Monthly Archives: February 2012

Dog Walks Around Edinburgh

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I’ve recently been experimenting with different places to walk my dog around Edinburgh, fearing that Loki is getting sick of Inverleith Park. As I don’t own a car, most of these are accessible by public transport but on the days I’ve been lucky enough to get a lift we’ve travelled a little bit further. 

Loki and Maggie at Lomond Hill Regional Park

On Sunday we went for a walk with a couple of friends and their dog (who happens to be Loki’s girlfriend). They own a car so we decided to venture outside Edinburgh and headed to Fife. Fife has a variety of Lochs and woodland parks and we beelined for an area that had both. We settled on Lomond Hills Regional Park which has a small, clean Loch (Loch Ore) and is surrounded by interesting signposted woodland walks.

The dogs had a great time tearing around the leaves, trees and spent a large part of the walk sniffing and digging at the undergrowth. On our walk we spotted squirrels, cattle and horses so it’s a great way to socialise your dog with other animals (we’d suggest putting them on a lead if you see another animal if you don’t know how they’ll react).

The dogs were able to dip into Loch Ore and both had a fun, if a little cold swimming session. There is also a barbecue area and public toilets so it would be a great walk during the summer months. We walked around the regional park in about 2 hours at a steady pace, stopping to take a couple of pictures of the dogs playing.

Another one of our walks that is this side of the bridge and closer to town is Corstorphine Woods. This can be a short walk or a relatively long walk depending on the route you take. As you’d imagine it’s a wooded area, with lots of hills, paths to discover and obstacles to climb. It is very popular with the local community and at the weekend you are likely to see at least 5 other dog owners with their pooches.

The path can get quite muddy so if it has rained in the past couple of days I’d suggest wearing some wellies and bringing a towel for your pup. There is also a large grass field that you could potentially sit down on with a picnic, if it’s not too windy that is. There are also designated picnic areas in some areas of the woods.

A couple of weeks ago we took Loki on his first train journey to see what a ‘proper’ beach looked like. North Berwick is just a short 30 minute train journey away from Edinburgh and is a fabulous little seaside town, equip with some of the best fish & chips in Scotland and some cosy seaside dog-friendly pubs (oh their ice cream is pretty awesome too).

North Berwick has a long stretch of beach as far as the eye can see so you can stretch out the walk as long as you’d like. We walked up the beach for about 2 hours before turning around and heading back to the centre for fish and chips and an infamous Berwick ice cream. The beach is extremely clean and tidy and again is a very popular walk with other dog owners, especially if they are fond of a good splash in the sea.

The beach usually has a low tide and wasn’t wavy enough to worry about the pup struggling. I’d suggest that you prepare to spend the entire day here as obviously catching the train with a dog is a lot more hassle than getting a bus or travelling in a car, make your trip worthwhile.

Edinburgh is a fantastic place to live or visit if you’re a dog owner. There really is no excuse to have an unhappy or unhealthy dog with so many different walks available in the city.

Have you explored any of these walks? Or could you give me some suggestions for new walks around Edinburgh? Let me know! 

 

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New Year’s Resolution: Bread 2 of 12: Festival Bread

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My new bread book

I’ve left it quite late this month but it still counts! I went and bought myself a book, a bread book: River Cottage Handbook No.3 – Bread. It’s nice and compact, has a lovely section on making bread and taking care of your bread and still has loads of recipes. 

After making a pretty simple granary loaf last month, I decided to mix it up a little but still remained pretty unadventurous. I’d like to perfect my bread-making technique before I try anything too outrageous (if you can describe bread as outrageous). I decided upon a simple recipe in my new book, Festival Bread.

I wondered over to Waitrose in the hope that they might have a better selection of bread flours than our trusty Tesco, I was right – Waitrose has a fantastic baking section. I managed to get everything I needed, including rapeseed oil, which I’ve been looking for for a while now. The author of my new bread book describes festival bread as:

A celebration of the inaugural River Cottage Festival, we thought we’d have a bit of fun. So, from a choice of five or six different flours and a couple of dozen other ingredients, around sixty guests, my co-host Steven and I came up with this unlikely recipe – through nominating, voting and a little cajoling. The alfalfa seeds got in on novelty rather than merit. Steven was the only voice in favour of poppy seeds, so we put some in.. to keep him happy.

Festival bread is a mix and match of ingredients that results in a rich, satisfying loaf of bread that sits perfectly buttered with a hot mug of tea. I don’t think it’s the kind of bread that you’d use to make a sandwich or serve with soup, it’s more of a sweet snacking bread. Here’s the recipe:

  • 500g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 5g powdered dried yeast
  • 10g fine salt
  • 150ml warm water
  • 150ml warm cider
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • handful of flaked hazelnuts, poppy seeds, alfalfa seeds and raisins

I won’t lie, I chose this recipe mostly because it included cider, one of my guilty pleasures but it turned out great! I followed the classic bread making method, used in my new bread book, that calls for less raising and kneading time for the dough than the previous method I used. I think that the combination of this and ingredients, such as cider and honey meant that the bread was very moist and rather dense. On reflection, I think I’d have added less liquid and left the bread to rise for a longer period of time, just to compare the results.

Despite this, my boyfriend assures me it was very tasty and especially nice warm. It almost tastes a little bit like a dough-ier fruit cake. The texture of the bread is thick rather than airy and light but I think this is due to the ingredients rather than the bread-making method.

One thing I am particularly happy with is the crust which is perfectly browned and crusty. I think this is a result of me turning the oven right up to the hottest setting for the first ten minutes of baking and splashing the bread with boiling water, it seems to have worked. I added a sprinkle of poppy seeds straight before baking which has given it a really nice look. They have seeped into the textured cuts in the top.

I’m going to give this bread 6/10. It is a lovely filling loaf that doesn’t rely on density and relies more on the texture of the ingredients and taste, but it isn’t very versatile and couldn’t be used in place of a standard loaf. Like I said, it will work best fresh from the oven with a hot cup of tea, or toasted and spread with homemade peanut butter with a bottle of cloudy cider (or in my case the leftover cider from the recipe!)

The finished article: Festival Bread

Let me know if you try this recipe, I’d love to find out how yours turned out and if the texture is down to method or recipe. 

Pudding in a Bottle

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Orkney's Clootie Dumpling

I usually steer away from flavoured beers. The flavours are commonly overpowering and they are sickly sweet, however I’d already picked up a Crabbies (shut up it’s tasty) so decided another sweet beer wouldn’t hurt. Orkney’s Clootie Dumping ale caught my eye, mostly because of the tasty looking dessert on the bottle and a little because Orkney aren’t the type to do a tacky flavoured beer.

Orkney are one of my favourite Scottish breweries and brew a couple of old favourites that I used to serve regularly at the bar I worked in throughout university. They are quite a traditional brewery in terms of the ale they produce and don’t normally experiment with extreme flavours or hops. Orkney’s Clootie Dumpling isn’t an exception to this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely beer but it’s not something that is going to blow your mind.

Clootie Dumpling is a traditional Scottish dessert made with flour, breadcrumbs, dried fruit, suet, sugar and spices, the beer has been produced to match these flavours. Bearing these flavours in mind, when I opened the beer I was expected a rich, thick dark stout or porter. Instead the ale is toffee in colour and light in texture. I also expected a thick, heavy head but was instead met with a frothy light foam that quickly disintegrated.

On the nose the ale has a wonderful aroma of banana, cinnamon and ginger. It has a subtle smell of lager and doesn’t smell entirely as an ale usually does. It also smells a lot like a ginger beer and shares the same texture as a ginger beer or cider would have. It has the smell of a very light amber with some added yeastiness.

The aromas follow through in taste with some added spiciness and the flavour of fried fruit to match the characteristics of the traditional Clootie Dumpling. I lost the taste of banana that was so present in the smell, which is a little disappointing but there is enough going on with this beer to keep me interested. Something that I definitely didn’t expect from this beer (judging by the packaging and description) was that it would be a really easy drinking beer. It’s has a low abv. (4.2%) and is light enough in flavour to be a session ale but it is definitely more interesting that your standard IPA or light ale. The spiciness is kept in the aftertaste and in that way reminds me again of a ginger beer.

It’s not your typical seasonal ale and I definitely don’t think it represents Winter; maybe Autumn. It’s really nice to be surprised by the labeling which originally gave me the impression that it would be a sickly sweet dessert beer.  It is subtle, sweet but not too sweet and was a very nice beer, if I do say so myself. I put of swig of it in my Shepherds pie and drunk the rest. If this sounds like the beer for you, get in there quick as it won’t be around after early February.