~ Ceilidh Bands and Caterers ~

Spinning at the Music Hall in Aberdeen last year!

Spinning at the Music Hall in Aberdeen!

The wedding planning has begun in earnest this week. After a old colleague of mine became engaged last weekend (pause for an excited squeal!) I realised I really had to get on with planning mine and Mike’s big day.

My first port of call was the butcher who provided a hog roast for my friend Anna’s wedding back in May. It was easily the best hog roast I’d ever eaten, and the pig itself was outdoor-reared which is something that matters to me. That was an easy one to book – although I did baulk at the weight: your average pig weighs 55kg and we only have 50 guests! I am assured that the weight relates to the whole animal rather than the weight of the edible meat – we won’t have to get through a kilo of pork each!

Next stop was the Finzean Farm Shop, a really sweet restaurant close to our venue. I have asked them whether they can provide some scrummy side dishes to go with our pig – salads, breads and maybe a quiche or two for anyone who isn’t keen on the idea of pork. Hopefully they get back to me soon; they look like a great option, as they serve really good quality, local produce.

Finally on the food front, I’ve been thinking of cake plans. My Mum is a fantastic cake-baker and icer, and she has kindly offered to make ours. Her and Dad’s cake was made by my Grandma, so I’m happy to carry on the tradition! On top of that, Dad is an artist (a really good one – click here to see!) and has agreed to hand-paint our cake with food paint. I’m hoping to use some sort of flower design, which we can also add some real, fresh flowers to. I thought the idea was quite unique, but it turns out that it’s really not! There are loads of lovely designs floating about on the internet…

The next thing to organise is music for the night. If we needed any confirmation at all that planning a wedding needs to be started early, this was it. Our first choice was Clachan Yell, a ceilidh band that Mike and I have seen several times. Their music is great and their frontman is fantastic. Sadly, weekends in July fill up fast (even 12 months in advance!) and we were the 2nd couple to enquire about our date. The first enquirers seem to have gone a bit quiet, apparently, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ve found another band, or moved their wedding date.

I opened it up to my Facebook friends to recommend ceilidh bands, and we got three more to try – the first of which was also booked. Eeek! Luckily there are plenty of bands to choose from in the Aberdeenshire area, most of which have YouTube videos up so you can hear their style. I’ve got queries out with Iron Broo, Hip Flask and Big Shoogle just now.

For those unsure, a ceilidh is a traditional Scottish dance event – usually saved for weddings and other special occasions – with organised dances that most Scottish kids learn in school. The dances are really energetic and can get a bit wild: they are so much fun! It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the moves, because a good ceilidh band will usually have a ‘caller’, someone who shouts out what you should be doing next. I just can’t wait to ceilidh in my wedding dress… It’ll be such a challenge!

That’s all for the planning this week I think. Our next job is to organise a bar and serving staff… And after that, we’ll be onto the invites. There seems to be an awful lot to do! If any of you are organising your own wedding just now, leave me a comment and let me know how you’re getting on!

K

~ Trinidadian Chicken with Mango Chutney ~

Oh boy, what a treat! Mike cooked dinner for me tonight and it was deeee-lish. I only managed a quick iPhone snap before I absolutely demolished this plateful.  I promise to re-make this curry with a proper ingredients list and some better food photography – because this does not do it justice. Fresh, green, healthy, different and mouth-tinglingly hot.

The main reason I’m posting today (despite showing off that my wonderful husband-to-be is a fabulous cook) is for an update on the mango chutney I made last week. I’m definitely counting it as a success. Sweet, tangy, spicy and fragrant – I won’t be buying the supermarket stuff again.

I’m planning to give a few jars out to friends and family so I might have to make another batch.

K

~ Spanish Chicken ~

I’m a big fan of recipes that can be whipped up in 30 minutes or less for those days when you get home from work and just want to flop on the sofa with a bowl of something hot and tasty. I had a fairly rubbish day at the office yesterday, so Mike and I pulled out an old favourite: Spanish chicken. It was ready in 25 minutes and is spectacularly easy.

Ingredients:

(Serves 3-4)

~ 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
~ 1 large onion, sliced
~ 1 red bell pepper, sliced
~ 8 chicken thighs, boned (or drumsticks – not chicken breast)
~ 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika (smoked or regular – I like smoked in this)
~ 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
~ 1 good-quality chorizo sausage
~ A handful of your favorite olives (I like green, Mike likes black – I won last night!)
~ A 400g tin of butter beans (the best ones are the fancy artisan ones in tomato sauce, but I can’t seem to find those readily in Norway. Plain is fine.)
~ 2 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes
~ 1 tablespoon tomato puree
~ 1-2 tins of chopped tomatoes (depending on how saucy you like it!)
~ 1 teaspoon oregano
~ Salt and pepper, to taste

For the quinoa:

~ 50 g quinoa per person
~ 100 ml (ish) of stock per person
~ A blob of butter

To serve: A good dollop of creme fraiche per person, some basil leaves.

1) Heat the oil in a heavy-based, deep frying pan with a lid. Fry off the onions and pepper until just starting to soften.

2) Bash out the chicken thighs and slice them in half. Rub in the paprika, chilli and a little salt, then add them to the frying pan. Don’t substitute chicken breast – it just goes dry. You can add a splash more oil at this stage to make sure the onions and peppers don’t catch and burn – but I usually add a bit of water instead to keep the fat content down.

3) Meanwhile, prepare your quinoa – remember to keep jiggling the chicken, onions and peppers about every now and again. Rinse 50g per person of quinoa thoroughly in a sieve. Pour into a saucepan and add water in a 2:1 ration (i.e. 100ml water for each 50g quinoa). You can use stock rather than water for extra taste. Cover and leave to simmer away for 15 minutes. If it runs out of water and looks dry, just add another splosh of liquid.

4) Slice the chorizo and add it to the large pan. We usually add a whole chorizo sausage, which is probably a bit much for some people – you can just put in as much as you fancy on the day. Wait until it goes a little bit crispy on the outside.

5) Add the rest of the ingredients and bubble away until the chicken is properly cooked and the sauce is reduced. 

6) When the quinoa is ready, it should have tripled in size and the grains will have a little spiral-tail. Add a blob of butter and stir through for extra richness.

7) Serve in a big bowl with a huge dollop of creme fraiche. Deeeee-lish.

Let me know if you give it a go…

K

~ Upside-Down Fruit Cake ~

pineapple cakeI’ve got a hankering for pineapple-upside-down cake today. It’s my Dad’s favourite and I always make him one for birthdays and Fathers’ Day. Our dog, Molly, seems to quite enjoy it too!

My Easy-Peasy Cake Recipe:

~ 3 eggs
~ self-raising flour, butter and caster sugar (I’ll get to the amounts in a minute)
~ a teaspoon of baking powder
~ small handful of ground almonds
~ vanilla essence
~ fruit of your choice (pears work well, as do berries, tinned fruit and frozen fruit)
~ a couple of tablespoons of golden syrup (optional)

The oven needs to be pre-heated to 180 (fan).

1) Weigh your eggs – shells still on. Whatever they weigh (probably approx. 170 – 200g depending on size), measure out the same in flour, sugar and butter.

2) Blend sugar and butter until fluffy.

3) Add eggs one at a time and beat carefully so that the mix is silky and not separated.

4) Add in the flour. Sifting is a waste of time in my opinion – I’m an impatient baker. Mix in the baking powder, too.

5) Add a few drops of vanilla essence and a handful of almonds – enough so that the mixture has a “dropping consistency”, i.e. plops off a wooden spoon in a lackadaisical fashion.

6) Grease and line a baking tin. When making a fresh fruit cake, it is imperative that you line the tin! Lay out the fruit on the bottom of your tin – you can make it look fancy with slices and geometric shapes, or just tip in a handful of berries and have done with it. Add a few spoonfuls of golden syrup if the fruit is tart.

7) Spoon over your cake batter, making sure you run it to the edges of the tin to form a seal over the fruit.

8) Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes; timing will vary depending on the type of fruit you’ve chosen – and its water content – but you’re looking for a golden colour, the sponge beginning to come away from the side of the tin, and a knife to come out clean when you stab into the centre of the cake.

9) Leave to cool – but only for 5 minutes! Turn out upside-down onto a plate, so all the shiny fruit is on the top. Peel off the baking paper and marvel at how pretty it looks.

10) I occasionally drizzle with a little runny icing… Usually it doesn’t need it though.

Good enough to enjoy with a blob of creme fraiche, custard or ice cream while still warm, or packed into a lunchbox to scoff with a mid-morning coffee!

I’d love to know if you try it.

K