Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Lunch at The Roost – a very pleasant way to unruffle your feathers

Whilst I may always have banned the “C” word in our household until the 1st of December each year while the kids were small (thereby avoiding Santa talk for at least 11 months out of 12), my principles were not so inflexible this week as to prevent me from accepting an invitation from an old and dear family friend  to join her for a lunch billed as “your early Christmas present”.  Especially when that lunch just happened to be at Tim and Anna Dover’s award-winning Perthshire restaurant “The Roost”...

Tim and Anna are passionate about what they do. That will be clear to anyone who has had the enviable experience of dining at The Roost over the past couple of years or who followed their progress recently on Marco Pierre White’s Kitchen Wars on Channel 5.  This passion translates itself into a simple yet superb eating experience in the peaceful, rural setting of a converted hen house in Bridge of Earn, a mile or so outside Perth.
Our family friend had just returned from a trip to France during which she had been wined and dined in Cognac so, for her, the culinary benchmark was set high. In my case, any meal that I don’t have to prepare myself is fantastic, although I knew from previous experience that this wouldn’t be just “any meal”.

 Having eschewed breakfast in favour of writing – my NaNoWriMo quest continues, despite the obstacles of innumerable eager English tutees and marathon taxi runs  – I shamelessly had a starter, and also partook of the tasty slice of tomato bread proffered by an attentive waitress soon after we sat down . 

Since I’m a great fan of risotto, it didn’t take me long to select the very seasonal Pumpkin Risotto from the mouth-watering menu.  Whenever I attempt to cook rice, it usually ends up a very sad, soggy, tasteless affair; but this risotto was another breed entirely.  It was beautifully presented, with the orange hue of the pumpkin enhanced by a starkly contrasting bright green liquid around the edge of the dish – upon enquiry, I was informed by Anna that the said gorgeous green concoction was basil oil. Its delicate herby flavour infused perfectly with that of the pumpkin, making a very successful savoury combo which was rapidly dispatched by Yours Truly.

Vibrant green basil oil set the pumpkin risotto off to perfection
Next it was time for the main courses. Our family friend had chosen the Ayrshire pork loin, with grain mustard mashed potato, red cabbage and caramelised apple, and proclaimed it to be excellent.  Meanwhile I stuck with the veggie theme (though this was pure chance – I’m not a vegetarian) and opted for the Parmesan and Parsnip tart served with beetroot and spinach. As an avid beetroot fan, I tucked in with gusto to the halo of roasted beetroot chunks dotted round the circumference of the plate, before turning my attention to the tart itself.  If gravity hadn’t been conspiring against it, I swear the pastry was so light, this tart would have floated off the plate – instead it was fork-borne towards my very appreciative palate, where the fusion of parmesan and parsnip flavours certainly hit the mark.

Loving that beetroot...

“Dessert?” asked Anna as she cleared our empty plates.  “Rude not to,” we decided and promptly plumped (perhaps an unfortunate choice of word!) for the cherry frangipane tart with ice cream and the lemon tart with blood orange sorbet respectively.  Once again, we were not to be disappointed. My luncheon companion was rapturous in her praise for the generous slice of frangipane tart which arrived before her, and I was in a state of citrus bliss after my encounter with the zesty lemon tart and refreshing orange sorbet.

Enjoying our just 'desserts'!
Suitably re-energised and inspired by such a wonderful dining experience, I thanked my kind friend profusely for her invitation to what had been one of the best early Christmas presents a gastronomically inclined girl could wish for.  Then it was back up the M90 to harness all that inspiration as I ploughed on with my own creative efforts for NaNoWriMo, currently sitting at 20 thousand words, many of them penned while burning the midnight oil – which is, I can confirm, not half as enjoyable as eating basil oil...

Monday, 5 November 2012

It was going to be a Na NoWriMo Movember – but then someone shaved...


Son+Heir and I had decided to subscribe to two very different projects this month. Suffice to say, one of us was to be growing a moustache and the other was to be taking part in National Novel Writing Month. I shall leave it to my astute readers to work out which of us was planning to do which (and for those of you who guessed incorrectly, enough of your cheek!). However, I can report that by day four Son+Heir had annihilated his nascent whiskers, presumably because they risked interfering with his aerodynamics on the hockey pitch.

Yours Truly, however, is still going strong, by which I mean penning an average of 1,667 words per day and wondering how long her mind/body/imagination can keep it up. Originally, the plan was to combine the month-long exercise in writing self-discipline with a similarly challenging exercise in dietary discipline i.e. no chocolate for November. The sheer impracticality of this scheme rapidly became evident as I lay lifeless in front of the screen some time just before midnight on day three, trying to summon the energy to type the first word of that day. That’s when I knew for certain that NaNoWriMo and NoChoco were completely incompatible and cracked open a giant tube of Smarties which subsequently powered my virtual pen well into the wee sma’ hours.

Sweet inspiration
And so to the official warning which is the purpose of this blog post: In view of this gobbling up of my precious “personal” writing time – as opposed to the paid ‘day job’ writing time – it is highly likely that blog posts this month may be few and far between, so I felt that an advance apology might be in order.

By way of compensation, however, here are a few photos that encapsulate the last week or two of life in and around the Sparrowholding...

Not to be outdone by the US, there has been some jostling for position going on out in the paddock, as pony politics prevailed. Incumbent Highland pony Large has been playing host to next door’s two equines while their field is “resting”. HunterGatherer quickly christened the hairy trio Fatso (ours), Wimpo (too scared to venture past Fatso to get into the stable) and Shorto (who rapidly found a kindred vertically challenged spirit in his new field mate, Cocoa the Shetland tup).

"You've got a jacket on so you've no business in here!"

We Shetland folk like to stick together...
Meanwhile, things have got a lot tidier outside lately, thanks to several highly productive visits from Farmpa last week.  He may be “nearly 80 you know”, but that didn't stop him getting just about everywhere - up ladders removing moss from the roof, cocooned in the polytunnel cutting back Vinnie the Vine, outside in the rain pruning the plum and apple trees and giving the lawn a final mow of the year during a rare period of glorious autumn sunshine.  The Sparrowholding doesn’t know what’s hit it!

The roof moss marauder in precarious mode
Whilst the flora in the garden may be finished for the year, my own private potted primula plant is sitting resplendent on the kitchen window sill, bringing a vivid splash of violet vitality to the otherwise dull job of washing up. 

Pretty in purple - my pot of primulas (or polyanthas?)!
Of course, one ideal way of dodging the domestic drudgery is to escape outside, and recently I was invited by a good friend to accompany her on a hike up nearby Dunning Glen.  It was an idyllic autumn afternoon, and the views during the ascent and from the top of the hill were sublime - a reminder, if one were ever needed, about how lucky we are to live in this unique and special part of the cosmos. So even though my pathetically unfit legs (not to mention the rest of me) were screaming out at the unaccustomed assault on their normal sedentary existence, I returned feeling thoroughly inspired and invigorated by all that good, clear, fresh Scottish air. Here's hoping it blew away sufficient cobwebs to allow the creative muse to move in for November -  nine thousand words so far and counting!

Modern vista - the wind turbines looked like weird metal flowers

Three men in a boat in Perthshire