The Start of Summer

June 9, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

It is Tuesday, 25th May; the weather is dull and less than warm as I drive along the avenue of green towards the castle gardens. Suddenly a bright field of sunshine yellow rapeseed flowers illuminate my path and, in their midst, in majestic contrast stand two ancient copper beech trees surveying the scene. Wow! What a welcome!

The cold wet spring has left us longing for some sun. Both Mother Nature and the gardeners have been soaked and chilled but, in-spite of the cold, they press on undeterred. The Head Gardener, Ed Bollom says’ It is either cold and wet or hot and dry at this time of the year so we just adapt and get on with it. This year everything is very late.’

There is a lot to do; weeds seem to thrive in bad weather so the battle against them continues. Weeding never ends!

Today is Thursday 27th May, and as I write suddenly the clouds have parted, the sun has arrived! Still waiting patiently by the greenhouses over 10,000 plants grown from seeds earlier this year are ready to be transferred into the prepared beds.  Planting out is top priority so the gardeners will be pleased to feel warm sun on their backs as they work. The tulip bulbs which gave such a riot of colour earlier will be replaced with multi-coloured successors such as cosmos, cornflowers, larkspur, poppies, snap dragon – the list is endless!  Sweet peas are already producing tentative tendrils as they begin their slow ascent of the trellis up which they will grown to produce a wealth of scented blooms in just a few weeks time. A bunch of sweet peas is indeed the epitome of a summer day.

Both the potatoes and their companion rows of salads are vibrant green and growing steadily. Fresh salads are a feature on the restaurant menu and new varieties like fiery mix will be cut fresh each day. Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts will join kale and cabbage already growing in the brassica bed. Young tender kale should be ready for picking soon.

The garlic is doing well promising a good crop. Beetroot, carrots and onions are going into the earth very soon to be followed by runner beans, courgettes and ‘giant;’ pumpkin plants. One to watch! I wonder how big the pumpkins will grow?

Meanwhile the artichokes have re-seeded filling the border with strong plants.

Nearby the asparagus beds still yield a good crop, which has been especially good this year and hopefully will continue into June. Please order in advance to avoid disappointment.

An exciting new development is Liz Allan’s trial bed where she is growing a selection of heritage vegetables.

Liz has already planted Highland burgundy red and Shetland black potatoes, Pasatenaga negra (Spanish black) carrots, Burpees golden beetroot, sweet Spanish yellow onions, golden ball turnips and early white Milan turnips. Waiting in the greenhouse are young romanesco cauliflowers and red drumhead cabbage plants which she will be planting out soon.

The results will be of great interest and I for one look forward to trying some recipes!

At one end of the large greenhouse bright red earthenware pots filled with vibrant green tomato plants catch the eye and at the opposite end is a colourful display of flowers alongside a bed of budding roses sheltering from the changeable weather so they are ready to cut for special occasions. The small greenhouse will soon be emptied of ‘plants in waiting’ which will be replaced by a variety of cucumbers and melons!! Last year’s melons proved succulent and sweet, may this crop prove as delicious.

Across the garden in the soft fruit area a carpet of white blossom covers the strawberry beds. Watching over erect, green and promising a rich crop, the raspberry canes stand silently waiting. New step over gooseberry bushes are bursting with growth and close by the black and red currant bushes are starting to form clusters of berries. Recently planted gooseberry bushes are growing well. The hard work establishing this area shows all the signs of bearing a prolific soft fruit harvest.

We must not forget the oyster catchers who return each year. One pair has taken up residence in the pear sculpture which sits in the centre of the maze. I tried to capture a photo of the first chick but mum and dad were not so keen.  The antics of these black and white feathered birds with that distinctive orange curved beak are a joy to watch as they dot round the gardens looking for tasty morsels to feed their young.

At the potting shed a selection of colourful ready to go flowers including the ever popular geraniums will soon be on sale.

The garden is coming into vibrant life when all is fresh, growing and green. It is a good time visit.  After a walk in the grounds enjoy the café which serves delicious home bakes and freshly prepared light meals using garden produce where they can.

As the 1744 Gordon Castle family hymnary says, ‘He shall be like a tree planted by a river which in his season yields his fruit and his leaf fadeth never.’ (Ps 1 verse 3)

And so it is, this is a special place to appreciate the wonder of nature in all its hues.

RECIPES

Parmesan and asparagus quiche
20cm (8in) quiche
115g (4oz) short crust pastry
30g (1oz) butter
30g plain flour
240mls (8fl oz) full cream milk
30g (1oz) parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice
1 egg – separated
115g (4oz) steamed asparagus – chopped
30g (1oz) grated parmesan cheese plus extra for dusting

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Line a flan dish with the pastry. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour. Stir in the milk and then keep stirring over a low heat till the sauce thickens and boils. Remove from the heat, add the parmesan cheese, seasoning and lemon juice to taste. Beat in the egg yolk and stir in the asparagus Whisk the whites till softly stiff and fold into the sauce. Pour into the pastry case, dust with a little parmesan and bake on a baking tray in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes till set and golden on top. Serve hot or cold.

Steamed asparagus with lemon butter and flaked almonds

Quick and so delicious!

Allow 12 stems of freshly picked asparagus per person (or more if you like)
30g (1oz) butter
Grated lemon zest
A small handful of flaked almonds
Simply wash and trim the asparagus and steam 4 minutes. Meanwhile melt the butter adding freshly grated lemon zest. Quickly toast the almonds under a medium grill.
Serve the asparagus with warm lemon butter, scattered with the hot flaked almonds and enjoy.

Rhubarb and custard upside down cake
140g (5oz) chopped fresh rhubarb
15g ( ½ oz ) soft brown sugar
85g (3oz) butter
60g (2oz) caster sugar
1 large egg
85g (3oz) self raising flour
20g ( ¾ oz) custard powder
2 tablespoons milk
Demerara sugar to sprinkle

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line the base of a 18cm (7in) round sandwich tin. Sprinkle the soft brown sugar over the base then scatter the rhubarb evenly over this. Cream the butter and sugar till light, beat in the egg and then stir in the flour, custard powder and milk to make a soft dropping consistency. Spread evenly over the rhubarb. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes till risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Turn out onto a flat plate, sprinkle with Demerara sugar and enjoy freshly baked.

Rhubarb gingerbread cake
Makes a tin 18cm x 30cm (7in x 12in)
140g (5oz) light soft brown sugar
140g (5oz) softened butter
85g (3oz) golden syrup
2 large eggs – beaten
140g (5oz) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
85g (3oz) porridge oats
85g (3oz) chopped rhubarb
4 tablespoons milk

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line the baking tin. Cream the butter and sugar till light, beat in the syrup and eggs (the mixture will curdle don’t worry). Sift eh flour, raising agents and spices into the bowl, add the oats, rhubarb and milk and stir everything together. Pour into the prepared tin; spread evenly tapping the base of the tin on to work surface to remove any trapped air. Bake 25 minutes in the middle of the oven till risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Cut into squares and enjoy freshly baked. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 5 days.

Wedding Shoot at Tower Hall

May 26, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminWedding No Comments

We are so lucky to have an incredible selection of local suppliers within Moray. To celebrate their talents, and show off our new venue, we worked with Esme Saville Photography to make this dream shoot a reality. Those amazing suppliers were:

Suppliers

Photography – Esme Saville Creative
Venue – Gordon Castle Estate
Models – Lori Davidson and Keiran Welsh
Dresses – Avorio Bridal
Make-up – Kelly Hudson Make Up Artist
Flowers (bouquet and table) – Wild Blossom
Wedding stationary – Maddison Louise Print Design
Styling – Boho Belles
Food platter – More Fine Food
Cake – Torta by Katalin
Engraved wedding gift – Gordon Castle Scotland
Table + chairs – Virginia’s Vintage Hire

Spring in the garden

April 29, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

Today is dry and sunny with a hint of a breeze as I turn into Gordon Castle. What a lovely surprise to glide up the newly tarred road to the gardens to meet up with Ed Bollom, the head-gardener during what is the busiest time in the gardening year.

The greenhouses are filled with trays of flowers, herbs and vegetable plants sown earlier, potted on and now ready to be planted out. Today is brassica and pea planting day for the gardeners and willing volunteers. As they work with the sun on their backs there is a hum of friendly banter as row upon row of leafy green appears in the rich earth.
Nearby, freshly planted hardy annual flowers for cutting such as salvias, aquilegia, calendula and cornflowers promise vibrant colour in a few weeks time.

Two new yew hedges encircle the blossoming cherry orchard and new topiary beech trees in the centre of the garden will soon be speckled with delicate green leaves as they shed their dowdy brown autumnal coat and dress once more in the bright green of spring.

Already tulips in tubs and beds fill the garden with early colour, soft pink, bright lemon, darker pink and fiery orange. Here I must say a big thank you those who braved the cold a few months ago to plant those bulbs: 2000 in total!! The striking new pergola and hops maypole stand erect facing one another across the soft fruits garden, and raspberry canes, peppered with delicate green, shelter the recent step over gooseberry bushes which stand out vividly green against the paler leaves above. Round each garden gateway and in front of the iconic ‘Gardeners cottage’ climbing roses like soft pink Rosa Albertine and creamy white Claire Austin promise a subtle frame of fragrant flowers in the months ahead. Other rose bushes such as Queen of Sweden are growing in the greenhouse to protect their blooms to add to the bouquets of freshly cut garden flowers for which Gordon Castle is renowned.

And all the time there is the weeding!!
Like painting the Forth Railway bridge; an endless task!!

The large collection of heritage and modern apples has been augmented with four more eating varieties planted as step over trees. One in particular originated in this very garden. Called Beauty of Moray it was propagated by John Webster who became head gardener in1850 living with his family in the Gardener’s Cottage. He died in 1890 after forty years in charge of the gardens and policies, with a brigade of 40 gardeners under his management!
The obituary to him in the Moray and Nairn Express reads – ‘As a gardener he excelled and was looked upon as an authority in horticulture; he was adept at the art of rearing new trees for seed and the excellent Beauty of Moray apple was his propagation.’ He was succeeded as head gardener by his son Charles. The fragrant blossom on the espalier fruit trees stands out brightly against the red sandstone background while the smaller step over trees are illuminated by a carpet of blue and white anemones beneath.

In between times wild flower seeds have been sown and a plot of heritage vegetables is taking shape planted and tended by gardener and heritage enthusiast Liz Allan. Nine varieties of salad are already growing in the garden little gem, bright red lollo rosso, fiery salad mix, mild mix and more besides. Those fresh leaves will soon be ready for the Cafe which re-opens on Wednesday 28th April from 11am till 4pm Wednesday to Sunday. A freshly prepared menu uses seasonal garden and local produce. The café will offer light lunches and afternoon teas. Please book to be served indoors in the café and outside lean to covered dining area where it will be table service only. Carry out home-bakes and coffees are available to enjoy at the patio tables and in the gardens for those who care to arrive on spec! Social distancing and masks are required. Families and special diets are all catered for by Roz and her friendly staff. The shop will also re-open and there is also a chance to buy to grow your own vegetables, herbs and flowers, pick up your seedlings at the Potting Shed on your way home.

To celebrate the opening I have created a cake reminiscent of the light flavours of spring and early summer.

FRESH ORANGE LEMON CURD CAKE
Makes a 20cm (8in) square tin
200g (7oz) crème fraiche
3 eggs – beaten
Zest and juice of two medium oranges
325g (11oz) self raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
175g (6oz) soft butter
140g (5oz) caster sugar
45g (1 ½ oz) golden syrup or honey
Filling
2 tablespoons lemon curd
Glaze
2 tablespoons orange juice
Mixed with 3 tablespoons icing sugar

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line a square baking tin. Whisk together the crème fraiche, eggs, and 60mls (2floz) orange juice. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Beat the butter, sugar and syrup or honey in a bowl till light and fluffy, beat in two thirds of the orange zest. Gradually stir in the crème fraiche mixture along with the flour. Spread half the mix evenly over the base of the tin. Spread the lemon curd over this and then spread the remainder of the mix on top. Smooth the top with the palm of your hand dipped in a little warm water. This will help prevent the cake rising to a peak in the middle. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3 for a further 20 to 25 minutes till the cake is risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Mix the glaze ingredients and pour over the cake while it is warm. Cool completely in the tin. Serve cut into thick slices decorated with fresh orange zest.

Guest blog by Liz Ashworth – Thank you Liz

 

Dig for Victory!

March 24, 2020By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

It seems the whole world has been turned upside down this spring, but outside nature carries on as normal, the birds are singing, the grass is growing and the first green shoots of spring are beginning to appear. It’s hard to resist listening to the radio or continually checking my phone for the latest news but the constant flow of information can be overwhelming. For me the best antidote is to get outside, clear my mind and just listen to the sounds of nature. Life goes on.

Seeing empty supermarket shelves is a sobering reminder of how reliant we are on other people to feed ourselves. Every year 70,000 migrant workers come over from Europe to help on our farms and the majority of our fresh produce is shipped over from Spain and Italy. The supermarkets only keep 36 hours-worth of stock in reserve. We need to get back to basics and re-start that wonderful British tradition of growing our own, it’s time to dig for victory!

There is no better way to stay healthy than get out and tend to your garden. With the weather warming up, the light increasing and plenty of unexpected free labour from bored children, now is the perfect time to get going! Why not dig up a patch of your lawn and create a new vegetable plot? There is still plenty of seeds and compost available in the supermarkets, I’m sure you’ll be glad of fresh, free food in the months ahead.

If you can get hold of some seed potatoes you can get planting right away, you don’t need great soil, just add a little fertiliser and plant each tuber about 15cm deep and 30cm apart. You can use a cool windowsill to grow beetroot, leeks and pea seedlings in pots of multipurpose compost, ready to be planted out into the garden after a month or so. Kale and cabbages will give you a year round supply of fresh greens if you start now, and from May onwards you can sow more tender crops such as French beans, runner beans and courgettes to give you a harvest later in the summer.

In the walled garden we’ve got a busy year ahead. Caring for such a huge space without the help of our beloved volunteers, students and part time gardeners is going to be tricky, but we’ll cope because we have to. Of course, growing as much fruit and vegetables as possible will be our main priority. We scrapped plans for a new trails bed and every spare inch of ground will be taken over to grow food. Very soon asparagus shoots will appear, and the tart-but-sweet tender stems of forced rhubarb will be ready for the first crumbles of the year. The glass houses are filled with tiny seedlings promising a garden full of food before too long. We’ve already planted 150 metres of potatoes, hundreds of onion sets, broad beans, peas, lettuce and lots more.

At home we’re bracing ourselves for a very long Easter holiday and trying to come up with ways to keep the kids entertained and ourselves sane. Freddie and Amelie have been busy planting up the vegetable beds, weeding and watering as well as taking cooking lessons, flower arranging and drawing. Not being able to see their friends is going to be tough but they can stay connected via the computer and at least they can still get out and run off some surplus energy. Under the watchful eye of her brother, Amelie has learnt to ride her bicycle and is very happy zooming around the garden whilst I watch on waiting for the inevitable crash, grazed knees and tears!

Whilst is seems so sad that there is almost no-one here to see our lovely tulips and daffodils or the bees buzzing around the fruit blossom, the Walled Garden has survived two world wars, the Spanish flu and countless other trials and tribulations, the Coronavirus won’t be the end of it. Over the next few months we want to do as much as we can to help, later in the year we’ll have plenty of produce available and we’ll be filling our website and social media platforms with cheerful pictures of life in the garden as well as hints and tips on our website and social media platforms so you know what you should be doing now in your garden so please get in touch if you need any help or advice.

The Walled Garden is an oasis of peace and tranquillity, a great place to get away from it all and forget the woes of the world for a while.  When everything calms down and life starts to return to normal please do come and visit us, this wonderful space wouldn’t exist without the support of our visitors. In the mean-time from us all at Gordon Castle, stay safe, look after yourself and get gardening!

Spring Recipes from the Garden

March 2, 2020By Jennifer Kelly: AdminRecipes No Comments

Liz Ashworth, author of our Walled Garden Recipe Book, has written some spring recipes using season produce currently in the garden. We hope you enjoy and if you make any of the recipes please share your pictures with us. 

“The garden looks bare just now, inert perhaps, but underground things it is a different story. Mother nature is at work. Snowdops and crocuses emerge as I write and daffodil leaves are pushing up through the soil to greet the chilly winter sunshine.

There is still garden produce to be had even in the cold winter months and here are a few recipes to whet your appetites for the start of the growing season and the fruits of this productive garden to come.”

BAKED BEETROOT
Simple to make. Serve as a vegetable hot or cold, with salads, or use as an ingredient in soups, sauces and dips.
Scrub the beetroot well, rub with a little butter or oil then wrap in foil and place into a roasting tin.  Bake at 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4  up to one hour depending on size. Leave the beetroot to cool a little then don thick clean rubber gloves and gently rub off the skins, wash in hot water and serve hot. Alternatively leave to cool and chop, slice or grate to add to salads.

BEETROOT TZATZIKI
115g (4oz) thick Greek yoghurt
1 medium cooked beetroot – grated
1 clove garlic crushed (optional)
Chopped fresh dill, coriander or parsley
Olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
Lemon juice
Drain the grated beetroot through a sieve for about ten minutes, press down gently using the back of a spoon to remove the liquid. Do this over the sink or a pan which will not stain pink!  Toss into a glass bowl and mix with the yoghurt, garlic, herbs, and a generous drizzle of olive oil and mix together. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to lift the flavour.
Serve as a dip with toasted bread, tacos even toast finger. Delicious with smoked fish such as mackerel, cold meats or hot fried fish.

OLD FASHIONED STEWED LEEKS
Amended from a recipes found in a book of household accounts dated 1737 to 1739 which describes a Scottish kitchen garden similar to Gordon Castle.
Serves 4 people
4 large leeks – trimmed and washed
Vegetable stock
15g ( ½ oz ) butter – softened
15g ( ½ oz ) flour
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Cut the leeks into thick rings and put into a pan, just cover with vegetable stock and bring to a simmering boil. Cover and cook till tender – about 20 minutes. Mix the butter and flour into a paste (beurre manie). Use a draining spoon to lift the leeks onto a heated serving dish then stir in the beurre manie to thicken the sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper, pour over the leeks and serve.

CHEESE CRUNCH LEEKS
Cook the leeks as above. Drain the juices and use to make a rich cheese sauce.
Melt 30g (1oz) butter and stir in 30g (1oz) flour over a low heat. Add milk to the vegetable stock till it measures 300ml ( ½ pt) and gradually stir this  into the flour mixture. Keep stirring till the mixture thickens and boils. Add 60g (2oz) grated cheese (mature cheddar gives a good flavour) and stir to melt. Remove from the heat and  season to taste with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour over the cooked leeks then make the topping below to cover the dish.

CHEESY OAT TOPPING
60g (2oz) medium oatmeal
75g (2 ½ oz) oat flakes
1 tablespoon sunflower oil or melted butter
Mix in:-
60g (2oz) smoked mature cheddar cheese
60g (2oz)  mature cheddar cheese
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 180C, (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4  till golden and crisp on top. Serve hot with plenty crusty bread.
To make a more substantial meal:-
Add chopped ham or smoked fish to the recipe.
Add a beaten egg to the sauce

Apple and Cinnamon Pancakes

February 25, 2020By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Recipes No Comments

APPLE + CINNAMON PANCAKES

Taken from our Walled Garden recipe book (available for £5) written by Liz Ashworth

This recipe was inspired by German friend Gisela’s Mutti when I went on a visit to Munster many years ago.
Makes 8 to 10 pancakes

115g (4oz) self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
30g (1oz) honey or golden syrup
1 large egg
Milk to mix
2 eating apples – peeled cored and grated (60g/2oz)

Heat a girdle or thick bottomed frying pan on medium heat. Make a batter by sifting the flour, baking powder and ground cinnamon into a bowl. Add the honey or syrup and egg beating in sufficient milk to make a thick soft dropping consistency. Fold in the grated apple. Test the girdle or frying pan by shaking on a little flour, if it turns golden brown the temperature is ready for cooking – if it burns it is too hot!!  Rub a little oil on the surface. Drop dessert spoons of the batter onto the hot pan and leave till bubbles appear and burst on the surface then flip over using a fish slice or palette knife to cook the underside, tapping the cooking side to release trapped air and ensure an even bake. Cool on a wire rack wrapped in a clean tea towel. Repeat with the rest of the batter and enjoy warm and freshly baked.

Cook’s tip

To make a festive pancake add a spoon of mincemeat to the grated apples

Here’s some @deesidepantry made earlier and shared to our IG (please do the same if you give the recipe a go!)

Coping With Climate Change

January 29, 2020By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Gardening advice No Comments

Believe it or not I’ve had to add mowing to our list of jobs this month. Who’d have thought our visitors would be enjoying sunshine, warmth and the smell of freshly cut grass at the beginning January! Trying to deal with the unpredictable weather is a huge challenge for gardeners, but it hasn’t always been like this, twenty years ago snow was almost guaranteed in October and the ground would stay frozen from November until the end of February. My father in law told me stories of driving the tractor across the frozen pond at Leith Hall where the ice would be so thick they could light a bonfire on it for Burn’s night.

Recently a colleague told me that the world is so big there is no way we can affect the climate. To my mind I can’t see how 7.8 billion people could fail to change the climate. Of course there are natural cycles and changes to weather patterns over the years. Our orbit around the sun changes over time, volcanic eruptions and ocean currents can affect the climate but none of these factors can explain the huge increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and corresponding increase in global temperatures over the last 200 years. This increase coincides exactly with the start of the industrial revolution, fossil fuel combustion and the huge increase in energy consumption from the 1970s onwards. Scientists predicted that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to higher temperatures, a shift in the seasons, and more floods, wildfires and storms. This all sounds depressingly familiar to me. Despite all of this doom and gloom human beings are a remarkable species and I think the best parts of our nature will overcome these problems. But it’s no good just sitting back and hoping someone else with sort it all out.

We’ve been trying to think of ways to lower our impact on the environment at the walled garden and there are a few simple things you can do at home to do your bit. Using organic peat-free compost for sowing seeds and potting up is a good place to start. Peat bogs are a hugely important environment that have been almost totally wiped out in Britain (we’ve lost 90%) just so that we can pot up our petunias. It takes 9000 years to form a 10m deep peat bed and just 50 years to clear, releasing even more co2 into the atmosphere. Many of the gardeners I’ve worked with believe that peat is the best growing media but this is not necessarily true. The Victorians did very well with little more than mixtures of loam, leaf mould and home-made compost. There are plenty of good organic composts available in garden centres, they tend to be more free draining than peat but this can actually be a good thing, lowering the risk of over-watering and rotting roots.


We always recycle our pots by reusing them every year and from now on we’re only going to buy biodegradable pots to sell plants in. If you ever need to buy plastic pots be sure to buy the brown ones, steer clear of the black ones because the sensors in recycling machinery can’t recognise black plastic and they’ll go straight into landfill! And from now on we’ll only be using wooden plant labels that will end up on the compost heap rather adding to the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean.

We are making the most of the unseasonably warm weather in the walled garden, pruning for hours on end is much more bearable when your toes aren’t cold and we don’t have to worry about levering leeks and turnips out of frozen soil when the chefs call! The kale is still growing happily and we even have some lettuce still standing in the salad beds. I hate to sound like Mr Mcgregor but the blasted rabbit is still on the loose in the garden, nibbling our beetroot at night and disappearing to goodness knows where during the day, if it was up to me rabbit pie would feature on the menu in the café every day!

The warmth has brought on the spring bulbs very early this year, even the tulips have started growing. The plants in our greenhouse have been basking in the sunshine filling it with the scent of ‘Paper White’ narcissus and vibrant pelargonium flowers. The micro-green seed we sow every week have been germinating at a rate of knots, only to be snipped back by the chefs and whisked away to the kitchens. Very soon we’ll start sowing the first flower and vegetable seeds and if the warm weather continues maybe we’ll see fruit blossom in January for the first time since the garden was built.

From Sweden With Love

January 16, 2020By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Cottages No Comments

Today’s guest blog comes from Carina Olander who stayed with us last summer when she and her colleague Anna Truelsen were writing an feature about Gordon Castle for swedish magazine Gods Och Gardar.

My name is Carina Olander and I am a photographer from Sweden. In August 2018 my work for a Swedish interior magazine led me all the way to Scotland. This was the first time I had visited Scotland and I was blown away by its beauty and nice people!

My colleague and I, Anna, flew to Inverness and there we were picked up at the airport by Jennifer, Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Gordon Castle Estate, who drove us the 45 minutes to the estate. We rented a car and for the first time in my life i drove on the left side of the road! A little tricky at first but I was grateful to have Anna at my side helping me with her vision as well, warning me if I was about to make a wrong turn. After a couple of days I felt much safer and also quite proud after driving without causing any accidents.

We were tasked with writing a feature about Gordon Castle and its associated walled garden in Moray. We stayed at the adorable cottage, Quarry Gardens Lodge, located near the Castle on its property. I couldn’t have dreamt of better accommodation than that cute little cottage. I felt like being in the middle of a Beatrix Potter fairytale.

It was such a bliss getting back to the Quarry Gardens Lodge after a days work. Lightning the wood burner and sitting down next to it in the comfortable armchair reading a book. My favourite was about Britain’s Greatest Walled Gardens by Jules Hudson, in which – of course  – Gordon Castle Walled Garden is featured since being Britain’s largest with its eight acre and not at least a garden full of life, producing fruit, vegetables and cut-flowers for the garden café as well as the castle.

Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox own the estate and have been at the forefront of its restoration over the past few years. I found them to be two genuinely nice people who have worked hard to keep this historic place alive, as well as enhancing it with weddings, salmon fishing, highland games and more.

On one of the days, Anna and I borrowed bicycles and set off on an adventurous ride along the River Spey. We spotted fishers fishing and salmon leaping, quite an amazing sight! Located in Fochabers, east of Inverness, Gordon Castle’s fortunate location meant we were just a few minutes drive to the coast which led us to the famous photography spot, Bow Fiddle Rock in Portknockie, and the Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay.

When dining we of course tried the Cullen Skink, perhaps Scotlands most famous soup, but I can’t really say it impressed me. Haggis on the other hand did. I really liked it, and the Iron brew as well.

No visit to Scotland without a guided tour at a whisky distillery. And after a tour at the Glen Moray Distillery in Elgin, Speyside, even I, who almost never drinks, found the processing and history behind a bottle of whisky quite impressive. So even if you never touched a bottle of whisky, I would really recommend a tour at one of the 50 distilleries in the Moray area – the highest concentration of whisky distilleries in Scotland!

One day we went to the legendary Johnstons of Elgin. A 222 year old mill that produces the softest cashmere products you can ever imagine. And as if that weren’t good enough, The Johnston´s dye, spin, weave and finish all products on site giving an absolute control over what goes into their products as well as what goes out during the process. For example, Scotlands soft water allows the use of minimal chemicals and Johnston´s is a member of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) program. How good is that?!

How could you even top a visit at a whisky distillery and legendary Johnstons? Drive south into the national park of Cairngorms. In Aviemore turn left, pass Loch Morlich and drive all the way up to the parking space at the funicular railway. And after taking the funicular almost to the top of Cairgorm at 1245 m above sea level, I hope you wear that woollen sweater you just bought at Johnston’s cause even an mild day in August I can assure you that there´s no summer at that height. Unfortunately I have since heard that the funicular railway has been closed which makes me very sad!

So what do I want to see on my next trip to Scotland?

I want to see more of Cairngorms National Park, I want to hike and capture more great landscape views with my camera. And today I can’t even believe we almost passed Culloden without visiting Culloden Moor. The battle at Culloden in 1746 was the end of the Jacobite rising. I found this particularly interesting since I have a cousin who is related to Frasers of Lovat. His grand parents lived at Grantown on Spey and their ashes is now spread in River Spey. When I was a child they lived in Sweden so I knew them quite well and even if I never visited them since they moved back to Scotland it feels as if I have relations to this beautiful country. My auntie has always said, ‘I think you’d love Scotland’, and she was right!

Looking over 2019

December 23, 2019By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Gardening advice No Comments

It hardly seems possible that another year is coming to an end and we have certainly packed in a huge amount over the last 12 months across the whole estate and Walled Garden. From the fishing to the castle, the cottages to the garden, from the professional to the personal, it has been a busy time.

Walled Garden

After one of the driest summers last year, Ed (our Head Gardener who you may know from his monthly diary feature in the P&J) & our brilliant team were once again toiling in the rain and cold which helped replenish our water supplies and the lake. This didn’t make for an easy growing season, with a cold spring (apart from the glorious Easter weekend where the highlight was Angus’ nephew Alexander being the “giant Easter bunny” hopping around the garden and even waving to the children from the top of the wall!) into a very changeable Summer with more rain by May than we had in the whole of 2018! Our big project for the winter was planting up the soft fruit area, which we have all but completed and looking forward to a fantastic crop of strawberries, raspberries, black currants, gooseberries, tayberries and many more in 2020. We may even do a few pick your own weekends so keep an eye out for those on our events page. Our first flower festival weekend was a great success with five local florists using our beautiful, Scottish grown flowers to create arrangements placed around the garden for visitors to enjoy and I gave a few guided tours showing how to condition and cut flowers & to explain that we sell our flowers for weddings, parties, events so please pass on the word.

The outdoor theatres were as popular as ever and luckily only one was “brollies up” but still the show went on. Our annual birthday celebration was very well attended and we were able to showcase a couple of talented youngsters who sang in the courtyard entertaining visitors sitting outside. We even hosted the very first Speyside Gin Festival which attracted over 400 revellers to the ‘garden party’. It was a huge success and will be popping up at another location next year!

Our big news for the Garden was the visit of Arne Maynard who designed the layout of the Garden but had not been back for a couple of years. He was impressed by the progress we had made and produced his new plan for our amazingly long central borders which we can now start to plant with more perennials, rather than the 22,000 annual seedlings we are currently growing! We are also going to plant “Rowan trees” in between the pear tunnels which will give more height and make those vast paths seem more enclosed. It was lovely to have his expert input once more and discuss planting rather than building so exciting times ahead. Davy – who does all our hard landscaping – is currently laying bricks around the planting squares and we have completed another 500m of metal edging allowing us to finish  two paths around the cherry orchard. Children still enjoy running up and rolling down the sides of the mounds and the grass maze proves popular with all ages. The permanent planting of copper beech will have to wait another year!

Our many different types of salad leaves kept the café supplied and we even found some other local outlets so if you know of any business who would like fresh produce locally grown then please ask them to get in touch. Sadly our market day was a “washout” with torrential rain all day but the brave souls who did come and support us were shown an incredible array of apple and pear varieties and beautiful veg straight from the Garden available to buy. The pick your own sweet peas suffered but flowered right into October. A special mention to our wonderful volunteers and “woofers” who make such an invaluable contribution to how the garden looks and a real difference to what we are able to achieve. It is a lovely way of keeping fit, enjoying some good company and taking some fresh produce home with you so do come and join our merry band.

We have had some amazing publicity for the Garden this year from the dizzy heights of Gardens Illustrated to the Telegraph, English Garden and Daily Mail. This will make a huge difference in terms of our visitor numbers and has been a huge boost to morale to have 3rd party affirmation and praise of what we are trying to do and achieve a centre of excellence in kitchen gardening. Thank you to all the journalists and photographers who made the Garden come to life for a wider audience.

 

As I write this, we have had wreath making workshops, a Christmas market and welcomed Santa to the Garden for the first time, his grotto looks magical and we hope everyone enjoyed the reindeer parade. It takes a huge amount of effort from our small team to put on events like this, in time, effort and financially and we try our best to think of every eventuality and make every experience a good one. Our December long Winter Festival was a huge success and we hope to plan another selection of events for next Christmas!

The Castle

We had an equally busy year with weddings, a delightful lunch in aid of Macmillan, the NGS AGM, the Moray chamber of commerce dinner  and of course providing first class service to our fishing parties throughout July, Aug and Sept. Refuel festival had better weather than most, the circus big top appeared once again and we have started work in the Tower Hall which will give us a fabulous space able to seat 200 people for any event so if you are looking for a venue after May 2020 do get in touch. The first film festival on the lawn of the Castle was a huge success mainly due to the fact the sun finally came out and shone brightly all weekend and allowed many of us to relive our youth to such classics as top gun, grease and for the wee ones we had Jungle Book and Harry Potter!

Cottages

We continued to work on our several holiday cottages – including our romantic hideaway Quarry Gardens Lodge being awarded 5* by VisitScotland! We also welcomed the addition of Kennel Cottage which was the founding home to our beloved Gordon Setter.

Quarry Gardens Lodge Gordon Castle

Highland Games

The 2019 Gordon Castle Highland Games and Country Fair was a huge success. With more accurate reporting, we were able to identify successful marketing streams, visitor numbers and overall awareness. This resulted in over 8,000 visitors (70% from Moray), coverage in five national newspapers, three broadcast companies and four lifestyle magazines. For our 10 year anniversary, 2020 will focus on involving the local community. We will be looking to work with local school pupils to design an anniversary emblem – a symbol of Highland Games in 21st century and what it means to them.

 

Fishing

A much better season on The Spey (not difficult after the drought of 2018) but still not as good as we had hoped. It provided a mixed bag for fishers with high water providing tricky conditions and some weeks getting “Lucky” one party in Aug catching 64 for the week. But some big fish were caught allowing Angus to hand over to the delighted fishers our 20lb club badge.

Everyone remains concerned about the decline of the iconic Salmon and we are doing everything we can to support the Atlantic Salmon Trust in particular who have been tracking smolts from the river to the Moray firth to try and get scientific data as to where the problems are. The river or the sea or a combination of both. We await over 15 million points of data currently being analysed and hope for a clearer picture of what needs to be done.

The brand/products

We have made good progress as far as getting our Gin and bath and body products out to a wider audience and into some hotels, restaurants and retail outlets. We would still love to hear of any businesses you think we should approach as personal introductions are usually much more productive than trade fairs! Our  Inverness airport shop is attracting rave reviews and reaching over 850,000 travellers as they pass through so definitely a few more people will have come across our G logo.

Home

On a personal level we must thank Dave Duncan, our factor, who retired in Sept and his wife Lyn for their unstinting support and hard work in helping us achieve so much over the last 11 yrs and we welcome Toby Christie who has arrived with great enthusiasm and ready for the challenges ahead. Our tribe of children continue to thrive at their various careers, the youngest Geordie, having just spent 3 days up here with 26 friends has made us feel very old and our gin played a full and numerous part in his 21st celebrations! Feeling even older, my gorgeous granddaughter Sienna, is adorable and we hope that she will greet the arrival of no 2 (due over the Highland Games w/e!) with a smile.

 

A very merry Christmas and happy New Year

We are looking forward to all the developments in 2020 and would just like to thank all our hard working and committed staff without whom none of the above would be possible. Huge thanks to you all , friends, customers, clients and visitors for your continued support which means so much to us as a family and business. Hoping for a kinder and more understanding 2020 and wish you all wherever you may be.

Wherever you may be we wish you all a happy and peaceful festive break, Angus and Zara

Tips for the Christmas Kitchen

November 26, 2019By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Recipes No Comments

Here are some top tips from local Author Liz Ashworth about how to make your Christmas meal extra special.

Liz Ashworth has been involved with, and written about food for over 40 years. She is passionate about preserving our Scottish Food heritage and promoting local food producers whenever she can. Author of over fifteen cookery books including The ‘Teach the Bairns’ series, she has written about her life experiences in many newspaper and magazine features and is a member of the Guild of Food Writers.

Liz has produced a Walled Garden recipe book for us containing over 50 recipes. The book is intended to take the connection between chef and gardener one step further and continues our ‘Plot to Plate’ ethos. We’re passionate about growing the finest produce and getting it onto the plate as quickly as possible. Within the ancient walls of our garden we grow well over 350 varieties of vegetables, fruit and herbs, many of which date back hundreds of years. The book is £5 and can be purchased here. 

Try a different ‘mash’ this year!

Heaven and Earth
A popular German dish of mashed potato mixed with stewed apple – it is delicious.  Serve separate bowls of hot mashed potato and smooth stewed apples so each diner can mix their own.

Potato and Pear Puree – Serves 4
450g (1lb) potatoes – peeled and cut into pieces
450g (1lb) pears – peeled, cored and chopped
Simmer in boiling salted water till tender. Drain and mash with butter till smooth. Season with grated root ginger or ground ginger and serve hot.

Parsnip and Potato Mash
Simmer equal quantities of potatoes and parsnip in boiling salted water till tender.  Drain. Mash smooth with butter, milk and a little nutmeg to season. Serve hot.

Kathryn’s Lemon Mash
Friend Kathryn makes this light mashed potato. Cook potatoes in boiling salted water till tender, drain, steam, mash with a little olive oil and lemon zest. Season to taste and serve hot.

The Ultimate Crisp Roast Potatoes
Roast potatoes that remain crisp to the last mouthful.

Choose a starchy dry potato like King Edward, Maris Piper or Rooster. Peel, cut to even size, cover with cold salted water, boil then simmer 4 to 5 minutes. Drain well. Shake to fluff the outside, important for crispness. Choose an oil or fat with a high smoking point. Heat about 2cm ( ¾ in) oil in a deep roasting tin. Add the drained potatoes and turn to coat. Roast at 180C,(160C fan) 350F, Gas 4,  till golden turning occasionally.  Drain on kitchen towel and keep crisp in the warm oven before serving.

What to do with the vegetables?

Brussel Sprouts and Almonds
Melt a little butter in a pan, add flaked almonds and a handful of breadcrumbs, stir till golden, season with nutmeg if liked, sprinkle over the hot sprouts and serve. Equally as good with cauliflower or broccoli.

Tagliatelle of Courgettes and Carrots
Use a potato peeler to peel the prepared courgette and carrot into thin strips. Steam for 5 minutes or till tender. Toss with sea salt and black pepper. Serve at once.

Neep Purry
Beat tender boiled turnip with butter and ground ginger. Serve hot.

Easy roasting!

Roasting the ‘Bird’!!
Stuffing helps to keep the flesh moist, however, it makes life easier to keep stuffing separate and serve a selection to suit different tastes.

To avoid a dry ‘bird’ pop an onion, pear and or apple and perhaps a sprig of thyme or rosemary into the body cavity, (or lay a turkey crown on a bed of the chopped vegetable and fruit ) rub the breast well with oil or soft butter and lay rashers of bacon over to add flavour and keep in moisture, splash with wine, stock or water before roasting on low trivet, in a deep roasting tin surrounded by a ‘foil tent’. Calculate the cooking time by the weight of the bird – generally 20 minutes per kg (2.2 lbs) plus 90 minutes. The meat is cooked when the juices run clear when probed with sharp knife or skewer. Remove from the oven and drain the juices into a pan. Cover the tented ‘bird’ with a thick towel to keep the heat and allow the flesh to rest before carving.

Gravy
The juices will make good gravy. Allow to simmer and reduce slowly, season to taste with salt and pepper and add a generous spoon of Gordon Castle Cranberry and Redcurrant sauce and or a glug of Gordon Castle Plum Gin. Serve hot with the main course.

Sticky Cranberry and Redcurrant Sausages – Serves 4 people
Great way to serve all those extra sausages! A great nibble with some mulled wine at a party.

450g (1lb) sausages
2 tablespoons Gordon Castle Cranberry sauce with Redcurrants
1 tablespoon Gordon Castle Marmalade with Elderflower
1 dessertspoon Gordon Castle runny honey
Salt and pepper
Grated zest of 1 orange

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan), 350F, Gas 4. Line a roasting tin with foil and oil well. Prick the sausages, lay in the tin and cook for 10 minutes in the oven. Mix the cranberry sauce with the marmalade, honey, salt and pepper and orange zest. Remove the sausages from the oven and coat well with the cranberry mix. Roast a further 10 to 15 minutes (turning as required) till tender and caramelised. Serve hot or cold.