Saturday, 31 October 2009

Sweet Garlic & Onion Chutney

For the past couple of years I have been buying an onion and garlic relish from Waitrose. I don't normally buy that many sauces/chutneys as I love making this type of thing myself. However, I had tried several onion/garlic combination and could never find a recipe that was flavoursome and packed a punch. That is until now. Its lovely with any sort of cheese or as the basis to a gravy where you want a garlicky impact. It doesn't make a great deal but what I tend to do is make several small batches at once, and if I have a partially filled jar from one batch I fill it up with the second batch and so on. I use Le Parfait style jars and seals and after fastening the clasp, I put the jars into a pan of water, heating up to boiling point and processing for 30 minutes to take any air air out of the jars, to make the preserve keep for longer. Its a very simple very tasty recipe.

It makes approximately 2 small jars


2 large white onions finely chopped
50ml olive oil
50ml white wine vinegar
300g sugar
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp turmeric
4 bulbs of garlic
salt and pepper


Heat olive oil in a heavy based pan and fry the onions until soft. Add the white wine vinegar, sugar, thyme and turmeric. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved into the mix and there are no granules left.

Peel and chop the garlic and simmer for about 20 minutes

At this point taste the chutney, if it is too sweet add a splash more vinegar and season. This chutney can be adapted to suit your own palate.

Allow to cool and then transfer to a glass jar, once opened store in the fridge.

Hot Camembert - French Style

It was a miserable damp morning here in Peterborough first thing, and then brightened up with the sun coming out this afternoon. I decided in my infinite wisdom that we were going to have a simple tea tonight,i.e. egg and home made chips, comfort food of the highest order. However, before I could achieve this I needed some more groundnut oil, which I hadn't purchased since last year (when I buy I tend to buy in bulk) so I decided that we needed the groundnut oil (the deep fat fryer I have only uses groundnut oil with the machine - when we had tried ordinary oil it had bubbled up all over and was a little dangerous to say the least. However one quick visit to Sainsbugs later and a little more shopping than planned and I came back with a selection of goodies, as well as some oil but they did not have the groundnut oil I was after, so am trying another one to see what happens with the pan. I also bought some fresh bread buns and OH was hungry so I prepared egg and bacon butties - because we had egg with these I decided that we would have one of the other items that I had purchased whilst in Sainsburys.

A little while ago my partner took me out unexpectedly for a meal and we ended up having a Camembert starter, which was lovely. We had actually asked the waitress what size the Camembert was and we were told large. When it actually came it was a mini one not a full sized one; so other half ordered another one. That starter was £8 apiece, and it was served with crusty bread, celery and relish, as I said it was delicious. So delicious that the next time I checked out Sainsburys we ended up doing our own version of the starter, which worked out a lot cheaper.

Yes I picked up some Camemberts at £2 apiece =£4. They need to be in a wooden box as you cook them in their packaging peeling the paper they are wrapped in back to allow the cheese to cook. I then bought some celery and a crusty French Stick which was about £1 for the French stick (I only used half of this) and a whole head of celery for 90pence. I then got some pickled onions, chutney and home made onion and garlic relish out of the cupboard.

I put the Camembert in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes gas mark 4 until the cheese is nice and runny, I tested that the cheese was well warm with a knife and it was hot and bubbling and even the crust of the cheese was delicious.

So for £3 each we have had a very delicious meal that we have both enjoyed. You can also serve this with mixed salad leaves, beetroot, wet walnuts, dates - a little of this and a little of that and fruit "cheese". Very tasty

Friday, 30 October 2009

Natures Bounty

The other weekend the OH came home with a surprise for me. He had, had his eye on a couple of young trees on his way backwards from fishing and when he checked them out they came up trumps and he came back with these for me.

Not many but I absolutely adore roasted chestnuts


Whilst I have been out of circulation I have been playing quite a bit in the kitchen. I have always had a problem with peaches skinning them successfully, it has always terrified me, because sometimes the skins come off and sometimes they don't. Last weekend I skinned about 40 peaches and made two very large jars of whole peaches in spiced vinegars; both flavourings slightly different and the sauce at least with both of them is extremely scrummy.

Skinning Peaches
Now back to the skinning. I have found the most successful way for me is to have a pan of boiling water on the stove and dunking each peach individually in the bubbling hot water ( I seem to have a thing about hubble bubbling at the moment! I then immediatly plunge the hot peach into a big bowl of cold iced water and start straight away with removing the skin. If it does not budge bung it back into the hot water again and repeat process. Sometimes I have to assist with a small sharp knife, but this isn't very often. Then put into a bowl of water with a teaspoon of lemon juice in to stop peaches going brown. Carry on until you have all the peaches skinned and all are in the bowl of lemony water well covered.


Five Spice Peaches
(Recipe taken from Clearly Delicious by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz
ISBN 0-7513-0090-X)


1.8 kg/4lb peaches
600ml/1 pint white wine vinegar
12 black peppercorns
5ml/1 tsp whole cloves
4 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1kg/2lb sugar

Fills one 1.15 litre/ 2 pint jar

NB: Whole spices are used in preference to ground spices, as they will give a much clearer crystal clear finish. Using ground spices will give a cloudy finish which will spoil the look of the finished product.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and individually put each peach in the hot boiling water for about 30/40 seconds - timing down to how ripe the peach is will take longer if not so ripe. Remove peaches with slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of iced water. Leave to cool then dry and drain well.

You can leave the peaches whole or you can halve them removing the stone. Halve the peaches by using the natural dimple in the top of the peach as a cutting guide. Discard the stones and the skin and set the peaches to one side.

Bring the wine vinegar to the boil with the spices add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved.

Boil the mixture until it stars to go syrupy then add the peach halves and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes to warm peaches through or until tender.

Transfer peaches to sterilised jars to within 1/2 an inch of the top. Boil up the syrup for a further 2 to 3 minutes until the syrup has slightly reduced.

Pour the syrup over the peaches. Seal the jar label and leave in a cool dark place for 2 months before using to allow the flavours to develop

Serve the whole or halved peaches with slices of meat with chunky fresh bread, pickles and cheese.

The second recipe comes from one of my favourite magazines The Country Kitchen September edition

The ingredients for this are:

12 peaches blanched in boiling water and peeled
450g/1lb sugar
300ml/1/2 pint white wine vinegar
stick of cinnamon
6 cloves
25mm/1 inch fresh ginger peeled
2 small dried red chillies

make the syrup first by putting everything apart from the peaches into a pan stirring the ingredients together until all the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil.

I then blanched my peaches and as each one is peeled/skinned I popped them straight into the vinegar syrup, once all in the pan cook gently until warmed through and just tender then decant the fruit with a slotted spoon and put on a plate to cool. Boil the vinegar syrup and boil up until it thickens slightly. Pack the cold peaches into a large storage jar or two smaller ones and then pour over the spiced syrup until all the fruit is submerged. To keep the fruit submerged grab a lump of greaseproof paper and crunch it up and put it in any cavity between the top of the fruit and the jar lid then put the lid on and leave for at least a month before using. Store in a cool dark place. Serve with Christmas ham/meats or with an Italian antipasto style starter.

My OH is getting extremely frustrated with me as have kept him away from the pickles so far including the picalilli - if I let him loose there would be none left for Christmas!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


I have taken the plunge again and have a different kind of hubble bubble on the go. Well it is Hubble bubble season. I am dabbling with the wine making again and although I enjoy an occasional drink I actually like having a glass of good home made wine with my Sunday lunch. This stems from the fact that my grandmother was a prolific wine maker - we were as children (over 11 years of age) allowed a glass of Nan's home made wine with our Sunday lunch. We became accustomed to it and grew up to respect drink as a result.

My Mum also used to be a very good wine maker - so it is something I kind of grew up with and I used to help my Nan and my Mum in the processes involved. I personally cannot always afford to buy wine at the moment, so to me the next best thing was get the old bubbling gear out and get cracking.

One of the problems of not having many pennies is not being able to buy the ingredients for wine making i.e. the sugar or being able to make good use of seasonal ingredients like elderflowers, plums, peaches, nettles etc. So sometimes you have to be a little creative coupled with a litte plotting and planning and you too should be able to make your own wine. Wine can be made from very many things; a lot of those items may already be present in your larderand its true to say that some wines are better than others; my favourites are the traditional wines known as "country wines".

One of the simplest wines and a good one for a beginner is to make is orange carton/fruit juice wine, which uses a combination of pure fruit juice together in some instances with fresh fruit to enhance and add more body to the wine. I have also made this with PLJ lemon juice and fresh lemons and with grapefruit as well adjusting the recipe as to what is to hand.

I keep lots of sugar in - I buy sugar in large bags from Sainsburys and also when it is on offer I top up my store so ideally I should be able to make a couple of batches a wine a month i.e. two gallons, or if you are nervous why not start with a simple kit or kits this should get you used to the processes involved. I make things as simple as possible. As you grow accustomed to making wine you learn to recognise the symptoms or signs at each particular stage.

However you can at this time of year dry ingredients such as rosehips for use later on when there is not many items to hand; this also helps stagger the wine making calendar and also the pennies. I will post the recipes I try as a I go along; no doubt there will be some wines that don't behave or turn out quite as they should, be prepared for this, but each time you make a batch it will be a steep learning curve.

Want to make wine but don't know where to start. Check out the Charity shops and see what wine making recipe books you can obtain. Any books by C J Berry are brilliant, but there are lots of boooks available and all of them give the basics of how to go on. Don't be put off by reference to hydrometers and taking readings; I have one of these but have never used it yet.

I usually go into Wilkinsons as they sell the basics for winemaking, although if you want a specialised yeast, it would be best to deal mail order with a larger winemaking provider on the Internet.

Ingredients sourcing can be a little bit more hit and miss, however if you make lots of jams and not all of it gets used up you can also use this to make wine with rather than wasting it. In theory it sounds good, I have some jam to try this with and will let you know the results in due course.

I have ginger beer on the go as well; its been a while since I last made this, and I was actually banned by my father from making this at one stage. He got shot in the garage one summer day. Long story but I had a couple of batches of ginger beer in cider bottles, racked in crates on the inside of the garage wall. It was a hot day, the sun was shining down on the outer wall, and the ginger beer got a tad warm. Dad was in the garage minding his own business mending one of his motor bikes, the next he knew was that he was being shot by low flying corks at quite a high speed. The whole lot blew and father was not particularly happy by this point. Unfortunately it touched my sense of the ridiculous and I started laughing, and I got banned from making the ginger beer!

To prevent such messes from an over active wine I pop those wines which are more aggressive in a plastic bucket until the first stages of fermentation to help keep mess to a minimum.

Hic, winemakers perk; tasting the goods.

Catch you all later


Hello Friends,

Well I think I am back. Fingers crossed, toes plaited.

I have managed to borrow a lap top whilst I am still waiting for my own to be repaired and returned. I am afraid I have been going a tad spare not being able to blog and link up with like minded folk. Mind you I have been busy with the old preserving and I still have loads to do as yet. More to follow when I am back in full swing. One of the problems with the loaned lap top is that it is very slow compared to the one that is having surgery carried out, but beggers cannot be choosers so the saying goes.

I have been ironing earlier on but am now sat down for a few minutes as my back is playing up. I have company. Tyson is in and has decided to join me. Rather begrudgingly at first, but he is here keeping me company. All I need is the log fire, and I am sure he would be curled up in front of it - he hates the cold. He has laid claim to the top of the ironing board and is sprawled full length and is teasingly looking at me as I am busy tapping away on the key board. Pampered puss he is, but they are extremely good company especially when you are feeling a tad low. They just be with you at such times.

Well another month is nearly gone Halloween is on its way or All Saints Day to give the correct name. The day in the year when supposedly we are able to connect with the spirits of our loved ones, more readily than at any other time of year but recently elevated to an evening for children to carve pumpkins,with scary faces, put candles in and go booh; play trick or treat or generally have some spooky fun. Apple bobbing, toffee apples, drinking witches brew, eating crazy concoctions dressing up etc. etc.

Hopefully will be back in full swing by the end of the week - have lots of reading to do and playing catch up as well as downloading photos etc. I also have three gallons of wine going gently plop plop plop everytime some gas is released. I haven't made wine for some time so have started off with some kits' 1 gallon of Cherry wine and two gallons of Elderflower. I have also located a recipe for using dried elderflowers for making Elderflower wine from scratch which I am going to have a go at at the weekend. I am very fond of Elderflower wine it is one of my absolute all time favourites along with Rhubarb and Nettle, which are on the agenda for next year. I also have my Ginger Beer plant to make up - that will possibly get dealt with tomorrow night.

I hope everyone is keeping well and if things are not too good I hope the sun soon comes out and brightens up the shadows.

Nice to be back - have missed you all so much.

Catch you all soon



Friday, 23 October 2009


Just a quickie to keep everyone appraised of current situation with regard to my computer. Am having major problems at the moment as the stand alone is refusing to function with the dongle and the lap top which I normally use is currently in the repair shop being re-built - a plug internally is refusing to work properly; I had told OH that there were problems, but he passed it off as being a mere woman problem and that I was making things up! Needless to say my normal calm polite self got a little heated at this point! We only really established after buying a new power lead at £80 that there really was a problem - and I am doubly frustrated as lots has been happening that I have been doing and I wanted to post things. Well will have to do things latterly as the saying goes. But I am missing my regular ports of call and the process of blogging - bit sad but needless to say I am missing you all.

OH away this weekend so hopefully when he returns will be able to have another discussion about when my computer might well be returned (its one of his mates who is dealing with it)! Oh well beggers can't be choosers.

Take care friends will be back on as soon as I possibly can


Monday, 12 October 2009

Just a quickie have computer problems at home - will be back as soon as possible.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Tefal Jam Machine

I bought this last year from Lakeland and I am really chuffed with it. I used it a lot last year and then lost the instructions this year. I wrote to Lakeland and they very kindly have provided me free of charge a replacemet booklet. Yes the machine is expensive, but the beauty of it is as far as I am concerned is that it will quite happily make jam whilst you get on with something else. With me working full time, time is quite literally precious, especially when I want to get such a lot of stuff put down in the pantry for the winter months and to give as presents. Therefore to me becuase I make a lot of jam etc. this little machine helps maximise my time it can make a batch of jam inside 40 minutes from scratch.

Anyway earlier on this week I decided to have a go at using the steam juice extractor attachment to the machine to see whether or not I was actually satisfied with the results. The machine deals with small quantities but deals with things quite quickly. I therefore processed crab apples and for 1kg of fruit I managed to get a pint of pink juice. I subseqently have strained the juice obtained through a lined sieve and am quite pleased with the result, although it is not as transparent as jellies made by the traditional boil and drip overnight through a jelly bag method. But still quite pleasing. This little machine works well and would be ideal for a beginner to learn to use - the jam actually sets quite quickly without having to boil forever and so far the results I have had have been extremely good. At the end of the day this little machine will pay for itself because I am using it so much. I have also got a batch of crab apple butter out of it as well. I am now looking into doing syrups and cordials in this fab little machine.



Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)