Friday, 29 March 2013

Heaps of snow and heaps of cookies

Seriously Good Venison: even the office has antlers
Being rather fond of my food, I was only too delighted to be invited to be one of this year's Crail Food Festival volunteer bloggers. My "onerous" (not!) duty was to visit Seriously Good Venison near Newburgh and find out a bit more about the company and its products. You can read what I found out during my chat with owner Vikki Banks here at the Crail Food Festival website.  And if you're partial to a bit of venison, I can certainly recommend trying some Seriously Good Venison for yourselves: it was perfection on a plate.

It’s probably just as well that venison is one of the healthiest meats around, because in every other way Yours Truly’s “get fit for 50” diet has been in complete abeyance these past few months.  And any last crumbs of dietary restraint were obliterated recently due to the presence in my kitchen of DD1, whose Nigella-esque cookery and bakery skills shame into complete submission those of us who tend more towards the Heinz 57 school of cookery.

DD1's latest recipe, acquired in her temporary home city of Paris (though I firmly refuse to believe any self-respecting svelte Frenchwoman would ever let one of these calorie bombs pass her lips!) was for triple chocolate cookies. With DD1’s boyfriend plus DD2 also being under our roof for most of the week, multifarious batches of these tortuously tempting treats were dished up at regular intervals, interspersed with batches of equally enticing millionaire shortbread. And, just in case Yours Truly suffered withdrawal symptoms when DD1 returned to the French capital last Monday, the thoughtful girl left me some ready-made cookie dough in the fridge. I shall miss her immensely – though I’m not sure my waistline will!

Triple Chocolate Cookies - three times as tasty

Doh! Here's some I made earlier...

Melt-in-the-mouth millionaire shortbread
The Sparrowholding (which is by no means big) felt fit to burst at certain points during the week, as we were also hosting two Canadian rugby players - members of a touring team visiting the local High School.  Sadly, snow had been falling for several days prior to their arrival, and the school pitch could best be described as "deep and crisp and even". However, the local lads were determined not to disappoint their visitors and, on the morning of the match, they arrived at school bearing shovels instead of books, and proceeded to clear almost every inch of the pitch.  The result was a sight to behold: a rectangle of green, surrounded by heaped banks of snow.  Although Son+Heir and his cohorts were soundly trounced by the superior force of the Canadians, I imagine that the match will go down in the school history books as a triumph of sheer dogged determination (and digging) over the uncooperative Scottish weather.

Ice cool rugby players
The reason for the recent rallying of the Sparrow troops was a close friend's 21st Ceilidh taking place in the local village hall on the Saturday evening. Just to keep life interesting, the snow fell steadily and determinedly during Friday night, all the while being whipped up by a mischievous wind. Because so much of the white stuff had been blown away, the road looked OK at first on Saturday morning, so DD1 plus boyfriend T set out dutifully in our aged wee automatic Renault to help decorate the village hall. But before they had gone even quarter of a mile, they found themselves stuck in a snowdrift – HunterGatherer was at work, so it fell to our kind Landrover-owning next-door-neighbour to come to the rescue... 

The Good Samaritan - complete with tow rope

Fortunately, his mission proved successful, so crisis was averted. Needless to say, we took a different road to the Ceilidh that night, given that none of us particularly fancied trying to push the car out of a drift in our kilts and dresses. Getting there did prove a bit hairy at times (see photo below), but all the guests made it through and a wonderful night ensued, with the lively Ceilidh band almost raising the rafters (just as well the snow was holding the roof down!). 

Snow bother!

HunterGatherer and DD1 in full 'birling' mode

Dressed for the journey: purple frock with matching wellies

Friday, 15 March 2013

Goodies from Paris - plus how to turn a polytunnel into Fort Knox

Sweet treats from Paris
Food, family, friends and time flying... That just about sums up the last couple of weeks here at the Sparrowholding, which have – as predicted in my last post – been frenzied in the extreme due to a (welcome) influx of freelance writing and editing.  As I’m still finishing off the proofreading of a colleague’s 65,000-word novel, this post is going to be more a collection of photos than words: a quick update on happenings in and around the Sparrowholding.

On the food front, I’m thrilled to be one of the food bloggers involved in covering the forthcoming Crail Food Festival.  Part of my mission will be to write an article about renowned local venison producer Seriously Good Venison (of which more another time) and the other part will be to participate in a chocolate making workshop at The Pittenweem Chocolate Company.  I know, I know: it’s tough work, but somebody has to do it...

Still on the subject of sweet things, the photo above is of the gorgeous box of toffee (La Cure Gourmande, no less!) that HunterGatherer brought me back from his micro-visit to DD1 in Paris.  We couldn’t both afford to go, so as HG had never been to Paris before – and is a real history buff – it seemed fair for him to get the ticket.  Father and elder daughter apparently spent an entire day perusing French history at Les Invalides, so Yours Truly reckons she probably got the better deal i.e. eating “les caramels”. Though I rather suspect my lovely dentist at Cherrybank Dental Spa might not approve! 

Back on Scottish shores, last weekend three of my oldest and dearest girlfriends and I had one of our rare (finding a date that we can all manage only seems to happen twice a year!) evenings out to catch up on our very different yet equally manic lives over supper. This time we opted for The Roost near Bridge of Earn (a favourite haunt of mine, which none of the others had visited since it changed into the very capable hands of Tim and Anna Dover a few years ago).  Here’s a quick photo-sample of what we tucked into – and very tasty it all was, too.

Fig and pigeon for starters

Tender venison on a rich pastry shell - with celestial celeriac puree 

Rich chocolate torte with cherry accompaniments...mmm!

And to finish off... a selection of chocolate truffles

 Thanks to the recent cold snap, feed – or rather fodder! – was very much on the minds of the resident menagerie here at The Sparrowholding.  Farmerbruv’s handy feed Blox were certainly going down a storm, as you can see from these photos...

Breakfast is just out of reach

Wha daur meddle wi' me?

Did somebody mention breakfast?

She who distributes the Blox i.e. the bag lady...

Meanwhile, in the polytunnel, HunterGatherer snatched a rare day off from work a couple of weekends back to get some seeds planted – carrots, parsnips, leeks, spinach and shallots to be precise.  After last year’s experiences, he also put security measures in place to stop FatCat (and other indigenous felines) using the newly cultivated beds for wholly unsuitable purposes -  there is now an impenetrable hen mesh barrier at either end of the polytunnel which, combined with the plastic “doors”, makes life distinctly tricky for a portly pussycat. 

Protective measures of another type were required when the weather suddenly went cold again this week: so now all HG’s little plantlets (plus Vinnie the Vine, the spectre-like shape on the right of the photo!) are tucked up cosily.  No doubt next HG will be treating them to an electric blanket!

Polytunnel protection programme - to keep FatCat out!

There be ghosts in that there polytunnel!