Dinners at Woodcroft have come a long way since this ready meal...haha!
I bought Woodcroft on 22nd April 2017 and spent a year renovating it from top to toe. I'll do a blog on that to show you the journey. For now I wanted to let any readers know where my food inspiration comes from as many guests have asked.
My Mum, Sandra, is a great cook and as far as I can remember she has always done home cooking. Fast food for us as a family of four was a chicken kieve, an oven baked potato and tinned sweetcorn, the tin with the Green Giant on it. That was a bit of advertising that was, as I still remember the advert sing along. We used to eat this in the living room, a Friday treat not to be at the table with elbows off, watching Catch Phrase on the 4 channel TV. I thought it was such naughty food as I didn't really know what junk food was and for that I am grateful to my Mum. Mum always cooked from scratch, I'm not sure if my Granny was a good cook, certainly a good baker, but I think my Mum just picked it up. She would always get good produce from the butcher, fish monger, green grocers. My brother also had a lot of reactions to lots of E numbers that were in ready meals, tins and packets of food back then so I suppose this is where it may have started from, Mum doing everything from scratch. It's not a problem now-a-days as everyone is so health conscious and demand that producers and supermarkets state clearly what is in food.
I must have done bits and bobs of cooking at School in the Home Economics class but I can't really remember. I do remember being obsessed with Delia at Christmas, that is when the start of Christmas was, when Delia Smith was on the telly making her chocolate yule log, not that I liked yule log! It just felt all festive and I think that's where it all started. I would watch more cooking programmes.
My first proper cooking memory was when I was a teenager and my Mum having friends for dinner. I said that I wanted to do all the prep for her to make this easier for her, so she could spend more time with her friends. Delia must have done this on one of her shows as I got it from somewhere and I certainly didn't read about it as I hated reading when I was younger, I was so slow and couldn't remember anything I'd read. So, I made salmon fillets paupiette with julienne of carrots, ginger and garlic, for the main and Mum probably had a pot of new potatoes and some other veg. I also had a starter of a tray of filo pasty parcels filled with prawns and a little spring onion ribbon. Back then, and I was only about 12, it looked pretty good.
Anyway, after that I got a job as a dishwasher porter, really the job was called a 'scrubber', at Lairhillock or Lariy's as we called it, which back when I was young was 'thee' place to be. It had a restaurant and a snug lounge restaurant. I eventually worked in both as a waitress but not before I learned how to clear plates and be shouted at by the chefs. I loved it, earning my own money. I eventually got asked to waitress and the manageress at the time was so strict!! I'm sure she all made us all cry at one point as her standards were so high, and sometimes felt unreachable. You had to practice clearing a table, as much as you could in as few trips as possible, without spilling anything. It was all about not bothering the diners any more than you had to. Remember the specials without having to look at your pad, and if you had to come back and look at the board, well...that wasn't good! I can honestly say that this is where my standards were set. I was so lucky to have such a high benchmark as this is what I fall back on all the time. Even when I'm setting the table at Woodcroft I have a wee giggle every now and then as I think back to Lariy times. I tried to recreate dishes that were on the menu, the one that I have even had on my menu at Woodcroft was 'Chicken Ecosse'. It's such a retro name that it's more commonly called Balmoral chicken. A chicken breast stuffed with a wee bit of haggis with a whisky cream sauce. I now do a Hebridean Chicken, where the haggis is replaced with Stornaway black pudding. It's delish.
After Lairhillock and my studies, I did as most students do and went travelling. I went to Australia and got a job at The Manly Pier Restaurant and later at the Manly Deli, both of which I have revisted after I returned home and then went back to on holiday in later years. Anyway, the restaurant had some fabulous sea food dishes and the deli was great for amazing fresh produce and fab sandwiches, salads and pasta. NOT like our crappy sandwiches that you used to get, and still do, from the garage as us North Easterns say (petrol station), you know the ones where the filling is shoved in the centre so when it's cut and presented in the box it looks like it's got lots of filling, but they are also mayonnaise based. Everything has mayonnaise!! I remember being amazed in the Deli that none of there sandwiches had mayonnaise and they had things like wraps, different hams and cheeses, flat breads, focaccia. Amazing, I was in heaven. Then there was the coffee......
So when I returned to the UK I lived in Surrey and West Sussex, England and worked most of the time in London. So being older and going out to restaurants and experiencing some of the best down South, coupled with my early years, I just fell in love with food and started to cook all the time, throw lavish dinner parties with 4 or 5 courses to test myself.
After a 15 year career in HR and employment law and getting divorced I decided to move back to Scotland, Perth, 70 minutes from my Mum and Dad's house. I started the guest house thinking I would do dinners for guests but couldn't imagine how popular they would be, and now I often cook for guests and their friends. I thoroughly enjoy thinking of things for my menu. I can have an extensive menu as I cook to order, in that I get a couple of days notice from guests so can go and source what I need. I'm also very lucky in that my husband, Alick, is the Estate Manager at a Perthshire Estate so he often can source wild game, which guests love. I have wild game terrine and often do Venison Chateaubriand. Alick is from Orkney and he also has a passion for food, particular the field to plate of it all, so we have a lot in common that way. I must tell you about the time he ask me to marry him when we were slaking for wild red deer....another time. Anyway, that's it for now, hope that's put a bit of light onto where my love for food comes from.