Thursday, 21 August 2014

Cheese and Chive Scones with Marjoram and Marigold Cream Cheese


I love to make scones.  It's so simple to rub together the ingredients and a few minutes in a hot oven produces a fresh, soft and wholesome quick bread, perfect with soup, with cheese or in this case with a fresh marjoram infused cream cheese sprinkled with marigold petals.

Cheese and Chive Scones with Marjoram Cream Cheese
225g wholemeal self-raising flour
1 level tsp baking powder
50g butter or soft margarine
50g grated hard cheese (I used cheddar)
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
1/4 tsp chilli powder
a pinch of salt
1 egg
milk

2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp finely chopped marjoram leaves

A few marigold petals to scatter

For the Scones
1. Heat the oven to 220C, Gas 7
2. Put the flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the butter or margarine until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
3. Add the cheese, chives, chilli powder and salt.
4. Crack the egg into a measuring jug mix it with a fork and then make up the liquid to 150ml with milk.
5. Stir the milk into the flour and mix to a soft dough, add a little extra milk if required.
6. Turn onto a lightly floured table and gently roll out to about 1.25cm thick.
7. Cut into rounds, the size of the cutter will determine how many scones you make.
8. Place the scones on a greased baking tray, brush the tops with a little milk and bake for about 10 minutes or until pale golden brown.
9. Remove the scones from the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the Marjoram Cream Cheese
Mix the cream cheese with the marjoram, leave to infuse for at least 30 minutes.

Spread the cooled scones with the marjoram cream cheese and sprinkle with marigold petals.  Best served with a cup of tea.


I'm entering my Cheese and Chive Scones for Cooking with Herbs, the blog challenge run by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, this month's theme is Summer Herbs and Flowers - well I've given you both, enjoy!


The Love Cake challenge run by Jibber JabberUK is looking for savoury bakes in August, so my cheese and chive scones, with a little pinch of chilli heat, are a perfect match.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Peach and Bramble Meringue Slice

At the end of the summer, peaches, nectarines and foraged berries, like blackberries, are sweet and full of flavour.  I'm lucky living on the farm, that I can simply step out of my back door and down our lane to pick some 'brambles'.  Here in Scotland there are not quite enough ready to make jam or jelly, but there were just the right amount to add to a tray baked cake.

It all started with the two egg whites I had left over from another recipe.  I didn't want to make a pavlova or meringues, much though I love them.  I could have frozen the egg whites for another day, but there was no cake in the tin so my thought was to make a cake and top it with meringue.  This recipe is adapted from a plain vanilla tray bake sponge, but I didn't add any milk to the mix as I knew the fruit would add moisture.

Peach and Bramble Meringue Slice
For the cake
2 peaches or nectarines
approximately 75g of blackberries (brambles)
175g butter or soft margarine
225g self-raising flour
1 1/2 level teaspoons baking powder
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the meringue
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar

1. Heat the oven to 180 C, Gas 4.  Grease and line a roasting tin 30 x 22.5 cm.
2. Skin and chop the peaches or nectarines.
3. Place the butter or margarine, flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs and milk together in a large roomy bowl and beat well for about 2 minutes until well blended. Gently fold in the chopped peach or nectarine pieces.
4. Turn the mixture into the tin and smooth the top, press the brambles into the mixture, distributing them evenly across the mixture.
5. Bake for about 35 minutes until the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin and springs back when pressed in the centre with you fingertips. Don't let it get too dark as you will be returning it to the oven.
6. Turn the oven down to 160C, Gas 3.
7. Place the egg whites in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks.  Add the sugar a spoon at a time whisking well until all the sugar has been used.
8. Spread the meringue over the cake and bake for 10 minutes until the meringue is firm to the touch and pale golden brown.
9. Leave to cool in the tin and when cold, cut into squares.

The cake is moist and delicious with the sweet fruit pieces adding a soft lusciousness and the meringue a light crispy texture.  You can make the cake without the meringue and it would be almost as good, but the meringue really enhances it. 


I'm entering my Peach and Bramble Meringue Slice for this month's Alpha Bakes which is asking for bakes which include the letter P.  Alphabakes is a monthly challenge run by Caroline Makes and The More than Occasional Baker 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Memories of Crab Cakes - recreating a Taste of Nova Scotia

In my journey through Nova Scotia in June this year, it seemed that Crab Cakes became my signature dish. On my first night in Halifax, I chose Crab Cakes (bottom left) as my starter at Stories at the Halliburton and enjoyed them very much.  The second time I had Crab Cakes was at Pictou Lodge Resort, chef chose the menu for me and it included Crab Cakes with Pineapple Carpaccio and Corn Salsa (top photo), then finally I made Northumberland Snow Crab Cakes with Dill Remoulade (bottom right) on a cooking day on the farm with the Kilted Chef.


I enjoyed all of these different Crab Cakes, although the Snow Crab Cakes were probably the best of all, simple and scrumptious.  Now back in Scotland and summer seems to have gone on it's holidays, it was 13C and pouring with rain the other day.  ​A new survey carried by International Currency Exchange (ICE) found that majority of people choose their holiday purely based on the food available at the destination. I hadn't really thought about that before, but it certainly is a factor when I'm planning my holidays.  In order to keep that holiday feeling going I decided to recreate a version of Nova Scotia Crab Cakes. I didn't have any Snow Crab, in fact I was struggling to find any crab at all in the small town where I shop as there is no fish shop and the supermarket didn't have any fresh crab.  I had the choice of tinned crab or or the not very appetising looking 'Seafood Sticks'.  In the end I decided to go with the Seafood Sticks and I'm pleased to say that they worked very well indeed, making this dish one much less expensive and still delicious.


'Crab' Cakes with Dill Remoulade
makes 24 small crab cakes

500g crab meat or seafood sticks (if you use the seafood sticks, blitz them in a food processor first)
1/2 yellow pepper, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 a large red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp  fresh dill, chopped
60g mayonnaise
1 egg white
15g breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

2 eggs beaten
2 tbsp flour
300g fresh white breadcrumbs made from day old bread


Dill Remoulade 
2 tsp fresh dill finely chopped
2tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
180g Mayonnaise

Mix all the ingredients together and divide into 24 small cakes.  Dip each cake in flour, then egg and then in the breadcrumbs, place on a baking tray lined with parchment and place in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up.



Make the Dill Remoulade by mixing all the ingredients together and leave for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to blend.

Saute the crab cakes a few at a time, keeping them warm in the oven, then serve with the Dill Remoulade.

Nova Scotia 'Crab' Cakes with Dill Remoulade


Here are a few memories of my trip to Nova Scotia, I can certainly recommend it as a foodie holiday destination.


This post is my entry to the ICE competition, I received expenses for the ingredients I used but was not paid to write this post and all opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Heritage Tomatoes with Mixed Herb Dressing


It's salad time!  Gardens, markets and supermarkets are full of lovely salad vegetables and they all taste so much better with a simple herb dressing.  OXO Good Grips, have a couple of great new kitchen gadgets to help you along.  The new herb mincer in green features stainless steel blades and OXO’s trademark grip to keep hands safe when in use. Ideal for keen cooks who are not confident with their knife skills, the ergonomic handle allows for a smooth rocking action, mincing herbs with ease in all directions without bringing the blade away from your chopping board. The peaked lip cleverly gathers herbs into a neat pile ready to season food. Designed so that it can open partially to wipe the blades free of collected herbs when in use, the mincer also separates completely into two pieces for easy cleaning and is
dishwasher safe.  RRP £12 from John Lewis.

Making a quick dressing is easy with the OXO Good Grips Little Salad Dressing Shaker. The watertight Shaker offers a clean, neat and convenient way to mix, serve and store dressings, sauces and marinades. The top unscrews to reveal a wide opening ideal for adding a range of ingredients like oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, onions and spices. The Shaker is made of a BPA-free, break-resistant and dishwasher safe material. Once ingredients are added, screw the top on and shake to quickly mix dressings with no spills.  I love how the top lever flips back for pouring and forward to seal. You can use the airtight Shaker to store leftover dressing and sauce right inside the fridge.  RRP £10 from Lakeland 


Mixed Herb Salad Dressing 
50ml Fillipo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
25 ml Fillipo Berio Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp  mixed herbs, finely chopped with the Oxo Good Grips Herb Mincer (I used chives, thyme and rosemary)
1/2 tsp sugar
salt & freshly ground pepper

Place all the ingredients into the Oxo Good Grips Salad Shaker and shake until the the mixture emulsifies, then pour over sliced heritage tomatoes, or other salad.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Knife Skills, Candied Bacon and Lobster 101 - The Kilted Chef Pt 2


Now to the exciting part of my day with The Kilted Chef!  It's time to cook,  there may have been wine involved, but not until we had  learned to use our large, sharp and scary knives. Alain taught us  how to hold the knife, avoid cutting our fingers off and then we moved on to our victims practice pieces which were carrots.  We learned to chop them into different shapes and sizes, a great way to practice using the knives.


Then we were ready for the first recipe: Curried Carrot Soup.  All the carrots we had chopped went into the pot!  I'll be posting the recipes separately when I have made them at home,  I've made some already but for now this is an overview of the fabulous time you can have at a Cooking Class with the Kilted Chef

The Soup is in the big pot that Licia is stirring, later it was blitzed in the Vitamix. Up a the top  Buttery Asiago Bread Sticks (butter soaked bread with a sprinkling of grated cheese then baked in the oven) are being prepared,  these were served with a lobster chowder.   In the pan is Candied Double Smoked Bacon, big chunks of smoked bacon sautéed and coated in maple syrup.

I don't seem to have any photos of the making of the Northumberland Snow Crab Cakes with Dill Remoulade, quite possibly because I had my hands in the crab mixture forming it into cakes and others were up to the elbows in egg or breadcrumbs!


The main course was Slow Roasted Beef Tenderloin  with Maple Ginger Sauce.  The beef is rubbed with mustard and seasoned before searing and then slow roasting.  In the top photograph we are all carefully watching the Maple Ginger Sauce, waiting for the right moment to add the sesame seeds, maple syrup, fish sauce and chilli sauce into the ginger and garlic.
Alain is known for cooking with seafood and so it was time for 'Lobster 101'.  We had already learned how to get the lobsters into the pot, removing the rubber bands from their claws and not getting nipped!  Now it was time for a demonstration of how to get the meat out of the lobster as simply as possible. You can watch a video of Alain doing just that on his website How to Break down a Lobster.

We had a few 'moments', top left is Alain demonstrating how lobsters have sex!  Then once the lobster was deconstructed, I was offered one of the thin 'legs' to suck out the the 'sweet goodness' - you can see I didn't believe it and I have to say it really didn't do it for me, my face said it all and we all ended up laughing, I laughed so much I cried.  We really had a ball.
Dessert was something I had never heard of, let alone tried.  Rhubarb and Wild Blueberry au Poivre,  this pan of gently stewed fruit gets 50 turns of freshly ground pepper into it!  It tastes fantastic and not peppery at all.  I chose to make this as my contribution to our blogger dinner later in the trip, so you will see more of it later.


We were each given responsibility for one course of the meal and served each other at the table. Here is the full menu:

Curry Carrot Soup with Candied Double Smoked Bacon
Northumberland Snow Crab Cakes with Dill Remoulade
Lobster Chowder iwth sweet Basil, corn and Brie
Buttery Asiago Bread Sticks
Ferguson fresh Slow Roasted Beef Ternderloin with a Maple Ginger Sauce
Sauted Beet Greens
Candied Roasted Potatoes
Rhubarb Wild Blueberry au Poivre

Served with an assortment of Nova Scotia Wine


I'd like to thank Alain Bosse, The Kilted Chef,  and his wife Joanne for their outstanding hospitality. I'd also like to thank Licia, Angela, Erin, Heather and Sarah for sharing the day with me and being such good fun. The day was relaxed and fun but at the same time I learned skills that I have brought home with me.  I'll never be able to work with a small knife again and I've managed to keep holding it as instructed which has vastly improved my knife skills.   I am not sure I will ever be prepping lobsters, but many of the other recipes have already graced my table and I'll be sharing them with you soon.

This is the sixth in a series of posts about my trip to Nova Scotia.  Read the other posts in my Nova Scotia adventure:

1. The Bridge, The Bison and the Four Poster Bed 
2. The Citadel, Halifax : Sporrans, Rifles and the School Room 

3. A Local Tasting Tour, South of Morris Street, Halifax
5. Cooking on the Farm with the Kilted Chef Part 1

You can follow me on Twitter: @FarmersgirlCook, Facebook: Farmersgirl Kitchen Instagram: FarmersgirlCook and the Pinterest Board  Atlantic Canada Eats which I share with Lavender and Lovage.  You can also follow the hashtags #AtlanticCanadaEats  #VisitNovaScotia and #ExploreCanada to see photos and posts on all of these social media sites.

Disclaimer: I was the guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and  Nova Scotia Tourism and all my flights, car hire, accommodation and meals were included, as well as all trips, excursions and special cookery sessions with local chefs. I'd like to thank the host organisations and everyone who made this a truly memorable trip.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dinner at the Elphinstone Restaurant, Biggar

The Ephinstone Hotel and Restaurant is a popular family run former coaching inn located  right in the centre of Biggar in Lanarkshire.  Biggar is a thriving small town located under an hour's drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Elphinstone has been run by Robert and Janette Allan for over 25 years along with their son, Michael. Speaking to Robert, it is clear that he is passionate about the business and very customer focused.

The Elph has a thriving bar which has recently been refurbished to a high standard with a new terrace leading from the function suite at the rear of the hotel.  The hotel has a traditional inn frontage on the high street, although it has been added to over the years, and the dining rooms are a series of small rooms leading one from each other. A new wing of bedrooms was added a few years ago and the hotel has been fully booked during the Commonwealth Games.  They also expect heavy demand for the Edinburgh Festival.

The service in the restaurant was excellent, the waiting staff checked frequently, without intruding, to see if customers needed anything and removed finished plates promptly.  It struck me just how wide a range of customers there were.  Our fellow diners included older couples, families with young children, families with teenagers, young couples and those like ourselves - somewhere in between!  I asked Robert about this and he agreed that The Elphinstone is not aiming for a niche market,  part of their success is having something for everyone.

The menu at The Elphinstone reflects this eclectic customer base and includes traditional pub restaurant classics such as  Prawn Cocktail, Steak and Ale Pie, Lasagne, and Grilled Bacon Steak with double egg.  There is an extensive range of world dishes such as Chicken Pakora, Red Hot Jalapenos,  Beef Chow Mein, Chicken or Vegetable Curry and the fish dishes include Smoked Haddock and Puy Lentil Tart, Grilled Fillet of Salmon in Parma Ham and Grilled Fillet of Sea Bass.  Steaks are also available with various toppings and sauces.

I've probably been watching too much of the Restaurant Man on TV, but it did occur to me that it would have been helpful to have the menu divided into these different categories to help find your way around it.
Anyway, let's get on to what we ate. To start I ordered the Cullen Skink, a traditional Scottish Smoked Haddock, Potato, Leek and Cream Chowder.  It was full of pieces of fish, creamy and well seasoned, although I would have preferred it to be a little bit thickened.

Brian chose the Chilli and Mango King Prawns:  King Prawns coated in Chilli and Mango Jam in a Crispy Breadcrumb.  He really enjoyed them and I had a little taste, they had a nice level of spice and biting through the crispy coating to the sweet mango and chlli jam coated prawn was a good combination of textures and flavours.


For the main course Brian chose the Dunsyre Blue Chicken: grilled breast of chicken smothered in a leek, mushroom and blue cheese sauce.  Being a big fan of blue cheese, he really enjoyed this dish, the chicken was well cooked and the the sauce well seasoned.


I went for one of the Dishes of the Day, a Venison Stroganoff: pan-fried venison steak with a paprika, mushroom and brandy cream sauce.  The venison was beautifully cooked, still pink in the middle and very tender, although I did feel that the flavour was a little overwhelmed by the rich and delicious sauce.

You will have noticed that the vegetable accompaniments to both our meals were the same.   The sugar snap peas and the carrots were cooked well, not over done, and the new potatoes were also very good. However, I think I would have preferred the option of rice with the stroganoff and the mashed turnip really didn't work with either of the dishes.  A more formal presentation of the dishes and perhaps serving the vegetables separately would also have added to the overall appeal.   However, as I have already said, the food  tasted very good and  was cooked perfectly.


Biggar is famous for Taylor's ice cream and the dessert menu at The Elphinstone makes a feature of the range of ice cream and ice cream desserts as well as offering family favourites.

We were pretty full, but thought we should try the ice cream. I had two scoops, one of White Chocolate Chip and the other of Ginger, both were really good.  I loved the ginger which had pieces of preserved ginger through it, delicious.  Brian managed three scoops, Chocolate, Ginger and Coconut and he had no complaints, the chocolate and the ginger getting rave reviews.

Many thanks to the Allan family for their hospitality at 'The Elph'.  I would definitely return and if you are in the area,  passing through Biggar or looking to stay over for a Scottish market town experience, then I would certainly recommend you make a stop at the Elphinstone Hotel and Restaurant.

I was not paid to write this review although we were not required to pay for the meal. . There was no request to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. Apologies for the quality of the photographs.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Holy Moly - Guacamole!


Sometimes you just want a simple lunch, not too much work but something delicious all the same.  Avocados are really good just now and even thought the one I used had been 'ripe and ready to use' a week ago, it was still perfect no bruising and it mashed down in a really pleasing manner. Combined with some pitta bread and salad, the simple lunch became a feast.  It would also work well as a DIY picnic, just put the guacamole in a plastic box and pack the bread and salad separately.

Perfect Picnic Guacamole
1 avocado, stone and skin removed
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1/2 a small chilli
2 tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped
1/2 lime
handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Place the avocado in a bowl and mash roughly with a fork.  Add the spring onion, chilli and tomatoes. Squeeze in the lime juice, add the coriander leaves and mix all the ingredients together.  Serve in a bowl or scoop into a plastic box to take on your picnic.



I'm entering the Perfect Picnic Guacamole for Tea Time Treats where the theme this month is 'Picnic food'.  Tea Time Treats is run by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Janie at Hedgecombers.  Guacamole is also appropriate for The Spice Trail where are off on a 'Beach Barbeque', guacamole is a great accompaniment to a barbeque, imagine barbequed steak or chicken in a tortilla with salad and guacamole, delicious!  The Spice Trail is the challenge run by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash and there is a prize of a copy of Nigella Summer.

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