Monday 21 September 2020

#051 Recreating The Dog Stone

The Dog Stone, situated on the slopes of Kinder Scout, near Cluther Rocks. 

Quern stones found on the site date usage of the grit stone back to at least the Iron Age. Several abandoned round mill stones are also easily found. Taking a moment to view their recumbent pose in the landscape, there was once a day when it was decided that there was no longer a need for them. 

Photo credit: Rob Lowton

Perhaps the mason's foreman brought the message while they were working. The clinking sound of chisel on stone stopped forever. The stonemasons packed their tools away and walked off the hill, calling in at one of Hayfield's many pubs to contemplate how to feed their family while they sought further employment. Or maybe, they assembled one morning at the edge of the village ready to hike up to the quarry, only to be told the news. 

Photo credit: Rob Lowton

The Dog Stone, is a local enigma. It has a cryptic inscription and an etching of a dog's image a few inches across. The form of the dog, with pointed ears, thick tail, strong jaw, and robust frame could be an Alsatian or similar breed. 

The image of the dog itself could be explained as the idle lunchtime doodle of a stone mason. However the inscription adds a layer of complexity to interpretation. and opens the possibility that the etching is more than a mason's lament to his departed loyal companion. There has been speculation that the Dog Stone dates back to mediaeval times.

The inscription can be decoded using a version of Pigpen Cypher. The earliest forms of Pigpen date back to the 1500's but use only square grids to decode letters. In 1531, German polymath and theologian, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, wrote Three Books Of Occult Philosophy in which he describes a cipher which would eventually be called the Rosicrucian cipher.

The Freemasons began to use the Rosicrucian Cipher and then Pigpen. They are perhaps the most famous and prolific users, which is why it is often referred to as the Freemason's Cipher. There are still surviving examples of letters written using the cipher from the 16th Century. It can also be found on Masonic medals, certificates, tokens and gravestones.


Standard (masonic) pigpen decoding of The Dog Stone yields nothing but apparent gibberish. 

However, the Grid,X,Grid,X version reveals the following...

"See may be small but she is of the best green stone"

Note the first word. Is this a misspelling of 'she' before the mason corrected the mistake later the encryption? Or, is the word 'see' intentional? 

Underneath the Pigpen Cipher is another set of symbols: A linked triangle, square and circle. Other masonic imagery incorporates simplified stylised set square and dividers, combined into a square and bounded by an overlaid circle. Metaphorically, 'squaring the circle'.

Then while I was researching the linked geometric shapes, the following image of a silver ring popped up on Amazon with product description stating: The triangle is symbolic of the concept of time with past, present and future, spirit, the holy trinity, ancient wisdom. The square represents the earth and being stable. The circle represents things that are spiritual and sacred in nature. 

Perhaps then, the mason is expressing his connection to the landscape and its materials. Up on the high shade less slopes of Kinder, in rain, hail and inescapable sun, his life was inextricably bound to the weather and seasons. He may not have experienced this in the liberal terms, which we today think of as spiritual. More likely it was as he gave thanks and honor to his omnipotent God the creator and provider.

There is also a geoache at The Dog Stone. It makes a fun 'target' for navigation training sessions. I've shared the pleasure of finding this special place with many clients, friends and family...a 'Kinder Surprise'.

There are other rock markings on Kinder. But none discovered thus far date back to the prehistoric cup and ring symbols of the Neolithic and Bronze Age. 

The lesser known incongruous 'Aztec' marks are without precedent in the United Kingdom. Archaeologists consider the image to be old but not ancient. 

Aztec Rock - photo credit Chris Eardley

I was inspired to recreate the Dog Stone on a nice slab of Orcadian sand stone, for my Ancient Stones hand crafted in Hayfield collection. The flat, fine grain surface would take take the etching and the overall proportions were well suited.

Thursday 10 September 2020

#050 A taste of Iceland - Part 2

In part 2 of our Icelandic inspired culinary adventure, we revisit a couple of Þrír frakkar specials as well as including a couple of tasty meals which can be put together in less than half an hour. 

Perfect after a day's gravel trail driving along the ghost road.

Or leisurely stroll through the woodland park to the Perlan atop of Öskjuhlíð hill

Heilsteikt Þorskflök með rækjum “gratin”
Panfried fillet of Plaice with shrimp “gratin “
Shrimp Gratin Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
30 uncooked peeled & divided shrimp
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 onion thinly sliced
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground nutmeg

1) Preheat oven to 175degC
2) Heat oil and butter in skillet, melt, reduce heat to medium, whisk in flour, stir until thick paste, 5 mins.
3) Gradually whisk in milk and simmer. Cook and stir until sauce is thick and smooth. 5-10 mins.
4) Season with nutmeg (or ground pepper) and salt.
5) Plate up panfried cod. Ladle shrimp gratin sauce on top. Cover with cheddar, add onion. Top with breadcrumbs and parmesan. Place under a medium heat grill until cheese gently melts and breadcrumbs turn golden, but not burnt.
6) Add your choice of vegetables and serve.

Grillsteikt Þorskflök á mildri sinnepssósu
Grilled fillet of Cod on mild mustard sauce

Ingredients for mild mustard sauce (Quick recipe):
1 cup double cream
1/2 cup Dijon mustard (to taste)
Pinch of ground white pepper
Salt (to taste)

1) Mix cream, mustard and pepper on low heat
2) Simmer stir and season
3) Pour onto warm plate, place grilled cod on top.
4) Add your choice of vegetables and serve.

Ingredients for mild mustard sauce (Long recipe):
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt & pepper
Chopped parsley

1) Melt butter, low heat, add mustard, 30 seconds
2) Add flour and stir in until smooth and slight change in colour
3) Add milk, slowly and stir until incorporated using a whisk, avoid lumps
4) If sauce tastes slightly floury, it hasn't finished cooking, continue simmering.
5) Pour onto warm plate, place grilled cod on top.
6) Add your choice of vegetables and serve.

Pan seared salmon on cauliflower mash
1 lb salmon fillet
1/2 large head cauliflower, chopped into florets
2 medium potatoes, peeled, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 cup whole milk
2 - 4oz unsalted butter
Salt & pepper
6 Cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Handful pine nuts (optional)
2 lemon slices (optional)

1) Boil potatoes and cauliflower until very tender. Drain and return to the pot.
2) Add milk, butter, salt and pepper, mash until smooth. Beat with a spoon until it has a whipped texture.
3) Blend cherry tomatoes and pine nuts. Or just gently pan fry the tomatoes.
4) Heat frying pan and sear salmon.
5) Plate up mash, place salmon on top.
6) Plate up tomatoes to the side.
7) Add further vegetables of your choice.

Hekla Dessert
Mount Hekla is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, known in antiquity at the gateway to Hell and folklore has persisted that witches gather on the summit during Easter. In the time of the early settlers, Hekla's more explosive eruptions caused widespread destruction and farms to be abandoned.

Inspired by the infamous volcano, this dessert is my own creation. 

I discovered the butterkissed lava bombs method by mistake. I was trying to create a caramelise for potatoes and had the pan too hot. So when the butter was added, instead of a runny coating, I ended up making the inside of a Cadbury's Crunchie bar.

Skyr unflavoured
Frozen cherries
Golden syrup
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter

1) On medium frying pan. Heat sugar until melts, stir in butter. Mixture will crisp up and cling together, making butterkissed.
2) Serve a generous scoop of skyr into bowl
3) Place defrosted cherries on top
4) Gently pour a little cherry juice on top to create the 'red lava flows'.
5) Gently add a teaspoon of golden syrup to the top for the 'super heated lava flows'
6) Crunch up the butterkissed and spinkle to the base to place the 'lava bombs'

In his book Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, Jules Verne wrote of Hekla:

Yet, people didn't leave this gruesome territory, instead they tries to reach Hekla's peak countless times until they finally succeeded. Thus depriving Hekla and her Gods of its deadly reputation.