I have lived in Aberdeen for four almost four years now, and I am now just coming to the end of my time at university here. I can remember so clearly first sitting with my Lonely Planet Scotland book, months before first came, and looking at all of the potential for adventure hidden between the pages. One adventure, or several really, that I have been lucky enough to embark on are visits to a few of Scotland’s beautiful, historical and rugged islands, something that has just left me wanting to see more…Iona…Arran…Islay…here I come!!
So, grab your scarf and your woolly hat (they tend to be a bit blowy) and I’ll show you some of the magical places we visited last summer…
Tiree is about a four hour ferry journey from Oban. It is ten miles long and five miles wide, and is desolate and beautiful. I am told it is one of the sunniest places in Britain, however it is also very windy and know for it’s great windsurfing. We drove straight of the boat into the nothingness and tranquility, and stayed our three nights in the cutest little traditional black and white crofters cottage.
Lewis is the largest island in the Outer Hebrides covering about 683 square miles, it is also home to the largest settlement in the Western Isles, Stornoway. We only visited Stornoway once for provisions, spending most of our time exploring the diverse landscape and travelling along the deserted, sweeping roads and trying not to be blown away in the little wooden wigwam we were staying in. Two golden eagles even came out to play for us!!
Harris is attached to Lewis, and is MUCH more mountainous, meaning fewer inhabited areas, it is also home to the sought after Harris Tweed. It has some of the most breathtaking, sweeping beaches I have ever seen and makes for some very exciting driving!
Last week we took a little day trip to London, and while we were there visited The Hummingbird Bakery. They have six bakeries dotted all over London, but I have never been in, just occasionally drooled at the brightly coloured cupcakes through the window. I have been baking from their cookbooks for years (they are the creator of my go to brownie recipe), and so jumped at the chance to eat the actual thing when pudding was called for!
I went for a carrot cupcake, a recipe I haven’t tried, but now fully intend to. Dom had the real-thing-brownie, topped with it’s own icing sugar Hummingbird, which he claims it wasn’t as quite good as mine…but I think this was probably more of a brownie insurance ploy. And Luke, just out of shot, devoured the biggest piece of red velvet you have ever seen.
Delicious, and most certainly worth a visit if you happen to be passing.
Starbucks used to do this amazing stem ginger muffin, it was literally THE BEST THING and I still feel a pang of sadness that it no longer sits in their cake cabinet as I wait for my coffee (and make do with a lemon and poppy seed instead…a hard life, I know). I appreciate these emotions are a little extreme, it was just a muffin, but it was a really great muffin. It wasn’t a ginger cake in the traditional sense, dark and heavy, but light, airy and slightly sticky with chucks of actual stem ginger lurking within, all topped with a runny ginger icing (YUM). This recipe that I am going to share with you is about the closest I have ever found – it doesn’t make muffins but a big square cake that can be cut into extra large slices when nobody is looking.
The best recipes are always those which live most of their lives scrunched up, sticky and stained in an old recipe book. I think my mum brought this one home from work one day, but we’ve been making it for such a long time now it has sort of become ‘ours’.
Line your tin, the instructions specify a 7 inch cake tin, I’ve always used this handy oblong shaped one which is about 11″ by 7″ and makes good cake squares of a nice thickness but just see what you have in the cupboard! Then dollop into your bowl the butter and sugar and beat them together until nice a fluffy.
Now add your four eggs, extra points if they are as well traveled as mine…these good little eggs were given to me by my mum last week when I was home. Fresh from her chickens and extra dirty, they sat on the back seat of the car as we drove first across the country from Shropshire to near Nottingham, down to Leicester for the day and back again, then all the way up to Aberdeen!
Beat in your eggs one at a time before sieving the flour into the mixture.
I always use this preserved stem ginger that you can buy sitting in syrup, it is super gingery and the syrup is just perfect for the icing we will make later, so hold that thought. Chop up about 3oz – I always add a little more because I love it so much, and chop rather carelessly so that I find extra big chunks in my cake – and then fold into the mixture along with a little slosh of milk.
Finally dollop into your cake tin, spread flat, and prepare to wait patiently as delicious smells fill the room. The cake cooks for 75 minutes – that’s an hour and 15 for the less mathematically minded of us (which is me, every time)!
When a your cake is a golden brown colour and a knife comes out clean it is cooked and, as tempting as it is, let it cool before icing. I promise it will be worth it!
Make up some icing with as much ginger syrup as you can spare, then making the consistency right with a little boiling water. Allow it to drip deliciously into pools down the side of the cake, but make up a bit more thicker icing if it runs straight off the middle of your cake leaving it bare! Then decorate with more preserved or some crystallised chunks of ginger. Finally cut into bite sized (or not-so-bite-sized) pieces.
Iced Ginger Cake
For the cake:
8oz soft brown sugar
4 eggs (well traveled or not!)
10oz self raising flour
3oz preserved ginger (chopped in accordance with your preferences)
2 tablespoons milk
For the icing:
6/8oz icing sugar
What to do:
Grease and line your chosen tin.
Beat the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift the flour and salt into the mixture, then add the chopped ginger and milk. Fold all of this in until it is all well incorporated. Turn mixture out into the prepared tin.
Bake for 75 minutes, above the centre of the oven at 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/gas mark 4.
Once your cake has cooled sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and then add the ginger syrup and a little water until you have a thick but spreadable runny icing. Spread over the top of your cake and allow to run down the sides a little, then decorate with more preserved or crystallised ginger pieces.
Today, Dom was kind enough to drive me to Leicester, we are at his home-home at the moment because it is our Easter holidays from uni and it is much closer to Leicester than mine. He took me so that I could visit one of my very best friends from school who I haven’t seen since THE SUMMER – much gasping please, and this-must-never-happen-again-ing. Over the Christmas holidays we somehow missed each other; I wasn’t at home much as I had to get back from work, and she was away and only back after I was back in Aberdeen.
So, today we had a LOVELY afternoon and C is for a very long awaited catch up. We chatted and giggled and ate burgers and completely put the world to rights. It was just the best.
“A whizzpopper!” cried the BFG, beaming at her. “Us giants is making whizzpoppers all the time! Whizzpopping is a sign of happiness. It is music in our ears! You surely is not telling me that a little whizzpopping if forbidden among human beans?”
— Roald Dahl, The BFG
B is for Whizzpopper? No, B is for the BFG!
Yesterday seemed to disappear without me even noticing, and with some added travelling there was no time for sitting at computers…so, a little late, here is yesterdays offering. A quote from Roald Dahl’s wonderful The BFG to make you smile on a Thursday morning.