thegrumblingtummy

"No love sincerer than the love of food"


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A Jaunt Around the Highland Show

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Last month we took a jaunt around the Royal Highland Show.  The sun was being a wee bit shy though thankfully the rain was kind enough to stay away from the proceedings on the day that we attended.

I have gone to the Highland Show for quite a few consecutive years now and the main focus of my attention is always the Food Hall which is impressive both in terms of size and quality. There are always plenty of familiar faces to be spotted and its great to stock up on products that I only seem to see from show to show.  Then there are the new faces with delectable foodie delights that I have never tasted before and that is always a real treat.

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The whole no sugar malarkey has not been going too well for me to be honest and events like the Royal Highland Show do not help, especially when businesses like THE BROWNIE BAR exist. The Brownie Bar was set up by two Geordie sisters and the business is still based in Newcastle (I am grateful for the distance as are my scales). They bake the perfect gooey brownies in the widest range of flavours. Everything from chocolate, bailies and nutella through to raspberry and almond are incorporated into their sinful treats.  I tried to walk past them because well – they are pretty evil.  But then I spotted an unusual item on their stand.  Was it a cookie or a brownie? Hell it was both.  They call it the Corker – a chocolate cookie with a gooey brownie core.  Who would do such a thing?  The bloody Brownie Bar that is who.  My resolve was dissolved as I wrapped my gob around a super tasty brownie cookie concoction.  The taste was amazing … like really amazing with only a small after taste of guilt.

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One of my favourite old timers at the Royal Highland Show are SUPER NATURE who do a wonderfully diverse range of flavoured oils.  The one oil that I am always very keen on and always stock up is Lime Oil which is just fresh, zingy and screams summer. Supernature cold pressed rapeseed oil is produced, harvested and bottled at Carrington Barns. Unlike most oilseed rape grown in Scotland, they choose a spring rather than a winter variety, which is planted in April and harvested in September. Its natural rapid growth means that there is no need for the use of any herbicides or fungicides.  All as natural as you can get – hence the name.

What on earth is it good for?  Well I am glad you ask.   Here is what I have done with my small bottle which has run out already (need some more).

  • I rub it on salmon or chicken before shoving in the oven along with other herbs and or spices
  • I drizzle it on all of my salads
  • I add it to cous cous when it is cooked to give a lovely zing
  • I pour some in a little bowl and dip pitta breads into it whilst nibbling on feta or halloumi
  • I marinade prawns in it before a bit of flash frying
  • And the list could I am sure go on …….. buy it and try it

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I am a big fan of SUMMER HARVEST and  I always plump for their oils and vinegars but this year I went feral and opted for a mayonnaise  – wild I am! I was attracted to their mayo largely because of the colour – a beautiful smooth yellow and I am also aware that my love of Hellman’s is probably not the healthiest.  Made with rapeseed oil this mayonnaise looks and tastes so, well homemade.  I would love to make mayonnaise but frankly I don’t really have the time and this is absolutely the next best thing.  In fact scrap that – this is much better.  It is smooth rather than thick and gloopy and tastes delightful.

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This week I made my friend a wee al fresco lunch of salmon salad drizzled with Summer Harvest mayonnaise and it was divine.

The guys behind Summer Harvest hail from the Strathearn Valley in Perthshire.  Everything needed to make the rapeseed oil used in their products comes from their 400 acres – from the crop growing to the pressing of the oil.

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My final pick of the pops is a company called Organic Blending who produce a fab range of organic sprinkles, spices, marinaes, gravies and stuffings from their HQ in Glasgow.

They were cooking up a storm from their stand at the Highland Show – chicken, onions and pepppers with one of their sprinkles, Organic Sweet Chilli Exposion.  This is described as a sweeet burst of organic chillies and peppers with a kick! It sure was.  I asked what else went into the dish they were preparing and the only other ingredient was a touch of olive oil.  Offered this heady concoction of good taste and time saving simplicity I was sold.  I have since cooked every week with this fantastic sprinkle – I have rubbed it on fish and I have done the do with the chicken and peppers and served it up with cous cous.  It is delicious and a great addition to the kitchen.  For somebody who does not always have the time to chop up chillies and garlic and a dizzy mix of other spices this does the job nicely.

I admit at some shows to writing about products I genuinely loved to taste but did not perhaps end up buying (you can’t buy em all) but this year every one of these products (apart from the brownies as that would be wrong) has landed in my cupboard and are either finished or well on their way.  Most of them are time saving ways to deliver REAL flavour to my cooking without me having to do all the work.  They are this cooks best mates and maybe they can become yours too ….. go on give them a try.


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CAIO BELLA ITALIA

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I may be sitting here in chilly drizzly old Scotland but my heart is still meandering along the shores of beautiful Lake Garda.  I was again lucky enough this summer to spend just over 2 weeks based in Peschiera Del Garda – soaking up the sunshine, watching the beautiful people and eating like a king.

Yes this is the Italian edition of the Grumbling Tummy, packed with mouth watering highlights from my trip.

THE VECCHIO MULINO BEACH RESTAURANT

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Most restaurants in the pretty towns and villages in Lake Garda are quite traditional in their style so it was lovely to experience something a little different when we visited Vecchio Mulino Beach Bar and  Restaurant.  This is only a 20 minute walk along the lake from the town of Peschiera – a walk that takes you past stunning homes, paddling spots, pedalos, swans and a little harbour.  The lakeside location is stunning!  There is a real buzz about this cleverly designed restaurant – it is airy and stylish “beach chic”.

The menus come in the forms of hard backed books with stunning full page photographs of each and every dish – it was a real page turner.  This stylish take on a menu made everything look so lovely it was hard to choose – but choose we did. I opted for salmon with pancetta covered in corn meal and accompanied by roast vegetables in thyme oil.  B chose stuffed anchovies.

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The highlight of my main course was the veg.  Slices of courgette, peppers and aubergine standing to attention in a beautiful glass jar and generously doused in fresh tyme and good quality olive oil – the aroma was tantalizing and the taste was none too shabby either.  The salmon was perfectly cooked and altogether this was a lovely balanced healthy meal.  I am always delighted when abroad to see fruit appear so liberally in the dessert menu and not just atop a chocolate torte but with pride as the main performer.  It takes the guilt away from having a dessert and I do wish British restaurants would follow suit.  On this menu there were some simple yet stunning fruits doused in a little dark chocolate  …… you need no more than that to please me.  Delicious!  The meal seemed healthy until wee GT got her dessert in the form of a GIANT candy floss.  Wonderful gimmick for the kids and unfortunately parents find it hard to keep their greedy paws away from it too.

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We were so impressed with this restaurant we returned there for our last meal, and despite there being a family of  dogs (the size of small horses) in attendance (with their owners of course) it was just as lovely.

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GRANITA ICE STATIONS

This is what keeps you alive as a peely-wally Scot tottering around Italy in a mini heat wave.  To the common man this is really a Slushy – but oh they do them so well in Italy.  I have no idea if they are abound with sugar and chemicals but they taste much more natural than the specimens we have here.

The flavours are fantastic – cherry, mint, strawberry, mango, melon and then of course the obligatory bright blue one (definitely chemical) which wee GT seemed to gravitate towards.

On a hot day they are nectar and on the day we decided a 5 mile lakeside walk in 84 degrees  was a good idea they were a life saver.

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FRESH FRESH FRESH

The fabulous thing about food in Italy is the freshness and simplicity of everything.  Brian ordered Tuna on our final day and what arrived was a plate of very simply char grilled tuna topped with toasted sesame seeds.  The tuna was was so fresh it was almost jumping off the plate.  Having only ever cooked supermarket tuna (shameful but true) I believed that it was meant to be a brown gray colour – isn’t it?.  Turns out this is not true – it is indeed meaty pink and mouthwatering.

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Veal is something which I remember eating as a young girl but as you know it is a meat which fell seriously out of favour in the United Kingdom.  Not so in Italy where veal appears on just about every menu.  One of the most popular ways to serve veal is with a Marsala sauce accompanied by some simple roast vegetables.  If you have not tasted veal it is  pink and tender with a sublime taste all of  its own – somewhere between pork and beef –  It is quite subtle.  The sauces in every restaurant were so fresh and intense and entirely lacking the glutinous texture of so many  encountered here. I loved being reunited with veal.  I know that in the UK  we had an ‘ethical’comeback in the form of Rose Veal, but it is not really common place and people are generally still quite anti-veal.  We are missing out.

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ICE CREAM and CREPES

You cannot write a blog on Italian food without writing about the nations favourite GELATO!  You don’t have to seek out ice cream in Italy, simply cast your eye down any street and you should be able to spot countless places to tempt you with their array of beautiful flavours.  I find it hard to get past creamy pistachio and wee GT opts for the disgusting blue number (what it is it about blue food and this child) every time but there is a serious number of tempting flavours to be had and as well as traditional ice cream there is frozen yogurt and an array of sorbets on offer. On a hot day to somebody with a sweet tooth there is nothing more pleasurable than wandering along the narrow streets of a charming Italian town happily licking an enormous ice cream.

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Uno Crepe con nutella is a much used phrase when in Italy.  Crepes are of course French , however the Italians seem to have embraced this sweet snack with gusto and there are crepes available on every street corner and on many menus.  The most popular filling by far is nutella and you know how I feel about nutella – yum.  The next best thing to wandering around a charming Italian town with an ice cream is wandering around a charming Italian town stuffing your face with warm crepe, gooey chocolate spread and a dusting of icing sugar.

I’M NOT GOING THERE

When your husband looks at you over a meal and delivers this line “this is so good it makes me want to cry” you know you are somewhere good.  Last year we stayed in a fairly awful airport hotel in Milan on the way  home.  The surrounding area of Milan’s Malpensa airport is not exactly ritzy and there is nothing much going on . On arrival we headed out to the only restaurant near the hotel and all I could say was thank the lord it was closed.  It looked less than appealing with its dirty white plastic chairs in the outside dining area. This shabby eatery looked more caff than restaurant.

Fast forward to this year when we were staying at a much better hotel and had done our restaurant research.  Trip Advisor praised a little restaurant called SARMANCANDA, awarding it many stars and rave reviews, and  so  the hungry travellers went on search of this oasis in a desert and lo what did we find – tatty restaurant from the year before.  This time it was very open and called SARMANCANDA.  We ventured in.  The place was absolutely buzzing with a mix of airport hotel folk and lots of locals. The interior was really pleasant and not overly traditional with a proper bar area and the kitchen in full view –  and let me tell you there was nothing manky about it.  It was actually a pretty romantic candlelit hideaway if it was not for the five year old at our table.

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We had a deluxe anti-pasto of meats and cheeses to start.  It was beyond fantastic  (I think this was where B delivered his killer line) There was pancetta which was edged in cinnamon, an array of other fantastic local meats and three or four stunning cheeses. We asked the waitress about the cheeses and she was amazingly knowledgeable but not having expected this level of fabulousness I wrote nothing down.  Sorry!  The platter was set off perfectly with honey and an intensely flavoured carmalised onion chutney as well as a mild mustard dip for the hams.

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Had I not wanted a pizza quite so much I might have tried some of their special meals,  which included rabbit, lamb and various amazing fish dishes.  But I had a pizza which was beautiful and Bs Calzone was the size of his head and tasted marvellous. However the star of the show as far as I was concerned was dessert.  In the more tourist orientated Lake Garda there is a standard fare of gateauxs, cheese cakes and ice cream sundaes in restaurants and I am not sure how much of these are actually made on the premises.  On this menu we found some beautiful home-made offerings including short crust pastry ravioli, filled with a ginger jam, delicately floating on a lake of vanilla, mint and thyme custard.  This dessert was nothing short of sublime and the decision to share one portion was a bad one.

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I would recommend this restaurant to everybody who finds themselves floating around the area of Malpensa airport in Milan – go seek it out.

EATING  WITH KIDS IN ITALY- A FINAL NOTE

The Italians are very child friendly –  forever ruffling their hair or tickling them under their chin whilst murmuring bella bambina.  Restaurants also welcome children with open arms but step away from the non tourist areas and you will not find a ‘children’s menu’. This is because in Italy children eat what their parents eat and don’t get the chance to opt for the dinosaur shaped nuggets and chips.  Now I am not being high and mighty about this as my child lived off  frankfurters, ,chips and air on holiday, I am in awe more than anything.  As well as not cow towing to fussy eaters in restaurants you will not find much in the way of kid branded food in supermarkets. No spaghetti in the shape of letters, animals or peppa pig characters (god knows we looked!).  Kids seem to eat …… real food.  They are also welcomed into restaurants for dinner when our pre-schoolers are entering the land of nod because they tend to eat with the family and if the family is going out to eat at 8 then hell so are they – and it is really nice.  They do have a siesta which helps them to stay up a lot later however I was more interested in the inclusion of kids in family meals.  All too often I rustle up something for the wee one that “she will like” before packing her off to bed so that I can have something devilishly hot and spicy to eat and some peace and quiet. Perhaps I can learn something from the Italian way. My little girl has serious eating issues due to a medical condition so we might not manage to steer her away from the sausage so easily but we will be eating out with her in the evening more at weekends and also making sure that we all sit down together at least a few times a week for a family meal. I am sure I am not the only one who could improve in this area.

So that’s it from Italy  ………………… next stop Dublin!


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SUMMER – SAY HELLO, WAVE GOODBYE

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Hello Summer we all cried just a week or so ago as we lolled around in sandals and packed our trusty jumpers away.  And then it seemed I had blinked and seven months had passed for we had snow ……. yes snow and hailstones.  Surely it must be December?

In the narrow chink of loveliness mini GT and I spent some lovely time in our garden.  We have a smallish paved noisy garden next to a big road but the nipper and I love it anyway.  First we had the “melty cheese” experiment which involved putting a piece of cheese on a plate and sitting it in the sun whilst looking at it intently to see what it would do (it didn’t really melt much to the disappointment of mini GT) Then there was playing with the hose – it makes me a bit ashamed as I know there are people with no water to drink  – but honestly 10 minutes of giving her free reign with a water hose is ten minutes of blissful peace!

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Then I decided to make home made ice lollies.  We had been told earlier in the week by the wee one’s  dieticians that we were not to worry a jot about a healthy diet but rather just get little miss to eat whatever she wants to get her weight up BUT I reckoned I could kill two birds with one stone in some home made lollies.

I picked up these cute lolly moulds from ASDA for the princely sum of £2.  Into the blender I added a handful each of strawberries and raspberries, a spoonful of honey, a little bit of gold top super creamy milk and lots of full fat Greek yogurt.  There are no real quantities, I just experimented till I had a smooth tasty mixture.  In the moulds it went and into the freezer for about 4 hours.  Now here is the trick – to get the lolly tray to actually give you your lolly you have to stick it in hot water for about a minute to loosen things off.

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The result was fantastic – I loved them as did my husband.  But what did little Miss think?

Well despite initial excitement (possibly because they were pink)  she handed a half eaten lolly back to me and gave this critique ;

“Its ok mummy I suppose but it would be better without all that fruit”

What are you gonna do?

My next trick with the lolly mould will be nutella and banana lollies (that will trick her) and also coconut milk lollies with mango.  You should give it a go as the possibilities are endless and lets face it they can keep in the freezer till the snow passes.


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Ardross Farm Shop

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Fear not – I have not given up on the Grumbling Tummy.  It has just been a very busy time what with getting a new job with a fab charity and all. Into my second week at Kidney Kids Scotland so feel I can breathe now and get writing again. To get me back into the swing I am posting about my trip to Ardross Farm Shop today which some of you may have already seen on the Crail Food Festival website as it was an assignment for them.
So here you go …… get ready for your mouth to water.  Once you have read this you will be beating a hasty path to Ardross or at least your own local farm shop if you live further afield.
I was delighted to be asked to be part of the Crail Food Festival blogging team again this year and even more delighted to learn that my assignment would take me to Ardross Farm Shop in Elie. I had heard Ardross mentioned for quite some time in rather hallowed tones and had always wanted to pay it a visit – well you know how much I love a good farm shop!
The rain stayed away on the morning the Cameron family headed up to Elie and we were all in fine fettle.  N was fixated on the possibility of seeing a cow and having a go on a tractor.  I was just – well – hungry and B saw the farm outing as an excuse to don his hunter wellies.
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The Pollock family have been in the farming business for generations, having moved east from Ayrshire to this stunning part of Fife.  They have a herd of very happy and healthy Stabiliser cows,  which may little bit smaller than some other breeds but they virtually calf themselves and are great at suckling due to a pretty stress free birth.  The calves get all the good nutrients from their mother right away which bears future rewards in terms of a robust immune system.  The cows at Ardross live their lives in the great outdoors,  grazing on nutrient rich meadow pastures or crops which are being produced on the farm itself.
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This is the second farm I have visited in the last year and what has struck me with both has been the emphasis put on the welfare and happiness of the animals.  It really is of paramount importance to the Pollock family that the herd are raised in a traditional manner in as stress free an environment as possible. I was interested to learn that when cows are reared in this way there is little need for the use of antibiotics – this just makes good sense to me.  The meat from the cows I met is made into a mouth watering range of roasts, sausages, burgers, beef olives and more. I will get onto the taste test soon but I can let you know now that it is damn fine.
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Of course it is not just about the beef here at Ardross – they also grow more than 50 varieties of vegetables,  and apart from one of two compromises their shop is faithful to the seasons and the veg is picked fresh every morning.  I learned a little about how unique this is and how old some of my super market produce might be by the time it makes its way onto my plate.  You don’t want to know but what you probably want to do is get ye to your local farm shop.
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The shop is award winning for a reason.  As soon as you walk in you are greeted with a riot of colour from the freshest and most inviting vegetable display I have ever seen.  The last time I saw fresh produce that looked this good was in the outdoor market of France or Italy when I have been on holiday.  It is a million miles away from the display of plastic wrapped ‘same size’ offerings in the local supermarket.
Ardross sell both meat in the chiller and a large range of frozen meat.  This is so that they can keep things as fresh as possible for their customers. As it was a while before we were heading home we bought a fair abundance of meat from the chiller.  Beef Olives were first in the basket – a favourite from childhood when I called them Biffalows. Junior suggested sausages (of course).  Burgers for the boy and some  beef to create a hearty stew.  To accompany our array of meat we were gifted an amazing veggie box which included a carrot which was taller than a bottle of wine!  Other goodies included a swede, beetroot, kale, cabbage and onion.  As well as their own produce there is also an array of goodies from  artisan suppliers – in went fudge, cheesy straws and some gourmet crisps.
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For those of  you who are thinking that this farm shop malarkey is ok if you have the money can I just tell you that the meat and veg at Ardross is  keenly priced making it affordable for all of us to eat good food.
They have come along way from a painted shed with a bell which sounded in the farm-house signalling to the family that they had a customer. Ten years on and the family (for it is indeed a true family affair) have not only a successful farm but a thriving farm shop on their hands.  Nikki who is at the helm of the farm shop has grand plans for expansion but her dreams are kept in check by her sister who is an accountant turned farmer,  and indeed one of the most exciting and interesting young farmers I have ever come across.  Anyway watch this space with regards to what happens next.
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So how did the food actually taste?  Fantastic.  I have here a picture of the stew I made, which would have been nice with any meat ( I am a very good stew maker) but was absolutely stunning with the beef from Ardross.  It was melt in the mouth and tasted like stew my granny used to make before we all went to supermarkets.  I included the carrot, onion and kale in the stew and on the side I made a celeriac and carrot mash with lots of crème fraiche and pepper.  It was beautiful.
This blog could last forever but I must attempt to wrap things up a little with some final observations.  It never feels to leave me in awe when I meet people who have so much passion for what they do, and that passion never fails to shine through in what they produce.  Rob, Fiona, Nikki and Claire are the most passionate family I have met  – they live and breathe their business and you can’t help but be infected by their enthusiasm.
So this summer I suggest we all reconnect with our food and good first  step is paying a visit to Ardross Farm Shop.  I may live 45 minutes drive away but I know I will be back.


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How I made friends with food again

Goats cheese salad

Goats cheese salad

The title sounds a little odd for a food blogger, but to be honest I had fallen a little out of love with food of late. I just couldn’t seem to eat what I loved without suffering consequences and so food was lacking its usual lustre.

I have as you know been on every diet under the sun. Compared to your average bear  I am quite greedy, I am (was) completely addicted to sugar and I was gaining more poundage every month than I could lose.  Most importantly however I was unhappy with it all and dreading heading to Italy – home of the slim, the healthy and the glamorous – feeling less than splendid.

Salmon terrine

Salmon terrine

I stumbled across the Harcombe diet in Waterstones and I won’t bore you with all the details but essentially I decided Zoe Harcombe’s regimen may suit me as it promised to banish my dreadful cravings for sugar.  There are three phases to grapple with.

Phase one is the most harsh and lasts for only 5 days.  This involves eating meat, fish, eggs and veg along with one portion of brown rice a day and a portion of live yogurt each day.  The results were for me dramatic – I lost half a stone in that time and after 5 days without any sugar I felt a little more in control. I also felt a brand new sensation – hunger.  At first I thought I must be starving myself but as it turns out this is what balanced eaters feel coming up to meal times. Being a constant grazer real hunger has become rather alien to me and so it took a while to realize that this was normal.

Lamb filled peppers

Lamb filled peppers

 

Phase two is where you introduce the rest of the dairy family back into your life as well as wheat and fruit – whoop whoop.  I welcomed dairy with verve and loved the fact that full fat is king on this way of eating.  Lovely creamy full fat butter,  creamy cheeses and sinful full fat greek yogurt and indeed double cream made me very happy.  For some reason I did not reintroduce wheat – not quite sure why to be honest but I have still not eaten pasta or bread.  The main rule in this phase is not to mix fat with carbs.  This led to me eating a pretty low carb diet which I was surprised to be happy with.  It also made me triple my vegetable intake which can only be a good thing.  The other golden rule is to NEVER eat processed food which again is not really a bad thing although vaguely impractical at times.

Rice cereal with fruit

Rice cereal with fruit

Phase three is about maintaining your weight and this is where I am at the moment .  Phase three rules are simply –  don’t cheat too much and don’t cheat too often. So you basically stick to not mixing and not eating processed food most of the time but hey ho if there is a party or you are at a mates house then chill a little and go with the flow. The not mixing rule is easy at home but boy oh boy it is a royal pain in the ass when you are eating out so glad to be able to relax on that a bit –  I guess this is the old 80/20 rule.  I have genuinely loved eating this way as an average day can look like this, Porridge with banana, cinnamon and oat milk  (this is a carb breakfast) then a lovely goats cheese salad for lunch (a fat meal)  and in the evening I might eat something like lamb kofta with a huge salad and halloumi followed by berries and double cream (fat meal heaven).  And I lose weight on this!!!!

More berries and full fat yogurt

More berries and full fat yogurt

So anyway I am happy and eating well and feel hugely more energetic and healthy. It is the first diet that is sustainable for me yet like an alcoholic I still find sweet treats an issue and there is always an element of willpower going on.  Every diet says that it is not a diet but a lifestyle change but to be honest I think that is a pile of poop.  This is a diet of sorts, though not one that counts calories, points or any other odd measurement BUT it does take a certain amount of will power.  There has been the odd slip up but at last have found a diet that is enjoyable with good results so clambering back on the wagon has not been so onerous.  I have lost a stone in a month and am delighted with that and shocked at how little effort it took.

Low carb moussaka

Low carb moussaka

The pictures throughout the blog are a selection of the food I have been eating on this diet – not too shabby don’t you think.

I envy friends who just manage to eat healthily without a second though but that didn’t work out for me in the end and so this is my new way of eating and I hope that I can keep it up.

Italian delight

Italian delight

 


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Farm Shop Bliss in Dumfries and Galloway

LOCH ARTHUR CAMPHILL COMMUNITY AND FARM SHOP

Loch Arthur website

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To the passer by Loch Arthur Camphill Community is a beautifully designed farm shop and restaurant, full to bursting with delicious local produce and home baking,  but you need to look closer to get the essence of what this wonderful venture is all about.

Camphill is an international movement of communities designed to meet the needs of children or adults with developmental disabilities,  through a combination of communal living, the arts and work on the land. There are over 100 Camphill communities worldwide including this one in beautiful Dumfries & Galloway.

Chinese whispers were afoot when we visited Loch Arthur- turns out they were expecting some loggers rather than bloggers!  Still makes me smile.  We were not required to cut down any trees thankfully.  Instead we took the weight off our feet in the bakery and listened to the beautifully told story of this very worthy venture.

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The guys at Loch Arthur started making cheese in 1985 to feed their community from just four cows.  As it turned out they were rather good at it and as word spread they realised that there was a market for their produce.  Fast forward and here they are producing 6 award winning cheeses plus delicious creamy yogurt from their purpose built creamery.  It is fair to say that they have come a long way.  I (of course) bought some cheese.  I plumped for the tangy yet creamy CRIFFEL cheese which has a list of awards as long as your arm.  It is produced from unpasteurised, organic cow’s milk and it reminded me of a lovely feta.  When I got home I had it with a warm lentil and beetroot salad and it was absolutely delicious.  The rest of the cheese was inadvertently nibbled into obscurity – lush!

The clever people at Loch Arthur didn’t stop at cheese.  They also have a bakery producing everything from a basic wholemeal to rye bread with caraway, a butchery which prepares meat from their own an neighbouring Biodynamic farms and they also sell their home grown fruit and vegetables. Not forgetting their own chutneys and home baking for the shop and cafe.

What started as a very small and rather inaccessible shop has morphed into a large, beautiful and well thought out space which enables you to see the community at work.  They sell a huge range of products and I was like a kid in a sweet shop.  I bought some Roc juice which is so lovely and makes the effort of drinking water much more pleasant, some beautiful organic set honey (banned for the moment due to the diet – grrr), two bars of Montezuma dark chocolate with lime and sea-salt (OMG!) and some chutney made by the folk at Loch Arthur.  Some fudge may also have sneaked into my shopping (no self control).

Next stop  …….

KILNFORD BARNS FARM, SHOP AND RESTAURANT

Kilnford Barns website

 

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This is possibly the foodie highlight of the bloggers weekend for my grumbling tummy.  There is something very special about this place which has been run by the Rome family for 200 years. The naturally raised Galloway cattle, pigs and sheep have the freedom to explore the open fields and like the coos at Cream O’ Galloway, their welfare is paramount.

I am just going to cut to the chase here and focus on  a truly memorable meal.  On our fabulous  itinerary it stated that we would enjoy soup and sarnies at this venue which I was looking forward to BUT having looked at the menu I did have pangs of longing for some of the other offerings on the menu.  So I was grinning from ear to ear when the waitress told us we had free reign on the menu. The world was my oxter!

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The spacious wooden restaurant has a specialist grill menu which showcases their own meat. To me “Outdoor Reared Pork with Apple Slaw and a Bundle of Neep Scratching” sounded simply irresistible.  What the hell was a neep scratching?  I had to find out.

This is one of these elegant yet rustically simple meals that I just adore.  A homemade creamy slaw topped with the most exquisite piece of marinaded char-grilled pork with crispy shavings of turnip nestled on top.  The meat was amazing.  Smokey with another ‘secret’ flavour coming through. The slaw added lots of texture and the sweetness of the apple complimented the pork delightfully.  I was in heaven! When meat is this good there is no need for it to be hiding in a sauce it needs to just be.

I was told that due to recent laws the guys at Kilnford would have to tell me what was in their  secret marinade (although not how it was put together).  Some things are better off remaining secret … don’t you think!

After lunch, a quick tour and a wee shop I found myself enquiring just how long it would take to drive from Dunfermline to Kilnford Barns, and have decided that for a meal like that it is well worth a bit of travelling.  Just need to persuade the Chauffeur.

Taste Our Best is a new quality assurance scheme from Visit Scotland which ensures that you will eat quality ingredients of Scottish provenance and the freshest seasonal produce.  Taste Our Best establishments strive for sustainability, sourcing food locally to insure they keep food miles to a minimum.  From field to fork – you will know where your food came from.  To find out more visitwww.visitscotland.com/tasteourbest

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Coos and Ice Cream in Dumfries and Galloway

 

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Last weekend I was privileged to take part in a bloggers trip to celebrate all that is good about food and drink in Dumfries & Galloway.  As well as being able to spend some child free time with my best friend, I got the chance to meet some truly lovely fellow bloggers and a whole bunch of inspiring businesses across the region.  There are great things happening in Dumfries & Galloway people.  It is impossible to cram all of my discoveries into one blog,  therefore I am going to feed you in bite sized chunks over the coming days and weeks.

First of all let me tell you about one of my favourite parts of the grand trip – the Cream O’ Galloway farm tour and tasting.  The visitor centre is not open until Valentines Day but they opened up especially for us (felt like a VIP) to tell us all about their business.  Wilma Finlay and her marketing guru Helen led the tour with an awe-inspiring passion for their business.

The Finlay family have been farming in this beautiful spot since the 1920’s.  In the 40s they produced  farmhouse cheeses to help feed a hungry population.  However the mass production of cheddar in the 70s put a stop to that and they moved their focus onto milk.  Fast forward a decade or so when the Finlay family became passionate about organic farming and since the early 90s have been producing food in a more ethical and sustainable way.  Using their milk they have become one of the leading artisan ice cream makers in the UK.

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One thing that strikes you when you hear Wilma and Helen speak is their passion for the welfare of the herd and how that affects the quality of their produce.  I will admit that the vasectomised bull wandering around ‘having his wicked way’ with the cows on our visit was somewhat distracting but I still managed to learn a hell of a lot. I know you are keen to hear about the tasting but bear with ……  I need to share just how amazing Cream O’ Galloway is and it is incredibly important to find out a bit about where your food comes from.

They have a small herd and boy do they care about the welfare of these wee coos.  They are staging a quiet revolution in dairy-farming by trying their damnedest to keep the calves with their mums so that they can wean naturally whilst still milking the cows.  Cows normally are removed from their mothers after just one day and most conventional dairy farms think they are down right bonkers.  I think they are brave and fabulous!  They went all out with this theory on a 6 month trial and although it cost them dearly due to the massive amounts of milk the hungry wee buggers drank, it did convince them that a modified version of the model had to come to fruition.   The herd were happy, confident and less aggressive.  Their determination to make this happen in the future is brilliant and I can’t wait to find out how it goes.

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OK on to the tasting.  I was as happy as the proverbial pig in …. to be able to taste a whole range of Cream O’ Galloway ice creams.  The selection we were tasting all had a Scottish theme, celebrating the best of our food heritage. On offer in more than generous tasting pots were Raspberry, Cranachan, Sticky Toffee pudding, Salted caramel, whisky honey & oatmeal and of course vanilla.  I was in heaven, it is just the creamiest most gorgeous ice cream and is wholly responsible for putting my plans to ditch sugar on the back burner.  As one of my fellow bloggers commented “this is how ice cream should taste”. Every new flavour seemed to beat the last and in the end I was confused in the most pleasurable way.  I think however looking back that I may like to take a large pot of the whisky honey and oatmeal into a room armed with only a spoon and polish off the lot – sugar be damned!

There are absolutely no nasties lurking in this ice cream, only high quality natural ingredients – no artificial flavourings or colourings.  Their pasturised organic milk simply creates the creamiest ice cream I have ever tasted.

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Ice cream was expected, cheese was a wee bit of a bonus.  Cream O’ Galloway have gone back to their roots and have started to produce cheese again.  There were three of their 6 delicious cheeses on offer for tasting –  Rainton Round, Laganory and Carrick.  Laganory won the day for me and there is a big block of it in my fridge at the moment.  It is medium strength but with a lovely clean tang to it.  Rainton Round was a beautiful creamy cheese but perhaps a little bit too delicate for my palate – lovely all the same.  The Carrick was also a winner – bursting with sweet flavour.  It is lovely to see Cream O’ Galloway go back to their roots.

I think the reason that this business impressed me the most was the amount I have learned.  I have never really thought about the welfare of dairy cows before and just take my milk and indeed ice cream at face value. But most of all I was inspired by the sheer passion of Wilma Finlay and her team – and of course it tasted bloody marvellous too.

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Next up on the Dumfries and Galloway food extravaganza is the trip to Loch Arthur Camphill Community and the wonderful Kilnford Barns Farm Shop.

By the way you will find more on Dumfries and Galloway from the other bloggers on the trip.  Read their blogs on .  www.laretour.co.uk and www.thecosytraveller.co.uk.

Year of Food and Drink Scotland 2015 is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland and Scotland Food & Drink.


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Boo to Winter and other Smoothies

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I  am slowly emerging from the food fest that was December and have spent a week eating cleaner and leaner.  I have been trying to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in my diet and limit the sweets, biscuits and chocolates.  I was doing rather well until I was forced to exterminate a packet of Thornton’s chocolates one afternoon after attempting to consume ‘just the one’.  It took another four chocolates and creeping guilt to realise that drastic action was needed – chocolates meet bin.

Smoothies are a good way of boosting your fruit and veg in a rather pleasant fashion and this week I came up with a couple of concoctions which hit the spot. ‘Boo to Winter’ has tropical notes and if I wear a t-shirt and close my eyes in a centrally heated room whilst drinking it I can go someway to banishing the winter blues.  The ‘Avo-Berry’ Smoothie is ridiculously creamy due to the inclusion of avocado and a great way of getting something green into the wee grumbling tummy.

BOO TO WINTER

Chopped up flesh of one mango (I actually used a packet of  fresh mango from the supermarket chiller)

One banana

Cup of coconut milk

Half a cup of natural yogurt

Blitz and pour

(this is not too thick so good with a straw.  If you like your smoothies thicker then add some extra banana)

 

THE AVO-BERRY

One banana

Cup of blueberries

Cup of yogurt

Half an avocado

Blitz and pour

(this is a thick one – rather like a really creamy yummy yogurt.  If you want it a bit thinner and straw friendly add a splash of water or milk to the mix though not too much)

 

 

 

 


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SANTA BABY …..

20141205_133450Dear Santa

I have mostly been a good girl this year.  I say mostly as have been a bit grumpy at times.  Eaten far too many cakes and moaned lots about the consequences.  I perhaps have been guilty of sloth on more than one occasion but I have really tried to keep up some semblance of an exercise regimen as best I could, so enthusiastically that I punched my own nose in combat last week. I have generally been nice to most people though poor B deserves a medal for putting up with me sometimes.  Och I know it’s a bit late in the day Santa and I know I am far from perfect but surely you have some helpers on the ground who can dash around and do the do with these fantastic foodie treats.

BLANQUET DE LIMOUX – around £10 per bottle

 

http://www.blanquette.co.uk/

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet me tell you a funny story. A few years ago we were holidaying in France and had the good fortune to visit a restaurant in the gorgeous town of Limoux. It was called Maison de la Blanquet and was awash with the famous sparkling wine of the region Blanquet de Limoux. It was pink, it was fizzy and it was lovely. We purchased a couple of bottles from the shop below the restaurant and headed back to our Carcassonne base. I was surprised to find that this was not on sale in the local large supermarket Mono Prix and convinced myself that this was some rare brand of fizz that could only be found in one tiny corner of France. What a find! So I cradled one of our bottles all the way back to Scotland to gift to my best mate – what a rare and wonderful present. Whilst doing the weekly shop a few days later and still feeling rather pleased with myself I spotted the lesser spotted Maison de la Blanquet – IN TESCO. I did feel a little bit silly BUT the silver living to that cloud is that is simples to get my hands of his lovely fizzy wonder. It may be easily available but I would still love Santa to bring me a whole case for my pleasure.

LE CREUSET

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http://www.lecreuset.co.uk/

When I was younger Le Creuset was the watch word in quality cook wear and crockery. It was a status symbol and as such was aspirational to a novice cook whose entire cooking collection hailed from Ikea.

Le Creuset has been making their premium quality cast iron cook wear since 1925 in northern France. Each piece is hand crafted and made from an individual sand mould which makes each piece unique – it is basically art! The big bonus is that you can put it in the hob AND the oven. Despite my enthusiasm as a cook such fandangled products seem to have eluded me.

I have no idea where the reassuringly heavy and long-lasting Le Creuset brand sits today but for me it still feels more than a little special. For some reason however I still do not own a single item. C’mon Santa I think I have been good enough now to deserve this.

Firstly I would like the casserole dish (22cm) in teal which you can get your helpers to dash to John Lewis for  – £108. Secondly I would love the adorable soup bowls also in teal and also from John Lewis (£33 for two). Given my enthusiasm for soup I think I am worth it.

RICE COOKER – £28.99

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http://www.currys.co.uk/

I am monumentally bad at making rice. I have been known to claim that we are having special sticky rice with our chilli. Nobody is fooled though they are very good at smiling politely. I have resorted to putting my cooked rice in the microwave to try to dry it out (limited success) and also to making rice using Uncle Ben’s boil in the bag and hiding the packets. I think it is time Santa that this cook was gifted a rice cooker.

I recently had a stonking gjrls lunch at my mate Kate’s house. The lovely Miss Kate made kedgeree and the rice was restaurant perfect. And how did she achieve this feat? A rice cooker of course. I want one – no actually I need one Santa. This is a must. I don’t need anything fancy either. This fabulous little TEFAL CoolTouch rice cooker in black is from Currys and is only £28.99. Pretty please.

COOK BOOKS

Both available from all good book stores

Okay Okay so I have enough cookbooks to open my own shop but its food porn and I am an addict. I may even make something from these books.

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First on my list this year is an oldie – Jamie’s Ministry of Food. As you know I love a bit of Jamie – ooo err Mrs. My mate Cat is a brilliant cook as she tells me and I quote “we just can’t get past Jamie’s Ministry of Food – its brilliant” Having eaten her wonderful food many times I am willing to trust her on this one. I also had a wee flick through whilst at her house and I did agree that my cookbook collection is incomplete without one.

 

 

 

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Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour is the second cook book on my list. The Observer Food Monthly Cook Book of the year winner 2014 is way up there on my foodie wish list. I adore food from this region but I am not sure if I can explain how good this book is better than Mr Raymond Blanc. Over to you Raymond:

“A lovingly-written homage to the enchanting dishes of the Middle East. Sabrina Ghayour takes the reader on her magic carpet to the ancient and beautiful lands of rose-scented sherbets…and to a table of abundant feasts, and of honeyed and spiced delights. What a fantastic treasure trove of good food! Within these pages, the cook will find recipes for tagines, soups, stews, salads and plenty of sweet treats. Through the pages of Persiana, Sabrina delivers the Eastern promise in its delicious, gastronomic form. If you want to eat like an Arabian Knight, then start here…but be sure to stock up on cinnamon, cumin and coriander… “(Raymond Blanc)

If Santa doesn’t bring me this then perhaps bring me a book voucher and I will buy it myself in the New Year.

VINTAGE KITCHEN DOUBLE OVEN GLOVE FROM NOT ON THE HIGH STREET £12.50

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www.notonthehighstreet.com

I am currently taking things out of my oven using a tea towel and I have the burns to prove it. I know these fancy expensive oven gloves that look like chunky cream mittens are fab for protecting you but lets face it, they aren’t half as pretty as this. The warm pinks, reds and teals this double glove will brighten up my kitchen no end.

This is made by a company called Ulster Weavers and having looked through their range I would also like Santa to pop the matching tea towels in his sack (£6.50 each)

CHOCOLATE

I am in a constant battle with myself over chocolate and other sugary treats.  The problem boils down to a basic lack of self-control when it comes to sugar. I am either trying to give up, or cut down and generally feeling guilty for failing 100% of the time.  I actually challenged myself last week to have one day without anything sweet.  I couldn’t do it.  I found it easier to give up smoking!  But Santa, despite my extreme love/hate relationship with sugar I would love some extra special chocolate in my stocking this year as it is Christmas which is an official amnesty  on sugar consumption.  I would like:

Artisan du Chocolat’s salted caramels – £14.99

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 http://artisanduchocolat.com 

OK they may be £14.99 but as far as salted caramels go these are the business.  The original and the best. “The balance of flavours – sweet, saline and mineral – and of textures – crunchy, liquid and velvety is what makes this famous creation so special”.  Am salivating!

 

 

 

Neideregger Chocolate Marzipan –  around £4

http://www.niederegger.de

chocolate marzipanB recently returned from a lads trip to Hamburg and brought back a box of this.  The marzipan comes from Lubeck which is rather famous for it and boy is it special.  The chocolate is perfect and the marzipan is not too sweet and light as light can be. This feathery almond delight bears no resemblance to the stuff we roll out for our battenburg cake.  Only problem is that it is so light that you can eat a whole box in one sitting without much problem.  I refer you to paragraph one in this section.

BREVILLE DAISY SANDWICH MAKER – £24.43

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www.amazon.co.uk

OK this is not exactly pushing the boundaries in terms of aspirational desires but there you go, I am a simple girl at heart.  I have had about five toastie machines in my time.  I go through phases of really needing to have regular toasties in my life, pick up a cheap one and then when the fad fades I ditch it.   Maybe its just the winter weather but I have a yearning for toasties again and I love the cow design on this model.  Its fun and frivolous much like the toastie itself.

 

All my fingers and toes crossed Santa

Love from Hazel xxx

 

PS  Will leave you a generous nip of single malt Santa

 

 

 


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Happy Birthday to ME – a Food Odyssey

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The first week of November is  always special.  Our wedding anniversary is on the 3rd and my birthday is on the 6th.  To mark 7 years of marriage and my being dragged further into middle age, we headed South to Cleveland where we were booked to stay for a two night break in the Kings Head Inn in the idyllic sounding Newton Under Roseberry.  One of the things that attracted us to this Inn was its proximity to North Yorkshire and in particular Whitby. Ah yes!  Whitby is where it all began.  It was the venue for B and I’s first proper date, it was where he proposed and where we celebrated our first wedding anniversary.  I have only ever been there in winter and I adore it.  Bet you are all thinking how romantic that sounds. It does doesn’t it?  Now factor in a four-year old and reconsider.

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After a long ……… very long drive we arrived in Whitby to eat at one of our top haunts, Humble Pie & Mash. Small but perfect, Humble Pie & Mash is located in a 16th century building and is brimming with vintage knick-knacks and an overall feeling of nostalgia. Music from old blue eyes made me instantly relax.  This restaurant sells a variety of wonderful short crust pies, served with the creamiest mash and peas on white and blue ceramic plates.  B opted for a traditional mince and onion pie whilst I went for a lamb and rosemary pie.  N meanwhile tried hard to do anything but eat her bangers & mash.  This meal was comfort with a big fat capital C.  It is not licensed but you can get a drink from the pub over the road and bring it across – how cool is that!  Humble Pie & Mash is simply one of my favourite places to eat in one of my favourite destinations.

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After our pilgrimage to the spot of the marriage proposal to the back drop of “I am tired, where is the toy shop” we headed to the cake shop to end all cake shops (almost). When you enter Sherlocks you are transported to the time of Mr Holmes and his sidekick.  The decor is simply superb.  It was the perfect place to finish our day in Whitby.

The weary travelers headed back to the Kings Head and checked in.  We discovered that the family room we thought we had booked was actually a family suite of two bedrooms and one bathroom.  I could not have been happier.  Anybody who has shared a room with their pre-schooler will appreciate my joy.

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The Kings Head Inn was originally two 17th century cottages before the Inn collection Group got their hands on it.  As with their other fabulous Inns,  they have managed to create the character of a traditional warm and cosy Inn whilst embracing contemporary design.

Outside there is a rather big hill called Roseberry Topping,  which I think sounds like something to add to your ice cream.  Anyway,  this big hill does lend a rather dramatic back drop to the whole affair.  Would you like some Roseberry Topping with your banana split?

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The menu is pretty extensive at the Kings Head and I was tempted by many things, however as I was still struggling to digest cake and pie I went light and smug with an asparagus and roast cherry tomato salad.  It was indeed lovely, crisp and light but I couldn’t help but look enviously at B’s potato skins with garlic mayo.  I  hate when you order potato skins and you are given half a tattie.  At the Kings Head what you get are actual crispy  potato skins which are crunchy and delicious.  I did obviously pilfer some from Bs plate, though not as many as I might have liked.

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The star of the show for me was the main event. Salmon topped with baby prawns in a caper and lemon butter, served up simply with new potatoes and salad.  With something as simple as this it is imperative that the fish is cooked well and this fish was cooked to perfection.  The piquant flavour of the capers married wonderfully with the butter and the little prawns were just the icing on this savoury cake.  As with my starter I felt smug but I didn’t have eyes for any dish but my own.  This is something I am going to try to replicate at home.

Tired  we trooped to bed armed with wine and gigantic meringues with cream and strawberries.  I valiantly managed half before slumbering off to the land of nod.

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Our second day was spent in York.  We whizzed round some tourist attractions, fitted in a bit of shopping and ate at Lucky Days.  I have talked about Lucky Days in York before.  Click here to read about it in more detail.  http://wp.me/p2NKGd-nX .  B was not totally convinced by the six salads deal at this popular lunch time stop but the sheer loveliness of the food won him over completely.  You choose one item from their deli menu and  you get six portions of their inventive salads to accompany your choice.  I selected a delectable filo pastry parcel filled with roast squash and goats cheese.  the salads included a wonderfully aromatic curried cauliflower.  B nailed it when he commented that all of the salads were completely unique yet none of them overpowered the others.  It is a completely balanced mix of flavours on one plate.  Very clever.

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Back at base it was time for another three course meal.  By this time  I could feel my waistline expanding and was thanking my lucky stars for packing my skinny jeans which have an elasticated waist.  I was a bit dubious about this purchase but sod it – it was a saving grace by the end of this weekend.

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There was no smugness involved in the choices for the final meal.  Fried chicken with a mayo dip followed by a great big massive hunk of pork belly complete with black pudding and then the darkest naughtiest hot chocolate fudge cake floating in a moat of cream.  I would note that it is pretty easy to eat healthily at the Kings Head and they are one of the very few restaurants I have come across who offer sorbet and fresh fruit as a dessert option.  Sadly I did not go down that healthful route and ended up rolling around in a state somewhere between insane happiness and abject guilt.

A fantastic weekend was had by all and the food was simply splendiferous.  I have returned a few pounds heavier but delighted with our fantastic weekend.

PS.  I am itching to get back to where it all began sometime soon.

Kings Head Inn: www.kingsheadinn.co.uk, The Green, Newton under Roseberry, Great Ayton, Cleveland. TS9 6QR, 01642 722318

Lucky Days:  1 Church St, York YO1 8BA, 01904 733992

Humble Pie and Mash: 163 Church St, Whitby YO22 4AS

 Sherlocks Coffee Shop: 10 Flowergate, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO21 3BA