Bring Home The Bread

Almost the whole of the UK has had varying amounts of snow, some areas worse than others. It meant shops were getting empty due to both panic-buying and stock deliveries not getting through. In our modern times, we have freezers, long-life cartons as well as the canned and dried products, yet we see frenzied shopping for bread which doesn’t really contain the nutrients needed for survival.recipe-image-legacy-id--2056_12

On the home side, my grandmother’s era not only churned their own butter, but without a fridge, it was kept in a bowl of water to keep it fresher longer.

Milk still had cream on top so that could be used for making butter, cheese or adding to desserts. Milk could be pasturised at home just by heating it to simmering point and letting it cool for a longer lasting milk. Bread was often made by local home bakers and had flavour which is missing from the mass-produced cotton wool bread.

We used to save all our sour milk to go in the scones (soda farls) but with the current pasturised and homogenised milk, all the live bacteria gets killed off and that’s what’s needed, so the best alternative is live yoghurt for a light, fluffy result.

I have a tendency of buying organically when possible and it’s the same with flour, I will buy it straight from the mill if I can. Not so long ago I saw large cartons of organic double cream reduced due to it being near the sell-by date. I bought some, made butter with it and when I made some oven scones, I could sit back and enjoy the home-made scones, home churned butter and home-made jam. Butter is easy to make, I put cream into a Kenwood mixer until it separates. Even the remaining whey can be used in baking but the butter needs to be washed, it’s the whey remaining in it which turns butter rancid. It probably was all done just as quickly as it would have taken to go to the supermarket to buy manufactured products but I had a smug contentment knowing what was in everything as well as every morsel being a tasty bite.

I do take shortcuts, I have made bread the way it should be made but I found it laborious and time-consuming so I succumbed to getting a bread maker. It’s not in use often but with the simple ingredients of flour, yeast, water, dried milk and oil, it’s easy to quickly add the ingredients to let the machine do all the work. So not only do I have an easy way of making bread, having a supply of dried milk is handy if the fresh milk runs out. Of course Irish soda bread is even easier, it doesn’t even need yeast and is absolutely delicious.

There are essentials we do need shops and supermarkets for but I won’t be queuing for bread or milk.


Scottish Fayre – Stovies and Lorne Sausage

I was looking for something interesting to have for dinner. I’d spent the best part of the day pottering around the garden so was in no mood for cooking. I had already cooked breakfast of bacon, Lorne sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and eggs and had some Lorne sausage left over, only two slices but that was enough, I was going to make stovies.

First of all Lorne sausage comes with many aliases depending on where ylorne-sausage-block-2ou live but in the West of Scotland, that’s what we know it as. It’s made normally from beef and although it’s often referred to as square sausage, it’s perhaps more like trapezium sausage. It’s made in a long block, generally the bottom is wider than the top. Sliced and fried and perfect to fit between two slices of bread.

Thankfully I prefer not to join the take-away and throw-away societies, so I try to think of innovative ways of using an odd assortment of fridge contents, it’s amazing what you can make out of leftovers with just a little cream and some wine. It turns the most unappetising looking foods into a feast for a king. My two little slices of Lorne sausage had the potential to make a meal for four.

Stovies is a hotpot of meat and vegetables, cooked in a pot, stewed slowly in their own liquid. Any leftover meat can be used but I was going to make good use of the sausage. I cut it into small squares, sliced swede, carrots, onions and potatoes. I put a little oil in the pot to start with, layer the sausage (or other meat) with the vegetables, a little water, salt and pepper (not too much salt), put it on a low heat, cover with a lid and let it stew slowly until the vegetables are cooked. Stir it now and again to ensure even cooking. It doesn’t matter if the potatoes used break up easily, that’s how I like it. It doesn’t even matter what the proportions of ingredients are but potatoes, meat and onions are the essentials.


More information including the recipe for Lorne Sausage

The Burns Supper

Having been brought up in ‘Burns country’, I have been used to the wide plethora of Burns Suppers celebrated from any time soon after New Year. Although the date should be January 25th, it seems to be acceptable throughout the whole 12 months. However, it does reach it’s crescendo around the 25th when quite honourable, intelligent, well adjusted men exchange that embodiment of self-esteem for some strange alien being, since copious amounts of whisky are the perfect accompaniment to the haggis.

There are certain rituals to the Burns Supper, it is an evening’s entertainment and if you get good entertainers, good speakers and good food, it is an excellent night. The other notable piece of information is if you have a kilt, you wear it.

It is an evening of song, recitation, speeches and tales. There is an order to the programme of course with plenty of pomp and circumstance. The chairman greets the guests and introduces those taking part. This is followed by the ‘Selkirk Grace’;

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Normally everyone would stand while the star attraction gets piped in, a steaming haggis served on a silver platter. It is then addressed by Burns’ recitation “To A Haggis”. Once completed, it gets taken to the kitchens for serving and the meal can begin.


To A Haggis

Cock-a-leekie soup is a good starter but it can be lentil or Scotch broth or similar after which haggis, neeps (mashed swede) and tatties (mashed potatoes) are served. Only a small portion is served as this is followed by a heartier meal, perhaps of steak pie. The dessert can be traditional Cranachan, a delicious dish of whipped cream and toasted oatmeal, whisky and raspberries. but like the other selections on the menu, there can be alternatives such as apple pie and cream etc.

There are two other poems which are part of the celebrations and those taking part will be happy to slip into the part.

the-real-tam-oshanterTam o’ Shanter

holy-willieHoly Willie’s Prayer

The Wild Haggis

In Search Of The Black Bun

There are many Scottish traditions for Hogmanay and New Year and one of the common treats was Black Bun, a very rich, dark, fruit cake. Originally eaten on the twelfth night, it soon became a traditional Hogmanay treat, a wee dram and a slice of Black Bun.

Not being a baker, the subject was being discussed about where to buy Black Bun, we turned to a local girl with a coffee shop who made her own cakes. She was up for the challenge although didn’t know what Black Bun was. The cake should be made well in advance to allow the flavours to develop but she didn’t make it until New Year’s Evblack-bun-2e, however I was there to see it come out of the oven. It looked good but when she cut into it, it was too light in colour. The recipe she used was by a well-known English baker and sad to say, although very nice, it was not what our mums and grannies made. Our eager baker wants a report back and although she did follow a recipe, it neither looked nor tasted like the traditional moist, dark cakes we had been used to.

This spurred me on to look through my granny’s handwritten recipe book and this is what I found:

Black Bun

black-bun 1/2 lb flour, pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder and rub in 1/4 lb margarine, make into a firm paste with cold water. Line a tin with the paste leaving enough for the top.

Mix together 1 lb flour, 1/2 lb sugar, 1/4 oz ground ginger, 1/4 oz cinnamon, 1 teaspoon black pepper, teaspoonful each baking soda and cream of tartar. 2 lbs large raisins, 2 lbs sultanas, 1/4 lb almonds, blanched and shredded. 2 oz lemon peel. Moisten all the ingredients with 1/2 pint milk. Mix thoroughly and pack into lined tin, cover neatly with the lid of paste. Moisten the edges and firm carefully, brush over with egg and prick with a fork. Bake in a moderate over for 3 hours.

Paste: pastry

Moderate oven: 325º-350ºF/160º-180ºC/Gas mark 3-4

Afternoon Teas

It is nice to see the Victorian afternoon teas making a comeback. It’s disappointing though to see commercial companies offer afternoon teas wwaitresshich are nothing like the elegant teatimes of the past. Cakes and other dainties are served but there’s no crisp cotton tablecloth on the table, no dainty china cups and no real tea, only teabags. There does seem to be a difference on how you feel, depending on the type of afternoon tea you are attending. Add all the frills and fancies, linen serviettes instead of paper, patterned china instead of the standard hotel earthenware cups. Scones served with curls of butter and jam in proper jam dishes instead of prepacked portions. All that transports you to a genteel era, housemaids with black dresses and white aprons and caps serving dainty sandwiches and cakes on a tray. Also tea served from a teapot, kept warm under a tea cosy. Though a dedicated coffee drinker, I have a selection of proper leaf teas for the guest to chose from and not a teabag in sight.

I do wish I had paid attention to both my granny’s and mumtea-settable‘s baking though. Granny’s scones were second to none and none of the ingredients were weighed. Handful, pinch and spoonful were the measurements instead of pounds and ounces. When the milk was sold in glass bottles and cream would still rise to the surface, the short life without the fridge didn’t mean sour milk was wasted, we kept it all for granny to use in her scones. No science degree to tell you sour milk makes the scones light, I use active yogurt instead to replace the ‘live’ bacteria milk processing takes away.

Having inherited a number of recipe books, handwritten by my mother and both grandmothers, it’s quite comforting to see the titles such a “Mrs Hamilton’s Fruit Cake”, or “Sadie’s Chocolate Cake”, let your imagination loose and not only do you see these people in your mind’s eye, but you can almost smell the baking as well.

Many years ago, I bought an S.W.R.I. (Scottish Women’s Rural Institute) cookery book. Some of the recipes date back generations and one such recipe from the book, I will share:-

Hatted Kit (A very old Highland dish)

Warm slightly over the fire 2 pints of buttermilk. Pour it into a dish and carry it to the side of a cow. Milk into it about 1 pint of milk, having previously put into the dish sufficient rennet for the whole. After allowing it to stand for a while, lift the curd, place it on a sieve, and press the whey through until the curd is quite stiff. Season with sugar and nutmeg before serving, whip some thick cream, season it also with a little grated nutmeg and sugar and mix gently with the curd. This dish can quite well be made without milking the cow into it., although the contributor’s mother always considered that direct milking put a better hat on the kit.”

Salt In My Porridge

My paternal grandfather was a corn miller to trade, though it was more oats than corn being milled. Most of the grain went for animal provender and farmers would bring their grain to be dried on the kiln and then ground.

James Boswell had a habit of eating oats for breakfast and Samuel Johnson is said to have remarked, “In England we wouldn’t think of eating oats. We only feed them to horses”.
“Well, maybe that’s why in England you have better horses, and in Scotland we have better men”. replied Boswell.

My grandpa had porridge every morning, the oatmeal steeped overnight and cooked in a pot in the morning. The traditional stirrer for porridge was a spurtle, il_570xn-963098244_77rsa wooden stick, a bit like the handle of a wooden spoon, and there was a luggie of cream to serve with it.  Of course being Scottish, it was quite luggiecommon for me to have porridge, I could have it any time not just for breakfast and granny used to put sugar on it so I thought that’s how it should be eaten. Coming home from school in the cold, bitter days, I came in to a bowl of steaming hot porridge. I found out later that it was said that a true Scot ate his porridge with salt, I couldn’t imagine it but when I tasted it, I thought it was much better so I’ve never had sugar on it since.

Of course oats were a staple part of the diet, there are so many delicious dishes that can be made with it. It can be used in bread making, oat cakes, (delicious with cheese), baking 800px-clapshot_and_oatcakessuch as flapjacks, oat biscuits, and in desserts. One of our favourites is Cranochan, so easy to make. Since we grow the best raspberries in the world, it’s a perfect complement. Like everything else, everyone has their favourite recipes. It should be made with oatmeal which has been soaked overnight in whisky but it can be made without it.



2 tbsp medium oatmeal
300g raspberries
350g whipped cream
2 tbsp heather honey
a little caster sugar
2-3 tbsp whisky

Toast the oatmeal until it smells nutty, mix the raspberries with the sugar, crushing them lightly. Whisk the cream until just set, blend in the honey and whisky. Looks best served in glass serving dishes layered alternatively with oats, cream and raspberries.  Allow to chill. …Enjoy.



The Clootie Dumpling

Christmas pudding usually has brandy poured over it and set alight, this was the best we could improvise for a Clootie Dumpling at New Year.

Something we all looked forward to, especially as a birthday treat was a ‘Clootie Dumpling’, traditionally boiled in a cloth for a few hours, it is one of the most versatile items of food. The cloth is lined with flour so the end result means the ‘dumpling’ has a skin which dries almost transparent when left in front of a fire or popped into an oven for a few moments.

It used to have silver threepennies in it, then they had to be 3dwrapped. They’re supposed to be unsafe and a child could choke – not our children, they were well aware that there was money in it and nothing would have got past them.

Eaten fresh from the oven, on it’s own, with custard, with cream, whatever way you want, it’s delicious. It can be sliced and eaten cold as it is or spread with butter. It can be fried for breakfast, with bacon, eggs, potato scone, mushrooms, tomato etc.


2 Teacups of Plain Flour
1/2lb Atora (Suet)
3 Cups Breadcrumbs
4 Tablespoons Sugar
4oz Sultanas

1 Teaspoon Baking soda
4oz Currants

1 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup

1 Teaspoon Ginger
1 Tablespoon Treacle

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Eggs

2 Teaspoons Mixed Spice
Milk to mix

Mix dry ingredients. Add fruit, eggs, syrup & treacle and add enough milk to make a stiff dough. Place in a muslin cloth (floured) and tie tightly. Place on a plate in a pot of boiling water. Make sure it’s covered and boil for 2-2.5 hours. Check it for time to time and don’t let it go dry. Leaving a piece of the string you tied it with, loose makes it easier to remove the whole thing from the pot. Loosen the cloth from the dumpling, place a large plate on top and invert it. Remove the cloth and dry in oven.