The Tearoom On The Hill
When we opened Mother Murphy’s Tearoom in March 2015, it was far removed from the previous things we had both done in our lives. Mr M had been a lift engineer for 40 years. I had been involved in Learning and Development for many years. Somehow our two lives became entwined and we found ourselves opening our very own tearoom at Falkirk. It was a perfect size for us to manage just the two of us. It had previously been a café, so we just needed to clean, decorate and put our own stamp on the place for us to open our own place.
A Community Hub
Nearly four years down the line our tearoom is, I believe, part of the local community. We are providing a safe, relaxed, friendly environment for people to come along and enjoy the tearoom. Our food and cakes are, I believe well received and I still love the look on peoples’ faces when they try a cake that they have not been able to eat for years. Our gluten and dairy free goodies are indeed very popular. Our crafting side has developed from a couple of sessions to being a huge part of the tearoom. Crafting, chatting and eating cake – everything that the Doctor ordered for those in need of our tearoom, even when they did not realise they needed us.
Time To Grow
Now we are ready to grow. We have limited space at the Tearoom on the Hill and our location is perhaps not ideal. At times there is not a seat to be found, but other times the tearoom can be empty. I have a vision of the tearoom hosting birthday parties, book clubs, story time sessions, baby showers, hen parties. I would like to see crafting classes in the evening and for the tearoom to be an even greater part of the local community.
Mother Murphy's Tearoom at the York Cafe?
I often take a walk into Falkirk town centre and see the many empty buildings. Mr M talks fondly of being brought to Falkirk as a boy with his mum and going to the York Café for fish and chips. Wouldn’t it be great to have Mother Murphy’s Tearoom at the York Café.
Or Mother Murphy's Tearoom at the Castle?
Recently I have been reading a book by Caroline Roberts, The Cosy Teashop in The Castle. In this the main character takes over the café in a Castle and makes this a Cosy Teashop (finding love at the same time). I don’t need to find love as I have my very own Mr M, but if anyone has a castle that they would like us to move into, let us know. “Mother Murphy’s at the Castle” has a certain ring to it too don’t you think.
Seriously, though, we are now looking for new premises that we can afford, where the rent and business rates do not make it just a pipe dream. If anyone knows of anywhere……
Anyway, The Cosy Teashop in The Castle was a great read and one of the cakes mentioned throughout the book was Nanna’s Choffee Cake. At the end of the book, the recipe for this cake was given and I thought I would just have to make this for our tearoom. I have tried to keep it as close to the recipe in the book as possible but have, of course, adapted it to make it gluten and dairy free. The book’s cake did have chocolate coated coffee beans on it, but for the life of me I can’t see the point of spoiling a cake with coffee beans so there are no chocolate coated coffee beans on the top of my cake. Quite simply, a four layer sponge cake, 2 coffee, 2 chocolate, filled with layers of chocolate and coffee frosting. Oh my! There may need to be some quality assurance tomorrow at the Tearoom I can tell you!
Of course, there will also be Christmas Cake served with a slice of Wensleydale Cheese, but not until 1st December. With a bit of luck I might even manage to get my mince pies made for Saturday too. Both of these are gf/df of course (but don’t tell everyone), along with a lemon drizzle cake. There will be some of our Rocky Road (not gf/df) but still one of our customer favourites.
Back On the Hills
This weekend, I finally felt well enough to venture back out onto the hills, with just a pesky cough lingering. I woke early and to be honest, still felt rubbish and did think about just turning over and staying in bed all day. I looked over at Mr M still in a deep slumber and guilt grabbed me a little. Mr M has been doing most of the early morning walks for some time now so I thought it only right I let him sleep longer on his day off. So up I got and took Beatrix out for a short walk to do what dogs need to do in the morning. It was still a little dark, but the sky was clear, the moon shining bright and the stars glistening. In the distance I could just make out a dusting of snow on the Campsie Fells. What was I thinking? I didn’t need to spend the day in bed sleeping to get better. I needed to get out on the hills, feel the air around me and breathe in the freedom the hills bring. By the time I got home, the sun was starting to make an appearance and it was looking like a good day. I found myself almost running home to get ready. The porridge master was in action and my breakfast was almost ready when I got home. How spoiled am I!
By 9.00 am I was ready, my picnic made (all gf of course), my rucksack packed and Beatrix was giving me the huge collie smile she has when she realises an adventure is about to begin.
Driving over the hills to the start of our favourite walk up the Meikle Binn, the sun was well and truly awake, the sky clear and the added bonus was that I could see snow on the tops of the hills. Today was going to be a good day indeed.
Once we reached the start of the walk, changing my shoes into my walking boots I realised just how cold it was. I was regretting not putting my thermal leggings on so I opted to put my over trousers on to keep me warm. I even put on a hat and gloves! Off we went.
Beatrix found her stick for the walk within a minute of leaving the car (it’s a collie thing!).
Even though the walk up the Meikle Binn is so close to towns and cities, it is a surprisingly isolated walk. As I do my walks on a Monday, the chances of having crowds of folk along the way are also minimised. Strolling up the forestry track, I could feel life coming back into my bones and could feel a glow building on my face.
In The Bleak Mid-Winter
As we walked, chatting about different things (yes, I do talk to my dog when I am out walking and she talks to me!), it started to snow. Large snowflakes as big as tennis balls started to gently fall. I found myself singing In the Bleak Mid-Winter. As you all know, if Mr M had been out on the walk it would have been doom and gloom because of the cold, the snow and the wind, but for me, I seem to come alive in the winter.
As we reached the summit, the sunshine had long since disappeared and the clouds had engulfed us. The ground had a good covering of snow, so footsteps were taken carefully. Taking photos with my trusty camera, I remembered that I am now the proud owner of one of these fancy i-phones. Time for a selfie and a live video I thought. I’ll show people that I can really start to embrace technology! I managed to take a couple of photos with said super-duper phone then nothing. The phone died. I remember reading somewhere that people should not rely on their phones for navigation on the hills as they do not work very well in the cold weather. Well, lesson 1 today – i-phones don’t like to work in sub-zero temperatures. At least I had learned that lesson on a day when I did not need the phone.
We headed back down the hill and had a short break at the picnic bench for our lunch. A perk of the job is that I always seem to have a supply of yummy cakes and bakes for my walks. I also have a new flask for my tea. My trusty flask of 10 years + has finally been retired as it was no longer keeping the tea hot and the inside was flaking away. Thank you Mr M for my lovely birthday present.
My second lesson of the day was that my other lovely birthday present, new walking boots, were never ever going to be comfortable on me. I have spent the last month or so wearing them in the tearoom, on short walks with Beatrix and generally hoping that one day they would be comfortable. They were so uncomfortable today that I seriously contemplated taking them off and walking in my bare feet. If I had had a sharp knife I might have even cut the toes of them. I wonder if Mr M will mind buying me another pair of new boots?
Of course, the song for this week just has to be Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins.
Spice Girl’s Apple Cake/Pudding
Over the few years we have been open Mother Murphy’s Tearoom has developed into a community hub; a place for people to come along, meet new friends and enjoy the peace, tranquillity (and often madness) of our traditional tearoom.
Catering for people with different dietary requirements, including those with coeliac disease and dairy intolerance, we are always seeing new customers come along who are looking to see if it is really true that most of our lovely cakes and bakes are gluten and dairy free.
One particular Saturday we were getting ourselves geared up for one of our first Craft Chat and Cake Sessions doing some encaustic art painting. You have never heard of this I hear you say. Well until the fabulous Norma came along and demonstrated this to us, neither had I. Encaustic art is basically painting with bees wax using an iron. Believe me, it is one of the best crafts I have ever tried. We even had Mr M giving it a go too!
Kiddies in a candy shop
Anyway, that Saturday lunchtime into the tearoom walked Sharon and Frances with their gorgeous little blonde haired baby Sofia. They had heard good reviews from colleagues about our baking and wanted to check us out. They were looking for somewhere that provided gluten free food that was safe for somebody with coeliac disease, a dairy intolerance and where there would be a warm welcome to a family of 3. Talk about kiddies in a candy shop! I think they wanted to take home one of each of the cakes they saw that day. Later that afternoon just as the craft session was coming to a close, Frances ran in again asking for takeaway soups because they had enjoyed their lunch time visit so much. Let’s just say that it was quite some considerable time later that Frances, Sharon and Sofia left the tearoom once again, armed with Frances’ encaustic art painting, some soup and some cakes. “I only came in for a takeaway soup”, laughed Frances.
The Teashop on the Corner by Millie Johnson
At one of their next visits, without knowing it, they made all the hard work of setting up the tearoom worth every penny when they told me that Mother Murphy’s Tearoom reminded them of a book by Millie Johnson, The Teashop on the Corner. They said this book had some sort of magic about it and that they felt that same magic when they came into our little tearoom. I was nearly in tears I can tell you! Wanting to understand fully what they meant, I went out and bought the book for myself. I can tell you that I was bursting with pride as I read it thinking that people should associate our tearoom with this novel.
After reading this book, I started to refer to our tearoom in my face book posts as The Tearoom on the Hill and this quickly became our nickname. So much so, we now even receive post addressed to the Mother Murphy’s, The Tearoom on the Hill.
The Apple Cake
As autumn drew to a close in 2017, Sharon popped in one day with a sack full of wonderful apples from their garden. Scouring recipe books for some sort of apple delight, I came across a Dorset Apple Tray Bake. I pondered this and thought about how to adapt it to make it both gluten and dairy free and also to make into a large round cake rather than a tray bake. With the addition of some warm spices and few tweaks to the ingredients, our Apple Cake was born.
In December 2017 we had a Christmas Quiz in the tearoom and the deciding question was, “We like to name our cakes after our customers. Which cake should we name after you and why?” Sharon and Frances obviously did some major cheating along the way and were the only people to get every single question correct. It did mean that the deciding question was not needed, but their answer to this did warrant the apple cake being named after them.
So, I would like to introduce to you our Spice Girls’ Apple Cake....
SPICE GIRLS’ APPLE CAKE (gf/df)
Makes a 9” round cake
Warm spices turn this simple apple cake into a wonderful treat. I am not really sure whether this is a cake or a pudding. Cake or pudding, serve it warm and the spices are enhanced. Add a good helping of hot custard and this simple treat is transformed into a delicious pudding.
1 Preheat oven to 180oc/160oc fan oven.
2 Grease and line a 9” round deep cake tin with parchment paper. (I use a parchment paper liner).
3 Peel, core and thinly slice the apples, squeeze the lemon juice over them and put to one side.
4 Put all the other ingredients in the free standing mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat together until light and smooth.
5 Spread half of the cake mixture over the bottom of the prepared cake tin.
6 Arrange half of the apples over the top of this then repeat these two layers with the remaining cake mixture and apples.
7 Sprinkle demerara sugar over the top.
8 Bake in the pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes or until golden and springy to touch.
9 Leave in the tin until almost cold then cool completely on a wire rack.
Of course, the song for this post, just has to be,
Wannabe by the Spice Girls.