Sunday, 17 April 2011

Mellerstain & Bannock

Hi all,
Today is the last day of our Peebles holiday in the Scottish Borders, and we are going to visit another stately home. Mellerstain House is a huge mansion situation about 7 miles North of Kelso, which is probably one of the nicest towns in the Border region.
It was raining when we got to Mellerstain House, so we took our time and enjoyed the many fine paintings and the ornate and colourful, classical plasterwork.Much of the interior work was done by Robert Adams in the eighteenth century and it's a credit to the various generations that have lived there since, that they didn't get rid of it in an effort to stay with fashion.The gardens at Mellerstain are a bit on the formal side for us so seeing as it was raining we didn't explore them as thoroughly as we would have otherwise done.
All in all Mellerstain House was a pleasant place and well worth a visit.
After leaving Mellerstain we decided to have a look around Kelso, a lovely town set admist some beautiful secenary. We parked in the big cobbled square, had our lunch in a pub a few feet away and were then spoilt for choice by the big range of shops. I even found a lovely little bakers that sold Selkirk bannocks.
In my last post I mentioned that the bannock is one of my favourite cakes, but sadly they are not readily available, even in Scotland. A Selkirk Bannock is a big rich fruit loaf that always reminds me of a curling stone. It is, in fact, a great big bun that is stuffed to bursting with raisins.
Have you ever bought a bun, and when you cut it open to butter it, you find that the fruit is few and far between. Well a Selkirk bannock is the opposite, when you cut it open it is just a mass of juicy rains and you wonder at what is holding the whole thing together. My mouth is watering now, just at the thought of it.
My introduction to the Selkirk bannock came when I was on holiday in Wooler which is just over the border in Northumberland. I bought one at the beginning of our holiday and it lasted me a week even though I had two huge pieces every night. So impresssed was I with the bannock that we called into the same village bakers to get one to take home with us. The shop had only just opened when we arrived, so you can imagine my disappointment when I looked in the window and saw that he didn't have a singkle Selkirk bannock on display. There was a Montrose Bannock, but that wasn't what I was after. Anyway, I decided to go in and ask the baker if he had any Selkirk bannocks out the back.
"No," he said, "but you could have a Montrose bannock, it's just the same."
"Sorry," I said, "But I like the Selkirk bannock and that's what I'd got my mind set on."
However, he was very insistent and kept pushing me to take a Montrose Bannock.
"Look sir, I guarantee that you will not be able to tell the difference between a Montrose bannock and a Selkirk bannock."
"How can you be so sure says I."
"Because I get up at four o'clock every morning and make the bloody things and I call them what I want. I'll stick one of my Selkirk Bannock stickers on it if you want, but it won't taste any different," he said cheerfully.
I guess this was his attempt at a marketing strategy called branding, but we won't go into that now. Needless to say the Montrose bannock tasted just like the one I'd been eating all week.
So it was late on the Friday afternoon that we left Kelso and followed the River Tweed, which had by now become a familiar friend, back to Peebles. We'd had a great week and had a bannock in the boot, life doesn't get much better than that.
By the way, if anybody knows any baker in Staffordshire that make Selkirk bannocks I'd love to find out where.
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