Sunday, 28 June 2015

Luskentyre and Ullapool

Having just returned from an epic road trip around the Outer Hebrides and northern Scotland I can report that I have now ticked off two of the destinations on The List. The pins were of the specific places of Luskentyre Beach and Ullapool, and we did visit both, but the actual ideas behind the destinations were to go somewhere a bit different and further than I had ever been in the UK.

Previously we'd been as far north on the mainland as Inverness, through the famous Glencoe, honeymooned on Skye, I'd been to the Cairngorms as a child, and had spent many holidays in Fife. However, photos of the north Highlands looked, to me, as the more dramatic extreme and the "real" Scotland. Teamed with the wilderness of the Outer Hebrides, this trip to the north this trip promised to be one to be remembered.

It took some planning. It involved long drives, camping, a B&B, 2 hotels, a camping pod, a hostel and several ferry trips. But it was worth it. Inspiring, exhilarating, and tiring - but in a good way.

Luskentyre is on the south coast of Harris, Outer Hebrides. As with most places on the islands it can be found at the end of a long drive down single track road, which in this case offered glimpses of the golden sands ahead. There was a small car park at the beach access point, and a short walk took us through the sand dunes.

Luskentyre beach did not disappoint. I wasn't actually ready for what it actually was. Miles and miles of white sand tinged with golden hues - you couldn't actually see where the far end of the sand stopped. The sea graduated from blue to aqua marine to perfectly clear when it met our feet. With a few spots of seaweed here and there, and the rocks, the only thing to be seen on the smooth sand was our footprints. Not even the dull day and eventual rain could take away this amazing spectacle.

The Outer Hebrides were amazing. Each island with different characteristics, whether it is the beaches of each island, the wild flowers of Barra, the almost out of character flatness of Benbecula, the dramatic landscapes of Harris and the history of Lewis. We would definitely return again, hopefully for longer next time.

After our time on the Western Isles, we took our final ferry trip from Stornoway to Ullapool. We arrived soon after 17:00 and set the sat nav to the hotel. It was actually walking distance from the ferry terminal so we felt a bit silly, but relying on the sat nav took the hassle out of the landing. We stayed at The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool which was lovely. I'm not really going to write about the hotel here - but will shortly on Trip Advisor, but I'll just say that we were very impressed and are considering taking another trip up there for our wedding anniversary.

The next morning, before driving to our next destination, we took a leisurely breakfast in the hotel (I tried Clootie Dumpling) and then a stroll around the town after stopping for a few photos of the picturesque harbour.

Ullapool has a lovely collection of little shops and galleries, in particular a well-known bakery that supplies local markets which we tried, and a smokehouse. I understand that the bakery offers courses in the summer months and you can buy their products direct from the door of the factory. I say factory - it's not really, just that it is slightly out of the town on an industrial estate, and next door to the smokehouse. The smokehouse was closed on this occasion but the butcher near the ferry terminal stocked their products so we had a lovely lunch of hot smoked salmon, smoked cheese and garlic focaccia.
Scottish road trip food
Ullapool is a beautiful town and is the furthest north on the mainland we have been (we made it up to the Butt of Lewis on the islands), and offered a taste of what the north highlands has to offer. We then stayed at Poolewe further down the coast for a few nights, and the drive between them was stunning, as was the drive as we left Poolewe. I now feel that we have only seen a small snippet of the spectacular north Highlands and really want to explore more. Perhaps up to Caithness and the Castle of Mey, as well as the fairy tale Dunrobin Castle and the dramatic scenery and coasts of Sutherland.

So yes, two items/images have now been ticked off The List but doing so has created the urge to go further and to discover more of what the stunning wilderness of Scotland has to offer. I'm not sure whether this will result in additional items on The List but we will return to the area at some point, hopefully soon.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

No Nigella

Short post this time.
Just an update on the epic recipe book challenge.
This has been going quite slowly to be honest, but I am still plugging away. Here's a book to tick off: Nigella Express.

A while ago I fancied making donuts. I have done them in the past, and it is a bit of a faff really. A tasty faff, but a faff really.
I was looking through Nigella Express and came across the Donut French Toast recipe so I thought is was worth a go.
There was still a small level of faff, but nothing I couldn't get over and they were relatively successful. Until then i had never tried french toast, so this introduction was quite a good one. The only slight issue for me was that they were no donuts. Maybe one of our many other recipe books has a faff-free donut recipe...

One thing is for sure though. Mine were far less sophisticated or pretty as the illustration in the book, thus proving one thing: I am no Nigella.

Refined and sophisticated? Tasty though!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Recipe Books

This weekend saw the proper start towards the epic goal of cooking something from every recipe book we own.
I have started to plan this out, by reading through various books and noting down what I fancy doing. Either because the recipe is simple, or because its a dish I like but never cooked, something I think is do-able, something ambitious I fancy trying or because it was the first recipe to catch my eye when I first opened the book.
We have several Jamie Oliver books, but never actually cooked from them all. So this first recipe was from The Naked Chef book which I assume to be one of his first.

I halved the recipe as I was only cooking for the 2 of us and it said that it serves 4-6, and given the amount of lamb the recipe said, it looked like there would be plenty of left overs even with half the recipe. But an important thing to remember: When halving a recipe, halve everything. Yes, there was a mishap. It could have been worse though. It only involved the amount of salt used to salt the aubergines. (Whatever that actually, really achieves - I know the theory, but does it honestly make a difference?!) The overall dish was on the salty side, but it didn't ruin it - far from it, but it did perhaps contribute to a thirst in the middle of the night!

I won't copy out the recipe here, just note that it was lovely, and that I have copied the recipe out elsewhere...

This also links to something else on the list. To get back writing the food blog we started years ago, before the little person was born - and we actually had more time to cook things, and eat out more often than we do now. So double ticks!

This blog won't now become a duplicate food blog. I will not be chatting about each recipe we try on the recipe book mission, but I might note down the disasters, any interesting finds, and interesting books (Cooking With Men In Mind anyone? Yes I really do have this book - for its novelty value actually - honest). But thought I'd kick-start the recipe book with this entry as it was particularly tasty, warming and just what was required last night for tea while it is a bit snowy out there.