Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pottery, Pies and Picnics

Work is a bit hectic at the moment and I’m afraid the blog has been suffering from it the most. After a long day of writing papers and grants, the last think I feel like is sitting down behind the computer again. But last weekend, we managed to escape to the far north of Scotland to celebrate the Summer Solstice (which is actually today). This was a real trip down memory lane for me as we went to Achmelvich, which is the first place I visited outside of Dundee when I moved here the first time in 2000 as an undergraduate student. I came here for 7 months to work in one of the labs, fell in love with Scotland, came back the next year to do a PhD and haven’t left since (although the end is in sight)….this is one of my fabourite parts of Scotland and I love coming here. This time, Barry came with me as he had never been and I wanted to show him this area before we move....but I digress.

So last Friday we drove up with friends and pitched the tent next to the sea. Saturday morning we woke up to the sound of rain so stayed in the tents for a while, had breakfast and around 11, when it dried up wondered over to Lochinver, a village about 4 miles away. We visited the Highland pottery shop, which has stunning pottery but quite pricey. So I was sooooo chuffed when I found a seconds serving platter, which was perfect on top but had an ugly mark on the bottom (nobody will ever know!) half price (pics will follow soon). We then went to this amazing shop I’d been told about a long time ago but never had a chance to visit (even though I’ve been in the area five time already). It’s the Lochinver Larder and they sell lots of wonderful pies. There were so many different varieties that it took us a long time to make up our minds but in the end we shared a venison and cranberry pie, a wild boar, port and prune pie and rounded it off with a strawberry/rhubarb pie for dessert.
The pies were heated for us but we took them outside where they made a perfect picnic whilst looking out towards the see. The pies were really moist and full of flavour, the fruit was perfectly balanced with the meat and the pie crust had a nice bite to it. After this, we wondered back and the rest of the weekend was spent walking beaches, swimming (for some...way too cold for me!), playing rugby on the beach, building dams in sand, having barbeques and roasting marshmallows and wondering along the cost. I can really recommend this area if you’re ever this far north. It’s a beautiful rugged part of the country with lots of sheep and little people but everyone is really friendly and the food is great. There are a lot of wonderful seafood restaurants and at this time of year the light is really fabulous, it’s so far north that it doesn’t even get completely dark and we sat up with a bonfire till the early hours.
Now back in Dundee with the piles of papers, I find myself staring at the mountain scenery on my new plate and contemplate ordering some pies by post soon, unless I find the time to make one….

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

When you can't make ice cream... you don't have an ice cream maker and you can't go out and buy one as you will be moving by the end of the year and you have to move your vast quantity of kitchen paraphernalia make granita! I've been restraining myself from buying an ice cream maker but with the warm weather there is nothing like some frozen comfort but I have found the solution to my problem....granita's! They're somewhere in between a sorbet and a slush puppy but so much better then the horrible synthetic tasting ones we get here (I mean turquoise for raspberry flavour!). They are very easy to make (and quick, which is a big bonus at the moment as work is hectic) as you just boil a sugar syrup and can then add anything you fancy to thin the liquid out, preferably with some alcohol. The liquid is then frozen in a shallow tray and scooped out as a crystallite mixture. Lovely on its own, with fruits or cakes, the possibilities are endless.

I've previously made a mulled wine granita and this time went for a lemon one with the lemons we got from our organic citrus box. I took the rind off the lemons and boiled this with the sugar syrup. The syrup was strained and water and alcohol (in this case Corenwyn; a Dutch version of gin) was added. This was then frozen and had been sitting in my freezer for ages until we ate it last night. I had baked some lemon and poppy seed cookies to go with it from the parcel Marie-Laure sent me for EBBP4. The cookies were great and their crunchiness contrasted nicely with the fresh, tart and slighlly boozy taste of the granita...the perfect summer dessert!