Friday, 27 November 2009

Spiced Vinegar for Pickles

I make a lot of pickles and I spice my own vinegar. You can use whatever vinegar you choose. However only use whole spices as using ground spices in this will give a cloudy finish and produce a sediment. You want ideally a nice clear vinegar to show the preserve off at its best.

The recipe I use is taken from The Complete Farmhose Kitchen Cookbook ISBN 0-00-411256-3

1 .2 litres/2 pints vinegar of your choice
1/4 oz cinnamon bark
1/4 oz whole cloves
12 peppercorns
1/4 oz blade mace (whole mace) - usually available from Asian foodshops
1/4 whole allspice
1 or 2 bay leaves

Slow Method
Tie whole spices into a small piece of muslin and put them with the vinegar in a wide necked jar. Cover jar with a vinegar-proof lid and let the spices steep in the vinegar for 1 to 2 months to obtain a good flavour.
Quick Method
Place the vinegar and spices in a glass bowl (not metal or polythene) standing on a pan of water. Cover the bowl and bring the water slowly to the boil. Remove from heat then allow to go quite cold takes about 2 hours. Spiced vinegar need not be used at once. Remove the spice bag and then strain the vinegar and put back into their original bottles/jars. The spiced vinegar is used for most pickles.

Pickles to be kept crisp - you should use a cold spiced vinegar such as pickled red cabbage and pickled onions.

Softer finish such as in chutneys you should use hot vinegar.

This can be quite happily kept in the back of the pantry/cupboard in waiting for the day you make a batch of pickles.

Pickled Beetroot - Possibilities

I have been mooching through some of my cookery books - liking the sound of some of the recipes and wanting to have a go, but not having quite the right ingredients. Every so often I tend to play a bit and put my own stamp on things; its just the way I am - I don't do it with everything, but I do tend to make use of what I have in the pantry.

I quite like the sound of the roasted beetroot relish in the River Cottage Preserving book, but I haven't got any tomatoes or horseradish; I have plenty of beetroot and rather than just have ordinary pickled beetroot I thought I would roast the beetroot and then pickle it to see whether it improves the pickle or whether its one I will not do again in a hurry.

Its all about experimenting a bit just doing things slightly differently for a change, and I thought that rather than just put in a plain malt vinegar that I might use a wine vinegar for a change. Not sure whether to use red or white wine vinegar at the moment. I am still mooching over the possibilities - although the beetroot is roasting as we speak. Will have to see where it goes from hereon in.

Beetroot about 1lb 1/2 either large beets or baby beets can be used
Vinegar of choice

For the pickle
Spiced vinegar - see separate recipe

Cooking the beetroot:
Wash the beetroot and chop off some of the leaves leaving a good 2 to 3 inches of stalk on the beet. I was taught always to do this as if you take too much stalk off the beetroot bleeds and loses a lot of colour and in some cases goes insipid. Leaving the stalk on greatly reduces the risk of this.

Take a large roasting tin, dribble some oil on the base and then put in the beetroot and then dribble some more oil over. Pinch of salt - not much and then put in the oven to roast until the skins blister and go extremely dark Roast at Gas Mark 4 for about an hour and a half checking every so often to make sure that they are not over-done.

Allow to cool overnight.

Choose your vinegar - most commonly malt vinegar/white spirit vinegar is used but the choice is up to you. You can use cider vinegar or white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar. I am going to use white wine vinegar.

Prepare clean dry jars and use vinegar proof lids (I always process them in a baking tray in the oven)

Dip the roast beetroot into cold water and strip off the skins and stalks then either slice or dice your beetroot and pack into sterilised jars.

Pour the vinegar into a pan and add 6 teaspoons of sugar to each pint of vinegar.
Bring the spiced vinegar to the boil stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the hot sweet spiced vinegar over the beetroot in the jars until completely covered.

I usually scrunch up a small square of greaseproof paper and put it in the top of the jars to keep the beetroot submerged in the vinegar so it does not dry out.

Put on vinegar proof lids and tighten to seal.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


I always love some of these hard little biscuits in at Christmas - they help soak up liquer type drinks which tend to get proffered at this type of year although they are traditionally served with Vin Santo a very sweet white Italian Wine. Perhaps I am uncouth but I also love them with a nice hot Masawati Coffee, (hot strong coffee liberally laced with dark rum) Hot Cinnamon Chocolate or Milky white coffee. Their flavour goes well and they are more than a little moorish. They keep well in an air tight tin so make them in advance of the Christmas bake and it is one more less thing to do then.

4oz unblanched almonds (ones with their skins still on)
8oz plain flour
3 1/2 oz caster sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs beaten
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Heat your oven to 190 degrees C; 375 degrees F or Gas Mark 5 and spread the almonds onto a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Let them cool down then chop half the amount coarsely and put this half to one side for use later on; grind the rest in a food processor or blender. Combine the ground nuts with flour, salt, sugar, bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. Add the eggs and stir the ingredients together I use a round bladed knife to roughly bring the mixture together. Now mix in the coarsely chopped nuts to the dough together with the vanilla. Put the drawn together dough onto a board and divide into three equal parts. Roll each into a sausage about 1 inch thick. Put the sausages onto a greased baking sheet separated well apart from each other and brush with slightly beaten egg white. Bake in the hot oven for about 20 minutes. Take out the oven and cut the sausages on the angle in slices about 1/2 inch thick. Lower the oven temperature to 140 degrees C; 275 degrees F or Gas mark 1 putting the slices back into the oven on the baking sheet. Cook for another 20 minutes, cooling on a wire rack and then store in an air tight container.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Ecclefechan Tart/Cakes

I first tried these from Sainsburys a few years ago - courtesy of my sister in law. They are very rich but full of flavour. Needless to say because I liked them (and they were expensive) I decided to search for a recipe to have a go myself and here it is.


For the pastry:

6oz plain flour

3 oz unsalted butter

1 large egg beaten

For the filling:

2oz unsalted butter

8 oz sultanas

2 large eggs

2oz demerara sugar

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C or Gas Mark 4

You can either make a tart or individual tartlets the choice is yours

First make the pastry gently rubbing in the flour and butter until like very fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg mixing in to make a stiff dough.

Roll out the pastry then line the flan dish/or cut out individual tart basis to fill a patty tin.

For the filling

Melt the butter in a pan and add the remaining ingredients. Stir well then add the mixture to the pastry case/cases. Bake for approximately 35 minutes until golden brown and set.


Cinnamon sugared nuts (Naughty Nibbles)

I am a bit of a cinnamon nut (excuse the pun) its one of those spices that you absolutely love (I adore it) or you hate it. I like aniseed too.

Now these I really do make every year they are so scrummy - any nuts can be used but favourites are Hazlenuts and Almonds - the trouble is they are so moorish that once you start eating them .... I first had these at Lincoln Christmas market where they were served hot and warm, probably the best way to serve them but they are delish cold as well. I liked them so well that I looked around for a recipe and came up with this one.

They can be used for snacking or as a posh accompaniment to that really nice after dinner coffee or alcoholic coffee like Irish Coffee. Really they should be classified as naughty nibbles.


1 egg white
450g/1lb assorted nuts such as pecans walnuts almonds and peanuts
75g/3 oz caster sugar
pinch of salt
2.5 ml/ 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
pinch of grated nutmeg


Whisk the egg white with cold water (approximately 1 teaspoon of cold water until nice and frothy (I prefer to use a balloon whisk for this as it really froths egg white up very quickly)

Add the nuts sugar and salt and spices and stir well until well coated.

Spoon the mixture evenly on to one or two well greased edged baking sheets spacing out well then cook at a low heat of 110 degrees C/225 degrees F or gas mark 1/4 for one hour move around and stir around the tray every 15 minutes or so - so say a minimum of 3 to 4 times.

Store in an air tight container for up to three weeks. (How about making them the week before Christmas so that you don't miss making them in the rush with the cooking before Christmas)

Its worth making a couple of batches of this whilst the oven is on such a low temperature.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


Fruit Compotes

Fruit Compotes can be preserved and bottled for long term storage just as well as fruit in syrup etc. I have regularly looked at the compotes available in the supermarkets endlessly looking for recipes to produce these goodies for long term storage and I have found this recipe
The basic recipe seems to be:
1.25kg (2 1/2lb) fruit such as pears, quinces, apples plums mixed fruit prepared150g (5 oz) sugarSpicing of your choice such as vanilla pod, ground ginger or cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon of ginger or cinnamon)125ml (4 fl oz) water
Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil then cover and simmer over a low heat for about 50 minutes. If necessary add a little more water from time to time to prevent the mixture from sticking to the base of the pan. Leave to cool then chill in a refrigerator to use fresh serve with cream or cream fraiche.
To preserve compotes for long term storagereduce the cooking time for the fruit to 35 minutes preparing the jars as for jam. Ladle the hot compote into the jars (add a splash of lemon juice per jar) seal and sterilise for 20 minutes in a large pan of boiling water (I submerge the jars). Leave to cook and then store in a dark dry place.

Christmas is Coming

Christmas is coming and the Geese are Getting Fat
Please put a penny in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny a hapenny will do
If you haven't got a hapenny then God Bless you.

How true this year everybody is feeling the pinch, but then I think this will bring a lot more honesty and much more enjoyment of simpler pleasures than in years gone past, and perhaps our younger people will learn a useful lesson and realise that parents are not always able to provide their offspring's every need, but at least they will have a roof over their heads, food on the plate and a warm home. Things that are very important. Today's youngsters have too much choice.

As I am writing this, the wind is howling and rough outside it keeps howling down the chimneys and it is well rough - I should be in bed, but I am conscious I haven't posted for a few days and I did not want regular readers to feel let down or be disasapointed.

My mum told me that when she was young at Christmas they were lucky if they got a present. She was one of 10 children who lived in a two up two down and were quite a respectable family until my granddad did not come home when my youngest uncle was a month old. He was demobbed and did not come home things were tough from thereon in and it was during the second world war. No matter what none of my uncles and aunts have forgotten how tough things were but they were a family and stuck together.

They always got a stocking with fruit and sweets and a brand new penny in - that was their Christms present. One year she was bought a little miniature china tea service and she was carrying it upstairs to safety as she was so chuffed that she fell down the stairs and her present was shattered. For the short time she had that service she loved it well.

Its officially a month to Christmas from today. Now its time to get the skates on with those last minute bits and bobs in preparation for the celebration of Christmas. For me much of what Christmas is about is being with family and loved ones and spending quality time with them and other members you perhaps don't see quite as much as you should rather than the razzmatazz and all the hype that is hoiked about commercially. About sharing a good meal - it need not be the most expensive of ingredients but something that is cooked well and tastes good is often far more enjoyed than something that is over complicated

We ordered our fresh Turkey this last weekend from the butcher consisting of 10lb Turkey or thereabouts, sausagemeat, bacon, gammon joint a joint of beef, sausages and one or two other bits and bobs for £50. We had one last year and it was absolutely wonderful well worth the money. We use Willowbrook Farm at Helpston for most of our meat. They advocate organic and proper methods of looking after livestock - the meat is probably dearer than the supermarket but it has so much more flavour. If you live in the Peterborough area it is well worth a look.

Well I managed to miss stir up Sunday which was this Sunday just gone. Traditionally the last Sunday before the start of Advent which is this coming Sunday. The day when the Christmas pud is mixed, stirred from east to west and every member of the family takes a turn in stirring the pudding and making a wish. My Nan always used to put in a silver sixpence and the person who found the sixpence was meant to have good luck all year through. Happy times times spent with good people who are terribly missed, but who in their turn passed on a legacy and a way of life. Mine will unfortunately now have to be made this weekend when I have a little more time. I have quite a bit of cooking etc to do during the week. Stir up Sunday changes from year to year - next year will be better organised, but with mum having not been well this year (that took over a month out of what I was doing with running backwards and forwards to the hospital to see her). Thankfully now she is well on the mend although she underwent extensive surgery. But we have so much to be grateful for. I still have my lovely mum.

Must get on have to get some shut eye as I have another long day tomorrow.

In case I do not get to post again before Thursday of this week may I wish everyone in the States Happy thanksgiving

Take care every one


Monday, 16 November 2009

My Sunday

Well it was a hectic one. I eventually got the kitchen all scrubbed out the chip pan cleaned and new oil put in and various other bits and bobs. Lots of cleaning but a lot has been achieved. Also managed to start off my mint syrup and also make 8 jars of the apple, parsnip and ginger chutney. Another one that tastes really proomising, just needs to mature for a few weeks now. The recipe said light brown sugar I have used a dark brown sugar and it looks quite effectiveAlso started off a batch of grape wine this evening as well. Have managed to get loads of washing done as well.

Then for tea we had roast lamb with home made mint sauce, mashed potato, peas, broccoli, carrot, sweet potato with rosemary, roast potato, stuffing balls, and roast parsnip with gravy and then to finish chocolate gateau. Very yummy it was too.

Tomorrow night I am at a friends home, but when I get back in will probably finish off the ginger beer batch and put it to chill before starting off the next batch. Think will make some apple pop as well as am quite partial to that too. With a bit of luck might get a couple of batches of each in before Chrimbo.

Hope your new day is everything you want to be.

Take care


Sunday, 15 November 2009

Mint Syrup Part 1

I have never tried this recipe before but I love the smell of mint it is so Refreshing.(yes its another recipe from the River Cottage Preserves book if you haven't got it, its well worth the money) This cordial can according to the recipe be drunk hot or cold, I also think it would be very nice as a sauce for plain vanilla ice cream, as the basis for hot mint tea or cold drink with lashings of ice. What a little odd to be publishing this recipe now. Not at all you can still get loads of fresh mint from Asian shops and market stalls.
Its now soaking in the fridge; part one completed. Now tomorrow night I have to pour boiling water on leave another 24 hours and the following evening strain, bottle and sterilise.

Here's the recipe:

Makes approximately 1 litre

50g freshly picked mint leaves (picked off stalks use leaf only)
juice of 1 lemon (50ml)
250g sugar
1 level teaspoon salt

Check the mint leaves for insect life (we don't want extra meat rations thank you). Then tear the leaves into shreds (I use a mezzaluna and board to chop into fine bits. Add the lemon juice to the mint and then pound with the end of a wooden rolling pin or a pestle and mortar. Add the sugar and the salt and continue to crush the mint leaves to release the menthol essence. Leave to macerate overnight in the fridge.

Pour 600ml of boiling waterover the macerated mint mixture and leave to stand overnight.

Strain the syrup through a fine sieve or muslin into a saucepan. Gently bring to simmering point and simmer for a couple of minutes. Pour into warm sterilised bottles and seal with screw caps or corks.

As it is the syrup will keep unopened for about 4 months but once opened it should be stored in the fridge. If you want to keep it longer it will need to be sterilised in a water bath straight after bottling.

I will add photographs of the processed product once completed.

If this is anything like home made apple and mint jelly, it wil lbe another recipe to go on the yearly list of must make.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Well what a day and night its been orrible here but I think we have been very lucky compared to some parts of the country are concerned. Proper wintery weather. Yes we need the rain but we seem to be getting it all at once rather than spaced out like we used to. I do hope everyone is safe and comfortable and that you don't have to travel far.

Mind you I have spent of the day at the hairdressers having my hair re-ackerfurbitated and tidied up. Have had some of the length chopped out and layers put in so hopefully now will have the option of wearing it down and up rather than up all the time. My hairdresser bharrea who us Yougaslavian and had to flee her home country during all the troubles is a very good cutter, needless to say because I haven't been for a year or so I got a good telling off, but haven't been able to afford until now. But I need to look tidy for work not like the wild woman of Peterborough. I am pleased with it and she has worked with my hair which has a lot of natural wave in it and when washed and starting to dry I get loads of little tiny twirly curls, and she has shown me how to get these in by scrunch drying. So am going to have a go - must get OH to replace the fuse in the hairdryer.

Have just stopped for a few minutes. Have had a lazy tea spare ribs and chicken wings and bread and butter. Very tasty. Just felt like a nibbling meal tonight rather than a full blown dinner.

Since then have started on the chores - am busy scrubbing the kitchen out tonight as I have quite a lot of cooking I want to do tomorrow. Have also had the washing machine soap sud drawer to pieces and scrubbed it out and done a vinegar cycle on the washing machine to get it all nice and clean. I do this periodically. One of my ice cream machines the one that does Mr Whippy style ice cream have also had to pieces needs a new plug but that is all scrubbed up ready for action when the plug is on. I have the chip pan to sort out as well and put new oil into as well as scrub the worktops and the kitchen floor which is easier said than done with four cats continually on the prowl, but I cannot chuck them out in this weather.

We have the heating on as well as it has been so bitter. I really miss a proper fire when it is like this, especially a log one with fir cones on top; as they burn they smell really aromatic. Unfortunately I feel the cold quite badly, having Reynauds Syndrome, and Arthritis (which is getting worse) and one or two other symptoms that they cannot give me a condition for so if I get cold it takes me a long time to work up and it usually signifies that I am sickening for something. Trying to keep a happy balance at times is not easy. But then I am lucky compared to so many. My Mum was told by a Romany Gipsy when I was little that I would be extremely lucky!

For tomorrow evening we have roast lamb when we will have our Sunday Dinner. Beefburgers for snack mid-day.

Well had better get on as this won't get the kitchen cleaned.

Catch up with you all again very shortly.

Take care



Thursday, 12 November 2009

Dulche De Leche

I have often seen this in the shop but never plucked up the courage to buy it. However there is a reason for me printing this recipe here which I hope you will appreciate. The following are methods of how to make your own dulce de leche. Dulce de leche from condensed milk Ingredients: 1 can sweetened condensed milk Directions: 1) Get a large pot with a metal rack 2) Place the can inside the pot on the metal rack 3) Add water to completely cover the can, plus 2-3 inches. 4) Simmer for 3-4 hours 5) The can must always be completely covered in water. Caution: If the can becomes uncovered there could be an explosion 5) Let the can cool for 3-4 hours 6) Open the can and enjoy! Dulce de leche from sugar Ingredients: 3 liters of milk 2 tablespoons of vanilla 1 teaspoon of baking soda 800 grams of fine sugar Directions: 1) Add to a large pot all the ingredientes in this order. 2) Milk, sugar, vanilla and then baking soda. 3) Place over a low low fire and stir slowly 4) Continue stirring until it becomes thick and brown. 5) The preparations can take around 2 hours You can use this to make an ice cream but I found a recipe in last year's December issue of the Good Food Magazine for a Christmas Cream liqueur. I have therefore posted the recipe separately. Enjoy _________________

Christmas Cream Liqueur

Please see entry under Dulce de Leche under the pantry to make the Dulce de Leche which is the basis for this drink. This recipe I spotted by chance in last year's December issue of the Good Food magazine.

300g/10 oz dulce de leche

1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

1 tsp vanilla extract

300ml/1/2 pint brandy

284 ml pot and 142 ml pot of single cream

Spoon the dulce de leche into a bowl and then beat in the coffee, vanilla and brandy until smooth. Stir in both pots of cream until well mixed. Pour into 1 large or several smaller sterilised bottles. This will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks. Drink in liqueur glasses or serve over ice. The short keeping time is an excuse to indulge and if you run out you can always make another batch.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

In Memory of My Granddad

Today would have been my Granddad Horace's birthday. He was a big baby according to my Great Granddad's bible some 16lbs in weight. What a whopper no wonder my Great Gran had a heart condition. He was born in London in the sound of Bow Bells on the 11 November 1900.. He was the most patient of men and I never ever saw him lose his temper. He was a most lovely man and I miss him and so much. He used to keep us entertained by playing the Banjo or the squeeze box as youngsters. He was exceptional at playing both.

So here's to you Pop, remembering you on your birthday.

Your crazy granddaughter


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Cinnamon Ice Cream

This is a Delia Smith recipe as in her "Christmas" book my edition goes back to 1991 and is particularly well thumbed. It does not appear to have an ISBN No but has a reference number CN 1454.

If you never have tried Cinnamon ice cream you really should it has a wonderful affinity with many Christmas specialities and and also with apples, pecans and mulled wine flavours.


6 egg yolks size 1 (I just use large ones)
4oz/110g caster sugar
1 pint/570ml milk
1 stick of cinnamon
1 level teaspoon of ground cinnamon
10 fl oz/275ml double cream
2 slightly rounded teaspoons of custard powder

This recipe does not use an ice cream machine. If you have an ice cream machine use the guidelines herein but convert them to your own particular machine.

Place the egg yolks sugar and custard powder in a bowl and whisk them with an electric hand whisk (or balloon whisk) until the mixture is pale and really creamy but has thickened. Put the milk cinnamon stick and the ground cinnamon in a saucepan and bring the mixture to simmering point. Then pour on the egg mixture whisking all the time you do this - important as you don't want scrambled eggs.

Return the custard to the saucepan and continue whisking but now over a gentle heat until the custard has "thickened". Do not worry about the curdling if it does start to split carry on whisking until it becomes smooth again. The custard powder is added to stabilise the mixture. Pour the custard mixture into a glass bowl put cling film over the top of the custard extending up the side of the bowl to stop a skin forming. Now I know people who will kill for custard skin (I am not one of them)and this is not the place to form custard skin. Chill thoroughly and leave overnight in the fridge.

Next day whip the cream to soft peak stage then fold in the custard discarding the cinnamon stick prior to folding in. The ice cream can now be churned in an ice cream machine for about 20 minutes. Don't have a machine, don't worry put into a plastic box with a lid cover the surface with cling film put on the lid and freeze. Thereafter re-mix with a fork every 30 minutes or so until it reaches the right consistency. Before serving remove it to the refrigerator about 20 minutes prior to serving to soften.

Eat and enjoy

Chocolate Refrigerator Cake

This is a regular make in this household and something that I make when I am having a touch of the blues. Funny how sweet stuff puts a different perspective on things. Its also a good prepared in advance to bring out a Christmas. You can of course add what ever takes your fancy like dried mango crystallised pineapple coconut, cranberries the choice is yours.


350g/12 oz good quality Cooking Chocolate dark or plain the choice is yours - not cake covering which is of an inferior quality for this cake
4 tablespoons strong black coffee
4 tablespoon brandy
8 oz digestive biscuits, graham crackers or a good plain biscuit can be used broken
90g/3 oz/ 3/4 cup toasted slivered flaked almonds
90g/3 oz/1/3 cup glace (candied) cherries
300ml/1/2 pint cups of double (heavy) cream

There is no cooking as such with this recipe which is why in one sense I like it can easily be rustled up even on a week night

Grease an 18 cm/7 inch round loose bottomed cake tin/pan it can be square or round
Melt the chocolate with the coffee in a heat proof bowl placed over a simmering pan of water - don't let the water boil into the bowl as it will ruin the product - equally don't let the bowl touch the bottom of the pan.

Remove from the heat and stir in the brandy biscuits almonds and glace cherries. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Chill overnight.

Turn out onto a serving plate. (Whip the cream until just stiff and pipe it over the top of the cake. Decorate with grated chocolate or chocolate curls) I don't usually decorate with the cream that's why ended up missing it out. Cut in thin wedges if set in a round pan and cut into strips if using the square pan.

Munch and enjoy

Monday, 9 November 2009

Ginger Ice Cream

I am extremely lucky,as a few years ago I received a rather expensive Christmas present from the OH a freestanding ice cream machine - where you don't have to put the bowl in the freezer. Most women would go schitz at being bought something like this, but I am not that kind of girl. I would much rather that whoever I am buying for has a present that they will use, love and get much pleasure out of or which is extremely useful to them.

I love home made ice creams and this machine it makes the most fantastic ice cream. However, you don't need an ice cream machine to make custard you can use a large lidded container and an electric whisk and the freezer to make home made ice cream, freezing then beating, to break the crystals down inbetween to break down the ice crystals.

One of my favourites is Cinnamon Ice Cream - absolutely delicious especially with some home bottled pears in syrup or even mulled pears in wine - I am drooling at the thought of it. I absolutely adore cinnamon, but OH doesn't like too much. I have therefore been looking for a recipe that might appeal to him and I have come across this recipe for Ginger Ice Cream. Its a good way of using the recipe for Ginger Syrup posted earlier on and also for using up the home produced stem ginger in syrup or crystallised/glace ginger.

Well after all my waffling here's the recipe.

This recipe uses a custard base which is made as follows:

Ingredients For Custard Base

1pint/600ml Fresh milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
4oz caster sugar
1/4 pint Fresh Double Cream

Warm the milk gently until nearly boiling. Pour over egg yolks which have been placed into a bowl and whisk until well combined. Return the mixture to a clean pan and place it on a low heat until it starts to thicken stirring all the time. Don't let the custard boil as it may well curdle if you allow it to do this. Once the custard has thickened to the desired consistency i.e. to coat the back of a wooden spoon remove it from the heat and stir in the sugar stirring until completely dissolved. Pass the custard through a strainer to get rid of any bits, and when completely cold stir in the double cream.

You now have the custard base here's the Ginger Ice Cream Recipe

Ingredients for Ginger Ice Cream

1 quantity of Custard Ice Cream base as per above recipe
1-2 tablespoon/25ml Ginger Syrup
3 oz chopped preserved ginger

Stir the ginger syrup into the cooling custard mixture. Either place in an electric ice cream machine and follow operating instructions or place in a container in the freezer compartment of a fridge or a deep freeze and leave until the ice cream stars to freeze around the edges of the container. At this point stir the mixture well including the custard that has already frozen until the iced mixture is well dispersed. Stir in the chopped ginger and return the custard to the freezer (or just add in the chopped ginger to your ice cream machine - there is no need to stop it) Allow a further hours freezing and then stir the ice cream again to ensure that the chopped ginger hasn't sunk to the bottom. Keep ice cream in freezer until required. Take out about 15 minutes before you wish to use it. Serve with whatever takes your fancy.

Spicy Pear Compote

Preparation time 15 minutes plus time for cooling and chilling
Cooking time 50 minutes

1.25 kg/2 1/2lb pears peeled and quartered and cored
150g/5 oz brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 vanilla pod
125ml/4 fl oz water

Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan and bring the contents to the boil, then cover and simmer over a low heat for about 50 minutes. If necessary add a little more water from time to time to prevent the mxture from sticking to the base of the pan Leave the compote to cool and then chill in a refrigerator if using that day or later. Serve with cream fraiche or cream.

To store this as a long term preserve reduce the cooking time of the fruit by about 35 minutes. Prepare your jars as for jam. Ladle in the compote to the jars add a splash of lemon juice per jar and sterilise for 20 minutes in a large pan of boiling water. I always pad the bottom of the pan out with new dishcloths or a tea towel. Leave in pan to cool and then store in a dark dry place.

Apple Pop

I have been rootling through my recipes and came across this recipe which I used to make when I was a teenager. The recipe was originally given to me by Janet whose children I used to babysit on a regular basis and she originally came from Somerset.

Apple Pop

3lbs cooking apples
12 pts water
2lbs sugar
2-3 lemons

1. Chop apples and remove any bruised parts.

2. Place in a white plastic container with the water and cover with lid.

3. Leave for 7 days stirring twice daily and squeezing the apples occasionally.

4. Sieve the apples and add the sugar and grated rind, juices and chopped remains of the lemons.

5. Leave for one day then sieve this time preferably through muslin.

6. Bottle in Lemonade Bottles/cider bottles - this should be ready to drink within 2 weeks.

Very refreshing

Update on Crab Apple Jelly

I have quickened up the process of making the crab apple jelly with the aid of my Tefal jam machine. I have tried using the machine itself, but it only makes in small quantities, where more often or not I have large quantities to process; so the second time I had a go I actually processed the apples with water in the preserving pan until soft and pulpy and then put it through the jelly net to drip overnight. The reason for this is that I can get a couple of batches of different things from the pulp left over, either a crab apple butter/membrillo or crab apple cheese. The juice is much quicker to process in the machine and comes out a lot clearer because it has been through the jelly bag. I put 2 pints of juice together with 1lb sugar per pint for the jelly and then process as per the machine's instructions; the beauty of this machine is that if you need a little longer to get the jam to set you can set the machine in small increments The machine is ideal if you only have small quantities of fruit to deal with, but I usually end up with a lot to do in a short space of time.

Please see photos below of the second batch of jelly - it is a beautiful cheery Xmas colour and clear. I was very pleased with this.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Work in Progress

I have another project in hand at the moment; I have started off a new crotchet bedspread for a single bed.

Yes I am a bit of a butterfly tend to have a couple of projects on the go at once fluctuating one to the other, but I have this pretty yellow rose bedding set with matching curtains already and I just chanced upon the coloured wool at the right price (for the centre part of the squares in yellow and green). I plan to finish it off with cream edging so have really been taking advantage of and making use of what has come my way, it will also help nearly complete the soft furnishing side for the single bedroom. I just have to sort out furniture pieces now. Although I am mulling over the idea of collecting pretty yellow lemon, cream and green prints to have a go at making a crazy patchwork bedspread too. Have never done one but quite like the idea of doing this. To think this colour scheme all stemmed from the first needlepoint kit I managed to complete.

Ginger Cordial

This home made syrup is lovely in a whisky, or as a drink with either cold or hot water, used in fruit salads to give a bit of a zing in sorbets and ice creams etc.


50g/2 oz peeled fresh root ginger grated
225g/8oz granulated sugar
1 level teaspoon of tartaric acid
1/2 a lemon washed and sliced

Takes about 10 minutes to prepare, plus standing time.
Makes about 4 pints

Put the ginger sugar tartaric acid and lemon in a large glass bowl cover with 4 pintes boiling water and stir in the sugar until it has dissolved then leave for 3 to 4 days in a cool place.

Strain the cordial through muslin then pour into bottles and seal. I sterlise by putting jars in hot water bath complete with their lids and covering completely with water and process for about 30 minutes to extract any air. Then allow to cool

This syrup can be used after a few days. Once the bottle is opened store in the fridge; there are two reasons for this one to keep it nice and cold the other to make sure that it has no opportunity of "going off".

Parsnip, Apple and Ginger Chutney

I first had a parsnip based chutney a few years ago on one of my forays on holiday down to Cornwall. We bought it from one of the Cider Farms and although disappointed with the cider we bought back we didn't open the chutney until Christmas.

What a delight and revelation that chutney was, needless to say it was a mega jar and it got used up quickly. Under normal cicumstances I would have gone back and got some more but it has been sometime since we have been down to Cornwall and I have not therefore been able to restock.

I tend to buy unusual preserve recipes when I find them and put them up for Christmas and if I like them I look out for recipes that are similar so that I can do my own home cured version. It helps sort out what we actually like as well. Sometimes the recipes sound good on paper but when made don't necessarily have quite the flavour you want. Recipes with root vegetables such as parsnip and swede tend to be rarer but I have located this one which I think will be good as a chutney but also for adding into stew or casserole as well.


750g/1 1/2lb parsnips peeled and chopped
500g/1lb cooking apples peeled cored and chopped
250g/8 oz onions peeled sliced and chopped
600ml/1 pint cider vinegar
500g/1lb soft brown sugar
2 tsp freshly grated root ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice


Put the parsnips apples and onions into a large saucepan/preserving pan with the vinegar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the onions are tender approximately 30 minutes

Remove from theat and add the sugar stirring until all dissolved

Add the ginger cloves and allspice return to th eheat and simmer gently until the mixture is thick and pulpy (the mixture will only thicken slightly as it cools).

Pot the chuntney in warm sterilised jars sealing immediately with vinegar proof tops.

Label when cold.

You can vary the recipe by using different sugar combinations and/or vinegar combinations - especially if you run out or don't have quite enough of the chosen ingredient.

Christmas Chutney

Here's a lovely recipe I have made before and I have it in mind to make a batch next weekend to give as part of my Christmas packages to friends together with pickled onions and other goodies. It is very rich and fruity very good with a home made Pork Pie or Christmas Feasting Pie, ideally its one of those recipes when the British Plums are in season, but I seem to have lost at least a month with the preparation of things I had on my list with having mum in hospital and then not having the computer for a while. But better late than never.

Makes about 4 1/2 lb

450g/1lb plums stoned and pitted
450g/1lb pears peeled and cored
225g/8 oz cooking apples peeled and cored
225g/8 oz celery
450g/1lb onions sliced
450g/1 lb tomatoes skinned
115g/4 oz raisins
15g/ 1/2 oz/1 tablespoon grated fresh root ginger
30ml/2 tablespoon pickling spice
900ml/ 1 1/2 pints cider vinegar
450g/1lb granulated sugar


Chop the plums,pears, apples celery and onions and cut the skinned tomatoes into quarters. Place all these ingredients with the raisins and ginger into a large saucepan.

Wrap the pickling spice in muslin and secure with string,adding this to the saucepan with half of the vinegar and bring to the boil cook for approximately two hours giving the mixture a stir every so often to stop sticking on the bottom of the pan. There should be little vinegar left on top (certainly no puddles) and when you draw a spoon through the mixture it should stay separated.

Prepare and sterilise the jars and lids.

When all the ingredients are tender add the sugar - it is important to make sure the fruit is at this stage as once addedd the sugar can "harden" the fruits if not cooked properly. Add the remaining vinegar and sugar and boil until thick remove the bag of spices. Fill the jars with chutney and seal with lid. Label when cold.

Pectin Stock

It may be a little late for this now, but in retrospect it may not be and it can always be used for the forthcoming year.

If you have some apples starting to get a little bruised or have a load of crab apples left over from a foray into the countryside one way of using them up is to make your own pectin stock for use either later in the year or during the course of next.

Some fruit's don't have much pectin such as cherries figs grapes marrows pears pineapple rhubarb and strawberries which are classified as low pectin fruits; and occasionally possibly Apricots blackberries greengages loganberries and raspberries Medium pectin fruits will need a bit of a boost to help make any jams or jellies set properly.

High pectin fruits are citrus fruits (oranges lemons grapefruits etc) cooking apples, crab apples, cranberries, damsons, gooseberries plums and quinces.

Take your basic fruit, this may be Apple (any kind) redcurrant, gooseberry and damsons may all be used to produce pectin stock and be used to add to jams and jellies made from fruits low in pectin. It is quite easy to achieve this.

So prepare your fruits by putting in a pan with just enough water to cover and cook gently until fruit softens; strain through a jelly bag overnight and don't squeeze as this will produce a cloudy pectin stock which you don't want. Retain the syrup that has dripped through jelly bag and pop into a clean pan and bring to the boil. Then add to hot sterlised bottles/jars which are heatproof, seal and then immerse these in a deep pan of hot water where the bottles are covered topped to bottom in water (hot water bath processing) and boil for approximately 5 minutes (this removes any air which is chiefly responsible for causing foods to go off). Leave to cool. When coolness is achieved label. Put in your pantry until you need it.

To use: Any low pectin fruit should be well softened before adding the pectin stock. The amount of pectin varies as to what fruit is used but a general guide is 150 ml/ 5 fl oz pectin stock to 2kg(4lb) fruit.

If rather than make your own and a commercial variety of pectin is used 50-125 ml (2 to 4 fl oz).

If using dried pectin (these are occsionally available in little boxes containing sachets) 2 teaspoons of dried pectin to each 450g(1lb) of fruit.

If you make your own pectin stock this will save you having to purchase the commercial variety called Certo or the dried pectin powder from something that may be free from the countryside or just a little past its best. And it will be on the pantry shelf there ready to use when that batch of cherry jam just didn't set properly.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Pickled Red Cabbage

They say we eat with our eyes and in the winter months we need all the colour we can get, especially if you mix a couple of tablespoons of the pickled cabbage into mixed salad leaves. However this is not a long term preserve.

Its quite easy to do, I did three cabbages the other week and it filled 20 odd jars. This is a very simple pickle to make and is an ideal one to make as part of a Christmas present hamper.


1 medium red cabbage
1/2 oz salt

For the spiced vinegar

For each quarter pint of white malt vinegar take:

1/2 oz peppercorns
1/4 oz Allspice
1/2 oz mustard seed
1 teaspoon blade mace
1 stick of cinnamon

Tie the spices into a small muslin bag and put into a pan with the vinegar. Cover the pan and bring slowly to the boil. When at boiling point put to one side for about 2 hours or so, so that the spices can permeate the vinegar. If the vinegar is not for immediate use store in sterlized bottles.

Quarter the cabbage taking away the thick white stem as much as you can; then shred the cabbage very finely. I use a plastic bowl to spread the cabbage in layers and between each layer put the salt. Cover and leave somewhere cool for 24 hours. Rinse quickly I do at least 4 rinses to get rid of as much salt as necessary. Best way is to taste it. Pack the cabbage into sterilised jars pushing down as hard as you can to get as much cabbage in as you can. Cover with the cold spiced vinegar. Top with vinegar proof lids and store for no more than three months as the cabbage will lose its crispness. This pickle can be eaten after a week.

Ginger Beer Plant

This is great fun for kiddies to do (let alone big kiddies) and provides an ongoing source of ginger beer. Every two weeks after the sediment is strained it is split into two so you in effect could have two ginger beer plants on the go or give one to a friend. Each plant in effect continues to multiply. We always used to have ginger beer as a kid even when we went to visit relatives it was the "pop" of our day.

I always used fresh bakers yeast as a starter with this as I have found that personally when I use dried yeast it doesn't work so well. I obtain my fresh yeast from a local herbal/wholefood shop in Peterborough (for those of you who live in this area it is the old Westgate Arcade). They keep it in the back of the shop in a fridge at about 35 pence an ounce.

To start a plant you will need the following ingredients:

1/2 oz fresh yeast or 1/4 oz dried yeast
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
2 teaspoons of sugar
3/4 pint tepid water.

I use an old kilner jar with a lid but a Le Parfait one or a large coffee jar with a lid will work just as well.

I cream the sugar yeast and ginger together with a teaspoon in a small bowl (applying pressure with a back of a teaspoon and working the ingredients from solid will with a little patience turn them into a cream) and then add some of the tepid water stir well and then decant into the sterilised jar (boiling water and if you have it some metabisulphate powder or baby sterilising tablets are used to clean the jar out before placing ingredients in). Mix together pour into the cleaned jar and then add the rest of the water stir well put on the lid and then place on a shelf in a warm room to let it start working. Leave for 24 hours and then feed daily 1 teaspoon of ginger powder and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Feed like this and then after 7 days;

Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth/jelly bag straining all of the sediment out. Put the liquid to one side - do not throw it away. You are then left with the sediment in the muslin/jelly bag. The sediment creates the plant. Mix the sediment with a fresh 3/4 pint tepid water,and then feed as above to produce a new batch of ginger beer. Every second week split the plant in half and then give to a friend or start another batch up.

To finish the first batch of ginger geer

Use the strained liquid that was put to one side and mix with 5 pints of cold water, the juice of 2 lemons and 1 1/2 lb sugar which has been previously dissolved in 2 pints of hot water. Mix well and pour into screw topped (beer or cider bottles) and leave for a week before using. I usually put on screw caps and tighten and then take back half a turn, checking the bottles every couple of days or so.

I usually leave the ginger beer in the house for one day to let the beer settle and I then transfer it into the stone utility shed at the back of the house. You can use after a week.

Ginger beer though does vary from batch to batch sometimes it is very active and can explode, so treat this with the utmost of respect.

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)