Monday, 31 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 13

Here we see Queen Victoria, her lady in waiting, and the dog inside the carriage on route from Ballater Railway Station to Aberdeen where they will board a train to London. How sad all three must have been as they left the hills of the north!

The least I can do is to provide some bagpipe music to cheer them up on their journey!

Will ye no come back again?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the gospel today we hear the words: 'the greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.'

Teach me, my God and King,
in all things thee to see,
and what I do in anything
to do it as for thee.

A man that looks on glass,
on it may stay his eye;
or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
and then the heaven espy.

All may of thee partake;
nothing can be so mean,
which with this tincture, "for thy sake,"
will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
makes drudgery divine:
who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
makes that and the action fine.

This is the famous stone
that turneth all to gold;
for that which God doth touch and own
cannot for less be told.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 12

Well, the Royal Train has arrived at the platform and awaits Her Majesty.

How sad the line is no longer open. It was part of the Beeching Cuts.

The Beeching Axe or the Beeching Cuts are informal names for the British Government's attempt in the 1960s to reduce the cost of running British Railways, the nationalised railway system in the United Kingdom. The name is that of the main author of The Reshaping of British Railways, Dr Richard Beeching. Although this report also proposed new modes of freight service and the modernisation of trunk passenger routes, it is remembered for recommending wholesale closure of what it considered little-used and unprofitable railway lines, the removal of stopping passenger trains and closure of local stations on other lines that remained open.

The report was a reaction to significant losses that had begun in the 1950s as the expansion in road transport began to attract passengers and goods from the railways; losses which continued to bedevil British Railways despite the introduction of the railway Modernisation Plan of 1955. Beeching proposed that only drastic action would save the railways from increasing losses in the future.

Successive governments were more keen on the cost-saving elements of the report rather than those requiring investment. More than 4,000 miles (6,400 km) of railway and 3,000 stations closed in the decade following the report, a reduction of 25 per cent of route miles and 50 per cent of stations. To this day, Beeching's name is unfavourably synonymous with mass closure of railways and loss of many local services. This is particularly so in parts of the country that suffered most from cuts.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 11

Not exactly the Royal Throne, but not surprisingly there was a private lavatory for the Queen built into the Royal Waiting Area.

Here we see the wash hand basin.

Note the beautiful stained glass in the windows - necessary of course for the privacy for Queen Victoria.

Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown,
when thou camest to earth for me;
but in Bethlehem's home was there found no room
for thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
there is room in my heart for thee.

Heaven's arches rang when the angels sang,
proclaiming thy royal degree;
but of lowly birth didst thou come to earth,
and in great humility. Refrain

The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
in the shade of the forest tree;
but thy couch was the sod, O thou Son of God,
in the deserts of Galilee. Refrain

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
that should set thy children free;
but with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
they bore thee to Calvary. Refrain

When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing,
at thy coming to victory,
let thy voice call me home, saying "Yet there is room,
there is room at my side for thee." Refrain

Happy Feast!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 10

Obviously, if Queen Victoria wanted a cup of tea whilst waiting for the train she did not have the queue up at the station buffet!

Here we see a tray with china cups etc laid out in the Royal Waiting Room. I'm not sure what Queen Elizabeth does when she travels by scheduled train - I hope she carries her 'Bite Card' which gets you 20% off at the Pumpkin Buffets located at various mainline railway stations.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 9

Here we see the Lady in Waiting inspecting the timetable for trains from Ballater to Aberdeen.

Once at Aberdeen, the Royal Party will need to change for the mainline train to London.

Of course, as the train line his now closed, if Queen Elizabeth II wishes to use public transport for the journey, she will need to use Bluebird Coaches - Route 201. Here is part of timetable for Mondays to Fridays.

Ballater Bus Depot 0934
Dinnet Village Hall 0945
Aboyne Main Street 0952
Kincardine O'Neil 1000
Banchory Corseee Road 1013
Banchory High Street 1015
Banchory Raemoir Road 1021
Crathes Castle Gates 1027
Drumoak Irvine Arms 1033
Culter Gordon Arms 1039
Cults Hotel 1050
Aberdeen Union Square 1115

At least the journey will be free - thanks to First Minister Alex Salmond!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 8

Well, after an enjoyable stay at Balmoral Castle it is time for Queen Victoria to return to London. She arrivers at Ballater Station and goes into her special waiting room to prepare for the arrival of her train.

Here we see her sitting by the open fire and being handed a copy of the train timetable by her Personal Assistant. She is not called the Empress of India for nothing!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 7

Here we see the railway porter trying to cope with all the Royal luggage.

It looks as though the station cat has spotted Queen Victoria's dog!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The message in today's gospel is clear enough:

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 6

Well here is our Royal Arrival from London - Queen Victoria, together with her lady in waiting and dog.

Her Majesty will travel the short distance to Balmoral Castle in this horse-drawn carriage.

Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India.

Her reign of 63 years and 7 months, which is longer than that of any other British monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history, is known as the Victorian era. It was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 5

Well, here is a clue!

Ballater Railway Station was the arrival and departure point for members of the Royal Family visiting Balmoral from London. One could hardly expect them to wait for the train in the public waiting room! Sadly the station closed to traffic in 1966, but the station buildings have been preserved and it is now possible for members of the public to enter the Royal Waiting Room.

The SNP Conference is currently being held at the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. Here is the programme for the next three days:

Friday 21 October

11h00 Address by Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment

12h15 Address by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment

15h00 Address by Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Deputy First Minister and Depute Leader

Saturday 22 October

10h30 Address by Kenny MacAskill MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice

10h45 SNP Ministers and our programme for government

11h30 The Donaldson Lecture – Professor James Mitchell

15h00 Address by Alex Salmond MSP, First Minister and Party Leader

Sunday 23 October (The morning is free for attendance at church)

13h35 Address by Michael Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education

13h40 Roadmap to Independence – Angus Robertson MP

14h10 Address by John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 4

Here we see Ballater Railway Station.

Rather a grand building and public square for such a remote Scottish town. I wonder who we might meet at the station?

All will be revealed tomorrow. Sadly the station closed in 1966, but it used to be the terminus of a special line from Aberdeen.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 3

I visited Chalmers Bakery Limited to purchase my lunch. They are the makers of the famous Balmoral Bread.

I purchased a Scotch Pie with tatties and baked beans and ate this delicious meal at a picnic table in the gardens opposite. It was like eating off the Royal Table!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 2

Whilst in Ballater I paid a visit to George Strachan - General Merchants to HM The Queen. I purchased some Scottish shortbread.

Previous Appointment To
The Late Queen Elizabeth
The Queen Mother
1974 - 2007 (5 years following her death in 2002)

By Appointment to
Her Majesty The Queen
General Merchants
George Strachan Ltd

By Appointment to
HRH The Prince of Wales
Duke of Rothsay
General Merchants
George Strachan Ltd

The shop is well-stocked, and offers good old-fashioned service!

Happy Feast!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Ballater Railway Station - 1

After visiting Balmoral Castle and Crathie Kirk this summer, I travelled to Ballater. I did not travel by Her Majesty's favoured means of transport - Bluebird Buses. I still have a little time to go before I get my free bus pass.

Ballater is a burgh in Aberdeenshire, Scotland on the River Dee, immediately east of the Cairngorm Mountains. Situated at a height of 123m (700ft) in elevation, Ballater is a centre for hikers and known for its spring water, once said to cure scrofula. Balmoral Castle, the British Royal Family's holiday home, lies approximately 14km west, and the family has visited the town frequently since the time of Queen Victoria.

I visited a couple of stores which (like Bluebird Buses) have received Royal Warrants from the Queen.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the gospel today we read as follows: 'Let me see the money you pay the tax with.' They handed Jesus a denarius, and he said, 'Whose head is this? Whose name?'

Well, it wouldn't be difficult to answer these questions with this new coin. It has The Queen's head on both sides. Just make sure you never say 'tails' when tossing it! The coin is worth £5 - it is a crown.

1. Crown Him with many crowns
The Lamb upon His throne;
Hark how the heavenly anthem drowns
All music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity.

2. Crown Him the Virgin's Son,
The God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won
Which now His brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic rose,
As of that rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows,
The Babe of Bethlehem.

3. Crown Him the Lord of Love.
Behold His hands and side,
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his wondering eye
At mysteries so bright!

4. Crown Him the Lord of Life
Who triumphed o'er the grave
And rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save.
His glories now we sing
Who died and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring
And lives that death may die.

5. Crown Him the Lord of Heaven,
Enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to whom is given
The wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns
As thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns
For He is King of all.

I think Her Majesty has a little difficulty coping with the descant in the last verse!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 19

The favourite mode of transport for the Queen on her trips to and from Balmoral Castle is the Royal Train. Here we see her private bedroom on the train.

Where appropriate, The Queen and other members of the Royal Family use scheduled train services for their official journeys.

In addition, the Royal Train is used by The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales on longer journeys around the UK.

The Royal Train enables members of the Royal Family to travel overnight and at times when the weather is too bad to fly, and to work and hold meetings during lengthy journeys. It has modern office and communications facilities.

Journeys on the train are always organised so as not to interfere with scheduled services.

Prior to 1966, the Queen was able to travel as far as Ballater Station - just a few miles from Balmoral, but with the closure of the line the Queen now usually travels to Aberdeen and then travels by road to Balmoral.

Catering on the train is handled by the Rail Gourmet company. The meals are of superlative quality, even if comparatively simple by Palace standards, and the Queen has been served by the same senior railway steward, Ken Moule, for more than 20 years.

If the Queen wants afternoon tea with toasted teacake or an aperitif (her favourite is one-third gin, two thirds Dubonnet and lots of ice), if the Duke of Edinburgh wants a glass of Tetley's beer, or kippers for breakfast, or the Prince of Wales asks for a Welsh rarebit made with his own organic cheese, the team will respond.

On a night-time departure, the Queen is offered light refreshments of smoked salmon, warm sausage rolls and chicken or egg sandwiches made with brown and white bread - all with the crusts removed.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are woken at 7.30am with the 'calling trays': Earl Grey tea for Her Majesty, with no sugar; coffee for His Royal Highness as he drinks only tea in the afternoon.

The Queen must get an awful shock when the train arrives back at King's Cross station in London!

From next Monday we shall try and relive the arrival and departure of Queen Victoria at Ballater Station during the latter years of the nineteenth century.

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 18

When the Queen arrives at Balmoral in early August it is often barbecue weather. We know that the Duke of Edinburgh (aged 90) is fond of barbecues at Balmoral.

However, as summer turns to autumn, thought turn away from barbecue to log fires! Here we see logs being seasoned ready to burn in the Castle fireplaces.

I am sure it is during evenings around the fire that a wee dram is taken!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 17

Here are more flowers in the Royal Garden at Balmoral.

With summer well and truly over, the Queen returns to London around this time in October. Her Majesty does not rejoice to leave the hills of the north!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 16

Here are some lovely flowers I saw growing in the kitchen garden of Balmoral Castle. Both the sweet peas and the honeysuckle smelt divine!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 15

In the glasshouses, house plants are grown which will adorn the rooms of the Castle during the Queen's period of residence.

Here we see some colourful geraniums.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 14

Here is fresh mint to go with the shoulder of lamb supplied by Donald Russell of Inverurie - By Appointment to HM The Queen Suppliers of Meat and Poultry. As ever, it is a pleasure to provide a suitable recipe from Delia Smith.

Baked Lamb with Rosemary with Redcurrant and Mint Sauce

Lamb is in peak condition in mid-summer, as it has then had the benefit of the sweet, young, spring grazing. At this time I would only serve it plain-roasted with a sauce of young mint leaves. Later on in the summer this is a fine way to cook and serve it: the foil-baking ensures that it stays juicy.

Serves 6

1 x 4-4 ½ lb (1.8-2 kg) leg of lamb
2 level tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves plus 1 sprig of rosemary
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
10 fl oz (275 ml) dry white wine
½ level teaspoon sea salt
freshly milled black pepper
For the sauce:
3 level tablespoons good-quality redcurrant jelly
4 level tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and freshly milled black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C).


First of all, crush the garlic and sea salt together to a purée, using a pestle and mortar, then add the oil, chopped rosemary and a good seasoning of pepper and mix well. Next, spread a large sheet of foil over the roasting tin, place the lamb on it and stab the fleshy parts of the joint several times with a skewer.

Now spread the rosemary mixture all over the upper surface of the lamb and tuck in a sprig of rosemary (as this makes a nice garnish later). Then bring the edges of the foil up over the lamb, make a pleat in the top and scrunch in the ends. This foil parcel should be fairly loose to allow the air to circulate. Bake the lamb for 2 hours, then open out the foil, baste the joint well with the juices and return it to the oven for a further 30 minutes to brown.

The above cooking time should result in lamb very slightly pink: you can cook it for more or less time, as you prefer.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the redcurrant jelly and vinegar in a small saucepan and whisking over a gentle heat, till the jelly melts into the vinegar (a balloon whisk does this perfectly). Then add the chopped mint and some seasoning and pour into a jug – the sauce doesn't need to be warm.

When the lamb is cooked, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Discard the foil, spoon off the fat and make some gravy with the juices left in the tin: add the white wine, stir and let it bubble until it has become syrupy.

Season with salt and pepper if it needs it and pour into a warmed serving jug.

Time for our final harvest hymn:

We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God's almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft, refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above;
Then thank the Lord,
O thank the Lord,
For all his love.

He only is the maker
Of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,
He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey him,
By him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, his children,
He gives our daily bread.


We thank thee then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food.
Accept the gifts we offer
For all thy love imparts,
And what thou most desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts.


That concludes our Harvest Festival, but we shall remain at Balmoral for a few more days.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the gospel today, we hear about the king who gave a feast for his son's wedding.

The Queen never gives a banquet at Balmoral, but she does so occasionally at Buckingham Palace. It is important that those attending are properly prepared. Sadly, this was not the case when the Queen recently held a banquet in honour of President Obama.

The President had not done his homework, and caused much embarrassment when he attempted to propose a toast to the Queen during the playing of the National Anthem.

Thy hand, O God, has guided
thy flock, from age to age;
their wondrous tale is written,
full clear, on every page;
thy people owned thy goodness,
and we their deeds record;
and both of this bear witness;
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

Thy heralds brought glad tidings
to greatest as to least;
they bade men rise, and hasten
to share the great King's feast;
and this was all their teaching,
in every deed and word,
to all alike proclaiming
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

When shadows thick were falling,
and all seemed sunk in night,
thou, Lord, didst send thy servants,
thy chosen sons of light.
On them and on thy people
thy plenteous grace was poured,
and this was still their message,
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

Through many a day of darkness,
through many a scene of strife,
the faithful few fought bravely,
to guard the nation's life.
Their gospel of redemption,
sin pardoned, man restored,
was all in this enfolded:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

And we, shall we be faithless?
shall hearts fail, hands hang down?
shall we evade the conflict,
and cast away our crown?
Not so: in God's deep counsels
some better thing is stored;
we will maintain, unflinching,
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

Thy mercy will not fail us,
nor leave thy work undone;
with thy right hand to help us,
thy victory shall be won;
and then, by all creation,
thy name shall be adored,
and this shall be their anthem:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 13

Here are some magnificent onions - enough to make your eyes water! Perhaps Her Majesty would like some French Onion Soup served at the Royal Table. Again, we turn to Delia for help.

French Onion Soup

There are few things more comforting than making a real French onion soup - slowly cooked, caramelised onions that turn mellow and sweet in a broth laced with white wine and Cognac. The whole thing is finished off with crunchy baked croutons of crusty bread topped with melted, toasted cheese. If ever there was a winter stomach warmer, this is surely it!

Serves 6

1½ lb (700 g) onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 oz (50 g) butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ level teaspoon granulated sugar
2 pints (1.2 litres) good beef stock (see related recipe below)
10 fl oz (275 ml) dry white wine
2 tablespoons Cognac
salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the croutons:
French bread or baguettine, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) diagonal slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

To serve:
6 large or 12 small croutons (see above)
8 oz (225 g) Gruyère, grated

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C)
You will need a large heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole of 6 pint (3.5 litres) capacity.


First make the croutons – begin by drizzling the olive oil on to a large, solid baking-sheet, add the crushed garlic and then, using your hands, spread the oil and garlic all over the baking sheet. Now place the bread slices on top of the oil, then turn over each one so that both sides have been lightly coated with the oil.

Bake them in the oven for 20-25 minutes till crispy and crunchy. Next place the saucepan or casserole on a high heat and melt the oil and butter together. When this is very hot, add the onions, garlic and sugar, and keep turning them from time to time until the edges of the onions have turned dark – this will take about 6 minutes. Then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and leave the onions to carry on cooking very slowly for about 30 minutes, by which time the base of the pan will be covered with a rich, nut brown, caramelised film. After that, pour in the stock and white wine, season, then stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the base of the pan well.

As soon as it all comes up to simmering point, turn down the heat to its lowest setting, then go away and leave it to cook very gently, without a lid, for about 1 hour. All this can be done in advance but, when you're ready to serve the soup, bring it back up to simmering point, taste to check for seasoning – and if it's extra-cold outside, add a couple of tablespoons of Cognac! Warm the tureen or soup bowls in a low oven and pre-heat the grill to its highest setting. Then ladle in the hot soup and top with the croutons, allowing them to float on the top of the soup. Now sprinkle the grated Gruyère thickly over the croutons and place the whole lot under the grill until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Serve immediately – and don't forget to warn your guests that everything is very hot!

Let us now watch Delia make this soup!

Time now for our harvest hymn:

To thee, O Lord, our hearts we raise
in hymns of adoration,
to thee bring sacrifice of praise
with shouts of exultation.
Bright robes of gold the fields adorn,
the hills with joy are ringing,
the valleys stand so thick with corn
that even they are singing.

And now, on this our festal day,
thy bounteous hand confessing,
Upon thine altar, Lord, we lay
the first fruits of thy blessing.
By thee the souls of men are fed
with gifts of grace supernal;
thou, who dost give us earthly bread,
give us the bread eternal.

We bear the burden of the day,
and often toil seems dreary;
but labor ends with sunset ray,
and rest comes for the weary.
May we, the angel reaping over,
stand at the last accepted,
Christ's golden sheaves, forevermore
to garners bright elected.

O blessèd is that land of God
where saints abide forever,
where golden fields spread fair and broad,
where flows the crystal river;
the strains of all its holy throng
with ours today are blending;
thrice blessèd is that harvest song
which never hath an ending.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 12

Here we see cabbages and cauliflowers. We have a recipe from Delia for braised red cabbage with apples.

I'm not sure whether the Royal Chef will take up her suggestion of serving up the leftovers with bangers and mash! I think it is more likely to be served with venison from the Royal Estate.

Traditional Braised Red Cabbage with Apples

This is a recipe I have been cooking for years. It's great because it can be made the day before and gently re-heated with no last minute bother. It is a perfect accompaniment to venison, goose or pork (and if you have any left over it does wonders for bangers and mash).

Serves 10-12

2 lb (1 kg) red cabbage
1 lb (450 g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped small
1 lb (450 g) onions, chopped small
1 clove garlic, chopped very small
¼ whole nutmeg, freshly grated
¼ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ level teaspoon ground cloves
3 level tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
½ oz (15 g) butter
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2, 300°F (150°C).


First discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, cut it into quarters and remove the hard stalk. Then shred the rest of the cabbage finely, using your sharpest knife (although you can shred it in a food processor, I prefer to do it by hand: it doesn't come out so uniform).

Next, in a fairly large casserole, arrange a layer of shredded cabbage seasoned with salt and pepper, then a layer of chopped onions and apples with a sprinkling of garlic, spices and sugar. Continue with these alternate layers until everything is in. Now pour in the wine vinegar, lastly add dots of butter on the top.

Put a tight lid on the casserole and let it cook very slowly in the oven for 2-2½ hours, stirring everything around once or twice during the cooking.

Red cabbage, once cooked, will keep warm without coming to any harm, and it will also re-heat very successfully. And, yes, it does freeze well so, all in all, it's a real winner of a recipe.

Time for our harvest hymn.

Praise and thanksgiving, Father we offer,
for all things living thou madest good;
Harvest of sown fields, fruits of the orchard
hay from the mown fields, blossom and wood.

Bless thou the labour we bring to serve thee,
that with our neighbour we may be fed.
Sowing or tilling, we would work with thee;
Harvesting, milling, for daily bread.

Father, providing food for thy children,
thy wisdom guiding teaches us share
one with another, so that rejoicing
with us, our brother may know thy care.

Then will thy blessing reach every people;
all men confessing thy gracious hand.
Where thy will reigneth no man will hunger;
thy love sustaineth; fruitful the land.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 11

Here we see pea plants. We turn to Delia for a recipe for pea soup.

Fresh Shelled Pea Soup

This soup is a lovely dark green colour and has all the wonderful ingredients and flavours of peas à la Française – peas, spring onions, lettuce and bacon – blended into a velvety smooth soup.

Serves 4

2 lb (900 g) fresh peas, shelled (weight after shelling is approximately 11 oz/315 g)
2 oz (50 g) butter
4 spring onions, finely chopped
4 lettuce leaves, finely chopped
1 rasher unsmoked bacon, derinded and finely chopped
2 oz (50 g) fresh young leaf spinach
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1-2 tablespoons crème fraîche
freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly milled black pepper


First of all, in a large saucepan melt the butter and gently saute the chopped spring onions, lettuce, bacon and spinach for about 5 minutes, then add the peas and some salt and stir everything together. Then pour in 1¼ pints (725 ml) boiling water from the kettle.

Next, add the sugar, put on a lid and let the peas simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, or until they are soft. Now allow the soup to cool a little, then whiz it to a purée in batches in a blender until smooth. You'll find it helpful to have a bowl handy to put the first batch in. Taste and season with more salt (if it needs it) and freshly milled black pepper, then gently reheat. Stir the mint into the soup and serve in hot bowls, garnishing each one with a teaspoon of crème fraîche and a little freshly grated nutmeg just before serving.

Time now for our harvest hymn.

God, whose farm is all creation,
take the gratitude we give.
Take the finest of our harvest,
crops we grow that all may live.

Take our plowing, seeding, reaping,
hopes and fears of sun and rain,
all our thinking, planning, waiting,
ripened in this fruit and grain.

All our labour, all our watching,
all our calendar of care
in these crops of your creation,
take, O God; they are our prayer.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 10

Here we see various lettuces being grown for the Royal Table. We turn to Delia for a recipe for Prawn Cocktail.

Prawn Cocktail

This recipe is part of my 1960s revival menu. In those days it used to be something simple but really luscious, yet over the years it has suffered from some very poor adaptations, not least watery prawns and inferior sauces. So here, in all its former glory, is a starter quite definitely for the new millennium!

Serves 6

2 lb (900 g) large prawns in their shells (see recipe)
1 crisp-hearted lettuce, such as Cos
1 oz (25 g) rocket leaves
1 ripe but firm avocado
cayenne pepper
1 whole lime, divided into 6 wedge-shaped sections

For the sauce:
1 quantity of mayonnaise
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
a few drops Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup (preferably organic)
1 dessertspoon lime juice


The very best version of this is made with prawns (either fresh or frozen in their shells) that you have cooked yourself. Failing that, buy the large cooked prawns in their shells, or if you can only get shelled prawns cut the amount to 1 lb (450 g). To prepare them: if frozen put them in a colander and allow to defrost thoroughly at room temperature for about 1 hour. After that, if using uncooked prawns, heat a large solid frying pan or wok and dry-fry the prawns for 4-5 minutes until the grey turns a vibrant pink. As soon as they're cool, reserve 6 in their shells for a garnish and peel the remainder. Then take a small sharp knife, make a cut along the back of each peeled prawn and remove any black thread. Place them in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and keep in the fridge until needed. To make the cocktail sauce, prepare the mayonnaise and add it to the rest of the sauce ingredients. Stir and taste to check the seasoning, then keep the sauce covered with clingfilm in the fridge until needed. When you are ready to serve, shred the lettuce and rocket fairly finely and divide them between 6 stemmed glasses, then peel and chop the avocado into small dice and scatter this in each glass amongst the lettuce. Top with the prawns and the sauce, sprinkle a dusting of cayenne pepper on top and garnish with 1 section of lime and 1 unpeeled prawn per glass. Serve with brown bread and butter.

Time now for our harvest hymn.

Fair waved the golden corn,
In Canaan’s pleasant land,
When full of joy, some shining morn,
Went forth the reaper band.

To God so good and great
Their cheerful thanks they pour;
Then carry to His temple gate
The choicest of their store.

Like Israel, Lord, we give
Our earliest fruits to Thee,
And pray that, long as we shall live,
We may Thy children be.

Thine is our youthful prime,
And life and all its powers,
Be with us in our morning time,
And bless our evening hours.

In wisdom let us grow,
As years and strength are given,
That we may serve Thy Church below,
And join Thy saints in Heaven.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 9

There are so many varieties of potatoes to choose from. These potatoes are King Edwards - so appropriate for use at The Queen's Table!

Of course, perfection is expected at the Royal Table, so here we have another recipe from Delia Smith, this time for perfect mashed potatoes.

Perfect Mashed Potato

This is now my standard all-time mashed potato recipe.

Serves 4

2 lb (900 g) King Edward potatoes
1 level dessertspoon salt
2 oz (50 g) butter
4 tablespoons whole milk
2 level tablespoons crème fraîche
salt and freshly milled black pepper


Use a potato peeler to pare off the potato skins as thinly as possible, then cut the potatoes into even-sized chunks – not too small; if they are large, quarter them, and if they are small, halve them. Put the potato chunks in a steamer fitted over a large pan of boiling water, sprinkle the salt all over them, put a lid on and steam the potatoes until they are absolutely tender – they should take 20-25 minutes. The way to tell whether they are ready is to pierce them with a skewer in the thickest part: they should not be hard in the centre, and you need to be careful here, because if they are slightly underdone you do get lumps.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the steamer, drain off the water, return them to the saucepan and cover with a clean tea cloth for about 4 minutes to absorb some of the steam, then add the butter, milk and crème fraîche. When you first go in with the whisk, use a slow speed to break the potatoes up, then increase it to high and whip them up to a smooth, creamy, fluffy mass. Taste and, if they need it, season.

Time now for our harvest hymn.

Let us, with a gladsome mind,
praise the Lord, for he is kind:
for his mercies aye endure,
ever faithful, ever sure.

Let us blaze his Name abroad,
for of gods he is the God: Refrain

He with all commanding might
filled the new-made world with light: Refrain

He the gold-tressèd sun
caused all day his course to run: Refrain

The horned moon to shine by night,
mid her spangled sisters bright: Refrain

All things living he doth feed,
his full hand supplies their need: Refrain

Let us, with a gladsome mind,
praise the Lord, for he is kind: Refrain

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 8

Today sees the start of our Harvest Festival.

Here we have some potatoes - a crop which tends to grow really well in Scotland. I am giving a recipe by Delia Smith for Rosti Crab Cakes to grace the Royal Table at a Harvest Supper.

Rosti Crab Cakes

As a great lover of any type of fish cake I have always adored American crab cakes, but somehow the small English crabs seem too rich for them. After some serious tasting comparisons with my husband, scoring out of ten, the following recipe gets top marks. The potato counteracts the richness of the crab more effectively than the usual breadcrumbs, and served with Pickled Limes you complete a marriage made in heaven!

Serves 2 as main course or 4 as starter

8 oz (225 g) mixed prepared crabmeat
5 oz (150 g) firm waxy potatoes
1 slightly rounded tablespoon capers, drained and chopped (or, if they're very small, left whole)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 spring onions, finely chopped (including the green parts)
2 pinches cayenne pepper
1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh coriander or parsley
groundnut oil for frying
salt and freshly milled black pepper

To garnish:
lime quarters
sprigs of fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley


First put the unpeeled potatoes in a saucepan with boiling water and salt, and simmer them for exactly 10 minutes. Meanwhile measure out the rest of the ingredients, except the groundnut oil, into a mixing bowl and mix together thoroughly.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and grate the flesh on the coarse blade of the grater, pushing the potatoes all the way down the length of the grater so that the strips are as long as possible. Now carefully combine the grated potato with the crab mixture, trying not to break up the pieces of potato. Have a flat tray or baking sheet handy, then take rough tablespoons of the mixture and form them into eight little cakes, squeezing and pressing them evenly together – don't worry about any ragged edges: this is precisely what gives the crab cakes their charm when cooked. When the cakes are made, cover them with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours to chill and become firm.

To cook, heat 1½ tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, making sure it is very hot, then gently slide in the crab cakes using a spatula. Cook them for 3 minutes on each side, turning the heat down to medium. Don't turn them over until the 3 minutes are up or they will not be firm enough. Remove them to a plate lined with kitchen paper, then transfer them to a warmed serving plate and garnish with lime quarters and coriander or flat-leaf parsley. Serve with Pickled Limes or with Toasted Sweetcorn Salsa.

1. Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
for our wants to be supplied;
come to God's own temple, come,
raise the song of harvest home.

2. All the world is God's own field,
fruit as praise to God we yield;
wheat and tares together sown
are to joy or sorrow grown;
first the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be.

3. For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home;
from the field shall in that day
all offenses purge away,
giving angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store
in the garner evermore.

4. Even so, Lord, quickly come,
bring thy final harvest home;
gather thou thy people in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified,
in thy presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels, come,
raise the glorious harvest home.

I am sure Her Majesty will recognise the hymn tune - it is 'St George's Windsor'!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

We are back in the vineyard. Here we see two fine bunches of grapes - I am sure they could go towards a fine bottle of wine! As we gather for our Eucharist on this the day of resurrection, wine - the fruit of the vine - becomes the Blood of Christ.

At the Lamb's high feast we sing
praise to our victorious King,
who hath washed us in the tide
flowing from his pierced side;
praise we him, whose love divine
gives his sacred Blood for wine,
gives his Body for the feast,
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.

Where the Paschal blood is poured,
death's dark angel sheathes his sword;
Israel's hosts triumphant go
through the wave that drowns the foe.
Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed,
Paschal victim, Paschal bread;
with sincerity and love
eat we manna from above.

Mighty victim from on high,
hell's fierce powers beneath thee lie;
thou hast conquered in the fight,
thou hast brought us life and light:
now no more can death appall,
now no more the grave entrall;
thou hast opened paradise,
and in thee thy saints shall rise.

Easter triumph, Easter joy,
sin alone can this destroy;
from sin's power do thou set free
souls newborn, O Lord, in thee.
Hymns of glory and of praise,
Risen Lord, to thee we raise;
Holy Father, praise to thee,
with the Spirit, ever be.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Queen's Table - 7

Here we see some gooseberries. This time we turn to Nigel Slater for a recipe for Gooseberry Fool.

Smooth, timeless and soothing, the fool is simply crushed fruits folded into whipped cream – perfect for summer. That said, I like my fools to have a slightly rough texture, with crushed, cooked fruit in among the cream. This is easy to do if you crush the cooked berries with a fork rather than sieving them. The seeds add important contrast to the general creaminess.

The recipe

Serves 6
450g sharp cooking gooseberries
3-4 heaped tbsp sugar
300ml double cream

Top and tail 450g of sharp cooking gooseberries. Tip them in a pan with 3 or 4 heaped tbsp of sugar and one or two of water, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the fruit has burst. Cool then chill. Crush with a fork. Whip 300ml double cream till thick, but stop before it will stand in peaks. It should sit in soft folds.

The trick

Use sharp cooking gooseberries, not the sweeter, fat dessert varieties. Other than that, it is all in the whipping of the cream. Put the bowl in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before you pour the cream in. Whip slowly, with a hand whisk. Stop once the cream starts to feel heavy on the whisk and will lie in soft, undulating folds. Fold in the fruit only when it is cool. It will curdle if still warm. Don't leave it uncovered in the fridge for long, otherwise it will absorb all the other flavours in there. Parmesan fool, anyone?

The twist

Elderflower, in the form of flowerheads simmered with the gooseberries or a drop of cordial stirred in with the cream, is a classic. Red gooseberries will produce a sweeter, slightly murky-coloured fool. The best twist is to ripple a spoonful of lightly crushed, cooked berries through the finished fool to give a ripple effect, adding texture and interest.