Friday, 27 March 2009


I LOVE March. It means longer days, and even though the weather here in Scotland can still be on the shivery side, there are daffodils flowering and lambs are being born all around us. In the field behind the cottage, this ewe and her newborn lamb are just out from the birthing shed and into the brisk March air – but junior, you will see, if you take a close look – has a little plastic coat on to protect him from the elements. Bless!

The beginning of the month heralds my birthday, and this year, as usual, I have been spoiled rotten by family and friends. First, I enjoyed a few luxurious and romantic days away with my darling husband and then I was treated to a party organised by our dear friends, with a cake and candles and dancing and Margaritas. Okay, so you might think girls in the countryside don’t DO cocktails - but you’d be wrong – we can be very cosmopolitan!

In mid-March, and in anticipation of Springtime in the garden, we put a new fence and gate around the vegetable garden and lined it with chicken wire. This is primarily to protect the raised beds from the pesky puppy but it also defines the ‘working patch’ from the rest of the garden. I can’t wait to start growing our own vegetables and salads again but, unfortunately, it’s still far to cold up here in the hills to begin work outside. To compensate, I have my ‘Pentland Javelin’ early potatoes ‘chitting’ inside on a kitchen windowsill.

A very generous friend gave me two old butlers sinks and I have sited these outside the kitchen door. They are just waiting for the herbs I hope to grow from seed!

You’ll be sad to hear that this month we lost one of our hens. By lost, you know I don’t mean that she took a stroll and forgot to come home, don’t you? Our poor feathered friend met a violent end, I’m afraid, but I take some comfort in knowing that her short life was a happy one. R.I.P. Madonna. I miss you.

The dogs have been to get their springtime haircuts, and now that the puppy has lost her puppy-fluff and has grown so much, I can hardly tell Polly and Ruby apart in looks - although in personalities - they are still SO different!

The month end was very special as I launched my recently published romance novel entitled ‘Beneath Apricot Skies’. The event took place at a fabulous village venue called Thomas Tosh. It’s a bookshop, an antiques centre, an art gallery, and an absolute treasure in Dumfries and Galloway. Courtesy of owners Paul and David, we had apricot themed nibbles and drank pink bubbly, while I signed and sold lots of books. It was a fabulous event and my heartfelt thanks go out to all of those who supported it and made it a very special, and for me a never to be forgotten, occasion.

Available to order online and from all highstreet bookshops

Recipe of the month:
My recipe this month is a warming spicy parsnip soup. I can’t take all the credit for it because a friend made this soup for a supper dish recently - and we loved it – so much so that I experimented in the kitchen the following day until I had managed to recreate the exact exquisite blend of flavours. Parsnips are so much sweeter and tastier after the frosts of January and February have bitten them - and if, like me, you don’t have any parsnips still tucked up in your vegetable beds – you’ll notice that the shops are selling them at very good prices just now.

Spicy Parsnip Soup.
6 Parsnips, peeled and chopped.
2 carrots, peeled and chopped,
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped.
1 leek, washed and chopped.
1 small onion, peeled and chopped.
Dash of olive oil/butter.
2pts/approx 1 litre of chicken stock (I use stock made with Knorr Stock Cubes).
1 teaspoon of curry powder.
1 teaspoon of curry paste (I used Madras as I like it hot!).
1 tablespoon of tomato puree.
Good handful of fresh coriander (the secret ingredient!)

Wash peel and chop the vegetables into small pieces. Add to a large pot with the olive oil/butter. Fry for a few minutes until soft. Prepare the chicken stock cubes (2 or 3) by adding 2pts/ 1 litre of boiling water and then adding the curry powder, curry paste, and tomato puree, to the stock. This gives the soup a lovely colour as well as a lots of flavour. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Puree the soup with a hand blender or in smaller quantities using a food processor until smooth. Wash a good handful of fresh coriander leaves, chop, and stir into the soup. Bring back to a simmer. Serve up with your favourite crusty bread.

Next month, in April, I’m on the lookout for a greenhouse as I suddenly have a longing to grow chillies and other peppers and to protect my precious crop of summertime tomatoes. I am also looking forward to warmer weather, particularly over the Easter weekend, when our eldest son is home from university and lots of family are coming to stay. We will be rolling decorated hard-boiled eggs down the hill behind the cottage – an annual and traditional event. I can’t wait..!


NB All rights reserved. Extracts and photographs may not be reproduced in any form except with the permission of the author.