Bakewell tart – it’s tasty, easy and nothing beats homemade

You guys know how much I love a slice of Bakewell tart with a cup of tea. I’ve even shared my homage in the bakewell muffin, but it occurred to me this week that I’ve never actually shared my Bakewell tart recipe with you guys. Shocking oversight, so since I fancied a wee slice today, here goes.

Firstly, do not worry, it is actually really easy. Even the pastry and here’s why.

There is no shame in using a food processor. Quick and easy. I know lots of people think it’s cheating, Kate included, but you need cold hands, like really cold to be able to work pastry and some of us just run warm. So you know what, that’s just life and if there is a tool that can help, then why is it a bad thing? After all, the folk who say “just keep running your hands under the cold tap” – notice they are saying the cold tap and not just keep running down to the local stream?

So if you struggle with traditional methods then stay tuned cause I’m gonna use a stand mixer too! To hell with it!

So you will need:

Ingredients for the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • Pinch of slat
  • 100g unsalted butter, Straight form the fridge and diced into little cubes about the size of a pea
  • 1 beaten, free-range egg
  • 1 tbsp milk (if you need it)

Ingredients for the filling

  • 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature this time
  • 150g sugar
  • 3 beaten, free-range eggs, at room temperature again
  • 150g ground almonds
  • Zest of an unwaxed lemon
  • Roughly 4 tbsp seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Roughly 2 tbsp flaked almonds

The pastry is the most time consuming task and we do that first. I’ll give you both ways of doing this, the traditional and the quick.

Traditional method for making pastry

In a big, cold bowl, sift in the flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Then using the very tips of your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it forms fine bread crumbs. This takes a while, but try not to touch the mixture too much, just your finger tips as you don’t want the butter to melt.

Now add the beaten eggs and milk and gently start to squeeze it together to form a firm dough, again try not to handle it too much. Be quick as you can.

Now wrap that ball of dough in cling film and chill it in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Quick method for making pastry

Sift your flour, salt and icing sugar into the bowl of your food processor (with the large blade attached), add the diced butter and pulse until you get breadcrumbs. Add you beaten egg and milk and then pulse another few times to bring it together.

Tip the now very, very, slightly, sticky breadcrumbs onto the worktop and bring together into a ball of dough, You don’t kneed, just bring it together.

Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Once chilled for at least 30 minutes (this will make it easier to roll), get your dough out and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. You want the thickness of a pound coin.

Now grease the hell out of a loose-bottomed baking tin, about 23cm in size. Line the tin with the pastry, but try not to stretch it when tucking it into the edges, let it fall naturally if you can and push down from the top of the pastry if needed.

You want to trim the excess, but not right down to the edge as pastry always shrinks a little bit. It’s better to properly trim at the end, so leave a little wiggle room here, maybe a cm and prick all over the bottom with a fork. This will help to stop it rising in the over.

Chill for 30 minutes again. This helps to stop it shrinking too much.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C with a baking sheet in there.

Cooking your pastry

It’s getting exciting now, we are almost there. Take the pastry out the fridge and line the pastry with scrunched up baking paper (scrunching it up makes it easier to fit to the pastry as it’s more pliable) and fill this with baking beans or rice. This is going to weight everything down and help to stop the pastry rising.

Now put this on the pre-heated baking sheet and bake (this is called blind baking) for 15 minutes. Then remove the beans/rice and paper and cook for another 5 minutes until pale golden and dry on top.

Filling (my favourite bit)

And now I bring in my stand mixer (my favourite kitchen appliance).

By hand

Put your butter and sugar in a big bowl and beat it together with a wooden spoon until pale and fluffy. Be prepared this takes ages and hurts your arm. Once it’s really pale and fluffy, beat in the eggs a little bit at a time, then fold in the lemon zest.

With a stand mixer

Put your butter and sugar in the bowl of your mixer and beat it until pale and fluffy, takes about 5 minutes. Once it’s really pale and fluffy, beat in ground almonds and then the eggs a little bit at a time, then fold in the lemon zest.

Now for the jam, spread it evenly across the base of the pastry. I like a nice thick layer, it goes all gorgeous once it’s baked.

Then spoon over the filling mixture, levelling the surface with the back of the spoon or palate knife when you are done.

Lastly scatter over the flaked almonds and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden, well risen and just set in the centre. A skewer should come out clean.

Now the hardest part, leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then lift onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Then nom with a mug of earl grey and some clotted cream.

A wee alternative

You don’t have to always make this as a tart to slice. What about mini, individual tarts, or tiny bite sized mouthfuls or even a tray bake.

Butternut squash soup… an autumn warmer or còsagach recipe

Last year we introduced you to our winter fun known as Hygge. It the association of all things warming and comforting to get you through the dark nights, happy with what you have and the time spent with loved ones. Well as we were telling you all about this, a local newspaper here in Scotland introduced us to what they are claiming is the Scottish term for this… còsagach.  Now I will not lie, I have never heard of this and no one I spoke to had either, but hey I’m all up for a new term to explain things which is way easier to say 🙂

So còsagach…. VisitScotland the tourism people are claiming it means snug, cosy or sheltered. Maybe relating to sheltered as in a den or foxhole, something an animal shelters in? Some folk relate this to a bit of a mix up with còsag maybe sounding like the English word cosy?

But hey, what the heck let’s have some fun and go with it. So today’s recipe is a warming Butternut Squash Soup for a còsagach autumn evening. Maybe after raking leaves in the garden adding more duct tape to the poorly and failing greenhouse?


  • 1 large peeled and deseeded butternut squash, cut into little bits
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 0.25 tsp chilli powder
  • 0.25 tsp paprika
  • 0.25 tsp cardamom
  • 0.25 tsp nutmeg
  • 1.5 litres stock (I like chicken)
  • Salt and pepper

How to

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan
  2. Put the squash into a large bowl with the oil, spices and salt and pepper and give it all a good mix
  3. Spread it out on a roasting tray and roast for about 45 minutes, or until squishy
  4. Fry the chopped onion until soft and then add it to your soup pot
  5. Once the squash is cooked, put it into your soup pot and add the stock
  6. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins. Check the seasoning
  7. When you are happy, blend the heck out of it!!! You want it velvety smooth

Serve it with some crusty bread and butter or for extra còsagach/hygge, you could roast the butternut squash seeds (just for 5 minutes or so) with some oil, chilli powder and garlic salt and then sprinkle on top.

Halloween here isn’t about pumpkins… apple spiced muffin recipe

I’ve been involved in a bit of facebook rant recently about Halloween and the fact that Scottish kids celebrate this as the American version (trick or treat) rather than holding onto the traditional Scottish celebrations I knew as a kid. It’s just one of those things, the world is becoming smaller with the advent of communications technologies. We grow up with American, Hollywood films and TV shows regularly come from the states, so it’s only natural that there is a crossover of cultures. So I suppose that’s where bloggers like myself have to talk about our cultural traditions so they don’t get forgotten.


Pumpkin is everywhere at this time of year… now. It wasn’t a thing really when I was a kid, but these days Halloween and Autumn, in general, are filled with pumpkin. We have pumpkin decorations in the shops and pumpkin spiced coffees in the coffee shops etc. Here in Scotland, the tradition at Halloween was to carve a turnip. Yep, a turnip and it was bloody hard work, really only adults had any chance. We also had a few other traditions which I loved.

Dookin for apples

Pic from

Dookin for apples was simply lots of apples bobbing in a big tub of water, which you had to catch with only your mouth – hands behind your back. There was much hilarity and soggy kids. We also ate apples coated in toffee with a stick stuck into them to hold, a bit like a lollipop.

Treacle Scones

Pic from

I have to tell you about treacle scones just for my baby sister Leigh (who turned 41 a couple of days ago – happy birthday Leigh! The game of treacle scones is basically, bits of scone, covered in black treacle, hanging from strings across the room (so they swing) and kids, again with hands behind their backs have to bite the scones. Imagine treacle all over your face, in your hair, on your clothes etc… My sister had long, thick curly hair and she was always a complete mess but the end of the game (it didn’t help that I worked out that I could nudge the scones just right so they’d swing right at her).


Lastly, in Scotland we go guising, not trick or treating. We made our costumes and go out prepared to “do a party piece” to earn our sweets. It could be you tell a joke, sing a song, show off your dance moves… or if you are my little brother, Arlen, tell an adorable cute poem when you are 3 – completely set up by myself and Leigh cause his cuteness got us extra sweets… We coached him well!

Anyways…. enough of my rant, you came here for a recipe..

Spiced Apple muffins (not pumpkin) for a warm autumn night treat

Ingredients for 12 large muffins

  • 500g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 180ml oil
  • 150ml milk
  • 400g jar of Bramley apple sauce (with chunks of apple in)

I am being completely lazy and using a jar of apple sauce, but feel free to use your own homemade sauce it will probably be sooooo much better.

Get Baking

Muffin wrappers

Step 1.  First, preheat your oven to 170 C for a fan oven or 190 C for a conventional oven & then prepare your muffin tin – if you aren’t using muffin wrappers as I do (see above), oil your tin.

Step 2. In a bowl, combine all your wet ingredients and sugar and then give it, really good mix to break up the egg and combine the egg and oil. Then add your applesauce and mix it through.

Step 3. Sift the flour, spices and baking powder into a big bowl and give it a good mix.

Step 4. Pour your wet into your dry, give it enough of a mix to combine but don’t over mix. How to know it’s right, it should drop thickly and easily off a spoonBaking can add more milk if it’s too thick and a little flour if it’s too runny.

Step 5. Add the batter to the muffin wrappers. They should be NO MORE than three-quarters full. Do not overfill, trust me, as they will rise heaps in the oven.

Step 6. As quickly as you can, get them in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 mins, until they are golden brown on top.

Step 7. Let them cool and then nom!

What to do with a glut of tomatoes… make passata of course

As always with a veg garden, there are times when you have such a glut of produce that you are trying to find ways to use things up rather than give it all away or worse, waste it. So today, with the crazy amount of tomatoes we’ve grown, we are making lots and lots of homemade passata, or tomato sauce.

this was just one harvest

Passata is really easy to make, basically you are just cooking down the tomatoes.

So lets start, chop all your tomatoes and get them in a huge pot with a sprinkling of salt. Put the lid on and let them cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes or so, just until they are all softened and broken down.

You want them all softened to make the next part easier, you are going to push all this through a sieve, so separate all the tasty, lovely juicy stuff from the pulp.

Really it’s that easy. Just ladle a small amount into the sieve and then run the ladle or spoon over it until it all breaks down further and pushed the liquid out, leaving just the pulp behind. Which you can discard.

Lovely, smooth, tomato sauce.  Now you want to boil this for about 10 minutes to get rid of any excess water and let it thicken slightly. Be very careful as it will spit and tomato sauce is like lava. Once it’s done you will be left with a gorgeous, smooth sauce for pasta, pizza, lasagne, stews etc.

This is the perfect time to have a taste and add any seasoning, herbs etc you want. A good thing to know on flavour… you can use unripened tomatoes too, you may just have to add a little sugar to supplement the sweetness of the tomatoes as unripened tomatoes are not as sweet as ripe ones.

A bit of advice though, obviously red tomatoes give you a vibrant, red sauce… purple tomatoes give you a brown sauce. Just be warned so you don’t think, “what the heck…”

Passata can be stored in jars in the fridge or food storage boxes or even in freezer bags in the freezer. That’s what we do. We’ve now got a freezer full of tomato sauce for easy and quick weeknight dinners.

Parlies or Parliament Cake – an old fashioned Scottish biscuit

Happy St Andrew’s day everyone. I thought in honour of the day of the Scottish patron saint (who is also the patron saint of loads of other places), I’d have a go at something a bit special, something from history…  am I setting the scene? Are you excited?

Parlies or Parliament Cake.

I have to thank my study buddy Rachelle for giving me this idea, she was researching shortbread (as you do) and came across a mention of these and got in touch to ask if I knew how to make them. Of course, I leapt into action, got the research head on and found out so I could share with you guys as a special St Andrew’s day treat.

So what are they exactly? Well, a biscuit, with ginger and treacle, sounds lovely and wintery right? Well, you are right. They are lovely and dark and have a slight toffee edge, but that’s not even the best bit. The best bit is the cracking story of how they were born / where they came from. So here it is just for you.

Parlies or parliament cakes (to give them their Sunday name) were the creation of Mrs Flockhart (locally known as Luckie Fykie) of Potterrow here in Edinburgh. She had a little general grocer shop and tavern (which incidentally is no longer there because the student union is now there) which was allegedly visited by esteemed gentlemen of the Scottish Parliament, including the father of Sir Walter Scott, allegedly. The story says that these gentlemen would visit the shop but head through the shop into the back rooms (or ben the hoose as we would say), where they would drink whisky and eat parliament cake.

Mrs Flockhart’s parlies are described as crisp square cakes and she apparently offered round “snaps”.  So my version is not exactly accurate to hers, as mine are round, but they are tasty treats all the same. If you wanted to make yours square, you could roll the dough and cut it into squares.

If you want to read more about Mrs Flockhart and her “goings on”, there is a nice account in “Traditions of Edinburgh, Vol 2”.

So for the recipe.


225g plain flour
115g butter
115g brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons black treacle
2 and a half teaspoons ground ginger

How to make them

Mix the flour, ginger and sugar thoroughly in a bowl.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the treacle and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.

Add the hot butter and treacle to the bowl holding the dry ingredients and mix a little to allow the mixture to cool, add your egg and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until you get a dough.

Not the most attractive but its tasty

When it has cooled enough to handle, scoop up about a tablespoon amount and drop this onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Flatten it a bit so it looks more biscuit like.

You should get about 12-15 biscuits, depending on how big you make them, but remember they will expand a little in the oven, so leave space.

Bake at 160C for 25 minutes then leave to cool on a cooling rack. They are properly crunchy (like ginger snaps when cool).

Pizza Muffins – all the pizza goodness but in a handy munch sized format

pizza muffinsEverybody loves pizza. It’s one of the facts of the world but sometimes you want that pizza hit but maybe you don’t want to eat a whole pizza (I can’t imagine that’s ever true). So the solution, Pizza Muffins.

Pizza muffins are really simple to make and are a brilliant and comforting munch when slightly warm. You can put your favourite pizza fillings in them and be as naughty or as healthy as you like. Well I challenge you to be healthy, I just fill ‘em with cheese and meats. For this batch I made mozzarella and pepperoni with herbs, but they would work just as well with ham and mushroom, cheese and veggies or anything else you fancy.

The first thing you need to get these going is bread roll dough, my recipe for bread roll dough is available on the blog so here you go: Eli’s Bread Roll Recipe

Now onto turning this gorgeous dough into muffins (Makes 18).

You will need

  • Oil 5 tbsp
  • Mozzarella 300g
  • Cheddar cheese 100g
  • 2 tbsp herbs
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 170 g pepperoni
  • Muffin tray
  • Oil for greasing muffin tray

What to do

  • Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius
  • Take your risen but not proved bread dough and break it up into as many small pieces as you can, roughly about 1 cm pieces.
  • Mince your garlic and chop the cheese and pepperoni into small pieces. Now put these into a big bowl with your oil and herbs, and get your hands in there and make sure that everything is all mixed up. Try not to squish it, keep it all as separate pieces.
  • Now grease your muffin tray and add handfuls of the dough and goodies mix to fill the muffin tray about 3 quarters full (you want to leave room for the muffins to rise). Make sure you get a good mix of dough, cheese and meat in each muffin cup.
  • Put the muffin lovelies into the oven for 20 to 25 mins, they should rise and be golden brown when done. That’s you. I let them cool a little, but these are best served warm so that the mozzarella is till gooey.


Yum! You could even serve them with a warm tomato sauce to dip.

Garden gluts – this time it’s tomato relish

Well we’ve made courgette fritters to deal with a glut of courgettes and beetroot soup to deal with a glut of beetroot. Today it is tomato relish.

We eat a lot of relishes and pickles, but it’s not something we’ve ever tried to make so today I decided I’d have a bit of a look around the internet to see what was involved with the aim of using up the last of the marmane tomatoes from our greenhouse (well I say the last – just the last from the batch I picked this week there are a whole lot more).

Looking at recipes online, it didn’t look too difficult so I thought, hey why not? And it turned out quite tasty so I thought I’d share it with you and maybe if you’ve fancied trying your hand but haven’t been brave enough, this might give you the courage.

ingredients for relishIngredients

  • 1kg of tomatoes
  • 500g of onions
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1/2 tsp smoked papkrika
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4cm piece of ginger
  • 250g sugar
  • 150ml red wine vinegar

What to do

It’s dead easy.

Slice the onions and throw them in a pan and caramalise them.

While that’s happening, take the skins off the tomatoes (make a cross in the bottom then put them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Take them out and plug them in ice water for 30 seconds. The skin comes right off) and chop them up.

Chop the garlic, ginger and chilli.

Once the onions are caramalised, put everything in a pan and simmer for an hour, stirring frequently.

Once it goes dark and “jammy” it’s ready.


tomato relishIMPORTANT NOTE

You need to sterilise any jars you are using to store this – the easiest way is to wash them and then put them on a tray in the oven with the lids off and beside them.

Heat the oven to 120C (for a fan) with the jars in there and leave them there in the hot oven for at least half an hour.



Beetroot soup – what to do with a glut of beetroot


We mentioned earlier in the blog that we were having to come up with ideas for using up courgettes. Well the problem now is beetroot. We have tons of the stuff.

So Kate and I have challenged ourselves to come up with 5 things to do with beetroot. Today it’s beetroot soup.


  • 3-4 medium (apple-sized) beetroot – grated
  • 500g ripe tomatoes, halved
  • 1 clove garlic – chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion – peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500ml of stock, we used chicken
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 125g feta cheese

What to do

  1. Firstly put the halved tomatoes in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the garlic and drizzle over half the olive oil.
  2. Roast them for 25-30 minutes in a fairly hot oven (190C or 170C fan) until soft and squishy. Then rub them through a sieve to remove the skin and pips.
  3. Then heat the remaining oil in a pan and sweat the onion for a few minutes until soft. Add the beetroot and the stock and bring to the boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Simmer gently for 10 minutes until the beetroot is tender.
  5. Stir in the tomato puree you’ve just made and then scoop out two ladle fulls and put aside.
  6. Using a stick blender, blitz until smooth and then add the two ladle fulls back to the pot.
  7. To serve, crumble over a little feta into each bowl and serve with crusty bread.Easy peezy.


Ever wonder where it all started? Cooking, gardening, brewing and even cycling.

writing a blog littleI’ve been asked quite a few times recently when I started or why I got into or how we created the garden, or how on earth we started making our own beer and I was even asked this week if I had just started cycling and I always direct people to this blog telling them that there are loads of stories here about everything.

Sometimes people say “Wow that’s great I’ll really enjoy reading that”, which is always a nice feeling. However today someone said, ” there’s just so many stories on there, how do I find the start?”

That’s something that hadn’t occurred to me before, yes this blog has grown massively in the last couple of years and I suppose it isn’t as easy anymore to find the beginning of some of the on going stories about the garden or house or our first adventures in brewing etc so what should I do? I guess I help a little here, here are some links to help you – I guess it’s like our personal way back machine.

Some highlights from Ar Bruidair.

Lots of posts (in order) about how we created our gardens

All the posts about our brewing from our very first attempt at beer until our most recent

My adventures in cycling

If you are feeling very brave – a very old blog from when I was learning Gaelic


What’s cooking – a book review


One of our big successes of 2014 wasn’t veggies we’d grown or even beer we’d brewed. It was quite simply that we tidied the shelf in the den creating space to organise our ever-growing pile of cookery books. Previously we’d kept the books in a messy pile in the living room but because it had become so difficult to find the one you were after, they had mostly sat about being ignored.

The new organised shelf mean that we are re-discovering some of our favourites and trying some new recipes.

So we thought we’d share our current favourite cookery books and recipes with you.


Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall – of River Cottage fame

everydayOne of the first and indeed most used cookery books we bought was the “Every day” book.  It came about because our friends Hayley and Luke cooked a few dishes for us that we really loved and when we asked about them, Hayley raved about this book and let us have a leaf through it. By the time Kate had driven us home that evening, I had been online on my phone and bought a copy.

The recipes in the book are nice and simple and very easy to follow and if you are eagle-eyed you will find a few of our versions of these recipes on our blog. Stuffed squash is a particular favourite of our as well as beetroot tart.



Gok Wan – Fashion Guru????????

gokThis one may throw you a little. Yes Gok Wan of TV fame for being a fashion design guru.

Lots of people are a bit confused about why he has released a cookery book after all he’s not a tv chef, doesn’t do cookery shows etc but it turns out he grew up cooking in his dad’s Chinese restaurant and has reworked a lot of his old favourite dishes into  slightly more healthy and less stodgy versions.

I love them.

In fact one of my favourite dishes to cook came from this book – Garlic Chicken.


Paul Hollywood – of Great British Bake Off fame

hollywoodOk I have to admit to my deep, dark secret. I am a massive Paul Holllywood fan – massive.

I had a nightmare of a time trying to learn how to make bread and then got his “How to Bake” book. An overnight transformation and I’m now making bread easily and sometimes I’m even a wee bit adventurous. Again I have to admit, it was Luke that turned me onto this book – he was making a cottage loaf one afternoon for lunch and I can still remember how amazing it smelled.

I think I had even ordered that book before we got home.

I now own 3 or 4 of Paul Hollywood’s books and even though he is a self-confessed “yellow, fizzy swill drinker”, I’m a fan.


Allegria Mcevery – TV chef

AllegriaAlledria Mcevery’s “Big Table Busy Kitchen” is a new purchase for us and so far we’ve only made one recipe from it, her Key Lime Pie. However it was fantastic, so I know I am going to be using this book more as the year goes on and I’m happy to recommend it.

I think my next experiment is going to be into pastry and tarts and there are certainly a few in this book that have caught my eye – who knows I may tell you all about it.


So there you have it, our kitchen reading recommendations for 2015. Stock up your bookshelves and get cooking.