Archive for December, 2009

Now is a great time to visit Edinburgh and for all your accommodation needs visit www.edinburghselfcatering.org.  For our guide to whats on to see and do in the city now click here.

…And if you’re thinking of visiting the city of Edinburgh during January 2010 here are some of our top ideas for things to do : 

  • Try some winter walking.  There are beautiful cobbled streets to amble along in the city itself…or try a bracing walk up Arther’s Seat for spectacular views of the city below.  The accommodation available at www.edinburghselfcatering.org is within close reach of Arthur’s Seat and offers stunning views of this ancient impressive mountain from the living room.

Spectacular views of Arthurs Seat from this stylish modern apartment available from http://www.edinburghselfcatering.org

  • Go and see Peter Pan on now until 03 Jan 10 – The classic story of Peter Pan comes to life in this festive family show – Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AX – www.lyceum.org.uk
  • Take part in the Great Winter Run on 09 Jan 10 – It’s a 5K run around Holyrood Park – Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park Road, Edinburgh EH16 5BT – www.greatrun.org
  • Why not see We Will Rock You on until 09 Jan 10 – A glittering musical written by Ben Elton and featuring the classic songs of legendary band Queen – Edinburgh Playhouse, 18–22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA – www.edinburghplayhouse.org.uk
  • Take a look around the  BP Portrait Award (12 Dec 09 – 21 Feb 10) – This year the Dean Gallery puts on the popular contemporary portrait exhibition of 56 finalists, due to the temporary closure of the Portrait Gallery – Dean Gallery, 73 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DS – www.nationalgalleries.org.  From intimate and personal images of friends and family to revealing portraits of celebrity sitters, this exhibition presents a variety of styles and approaches that illustrate the vitality of contemporary portrait painting.


  • See  Robinson Crusoe & The Caribbean Pirates on until 17 Jan 10 – The King’s Theatre festive pantomime, fun for all the family – King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9LQ – www.eft.co.uk

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After all the indulgence of Christmas eating, this gorgeously yummy recipe has it all – wonderfully nutritious, crammed full of detox goodness, deliciously tasty, filling and warm on these winter days, and very healthy on the waist line! 

So if like me, you’ve made personal promises about easing up a little on the full fat cream, christmas cake, chocolates, wine….the list goes on…. this recipe is for you!

…And if another of your promises for the new year includes booking a holiday in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, visit www.edinburghselfcatering.org, for a beautiful, stylish centrally located apartment in the Scottish capital.

Dash of olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 onion
1 medium potato
1 lb fresh tomatoes
dash of tomato puree
1 pint vegetable stock
quantity of skimmed milk (or for a less creamy, lower fat alternative, more vegetable stock is also fine)

What to do

  • Chop the onion and gently fry until clear. 
  • To cut down on the amount of oil you use, add a couple of tablespoons of water to stop the onions from sticking
  • Add a clove of crushed garlic, mix and fry a little longer
  • Peel and chop the potato and add
  • Roughly chop the tomatoes and add
  • Add in the bay leaf and stock
  • Simmer gently for 20 minutes
  • Allow to cool
  • Remove bay leaf
  • Blend until smooth
  • Add milk  or more stock as desired to obtain preferred thickness
  • Reheat before serving
  • Serve with our tasty bread recipe or my children’s favourite cheese on toast croutons!

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    The current wintry weather reminds me of a blizzardy family walk we took in the Pentlands whilst staying in Edinburgh. 

    The Pentland hills lie just south of Edinburgh (about half a mile from the ring road). They are suitable at any time of year for vigorous walks and mountain biking. You often see paragliders hanging on the thermals and there is even an artificial ski  slope  – open all year round.

    On the occasion that we went for this walk – just into the new year, we were well togged up for the weather and took a sledge. The snow and wind was so strong that we didn’t venture very far – but we had plenty of sledging in these ideal conditions. We also met a herd of wild horses who came to us for some attention – which they received in abundance although I guess they might have been a bit more chuffed if we’d brought them something to eat!

    Pentland Ponies!

    For further information about walks in the Pentland hills and other activities around Edinburgh check the Edinburgh activities page at www.edinburghselfcatering.org

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    From breathtaking and thought provoking culture to stunning skylines, sandy beaches, festivals and fireworks – the city of Edinburgh has it all.  For a holiday in Edinburgh visit www.edinburghselfcatering.org.

    Valerie Gillies is an internationally known poet of much acclaim. She lives in the beautiful Scottish capital.

    She was the Edinburgh Maker, poet laureate to the city, 2005 – 2008, and for those unfamiliar with her work, you may enjoy her poem dedicated to this special city.

    To Edinburgh

    Stone above storms, you rear upon the ridge:
    we live on your back, its crag-and-tail,

    spires and tenements stacked on your spine,
    the castle and the palace linked by one rope.

    A spatchcocked town,
    the ribcage split open like a skellie, a kipper, a guttit haddie.

    We wander through your windy mazes,
    all our voices are flags on the high street.

    From the sky’s edge to the grey firth
    we are the city, you are within us.

    Each crooked close and wynd is a busy cut
    on the crowded mile that takes us home

    in eden Edinburgh, centred on the rock,
    our city with your seven hills and heavens.

    For beautifully stylish, modern accomodation in Central Edinburgh visit http://www.edinburghselfcatering.org

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    Roasted root vegetables make a great accompaniment to any meal, and they are at their seasonal best round about now.  Great with roast beef or turkey, roasted roots also go well with traditional Scottish Haggis. 

    And for all things Scotland visit www.edinburghselfcatering.org.  Here you can find great accommodation in the heart of Edinburgh, along with lots of ideas for things to do and see during your stay.

    Selection of root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, swede, turnip, red onion etc
    1 clove of garlic
    Freshly ground salt and pepper
    Sprigs of fresh rosemary
    Olive oil


    • Peel all the vegetables and garlic
    • Chop vegetables into chunks and crush the garlic
    • Mix the rosemary, olive oil and garlic together
    • Pour over the vegetables and mix well
    • Leave for a while for oil to soak into the vegetables
    • Put into a roasting dish and roast for 45 mins at 200 C

    And for a slightly sweeter touch, you can also drizzle with a little honey before roasting.

    For a different twist I combine them with cheese sauce and put in a lasagne, and this has become a bit of a favourite with my children.

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    For a New Year Holiday Break in one of Britain’s most beautiful cities visit www.edinburghselfcatering.org

    Mince pies are one of the true tastes of Christmas, but if you only ever eat mass-produced ones, they are generally bland and pretty disappointing. 

    This recipe is my very favorite…and I have tried a few.  ..And the secret is all in the pastry.  Handed down to me by a dear farming lady, who is famous locally for her fantastic home cooked fayre, follow a few easy steps to get fabulous results. 

     This recipe makes between 28 and 36 (depending on how thick you like your pastry).  But if you have too much pastry for one baking session, you can put any left over into a bag and freeze for later use. 

    …But be warned these mince pies are so delicious you will never have enough.  I made 30 yesterday and have only 5 left – I should however point out that I didn’t actually eat them all myself, but did give a fair few away to friend and neighbours!

    1/2 lb self-raising flour
    1/2 lb plain flour
    1/2 lb butter (preferably at room temperature)
    3 oz caster sugar
    2 oz lard or margarine (preferably at room temperature)
    2 egg yolks
    2 tbsp fresh orange juice
    Around 500g of good quality mince meat


    1. Mix flour and sugar together in a large bowl
    2. Rub diced cubes of margarine and butter into the flour sugar mix, until the consistency is like bread crumbs
    3. Mix the egg yolks and fresh orange juice together, then add to the bowl of dry ingredients
    4. Mix together and form a ball of pastry with your hands
    5. Wrap the pastry in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes
    6. Roll out the pastry onto a floured surface
    7. With pastry cutters, cut an equal number of large and slightly smaller circles for the mince pie bases and lids
    8. Grease a baking tray with butter
    9. Put mince pie bases into the baking tray
    10. Add good quality mincemeat, but don’t overfill
    11. Lightly dampen the edges of the pastry bases using a brush dipped in water
    12. Press the lids securely on, taking care to seal the lids to the bases
    13. With a pointed knife make two small cuts into the centre of each mince pie lid to act as a vent
    14. Brush lightly with milk
    15. Cook 175 C for 15 to 20 min
    16. Place on a baking tray to cool
    17. Dust with icing sugar 
    18. Store in an air tight container for later or alternatively, if you are like me, eat NOW!

    And if whilst munching your mince pie and drinking a glass of something by the fire, your thoughts drift to holiday plans for the new year, visit www.edinburghselfcatering.org.


    Stylish modern accommodation for up to 6 people with everything you need for a very comfortable stay


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    I had time during a quick visit to Edinburgh this week to visit the Queen’s Gallery at Holyrood palace. It’s just 5 minutes walk from Abbey Arc  holiday apartment.

    I was rewarded by a fantastic exhibition of photographs from the ill fated expeditions to the South Pole of Scott and Shackleton. The photographs were taken by Herbert Ponting  and Frank Hurley. Among the most atmospheric are shots of  The Endurance, Shackleon’s sailing ship which was gradually crushed by the force of the ice build up during the winter.

    The exhibition is a real treat and runs to the end of April.

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