Scottish Highlands Road Trip stops

I’m blogging over at Foodies 100 today, giving the lowdown on the best Highland road trip stops. Think of the best wood fired pizzas, and other savoury snacks, tasty cakes and bakes,  all washed down with some lovely views of highland scenery.

Take a look here… I’ll be back here at the end of the week!

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Scotch & Rye Inverness

It was our four year wedding anniversary last week. Normally we head away for a night and meal somewhere but as we have some time off booked in October, so we headed into town for dinner and drinks.

We had a few options as there have been a few new places that have opened recently. We weren’t in the mood for thai or bistro dining, so we chose to try out Scotch & Rye – a new American style bar and kitchen. Our most recent experience of American diner food was at Eds‘s a couple of months back, which was ok, and a little overpriced for our liking (although the milkshakes are incredible!).

The decor of Scotch & Rye is done really well – stripped back walls, with interesting vintage and quirky signs, and there’s a mix of high diner tables along with long communal tables and tables for smaller groups.

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The drinks menu is really impressive and I had a tough time deciding between cocktails and the various G&T combinations! I had a Gin Mare Tonic which was garnished with Fever Tree Tonic, Mango and Black Pepper. It was so tasty and a combination I had never thought of before, just a hint of sweetness from the mango and a savoury finish from the black pepper! Mr B tried a Franciscan IPA and declared himself a big fan. There was a big selection of obscure beers/ales on tap.

Food wise, again we were spoilt for choice! There was a range of appetizers, salads, pizzas, burgers, sides and “two-handers” which were various types of hot dogs. We had saved ourselves for a good meal all day, so both had starters and mains.

Mr B chose Nachos topped with chicken and I chose a Quesadilla filled with pulled pork and swiss cheese. They were both good, though the nachos got sent back as there was no chicken on these, however they were quickly returned. My huge quesadilla wasn’t filled with pork and cheese but definitely a decent amount enough for a starter, but was hot and tasty.

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To follow, Mr B had a chilli dawg topped with tobacco onions, with sweet potato fries,  and I chose the Scotch and Rye signature burger which came with shoestring fries and slaw. We both were beaten by our respective dishes despite our best efforts. My burger was exceptional and was not fatty or greasy in the slightest – they must have used some top quality meat as it really was excellent, the bun was so soft but I decided to leave some of that with the fries as it was just so big! Mr B was loving his chilli dawg with the heat of some siracha sauce.

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We skipped dessert as a – we were too full, and b – most of the desserts included nuts (of which Mr B can’t partake). We loved our meal at Scotch & Rye, it’s a great new addition to the dining scene in Inverness, as there’s nothing else like it here! Prices too were very reasonable – including our drinks the bill came to under £50 easily, but if you weren’t drinking then you could easily have a meal for two there around £25. Service was good too – when our first drinks order was forgotten there were profuse apologies and after that the staff were very attentive.

We paid for a meal, this is not a sponsored post. 

 

Premier Inn Purple Sauce

Last Saturday was a relaxing affair – a day off with no jobs to get done, so Mr B enjoyed a long lie-in while I went to the gym. It was definitely time for a late breakfast by the time I got back, and I had a little help from Premier Inn!

DSC_0037Created with the help of celeb chef Ed Baines (of Britain’s best dish), Premier Inn’s Purple Sauce is a contemporary addition to the traditional cooked breakfast, complementing your favourite sausages, bacon and eggs to perfection.

Premier Inn say the following about their sauce:

“A great alternative to red and brown sauce, our secret Purple Sauce recipe has a blackberry base with natural ingredients including crushed chillies, toasted cumin, smoked salt and cider vinegar. You won’t find any artificial colours, flavourings or additives in there and it’s suitable for vegetarians too.”

DSC_0035 DSC_0034Being a lazy Saturday morning and all, we couldn’t really not go for the classic sausage sandwich. Mr B was cautious with his allocation of sauce, opting for the dipping technique…

DSC_0080… in contrast to me, who fully committed to the cause of a good dollop of the good stuff on our Lincolnshire sausages!

DSC_0082 DSC_0083So, what did we think? We would both opt normally to top our breakfast rolls with a good portion of tomato sauce, but with Premier Inn’s purple sauce, we were divided on our opinion! We both thought it was a tad too runny for our liking, but I loved the barely-there hint of smokiness to which complemented the blackberry flavour base. Mr B was fairly ambivalent, saying that the flavours just weren’t distinct enough for him. I would choose it again (so I’m glad that I get to, having the rest of the bottle to enjoy!)

Premier Inn sent me a bottle of their limited edition Purple Sauce to try in exchange for a review blog post.

Swimming Season

This year I’ve got into open water (also called wild) swimming. A few years ago I would never have believed you if you had told me that I would voluntarily swim outside in water that wasn’t heated!

I’ve been swimming more this year (typically going four or five times a week to my local pool so I’ve been achieving my goal set at the beginning of the year)  so I’ve been building my fitness and stamina up. I find the Speedo swimfit app really great to log my swims.

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A couple of months ago, one of my colleagues at work (who also swims before work) asked if I had ever thought about dipping my toes in a loch. There’s lots of outdoorsy types up in the HIghlands to take advantage of the roads, rocks and deep water pursuits, and my colleague had recently joined a Facebook group called Wild Highlanders who go off and swim in many of the lochs around the Inverness area.

I was up for giving it a go, so we went out one warm summers evening back in July to Loch Achilty, Loch Achilty is a good loch for a first open water swim for a few reasons; because it’s not too big it’s not too cold (although of course it will still be cold when you get in!) and you can walk straight in without having to clamber in on slippery rocks or through weeds. Must have accessories are; googles, swim shoes, a poncho like towel to avoid any embarrassing reveals when you’re getting changed (this also prevents you from getting attacked by midgies!) and something sweet to eat after you get out of the water when the cold starts to set in!

This video below is of me a few weeks back

Unfortunately I have also struggled with a couple of back injuries this year. Even last week I was suffering with a trapped nerve/frozen shoulder – cause unknown. Thankfully I had a product at home to help which was sent to me earlier on the summer for an entirely different purpose!

Way back in June, Thermofreeze sent me some dry gel ice packs to use out and about on a picnic, but as the good weather hasn’t aligned on a day off for Mr B and I, we couldn’t find a use for them. However, they also double up as physio ice packs!

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I was sent two large sheets of the ice packs, and here’s why I thought they were good:

You can cut them up into smaller sheets that suit you. I wouldn’t have fitted a whole sheet (24 pouch squares) into our freezer, but I could easily cut up one of the sheets in half to freeze.

They freeze ridiculously quickly, and can be manipulated to wrap around food (or in my case, my shoulder!). They are also lightweight and can be reused.

I wish that I had been able to use these ice packs on a nice hot summer day as I think they would be very effective in insulating some picnic goodies, but I was glad that I had these in my freezer to use on my poor shoulder instead of the usual bag of frozen peas!

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Many thanks to Thermofreeze who sent me two sheets of their gel ice packs in return for a review. 

Local Lunch – Scott’s Larder

Scott’s Larder is one of those places that I’m been meaning to feature as a Local Lunch post for ages. Mr B loves popping down there for some fine lunchtime fayre. At first glance you might think it’s the usual burger van, but it’s a gem of a find, serving much higher quality food! As you can see, we’re not the only fans!

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Parked up outside a gym nestled within the depths of an industrial estate, it’s not the easiest place to find for those not in the know, but their Facebook page provides a daily update of special mains and soups. There’s also a more traditional lunch menu (baguettes, baked potatoes) on their website.

It’s not the kind of place where you can hang around to eat your food (ie there’s no seating) but the canal is not far away if you’re after a scenic view while you chow down. And they do delivery (presumably within a small local radius of 1-2 miles).

Being a Friday, the special dish is always a curry which Mr B was well up for trying.

So.. what did we eat?

After the spice of our pepperpot stew earlier in the week, I was happy with a beef chilli topped baked potato. Served with a meaty (as in substantial!) salad of carrot and pepper batons, red onion and salad leaves, the beef was lean, the spice level one that was pleasant but still flavoursome. The large potato was soft but the skin had a good crunch. Perfect!

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Mr B’s curry was of the thai green chicken variety. It included fine beans and was flavoured with lemongrass, ginger and coriander. Not only was their curry but there was also steamed white rice, prawn crackers, naan bread and a ginger and chilli pickled watermelon topping. Not bad for a fiver, and something you’d be very hard pressed to find in a restaurant for less than double the price!

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We paid for our meals, this is not a sponsored post. 

The second year of Autumnal Apple Cake

Last year I blogged about some free apples I received and a cake that I made with them. I’m obviously a creature of habit, as I got more free apples this week, so decided to bake for our monthly Craft Club (and it wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I realised that I made a variation of the above linked cake!), however I will share this recipe with you all as I made it up as I went along!

I was generous with the apple, and used a smaller quantity of sponge mix. This is probably one of my favourite cakes for autumn – I heaped in the cinnamon to coat the apples and was equally generous with the vanilla extract for the sponge! I also had a jar of salted caramel sauce in the cupboard from the Little Herb Farm, so spread a thin coating over the top of the cake to give it a gorgeous deep brown glaze!

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Autumnal Apple and Cinnamon Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 200-250g peeled and chopped dessert apples-into small pieces
  • 1-3 heaped teaspoons of cinnamon (depending on your tastes)
  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g caster sugar, plus an extra 1-2 tablespoons to coat the base of the baking tin
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (depending on your tastes)
  • A splash of milk (if needed)
  1. Grease and line an 8inch/20cm round cake tin. Preheat your oven to 180c fan. Scatter 1-2 tablespoons of caster sugar on the base of your tin.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the apple pieces and cinnamon until the apple has been thoroughly coated. Add to the base of the tin
  3. Make a sponge mix by beating the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Alternate adding the flour and beaten eggs until you have a pale and fluffy sponge mix. At this point I beat in the vanilla extract and a splash of milk if the sponge mix could be slightly thinner.
  4. Heap the sponge mix over the apples and spread in an even layer.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes until the cake is risen and a knife inserted comes out clean.
  6. Leave to cool. Serve warm or cold with icecream, cream or custard! Salted caramel glaze optional but highly recommended!

New in my Kitchen – August 2015

Another month has passed by again in a flash, here’s what was new to the Barrie kitchen this month!

A couple of recipe books were bought in Glasgow when I was down for whistle-stop visit at the very end of July! I’ve got a bag of wholemeal spelt flour so figure that I will be able to use some up trying out a health(ier) cake recipe or two from this book by Amber Rose.

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Hummus Bros is one of my very favourite places to eat in London (many a lunch date with my friend Donna was spent here!) and I’ve blogged about my visit last year here. Looking forward to making my own hummus bros style hummus and other middle-eastern dishes in the near future with this copy of “Hummus and more”!

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My trip down to Foodies Festival in Edinburgh also meant that I brought back some goodies including my favourite flavour of Thistly Cross cider!

I received a Debenhams voucher with my store card statement this month and am looking forward to using this letter and number fondant stamps set in my baking! (Now I need to be a bit more adventurous in my use of icing and decoration!)

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An exciting bit of post came in the form of my very first Bakes Box – you can see my review here!

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A trip down to Blair Atholl Mill and Tea Room also meant (of course) that I was obliged to buy some flours! I also splashed out on a proving basket and a reusable basket cover (no more swiping shower caps from hotel stays required) for proving my dough.

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I enjoyed cooking up a Caribbean storm with a whole hamper of tropical goodies which was kindly sent to me courtesy of Grace Foods, see the three posts (here and here) to see what I made to celebrate Caribbean Food Week!

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A kind friend holidaying in Canada brought me back a tub of Maple Butter which I’m still to open! I will enjoy this on toast and will look forward to seeing how it is different from Moose Maple Butter which I sampled earlier on in the year! I love the tub! 
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Another kind friend was doing a clear out of tins and baking books, so I only thought it was kind to take some goodies from her (for a donation to a local charity in return!) I’m now the proud owner of a cupcake tin and some baking books/Jamie Oliver magazines, now I just have to find some space on my bookcase for them!

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That’s it for another month. Next month I will have lots to share with you as I will have just been down to London for Food Blogger Connect and there’s an incredible goodie bag waiting for me there!

Caribbean Food Week – Jamaican Ginger Cake

As you know, this week we’ve been celebrating Caribbean Food Week with the help of Grace Foods. We tried Jerk Chicken on Monday and then a stew alongside Jamaica’s national dish of Saltfish and Ackee yesterday!

Today though, I’m finishing Caribbean Food Week with some baking of course, assisted by Mary Berry‘s recipe for Jamaican Ginger Cake.  This is of course inspired by the McVities sticky loaf cake you can buy in any supermarket. Using stem and ground ginger just makes the cake (and kitchen!) smell incredible.

Apart from my 10inch round tin leaking  (I noticed just as I lifted the tin into the oven, thankfully!) and some hasty decanting into a couple of loaf tins, this was a nice straightforward bake! DSC_0075 DSC_0076 DSC_0077

Best served warm from the oven with a dollop of custard, although it keeps really well for a few days too!

Caribbean Food Week with Grace Foods – Pepperpot Stew /Saltfish and Ackee

Continuing on from Monday’s post all about Jerk Chicken, it’s still Caribbean Food Week and time for a warming Caribbean stew!

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We found this Pepperpot Stew recipe courtesy of Levi Roots and thought that it was worth a try, particularly because two of the ingredients in my Grace Foods hamper were required!

Callaloo is a spinach like vegetable which was added right at the end of cooking. It’s commonly used in stews and quiches. Coconut milk is a more commonly used ingredient in our kitchen and we love its wonderfully fragrant aroma.

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After an hour or so of one pot simmering (our favourite kind of cooking!) here’s our finished beef pepperpot stew! Even though we added only two scotch bonnet chillies (and the recipe said you could add up to four!) it was very very hot for us. We were glad that we added some couscous and pitta bread to absorb the hear of the pepper, and the callaloo still tasted really good. One for fans of hot peppers methinks!  Our intention was to freeze the rest for another day but neither of us fancied streaming noses and watering eyes again, so we rescued the beef in a little of the stew sauce and will have this in pittas with some yoghurt and salad.

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However, that’s not all for today! We also tried a traditional (and very quick to prepare) side dish of Saltfish and Ackee which is Jamaica’s national dish! They are both tinned foods. Ackee is a Jamaican fruit – part of the fruit that we used from the tin resembled scrambled egg which was a little odd to get used to when trying the dish, but it’s apparently quite a good carrier for more robust Caribbean flavours.

The dish is quickly created, with an onion sauted in a little oil to start with, before adding the tinned saltfish and ackee and black pepper to stand over a low heat for a couple of minutes. I do admit that it doesn’t look that appetising, but we actually liked it! The salted fish and onion are the stronger flavours,  the ackee doesn’t really have much of a distinctive flavour, but bulks up the dish and is a nice texture

We enjoyed making and trying both dishes to give us a true flavour of Caribbean cuisine!

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Grace Foods provided me with images (the first image in this post) and a hamper of ingredients to try in exchange for a review blog post. Check out their Facebook page for Caribbean Food Week and follow them on Twitter!

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My August Let’s Bake Inverness Bake -Back to School theme!

On Monday night I was busy preparing for Let’s Bake Inverness. As it was just a week after the scottish schools had gone back after the summer holidays, we decided on having a ‘Back to School’ theme where bakers could bring along a bake that they enjoyed eating at school/as a child.

I chose to make jaffa cakes as I remember the advert from my childhood – does anyone else?

I had seen Kate Doran’s (blogger at the Little Loaf) book “Homemade Memories” too which has these luscious looking jaffa cakes on the front cover, I hadn’t got round to buying it yet (it’s on the birthday list!) but I had seen that the recipe for the jaffa cakes had been published on a blog called Cut Out + Keep, so used the jaffa filling recipe from that, and then made some dairy free sponges using a double quantity of ingredients from this recipe at BBC Food. I also made some of the jelly filling from the BBC Food recipe which was tasty but had more of a synthetic taste. The orange jelly filling from the Little Loaf was so much better – it set much firmer and it was so easy to cut the circles using a small biscuit cutter, and using freshly squeezed orange juice gave it much more of a zing! To top them I used 250g of chocolate from the co-op which was flavoured with orange oil and spices to give a much more rounded flavour. They went down really well at Let’s Bake Inverness last night!

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What was your favourite school/childhood thing to bake/eat?