Lamb casserole

At a pub in Drumnadrochit in early October 2011 I sat with two wonderful ladies discussing a menu. We went back and forth trying to decide what to have. We decided to order three different dishes, place them in the centre of the table and rotate around them. That way we all had a bit of everything. (and we shared a plate of haggis as starter)

We had oven-baked salmon, chicken, and a lamb casserole. The starter was haggis in a creamy, whiskey sauce. It was all delicious! (menu can be found here). Having quite a bit of leftover lamb after making fårikål (I wrote about that here) I decided to have a go at making something similar to the lamb casserole from Scotland. And you know what? It was like I was back in Drumnadrochit! Son too ate a lot (Husband was at work, which is when I can serve lamb – he dinnae like the smell). This is how I did it:

I started of with a bit of lamb from yesterday’s dinner and the stock from the same meal. I made brown sauce (give me a shout if you do not know how) using the stock, added the mutton, a small handful of whole spelt (I didn’t have barley, so I went with what I had –  would recommend barley though) and a few diced carrots. Turn the heat down and put a lid on the pot. Leave until the carrots are almost perfect (poke them to check), then add a broccoli broken into small ‘bouquets’. A few more minutes with the lid on the broccoli will be done and the carrots will be perfect. I served with mashed root vegetables (potato, celery root, and parsnip) and a dash of lingonberry jam.


Out of focus – through a fence

Drumnadrochit, which could have been a guided boat tour of Loch Ness and hours spent at Urquhart Castle, became instead a lengthy discussion around the breakfast table. We considered the boat trip, but decided against, then we decided on the castle, but didn’t do that either. We did get very close to the castle though, without ever being near it…

We parked near the castle and were ready to go in. A few bus loads of tourists, a visitor’s centre and a wall set up between the parking lot and the castle made us change our minds. I had pictured castle ruins where I could roam around like a kid, climb walls and crawl around to get some good photos. Sharing the castle with that many other tourists was just not all that interesting.

The wall hiding the castle was decorated with friendly signs telling us not to climb the wall, and warning us of the dangerous fall that would make itself present if we did climb the walls. But, those friendly Scots had, of course, been kind enough to put up a railing as tall as the wall. The railing was about a foot from the wall and thus safe to climb without getting too near the dangerous and sudden drop.

Yours truly, not doing anything wrong! Photo taken by one of my fabulous travel companions

I thus managed to get a few photos of the castle, though, through a fence, and most out of focus. 

Walking at dawn – Drumnadrochit

The sun rising in the east. Loch Ness is just behind those hills

A few miles south of Inverness is a lovely, little town called Drumnadrochit. I awoke in my bed at Craigmonie Cottage B&B at 7am after proper 8 hours of sleep. Usually very fond of sleeping and eager to take advantage of any chance I have to sleep in, I chose to act against the nature of my being and snuck out trying not to waken the girls. A sore throat, newfound knowledge on how to shoot in manual mode, a mist covered Scottish valley, and an intense desire of not letting a single minute go to waist while in Scotland, I stumbled out into the cold morning, camera in hand and with birds singing both in the trees around me and in my heart.

I made a 24-hours supermarket we had passed the day before the goal of my walk. Strepsils was what I was looking for and a tea that could help rid me of this cold.

A thin vail of mist lay across the fields. A failed plan to do some shopping in Aberdeen the day before resulted in the cold air biting a little harder than I had expected it to.

The road was dead, except for the occasional passing car, and the town seemed deserted. We had seen many houses for sale the day before, and as I walked around the number increased. The silence of an early Saturday morning increased the feeling of walking through a ghost town. As did scenes reminding me of old British television shows, and thus also of decades passed.  

Flowers decorated the most intriguing places, but as this was early October they did not show the same vitality they must have embedded only weeks earlier. 

One of the natives surprised to see a foreigner on his daily morning stroll

The tiny supermarket became a shocking contrast to my short walk along the road. Open 24 hours and with several customers appearing as I came close to the building the town suddenly seemed to spring to life. The moment though was short lived, as they had all vanished by the time I had payed for my few items. As I exited and turned my back to the shop all signs of life were again gone, except for, ironically, a flock of crows decorating the fence of a deserted football field.

I decided to take a different route back to the B&B. I turned off the main road and continued past the church to a residential area. The houses didn’t look to be very old, still quite a few had signs marking them for sale. I tried to get a little lost, but I did not succeed and simply walked in a large circle back towards my companions, good conversations in good company, and an increased appetite for the awaiting homemade breakfast. 

Driving on the wrong side of right

About one year ago I visited Scotland with a few friends. We flew to Aberdeen, rented a car and drove down to Glasgow. That was my first time driving on the wrong side of the road. I enjoy a good challenge, and definitely saw this as one. I had checked out the route before I left on google maps, the largest roundabouts I had been through in street view and I had studied in detail the exit from the motorway. We stayed at a central hotel without parking facilities, which meant we had to park IN the city centre. I was armed with a gps, printed driving instructions from google, and a friend who is not unfamiliar with maps, and most importantly, who never looses his calm!

I lived in Aberdeen for a few months and have left the city to go south by bus a few times, the first few hours were thus not the most challenging. However, my TomTom is apparently not a fan of fast-food so that when we stopped at a McDonalds, he refused to guide us any further. Truth be told; we only stopped at McDonalds to use the loo, but TomTom wouldn’t listen to us. In fact, he’s still not talking to me! Getting from Aberdeen to Glasgow is easy. We still bought a map to keep track on where in the world we were from time to time. We faced no problems, although we did manage to drive in circles in the city centre of Glasgow (we had directions going TO the hotel, not from) and I was dangerously close to the pavement at one point (no pedestrians there though).

The route we were supposed to take from Aberdeen to Drumnadrochit

Going to Scotland again now I had to raise the stakes a bit and increase the challenge. The route was new, I had no gps, no maps, I had not looked much at the route before going, and I had no idea how my fantastic travel companions would deal with google’s driving instructions.

Two of the three of us going came to Aberdeen a couple of hours before the third. The wonderful lady I talked about here thus had to suffer through the first minutes and miles spent in a dark Vauxhall. We were heading straight down a road. I’m on the alert, sitting on the wrong side in the car, shifting gears with the wrong hand, checking the blind spot on both sides to be on the safe side and generally trying to breath as little as possible to keep all my attention on the road and the traffic. We knew we were going left in a roundabout, but we didn’t know exactly which one. Obviously, the first we tried was not the correct one. Seeing this, my mind started to race trying to find somewhere to turn around. Then I see the flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror; an ambulance was coming up quickly behind us. We fond a smaller roundabout, so we turned around and went back up the same road we had just gone down, and were then soon back on track again. I sighed with relief from not having done anything to hinder the ambulance. Then I check the rear-view mirror again. The ambulance has of course also gone all the way around in the roundabout and is coming up behind us again! We made it up on the pavement, we didn’t bulk any cars nor did we hit any pedestrians, and the ambulance did not lose speed. What went through the head of my innocent passenger is, however, something I wish never to know. She was able to talk again only a few minutes later, and the heavy breathing stopped as soon we parked in a parking lot a few miles away.

We picked up the last member of our fearless trio a few hours later, after having had her wait outside at the airport while we took an unnecessary, but interesting, wee ride through the industrial area which just happened to be at the right turn before the right turn we were supposed to take.

An hour north of Aberdeen we decided to look for a supermarket or something where we could find a quick bite. The gorgeous blonde in the backseat spotted Asda on the right side of the road. To exit we had to go through a large roundabout (yes the Brits do love their roundabouts). We entered it and drove turning right. I saw the exit, but there were no cars going in the same direction as us, nor anyone coming from the road we were entering. The scene felt so unnatural and so wrong that I was unable to make the exit. “Rebooting, sorry about the delay!” I said as I took the girls through the roundabout one more time before heading over to Asda.

Safely parked outside the B&B in Drumnadrochit

We were going to visit a friend of mine, but an exit in Dufftown were probably just not aesthetically pleasing enough for us. Instead we drove circles around, perfectly avoiding the wee town, for at least an hour(!). We did, however, reach Drumnadrochit in due time for our dinner reservation at the Fiddler’s. My companions claimed the driving had not scarred them for life before they nearly downed a bottle of wine.