Lovely Lauriston

Hi Friends.

How would you like to join me today for a stroll around the grounds of one of the prettiest castles in Scotland?  Oh good, I’m so pleased!  I promise that you are going to love it.

Today we are in Edinburgh at the oh-so-lovely Lauriston Castle.

Just a quick history of the castle:  Lauriston’s tower house – the original construction on the left – (see picture below) was built by Sir Archibald Napier sometime around 1593 and the pretty Jacobean-style extension was added in 1827.  Over the centuries, the castle passed through numerous hands until it came into the possession of its final owners – William and Margaret Reid.  The Reids acquired the property in 1902 and lived there until Mrs. Reid’s death in 1926.  Because the couple had no children, they left the castle to the city of Edinburgh under the condition that it be preserved unchanged.  And so the promise was kept.  The remarkable Edwardian interior, filled to the brim with their fine furniture and artwork, is now a museum maintained by the city.  For a nominal fee, you can take a guided tour of this home (uh, castle) which remains exactly as it was at the time of the Reids.  The manicured grounds, which boast a view of the sea and a stunning  Japanese garden are a real bargain – free!  Lauriston truly is a gem in Edinburgh.

The photos that follow are from Mr. C’s and my first trip to Scotland, which we took in the month of May.  The weather that day was magnificent.  I think you will see that with scenery like this, it was impossible not to fall crazy in love with the place.

I do hope you will enjoy today’s pictorial blog.

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As always, thanks for stopping by.  Your visits here mean the world to me.  Til next time…

Have a wonderful and blessed week, Friends.

Cheers,

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Recipe: Cullen Skink

Hello Friends,

Today’s recipe comes to you all the way from the great state of Florida!  No, not really.  It actually comes from the village of Cullen in Moray, Scotland.  I just had to go all the way to Florida to find the haddock.

I had been wanting to make Cullen skink soup for you for awhile and so I searched for the required fish at every single local grocery store here in Virginia.  None to be found, I was delighted when while on vacation, I spotted frozen haddock at the Publix in Panama City Beach, Florida.  I immediately bought two bags, packed them frozen and on ice, and took them back home with me in the car.  Using packaged frozen fish is probably not quite as good as fresh, but hey, be grateful for what you have.

So I’m guessing by now that you have realized that Cullen skink soup is not really made of skink.

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That’s a relief, huh?  The name kind of turned me off too at first.

What Cullen skink actually is, is a thick, Scottish soup made with the basic ingredients of haddock (a saltwater fish found in the North Atlantic), fullsizeoutput_114potatoes, and onions.  There are many recipe variations to be found, but the one constant is that the fish should be smoked.  Technically your haddock should be cold-smoked (imagine the flat vacuum-sealed packs of fish you find at the grocery store like lox), which means smoking it at less than 80 degrees.  You can find instructions for how to do this on the internet.  Since what I purchased was unsmoked, I turned to Mr. C to perform his magic at our kamado style smoker.

*Note:  We opted not to brine our haddock and to ‘cool-smoke’ over hickory chips at 200 degrees for about an hour instead. The end result was delicious – lightly smoked and only slightly cooked.

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Authentic Cullen skink is made with finnan haddie, haddock that has been cold-smoked over green wood and peat.

Once you smoke your fish, the soup is incredibly easy.  And so delicious!  Here is My Plaid Heart’s version of Cullen skink.

Ingredients:

2 – 10 oz. smoked haddock filets (we very lightly smoked ours at 200 degrees for about an hour); medium chop when cooled

4 small white potatoes, medium diced

2 leeks, medium diced

1 small yellow onion, medium diced

8 Tbsp. butter (I used Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter)

a generous amount of pepper; salt to taste

heavy cream-to taste

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How to make Cullen skink:

Step 1:  In a pot over low heat, melt 8 Tbsp. butter.

Step 2:  When the butter begins to simmer, add the onion.  Cook until soft 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  *Be careful not to caramelize the onion.

Step 3:  Add the leeks.  Cover and cook until soft, 1-2 minutes.

Step 4:  Add the potatoes, salt, and pepper.  Stir ingredients together, cover, and simmer for about 2 minutes.

Step 5:  Cover mixture with water.  Increase heat to bring back to a simmer.  Once simmering, turn heat down to low and let simmer for about 45 minutes (or until the water has boiled down below the tops of the mixture and the potatoes are soft).

Step 6:  Add cream to desired consistency.

Step 7:  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Step 8:  Add fish.  Bring to a simmer.

Step 9:  Garnish with chives and serve.  Serves 2-3.

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There you go.  Simple, hearty, and delicious!  If you decide to try this recipe, I would love to know how it turned out and what you think.  And my Scottish friends, I would also love to know how you make yours.

Have a terrific week, everyone.

Cheers,

20170929_090548

Holyrood Park

It was our first time in Scotland and the end of our trip.  After two weeks of near perfect May weather, our last day met us with a chill.  Rain came down, fog rolled in, and it was a precise reflection of our mood.  We were sad.  More than that.  We were downright melancholy.  For at that time we had no idea whether we would be able to return to Scotland.  Was this a once-in-a-lifetime thrill?  Did we just fall head over heels for a place that we would never again lay our eyes upon?  It is, after all, an expensive proposition to fly almost 6,000 miles and to lodge and live in a foreign country for two weeks.  And to my way of thinking, if we can’t go for at least two weeks, then why bother going at all.  It is a long, expensive journey to only take a small taste of the place.  And I don’t want only a taste!  I want a whole, heaping plate full.

Feeling glum, Mr. C and I decided to get out for awhile rather than sulk about our morning flight home.  So, we did a little shopping, attended a wonderful afternoon church service at Grace Church Leith (an overwhelmingly emotional experience for we two sad saps), and finally, as the weather cleared a little, we made our way over to Holyrood Park.

It. Was. Breathtaking.

It was magical.

It was bittersweet.

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St. Margaret’s Loch and the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel

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St. Margaret’s Loch

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Gorse covered hills

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Ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel

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St. Margaret’s Loch

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Edinburgh

Holyrood Park is a royal park located in the heart of the city of Edinburgh.  Covering an expanse of 640 acres, this gorgeous piece of earth sits adjacent to Edinburgh’s royal residence – the Palace of Holyroodhouse – and is just a short walk from the Royal Mile in Old Town.  The parkland is enormously popular with tourists and residents alike.  It provides a fantastic outdoor playground for fitness enthusiasts, photographers, nature watchers, and to those who simply seek panoramic views and solitude high above the busy city streets.  There are various paths that lead you through the park as well as Queen’s Drive, a paved road that loops up and around the perimeter.

*Note:  Some of the photos that follow were taken on a subsequent trip.  Thus, the sun and blue sky!

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Queen’s Drive

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Queen’s Drive

You’ll want your camera.  The views are splendid!

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View of the Firth of Forth

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View of the Pentland Hills

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Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle

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Edinburgh

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Dunsapie Loch as seen from Queen’s Drive

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Duddingston Loch as viewed from Queen’s Drive

The highest point in Holyrood Park is Arthur’s Seat, the remnant of a 350 million year old volcano.  It is the main peak of a group of hills which form most of the park. According to legend, it is said that Arthur’s Seat is one of the possible locations of Camelot, the castle associated with the legendary King Arthur and that that is how it came to be named.

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On the west side of the park, the Salisbury Crags – a series of steep cliffs – rise to a height of 150 feet.  They represent the true essence of the Scotland that is rugged and wild.

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Holyrood Park as seen from Pilrig Park

My favorite site in the park is the ruin of St. Anthony’s Chapel, which dates back to at least the 1400’s.  Only the north wall and a remnant of the west wall remain, but the secrets of a time long past are still held within its stones.

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Holyrood Park is such a lovely gem in the midst of a bustling city.  Are you beginning to see why I have formed an attachment to Scotland?  I have never met another place that fills my heart with so much joy.  And thank goodness that first trip was not to be our last!

I genuinely hope one day you can experience Scotland too.

Til next time, dear friends.

Cheers,

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