Jacqui Robertson spent 30 years working in education as a teacher and lecturer in the Falkland Islands, Orkney and Glasgow – teaching all ages between 5 and 65! She then decided to retire and buy the Reading Lasses Bookshop Café in Wigtown, as well as running The Quirky Tiffin Company. She has never worked so hard. Ellie the dog makes her go out for walks to take ‘breaks’.
Many people tell Jacqui that having a café is their dream . . .
Jacqui says, ‘be careful what you wish for!’
Reading Lasses is known throughout Dumfries and Galloway for its delicious soups, hearty nourish bowls and spectacular cakes – all of which take their inspiration from both traditional Scottish recipes and international flavours. This is the first of three warming winter recipes Jacqui has kindly loaned Autumn Voices from the Reading Lasses kitchen, and we think these are the perfect tasty treats to help us coorie in for the winter and share a bit of hygge over a bowl or a plate with the good people in our lives.
Jacqui is extending her hospitality this winter to host a Christmas Market in the event space at the back of the café. Running in tandem with the Wigtown Book Festival’s Winter Kist, the Reading Lasses Christmas Market will have its second outing on Saturday 4th December, showcasing fantastic artists, makers and craftspeople from the region selling all sorts of wonderful hand-made and sustainable gifts, foods and decorations.
Beef & Ale Winter Stew
- 3 tbsp of sunflower oil
- 2 large, chopped onions
- 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
- 1kg of diced beef
- 3 rashers of smoked bacon with the rind removed, cut into strips
- 1 tbsp of plain flour
- 500g of passata
- 400ml of beef stock
- 150ml of dark ale (e.g., Orkney Dark Island or Sulwath Brewery’s Black Galloway)
- 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar
- 250g of carrots (either sliced or diced)
- 125g of parsnips (cut into chunks)
- 1 large leek
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
- 1 tsp of dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the diced beef and bacon and cook for 2–3 minutes on a medium heat to brown all over. Once browned, remove the beef and bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels.
Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2–3 minutes. Add the carrots, parsnips and leek to the pan, and cook over a high heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring all the time. Add the passata, stock and ale and bring to the boil, stirring until thickened, then return the beef and bacon to the pan along with the crushed garlic, red wine vinegar, oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring back to the boil.
At this stage you can either place everything into a slow cooker and cook for 6–8 hours on a low heat or alternatively, place it in a warmed casserole dish and cook in the oven at 160C (325F, Gas Mark 3) for 2–3hours or until the beef is tender.
When we serve this at Reading Lasses it’s with big chunks of crusty white bread but, of course, it could also be served with lovely creamy mashed Maris Piper potatoes!
Send us your flash submissions on our December theme:
a bit of coorie and hygge!
Are you an avid Christmas crafter? Do you run any creative festive workshops for people in your area? Do you have any special winter routines or hobbies that help you to stay cosy and navigate the chilliest months in a state of contentment? Were there any festive or winter traditions you had growing up with your family or friends? If so, we’d love you to tell us about it in a flash submission. It could be a memoir, a short story, an anecdote or a poem.
Ends on December 31st and the author of our favourite entry will win a book prize and have their submission published on the website. Entries are free.