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Surprise Rise!

Tralaaaah! I shouldn’t have been so impatient (‘twaDSCN0198.JPGs always thus). It’s less risen than the bread I usually make, using dried instant yeast, and the crust is thinner. The crumb is moister. The flavour is intriguing – a slightly sour tang to it, behind a savoury freshness. I imagine that as I practice, it might get better still; but even if it stays the same it’ll definitely be worth making regularly. So the starter has been replenished and next weekend I’ll be at it again. Very pleased with this result. Thank you again, Jim.


Slow Dough

LAn Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Graceast year at a little independent bookshop in Cupar, I picked up an intriguing paperback which was far too expensive for the quality of the paper it was printed on, but which nevertheless called out my name. Tamar Adler’s book, ‘An Everlasting Meal: cooking with economy and grace’ has a foreword by Alice Waters, who set up the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in California. I say ‘famous’ meaning, ‘even here across the oceans; even when there is no international chain of Chez Panisse restaurants; and even with completely different food traditions.’ And personally, even though I’ve never been to California and more than likely never will (but one can dream). Waters says Adler is not just teaching people how to cook, ‘but how to love to cook’.

Tamar Adler apparently drifted into Chez Panisse one day and stayed for many years. Her book title completely reflects what she offers – a beautiful, kind, committed lesson on how to make nice food every day and be kind to your pocket as well as the planet. Just what I want. So I’ve read and re-read her book, and learned loads. Most valuable of all is her rejection of the ‘tyranny’ of the idea that veg must always be cooked to order and served hot. Under her guidance, I now cook most of my veg when I buy it, at the weekend, and store it in the fridge. It’s then so quick and easy to put something nice and tasty and healthy on the table at tea-time, when I’m hungry but can’t be bothered peeling and chopping.

However she acknowledges that sometimes other people do things better than she can. Here’s what she has to say about bread making: ‘If you’re going to choose a food not to make at home, choosing bread represents a judicious division of labour. Bakers are devout and singular people, with firm beliefs in the secret lives of the yeast starters they tend. Their ovens are hot, and they can smell when bread is nearly done, then done. I am not devout and singular enough … ‘

Well  I think that probably also applies to me; but every so often I take a notion to bake bread. And this year I’d been wondering about sourdough, as our research project at Uni involved fermentation of waste bakery products. So I bought another expensive book, this time by Sandor Katz, on the art of fermentation. And what does he tell me? ‘You can’t learn about fermentation by reading a book’… He reckons you need to get your hands dirty.

oatcakes and baguetteMeantime I had the joy of an invitation to meet with Eric Milne, the owner and director of the marvellous Fisher and Donaldson’s bakery in Cupar. Fisher and Donaldson’s is one of those oralgasm sort of bakeries, you know the sort. Five generations in the same family and causing mayhem in the female population ever since. The (secondary) purpose of my visit was to discuss bakery waste for my aforementioned research project, and it was great to see round the factory and marvel at the dinkiness of the wee round Highlander shortbreads, no bigger than a 10p piece; and the modest symmetry of the pie shells, all queueing up shyly for their share of the juicy fillings. As I was leaving, Eric gave me a bag of broken oatcakes and a sourdough baguette, to take to Uni for our discussions. I will tell you more about the research project in future posts – it will probably be taking over my life to a large extent, any time now. However I’m just explaining to you the way that sourdough has begun to ooze its way into my life, more or less unbidden.

So – yesterday morning I was gifted a tub of sourdough starter, neatly labelled ‘Jimbo: Oct 2014 to Feb 2018’. I think the giver of Jimbo probably meets Tamar Adler’s description of ‘singular and devout’. He is a craftsman in wood, and last week gave us a lovely housewarming gift – a beautiful door wedge, which is far too tactile to be allowed to lie on the floor holding a door open. He told me I had to leave Jimbo out all day, to start the breadmaking process at night. And this is what I’ve been doing.DSCN0192.JPG The picture shows it after its first slow rise, with a nice puddle of rapeseed oil and a dose of nuts and seeds ready to be stirred in. The Troubadour bought some strong flour for me at the Co-Op, and I think this may be a bit of a come-down for Jimbo who is used to the finest organic flours from the Pillars of Hercules. But I wasn’t going anywhere near Falkland and as usual was in too much of a hurry (Tamar Adler would say my bread is doomed).

So … the dough is now sitting in bread tins for its final rise but I have a little problem regarding the timing of the baking. In DSCN0193other words, I’m going out at just the time the bread should be going in the oven. So I’m going back downstairs now to have a poke at it and decide how to handle this crust crisis. I will report back faithfully and am ready to eat humble pie as there is a fair risk that poor old Jimbo’s first outing is going to end in disappointment!


A Jarful of Sunshine

Woohoo! that’s the first Seville marmalade of the season made! For a few hours last night the whole house smelt of oranges, a happy scent that makes me feel like summer – even though the orange harvest takes place in winter. It makes me want to visit Seville, but I don’t know when would be best – blossom time or fruit time? How to choose? I once had a lovely new years’ holiday in Majorca and we took the little wooden railway over the mountain from Palma to Soller. Along the route were orchard-loads of orange trees, allImage result for soller train drooping like they were festooned with Chinese lanterns. You could have reached out and plucked them. The scene was so soporific that perversely, I was inspired to think up a plot for a murder novel, with a body being heaved off the rattling guards-van in the middle of a tunnel. I scribbled away at it for a while but plotting has never been my strength, and the energy fizzled out like flat tonic in gin. I should have stuck with a short story. Maybe I’ll revisit it now that I’ve reinspired myself with my marmalade.

DSCN0170.JPGApparently of course, Soller oranges are not the same as Sevilles, and their marmalade is a sweeter cousin. Sevilles are bitter, and so is my marmalade, in a thoroughly enticing and nuanced way. I used Shirley Spear’s method, from her ‘Marmalade Bible‘ – one of a series of pocket-sized books on various aspects of Scottish cooking, published by Birlinn and illustrated handsomely by cartoonist Bob Dewar.

I deviated a little from the recipe – she suggests adding a couple of lemons to your kilo of Sevilles, but I didn’t have any, so pressed on regardless.DSCN0165.JPG I halved the amount of sugar – DSCN0167.JPGpartly because I didn’t have enough white sugar and thought brown might discolour or cloud the finished result; and partly because, well as we all know, sugar – teeth – obesity. I can’t do it. Even so, it was a kilo of sugar to the kilo of fruit so it’s hardly a low-sugar option. To counteract this I didn’t top up the juice after boiling, so that the volume was lower. However I still used all the peel, thinly sliced by hand. So the result is three large jars of marmalade, bitter as it should be, packed with softly chewy slivers of peel. We love it.

A word about the book’s author. Shirley Spear is my idea of a really helpful food writer – traditional and to the point but clear in her instructions. Unlike some Scottish food writers, she doesn’t rhapsodise endlessly about pheasant and scallops when most Scots never see these things – although she does give the luxury end of things a good airing from time to time, and is well placed to do so. She reminds us of simple pleasures and traditions which are at risk of dying out. Recently for example she wrote about liver, and posed the question, ‘when did we all get so squeamish about offal?’  I was saddened the other week to read her swansong in the Sunday Herald; although I applaud her life choice. Her career has no doubt been exciting and rewardinDSCN0171g, but you can have enough of a good thing and grandweans are to be treasured. Shirley Spear, I salute you and wish you well; but I’m missing you already!

Bob Dewar‘s cartoons are clear and informative and a little quirky. They complement the recipes beautifully and turn these wee Birlinn books into a total pleasure. Most of us have more recipes than we will ever need; it’s good that some of the space is given up to really clever, neat and apposite illustrations. More lavish cookbooks have endless gorgeous photos of course, and I do like them too, up to a point. But these wee books  are somehow a bit special. I also have the ones on Berries (Sue Lawrence) and Arbroath Smokies (Iain Spink), and I’m sure I’ll accumulate more as I come across them. They’re practical and also pretty; what more do you want for a fiver?

Ne’er shed a clootie …

No point in making a clootie dumpling unless you have friends coming round. So today was the day, and I’d left the recipe book open at the right page so that I could rise sharpish this morning and get straight onto the job. It was a most enjoyable experience and well induged by all, with doggie bag provided, so here are the highlights… If you want to cut to the chase and just get the recipe as provided in the book, it’s at the end of this post. Otherwise, join me on the journey.

First on the left we have a close-up of the dry ingredients in the bowl – flour, suet (I chose veggie), breadcrumDSCN0108bs, fruit – then panning back to the table. I’m not just being self-absorbed here – it’s just that I don’t think many people make clootie dumplings nowadays, and the method is quite easy but if you’ve never seen it done, you might not want to try. I think you should!


So you’ll see on the left-hand side of the panned-back photo a white cloth. What you have to do is scald a tea-towel in boiling water, drain it, spread it out and sprinkle it all over with flour. This is what forms the skin around the dumpling. Then you get on with the mixture, which is easy.  [I should add that in the past, any mother or granny making a clootie dumpling would have wrapped up silver sixpences and added them at this stage. Nowadays these little charms are known as Choking Hazards. This wouldn’t have put me off if I’d remembered on time, and little 5p pieces would have been authentic. If a little dangerous.]

Next photo is the mixture, dumped onto the cloth prior to tying up … remind you of anything at this stage? Not trying to be gross here, but my recent brush with norovirus suggests itself persuasively. Don’t let me put you off! Just proceed tDSCN0110.JPGo tie up the corners of your cloth, and lower it into a large pan of boiling water with an upside down plate on the bottom (acting as a trivet, to keep your pudding from sticking to the pot). Here’s what it looked like at this stage (below):

[If you have an occasional kitchen helper who wanders in and gets proprietorial about the tea-towel you are using for the job, claiming certain attachments and prior rights, I suggest you remind hiDSCN0114.JPGm how honoured this flippin piece of kit is to be chosen to hold your special pudding.]

Now the recipe I was using is from Maw Broon’s cookbook – I’ll give the details below – and Delia Smith it ain’t. That is to say, the instructions are somewhat sparse. ‘Cook for 3-4 hours’ is in fact what we are told. You’d think that would be quite a wide margin of error, wouldn’t you? This gives pause for thought as there’s no way of checking to see whether or not it’s done. I suppose you could stick in a skewer and see if it comes out clean, but you’d be puncturing the skin and who knows how nasty that might turn out to be. So I just erred on the side of caution and gave mine about 3 hours and 45 mins.

Getting it out of the pot when you think it’s cooked serves double duty as a party game and I’m glaDSCN0138d to say Jan was more than willing to get in there. It requires a bit of hoisting, catching in plate, and unwrapping; and then I decided it would look better if we turned it upside down to hide the knot-shaped indentations in the skin. Here it is, with demerara being shaken over prior to 30 mins or so in oven to dry out(again, my choice of time as opposed to Maw Broon’s recommendation). If I’d consulted the recipe at this point (note to self) I’d have appreciated the instruction to dip the pudding in cold water before unwrapping …

You may think all this sounds like a bit of a faff, but you have to remember that you have 3-4 hours in between with nothing to do but get your gladrags on, pour yourself a nice drink, and join the party. I recommend it. You get a huge big dumpling, which I may say is very tasty, entertainment for the troops, and massive kudos for reviving a tradition which is in danger of dying out. And should you fancy it, you can have a slice fried up with tomorrow’s ham and eggs for a substantial breakfast. Here’s the final shot, and underneath, the recipe. Fair fa’ yer honest sonsie face!


[As per the book, all quantities are given in imperial measure]

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and scald a large cloth. Drain it of excess water and lay it out on your work surface; sprinkle generously with flour. Then:

4 oz suet, 8 oz SR flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 4 oz breadcrumbs, 3 oz brown sugar, and a tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg – mix all of these together in a large bowl. Add a grated apple and 8 oz of mixed currants and sultanas.

In a small bowl, whisk together a tbsp of golden syrup with 2 eggs; and mix thoroughly into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. If you feel it’s a bit too stiff you can add some milk. Dump it all onto your floured cloth, tie up the corners as well as  you can, and lower into the pan of simmering water. Make sure it doesn’t dry out, keeping the water level topped up if necessary to 3/4 of the way up the dumpling. Simmer for 3-4 hours.

Dip in cold water, unwrap, put it on a large ovenproof plate and dry out in a warm oven (I set it to 180C). Sprinkle the top with sugar and serve with cream or custard.

Source: Maw Broon’s Cookbook for every day and special days pp 106-107. This is an absolutely beautifully produced book which is a joy to flick through if you grew up with the Broons. Although I can’t find the credits buried in the content, I know it’s published by DC Thomson of Dundee – who else? The recipe is on p107; on p106 there’s a full-page story about Maw’s dumpling being switched by the bairn for grand-paw’s bundle of washing … eeek! health and safety! health and safety! oh for those unregulated days!


Thanksgiving Lite

I was asked to do a cooking demo at Maggie’s in Dundee last night, as part of their support group programme for people with skin cancers. Since it’s Thanksgiving week, and America so much in the news (eeek! Donald T is half Scottish! How can this be true?) I thought I’d do a healthied-up version of a couple of my favourite Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes. No photos I’m afraid – I got too caught up in delivering my presentation to remember to whip the camera out.Image result for image Lisa Simpson as Statue of Liberty

Anyway, we had a nice butternut squash and peanut soup, served with warm cornbread; and followed by a yoghurt/ custard/ blueberries/ pecan ‘Mess’ (if it’s good enough for Eton College, it’s good enough for me). I substituted butter for oil, and full-cream milk for semi-skimmed, and cut down on the salt. There are so many good flavours in these recipes that you really don’t notice the difference. My recipes below.

A note on chilli: I always find it hard to judge the quantity, as chillies seem to vary so much. This time for the cornbread I used Supernature cold-pressed rapeseed oil infused with chilli, and found it (a) very potent! and (b) very convenient – and more predictable perhaps than your random chilli off the supermarket shelf.

For the Mess, I used the last of my lovely fat blueberries frozen from my day at Downieken farm.

It was interesting researching the background to Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. It seems to have started as an early pilgrim thing and has evolved through the centuries. Here in Scotland we have a lot of thanksgiving services in churches at the end of the harvest season but otherwise I don’t think it’s marked very much. Lots of the donations handed in at these services are sent to the Food Bank, recognising that despite our peace and plenty, many people in the world’s most prosperous countries are still starving. Shocking.


2 onions, 3 cloves garlic, 1-2 chillies, large knob of fresh ginger, grated; 1 tbsp rapeseed oil

2 butternut squashes, peeled, seeded, diced

1.5 litres veg stock

300g peanut butter

2 limes, a bunch of fresh coriander

1.         Dice the onions, sweat in oil for 5 mins or till soft. Add chilli, ginger and garlic and cook for another few mins; then the squash and some black pepper, put lid on and sweat for further 5 mins.

2.         Add stock and simmer 20 mins or till squash soft. Blend. Take some of the hot liquid out of the pot and mix with peanut butter to loosen it up a bit – then pour the lot back into the soup. Heat through again. Add lime juice and chopped coriander; taste and add salt (only if needed) and black pepper.

3.         Serve with optional garnishes – a blob of yoghurt, a sprinkle of peanuts, pumpkin seeds or finely chopped chillies, a sprinkle of coriander


150g each of cornmeal (polenta), and plain flour, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 2tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt; 50g grated strong Cheddar

6 sliced spring onions, 1 finely chopped chilli and 1tbsp rapeseed oil, 50g cooked sweetcorn

2 med eggs, 1tbsp runny honey, rapeseed oil, 150g plain wholemilk yoghurt, 150ml semi-skimmed milk

1. Preheat oven to 200 C and grease a 23cm square cake tin

2. Sift and mix dry ingredients into large bowl, folding cheese through after others well mixed. Make a well in centre.

3. Sweat spring onions and chillis in oil till softened but not coloured; add sweetcorn

4. Whisk wet ingredients together and add sweetcorn mix. Pour into well of dry ingredients and mix together – make sure it’s all combined, but don’t overstir.

5. Pour batter into tin and bake 20 mins. Leave to cool in tin for a few mins then cut into 12 squares and serve warm.

It’s in the bag

Sometimes little coincidences happen which are very satisfying. We’re doing a module food packaging: 3D collection of packaged food isolated on white background Stock Photothis semester entitled ‘Food Packaging and Sustainability’, which you might think is one huge yawn. But actually I’m quite gripped by it. Anyway, we have to write an essay on one aspect of food packaging, and the options include some ‘proper science’ alongside some of the softer stuff. Naturally I have chosen one of the latter – ‘food packaging and consumers’. The other day I narrowed my topic down to ‘Older consumers and food packaging’, and found a wee collection of articles that had been written about difficulties in getting into the package in the first place, reading the tiny print instructions, etc.

DSCN0037.JPGWhen I got home, the Troubadour was enthusiastically engaged in making the tea. He had drawn up his dream menu of veggie sausages, roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings; and acquiesced to my suggested addition of peas and onion gravy. You can see how gourmet we are midweek! Anyway I was diddling around, finding my slippers and oozing into the night when from the kitchen issued the Troubadour’s second most expressive commentary: ‘Bollocks! Bollocks! BOLLOCKS!’ His dinner plans were in jeopardy. There on the corner of the frozen roast potato bag was a symbol which in the purchasing, he had misread. Can you spot it?

It seems he had looked for the well-known green V for Vegetarian symbol on the bottom of the pack, and grabbed the bag sure that all was well. However if he haDSCN0036d looked more closely, he would have spotted the diagonal line through the symbol, and the clear message, ‘NOT suitable for vegetarians’. At least the message is clear if you get your magnifying glass out. Or if your eyes are a bit younger, perhaps. On closer inspection, it seems the potatoes include 6% beef dripping. So I guess I’ll eat them on one of the days when I’m asserting my meat-eating preferences. On this occasion, the Troub did a quick trip downstairs to the Co-op and came back with a packet of hash browns instead. Crisis averted. But my essay title feels like it has been validated. Let’s hear it for bigger print and easier opening packets! Even in the case of junk, sorry, convenience foods …

Well Oiled


This photo may have you guessing … I couldn’t get quite the right perspective on it but let me explain … you’re looking upwards to a roof. Below you, there’s a hopper collecting the stuff in the next picture. Those round things that look as if they have wire cables coming out of them are in fact extruders, squeezing out waste products, like toothpaste maybe. As the ‘cord’ lengthens, it drops off, leaving this:


Any guesses? Clue: it’s not generally used for human consumption, although I believe it would be safe to eat. Instead, it’s fed to the dairy cows in the next door farm, as a rich supplement to their normal feed. These contented cows have recently won a contract with Graham’s, one of the biggest milk businesses in Scotland, so clearly their diet works for them. But what is it?

Last week I had a fascinating visit with my friend Kate to Carrington Barns Farm in Midlothian, near Gorebridge. This is the home of Supernature rapeseed oils, and since visiting their stall at the Cupar Farmers Market several months back, I’d been intending to pay them a call. So – a lovely lunch with Kate, and off we went.

Image result for rapeseed growingThere’s been a lot of investment and innovation in the Scottish rapeseed farming industry over the last ten years or so. Many chefs have begun to recognise the good provenance of the cold-pressed versions of the oils, and are using it where in the past, olive oil would have reigned supreme. My young Greek and Italian friends on the Food Innovation course look aghast at the mere suggestion of substituting their beloved homeland oils and I guess I’d be the same if I were far from home. But hey – food miles and all that; Scottish jobs; sustainability … we have to think about these things.

Lynn and Chris Mann launched Supernature in 2011 and have already won a number of awards. Follow this link to see them pictured with Jay Rayner, no less. Chris showed us round last week and explained that they are tenant farmers and were looking for a bit of an edge in a difficult era for farmers. They were already rotating their barley/wheat crops with Spring Rapeseed, selling the rapeseed on for mass production; and thought they would have a go at doing it themselves. However they are doing it the gourmet way.

So – back to the top picture which as you will now have realised, is the machine which crushes the little black seeds (between peppercorns and mustard seeds in size), feeds the oil through a filtering process, and squeezes out the remaining sediment which is used as cattle cake. It smells nice and cakey and fresh. The filtered oils are blended with natural flavours to produce a wide range of delicious oils for use either raw or cooked (rapeseed has a much higher boiling point than olive oil so doesn’t spoil at high temperatures).


The prices above, if you can make them out, are discounted if you go to the farm; I usually pay an extra pound or two at the farmers’ market. They’re pretty good value in my view.

The Guild of Fine Food awards (3 stars for their Black Truffle; 2 stars for their Dill and their Chilli; 1 star for most of the others) led to Supernature Cold-Pressed Rapeseed Oils being sold in Harrods Food Hall. This in turn has led to important contracts with leading stores in Dubai and Hong Kong; and foreign sales are now as important to the business as home sales. And all this in six years of trading?

Anyway, impressive as this record is, I just want to say – I haven’t tasted all the oils yet but intend to do so. I have used lemongrass, ginger and basil and they are all absolutely delicious. I especially like the lemongrass, as using the fresh ingredient is a bit of a footer – not always available or easy to obtain, and you can’t use it all at once. So a prize-winning oil with lemongrass already infused in it is a handy thing indeed.

I’m not being sponsored for any of this, in case you’re wondering! And there are lots of other farmers doing great oils. But if you’re still hesitating over the rapeseed vs. olive question, I urge you to give this one a try.


Cooking your way home

Food has a potent impact on our remembered experiences. Certain smells, tastes and visuals can take us back in an instant to events we thought we’d forgotten. The jelly mould your mother used for blancmange, when you came home from hospital after having your tonsils out. The gherkin on the side of a dish of pate that reminds you of a friend of a friend who came on to you in France, oh – eeek – 35 years ago!

Sanjeev Kohli, Parduman Kohli, Arif Mir and Aasmah Mir discuss partition

Right now we’re remembering the partition of India and Pakistan, in 1947; there was a good account of it on BBC2 Scotland last night, hosted by Sanjeev Singh Kohli and Aasmah Mir, a Sikh and Muslim respectively, whose families came and settled in Scotland 70 years ago, after fleeing the riots. I had recently read a great book by Hardeep Singh Kohli, Sanjeev’s older brother: ‘Indian Takeaway: One man’s attempt to cook his way home. In this he explained how he had travelled to India a number of times to visit relatives; but never been a ‘tourist’ in the way that many of his Scottish friends, without Indian connections, had been. They came home raving about India, its spirituality and beauty and he thought he should try to see it with different eyes. Essentially, he wanted to figure out his personal identity: was he more Scottish than Indian, or the other way round?

Product DetailsBeing a big food lover, and coming from a strong Sikh food tradition, he hit on a novel way of exploring his roots: he would travel round India, cooking Scottish food for Indians! This is actually quite hilarious – you know from the start that he’s onto a loser – lack of equipment and ingredients being only the start of it. One of the running themes from a 1990s sitcom features an aspirational Indian family living in the UK, trying to cultivate a taste for ‘Bland’. So Hardeep’s attempts to ‘sell’ Scottish staples like Shepherd’s Pie and fish and chips to his Indian companions is full of pathos and self-deprecation. He’s a journalist, and writes like a stand-up comic; so there’s a steady stream of things to smile and laugh about.

Image result for Glenryck Mackerel

With a wonderfully truthful sense of childhood influences, he recounts the evolution of his mother’s Glenryck Mackerel (tinned of course) Curry on white rice … a creative cook’s attempt to make the most of cheaply available foods to feed her ever-hungry family. Yes it sounds dire but he assures us it was devoured with delight; and he counterposes it with a poignant account of eating fish curry in a tsunami-ravaged beach café in Mamallapuram.

Hardeep Singh Kohli honours both his parents in their strenuous, determined efforts to survive and prosper as refugees in a strange land; it is especially lovely to see his mother’s sterling efforts so lovingly catalogued. This a great read; do try and get hold of it.



July in Scotland

Gallagher and Lyle 290717.jpgGreat concert last night: Gallagher and Lyle at ‘The Byre in the Botanics’, in St Andrews – ie the Byre Theatre organising an open-air event. Wet and cold. Extra clothing precautions of vest, long-sleeved tee shirt, jumper, raincoat, socks, long trousers, proper shoes and woolly scarf all proved woefully inadequate. We were in the front row of the polytunnel/marquee and the wind hit us but the rain didn’t. At one point, Gallagher interrupted Lyle’s introductory comments to ‘Fifteen Summers’ to point out a particularly fine rainbow. ‘Just like a hippy festival, intit?’ said Lyle. Anyway it was still a great concert.

Less impressive was our £25 picnic basket – the veggie option – too much bread and cheese and not much imagination otherwise. Also, for the scone, a small jar of Tiptree jam was provided. Tiptree jam is very nice but hey- St Andrews is right in the heart of Scottish berry country! No attempt in our fancy wicker basket to reflect the great culinary offerings in our own neighbourhood. So that was a bit of a shame. I could have taken them some of my own jammy offerings of the last week: blackcurrant jelly and Tayberry-Strawberry conserve. Impressed? Me too!

Dinky Eggs

2017-07-21 10.41.15.jpgRecently I was gifted half a dozen quails’ eggs, by my friend Anne who is on bartering terms with the quailkeeper. They’re such pretty wee things and remind me of The Borrowers. About 25 years ago, my friend Marian and I took our collective Wunderkinder to the Cottiers Theatre in Glasgow to see a staged production of this lovely 1952 children’s story by Mary Norton. It features a family of tiny people who live in the rafters and crannies of an ordinary house, and ‘borrow’ things for their daily use. Anyway, as you can see from my photos2017-07-21 11.33.40.jpg (that’s a cherry tomato in the second one, to give a sense of perspective), quails eggs are dinky but just one would probably feed a whole Borrowers family handsomely. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I ate all six myself at one go, the Troubadour having declined. They taste just like hen eggs.

I had a look online to see how quails are produced. It seems they are quite nervous, flighty birds and according to the Farmers Weekly, there is only one intensive quail farm in the UK.  Those quails selected for egg-laying are kept on a ‘free to fly’ basis which I guess means free range. Lots of quails and their eggs are imported so I don’t know what the animal welfare concerns might be there. As usual, I would look for UK or even Scottish birds and eggs, if I were in a shop.

However I haTheBorrowers.jpgve the joy of knowing that mine were produced by a cheerful wee flock pecking around among the backwoods of Newburgh. Thank you ladies, I enjoyed your eggs very much, and also the Borrowers memory they invoked. And thank you Anne, happy bartering!