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After my last post, I was thinking it was high time I did a post dedicated my two most delightful assistants.

Then, I thought, they really should be a more permanent fixture on my blog and so instead I’ve written a separate page about them. You can find it as a tab at the top of the blog, or by clicking here.

The picture below was taken last May and is a little corridor in their garden, between a fence and a wall, that they’ve left to grow wild.

It reminds me of the house and garden I was brought up in, where they did a similar thing. There was a section at the bottom of the garden that remained unmown and unplanted, and it was chock-full of long grasses, wild poppies and the like. There was a tree in the middle of it, from which my mum hung a wooden plank on two ropes to make a swing. I remember taking an old pan and a wooden spoon down there and mixing up recipes with soil and grass in, lost in my own little outdoor kitchen. Happy days.

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There is a tearoom in the quiet village of New Galloway that comes worryingly close to perfection.

The idea of a perfect tearoom worries me on two counts:

1. I feel quite certain that it would overwhelm me

2. I suspect it might curb my enthusiasm for visiting other, lesser, tearooms

I’m afraid my photographs don’t do this place justice; ideally you’d experience it for yourself first-hand in order to soak up the refined and elegant atmosphere, but I realise that not everyone can do this so here are a few snaps to give a little flavour of it:

Everything about Kitty’s is top-notch, from the service, to the comfort, teacups, food and beverages. I sat beside the coal fire in the above picture one cold winter’s day and it was a most satisfactory experience.

My most recent visit was made a couple of weeks ago, when the delightful assistants and I zoomed our way (I was very excited to get there) from our holiday home at Culmore Bridge Cottages, to arrive in time for a spot of luncheon.

Kitty’s is situated on the main street in New Galloway, with green paint and a little flag outside that fills me with happiness:

No matter what the weather or your emotions at the time, when you cross the threshold of Kitty’s, you will almost certainly notice an elevation of the spirits. The delightful and well-presented staff are so welcoming that you could easily imagine they’d leapt out of bed that morning with the fervent hope that you, and you alone, would shimmy in and permit them to shower you with their delectable treats.

Each table is spread with two cloths, upon which teacups, milk jugs and sugar bowls with silver tongs are laid out most attractively. I was particularly pleased with my teacup on this occasion:

Kitty has a fine collection of china, displayed in glass-fronted cabinets and on shelves around the tearoom. I suspect she rotates the china laid out on the tables, because I don’t think I’ve ever been dished up the same design twice.

The china is just the start of things, and it only gets better once you peruse the menu and order your choice of grub.

Delightful assistant no.2 began his meal with cream of carrot soup, which came in a lovely wide Art Deco bowl:

He also had an enormous glass of cloudy lemonade which came with a slice of lemon in it, and followed his soup with a cheese and onion toastie:

Delightful assistant no.1 opted for the dreamily smooth and delicious leek and cheese quiche, which came as a large warm slice with salad, and was washed down with a glass of cloudy apple juice:

I very nearly went down the quiche route myself, encouraged by the waitress who was singing its praises, but all morning I had been reliving the memory of a certain dish that I’ve had here before, one of those that ranks up in the top echelon of meals enjoyed.

After a slight quichely waver, I wisely plumped for the dish of my dreams, the delectable Fat Naan – a naan bread stuffed full of curried vegetables, served with salad and a truly magnificent minted dahi (yoghurt):

It would be no exaggeration to describe this dish as divine.

After that, somewhat tragically, none of us had room of pudding. This almost made me cry because it meant I missed out on an opportunity to consume the stupendous sticky toffee pudding (I’ve had it here before and it remains in my mind as something unusually superb). However, I did enjoy a beautiful pot of Lapsang Souchong tea with my meal:

As an example of how caring the service is, along with the hot water pot in the middle of the above picture, I was given a cloth to wrap around the handle so that I could pour from the pot while maintaining a comfortable temperature in my fingers:

If you happen to be in the vicinity of New Galloway any time soon, I would strongly recommend a visit to Kitty’s Tearoom, not only because it’s an outstanding tearoom but because Kitty herself is retiring and the tearoom is now up for sale. Who knows how many more meals will grace those generously clothed tables before Kitty and her outstanding culinary skills tootle off into the sunset?

I fear that it would be a very tall order indeed for anyone to take over from her and maintain the same standards, and so I can only assume that this is the end of a truly magnificent era.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Kitty and her lovely staff, for providing me and numerous other diners with exceptional tearoom experiences over the years. I feel blessed with profoundly happy memories that I hope to retain for the rest of my days, chief amongst them those miraculously flavoursome fat naans and truly unforgettable sticky toffee puddings:

The temptingly named ‘Mata Hari’, Kitty’s delicious sticky toffee pudding

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

It inspired me to make my own fancy cakes today:

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

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

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

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I imagine that most bakers have their own favourite recipe for scones, and this is the one I base my scones on, altering it depending on what kind of scones I’m making. It comes from the small Be-Ro baking book my mum used a lot when I was growing up, and to my delight I found a copy of the same book in a second hand shop. Here’s the Be-Ro book atop my current favourite cookbook, The MacMillan Coffee Shop Recipe Book:

When I made spiced pear scones the other day (click here) the following recipe is more or less what I used. (Because I’ve made scones so often I’m afraid I don’t always accurately measure ingredients).

I use the rather old-fashioned imperial measures because it’s what I was brought up with, and since the numbers are smaller than measuring in grams, they’re more practical for my easily confused mind.

Ingredients

4 oz self raising white flour

4 oz self raising wholemeal flour

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

2 oz margarine (you could use butter instead, but I use Flora spread)

2 oz soft brown sugar (any sugar would do, I just fancied using the soft brown stuff, and I think it was 2 oz I used, although I usually only use 1 oz, but I thought it might need more with the pear in it, in any case they weren’t too sweet)

1 level teaspoon of mixed spice

1 level teaspoon of cinnamon

1 rounded teaspoon of nutmeg (I don’t honestly know how much spice I used, I just shook it in, but I think I used more nutmeg than anything else)

1 Conference pear, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into chunks

1 egg, beaten

A little milk (again, guessing here, but it may have been a tablespoon or two, it depends on how big the egg is and how wet the mixture is before you add the milk)

Method

1. Set the oven at about 220 degrees Celsius (I used a fan oven at 220 and then turned it down to 210 after the first few minutes of baking so that my scones wouldn’t burn) with an oven shelf ready at the top of the oven.

2.  Mix flours and baking powder in a bowl, rub in margarine (you could use an electric mixer for this job but I always do it by hand because I find it quite therapeutic).

3.  Add sugar, spices and chopped pear to flour mixture and mix well.

4.  Add most of the beaten egg (keeping just a little aside to paint onto the scones before baking – this gives the scones a nice shiny glaze) and enough milk to make as wet a mixture as you can handle without it sticking to your hands and the rolling pin.

5.  Spread the area you’re going to roll the scone mixture out on with a bit of flour (I have a flour shaker filled with plain white flour, but you could use self raising, it really doesn’t matter).

6.  Divide the dough into two and, handling lightly, roll out each blob into a round about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick (this was a bit of a squishy job for me because my pear chunks were quite large).

7.  Cut each of the rounds into quarters (you could just mark the round and cook it all as one, dividing the scones once cooked which would make for more triangular scones, or you could press each scone out using scone cutters, which is what I normally do) and put onto a baking tray.

8.  Brush the top of each scone with the beaten egg using a pastry brush (I have occasionally smeared egg on with my fingers if I haven’t had a brush to hand) and bake at the top of the oven for 11 minutes (it could be 10, it could be 12, but I generally do it for 11 because I’ve found that this is what works with my oven).

The picture below shows how mine turned out. I did open the oven door quickly after about 7 minutes and turned the oven tray round but that’s only because my oven doesn’t cook evenly, you shouldn’t have to do that.

Happy baking! :)

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It’s a dull dreich morning in my neck of the woods and it occurred to me that spiced pear scones would brighten it up considerably.

I’m having a day at home today, writing and getting odd bits and pieces tidied up, so rather than go in search of such a thing in a tearoom (and what are the chances of me finding exactly what I was after? Quite slim, although I do know of one place in Dunkeld that sometimes features spiced pear scones on the menu), I decided to make some myself. Here’s the result:

I’ve just had one with butter (well, truth be told, Flora spread) and a nice cup of tea.

Pears are, in my opinion, a good addition to scones because they keep the whole thing moist and they melt away in the mouth when cooked (they’re also one of my favourite fruits and, apparently, one of the foodstuffs least likely to cause an allergic reaction). I peeled and chopped one Conference pear into chunks and I was pleased to see it in evidence in the finished article:

At the same time as enjoying my English Breakfast tea and pear scone, I also enjoyed a couple of blogs. If you’re not familiar with them you might like to have a little look. I only came across the first of these today but was very glad to have found it:

http://jowoolf.wordpress.com/

I’ve been following the next one for a short while, and am always cheered by the excellent photography:

http://thenaturephile.com/

This morning’s post by Finn (of thenaturephile.com) contains several superb photographs of blackbirds, as well as an entertaining drama starring the birds in his garden. I’ve borrowed one of these marvellous photos to give you a taster, but you’ll find plenty more wonderful pictures on the blog itself:

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