We cooked, ate and stayed as guests of Ballintaggart Farm. As always, all views expressed are my own. Additional photography courtesy of Matt Davis
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me as a passionate Scottish Food Blogger to continue to share my Edible Food and Travel Adventures with you. I’m super choosy who I work with and promise to bring you only the cream of the crop.

Haggis Waffles

Sunday, 22 January 2017
Enjoy a Braw Burns Breakfast with these Haggis Waffles. If you fancy adding a Whisky Cream Sauce or a Dram on the side I'm sure The Bard would approve. Ideal for Burns Night, St Andrews Day or any Scottish Celebration!

I promise that this is the last of my new Burns Night recipes for 2017. Every year I get just a little bit carried away! So far this time round we've had Scotch Beef & Haggis Meatloaf with Whisky Neeps and Chocolate Haggis, both of which have gone down a storm with my followers on social media and readers here on the blog. I just had to sneak another one in before the big day on the 25th.

The idea for Haggis Waffles came to me in bed one night. I immediately turned to Google and Pinterest as I was convinced that there would already be lots of them out there but I couldn't find a single mention of any! Could I possibly have created a completely new thing?! They actually turned out even better than I could have imagined. The smell as they are cooking is incredible. You could easily use Veggie Haggis in them if you prefer. When it came to eating I went for crispy streaky bacon and lashings of maple syrup. Foodie Girl opted for red sauce, Boy for brown and Foodie Loon for sriracha. I reckon they'd also be pretty awesome with a whisky cream sauce. Sláinte!

Haggis Waffles

200g Self Raising Flour
25g Caster Sugar
Pinch Salt
280ml Milk
2 Free Range Eggs
80g Butter, melted
260g Haggis, cubed

Sieve together the flour, caster sugar and salt into a medium bowl.
In another bowl whisk together the milk, eggs and melted butter.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in the liquid mixture and whisk until well combined.
Chop up the haggis into small cubes, tip into the waffle batter and stir through.
Cook according to the instructions for your particular waffle maker.

Whilst you've got the waffle maker out here's a few more of my recipes plus some from my food blogging colleagues. Enjoy!

Pin me for later...
Foodie Quine - Scottish Haggis Waffles. Perfect for Burns Night & St Andrews Day.


Chocolate Haggis! (aka Shortbread and Whisky Fridge Cake)

Friday, 20 January 2017
Haggis for those who don't like Haggis. Perfect for Burns Night for those who are a wee bit squeamish about eating the real thing or are just too lazy to go out and hunt one down in the wild. Chocolate Haggis is a slightly boozy boozy Chocolate, Shortbread and Whisky Fridge Cake. Ideal served with ice cream ‘tatties’ and orange jelly ‘neeps’⁣

When I'm asked to describe my style of cooking I always struggle as it's a bit of a mish mash of everything. However if there is a particular area of speciality it's probably 'Quirky Scottish' or 'Scottish with a Twist'. Today's recipe definitely falls into that category. Surprisingly there's no Irn Bru or Tunnock's Teacakes involved but instead a culinary pun on a Scottish classic. Chocolate Haggis. 

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

This one will mess with your mind - it looks savoury but is infact sweet. I took inspiration from the Italian concept of Chocolate Salami but by switching out ingredients for Shortbread and Whisky and shortening and fattening up the shape we get ourselves a Haggis! Perfect for those who are a wee bit squeamish about eating the real thing or are just too lazy to go out and hunt one down in the wild. The end result is a very decadent no bake fridge cake. Seriously rich and just a touch boozy. 

Chocolate Haggis! (aka Shortbread & Whisky Fridge Cake) 

3 Tbsp Scotch Whisky (no E people!)
50g Sultanas 
100g Butter 
100g Cocoa Powder 
1 Free Range Egg 
100g Caster Sugar 
150g Shortbread 
50g Mixed Nuts, chopped 
Icing Sugar to dust 

Place the sultanas and whisky in a small bowl and leave to soak whilst you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Melt the butter in a pan, then sieve in the cocoa powder and stir until you have a smooth paste.
In a separate bowl whisk the sugar and egg together until pale and creamy.
Place the shortbread in a ziplock bag and bash it with a rolling pin. You want a mixture of chunks and crumbs.
Combine the chocolate mix with the sugar/egg mix and stir in the shortbread, chopped mixed nuts and the whisky soaked sultanas, plus any remaining Whisky.
Lay out a double thickness of clingfilm and tip the chocolate mixture out onto it forming a haggis shape.
Roll up and continue to manipulate into shape tying a knot at each end of the clingfilm
Chill in the fridge overnight to set.
Remove the clingfilm and rub the outside with icing sugar.
Slice and enjoy with a dram. 

A note on the raw egg issue. The current advice in the UK from the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food is that British eggs with the red "lion" brand carry such a low risk that vulnerable groups can safely eat them. 

Updated 26 January 2017...
WOW! I was so chuffed to see so many folk making and eating Chocolate Haggis yesterday for Burns Night. Please do keep tagging me in your photos and sharing you adaptations. Thanks also to The Scotsman Food & Drink for helping to spread the Chocolate Haggis love

Photo credits from top left in a clockwise direction... 
  • @islandbakeclub Thanks @foodiequine for the recipe, which I tweaked to include #lassiestoast. @RockRoseGin check out tonight's sweet haggis #BurnsNight2017 
  • Ann McLean What a fantastic recipe! Made it on Sunday and it's been in the fridge since then. Came out slightly misshapen but tastes great - thanks! I've had 3 bits and the Auchentoshan single malt in the sultanas has my eyes crossing. It's totally sinful and delicious! 
  • Lisa Williams Chocolate haggis minus the whisky and egg!! We used golden syrup instead of whisky, egg and sugar 
  • @eskerspirits What do you make your friend for her Burns' Night birthday tea? Yep, chocolate & shortbread haggis. Thanks for (another) amazing recipe @foodiequine 
  • My original 
  • @islandbakeclub
  • @jumpergill Last night I tried out @foodiequine's Chocolate Haggis, with a minor adjustment to make it gluten free. It certainly looks the part, let's see how well it goes down with the #haggiscrew 
  • Lisa Williams
  • My seasonal Haggis logo by Mimi Hammill

Thanks to the 2nd Stonehaven Brownies for telling me that a Chocolate Haggis (without the whisky!) is their Burns tradition served with orange jelly 'neeps' ice cream 'mashed tatties' and of course washed down with a dram of Irn Bru!!! Much more popular than the savoury original!!!

Some more of my Quirky Scottish Recipes that may well have Rabbie turning in his grave can be found in this post 25+ Quirky Scottish Recipes. Expect cotch Beef, Irn Bru, Tunnock's Teacakes, Haggis, Scottish Salmon, Tattie Scones, Whisky, Shortbread, Arbroath Smokies, Scottish Gin and more.

For more Haggis of all persuasions you'll be needing My Top 10 Haggis recipes for Burns night.

♥ Pin me for later... . Haggis for those who don't like Haggis. Perfect for Burns Night for those who are a wee bit squeamish about eating the real thing or are just too lazy to go out and hunt one down in the wild. Chocolate Haggis is a slightly boozy boozy Chocolate, Shortbread and Whisky Fridge Cake. Ideal served with ice cream ‘tatties’ and orange jelly ‘neeps’⁣

Scotch Beef and Haggis Meatloaf with Whisky Neeps

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

There's a reason us Scottish folk can't do Dry January. That reason is Burns Night and consequently Whisky. (No E folks, no E). Me and whisky go back a long way. It's been a big part of my life as long as I can remember. Before you start worrying, I wasn't drinking it as a toddler, rather I'm a farmer's daughter and my Dad's main crop was malting barley. Our family farm is on The Black Isle, overlooking the Beauly Firth. The next Firth as you head north is the Cromarty Firth and following that the Dornoch Firth. But why am I telling you all of this? The reason being is that all of our barley was sold locally so there is a chance that some of it made its way to Balblair Distillery on the coast of the Dornoch Firth. So when Balblair got in touch to ask if I'd like to come onboard and work with them to celebrate Burns Night I felt that I'd come full circle and there was an immediate connection. Us Highlanders like to stick together.

When it comes to Burns night there are many traditions, but the tipple of choice is always Whisky. Famous for producing award-winning Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Balblair is the ideal dram to toast the Bard with. Whilst many whiskys are sold by age, Balblair is sold by Vintage resulting in strongly individual whiskies which capture the unique essence of the year in which they were laid down. Both the bottles and boxes are absolutely stunning in vibrant colours with an innovative magnetic door opening mechanism for the box. 

Now for the taste test. I know what I like when it comes to alcohol but I'm not very good at putting the flavours into words à la Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke (showing my age!) so I'll leave that to the experts and share the official tasting notes for the Balblair Malts trio. All I have to add is that I'm pretty sure I tasted some of my Dad's barley in the 1990...

1990 Highland Single Malt Whisky, 1st release

Matures in American oak ex-bourbon casks and Spanish oak ex sherry butts Blablair Vintage 1990 2nd release is truly exceptional. This luxurious expression is the perfect after dinner treat.

1999 Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, 2nd release

This beautifully developed Balblair Vintage boasts the classic, fruity, floral and light heart of Balblair set against a darker, richer backdrop of further maturation in Spanish oak.

2005 Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, 1st release
Only a handful of American oak, ex-bourbon casks laid down in 2005 were selected by Distillery Manager John MacDonald to form this classic Balblair expression. Light, fruity and refreshing, this classic Vintage embodies Balblair’s house style.

The recipe that I've created using Balblair combines the holy trinity of Burns Supper ingredients. Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. Fair fa your honest sonsie face! Yup, we're talking haggis. Serious Burns. Although in my book Haggis is most definitely for life and not just for Burns Night (25th January for the uninitiated)

Haggis are of course small four legged creatures that live in the Highlands. They have two legs shorter than the others so they can run around the mountains without toppling over. Catch one yourself by chasing it the opposite way round the mountain or buy a free range one from your butcher.
Scottish Neeps are Turnips, but not wee white new Turnips but rather the large purple skinned yellow/orange Swede.
Tatties are potatoes and must be of the mashed variety.

For a twist on tradition I've used Scotch Beef to make a Beef and Haggis Meatloaf which is then topped with Neeps cooked in a Balblair, Butter and Brown Sugar glaze. I do hope Rabbie would approve.

Scotch Beef & Haggis Meatloaf with Whisky Neeps

Meatloaf Ingredients
450g Haggis
500g Scotch Beef Mince
1 Small Onion, finely chopped

Whisky Neeps Ingredients
700g Neeps (Swede) cubed
60g Butter
60g Demerara Sugar
2 Nips (70ml) of Balblair Whisky
Salt & Pepper

Preheat your oven to 180c
Remove the haggis from its outer wrappings and cut it into small cubes.
In a large bowl combine the Scotch Beef Mince, Haggis cubes and chopped onion. The most effective way to do this is to get your hands in and give it a thorough mix.
Press the meatloaf mixture into a non stick 2lb loaf tin and cook for 45 minutes.

Whisky Neeps
Place the cubed neep in a pan with the butter, sugar, Balblair Whisky and enough boiling water to barely cover.
Bring to the boil and cook uncovered over a high heat until the neep is tender and the water has evaporated to leave a buttery glaze. This will take around 30 minutes.
Season with salt & pepper.

Turn the Scotch Beef and Haggis Meatloaf out onto a board and top with the Whisky Neeps.

Serve the meatloaf sliced with extra Whisky Neeps on the side and a generous dollop of Mashed Tatties. Accompany with a dram of Balblair. 
Haggis Meatloaf with Whisky Neeps - Scottish, Burns Night, St Andrews Day

Disclosure: This is a commissioned recipe for Balblair. As always, all views expressed are my own. 
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me to continue to share my Edible Scottish Adventures with you. I’m super choosy who I work with and promise to only ever bring you the cream of the crop.


Thai Pork Mince

Monday, 16 January 2017
Ready in under 30 minutes Thai Pork Mince makes a perfect midweek meal for the whole family to enjoy. The colours of the finished dish are as vibrant as its Thai flavours and it's sure to be a recipe you'll make over and over again. Scottish Specially Selected Pork lends itself equally well to both fast and slow methods of cooking and combines wonderfully with Asian flavours.

I'm a huge advocate for Scottish red meat and work alongside Quality Meat Scotland to promote it within primary schools by means of interactive cooking demonstrations. One of the questions I'm often asked by the kids is why do we have Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb but not Scotch Pork. Apparently that's what it used to be called but when our Beef and Lamb were awarded PGI status (Protected Geographical Indication) the name was changed to Specially Selected Pork so as not to be misleading. So now you know! Nevertheless, when you see Specially Selected Pork on the label you can be assured that the pork comes from Scottish farms that meet stringent criteria including animal welfare and natural production methods. The scheme ensures full traceability and covers the entire lifespan of animals and as well as the farms includes the feed, auction marts, transport and processing sectors. Generations of animal husbandry skills underpin the production of Specially Selected Pork which means that the end customer can be sure that the product you are buying is of the highest quality.

When it comes to cooking with pork the possibilities are endless. Setting aside the ubiquitous bacon and sausages you are still spoilt for choice. Mince, Ribs, Roasted with Crackling, Pulled, Meatballs, Burgers, Casseroles, Stir Frys, Belly, Loin, Gammon, Ham, Chops, Kebabs and more. Specially Selected Pork lends itself equally well to both fast and slow methods of cooking and combines wonderfully with Asian flavours. The quick and easy recipe I'm sharing below does exactly that. Ready in under 30 minutes it makes a perfect midweek meal for the whole family to enjoy. Its also Gluten Free if you use Tamari or a GF Soy Sauce. The colours of the finished dish are as vibrant as its Thai flavours and it's sure to be a recipe you'll make over and over again. 

Thai Pork Mince
Serves 4
Prep Time 10 Minutes
Cooking Time 15 Minutes

500g Specially Selected Pork Mince
1 Tbsp Demerara Sugar
1 Shallot, finely chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
Thumb sized piece of Ginger, grated
3 tsp Lemongrass Paste (or 1 lemon grass stalk, bashed and finely chopped)
1 Red Chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 x 50g sachet Creamed Coconut
1 Tbsp Thai Fish Sauce
2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
4 Tbsp Soy Sauce

Salted Peanuts, chopped
Fresh Coriander, chopped
Red Chilli, sliced

Serving Suggestion
Gem Lettuce Cups or Jasmine Rice

Over a high heat brown the Specially Selected Pork Mince in a wok along with the demerara sugar. Remove the mince with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Turn down the heat to medium and fry the shallot, garlic, chilli and lemongrass for a couple of minutes in the pork mince fat until fragrant.
Return the mince to the wok and stir to combine.
Add the sachet of creamed coconut and allow it to melt down before adding the fish sauce, rice vinegar and soy sauce.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 Minutes.
Serve in gem lettuce cups or with jasmine rice garnished with chopped peanuts, coriander and red chilli.

For further Pork inspiration take a look at my recipes below and you'll see exactly how versatile an ingredient it is.

Thai Pork Mince Specially Selected Pork makes a speedy Gluten Free Asian midweek meal of Thai Pork Mince served in Gem Lettuce Cups or with Jasmine Rice

Disclosure : This is a commissioned recipe for Specially Selected Pork. As always, all views expressed are my own. 
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me to continue to share my Edible Scottish Adventures with you. I’m super choosy who I work with and promise to only ever bring you the cream of the crop.

Refried Beans, Pepper and Corn Tacos with Avocado Cream

Monday, 9 January 2017

My first recipe post of 2017 and it really has to be a healthy one doesn't it? I don't know about you but it's actually been a relief to get back to real food following all the festive overindulgence. My body is literally crying out for fruit and vegetables. Today's recipe is a wee bit of a departure for me as it's Vegan. I'm guessing that I must have unconsciously made and eaten vegan food in the past but its definitely outwith my usual comfort zone - which is no bad thing. My friends at Iceland Foods challenged me to come up with a dish using the #PowerOfFrozen to celebrate Veganuary. If you've not come across Veganuary it's a campaign that aims to inspire and support people across the globe to go vegan for the month of January. Personally I'd really struggle to go vegan for a month but I think that we all realise that we need to be cutting down on our meat consumption and upping the veggies. Hat's off to you if you are doing the full 31 days.

To create my Mexican vegan taco filling I used a selection of frozen vegetables and herbs. These are an absolute staple of my freezer and encapsulate much of what is good about frozen food with particular emphasis on quality, convenience and less waste. I can't be the only one to buy fresh herbs for a recipe, use a couple of sprigs, then find the remainder of the packet languishing in a black and slimy mess a week or so later at the bottom of the salad drawer?! Frozen herbs reduce food waste, have quality and freshness locked in and are wonderfully convenient. Sames goes for the sweetcorn, diced onions and sliced peppers. You only use exactly the amount you want with no need to defrost before cooking. 

I was delighted to regularly work with Iceland Foods in 2016, creating seven recipes across the year utilising #ThePowerOfFrozen. Iceland have been around for a while and I'm the first to admit that I had preconceived ideas about the types and quality of products they sold, but those myths have been well and truly busted. As well as seriously upping their game in general, they also cater for the increased variety in dietary demands with products suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Just checkout their frozen superfood range which includes quinoa, kale, asparagus and cous cous. You'll be surprised and inspired.

Vegan Refried Beans, Pepper & Corn Tacos with Avocado Cream
Serves 4

1 Tbsp Oil
1 Tbsp Frozen Chili
435g Can of Refried Beans
2 Tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
Salt & Pepper

Avocado Cream
1 Avocado
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
Pinch of Smoked Paprika
Salt & Pepper

To Serve
8 Taco Shells
1 Large Carrot - spiralized or grated
Shredded Lettuce
Fresh Coriander, chopped
Smoked Paprika

Preheat your oven and heat the Taco shells according to the packet instructions.
Heat a the oil in a large frying/saute pan over a medium heat. Add the frozen onion, peppers and sweetcorn and saute 5 to 7 minutes or until soft.
Then add the garlic, chilli, parsley and cook for a further minute or until fragrant.
Stir in the refried beans and chopped tomatoes then season with the smoked paprika and a generous quantity of freshly ground salt and pepper.
Allow everything to warm through over a low heat whilst you prepare the tacos and toppings.

To make the Avocado Cream blitz together the avocado flesh, lemon juice, smoked paprika, salt and pepper with a hand blender. Depending on the ripeness of your avocado you may need to add a splash of water to get a smooth creamy consistency.

Fill each warmed taco shell with some shredded lettuce before topping with the Refried Bean and Vegetable filling. Drizzle over the avocado cream, sprinkle with chopped coriander, smoked paprika and finally the spiralized carrot.

Isn't it just a riot of colour? We really should be eating the rainbow when it comes to fruit and vegetables. If you like it hot top it with with Sriracha and if you fancy it vegetarian as opposed to vegan you could add soured cream and grated cheese. We ate ours with a couple of the white rice steam bags. The Refried Beans, Pepper and Sweetcorn filling is so quick and easy to make and would work really well as a baked potato topping or in other Mexican classics such as Tortillas or Enchiladas. Thanks to the #PowerOfFrozen and a tin of Refried Beans, this vegan dish is going to become a family friendly weeknight staple.

For further Veganuary #PowerOfFrozen inspiration check out Bintu's Baked Quinoa Falafels with an Orange Tahini Dressing and Janie's Vegan Buddah Bowl with Spicy Peanut Dressing.

Disclosure : This is a commissioned recipe for Iceland Foods. As always, all views expressed are my own.
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me to continue to share my Edible Scottish Adventures with you. I’m super choosy and promise to bring you only the cream of the crop.

Barn with Silo Gingerbread House 2016

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Regular readers will know that we have an annual tradition of festive Gingerbread House baking, building and decorating. I use the word 'we' with caution. The basic premise is that my Sister (Auntie Adele), Foodie Boy (Kyle) and Foodie Girl (Iona) do all the hard work and I take all the glory on social media for their gingerbread creation! It all started back in 2010 with an Ikea Gingerbread house and has progressed to more complex homemade builds over the last six years. In early December Boy and Girl were chuffed to be interviewed by Victoria Pease at STV online for a Scots Bloggers reveal how to make a showstopping Gingerbread House feature where they shared some of their top baking and decorating tips and revealed that their plans for Christmas 2016 were to build a Gingerbread Barn & Silo.

The plan they followed was by Gingerbread by Design for a Barn with Silo Gingerbread House and the gingerbread recipe was Mary Berry's. Alas a barn has no chimney so the tradition of a sprout perched on top had to take a break this year. New additions to the construction repertoire for 2016 included shutters, pretzels, coconut grass and soil.

Pretzels and Jelly Tots on the roof, Icing Icicles and snowdrifts, White Chocolate Button Stone Cladding and a Vegetable Patch with dessicated coconut soil and marzipan vegetables (carrots, sprouts and cabbage)

The silo tower made from nine gingerbread panels initially assembled around a can of beer! Topped with a dome baked over an upturned muffin tin.

Marzipan, fondant and pretzel Rudolph in his Barn (complete with glittery nose) looks out over his Chocolate Finger path.

Jelly Baby Jesus in the manger of Marzipan straw (made in a garlic crusher). Gingerbread and Mint Matchmaker ladder and Marzipan tree.

Roof decorated with Pretzels, Jelly Tots, Curly Wurlys, Smarties and Matchmakers.

A late addition to the farmyard - a fondant Olaf made by Foodie Girl sits next to a Flake log pile and boiled sweet pond.

Of course the whole point of a Gingerbread House at the end of the day is that it is edible. The Facebook live video above shows it's demolition prior to being eaten and enjoyed. I particularly love the plume of icing sugar dust as the barn gets smashed to smithereens.

Until next year...

♥ Pin me for later... Christmas 2016's Gingerbread House Creation. Barn with Farmyard, Silo, Vegetable Patch, Rudolph, Olaf and Jelly Baby Jesus in the manger.
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