Collops of Beef

Katrina sent me home with a cute little cookbook, Favorite Scottish Recipes Traditional Caledonian Fare. I have several pages marked that I want to make. Collops of Beef is the first one I’ve tried. I did make Cranachan after my first trip to Scotland, but Katrina sent me a link to a recipe for that on the BBC website. The same recipe is in this book. A delicious dessert! I’ll add that recipe at the end of this post, back to the beef…

Collops of Beef

1 1/2 lb. piece of braising steak, sliced into 4 pieces
1 onion, chopped
6 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
2 oz. butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bayleaf (optional)
3/4 pint beef stock

Set oven to 350* or Mark 4. Mix the flour with the salt and pepper. Coat the beef slices with seasoned flour. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Fry the collops for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside. Gently fry the onion and the mushrooms. Put the onion and mushrooms and a bayleaf (if desired) into a casserole. Lay the collops on top. Pour in the stock, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Serve with buttered mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Rowan or redcurrant jelly goes well with this dish. Serves 4.

FullSizeRender-4This is before I added the beef stock. I did use a bayleaf. I would cook it for a half hour more next time. Love the art work!

FullSizeRender-3Finished product. We didn’t have a green vegetable though, a rather bland looking plate but it was delicious! The flavor was fantastic, I could have licked my plate!


1 pint double cream
3 tablespoons clear honey (heather honey is best)
3 tablespoons whisky
4 tablespoons thick, plain youghurt
1 oz. fine oatmeal
6 oz. raspberries

Toast the oatmeal in a pan under a hot grill until golden. Set aside to cool. Put the cream, honey and whisky in a bowl and whip together until it forms peaks. Fold in the yoghurt. Spoon the mixture into a serving dish and chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Before serving, sprinkle the oatmeal over the mixture and pile the raspberries in the centre. Serves 6.

Ideally Cranachan should be made with Crowd, a soft Scottish cheese but yoghurt makes a good substitute.

This wasn’t sweet enough for Bossman’s American tastebuds, but I loved it.


Treasures on Earth by Jessica Stirling

379 pages
Published 1985
First in a series of 3
Scottish Historical Romance

book description:
Treasures on Earth is the story of the indomitable Gaddy Patterson, a Scotswoman who struggles to raise her daughters amid the harsh realities of nineteenth-century Scottish rural life.
  Gaddy Patterson stumbles upon a dead girl and her infant daughter in a sheep hut in Balnesmoor, a staid lowland parish. Gaddy saves the baby’s life and decides to rent a tiny patch of ground – Nettleburn – on which she can scrape together a life for them both. However, the suspicion and hostility of the villagers towards Elspeth, the adopted daughter, forces Gaddy to return to her initial life as a wandering cattle dealer. Homeless and desperate, she takes up with Coll Cochran, a farmer dogged by ill-fortune, and by his disturbed wife, Etta. To Coll, Gaddy brings both luck and love in equal measure. But the mystery of Elspeth’s true identity looms larger when Gaddy gives birth to a daughter, Anna. The scandal and ensuing tragedy that haunt Gaddy and her daughters, along with the close bonds of love and family dignity that help them endure, are the mixed treasures of this richly engrossing novel.
  In Treasures on Earth Jessica Stirling captures the brooding beauty and the gallery of colorful characters that make up Scotland.

I loved this tale! Great characters making a life in a raw brutal landscape. Set between 1791 and 1811. Gaddy is 40 years old when our story starts. She is a cattle drover’s helper. Often referred to as his ‘second wife’, she travels with Donald McIvor when he is on the road droving. I found the droving lifestyle interesting, nomadic. Gaddy is a strong woman both physically and emotionally. She stands up to the pious townspeople and the church. She lets no one ‘steal’ her God-given freedom in an era when women had no freedom. She sees herself as equal and works as hard as any man. I admired Gaddy.

The church in this era was so self-righteous and the story is full of self-righteous people. Once some of the women even threw stones at Gaddy as she and her daughter, Elspeth, walked down the street. It saddens me when I read tales like this and it is so prevalent in this era in the Presbyterian church of Scotland. But Rev. Leggat was a loving and progressive minister and fought his pious elders at every turn.

The weather is never their friend and they are at its mercy earning a living off the land. Near the end of the book there is an unusually hot summer and drought ending with torrential rains coming down in one day destroying everything they’ve worked so hard for. I looked around online and found that in 1811 there was a drought and then torrential rains in one day that caused catastrophic flooding. It happened on November 1st. This one day forever changed the course of Gaddy and her daughters lives. Will James Moody, Gaddy and Coll’s worst enemy, be the only one Elspeth can turn too for help? Will he be her saviour or destroy her? You’ll only know if you read it! I’ll tell you this…after reading almost 400 pages of a great story I was left stunned with the last couple paragraphs! I laid awake thinking of the ramifications of what happened. I can’t wait to read book 2 now!

If your interested in reading about the drovers lifestyle here‘s a great article about Scottish Cattle Drovers.

Jessica Stirling is really a man! Hugh C. Rae wrote as Jessica for 32 years! He also wrote noir crime novels under his own name. You can read about him and the Jessica Stirling novels HERE and HERE.  He is still writing as Stirling and his latest series is set in WWII

Check out his crime novels @ Fantastic Fiction

Hope you are able to find this book to read! This makes number 13 for me in the Read Scotland 2014 challenge! I climbed Ben Nevis! Now onto greater heights!

Peggy Ann

Sisters of the Bruce 1292-1314 by J. M. Harvey

Publication Date: November 21, 2013
Publisher: Troubador Publishing LTD.
My source: Netgalley
Genre: History/Literature/Adult Fiction
Pages: 496
ISBN: 978-1780885018

‘Set against the wild and perilous background of Scotland in the late 13th century, the adventurous lives of Robert the Bruce’s five sisters come to life through their own words in a series of letters. Courage and tenacity are often associated with Scotland’s great hero, but few appreciate the enormous challenges experienced by these remarkable sisters. Their intimate account of family life resonates still with love, loss and hope. Isa leaves home to sail to the land of the Vikings to become Queen of Norway whilst her sister, Kirsty, finds herself Countess of Mar and chatelaine of the great Kildrummy Castle in Scotland’s far northeast. Danger looms and the younger sisters, Mathilda and Margaret, escape to Orkney with Kirsty’s children.

As Scotland spirals into war, Robert’s sisters face the wrath of King Edward of England, whose vengeance wrought the brutal death of William Wallace. Kirsty is incarcerated alone in an English nunnery, whilst Mary endures years of misery within a cage hanging from the walls of Roxburgh Castle. Under Robert’s kingship, old wounds heal and Scotland’s fighting force achieves a resounding victory at the Battle of Bannockburn. Only then are the fragile, traumatised women released, through the ransoming of English nobles, to return home to rebuild their shattered lives… Sisters of The Bruce is a captivating work of fiction that weaves family history with a gripping narrative through the social and political landscape of medieval Scotland, Norway and Orkney. J. M. Harvey has been inspired by Sharon Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick and Sigrud Undset.’

This historical fiction novel is told through letters between siblings Isa and Kirsty with an occasional letter from brother Robert thrown in for the first part of the book. The latter part is third person narrative. Although the author obviously did great research and all the details are there it just didn’t pop for me. Written as a historical fiction, it read more like a historical non-fiction as it just didn’t have the ‘novel’ feel about. I couldn’t get invested in the characters or the storyline. It was a little flat. Actually by the second half I was skimming just to get done. It’s a lengthy book at 496 pages.

We do get a glimpse of the history of Norway as well as Scotland through letters from Isa Bruce who became Queen of Norway. The medieval world was describe quite well. I would say if you like history this is a good book if you go into it not looking for a ‘novel’ you will connect with the characters in, but more as a well researched historical record.

Peggy Ann

Read Scotland 2014, Meet the Protagonist Challenge, Mount TBR 2014

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Publication Date: July 9, 2013
ISBN 9780345542601
Category: Historical
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Print Length: 304 Pages

Author’s Website

The Book Depository  
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes and Nobles

My source: NetGalley
Format: ARC 
Book Description:
A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, This atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.

March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.

June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.

Sparkling with charm and full of captivating period detail, Letters from Skye is a testament to the power of love to overcome great adversity, and marks Jessica Brockmole as a stunning new literary voice.

I loved this book! Read it in 2 days. I enjoyed the letter format. It bounced back and forth between the letters written during the first world war between lovers and the letters written during the second world war between daughter and several people as she looked for her missing mom and tried to figure out what secret the past held. 

At the same time I was angry with Elspeth for cheating and admired her courage to go after what she wanted. You can’t just hurt other people like that and get a charmed life or did she get a charmed life? Just when you thought you had the end figured out a surprise turns up! Now just who’s daughter is Margaret anyway? 

The descriptions of Skye made me feel like I was there and the descriptions of the war raining down on them were very real too. It’s a book that makes you feel wistful afterwards and leaves you feeling like you know these people, after all you read their intimate letters.

A sample of a short letter, from Elspeth’s brother Finlay to her daughter Margaret…

22 August

Dear Margaret,
  It was no impulsive war marriage. Elspeth was married to my best mate, Iain. The three of us had grown up on the hills of Skye. We ran bare-legged down the braes, splashed along the shingle in search of stones. Truth be told, Iain was always a little afraid of Elspeth. Her hair wild, she’d shout poems into the ocean spray. She was as fey as the island. One day we were dangling over the Fairy Bridge and he asked for her hand. She looked at me, then smiled and said yes. I thought the three of us would always be together. I never thought Elspeth would betray him.
  As much as I’d like to help, I don’t have the answers. I left Skye about a year before you were born. But my mathair, she was there. Write to her on Skye. Your grandmother will know more than I do.

If you love Scotland, romance and a bit of mystery this book is for you! I will be looking forward to more from this author! 

Peggy Ann


The Sea for Breakfast

Lillian Beckwith

I came across a blog about the Hebrides Islands the other day and it made me think of a series of books I read a few years ago. The Bruach Books by Lillian Beckwith, born Lillian Comber in 1916 in England, she wrote under the name Lillian Beckwith. She wrote fiction and non-fiction for both adults and children. Her most popular books were her comic memoirs of the years spent on the Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland. Ms. Beckwith arrived in the Hebrides in 1942 following doctors orders to rest and she fell in love with the place and the people and stayed for nearly 20 years. She also wrote a memoir from a child’s point of view about her childhood in her father’s grocery shop, and a cookbook, ‘Secrets from the Crofter’s Kitchen: A Hebridean Cookbook’.

I read 4 of the 7 Bruach books set in the Hebrides and thoroughly enjoyed them! They are full of wonderful quirky people and beautiful descriptions of a slow peaceful way of life. I can’t remember a lot of details after all this time to tell you but I could hear the wind and taste the salt and how I wished I could have been at one of the ceilidhs!

The first novel is titled ‘The Hills is Lonely’ and tells of her arrival to recuperate from an illness and the second ‘The Sea for Breakfast’ (doesn’t that sound wonderful!) is when she buys her own croft and sets up permanent residency.

The first paragraph from ‘The Hills is Lonely’:

 If you have never experienced a stormy winter’s night in the Hebrides, you can have no idea of the sort of weather which I encountered when I arrived, travel-worn and weary, at the deserted little jetty where I was to await the boat which would carry me across to ‘Incredible Island’. It was a terrible night. A night to make one yearn for the fierce, bright heat of an ample fire; for carpet slippers and a crossword puzzle. Yet here I stood, alone in the alien, tempestuous blackness, sodden, cold and dejected, my teeth chattering uncontrollably. On three sides of me the sea roared and plunged frenziedly, and a strong wind, which shrieked and wailed with theatrical violence, tore and buffeted at my clothes and fought desperately to throw me off balance. The swift, relentless rain stung my eyes, my face and my legs; it trickled from my ruined hat to seep in cheeky rivulets down my neck; it found the ventilation holes in my waterproof and crept exploratively under my armpits.

from ‘The Sea for Breakfast’:

One hundred and ten; one hundred and eleven, ouch! One hundred and twelve, damn! For the third torrid day in succession I was exasperatedly discovering and extracting nails of every tortured shape and unexpected size from the wooden walls of my cottage kitchen. My tool, which I had previously understood to be a claw-headed hammer, had been bestowed upon me by Ruari, the Imperiously obliging brother of my former landlady. He however had referred to it more colourfully as a ‘cloven-footed’ hammer. It was a typically Hebridean tool with a thick, rough handle and a rusty head so loose on the shaft that it was a toss-up each time whether the nail would be prised out of the wall, or whether the ‘cloven-foot’ would remain poised vacillatingly on the firmly embedded nail while I reeled back, brandishing the handle and recovering myself just in time to receive a blow of acknowledgement from the descending head. For the umpteenth lime I stopped to massage tingling elbows with grazed fingers and swore as I Jammed the head savagely back on to the shaft. For the umpteenth lime I wished, rather half-heartedly, that the little village of Bruach were not set amidst such glorious Isolation and, most whole-heartedly, that the terrain were less abundantly provided with handy-sized stones. As it Was, even this poor makeshift had necessitated some diligent seeking. Still, I comforted myself as I doggedly counted my successes (simply so as to prove just how many nails one may expect to find in an old croft kitchen), the unpredictability of proceedings did serve to enliven a task that otherwise might have been as soporific as counting sheep.
Ms. Beckwith’s books are mostly out of print and hard to find, but Alibris seems to have a nice selection of used available. Check them out if interested in reading these enjoyable books. You can also read the first chapters from each book HERE

Lillian died on the Isle of Man in 2004 at the age of 87. After her death, her book  ‘A Shine of Rainbows’ was made into a movie starring Aidan Quinn. 

Have you read any Lillian Beckwith? Which ones and what did you think?