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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Real Ale at Sulwath Brewers Ltd

The Black Galloway from Sulwath Brewers Ltd
My younger son came home for the weekend and asked if we could 'do something' on Saturday.  So we decided to go to Castle Douglas, a lovely little market town about 30 miles away.  It's one of those places with a lot of independent shops and is the Food Town of Dumfries & Galloway in South West Scotland.

As the mission was to 'do something' we decided that, as well as visiting the delis and gift shops, we would go to the Sulwath Brewery and take a tour, great I thought, this can go on my blog.  I checked out their website and located the visitor centre which is just off the main street.

We arrived at the 'visitor centre' which is really a sort of pub, serving their own beers, quite a nice little pub.  We asked about the tours and were told that they only offer tours on Monday and Friday at 1pm unless by prior arrangement.  I must have looked pretty disappointed and mentioned that it had not said this on the website and we had come specially to see the Brewery, so they agreed to give us a mini tour for free.

It turned out that the man giving us the tour was Jim Henderson who set up the Brewery which is now run by his son, Allen Henderson.  He told us all about the malted barley and the hops, how they don't use any artificial ingredients, no caramel, no concentrates (which are used by large brewers) and then took us through to the brewing area.

It really is a micro-brewery, it is basically a large brick built shed with the stainless steel tanks for brewing in it. One of the most interesting things was that they do their own bottling, because bottling firms want huge quantities to go through and that is just not going to happen in micro brewing.  Because of this, other microbreweries get them to bottle their beers too, and even some larger brewers who are trying out small quantities for export will also use Sulwath to bottle their ales.

If you go on the proper tour, you get a half pint at the beginning and another at the end of your tour. As we weren't paying we weren't getting free beer, but both my son and husband tried the John Paul Jones and were impressed, here is what it says on the website:

Originally brewed as a celebration beer to commemorate this one time Buccaneer's 250th birthday anniversary in July 1997.
He was born on the neighbouring farm to our original brewery site at Southerness.
Such has been the popularity of this brew, that we include this with our mainstream products regularly.
John Paul Jones is dark amber in colour, with a perfect nose reminiscent of summer meadows. Pronounced tastes of best "Maris Otter"  malt with a hint of Brambling Cross fresh Hereford hops, combine to yield a suggestion of sweetness in the aftertaste, making this an extremely pleasant drink. 

The Black Galloway, seen in the photograph, wasn't on draft yesterday, so a bottle was purchased to try at home, it is a stout or porter.

I have to say it was a very interesting visit,  I didn't try any beer, not because I don't like it, but because I was driving, but it seemed to go down very well.  I would recommend the tour if you are in the area and even just to drop in for a pint or half pint.  Everyone is very helpful and friendly and I would like to thank Jim Henderson for giving us him time outside the usual tour schedule.

Flavour Fortnight 2011 - just a note to say that Dumfries & Galloway's Flavour Fortnight is from 3rd - 18th September to coincide with Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight.  I'm hoping to get to a few events, check out the website and think about visiting this beautiful area of Scotland.

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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Patatas Bravas - Bookmarked Recipes

This is a recipe for the Bookmarked Recipe Challenge hosted by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes and originally devised by Ruth from Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.  

This is the bookmarked recipe, I am an inveterate collector of recipes,  I have four A4 folders full of pages from magazines, many of which I haven't made yet!  Every now and then I have a cull and throw out some that have been there too long without having been tried.  I just don't want to fill any more folders, but there is a plastic wallet stuffed with even more cuttings, so I think it is time for another cull!

Tapas is incredibly popular all of a sudden, I was in Tesco today and saw a readymade tortilla - eek, why would you buy a potato omelette, cold and shrink-wrapped from a supermarket shelf when you could make it yourself for a fraction of the cost and I'll bet it would be five times as tasty!

Enough of my ranting and on to the recipe for Patatas Bravas.  This recipe comes from the BBC Good Food Magazine, but when I looked online, this one didn't seem to feature and I fiddled about a bit with it, as per usual.  I liked how Patatas Bravas was described:

"This dish sounds so Spanish, but it's simply fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce and who doesn't like that?"

Patatas Bravas
vegetable oil for cooking
1.5kg/3lb 5oz potatoes,  cut into cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
pinch of chilli flakes
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Pimenton, hot smoked paprika
100ml/3 and a half fl oz white wine
400g can chopped tomatoes
couple of spigs of thyme

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
1.  Put the chopped potato into a roasting tin and cover generously with oil.   Roast the potato cubes for approx 20 minutes until soft inside and crispy brown on top.  When cooked remove and drain on kitchen paper, keep the potatoes warm.
2. Meanwhile, in another pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onion, garlic and chilli for 7 mins or until softened.  Sprinkle over the paprika, cook for a moment, then pour in th wine, tomatoes and thyme.  Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 mins. 
3. To serve, season, pile potatoes onto a platter, then pour over the sauce.

The sauce  

The potatoes
Patatas Bravas
I was slightly over generous with the Pimenton (smoked paprika) so it was pretty hot but not unbearably so and actually completely delicious.  I had some left overs so reheated it in a frying pan added a beaten egg and made it into an omelette or 'tortilla' as they like to call it in Spain and Tescos, of course!

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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

How Blondie became Barbie!

The 'We should Cocoa' challenge for the last couple of months has been nice and easy,  chocolate and strawberries - tick, chocolate and apricots - tick (I even managed to make that one low fat!

But when I read the August challenge I was horrified,  Chocolate and ROSE, what on earth was I going to make with rose, where (in the depths of south west Scotland) was I going to get rose water or rose flavouring of some kind?

I've been pondering the challenge for a few weeks now and considered all sorts,  I managed to find a bottle of Thorncroft Rose Hip Cordial at a deli in Kirkcudbright.

As I am on holiday at home this week,  I started to look seriously at some of my cake recipes to see if I could incorporate the rose flavour into one of them.  
What I came up with was a recipe for Peanut Butter & White Chocolate Blondies from Rachel Allen's Bake.  It called for a teaspoon of vanilla essence which I replaced with a teaspoon of the Rosehip Cordial.  I also added half a teaspoon of red food colouring to 'rose' it up a bit!

Ooh look, pink blondie mix. And that's when Blondie became 'Barbie'

I melted the rest of the white chocolate and topped the 'Barbies' with the melted choc then sprinkled it with pink sugar, now totally Barbie.  I even had time for a bit of photo dressing with some rose petals and a little rose - awww pretty!  OMG they are delicious,  I'm not saying you can taste much in the way of rose in there, and this is certainly NOT the low fat option - but then, it is my birthday this week, I think I'm allowed.

Peanut Butter and White Chocolate 'Barbies'
125g (4.5oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g (3.5oz) butter, softened
150g (5oz) crunchy peanut butter
175g (6oz) soft light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1tsp rosehip cordial
1/2 tsp red food colouring
75g (3oz) white, chocolate, chopped

20 x 20cm (8x8") square cake tin

1. Preheat the oven to 170C (325F) Gas Mark 3.  Butter the sides of the cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, creamthe butter and peanut butter together until very soft.  Add the sugar, egg and rosehip cordial and beat until combined.  Add the flour, baking powder and the chopped chocolate to form a dough.
4. Place the dough in prepared tin and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown an almost firm in the centre.
5. Allow to cool in the tin, before removing and cutting into squares.

Melt 75g (3oz) white chocolate with a knob of butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water, spread over cooled cake and sprinkle with pink Barbie sugar before the chocolate sets.  Cut into small squares.

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Monday, 22 August 2011

Random Recipes #7 - Acorn Eggs

Belleau Kitchen is currently being dismantled and rebuild to new standards of fabulousness, in the mean time cooking is pretty basic there, so Dom has gone back to basics taking us back to the original classic challenge

... line up ALL your cookbooks

... give them a shuffle

... close your eyes and pick one book randomly

... close your eyes again and open the book at a random page

... cook that exact dish

... DO NOT CHEAT (you're only cheating yourself etc.. blah blah blah)

I have too many cookbooks to 'shuffle' but chose a random number and counted along the shelves until I came to...

The Scottish Women's Rural Institutes Cookery Book (Eighth Edition).  For those of you who don't know, the S.W.R.I or the Rural, as it is commonly known, is a sort of equivalent of the Women's Institute in England.  It started in 1917 to provide social, educational and recreational opportunities for those who live and work in the country or are interesed in country life.  Food and Crafts feature heavily in their 'manifesto'.

This book belongs to my MIL, but when I moved to the farm I joined the Rural and continued as a member until I went back to work full time.  It was a great way of meeting people and making friends.  

Anyway, back to the challenge...this is not my favourite cookbook, no pictures for a start.  Also some of the recipes are a tad old fashioned.  But that's the nature of the challenge, so I opened it up in trepidation, hoping I wasn't going to be confronted with Tripe & Onions or Beetroot Wine (I've been leafing through to see what might have been!) but the Random Recipe fairy was kind to me and I got  this:

As I'm on holiday at home this week, I decided this would make a nice lunch for me today.    There are a couple of things to note about this recipe, if you want your Acorn Eggs to look like acorns you really have to have a LARGE tomato and a SMALL egg, not the other way around!!!!  

 I cut my slice of bread into rounds with a pastry cutter, but you don't have to, it just looked prettier.  The other thing is that the cheese doesn't stay on the egg very well.  I do wonder if it might be better to toast the cheese on the bread, then put on the tomato and egg with a little sprinkling of cheese just to cover the top of the egg.

Here it is, the finished Acorn Egg, see what I mean about the tomato/egg ratio?  There are, of course two,  the other one is lurking at the back of the picture, but when I put them both on the plate to take a photo, they looked a bit like a well endowed lady sunbathing - hee hee hee!  

It tasted fine, like egg and tomato on toast with a bit of melted cheese on it, I'm not sure I could be bothered faffing about making it look like an acorn again though!

Acorn Eggs

Allow 1 hardboiled egg and 1 tomato per person.  Cut tomatoes in half and grill lightly.  Place 1/2 egg, yok side down, on each half tomoato.  Sprinkle with grated cheese, set on a slice of bread and grill sufficiently to allow cheese to melt.  Serve very hot.

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Monday, 15 August 2011

Foolproof slow roast chicken

I visited our local farm shop yesterday to stock up my freezer, the one thing I wouldn't freeze is a whole chicken and the chickens from Kilnford Barns are delicious.  It's been a busy weekend so I didn't want any kind of complicated recipe and was just going to do a straightforward roast.  However,  I was tidying up my cookbook holder (many printed out copies of recipes, sauce splattered magazines - you know what I mean) and found the little BBC Good Food booklet '80 best-ever recipes'.  On the front cover was a roasted chicken so I read on...basically, put it all in the oven and leave it for 2 hrs 20 mins - ideal for my purpose!

You can get the full recipe on the BBC Good Food website HERE . 
However, of course,  I did make a few wee changes  I didn't have two garlic heads, so used a glug of Roasted Garlic juice (from a bottle).  I also didn't want to open a bottle of white wine so I used a small bottle of Crabbies Alcholic Ginger Beer and, oh boy did that make great gravy - I think a good cider would give a similar result.

The long slow roasting with the mixture of stock and your choice of alcohol made the chicken very moist and delicious.  I was a bit concerned that the potatoes would be soggy, but they were nice and soft inside and crisp on the outside, not quite like the roast potatoes I would normally make, but they had absorbed the lovely flavour of the chicken, herbs and gravy, quite delicious.

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Saturday, 13 August 2011

No Croutons Required - Lentils

I've looked at the 'No Croutons Required' challenge on Jac's Tinned Tomatoes blog before, but never got around to making anything for it. 

When I saw that the August ingredient was lentils, I thought I would give it a go.  The other stipulation is that it should be suitable for vegetarians.  I had a bit of an internet search and found THIS recipe for Warm Pea and Lentil Salad on the Delicious Magazine website.

According to the website it is a recipe from Nigel Slater's 'Real Fast Food', a book I used to own but never really got to grips with, probably because of the dearth of pictures!  I couldn't leave it alone though ...

I cooked up some brown rice as well as the lentils, added a red and a green pepper, a couple of tomatoes as well as the the peas and onions in the original recipe.   It would also be nice with some chopped mint through it or some feta cheese cubes. 

So that's the end of the vegetarian bit for the challenge but, for the carnivores amongst you, I added some cubes of cooked ham (look away Jac!).  It was delicious with or without the meat and I'll definitely be making it again.

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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Salmon Steaks with Basil and Balsamic Vinegar

Farmed salmon is something we eat regularly, it can be a little bland, so it's nice to dress it up with some punchy flavours.  This recipe exceeded both our expectations and is definitely going on my summer favourites list!

Salmon Steaks with Basil and Balsamic Vinegar
from Good Housekeeping Cookery Book (The Cook's Classic Companion)
Serves 4

4 salmon fillets
30ml (2tbsp) balsamic vinegar
10ml (2tsp) soy sauce
90ml (6tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
40g (1 1/2 oz) fresh basil, stalks removed
8 ripe plum tomatoes (or other flavourful tomatoes) diced
30ml (2tbsp) chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper
basil sprigs to garnish

1. Place the salmon steaks in a shallow non-metallic dish.  Mix the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce together and pour over the salmon, turning to coat.  Cover and leave to marinate in a cool place for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put the olive oil and basil in a food processor or blender and work until smooth.  Pour into a bowl, cover and leave to infuse.  (do not make this too far in advance)
3. In a bowl, mix the tomatoes with the chives and season well with salt and pepper.  Cover and set aside
4. Lift the salmon out of the marinade and place skin side down in a hot pan with a little olive oil.  Cook for 4 minutes each side, once cooked add the rest of the marinade to the pan and reduce to a syrupy sauce.
5. Whisk the basil oil briefly at this stage to re-combine.
6.  Spoon the tomato mixture onto the warmed serving plates and place a salmon fillet on top.  Drizzle with the basil oil and spoon on the reduced marinade.  Serve immediately, garnished with basil.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that there are also some courgettes on the plate.  They came straight from the garden, chopped into small dice and cooked in a little olive oil in a pan with lemon zest and a teaspoon of lemon juice, seasoned with rosemary salt and pepper.

And finally some boiled new potatoes to soak up the juices.

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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Paul Hollywood's Chocolate Muffins

In order to prevent overdosing on chocolate birthday cake,  I suggested to Mr Farmer that we had chocolate muffins for this birthday rather than a 7" or 8" cake!  He was quite happy to go with this, especially when I found this recipe by Paul Hollywood on the UKTV Good Food Channel.

It is a really interesting recipe, it uses strong bread flour and after you make the mixture you chill it in the fridge for 2 hours.  Then you put a teaspoonful in the bottom of the muffin case add a square of dark chocolate and then more muffin mixture on top. 

The muffins are very moist and and airy. When served warm, the chocolate in the middle is gooey and melting.  If cold then it doesn't go completely hard again, just not so gooey. 

I can really recommend this recipe, it is high fat, high sugar and absolutely delicious, so most of the rest of the muffins are destined for Mr Farmer's office to remove them from temptation!

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Saturday, 6 August 2011

Kirkcudbright (Kirr-coo-bree) and the Selkirk Arms

Kirkcudbright is a little fishing town in Dumfries & Galloway.  It is about 30 miles from where I live, it's called the 'artists town' you can read more about the Artists Town HERE.

Each summer they hold an exhibition in the Town Hall which is of national significance.  Last year it was paintings by the 'Glasgow Girls',  this year the 'Glasgow Boys'.  As it is also Mr Farmer's birthday this weekend, we went to see the exhibition with our friend, Avril,  and went out for lunch to the Selkirk Arms.

No lovely pictures of the harbour or sights in the town because it was a bit grey and wet, but I did take photos of our lunch!
Cullen Skink, Chef’s contemporary version of a classic Scottish dish. Sauteed potatoes, Smoked Haddock Fillet, leek compote, poached egg and all topped with hollandaise sauce

 Avril and I chose the Cullen Skink,  it was delicious, the fish cooked to perfection and the cubes of potatoes just soft enough.  Topped with the poached egg and hollandaise sauce, some of my favourite things!

It was served with a really good side salad full of strips of carrot and beetroot and tasty black olives.

Fillet of Scottish Salmon on a spring onion potato cake with a rich lobster cream 
Mr Farmer chose the salmon which he enjoyed, he had seasonal vegetables with his fish rather than the salad.

Baked Alaska – Vanilla ice cream encased in a light meringue served with a blackcurrant compote

There was something odd going on,  Avril and I chose the same dessert as well!  We both fancied the Baked Alaska and it was a good choice. The icecream was good and still frozen under the meringue.  We both enjoyed it very much.

A selection of Scottish Farmhouse Cheese and Biscuits
A selection of local cheeses including Loch Arthur Cheddar, Loch Arthur Criffel and Lanark blue served with marinated grapes and apricot relish

Mr Farmer went for the cheese,  he particularly enjoyed the Lanark Blue which was creamy with a real tang.

Overall it was a very good meal and with drinks came to around £25 per head for lunch.  Service was excellent, the staff friendly and efficient.  So if you happen to get a chance to visit Kirkcudbright I would highly recommend a visit to the Selkirk Arms.  However,  I would recommend that you book as it is very popular!

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Monday, 1 August 2011

Thanks to Hotel Chocolat and Tinned Tomatoes Blog!

I won this summer Goody Bag from Hotel Chocolat on the Jac's Tinned Tomatoes blog.  I'm still on a strict regime (although I was less strict over the weekend and have to get back on track) of no cake or chocolate and lower fat meals with smaller portions (it is working, just slowly), so when I won this everyone was very amused.  But I have a cunning plan...I am going to give it to Mr Farmer for his birthday next weekend.  He loses weight far too easily and this will give me back a little of the advantage ;)

Mind you, it's going to be torture watching him eat it.  Anyway, Jac now has another competition on her blog for a day out as a chocolatier with Green and Blacks.  I'd love to learn to work with chocolate, and if you would too, then hop over to her blog and leave a comment.

Thanks again to Hotel Chocolat and Jac at Tinned Tomatoes

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