Speed Bonny Boat

I’ve thought long and hard about how to write about Skye, and about that young girl, Marion, who left here during the clearances 180 years ago, and the voices that I hear down by the stream of Maelrubha, the Irish red-headed bald monk who came to preach to the Picts in 671 and the healing water of his well. And about the Norwegian Viking princess who was buried, along with her servants, on top of a stark mull in the Cuillins, and of the warrior queen, Sc√°thach the Shadow, who lived in the Dunscaith castle on the edge of wild sea at Toravaig¬†in Sleat. Legendary figures surround me, they seem to live and breathe.

Dunscaith Castle, Toravaig, Skye

I am struggling in my search for superlatives: none will do. My English language doesn’t fit this place: it’s too modern and limited and fails to describe what I see. Older words portray these land forms and features, some of them still in use today and if we say them aloud, we might hear our ancestors speak. This is a land of heather and bracken, of cairns, crags and tors, forges, braes, straths and burns. The colours of tartan are spread across rock cuttings and moors, colours mixed by rain and light: heather with burnt orange bracken and oat, scree with mustard seaweed drying at low tide, lichen on birch, black slate and rowan berry. Sometimes the heather is dun, sometimes purple and pink. These are the colours of hand dyed wool woven into the plaid of old.

Cuillins and colours
In need of Gaelic words. Skye
The colours of plaid, Breakish, Skye

When it rains, which is often, the Isle of Skye weeps from every cranny. In the mountains it floods with tears as waterfalls rip and carve great channels through these bald hills. The roadside verges gently seep. Black rock faces flash wet glint, the burns and creeks darkly rush. Tread lightly on the sodden machair, that deceptive verdant sponge by the sea, now solid grass, now  quagmire, now submerged. The sun appears in the late afternoon, a watery limpid glow that seeks out new colours of the evening. Rocky crags, hidden by morning mist, appear as if a new day. And then in late summer, that mystic light returns as the gloaming beckons, inviting exploration before the tide and the night come rushing in.

Dark burns rush after rain
Skye weeping
8 pm. Sky on Skye
Over the sea to Skye
A craggy mound near St Maelrubha’s well

From Breakish on Skye. Skye fills me with yearning. More words will come.

Mr Tranquillo’s post on Skye is here.¬†His great grandmother, Marion Grant, left Breakish on Skye as a young child during the Clearances, travelling to Australia and eventually marrying Alexander McKenzie from Ullapool in the Highlands. Their children never returned to Skye, but all their grandchildren and some of their great-grandchildren have. Speed Bonny Boat.

View from Breakish on Skye. Dreaming of Marion

Lists of English words with Scottish Gaelic origin.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Scottish_Gaelic_origin

The list of all lists: Gaelic words for hills:

https://cuhwc.org.uk/page/meanings-gaelic-words-commonly-seen-hill-names

Celia’s Inspiration. Sourdough Bread Diaries.

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Angels of the morning

Since taking up sourdough bread making around two years ago, after Celia sent me some sourdough starter, I have rarely bought bread. It’s not just about economy, though good loaves do seem to cost an arm and a leg these days, but more about the flavour and satisfaction, as well as the ability to adjust the bread’s composition to suit your own needs. I usually make a linseed studded loaf as I find that grain very beneficial to my gut, making the bread much nicer to eat. I also prefer a bread with a proportion of wholemeal added, at least up to one quarter of the total, as it gives a nuttier flavour. On the weekends I often make flavoured yeasted breads, Pani Festivi, such as rosemary, walnut or cheese bread. This weekend’s version, a pumpkin and fetta loaf was tasty but a little challenging to make. It was cakey and soothing and went well with the rainy weather.

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Pumpkin and fetta bread. A Sunday yeasted loaf

I love the days when Celia, my/ our/your sourdough mentor and home village baker extraordinaire, puts out another bready post. Her recent addition,¬†“A New Overnight Sourdough Tutorial – High Hydration Loaf”¬†is a must read for those who need some revision, or inspiration, or a new approach. The instructions come with step by step pictures and videos so really, any one can make a beautiful loaf, if you already have some starter.

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A few more loaves for the freezer.

These two loaves were made this morning after following Celia’s method. As I don’t have an enamel roaster, as mentioned in her post, I used a cast iron enamel Le Creuset style pot for the round loaf and a preheated metal tray for the long loaf. The loaf cooked in the enamel pot required further browning, removed from the pot, for a further 10 minutes after baking, as recommended. The open baked loaf was ready to pull out after 40 minutes. This bread has a very open texture. The one cooked on the tray has a firmer crust. Do not be tempted to cut them open until properly cold! You must resist.

Morning Madness
Morning Madness, Flour and Mess.

I am now keen to invest in some of these enamel roasters- they are lightweight, will probably heat faster than the cast iron pot, and make my early morning madness even sweeter.

Grazie Mille Celia for your continual inspiration

Earth Down South

The Catlins, South Island, New Zealand.
The Catlins, South Island, New Zealand.

In the deep south of New Zealand, travelling via the coastal road from Dunedin to Invercargill, the road winds through the Catlins. Green takes on a different colour down here, one that is almost blinding to the average Australian traveller. We are close to Slope Point, the southern most tip of New Zealand and it feels like the edge of the earth.

The Tautuku Peninsula, South Island, New Zealand.
The Tautuku Peninsula, South Island, New Zealand.

In My Kitchen, July 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my kitchen is an Australian colonial kauri pine dresser and in the top drawer is my collection of antique cutlery.

This drawer full of treasure threatens to disgorge its heavy contents whenever I yank it open.  Despite the disorder, this drawer makes me feel simultaneously happy and nostalgic. I think of my grandmothers, old fashioned soups, puddings and Sunday family gatherings. My modern cutlery, by contrast, is simply functional, quotidian and dishwasherable. It evokes little!

Although still on the road in Asia, I couldn’t miss the chance for a simple little post on Celia’s monthly round of IMK. See Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for more world kitchens, cookbook recomendations and gadgets.

 

 

In My Kitchen. June 2014

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I am attempting to clean up my Kitchen Chaos so that semi- resident family members and friends may find a user friendly kitchen while I am away.  Unfortunately, this does not extend to the pantry, which is far too small and has a secret life of its own.  I am attempting to use up all perishables, but the following items are always present in my kitchen:

  • good olive oil. I only use Australian extra virgin cold pressed oil, and for everyday use, I buy¬†Cobram. It wins many prizes internationally, it isn’t doctored with crap – (imported Italian products are generally guilty of this and often have imprecise labelling). ¬†Cobram oil is fruity, young and delicious. The date of harvest is mentioned on the bottle or large can. It is what it claims to be. I¬†buy¬†this in 3 litre containers and decant it ¬†as needed.
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  • good parmesan cheese. Unlike my approach to olive oil, I only buy imported Parmigiano. Grana¬†Padano or Reggiano Parmigiano is an essential pantry/fridge item and one that my offspring/grand offspring expect to find. I usually find a good ‘stagionato’ parmesan at the Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick.
  • Pasta varieties. Here again I feel compelled to buy the imported product as I love De¬†Cecco¬†pasta and keep lots of pasta shapes on hand.

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  • Cans of tuna ( check labels for ethical fishing methods), cans of tomatoes, large cans of anchovies, cans of¬†ceci,¬†borlotti beans and so on for whipping up some minestrone.
  • bread making flour and yeast. All my kids make Pizza. Renato, who will also visit, doesn’t use any of these products, earning himself the title of “Plastic Luigi”.
  • Plenty of home grown¬†garlic.

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With these basic supplies,and abundant herbs, lettuces and veggies from the garden,  plus the eggs that my girls lay, my family can make lots of good things. All they need to bring along is a hunk of cheese or some good bread. But hands off my good wine!!

You can find other inspiring kitchens at Celia’s ‘Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’ this month.

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