I’m proud to say I’m Scottish, it’s a fantastic place to live, the variety of food is amazing and the scenery is just truly stunning.
You can’t get a more Scottish event to attend than a pipe band competition, and I was lucky to be in the area when the European Pipe Band Championships was on in Forres a couple of weekends ago. Over 100 pipe bands from as far away as Australia, USA and Switzerland competed and I don’t know how they chose a winner because the bands I heard were all amazing. There’s something about the sound of a pipe band that stirs something in your blood. It’s unlike anything else and makes me quite emotional when they start up. My mother in law and I got chatting to a couple of ladies from Elgin who were standing next to us about how Scottish the sound made us feel. One woman said that she could never emigrate, commenting “imagine hearing the pipes in another country, it would make me feel so homesick” and I knew exactly what she meant.
I left my mother in law chatting and wandered off to the food & drink village, my thoughts are never far from food! Despite it being a glorious day outside, the tent was packed with food lovers like me. There were so many stands to stop by including Baxters, The Big Cheese Making Kit and Walkers Shortbread.
Highlights for me were Summerhouse Drinks where I bought four bottles of fresh raspberry lemonade. Claire advised me that because they’d been made with fresh raspberries they should be drunk that day, which wasn’t a problem as all four bottles were consumed by 8pm!
My final stop was to the fabulous Cocoa Ooze. Owner and chocolatier extraordinaire Jamie Hutcheon set up Cocoa Ooze in 2008 when Jamie was only 17. I remember buying some of his gorgeous chocolates shortly after he started up & thinking what an incredible talent for such a young age! He hasn’t changed over the years and is completely down to earth & always has time for you. My friend and I were at a chocolate making classes at one of his shops earlier in the year and he remembered me from the class. I bought three beautiful bars of chocolate : Duo Chocolate Bar, Raspberry White Chocolate Bar and Honeycomb Mix Chocolate Bar. They were all divine and did not last the weekend! They also sell packets of Chocolate Buttons in lots of different flavours, which Wee Food Adventurer loves! After having a lovely chat to Jamie I headed out of the tent and back to my mother in law, still engrossed in the pipe bands, and so she should, they all sounded extraordinary.
In honour of the weekend, I decided to make that Scottish tradition of Shortbread. If you had asked me a few years ago to make it I would have run a mile. I don’t know what has put me off making them, perhaps I thought they were too difficult. Nothing could have been further from the truth! When I posted on my Facebook Page last week that I was going to attempt it, the overwhelming advice was to work the dough as little as possible, which I stuck to rigidly and it certainly did the trick!
250g Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
125g Icing Sugar
A small drop of Vanilla Essence (sorry if that doesn’t sound like a technical term!)
250g Plain Flour
Caster Sugar (for dusting the shortbread at the end)
- Preheat your oven to 160c / 320F / Gas Mark 3
- Mix the 250g of Butter, 125g of Icing Sugar and your small drop of Vanilla Essence together until smooth. Ideally you need to do this in a food mixer or electric hand whisk for ease. Once mixed increase to medium speed for 3-4 minutes until really pale and smooth (now you know why I suggested using something electric for this part!!)
- Now sift in both your 250g of Plain Flour and 125g of Cornflour and mix gently. I actually did this bit with a wooden spoon and then by hand just to be as careful as I could because all you really want to do at this stage is combine the flours with the rest of the mixture. Once combined, tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle some flour onto your rolling pin and carefully roll the dough out to roughly 1cm thick using as little pressure as possible.
- At this stage you can use a cutter of any shape to cut the dough up or do what I did and slice them into rectangles and place on a lightly greased baking tray. If you wish you can use the back of a fork to create a pattern for your shortbread. Place in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until you start to see the edges of your biscuits turning light golden brown. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle a little Caster Sugar over them and then, using a palette knife, place them on a cooling rack.
You’ll be happy to know that they don’t take too long to cool and literally melt in the mouth!
Melanie, Food Adventurer