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As you may be aware, there is a traditional Scottish dish called haggis.

In my meat eating days I used to enjoy a bit of haggis, with mashed neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes).

These days, thanks to the Scottish haggis manufacturing company, Macsween, I enjoy the veggie version just as much as I ever enjoyed the meat one.

The veggie version burst onto the scene in 1984, when John Macsween created it to celebrate the opening of the Scottish Poetry Library.

To digress a little, the Scottish Poetry Library has some interesting articles on its website, including a section for people who are new to poetry. Among other things, there’s a link to a document containing 10 points to consider when reading a poem. Worth a peek if the subject interests you.

Getting back to the haggis, here’s what a Macsween vegetarian haggis looks like:

A Macsween veggie haggis bulging beneath its tight vest.

I don’t know the proper name for the mathematical shape, but I think of it as a squat bulgous oval:

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The veggie haggis: cylindrical with rounded ends, bulging at the frontiers of its wrapping.

The outer sleeve is a vacuum sealed plastic casing:

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Outer packaging of the veggie haggis, vacuum sealed and decorated with a tartan design.

Cooking instructions, ingredients, etc. are helpfully provided on the back:

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However you choose to cook it – and you have the option of conventional or microwave oven – you need to take off the printed outer sleeve first.

This reveals a transparent sleeve beneath, sealed at the ends with metal clips:

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Transparent casing beneath the printed outer packaging of a veggie haggis.

If you’re cooking it in a microwave oven you need to take this casing off too, and then chop the haggis up and stick it in a bowl with a lid before zapping it with microwaves.

This is my usual method of cooking, since it’s quick, easy and energy efficient, but today it so happened that the oven was still hot from baking scones beforehand, so I cooked it in the oven instead. When heating it this way, you leave the inner sleeve on, wrap it all up in foil and stick it in a baking tray with some water in it:

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When it’s piping hot, after about 45 minutes, you find that the previously already bulgous parcel has puffed out even further:

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When I unwrapped the foil I discovered that the inner sleeve was stretched to its limits:

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Veggie haggis fit to burst.

The build up of pressure inside was such that when I went to slice it open, as soon as the knife’s tip had penetrated the casing, the haggis began making a break for freedom:

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Hello world!

One of the things I find a little stressful about preparing haggis, neeps and tatties, is that several things need to be done at the last minute: opening up and dishing out the haggis, and mashing and serving both neeps and tatties.

Each constituent part has the unfortunate tendency to lose heat quite rapidly, so it’s tricky to get it all dished out while everything’s still nice and hot. (If you have a little helper who can take care of the veggies while you deal with the haggis, or vice versa, I would recommend making use of them.)

Incidentally, I noticed today that my local supermarket identifies the turnip by its Scottish name, rather than the more usual English term:

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Packaging from the neep, a Scottish turnip.

These days, if you order haggis, neeps and tatties in a restaurant, it often appears as a stack like this:

Haggis, Neeps & Tatties - Picture of The Pipers' Tryst Hotel, Glasgow

Photo from The Pipers’ Tryst Hotel courtesy of TripAdvisor

But the traditional way of serving it is to make three little mounds, like this:

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Veggie haggis, neeps and tatties dolloped onto a plate in splodges.

As well as oats and lentils, which are the main ingredients of veggie haggis, Macsween’s haggis includes kidney beans, mushrooms, onions, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

According to their website, 1 in every 4 Macsween’s haggis sold is a vegetarian one. From what I can gather from various sources of information, between 2% and 6% of UK citizens are vegetarian, and yet 25% of the haggis sold by Macsween is of the non-meat variety.

What I know for a fact is that veggie haggis is enjoyed by veggies and carnivores alike, and it certainly makes for a filling and wholesome luncheon.

If you follow it with mince pies and cream you will almost certainly want to take yourself off for a little afternoon nap…zzzzzzzzzzz

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At the end of June 2012 I self-published my first book, “Tearoom Delights”.

Since then I have come into possession of two more self-published books which I’d like to mention.

The first was spawned, like my own, from a blog.

The blog, which ran for a year, was written by fellow blogger, Noemi, and was entitled Desayunos Veganos 365 (365 days of vegan breakfasts). It documented Noemi’s breakfast every day, 365 different breakfasts for the whole of 2012, with beautiful photographs of her delicious looking food and drink.

As someone who rarely deviates from her pint of Darjeeling, toasted bagel and bit of fruit, I was utterly astonished by this feat.

At the end of the year a book was produced, and having enjoyed the blog so much I felt I had to have a copy to drool over. Here it is:

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The cover of a beautiful book full of inspiring breakfasts by Noemi Iza

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The back cover is as beautiful as the front.

A selection of pages from inside reveal some of Noemi’s wonderful fare:

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One of the photos even features my wee book (thank you, Noemi!), very fittingly sitting next to cinnamon spiced tea and cranberry scones:

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Noemi’s delightful book can be purchased, here, in both hardback and paperback format.

The second book comes from closer to home and was written by John Palfreyman, a cycling enthusiast who lives a few miles away from me in the town of Coupar Angus.

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John’s admirable little book with a lovely view of the Sidlaw Hills on the cover.

In a way, his book is similar to mine, in that he’s written about cycle routes in the same areas as I wrote about tearooms.

He’s passionate about cycling, and about the area in which he lives, and his book is a little treasure for cyclists and non-cyclists alike. I like the cartoons he uses to symbolise how hard each route is:

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I feel exhausted just looking at that chap on the far right.

The book is packed with lovely photographs, details 25 different routes of varying lengths and levels of difficulty, and includes a list of cafes, restaurants and inns in the areas covered (as well as mentioning my book for further reading – thank you, John!).

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You get lots of great little photographs along with the text, all beautifully reproduced throughout the book.

It also has an excellent map tucked into the back:

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The map is folded up and slotted into a plastic tab at the bottom right hand corner of the inside back cover and is double-sided showing two different scales.

At £5.99 for the book and map, I think “Adventures on Two Wheels” is an absolute bargain.

It can be purchased from Waterstones in Perth and Dundee, Stewart Tower Dairy, the Post Office in Stanley, the Joinery Coffee Shop in Meigle and the Beatrix Potter Centre in Birnham, as well as various places in Coupar Angus. It will also soon be available from Tourist Information Centres in Perth, Blairgowrie, Pitlochry and Dunkeld.

Considering the book was only published last month, I think John has done an amazing job getting it into retail establishments and I wish him all the very best with future sales.

As for me, I don’t have any plans to self-publish another tearoom book any time soon, but I have written my first novel and am currently working on the second.

All I need now is a nice agent or publisher to take me on, but if that doesn’t happen then I might consider self-publishing the first novel as an e-book.

To everyone out there who’s already self-published (and I know there are one or two amongst my regular readers), I take my hat off to you. I know how much work it is and it’s great when you have something at the end to show for it.

To anyone thinking about self-publishing, I doff my hat to you, too, and encourage you to do it. It may not make you much money (initially, it might actually lose you money) but it is a satisfying thing to do, and can bring you a nice sense of achievement.

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Welcome, regular readers and potluckers alike, to the 3rd Virtual Vegan Potluck.

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I eat soup probably 4 or 5 times a week in the normal run of things, and I like making it because it’s easy, quick and nourishing.

Although all the soup I make is vegetarian, most of it is also vegan. One of the many wonderful things about soup is that if you stick to a few simple ingredients it’s very hard to mess it up.

I first made this soup without the coconut milk and it was nice and tangy, but quite acidic. The addition of coconut milk balances out the acidity and adds a wonderfully creamy dimension.

Ingredients:

1 can of coconut milk

1 small brown onion, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon of grated root ginger

2 red peppers (capsicum), chopped

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped

3/4 of a pint (400 ml) of vegetable stock

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Throw the vegetables into a pan with the grated ginger, can of coconut milk and vegetable stock.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Liquidise with a stick blender or in a liquidiser.

4. Add black pepper to taste.

For lots more vegan deliciousness, be sure to check out some of the other participants (there are more than 170 this time round!).

A full list of bloggers with the category of dish they’ve brought to the potluck (you might be tempted to go straight to puddings, and who can blame you?) can be found here.

To visit Veganishy, the blog before mine in the potluck chain and the last in the list of side dishes, please click on the button below:

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To visit Sweetveg, the next soup in the line-up, please click on the button below:

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H a p p y   N o s h i n g !

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Today is the second of Annie’s Virtual Vegan Potlucks, in which a whole host of vegan and vegan-friendly bloggers unite in a big festival of meat- and dairy-free noshing around the globe.

Participants chose a category from a list of menu items (breads, mains, desserts, beverages, etc.), decided on what they wanted to bring to the virtual table, and were then placed in a list organised by Annie (for the full list of participants, please see here).

Each blogger taking part will post their own contribution today, adding a link to the blog before and after them on Annie’s list, creating a chain of vegan blogs that you can, if you wish, work your way through in a massive banquet of vegan delights.

Last time we did this, I opted for the beverages category so that I could write about tea. This time I’ve opted for the beverages category so that I can write about tea.

If you happen to live in the northern hemisphere you will perhaps have noticed a chilly change in the weather of late. In light of this, I’ve chosen to bring a lovely warming chai to the potluck (equally tasty south of the equator, I’m quite sure):

20 years ago I popped off to live and work in Pakistan, thinking I might stay there for about 3 months. Unwilling to leave a country that dished up such excellent tea, I gave up on coming home so soon and stayed on for another year to get in a decent amount of tea drinking.

During my time there I drank a lot of chai. It was consistently hot, spicy, usually sweet, and virtually always delicious.

I can only recall one less than satisfactory chai experience. I was visiting someone, I forget now who or where it was (there was a lot of visiting and tea taking going on), and was given a welcoming cup of sweet chai to sup on. My host, as he was pouring out the chai, unwittingly dropped some of his cigarette ash into the cup. Out of politeness, I consumed both the tea and the ash.

Speaking as one who has tried it both ways, I would strongly recommend drinking chai without the addition of cigarette ash.

I have often tried to recreate at home the taste of the lovely ashless Pakistani chai that I drank so much of back then, but I’ve never succeeded in getting it to taste as good.

Clipper’s chai isn’t quite like the stuff I remember from those days but it is a very quick and easy way to get that spicy, warming, delicious tea taste, and the combination of spices Clipper have come up with is far better than any concoction I’ve managed to mix up for myself. One of the slightly unusual ingredients in the tea is lemon peel, which I think is what sets it apart from other chai teas I’ve tried. The lemon is not overpowering but it adds a little citrusy zing to the spiciness, which I think works very well.

In order to bring joy to your life once you have a packet of this stuff, you’ll need some boiling water, and possibly some sort of milk and sweetener, if you like it that way (although it’s also jolly nice black, in my opinion).

It is highly acceptable served straight into a mug, or from a teapot with pretty china and a few chums to share the pleasure with.

At first glance (or indeed, after a prolonged stare), turning up to the potluck bearing nothing but a box of teabags might seem like a bit of a cop-out. I can’t deny that, I admit that it shows a distinct lack of culinary effort on my part, but on the up side if I’m let loose near a kettle I can promise you a perfectly brewed pot of tea.

As any regular tea drinker will know, there are a few key elements to making a nice cup of tea, and chief amongst these (at least for black tea) is boiling water .

I’m sorry to report that occasionally in a tearoom I have been brought a pot of hot water with a cup and teabag on the side. This has been both painful and distressing, very much like standing on an upturned plug or stubbing a toe.

In a tearoom, even if the water is boiling when it goes into the pot, it certainly won’t be boiling by the time it reaches the customer. Sitting alone in the pot, its bubbly loveliness is wasted on the inside of the pot instead of usefully infusing the tea.

Pouring hot – but not boiling – water onto a teabag is the sort of experience one should restrict to those occasions when one is marooned at the top of Mount Everest.

Following their successful ascent of Mount Everst in 1953, Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hillary take tea out of tin mugs (I bet it tasted pretty good, too).

Up at 29,000 feet, due to a decrease in pressure that results in the water boiling at a lower temperature, a warm slooshy tea-like concotion is the best the weary climber can hope for. (I have this on good authority, although I can’t claim to have tested it out for myself; it’s regrettable, but being in possession of this information has put me right off climbing Everest). Down nearer sea level there are no such excuses for shoddy tea preparation.

Here are my top tips for making a lovely pot of Clipper chai:

1. Get some Clipper chai tea, a teapot and however many teacups you require.

2. Put plenty of freshly drawn cold water into a kettle and put it on to boil.

3. Just before the water boils, pour a decent splash of nearly boiling water into the teapot to warm it.

4. Slosh the water around the teapot while the kettle comes to the boil, and then discard the teapot water and bung in as many teabags as you think you’ll need (one per person, is my advice).

5. When the kettle boils, immediately pour the water into the warmed teapot onto the teabags and give the whole lot a stir with a spoon (and perhaps a squidge of the bags, if you feel like it).

6. Pop a teacosy onto the teapot (such as this delightful creation by veteran teacosy maker, Laine Williams:

7. Wait patiently for around 3 minutes and then pour the tea into cups (personally, I wouldn’t warm the cups because my feeling is that the tea has already done all its infusing, and now I just want it to be cool enough to drink as soon as possible).

If you want to add milk, you might like to glug a slosh of soy or alternative milk (I have tried it with oat milk, which was quite nice, but I wonder if almond might be preferable) into the cup prior to adding the tea. Alternatively, you may prefer to add the milk afterwards, but in any case I don’t think you need to worry about the china breaking with the hot tea (which is, apparently, one of the reasons for adding the milk first) since the tea will have cooled down a little since you added the water to the pot. If you’re nervous about adding too much milk, I would advise adding it after you’ve poured the tea, and just a little at a time so that you can taste it and find the quantity you prefer.

Sweetener is another matter of personal taste. The chai I had in Pakistan was generally very sweet, and I enjoyed it greatly at the time, but when I make Clipper chai I don’t add any sweetener because I’ve developed a taste for it ‘plain’, so to speak.

If you fancy trying this tea but can’t find Clipper chai at an outlet near you, it is available online from a number of websites, including the Clipper site, here.

Bottoms up!

image courtesy of thethreetomatoes.com

To visit the blog on the list before mine, Don’t Switch Off The Light, please click on the image below:

To visit the blog after mine, Veganosaurus (which, as it happens, contains a chai recipe), please click on this image:

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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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As some of you may be aware, today is a big vegan foodfest in the blogging world. Dreamt up and coordinated by the quite astonishingly brilliant Annie of anunrefinedvegan, 66 bloggers are taking part in a virtual vegan potluck.

Each blogger is making and posting about their own vegan dish or drink, chosen from various categories (e.g. starters, salads, mains, desserts).

I chose the ‘beverages’ category and am bringing you a couple of lovely teas. The beautiful teacup below isn’t mine, I saw it on Facebook recently, on Pavlova and Fox’s page. I think it would enhance any cup of tea:

My first tea is perhaps something of an acquired taste, and doesn’t necessarily appeal to the mass market, but if you haven’t tried it I would recommend at least having a sniff.  I believe there are people who like a splash of milk (soy, or otherwise) in this tea, but personally I like it black.

It smells predominantly of woodsmoke, and one heady sniff of it is enough to bring about an urgent desire in me for a big smokey cupful of the stuff. The smokiness comes from the preparation of the leaves as they’re dried over the embers of pine wood fires. As the piney smoke rises up, it infuses the tea leaves lying on racks above the fire, and gives them their unique taste.

Tea no.1 – Lapsang Souchong:

When I was very young I had a Disney game, which consisted of a board painted with Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and perhaps one or two others. Their noses/beaks were made from plastic and stuck out at right angles to the board. The game came with a set of rubber rings, which were thrown at the board, in an attempt to lasso the protruberances which resulted in winning points. I mention this because the smell of those rubber rings has stayed with me through the years, and in addition to the obvious smokey smell of Lapsang Souchong, I detect this rubber ring scent, along with a touch of Creosote and perhaps a smidgen of tar.

I think of Lapsang Souchong as the “Islay malt” of tea, because it has similar qualities to the malt whiskies from Islay (an island off the west coast of Scotland, pronounced ‘eye-la’), which are characterised by a peaty smokiness.

If you haven’t tried Lapsang Souchong, but you like a peaty, smokey whisky, I think this tea might appeal to you. And, vice versa, if you like this tea, you might well also enjoy an Islay malt. If you’re not usually much of a drinker of either tea or whisky, but you can’t pass a freshly Creosoted telegraph pole without inhaling deeply, Lapsang Souchong could add a wonderful dimension to your life.

If, however, none of the above sounds like your sort of thing, perhaps I can tempt you with an alternative. There is such an enormous choice of teas that deciding what to offer up has been difficult, but I thought that since this is an international affair it would be a good chance to highlight something from my native country.

My second choice is another black tea, which is often taken with milk (perhaps soy, rice, or indeed almond) and sugar, should you so wish. Unlike Lapsang Souchong, this is a blended tea (a sort of “Famous Grouse” of teas, to continue the whisky analogy), made up of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas. You may have heard of English Breakfast tea, but this might be new to you:

Tea no.2 – Scottish Breakfast:

When I open a new packet of this tea, my senses are awakend to a warm, velvety maltiness, the sort of smell tea had in my youth. I am transported to the diningroom of the house I grew up in, taking tea in fine china cups on a Sunday with my grandparents visiting, a large table laden with cakes, and my grandmother shockingly licking her side plate knife. As a tot, I liked my tea weak and milky with sugar. These days I take it stronger and unsweetened, but if I were to try and recreate those days of yore, the tea I’d choose to do it with would be Scottish Breakfast.

And so, back to the point of this whole business, the Virtual Vegan Potluck.

In theory, there is a chain of all the participating bloggers, one post leading on to another in a set order determined by Annie (the order can be found on her blog here), so that when you click the images below, you will be taken to the previous link in the chain (the ‘go back’ image) and the next link (‘go forward’). However, because people are posting from all over the globe, the timings may not quite coincide. Being in the UK, I’m a considerable way behind Australia but ahead of America.

If you click on the ‘go back’ image below, you’ll be able to visit the page that came before me, Good Clean Food, where you will find another post in the ‘beverages’ section. If you don’t see the potluck post now, perhaps you could pop back later in the day.

And to visit the next blogger on the list, Turning Veganese, the final ‘beverages’ post, you can click on the image below this:

I hope you enjoy all the wonderful vegan fare on offer today, and thank you again to Annie for doing such an amazing job of organising it all!

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This week’s Tearoom of the Week involved a day out built around visiting this tearoom. There’s so much to relate that I’m splitting it into two posts: Part One – Savoury, and Part Two – Sweet. Like a good girl, I’m having my savouries first.

Last week I took my two most delightful assistants down to the seaside village of Pittenweem in Fife, in search of a chocolaterie cafe I’d heard tell of but never been to.

Inside, the cafe had a slightly run down, studenty feel to it, which reminded me of cafes I used to frequent during my student days in Edinburgh:

Not quite shabby chic but kind of grungy

As tempted as I was to dive right into some of the chocolate options, I was pretty hungry and decided on a bowl of hearty vegan bean soup to start with. All three of us had soup (different types) which was served in vintage china, with a little tower of lightly toasted Ciabatta slices on a side plate. This was my bean soup:

A meal in a vintage china bowl

There was a lot to look at in the room, from chocolate-themed pictures:

Framed chocolate adverts Lyon and Delespaul-Havez

To a colourful metal sculpture:

Metalwork as art

The deep windowsills were filled with numerous wooden puzzles, books and games that had been provided to keep the customers entertained:

Entertainments for the punters

There was a wooden puzzle on our table when we arrived, which we tried in vain to solve. The waitress, seeing our strife, took pity on us and exchanged it for an easier one, which we managed to fit together nicely:

A solution found, to the satisfaction of all concerned

Our soup had been quite filling, so rather than pile in some sweets straight away, we left the cafe for a stroll through the town with the intention of returning once we’d worked up an appetite.

Pittenweem is an interesting little place, with some unusual and attractive architecture, as well as a way-marked coastal path.

There were some beautiful sandstone buildings leading down quite steeply sloping streets to the sea:

Steeply sloping streets in Pittenweem

And buildings with doors below street level (in front of the yellow door is a stone step up to the street, although I admit it’s not all that obvious in the picture). The yellow paintwork against a whitewashed wall looked almost Mediterranean in the sunshine:

Yellow paint with white walls looks Mediterranean on a sunny day in Pittenweem

The Fife coastline is dotted with small harbours like the one in Pittenweem, and in fact this one is the most active of those around this section of the coast, known as the East Neuk of Fife.

Fishing is still quite a big thing in Pittenweem

When we visited it was all very quiet, apart from a couple of rowing boats full of enthusiastic and energetic sailors. We had seen them out at sea, battling against the waves and no doubt getting very wet in the process.  I wondered if they had picnics with them. If I’d been foolhardy enough to get into one of those boats I would at least have stashed lots of comforting supplies in my pockets first.

All quiet in the harbour but outside that the wind was blowing fairly ferociously

There were lots of interesting little bits of architecture near the harbour, including this very fancily shaped corner piece of wall:

Beautifully shaped bit of architecture

And this lovely building looking out to the harbour, with a stained glass window set next to the doorway, and the house name carved into the back of a bench seat outside:

Lovely building near the harbour with a stained glass window

On a street leading up from the harbour there was a wonderful wall which had apparently been built around a big lump of rock that was already there:

Lovely sandstone in Pittenweem

For a bit of exercise and in order to enjoy the sunshine and fire ourselves up for our sweets, we took a bracing stroll along the coastal path:

A shed sign marks the way

A breezy bracing walk along the coast

As we reached the shoreline we passed through the edge of a links golf course. This type of golf course is very typical in Scotland and no doubt extremely challenging for the golfers concerned, what with gusting winds off the sea:

The coastal path goes through the golf course at Pittenweem

On the shore there was a large chunk of concrete emblazoned with a patriotic message. These sorts of messages appear all over Scotland and I’m not entirely sure why, but I daresay they’re written by Scots who want to be released from the tyranny of their English neighbours. Personally speaking, I’m very fond of the English, not to mention the Welsh and the Irish, and I like being a part of Britain. If I took tea with Alex Salmond (leader of the Scottish National Party and staunch campaigner for Scottish independence) I think I’d keep him off that topic and stick to safe subjects such as the weather, where he was going for his holidays and whatnot.

Patriotic message to remind us of our neighbours

If you still have the stomach for a bit more of Pittenweem, and some photos of sweet stuff, you might like to have a look at Part Two of this long post, but I need to toddle off and write it first…

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This week’s Tearoom of the Week comes to you from the Kingdom of Fife. As my delightful assistant and I were driving through Fife the other day I wondered why Fife is known as the ‘Kingdom of Fife’. Apparently it goes back to Pictish times (about 2000 years ago) when Scotland was divided into 7 kingdoms. Fife was one of them and for some reason the name ‘Kingdom of Fife’ has stuck, although it’s the only one we still refer to in that way.

The tearoom in question is a favourite of mine that I’ve been using as a carrot to help me finish my self-imposed task of collecting tearooms in the areas of Perthshire, Angus and Dundee. It’s so close to Perthshire that I’ve often been tempted to sidle into it over the past few weeks, but somehow I’ve managed to keep away until now.

What could be better than a tearoom that grows its own food? That’s precisely what happens in this place, for it’s attached to an organic farm. The farm was established in 1983 and grows a wide variety of salad items and vegetables, and produces lots of free range eggs from its 150 hens. The tearoom is fully organic and vegetarian, with most of the menu items being available as vegan and gluten free options. Here’s what greets you when you’ve bumped down a rough pothole-filled track:

The outside decking area has been built around a tree:

It was a bit chilly for sitting outside, not to mention a tad damp and very windy, so we headed indoors and found a nice little table for two tucked in a corner with pretty cushions on the chairs:

As soon as you open the door to this place your senses are assaulted. It has the kind of earthy smell you often get in healthfood shops, a creative mixture of herbs and spices, and right inside the front door is a magnificent array of fresh and organic fruit and vegetables:

Once you’ve successfully negotiated the fresh produce you’re hit with lots of other exciting things on shelves, many of which are edible. In addition to freshly baked bread, packets of biscuits, interesting chocolate and the many other food and drink items, there are organic shampoos, soaps, brushes, detergents and all sorts of other environmentally friendly products:

The whole place has a rustic, healthy, wholesome feel about it and it always makes me (and other customers, by the look of the lady below)  happy to wander round the shop or sit in the cafe.

One of my favourite menu items here is the salad, and I’m sure there’s nowhere else I’ve been that serves a fresher salad with fewer food miles. My assistant and I both chose the salad, with oatcakes for me and seeded bread for her (rice cakes are another option):

I was particularly surprised by the broccoli, which is not normally one of my favourite vegetables, but was prepared to perfection in this salad bowl. I could very happily have eaten a whole bowl of this broccoli, which I find quite astonishing. Every time I’ve been the salads have been different, because the ingredients change with the seasons. This is the way we should eat food, I suppose.

After a most delicious lunch, which included some excellent Rooibos tea for me and a glass of sweet cloudy apple juice for my assistant, we had a look round the shop and I bought a toothbrush, and three replacement heads (for the toothbrush, that is):

One thing I was tempted to buy, but didn’t, was some of the beautiful earthenware they had on display. The glaze was sort of pearlescent and I thought some of the individual pieces were very attractive. I was particularly keen on the domed butter dish towards the bottom right of this picture, which I thought was a most pleasing shape:

Some of the bowls had a magnificent lustre:

Before tootling away from this organic haven of healthiness, I visited the facilities, which are situated in what is more or less a large garden shed:

The somewhat basic privy arrangements might not please everyone, but I quite like them because they remind me of happy childhood camping holidays.

I feel I’ve come to the end of this tale, but the only problem with finishing here is that when this post is put onto my Facebook page it displays the last photograph. I have a feeling that ‘Tearoom of the Week (5)’ and then a picture of a toilet might not inspire many people to read on, so here’s a salad I had at the same tearoom last year instead:

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