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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Mark Greenaway to join Nairn's Oatcakes at Edinburgh's newest market

Mark Greenaway to join Nairn’s Oatcakes at Edinburgh’s newest market 
Chance to meet award winning celebrity chef at Nairn’s stall in Boxsmall Market

I was invited along to meet with renowned Scottish celebrity chef, Mark Greenaway, who is collaborating with Nairn’s, the Scottish oatcake brand, at Edinburgh’s newest market, Boxsmall in Festival Square next week. Unfortunately I am unable to attend, however I thought that some of my Scottish readers might like to know about this and head over to Boxsmall to find out more. 

Mark has worked with Nairn’s to develop a range of oatcake toppings for you to make at home or at work. From Chicken Roulade with Caesar Garnish to Peanut Caramel Cheesecake each recipe is easy-to-prepare and perfect for everyday eating. There’s even a recipe for Haggis Neeps and Tatties on oatcakes!

So if you want to meet Mark and try his delicious creations, make sure you visit the Nairn’s stall on Monday 4th August from 1pm – 4pm. You’ll even have the chance to win a meal for two at his award-winning restaurant in Edinburgh, Restaurant Mark Greenaway.

Open on Festival Square from 20th June – 31st August, Boxsmall is a family-friendly market and picnic destination, which showcases the very best of Scottish food, design and crafts together with fun activities for children.

The Nairn’s stand will be showcasing the latest treats from Cracked Black Pepper Oatcakes to their newest tasty inventions, Muesli Breaks, which use wholesome oats grown in the Scottish borders that are milled and packed locally in Edinburgh and distributed throughout the world.

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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

July Slow Cooker Challenge Round Up

Canellinni Bean Dip is a hummus style dip made in the slow cooker, what a clever idea from Corina at Searching for Spice

Slow Cooker Provencal Style Chicken with Rice  is the delicious summery entry from Sarah at Tales from the Kitchen Shed

Slow Cooker Orange Pistachio and Honey Cake  oh my goodness Baking Queen 74 has excelled herself with this delicious moist cake full sticky syrupy goodness.

Camilla at Fab Food For All has cooked up this Slow Cooked Italian Chicken, a tasty dish and ideal for summer.

Many thanks to all of you for entering the Slow Cooker Challenge in July, remember to check out my Mexican Chicken recipe too and I'll be back in a day or two with a new challenge for August.

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Monday, 28 July 2014

Fruity Iced Green Tea - A cooling drink for a hot summer

I am really rather excited about finding a new way of making iced tea.  Now this may not be news to you, but I had never thought of adding green tea bags to cold water and leaving it to brew in the fridge!  Helen  featured Cold Brew Green Tea on her blog Fuss Free Flavours last week and I just had to try it.

I used some of the lovely new range of green tea bags from Tetley.  Sales of green tea are on the rise in the UK - thanks in part to growing evidence of its health benefits, but also because of its distinctive, refreshing flavour.  I've made a few jugs of Cold Brew Tea now, the one featured in the photo was Green Tea with Mint and I added some slices of lemon and mint sprigs, as recommended by Helen.  However, I have also tried the Mango and Passionfruit variety and it was also delicious.  You could add sugar or honey if you like your iced tea sweet, but I found it a really refreshing drink without any additions, it is reminiscent of the flavoured bottled water but without the artificial sweeteners.  I've also tried the peach and apricot flavour as hot tea and it is equally refreshing and a nice alternative to black tea.

Helen left her tea to brew overnight, but I found that 2 tea bags in 1 1/2 litres of water had enough flavour after a couple of hours which is more good news on a hot day! It's also incredibly economical with 20 tea bags for around a £1.00, you need never buy bottled flavoured water again.

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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Courgette and Hummus Pizza

I saw a photograph of a Courgette (Zucchini) and Hummus Pizza on Pinterest, unfortunately the link went to a blog that was private so I wasn't able to get the recipe, however I was intrigued by this unusual topping, so decided to have a go myself.

Having recently returned from Appleby and the Lake District  via Little Salkeld Mill, near Penrith,  where you can see the flour milled, enjoy the delights of the cafe and stock up on all the organic goodies.

Courgette and Hummus Pizza

For the dough
2 tsp fast action dried yeast
300ml milk
200g spelt flour
300g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp plain yogurt
30g butter, melted

This quantity of flour will make one large pizza and three flat breads or two large pizzas. Just half the quantities if you only want enough for one pizza.

For the topping
1 large courgette (zucchini) finely sliced
200g hummus (I used homemade, if you can try and find one that is not completely smooth but any will do)
100g Tickler Extra Mature Cheddar with Red Onions (or cheese of your choice)

I made my dough in the bread maker, but if you want to make it by hand, put all the ingredients in a large bowl and add the salt and the yeast keeping them away from each other.  Add the olive oil and 150ml of the water and mix. Add the remaining water a little at a time until you have a smooth, soft dough.

Tip the dough onto an oiled surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth.  Leave to rise until doubled in size.

Split off enough dough for your pizza and roll is or press it onto a tray, spread the hummus in a thick layer over the dough, place the slices of courgette over the hummus.  Crumble the mature cheddar and scatter over the pizza. 

Cover the pizza with oiled cling film  and leave to rise for a further 30 minutes.  

Bake at 200C for 20-30 minutes until the base is cooked, the courgettes have crisped and the cheese is melted and golden. 

The combination of the hummus and courgette was absolutely brilliant!  The spelt base was soft rather than crispy but full of flavour, the red onion in the cheese also worked well with the combination, but you could add some finely chopped red onion to the topping to compensate if you don't have this cheese. 

I had the opportunity to try out the new Clean Cut Pizza Wheel  from OXO Good Grips, so here is the result, it was easy to hold and cut through the topping and base with ease.  I also liked the plastic cover for the sharp blade although it can be a little tricky to get the cover off!  See the pizza cutter in action in this little video.

Clean Cut Pizza Wheel:  For the perfect pizza party, use the OXO Good Grips Clean Cut Pizza Wheel. This hand-held pizza slicer provides leverage and control for easy slicing and the 10cm stainless steel wheel easily cuts through thin- or thick-crust pizza. The soft, comfortable, non-slip grip will make portioning out slices for everyone a breeze. The handle comes apart and blade removes for easy cleaning, and the blade guard snaps on to protect the blade and hands for storage. The Pizza Wheel is dishwasher safe.  RRP £10

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Mexican Chicken in the Slow Cooker

The Slow Cooker is often put away in the cupboard over the summer, in the Slow Cooker Challenge for July I have challenged my readers to get that Crockpot or Slow Cooker out of the cupboard and make a summery dish to enjoy after a day out.  Let's face it we are more likely to be away all day to the beach, the park or other attraction over the summer months and it's so nice to come home to a meal that's ready as soon as you walk in the door.

This recipe for Mexican Chicken Drumsticks comes from The Slow Cooker Cookbook by Gina Steer which is reviewed on the Slow Cooker Challenge post.  I used chicken thighs rather than drumsticks but either would work just as well. The chicken was soft and fell off the bone and the sauce was rich with an intense tomato, chilli flavour.  Highly recommended.

Mexican Chicken
Serves 4

4-8 chicken drumsticks or thighs, skinned
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red serrano chilli, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp tomato puree
475ml (16 fl oz) chicken stock
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 squares (50g)/1 3/4oz) bitter chocolate
salt and freshly ground pepper
2tbsp sesame seeds
Lime wedges
Cooked rice and tossed green salad, to serve

Preheat the slow cooker on high. Lightly rinse or wipe the chicken drumsticks and pat dry on kitchen roll.  Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, brown the drumsticks on all sides, drain and place in the cooking pot.

Add the onion, garlic and chilli to the frying pan and saute for 5 minutes or until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, then take off the heat.  Blend the tomato puree with a tablespoons of the stock and gradually stir into the pan with the remaining stock and the chopped tomatoes.  Add the chocolate with seasoning and bring to the boil  Cook, stirring until the sauce has thickened slightly, then pour over the drumsticks.  Cook on high for 3-5 hours. Remove from the cooker, adjust the seasoning of the sauce then pour over the chicken.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, garnish with lime wedges and serve with freshly cooked rice and a green salad.

I served my chicken with couscous and roasted peppers, courgettes and onions.

You can win a copy of The Slow Cooker Cookbook by Gina Steer on the Slow Cooker Challenge post entries open until 28th July, 2014. 

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Friday, 18 July 2014

Super Simple Chicken Curry - Spice, Layers of Flavour by Dhruv Baker

With the final of the 2014 Masterchef just finished, I thought it was appropriate to post my review of  2010 Masterchef winner Dhruv Baker's  new cookbook: Spice - Layers of Flavour.

About the author
Dhruv Baker was born in Mexico and moved to India when he was four years old.  He has lived in Spain and Tanzania and his travelling and rich cultural background has included how he cooks and the spices he uses in his dishes

Dhruv Baker describes his love of spices in a well written introduction, citing his mum as the 'best cook I've ever known and has a culinary heritage that is impressive.  This is followed by Dhruv's Spice Philosophy and his Flavour Map, both of these are well worth reading before starting to make the recipes.

Small Plates: some of the dishes that appealed to me were Butternut Squash with Red onion, Feta and Coriander, Cheese and Cumin Croquettes ooh and a recipe for Crab Cakes (see my adventures in Nova Scotia).

Fish and Seafood: Wow, some fabulous dishes in this chapter, how about Garlic and Chilli Clams, Harissa Sardines, Malabar Prawn Curry and Monkfish with Chilli and Black Cardamom.

Meat: features a variety of different spiced dishes includes 'The Best Spare Ribs Ever', Slow-Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel and Coriander, Lamb and Lentil Shami Kebabs and Homemade Salt Beef. 

Chicken and other birds: I made the Super Simple Chicken Curry (see photo above), not only because it was straight forward but because it was the first dish that Dhruv cooked using spices, one which his mother taught him when he was 11 years old. Other recipes in this chapter include Roast Chicken with Garlic and Paprika, Turkey Mole and Achari Spiced Duck.

Vegetables and Grains: this chapter takes classics and spices them up like Saffron Pommes Anna and  Cauliflower Cheese with a Cumin and Macadamia Crust.  Other highlights are Cumin and Chilli Potatoes,  Miso and Ginger Glazed Aubergine and Cauliflower and Peas with Chilli and Coriander.

Sweet: oh my, how droolworthy are these desserts? The titles alone should tempt you, I know that I am totally mesmerised by Lemon, Lime and Cardamom Tart, White Chocolate and Cardamom Mousse, Rum and Star Anise Poached Figs, Masala Chai Ice Cream with Poached Pears and Chocolate Truffles and Pistachio and Cardamom Shortbread.

Something to Drink: Cheers! Pear and Prosecco Spritz, Cardamom Martini, Cinnamon & Star Anise Hot Chocolate and Masala Chai.

Relishes and Accompaniments: relishes are such a great way to add to your meals, I like the look of the Kachumber, a cross between a salad and a salsa, the Plum and Black Cardamom Sauce and a tangy and sweet Tomato Relish.

Unlocking the Spice Cupboard provides a comprehensive guide to spices one of the best I've read, so much information about how to use each spice, what it tastes like, examples of how to cook with it and dishes where it plays a key role.  There is also information about 'The Many Ways to Use Spices' like infusing, dry roasting and making marinades and rubs.

Who is it for?
This is not a book of curries, there are some curried dishes but it is much more than that.  It's a book which is accessible to pretty much anyone who likes to cook with spices.

It's a well laid out book with a lot of background information to help the cook get the best from the recipes. The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow.  There are some nice little stories from Dhruv scattered through out  the book which I enjoyed reading.

Many of the dishes would be for special occasions and some require a long list of ingredients, but there are also recipes which are simple and you would have the ingredients in your larder and fridge.

Here is the recipe for I made from Spice, it was delicious and even better when it was reheated the next day, do try it, you won't regret it.

Super Simple Chicken Curry
Serves 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 cloves
4 green Cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and very finely grated
1 tsp turmeric
4 tsp ground turmeric
4 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
75ml water
250g fresh tomatoes, whizzed in a blender
1 whole chicken, jointed into 8 pieces or chicken thighs
250 ml chicken stock
4 tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a  large, lidded pan and, when hot, add the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick.  Fry for about 3-4 minutes over a medium heat.

Add the onions and fry for 10-15 minutes, until golden.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further 2 minutes then pour in the water and cook for another 5 minutes stirring constantly.

Ad the blended tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes before adding the chicken pieces. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then add the stock and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.  Remove the lid, increase the heat and cook for a further 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has stared to thicken up.

Season to taste and sprinkle over the chopped coriander.  Serve with steamed rice, naan bread and Cucumber Raita.

Spice - Layers of Flavour by Dhruv Baker
Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicholson
RRP: £25 (eBook £12.99)

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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Chocolate Cocktails, Popcorn, Sauce and Business Cards on my Kitchen Table

On my Kitchen Table is a post to share with you some of the products I've been sent to review over the last month, it's a rather eclectic mix this month so let's get stuck in!

First up are some summery chocolates from Hotel Chocolat.  The Tropical Cocktails are sweet and fresh with a little kick of alcohol.  There are four different 'cocktails' : Peach Bellini, Pina Colado, Hurricane and Caipirnha.  We both really liked the Hurricane with dark Jamaican rum truffle blended with zippy Valencian orange and passion fruit, they were all very tasty but the others were a little sweet for our taste.  I was a pack of Choc Fudge Sundae chocs, little chocolate pots filled with a sticky toffee and fudge sauce with intense praline and a sprinkle of crunchy cereal, absolutely delicious and a nice treat at at reasonable price.

Tropical Cocktails £10.00 for 115g 7/10
Choc Fudge Sundae £3.85 for 75g 9/10

Julian Metcalfe is obsessed with delicious and healthy food. Back in 2009 he was fed up of stodgy snacks that weighed him down and he wanted to create something that was light yet tasty to replace the bog standard crisp. Popcorn was the perfect fit and Metcalfe’s skinny Topcorn was born.  There's a new flavour of Metcalfe's skinny topcorn  it's white cheese and it's really really addictive! There are lots of other cool flavours too, from the simple salted popcorn to spicy and sweet flavoured popcorns. 8/10

75g Metcalfe's Skinny Topcorn - White Cheese £1.00 - £1.49

I remember my Mum had a little bottle of Tabasco Pepper sauce which she would use to add chilli heat to her cooking, fresh chillies were not easily available in my childhood and there was only one kind of Tabasco. Now Tabasco have launched a range of sauces to Transport Your Tastebuds, Louisiana Style
Now Tabasco® brand Pepper Sauce, the iconic kitchen staple for over 140 years, has created four vibrant new recipes that capture the essence of the Deep South, bringing those true American flavours to the UK.

Introducing Tabasco® brand Sauces and Marinades.  Brand new and brilliantly different, these are table sauces with a twist.  Add a dollop on burgers, drizzle over chargrilled skewers or marinate baby back ribs to bring the real American diner scene to your kitchen.  From hot and tangy to smokey and subtle, experience the four great flavours and three different heat levels across the range.

The Chipotle and Smokey Bourbon sauce is inspired by the jazz clubs and bar scene of New Orleans.  The subtlety of smoked chipotle peppers blends perfectly with the Bourbon to create the ultimate sauce for authentic American ribs and pulled pork - sweet and finger licking sticky.
 Sweet Chipotle and Cola is the ultimate sauce for traditional American burgers.  Tabasco® has taken the sweet flavour of cola soft drink and combined it with the smokiness of Chipotle peppers to create a deliciously rich sauce, that’s incredibly moreish.  Try it on hotdogs too!  I used this sauce with pork leg steaks cooked slowly in the sauce with a little water added,  I added the chickpeas at the last minute and really enjoyed the rich flavours. 
The Peppery Deep South Creole sauce transforms chicken wings and veggie burgers. Rich tomatoes and bell peppers are brought to life with a vibrant blend of herbs and spices to reflect the diversity of flavour in Louisiana.
Fruity and Fiery Habanero is an exotic infusion of hot Habanero peppers, sweet mango, banana and papaya.  It delivers a blast of hot chilli that’s great for dipping or marinating and brings Deep South sunshine to seafood or veggie skewers.
The full range of Tabasco® brand Sauces and Marinades is available from Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, RRP £2.29.  Enjoy them as a dip, use them as a condiment or as a marinade, each flavour will transport your tastebuds, Louisiana style. 8/10

Vistaprint have a range of great products at reasonable prices which transform your photographs into books, calendars, mugs, t-shirts, phone cases.... in fact just about anything that will hold an image!  I was going to make a photo book as I have done previously and found them to be excellent, but I simply ran out of time. As  I needed some new business cards, I used the simple step by step instructions to create these cards featuring a recipe I made last summer.
250 Premium Glossy Business Cards : £26.81 including VAT 9/10

Many thanks to the PRs and companies for the samples to review, I was not paid for these reviews and all opinions are my own. 

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Monday, 14 July 2014

Appleby and Ullswater Staycation

We've just returned from a couple of nights away in Appleby and a trip over the other side of the M6 to Ullswater.  The weather was perfect and we had a great time. I'm just going to share a few pictures with minimum text. Enjoy!

Excellent lunch at Tufton Mews Cafe and Wine Shop.  Service wasn't brilliant but the food was delicious.

Appleby Castle well worth a visit.

Appleby Manor

First night dinner in the Dining Room at Appleby Manor.

Selfie taken after climbing up that hill behind us and, even more challenging, coming back down - it was very steep!

We stopped off at The Helvellyn Country Kitchen at Glenridding for these fantastic scones with jam and cream.

A beautiful day spent on and around Ullswater.

On the second night we had dinner in the Bistro, including local beer. 

We headed home via The Watermill, Little Salkeld after indulging in an organic, wholemeal date and walnut scone and some refreshing tea.  We left laden with some bag of the flour ground in the traditional way at the mill. 

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Saturday, 12 July 2014

Scotch or Scottish? At the Royal Highland Show with Quality Meat Scotland

I was delighted to be invited to the Royal Highland Show of Scotland by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and particularly to meet Jacqueline O'Donnell, Chef Patron of the Sisters Restaurants in the West End of Glasgow and winner of the Scottish round of the The Great British Menu 2014 but more about that later.

I arrived early to avoid any queues of traffic and first made my way to the Food Hall to meet up with the lovely Claire and her team at Mackays Jams for a foodie catch up.

Then I went for a bit of a walk around the show, here are a few photos from my walkabout, including a selfie with mini versions of the, now famous, Kelpies sculptures.

It was soon time to head to the Quality Meat Scotland marquee where I met up with Margaret.  Margaret has worked for QMS for many years and, with a combination of a farming heritage and catering experience, Margaret was the ideal guide to the RHS.

We started with a tour of the different breeds of sheep.  I know a bit about cattle breeds, but very little about sheep, so found it fascinating to find out about the way the different breeds of sheep are matched to the land.  The Hebridean sheep, for example is a small sheep which helps it to survive in the demanding climate of the hebridean islands.  It also has a tough wiry fleece to withstand the elements.

You can read more about the different breeds of sheep on the Scotch Beef and Lamb website.  The one breed I didn't get a good photograph of is the Blackface Sheep, which is ironic as it is the most numerous breed in Scotland!  If you'd like to see some great photographs of Blackies in their natural habitat head over to the Blackface Sheep Breeder's Association.

We then took a tour of the beautifully appointed cattle shed, where the best of the best of Scottish cattle were calmly standing or lying.  There were many other breeds but these three are so typically Scottish that I wanted to feature them.

Margaret and I then took a quick look into the Food Hall and she introduced me to Jock Gibson, Manager of Macbeth's Traditional Butcher and Game Dealer from Forres in Moray.  Macbeth's is a family run business with the Scotch Beef they sell coming from their own upland farm where they rear traditional Scottish breeds in traditional ways.

Then it was back to the QMS marquee for some lunch and a chance to find out more about Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb.  So just what defines Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb? It's really quite simple, the 'Scotch Beef' and 'Scotch Lamb' labels have Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)  status (like Cornish Pasties, Melton Mowbray Pies and Yorkshire Wenslydale Cheese) this means that products with this label are derived from cattle or sheep born, reared throughout their lives, slaughtered and dressed in Scotland. This is quality assured by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).  Scottish Beef and Lamb may have been raised in Scotland but not born there so be sure to look out for the 'Scotch'  label to be assured of quality produce. Just as an aside, and nothing to do with my visit to the Highland Show, the beef from our farm is quality assured by QMS as Scotch Beef.   If you would like to find out more about the checks which are carried out then read about Cattle and Sheep Standards on the QMS website.

I then had the opportunity to meet up and chat with Jacqueline O'Donnell, who is just as warm and friendly as she appeared on The Great British Menu. After chatting for a while, Jac went off to prepare for her demonstration and I had the chance to meet the Dykes family from the Scottish Borders, who opened up their farm to BBC Lambing Live, are  members of QMS and had been taking part in a Question and Answer session for visitors to the Highland Show.

I was delighted to find that Jacqueline's demonstration was based on using cheaper cuts of meat and slow cooking techniques, including electric slow cookers/crockpots!  The recipes are really simple to make and the samples I tasted were all really good. I think probably the Beef Cheeks in Honey and Soy was my favourite, so delicious.  I haven't had a chance to cook it or any of the other recipes yet but here is one for you to try:

Beef Cheeks in Honey and Soy
Serves 6

1.5g braising Scotch Beef PGI, preferably 2 large beef cheeks, trimmed and halved.
2tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion roughly chopped
1 carrot roughly chopped
1 leek roughly chopped 1 celery stick, roughly chopped 3 garlic cloves
small bunch of thyme
5 coriander seeds
2 cloves
50ml sherry vinegar
60ml soy sauce
200ml Madeira (optional)
3 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp tomato puree
800ml chicken stock

For the Bok Choi
3 heads bok choi, quartered
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp icing sugar
small piece ginger
100ml chicken stock

Mashed potatoes to serve

Heat the oven to 140C.  Heat the oil in a large oven proof casserole then spend a good 10 minutes browning the meat well on all sides.

Scatter the vegetables, thyme, coriander seeds and close in amongst the meat and continue to cook over a high heat for 10 minutes until browned.

Pour over the sherry vinegar, soy sauce and Madeira and drizzle over the honey.  Stir everything together, then reduce over a high heat until it's sticky and syrupy and the meat is coated really well.  Stir in the tomato puree.

Pour over the stock and bring to the simmer. Stir, then taste and lightly season with salt accordingly (it may not need any as the soy is already salty).  Cover the pan and place in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring once or twice, until the meat is really tender (or place in a slow cooker/crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours or High for 4-6 hours).

Remove the meat to another pan or container. Boil the sauce for 10 minutes until sticky, then strain it over the meat.

About 20 minutes before serving.  drizzle the bok choi with half the oil and the soy sauce and dust with the icing sugar, Grate over a little of the ginger, then toss well until completely coated.

Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan, add the bok choi and cook until the sugar coating starts to caramelise.  Pour in the stock and simmer for 5 minutes until tender.  Reheat the beef, you are now ready to serve.

Lift the meat out of the sauce and carve into thick slices. Place a large spoonful of mash on the side of each plate.  Lay a few slices of meat on the mash. Sit two bok choi quarters on  the other side of the plate and spoon over the sauce.

After the demonstration, I met up with John Davidson, Managing Director of Award Winnng Davidsons Specialist Butchers.  Davidsons are based in Inverurie but have a fantastic website with information and recipes as well as an online shop where you can order all their great products and have them delivered to you anywhere in the UK and some parts of mainland Europe.   If your own butcher isn't able to provide you with Scotch Beef Cheeks for the the recipes above then they are available from Davidsons.   There are also many more recipes on the Scotch Beef and Lamb website

I was fortunate to get a few bits and pieces from the Davidsons demo including this Pork Loin Tower  which I stretched to feed three of us, it would certainly feed two comfortably.  We really enjoyed it and it was simple to roast in the oven.

Each day of the Highland Show includes the Grand Parade.  All of the cattle, sheep, goats and horses are paraded in the main ring, it's quite a sight and I had a an excellent view from the QMS marquee.

Many thanks to all at QMS for looking after me so well at the Royal Highland Show, to Jacqueline O'Donnell, Jock Gibson and John Davidson for their time and interest.  I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Hugh's Honey and Peanut Butter Flapjacks

There was nothing in the biscuit tin.  There was nothing in the cake tin. I wanted something sweet now what did I have in the cupboard that would make a quick and easy sweet treat?  I always have oats, dried fruits and a mix of pumpkin and sunflower seeds that we use in our bread, so I went looking for a FLAPJACK recipe and found this one by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in River Cottage Every Day:

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars
Makes 16
125g unsalted butter
150g soft brown sugar or light muscovado sugar
125g no-sugar-added crunchy peanut butter
75g honey, plus a little more to finish
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
200g porridge oats (not jumbo)
150g dried fruit, such as raisins, sultanas and chopped apricots, prunes or dates, either singly or in combination
150g mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower, poppy, linseed and sesame

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Grease and line a baking tin, about 20cm square.
Put the butter, sugar, peanut butter, honey and grated citrus zests in a deep saucepan over a very low heat. Leave until melted, stirring from time to time.
Stir the oats, dried fruit and three-quarters of the seeds into the melted butter mixture until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture out evenly in the baking tin, smoothing the top as you go.
Scatter the remaining seeds over the surface and trickle with a little more honey. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden in the centre and golden-brown at the edges.
Leave to cool completely in the tin (be patient – it cuts much better when cold), then turn out and cut into squares with a sharp knife. These bars will keep for 5-7 days in an airtight tin.
These bars are really very moreish and you only need a small piece to fill you up. The fruit I used was mainly raisins with some dried cranberries and dried apricots.  I used a mixture of smooth, crunchy and three nut peanut butter, because that's what I had in the house.   The peanut butter doesn't dominate the taste of the bars and they are the soft and fudgy type of flapjack rather than the crisp, crunchy type.

I'm entering the flapjacks for Tea Time Treats, the monthly blog challenge run by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Janie at The Hedgecombers.  July's Tea Time Treats is being hosted at The Hedgecombers.

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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Crab Cakes by the Ocean at Pictou Lodge Resort

Anuse Bouche - Gravad Lax style salmon with dill flavour and caper bite, on crispy crouton 

There are some places that you visit and you know straight away that you have come home.  My drive to Pictou Lodge was uneventful and I started to really enjoy driving the Jeep, a slight scare as I approached a round-about (oh my goodness, I'm going to have to drive round it the 'wrong way') but I survived and arrived excitedly at Pictou Lodge to blue skies and the ocean.

I checked in and headed over to my cabin in Cedar Court or 'Ocean View', I later discovered that this cabin was one that Condalisa Rice had stayed in at a summit held at the Lodge, nothing but the best for me!

These wooden cabins were well appointed with a comfortable bedroom and living room complete with coffee machine, fridge and a view out over the ocean, oh and there is my Jeep again (love my Jeep).  There's an ice machine down at the bottom of the row of cottages too so you can fill your ice bucket for chilled drinks.

If you've read my previous post, you will realise that I had only just stopped eating on my Food Tour of downtown Halifax at about 3pm then drove straight up to Pictou, and dinner was booked for 7.00pm.   After freshening up, I headed to the main Lodge where I was welcomed into the dining room by Jill, my server.   Jill has Scottish ancestory, being a Johnston by birth so we had plenty to talk about. She was also an outstanding server, friendly, knowledgeable and interested,  she looked after me very well indeed.

I was offered the opportunity to choose from the menu or to have the chef prepare me a special tasting menu, well what's a girl to do?  Chef Thomas Carey came to speak to me to ask how hungry I was, of course I was not particularly hungry as I had been eating all afternoon, however he assured me he would 'get me through to dessert'.  Jill then suggested that she match the wines to the different courses, I have never felt so spoiled.  Pictou Lodge is approved by Taste of Nova Scotia  their menu is designed around fresh local ingredients as required by Taste of Nova Scotia association features seafood fresh off the boat from nearby waters, seasonal organic vegetables from a nearby farm, and local strawberries, blueberries, maple syrup and honey.

While the chef started on the dishes for the tasting menu I was served with the smoked salmon Amuse Bouche in the first picture of this post.  Alongside this I received a brown paper lunch sack containing home made biscuits and a small pot of molasses butter.  I've never tasted anything quite like that molasses butter, I had to restrain myself from eating them all as I knew I had more treats in store and had to pace myself.

Let me tell you a little about the dining rooms at Pictou Lodge Resort.  The top picture shows the bar and lounge area where you can also dine, you can see the full range of menus for Pictou Lodge at Oceanside Dining. The bottom left photo is taken from my dining table, every table has a superb view of the ocean, turn around and behind you is the massive fireplace, how superb must that be in the winter?

This is the Warm Mediterranean Salad, isn't it pretty? A really nicely balanced salad of sweet sundried tomatoes, toasted fennel, crisp pancetta and salty parmesan and kalamata olives, the 'arugula' (rocket) salad was dressed in a glorious balsamic dressing.  I was served a fresh white Nova Scotia wine which was easy to drink, I didn't get a note of the wines but I suspect the white was Tidal Bay as I tasted that wine quite often in the days to come (oh dear that sounds bad!)  it was easy drinking with only 11- 12% alcohol.

 While sipping my wine and enjoying my salad, I had a panoramic view of the beach, the ocean and these sea birds.  I recognised the one on the left as a Heron and I think that is a Sea Eagle on the right. Dining alone is not always the most fun experience but I can honestly say there was so much to look at that I didn't feel awkward at all.

And so to the Crab Cake on Carpaccio of Pineapple with Roasted Red Onion and Corn Salsa.  By the end of the trip I was a bit of an expert on the crab cakes of Nova Scotia, this one had a crisp outside with a soft textured inside, it tasted sweet with a hint of chilli heat, cooled by the sour cream dressing. The soft crab cake of offset well by the crunchy corn salsa and the pineapple added another layer of taste and texture.  I would have loved to finish every course, it went against the grain to leave any of these dishes, but I had to leave a little.  I didn't drink all the wine either but did enjoy the local 'champagne' style sparkling wine which had a lovely honeyed taste.

My glass was topped up with  bubbles and I was served with a plank of Chicken and Pork Pate en Croute with homemade pickle, mustard and parmesan croute.  Imagine the very best picnic pie you could  ever taste, well this was it!  The pate was soft with a delicious pastry crust, the vegetables were lightly pickled and added a crunch to the dish, as did the parmesan croutes, so tasty.  The honeyed mustard made a good alternative condiment to the pickles and as you can see the sun had started to set and was casting a honeyed glow to all my photographs, just part of the Oceanside Dining experience.

This pretty little plate held parcels of hand made pasta, firmly al dente,  with a creamy soft spinach and ricotta filling covered in a rich brown butter sauce  with crunchy walnut pieces and tiny cubes of butternut squash, sprinkled with parmesan.  I could feel the butter sauce coating my lips.  It was served with a glass of fruity, red Cabernet Sauvignon wine, which was the perfect foil for the rich buttery and creamy dish.

Just when I thought I could eat no more, out came this dish of Northumberland Lamb Risotto, picked lamb shank and mushroom risotto with mint and peas.  The Northumberland coast is renowned for it's lamb in Nova Scotia.  The lamb is raised close to the shore, eating the shoreline plants and taking on some of the flavours.  The risotto was incredibly rich, probably a little overseasoned for me, but still really delicious pieces of lamb fell apart, the rice was creamy, the fresh mint garnish helped to cut through the richness. I described it in my notes as 'a really grown-up dish'.

With this dish I was served a wine called Baco Noir which I can highly recommend, it had depth of flavour and you could taste and feel the tannin which was needed with such a rich dish.

Remember I said at the beginning that Chef Thomas told me he would get me through to dessert?  Well this is the dessert plate and here I am!  The two desserts are Deep Fried Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce and Blueberry Cheesecake.  The cheesecake was rich , not a light mousse but a proper cheesecake, however there was no base, the chocolate crumb was served at the side, the blueberry topping was fresh and fruity.  I was hugely surprised by the deep fried apple pie, it didn't look or sound appealing to me at all, especially as I was so full, however I would really recommend it, the pie crust was crisp and chewy, the apples inside still had a bit of bite and were nicely sharp, a great contrast to the delicious salted caramel sauce.

I'd like to thank Chef Thomas and Server Jill for their care and attention,  this was an exceptional meal in an outstanding setting and if you go to Nova Scotia, I would urge you to visit Pictou Lodge Resort for dinner and, if you can, you should also stay,  I've added a montage of my wanderings the next morning before I set off on  the next part of my adventure.

This is the fourth in a series of posts about my trip to Nova Scotia.  Read the other posts in my Nova Scotia adventure: 

1. The Bridge, The Bison and the Four Poster Bed 
2. The Citadel, Halifax : Sporrans, Rifles and the School Room 

3. A Local Tasting Tour, South of Morris Street, Halifax

You can follow me on Twitter: @FarmersgirlCook, Facebook: Farmersgirl Kitchen Instagram: FarmersgirlCook and the Pinterest Board  Atlantic Canada Eats which I share with Lavender and Lovage.  You can also follow the hashtags #AtlanticCanadaEats  #VisitNovaScotia and #ExploreCanada to see photos and posts on all of these social media sites.

Disclaimer: I was the guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and  Nova Scotia Tourism and all my flights, car hire, accommodation and meals were included, as well as all trips, excursions and special cookery sessions with local chefs. I'd like to thank the host organisations and everyone who made this a truly memorable trip.
Photo Montage templates from The Coffee Shop   

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