Tuesday, 16 September 2014

It's the Great Scottish Bake Off as DD1 returns to The Sparrowholding

Baked banana-choc cheesecake: just one of the three puddings
on offer chez Sparrow recently...
I seem to remember writing a blog post two years ago in which, while expressing my sorrow that DD1 was heading back south to resume her studies at St Something's, I proclaimed myself almost relieved about her departure owing to the fact that I'd no longer be confronted by the daily temptation of her irresistible cooking creations!

This year has been no different. Since daughter dearest's return from her summer job in the deep south, the kitchen has been filled with a succession of glorious baking smells, and Yours Truly has experienced the rare treat of a scrumptious savoury brunch of smoked salmon with poached egg presented to her on a plate. I could get certainly used to this...

Perfect way to start the working day - especially when
you don't have to cook it yourself ;-)

Consequently, any fond notions I had of shedding the odd pound (or even the odd stone!) before the said offspring's graduation from St Something's in a mere two days' time are fading into oblivion. Indeed, it looks as though the only option left to me will be to don a generously proportioned hessian bag for the big event. Hmm, wonder which shoes I have that would be suitable to go with that?

On the plus side, keen to take advantage of DD1's culinary zeal, I invited a few friends for dinner - unfortunately, what I hadn't realised when choosing the date of the dinner party was that DD1 would be in Aberdeen with boyfriend T. at an oil company ball that very night. Upon first discovering this tragic date clash, I have to confess that a deep gloom descended upon me as I began to contemplate ways of presenting baked beans (my culinary skills are limited) in a "dinner party" fashion... 
DD1 had her hair put up - before heading for
the ball to let her hair down!

The canapes were the only thing DD1 trusted
Yours Truly to execute properly...

Just look at the colour of that spinach! This
Lorraine Pascale recipe looks promising...

The Sparrowholding's very own Delia, however, was not about to pass up the chance to try out some new recipes. Consequently, during the 24 hours before her departure for Aberdeen (complete with 1920s hair-do in keeping with the theme of the ball), DD1 whipped herself up into a gastronomic frenzy and produced a spinach roulade starter, hearty beef bourguignon main course plus a choice of three puddings (yes, my required hessian bag size escalated to XL overnight...).

More greenery - rocket this time. This starter seems to be
extremely eco-friendly :-)

Ta-dah! One spinach roulade stuffed with rocket, cream cheese,
sun-dried tomatoes and roasted pine nuts. Yummy!

And just in case I mucked up the presentation, the chef left
a detailed drawing of how to serve the starter...

So while the cook was dancing the night away in the Grey Granite City in the company of a "platform" (surely that must be the collective noun...?) of oil and gas engineers, the results of her hard work were being duly appreciated by our guests. Better still, Yours Truly was able to give the resident tin opener a night off.

Gorgeous tender rump steak from Singing Butcher
Ian Hunter in Kinross - perfect for beef bourguignon :-)

Served with roast veggies and mashed potatoes
(courgettes, carrots, garlic and potatoes all homegrown)

Squidgy chocolate cake... say no more!

Just serve with fresh rasps and cream...

A new experience - these gelatine sheets were great fun!

Prosecco and clementine jellies -
a low-cal pud option (under 100 cals!)
Outside the kitchen, autumn seems to have come suddenly to The Sparrowholding, and the surrounding hedgerows are laden with berries in every possible shade of red or purple. HunterGatherer (who is a huge fan of snow, despite its impracticality for those of us who don't have a 4X4 vehicle) is hopeful that this heralds a hard winter ahead. He is basing his hibernal predictions on an old wives' tale which suggests a direct correlation between the number of berries appearing in the autumn and inches of white stuff appearing in the subsequent winter months. Time alone will tell!

The last three strawbs of 2014 - harvested in September...
Annie the apple tree is looking good :-)
Vinnie the Vine has had a much better year - shame the grapes
have pips, as eating them is a tad time-consuming!

Fortunately, if the snow does end up lying deep and crisp and even, we have a variety of produce to keep us going. Despite worries about a touch of erwinia carotovera var atroseptica (a potato disease otherwise known by the somewhat piratical name of "Blackleg"), our Rooster potatoes produced a great yield and are now safely stored in Dobbies' rather attractive patterned hessian bags - the only pity, of course, is that these bags don't come in a size big enough for Yours Truly...
HunterGatherer is a great fan of Rooster potatoes
Carrots for the soup dragon!
Courgette jenga...