West Lothian Council awards…

Great night was had by all. At the Howden Centre which is a lovely theatre in the heart of Livingston, 300 red velt seats in an intimate auditorium great atmosphere.
They have a Primark opening soon – and over 150 shops – a good idea for the Xmas shopping if you can’t face city traffic and throngs of folks puffing and panting in and out of the busy central shops.
Horse playing tonight….may just go bck.

Rosting, fun, lots of chat, saw this sign in the dressing room. Was a little worried my mum Pat knows nothing about electrics. Gawd help us.

Edinburgh babies go green!

New Mums!

A great place to head with your delightful bouncing babies and toddlers.

The Jack & Jill Market (Baby & Children’s Markets)
The Jack & Jill Market comes to The Edinburgh Academy to provide local
mums with an ongoing opportunity to recycle and make money selling
quality items they no longer use, and to save money buying quality-brand,
nearly-new items at less than retail price. Every nearly-new item bought
and sold reduces landfill and helps the important fight against climate
change.
A series of Jack & Jill Markets will be held at the Edinburgh Academy
throughout the year, the first one being held on Saturday, 5th February,
10.30am-1.30pm, in the Dining Hall. There will be over 20 stalls of
quality, nearly-new maternity, baby, and children’s items for 0-9 years –
clothes, toys, games, buggies, bikes, cots, high chairs, and much more.
For more details or to book a stall, phone Nicole Diamond on: 01721 725
879 or visit www.jackandjillmarket.co.uk

Applecross, The Highlands of Scotland. Animal magic.

World famous for the Applecross Inn and in a coastal location overlooking the Scottish islands we all howped into the cars and headed off to see Applecross, a  legendary spot from our base in Strathcarron. You do a get a little blase about the mountains here, vast, looming, spectacular numbers but this was stupefying and the urge to stop the car and stare was too much. The photo doesn’t do it justice but it juts up into the sky and is an absolute beezer. This is the highest road in Scotland, single track and a real knicker wetter.

Climb every mountain - or drive if you're like me

 It is like a task out of It’s A Knockout but without the inflatables to break your fall. As we got to the top snaking hack and fore we were in high cloud so our visibility was virtually nil but we got out of the car anyway just to draw breath. As we stood gazing into nothing a lone cyclist appeared, red faced, helmeted by smiling. Insane? yes. Fit? Undoubtedly? Inspiring us to try it? Not on your nelly. Back into the cars we headed down the other side.

Emerging from the cloud things perked up and by the time we stopped in Applecross the sun was shining, the temperature was balmy and it was as if we had arrived in a secret world.

Deer deer John

Parking outside the infamous Applecross Inn we walked along to see Applecross House and it’s walled garden. A 30 minute shuffle on the beach and then along a wooded path where we saw these deer. All standing posing as if they had been imported by the tourist board. Next to them huddled a herd of baby highland coos who took umbridge at the attention the deer were getting and started chasing them. The deer all leapt over a wall and ran off into the hills. As the macho puffing cows smiled in their wake.

Don't mess with the Highland cows.
Legging it from the cows. Well you would.

 

Applecross House we lay in the grass, the puppy thought he was in nirvana, we all did. We were. Scones, coffee and a lie down in the garden.

Walled garden tea shop.

Tired & emotional
Spring is sprung, the pup is riz.

Yes after a lie down and a sugar rush – we’re off again. Where will we stop? Well find out… to be continued….after a drink.

2 seconds later and he's off!

Mid-storm it’s Day 4 and wild in the west.

The weather men were right when they said it would be wild. Wild, wooly, windy and wet. So we are indoors. The lot of us. 8 adults. 7 kids. 3 dogs – plus one stray named Rocky who appeared as if from nowhere and carried rocks in his mouth hence his hastily given but highly appropriate new moniker. Rocky. It’s great being  in looking out on this storm. It seems the animals were on to it before us. It is the wrong way round by this gives you an idea of how wild it is right now!

We woke yesterday to a stag in the garden, by late afternoon there were two and by early evening about 12. Hiding from the weather which was whipping round the hills, they found solace in the lee of a barn in the adjoining farm. As the weather worsens I will do a stag head count and see how many more appear. God when they hear we’re having venison for dinner tonight they may well take off fast.

Seafood cannelloni - yum

Ah yes the food. Dinner last night started with seafood canelloni yes smoked fish in fresh pasta tubes topped with a little tomato sauce. Slurp. That was followed by roast lamb. The MacDonalds lamb so it was grown, killed and eaten within a a few miles  of it’s birth. It was divine. roasted, served with dauphinoise potatoes and lots of fresh veg. Nothing fancy. Perfect, tender, juicy. Poor Donnie the chef is now being followed by a steady stream of wide eyed wagging dogs trying to ingratiate themselves and now the children too. He has started holding a baking class for them – the kids not the dogs – in the afternoon. Yesterday they learnt how to make shortbread and chocolate cake. It just makes their parents love them more, knowing they can whip up a mouthwatering shortbread at the drop of a scone sorry hat. I will impart the secrets of scones later as that is todays masterclass.

It’s like the Big Brother House Day 4 – we are not able to get out, it is coming down like stair rods, each window resembles  a fishmongers window with a constant stream of water drizzling down it. The fire is on, the board games are out, the place is so well sorted for this sort of day. It’s a joy sitting in and looking out as the elements throw everything at us, and yet we feel nothing but warmth and an increasing competitive urge to beat the men who are as usual annoyingly keen to win everything no matter what it is.

Amongst all this Teenwolf strides. Supposedly studying for exams inbetween bouts of lounging. He locked himself away today – after getting up at mid-day he went off to work in the long suffering husband and I’d room. I came in and found him and took a photo. The cheeky bugger nicked the photo and put it on his own site. www.teenwolfspeaks.com  If no-one gets stabbed or sent home I shall report back.

Stags, rib of beef, Yorkshire puds & The Perfect Storm – Day 3

Morning!

Woke up this morning in the NW of Scotland, the highlands to this sight. A stag. A great Monarch of The Glen right outside our bedroom window. as soon as it saw me it was like a shot – well I was naked and had no make-up on so can you blame it. Still I managed to get  a quick snap before it louped over the fence and away.

As I lay there contemplating what an amazing place Scotland is – yes it is! – my mind tailed back to last nights meal. Lordy. Are you ready for this.

Roast rib of beef.  Locally sourced from the west, and roasted to perfect.  Along with celeriac – look like an extra from Dr Who, and look at the yorkshire puds. Wahay!

Beef ready for a roastin' mamaRoasty toastie!Roasty toastie!

 

Yorkshire pudding! What a beezer.

 

Roasty toastie!UFO UFO? No celeriac.

 

For pud we had ice cream, meringues and raspeberrys before an enthusiastic game of ping pong and then face down. When we awok this morning it was to this news. News of The Perfect Storm…..a real one, coming our way. Yup the west is to be deluged with rain, wind and stormy nasties. So more food then. And fires. And jigsaws and ping pong and cards.

Does this mean finally George Clooney will manifest himself in my life ni a cable knit jumper with a captains hat on his head and a twinkle in his eye? Well as we batton down the hatches. I live, as ever, in hope, with camera in hand and optimisim in my heart.

Day 2 West Coast – we eat, we drink, we’re merry.

Ready for stock

I don’t know about you but it is a tradition that the long suffering husband and I have followed since the day we met  that we just  go mad on night one of any holiday. And we did. With that glorious food (yesterdays blog)  was the glorious wine. Some of the swally we glugged…well more of that later. So.  Day 2 of our holdiay was slightly less lively. Well I was. And as dry day turned into tentative  night we had yet another extravaganza of delights which fairly perks a jaded boozer up I can tell you.

We kicked off with seafood bisque. The shells from the previous

Bisque - lordy lordy bisque

nights langoustines were crushed, fried and transformed  into a wonderful creamy rich flavoursome bowl of YES!

The monumental ham along with all meaty delights in the areas was sourced from Roddy Butcher. Butcher by name, butcher by nature, though his name is actually Roddy MacLennan To describe Roddy is like….well remember Local Hero? well this is Gordon. Jack of all trades, master of even more than that. So the big slam bam thank yuo ma’am ham he delivered emerged caramelised, sticky, sweet, salty and divine served with local mashed tatties and a fine collection of buttered carrots & beans. We were in nirvana. Wherever that is.

 A wonder of sweet stickiness.
Roast Loch Carron ham - thank you piggy malone.
As James Brown would say 'bring it on'

Wine? Well of course. Banter? Naturally? And I – being a pathetic shark – hit the sack early doors. Having imbibed more than a gallon of water personally looking forward to waking up the next day fresh as a daisy and raring to go. The main reason? The breakfasts. You won’t be able to believe your eyes, nose, mouth or throat when I show you what breakfast consists of in these parts. So tomorrow will be dedicated to the breakfast….it has to be done …it may spoil breakfast for you wherever you are forever but them’s the breaks.

Oh and teenwolf is onboard – his blog his here www.teenwolfspeaks.com he has a slightly different take on the carry on. Mainly, men, mud and trucks.

Until tomorrow…………….dreaming of food………….

Scottish West Coast Culinary Delights Dinner 1

Dinner night one.
If you are hungry you may want to put on a long sleeved shirt at this point as you might start eating your arm when you read about our edible joys.
John King who is a wild man. A wild spaniel owning, father of two. A man is as mad about cooking as we are about eating. He made bread for us arriving. He did. It’s funny the old fashioned idea of men interested in food being fey characters who wear pinny’s. Nonsense. In Scotland they are hearty. hairy man the hunter gatherer types who just love the produce they deal with every day be they farmers, cooks, restaurateurs. So a little homemade bread, with honey and truffle oil from maestro of the loaf John kicked us off as we waited to start dinner.
 

Loch Torridon just round the corner!
Hot smoked salmon from Loch Torridon - just round the corner

 

Smoked salmon - smoked locally - of course!

 

 

 

 

 Starter of smoked salmon, hot smoked salmon, beetroot creme fraiche and dressed leaves. Salmon sourced locally and frankly it was divine.

Scallops fresh and just out of the sea.
Watch them they nip!

Label proves these were caught 48 hours before we eat them.

Main course scallops and langoustines. You can see the langos here – alive. A few minutes later

Langoustines cool outside as dog wills them to jump into her mouth.

they are boiled and cooling outside with a very optimistic dog watching carefully. Her optimism was ill founded. there was no way her canine canines were getting stuck into these.

You can see from the label they were bought from the guy who runs the boat, the date they were caught was Thursday. And we ate them today. The creamy tender flavour was divine. They are about the size of a fat man’s thumb – but twice as long. Each a substantial mouthful which renders even the noisiest amongst us silent. Reverence to the langoustine.

The scallops are the same deal, bought from the boat, in the tub with the roe still attached but no shell. They are so fresh the smell of the sea wafts from the container, as they hit the hot butter in the pan their sweet aroma permates the air.

Served with a slice of black pudding, locally made by Roddy Butcher – this is not his name but everyone in the area knows him as this as he provides all things edible to the highest standard. He has a butcher shop but supplies fish and other delicacies to locals and visitors alike. As you can see from looking at this black pudding face in – it is just packed with flavour. No great wheels of fat that can be found in a lesser pud – this is award winning stuff. Also on this platter yuo can see the Scottish delicacy the potato ‘tattie’ scone.  Homemade again…recipe later this week. They are perfect with this combo of fishy delights.

Speechless and sated we sat back for a while. But only until david dug out the cheese  mountain and sliced some pieces for us to try.

Cooked! Divine and ready for eating.

Prima Donna

Coolea

Roquefort

Moon rock –

So cheese poundage from Ian Mellis Cheesemongers was consumed with homemade oatcakes – Donnie says he will give me the recipe to share. We retired to lie flat and sip wine. What the perfect end to the perfect day.

So Dinner 1 in the West Coast. Here for a week. What will tomorrow bring? Well come back same time tomorrow and I will show and tell.

Scottish Highlands holiday – Sunday.

Arrived  at 4pm saturday to – these little beauties. Scones. warm from the oven with raspberry jam. Oh thank you God. That and a cuppa tea was the perfect end to a long and unarduous journey. Teenwolf and long suffering husband ate 3 each, being a picker I had one.

Round 1 - Warm scones freshly baked with raspberry jam. Yum.

This is the first time in as long as I can remember that myself  Teenwolf and the long suffering husband have been out of town and away together. We are gathering in a highland house with two other families, some stragglers and a variety of dogs for a week of fun. Between us we tick more boxes than the census has yet imagined. Old, young, happy, miserable, thin, fat, hairy, quadroped, bi-ped, boozy, sensible, completely mental, shy, too bloody extrovert for their own good and so the list goes on. But the thing we have in common is a genuine love for the Scottish highlands and everything it has to offer.  So  join us on this outstanding culinary and physical adventure. No need for Monarch of The Glen, or Hamish macBeth this is it. For real. No shit.

The one thing the Scots lack is an ability to verbalise their feelings and emotions. Rather than shouting ‘I love you’ from the highest tower  we are more likely to quietly offer you a small slice of cheesy toast and tell you to shut up if you say thank you. Yes where other nations enjoy a verbose and grand outpouring of emotion we demonstrate our strength of feeling in the sourcing, preparation and sharing of the most wonderful food. 

Don’t believe what you hear about deep fried this that and the next thing. Scotland  is awash with a people whose DNA is closer to L’Escoffier than the Loch Ness Monster. To illustrate this I am going to diary exactly what we are eating this week.. All local, all from the land and all made fresh.

Only a few hours into our break. Here we start.

Chocolate cake - welcome!

After a stomp down to the river it was a meander back up to the lodge where Donnie, the chef was organising things. Look. Lying out waiting to be given their pecking order were local langoustines, scallops, a ham the size of our labrador – actually where is the labradar SAM? Oh no it’s Ok she’s here I can relax it’s definately pork then. Stop lie down, relax you are on holiday. Easier said than done with all these distractions of the culinary variety all around..

Those who love pigs look away.
Caught in the act
Outside to take our mind of food for 10 secs

So the bottom line is over the next few days I will prove to the cynic and the ignoramus that us Scots are not haggis eating, bagpipe playing, dafties who subsist on mass produced, deep fried nodules..  No here I will note exactly what we eat. Local. Delicious. Mind blowingly great.

This is Scotland. The Highlands and the experience that anyone can have who comes here. Can you even imagine what’s for dinner tonight? Be still my beating heart.  If you are on a diet or like self control then banish this blog from your horizon. If you like indulgence, delictation and sheer unadulterated satisfaction. Then HELLO….we are going to get along just fine. Until tomorrow…

Running away to Brigadoon -2 dogs, Teenwolf, the Long suffering husband and cheese.

Cheese!

My car is full of cheese, two dogs & the long suffering husband is farting about with the oil, tyres and scooshers ( as we call them – I dn’t know what the real name is). We are ready for our journey.

 

Despite my last post being a declaration to abscond to Australia – which I am hanging onto by the way – we are heading to the North West of Scotland to a house with 2 other families hence the cheese.

 

 

To be frank, the amount of cheese we have packed in there I am wondering if the tyres can take it.

We’re not talking a Kraft slice here.

We are talking running amok at the cheesemongers in Edinburgh.

Great twitching slabs of the stuff. Running out of the greaseproof paper before I was wrapped tight and secured.

 

It is 9.30am and we are about to have an argument about the fact Teenwolf hasn’t packed any books for his fantasy swatting for exams. Even just to keep me quiet he might have emptied a load into a bin liner to show willing but no he is still slumbering.
Long Suffering husband and I are leaving in 20 minutes. Teenwolf thinks he will be doing a MacAulay Caulkin impression and be Home Alone the speed he is not moving. But I know only too well how much he would love it. 24 hours MTV, a few sneaky cans of beer, his pals round, no parents to harass him. But I’m onto him. I will wait with cattle prod at the ready. He is coming with us. End of.

 

Attadale gardens in the same area we're off to - with the islands in the background.

So let me show you the place we are staying you will swoon with a sort of ‘Is that truly Scotland or was Gene Kelly telling the truth all along and Brigadoon really exists’. Here is one photo from our last trip to give you a taster and show I am not talking complete rubbish.

 

To illustrate our cheese credentials – obsessed cheesies – I will also post photo of the stuff when I unpack it. It is tightly wrapped with string to keep me out during the journey.

 

So bon voyage!