Given the choice of having a meal anywhere in the Highlands, I’d chose The Mountain Cafe in Aviemore everytime. Light, bright and airy, it’s open for breakfasts and lunches every day (see the Facebook page to be sure) and is a wonderful place for a coffee and cake or a satisfying meal after a Cairngorms hillwalk or a Feshie cycle. It’s ridiculously popular. There’s rarely been a visit where I haven’t had to queue for a table for 10/20 minutes but it has never ever put me off. I know what’s waiting inside.
The Scottish breakfasts are perfectly cooked with high quality ingredients; the sandwiches have freshly baked breads and generous fillings; the soups are just beautiful; and I challenge any salad-hater to remain so after trying one at the Mountain Cafe.
My favourite dishes are the kiwi fritters. They used to only serve the Kiwi Sweetcorn fritters (which were excellent) but now do a Fritter of the Day. The below recipe (kindly shared by Kirsten, the owner and head chef) has been my favourite so far.
Sweet Potato and Peanut Butter Fritters
(Serves 3 – Makes 6 fritters – Double the recipe to feed a crowd and adjust the amount of chilli to suit your preferences.)
1 cup roasted pumpkin or sweet potato, mashed
1 garlic clove, finely diced
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
1 large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup good quality crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut cream
zest of 1 lime
2/3 cup ground almonds
1 heaped tablespoon buckwheat flour (could also also use spelt flour or regular wheat flour)
Dried chilli flakes, sea salt and cracked pepper to season
coconut oil or ghee for fryingTo serve: shredded crunchy veg (e.g. courgette, pepper, carrot) lime wedges, greek yoghurt or sour cream, sweet chilli sauce, additional chopped spring onion and coriander
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and a generous dash of dried chilli flakes.
- Heat coconut oil or ghee in a sauté pan over a medium heat. Fry dessertspoons of batter for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning the heat down if the fritters are colouring too quickly.
- Fritters can be served immediately or enjoyed at room temperature.
- The Mountain Cafe (and I) serve two of these per person along with plenty of crunchy veg and a drizzle of sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.
Sundays are for long walks with Marco and baking bread. This morning there’s a distinct autumnal chill in the air. It’s not quite hat weather but it’s not far off. We’re heading to our favourite woods to chase pheasants (Marco) and pick mushrooms (me) and when we return, I’ll make my current favourite bread: Spelt, Fig and Walnut.
I’ve taken to kneading my bread by hand again. For a while there, I was using a mixer to do all the work and a fine job it did of it too. Missed the therapy of working the dough myself, though. It feels oddly right now that those 15 minutes have returned to my Sunday routine.
Fig and Walnut Bread (Got the idea for this bread from the back of the Doves’ spelt flour package. I’m not so keen on bread make entirely with spelt though. This ratio was more to my liking.)
300ml tepid water
1 tspn dried active yeast
1 tspn brown sugar
150g spelt flour
350g strong white flour
1 tspn salt
6 dried figs
A little oil
- Add the yeast and sugar to the water and set aside for 10 mins.
- Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the water and use your hand to mix to a rough dough.
- Turn out on to a clean surface and knead for 10 – 15 minutes until dough is silky and pliable. Place in a lightly oiled plastic bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for an hour or two until doubled in size.
- While dough is rising, briefly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan then chop roughly. Soak the figs in hot tea for 30 mins, blot dry then chop roughly.
- When dough is risen, tip on to a lightly floured surface and knock the air out. Stretch dough out into a flat rectangle and sprinkly across the nuts and figs. Roll dough up then knead again for a couple of minutes until filling is evenly distributed and dough is holding together again (it’ll be a little tricky at first but it will happen).
- Shape into a ball and place on lightly floured baking sheet. Cover ( I put a big plastic bowl upside-down over the dough) and leave to rest in a warm place for another hour.
- Meanwhile, heat the over to 190oC. Make sure there is a baking tray heating on the shelf below the one you’ll put the bread on.
- When the dough is risen, sprinkle with a little white flour then slash diagonally three times. Place in the oven. Pour a cup of water into the hot baking tray then shut the door quickly. This will create lots of steam to give you a good crust.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Let cool completely before slicing.
Very good with some salty butter and/or sharp cheddar.