Monday, June 30, 2008

Crookston Castle

Crookston Castle
OK, let's see if I can get a couple more 'travel' and 'local culture' posts in before my parents arrive on Wednesday! Back in May, when it was still summer, Heather and I had a free Saturday. There are still a few castle/ruin-y places around Glasgow we have been meaning to visit, so we decided on Crookston Castle, near Paisley. Rumors of Paisley's quality charity shops/thrift stores may have influenced our decision. The Antonine Wall will have to wait for another day...

Heather at the top of Crookston Castle
Heather descendsHeather descends further!
I won't say too much about the castle. It was built by the Stewarts in about 1400, but got pretty badly damaged early on in its history. It has a nice tower from which you can see the Campsie Fells, a little of Glasgow, and a lot of housing schemes. The moat is pretty cool, but the grounds around the castle tend to be frequented (especially on sunny days) by large groups of intimidating adolescents. The ones playing football/soccer aren't bad, but the ones with cases of Stella are less hospitable. This may be why the castle caretaker has an Alsatian/German Shepherd.

This is one of the better ruins we've been to, slightly nicer than Bothwell Castle, we think. This is mainly because you can climb up so high in the tower.

Once we got back to Paisley, we weren't able to find the amazing charity shops, but I did get a record number of beard comments for one day. None were incredibly original, so I won't bother to post them here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fried Trout With Almonds

A fresh discovery at Sainsbury's: Trout fillets are for sale for a typical price. However, peel your fishy little eyes and look next to those trout fillets, and you find ... "trout fillets: various sizes". Ah ha ... this is a package of trout fillets that are not all exactly the same size, so they sell them way cheaper! They are all good sizes, the only difference is the packaging isn't quite as appealing. Same fish though. I bought a pack and it ended up being more than enough for the two of us for dinner.

I used this recipe from my Encyclopedia of International Cooking (a large heavy book that I fear to bring back to the states):

Fried Trout With Almonds:
Season 4-6 trout* with salt and a little pepper. Dip them in milk and then in flour. Melt 4 tablespoons/2 ounces butter with 1 tablespoon oil and saute the fish for 5 minutes each side or until golden brown and flakes easily. Remove the trout from the pan and keep warm.

Drain the fat from the pan and melt 4 tablespoons/2 ounces more butter. Add 4-6 tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds and cook, shaking the pan continuously until the almonds are golden brown. Add juice of 1 lemon and 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, and pour over the trout. Serve.

*I used 4-6 trout fillets, and kept all other amounts the same. It was tasty. However I had a similar dish in Prague which was made with whole fish and it was absolutely gorgeous. Can't go wrong with butter and almonds.

We had steamed broccoli (also delish with the almond stuff) and boiled new potatoes on the side.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Basil (Rhymes with Razzle-Dazzle!)

Here is the newest addition to our family! He is adorable. We got him from our friend Himara who is moving back to Sri Lanka after 5 years in Glasgow. She needed to find a home for little Basil, and had no takers! I emailed our landlord who very graciously said he would overlook the 'no animals' rule as he didn't want Basil to be homeless. Aww. Basil is not homeless.

He is so friendly and I think Joel and he are going to be best friends. He likes to sit on Joel's neck (or anyone's neck, but I'm not used to that sort of thing yet). I think he likes Joel's beard a lot.

He likes mushrooms and carrots. He is used to eating lots of veg. He is a light sandy colour, with the trademark red eyes. Nice guy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lamb

A couple weeks ago, I found an incredible deal. I got an entire leg of Scottish lamb for only £3.60. Wow, what a clever shopper I am! It's normally about £11. I cut slits in the lamb and stuck garlic cloves in the holes, then I rubbed the whole leg with olive oil and herbs de provence. Easy as. We threw it in the crock pot so it was ready and smelling delicious by the time we got home from work. Oh what a savoury and belly satisfying dinner! You can know how good it was by the fact there are only photos from when it was still raw...

I'm going to keep my eyes open at the supermarket so we can do this more often. Joel loooves meat, and we both love the taste of lamb. It is probably our favourite meat (Joel can't decide between lamb and bacon). We ate it this time with cous cous, which is the perfect accompaniment to lamb. So nice when you can get some of the lamb juices on the cous cous. Mmm are you hungry just reading this?

My Favourite Colour is Granola

Update on muffins (17 June 08): This batch of muffins was seriously THE BEST muffins EVER. Unbelievable. The three of us in the house this week have exercised such amazing self-control to not indulge and eat them all when the others are out of the house. I remembered I added almond and vanilla extract. The almond extract turned out to be the perfect amount (I just kind of start pouring and stop eventually so not sure on the measurements). And I forgot to tell you, instead of the struesel, I added a mixture of oats and brown sugar (half and half), which ended up being delicious but not quite as gorgeous as the photo which doesn't have a topping at all. The muffins are really really moist and oh so delicious. Oh, and here's the recipe link for Jessie.

Well guys, we've been cooking more and more lately! This week has been pretty full of culinarities, some common and some a bit unusual for us.

I just finished a batch of Blueberry Streusel Muffins, minus the streusel this time. I have used this recipe over and over and it is the best muffin recipe! It's so easy to interchange it and adapt it to whatever kind of muffin you want. I've made chocolate with chocolate chunks, lemon poppyseed, and of course the blueberry. I added a couple of tablespoons of wheat germ this time, because hey, why not? We can feel a bit healthy and enjoy our muffins at the same time, eh? Wow, look at that beautiful juicy blueberryness just waiting to burst in your mouth.. mmmmm. Blueberries.

I made another batch of granola yesterday (how fast did we go through that last batch?!?). This time I put in less rye flakes and less pearl barley flakes. I added some wheat germ (yes, we're regular!), and some linseed. I also added peanut butter, which adds a beautiful friendliness to the whole experience. In general it turned out okay, but I think it would have been better if I had baked it on a lower heat for a bit longer. I think it got a bit overdone. It's still good, and I like all the different seeds and such. It makes me feel so healthy and nourished! mmmmm. Granola.

Our friends Wheaton and Jessica have this idea that Joel is a hippy. Where did they get that idea - the bell bottoms? the earth tones? the subtle smell of patchouli? The obsession with incense? the tie-dye? I'm not sure what gave them that conclusion, but anyway, Wheaton and Joel have agreed that Joel's favourite colour is granola.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Our trip to Poland, attempt no. 1

Some chimney pots
The New Castle keep
Tyne Bridge
Newcastle
Millennium Bridge
The ocean at Tynemouth
Today we are proud to feature a guest author, Joel Shaver, posting about a somewhat new topic for this blog: travel. Seriously, guys, Heather's making me look bad, with all this 'posting about events within a week of their occurrence' stuff. Forget that - I'm all about the nostalgia.

You may or may not have heard that Heather and I had been planning a trip to Krakow, Poland this past March. We were particularly excited to visit such attractions as Wawel Castle, a really nice dragon, and the Wieliczka Salt Mine (hundreds of miles of tunnels, salt chandeliers, and a salt sculpture of the Last Supper!). Not to mention all the sausage and bread we could ever want (as if Prague weren't enough).

Of course, none of this happened, because we missed our flight. Instead, we hastily booked a train ticket for Newcastle, England, home of A Statue of Earl Grey (yes, the tea guy), Geordies, and a not-too-shabby Castle Keep, a distinctively castle-y square-shaped one. The town is situated on the Tyne river, and is well-known for its impressive collection of bridges. The most recent of these, the Millennium Bridge, is actually capable of moving (theoretically for ships, but really for shock value), which it does several times a week, to the accompaniment of distressing electronic music and sampled heartbeats.

Other highlights included the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, located inside an art-deco 1950s flour mill, a Roman fort (part of Hadrian's wall), which we couldn't see because the visitor centre was closed, and the ocean (Heather's favorite). As usual, we got some pretty good pictures, which you can see here. We enjoyed Newcastle in spite of its unfortunate situation outside Poland, and would recommend it to potential visitors. We found a pretty good Polish deli, too.

Now back to Heather...
Tynemouth train station

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Finnish Cardamom Coffee Bread


I tried my hand at bread yesterday. I mean real bread, made from yeast. That is a culinary area I have not in the least developed, and I had a wary interest in attempting it. I was afraid that if my first attempt resulted in a loaf resembling something very un-breadlike, I would abort the adventure completely. Thankfully, a lovely golden loaf brought happiness to all who came in contact with it!

There are many lovely looking recipes on the Whole Foods website. I chose this Finnish Cardamom Coffee Bread, and Joel and I made a haphazard venture into the art of braiding dough. The picture is of Joel's loaf, which turned out much more visually peaceful. Mine was a bit more long and lean, and looked like some kind of twisted baguette.

It tastes light and sweet, with a subtle cardamom flavour. There is sugar sprinkled on top which makes it an oh so pleasant experience to savour a slice (pure unrefined sugar, the only kind we use). I thought I was being clever and froze one of the loaves, however it is only one day later and the first loaf is half gone already! Mmm.

On another note...
This morning was a day just like yesterday - bright sunshine with promises of warmth. The forecast said rain, but hey, did we believe them? There was no way it could rain when it looked so gorgeous. Off we went to church, me in a summery skirt, neither of us with jackets. Well, turned out it's Scotland, and it did rain. We walked home afterwards in the rain, me with a newspaper over my head. A nice rain though, it was still warm out. When I got home I thought porage sounded so good! I made porage with fresh blueberries, a touch of extra thick single cream, and topped with a sprinkling of brown sugar. Mm it was perfect and made me want chai. I would strongly suggest porage with fresh blueberries.