Sunday, 29 November 2009


Happy Birthday Mr Country Cottage!

November is Mr County-Cottage’s birthday month and this year it was a Big One. We wanted to celebrate the occasion with family and friends at home, and so we decorated the whole cottage with balloons and streamers, installed a barrel of traditional beer from our favourite small brewery in Strathaven, and prepared all the food ourselves. As it is November, and likely to be cold outside, I decided on a buffet table of both hot and cold foods, including my now famous Haggis Bake (see my January blog for the recipe), a mustard and honey baked ham, a chicken lasagne, cheese and chive baked potatoes, a selection of finger foods and cold salads including feta and olives, prawns in a seafood sauce, a bread basket, and my own personal favourite food - smoked salmon from Loch Fyne (you’d think it was my birthday!) For dessert, we had sticky toffee pudding and/or mincemeat lattice, followed later by a selection of delicious cheeses – and, of course, last but not least – the Big Birthday Cake! Then at midnight, under clear skies and an almost-full moon, we all went outside into the cold November air to watch a firework extravaganza, prepared in advance and executed to perfection, by Number Two son and his very good friend M. The party then continued inside to dancing in the kitchen or conversation by the fire in the sitting room and a good time was had by all until around five thirty in the morning!

Smokey air outside the cottage, after the wonderful firework extravaganza!

The weather this month has been mostly wet, and mid month, Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway experienced the worst flooding for over thirty years when a whole month’s rain fell in just twenty-four hours. Living half way up a hillside as we do, we were not in danger of being flooded, but the steep dirt track outside the cottage became a fast flowing river of torrential rainwater during that time – and now that the rain has finally subsided, we have been left with a trail of deep muddy ravines and rocky potholes instead of a track to the cottage.

Flooding at Dumfries (Photo: BBC News)

The hens have not enjoyed the wet cold weather and have needed an extra feed of corn to keep them going. It’s dark now by four o’clock and they seem to spend a long time in the hen house on their perch. Poor things. On drier days they still enjoy getting out on the hill – as you can see from the photo below.

Ruby and Polly, our West Highland terriers, have spent a lot of their time recently, not in the garden, but by the Aga in the kitchen or curled up by the fireside in the sitting room. Another favourite spot is the sofa. A cosy place to snooze while they wait for the rain outside to stop.

The 22nd of November this year is the last Sunday before advent and, in our house, the day we call Stir Up Sunday. This is the perfect time to make your Christmas pudding or cake, giving ample time to then ‘feed’ the cake with alcohol over the next few weeks. In our house we use whisky, but you can use brandy or rum or even just fruit juice, if you like. All the family should take a turn in stirring up the cake mixture while making a wish on Stir Up Sunday. In previous years, the children have all taken part in this precursor to Christmas but this year it was just me making the wish. How times have changed!

Another special day in November for all Scots is the 30th of the month. It’s St. Andrew’s Day and since 2007 it has been a national holiday in Scotland. This year has also been Scotland’s ‘Homecoming’ and many events are taking place around St. Andrew’s Day all over Scotland to finalise the celebrations. In Dumfries and Galloway, the Dumfries -Reel Thing will be a feast of traditional music - including Bag-Rock (rock music on bagpipes!) from The Red Hot Chilli Pipers, street theatre, fireworks, and the switching on of the Christmas lights in Dumfries. I do hope the weather allows for a good St Andrew’s weekend.

Bagpipe Rock!

To conclude - my recipe for this month is not for cake or pudding but a recipe I put together while expecting friends for lunch on a particularly cold and wet November day. I call it November Casserole and it is made with smoked bacon pieces, chunks of chorizo sausage, beans, - I used butter beans but you can use any type or variety of bean or use chick peas if you have them in your larder – the last main ingredient is either pumpkin, squash or sweet potato, cut into chunks. I used sweet potato. It was so delicious I wanted to share it with you.

November Casserole.

Chopped and chunky smoky bacon pieces.
Chopped and chunky pieces of chorizo sausage.
One small onion.
A dab of butter and a dash of olive oil.
One pint of stock – I used knorr ham stock.
Tablespoon of plain flour.
One tin of chopped tomatoes.
Four fresh tomatoes, chopped into chunks.
A sprinkle of coriander – either fresh or dried.
Chunks of pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato.
Tinned or soaked beans or chick peas.

Put the chorizo sausages in the oven or under the grill to cook.
Meanwhile, fry the bacon pieces with the butter and oil in a pan or cast iron casserole pot. Add the onion and cook until softened but not browned.
Chop the cooked sausage into chunks and add to the bacon and onion in the casserole.
Stir in the flour until it absorbs the oil and butter and coats the other ingredients.
Then add the stock and stir until thickened slightly. Cook for one minute.
Add the tin of tomatoes. Sprinkle in the coriander. Add the fresh tomatoes, the pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato. Stir it all together and bring to a slow boil.
Add the beans or chick peas and put in a simmering oven for 40-60 mins.

November Casserole

See you next month, when the boys will be home for the holidays and we will be celebrating Christmas at the cottage!

Janice x


  1. Lovely, evocative blog entry as always, Janice. What a birthday celebration for your hubby, lucky man!

    The casserole sounds delicious - will try it out very soon.
    Rosemary x

  2. Thank you for your lovely comment, Rosemary.
    Hope you enjoy the November casserole!
    Janice x

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