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Archive for the ‘Sweets’ Category

According to the boffins at the BBC weather centre, Tuesday the 7th of May has been the warmest day of the year so far in Scotland.

It also happened to be the day I earmarked for a little day out with the delightful assistants.

Our first stop was Le Jardin Cafe at Kinross, about 45 minutes into the journey.

It was over 4 hours since I’d had my breakfast, so I was ready for a little something, and I opted for a pot of tea and one of their delectable apple and cinnamon scones:

The two assistants chose coffee and fruit scones. The scones were accompanied by dishes of outstandingly delicious apple and plum jam, which were heartily consumed.

Suitably refreshed, we buzzed off on the road again into lovely sunny weather, heading for the county of Dumfries and Galloway.

Due to misunderstanding my road atlas, I didn’t quite manage to reach my desired destination and ended up not in the village of Moniaive as intended, but 40-odd miles away in the town of Moffat.

Moffat is a place that offers several attractions to the tourist, one of which is a big sheep (a ram, in fact) on a plinth above a drinking fountain in the town centre. Rather curiously, it has no ears, and apparently never has had any:

The Moffat Ram – a trifle deaf perhaps, but a fine fellow nonetheless

It was sculpted by celebrated Scottish sculptor William Brodie, and gifted to the town in 1875.

Another point of interest in the town is the Moffat Toffee Shop:

A Moffat institution, not to be missed.

This splendid shop has been in existence (although not always on these premises) for about 120 years, and is still run by the same family who started it up in the late 1800s.

I’m getting ahead of myself here but after our lunch, which I’m about to detail below, the delightful assistants and I entered this haven of confectionery, where I captured them attempting to make off with two large tubs of sweets:

Assistants trying to abscond with stacks of sweets

They managed to restrict themselves to 200g bags of two types of sweeties, and I purchased some deliciously melting praline delicacies, which I meant to photograph before we wolfed them yesterday. I do still have a bar of interesting chocolate to try, however:

A treat still to be savoured.

To get back to the proper order of things, before we went into the sweet shop, we wondered where we might partake of a little luncheon.

Although Moffat is a busy tourist centre, particularly in the summer when coachloads of visitors appear, it’s not what I’d call a hot spot for tremendous tearooms.

Given this state of affairs, we decided we’d try one of the hotels for our meal.

The first one we looked at is quite a landmark in these parts, indeed it bills itself as ‘The Famous Star Hotel’. I suppose it has good reason to claim this accolade since it features in the Guinness World Records as the world’s narrowest hotel.

The Star Hotel with a crow helpfully flying over the roof to give scale to the picture.

It’s only 20ft wide, but it’s one of the tallest buildings in the main street and it stretches out a considerable way at the back:

If you look along the side of the Star Hotel you find that it goes back a fair distance. I think it looks like a steam engine at the front with a string of railway carriages behind.

We mulled over the menu outside, but felt we needed a little more stretching of the legs before sitting down again and so wandered along to another hotel.

This rather magnificent building was designed by Robert Adam and was built in the 1750s for the Earl of Hopetoun:

There were several seating options, including the sun lounge:

But it was such a glorious day that we chose to sit outside:

The back of the building proved to have some nicely rounded walls. Our table was just behind the tall dark green tree left of centre below:

As is the norm in Scottish hotels, there was one token veggie option on the menu (a pasta dish, which is frequently the case), but I wasn’t in the mood for pasta so I plumped for fish and chips:

The assistants both went for cottage pie, which came with lovely baby carrots:

I must say, the fish was particularly good, the peas eminently edible and the chips nice and crispy. The assistants declared their meals equally acceptable.

Despite tantalising choices on the menu, we decided to save our puddings for a tearoom on the way home, but we did enjoy sitting in the sun admiring the Moffat House Hotel garden and an attractive little seating area that would be delightful with rambling roses growing over it and a cream tea spread out on the table:

On our way out of the hotel, delightful assistant no.1 spotted an extravagantly finished banister rail. This is part of the original, and extremely impressive, Adam-designed cantilevered staircase that spirals up inside the building. I imagine he made it swirl a bit extra at the bottom for aesthetic reasons:

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After leaving Moffat, we stopped to look at some fair weather cumulus clouds which were bubbling up from the skyline:

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As usual, my post is elongating beyond a healthy length so I’ll save our afternoon snacks for a separate article.

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After my post about the Malteaster Bunny, fellow blogger, David, suggested I do a comparison of Galaxy chocolate bars.

I’m not a huge fan of Galaxy chocolate, so this is probably not something I would have thought of doing for myself. However, always willing to eat chocolate for a good cause, I obtained a small selection to taste and review.

From the various options available, I picked the three that appealed most when I was faced with the shelf of choices at my local supermarket – Smooth Milk, Roasted and Caramelised Hazelnuts, and Caramel:

3 Galaxy Bars

It used to be, in my youth, that Galaxy was Galaxy. It was a relatively humble chocolate bar, not one to big it up with fancy fillings and different varieties. It left that sort of carry on to the likes of Cadbury, who have always (at least as far back as I can remember) been keen on giving the customer a number of options with their standard Dairy Milk bar, such as Dariy Milk Fruit and Nut and Dairy Milk Whole Nut.

I have the feeling that there may be two types of people in the world, or at least in Britain: those who favour Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate and those who prefer Galaxy.

I am, virtually always, in the former category. Having made this distinction, I should perhaps be comparing a Galaxy bar and a Dairy Milk bar, but alas I didn’t have any Dairy Milk and I did have three large bars of Galaxy. Another time.

Of the three that I chose, the Smooth Milk was the only one I was familiar with, but I had high hopes for the nut one, seen in the middle here:

3 bars in a toast rack

The outer paper sleeves of the bars were very similar, but each one had a distinctly different colour of inner foil wrapping:

Galaxy bars coloured foil inners

Inside, the three bars looked very similar, except that the Caramel one had larger chunks than the other two:

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The Caramel chunks also had a more rounded top than the others. The shape reminded me of a peculiar bed I once slept in in the south of France, which was a bit like a narrow treasure chest on legs. I spent the entire night trying not to roll off it, particularly as it was quite high off a hard wooden floor.

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Unlike the bed, however, the Caramel chunks were filled with sticky sweet caramel, which oozed out satisfyingly when bitten into:

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The Smooth Milk chunks had an asymmetrical cross section and a very sweet taste, although not quite as sweet as the Caramel:

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The Roasted and Caramelised Hazelnut chunks also had an asymmetrical cross section. Due to the addition of the nuts, they were slightly less sweet than the Smooth Milk chunks:

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As I’ve already incidated, Galaxy chocolate is not my usual nibble, and I was reminded why this was when I tasted these three bars. For my taste, Galaxy chocolate is too sweet. I say this as a fan of chocolate and multitudinous other sweet snacks, and I’m not quite sure if it’s solely due to sugar content or if there’s something more subtle at work.

If I were buying Galaxy again, I would a) go for a smaller bar, and b) probably opt for the Smooth Milk or the Roasted and Caramelised Hazelnut, rather than the Caramel, which was the sweetest of them all.

After finding them too sickly, I wondered what to do with all the leftover chocolate. In my usual manner when faced with such dilemmas, I fell back on bunging it in some scones:

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When I’ve made chocolate scones before I’ve grated dark chocolate into the mixture, and for some reason that worked better with a scone than Galaxy Smooth Milk, at least in my opinion. To my mind, these scones were, like the chocolate on its own, a bit too sickly sweet.

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Given my definite preference for Cadbury, I wondered if there was any situation in which I would choose Galaxy instead.

Since the sweetness of Galaxy was the thing that struck me most, it would seem to be the ideal treatment for shock. A nice hot cup of tea and a slab of Galaxy chocolate would be more to my taste than a very sweet cup of tea on its own, and so for that reason I’m thinking of Galaxy more as a medicine than a sweet snack.

Despite my own preference for Cadbury’s chocolate, the fact remains that Galaxy is an enormously successful global brand, having gone from strength to strength since its creation in 1810. It now exists in at least 10 different varieties, and that’s not including the Easter egg versions.

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Outside the UK, the same chocolate is known in some places as Dove, although why that name was chosen in place of Galaxy I really have no idea. It seems an odd choice, given the astronomical connection between Galaxy and its manufacturer, Mars.

Incidentally, I recently learned from a newspaper article that three members of the Mars family are amongst the richest people in the world, featuring at joint 36th place in the Forbes World Billionaires List. As with most of the people on the list, the three Mars family members are in their 70s and 80s. Being the heirs to a huge confectionery company obviously hasn’t done their general health too much harm, but I can’t help wondering about the state of their teeth.

Note for Geoff, who suggested long ago that I do a review of Willie’s chocolate – sorry I still haven’t got round to this. I did buy some from Provender Brown for a friend but I haven’t tasted it myself yet…the day will come, I’m sure!

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One of my dear chums gave me a box-shaped gift at Christmas.

When I unwrapped it on Christmas morning and saw that it was indeed a box of something, the dimensions immediately suggested a pair of shoes.

Here is the Christmas box unwrapped on the left, with a rather natty shoe box on the right to show the similarity in size:

Shoeboxes? The Christmas gift box on the left with a natty shoebox on the right for size comparison

The wording on the box, however, suggested something quite different:

Christmas box inscription

This might lead you to believe that there was wine inside. However, this chum, despite being something of a wine connoisseur himself, knows that I don’t drink the stuff. What, then, was in the box?

Something much more up my street:

Menu card inside Christmas box

Menu items described

Having so much other rich food at Christmas, I wanted to keep this special box for a later date. It is definitely a sharing present, and was given to me with the intention that I share it with my delightful assistants.

Inside the box

I’m excited about all of it, but I’m especially looking forward to trying the tea:

Orange Pekoe tea

And the cake:

Christmas cake

And the jelly babies:

Jelly babies

And the pudding:

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And the biscuits (which I will be very happy to dunk in the tea, to allow them to fulfil their duty):

Shortie for dunking

I look forward to reporting on the tasting of these in due course.

Having seen what was in the left hand box in the first picture, you might be curious to see what was in the right hand one.

The box itself is rather decorative, with pretty tissue paper covering the the shoes inside:

Decorative shoe box

The shoes:

Decorative shoes

These are in fact the shoes I got married in. The marriage is, alas, no more and sciatica prevents me from tottering around in heels these days, but I do still take these beauties out of the box every now and then to have a look at them.

As you can see, they’re not only decorative on the top, but the soles are covered in rabbits popping out of teapots:

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The shoe is lined with turquoise velvet, the outside being finished in pink velvet with tinselly coloured stripes and a big bow at the toe. The heel is chunky, pink and translucent, with a leaf motif and a blue bit at the end:

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Karen, of the truly beautiful Lavender and Lovage blog, posted a wonderful feature on her mum’s fancy cakes the other day.

It inspired me to make my own fancy cakes today:

I was particularly keen to try out my new china. I got 3 more miraculous teacup-and-saucer-joined-onto-a-plate combos (I’ve decided to call them ‘cuplates’ from now on, until I find out their proper name, if they have one) in a charity shop yesterday morning, and then I found the beautiful oval roses plate in an antique shop in Abernethy in the afternoon. The pretty plate was on sale for £4 and when I asked the lady if she’d do it for £3 and she said ‘yes’ with no hesitation, I was chuffed to bits.

I decorated some of the small cakes with tiny jelly babies, including one martian:

A nice cup of tea and a small fancy cake on one of my new cuplates:

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I recently had a malteser tiffin (see Works of Art post) and discovered from fellow blogger Marian that not everyone knows what a Malteser is. I feel this situation needs to be rectified.

Here’s a typical packet of maltesers (I was going to buy the standard sized bag but this one sitting next to it jumped out at me):

Here’s a little group of Maltesers:

If you’ve ever been to Britain, a 1p coin might help you to imagine the size of a Malteser:

Or perhaps the relative sizes of a sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, Malteser, Scrabble letter and 1 Euro coin may be more useful:

Each Malteser consists of a thin layer of chocolate surrounding a ball of honeycomb crisp. If you’re careful, you can nibble the chocolate layer off, leaving the honeycomb centre to enjoy separately. Alternatively, if you bite straight through both chocolate and honeycomb you get a wonderful combination of the two:

Astonishingly, Maltesers have been manufactured, by Mars, for about 75 years, and this year they will become Fairtrade certified. They are currently one of the top 5 confectionery items sold in the UK, and keen swimmers will be relieved to hear that, unlike the other bestsellers, they float in water:

The world record achievement for the most Maltesers thrown and caught in the mouth within one minute is held by Americans Ashrita Furman and Bipin Larkin. Ashrita provided the champion mouth that caught the Maltesers, while Bipin Larkin’s victorious propelling action lobbed the winning number in. According to the Guinness World Records website, the triumphant pair managed an impressive 66 Maltesers inside 60 seconds in September 2010. Ashrita’s website claims that he beat his own record by an additional 4 Maltesers in June 2011, again with Bipin Larkin hurling them in, making a new world record of 70.

The standard size pack of Maltesers (37g) contains only 187 calories, which has led to the advertising tagline “the lighter way to enjoy chocolate”. Since they are relatively low in calories, covered in chocolate and almost contain honey (there’s no honey in the list of ingredients, but they certainly have a honeyish malty flavour), they are more or less verging on being a health food. As with all medicine, they need to be taken in moderation, but given that they’re so light, they’re unlikely to cause significant weight gain.

Small horses enjoy them too (if you click on the link below you’ll see the proof – I took this photo a few years ago and can’t now find the original on my computer):

Shona enjoying Maltesers

For more information on Maltesers, please see their very own website: www.maltesers.com

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The tearoom is a gregarious business enterprise. It will happily snuggle up with bookshops, garden centres, farm shops, antique shops, art galleries, post offices and all manner of tourist attractions. I can’t think of any existing venture that wouldn’t be enhanced by the addition of a nice tearoom.

A slightly unusual, but excellent, pairing is that of sweet shop and tearoom, and there is a fine establishment in Arbroath that brings these two delights together under one roof. I’ve mentioned this tearoom before, but it’s high time there were some photos of it.

The sweet shop is very well stocked, with rows of old-fashioned sweets in jars and some particular treats I haven’t seen in any other shop:

The tearoom is generally very busy and it’s worth booking a table in advance if you want to be sure of a seat. This is a rare view of empty tables, but they filled up quickly after I’d taken the photo:

Each place setting has a different napkin ring:

They have all sorts of delicious cakes and scones on offer (including enormous meringues), and they provide excellent lunches from a surprisingly large and varied menu. Unusually for a tearoom, they’re also open for evening meals at the weekends in the winter (and during the week in the summer).

On one of my recent visits I had toasted focaccia with roasted peppers, pesto, olives and feta cheese, which came with a side salad and crisps (aka potato chips):

They serve leaf tea with blue and white china teacups, which come with tea strainers, ready to catch the leaves from the teapot as you pour:

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