Rosemary's Blog

Grace Mulligan - grace in name and nature

We have only decorated one room in our new home so far. We wallpapered it and, owing to the shading of the pattern, made a bad job of the joins behind the door. An easy solution to avert the eye from our inadequate skills was to make a collage of photos of my career so far and there, right in my eyeline, is a picture of my friend and colleague Grace Mulligan and I on a Guild of Food Writers trip to Venice. Grace, the beloved presenter of Yorkshire Television’s Farmhouse Kitchen series, died recently and was one of the kindest, most genuine people in the food writing and television cookery world. Unknown to many of today’s younger foodies, she was gentle, generous and graceful, both in name and in nature.


A doctor’s wife and mother to four children, Grace came to the notice of Yorkshire Television through her association with the WI, in much the same way as Ruth Mott, the presenter of The Victorian Kitchen, was ‘found’. In fact, the three of us once had a sugar-rush afternoon sampling frozen desserts together. The desserts weren’t so good but we shared a lot of laughs and some good gossip.

Grace was a proud Scot and a willing judge at my friend Anna’s Young Cook’s of Britain/FutureCooks competitions, judging the Glasgow heats despite being based in Goole where her husband was in practice. A great baker and champion of Scottish recipes and ingredients, Grace was also a no-nonsense family cook who was always up for a challenge.  I remember her leading a workshop on toffee apple making for children in a marquee at a food festival in Chichester that Anna and I ran. Risk assessments would probably preclude such an event now but Grace got the children through it safely and with a great sense of achievement at having mastered a really technical skill. While Grace was in Chichester for that event I remember her sheer delight when Anna’s husband took her for a spin in his recently acquired not-quite-vintage Mercedes convertible. I can see her now with a headscarf on and the widest of smiles, emerging slightly windswept from the passenger seat.

A holder of the Guild of Food Writer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Grace loved the Guild trips and was always great company. Apart from our glorious trip to Venice I particularly remember her at a sourdough workshop at the School of Artisan Food and also at a wonderful trip, just north of York, to an exquisite garden which also grew some produce for the owners gastro-pub. I also remember her at Billington’s Sugar events when un-refined sugar was newly widely available and we were all keen to assess the effect of it on the flavour of our baking. 

Grace was a kind host to anyone needing B&B and I particlularly remember her warmth and welcome when I became a Catholic as her faith was so important to her. She met me in York once and took me to a fascinating house run by a religious order where we ate in the cafe and toured the building rich in history from the time of the persecution of Catholics in York after the Reformation. After we split up to go our separate ways Grace had a bad fall and I felt awful that I didn’t know about it for several weeks. But that was Grace - she was never one to make a fuss.

My friend Grace was graceful, knowledgeable and unflappable - and the common link there is ‘able’. Which she most certainly was. 

Salsas to dance summer into your kitchen

It seems that I have caused a bit of a rush on Orkney Craft Vinegar’s Honey & Meadowsweet condiment. OK, it wasn’t quite the Delia Effect with the liquid glucose for chocolate tart, but Kirkness & Gorrie reported a rush after my Rhubarb Riot demonstration at Orkney Library & Archive, were I used it in a Rhubarb and rosemary salsa. Then Cousin Andrea shared a picture of her bumper redcurrant harvest which put me in mind of a favourite Beetroot and redcurrant salsa. So I thought that, while we continue to bask in summer sunshine, I’d share both recipes with you as they would be great for barbecues. Yes, it is warm, even here in Orkney!

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Making yogurt at home

granola with yoghurt

We are so enjoying all the friends and family who are heading north to stay with us in our new home on the island of South Ronaldsay in Orkney. Breakfast, such an individual meal when it comes to likes and dislikes, can be a challenge but we tend to keep the offer to either porridge, made with the delicious flaked oats from Barony Mill (which is also the producer of the unique Orkney beremeal) or homemade granola and yogurt. Then, of course, there’s Nick’s lovely homemade bread, creamy yellow Orkney butter and my homemade marmalade. It is the yogurt, however, that is the subject of most conversation and so I thought I’d share some hints and tips for making yogurt at home.


In 2018 I took part in a Plastic-Less Lent which was a revelation - in our house the greatest amount of plastic waste is from milk containers. Many island communities are trying to encourage their local dairy back to glass bottles. It is said that the bottles must be used at least 8 times to be more environmentally friendly than plastic - I’m sure it’s a debate that will run and run up here but, of course, the best ingredient to start with for yogurt, however it is packaged, is good local milk; preferably blue top or whole milk and as fresh as possible.

In the first instance you also need some commercial live yogurt - I always seek out the green label whole milk variety from my friends at Yeo Valley. You need 3 tbsp of that in the base of a 1 litre bowl. I use a beautiful china pudding basin from Highgrove - but I think the recipe works in other containers! 

Warm 1 litre of milk over a moderate heat to at least 87C - I have found that the hotter the milk gets the thicker the yogurt and often let it get to 89C or even 94C under a watchful eye. A good digital thermometer is pretty essential equipment for yogurt making. Once heated up - yes, you have to cool it down again, placing the pan in a sink of cold water until it reaches 47C. This is the critical temperature - that temperature is necessary for the yogurt to ‘ferment’ so keep an eye and if the temperature drops too far, do reheat to 47C or the yogurt may not thicken.

Tzatziki is even better with home made yogurt

Tzatziki is even better with home made yogurt

I set my china bowl with the yogurt starter in it in the middle of a fluffy hand towel. Pour the 47C milk into the bowl and stir to combine with the yogurt. Cover with cling film, wrap the towel around the bowl and quickly place it somewhere warm for 5 hours. We use our airing cupboard now but used to set the bowl on the back of the Aga when we had one. You can leave it for longer and up to 2-3 hours does not seem detrimental for us but how warm your ‘incubator’ is may dictate the total time without storage. Unwrap and allow the container to cool, then chill the yogurt for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight for the best texture.

From then on, just keep 3tbsp from the end of the current batch to start your next lot of yogurt. I find that works for about 5 or 6 batches then a new Yeo Valley starter is required. You should aim to eat the yogurt in about 5 days.  After the glorious moment of breaking into a new bowl of yogurt it does often split with some whey separating out. That can easily be poured off and is good for baking but use it that day. It can also be stirred back in. If the yogurt splits badly it can be strained through a scalded nylon sieve which will give a much thicker curd, a little like a homemade Greek-style yogurt.

propagator yoghurt

When we had an Aga we didn’t have an airing cupboard - although I understand that there are some households that have both! So when we turned our Aga off in the summer we had to be resourceful to continue making yogurt. At this stage the electric seed propagator was called into play. I forsook my Highgrove bowl for an enamelled pie dish for maximum possible heat transference, and put the towel over the top of the dish on the propogator. It worked well but sometimes took a little longer than 5 hours. 

The flavour of homemade natural yogurt is much milder than many commercial offerings and is completely different from the acidically bitter taste, rather like gloss paint (not that I eat gloss paint - you know I mean, the smell/imagined taste) of natural yogurt when it first arrived on our supermarket shelves in the 1970’s. So be prepared for if you start making yogurt yourself, you and your family will probably want homemade for ever! 



The perfect mixing of avocados and hard-boiled eggs: remembering John Brookes MBE

I am writing this during the funeral of John Broookes, one of the most influential garden designers of the late 20th Century. I cannot be in Sussex today and so I am remembering a lot of fun that John and I had together - mainly on trains when our journeys to London coincided and we would gossip all the way from Barnham or Arundel to Victoria. Our conversations must have provided wonderful eavesdropping! We also worked together for a number of years for The Friends of The Aldingbourne Trust, a charity for adults with learning difficulties that is situated close to where we both lived. The Trust uses both cooking and gardening as activities for their clients - hence John and I got to know each other.

My most enduring memory of John is what he taught me of the synergy between creamy avocados and one of my all-time favourite foods, hard-boiled eggs. Well, not so hard-boiled, as I like my yolks for this to be still a little on the soft side. 

John had invited Nick and I to supper at his home in The Clockhouse at Denman’s, the garden which he created and which was open to the public for many years, complete with award-winning tea-room and, of course, plant sales. We were planning a fund-raising evening for the Trust about chickens - keeping them and cooking them - with the owner of the near-by smallholders supply company doing the ‘live’ hints and tips while I cooked. To set the scene while we discussed details John produced a starter which has provided inspiration for my cooking many times. There was a lot of 60’s and 70’s avocado-ness about John’s home, the colour was part of his coming of age and formative era. Who reading this remembers the struggle to keep hard water marks from an avocado bathroom suite?! The fact that he chose to serve avocados was no surprise once we were at The Clockhouse.

You simply need a ripe avocado, some lemon juice if making this in advance (I think it is better without, but you need to keep the colour so make it fresh or add a little lemon), salt and pepper, a boiled egg (see above!) and lots of freshly chopped parsley. It is as simple as this: cut the avocado in half (the moment of truth), remove the stone and scoop out the flesh, reserving the shells. Mash the flesh in a bowl with some salt and pepper with a fork. Peel and roughly chop the egg, then add it to the bowl and mash it into the avocado with the fork. Add as much parsley as you dare, at least 2 tbsp per avocado, and check the seasoning. Avocado and eggs both benefit from a good seasoning of salt so be bold with it. Pile the mixture back into the avocado shells (in little avocado dishes if you still have them), scatter with more parsley and serve with warm brown toast.

Thanks John, for the recipe and for inspiring us to think of our gardens as rooms outside and a truly important part of our homes. 



Puntarella - the perfect winter veg

I’m a great fan of puntarella, an Italian veg of the chicory family. Sevvy, the ebullient owner of Horrocks, a great greengrocer in East Wittering near our old home in Chichester, always has it in stock in season and is certain that it is a great winter veg for good gut health. That’s as maybe - I just love its taste!

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Bolognese pie

Serves 3-4

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes


This fabulous pie, a variation on the ever popular spinach dish Spanakopita, came into being because of leftovers. I had some cooked ragu (a rich pasta sauce), some spinach, filo and quark and the nett result was this, a very good pie. 


•  3-4 handfuls baby spinach leaves, about 125g

•  1 pack of filo pastry, around 250g

•  Olive oil

• 350g (approx) cooked ragu or any other leftover minced meat sauce, or even chilli, made with about 250g mince

•  Freshly grated or ground nutmeg

•  250g tub quark, or similar low-fat cheese or creme fraiche


1.  Preheat the oven to gas mark 6, 200C, 400F.  Place a baking sheet in the oven.

2.  Use half the filo to line the base and sides of a 20-22cm shallow, loose-bottomed flan tin, brushing each sheet with olive oil to keep them moist and pliable. Allow the edges of the pastry to extravagantly overlap the edges of the tin.

3.  Spread half the ragu over the pastry, top with the shredded spinach and season it well with a little nutmeg as well as salt and pepper. Add the remaining ragu and then the quark in spoonfuls.

4.  Cover the pie with the remaining filo, brushing each sheet with oil and cutting them to fit as necessary. Gather up the overlapping pastry from the bottom crust and fold it over the top crust in a roll. Snip the rolled edge with scissors to make it attractive, then brush the top and edge with a little more oil. Slash through the pie top 3 times.

5.  Bake the pie on the preheated baking sheet for 25 minutes, until the top is a deep golden colour.


Whisky match from my Christmas Whisky Collection 2017 (watch the video

The Gauldrons, a blended malt created from Campbeltown whiskies by Douglas Laing, proved a delicious match to this flavoursome pie.



Butternut and celeriac soup

Serves 6-8

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes


This soup started life as Fridge Treasure at the end of the Christmas and New Year festivities - i.e it was made from leftovers in the chiller drawer! With all soup recipes, quantities are approximate and there really is little that can go wrong. I’m not say ‘nothing’ can go wrong as there is blending, presumably with a piece of equipment, involved....


•  1 onion

•  2 sticks celery

•  Half a butternut squash

•  Half a celeriac

•  1 tbsp olive oil

•  1 tsp ground cumin

•  Water or stock

•  A little milk (optional)


1.  Prepare the veg and dice the onion. Finely chop the celery. Seed, peel and dice the squash. Peeling celeriac, especially at the root end, is easiest with a knife. If the bulb has soil between the roots brush that away before preparing the veg to keep the flesh clean. Dice the celeriac into roughly the same size pieces as the squash.

2.  Gently heat a saucepan, add the oil, the onion and celery and the cumin, stir, cover and cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop the onion from browning.

3.  Add the remaining veg and sufficient water or stock to cover, and some salt and pepper. Cover, bring to the boil, stir and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender. Cool slightly then blend until smooth (that’s the only bit that can really go wrong, if you don’t put the lid on the blender or processor or wave your stabmix about!)

4.  Return the soup to the pan, adding milk or water if it is thicker than you like. Reheat if necessary, season to taste and serve - use a few pumpkin seeds as garnish if you wish.


No Glens or Bens - a whisky story for Hogmanay 2017

Here are the 75 whisky references for you to check against. Thanks for all the positive comments and yes, Highland Park did get more than their fair share of mentions, but they are close to where we stay (live) and I want to be friends with them!

Wishing you all a very happy 2018

Tam arrived in the valley late in the afternoon of Hogmanay. It had been a long journey on Three Ships, looking Starward and using the heavens as his Navigator for the Compass Box had gone missing. It was a moment of Enlightenment to return to the old ways of the sea. The Classic Laddie who was in charge was hopeless without the compass and Old Pulteney was not much better. The Jim Beam was dangerously close to the waterline when the ship eventually limped into Port Ellen. The whole place was boarded up and deserted. There were rumours of a grand re-opening, but Tam could not wait. It was an icy welcome On The Rocks after his Endeavour in getting to dry land.

Jura wannna lift to Port Charlotte?” asked a passing Singleton, but Tam was too tired to be lead down a Copper Alley and was keen to get to the valley which he thought would hold the answer to his heritage - who were his ancestors? Was he just from one area or had his forebears travelled from Glen to Glen, bringing new blood into the valleys? Was he from the wrong side of the sheets on a Feathery bed? Tam wanted to know the exact make up of the spirit in his veins, but no-one could (or would) tell him.

Tam took a room with Angie who accommodated travellers and Nomads in her home. There was already a Walker there named Johnnie, and he and Tam hit it off straight away. Angie had been doing some washing for Johnnie who wanted a clean shirt for the Hogmanay celebrations. “Which one are you wanting, my Ballechin? I’ve got a Red and a Blue label of yours Johnnie”. “Have you any MorAngie?” asked Johnnie, “there should be Aultmore, a Black and a Gold label!” “Oh yes, my Littlemill, here they are, fresh from the Washback.” “Do you want to borrow a clean shirt Tam?” asked Johnnie, holding out the Red label, the plainest of them all but it was fine for Tam who liked to Blend in with the crowd.

“Tam dear, if you are looking for relatives you need to know that at Hogmanay no-one uses their first names if they are called Glen or Ben. It’s just a bit of local fun but it will make your challenge of Distilling what you know about your ancestors ard, Ardmore than usual tonight. My first name is really Glenn - you see how it works?” explained Angie, wondering if he would need any further explanation. Johnnie was just saying “Come on Tam, get your Garioch on and let’s go” when there was AcNoc at the door. “OK gents, is that a Knockandu get the door, or a knock and we won’t?” asked Angie, opening it wide to reveal a Riach of a man WyvisBowmore over his shoulder for effect than for fighting - or so Angie hoped, and another chap who looked rather in the Gauldrons. “Would your guests like to join us, Angie?” asked the taller man, who for this night was just called Keith. “Thanks mate” said Tam, Fiddich-ing with the collar of Johnnie’s shirt, “ that would be great”. After shaking hands with Keith and his friend Craig they set off down the hill, with Tam and Johnnie doing their best to cheer Craig up.

They passed a street urchin on the corner and Tam commented to him that it would be an Ardbeg on a night like this as he put a coin or two in his hand. “You shouldn’t encourage him” said Keith but Craig said “Let Tamdhu what he likes” and they carried on. Look, there’s the twins” said Keith, introducing the Johnnie and Tam to the brothers MacDuff and MiltonDuff, who were over from Dufftown. “I’m here looking for my roots - is there a Tamdhutown?” asked Tam, hopefully? “Sorry Tam, no” said Keith, “but there’s a burn of the sweetest water with your name and a little black hill too, so I think you’ll find your heritage is all single malt, and excellent stuff too!” “Oh, that’s great” said Tam, making a mental note that perhaps he was Batch No 2, a real winner with the TamDhu name.

Passing Highland Park the men couldn’t help but notice a rather noisy gathering of lads, calling out to each other at Full Volume. “Hey, Ragnvald”, “Over here, Einar”, “Svein, mate, pass it to me”, “Harald, stop upsetting Freya!” They looked as though they all had Dark Origins and were drinking by a Fire from a Black Bottle - or was it The Dark that gave that impression? “I don’t think we’ll get involved with them and their Dragon Legend telling tonight” said Craig. “If we outdo them there will be the most Famous Grouse about it which will go on until next Hogmanay!”

Jumping off the Springbank, a communal trampoline by Hazelburn, the friends made their way along the Lochside, past the little StrathIsla in the middle of the stream and on towards Kingsbarns to the Imperial, an Indian take-away which, sadly for them, was shut. I say sadly as all four of our friends had bottles in their pockets which they had been passing around and they were all now a little the worse for wear. Tam had drunk Cragganmore than he realised: Johnnie was creating his own blend having been let off the Clynelish: Keith was trying to remember where he had been to school without success, but knew it had been a FarClass from where he was now and Craig was Livet that he couldn’t think where his Lossie had Goyne.””Kilchoman” shouted Tam. “I was so looking forward to a Lamb Bunnahabhain so disappointed” he said. (Sigh!)

Digging deep into his Woodford Reserve Keith found a packet of Bourbon biscuits - no substitute for a curry, but that’s all there was. Heading back to their lodging Tam and Johnnie were surprised to find Angie up and waiting for them, a bottle in hand. “I’ve been on my own all evening” she said, and wondered whether you two would kindly have a little drink with me?” Sensing that it was going to be a Longmorn before her guests were bright eyed and  ready to leave her, she was not completely surprised when they turned down her offer. “So sorry, but it’s no MorAngie for us!” Replied Tam and Johnnie as they headed off to bed.

The Advent of Antonio

I am not much given to hoarding but I am delighted to have kept an Advent calendar sent to Nick and I in 2003 by my friend Antonio Carluccio and his then wife Priscilla.  To have this with us for our first Advent in Orkney is a simple blessing, in an era when celebratory calendars for the season seem to have been completely taken over by present-stuffed indulgences. Grump over! This calendar is a lovely reminder of Antonio, who died suddenly In November. 

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