St. Abbs

Welcome back to all!

My fellow American friends, I hope this long Memorial Day weekend and unofficial start to summer finds you among family and friends, barbecues, and a cold one or two. In our fun, though, may we not forget the reason we celebrate this important holiday – maintaining gratitude in our hearts for the sacrifice of our soldiers and remembering always that we are only a land of the free because of the brave.

To those who gave all…

thank you.

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So today we are going to head down to the county of Berwickshire, along the southeastern coast of Scotland to the pretty little fishing village of St. Abbs.

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Ebbcarrs Cafe-adorable and delicious

Originally called Coldingham Shore (because the fisherman who worked their boats in the harbor resided in nearby Coldingham), St. Abbs lies near Eyemouth, along the North Sea at the foot of the St. Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve – 200 acres of breathtaking, wild, and rugged coastline.  And breathtaking it is.  Wouldn’t you agree?

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The first building was constructed in St. Abbs in the early 18th century with additional fisherman’s cottages built shortly after.  By 1832, it is recorded that sixteen families resided on the shore, with an additional twenty living in nearby Coldingham.  Fishing was the sole livelihood of St. Abb’s residents.

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“In the late 19th century, due to Victorian romanticism and the desire to distinguish the growing village of Coldingham Shore from its larger neighbour Coldingham, the village changed its name to St. Abbs. This name was derived from the headland to the north of the village, which is itself named after the 7th century Abbess Æbbe, who at the dawn of the Christian faith in South East Scotland, founded a monastery on the summit of the Kirk Hill located out on the headland.”  -stabbs.com

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The harbor today is still very much a working harbor, and though very few people now call St. Abbs their year-round home, the area is a lovely place of respite for its visitors.  It is a popular destination for people who enjoy walking, fishing, scuba diving, seabird-watching, and for those who simply desire to take in the crystal sea and the beautiful, rugged coastline.

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Though St. Abbs lies only about an hour to the southeast of Edinburgh, somehow being there gives you the feeling that you have stumbled upon something of a secret and much farther away.  So while the throngs of Scotland’s other tourists descend upon Edinburgh, the Highlands, the Isle of Skye, Glasgow, and its other many fabulous destinations, I highly encourage you – at least for a day – to hop in your car, point your wheels south, and spend some precious time on this beautiful piece of Scotland’s shore.

Trust me.  You will not regret it.

Cheers,

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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,

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