By Helen Cross

In the spotlight with...Rebecca McEwen, Arnprior Farm

Switching from a career in television and film as a prop buyer to growing pumpkins is not your average career path. However, it’s a path which Rebecca McEwen has followed and made a huge success, along with her husband Duncan on the family farm in Stirlingshire. This month the queen of pumpkins shares with us the future plans for Arnprior Farm and what she would serve up for dinner at her dream Christmas party.

1. In three words sum up the ethos of Arnprior Farm?

Real farm fun.

2. Who are all the key people working behind the scenes?

Duncan, my husband who came up with the idea of diversifying after being a Forth Valley monitor farm. He manages our diversifications alongside myself, as well as running the core part of the farm with his dad, which is sheep and arable. His parents Duncan and Anne are key figures, and are fully involved in the business.

3. Tell us a little bit about the history of the farm and what are your main focuses?

Duncan’s family have been at Arnprior since the 1930s. the farm was beef, sheep and arable up until 2015, then we sold off our cattle, increased sheep numbers, and started diversifying into pumpkins. Our main focus is split between the sheep and diversifications. We lamb 1200 sheep in the spring, where we offer a 'lambing experience'. Our pumpkins are our focus in the autumn, and in 2019 we will be adding our new diversification onto the farm which is glamping pods and an indoor heated swimming pool.

4. How has the farm evolved and why?

After being the Forth Valley monitor farm, it really made us dissect our business. At the time this was quite daunting, but it made us look at the pros and cons of our current system. We realised that beef cattle were not profitable enough on our farm, and that sheep worked better. It also made us look at our location, and try and turn the disadvantage of living on a busy road, into an advantage. This is what started the idea of a pick your own pumpkin patch.

5. What are the main challenges?

Weather every time. It affects every aspect of our business, from the sheep, to the crops, and the pumpkins.

6. What have been your key achievements?

Creating a pumpkin patch that we have become really proud of. We began four years ago with 300 plants, and car parking spaces for 10 cars. We now grow four acres, with a parking area for a lot more cars. I feel really proud when I see families return year on year and making Arnprior part of their family tradition.

7. Before farming took over your life and you met Duncan what were you doing?

I am from a farm in south-west scotland, and was always encouraged to be out and about on the farm growing up. After schoolI went to Edinburgh to study media, and then went on to work in the art department on TV and film. I was a prop buyer, sourcing props for various Scottish productions from Monarch of the Glen to River City.

8. What are your plans for the future?

Our exciting plans for 2019 are literally about to kick off. We are about to start building our indoor swimming pool and four glamping pods. The pool will be for community use, as well as our glamping pod guests. We hope to open June 2019.

9. What five Scottish food and drink products would you like to find in your Christmas stocking?

A bottle of Harris gin and Colonsay gin, Gloagburn oatcakes, Arran oak smoked cheese truckle and finally Cream of Galloway caramel shortbread ice cream.

10. What would be on the menu of your fantasy Christmas dinner and dead or alive which five famous faces would you invite?

Smoked salmon for starters, turkey, with lashings of bread sauce (my favourite part of Christmas) along with smoked ham, lots of chipolatas wrapped in bacon, yummy cranberry sauce, brussels tossed in pancetta and pine nuts, and good old roasties! My Mum's profiteroles for dessert.

It’s a hard one to choose famous faces, but I think I'd have to choose a band, as they would be good for a sing song after the meal. Coldplay would be good!

Recipe of the month... Showstopper Spiced Parsnip Christmas Cake

If you’re not a fan of the traditional Christmas fruit cake or just want to break from the norm and mix things up a little, then the queen of cakes at Three Sisters Bake have come up with a fabulous alternative. Their spiced parsnip cake is guaranteed to take centre stage on your festive dining table this year.

6 Eggs

360 g Rapeseed oil

180 g Full fat milk

600 g Soft light Brown sugar

300 g Strong wholemeal flour

300 g Self raising flour

0.5 teaspoon Salt

2 teaspoons Baking powder

1.5 teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda

3 tablespoons Ground Ginger

750 g Grated parsnip

65 g Crystalised ginger, chopped into bits

100 g Pecan pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 170 C. Grease and line four 9” tins.

2. Add the eggs, oil, milk and sugar to a mixing bowl and beat for about 3 minutes. The mixture should look foamy.

3. In a large bowl weigh out the strong wholemeal flour, sift in the self raising, add salt, baking power, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the foamy egg mixture. Mix for 1 minute on a slow speed.

5. Add the grated parsnip, crystallised ginger and pecans and mix just until combined.

6. Divide between the four tins.

7. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

For the buttercream:

600 g Graham’s unsalted butter

1800 g of icing sugar

180 g of whole milk

4 g of vanilla paste

1. Beat the butter separately until nice and creamy.

2. Add half the icing sugar. Beat.

3. Add half the icing sugar and vanilla paste. Beat

4. Pour milk in slowly and continue to beat until you have a fluffy buttercream.

To put together the cake:

1 portion of vanilla paste buttercream as above.

1 jar of lemon curd

4 parsnip sponges

1. Stack the sponges one on top of each other, applying a layer of buttercream between each.

2. Ice the top and sides of the cake with a ‘crumb coat’ leave in the fridge to set

3. Cover with 1 more layer of buttercream to achieve the ‘nearly naked’ finish.

4. Decorate using seasonal fruit, flowers and herbs. You could also add mini gingerbread men, pine cones, grystalised ginger, or christmas sweeties!


The award winning Garden Shed Gin is a must for any gin lover this Christmas. Not only does the bottle look great but it’s distinctive taste has been one of my favourites this year. Made in Scotland the recipe for this classic London dry style gin was created from a garden in Glasgow using a blend of 13 botanicals including homegrown blackberries, dandelion root and lavender. Inspired by local ingredients, The Garden Shed Drinks Company also tackles important environmental issues and supports the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Trees4Scotland.(

For those who really appreciate good bread and butter then I have the perfect read for their Christmas stocking. These two humble but nonetheless sublime foods are celebrated in the glorious cookbook Bread & Butter by Richard Snapes, Grant Harrington and Eve Hemingway. As well as delving into the history and culture of the bread and butter partnership, the recipes will have you licking your lips as you turn each page. Who could resist sourdough treacle tart or Swedish cinnamon buns?! (Published by Quadrille, £22)

Looking to whisk someone away for a perfect weekend escape with great food? The Plough Inn, in Lilliesleaf, near Melrose, is your answer. Just off the beaten track in the heart of the Scottish Borders this inn with beautiful rooms delivers top class food and hospitality in a relaxed setting and oozes charm and personality throughout. (