Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A Spiced Rhubarb and Apple Jam

 My friend Anne from Silver Sewer blogspot recently requested some rhubarb recipes as she has quite a bit to use up.  So as I promised her I would look out a couple of recipes - not quite sure whether this is quite what she wanted but no doubt she will let me know in due course.  Thought I would share as well.  There are a couple of other recipes to follow.

2lb 3oz cooking apples or thereabouts.
(Make sure that they are peeled cored and roughly chopped reserving the peel and cores for the pectin to help set the Jam)
Grated zest of 2 lemons and the juice
1lb 14 oz young tender rhubarb trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch lengths
1oz fresh root ginger chopped
2 tsp whole cloves
3lb 5 oz preserving or granulated sugar

Place the chopped apples into a preserving pan or pan of your choice adding the lemon zest and juice and 1 pint of water.  Tie the reserved apple peel cores and lemon pips into a piece of muslin and add to the pan.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover with a lid and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the rhubarb and return to the boil.  Reduce the heat again and cover again simmering for a further 10 minutes or so until the rhubarb is tender but is still holding its shape well.

Remove the muslin bag squeezing the bag with a wooden spoon to ensure that all the pectin liquid is released.  Stir in the ginger cloves and sugar and heat gently stirring until the sugar has dissolved and no granules remain on the bottom of the pan (you can feel them with the spoon)

Bring the mixture to a boil until the jam sets.  If a scum forms on the top of the preserve in the pan either skim the scum from the surface or add a knob of butter to stop the scum forming as this although not harmful will spoil the look of the preserve.

Ladle into hot sterilised jars, cover and label.

Remembering My Father Michael

Today would have been my father's birthday. Aware that my mum would be on her own we popped over unexpectedly this evening - we just arrived to make sure that she was okay. Doesn't hurt to make unexpected visits.   We ended up going to my father's grave and squaring it up and putting flowers on and remembering him in our own way.  My father was not one for not living his life he lived his life to the full and matured disgracefully.  He was always full of fun and you never quite knew what he was going to get up to next.   We then popped back to mum's and ended up having a birthday tea "fish n chips", and all too quickly we had to come away again.  But it served a purpose we remembered Dad's day and the impromptu visit cheered my mum up which was the main thing for me.  He is still in our hearts.

But news of a new generation reached us today - my goddaughter (no I don't fly a turbo driven vacuum cleaner contrary to popular belief)Rachel gave birth to her second daughter  Freya (a sister for Molly) today 31st May would have been my father's great great niece.  Mother and baby doing very well and now home - sort of adds a roundness to everything and put everything into context proof that life does not stand still and the wheel goes round another cog.

So a day that was tinged with sadness but with plenty of happy memories ends with welcoming a new generation  and all the best wishes , blessings and hugs and love that you can wish for anyone welcome little one.



Sunday, 29 May 2011

2011.05.29 My Day

We started off this  morning by walking the dog down to the river that's a good hours walk.  The local council have planted young trees on one of the fields we walk through which is good for the future and for the wildlife.   The Elderflowers are just coming into blossom so I think maybe tomorrow I will go and collect some to make some Elderflower Champagne.The wind has been very rough today and it has kept clouding over as though it is going to tip it down with rain.  We so sorely need the rain - it really tipped it down on Friday but we need a good couple of days like that for it to really do any good.  Been a busy day, trying to catch up with some of the housework washing and ironing and also starting to scrub the kitchen out again - |I like to do a real good scrub out every couple of months or so thats beside the general cleaning that way round it keeps everything nice and clean.  The oven has had a major scrub up, but I am still  going over it with the steamer once I have all my cooking projects out of the way for this evening.  I was planning on taking photos today but the camera battery is as dead as a dodo, so I am afraid you will on this occasion just have to use your imagination .  But I am pleased to report that my tea was absolutely delicious  - well I thought so.    I like to use seasonal ingredients wherever I can.

We have had cooked fresh herb, garlic and butter roast chicken with English new potatoes cooked with fresh mint and finished with mint butter.  We have then had carrots, broccoli, spring cabbage, peas, french beans and yorkshire puddings finished with gravy.  The chicken was lovely and tender and full of flavour.  

For pudding we have had roasted peaches, meringue,and vanilla ice cream.  I added a few fresh raspberries to mine as well but OH not so fussed with Raspberries, me I love them.  Yet again full of flavour and a very simple way of cooking fresh peaches.  Basically you just skin the peaches by cutting a cross in the base of each peach and then pouring boiling water on them leaving them for two minutes which should be enough to lift the skins easily - if not pour more boiling water on.  Then take out the stone cut the peaches in half and pop into an oven proof dish layer the peaches in the bottom, sprinkle with some vanilla sugar and a knob of butter on each peach half  and a splosh of hot water and cook at gas mark 4.  They were also delicious and full of flavour.  And I am now officially stuffed  but I really enjoyed my tea!

I sometimes think I made the wrong career choice because I really do love cooking and never really get the time to really play like I want to, but I have a busy day cooking tomorrow I have jam to make and fruit to bottle - fruit is in the fridges at the moment but it won't be there for long.

Hope you have had a good day wherever you are.

Catch you all soon



2011.05.28 My Day

I had meant to post last weekend, as I aired a previous recipe for Sunday night's tea Hawaiin Chicken  But then real life got in the way and this week has been upsetting; with the loss of my much loved cat Tyson  primarily.  After 21 years plus of having him being around the house and him calling when he wanted my attention, the house suddenly seems very empty without him and is going to take some getting used to.  They come into our lives and leave a huge imprint on our hearts.  As I type away at this post, my one remaining cat Squeak is cuddled up next to me on the settee.  Every so often she squeezes herself betwen me and the keyboard and it does make typing very difficult.  Both Missy and Squeak keep looking for him, and Squeak seems to be hogging me much more than usual she is never very far from my side when I am at home.  OH doesn't see her when I am at work, she camps out on the corner of the bed, and only comes down when she hears me come home.  The love from animals is so trusting so unconditional but so rewarding.

I also received a present of some jam jars from a very good friend who managed to find a nice lot of jam jars via Freecycle, which is very much appreciated.  They are hexagonal jars and I think the Jumbleberry jam will look good in these.

Yesterday I treated myself to a new book Jam Jelly and Relish by Ghillie James.  I found it in the Remainders/The Works book shop in town for £4.99 rather than £16.99 as originally marketed for.  Its a lovely book and has lots of lovely recipes plus I always like to see how other people use their preserves after making them and also different recipes for well loved and used ingredients.   Whilst in there I also found a book on how to make your own lollies so I am going to enjoy playing with the recipes in that.

I also nipped into Lakeland and found some tins of base fruit for making lemon (fine cut) and Orange marmalade (medium) as I am running low on seville orange marmalade I made earlier in the year.  Note to myself must make more next year. I have also been looking for the Ma Made brand of prepared oranges or lemons for sometime but haven't come across it so I am going to try  the Home Cook brand from Lakeland at £1.99 a tin.  They also do a strawberry jam as well.  All the tins hold are the base pulp (saves some work) and there is nothing naughty added, just pure ingredients.

I have been to the veg shop today over the road from where I live, have had a bargain on some blackberries (3 small punnets for £1) -got about 12 punnets[£4] blueberries (2 small punnets for £1), 10 punnets [£5]some Apricots £1 per small tub I got 2 and then some peaches 4 for £1 so I bought eight peaches as I thought that they would be nice roasted with some brown sugar and then served with some ice cream or fresh cream.  I also got two punnets of fen grown strawberries at £2 per punnet which are delish.  I have also got some red skinned pears to bottle in syrup for later on in the year.  I also bought a lot of fresh vegetables

I went round to the Co-op earlier on and they had a couple of punnets of English Strawberries reduced down to £1.60 from £3 a tub - so I am rather chuffed with myself.  The marmalade will have to wait probably until Monday as I have some Jam to do and I also intend to bottle some of the fruit up for the winter months.  I intend to bottle the majority of the blueberries as they can be used in cheesecakes and also in blueberry muffins or used on yoghurt for breakfast  and served with home made granola although I am going to keep some back to make some jumbleberry jam, some blackberry and apple jam. I am trying to take advantage of whatever comes my way fruit and veg wise for both the freezers and the bottled pantry Needless to say I had to go and buy some sugar  a very important ingredient when it comes to making jam. Sadly my stocks have been diminished in recent weeks and needs a major stock up especially as its Elderflower season and I also want to make maximum use of this very aromatic seasonal ingredient - want to make some Elderflower Champagne and other Elderflower goodies.
Was hoping to take my mum out this weekend but she hasn't been well again and isn't up to going  the weather has been grey and chilly too, out so that will have to be put off until another weekend, will probably take her to the Norfolk coast probably to Cromer or somewhere like that and treat her to fresh Crab which is absolutely scrummy.

I have lots to do and as usual so little time to do things, but the Pantry is important and I always like to

Further to my recent visit to the hospital I have to go into hospital for an endoscopy on the 3 July - they are going to give me a light anaesthetic in my hand "so that I am out of it" as I have difficulty with swallowing (I don't produce enough saliva) as they want to do some further investigations as to why I struggle with swallowing food at times and also have acid reflux and lots of discomfort.  It is predominantly bread that gets stuck, which apparently is quite common, but because of my other conditions they have decided to have a look and I am also being tested for wheat allergy.  I am not looking forward to it at all.  Well there is no rule book and each of us is so very different.

I am hoping to have a few days away in June - we will have to see how the pennies span out as I really could do with a break.

Well I am off to bed catch you all soon


Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Its not been a good day - whilst at work this morning I received a phone call from my friend who had been trying to get hold of the other half to let him know that my beautiful old fella had been knocked down in his stride going about his daily business.  Needless to say I am very upset, as he was such a beautiful character and I had hoped to have the pleasure of his company for a little bit longer even though we believe he was over 21 years of age.  He beat his way into my home and then my heart - precisely in that order (a stray on the street that had lost his original owner when he moved)   Such a character, very much a gentleman - even suffered the indignity of having his ears washed on a daily basis by an over zealous Jack Russell (Missy).

He had many friends up and around the area where we live, all are upset especially at the Veg shop where he used to camp out during the day.  I mourn his passing, particularly as he has gone by accident and he really did not deserve to go that way bless his heart.  Now in the summerlands, but forever in my heart.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

2011.05.15 My Day

Sorry haven't been around very much this week - I feel a little out of sorts - can't quite put my finger on it, but do not have much energy my get up and go seems to have got up and left.  Very frustrating as there is lots I want to tackle lots I want to do and I am getting fed up to boot.  But then I am a kinda glass half full girl rather than glass  being empty and I have just changed what I was going to do into smaller achievable projects so on a practical basis I have achieved something.

The weather hasn't been particularly warm today been very chilly.  Had to have the heating on again last night, even the cats haven't  tarried very much and have been glad to be in and snuggled down in their favourite spots.  I suspect if I had a fire I would have a heap of cats and a dog to fight to get anywhere near. But they are happy enough and that is the main thing. I am trying to type this one-handed at the moment as Squeak has decided it was about time that she had her evening fuss and is desperately trying to shift my computer off my lap.  Very determined when she wants something.

I have pottered about doing small jobs, like scrubbing some shoes and making them nice and presentable again,  general washing and a little ironing - still have heaps to do but tomorrow is another day.

Have had a lovely tea tonight, roast rolled lamb, mashed potatoes, roast sweet potato cubes, roast potatoes roast parsnip, mixed veg consisting of broccoli, carrot, cauliflower and spring cabbage with lots of gravy - very tasty.

For pudding we have had English strawberries and single cream - yet again scrummy.

Hopefully I'll feel a lot more with it during the course of the week.  I have to go to the hospital on Thursday for further tests (Gastroenterology Department) which I am not particularly looking forward to.  I also have to ring my Consultant's secretary tomorrow to make an appointment to find out the results of the recent MRI scan.  I am hoping that they will be able to make me a lot more comfortable than I am and have been.  Fingers crossed.

Will not be long before I am going up the wooden stairs to Bedfordshire - will be warmer under the quilts where I can snuggle and relax.

Take care and keep safe catch up with you all again soon.



Monday, 9 May 2011

Leftover Chicken

Well the herb roasted chicken was super yesterday very tasty and in the spirit of waste not want not I have a load of cooked chicken to use up off the carcass, and a carcass to make some fabby dabby chicken stock from.  I was therefore very pleased to find a simple recipe to cook up using both these items, and this is what we have as part of tomorrow night's tea.  I wanted something quick to serve as part of tea tomorrow as I am going out in the evening.  I like light dishes and of late I am becoming slightly addicted to noodles they are quite filling without being too fattening and I could do with losing some weight.

The recipe for Chicken noodle soup has come from the Good Food Eat Well magazine, although I have adapted it for my needs and to suit what I have available in the house at present and what needs using up.  I intend to serve with some bread rolls of some description.  If I get time I may even make some toffee apple pieces with ice cream for afters.


850ml/1 1/2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 175g/6 oz)
1 teaspoon of fresh chopped ginger
1 garlic lcove finely chopped
50g/2 oz rice or wheat noodles
2 tablespoons of frozen or tinned sweetcorn
2-3 mushrooms thinly sliced
2 spring onions shredded
2 tsp soy sauce plus extra for serving
mint or basil leaves and a little shredded chilli (optional) to serve

  1. Pour the stock into a pan and add the chicken, ginger and garlic, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat, partly cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken to a board and shred into bite sized pieces using a couple of forks.
  2. Return the chicken to the stock with the noodles, sweetcorn, mushrooms half the spring onions and the soy sauce.  Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until the noodles are tender.  Ladle into two bowls and scatter over the remaining spring onions, herbs and chilli shreds if using.  Serve with extra soy sauce for sprinkling.

My Variation

I have made the stock myself from scratch - it is cooking as we speak I have made a big pot of stock as I can use to make some to make Gazpacho later on in the week.  I really want to take advantage of the herbs in the garden.

I have used 6 oz of cooked chicken shredded which was left over from the herbed roast chicken.  The rest will be used in salad pittas for either lunch or tea or possibly a chicken salad with a peanut satay dressing.

I had leek, red onion, tinned sweetcorn, red pepper, chestnut mushroom and ordinary mushrooms left over in the fridge together with dried egg noodles, spring onions and mint leaves.

Will let you know what it tastes like tomorrow.

Catch you soon




Well this was quite a nice soup.  OH doesn't normally do homemade soup normally leaves it to me, but this time he had two bowlfuls.  It is quite a light soup, but equally quite filling (well it was for me as I don't have a big appetite at the best of times) but best of all for me was that it was made out of ingredients that I readily had to hand in the fridge, so I was quite chuffed as I didn't have to spend anything  as had everything to hand.  Will certainly be making this one again.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

2011.05.08 My Day

I've not done much today its been a bad one have had a lot of pain and have felt like I am falling off my scaffolding everytime I move somewhere - but hey s..... happens, today's today tomorrow's tomorrow.  So for the best part of the day I have read, and played games and really not done too much.  I did however pull my finger out though and made a nice tea.  I cooked home roasted spring herb chicken - a mixture of fresh herbs (i.e. thyme, chives, rosemary sage, bay leaf and some lemon verbena  that were growing in my herb garden chopped up finely and some crushed garlic also added with butter.  I stuffed half an onion in the cavity to keep it moist, whilst cooking and some fresh bay leaves too and cooked under foil for about 2 hours. I also cooked proper oven baked potatoes to go with the chicken.  It was served with salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, spring onion coleslaw and beetroot and was very tasty.  We then had more english strawberries with fresh cream for afters,  Very tasty it was too.

 The Chicken with the herb stuffing.  Sometimes I put the butter mix inbetween the skin and the chicken too, but on this occasion I did not.  I then added half an onion into the cavity to keep the chicken moist and a couple of fresh bay leaves and a sprinkle of olive oil just over the bay leaves so they don't burn.

 Partly cooked chicken taken out and turned around so that the chicken colours evenly

Nicely coloured golden chicken which was lovely and tender

 Potatoes scrubbed and then pricked all over with a fork and then wrapped in foil squares until cooked

Simple things are often the best and we ended up having a really lovely meal the camera battery went flat so sorry I couldn't show you the rest.

Its not going to be long before I hit the decks as I am shattered and my back is killing me.

Take care wherever you may be and I hope life is treating you well



Saturday, 7 May 2011


This recipe is primarily for Onion Focaccia but you can add other things too like I did adding sage and rosemary as well as red pepper.  Its up to you what you add, but remember if the ingredients are too wet the bread will not last many days,  not that it will anyway when you start eating this.


Main ingredients for the bread
210ml/7 1/2 fl oz scant 1 cup water
15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
350g/12oz/3 cups unbleached white bread flour
2.5ml/1/2 teaspon salt
5ml/1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
5ml/1tsp easy blend dried yeast
15ml/1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
15ml/1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
15ml/1 tablespoon chopped red onion

Ingredients for the topping

30ml/2 tablespoon of Olive oil
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
5 fresh sage leaves
10ml/2 tsp coarse sea salt
coarsley ground black pepper


  1. Pour the water and oil into the bread machine pan or into a glass bowl if making by hand.  Reverse the order in which you add the wet and dry ingredients for your machine if necessary.  When making by hand make sure that the salt is put in a separate place to the yeast.
  2. Sprinkle over the flour ensuring that it covers the liquid.  Add the salt and sugar in separate corners.  Make a small indent int he flour and add the yeast.
  3. Set the bread machine to dough setting.  If the machine has a choice of settings use the basic or pizza dough setting. Press start.  When making by hand stir with a wooden spoon all the ingredients together until well combined and pliable; you might have to add a little  more flour if the mixture is too wet but this will depend upon the flour used as it varies from mix to mix.  Knead until well combined and then put in a bowl and cover with cling film leave to rise in a warm place until double its size.
  4. Lightly oil a shallow round cake tine or pizza pan or baking sheet. When the cycle has finished remove the dough from the pan and place it on the baking pan which should have been greased and dusted with flour - this stops the dough sticking.
  5. Take the dough from the pan or out of the bowl depending on which version made and knock the dough back and flatten it slightly.  In small amounts start to add the sage red onion rosemary and pepper or whatever other ingredients you choose to add and knead together until incorporated into the dough mix.  Its best to do this in little amounts so that the dough combines this properly.
  6. Shape the dough into a ball, flatten it and then roll into a round or into a long strip and place on your prepared tin.  Cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for a further 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F or Gas mark 6.
  8. Once the dough has risen again take offf the cling film and using your finger tips which have been floured poke the dough with your fingers to make deep dimples over the surface.  Cover and leave to rise for a further 10 minutes or until the dough has doubled in bulk
  9. Drizzle over the olive oil, and sprinkle with the onion sage leaves, sea salt and black pepper. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Turn onto a wife rack and cool slightly.
  10. Serve with butter nice and warm,.

This is relatively easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.


Its been that kind of day

I have had a very tiring week this week so rather than deal with the housework I have been playing hooky - Its been a s.. the housework type of the day so I decided to indulge myself and play.  Part of the reason that I was tired was last night I paid my Frida night visit to my friend Eve.  Eve had decided that she wanted to do some cooking again last night; she wanted to have a go solo at making Soda bread, which is a particular comfort food that reminds her of her childhood, and her Nan and her father.  This time she made it alone and it was a success.  She also wanted to have a go at making Focaccia, which although I had read about I had never actually made so it was a bit of a learning curve for me too, but then that's the only way we learn how to do new things.  Needless to say the only recipe I could locate was for my bread machine but that is what I ended up using in any event, and it worked brilliantly with a tweak here and there and it was made by hand.    I only usually make bread the in the bread machine as I don't find it easy to knead, but hey I did this and it has all come out extremely delicious.  [please see separate post].  I supplied the sea salt, fresh sage and other bits and bobs.  I didn't get home from Eve's until 1.00 a.m. this morning bit of a dirty stop out - but it was a good evening and we did lots of chatting and cooking.  Put it this way Eve was quite content with what had been cooked. 

Today I woke to gentle teeming rain.  It was welcome, damp, humid, but by did we need it.  It only rained for a little while and then has dried up during the course of the day, but it has saved me having to water up tonight.  It will do the plants a lot of good.  

I popped to the veg shop, I wasn't after much as did not have many pennies, but managed to get 3kg of tomatoes to make some more passata for the pantry larder for £1.50 (50 pence per bag) - as I am fast using stocks up.  It has become a particular favourite.  I also bought some leeks, red onions, white Spanish Onions and ordinary onions. 2 punnets of English Strawberries, 1kg plums (also to be bottled).  Haven't spent very much just sort of topped up with things that I needed.

Also went to the Local Coop as they had an offer on olive oil at £2 a bottle so I have snaffled a couple of bottles as I was out of olive oil and I like to cook with.  Also a couple of pots of Philadelphia soft cheese also on offer £1 a tub.  I am quite partial to this on nice crusty bread too.

I also popped to the local charity shop; there were one or two nice things in there, but what I really am hanging my nose over is a pine dressing table with drawers for £50 - but I think will have to let this one pass by as don't think will have the funds available just yet, but it does not stop me looking.  I like rejuvenating old things.  I have an old collapsable card table to revamp, one of the splats is broken and the top needs re-felting, and the frame re-staining and varnishing, but just because something is scruffy and probably not worth a second glance, doesn't mean to say that it cannot be restored.  Its easy to throw something out, not so easy to put it right but nothing a little time and patience won't put right; besides these types of table are so very useful.

I also popped to the local Asian shop and bought some pitta breads - they were cheap three packs for £1.35 so I have bought a scuttle full of these to make the crisp breads for dips and such like as per previous recipe.  I also bought a couple of packs of butter, some plain yoghurt.  

The rest of the day I have spent playing,  researching different recipes.  I then set too and made Focaccia for tea by hand.  I used fresh sage and rosemary out of my herb garden and red pepper and spanish onion for the mixture.  I kneaded by hand and did not get on too badly and we had the Focaccia with an Italian style salad for tea tonight, with different kinds of salami and chorizo sliced, rocket, spring onion, beetroot, cucumber, cheeses and coleslaw. The bread was served warm with butter and it was heavenly so full of flavour but not overpowering, together with strawberries and cream for pudding washed down with a bottle of my elderflower champagne.  Very nice.  You don't have to spend a lot to live well.

I then did some further research on recipes.  I am going to have a go at making home made croissants and also pain au chocolat, although I think to start with I will do these in the bread machine, until I get used to the recipe at least.  But it has been really good to play and to potter today and play catch up with friends in the neighbourhood - there has been lots of chatting as I have bumped into people going from shop to shop which has been nice.  No doubt tomorrow it will be play catch up with the housework.

Catch you all soon



Thursday, 5 May 2011

2011.05.05 My Day

Its been a busy day although I met up with my mate and lunch and had a good old natter. 

Since being home this evening I have watered the garden up which took quite a while. I am very pleased a lot of seeds are through including my cabbage and broccoli seeds and letttuce seeds and loads of different herbs.  They are all wrapped up in fleece in the green houses this evening as although the days have been fairly pleasant well at least the past two days have, the nights have been very cold and earlier on the week we had a horrible wind that was perishing.There was also the threat of frost.  So the plantelets and seed pots got covered up.  So I am well chuffed with progress so far. Hopefully this weekend I will get a lot more seeds planted.

Since then I have cooked tea, steak pie, mashed potatoes, spring cabbage, asparagus and carrots with gravy.  It was lovely  and I am now stuffed to the gunnels.  I was going to do strawberries and cream for afters but that will have to happen tommorrow as I just cannot manage anything else.  My eyes are bigger than my belly or something along those lines, which interpreted means I put far too much on my plate.

Well have things to do will catch you all later.

Take care



 P.S. Nearly forgot - I also went to vote!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Seville Orange Wine

We eat a lot of Seville Orange marmalade during they year and sometimes I don't make enough to carry us through.  It;s then that I cheat a little and use the Mamade tinned seville orange or lemon pulp to make further marmalade to carry me to the conclusion of the year. 

There are a lot of things you can do with a jar of marmalade rather than eat it on toast so it soon gets used. It can be used to make a lovely cake, used as a sauce with meat and various other combinations including as part of a mix for a homemade barbecue sauce.  Occasionally I end up with a tin of the Mamade  just slightly out of date.  Rather than waste it I have found this recipe that I hsve on the go at the moment  - to me it makes sense to use something that will otherwise be wasted.[In all fairness I tend to grab a tin of this to hold in store whenever I see it, which is not very often].  I like homemade wine having been brought up to it, probably more than I like bought wine.  Therefore intent on stocking up for my Christmas wine cellar I intend to get what I can get going as well as all the seasonal wines to make too and the house wines made from fruit juices etc.

The recipe is taken from "Making your Own Wine and Beer" by Judith Irwin ISBN 0-86283-872-X and is apparently a Sweet Aperitif style wine [I shall report on that later]. but thought I would share, just perchancse you were in a similar situation.  Its good to share.

1lb 4oz tin/850g tin of Mamade brand prepared marmalade oranges
1/2 lb/225g sultanas
2oz/60g dates
2lb/900g of sugar (initial amount)
1/4 teaspoon/1g of malic acid
1/2 tsp/3g tartaric acid
1tsp/5g yeast nutrient
2tsp/10g pectic enzyme
Preferably a Tokay yeast - activated at least 12 hours before or normal wine yeast - same requirement

Wash and mince sultanas and dates
Place in a white winemaking bucket with the marmalade oranges and pour on 5 pints/2.5 litres of cooled boiled water.  Add the pectic enzyme and 2 crushed campden tablets cover and leave for 24 hours in a warm place. Dissolve the sugar in a pint of boiling water.  Allow to cool and then add to the bucket with the remainder of the ingredients and yeast and ferment for four days stirring twice daily.

Strain into a demijohn and fit an airlock. Rack off any sediment after ten days and check the specific gravity.  As soon as it is down to SG 1010, add four ounces/112 grammes of sugar dissolved in a little hot water.  Repeat this process as many times as posssible slowly raising the alchohol content to the maximum.  Rack after a further month and again at three months.  When the fermentation has ceased rack again, sweeten to taste and add a crushed campden tablet and a spoonfull of potassium sorbate to prevent re-ferementation.  Recommended to store in bulk for a year before bottling.

It is recommended that this wine is sweetened as suggested, because it is made from Seville "bitter" oranges it may be rather bitter to drink as a dry wine.

I will report back on this in a few months


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Herbed Camembert Parcels

Cheese is a big thing in this household, the stinkier the better and Camembert served molten in the oven and served with bread, celery, chutney or relish is a regular event.  But ever looking to increase my repertoire I came across this recipe.  I have had something similar to this before at a restaurant in the Lake District but hadn't located a recipe, that is until now.

Serves 4

4 sheets filo pastry
melted butter
1 x 220g/7oz whol Camembert cheese
1 teaspoon finely chopped basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 egg beaten

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F.
Brush each pastry sheet with melted butter and fold in half lengthwise.  Cut the cheese into 4 wedges.  Place one wedge on the end of each strip of pastry.  Sprinkle the basil and paprika over each cheese wedge, then fold a corner of pastry over to enclose the cheeses into a triangle shape, continue folding until the strip is used up, sealing the final edge with beaten egg.

Brush the tops of the parcels with egg.  Place on a greased baking tray and bake for about 15 minutes or until browned.  Serve with slices of tomato and basil leaves to decorate. 


Evening all

Well its been a busy day was back to work - what a thing to do on one's birthday - go to work!

Never mind I have made up for it this evening and been to see my step-daughter and grandson and was bought a lovely little something by them and then on to my mum's.  Have had a fish and chip supper, was given a lovely present by my mum, but best of all she had made me a cake.  We all love my mum's cake even my nephews who cannot get enough of them.

This was the lovely cake that mum made me, made with lots of love.

And the lovely lady who is my Mum

Thank you mum you made my day.

Lots of love


Monday, 2 May 2011

Basic Tomato Sauce

Ever on the look out for a different way of doing things, a different recipe a different approach  to things, I came upon this recipe from a wonderful book called "The Complete Book of Herbs" by Nerys Purchon ISBN No 1-85605-308-3.  This book really is worth the investment and is one of my nicer herb books.  For those of you wanting a copy Abebooks have them at the moment at relatively cheap prices.

I for the past few years have been able to bottle my own tomato sauce ready for use in the kitchen during the year and especially through the winter months.  I learnt to bottle with the support of some wonderful ladies at the Creative Living forum who were incredibly helpful and supportive to me, especially Kate, Sarah, Leanne and Jenny. Go on check them out here.

I had done all sorts of other preserving but not the bottling, but they made it simple for me and I haven't looked back.  I sort of use a recipe which is a cross between the one that Kate gave me and the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall one from the River Cottage Preserves book by Pam Corbin.

However I am always mindful that not everyone has access to doing this type of preserving and therefore I was pleasantly surprised to find this recipe which I think everyone will find accessible. To those who just have a freezer, to those of us who bottle, it adds some good ways of pepping up the basic tomato sauce, but it also helps the cook who only has access to tinned tomatoes.

This sauce makes approximately 16 fl oz

To quote:

"This basis sauce is the foundation for several sauces. It can be made in bulk and frozen in small amounts, ready to be converted into Mexican, Italian Indian or herb sauce by adding the appropriate herbs and spices.  To make a richer sauce, substitute red wine for some of the stock"


2 onions chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
425g/14 oz can tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 cup/250ml/8 fl oz stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions and garlic and olive oil until soft.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered until thickened.


Herb:   Add 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs of your choice.
Italian: Add 1 bay leaf before simmering and 1 tablespoon each of chopped basil and 
           oregano before serving.

Indian: Saute 1 tablespoon curry powder with the onions and garlic
Mexican:  Add cumin fresh coriander and chilli to taste.

Now that's what I call a versatile sauce.

For those of you who bottle or freeze you can carry on using your regular recipe, just pep it up with the addition of the herbs and spices when it actually comes to warming through and cooking.  It works out much cheaper to prepare your own, especially if you get an offer on cheap vine tomatoes or grow your own.

Pittabread or Lebanese Crackers

I like Pitta Breads and either buy (if I am in a hurry) or bake if I have time to play, but somewhere down the line there is always one or two that manage to avoid getting used up which annoys me no end.  This little recipe will put paid to that and make you feel almost virtuous as you end up managing to use everything.

The recipe comes from The Complete book of herbs by Nerys Purchon.

They are quick and simple to make and are ideal to serve with home made dips (goes well with my cheddar cheese and onion dip). See here for further details
Pitta breads
Olive oil
Powdered mixed herbs, paprika onion salt or garlic salt
sesame seeds cracked black pepper or anything else that takes your fancy

Split the breads in half.  Brush the inside of each half lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with your chosen topping.

Press the topping firmly onto the bread with a spatula and cut each piece into 8 or so wedges using scissors.  Place the wedges in a single layer on baking trays and bake in an oven at temperature 180 degrees C/350 degrees F until crisp and brown.  These crackers store well in an airtight container for a few days but they will soon disappear (that's if they make it into the tin).

Cottage Cheese with Herbs

Now that my herb border is springing into life again, I am eager to get a taste of the new seasons herbs.  And this recipe for me is a simple one that allows their flavours to come through and awaken the palate.  This can be served as a dip or as an accompaniment to a salad or in sandwiches etc..


2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons warm water
4 cups/1 litre/1 3/4 pints skimmed or whole milk
1-2 tablespoons very finely chopped herbs
Salt and black pepper

Combine the lemon juice and water

Heat the milk to boiling point, remove from the heat and slowly drizzle in the lemon mixture, stirring very gently.  Stop stirring and adding when the curds separate and the whey is yellowish and clear.  Leave for one hour.   Then with a slotted spoon gently lift the curds into a bowl.

Fold the herbs gently into the cheese (if making plain omit), add salt and black pepper to taste and spoon into a cheesecloth lined sieve or colander.  Leave to drain for 1-2 hours or hang in the cheesecloth tied together with a string and hung up and allow to drip. Store once stopped dripping in a lidded glass container in the fridge.

I get so much more pleasure from doing things myself than neccessarily buying them from a supermarket shelf, and it is making use of what you have around you.  For the best part most of us have the above ingredients already in our kitchen armoury.


Sunday, 1 May 2011

Tis the Merry Month of May

Despite the fact that May is my birth month I have always loved this spring month best of all.  Lily of the Valley is traditionally the flower associated with the month of May and is also one of my favourite flowers.  I learnt just recently from my mother that on the day that I was born at a country cottage hospital my father brought her a big bunch of lilac to the hospital and a couple of days after I was born walking in the grounds to the hospital there was a big patch of lily of the valley growing there.  Mum picked a bunch.  It is such a lovely flower.

Tis the month when everything starts to spring into life, the blossom on the bushes giving the gift of beauty and of perfume, the month that traditionally says goodbye to winter - thank goodness.  But it is also Beltaine - another click in the wheel and she has moved yet again - ever forward taking us on a journey to our destiny our fate.  It is the journey that we learn most from.  The Celebration of the green and of the Green Man and a celebration of country law and magic - the wheel moves ever onwards.

I have been reading a lot more poetry of late - its a passion I picked up as a child and I have come across this poem which for me sums up so much of our past and of a much gentler way of life and of course it is olde englishe.  I hope you like it too.

by: Thomas Dekker
      THE month of May, the merry month of May,
      So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!
      O, and then did I unto my true love say,
      Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer's Queen.
      Now the nightingale, the pretty nightingale,
      The sweetest singer in all the forest quire,
      Entreats thee, sweet Peggy, to hear thy true love's tale:
      Lo, yonder she sitteth, her breast against a brier.
      But O, I spy the cuckoo, the cuckoo, the cuckoo;
      See where she sitteth; come away, my joy:
      Come away, I prithee, I do not like the cuckoo
      Should sing where my Peggy and I kiss and toy.
      O, the month of May, the merry month of May,
      So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green;
      And then did I unto my true love say,
      Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer's Queen. 

My little patch

I think perhaps in the grander scheme of things I am way behind those "gardeners" who have set their seeds early; but I tend to wait until the finer weather in view of the fact that when I have planted things out early I have ended up losing the lot, so I tend to err on the side of caution, especially with the set up that I have at the moment.  

To me the best thing is planting seeds from scratch, to me that is what gardening is all about, coaxing and nurturing life from to what in effect looks like dried hard seeds of different descriptions, with no apparent signs of life into something that is breathing and living.  

Some of my first batch of seeds that I set a couple of weeks ago are now through; my plum tomatoes and my yellow courgettes.  

 I am well chuffed "some of my babies are through".  I now have the job of pricking these out into individual pots, to let them grow on that little bit more before planting them out in their final positions, but may leave the tomatoes a day or two longer as I suspect there are still some more seeds to come through, but the courgettes will get done.  I am now eagerly waiting for the rest of the seeds to peek through.

I love yellow courgettes, there is no need to peel these as the peel is softer than that of the green courgettes, although I grow the green as well and often use both yellow and green together with aubergines, tomatoes and onion to make a lovely Ratatouille.  Yum!
Here we go me and my food again.

The herb garden is starting to look productive especially after the major tidy up in the last few weeks.  The sages two a variegated variety called Ictarine Sage and an ordinary bluey/green sage - I dry both and when thoroughly dry "rub" them and then store in a large preserving jar and use them in home-made stuffings throughout the year.  I use an awful lot of sage.

The chives are also in full bloom; I love these with long slender stems that are so full of flavour, especially when they sprout their purple flowers. The chive plants are about three to four years old and each year I get a few more flowers.  Chives are superb with egg dishes of any kind and nice chopped or snipped into cheese cream or grated and then served with home baked potatoes.

The ordinary garden mint is starting to come through too; I love home cooked new potatoes of any description, cooked with a hint of mint - so fresh so zesty.  It wakens up the palette especially after the winter months, where with the best will in the world our palettes become a little jaded.  But mint soon zips up a simple meal.  I am always very grateful to my herb border for adding flavour to my simple homespun meals.

At the beginning of the week a very good friend bought me one of my plants off my wish list which is a lemo verbena.  This plant has a lovely lemony zesty smell that when you dry the leaves and then use them in a pot pourri smell absolutely wonderful.  I first came upon this plant on one of my trips down to Cornwall and brought it home.  In those days I did not know what to do with this very lovely plant, and then someone bought me a wooden carved box with an Elizabethan pot pourri in that smelt absolutely divine.  The main ingredient in this mix was the dried lemon verbena.  But the dried leaves  and fresh leaves can also be used in drinks, fruit salads, jellies, cakes, stuffings, apple dishes and home made ice cream or sorbet.

I still need to get some Tarragon plants though as I nearly always make up a batch of Tarragon vinegar - home made always tastes lovely.

Anyway have to go the garden is calling.



N.B. This is the lemon verbena I was bought as a present by my friend earlier in the week it was a lovely surprise.

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)