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Posts Tagged ‘cakes’

I was interviewed by a local newspaper yesterday about my “Tearoom Delights” book and one of the questions I was asked was ‘What is your favourite tearoom?’

Although I found this an extremely difficult question to answer, one particular tearoom popped straight into my head. It wasn’t, however, a local tearoom, so I gave her my second favourite instead.

I’ve written about my favourite tearoom before but I when I visited recently there was a new sign in the window:

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The sign reads: “Awarded Best Tearoom in Dumfries and Galloway 2012″

My first thought when I saw this was, ‘indeed, but why limit the area to Dumfries and Galloway?’ If I had my way I’d scrub out the “Dumfries and Galloway” bit and put “Scotland”.

My pictures might encourage you or put you off depending on your tastes, but what they can’t properly convey is the wonderful atmosphere this tearoom has, and the delightfulness of the staff, not to mention the magnificence of the food and drink.

Without further ado, this is the place I’m raving about, Kitty’s Tearoom in New Galloway:

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The last time I did a post about Kitty’s I mentioned that the proprietress was about to hang up her apron and retire after a long and very worthwhile career running this marvellous tearoom. I believe the tearoom is still up for sale, and my hope is that a suitable person will buy it and continue to run it to the same high standards (one wonders if this is possible).

Thankfully, when the delightful assistants and I visited last week, everything was still as normal: tip top and tickety boo.

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The polished wood inside Kitty’s came from an old ship at nearby Palnackie Harbour and has been very nicely incorporated into the building.

En route to Kitty’s I had been dreaming about the Fat Naan, a naan bread stuffed with curried vegetables, but when we arrived for lunch I discovered that one of the daily specials was asparagus quiche, which was extremely tempting. I’ve had Kitty’s quiche before and it was truly outstanding, but on this occasion I was all geared up for the Fat Naan, so Fat Naan it was:

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Vegetable Fat Naan

Delightful assistant no.1 went for a salad, which you might think would be a light option, but it fairly filled her up. I wasn’t surprised after seeing the size of it:

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Delightful assistant no.2 succumbed to the quiche, which I was pleased about as it meant I got to try a little. It was every bit as good as I’d imagined it’d be. If only I’d had room for two lunches.

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Drinkswise, the assistants had water and lemonade, and I had rose petal tea, which was pleasantly fragrant and served in a magnificently decorative silver teapot:

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With a beautiful hand painted teacup and saucer:

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Going to Kitty’s and not having a cake is akin to visiting Edinburgh city centre and failing to notice the castle. However, we were so full of our main courses that we needed a little stroll first, so we mentioned to the staff that this was our plan and off we tootled for a bit of exercise.

Delightful assistant no.2 was more in favour of snoozing off his first course, so delightful assistant no.1 and I left him in the car while we walked along a very quiet little road. The weather was murky with some light rain but fine for walking.

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Revived and ready for course no.2, we scooted back to Kitty’s and settled down to consider the cakes.

After considerable deliberation we made our choices. Delightful assistant no.1 went for a special of the day: Scarlett’s secret, a splendid concoction of strawberries and cream:

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Scarlett’s Secret – more of a mousse than a cake: very fruity and very creamy. This cake would have been ideal for the toothless consumer; once the confection was in the mouth nature did the rest, the thing positively melted and disappeared with no effort whatsoever.

Delightful assistant no.2 opted for Vicar’s Vice, a Victoria sponge very generously filled with whipped cream (that, I imagine, may have been what swayed it for him):

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Vicar’s Vice – an excellent choice for the clergyman and layperson alike

These two cakes were not the only temptations, there was a whole cabinet full of them, and deciding what to have wasn’t easy. I chose what could be considered an unadventurous option, but there was nothing dowdy about it – a plain scone with jam and cream:

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A scone with jam and cream – simple but superb.

Our sweet treats were washed down with leaf tea, Ceylon for delightful assistant no.2 and English Breakfast for delightful assistant no.1 and me. The English Breakfast came in a large and beautifully bulgous* silver teapot:

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The cream and jam were plentiful enough for me to ladle them on generously:

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In fact, both were so abundant that I felt compelled to layer them:

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Which led to the consumption or rather a lot of good strong tea:

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While we were sitting there in Kitty’s lovely tearoom, I made a remark about how I felt. Just before I left I thought it might be nice to put the comment into their visitors’ book. I may not have it verbatim but it was along the lines of “Every time I come here it feels like one of the best days of my life”. Quite true.

*a perfectly good word that ought to be in the dictionary as a hybrid of bulging and bulbous

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One day last week the weather forecast showed the whole of Scotland under cloud apart from one little triangle in the Aberdeenshire/Banffshire area on the east coast.

Chasing forecasts often proves a futile business in this country, but as it happens on this occasion the forecasters got it bang on.

Delightful assistant no.1 and I hopped into the motor and sped off in the right direction, stopping en route at the splendid Balmakewan, where we partook of light refreshments.

A flat white with coffee and walnut cake for my delightful assistant:

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Imagine sinking your teeth into an extremely light, soft and delicious coffee sponge cake with unbelievably fluffy icing that melts as soon as it hits the tongue, and you’re part of the way to having the Balmakewan coffee walnut cake experience.

I had a very hard time choosing what to have, as Balmakewan always has a painfully extensive selection of delectable goodies on offer, but in the end I plumped for this coconut affair with blueberries and raspberries through it, accompanied by a first class decaf flat white:

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We decided to share these two items and while the coconut cakey thing was certainly very palatable, we agreed that the coffee walnut cake was outstandingly good.  I’m sure I’ve never had fluffier butter icing in any cake.

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A delicious duo with first class flat whites to wash them down with.

We left Balmakewan feeling that our day had got off to an excellent start. The weather was not particularly good but we had high hopes for our destination.

Around about lunchtime we reached the twin towns of Banff and Macduff, which lie on the Moray coast, and headed for Duff House.

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Duff House is a rather magnificent Georgian building designed by William Adam in the 1730s:

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Today it’s used by the National Galleries of Scotland to house some of their artworks, with the building being maintained by Historic Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council, but it was originally built by a chap called William Duff (aka Lord Braco, later 1st Earl of Fife).

William Duff had a large family, and even though the side wings Adam designed were never built, I expect the 50 rooms they ended up with were quite sufficient.

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Room for a small one?

I thought the building had many lovely features, but the curving staircases at the front were a particular favourite:

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Due to a broken pelvis that continues to heal slowly, going round the inside of the house with all its floors and stairs wasn’t really possible for my delightful assistant, but there was one area of the building she was very capabale of reaching.

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A sign to gladden the heart – tasty morsels this way!

Inside, the tearoom had the same sort of feel I’ve noticed in other National Gallery tearooms, being light, airy and tastefully decorated. The history of Duff House was written up on the wall in a timeline with photographs, which made for interesting reading.

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The menu was not extensive, nor did it cater particularly well for vegetarians, but there were various sandwiches to be had and I opted for egg while my delightful assistant went for tuna. I’m pleased to say that the sandwich far exceeded my expectations, being freshly made on very tasty brown bread and served with a delightful little carrot salad.

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One very nice surprise was that there was ‘proper’ tea, by way of leaf tea popped into long teabags of the sort that appear to be getting more popular in Scotland’s tearooms.

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We ordered a pot of Assam and a pot of Darjeeling and they were both tip-top. I often find I’m squeezing out the last cup from a teapot when I take tea, but in this case I had to leave some as there was so much to begin with (I managed three cupfuls):

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I don’t take sugar, but I liked the way it was served at Duff House, in a little kilner jar with lid (no flies landing on these lumps) and tongs on the side (hygenically encouraging people not to dive in with their dirty great mitts):

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The facilities at Duff House were another fine feature of the building, being nicely tiled in green and white with pull chain cisterns above the loos:

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After lunch we waved goodbye to Duff House and made our way along the coast to have a look at the two little villages of Gardenstown and Crovie, but I’ll save those for another post.

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Last week I received rather a lovely Easter gift, in the form of several products from the Baking Mad website.

If you like eating, baking or just looking at pictures of delicious goodies, you might like to have a quick squiz at some of their tasty treats. They have lots of Easter recipes and lovely photos of Easter baking to inspire you.

The parcel I was sent contained the following items – oven gloves, a pinny (apron) and a box of Easter picks and cupcake cases:

Many years ago I had a PVC pinny with a barn owl on it, but it seems to have vamooshed during one of my many house moves over the years, and for a long time now I’ve gone pinnyless in the kitchen.

Living in my parents’ house at the moment means that I do in fact have access to pinnies of theirs, but I’m so used to not having one that I usually get covered in flour before it occurs to me that I might have put one on.

No more though, for I now have a pinny of my own again:

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To christen my new pinny I made some scones, although I’m also looking forward to using the cupcake cases and Easter picks, which are very delightful:

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This morning I felt in the mood for fruit bran scones, but I Eastered them up with a little gilding. Here they are being taken out of the oven by my brand new oven gloves:

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Hot cross scones:

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The crosses on hot cross buns are generally made from little bits of pastry, but since I didn’t have any pastry scraps I used strips of marzipan.

The marzipan did get slightly burnt at the edges, but well fired marzipan is one of life’s little surprises – amazingly tasty.

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One of the things I like about scones is the speed at which they go from ingredients to finished product, but one day when I’m not so desperately hungry I would like to try making these hot cross buns, which look utterly superb.

When I’d finished making the scones, I hung up my oven gloves next to my mum’s ones:

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And proudly added my pinny to the pinny pegs:

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Then I put the kettle on, made a pot of popcorn tea…

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… selected a scone….

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…and settled down to write this post.

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I didn’t make the scones very sweet, so I spread on a bit of blackcurrant jam, which added a nice fruity zing:

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If you’d like to try making these for yourself and need a recipe, here’s the one I used (below).

This mix makes quite a substantial dense sort of scone, but if you want to make more traditional fluffy white scones just omit the bran and wholemeal flour and use 8 oz white flour instead. Leave out the sultanas if you don’t fancy them, or bung in some other fruit/nut/seed/ingredient that’s more to your taste. You could also leave out the egg and substitute nut or soya milk for cow’s milk.

Fruit Bran Scones

2 oz bran

5 oz self-raising white flour

1 oz self-raising wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 oz fat (I used Bertolli spread, but you could use any margarine or butter)

-

1 oz soft brown sugar

a handful of sultanas

1 beaten egg

enough milk (I didn’t measure but something like 3 or 4 tbsps?) to make the mixture into a dampish malleable consistency

small strips of marzipan

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Put a shelf at the top of the oven and set to high (I use 210ºC in a fan oven).

Mix together the first 5 ingredients using the rubbing in method (or an electric mixer if you prefer), but don’t rub in too much, handle lightly and stop before all the fat has disappeared into the flour.

Add the other ingredients, keeping back a little of the egg (1 tsp or so), and mix until combined.

Pat the dough out lightly (you could roll it using a rolling pin but this may stop the scones from rising as much) on a floured surface to about 1 inch thick and cut out using a scone cutter, or shape the scones into whatever shape and size you want.

Put scones onto a baking tray and brush with most of remaining beaten egg. Lay marzipan strips across scones and brush with any leftover egg.

Bake for anything between 10 minutes (wee scones) and 20 minutes (very big scones), depending on the size of the scones.

(I made 5 from this amount and cooked them for 16 minutes. If you’re not sure how long to cook them for, you can use the cake testing method of sticking a skewer in one to see if it comes out clean, or you could pick one up and see how it feels. When cooked the scones should feel light (assessing this might take a bit of practice, I just discovered this test for myself after baking quite a lot of scones with varying degress of success).)

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As mentioned in my last post, the delightful assistant and I took ourselves to a new tearoom in Callander the other day. (New to me, that is, although the delightful assistant was sure she’d been there before.)

I’m not sure why, but I had been anticipating something quite refined, possibly with starched white linen tablecloths.

The reality was quite different, with mismatched old chairs and something of a studenty feel about it.

It took me a few minutes to readjust my thinking, but when I had, I settled in very nicely.

This tearoom is part of a larger Mhor family, incluing Mhor Fish (a fish and chip shop in Callander) and Mhor Hotel (a luxury boutique hotel).

In 2007 the Lewis family, who own and run the Mhor businesses, took over the Scotch Oven bakery, which had been supplying bakery items to the good people of Callander for over 100 years.

In its current guise, the bakery offers artisan breads as well as traditional Scottish bakery goods. All of the bread is handmade using locally milled flour, and I was very much looking forward to sampling it.

Given the cold weather I opted for the Soup of the Day, which was chilli, sweet potato and honey, and came dished up with chunks of locally made bread.

The delightful assisant decided to have her bread toasted, with poached eggs on top:

Before our meals came, cutlery was delivered to the table, along with some upmarket butterpats.

I got two of these for my bread, and the delightful assistant was cock-a-hoop to get no less than three for her toast.

With my first mouthful of chilli soup, steam came out of my ears and I began to breathe fire. ‘Tingled’ hardly covers it, but that was what the roof of my mouth did, and I was very glad I’d ordered a glass of tap water. I quickly slooshed some of the water down to dowse the flames, and stuffed bread in to dampen the raging inferno.

At that point I really thought I wouldn’t get through more than perhaps 3 or 4 spoonfuls of soup, but as I slowly persevered, stuffing in bread and throwing back water, I gradually became adjusted to the heat and did, in fact, manage to finish the whole lot.

As a culinary experience it was somewhat alarming at first, but it most certainly warmed me up, and the bread was absolutely top notch.

To get to the tearoom you have to go through the bakery. We did this quickly on our way in, but on our way out we lingered and observed the wares. There were pies aplenty:

There were also cakes and puddingy things. A pear tartlet (bottom right, below) was selected as a souvenir for delightful assistant no.2:

Last but not least, the bakery had some fine looking loaves on display in the window. I was tempted, but resisted.

Nicely warmed up and filled by our luncheon, we took a stroll along Callander’s main street, calling in at the rather splendidly housed tourist information centre:

We passed some interesting buildings, including this one with its name painted onto the wall:

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We were bound for a place I had specifically wanted to visit:

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This little place has quite a reputation amongst bibliophiles. It’s a well stocked and very reasonably priced second hand bookshop whose owners not only sell, but also bind, books.

I’m sure the sign in the window is applicable to a fair number of Callander’s visitors:

Inside, I was delighted to find a copy of a book I had been considering buying full price at £9.99 recently. I got it at Kings for the bargain price of one shiny new pound:

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A few days ago, on a morning when the sun shone out of a blue sky for the first time in what seemed like ages, I whisked the two delighful assistants off to a big hut in Fife:

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St Andrew’s cheese farm and coffee shop

This fine establishment bills itself as “Fife’s only artisan farmhouse cheesemakers” and has been on the go for about 5 years.

I do like a bit of cheese, but what particularly attracted me to the St Andrew’s cheese farm was the fact that it had the Butterpat Coffee Shop attached to it and that, according to the website, cheese scones were likely to be on offer.

Although the sun was shining beautifully, the wind was the sort that laughs through layers of warm clothing, chilling one to the bone in seconds.

The dash from the car was astonishingly cold, but inside the cafe the sun was sweeping in through big windows warming the room like a greenhouse.

We nipped into a sunny seat and settled down to peruse the menu.

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Our table was next to one of the large windows, giving us an open view out across farmland to the sea a few miles away. There was a decking area with seating immediately outside, which I expect would be lovely to sit out on in the summer (I fully intend to return later in the year and try this out):

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The menu contained a lot of things that attracted me, including a vegetable ragu, which was the vegetarian dish of the day. However, I plumped for the vegetable soup, and could not have been more pleased about my choice. For one thing, it came with a cheese scone, made using the farm’s own Anster cheese (the farm is close to the coastal town of Anstruther, pronounced ‘Anster’ by the locals):

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I’ve eaten a fair number of cheese scones in my time, but rarely have I had one with a texture quite as magnificently fluffy as this one was. It was also, rather unusually, abounding in mustard seeds:

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The soup was a perfect partner to the scone, and was absolutely chock-full of lovely tasty chunky veggies.

Here’s a sample spoonful containing carrot, leek, celery, onion and turnip, and possibly other things I didn’t identify:

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Delightful assistant no.1 opted for the leek and potato soup, which also came with a delectable cheese scone:

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Delightful assistant no.2 bypassed the soup and went instead for a cheese and ham toastie, which came with spring onions inside, and more cheese and tomato on top:

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We were all exceptionally pleased with our food, as well as our drinks (water for me and delightful assistant no.1; apple juice for delightful assistant no.2):

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Above the cake counter were some words that I found inspiring. “….always striving to be the best we can be”:

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I look forward to seeing how things strike me on a second visit, but I can’t imagine that with any more striving they could have created a better cheese scone, or served it up with a more satisfyingly vegetable-filled hearty soup.

Following consumption of savouries, I unfortunately had no room for a sweet. I settled for a decaf cappuccino instead, which was jolly nice and had the right sort of chocolate on top (the sweet sort, as opposed to the unsweetened cocoa I’ve occasionally been shocked to receive):

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Delightful assistant no.1 had tea, and delightful assistant no.2 had the same as me but with a significant addition:

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That slab of brown cakey stuff is a slice of iced gingerbread, something that claims to be Scottish in origin. Such gingerbread is not always iced but it is often served with butter, although this seems to me a little superfluous when icing is present.

When butter is offered to either of my delightful assistants, however, it is never turned away:

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I tasted the gingerbread, with a little bit of the thick fondant icing. It was delicious and the icing melted in the mouth.

Through a door from the cafe there was a cheesemaking viewing gallery, allowing members of the public to pop in and see the cheese hard at work. You can only see this on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and, as luck would have it, we were there on a Wednesday.

Here’s the cheese vat we saw, filled with liquid in the process of becoming cheese:

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Before leaving the cheese farm, I stopped by the cheese counter in the cafe and selected a little wedge of Anster to take home and try. The assistant did it up very nicely in a sheet of paper with a sticker to seal it up:

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Before leaving the premises I popped in to the facilities, and was delighted by lovely hand painted tiles of Fife coastal scenes above the sinks:

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I was so full after all the noshing at the cheese farm that I could easily have lasted the 1.5 hour drive home without stopping for more refreshments, but the delightful assistants twisted my arm up my back and made me stop at Culdees tearoom in Abernethy, roughly halfway home.

Delightful assistant no.1 is very partial to a piece of tiffin (a chocolate-topped biscuity traybake, usually containing some dried fruit), and I like it too but am wary because I’ve had more than one bad experience with the stuff. To my mind, the tiffin on offer at Culdees didn’t look especially appetising, but this didn’t put my delightful assistant off and on tasting a little nibble I discovered that I had completely misjudged it.

The chocolate was of a high quality and the fudgy biscuit bit underneath was almost cakey in texture, rather than biscuity. It was a very fine tiffin, and she selected a coffee to sloosh it down with:

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Delightful assistant no.2 plumped for tea and a cherry and almond slice (also excellent):

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And I fell back on that old staple, the chocolate cake (complete with two giant chocolate buttons), and a lovely pot of lemon tea:

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By the time I’d finished my last mouthful I really was fit to burst and had no room for further food, that is until teatime a couple of hours later.

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There’s nothing like a bit of comfort food on a cold day, and when I saw these on Alice’s delicious blog, girl in a food frenzy, I was keen to make them.

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They should, by rights, be sticky on top, but due to my impatience they didn’t get the icing they deserved and had to make do with melted butter sprinkled with brown sugar instead:

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I’ve been missing my blog a little lately, but have been attempting to concentrate on writing my novel (coming along nicely, thanks for asking).

This Christmas malarky is also taking up considerable time and effort, and I’m looking forward to the new year when everything’s settled down and we’re heading into spring again.

Incidentally, for fellow bloggers, I’ve noticed over the past day or two that when I try to comment on other blogs my comments aren’t showing up the way they used to. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this, but if anyone has any bright ideas about how to fix it I’d be glad to hear them.

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On holiday in Galloway last month, my delightful assistants and I visited Logan Botanic Gardens:

This is a pilgrimage each of us makes, usually at least once a year. Being members of the Royal Botanic Gardens (which comprises a set of four lovely gardens in Scotland, including Logan), like true Scots, we want to get our money’s worth.

The big bonus for me is that Logan also happens to contain one of my favourite tearooms in Galloway.

At first sight the striplights and tiled floor might seem a little stark and utilitarian, but I find this place warm and welcoming and I like the bright cleanliness of it. As soon as I step through the door I get a sense of having come home.

On this occasion, we had come here not only to enjoy the tearoom and look round the garden, but also to attend the Annual General Meeting. Despite all having been members for some time, none of us had ever attended any of the AGMs, and since this one happened to be on while we were in the area, we took the opportunity to pop in.

The meeting wasn’t being held until 2pm, so we rolled up in time for morning snacks, intending to munch those, mooch round the garden, have lunch and then drop into the meeting.

I noticed behind the counter that scones were being cut out of dough, and knowing that scones only take about 10 minutes to cook, I wondered if we might partake of these when they were ready. The lovely lady who was making them said that if we didn’t mind waiting she’d bring some over to our table when they were cooked, and in the meantime fetch us beverages to be getting on with.

So, we sat down with our drinks, and a few minutes later delicious piping hot scones appeared:

They were quite small and dainty, but perfectly formed and absolutely delicious. When the bill came I was surprised at how little we were being charged, and when we queried it we discovered that they’d cut the price of the scones as they were smaller than usual.

Thus refreshed, out we trotted for some fresh air and greenery.

I could do a whole post on this garden, but I will instead limit myself to showing you a hotel complex for minibeasts:

These hotels are at the top end of the market, the minibeast equivalent of a right royal residence:

I wondered if it was Prince Charles who came up with the hotel name. I saw him at Logan Botanics a few years ago when he had turned up to open something, although I can’t now remember what. I remember it was a lovely sunny day, and he was very tanned and wearing a sandy coloured suit that made him look like a pukka sahib abroad. (He was sort of abroad I suppose, having come from England).

After our garden stroll we strode back into the tearoom for a spot of luncheon prior to the meeting. We all opted for soup, the two delightful assistants taking lentil, while I chose minestrone.

Lentil soup:

Minestrone (it was probably the best minestrone soup I’ve ever had, I can still remember how good it was a month later):

The bread was also surprisingly good. I usually prefer brown bread, but this was very tasty, really crusty and crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

We did wonder if there might be biscuits at the AGM, but in case not we had a little sweet thing after our soup. We got two pieces of Malteser slice to share between us:

I find it endlessly satsifying to break through the middle of a Malteser:

Nicely filled and not requiring the AGM’s biscuits, we filed into the meeting along with 20-odd other punters.

The sight that met my eyes caused me to gasp. Spread out inside the room was a magnificent buffet consisting of trays of sandwiches, scones, biscuits and cakes, and there were several pots of tea and coffee next to a stack of teacups. We looked at each other in a distressed way and wondered what to do about this situation.

Despite having no room for more food at this juncture, I simply could not pass up this veritable feast. I chose a small fruit scone (this was what the lady in the tearoom had evidently been making them for) with butter and jam, helped myself to a cup of tea and sat down in the back row next to delightful assistant no.1 (who was so full of lunch she couldn’t even manage a cup of tea).

After a bit of toing and froing with people finding seats and selecting goodies to nibble on, the chap in charge offered us another chance to take some treats before the meeting began. I really hadn’t room but I just couldn’t leave all that food there uneaten and looking deliciously at me. I thought perhaps that as the meeting went on I might develop an appetite, and so I topped my teacup up and helped myself to a coconuty cakey pink thing, which I laid on the windowsill beside me. Needless to say, it had gone by the close of the meeting:

After the meeting, which included a most interesting talk on ferns by a very enthusiastic fellow, we bid a fond adieu to Logan and its inhabitants, and are already looking forward to our next visit.

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