Not just no rain, lots of sunshine!! Keeping the plants watered has been a full time job!! Our friends from America arrived and brought with them some pure sunshine, 3 weeks here feels like a summer worth of great weather. We were pleased to see some rain clouds roll in as it had been so dry that several fires had started in the area one of which was said to have been from a spark as a car’s undercarriage scraped the pavement and created a spark. Fires nearby meant that we woke up to Plockton under a cloud of smoke, at first it looked like the kind of low lying cloud we often get on a morning around here but as soon as you stepped outside the smell of smoke hit you. Thankfully all of the fires were contained and no one was hurt.
This year we decided that since there are several May birthdays in our family that we should throw a big BBQ birthday bash and low and behold the weather was on our side!! Since the deck is finished and the hut is in place we decided to put up a marquee next to it and enjoy the views of Loch Carron. After several family weddings and birthdays over the years we have made a lot of bunting so we made sure to put that to good use as decor and to help guide people to the BBQ spot. It was a great turnout and there was lots of wonderful food for everyone to enjoy. We had some guest musicians show up that we had met playing at the pub over the weekend to get us started and our DJ friend to see us through the evening. We did decide that we needed to upgrade the BBQ from the old stove to the “BathBQ” which proved to be perfect for the occasion!!
We have had some major repairs happening at the start of the walk and although it is not finished we have managed to get the path back to a usable state. Everyone is welcome but please remember to respect the garden and wildlife and take any litter with you off the property. Our current hours are 9-7 during the summer but please check the opening times section of our website as the seasons change. Enjoy your walk.
Things are looking good in the veg patch, we have several varieties of potato growing, lots of beans climbing up bamboo poles in new beds, a very full onion bed, broccoli on the way and a polytunnel full of veg. It has been a great to have the polly-tunnel properly sealed with raised beds inside and a soaker hose to make for easier watering. We are still learning what works well up here and our major overhaul of the vegetable garden seems to have been the right thing to do. Looking forward to eating lots of fresh veggies this year. Watch this space for more recipes too!
If you have never had Romesco Sauce you are in for a real treat. I tastes amazing and can be served with so many things in so many ways. Here I will provide the sauce recipe and some suggestions with more in depth recipes to come.
Romesco Sauce: The heart of Romesco Sauce is roasted red peppers, you can roast your own peppers however life is busy and I prefer to use roasted red peppers from a jar that have been lightly pickled. I have a particular brand I use when I can get it which is Cooks&Co Roasted Red Peppers (you will see in photo below) I am sure there are other great ones out there but the key wording here is roasted, which brings out the sweetness. Everyone has different taste so just taste it as you are making it and adjust. I like it to have a vinegary bite which is usually calmed by what you are serving it with.
1 whole bulb of garlic roasted – slice the top off of your bulb put in a small oven proof tray and pour a good glug of olive oil all over it making sure it soaks into the top, roast at 180-200 (fan oven) for about 10-15 min. You want it to be a little soft to squeeze and nicely browned. Let it cool before peeling back the skin and taking out the soft buttery cloves. If you like garlic mayo use this to blend into some store bought mayo for a mind blowing mayo experience!
Next: I had 3 large peppers left in my jar so that is what I used for this recipe, put the ingredients below into a food processor
3 large roasted red peppers chopped (if you are going to roast your own, put skin side up under grill till blackened, place in bowl with cling film while hot to help loosen skin, then peel the skins off. You may want to add some extra vinegar to the recipe since they have not been pickled, just add I extra tablespoon at a time tasting each time)
2 tablespoons of juice from the jar (this stuff is great don’t throw it away, get your money’s worth)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2/3 cup of ground almond
1 heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika
good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper (add more after you have whizzed it up if you think it needs it)
With all of this in the food processor switch it on and slowly add 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Taste and adjust
This sauce is delicious with seafood in general especially when grilled, over pasta (tastes great cold the next day too), with asparagus fries (recipe coming soon), as a dip or just on the table with a roast chicken dinner and grilled summer vegetables.
Really the list goes on, I never worry about making too much because you will always find something to have it with. On the day that I photographed this sauce being made I had some green beans that needed using up and really fancied some potatoes so I made a big warm salad which I will give a quick description of here.
After roasting the garlic bulb I added 1 white onion cut into 6 wedges (in hindsight I should have done 2 onions) and but them in the same pan with a little more oil (any oil) and after then were softening I added some rosemary leaves stripped from the stem.
I boiled whole potatoes (I used some red skin but something waxy would have been better) when they are cooked let then steam off a bit and then slice and lay into a big flat serving dish while still hot and pour over olive oil (I had also reduced the rest of the liquid from the jar of peppers and poured this over too but you can just use olive oil) I first had this style of potato in Spain and you want to use a good tasty olive oil to create delicious buttery potatoes (watch out for the bitter oils no good for this)
I steamed the green beans then sliced them a little smaller and mixed with the onion and rosemary then scattered on the potato and topped with the Romesco Sauce and some hot smoked salmon that I had broken up with a fork.
We then had some spinach leaves with this warm salad and those leaves could have been put below the potato but I hadn’t thought of that yet!
I always like to have a vegetarian version of a dish and this one you could serve the salmon separately and as an alternative you could also have some black olives and or feta in a bowl for a veggie to add to their dish. I think this is the way forward for creating things everyone can eat, I guess some people call it deconstructed but that is a little fancy for my liking.
So time to get busy experimenting with all the wonderful things you can eat with this sauce!!
This is a delightful, colourful and refreshing salad. This recipe is for a starter for 4 and I made each salad on a plate as opposed to putting it all in a bowl to be tossed and served but you could try that in which case I would stick to wedge or cube shapes for the orange, beet and avocado. If you have the time and patience it does look great beautifully laid out on a plate.
Dressing: Make sure you taste the mixture of the first 3 ingredients while your cooking it down as some blood oranges are more sour then others, if you feel like it is way too tart then add a little more maple syrup but don’t forget that you are adding oil when it cools
1/2 cup of blood orange juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Put all ingredients in a saucepan and reduce of a low heat (warm enough that you can see vapour rising) for about 5 minutes
Let this cool in then add 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
Salad:Layer up the ingredients starting with the orange, beet and avocado. Then add the dill and crumbled feta and top with the pistachio and Pangrattato. Drizzle a little of the dressing over each plate and put the rest in a small jug on the table. Don’t feel like you have to use all of the Pangrattato or feta on each plate, any leftovers make a great topping for and easy pasta dish.
3 blood oranges – cut the skin off with a knife and cut out each segment or make slices (or both depending on how you want to present it)
1 pack of cooked sweet beetroot (not pickled) cut into wedges or flat slices (or both depending on how you want to present it)
1 avocado – cut in half and remove the stone and holding each half in your hand cut slices lengthways with a butter knife then carefully scoop out each half with a large serving spoon.
1 block of feta crumbled
1 handful of pistachios – roast and then smash in a postal and mortar
Dill – pick leaves away from thick stem and place around salad or sprinkle on top
Pangrattato- this is the Italian name for grated bread, just take 2 bread ends and break them up into a food processor and turn into crumbs. Add a tablespoon of oil (any) and toss the crumbs in the oil till well coated. Let them sit on a medium heat and don’t turn them too often so they crisp up nicely, add a sprinkling of salt too. Set to the side when nicely browned.
We were very lucky to have recently had a lovely couple get in touch with us about a 60 year old glass house that they wanted to find a new home for. It was built in the 60’s as part of a market garden and has served them well over the years but all of the wood framework had started to rot and it was becoming a bit dangerous to work in. We came to have a look and were blown away by the size, our imaginations were busy with ideas of what we could grow inside. James decided we could make use of it and so we set a date to come back and disassemble it.
The weather was great and we got stuck in early with the help of Derek and Jane and had all of the glass out before lunch. Once the glass was out we could then begin to see how the structure had been built. Each section was made of a wooden frame that held 4 sheets of glass that was fixed to the metal frame underneath. We did think that the overall design needed to be adjusted some to prevent the wood from rotting as easily next time. Then there was the pile of glass which fell and smashed so it may be that we will rebuild the frame up against a wall or solid structure to save on having to replace all that glass. Whatever we do it will be great to see parts of this old beauty brought back to life.
All in all the breakdown took two days, we were blessed with great weather and great company for the takedown. It is now all neatly stored here at Rudah Mor while we figure out where it can go and what we need to do to rebuild it.
We are a family full of foodies and so we thought it was high time to start sharing some of the amazing meals we eat here. A favourite food in this household is Hot Smoked Salmon so you will probably find that features in many dishes but we also cater for many guests and so there is always something different on the menu. Recently I discovered that the local shop had blood oranges and they really got my tastebuds going so check out the recipe for blood orange salad in my next food post.
Busy in the lean-to getting lots of small plants potted up and more seeds planted. The polly tunnel beds and getting filled in, we have 6 rows of carrots in the first bed as you walk in. It is the only bed in the polly tunnel that is double the height and it is filled with lovely rock free compost so hopefully we will get some lovely long carrots. We planted classic orange and a rainbow mix with garlic at each end and in the middle. The chard and parsnips are also in at the opposite end and we have put more garlic at the other ends to help deter pests. We have some little plants which we put in the soil to grow them up for putting outdoor and most of them are looking ready for transplant just waiting for it to get a little warmer.
We are constantly working on developing our wind defences and so James has taken loads of cuttings from the enormous red dogwood in the arboretum and pushed them into the ground along the side of the veg garden. This will be the first layer of defence for that side as it grows up and the plan is to eventually have a second layer of defence, a gooseberry hedge, all the way around to help keep out the deer.
James also added a long winding row of the red dogwood through and area on Jimmy’s walk. It is a little difficult to see (photo below right) but it should add a lovely bit of colour into that area.
Also been prepping some of the beds outside the polly tunnel in preparations for the beans being ready to go out. Things are still a bit messy but soon it will all start coming together and looking good with green growth.
Rhododendron ponticum is everywhere on Rudha More and in some cases it is good as it creates a wind block and when we do remove it thought must go into how we can add new wind defences. There are spots all along the woodland walk where we are doing this, some small and some large. We have been advised that if you keep cutting back the same spot after 3-4 times it should start to die off so it is important to go back to areas we have started on and make sure we continue the cut backs. A popular spot on the walk which looks toward Duncraig Castle and has been recently named Proposal Point was where I was working the other day. It wasn’t a big job, it only filled on wheel barrow but it is one of those little jobs that need to be fit in regularly to keep the culling process working. So here are some before and after photos and the nice thing about clearing this spot is that as you enter the woodland walk from the upper meadow you get a nice peak toward the castle which would be otherwise blocked by the ponticum.