Sunday, 30 September 2007

Eating Out in the Highlands

As I have already mentioned we had a fab time when we went oop North. We stayed in a beautiful cottage at Tormore Distillery - whilst we were there we went on the look for dolphins, but the blighters didn't keep to their appointments - twice we sat in the cold wind and for nothing. We also:
  • had a lovely walk through the Glenlivet Estate
  • saw snow on the top of Cairngorm (it was -4° one night)
  • Mr C played golf at Craggan and I was official photographer/videographer and scorekeeper
  • went on a horse trek through a forest
  • Mr C watched Elgin City beat East Stirling 6-0
  • visted two distilleries and one organic brewery
  • ate out lots
The first night we stayed over in Perth & went into town to eat - Mr C gave me a Pizza Express club membership so we headed off there. We both had dough balls to start and then I had my usual Fiorentina pizza & Mr C had a Pollo ad Astra.

The next morning we headed North up the A9 - and after a detour to the small distillery of Glenturret (whose whisky is part of the Famous Grouse blend & is now branded as the Famous Grouse Experience). After a tour of the distillery we stopped for lunch in what appeared, I thought, to be a dull little restaurant - however we both had soup and a doorstopper slice of fresh bread and it was very tasty indeed.

Our next dining delight was the following day at Glenfiddich (anyone spotting a trend here?!). We ended up here earlier than expected during our week away as the weather was quite dull and it seemed to make sense. Last year we had enjoyed two fabulous baked potatoes here and we had both been looking forward to going back. So after another distillery tour (well, it is free & you get a dram) we stopped for lunch in the beautiful restaurant. We both repeat ordered our jackets - mine with smoked salmon and cream cheese, Mr C had Orkney cheese & ham. All I can say is they were delicious (picture to follow).

Tuesday was spent dolphin watching and as you already know they didn't show. So after spending a few hours wrapped up like a pass-the-parcel we gave up, went 'home' & I made some delicious Yellow Split Pea soup.
(The day light was quite bright, so the sunglasses aided my water watching as I didn't have to squint!)

The next day we had a lovely walk through the Glenlivet Estate. It was probably about 2.30pm when we'd finished the walk in the car park of Glenlivet distillery however after popping in to look at their lunch menu we decided to hop in the car back to Glenfiddich! This time we both had a sandwich - they make delicious food there so if you get a chance do go in and have a look.

In the evening we went to the Mash Tun in Aberlour. The food was nothing less than fantastic & considering the leaflet we had which classed the establishment as having boutique hotel accommodation we were surprised to find the meals were inexpensive. I enjoyed deep fried brie with an onion chutney and Mr C experimented with Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with a whisky sauce. His plate was clean in minutes - I think he really enjoyed it! For mains I chose the only veggie option which was Savoury Bread & Butter pudding with feta and roasted vegetables. I don't think I would have instinctively chosen this but it was excellent - the portion sized beat me though and I had to leave some. Mr C opted for his all time favourite - a trio sausages (1 haggis, 1 wild boar & leek and 1 venison) served with mash and gravy. Doubtless to say there was another clean plate!

We tried to burn off some of the calories the next day walking around the golf course at Craggan - it was very, very windy but most enjoyable. I mean how can you not enjoy it with scenery like this...
On Friday we went for a horse trek through a forest at Loch Alvie. Lucy, my horse may have been the slowest in Scotland but was very adorable. Mr C rode Murphy...
On Friday evening we took my mum & dad up to the sunset dining experience at Cairngorm which is 3600 feet above sea level - the highest in the UK. After arriving at the base, a funicular takes you up to the summit. Unfortunately it wasn't the clearest evening for the sunset but the views were still fantastic - if you ever go I'd recommend taking a nice warm jumper or coat as its very windy at the top!
Its not the cheapest meal in the world but with the views and experience we would definitely do it again. I started with Mussels and Smoked Haddock with Orkney Cheese sauce and Mr C had Breast of Pheasant with pink peppercorn mousse , red onion marmalade and watercress salad. Mine was delicious but I did have a quick taste of the pheasant & it was divine - something we've never tried before but something I'd definitely have again.
For mains I had the veggie option - Spiced aubergine and lentil parcels with vegetable couscous. Mr C chose the Fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef with rosti potato, asparagus and Ptarmigan whisky sauce.
For dessert we both enjoyed the Hot chocolate fondant with home made vanilla ice cream.
The next day was our last full day in the Highlands so the boys went to watch Elgin City and then we ended the holiday in true Anderson family fashion - with some of the best fish & chips ever and as we were in Scotland we had to have a white pudding too. We sat by the banks of the Spey to devour it and it was the perfect end to a perfect break.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Penne Alla Vodka

Courtesy of Nigella's book, Feast...

To serve 5 (or 2 hungry mains & 2 lunches):
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic oil (or normal oil + 1 smushed up garlic piece to remove before eating)
1 x 410g chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of double cream
500g penne pasta
65ml vodka
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Parmesan for serving

Heat oil & gently cook onion until soft (with a good sprinkling of salt) - about 15 mins
Tip in the tomatoes & simmer for 15-20 minutes nb. 10 mins before your ready put your pasta on.
Take sauce off heat & stir in cream.
Drain pasta & put back in pan with butter & vodka
Mix pasta in with sauce and serve with parmesan and some black pepper

Its so simple but deliciously moreish. Nigella says she thinks the pasta is especially good cold - I don't agree, its much better warm but by making this much we have plenty for an easy lunch the next day and with a nice side salad it fills me up for the afternoon.

Scotland: Foodie presents

We managed to bring back quite a few foodie treats from Scotland, mostly with thanks to the Spey Larder in Aberlour. Here is a quick list:

Spey Larder Deli -
Eggs from a local farm in Elgin
4 Butteries (the nicest we had!)
1 real Haggis
2 x bags of polenta
1 x quinoa (let me know if you have any ideas for this please!!)
Celery salt
Bay Leaves
Organic Sesame seeds
Blue Poppy Seeds
Ground Mace
Gardeners Spicy Tomato Chutney

And from other places -
Isle of Arran Cheese
Real Tomato Sauce
2 Veggie Haggis
2 Mealy Jimmies (white puddings)
Walkers Shortbread
Black Isle Brewery beer
6 Posh Chocolates
1 Granery Loaf from the Water Mill at Blair Atholl
1 bag of bread flour from the Water Mill at Blair Atholl

I think that's about it... some bits I bought for cooking whilst up there, others I just fancied picking up for a change. I'm looking forward to making some nice soups & home-made bread rolls - hence the sesame seeds & poppy seeds. I did take a picture of my haul but due to us having broken one camera the photo is quite poor in quality...

Monday, 24 September 2007

We are still catching our breath...

Last night we got back from a fabulous week (well, just over a week) in Scotland. The holiday was refreshing and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We even managed to fit in quite a few culinary delights which I will blog about very soon. But for now (well Nigella has just started!) here is one of my favourite pictures from our break... how cute is he?

Sunday, 9 September 2007

A very foodie Birthday

Yesterday I turned 30.

However, as depressing as it seemed, it turned out to be a very good day. For starters it was a Saturday! and my day started at a 9am appointment at the hairdressers - as we were going out she finished it off in a flicky out - going out style. Hubby dropped me off at the hairdressers as he 'stuff' to do then picked me up & we went home for a nice cup of tea & some very tasty buttery croissants.

Whilst I'd been at the hairdressers he'd nipped about in the car to collect my birthday presents which he'd kept out of sight at his mum & dads. So I can home to a nice few surprises. The first two presents were Nigella books - Feast & the new one, Nigella Express - this is a really nice book with lots of pictures.

My third & main present was this...
The one I have is cream & it perfectly matches my Nigella bread bin & other paraphernalia so I was very excited and very happy as you can imagine.

My fourth present was a bottle of
The first (& only) time we drank this champagne was on our wedding night in Malmaison. Even at midnight we thoroughly enjoyed it so this was an extremely nice present and I cant wait to open it!

Apparently there is also fifth present that the postman is yet to deliver... I have no idea what it is!!

I also got an array of presents from friends and family- the highlights of which include two more bottles of champagne, a rather nice block with 5 knives (Anolon) and a knife sharpener, a pure pamper session, two bunches of beautiful flowers and some money & vouchers.

In the afternoon I had a nice relaxing bath & then we headed out to my mum & dads where we met up with my brothers, their girlfriends & my Gran and we headed out to Ego Restaurant in Heswall. We've been quite a few times as the food is always fresh and tasty. We weren't disappointed. Another restaurant we'd always recommend.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

il forno

Yesterday we went out with my friends for my birthday meal - a week in advance of the big day. As I'm going to be 30 I wanted to go somewhere nice but without spending a fortune.

Italian food is one of my favourites and Liverpool has quite a few Italian restaurants but I was yet to find one that was traditional but didn't have plastic red and green check table clothes. So a bit of googling later we came across a restaurant described as "One of the Top 10 authentic Italian restaurants according to The Times Knowledge magazine, Il Forno is a slice of Italy situated in the heart of Liverpool city centre". The reviews on onionring seemed quite good so I booked us a table.

The booking was made for 7.30pm as they were fully booked for later slots - 2 1/2 weeks in advance. I was surprised then when we ended up staying in the restaurant for 3 hours - not rushed once by the friendly staff.

The food was fantastic. We shared some focaccias to start and then I tucked into a Ga
rganelli al salmone fresco e funghi - Garganelli with fresh salmon mushrooms and a dash of cream. The bowl was huge, the portions definitely on the generous side and it was beautiful. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce coated the pasta just enough. At a cost of £7.50 for a main it was most definitely value for money.

For pudding, well it is my birthday!, I had ice cream with a dash of baileys poured over the top. My friend also ordered this & we took one mouthful and just looked at each other as the delicious ice cream melted in our mouths. It was fantastic.

Its just such a shame we forgot the camera so there are no pictures to tempt you all with.

Hubby & I will definitely be going back & I just hope its sometime soon as there was such a good choice on the menu it really was difficult to choose.

And not one tacky table cloth in sight. The restaurant was modern, bright and really vibrant. A real breath of fresh air indeed.

So if you are ever in Liverpool in search of a good meal I'd most definitely suggest il forno