Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Recipe of the Week - Maggie Mary's Oatcakes

Maggie Mary is an older lady who lives quite near my parents' house on Lewis. She is one of those ladies who is so lovely on the inside that it shines through on the outside. She has a quiet, gentle nature and is highly thought of by all who know her. Each time we go home we always enjoy a visit with her and she will always have a fresh batch of these wonderful oatcakes or some of her equally delicious scones to share.

Last time we were home she shared her recipe with me, although she didn't really have many measurements, more of 'some of this and some of that'!

They really are the best oatcakes you will try!

If you don't need to make these allergy free, then please use real butter rather than margarine. You can't beat the flavour of real butter in them.

If you do need to make them allergy free then substitute dairy free and wheat free ingredients and they will work perfectly without having to alter any of the quantities.

You will need:

7oz medium oatmeal (not rolled oats and not pinhead)
3oz self raising flour
2oz sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
3oz butter, melted
enough milk to mix together to a dough.

~Mix the oatmeal, flour, sugar, soda and salt together in a bowl.
~Add the melted butter and mix in.
~Add enough milk to get a stiff, roll-able dough.
~Cover your work-surface with a mix of flour and oatmeal and gently roll out the dough.
~Cut out using cutters or alternatively use a knife to cut into traditional triangle shapes.
~Place on a well greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 20-30 minutes. They should be lightly golden on the top.
~Allow to cool enough to handle and then cool properly on a wire cooling rack.
~Try serving them when still a little warm with some butter and smoked cheese. Or to accompany a nice warm bowl of soup. Or with some butter and jam...... 

You can just see at the top of this photo that we even ate some straight off the tray with nothing on them!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Things I'm Loving (a little late!)

I started this post at the weekend but then life took over and I didn't get it finished!

Since I already had the photos in position I thought I would go ahead and finish it off anyway.

So, these are a few of the things I was loving last week.

My mum was down with us for a week. Whenever she comes down she brings my brother and I a wee food parcel of things that we can't buy down here!

My absolute favourite is this hot smoked salmon. It has a beautiful peat smoke flavour but the texture is of cooked salmon rather than the slightly slimy texture of traditionally smoked salmon.

The boys like going out for treats with granny when she is here. Plenty of coffee shop stops! This was David enjoying the last one before we took her to the plane home.

Another of our coffee shop stops was to our favourite garden centre, where Alasdair loves to go and see the fishies.

The weather last week went from heavy snow.....
 almost Spring like a few days later!

It was great for the boys to get outside to play again after months indoors.

The snowy weather does give an excuse for comforting puddings though, like this bread and butter pudding madewith left over custard doughnuts!

James (13) was also doing a spot of baking last week. These triple chocolate muffins were quite delicious.

Finally, loving 'just because' presents from my beloved. A Lindt milk chocolate bunny is my most favourite Easter treat!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Bake it like Berry - Week 2

First of all, thanks for all the great suggestions for a title for my baking challenge. I put them all to the boys to choose a winner, since I'm hopeless at deciding these things for myself! As you can see from the title, Bake it like Berry was their favourite.

I've also added a new page tab at the top to keep track of my progress. 

I only managed to try two recipes from the book this week, as there was also Pancake Making and Valentine Cake making to fit in as well.

This week's bakes were:

~ Chocolate Swiss Roll.

I made this with gluten free flour, which makes it a bit trickier to roll as gluten free cakes are always a bit more crumbly. Still, I rather like the rugged, slightly cracked look.

The recipe is very similar to my jam roly poly recipe I posted here before Christmas.

I filled it with raspberry jam and some dairy free chocolate butter-cream.

I think the empty plate answers the question as to whether or not it was a hit with the boys!

~ Scones.

I didn't make these gluten free as I haven't had much luck in the past with gluten free scones! 

We had these with jam and creme fraiche for supper one night.

I would have liked them to rise a little more, but they tasted delicious. Next time I'll just leave the dough thicker when I'm rolling them out!

I am so loving this new challenge, as are the boys' tummies!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Recipe of the Week - Secret Heart Cake (Gluten & Dairy Free)

If the way to a man's heart is truly through his stomach, then making him this cake for Valentine's Day is definitely a step in the right direction!

I saw an idea for a similar cake online at Christmas time, with a Christmas shape running through it, and thought that any other shape would work just as well. Valentines day seemed like a good excuse to try it out, using a love heart shape.

I'm more than a little pleased with how it turned out!

You will need to set aside a couple of hours to make this cake, although it isn't really all that labour intensive. A lot of the time is taken up with the cake baking in the oven so you can go ahead and do something else.

You could make this up using any loaf cake recipe, like a Madeira Cake, but I used my Lemon Loaf recipe, which is what I'm going to share with you here.

You need to make double the amount of mix that you would make for your usual loaf cake recipe, so if you are wanting to make just the one Lemon Loaf rather than the heart cake, then simply half the amounts below.

You will need:
8oz dairy free margarine
10oz sugar
2 eggs
1 cup of soya milk (or other dairy free milk)
16oz Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
rind of a lemon
pink food colouring

for the topping:
juice of the lemon
3-4 tbsp sugar

you will also need a lined loaf tin and a heart shaped cutter.

Part One
~Beat the margarine and sugar well in a mixer, or with a hand held mixer, until it looks light and fluffy.
~ Meanwhile beat the eggs & the milk together then mix the flour & the lemon rind together.
~Add a little of the egg mix to the butter/sugar mix, beat well and then add a little of the flour mix, beating well again.
~Keep alternating a little of each of the two mixes until everything is mixed together.
~Take about half of the finished mix and add to another bowl.
~You now have two equal bowls of lemon loaf mix.
~To one of these bowls add the pink food colouring and mix well.
~ Pour your pink mix into your lined loaf tin and bake at about 190C for around an hour. You might want to check it after about 50 minutes though, depending on your oven. When it's ready, allow to cool on a wire rack for about half an hour or so.

Part Two
~Once your pink mix is cooled enough to handle, slice it up as though you were going to serve it. 
~Take your heart shaped cutter and cut a heart out of the middle of each slice.
~Re-line your loaf tin and add a small layer of the plain coloured loaf mix to the bottom.
~One by one, add the hearts, standing upright on their points, in a line until the tin is full.
~Use the rest of your plain mix and fill in the gaps down the side of the tin and then cover the top too.
~Put back in the oven, this time for about 30-40 minutes. It will be nice and golden on the top and a skewer stuck in the side (not in the middle because remember the middle bit is already cooked!) will come out clean.
~When you take the cake out of the oven, mix together the topping ingredients and drizzle over the top of the warm cake.
~Cool down again on a wire rack.
~Best served with a nice cup of tea and your true love!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Pancake Day

We celebrated Pancake Day yesterday in the same way we do every year.

Cooking up a batch of pancakes (technically, crepes, as pancakes are thicker and smaller) and having fun seeing who can flip them over the best without dropping them.

It all started off quite calm and civilized with Calum & Alasdair's turns.

Then it all got a bit more farcical when James and David took their turns! But that's all the fun of it.

David filmed James' turn, which may be quite obvious when you watch the clip! You can also hear that granny was still here too, even though you can't see her.

I'm curious though, is Pancake Day just a UK thing? I thought maybe it was, but then I thought maybe not since it's for the start of Lent, which is obviously not just a UK thing!

Do let me know!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Weekend fun - Sports and Heroes

We were very kindly offered a couple of free tickets to the 6 nations, Scotland v Italy rugby match on Saturday.

Only a week earlier David (7) had watched his first rugby international on the TV (England v Scotland, if you don't know the score, don't ask!) and he absolutely loved it! He was so animated watching the whole thing, yelling at the screen like a proper sports fan. Calum (10) also enjoyed watching the match, he just doesn't get quite so openly excited as David does! James (13) just isn't really into watching sports at all. Isn't it funny how different they can all be?

So, both David and Calum were super excited to hear they would be going to Murrayfield to watch the match.

I'm pretty sure daddy was quite excited too!

It was a really exciting game for them to watch, made even better by the fact that Scotland won! Not just in a scrape through kind of way either, but rather convincingly, 34-10.


On Saturday evening my beloved and I took advantage of the fact that my mum is down on holiday with us just now and escaped for a child free dinner out.


Despite a great day out at the rugby and an evening in with granny, the highlight of the weekend was yet to come!


On Sunday morning we sat down in church and noticed that sitting behind us was one of the players from the Scotland rugby team - Euan Murray. He was visiting our church as he is good friends with another couple in the church.

Our boys, admire Euan, not just for his playing abilities, but for the stand he takes. He doesn't hide the fact that he is a Christian and he refuses to play rugby on Sundays. He has taken, and still does take a lot of hassle for this stand from others in the world of sport and beyond. And yet, he proves his worth as a player and is chosen for the International team.

In today's culture, where dubious 'celebrities' have such an influence over our youngsters, I think it is so great that someone like Euan is out there taking a stand. He isn't outspoken about his beliefs, but will talk openly about them if asked.


He was so nice to the boys when they spoke to him over a cup of tea after the service, taking a genuine interest in them and signing their church news-sheets. He also gave James and Calum verses to memorise.


I often think about how tall James is looking these days. He is less than a head smaller than me now, but standing next to Euan he still looks pretty small!

Alasdair, as is usual with new people, took fright and refused to go in the photo.


Friday, 8 February 2013

Mary Berry's Baking Bible Challenge

This week I bought a book I have been after for quite a while. 

It's a cookbook, of course, written by perhaps the nation's most loved of cookery writers/presenters/judges - Mary Berry.

It's not just me that's a fan in this house, the older 3 boys all love watching the Great British Bakeoff. I am not allowed to watch an episode without them here, and this last couple of weeks they have really enjoyed watching the documentary The Mary Berry Story.

So, I decided to set myself a wee challenge.

Since, you know, looking after a household of four boys and a hard-working husband just isn't enough to do really.

Seriously though, this isn't a tricky challenge, and one that everyone will benefit from.

I decided that since Mary Berry is the Queen of home baking, I would try and bake my way through her Baking Bible. 

That's a fun challenge, right?

Some of the recipes I will adapt to be allergy free, others I will do as written. I have only come across one recipe on my quick flick through that is quite nutty, and I may just give that one a miss. Given the number of nut allergies in the house I don't really like to cook with them any more!

We have already made a start, and the boys have been willing helpers. Calum (10) made the flapjacks entirely on his own. We used dairy free margarine and added dairy-free chocolate chips (the chocolate chips were one of Mary's alternatives to the basic recipe) and they were a hit!

James (13) helped me make some profiteroles for pudding another day.

We served these with our own chocolate sauce recipe (equal quantities of chocolate and cream, melted in a pan). They didn't last long!

I'm hoping to get a recipe or two from the book baked every week, and then I will share the photos of the results (which, judging by the first two we have tried look to be super yummy) on here.

I need a little help from my lovely readers though.

Can anyone think of a catchy name for my challenge?

I'm thinking that the Mary Berry Baking Bible Challenge doesn't exactly roll off the tongue!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Burns night 2013

Those of you who have been following our houseful of boys for a while now may remember that every year my husband's sister hosts a Burns Supper. (Last year's one can be found here and I explain a little more about the tradition there too if you haven't heard of it!)

This year it took place on Saturday evening, a week after the official date for the celebration.

There were around 30 people crammed into my sister in law's house, and everyone enjoyed an evening of great food (starting with haggis, of course), good music and good company. It is so nice to catch up with old friends and these sorts of things.

The pudding table is always a highlight too!

My contributions to the pudding table were:

a wheat & dairy free chocolate saltire cake,

...and an old fashioned dumpling.

My grannies both made great dumplings, or duffs as they are known on the islands, so my ambition is to get as good as them!

Each year, once the food is finished, we all sing a selection of old Scottish songs. This year Calum had been practising hard, learning a few of the songs from the song-sheet so he could accompany us on his accordion.

Before that though, it was solo time. A couple of the other boys who were there recited Scottish poems they had learned, James played his trombone and Calum played his accordion. David was too shy!

Here is a wee clip of Calum and James doing their solos.

Then it was time for the sing-song.

A couple of the guys usually bring their guitars along to accompany the songs. Calum had never played his pieces accompanied before, so he was kind of thrown in at the deep end, but he did amazingly well. He kept the time perfectly and if he did miss a note or two he knew exactly where to come back in. I can see him entertaining at ceilidhs in the future!

I shan't bore you all with all the clips I took of our singing, just the one. And a rather fitting one too - Flower of Scotland.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Things I'm loving...

A few things I've been loving this week.

Spring still seems a long way off.

I imagine we have at least 6 weeks of winter ahead of us, so until the first signs of spring start appearing outside, it's nice to have a few touches of it inside.


These little daffodils were planted by the boys before Christmas.

I love my new mugs.

I had been admiring these before Christmas but decided against buying them. I'm glad I held off as I got them this week for less than half price!


Loving the playdough food that Alasdair has been making me.

These are 'biscuits with icing'.

James is still very busy building and painting the models he got for his birthday.

He's got a little assistant too, who he lets paint the undercoats.


I love how the boys love to help me with the food shopping each week.

The fact that they often get a treat in the cafe before or after may, or may not, have something to do with their enthusiasm :0)

Lastly, football mad David was finally able to join the football training that his older cousin goes to last week. He had to wait until he was 7 before he could join this class, which is for 7-9 year olds.

He absolutely loved his first week and then this week he came running out with the trophy for player of the week.

Can you tell how proud he is of it?!

Have a great weekend everyone!