I love where I live, I have many happy memories of growing up in Scotland. I have always had a desire to travel and see the world, but as yet I have not ventured far from home. As I was driving to Dundee the other day, I was thinking about how beautiful the scenery was and the children were commenting on the lovely farmhouses and lush green fields around us. It made me think about the reasons I love my home turf.
1. The hills, no they are not alive with the sound of music, but they sure are stunning, from small hills in the lowlands to huge ranges in the highlands hills often dominate the skyline. I never appreciated that till I flew to Lincoln a few years ago to stay with my brother and saw how flat everything was. I knew I was near home on the flight when the landscape changed again.
2. Being near the sea, in Fife we are blessed with a large coastal area and you are never really more than 30 minutes from the sea. You can take your pick from rocky shores bursting with pools hiding sea creatures to long sandy stretches in St Andrews which are great for kite flying. If you are lucky you may get a couple of curious seals following you. When I lived in the north west of England the sea was one of the things I missed the most.
3. The language we use, although all areas of the UK have local variants and dialect it is not till you have left that you realise that people sometimes don't have a clue what you are on about. I love these Scottish children's books, they are a joy to read.
These are just some of the things I love, but often take for granted. This year I plan on exploring more of my home ground to help the girls find the love I have of the country I call home. What about you?
Here is a tasty sweet treat you will find in many bakers across Scotland
Fruit Slice aka Flea Cemetery
For the pastry
750g plain Flour, plus extra for dusting
225g margarine or Butter
250g Butter, (at room temperature), plus extra for greasing
250g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 egg, beaten
For the filling
1 heaped tsp ground Mixed spice
4 heaped tsp granulated sugar
2 heaped tsp custard powder, mixed with a little cold water to make a thick, smooth paste
1. For the pastry: sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Using your fingertips, lightly rub the margarine and butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, then add the beaten egg, mixing until the ingredients bind together to make a soft dough. Knead the dough until it is smooth, then pop it in a polythene food bag and leave it to rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
2. For the filling: put the currants, mixed spice and sugar in a large pan and add enough cold water to just cover the fruit and no more. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for no more than 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Gradually add the custard paste, stirring until the fruit mixture has thickened slightly - bear in mind that it will thicken even more when cold.
3. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3. Grease a 30 x 18cm Swiss roll tin and line it with non-stick baking paper. To assemble the fruit slab, divide the pastry in half. Roll out one portion of pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line the prepared tin, pressing the pastry over the base and up the sides of the tin. Lightly brush the top edges with water.
4. Spoon the fruit mixture into the pastry case, spreading it evenly and packing it in well. Roll out the remaining pastry to a rectangle just slightly larger than the size of the tin, then lay this sheet of pastry over the filling and pat down lightly.
5. Trim away any excess pastry from around the edges using a sharp knife, then decoratively crimp the edges. Cut two slits in the middle of the top of the pie, then bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and golden. Sprinkle with caster sugar while still hot, then leave to cool and serve warm or cold in slices.
Often in bakeries they have one slice with the sugar coating and one with a thick layer of white glace icing on top.