Riggit Progress

I was going to write a blog about these lovely little cows myself but my husband seems to have covered it very nicely. Suffice to say I am very excited about the project!

Working for grouse

IMG_0166 In a cold Westerly wind overlooking the Solway

Now that they have been on site for a week, the galloway calves have settled down and are starting to establish some kind of rhythm. It was a sensible idea to put them in with some older cows, and to begin with they   established themselves as a separate group operating within the pecking order of the dominant animals. As the days have gone by, this tight-knit, nervous group has relaxed and they now spend their time in a much looser formation. There is one particular calf which has not settled, and I must say that I knew that she was going to be nervy when I first saw her in September. Her ears are always up and her attitude is much more cautious and observant than the others, which waddle around peacefully through the mud like stocky little tanks. I chose her…

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New year, new blog resolutions

It’s the 3rd January. I wanted to do a blog post about New Years resolutions which is pertinent as one of my New Years resolutions is to go back to blogging. It’s been almost a year since my last post and it was seriously dwindling before that. The reason main reason being that I am no longer a lodge cook. I’ve retired from that world of highland adventures, enormous suppers and constant baking. I’ve moved on to the very different world of social work.

Despite this there seems to be no good reason to not continue to be a food(ish) blogger. I still eat, I still cook, just on a slightly smaller scale.

so here are my other resolutions and projects for 2016, some of which may make interesting reading on this blog.

Firstly, getting physically into shape. I’ve made a bit of a start on this already going to ABS in Dumfries for an 8 week “body transformation” before Christmas, so I’m going to keep going until I’m where I want to be.

secondly to become gardener extraordinaire. We’ve had a polytunnel put in recently and I can’t wait to get it planted and groaning with homegrown veg!

thirdly I’m going to become a beekeeper, my husband bought me a hive starter kit for Christmas  so in the not too distant future I may be actually harvesting my own honey!

And lastly share more! Hence the resurrection of the blog, I’ve missed the community of tweeting and blogging and I think nothing inspires you forward like encouragement and enthusiasm of likeminded people from around the world (or more locally!)

so happy 2016, for me the year of the resolutions. May it be happy and prosperous for all!

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Scoop and I enjoying a hill walk on New Year’s Day

 

 

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A wonderful new friend

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It’s been a little while since I last update this blog. And to be fair a lot has been going on for me; I moved house, I got married and I must admit I haven’t done very much exciting cooking, however all that is about to change because look what I got!
I think this may have to go down as the most generous gifts anyone has ever received and I’m a very very lucky cook! I wanted one of these since probably the first time I made bread, and now I have one and it’s beautiful.
Already it’s managed to make some mayonnaise, apple crumble topping, several loaves of bread and banana cake and it’s only been with us for a week. There is no end my plans in the kitchen now and I hope that that will translate into far more blog posts!
Today I’ve been making Seedy buns, and tomorrow who knows….
All hail kitchen aid!

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Moussaka – for Aga

Cooking with an Aga can be fabulous. It can also go horribly wrong, especially if you try and use it the same as you would a normal oven. The Aga has extra doors, more opportunities for cooking and changes the feel of an entire room.aga_1380577c

Slow cooking is something Agas do brilliantly well, always ticking along in the background. Even if things cook a little quicker than you imagined you’ve got the mercy of a warming oven (bottom left) to keep everything ready while you have starters, or get everyone ready for dinner…

I first discovered Moussaka while in Greece (how authentic!) and have cooked it in conventional ovens, slow cookers and, of course, Agas. This version, similar to how you would make it in a slow cooker is cooked in the top left door of the Aga if you have it turned up pretty hot, otherwise (or if you have a smaller Aga) in the bottom right oven.

You will need:IMAG0686

  • 1 aubergine
  • 500g of minced lamb
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic gloves
  • 1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g Greek style yoghurt
  • 100g feta cheese

Begin by slicing the aubergine and frying it in batches on the hottest part of the Aga, I find it best not to use any oil when doing this, then set aside. Then slice the onions and garlic and sweat together (with a drop of oil) adding the lamb to brown once the onions have become transparent. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and stir in the tomatoes, stock, cinnamon, nutmeg and seasoning. Lay the cooked aubergine slices over the top to cover and place into the oven for about six hours.

To make the topping mix the eggs, yoghurt and feta together in a bowl (you might need to grate the feta) and pour over the aubergine slices for the last hour or so of cooking.

You will probably want to up the heat a bit for the last half hour or so to brown the top of the topping a little, so just move into the next hottest oven.

Serve with salad or garlic bread.

This recipe works beautifully well with hogget or mutton mince instead of lamb and one of the best places to get said meat is from Annanwater Organics, who produce brilliant quality mince somewhere near Lockerbie. You can find them at the Edinburgh, Dumfries and Moffat farmers markets.

 

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This week in Sutherland

Here we go… my cooking adventures for the season have begun!

And Sutherland is no bad place to start. Admittedly it is some distance from Dumfries and Galloway but when it comes to dramatic scenery, wildlife and stunning surroundings it doesn’t get much better.

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Sutherland is one of those places that sees all the seasons in one day, even in May, hail wind rain and glorious sunshine within a few hours is not surprising and has lead to a couple of near drownings as I’ve set off on a sunny afternoon to capture some deer on camera and come back almost too drenched to stand!

But obviously the main focus, as always, has been on the food and it’s been an interesting week. Often I end up cooking roast dinners every night, partly because it’s a crowd pleaser and partly because it make it easy to make up sandwiches the next day. This week’s been a little bit more inspiringly foodie though and I’ve cooked a few things that wouldn’t usually make the cut.

IMAG0674Highlights for me; langoustines, definitely.  I drove to somewhere on the outskirts of Lairg to pick up a box of the little blighters, and then drove all the way back to the lodge with them scrabbling to get out. There’s something very special about being in the kind of place where you can’t find some pretty basic ingredients because the local supermarket is so small but at the same time you are able to source the most fabulous local produce by going directly to the producers. As much as it’s so convenient to have everything under one roof, you never quite get it as good as when you actually meet the people that caught, farmed or produced it. IMAG0667

Another highlight was definitely the cheese cake. I usually make a baked cheesecake, but this time I instead made a set one and used (Connage) crowdie cheese. It was really very nice, much lighter that the recipe I usually use.

Next week I’m in Kinloch Laggan, so fingers crossed for more good food stories and nice lodge views….

 

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Chicks Chicks Chicks!

I keep hens because they lay lovely eggs. I love that I have beautiful yellow yolked eggs whenever I want them, I never need to worry about the condition of the hens producing them, because I can look out the window and say with some confidence that they are the happiest most well looked after (spoilt) chickens that there has ever been.P1090565

All this may be true, however, I can’t pretend that I’m not motivated by that fact that chickens are just so CUTE. Especially the chicks. They all have their own little characters, if you watch them you can see the alliances they make; who is friend and foe, who the cockerel prefers and who chooses to sleep in a different shed at night…

When, a few weeks ago, it became apparent that I was not going to convince one of our girls that being broodie was not required of her, I gave in and let her keep a little clutch of eggs. Last year she managed to hatch out some grey partridges so I had no doubt she would do another fantastic job this year. P1090595

And she has. Six little chickes, who I presume are silkie crosses, with perhaps some pekin and dutch bantum thrown in. Either way they are very sweet chicks and are currently scratching around the garden at three days old looking for worms with their mummy hen.

We do, however, have rather a lot of hens already so if anyone would like a silkie cross or two to add to their own collection let me know because we might have a few going spare… P1090593

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Barlochan Beef Bourguignon

I took a trip to the Kirkcudbright last weekend and happened across another wonderful Dumfries and Galloway farmers market. As usual I was not disappointed and came away with rather more than I had intended!

I mentioned Barlochan highland beef in an earlier blog post, about how they make the best pies in the world, (which they do), however I failed to mention the beef. I’ve bought mince on a number of occasions and it really does make the best bolognese you’ve ever tasted. If you’re used to buying supermarket mince then the different is like riding a bicycle to being driven about in a limo. It’s not even the same meal. It’s missing the greasyness that you so often get with beef and gives the dish a flavour of its very own.

Last Sunday I bought some diced casserole steak with the vague notion to make something good and hearty during the week. When the time came I was in the mood for Bourguignon, which I’ll admit I haven’t made for ages. Mostly because its such a fiddle to peel the shallots while keeping them whole!

Here’s what I did: IMG_8581

  • 550g (ish) of Barlochan beef casserole steak
  • 5 pieces of streaky bacon, sliced
  • 200g shallots, carefully peeled
  • 100g button mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • handful of chopped rosemary
  • tablespoon of tomato puree
  • seasoning
  • An entire bottle (750ml) of red wine – don’t cook with wine that you wouldn’t drink, you’re only doing yourself a disservice later.
  • tablespoon sour cream

Start by searing the beef, in batches if needed, and set aside. Then, using the same pan fry the shallots, mushrooms, garlic, seasoning and herbs. Once browned re-add the beef and tomato puree and stir through. Then pour over the wine and a little water to almost cover the beef. make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan at this point to make sure all the caramelized cooking juices are incorporated into the stew. Bring to the boil.

IMAG0387Cover and place into the oven at 180 degrees (You might need to change pan at this point depending on what you have that’s oven proof). After about 2 hours check the beef to see if it’s done. I then removed the veg and beef and returned the sauce to the hob to reduce for ten minutes or so, just so that it thickened a little.

Re add the sauce to the beef and veg and stir in a tablespoon of sour cream to taste.

We then ate the bourguignon with fresh bread so that it was more like a soup, but it can of course be eaten with mash, green vegetables or however you like. Needless to say it was delicious, due in large part to the exceptionally tasty meat!

I’ll definitely be back for more!

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Ecclefechan Tart

There’s a little town about 25 miles from me that is associated with a rather delicious tart. The town is Ecclefechan (pronounced Ekkle-FECKan) and in many ways it is really very unremarkable as a town, yet they seem to have this brilliant culinary, history!

I’m not sure if I use the “traditional” recipe or not, but I don’t care because whatever it is, I make it’s really good. IMAG0351

You’ll need to start by blind baking a pastry case, and you might have to doctor the filling to fit whatever size of pastry case you have blind baked.

for the filling

  • 110g butter, melted
  • 100g walnuts, chopped
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g mixed dried fruit
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I have a lovely bottle of Demijohn Apple vinegar that I used in this one!)

Melt the butter and then combine everything pour it all into the pastry case and bake for 30 mins.

Serve hot or cold with ice-cream, double cream, whipped cream… Enjoy!

In March Bloggers around the world are looking for “British” recipes, and this is defiantly one of those!

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Chocolate and Chilli cake

I need to start by confessing that I’ve never really cooked with chilli. We did some bits and bobs at cooking school but never really scratched the surface as far as spicy cooking was concerned. In the intervening years there I’ve dabbled here and there, I make a pretty good curry now (if I do say so myself) but still not quite leapt into the realms of cooking with actual chilli.

It’s all about to change. I understand that chilli and chocolate go rather well, being that you can buy it as a ready made combo so that seemed as good a place to start as any. I trawled my (many) cooking books for a nice basic chocolate/chilli cake recipe, but to no avail so I basically went at it myself. I used:

  • P1090088110g caster sugar
  • 110g butter
  • 110g self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 40g dark chocolate (melted)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of Galloway Chilli original

Firstly, on a cold winter afternoon such as this, you’ll need to bring the butter into the sitting room and place it next to the wood burner to soften.

Then you will need to melt some chocolate (I used 70% cocoa in this cake) in a mixing bowl over a pan of boiling water. It is important never heat the chocolate directly because “if you let the chocolate boil you let the chocolate spoil” something to do with the chemical make up, apparently.

Then basically combine the ingredients put into a cake tin and into the oven at 180 degrees for about 40 mins, until the knife comes out clear.

The icing is 20g melted chocolate with 60g butter, and 50g icing sugar.

Once cooked the chilli is not overpowering, there is a subtle warmth to the cake with an very chilliesque aftertaste, which inevitably makes you want to eat more cake. The feedback from my taster is that it could do with more chilli, and I think the next version of this cake will probably contain double, but that’s probably a matter of taste as it’s pretty good as it is.

I’m now planning to use this for afternoon tea after a cold days stalking or in a shoot lunch picnic. Any further suggestions welcome?

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Hogget cooking and the Dumfries farmers market

Walking away from the Dumfries farmers market last Sunday I had one of those “I’ve spent faaar too much money” moments.

I always try to go, primarily because it is the place where they sell the best pies in the world. Made by Barlochan Highlanders with the most delicious highland beef, (my favorite ones are the ones with Stilton). If you ever get the opportunity; don’t hesitate.

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A rather dreary day in Dumfries

The market has grown massively and now I try not to walk away without a caramelized onion and feta focaccia from The Earth’s Crust bakery, Patrick can, (and has) eaten one of these in a single sitting, they’re very good. I also tried a few new things this week including a jar of Galloway Chillis to experiment with and a Lancashire bomb cheese, from Choose a Cheese, which lasted about as long as the focaccia.

My main motivation for attending last week, however, was to buy something to feed my father when he came to stay the following day. I opted for a hogget joint from Annanwater organics.  I’ve never cooked with hogget before, I must admit. (For those who don’t know, hogget is a lamb after it is turned a year old, but before it has become old enough to be considered mutton). I did a little reading up before I began and according to my “Meat” book (Hugh Fernley Whittingstall – very good book) it is the meat of preference for most farmers and is usually preferable to lamb for those who know the difference. Like lamb, the best results are to cook it quickly at a fairly high temperature or slowly at a lower one.

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I went for a rather conventional  looking roast. Cooked quickly, very similar to how I would do lamb. I had bought some garlic and rosemary from the Garrocher market gardeners on the stall opposite which I positioned strategically at points over the meat then along with some seasoning and it was ready to go.

Quite a lot of fat was produced during cooking, which was perfect to arrange my potatoes around and they roasted with a beautiful hoggety crispyness!

Once cooked the meat was delicious, it was very similar to lamb, admittedly, but with a deeper flavour, it was a little fattier but stronger tasting. Needless to say we all enjoyed it very much and I will definitely be returning to the farmers market for more!

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