6.00 am, 22 January 2019 and all was quiet. The weather men had been warning us that the Beast from the East was going to return (though maybe not from the East!). It had certainly been cold over the last couple of days and last night was positively Baltic. However, when you only have two days away from the tearoom, you just have to make the most of what ever weather comes along on a Monday or Tuesday.
Last night, we were visiting one of our lovely customers. It does seem strange referring to people as customers because of course people are more than customers. They may well have been strangers and new customers when they first entered the tearoom, but they very quickly become friends. This is certainly the case with Dashing Tom. Tom had a bit of a tumble last week and broke his hip so we were had popped in to see him at hospital. If you can’t come to the tearoom Tom, we will bring the tearoom to you.
Anyway, I was discussing with Tom, his daughter and Mr M that I was planning to go up Ben Ledi from Callander in the morning. Well you would have thought I was talking about going up Mount Everest. (Actually, that is on my bucket list). I was trying to explain why I liked to go walking on the hills, especially in the winter and snow. It’s not because I am an intrepid explorer and live for the adrenalin rush, but quiet simply being on the hills is where my peace and tranquillity is. Everyone finds their own space, and the hills are mine.
First thing this morning Kirkintilloch was a bit on the chilly side and the ground a bit icy when I took Beatrix for a 10 minute walk before breakfast. There was no snow though. All will be well I told myself.
Back home for a bowl of steaming porridge and blueberries. I was expecting the usual, “are you sure it’s safe to go…..” from Mr M but he just said, “be careful”. So off we went. Flasks of tea (one for after the walk if needed), plenty layers and of course, crampons, were packed into the car along with the excited Border collie.
The drive to the start of the walk, just past Callander, was quite non-eventful. There were a few snow flurries but nothing to shout about. I could see Ben Ledi and the surrounding hills in the distance and they were indeed covered in snow. Parking the car, there was a good covering of snow, which is unusual for so low down in the valley.
5 minutes after leaving the car, it seemed that the Beast had caught up with us. I did lots of detailed calculations in my head. Ok, I thought, “Well, I’m here now”. No, honestly I thought that I would be better to have a bit of walk now and let the snow pass over us and let the gritters, ploughs and traffic clear the main A84 ready for us to go home later.
Usually the walk up Ben Ledi takes you along a forestry road then up a forest track before opening out onto the real hills. I know the forest track and it can be a bit tricky in good weather so I opted to go the long way round and follow the forestry road to the end before going into Stank Glen. I planned to get as far as the end of the glen and not attempt the full climb up Ben Ledi.
The highlight of the day today has to be the point along the forestry track when the snow was falling but there was not a soul about except for me and Beatrix. There was no wind, no sound, nothing. Imagine walking alone with your dog and listening to the sound of your own footsteps in crunching and your dog running in the snow. I stopped for a while and watched Beatrix playing, rolling and jumping in the snow. Once Beatrix had stopped alongside me, I just waited a while and enjoyed the silence.
As we climbed up the valley and reached the track to take us into the glen, the snow eased, and then stopped. The clouds started to lift and before long, the sunshine had joined us on our walk. At the end of the Glen, we had our picnic and flask of tea looking at the amazing scenery and I have to admit that I was very, very tempted to go up to the top of Ben Ledi. However, I did listen to my little voice of reason and agreed that Ben Ledi will be there another day when I have not used up all my limited energy walking in the deep snow. So I lingered a while and enjoyed an extra cup of tea and a boozy fruit slice. (Imagine a fruit slice but rather than just a fruit filling, this one is filled with my homemade Christmas mincemeat).
I am sure that there would have been many people cursing the snow and struggling to get to their work today, but for me, the snow provide the just what I needed. Now I have had a hot shower, a nap and had my tea cooked by Mr M. I am fit for the week ahead at the tearoom.
The Beast of the East (but from the West) was trying to scare us, but was certainly put into the shadows by the beauty of nature today.
Where will we go next week?
Of course, the song for this week just has to be Walking in Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves.
FRUIT SLICE (GF/DF/Egg Free)
Fruit Filling (or simply use some homemade Christmas mincemeat)
Making the fruit filling
1 Preheat oven to 190oc/170oc fan oven.
2 Grease and line a tray bake tin with parchment paper.
3 Put all the fruit filling ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
4 Boil for 4 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
5 Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Making the pastry
6 Put the flour, baking powder and xanthan gum into a free standing mixer (or a large bowl) and whisk to mix.
7 Cut the stork into small cubes and add to the flour mix. Have the mixer running at low speed and mix until you have rough breadcrumbs (or rub in with your fingers).
8 Add cold water, a little at a time, with the mixer still running (or mixing with a knife) until you have a soft but not sticky dough.
9 Cut the dough into two equal pieces and roll out each piece until they are large enough to cover the baking tray.
10 Carefully lift one of the pieces (use the rolling pin to help here) and place in the baking tray.
11 Cover the pastry with the cooled fruit mixture and spread out covering all the pastry.
12 Carefully life the second piece of pastry (again use the rolling pin to help here) and place this over the fruit.
13 Prick the pastry all over with a fork and then brush down with almond milk.
14 Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes until lightly browned.
15 Remove from the oven and (if you are not coating it in icing later) sprinkle with caster sugar.
16 Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into 24 equal pieces.
17 If you want to add icing to this, wait until completely cold. Mix the icing sugar with enough cold water to make a thick paste and carefully spread over the pastry and leave to set before slicing.