greek pie

Are you having Christmas locally?

This year I have set myself a challenge to not buy any Christmas presents online. With retail units closing every day this is more important to me than ever before. Amazon won’t pay my neighbours wages, a local business will. In fact, Amazon and co will just lead to more shops in the area closing down. Money being spent locally is good for our local economy, money not spent locally pulls it out of the circle. I can’t imagine Inverness with no shops, what a horrible thought. Not to mention the hassle of returning things bought online, or forgetting to return them in my case and ending out of pocket. Many local businesses also support charities in the area such as food banks so it is a win all round. Last but not least, I love the feel good factor of using a small shop- it is good for my soul.

As well as presents, there is food to consider. During lockdown we made a point of meal planning around what was in the fridge instead of letting it rot so we started spending our food money better. We started using farm shops and thinking more about food miles, seasonality and flavour than before. Since getting back into the work and school routine we haven’t been as good with this but it has definitely changed our shopping habits for the positive. I wanted to share some of the independent businesses that you can buy presents and food for the festive period.

I have been picking up gifts when food shopping to avoid going to so many places. For instance, my local farm shop in Inshes, the Cow Shed at Druid Temple Farm, has local fruit and veg as well as their own meat, locally baked bread and cakes, eggs and milk alongside boozy gifts, charcuterie, hampers and more. Open on Saturdays (and some Sundays in December) they have been a fabulous addition to our community.

Druid Temple sell my favourite Bogrow charcuterie…try the fennel salami and N’duja sausage, you will not regret it. Bogrow are based in Tain but they go to many food markets and events or they can post out some products – perfect for Christmas presents.

Another company that we will definitely be using is Connage cheese pantry in Ardersier. Their cheese room is packed full ready for you to choose your cheeseboard offerings and the staff are really helpful.

Every week you will find an update from Black Isle Brewing co on their Instagram about what organic produce they’ll have in the farm shop. Their beetroot is my favourite and obviously we always end up getting some beer when we are up. Spider Monkey is my new favourite.

Local events are another way of finding gifts and food such as the one at Ross County football ground this weekend. Businesses like Culbokie Cake Fairies and Loch Ness Honey will bring the food alongside artists and trades like Jack Spowart Illustration.

You may also have heard about Farm Ness, a pop up past Torvean Golf Club with a small farm/gift shop and outdoor cafe with tractor toys for the kids. Don’t forget your jacket and gloves.

Bad Girl Bakery in Muir of Ord can do your Christmas baking for you if you are working on Christmas Eve like I am. They are doing a selection of items like layer cakes, tray bakes and Christmas cupcakes for Christmas snacking at its finest.

If you are not a fan of christmas cake on the 25th you could get an ice-cream cake instead from Mieles. And I’m sure you’ll see them near you as they tour the local area. On the subject of Mieles – have you tried their waffles? Delicious.

I avoid supermarket fish counters since watching a documentary a few years ago about re-labelling products. And why would I need them anyway when we have a great fishmonger in the Victorian market, Duncan Frasers. We got deliveries during lockdown, a service they still offer. They have a great selection on the counter and we always keep a bag of their frozen prawns in our freezer for quick pastas and risottos. They also sell game if you get bored of turkey. Closed on Mondays.

Or if you are out Smithton way you can use Fish n Collect to get your fresh fish from the Redshank Catering Co. Along with these there are several fish Van’s like Bells Seafood, Mark’s Fresh Fish and RK Shellfish that do routes around Inverness and surrounding.

Woodwinters will be providing much of our Christmas tipples as they have done in the past. This little shop in Church Street has a large wine and spirit selection, handy for gifts and day drinking alike. If you are torn between gins or clueless about which whisky to get as a gift ask the staff, they haven’t failed me yet.

Black Isle Berries helped us this summer when lockdown was easing. Picking berries was a lovely family activity and the shop is so well stocked. Heaps of veg, fruit, jams, meat etc as well as well made coffee. They had flour when it was hard to get so kept us in sourdough. Now they have the goods to get through winter too and are open until 6pm on the 24th.

In between all of the meat fest, I’ll be ordering some spinach and feta pies from Trome! They are lovely with a salad and the baklava from there is 10/10. He is based in Milton of Leys for collection or delivery. In the absence of a work night out this year we will be treating ourselves to a Trome lunch delivered (to eat separately but it’s something!).

I can remember as a young child going into Duncan Fraser butchers on Queensgate and seeing the cheery trademark statue. Now my daughter says hello to him when we go in, before chatting to all of the staff! This is a true traditional Inverness shop and I love it.

I find that products like chicken go further in a meal from the butcher as they aren’t full of water so even although the initial outlay is more I use less.

If you live in the south-east of Sneck you will find A&I butchers working hard to supply meat, veg and pies.

As I mentioned earlier there is also Druid Temple for meat and I recently tried beef from Cairnurenan Croft, a farm in Muir of Ord, and I was enthused to see the passion that goes into giving the animals a happy life. They sell meat boxes that will keep you stocked up over the festive period.

If you live in or around Nairn then One One Two on the Brae has reopened and they have reinvented the place. They now have a retail side with more than before and some tasty looking offerings to takeaway.

I get excited going into the Drawing Room gift shop in Crown as there are so many nice things to choose from. They have a dedicated child area that is good for newborn gifts and beyond, as well as gorgeous scars, jewellery, mugs, purses etc. A little late but they have beautiful Christmas decorations.

My colleague recently told me about Above The Flame Candle Co. They are a local company selling beautiful products and I might just buy myself one for Christmas.

I can’t miss out Peat jewellery. I found this designer in the Highland Farm Cafe and the jewellery is so wearable – classy and stylish. The fact that it is made locally is a massive bonus.

Most of the farm shops mentioned sell gifts such as alcohol, socks, toys, sweet treats, decorations so perfect for stocking fillers.

I find that the best way to find out when events are on or what new products places have is by following them on social media. Maybe even share a post if it is a product you really like. They might get one extra sale from your share. And boy will they be grateful for it.

Trome! Greek Food in the Highlands

Greek food is possibly my favourite type of food, and Greece is definitely one of my favourite places in the world. I used to try different holiday locations every time but now I struggle to see past going back to Kassiopi. The culture, the warmth of Greek hospitality, beautiful surroundings and a pile of Greek restaurants so proud to serve you dishes that they were brought up on… it’s hard not to fall in love. And now we have lots of memories here, even miss S asks to go back and she’s only 4. I like to think that my trip there while I was pregnant is why she likes olives so much.

Kassiopi

So when Kostas, the owner of Trome! (Pronounced Trom-eh), got in touch I was excited about trying the Greek pies. Kostas used lockdown to start a business that he is passionate about & when I asked him if he used to be a chef he gave a little smile and told me no but that he had been taught to cook from a young age. He didn’t even need to explain much, I could picture the scene with everyone helping and learning in the kitchen. Trome! has been his vision since his family relocated to Inverness four years ago. The pies are made by small local producers in Greece that he knows and can be bought freshly cooked or frozen. Trome means ‘let’s eat’ in Greek & the large portions meant that I really ate.

The delivery arrived just before lunch & was piping hot so I had the cheese pie (£4) with some lettuce and tomato. A mix of feta and mizithra cheeses in a bougatsa (multiple layers of stretched thin phyllo pastry), this is the most traditional pie and one that Greeks often have for breakfast or brunch. As a big feta fan this was right up my street. The pastry had a crunch that you never get over here with bakes and the filling was very cheesy. I had it with a Starbucks iced coffee (£2.20) that arrived with it because cold coffee is a big thing over there. I was fully transporting myself.

Cheese Pie

The pie that I was most looking forward to was Spanakopita (£4) – full of greens like spinach, and feta cheese. This is one that I have definitely had as part of a family lunch in Kassi. It tasted so authentic and wasn’t changed for British tastes – yes! Again, the pastry had a nice crispness and the filling was fresh with the slight tang and creaminess of the feta. I need to order more already!

We had it with some salads and the cheese and ham pie (£4) for dinner. This pie was also well balanced with ham, swiss cheese and some tomato sauce within that ever crisp pastry. The tomato sauce really helps to balance out the richness and I think that the pie would be nice with a pot of blitzed up tomato and herbs sauce on the side.

Spinach pie & cheese and ham pie with my green bean and prosciutto salad & my standard-ish salad with fresh beetroot and olive oil/oregano dressing

When I talk of food transporting me places, Baklava can do it in one mouthful. I rarely eat it outside of Greece so I was eager to dig in. I was messaging my sister in-law at the time (we often go to Kassi as a family) and received a video of my brother in-law in return, sad and jealous that they don’t live in Inverness to get some! They had good reason to be sad because the baklava (£4.50) was heavenly. No doubt that I’ll be ordering this again. You need a sweet tooth for baklava, with the syrupy honey flowing between layers of phyllo pastry and crunchy bits of nuts with cinnamon peeking through. At £4.50 a portion it is not inexpensive but not more than you’d pay over there. But if you like baklava then I am fairly confident that you’ll be happy with this one.

Baklava, which I ate straight out of the box. It was calling me!

It was a lovely sunny day on Thursday so we decided to have a picnic in Farr. This was the perfect opportunity to have the last savoury pie- gruyere. We heated it up in the oven before leaving so the cheese was nice and gooey. It had lots of gruyere so was strongly flavoured and one for a real cheese lover. The pastry had a nice buttery taste and I would serve it with a dressed salad to cut through the richness. It was eaten up before the rest of the picnic so that is always a good sign.

Gruyere Pie
Picnic spot

The final part of my pastry heavy week was a custard pie known as Bougatsa in Greece. Probably the most traditional pie over there and I had three friends messaging me about it the day I posted a photo on social media. This pie isn’t healthy but no dessert is so I just embraced it. Next time I get this pie for people coming over I might make a cherry compote or something to go with it. It is £4.50 a portion but I’d only eat half anyway so to me it serves two. You could even pass it off as homemade at a dinner party if you bought a whole one.

Custard Pie

If you are thinking about ordering for work they also sell other soft drinks. No doubt we’ll be ordering one day in work soon. Trome! sell whole frozen pies for £15-16.50 that serve 4-6 people. But if the portion sizes are the same as the individual portions then they would serve more. Now that lockdown is starting to open up it could be good for family get togethers (soon), especially if your family are Greece fans but can’t go this year. Bring Greece to you!

Please note: Kostas at Trome! very kindly gave me a complimentary order so that I could try the products for an honest review. It was reassuring that he was happy to do it for an honest review as I am always clear when offered gifts that I won’t lie and that scares some places off. Luckily the products were delicious so thank you Kostas for introducing me to a welcome new business in Inverness.

https://trome.co.uk/