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Posts Tagged ‘Chilli’

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 week ago I published a post entitled How to write a novel, which wasn’t so much a set of instructions as an update on my progress with writing one. I was pleased with myself for having hit my first 10,000 words. In the week since then I have added absolutely nothing to it.

This morning I began re-reading the first page of what I’ve written, and discovered that it’s so mindbogglingly tedious that I can’t even reach the bottom of the page without yawning my head off and wishing I was watching paint dry. Is this because I’ve read it so often, or is it because it genuinely is mind-bogglingly tedious?

I’m not sure, but it puts me in the sticky situation of not knowing what to do next. I could put the first 10,000 words to the back of my mind, pick up where I left off and keep writing regardless, or I could completely start again, rehashing the whole thing from scratch, or I could give up on it altogether, and accept that I will never write a novel.

Just at this moment, giving up seems a) the most sensible, and b) impossible. Even if every word I write is utter drivel, I don’t think I can stop myself from having a go at bashing out chapters of the stuff. Although I do think most of what I’ve written so far is excruciatingly dull, something inside me can’t seem to give it up on it.

Given this sorry state of affairs, having a bit of a whinge on my blog seemed like a refreshing balm for the soul. In fact, I feel better already, and would like to now make up for my moaning with pictures of a nice lunch I had last month in the utterly splendid bookshop and cafe, ReadingLasses (it specialises in books by women writers – rather a clever name, don’t you think?), in the small town of Wigtown.

I’ve written before about this place (here), and my most recent visit – while on holiday in Galloway with the delightful assistants – was as pleasing as ever.

It was exceptionally busy the day we popped in for luncheon, there being a busload of about 30 American tourists just having shipped in, shortly to be followed by a second busload. Each of them wanted to pay for their own meal, which led to a great deal of queueing and till-side confusion when it came to settling the bills. The way the shop is laid out, there’s not much space at the till area, indeed if you have more than one punter standing there it feels a tad cramped. We were seated near the till and the spectacle of politely shuffling tourists, peering at their strange currency and trying to remember what they’d eaten and therefore wanted to pay for, afforded us great entertainment. A small dog, that I think lives in the shop, added to the hullabaloo by getting in amongst the feet of punters and waitresses, and was clearly much excited by the sociable atmosphere.

I had been hoping for the shepherdess pie I had on my last visit here, but it wasn’t on the menu, so I plumped for a delicious sounding three bean chilli (vegan, to boot) instead. It came with crisp French bread, tortilla chips and some lettuce. The chilli was extremely hot, but the side items and a lovely glass of cool tap water helped to cool down my burning mouth. It was tasty and satisfying:

Thanks to it being, although quite substantial, also fairly light, I had room for a pudding. The puddings here are as good as the main courses, and I was tempted by the rice pud I had enjoyed previously, but then I remembered the chocolate brownie.

On the whole, I’m not much of a one for brownies, being suspicious of the sort of uncooked texture of the middle, but I had tasted one here before and recalled how exquisite it was. I took the plunge. It was served hot with ice cream, and I paired it rather decadently with an excellent decaf cappuccino:

I don’t know if that appeals to you or not, but I wish I could let you taste it. It exceeded my expectations, and even now I can lapse into a state of bliss just thinking of how the chocolate melted on the tongue and how the texture and warmth seemed to nourish my blood and make me fitter, stronger, and almost invincible. (This might be stretching things a bit, but it did make me feel magnificent, despite its artery-clogging potential.)

I can’t resist another picture of it, to emphasise the pleasure:

Delightful assistant no.1 also indulged in a dessert, and the rice pudding called to her. It was, to be truthful, more a plate of cream with some rice in it, which exactly suited her tastes:

And so, when I feel useless and unable to achieve what I’ve set out to do in the novel-writing department, at least I know I still have the ability to consume and enjoy delicious fare. Not perhaps the world’s greatest ever achievement, but eminently satisfying for me all the same.

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Tearoom of the Week this week comes to you from a small village in the fairly remote north-west of Perthshire, near one of the long narrow lochs typical of the Scottish highlands.

The nearest town is about 40 minutes’ drive away along twisting humpity roads. If you’re looking for a bit of wild scenery and some very fresh air, this might just be the place for you.

The tearoom is in the main street.

The interior is immediately welcoming and, I think, surprisingly modern for somewhere so rural.

In addition to dining chairs (nicely provided with comfy cushions on the seats) there are four very attractively striped easy chairs, which I have tried out in the past and found most comfortable.

On this occasion, I was with four other members of my family, celebrating my sister’s birthday.

The tearoom is divided into two rooms, with a large window or two in each, allowing lots of natural daylight in. We sat next to this window, looking out into the main street and the hills around the lochside. There’s a picnic table outside, which I imagine would be lovely to sit at on a sunny summer’s day. Although the tearoom is on the main street, it’s a quiet little place.

I was torn between one of their soups of the day and one of their seeded rolls with truckle cheese and their own beetroot chutney. I’ve had the latter before and it was extremely good, but remembering that last time I’d found it very filling, I went for the soup. It wasn’t exactly the small option, served in a substantial bowl with a large chunk of crusty wholemeal bread on the side. The bread was amazingly good, warm and crisp on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside. Excellent. My brother and I had the pea and asparagus soup and my dad had cream of mushroom:


My sister had a cheese and ham panini which came with a lovely looking side salad, and a specially requested portion of the tearoom’s chutney on the side because she likes it so much:

My mum had a seeded roll with Rannoch smoked chicken and chilli jam:

I must admit, I was pretty full after my soup, and had struggled to finish such a large bowlful (they’re not mean on portion sizes, that’s for sure!) but I was also very keen to have a cake and so I found a little room for a coconut slice – mostly coconut sponge, then a little jam underneath and a thin sliver of pastry on the bottom. Jolly nice it was too:

The birthday girl had one of her favourite chocolate brownies:

My brother had cranachan cake (cranachan being a Scottish dessert containing oatmeal, cream and raspberries):

My mum had a piece of tiffiin but the photo I took was very fuzzy so I’ll gloss over that and move swiftly on to my dad’s choice of a quite splendidly chocolatey chocolate cake:

I borrowed a forkful of this cake in order to take a photo of it up close, but mysteriously it just sort of vanished and at the same time I was aware of a supremely chocolatey taste in my mouth.

Hot beverages accompanied these cakes for most of us, and I chose Rooibos tea. The black tea my mum ordered came made up in a teapot but the Rooibos came with a teapot of hot water and the teabag on the side. Apparently this is how they serve herbal teas, and my sister prefers it like this for peppermint tea, which she often chooses. However, next time I’ll ask them to put the teabag into the teapot and make it up for me, because Rooibos is like black tea in that it needs boiling water on it to infuse properly. Nonetheless, the small teapot filled a generous big mug, and looked intriguingly black and unidentifiable due to the colour of the mug. I felt mesmerised gazing into the dark watery depths:

Like many other tearooms, this one has a gift shop selling a variety of items including candles, pictures, cards and crockery:

There are some framed photographs and paintings by local artists and I particularly liked this red squirrel stretching it’s little jaws with a big nut:

After lunch we took a stroll along the beautiful lochside, where the clouds were starting to look very menacing. I’m glad to say we got back to shelter for birthday cake just as it was starting to rain.

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