Belladrum and the Best Tuna Sandwich in the World

D returned home from New Zealand yesterday.  He’s horribly jet-lagged and totally exhausted after a cramped, sweaty 32 hour journey and a month of hard snow-boarding.  It’d be entirely understandably if he had spent the afternoon languishing on the sofa whining about being tired,achey and stiff and asking for juice to be brought to him in a pathetic wee voice.  But he didn’t.  I did.

Festivals are exhausting!

 Earlier in the summer I raved about how camping is my new found love.  I’d like to amend that statement.  Wild camping in a beautiful spot, I adore.  Camping in a large field surrounded by thousands of inebriated teenagers in sparkly cowboy hats singing “I’m the firestarter, twisted firestarter…”, I do not love.  Truth be told, Gen and I lasted one night at the Belladrum festival then drove back to sleep at my house following night.  We are festival wimps, indeed!

 But, you know, despite sleeping in a lumpy, noisy field and despite the unrelenting rain which fell on Saturday, we had a really great time and have already decided to go back next year.  🙂

We took our own food to the festival, thinking that if we didn’t we would, no doubt, be faced with a choice of fried food or fried food.  This is Scotland, after all; home of the deep fried Mars Bar.  But there was actually a decent selection of food vendors and, being rather cold most of the time, we needed something warm.  So the lovely lentil salad, the cheeses, the hams and the marinated peppers (in maybe the only glass container allowed into the festival.  Assume the security guard thought marinated pepper people probably wouldn’t be high risk!) all remained in their cool box as we feasted on stovies and pizza and other stodgy, warming foods.

What was devoured, however, was the following sandwich.  A kind of pan bagna which takes minutes to assemble and seconds to devour.

 The World’s Best Tuna Sandwich

(for 2)

1 Small baguette, halved length ways

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

1 Garlic clove, crushed

1 Tin of tuna

Handful of black olives

Tblspn of capers

1/2 Red onion, sliced

Handful of rocket

1/2 Yellow or red pepper, sliced

Salt and pepper

  • Drizzle baguette with olive oil and vinegar.
  • Stuff with all the other ingredients.
  • Close baguette and wrap tightly with cling film.
  • Either do not eat for a couple of hours OR sit on it for a minute to let all the flavours combine!

Preserving Chanterelles

I do not live in a country of mushroom pickers.  I used to though.  Finns are enthusiastic mushrooms pickers and guard their patches fiercely.  Once, I remember walking through the forest on Ruissalo (an island near Turku).  There was a flash of red in the trees and, being a curious creature, I gingerly stepped through the pine trunks into the forest to investigate.  After only a few steps an elderly couple popped out from a ditch beneath a blueberry bush and began laughing and talking to me in Finnish.  I laughed too and responded “No niin”, i.e. “Ok/right/of course/whatever”.  This was my general response to everything I didn’t understand in Finland (which was quite a lot) and it served me very well.  🙂

On returning home, I told a friend about these pensioners and how I suspected I had interrupted some kind of aged, woody tryst.  My friend put me straight.  This Gortex clad, greying couple were almost definitely not frolicking in the forest, they were mushroom picking.  Ahhhhhh.  The hiding?  The secrecy?  They simply had been trying to hide the fact that they’d found a cracking patch of edible fungi.

Along with the Eurovision Song Contest, Finns take their mushrooms seriously.

Coming from a country where mushroom picking is not very common at all I know nothing about wild mushrooms, and I always suspect that no-one else does too!  Thus, when my Dad told me about the patch of chanterelles he had found in the woods near the village I come from (see photo) I was sceptical.  Were they really chanterelles (or girolles, if you want to be cook-booky about it)?  Would I really survive if I ate them?  

We picked a bucketful and that night (after much Google-ing) I made a simple sauce with them – a little onion sweated in butter, chanterelles, parsley, wine and crème fraiche.  It tasted great and, as an added bonus, I was alive the next morning when I woke up.  Hurrah!

D can’t stand mushrooms so the chanterelles are all mine.  Though I like them a lot, I couldn’t eat whole bucket.  The fungi had to be preserved.  How to do it was the question.  I tried three different methods: oven-drying, sun-drying and freezing.  Here are the results.


The MethodPlace baking trays of chanterelles in a 60oC oven with the door slightly ajar for 10 hours (I did it over night).

Result:  A funky smelling kitchen, for starters!  The mushrooms shrivelled up unattractively but dried well and retained their taste exceptionally well.


Method: Place on a tray in direct sunlight for 3-7 days (depending on strength of sun). 

Results:  The chanterelles dried perfectly, were very tasty AND retained their beautiful shapes. My favourite method.


Method:  Freeze chanterelles individually on a baking tray (to stop them sticking together) before bagging and storing in the freezer.  Defrost before use.

Results:  Chanterelles are a bit soggy and lose some of their taste but are still pretty damned good and can be used as a “fresh” ingredient.

Next time I pick a bucket full (which will be very soon) I’m going to sun-dry half and freeze half.  My preferred methods.  🙂 


The following salad used the frozen chanterelles and was absolutely amazing!  Ate it with some grilled smoked salmon steaks.

Chanterelle and Rocket Salad

(for one, rough amounts)

Knob of butter

Half a clove of garlic, finely chopped

Handful of chanterelles

Palmful of fresh parsley, chopped

Handful of rocket

Handful of floppy lettuce

Dressing – lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning

  • Gently fry chanterelles and garlic in the butter until chanterelles just start to brown.  Add parsley and stir.  Remove from heat.
  • Toss salad leaves with dressing.
  • Top with chanterelle mixture.
  • Serve!

Excuse my absense for the next few days.  I’m off to Belladrum music festival  this weekend with my best friend, then D returns from snowboarding in NZ and, on top of all that, school starts on Monday!  Phew.

PS The lovely Amanda from Figs Olives and Wine nominated me for a Rocking Girl Blogger Award.  I’m chuffed to bits to receive it and she said some very very sweet things about my blog.  An enormous thank you, Amanda!  🙂

Part 2 – Finland. Sigh…


 I lived in Finland for two years and I loved it.  Leaving was difficult.  Going back is always wonderful.  It feels like going home. 

This was a particularly special visit.  From the moment I arrived to the moment I left I was spoilt rotten by my friends, especially my wonderful hostess, Marise (a fabulous cook who may soon become a fellow blogger!).  My first day with its strawberry punch and champagne breakfast; pavlova and Bailey’s cocktails; saunas and girly preening, and eventual night on the tiles was the stuff of sheer indulgence!






 Of course, I spent time wandering around all my old haunts in Turku and some new ones too.  With its river and market square, it’s a great town to spend a summer’s day in.












 On  my final night we had a barbeque and just relaxed in the warm evening air.  A perfect way to end my trip.







Part 1: Sweden. Ja…


 Again, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.  First stop was Karlstad to catch up with some old friends over walks, good food and good wine. 







The sauce in this next picture was perfect with the smoked salmon steaks.  Simply mix a tablespoon or so of cloudberry jam (if you can’t find it, they sell it in Ikea!) into a pot of creme fraiche.  That’s it.  Yum.



 One night I was invited out to a friend’s family home in the Hammarö penninsula for a crayfish party.  A VERY Swedish affair.




The family had a new member: Ada the Schnauzer, A.K.A. The Black Devil!  She’s a wee terror!





 The moon was hung up.



 We were made to wear silly hats and bibs.



 An enormous amount of scarlet crayfish were brought out on a platter topped with flowering dill.



 These small but delicious morsels were, rather worryingly, washed down with large amounts of schnapps consumed after guests had belted out traditional Swedish drinking songs and toasted “Skål!” to all.  Great fun.



My visit to Stockholm the next day was short but sweet.  Coffee with a friend in my favourite Gamla Stan (old town) café.


We raked through vintage clothes shops on Södermalm and laughed at all the things we would never wear.




All too soon it was time to leave though. I got on the ferry to Finland and, despite the cold wind, stayed on deck until Stockholm had disapeared and the sun had gone down.





PS. Annemarie was asking for some recommendations for places to eat in Stockholm.  For traditional Swedish husmankost I really enjoyed Pelikan on Södermalm.  Beware though: it’s heavy!  Not traditional but worth a mention – Thai restaurant Koh Phangan has great food and is a really fun place to eat.

For lunch or coffee on Gamla Stan the adjacent cafes Kaffekoppen and Chokladkoppen serve great sandwiches and soups.  But with its vast greenhouses, beautiful gardens and outdoor seating, Rosendals on Djurgården is THE perfect place for a summer lunch.

Warning – Risk of Woman Popping with Happiness


OK.  Not only have I just got back from an amazingly good holiday visiting friends in Sweden and Finland (pics and stories to be posted tomorrow); and not only have I returned home to a newly decorated bathroom (thank you Mum and Dad!); and not only did aforementioned father find a big patch of chanterelles in the local forest and take me there on my way home to pick a bucket full; I also returned to Inverness to discover that my BBM package has arrived!

For those of you who haven’t heard of BBM, I’ll explain.  Blogging By Mail is an event where bloggers send out parcels to another participant.  This BBM was about our favourite things.  I sent a package out to Mevrouw Cupcake earlier in the summer.  And today I received my package from none-other than the organiser herself, the lovely Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness.  I was very honoured!

And, my goodness, what a package it was.  🙂  The care she obviously took in selecting the items and making links with my own blog was really touching.  Plus, Stephanie’s favourite things were explained in detail in a hand-written nine page letter on the coolest writing paper I’ve ever seen! 

 Without further ado, I’ll share my gifts with you all.

 Lots of gorgeous chocolate, including Endangered Species chocolate which donates a portion of the profit to animal charities.


Delicious dried raspberries (which I didn’t even know existed) and pop rocks!  Haven’t seen this sweet since I was a kid!  According to Stephanie, if a dog licks this candy the results are hillarious!



One of Stephanie’s favourite recipes, Persian Rice with Pistachio and Dill, complete with the some pistachios to make it.  Can’t wait to try this out.  🙂  Love both dill and pistachios!



A beautiful herbal tea (which I’m drinking right now and loving) and a bottle of Italian vanilla syrup for adding to coffees, sodas, even champagne! 



Some very swish home-made jam made with Concord grapes and fresh thyme.  Going to have this on my ryebread for supper tonight!



A mix CD which, though I only know one song on it, sounds great.  It has music from Buffy the Vampire Slayer on it – it must be good!  A book by Stephanie’s favourite author and a copy of Vegetarian Times, both of which I’m looking forward to getting stuck into. 



These little pecan crackers are soooooo good.  I’ve eaten them all already and I only opened the package a couple of hours ago!  The Chipolte peppers are something I’m not familiar with at all.  I can feel an experiment coming on!



A wee pampering kit from Burt’s Bees, a company I’ve heard of but never come across their products.  Being an absolute sucker for anything that makes me soft, I love this!

And finally, my favourite….


A puppy of my own!  Stephanie read how much I wanted a dog and how much I loved having Rosie here.   She has four dogs and this little fella looks like one called Donegal.  So Donegal he shall be too!