Monthly Archives: July 2016

Launching the Birthday Season …

Recently I’ve been experimenting with low-sugar or no-sugar cakes. Yes I know the logical option would just be to forswear cakes completely but please … and anyway, I cook for a small group of elderly tenants who like cake. Even if half of them are diabetic. So I get to bake two or three times a week.

P1020476I’ve been using Xylitol – derived from birch bark and has the same sweetness, and bulk, as standard sugar. This is useful as with other sugar substitutes, you can’t just swap sugar for the other. Apparently Xylitol is actually GOOD for your teeth …

I’m told there is a certain risk of – ahem – the runs, in using Xylitol. So mostly I’ve been doing half-and-half rather than straight substitution (don’t want our little community to go down that path all at once). I did buy a book which is quite good, and made the chocolate brownies pictured here – they went down well and I will make them again.

P1020515Anyway I’m a total hypocrite on the sugar front because today is the launch of my birthday season and I made this little beauty for us to share at table today. Full sugar I’m afraid; and gallons of fresh cream. And strawberries from the work garden. One of the tenants, hearing that this was in aid of my birthday, asked if I was turning 32 – and since my bus pass is apparently still in the post, offered to lend me his. Hey, I take my compliments where I can get them …

P1020516Best event of the pre-birthday season so far – I got my Dip Food Hygiene assignment back and I got 90%!!! Have been floating around the kitchen since I got the text this morning. The last big achievement of my fifties.

Lots more birthday season posts coming your way, I expect. Many happy returns to you all, no matter how extended your season x



If ever I design and develop a Scottish winery, I might call it Duncarin – since the best name has already been taken by Cairn O’Mohr , the vibrant family-run business in Errol,  Perthshire – aP1020499bout a mile off the main road between Perth and Dundee.

I’ve been meaning to visit for years, especially since reading their very entertaining blog. I urge you to follow the link and have a good browse. The video on the home page gives a good idea of their cheerful eccentricity. We went for lunch after spending an hour  or so at the Errol Sunday Market, i.e. vast and varied car boot sale. I was celebrating the opening of my Special Birthday Season, and the Troubadour was celebrating his haul of sheet music in the last car boot of the day (probably about number 745).

The weather was less than clement by the time we reached Cairn O’Mohr so we scuP1020490rried into the cheery cafe (AliBob – it’s a family affair) and had a wonderfully fresh and original take on the usual soup and sandwich offerings. My soup was green, with lemon and Parmesan – zesty and nutritious. We scraped our platters clean and decided to do the wine tour.

Judith Gillies, one of the original partners who founded the business in 1987, showed us round. Entering the first shed was like falling into a vat of strawberry mousse, which I imagine would be a delightful experience. Judith was factual and straightforward and entertaining all at once, and we were left full of admiration and envy at this family’s tenacity and good humour in building up a brand name that sells into the supermarkets and has puP1020491t Scottish wine on the map.

The first time I tasted Cairn O’Mohr – maybe 15 years ago? – I felt like I was stepping bravely into the abyss. Wine made of Oak leaves? Weird. I remember my guests being a bit nippit-faced about it, and not enthusing wildly about finishing the bottle. Yesterday though, with all the wee tastings after the tour, it felt like the most natural, and delicious, indeed discerning thing in the world to be knocking back the Rhubarb Rhubarb, and the Bramble, and all the rest. (Yes, ALL the rest. They were very generous with their samples and I had a fantastic sleep in the car on the way home afterwards. Obviously this is an indicator of fine quality and beats Nytol any time). I have purchased some bottles to aid the forthcoming celebrations, and if any of you fancy a visit yourselves to this great place, I’ll be first in line to accompany you. After all, I’m nearly 60 – Duncarin!