Archive for the ‘cooking/food’ Category

The real thing

April 30, 2019

Chose some unsuspecting Dutch guests as guinea pigs for our new Outlander breakfast the other day. It was a hit apparently!

Outlander breakfast
The ‘Nettle Rolls’ were in fact spinach rolls because it was too early in the season for the nettles. However, the nettles are now growing vigorously, so today I did some harvesting and made our first batch of THE REAL THING! So, here’s a pictorial guide as to how they were made…

Essential tools! (plus wellies!)

Essential ingredients – just the topmost leaves.

Blanch for 2-3 mins, drain, refresh, wring dry and chop.

Roll prepared dough into 12 inch square, brush with butter, cover with nettles, finely grated lemon rind and chopped mixed nuts. Roll into a sausage shape.

Cut the roll into 12 rounds. Place on parchment in tray, cover with cling film and allow to rise somewhere warm until doubled in size. Brush with melted butter then bake at 180 C for about 20 mins. 

Et voila!


We have some unsuspecting American guests for breakfast tomorrow, so who knows…

P.S. It’s a sweet dough, very similar to Chelsea buns


The Outlander effect

March 24, 2019

Many of our Bed and Breakfasts guests are fans of the Outlander series, quite a few of them visiting film location sites during their Scottish holiday. In fact, Diana Gabaldon, the author of the series, recently received a major award from the Scottish Tourist Board for her significant contribution to Scottish Tourism. So I thought it would be fun to add an Outlander breakfast option to our menu!




The recipe is taken from  the ‘Outlander Kitchen’, compiled by Theresa Carle-Sanders. This early in the year, there’s not a nettle to be found, so I substituted spinach but come the spring, (PLEASE come spring!), I shall be out there with my rubber gloves, harvesting the abundant nettle crop around Garybuie. They will certainly be a very locally produced breakfast ingredient!


It will be interesting to see if the new breakfast will be as successful as the series! If not then never mind, at least the egg coddlers make a pretty collection!


The First Post of 2016

January 5, 2016

‘The View’ – plus two ducks!

Puff and Biggles and view

We’ve had a few welcome dry days and it feels like we’re walking on terra firma once more! No wind today either so feeling less raw. Constant wet weather has meant that collection of fallen leaves is much delayed this winter as they’re all stuck like glue to each other/the ground. Consequently, all of our pavde paths looked like this today…


…so it seemed like a good opportunity for a major belated sweep-up!

If there’s one thing I hate it’s food fads. There’s always something new that we should or shouldn’t eat and believe me, we encounter quite a few of them during the BandB season! Today however, I finally came across an article on ‘Yahoo Lifestyle’ which bodes well for our 2016 season:

P1020718 “LIFESTYLE”
Forget Broccoli – The Superfood Of 2016 Is Fry-Up Favourite BLACK PUDDING – by Andy Wells 05 January 2016…

‘One thing you wouldn’t expect when compiling your superfood diet now that January is here would be something you’d find on a fried breakfast.
However, this year you can include black pudding to your new year shopping list as experts reckon it is about to be extremely popular in 2016.
The divisive breakfast staple – traditionally made using pig blood and oatmeal – is actually full of protein, calcium and potassium.
It also enjoys the benefit of being nearly carb free and packed full of anaemia-preventing iron – something lacking in modern diets.
The addition of black pudding to the superfood list will be something of a shock to most, and Darren Beale from is just as surprised.
He said: “Some of the foods have been on the up for a while like avocado oil and maca root, but others like mushrooms and black pudding have been a total surprise to us.
“It’s great to have this new research available to find out the hidden qualities in food and we can’t wait to see how these new trends take off.”
The black pudding surge has already begun in earnest, with one Scottish butchers, famed for their blood sausages, already seeing sales soar.
Shona Macleod, managing director of Charles Macleod Butchers in Stornoway, told MailOnline: “The shop has just opened again.
“I opened the mail orders and we had about 40 black pudding mail orders to go out today.
“That’s is a lot for the first day open in January.”
Other superfoods set to be huge this year include seaweed, black beans and birch water.’

Birch water?!!

We always offer Stornoway Black Pudding – it’s delicious – but many times it evokes a wrinkling of the nose, so who knows, now that it’s firmly on the food fad list, we might not be able to keep up with demand! N.B. to all potential Garybuie guests, do NOT expect birch water – or maca root for that matter!


Lovely pork, a lovely walk and a lovely family portrait!

November 18, 2013

We had a busy weekend. Our annual pig carcass arrived from the Isle of Raasay after being a happy, free-range pig for several months. It truly is wonderful pork so, armed with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘Meat’ book, our trusted guide around a pig, we set to work.


Butchery 2

Butchery 3

It took us virtually all day to prepare most cuts for the freezer and to put the legs and hocks to cure. This year we’ve used a cider cure. The following day we made chorizo….one…

chorizo 1


chorizo 2


chorizo 3

…and after a simple, delicious lunch of sautéed kidney with a poached egg, I made brawn after a long, slow simmer of the head along with stock vegetables, bouquet garni and cloves.


Unusually this year, the weather was mild whilst we were doing our butchery bit which was great as we usually end up with numb feet after standing in one spot on a concrete floor for hours! Thank you Mother Nature! But now the wind has changed to a north-westerly and the glen is a chilly place. It’s been a day of sunshine and hail showers; nice to get out for a walk in the glen.

the glen

river hinnisdal

Garybuie + ridge

To finish this post, I just had to show you a family portrait – photographic this time – of Broody Brenda and her ‘chicks’. I know how she feels, I have two sons who tower over me too!


Festive food

December 23, 2012

I had Christmas foodie-project on the agenda today but before I got started, I went for a brisk walk up the glen, despite the wind and intermittent rain. Now that we’re down to minimum livestock to take care of, life has taken on a more sedentary pattern. Not good, so I’m determined to GET OUT THERE on a regular basis! At the top of the glen is a memorial…

memorial It’s in memory of Donald MacDonald, born in 1750 here in the glen. He was responsible for committing  classical bagpipe music to print for the first time in 1822 , thus “preserving for posterity a heritage of music which covers the history of the Highlands.”

HamsAnyway, cobwebs cleared and feeling a bit wind-battered, it was back to the kitchen for some Christmas food preparation. It’s a shame that we can’t have smell-o-blogs because honestly, if there’s something which smells festive, it’s a ham plucked straight from the cure; delicious, dark, sweet and decadent, but you’ll just have to take my word for it I’m afraid! However, the foodie-project today was to bone a chicken and stuff it, which makes a lovely, easy to carve roast.

chickenBoning the chicken is a slippery, time-consuming affair. Basically, cut off the parson’s nose and wing-tips, place the bird breast-side down, cut along the backbone with a sharp knife and carefully scrape the meat away from the carcass. Snap the leg and wing joints where they are attached to the carcass when they are revealed, then continue to scrape the meat away from the legs and wings. When most of the leg/wing-bones are revealed, pull them towards you so that you essentially turn the limbs inside-out. Gradually work at the remaining rib-cage/breast bone taking care NOT to damage the skin where it’s attached to the breast-bone; gently does it! And there you go, one floppy chicken! (And some great bones for stock!)

boned chicken

Place your chicken on a large piece of foil and prepare a stuffing of your choice. I used a mixture of cooked onion, minced pork, chopped cooked ham, chopped, dried, ready-to-eat apricots, red currants, grated orange rind, ground coriander, parsley and thyme. Place the stuffing in the centre of your chicken…

stuffed chicken

…then fold over one side of the meat to a central point, followed by the other side overlapping the edges and making a giant chicken sausage! Fold over the foil to make a tight parcel…

chicken sausage

…and turn it upside down in a roasting tin so that the original breast side is on top. Roast in the usual manner but increase your oven temperature for the last 10 minutes and split/peel back the foil to brown the skin.

So, that’s the chicken dish completed and another completed project is my painting of Patches. My first attempt was a diasaster and I’m not overly happy with my second attempt! Essentially, being a white wee puss doesn’t work well with my usual pen and ink technique, resulting in more of a watercolour – not my strong point! My mum-in-law bought me some pastel pencils some time ago and I think that maybe they would be the perfect medium for Patches. I’ve never used them before so I’ll have to read up about them and have a go!


And finally, regarding another indoor pastime, reading, I think I mentioned a couple of blogs back that I was reading a book called ‘A Discovery of Witches’ by Deborah Harkess. I enjoyed it and while looking over all her research material at the end of the book, a book called ‘The Seven Daughters of Eve’ by Bryan Sykes caught my attention and maybe you’ll see why…

“In 1994 Professor Bryan Sykes, a leading world authority on DNA and human evolution was called in to examine the frozen remains of a man trapped in glacial ice in northern Italy. News of the discovery of the Ice Man and his age, which was put at over five thousand years old, fascinated the world. But what made the story particularly extraordinary was that Professor Sykes was also able to track down a living generic relative of the Ice Man, a woman living in Britain today.

How was he able to locate a living relative of a man who died thousands of years ago? In The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes gives us a first-hand account of his research into a remarkable gene which passes undiluted from generation to generation through the maternal line and shows how it is being used to track our genetic ancestors through time and space. After plotting thousands of DNA sequences from all over the world he found that they had clustered around a handful of distinct groups. In Europe there are only seven. The conclusion: almost everyone of native European descent, wherever they live in the world, can trace their ancestry back to one of seven women, the Seven Daughters of Eve. He has named them Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine and Jasmine.

In this remarkable scientific adventure story we learn exactly how our origins can be traced, how and where our ancient genetic ancestors lived, what their lives were like and how we are each living proof of the almost miraculous strength of our DNA which has survived and prospered over so many thousands of years to reach us today. It is a book that not only presents the story of our evolution in a wholly new light, but also strikes right at the heart of ourselves as individuals and of our sense of identity.”

I was thrilled to discover that our local library has a copy and I’m about a third of the way through it. It’s a fascinating read and Professor Sykes has a real talent for explaining a complex subject in a plain and easy to understand way – with humour in parts too! I think that he’s probably one of those people who is passionate about his subject and that passion just can’t help spilling out and infecting anyone who cares to listen (or read).

Merry Christmas!

Chop chop, lame duck and drawing disaster!

December 16, 2012

We finally sampled some of our newly acquired pork this week in the shape of Pan-To-Oven Pork Chops with Garlic. (Courtesy Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) Now when I say garlic, this is serious, so if you have an interview the following day, or are thinking of rustling up a romantic dinner for your partner, then maybe this isn’t particularly appropriate! However, Kevin and I have been married for over 30 years, so any romance does allow for an occasional abundance of garlic! (serves 2)
• 2 pork chops
• 1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled (squash them a wee bit with the flat of a knife if you wish)
• A little olive oil
• 100ml white wine
• Salt and pepper
oven-ready!Put an ovenproof dish, large enough to hold your chops, in the oven and heat to 220 C/gas mark 7. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic for a few minutes then add the seasoned chops. Brown on both sides then remove with tongues and place in the dish with the bony ends sticking up. Deglaze the pan with the wine, reduce by half then pour it, along with the garlic over the chops. Cook in the oven for 15-20minutes, depending on size.

This is delicious served with mashed potato and steamed leafy greens. On this occasion, I’d picked a savoy cabbage earlier but when I cut into it, it had been spoiled by the recent frost. By this stage unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and poring with rain. Being a bit of a wuss when it comes to harvesting veg in inclement weather conditions, I plumped for the easier option of our last portion of this season’s frozen broad beans.The chops were heavenly, so juicy and tender and the garlic SO sweet! No vampires that night at least!

Pan-to-oven porkcops


Also on the pork front, the brawn is ready (perfect on a sandwich or fried with some cooked Puy lentils and a side salad for lunch) and the ham hocks are cured and stored. Obviously, the hams need more time yet to wallow in their beery, treacly bath!





Ontoducky matters, Kevin is currently in the final stages of ‘processing’ the season’s remaining ducks and chickens. The ducks are particularly labour intensive because of all the down. A wee bit of bad news with our breeding ducks though as Puff seems to have injured her leg somehow. She can walk, of a fashion, but isn’t keen to put her full weight on it or to over-stretch it. Kevin gave her a
thorough check this morning but there’s nothing obvious. Within the first year of us getting Huff ‘n’ Puff, she must have twisted a leg on the rough ground of the surrounding land, and ever since she’s had a slight limp. Occasionally the Muscovy ducklings have done the same thing and we wonder if the breed is prone to such injury. Anyway, during her morning examination, she didn’t flinch or
vocalise, so we don’t think that she’s in any great pain. She’s being a sensible girl though and takes short flights to get where she’s going, or seems happy to sit in the garden and rest. Today, Huff and Biggles have been taking care of her, particularly when MacRae decided to stick his bill in and see what all the fuss was about! No need to worry though, Puff can still hold her on when it comes to that bothersome bird!



Taking care of the patient

Taking care of the patient

"This is how it's done Biggles Girl - even with a bad leg!"

“This is how it’s done Biggles Girl – even with a bad leg!”

And finally, disaster! I started another painting of Patches a couple of days ago and well, in a nutshell, I made a complete mess of it! The drawing went fine and her all-important eye but the background….way too fussy and awful in every respect so I’ve started again! Patches was obviously of a similar opinion…

Art critic


biggles and patches




Pork and completed portrait

December 11, 2012

pork We had a varied weekend and I’m a wee bit late telling you about it because of Christmas card and parcel wrapping duties. Kevin collected a pig carcass from Paul, our regular pork provider, on Friday in the library car park of all places. They must have looked a shady pair! So, Saturday was a butchery day and I’m glad that the weather had warmed up slightly, because standing around handling cold meat is a chilly occupation. I’ve never envied butchers, or fishmongers come to that! Lovely pork from Paul’s well looked after pigs!


It took us most of Saturday to prepare the pork for the freezer as well as putting the legs and hocks into a Wiltshire cure. This year we aren’t making sausages but instead we’ve used the thin ends of the bellies to make dry cured bacon. Any other meat, usually from the shoulder, which we normally use in sausages, has been diced for casseroles instead. The dry curing is a simple technique with few ingredients; 500gm fine salt, 50gm brown sugar, ½ teaspoon saltpetre (optional), 1/tablespoon cracked black pepper.

Basically you just massage each piece of meat with the cure, stack on top of each other in a non-metallic container and place a heavy weight on top. After 24 hours, this is what it looks like…

dry curing

Each day, remove the bellies, pour the water away, massage with more of the cure and return to the container, making sure to put the bottom piece of meat on top this time. Continue this process on a daily basis, rotating the bellies as you go. After five days, there you have it! Generally I dice the finished bacon and use it in place of pancetta

BrawnThe only remaining task was the none-too-pretty boiling of the head to make brawn. Cooking takes about four hours with an added trotter, stock vegetables and a bouquet garni. When that’s done, remove all the meat from the head, shred it, season well and press it into a dish along with plenty of the lovely, gelatinous cooking liquor. Admittedly it doesn’t look the most appetising of culinary creations but after covering it, placing a weight on top, placing in the fridge for 24 hours, you’re left with a sliceable potted meat which is succulent and delicious!

So much for the porky part of the weekend, now we move on to the portrait! Only one person, Amy, managed to guess his identity before completion (or at least only one person told me that they had!) His name is Ton Ton, he lives with his family on a farm in Illinois, U.S.A  and is a regular star on Cecilia’s blog. He’s been the perfect model with his expressive face and I’ve enjoyed every minute of painting him. This particular expression is apparently worn when suitcases are being packed and he’s not invited! He’s going to be a hard act to follow!

Ton Ton

Season’s end

October 2, 2012

The B and B season that is – and I don’t care who turns up at the gate, they’re NOT COMING IN!!!

The weather certainly isn’t the holiday variety that’s for sure. We had or first frost last week…

… and breakfast for our  guests has been a noisy affair on occasion, with sheets of rain  being hurled horizontally at the conservatory windows.  But as the weather fluctuates between heavy showers, gale force wind, dazzling sunshine or a silent mist, there’s always a view somewhere to make me stop and stare.

The good thing about these squally conditions  I suppose, is that  I’ve  had no excuse not to get on top of a few indoor tasks! We’ve had a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes in the conservatory this year and because the plants were looking particularly bedraggled, we picked the remaining fruits, putting some aside for ripening and roasting the majority to make tomato sauce. The chillies, on the other hand, haven’t done well at all. Hey ho, I don’t use an awful lot of them anyway so I just pickled the few which we did have.




I’ve also been grateful for the changeable weather as it has given me the opportunity to do a painting for our newest grandson, Patrick, who we will be travelling south to visit soon!

Roast duck with beetroot and changing weather

September 22, 2012

The view is constantly changing from the kitchen window this week and there’s a definite autumnal feel to the weather.

Nothing to do with the weather whatsoever, on Thursday evening we had a delicious, totally home –produced meal and I just have to share. The recipe is courtesy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (For any readers beyond the U.K., he’s a British chef into self-sufficiency, traditional animal husbandry,  a seasonal approach to cooking, sustainable food sources….you can see why I like him!)

This recipe is intended for a large ‘table’ bird such as the Aylesbury, so I had to make a slight adaptation because we only have muscovies available! These are far less fatty, so much so that I did actually drizzle the vegetables with a wee bit more oil. They also have a slightly more gamey flavour so I substituted some of my recently made Rowan Jelly for the redcurrant. Also, because of there being less fat, Hugh’s suggestion of an accompanying watercress and orange salad to ‘cut the fat’ wasn’t necessary and I served it with curly kale instead.


  • 1 large, fresh duck, free range and preferably organic, with neck and giblets
  • About 1 kg beetroot, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1kg potatoes, peeled cut for roasting and parboiled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the giblet stock/gravy:

  • The neck and giblets, and wing tips
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 carrot
  • A little oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • ½ teaspoon redcurrant jelly (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7. If the duck is tied up, un-truss it – i.e. cut the strings and gently pull the legs apart, away from the body. This will help the heat to get at them.

2. Cut off the wing tips (the last bony segment) – there’s no meat on them and they will boost the flavour of the giblet stock. Make this first: roughly chop up the neck, heart, gizzard and wing tips, plus the onion, carrot and celery. Fry these over a fair heat in a little oil until the meat is nicely browned and the vegetables slightly caramelised. Transfer to a saucepan with the bay leaf, cover with water (about 600ml) and bring to a simmer. Leave at a gentle simmer for about 1¾ hours – i.e. the time it takes to cook the duck.

3. Now tackle the duck. Remove any obvious spare fat from inside the cavity.

4. Now, using a needle, prick the skin all over the fatty parts at the breast and where the breast joins the leg. Don’t prick deeper than is necessary just to pierce the skin. You want the fat to run, but not the juices from the meat. Season the skin lightly with salt and pepper. Put the bird in a roasting tin. Place into oven for about 20 minutes, so the fat starts to run. Then turn the oven down to 180°C/Gas Mark 4, baste the bird and return to the oven.

5. After another 20 minutes, add the vegetables, seasoned with salt and pepper.

6. Baste the duck every 20 minutes or so. Check the bird for doneness after about 1½ hours’ total cooking time. Poke a skewer into the thickest part of the leg, close to the breast. When the juices run clear, the bird is done. Tip the bird to pour any fat or juices out of the cavity into the roasting tin and transfer it to a warmed plate or carving tray.

7. Now fix the gravy. Carefully pour off the fat from the roasting tin into a heatproof bowl or dish, leaving the brown juices in the tin. Deglaze the tin with the red wine, scraping to release any tasty browned morsels. Strain the giblet stock and the deglazed pan juices, into a clean pan and boil hard to reduce them to a rich, syrupy gravy. Taste for seasoning, and add a little redcurrant jelly for sweetness, if you like.

8. To carve the bird for 4 people, slice between the legs and breast, then prise off the whole legs, carefully pulling the thighbone away from the body of the bird. Cut each leg in half at the joint between the thigh and the drumstick. Slice each whole breast from the carcass, with the crispy skin attached, then cut each breast into 5 or 6 thick slices. Offer each guest a few slices of breast, with either a thigh or a drumstick. Serve on warmed plates, with the gravy and some roast vegetables.

Late summer colour

August 31, 2012

There’s some glorious colour on Skye at the moment. The heather is in full bloom and the weather this year must have been perfect for the Rowan trees as they are positively dripping with vibrant, scarlet berries. There are two types of heather here; the strongly coloured, larger flowered Erica tetralix and the more subtle, mauve variety, Calluna vulgaris…

Now here’s a question for you! How could a pan of boiling rowanberries be beneficial to a muscovy duckling? Well, the other day, while I was showing some newly arrived guests around the garden, Kevin was signalling from the kitchen that he had a dying duckling in his hand. He obviously needed assistance so I wound the tour up as soon as possible so that I could help. He’d found the wee thing on its back, stone cold and assumed that it was dead but a weak squeak told him otherwise. Holding the casualty to his chest or under his arm wasn’t doing the trick so as a temporary measure, he held it in a small piece of cloth on top of the pan lid! There were signs of revival and it managed to drink some water. Once there were two pairs of hands, we could set up an infra-red lamp to complete the re-heating of our patient. Unbelievably, it wasn’t long before he was trying to jump out of the box!

Occasionally in the past we’ve found dead muscovy ducklings on their backs and we’ve always assumed that they’ve  been sick and just died  like that. Now we’re more inclined to think that they tumble onto their backs and like beetles, they can’t right themselves, eventually dying from cold. So in future we’ll be extra vigilant with our duckling observations for the first couple of days or so. Anyway, the story had a happy ending and the rowan jelly turned out well too! (Great with venison!)


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