Rosemary's Blog

Aerstone single malt whisky - is it too good to be true?

Things which appear too good to be true generally fail to deliver. That’s my experience anyway. So two single malt Scotch whiskies from Wm Grant & Sons, retailing at £30 a bottle as Tesco exclusives, have been both intriguing and tempting me since their launch almost nine months ago. I’ve been slow to try them but a WhiskyWire Twitter tasting organised by Steve Rush has got me there. Thanks Steve!

 

I admit that I have a soft spot for the Wm. Grant & Sons whisky portfolio. When I started writing and vlogging about whisky I had the chance to meet Kirsten Grant Meikle, the great great grand-daughter of William Grant, at their head offices to chat about what I hoped to contribute to the whisky world. After that, at my first ever whisky show, Kevin Abrook (who led for the company’s innovation team) took the time to talk me through the range of Girvan grain whiskies, a mind-blowing treat at an inaugural whisky press event.

I started to write about whisky at the same time as Wm Grant released Monkey Shoulder, their blended Speyside malt whisky aimed at the cocktail market. I used it a lot in tastings in my early days and have recently returned to it. It is currently the Number one whisky brand, having knocked Johnnie Walker off the top spot which they had possibly come to regard as theirs for all time. Monkey Shoulder goes well with food - and the Aerstone whiskies do too. 

Glenfiddich, Wm Grant’s flagship single malt Scotch whisky, has it’s own place in drink history as the first single malt to be marketed aggressively in the 70’s. It has never been a favourite of mine and I have struggled with some of the special finish expressions that have been released recently. That said, The Balvennie Caribbean Cask, another Wm Grant triumph, would be in my list of top whiskies. What is exciting for me, at the less uber-nerdy end of whisky tasting and writing, is that Wm Grant’s seem to be getting whiskies, both blends and now single malts, at the cheaper end of the market, absolutely right. This is important because, in a market where the majority of drinkers are buying blends, the new drinks will help maintain the whisky share of an increasingly competitive market with gin and vodka, along with white port and the wanna-be revived vermouth sector, all jostling for the same drinker’s pound.

In case you want to try a bit of baking to go with Aerstone whiskies, here are the two recipes that I taste in the video above. 

 Diana Henry’s marmalade cake - the myorkneylarder way

Serves 10

Diana’s recipe from The Daily Telegraph caught my eye when I was in the middle of marmalade making - there’s always that little bit of preserve over that will not fill a jar but is perfect for baking - or even adding to beef, pork or chick pea casseroles. I opted to make Diana’s cake but, of course, as a spur-of-the-moment bake, I did not have all the ingredients that she specified. So, here’s Diana’s recipe as written, with my notes and tweaks following on. Being new to Orkney and rapidly becoming a beremeal devotee I had to add a little of that too.... recipes are only ever a starting point!

Use a good marmalade – the cheapest you can find will not do. I generally just sift icing sugar over it, but you can glaze it with some melted marmalade if you prefer.


175g (6oz) butter

175g (6oz) soft light-brown sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature

125g (4½oz) dark, coarse-cut marmalade

finely grated zest of 1 orange

juice of ½ orange

175g (6oz) brown self-raising flour


Butter and base-line a loaf tin measuring 22 x 12 x 6cm (8 x 4¼ x 3in).

Beat the butter and sugar in a food mixer until light and fluffy. With the machine running add the egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the marmalade, zest and juice. Sift the flour and add the bran from the sieve back into it. Fold into the batter with a metal spoon. Scrape into the tin and smooth the top.

Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for 35 minutes. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. Leave for 10 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack, peel off the paper and set the right way up. Leave to cool (though it is lovely, if rather crumbly, when still warm).


Here’s the myorkneylarder version. It’s all as above but ....


•  I used caster sugar.

•  I used one small sweet orange, but use a Seville when they are in season..

•  I used 160g white SR flour + 40g fine beremeal with a pinch of baking powder.

•  I found the mixture did curdle with all the acidic juice but it quickly recovered when the flour etc was added.

•  I’m still experimenting with baking in my new fan oven and the cake took 45 mins at 160C Fan. I should have used 170C Fan.


 Banana and walnut cake

Makes 1 large cake

Every so often the fruit bowl boasts some bananas that look decidedly past their best. This is a great baking opportunity. Wholewheat flour must be finely ground for cake and pastry making - bread flour is too coarse. Regular Self-raising is fine for this recipe.


300g ripe bananas

2 large eggs

150g soft margarine or butter, straight from the fridge

150g caster sugar

250g self raising wholewheat flour

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g walnut pieces or 75g desiccated coconut

150g natural yogurt


1 Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, 190C, 375F. Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

2 Peel then mash the bananas with a fork until smooth. Beat the eggs.

3 Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and beat until smooth, then beat for a further 1 minute. Turn into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes, until firm to the touch in the centre.

4 Cool completely on a wire rack. Drizzle the cake with icing if you wish - just blend 2-3 tablespoons of icing sugar with a little water or lemon juice and drizzle it across the cake. It’s not necessary but it looks good!

It’s going to be OK.

I wore my mother’s coat today. It was her funeral two weeks ago. The coat has been hanging in my wardrobe since we moved to Orkney 18 months past - it came up with us spread out over the last bits and pieces piled high in the back of the car.

My Mum didn’t have many good quality clothes. Like many immobile, house-bound or in-care elderly people she was the subject to never-ending special offers and free gifts from tenacious mail order shopping companies with their too-good-to-be-true prize draw offers. My Mum was good at looking after her own affairs until relatively recently and it was heart-breaking to see her be fooled by the promise of riches if she’d just return the envelope with her very special draw number. But back to the coat...

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The coat had been Mum’s winter outer layer for years, at least thirty but I think probably quite a bit longer. She had even had it re-lined at not inconsiderable expense as it was her defence against the blustery winter winds on the Sussex coast. Once Mum was resident in a nursing home the coat just hung in her wardrobe as she didn’t often venture out and, when she did, a jacket was all the protection needed to get into a car. Eventually she asked me to take it away to make room for more bargains from the mail order companies. I hung onto it - I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing someone else in it if given to a charity shop.

Now Mum is gone but I still have her coat. Today I wore it for the very first time. It is many years since she was able to give me a proper hug but today I was ready for her coat to do just that. It’s too long past that she wore it for the coat to have any scent of her still in it’s fibres and maybe that is a good thing? But it’s a long coat and covers my back when I’m pottering outside or picking up litter on the beach and I shall get years more wear out of it. My Mum will be with me in a physical sense whenever I wear the coat and now I am ready to say that is a good thing. Thanks Mum for my new Orkney coat. And for all the hugs over the years.

A small show of support

On Friday 15th February I took a folding chair, a collapsed cardboard box and some marker pens and headed to the steps of St Magnus Cathedral, a central hub for the community here in Orkney. It was the day when the young people of the UK were called upon by teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to strike, to leave their schools and colleges and gather publicly to show politicians and corporations that climate change is the Number One issue for future generations.

What could I, in my 60’s and with no children of my own, do to support these young people? My generation simply has not done enough to mitigate the effects that our consumerist lifestyles have had on the environment. It’s Too Difficult for us - but it is imperative for them to rise to the challenge if their descendants are to have a chance of good and long lives on our planet.

I posted on the Facebook group Orcadians Going Green to say that I would be on the Cathedral steps to show support for the young people who are the story of the day. By the time I had set up my chair, written my sign and caught up with my gloves that had blown away in the wind I was beginning to think I would have a lonely time in the cold, although it was a gloriously sunny morning. I took a selfie but couldn’t quite get all my sign in!

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Soon enough Frankie arrived from Stromness, on the other side of Orkney Mainland. Having recently left school she is waiting to leave for Nigeria as a volunteer to build toilets for three primary schools, Frankie was great company even if I did worry that she needed many more layers of clothing on! She increased the value of my morning by 100%!

Then people started coming across to talk to us. They were thanking us for being there and raising awareness and saying that they were sorry they hadn’t had the courage to show their own support in a public way. We had good conversations about how valuable it is for us all to keep up recycling, growing veg, shopping locally and for local food, trying to use green energy and low energy light bulbs and all the other changes that are quite easy to make in our own homes. A recurring theme in such conversations is always ‘but is this making a difference?’ Of course the answer is Yes, but we need businesses, corporations and government to join in too and to make their targets, especially as committed to at the Paris Climate Agreement.

Of course there were some muttering about current political issues. I loved Frankie’s observation that every time the PM goes anywhere there is an entourage of big engined cars accompanying her on even the shortest journeys, for which electric cars would be perfect. Good point Frankie - and a business opportunity for Jonathan at eco-cars.net?

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Did we achieve anything, apart from getting very cold? In a tiny way we did because we had some conversations and that is a big part of starting to bring about change. BBC Radio Orkney came to interview us so that should spread the message of our support for the SchoolsStrike4Climate further. Next time, here in Orkney, I hope it will be the young that are on the Cathedral steps, joining in with tomorrow’s voters around the globe. They are not wasting their schooling opportunities, Mrs May. They are learning what we should have been taught: how to be responsible citizens in a sustainable world.

Here’s the clip from BBC Radio Orkney - it starts about 2 mins 25sec after the Radio Orkney music begins. https://m.mixcloud.com/radioorkney/around-orkney-monday-18th-february-2019/

 

It’s Burn’s Night and the world is drinking whisky

It’s the 25th January and yet again social media would have us believe that the only thing to be imbibing tonight is haggis and whisky in homage to Robert Burns. I have seen posts exhorting us to drink Swedish, Orcadian and Japanese whiskies but I always think of it this way: with the great Scottish history of whisky distilling - legal and illegal - what would Burns have been drinking as surely they are the drams with which we should celebrate the anniversary of his birth? 

Robert Burns was no angel - maybe that is why he is held in such enduring esteem? He was a rather lost philanderer who knew good times and bad but was loved unconditionally by Jean Amour, the mother of most of his many children and whom he eventually married.

Burns lived from 25th January 1759 until 21st July, 1796. Many of the distilleries of his day are no longer in production but I selected three that could make claims to be the drams to drink today: Strathisla, Balblair and Glen Garioch.

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Strathisla is Scotland’s oldest working distillery in the Highlands, founded in 1786, well within Burns’ lifetime. It is a very easy whisky: I find the 12yo quite light although some refer to it as rich and fruity, which comes from its sherry barrel maturation. It does develop on the palate but I like just a little more edginess in my dram. It’s popularity is, however, enduring and may be something to do with its very reasonable price for a Speyside 12yo at around £33.

Across the Cromarty Firth and further north by Tain, Balblair was founded in 1790 and would therefore have been well into production in the Bard’s lifetime. If ever there was a whisky to divide opinion it is Balblair but I am on the side of enjoying it. The drams are generally complex and worth working at but in 2018 Gordon & Macphail released a deliciously accessible 12yo Balblair as part of the Discovery range, showcasing its exceptional bourbon maturation characteristics. As this range all retails at just shy of £50 it is a dram that is well worth a taste.

Time and again I return to Glen Garioch, a distillery in Aberdeenshire in the heart of wheat growing country. My favourite dram to date of theirs is the Founder’s Reserve, an unusually smooth and creamy whisky for me but an utterly affordable single malt at around £35. Now, the eagle-eyed amongst you will spot the date of 1797 on the label of the bottle, a year after Burns’ death. However, Glen Garioch was built on the site of the previous Meldrum distillery and so, in my mind at least, Burns would certainly have had the possibility of enjoying a dram from this site.

Were I to be supplying the whisky for a haggis supper tonight I would certainly be serving Glen Garioch. However, we will be at the local pub with our traditional music group to supply some entertainment during an Impormptu Burns Supper raising funds for CLAN, the local cancer support group. Haggis here in Orkney is served with minced beef in gravy accompanying it and clapshot, a dish of tatties and neeps (swede) boiled and mashed together. We’ll be playing sets of Robert Burns waltz’s, reels and marches. For Nick and I, at least, his music is easier than his poetry.

Now, I must go and look up the proper words for the verses of Auld Lang Syne.  

Compass Box deliver again - Spanish-style

With the release of The Story of The Spaniard - a ridiculously long name for a whisky - Compass Box have delighted their core range followers with the first new addition to that range in years. Many, like me, will have mourned the passing of Asyla - please bring it back at some stage - a light, fruity and almost wine-like whisky with which I have converted many a wine-only drinker to the amber nectar. It was the first whisky that I ever blogged about, an utterly pretentious review with which I thought I would truly make my mark... if only!

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From Orkney to Sussex and back - 1600 miles in a 24kw Nissan Leaf

When did you last have a good conversation while filling your car? The experience of travelling from Orkney to Sussex in our five year old - and therefore not state of the art - Nissan Leaf was full of them. It was a driving experience that belonged to a time when motoring was an enjoyable, adventurous way to travel instead of a frustrating slog. We knew the journey would take us several days and would involve a steep learning curve about inter-charge risk management. We didn’t know how much interest there would be in where we had come from and where we were going.


Our Leaf has one of the smallest ranges of electric cars currently on the road at around 70 miles. From our home near St. Margaret’s Hope in Orkney the easiest way to get to the Scottish Mainland is by the Pentalina ferry. The A9 south to Inverness then has rapid electric chargers at just-about-do-able distances for us but they are not the most reliable. As this was our first big EV journey we didn’t want to fall at the first hurdle - or fail at the first charger - so we booked onto the overnight ferry from Kirkwall to Aberdeen to land fully charged first thing in the morning and make our booked hotel stop at Tebay Services, south of Carlisle, by late afternoon. A force 8 gale and driving rain in the hours leading up to departure for our first time, 7 hour ferry crossing was daunting, discouraging us from getting soaked through if we recharged after the drive to Kirkwall. We were both more than apprehensive as we dosed up with Stugeron tablets for the ferry journey and thus we boarded our boat with not quite the range we had anticipated.


Planning an EV journey that is not on motorways requires a smart phone and various apps that show where the chargers are. The Leaf has a ‘nearest charger’ display but ours is quite out of date for anywhere except Orkney. As our travels progressed the car’s system was constantly updating with ‘new’ chargers that we used. We can also report that not all apps are completely accurate. Nick had spent a good deal of time on our routes but the first post-Aberdeen charge depended on a full range from the ferry port. We therefore topped up in the suburbs on the way out of town to make our first planned stop.

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We had chosen a charging point at Forfar just off the bypass which turned out to be at the Council offices and we arrived there at just about 09.00, the same time as all the council employees. One of them beat us to therapid charger and was presumably already at his desk hard at work, so we decided to hook up to the type-2 charger and look for breakfast while he finished his charge. Rapid chargers will put an 80% charge on our car in about 20 minutes, giving us a 55-60 mile range. Type-2 chargers take about 3 hours to give us a charge and a 13amp granny cable is really an overnight or emergency only way of ‘filling up’. The only breakfast option in the area was a McDonalds - as a benevolent food writer I shall just say that perhaps we chose our food badly but the coffee was good.


When we returned to the car another Leaf had parked between us and the Rapid with the driver patiently waiting for the car still on charge to finish. The protocol is that once a charge has ended the connector can be removed by someone waiting so that it can be used again. It goes without saying that you close the covers on the other cars charging port. The charger cannot be removed if it is still working without the car owner stopping the charge with their card or app. In Scotland we pay £20 a year for a card which operates all the public chargers and each charge is then free. Had we lost our place in the rapid queue to the other Leaf? Not at all.


We Leaf Owners chatted - it’s a bit like being a 2CV driver (remember those?), waving as you pass etc - and our new friend was more than happy for us to do a quick charge to get us to Dundee: that’s the EV owner spirit! She was the first of many people to be amazed that we were travelling from Orkney to Sussex and back and told us how wind and rain can sometimes interrupt the signal to chargers putting them temporarily out of service. She also showed us her cable for the type-2 charger - each car has its own - which had a coiled bright orange flex and gave us cable envy. We told her about eco-cars.net the Orkney-based second-hand EV business which will source vehicles for customers. Jonathan Porterfield is one of the pioneers of EV motoring and a great source of knowledge having driven the length of the country to collect and deliver vehicles many times.

Jonathan had flagged up the new Dundee charging hub in one of his YouTube videos and we were keen to take a look. Most people visit the city at the moment for the V&A but the Princes Street car park is also worth a visit if you drive an EV. High above the river with a great view and easily accessible from the town or the bypass, this is Dundee’s second EV charging site and offers six rapid chargers and 4 type-2’s. The charging bays are covered with solar panel laden canopies. A brilliant facility and one which all councils should be looking to replicate. With electric taxis on charge while we were there Dundee is obviously promoting zero-emission motoring.

Our next stop was Auchterarder, close to both Gleneagles hotel and the Tullibardine distillery - we had visited for the whisky on our way to live in Orkney. The rapid charger was plugged into a car that had finished its charge and we were just about to disconnect it when the owner arrived, full of apologies for keeping us waiting - which of course wasn’t necessary. We chatted, us telling him of our planned journey and he revealing that he actually enjoyed driving his wife’s Leaf more than his Jaguar. We had our lunch at the excellent Cafe Kisa while the car was enjoying refreshment as well.

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Allendale Water Services presented us with our first problem. We had taken a gamble on getting there and run ourselves down to about a 16 mile range. The charger would not work. The help-line said it just needed to cool down after the last user but we had been trying for about 15 minutes and we were late for Tebay so anxious to press on. Checking the apps we headed into Lockerbie, which we just about made, only to find the charger was a Type-2: we’d read the map wrongly and the Rapid we expected to find was back in the other direction in Moffat. So we sat for about an hour, until we had enough charge to get us to Gretna, musing over Lockerbie Council’ s wisdom in installing a 2-port charger between two spaces, one of which was for disableddrivers only.

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Once topped up at Gretna with a generous charge for the remainder of the journey we eventually arrived at the Tebay Hotel about four hours later than we had hoped and were easily tempted by the almost fine dining menu at the hotel which uses all the excellent local produce on sale in the farm shop at the services. Tebay, both in Cumbria and on the M5 near Gloucester, has brought a whole new level to the motorway hospitality experience.

We wanted to reach Sussex the next day and our friends were very accommodating about our arrival time. We had 300 miles to cover and needed nine charges to make the journey. Whilst that might sound frustratingly slow we both arrived fresher and more relaxed than on any other long journey by car. We left with a full charge at 08.00 hoping to miss the commuting traffic hotspots and we did. Our first stop was long enough for us to catch up with the first house tour on a downloaded Escape to the Country programme on the iPad, which sits comfortably on top of the dash so that we can both see well. It passes the time perfectly but we’d always rather have a conversation.


At one services we were asked directly how much our charge had just cost us and Nick was able to show on his phone the billed amount of £1.48. We had chosen Ecotricity as our energy supplier when we moved to Orkney as they are a totally green energy provider and have installed the electric highway on the motorway network in England. We had had in mind our trips back to Sussex to see my mother in her nursing home as well as our enthusiasm for renewables. As customers we get a 50% discount on our charges in England: something to think about when choosing your electricity supplier if you are considering moving to an EV or a hybrid vehicle. Two people chatting to us by chargers commented that they would be put off going electric if they had to have a smart phone to use the charging network. I’m sure this will change very quickly.

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We decided to take the M6 rather than the M6Toll as there are no services on the newer road and we knew we would need another charge before Warwick after Stone. We got to Warwick in time for a late lunch on a picnic bench in the sun. By then we knew that we would get to Sussex for a late supper. Again we were aware of being watched as we plugged in which led to a chat with a chap who was involved in a scheme to install a charger at the village hall near his home in Shropshire. Had we met him on the return journey we would have said to ensure it was a rapid charger and not a type-2, but more of that anon.

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Our final motorway-style charge was on the A34 at Sutton Scotney, just north of Winchester. Yet another conversation and more amazement that we had travelled from Orkney. This, we knew, would be our last rapid charge and we drove across country from there to Chichester, a shorter route although it had more gradients than the flatter, longer coastal route. It was nostalgic for us to drive through Downland villages and we were amazed that our ascent of the scarp side of the South Downs at Harting Hill, a short but steep climb, took seven miles worth of power from the car. That’s certainly something to consider after hundreds of miles of relatively gentle gradients on motorways. We got two miles of power back going downhill with regenerative breaking - take your foot off the throttle going downhill and the breaking puts some power back into the battery. We were ready to stop as we plugged into a 13amp socket with our granny cable in our friend’s garage but we also felt an immense sense of adventure and achievement.

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Our final motorway-style charge was on the A34 at Sutton Scotney, just north of Winchester. Yet another conversation and more amazement that we had travelled from Orkney. This, we knew, would be our last rapid charge and we drove across country from there to Chichester, a shorter route although it had more gradients than the flatter, longer coastal route. It was nostalgic for us to drive through Downland villages and we were amazed that our ascent of the scarp side of the South Downs at Harting Hill, a short but steep climb, took seven miles worth of power from the car. That’s certainly something to consider after hundreds of miles of relatively gentle gradients on motorways. We got two miles of power back going downhill with regenerative breaking - take your foot off the throttle going downhill and the breaking puts some power back into the battery. We were ready to stop as we plugged into a 13amp socket with our granny cable in our friend’s garage but we also felt an immense sense of adventure and achievement.

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Our journey back was most successful and without incident, although we did make an overnight stop at Warwick after leaving the south coast late in the afternoon. This was to get us to Tebay to enjoy an earlier dinner than on the way down.  We had been ‘iced out’ at a mainly truckers services on the way south, but there were no incidents on the return journey. This means an ice - internal combustion engine - vehicle has parked in a EV charging bay thus preventing us from getting a charge (until the van driver returned). It’s very annoying and social media often comes into play to try to bring shame on the culprits. The highlight of the journey home in terms of conversation was with a man who owned an aggregates and gritting business and was about to buy an electric car for a new member of staff. We were en route to the Glengoyne distillery and he had the gritting contract there - it’s a small EV world.

Driving around Sussex, however, was not as simple as driving in Orkney, in Scotland or on the motorways in an EV. We were staying near Chichester and the nearest Rapid was in Midhurst, about a 20 minutes drive north over the Downs, at the South Downs National Park Centre. All the other public chargers were type-2’s and on a mix ofnetworks, requiring different apps or charge cards. The charger closest to my mother’s nursing home, which could have been so very convenient as it was literally just over the road, was a 13amp socket type which is the slowest and no use at all except for an all-day or all-night charge. The railway stations all had type-2’s: great if you are a commuter and plug in for the day but, in a crowded station car-park, the chance of being able to disconnect a finished charge and use the charger is slim indeed.

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We had made arrangements to meet friends for coffee one morning in Lewes, a ‘green’ town about forty miles from Chichester and we knew there was a Rapid there from our ZapMap app. That worked well and we had plenty of charge for our return journey, even with a detour to a mega M&S, which we both found utterly daunting, for the sort of shopping that most of us do at that store! We were agreed that the only way forward down south, with a real lack of commitment to electric motoring evident, would be to get a hybrid. That said, if you are able to afford a Tesla, there appeared to be plenty of charging options on their exclusive network as well as ranks of usually 6 Tesla-only chargers at most motorway service stations. Knowing only too well how air quality is such an issue at traffic black spots like the Worthing ring road, and Arundel and Chichester by-passes, some encouragement for people to make the change to EV’s would surely be a good idea, for the present and for the future? I don’t mean financial incentives, I mean getting on with the electric highway and installing Rapids in accessible public car parks on the outskirts of towns by major roads. We can’t imagine driving anything but an electric vehicle now and will certainly drive south again.


Our total public charger bill for the journey? £37.67 of which £7.70 was the two charges in Lewes and Midhurst.

Make yourself an Orkney whisky cream liqueur

Christmas is coming and it’s the time when many people pop a bottle of whisky cream liqueur in their shopping trolleys. There is, however, nothing like homemade and this recipe was a huge success when I made and shared it at Orkney Library. I prefer the colour and flavour when making it with chocolate and maple syrup instead of chocolate ice cream sauce.

Highland Park whisky cream liqueur

Serve this chilled with plenty of ice or sneak a drop into your coffee. Makes about 1 litre.


•  300ml single cream

•  397g can condensed milk

•  350ml HIghland Park 12yo single malt whisky

•  1 tsp Camp coffee essence or strong cold coffee

• 50g dark chocolate + 1tbsp maple or golden syrup, melted together, or 3 tbsp chocolate sauce

•  1 tsp  vanilla extract or essence

•  1 tsp  almond essence

1.  Sterilise some bottles for the liqueur: wash in very hot water or on the hot cycle of a dishwasher. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3, 160C. Place the bottles in the oven to dry for 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool.

2.  If using chocolate and maple syrup, heat them together gently until the chocolate is melted then add to the cream and condensed milk in a bowl.

3.  Whisk or blend all the ingredients together until combined, adding extra essences to taste.

4.  Pour into sterilised bottles and store in the fridge. (The liqueur will keep for up to two months.) Shake well before using.

Cook’s Tip: Don’t make this with double cream - it will thicken too much in the fridge. 

Rum-soaked prune and walnut tart

When I first tasted J Gow spiced Orkney Rum I immediately wanted to cook with it, so deeply fruited and spicy are both the nose and the taste. This lovely autumn tart is the latest of my recipes using this fabulous Orkney spirit - and I’m not usually a rum fan!


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For the pastry:

  • 125g plain flour

  • 75g beremeal

  • 100g butter

For the filling:

  • 125g pitted read-to-eat prunes

  • 50g walnut pieces

  • 3 tbsp spiced rum

  • 3 tbsp red jam

  • 200ml milk

  • 2 eggs

  • 25g caster sugar

  • Freshly grated nutmeg

1. Combine the flour and beremeal in a bowl with the butter, cut into small pieces, and rub in until the mixture looks like evenly sized crumbs. Bring together with cold water into a firm dough then roll out and use to line a 22cm tart or sandwich tin. Prick the base with a fork then chill for at least 30 mins.

2. Cut the prunes in half and very roughly chop the walnuts. Soak the prunes in the rum. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6, 200C, 400F.

3. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 20 mins, remove the beans and cook for a further 5 mins. Reduce the temperature to gas mark 4, 180C, 350F.

4. Drain the rum into measuring jug and make up to 200ml with milk. Add the eggs and sugar and beat well. Spread the base of the pastry case with the jam then scatter with the prunes and walnuts. Pour the egg custard over the filling then grate some nutmeg over the top.

5. Bake for 20-25 mins, until the custard is just set - it should wobble slightly when the tin is shaken. Leave for 15 mins before cutting to serve.

Cook’s tip: You might need to reduce the oven temperatures by 10-20C if you have a fan oven. I’m cooking on bottle gas and need the higher temperatures to cook the base of the pastry.