It’s official; summer has arrived!

Rejoice rejoice! Summer has arrived! And living where we do, one must enjoy it while it lasts! I don’t know about you, but I literally feel like a different person in the sunshine. It just makes me feel so HAPPY and full of energy and like the little stressy things just don’t matter! Ahhh. And I just love summer eating too! ūüėČ

The weekend before last we were up in sunny Scotland for a long weekend visiting friends and family and enjoyed some really stunning weather.

A beach walk with friends on the North Berwick coast was, of course, enjoyed with steaming hot fish & chips (plenty of salt & vinegar), eaten with fingers not forks (then you get to lick all the vingeray salty vinegary deliciousness off your fingers at then end!)

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While walks round the loch were topped off with creamy ice cream

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And after a hot hike up the hill we enjoyed barbecued salmon with lovely crispy skin, juicy sizzled sausages and homemade potato salad with freshly dug tatties and chives from the garden – perfection!

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Even the lovely Scottish gorse was out in force, a riot of yellow against a clear blue sky, the heady coconut scent shouting Summer is Here!

The blissfully gorgeous weather has continued this week in Manchester while we’ve been back which has meant more al fresco eating opportunities!

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Toasted marshmallows at a friend’s barbecue. I love when the outside goes all charred and crispy and the inside is gooey, sweet and melting!

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And an impromptu picnic in the park after a sunny post-work walk along the river last night! (That’s a rounded meal there!)

I hope that you all have lovely weather where you are too (especially my long-suffering fellow UK bloggers!) and are enjoying some fun times and good food in the sun!

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(Belated) Happy Burns Night!

This post is a few days late in the making, but Happy Burns Day to all of you! For those of you who don’t know, good old Rabbie (Robert) is the national poet of Scotland and Burns Night is generally regarded as a good¬†excuse¬†(as if we needed one!) to gather with friends, eat simple good food, have a few wee drams and celebrate Scotland and The Bard! Many would say it is more our national day than St Andrew’s Day.(probably because we are a bunch of heathens.)

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This of course can mean only one thing; haggis, neeps and tatties. Haggis, ‘the chieftan o’ the pudding race’ is really really truly delicious and I urge any of you who haven’t eaten it to give it a try. I’ve happily converted both my English other half and many another over recent years! It is meaty, spicy, oaty and slightly nutty with a really pleasing texture, a very satisfying eat! Scots cuisine tends to get a bad rap with preconceptions of deep-fried Mars bars, deep-fried pizzas, deep-fried-anything-that-moves, but this is a really unfair and misleading representation! There is a ¬†lot of tasty traditional Scottish fare such as cullin skink, Arbroath smokies, kedgeree, porridge, cranachan, shortbread, wild venison and Scottish langoustines to name just a few!

This is a simple, no-fuss meal of haggis, ‘bashit’ (mashed) neeps (there is some debate over this depending on whereabouts you are in the UK or indeed elsewhere, but either turnip or swede – the orange one anyway not the white one!) and tatties (potatoes). I’m not always a fan of the ‘poshed up’ haggis, neeps and tatties you often get in restaurants, in my opinion this is something best left un-messed with, enjoyed in its comforting heart-warming and oh-so-tasty simplicity. (Although I must say, haggis used in other recipes is always a winner with me, chicken stuffed with haggis in particular, but that’s for another day!)

You will need – one haggis to serve around three (or two if you are being very greedy like us!!). I was rather pleased that I had managed to import some Macsween’s haggis from north of the border last time my parent’s visited which meant we didn’t have to rely on Hall’s (the only haggis you can easily get in England). Hall’s is absolutely fine, but Macsween’s is, in my opinion, much better.

– one neep (turnip/swede depending on your opinion…)

– a handful of good mashing potaotes

– butter

– milk

– salt & pepper

– brown sauce

– a good Scottish whisky

Cook the haggis as per the instructions, either in a pan of simmering water (still in its casing) or emptied out into a large dish and microwaved.

Peel and dice the potatoes and turnip and boil until soft. Mash with butter, milk, salt and pepper. Serve with the haggis and a touch of brown sauce (optional, but I can’t eat haggis without it now!) and with a wee dram. If you don’t like/have any whisky then red wine goes quite well too!

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So, as you can see, a simple, tasty and satisfying meal! There’s only thing for me to leave you with now.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face

Great chieftan o’ ¬†the puddin-race!

Aboon them a’ ye tak your place

Painch, tripe or thraim:

Weel are ye wordy of a grace

As lang’s my arm

The groaning trencher there ye fill,

Your hurdies like a distant hill,

Your pin wad help to mend a mill

In time o’need,

While thro’ your pores the dews distil

Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,

An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,

Trenching your gushing entrails bright,

Like ony ditch;

And then, O what a glorious sight,

Warm-reekin’, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:

Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,

Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve

Are bent like drums;

Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,

Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout

Or olio that wad staw a sow,

Or fricassee wad make her spew

Wi’ perfect sconner,

Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view

On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,

As feckless as wither’d rash,

His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;

His nieve a nit;

Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,

O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,

The trembling earth resounds his tread.

Clap in his walie nieve a blade,

He’ll mak it whissle;

An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,

Like taps o’ thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,

And dish them out their bill o’ fare,

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware

That jaups in luggies;

But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer

Gie her a haggis!


The calm of the Loch

So it’s been a few weeks since I last posted, I’ve unfortunately been somewhat in the proverbial black hole for the last wee while. While I won’t go into the details here, suffice to say it’s not been the most pleasant or enjoyable last few weeks nor the most calm or stress-free!

I did manage to disappear home to my village in Scotland for a quick weekend respite from it all at one point however and thought I’d share a couple of pictures that I took of the serene, calm loch at the foot of our village while I was there. The snow dusted hill in the background is the hill that our village perches at the bottom of. I saved these as a wallpaper on my phone and everytime I felt stressed or frustrated recently, I’d take a quick look and the picture would instantly transport me back to a place where I always feel calm and happy.

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I’ve still to catch up on all my favourite blogs, so I think I’ll take some time now to sit here in my battered wooden rocking chair in the window with my hot steaming mug of tea to catch up on what you’ve all been up to. ūüôā


A walk around Dunnottar Castle

Last weekend I went to Aberdeen to visit a friend. Aberdeen is the city where I went to university and it’s always a happy¬†occurrence¬†for me to return. Sadly there are a lot less of my friends still living there now with people moving on to pastures new over recent years, but I still get up there for a visit every now and again. Whenever I’m in Aberdeen I always feel very nostalgic, I think this is probably common for anyone who doesn’t still live in the same place where they went to university. I feel a strong connection to a younger¬†version¬†of myself and to old friends and relationships. It’s strange how so many streets, restaurants and bars have strong connections to a certain person or event yet I don’t feel this nearly as much in Manchester, where I’ve actually been living for longer than I was in Aberdeen. Being there last weekend really made me miss Scotland and miss a time that seemed so much more simple care-free and where I felt a lot more independent than I do now here in Manchester. I used to know Aberdeen so well and could get around by myself easily, I still find Manchester a confusing place at times and find it overwhelmingly large. In Aberdeen, as a student, I had a clear purpose and was¬†passionate¬†about what I did. Now I’ve joined the real world and often wonder how I’ve ended up spending my days as I do and where I’m supposed to go next. Still, Manchester is where I met Rob and is where we have our lovely little house so things aren’t so bad! Aberdeen obliged and was its¬†usual¬†brilliant blue and sunny self, lifting my spirits and putting rain-sodden Manchester to shame. Did you know that Aberdeen actually gets the most hours of sunshine in the UK?! It’s just not¬†necessarily¬†the warmest! Perhaps that’s the real reason why things always seemed, literally, sunnier up there!

On the Saturday afternoon we drove just a little way out of the city to Dunnottar Castle, just outside Stonehaven. The castle is ruined but compared to many other ruined fortresses around the country still has an awful lot of its buildings¬†vaguely¬†in tact. The location, on a strip of rocky headland sticking out into the blue North Sea, is stunning. I stood in the castle gazing out of a “window” at the sea crashing against the rocks below, raising my eyes looking at the water stretching out into the horizon and marvelled at how the inhabitants would had admired the very same unchanging view many hundreds of years before. The castle’s location was clearly very strategic and therefore it was not surprising to learn that the Honours of Scotland, or the Scottish Crown Jewels, had been hidden here from Oliver Cromwell and his army during the¬†seventeenth¬†century. The beautiful cold sunny weather we enjoyed that day only added to the already spectacular, dramatic view.