Off the Beaten Path: Redhouse Castle

Hello Friends.  Guess what?  It’s almost Friday!

Today I would like to take you to another ‘off-the-beaten-path’ place.  You probably know by now that those spots are my favorite.  There is something fun about seeing things that the typical tourist doesn’t know about.  Mr. C and I discovered this one completely by accident.  Today I’m going to take you to see Redhouse Castle.

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Redhouse is a 16th century castle ruin located about a mile from Longniddry in East Lothian, Scotland.  Mr. C and I were on our way to Tantallon Castle that day and as we whizzed by on the B1377, I remember shouting, “Wait!  Go back!  I think we just passed a castle!”  We turned the car around and sure enough, it was.  We were delighted to find that although on private property, the ruin sits adjacent to a small garden center with a lovely little tearoom.  We made a note to stop back by on our way home later that day.

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Despite sitting abandoned since just after the Jacobite uprising in 1745, Redhouse Castle remains remarkably well-preserved. The four-story, red sandstone tower house is missing its roof but the shell is still very much in tact, giving the visitor a sense of what it must have been like in its day.  The castle, which has been extended and altered from its original form, sits on a rectangular courtyard which once housed a garden within its walls.

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It is quite likely that during medieval times, Redhouse served as a hospital.  The property belonged to the Douglas family, however, the Laing family acquired it in 1607 – John Laing was the Keeper of the Royal Signet.

From the Laings, the castle eventually passed through marriage to the Hamilton family. But because of George Hamilton’s involvement in the Jacobite uprising of 1745, the property was forfeited and Hamilton – the last of his family – was executed for his part in the rebellion.   Redhouse fell into ruin, despite being purchased by Lord Elibank and then going to the Earl of Wemyss.

Today Redhouse remains privately owned which means it is not maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.  However, there is nothing prohibiting you from taking a peek at this fascinating piece of history.  (*Just be sure you understand that this is at your own risk.)

When you stop to see Redhouse, be sure to see the pretty things growing in the greenhouse and have a nice cup of tea at the tearoom.

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Redhouse Castle and the nursery and tearoom were a terrific discovery.  So glad we found ourselves on the B1377 that day!

Cheers,

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Burns Night

Greetings Readers,

Today is a big day in Scotland and for those of Scots descent around the world.  For today is January 25, the birthday of Scotland’s beloved national poet, Robert Burns.

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Also known as Robbie Burns, Rabbie Burns (my personal favorite), The Ploughman Poet, and the Bard of Ayrshire, Burns is one of Scotland’s most celebrated sons.  You may know him best as the man who first penned the words to ‘Auld Lang Syne‘.  And I’m sure you have heard the poetic verse: “O my Luve’s like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June”.  Perhaps you are familiar with Burns’ narrative poem, ‘Tam O’ Shanter’.  Or, maybe you have a fondness for one of Rabbie’s other 713 works (possibly more?), which range in topic from death and war, anguish and greed, from religion and politics, to love and sex (and many other topics in between).  There is certainly no shortage to choose from.  *Although archived and no longer updated, I discovered a BBC page dedicated to Burns that lists 716 poems and songs.  It allows you to search for works by title, season, theme, and year written.  Well worth a look if you are at all interested in Rabbie’s poetry.

Every January 25, Robert Burns is celebrated with the annual Burns Night Supper.  I have never had the good fortune to take part, but oh how I would love to!

So, what does a Burns Supper involve? Fun, I would imagine!

In a traditional gathering, after the guests are welcomed, the evening’s festivities commence with ‘The Selkirk Grace’ (written by Burns).


The Selkirk Grace

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it,

But we hae meat and we can eat,

And sae the Lord be thankit.


This short prayer is followed by the exciting ‘piping in of the haggis’, a procession that includes the bagpiper, the chef, the haggis itself -which is carried in on a silver tray, and the individual who will deliver a rousing reading of ‘To a Haggis‘ (also by Burns).  After this ‘address to the haggis’, a ‘toast to the haggis’ is given, followed by the meal – traditionally a soup (such as cock-a-leekie), haggis, neeps and tatties, and something sweet (such as cranachan or clootie dumpling).  And, of course, there is whisky!

The meal is followed by entertainment centered around Burns’ work, 20180125_101339recognition of his accomplishments and a toast to his memory, a ‘toast to the lassies’, and a ‘reply to the toast of the lassies’ (rather cheeky, I would guess).  Finally, the evening concludes with the joining of hands as guests sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

Truly, doesn’t this sound like fun?

To those of you who celebrate Burns Night, I would love to hear about some of your traditions.  How do you celebrate at home?  Do you gather with family and friends?  Or do you prefer to celebrate in a more public venue?  Do you make foods other than the ones I named?  I look forward to reading your comments!

I invite you all to join me next time, when I will look deeper into the life of this man -this extraordinary literary figure- who captured a nation and the world.

Happy Burns Night!

Cheers,

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Prestonfield House

Hello Readers,

Hope everyone is well.  Today we are going to hang out in my favorite city – Edinburgh.  I booked us a champagne afternoon tea at luxurious Prestonfield House.  So touch up your lip gloss, Ladies.  Men, grab your wallets.  A warm welcome, fine dining, and hospitality awaits!

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When Mr. C and I travel to Scotland (or anywhere where we stay more than two or three nights, for that matter), we always prefer to rent a private residence rather than stay in a hotel.  It not only allows us the experience of living like locals, but it’s so much more pleasant and economical. A rental provides all the amenities of home – a laundry facility, plenty of room to spread out, and perhaps best of all – a fully equipped kitchen.

Oh, now don’t give me that look.  What, you don’t like to cook when you’re on vacation?  Haha -that’s okay.  Me either, actually.  But, luckily for me, Mr. C does!  And on top of that, his culinary skills are sublime.  He’s definitely a keeper.

While we enjoy lunches out on days of sight-seeing, we eat every breakfast and usually every dinner in.  We save a good bit of money that way and it also gives us a chance to explore the local fresh food offerings, whether from Tesco or from one of the wonderful farm shops.

That said, we do make an exception for one or two extra special dining experiences.  It is part of what makes a vacation fun, after all.  On our trip to Scotland this past year – upon recommendation – we chose historic Prestonfield House for that experience, and booked a champagne afternoon tea.

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Prestonfield as viewed from Holyrood Park.

Called Priestfield until the late 17th century, the stately home sits on the former site of a wealthy Cistercian monastery that was founded in 1150.  Priestfield (as it was called) changed hands several times over the centuries.  Some of its former residents include:  The Earl of Carrick (the son of King Robert II); the powerful Wardlaw family; Walter Chepman (printer to King James IV);  the Hamilton family; and Sir Robert Murray.

Sir James Dick, a Lord Provost of Edinburgh, purchased the land and estate in 1677.  Sir James happened to be a Catholic during the ascendancy of Protestantism, and shortly after his acquisition, an anti-Catholic student protest resulted in the burning down of the original Priestfield house.  Following that event, Sir James enlisted the king’s architect, Sir William Bruce, to design a lavish replacement and he changed the estate’s name to Prestonfield.

Today, this beautiful home, which sits only about five minutes from Edinburgh’s city center, is a luxurious five-star hotel with just 23 rooms.  It boasts an opulent restaurant called Rhubarb and contains exquisitely decorated private meeting spaces.  Over the decades, Prestonfield has welcomed dignitaries, writers, artists, and celebrities alike.  Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Elton John, and Sean Connery are just a few of the folks who have visited.  And don’t forget me and Mr. C!

Though we did not spend the night or dine in the restaurant, we did thoroughly enjoy our splendid afternoon tea in the ornate Tapestry Room.  Our servers were very kind and attentive, the food, teas, and glass of Billecart-Salmon Champagne were delicious, and for a couple of hours I kind of felt like Lady Wendy.  I think that’s a feeling I could probably get used to…

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A variety of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet treats, and savory bites.

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Choosing our teas from their varied selection.

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The ladies’ room.  Seriously.

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Ladies’ room.

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A peek into the dining room.

I hope you guys have enjoyed our little excursion today.  I’ll close by sharing a poem about Prestonfield House, written by the one and only Benjamin Franklin.

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Cheers,

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“Why, Here Comes My Hot Toddy”…(Recipe)

[Fred:] Here she comes, down the street

[Bing:] My, oh my, ain’t she sweet?

[Fred:] Why, here comes my hot toddy

[Bing:] Over my dead body

[Bing:] I’ll capture her heart singing

[Fred:] Just wait until she get a load of my dancing

When I hear the words hot toddy I am always reminded of these lines from the song “I’ll Capture Your Heart”, sung by Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in the 1942 classic movie “Holiday Inn” (and consequently, I can’t get the tune out of my head).  In the movie, Bing’s character Jim and Fred’s character Ted are both in love with Lila.  In the song, Jim sings of his plans to win Lila over with his singing and Ted is confident that his dancing will win her heart.  As the movie unfolds, Lila ends up declaring her love for Ted and a broken-hearted Jim leaves town.  Jim soon meets Linda, however, after he books her to perform at his holidays-only live entertainment venue at the inn.  They fall in love and, of course, a newly dumped Ted shows up and also sets his sights on the lovely Linda.  It’s a funny, sweet film, one that I enjoy watching year after year.  I adore those old musicals, don’t you?

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Several days ago I came across a recipe in Scotsman Food & Drink for a Scottish hot toddy.  It is one version of this widely varied drink.  There is no standard recipe, but it is consistently made with some type of liquor (generally Scotch or bourbon), a sweetener (such as sugar or honey), a warm base (like water, tea, or apple cider), and lemon.

Since we’re having our first snow of the season today, it seems like the perfect time to give this festive, Scottish version a try.

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Here’s What You Need:

Glass with a handle (I prefer clear glass)

35 ml (that is, 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp) blended Scotch (non-peaty preferred)   *I used The Dimple Pinch 15 yr. old and it was delicious.*

1 Tbsp honey

4-5 oz. boiling water (enough to top up the glass but not so much as to water it down)

Whole cloves

1 lemon

Optional:  sugar, cinnamon stick, star anise

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Method (adapted):

  1.  Cut the lemon in half then cut a 1/4 inch flat slice from one of the halves.
  2. Optional:  If desired, rim the glass with sugar.
  3.  Add the Scotch and the honey.
  4.  Add the boiling water so that your glass is about 3/4 full.  *Adding more water will dilute the taste.
  5.  Squeeze the juice from one half of the lemon into the glass and stir.
  6. “Pin” several whole cloves into the flat slice of lemon and float lemon slice on top of liquid.
  7.  Optional:  Add a stick of cinnamon or star anise for extra flavor.
  8.  Curl up in front of a warm fire with a good book and enjoy!

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So what’s my verdict of the Scottish hot toddy?  Delicious, comforting, and cozy.  The perfect antidote for a cold, wintry day.  Enjoy!

Cheers to you,

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Recipe: Scones

Welcome back friends,

I feel like I can genuinely say that now.  I have connected with some of the nicest folks on here.  I’m so enjoying getting to know you through our shared interests and through our writing.

So, feel like cooking today?  After a hearty Thanksgiving dinner followed by a hearty post-Thanksgiving dinner of leftovers, I’m surprised that I do.  But all you have to do is say the word scone and I’ll start digging for my sieve.

The recipe that I’m using today is from a wonderful site I discovered a couple of years ago,  Eating For England.

Even though technically eat for Scotland, you will find that scones are an important component of tea time no matter which side of the border you find yourself.

Pronounced to either rhyme with ‘tone’ or ‘gone’, depending on one’s country and region, British scones are a completely different affair than what we commonly find in coffee shops and bakeries here in the United States.  Whereas our scones are triangular and tend to be very sweet and somewhat cake-like, British scones more closely resemble in appearance what Americans call biscuits.  However, even those two things are quite different. Our biscuits are rich and buttery and are often enjoyed with breakfast.  British scones are lighter, flaky, and have a touch of sweetness.  Sometimes they include fruit such as raisins or currants.  And sometimes they are savory, such as those made with cheese.  Scones are a basic staple of afternoon tea in England and Scotland.  They are truly delicious and I promise that if you give this recipe a try, you will not be disappointed.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Ingredients You’ll Need:  (makes 7-8 scones)

225g all-purpose flour

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2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

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4 Tbsp. butter at room temperature

25g caster sugar (I get this from The Fresh Market)

5 oz. milk

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1 egg for glazing

Your favorite jam and cream for spreading

*A good kitchen scale is invaluable when baking-especially for recipes with ingredients listed in grams.

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Step 1:  Preheat oven to 425°.

Step 2:  Grease a baking sheet.

Step 3:  In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

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Step 4:  Working as quickly and lightly as possible (and with cold hands), pinch in the butter with your finger tips until mixture looks like bread crumbs.

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Step 5:  Stir in the sugar and milk until you have a soft but firm dough.

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Step 6:  Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface (I use parchment paper, lightly floured).  Pat the dough into a circle about 1.5 cm (not quite a half inch thick).  Cut out circles.

*No fancy cutter here…I found that a Crown Royal glass from my cabinet makes the perfect sized circles.

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Step 7:  Place cut out circles on baking sheet.  Glaze the tops of scones with beaten egg.

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Step 8:  Bake 10-12 minutes or until they are well-risen and golden.  Cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes.

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Step 9:  Serve on a pretty plate with your favorite jam and either clotted or Devonshire cream.  And a nice cup of tea, of course.

Enjoy!

*I have never come across clotted cream for purchase here in the U.S.  So instead, I use a really good Devonshire cream that I buy from The Fresh Market.  I have always wanted to try my hand at making my own.  Maybe we can explore that in a future post.

For a description of the difference between clotted cream and Devonshire cream, click here.

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Cheers and happy baking!

20170929_090548

Wendy Tackles the Sponge (Recipe)

Umm, the cake.  I’m talking about the cake.  Why? What did you think I was talking about?  (chuckle chuckle)

I have long wanted to try my hand at a Victoria Sponge.  First, because I brake for cake.  Second, it is just so quintessentially English (although it is common to find this cake at eateries in Scotland as well).  It’s strange, but in all the times I have dined in Scotland, I never once ordered a slice of Victoria Sponge.  We’re going to remedy that today.

I researched several different recipes and it seems that each are pretty consistent, with just some minor variations among them.  Equal parts butter, sugar, and flour seems to be the common thread.  For my cake today, I decided to try a recipe by BBC Good Food (I chose a different mixing method and also chose a different filling).

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1997/classic-victoria-sandwich

Let’s get baking!

Step 1:  Set your oven and gather your ingredients

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Preheat oven to 190°C/ 375°F

*In this recipe, the sugar, butter, and flour are measured in grams.  I used a good kitchen scale to get precise measurements.

For the cake:

200 g caster sugar

200 g butter at room temperature

4 eggs, beaten and at room temperature

200 g self-rising flour

1 tsp. baking powder

2 Tbsp milk

For the filling:

1 C heavy whipping cream

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Your favorite jam

For the top of cake:

Confectioner’s/powdered sugar

Also known as a Victoria Sandwich or a Victorian Cake, the Victorian Sponge became popular during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901).

Step 2: Prepare your pans

Grease the bottom and sides of two 8″ round cake pans with butter.  Cover the bottom of each with a circle of oven proof/nonstick parchment paper.

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Step 3:  Mix together ingredients

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine caster sugar and butter (which should be at room temperature).

Beat in each egg one at a time.  Eggs should be at room temperature in order to prevent curdling of the sponge mixture.

Next, mix in the flour and baking powder.

Add the milk.

Beat the ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter.

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Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) and one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, is credited as the inventor of tea time.

Step 4:  Fill pans

Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake pans, smoothing the surface with a knife or spoon.

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Step 5:  Bake

Bake the cakes at 375° for 20 minutes.  Cakes are done when they spring to the touch and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.

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Step 6:  Turn out cakes

After cakes have cooled on a rack for 10 minutes, turn cakes out onto a sheet of parchment or other non-stick surface.  Gently peel off the parchment circles. Continue to cool completely.

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Even though the Victoria Sponge originated in England, you will find it served in coffee shops, tea rooms, and bakeries throughout Scotland.

Step 7:  Prepare cream filling

Beat 1 C heavy whipping cream and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract until you have whipped cream (I used our trusty Ninja but a hand mixer would work well too).

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Step 8:  Fill and prepare

Take one of the cakes (bottom side facing up) and evenly spread a layer of your favorite jam.  *I used Stonewall Kitchen-Black Raspberry Jam…my favorite!

Gently spread the whipped cream over the jam.  Top with the second cake (top side facing up).  Dust the top of cake with confectioner’s/powdered sugar.

Step 9:  Make a pot of tea, set a pretty table, and enjoy!

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So, what is my final verdict on the Victoria Sponge?

Oh. My. Goodness.

Delicious!  Definitely sponge worthy (sorry, couldn’t resist).

This cake is simple and quick to make, the texture is moist, light, and airy, and it isn’t overly sweet.  I’m really glad that I chose to make a whipped cream filling instead of the heavier sugar and butter filling.  It far exceeded my expectations.  Mr. C enthusiastically approved as well!

If you want to impress your friends and family, definitely make this gorgeous cake.  If you decide to make it, leave me a comment and let me know how it went.

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Happy baking!

Cheers,

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