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Posts Tagged ‘chocolate cake’

Nestling quietly down a back street in the small town of Blair Atholl in Perthshire there sits an interesting old stone building.

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Blair Atholl Watermill: a building housing unexpected delights.

A watermill was first sited at this spot in the 1590s and more than 420 years later it’s being used for the same purpose -viz. the milling of cereals. The current building dates to around 1830:

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Blair Atholl Watermill: a robust construction looking tip-top at 180 years old.

Production stopped in the late 1920s, but after renovation work in the 1970s the mill was up and running again, and is now producing a range of flours and oatmeal, all stoneground in the traditional fashion.

Most wonderfully of all, Blair Atholl Watermill has a tearoom:

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The rustic interior of Blair Atholl Watermill’s tearoom, housed in what was once the kiln drying floor.

Yesterday afternoon I found myself there, along with various family members, for afternoon refreshments.

There were a number of tempting looking cakes on offer, and after some deliberation I dived headlong into a slice of chocolate cake:

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Chocolate cake with creamy looking icing.

I’m sometimes a bit wary of icing, since it can be very sweet and sickly, but to my utter delight, the icing on this cake was a sort of creamy fluffy chocolatey mousse, light and airy and almost like a pudding in itself.

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Two puddings rolled into one: cake with mousse on top.

Had I not gone for the chocolate cake, I would probably have plumped for a fruit scone, which was what my brother had:

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I have had a fruit scone here before, and what I particularly remember about it is the lustrous blackcurrant jam it came with.

Thankfully I have a visual record of it:

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Glossy blackcurrant jam glistening atop a fruit scone.

My mum had a slice of Victoria sponge, which appeared to have been made with some wholemeal flour or perhaps brown sugar, or both, and was devoid of decoration but pleasingly tall:

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Large and upright: a decent sized slice of Victoria sponge.

My dad chose the carrot cake which, like my chocolate cake, was topped with a creamy looking wodge of icing:

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Carrot cake topped with a thick layer of creamy icing.

My sister had a piece of tiffin (a chocolatey biscuity traybake) but I’m sorry to say the picture I took of it is rather out of focus. Instead, let me show you the magnificent latte with which I slooshed down my cake (the tiffin can be glimpsed peeking out in the background to the right, behind the latte):

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A fine latte filled beyond the brim.

One thing I like when it comes to a hot beverage is a decent full cup, and the Blair Atholl Watermill scored top marks in that department.

My latte had a noble bearing, knightly one might say. I imagined it having begun life on its knees, so to speak, when the coffee was put into the glass, and risen to stand proud when filled up with milk and capped with foam. The barista invested it with a flourish of chocolate sprinkles, the insignia of the Order of Coffee Toppings. I may be getting a bit carried away here, but it was a very fine beverage.

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Arise, Sir Latte.

Had the weather been different, it might have been nice to sit out in the tea garden, but alas it was a trifle dampish:

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The Tea Garden: a little too damp for al fresco dining.

A railway line runs through Blair Atholl, and to get to and from the Watermill you have to cross it. Although I always hope to see a train, I tend to be a bit nervous about driving across railway lines, in case there’s a fault with the lights and a train’s coming but you’re not alerted to the fact:

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Blair Atholl railway crossing.

Last time I was there, on the other side of the crossing, the lights came on and a train whizzed past.

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Barriers down and lights flashing at Blair Atholl railway crossing.

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A train whizzing through Blair Atholl, I was very glad the barriers had come down.

Yesterday, the nearby railway bridge was looking attractive with autumnal colours in the trees and mist rolling across the hillside:

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Autumn colours at Blair Atholl railway bridge.

If you’re thinking of visiting Blair Atholl this year, and hoping for tasty bites at the Watermill, you’ll need to be quick because it closes for the season at the end of this month.

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Recently, with the very slow start of spring in Scotland (when I began typing this it was pouring with rain and about 10ºC), my thoughts have been straying towards happy memories of warm sunshine.

I used to have a terrible problem with itchy feet (I refer to wanderlust, as opposed to athlete’s foot-type afflictions which I have thankfully never suffered from).

All through my 20s and early 30s, I had daily dreams about dashing off hither and thither. Every now and then my dreams translated into reality, but before long I’d be back home again cogitating where to go next. I got so used to this state of affairs that I doubted I would ever grow out of it.

Then, when I started working offshore and was miraculously paid to go abroad, I thought my itchy feet problem had been cured. When I was at work I was usually on a boat bobbing about at sea, which satisfied my need for adventure, and when I wasn’t at work I was relaxing at home and perfectly happy not to be popping off anywhere else.

However, it’s now about 18 months since I more or less decided to stop working offshore, and just lately I’ve been aware of an irritation in the soles of my feet. It’s very slight, barely perceptible most of the time, but it’s on the edge of my consciousness.

And so, to the point of this post, which is to relive sunny days of travels past.

Mallorca (aka Majorca) is one of the places I have some sunny pictures of and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the small Spanish island twice, first with my friend Sheila, and then with my dear mama.

On both visits I stayed in the lovely seaside resort of Puerto Pollensa:

Pier at Puerto Pollensa

Me at the end of the pier looking into the lovely, clear (and surprisingly cold) water at Puerto Pollensa

Lorna at Port de Pollensa

Finding shade is my usual habit when faced with glorious sunshine, even when I’ve gone somewhere deliberately to soak up the rays.

I stayed in the same hotel both times, too; it was pleasantly situated close to the beach with a quiet road and some hills at the back.

View from Mum's room

As always, food was of the utmost importance, and I ate well in Mallorca. The salads were particularly welcome in the hot weather.

A big tomato salad

My delightful assistant with a massive plate of tomato and mozzarella salad with olives

Even in the heat, however, one doesn’t want to forego the option of sweet treats.

Mum's chocolate cake at Sispins

My delightful assistant’s highly understandable choice of chocolate cake for pudding

I couldn’t get enough of the hot chocolate that was on offer at a cafe near the hotel; it was thick, silky and intensely chocolatey:

The chocolate was so thick!

If I was able to leave it for long enough (extremely difficult), a little skin formed on top, which pleased me more than I can say.

Just look at the way it coated this little biscuit:

Thick chocolate coating a biscuit at Gran Cafe in Port de Pollensa

This chocolate was so good that a version of it appears in my novel. I wanted to let my main character experience it, because I know how much she likes her little treats.

In addition to delicious food there were some beautiful buildings, particularly in the old town of Pollensa, a short bus journey inland from the port.

Interesting architecture at Pollensa

Lovely wooden shutters in Pollensa old town

Attractive house in Pollensa

A hot slog up a long flight of steps in the old town was worth it for the view from the top.

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Only 365 steps till you reach the top…

View from hilltop at Pollensa

Why isn’t there a tearoom up here?

There were houses all the way up the sides of the steps, many of which had nicely tiled roofs and flourishing pot plants:

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One of the things that makes Puerto Pollensa such an attractive spot is the line of pine trees bowing out over the water:

Mum looking out to sea at Port de Pollensa

My delightful assistant alone with her thoughts, gazing out over the blue sea.

In Scotland, evenings on which one can stroll outside without a jacket or cardigan are few and far between. In fact, even on the warmest of summer evenings in this fair country I can’t imagine ever leaving the house to go for a walk without a sleeved covering of some sort.

Balmy summer evenings are one of the things we Brits prize when holidaying abroad in warmer climes.

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As the sun sets over Puerto Pollensa the warmth of the air is sufficient to allow pleasant cardigan-less wandering along the beach. A treat for all the Brits on their hols.

As I finish this post,  I am delighted to report that not only is the sun shining but the forecast for the weekend isn’t too bad at all.

Perhaps this is indeed the proper start of spring, from which we will move seamlessly into summer.

If this jolly weather keeps up, I can possibly even shelve any thoughts of absconding and content myself with the delights of living in this lovely country.

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In my last post I mentioned that I had recently received some cupcake cases and Easter picks in a gift, from the Baking Mad website. Yesterday I decided it was time to press them into use:

I pinched an excellent recipe from Karen Burns Booth (of the beautiful Lavender and Lovage website), courtesy of a cookbook I got at Christmas. Karen’s cakes feature on the front cover of the book:

Her recipe is for Karen’s Little Chocolate and Violet Fancies which end up looking like the above, quite exquisite. This is her recipe:

Mine weren’t quite up to Karen’s high standard, and as I wanted to use my new cake cases and Easter picks, they ended up looking like this:

I didn’t have any violets or violet sugar, and I fancied using Earl Grey tea, so I tweaked the recipe and ended up with Earl Grey Chocolate Buns.

From my youth I remember that my mum always called this sort of individual cake a ‘bun’, as opposed to a ‘fairy cake’ or a ‘cupcake’ (I don’t think that word was known in Scotland until fairly recently) or indeed a ‘muffin’ (which, to Brits, is something quite different from the large cakey delight known across the pond).

A few days ago, before I had decided to borrow Karen’s recipe, I was thinking about what sort of cakes to put into my new cake cases and liked the idea of making them chocolate flavoured, but with a little surprise inside.

When I saw these creme filled chocolate eggs in my local supermarket, I thought they’d do for the surprise:

It seemed a pity to remove the pretty foil wrappings, but I don’t think they’d have improved the taste of the cakes:

After putting cake mix into a batch of cake cases I squidged an egg into each one:

Then I stuck another blob of cake mix on top of each egg:

I put too much cake mix in each cake case and so the buns overflowed a bit:

To my mind there’s nothing wrong with a cake that’s a bit on the large side, so I acceped their burgeoning girths, slapped on the icing and threw on a scattering of decorations while whistling a merry tune:

Once the icing was on I planted plant Easter flags and declared the cakes ready for consumption:

I was interested to see how the creme filled eggs inside might have been affected by baking, and was pleased to find that they had remained intact:

The creme was still very much as it had been in its pre-baked condition, and the thin chocolate outer layer had begun to melt nicely:

I made a total of 16 cakes using the recipe above. Most of them have gone into the freezer, where I hope they will survive all right with their ganache icing, but if they come out looking a bit the worse for wear I could perhaps bung them into an ovenproof dish and make them into a hot chocolate pudding.

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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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Mimi’s Bakehouse is a tearoom I’ve been wanting to visit for some time. It’s situated in the Leith area of Edinburgh, a part of the city I know reasonably well, having inhabited three different flats in the vicinity.

Edinburgh, and Leith in particular, has been on my mind quite a bit lately. In the past couple of weeks I’ve read two Ian Rankin books set in Edinburgh, and the main character in my own novel (still under construction, currently at 25,000 words) lives in Leith.

All of this, combined with my desire to meet up with a chum who lives in the great metropolis, led to me nipping down there last week.

The day was dreich (wet, damp, dull and – some might say – a bit miserable) but, arriving a bit early, I wandered round some of my old haunts.

One never knows, on revisiting a place, quite what one’s feelings will be. I was half expecting to be irritated by the noise and traffic, put off by the general busyness of the city, which has sometimes been the case when I’ve been back to Edinburgh after my quiet life in leafy Perthshire. However, I was surprised to find that I felt happy, exhuberant and delighted to be back. Quite a few of Leith’s streets are cobbled, rather than covered with tarmac (is this known in the US as asphalt? I’ve never been too sure): I was glad to see this old chap again, a fellow I often used to walk past and bid good day to: Although some of the shops, pubs, cafes, etc. have changed since I was last here, it was reassuring to see that some looked exactly as I’d left them. This wee pub has probably looked much the same for the past 200 years, dating back as it does to 1785: Inside, Mimi’s provided a bright and welcoming contrast to the weather. Indeed, far from feeling the chill outside, the ladies on the wallpaper appeared to be feeling the heat: We opted to sit in one of the sofa areas, which was decorated with some stylish cushions: The main point of interest to my mind, however, was the cake counter. I opted for the coffee and walnut: If I’d been in a chocolate mood I would have found this creation hard to resist: And if I’d been craving the malty crunchiness of Maltesers, this little gem would have been top of my list: To go with my cake, I ordered Teapigs Chai tea, which came in a little teapot with a slice of orange on the side: The cake was heavily iced (a bit too much for me on this occasion, although if I’d been desperate for a sugar rush I’d have scoofed it back readily enough), but the sponge itself was extremely light and fluffy:

Just as coffee and walnut is one of the cakes I frequently like to try, my chum is very partial to a caramel, or millionaire, shortbread. Mimi’s had large slabs of the stuff on offer, and he jumped at the opportunity, pairing it with a cappuccino: I wasn’t too fussed about trying it, since it looked a bit heavy and solid to me, but when I tasted a little corner I was astonished by its melt-in-the-mouth texture. The biscuit, toffee and chocolate disappeared together in a most pleasant manner. It was, surely, one of the best of its kind.

Mimi’s is, altogether, rather a stylish establishment. The ladies toilet can be located by this attractive notice on the door: The black and white theme evident throughout the tearoom itself, is continued in the bathrooms: After our delicious repast, my comrade had to get back to work and I thought I’d get a little exercise by way of trotting round the Botanic Gardens, which were on my route out of the city. The colours were beautiful but it was raining quite heavily. One good thing about going to the Botanics on such a wet day was that I virtually had the place to myself, including the magnificent hot houses: While I was pounding the pavements in Leith and driving through the city, I noticed that there are lots of new tearooms that weren’t there in my day.

The trouble, if you can call it that, is that there are far more tearooms to sample than I have the capacity for. Just as I don’t expect to die with an empty in-tray, neither do I anticipate managing to consume all the cakes I would like to gorge on in this one short lifetime. If ever there were a reason for reincarnation, that must be it.

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Following on from 83, which was the grand old age delightful assistant no.2 (my dad) reached on 29 April this year, today it’s delightful assistant no.1 (my mum)’s turn. She’s not quite an octogenarian yet but she’s more than halfway through her septuagenarian years.

The birthday girl wanted to pop into our local metropolis, Perth, to do a bit of shopping today, and so that’s what we did this morning. Having been very successful in the clothing department of Marks and Spencer, we toddled off to one of our favourite tearooms in Perth for luncheon.

The last time we were in this tearoom, along with delightful assistant no.2, it was very busy and we were asked if we minded sharing a table with someone else. We didn’t mind at all, especially when the someone else turned out to be a most interesting and entertaining fellow called Geoff.

Geoff introduced me to a website called blipfoto, which is a social networking photography site on which you can post one photo every day, taken on that day, and people can leave comments, much as they do on WordPress blogs. I joined up with blipfoto after speaking to Geoff, and if you’re at all interested you can find me there as ‘Weedoon‘.

Well, as I say, we went back to this tearoom today and who do you suppose we should bump into, but the very same Geoff! (This may seem like a great coincidence, but since he is an avid fan of the place and visits just about every day, I suppose it’s not all that surprising).

I had vegetable soup, and delightful assistant no.1 had egg and cress sandwiches (I took a photo of the soup but it’s not very good so I’ll just include the sandwiches or, as our waitress called them, “sangwidges” – very Scottish pronunciation, ‘sang’ being pronounced in the same way as the past tense of ‘sing’):

Geoff also chose the sandwiches, but he very wisely added a slice of coffee and walnut cake. I was extremely tempted to order a piece myself but I knew we were heading home for birthday cake afterwards so I nobly resisted. Very kindly, Geoff offered me his cake to photograph (being the fine fellow he is, he understands the importance of such things):

Back in sunny Blairgowrie (I like to call it “sunny Blairgowrie by the sea”, perversely because it’s nowhere near the sea) the birthday candles were lit and the four family members who were available gathered to sample it. My sister baked it and I decorated it:

Some stalactites formed on the edges (and a few spare chocolate buttons were wedged into the middle of the cake):

The cake was light and delicious and slipped down nicely with a cup of tea, served on my bargain tea and toast sets:

All of this was very nice, but it wasn’t the only exciting thing that happened today.

I think 76 is an age at which you might think about things you haven’t done but would like to do. Having survived for more than three quarters of a century, you might feel it’s high time you fulfilled some long-held ambitions.

Today, 76 years from when she first breathed air on planet Earth, delightful assistant no.1 fulfilled such an ambition. Her grandmother did this very thing at a much younger age, apparently to improve her eyesight, because she was trying to stave off the inevitable glasses (a common rhyme of the day didn’t help her to feel comfortable about the impending situation: “men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”). As far as I know, what she did made no impression at all upon her eyesight, although perhaps it helped her to feel a bit more glamorous.

I took my dear assistant to a jewellery shop in Perth, where she bravely sat in a chair while a be-gloved lady shot at her twice and this was the result (the ears are where the action was):

The earrings are tiny gold ones with small diamond-like sparkly stones in the middle, they’re very pretty when they catch the light. I was so proud of her doing this at her age, and I think she looks great with them in.

When I got my ears pierced (I think I was about 16 or 17) I was intending to have two piercings in one ear and none in the other. However, after getting the first one done I was so distressed that I couldn’t take a second hit. My sister accompanied me to the jeweller, sat on me, and let me squeeze her hand until it went white while I had it done. It was quite a bit later that I plucked up the courage to have the other ear done. Then, in 2004 while I was wandering aimlessly around New Zealand on my own, I took the fancy for another piercing up at the top of my left ear. I went to a piercing parlour and had it done sitting in a chair, but then I fainted and had to lie down on a couch in the shop. Various kind-hearted customers, displaying all manner of painful looking piercings, came in and talked to me for the next half hour, while I lay there with the room spinning and a wet cloth on my brow. You will gather from this that I am a champion woose and quite incredibly feeble when it comes to needles, pain, or anything remotely medical.

We had been keeping this little ear-piercing business a secret from delightful assistant no.2, and wondered how long it would take him to notice. On arrival at the house, he chatted a bit to his dear wife and then I suddenly heard him exclaim, in the manner of somone profoundly shocked, “What have you done to your ears?!” I ran through from the next-door room and asked him what he thought of it. Once he’d got over the initial shock he admitted that he thought they suited her and she looked rather lovely. I agree, and hope he feels the same about the tattoo she’s planning to celebrate with next year.

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Something wonderful happened on Monday the 2nd of April: one of my favourite local tearooms reopened its doors for the season, an event I’d been waiting for all winter.

This tearoom is situated on the outskirts of Perth, on my main route into the city, and many’s the time over the past few months I’ve driven past, longing for it to open again. When the big day finally arrived, on Monday morning, I took two delightful assistants Perthwards to celebrate this marvellous event.

I have been warned on many occasions by my delightful assistants that in my over-the-top enthusiasm for certain tearooms I may be getting people’s hopes up so much that they end up being disappointed when they visit one of my recommendations. I understand this concern, but there are some occasions when I simply cannot help myself. If it’s of any reassurance, when my tearoom guidebook comes out it will be a little more restrained and balanced in its reviews (that’s the plan anyway, but who can tell what will actually happen?), so that hopefully if you read it you won’t be let down. I do apologise in advance to anyone who suffers as a result of my adoration, but when it comes to certain tearooms I feel I have some sort of defence.

If you’ve ever had a relative, friend, partner, pet or pair of shoes that you have felt a deep and fervent love for, you will understand my feelings about this tearoom. Like a proud parent when their child comes first in the egg and spoon race on sports day, stepping through the door of this tearoom the other day briefly felt like the best moment of my life.

A sight for sore eyes: an empty table in this wonderful tearoom:

It being that lovely time of day between breakfast and lunch I selected, from their splendid scone options (on this occasion: plain, fruit, date and cinnamon, and cheese), a date and cinnamon scone. It was almost certainly the best date and cinnamon scone I’ve ever had (at least, since the last one I had here):

What’s more, it had not long ago come out of the oven and was still slightly warm. A universe away from a microwaved job. The outside was of perfect crispness, while the inside was as fluffy and light as you could possibly want, and the datiness and cinnamoniness made it nothing short of heaven on a plate:

To accompany this marvellous creation I had a pot of excellent tea, which lovely assistant no.2 joined me in along with her choice of a fruit scone, while lovely assistant no.1 had a decaf coffee and another date and cinnamon delight.

One of the many things I love about this tearoom is the way the teacups and plates are laid out on the pretty tablecloths ready for my arrival. It’s so welcoming, as if they’ve been expecting me and have popped the required crockery out because they know I’ll be needing a nice cup of tea and a scone when I sit down:

Had I not gone for a scone, I might have had a slice of one of these very tempting looking cakes that were smiling at me in an engaging manner from inside the chiller cabinet:

A thing I always like to see in a tearoom is a ready supply of napkins/serviettes, because you never know when you might need a spare one. Here, we even had a choice of yellow or green, and a most delightful little cow to serve them to us:

This tearoom, as well as being one of my top places for a good scone and a nice cup of tea, has charming service. The lovely ladies (and, occasionally, men) who take the orders are volunteers, and all profits from the tearoom go to a cancer charity. Despite the very reasonable prices, they raise thousands of pounds a year by selling their delicious morsels. By patronising this tearoom, not only can you indulge in superb fare, but by doing so you’re helping to save lives. It is a most excellent win-win situation.

Attached to the tearoom is a small gift shop which sells, amongst other enticing items, the cafe’s own first class cookery book. I mentioned this book in a previous post (see here) because it is currently my favourite recipe book, and I was delighted to see that they were still selling it this year. Delightful assistant no.2 was overjoyed to discover this, as she had been waiting for months to buy a copy for herself.

Seats were set up outside ready to welcome the long warm days of summer (I live in hope), along with a rack of second-hand books, from which I have sometimes found a little gem to take home with me:

As if all of this were not good enough, when I went to pay the bill I discovered that, since we had been one of the first 12 customers of the new season, the coffee was free of charge!

If I could recommend this tearoom more highly I would, but bearing in mind the stark warnings I’ve been getting about my over-enthusiastic approach to such things, I will content myself with saying that this is a jolly nice tearoom and I’m looking forward to many more visits during the coming months.

N.B. There was no Tearoom of the Week last week because the previous one had been in two parts (see Tearoom of the Week (Part One) and Tearoom of the Week (Part Two)), and I decided to have a small break before the next one. I was delighted to be able to make this one TotW (9) though, as I’ve been wanting to highlight it ever since I started this blog. Hurrah!

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Following on from my previous post, after our bracing coastal walk, we wound our way back through the village of Pittenweem to get to the chocolaterie cafe for sweet treats.

There are several narrow streets running uphill from the harbour to the centre of the village, and I liked the look of Cove Wynd* and the lure of St Fillan’s Cave. The name ‘Pittenweem’ means ‘The Place of the Caves’, and St Fillan lived here in the 8th Century.

St Fillan had a very handy gift that must have made him a popular choice of companion for night-time jaunts. Apparently he could make his left arm give off a luminous glow, which he used for reading and writing sacred scriptures in the dark.

Near the harbour in Pittenweem

As soon as I turned into the narrow Cove Wynd I spied the cave further up the hill:

Narrow streets in Pittenweem

The cave goes down into the rock behind a locked metal gate. I managed to peer through the gate to get a look at the cave entrance:

Deep into the ground goes St Fillan

There was a notice saying the gate key could be obtained from the cafe we’d had lunch at, so one day soon I must go back, ask for the key and have a look inside. On this occasion, however, I contented myself with admiring it from the outside. There was a mosaic made of stones stuck onto the side of the little porch at the cave’s entrance:

Lovely sandstone cave on a steep street in Pittenweem

And I made friends with the cheerful sentry standing guard outside the cave, who smiled nicely for the camera:

Sentry at St Fillan's Cave

At the top of the wynd was St Fillan’s Parish Church. It was originally built in the 12th Century, although most of what remains today dates back only to the 16th Century.  The church is connected to the Tolbooth Tower which once housed the council chambers. Witches were kept here awaiting trial, the last trial having been held in 1704.

16th Century buildings in Pittenweem

I believe the location of the pillar on the wall marks the separation between the tolbooth on the left and the church on the right. I liked the old door and window of the tolbooth:

Old door, window and pillar

I also liked the beautiful round stained glass window further up the building, which glinted prettily in the sunlight. This photo doesn’t do it justice, but it really was very shiny and sparkly:

Pittenweem parish church

After admiring all these architectural wonders it was time to go back to the cafe and indulge in some delights.

With some difficulty this is what we chose. Beautiful assitant no.1 had the speciality chocolate cake and a chai latte. I tasted both and they were excellent. The chai latte was perfect and the cake was very chocolatey and surprisingly light:

rich cocoa filled dessert in Pittenweem

Lovely assistant no.2 went for warm ginger sponge cake with fresh cream and a mug of Belgian white hot chocolate:

ginger dessert in Pittenweem

And, after much deliberation, I chose Oolong tea with a mini bar of dark chocolate. The teacup was very pretty, as was the little bar of chocolate:

The chocolate chunks were so small that I couldn’t resist popping some on my teaspoon and dunking them in my tea. They held their shape and didn’t seem to be melting but when I sooked them off the spoon they just disappeared.

When I was paying at the till in the chocolate shop, I enjoyed looking at some of the chocolates on display and bought some Belgian seashells to take away.

I can’t resist one more picture of my pretty teacup and chocolate bar. It really was a very nice bar of chocolate, very dark, smooth and tangy. Next time I’d like to try one of their dark hot chocolates, but this time I was very glad I’d had the Oolong tea in such beautiful china.

*‘wynd’ is a Scottish word describing an open passageway between buildings. As stated on Wikipedia: “In many places wynds link streets at different heights and thus are mostly thought of as being ways up or down hills. It is possible the term derives from lanes winding their way up hills to provide easier passage, but wynds can be dead straight.”

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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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After our delicious salads at the wonderful Fife cafe that featured as last week’s Tearoom of the Week, my delectable assistant and I took afternoon refreshments in another Fife eatery.

It was a very cold, overcast day but before going into tearoom number 2 we took a health-giving walk up a small road that took us past some buildings featuring lovely crow-stepped gabling:

The crow-stepped gable is a very useful form of architecture for people who need to climb up onto a roof, giving secure stone steps up from standard ladder height to the top of a building.

If you fancy climbing up a few crow-stepped gables, but find you’re a bit nervous about the height and steepness, you’d be well advised to pop across the border into England for a bit of practise first. Apparently roofs like these tend to be steeper in Scotland, so that snow can slide off more easily.

Although the idea of stepping up them does entice me (and has done, ever since I first saw Mary Poppins climb up a crow-stepped gable made of smoke in the Disney movie) my fear of heights prevents me from actually trying it out. I prefer to enjoy them safely from ground level.

The tearoom we proposed to take afternoon snacks in is next-door to a shop full of wooden items shipped in from Asia, and fancying a little look around the goods on display, we popped in.

There were a lot of elephants. Here are some carved into a table-top:


There were two almost life size elephants in one part of the shop. I thought it might be nice to buy one, put it into a trailer attached to the back of my car and tour around the country with it.

These ones were sitting at the door ready to welcome people into the shop. Those two small things at the front on either side of the little elephant are, believe it or not, carvings of elephant rumps, for sale at £1 a go. I did consider buying one, I must admit.

Before leaving, my delightful assistant purchased a very well-priced magazine rack made from teak:

Only a few steps from the shop full of wooden elephants was the tearoom we were headed for. The building is a wooden structure that doesn’t give anything away from the outside.

The sun had come out a bit, which was very nice, but it was still too cold to sit out on the balcony (and a bit noisy, due to the proximity of the road):

The first time I visited this place, I had no idea from the outside how nice it was going to be inside:

And I certainly wasn’t expecting such impressive facilities:

Most of the tables in this tearoom have marble tops, and there are fresh flowers in vases. When I ordered a slice of cake, a very nice fork was brought with the napkin:

There was a tempting selection of cakes and biscuits on display. I opted for the chocolate cake while my assistant asked for a slice of coffee walnut cake. We both had decaf coffees, mine a latte and hers an Americano:

My chocolate cake was attractively decorated with milk and white chocolate shavings, and nicely finished on the edge:

My assistant’s coffee cake was beautiful, and reminded me of a lump of rock with sparkly bits in it (alas, despite doing a year of geology at university I cannot for the life of me think which rock it reminded me of). The top was decorated with chopped up walnuts and glittery edible gold flakes:

As with my slice, attention had been paid to the edge:

My latte, as seen in a previous picture, was served in a tall glass. My assistant’s Americano, on the other hand, came in a stylish cup and saucer with a spoon to match the fancy fork:

Since there’s a bit of an elephant theme to this post, I’m going to sneak in one more. I bought this one for a friend a few years ago, and he’s been named George. He’s quite big and is meant as a doorstop (although I believe my friend keeps him on the bed). He’s filled with sand and his outer material is silk.

He really is a most charming and delightful little fellow.

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