Archive for September, 2011

September 18th, 2011

Foodie Highlights – The Torridon Inn Category: Reviews

We spent a week away in June up in the beautiful area of Torridon which is located in Wester Ross.  The cottage we stayed in looked over the road and onto the Loch itself.  The views were stunning all around.

Upper Loch TorridonWe spent the week with my Mum & Dad so we had on-site babysitters.  So it would have been rude not to have some grown up time & go out for a meal.  To be honest I was just expecting a ‘locals’ pub with us being in a remote area.  So when Anthony told me that there was a rather nice hotel just 2 minute walk away I was quite impressed. Just down this road in fact…

Annat to the Torridon Inn

He then went on to say that the Chef (Jason ‘Bruno’ Birkbeck) at the hotel was actually taking part in this years ‘Good British Menu’ programme on BBC.  Well you cant ask for much more than that in such a beautiful remote location.  The hotel in question is The Torridon & is set primarily at the luxury end of the budget but it also, cleverly, has an ‘Inn’ attached which offers B&B rooms with a pub. And a rather nice pub at that.

The first time we visited we went on a rainy afternoon & sampled the afternoon scones with a cup of tea.  The scones were warm & delicious. The *only* quibble we had was that the jam was served in plastic pots rather than homemade in a little pot. I know, just a little thing but we did notice!

Later in the week Anthony & I escaped for our evening out. After a quick drink in the bar we headed for some food – we had reserved a table & whilst it probably wasn’t necessary it did get busy so we would recommend to anyone wanting to go to call ahead & book.

The mussels that evening had been taken of the menu so I chose the sleepy hollow smoked salmon, caper
and shallot dressing with toasted muffin. Try saying (or typing that) after a glass of wine! It was really delicious & beautifully presented (apologies the photos were taken on my phone!) Sleepy Hollow SalmonAnthony chose the Stornoway black pudding and apple stack, mixed leaf salad & cider reduction. Needless to say it didn’t stay on his plate for long.

Black PuddingThe Mains were more difficult to choose  as they are more ‘pub grub’ in style, however after much to-ing and fro-ing I chose the scampi in a basket with chips, peas & homemade tartare sauce. YUM!

ScampiAnthony went for the predictable Torridon beef burger with fries, tomato relish and picallili plus the bacon & cheese. He really enjoyed every mouthful.

Torridon BurgerDespite the fact we were rather full by this point we decided to share a pudding because we were on holiday & we don’t get many meals out these days – this was an easy choice – sticky toffee pudding, butterscotch sauce & vanilla ice cream. Well…

I think you can see it was so delicious I forgot to take a photo. Seriously, I dont think lasted more than 60 seconds.

I should probably also mention, they are child friendly which is perfect for pubs in remote locations! The staff were really nice & helpful and we really would come back. The only downside? The 439 miles to get there and the 439 to get back.  Next time we get a chance to get up on the West Coast again I hope we will get a chance to visit. And if we win the lottery we’ll maybe stay at the hotel too!

The hotel are also on Twitter & I’d recommend a follow – they keep you updated with the weather & the fun their ‘Activities’ team are getting up too & some lovely photos.

September 18th, 2011

A Very Chocolatey Birthday Cake Category: Recipes

My Dad was 60 in August so my task was to make a cake as usual, however, he isn’t he biggest fan of sweet buttercream and doesn’t like the amount of icing normally accompanying the traditional maderia style cake.

So I got my thinking cap on & after discounting making a train cake (his present to is learn how to drive a steam train!) I remembered the cake Lorraine Pascale had made on her TV series with chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream (which isn’t too sweet) and fresh fruit – the ‘I can’t believe you made that’ cake.

Now I did leave it a bit late to co-ordinate what I needed as Anthony and my brothers were taking part in a 24hr mountain bike race which also involved our first camping holiday so I was quite busy balancing a few things. The result of this was a lack of chocolate cigarellos. I had assumed I would be able to order them from my usual online cake suppliers but they didn’t sell them. A number of others do, but I was very surprised at how expensive they were and I would have had to pay for fast delivery.

After some thought we abandoned the cigarellos and used the retro-sweets Matchmakers (orange flavour).

Se here we go – one chocolate cake with fresh raspberries.

The cake on the table

The cake went down really well and everybody enjoyed it.  It wasn’t too sweet and the matchmakers worked well, but a word of warning they are fragile so if you are transporting the cake any distance maybe take some extra matchsticks & a small pot of buttercream to glue back into position!

The cake on the plate

One alternative to matchmakers I had been considering was using wafer cigarillo type biscuits but I couldn’t source what I wanted at short notice. However, I have since found that the Harvey Nichols pop-up shop in Liverpool One selling them & think these would work just as well.

The cake on the table

The Recipe – from Lorraine Pascale

You will need a 20cm/8in round deep cake tin and a 20cm/8in cake board.


  • 200g/7oz butter, softened (plus a little extra to coat tin)
  • 200g/7oz caster sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 140g/5oz plain flour
  • 60g/2½oz cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 400g/14oz plain, milk, or white chocolate cigarillos (about 75–80 in total)

For the buttercream

  • 250g/9oz butter, softened
  • 500g/1lb 2oz icing sugar
  • 100g/3½oz good dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids), melted and slightly cooled

For the decoration

  • Fresh raspberries or strawberries


Preheat the oven to 180/C/350F/Gas 4

Line the cake tin with baking paper and rub a little bit of soft butter around the tin

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until they begin to go pale. Add half of the eggs and half of the flour and mix well. Add the rest of the eggs, flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder and beat for a minute or two.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30–40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

To make the buttercream – put the butter and icing sugar in a bowl and whisk together until the mixture goes fluffy. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and whisk for a further two minutes.

The original instructions are to leave the cake in the tin until it is completely cool, however I prefer to take mine out & cool on a wire rack.

Cut the top of the cake flat with a large serrated knife and turn the cake upside down on the cake board so that the bottom now becomes a flat top. Split the cake horizontally and sandwich the top and bottom together with a 1cm/½in layer of buttercream.

Spread half of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides of the cake, making it as smooth as possible. Put it in the fridge to set before doing another layer – this makes it much easier to get neat squared-off edges.

Gently push the cigarillos, or matchmakers, vertically onto the sides of the cake, positioning them as straight as possible and making sure they touch the bottom.