Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sloe Gin A Spirit to warm the Cockles of the Heart

Well it is the season to be merry!  This evening I cracked open a bottle of Sloe Gin that I had made a few years ago and boy has it warmed me up.  I was not able to locate any sloes this year but will definitely try and source some for next as my limited stock will not last for ever.  Sloe Gin is one of the spirits I first played with and has remained a constant to be made every year that is if I can get hold of the sloes.  Next year though I will start buying the odd bottle of Gin and Vodka where I can funds allowing so I have a stock ready for later in the year ready to utilise - Toffee Vodka, home made Lemoncello, Blackberry Whisky, Rhubarb, and Gooseberry voddies are other recipes that can be made  also utilising a gin or vodka base, even pear drops or bubble gum can be used.

Tomorrow night now I may well have to make some mulled wine.  Another favourite.  I have a lot to do today so it will be nice to sit down in the warm and relax and let the wine do its work.  OH is not keen but I love it.

Right I think its about time I actually got to bed.

Nighty Night, Sleep tight.



Thursday, 12 December 2013

Evening everyone it has been a busy old week and is going to be even busier next week midnight oil and all that jazz and I have to get the Christmas decorations up and the .  I have next week off on holiday am back at work for one day and then we are off for the Christmas holidays.  Despite getting off to an early start Christmas has crept up on me and I really have to get a wriggle on next week.  Mind you I do like a challenge.

I missed delivery of a parcel today which I sorely need. ( I had a clothes rail collapse and as a result I have clothes hanging where they should not be and they are in the way) so I have bought a new sturdier one on which to store my clothes.  I have rearranged delivery and it should be with me shortly so that I can bring organisation to my bedroom again and find what I am looking for.  

Today we have had a bit of fun in the office.  Four of our brave chaps volunteered to have their legs waxed to raise funds for Charity (Just the lower legs and in some cases toes as well) ouch ouch and double ouch.  It was very game of them but there were a few  moments but they all survived.  I could only stay for part of the event as I had quite a bit of work to do and with having next week off as well I did not want to leave the girls in the lurch.

Its my grandson number one's birthday tomorrow so we nipped round tonight to see him as he is being taken to the cinema to see The Hobbit for his birthday treat so would not be around tomorrow evening.  They grow up so quickly these days.

This evening OH has come home with a gift from work.  The firm is Italian owned and they give all staff members a home made Pannetone and we also received Biscotti and two types of Torrone.  They come in a lovely big carboard box.  I have the one from last year which I have turned into a Hat Box and as that box is nearly full this year's box may be going the same way.

I have been writing Christmas cards this evening and doing my yearly note to the relatives I do not get to see very often.

I have a Christmas meal to go to tomorrow night so I have also been getting my clothes ready as it will be a quick in and quick out tomorrow evening.

It is cold out again this evening however it is warm in the house; the cats are all comatose sprawled in different places and Missy is under her quilt/beddy.  She has a very thin coat and does not like the cold at all.

Right upwards and onwards I still have loads to do.

Catch you all shortly



Saturday, 7 December 2013

How does one lose a loaf of bread

Yesterday I bought  loaf of bread in readiness for making sarnies for OHs packup this morning.  I got up early and came down to make them.  Could not find the loaf.  I knew I had bought one looked everywhere in desperation still unable to locate.

I therefore got dressed (I had anticipated going back to bed for a little while longer) and toddled off to the shop.  Could not get a loaf so bought him some nice crusty buns.  OH was out for the count whilst all this was going on.  Came back to the house was in the process of preparing said buns when I happened to look up and noticed a bag on one the kitchen cupboard's door handles.  Guess what was inside  - one loaf of bread.  At least I found it but he still got buns for his pack up.

Well I suppose its a whole lot better than putting the kettle in the fridge!

Do not ask  - I think it is going to be one of those days.

Catch you later



Friday, 6 December 2013

Christmas Hoarding Part 10

    A few more goodies added this week some made some bought still loads to do.
    • Bottled dark plums in syrup for the Christmas Plum Sweetmeats 6 jars
    • More Pickled Onions
    • More Pickled Shallots
    • 5 pint jars and one small jar of Cherries in syrup 
    • 8 jars Peach and Ginger Chutney
    • 2 bottles apple slices in syrup
    • 2 Packets Boudoir Biscuits
    • 2 packets Cadbury Honeycomb Fingers
    • 5 jars Pear and Fig Preserves in Spiced Port Syrup
    • 2 cases bought meringue nests
    • 2 boxes Choco Liebniz biscuits 
    I have also sourced two decorative wreaths for the Christmas Dinner Table.  The plan is at the moment to have a white table cloth and in the centre to have a long thin mirror onto which the two wreaths with two pillar candles will  be placed with some other candles and the mirror will reflect  the candle light.  The wreaths have been sourced from my Greengrocer and she is keeping them for me as she has a nice cold room into which to store then in whereas at the moment I have no where to store them.

    So matters are moving on afoot.

    Still have loads to do.

    Catch you soon



    Thursday, 5 December 2013

    Plans for tomorrow

    Tomorrow I have a day off  and the plan is to bottom the lounge out and get it tickety booh in ready for Christmas well so I can get the decorations and the tree up.

    However today I managed to get 4 bags of fresh cranberries.  Marks & Sparks did not have any and I obtained mine at £2 for 300g from Waitrose so tomorrow I am going to start the first batch of Cranberry and apple jelly.  Well at least start it off  as I have plenty of apples at the moment and you have to leave it overnight to drip through a jelly bag so it will get finished off on Saturday evening.  I hope to get some more cranberries probably next week and also make some chutney and I also have a recipe for Cranbrillo from one of the Christmas magazines the Good Housekeeping Christmas Collection 2013. This will be ideal with the cheeseboard. However to serve with the Turkey each year I make fresh Cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier liqueur and we use the jelly during the rest of the holiday and then use throughout the year.  

    I also want to make some spiced winter jelly.

    So I have quite a bit to do and knowing me I will find something else to add to the list.

    Catch you sometime tomorrow.



    Monday, 2 December 2013

    December slips in quietly

    December has slipped in quietly here although I have been busy as I had managed to acquire fruit at very cheap prices and so I have been busy popping stuff up in bottles  - some will be used at Christmas and some for the New Year - my Glass Pantry services us all year long and I make stuff when I come across bargains and I have the spare cash to take advantage.

    Today I have prepared some pears and figs in port which is a recipe from Ghillie James' Cookbook called Jam Jelly and Relish -  and I made the Mulled Spiced Pears and Figs which rather took my fancy especially when she said that she served it with cold meats and a wedge of Manchego Cheese or in the alternative a bowl of good vanilla ice cream. I think cinnamon ice cream might go just as well too.  I made double the quantity and have five jars and used a whole bottle of port (fortunately I had it in the cupboard) and it made the most delicious syrup I love mulled wine anyway but I snaffled the left over syrup and it was delicious.  In fact I might make some up separately as I think it would be delicious in its own right just over plain vanilla ice cream as a sauce.  It was delish.

    If you ever get chance to obtain this book do get it as it has some lovely recipes in.

    I have also bottled 6 large Kilner Jars of Black Plums and two Kilner Jars of apple slices in syrup and eight jars of peach and ginger chutney.

    The peels and some old lemons, lime and grapefruit are being processed for compost jelly in the spirit of waste not want not so it has been an extremely busy  day.

    I did not see the news until later tonight and so was unaware of the tragedy in Scotland and in America. So much sadness and loss my heart goes out to those that have lost loved ones such tragedy.

    I am back to work today so will catch up where I can

    Take care



    Sunday, 1 December 2013

    Patchwork cooking and a social conscience

    I am still stockpiling shirts in order to have a go at my first patchwork quilt and this morning I have managed to acquire two more to go with the several other shirts I already have in my stash.  I still need a few more but they will come in time.
    I am hoping to start cutting what fabric I do have during the Christmas break when I have some  time to myself and can concentrate once all the humdrum has calmed down. I need to ground myself and produce something practical at the same time.  I love the charm of quilts and how much love has been placed in each stitch or each creation producing something cosy and warm to snuggle up into such bliss such individuality.  To me the warmth a home made quilt brings is magical especially as so many are pieced out of the smallest scraps of fabric.

    I also like home knitted or crocheted blankets as they add so much comfort and cheer.  I aim for next year to learn how to knit aran style and make some aran style throws for the home in neutral colours they seem to be very in at the moment in the shops and the prices and the quality of some of the cheaper ones is not very good or is that me just being plain fussy.

     With the best will in the world I do try and support my local charity shops but pay through the nose I will not and to some extent charity begins at home  it has to. I am very aware that there are lots of families who are feeling the pain especially where food and heating are concerned.  I just wish some of the bigger charities would concentrate on a little home help now and again instead of focusing all their efforts abroad. Supporting courses that will teach people to cook and teach them how to shop properly and feed their families instead of relying on ready meals which in our household are not a hearty sized meal.  A lot of our pensioners could help here as a lot of them have immense knowledge gained through real experience - my mother for one was a child in the second world war and has always been a practical sensible cook as she knew real hunger during the war years as there were ten children in the family in a two up two down and they made the most of whatever came their way. Granddad was in the Royal Artillery and prior to the war had had an allotment which had fed the family but on his departure they had no one of an age to tend the allotment so that cut off an important fresh food source for them.

    I managed to get 3 baskets of plums the other day £1 a basket = 3kg of plums which I am bottling in sugar syrup for the pantry shelf.  This will provide at least four puddings whether turned into a pie or crumble served with custard - two of  the jars are destined for sugar plums for the Christmas festivities. 

    I have also been given a load of apples and I prepared apple sauce earlier in the week which can equally be used for puddings. I have also prepared two jars of sliced apples in sugar syrup which yet again drained can go for a pie or a crumble and the juice can be added to some lemonade for a drink - there is no need to waste a bit of anything.

    So I have at least 8 puddings provided for in effect.  Puddings are just as good a filler as a main meal especially when you cannot afford a lot of meat, although a main meal can be padded out with stuffings and Yorkshire puddings (we use them with all meats).  And a soup can easily be made from leftovers as a starter.  A meal for a family of four can be prepared quickly and cheaply in a pressure cooker especially with the cost of fuel these days.  There are ways and means its just accessing the information and acquiring the skills.  It comes down to choices as well you either want to feed your family properly but that requires a bit of an effort and extra work but good food also keeps your family healthy and to me its worth it.



    We should be mixing the generations up and breaking down the barriers and helping each other as each  of us has something to bring to the table no matter what our age or our differences.

    Saturday, 30 November 2013

    Busy Saturday

    I have been in town for the best part of the day with mum  - I took her shopping. I think we will end up having to go again at some point but we did not do too badly and as usual I was Sherpa. I did buy some more Kilner jars and some new lids for jars.

    I was offered some black cherries quite cheaply yesterday by my Greengrocer and so have prepared some cherries in syrup which are a favourite here.  I was tempted to add some kirsch but I did not think OH would go a bundle on this and I think also I have more flexibility with them prepared this way and so I have played safe and just prepared them in syrup. I am hoping to make a Black Forest Gateau for the Christmas celebrations and as I have a small bottle of Kirsch in the cupboard I can always add a dash then and might also make a deconstructed Black Forest Trifle as per the programme with Paul Hollywood on the other day which seemed nice and easy.  I managed to get 5 pint jars and one small one so not too bad and another couple of recipes.

    Some peach and Ginger chutney is on the cards for tomorrow morning and I have some cherry tomatoes that I obtained cheaply so some tomato ketchup and some bottled tomatoes are also on the cards tomorrow is going to be a busy day.

    This evening though I have had off.  The cats and I have been watching festive cookery programmes and  I have indulged in a bottle of beer for once. A little research as I am looking for some beer to flavour some home made mustard and there are lots of named beers out there which I know nothing about.  This evenings offerings was The Thursty Ferret.  Very hoppy (nutty flavour but it went down very well and made a nice change and I enjoyed the research.

    Catch you soon.



    Wednesday, 27 November 2013

    I lost it but now I have found it

    Now what is she going on about!  My camera that I used for posting lots of photographs on this blog has been missing for about a year and a bit. I have hunted high and low for it and tonight whilst sorting out the dining room I was sorting one of the drawers in the dresser when I realised there was something wedged at the back. Gingerly pushing my hand into unknown territory I was very surprised and pleased to retrieve my camera.  Its an idiot proof one and is ideal for snapping away for the blog.  Now I need to find the battery charger as the battery has gone as flat as a pancake in the interim.  I hope I can get it working again.  OH did buy me a new one but I haven't quite got round to looking at the instruction book; I will do as it is a super proper camera that will be kept for best.  I had a feeling I would come across it one day although initially I thought I had lost it at work!

    Big sigh of relief.  All say ahh!



    Christmas Hoarding Part 9

    Well this week I have added:
    2 packets Cadburys Fingers (£1 per pack)
    2 Packets Cadburys Fabulous Fingers (£1 per pack)
    2 jars of gherkins
    2 jars Peppadew peppers (OH likes these)
    1 bottle of rum (need this for the rum sauce to go with the Christmas Puddings and for the Masawati coffee to keep the chills at bay)
    1 bottle of Hobgoblin    (for the home made mustard)
    1 bottle of Speckled Hen (for the home made mustard)
    "Stocked up on" excuse the pun Oxos all three flavours and 
    a jar of marmite (OH demolished the last jar and the cupboard was bare when I came to make stew).
    And a 2kg bag of popcorn kernels for home made popcorn (you can always jazz it up with caramel and almonds

    I was also given a load of cooking apples so all sorts of things are being prepared with them including spiced apple jelly. 

    There are also more shallotts and pickling onions being prepared so many a day so we should be well stocked for a few months at least.

    The cupboards are slowly filling up which is how I like it.

    Catch you soon.




    Come this time of year I am forever on the look out for the first cranberries as religiously every year I make Cranberry and Apple Jelly and I make a lot of it as we use it throughout the year.  This little gem is worth its place on the Pantry shelf as it can be used in sauces in sandwiches in gravy.  I popped the recipe up quite some time ago but here is the link

    So in the next few days or so/weeks I will be on the lookout for the first cranberries in order that I can get stuck in and get a couple of batches made to last the year.  

    There is of course also the Cranberry Gin, Cranberry Cheese, Cranberry Membrillo and Cranberry Curd, Cranberry and Clementine Chutney and Cranberry and Cointreau Sauce for the Christmas Turkey to make as well.

    I am taking my mum shopping tomorrow in Spalding so I shall have a look out there as mum wants to stock up at the supermarket whilst we have the chauffeur with us.

    Catch you soon I am sorting the dining room out today so will probably be missing in action for an hour or two at least.  There is always something to do and I just do not understand the phrase "I am bored" I can always keep myself occupied.




    Tuesday, 26 November 2013

    Christmas Hoarding Part 8

    I have also managed to make:

    This time round no bought goodies just home made items
    •  Strawberry fruit sauce
    • Bottled Rocha Pears in syrup [7 jars]
    • Started Marrons Glace
    • 5 Litres (5 jars) Apple Puree
    • Green Tomato Chutney 3 big jars and one standard
    • Christmas Puddings x 2
    • Pickled Onions 
    • Pecans in Honey
    • Almonds in Honey
    • Hazlenuts in Honey
    I think I also forgot to mention that I had made the Christmas Cake and a Dundee Cake which are "maturing" in the Pantry in the tins.

    So I am getting there very slowly still lots to do though.  

    And I have some ornaments for the tree I want to make too.

    Catch you soon.

    How many more sleeps before the big day?



    Chestnuts and a Recipe for Marrons Glace

    As the song goes "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire".  When I was younger we did have them straight off the fire.  I always remember my first taste of chestnuts though was when I was about four when my Dad one Christmas whilst we were shopping took us to a chap in Peterborough (we used to come in from Uppingham every so often shopping) with a brazier and bought us a bag.  I had never tried them before then but was absolutely hooked and they have always featured just roasted in all our Christmas' down the line I even have a special Chestnut roasting pan.  But I have never turned them into anything else or made a preserve with them but it looks as though that is about to change.

    I found a recipe that I can do a bit at a time but it will fit in with my busy working schedule and the preparations in the run up to Christmas and it is for marrons glace and the recipe is as follows just in case you want to have a go and play yourselves.:


    1 1b/500g fresh chestnuts
    3 1/2 oz/200g granulated sugar
    8fl oz/250ml liquid glucose
    8fl oz/250ml water
    Vanilla extract

    Lemon juice

    To finish
    3 1/2 oz/100g granulated sugar
    3 tablespoons of water

    1.  Make a small cross cut in the top of each chestnut then boil for 2 minutes then peel away the shell and the inner skin with a small knife.  If the nuts are hard to peel return them to the pan and bring to the boil again.

    (at this point in the future I am going to try just boiling a few chestnuts at a time as I think that the nuts can become waterlogged with repeated boiling where doing a few at a time will preserve the integrity of the nut).

    Also at this point when the nut is peeled in future I am going to pop into water with lemon juice as the nuts I have done have come up a lot darker than I had envisaged and I think the acidulated water might just help with the colouring lots of other recipes seem to suggest this.

    2.  Put the peeled chestnuts into a pan and cover with cold water then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes until just tender. Drain and transfer to a shallow dish.

    3.  To make a sugar syrup put the sugar, liquid glucose and water into a saucepan heating gently until the sugar has dissolved then boil for one minute. Pour over the chestnuts cover with a plate to keep the nuts submerged and then leave in a cold place overnight.

    4.  On day 2 drain the syrup into a saucepan and boil for 4 minutes.  Pour over the chestnuts cover and leave overnight as before.  

    On day 3 repeat as day 2 adding the vanilla extract after boiling.  

    On day 4 repeat the sugar boiling process once more.  Add the chestnuts then soak for three days.

    5.  On day 7 arrange the chestnuts in a layer on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.  Leave in a warm place for 2 to 3 days turning once or twice until the coating is hard.

    6.  On day 9 or 10 make the glace finish.  Boil some water in a pan.  Put the sugar and water in another pan.  Heat until the sugar has dissolved then boil for 1 minute. Using tongs then dip the chestnuts into the boiling water.  Shake off the excess moisture then dip into sugar syrup.  Dry the chestnuts overnight on a rack. Wrap in foil and store in an airtight container.  They will according to the recipe keep for three months.

    I am at point four and as I go on I will add further notes (if applicable) after all its a first for me having a go at making my own Marrons Glace.



    Monday, 25 November 2013

    Green Tomato Chutney

    Its late for stripping the vines out but a little bit of bounty all the same courtesy of my mum who stripped out the vines in her greenhouse they were still producing fruit but the fruit was not ripening a sure sign that the plant for this year are spent.

    When I started writing this post the Green tomato chutney was simmering away and true to form I had not got all the exact ingredients but I had similar ones. This is how recipes are changed if it works I will do it again or follow the exact recipe another time. The recipe called for brown sugar and malt vinegar  and sultanas but I have used white sugar and white wine vinegar as replacements and golden sultanas.I have also slowly simmered the mixture not boiling it to death but letting it simmer gently more to retain the colour than anything else. It is a beautiful pale yellow (I did not want it to go darker and browner) fortunately it is still a pale yellow. Out of 1kg of tomatoes, 500g of apples, 500g of onions I have ended up with three jars (which are a little bigger than the normal size jam jar) and one standard jar.  Something precious to pop up on the pantry shelf.  The scrapings taste good so should be even nicer by the time that its sat for a while.  Will be nice with some pork pie and ham. I am drooling at the mere thought.

    Behave yourself Tricia

    Catch you later



    Marmalade a recipe for Marmalade and Carrot Cake

    One of the problems people foresee if people make a lot of home made preserves is well how do I use it up.  I think in a lot of cases it is a case of trial and error and one of the things I have found is that the more I preserve the more ideas I come up with on how to use things up or the more recipes I come across.  I am lucky in that I have a lot of preserving books and I dip in and out of these quite a lot.  As mentioned in my earlier post I had half a jar of home made Seville Orange Marmalade  to use up and I have come across this recipe which should fit the script.  As it happens I also have some carrots to use up.  The recipe is from Mary Tregallas Notes from the Jam Cupboard a lovely little book with some very good recipes and ideas in.  This fits the brief just nicely:


    For the cake

    6oz soft brown sugar
    6oz margarine
    3 eggs separated
    2 1/2 oz ground almonds
    4 tablespoons warmed marmalade
    6oz self raising flour
    6oz carrots peeled and grated (about 2 medium sized)
    4oz chopped almonds

    For the Topping

    6oz mascarpone
    3 tablespoons lemon curd
    few strands of orange zest to decorate


    Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/Gas Mark 4.

    Grease and line a loose-bottomed cake tin

    Cream the sugar and margarine and then beat in the egg yolks and the ground almonds.  Add the marmalade, flour, carrots and chopped almonds and mix well.

    Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold into the cake mixture.  Tip into the cake tin levelling the top then bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before extracting from the tin.

    When the cake has completely cooled and then beat the mascarpone and the lemon curd together spreading all over the cake.  Decorate with the orange zest.

    Sounds yummy  - didn't get to it today but will do tomorrow.



    Its been a "Nutty" Kind of Day

    Put simply I have been doing things with nuts. Slightly different from the planned list of earlier on but that's because I have never had a go at marrons glace before.  Bit more time consuming than I thought, its taken me ages to peel 1 kg of blinkin chestnuts.  They are now busy soaking in sugar syrup for the first day of a ten day procedure. 

     I started with the chestnuts for the marrons glace using a serrated knife to cut a cross in the point of each chestnut using a serrated knife going across the point one way and then the other (as per Pam Corbin on River Cottage) and then popping them in boiling water to release the skins ready for shelling - the messy part. I had to reboil the water a couple of times and dealt with the chestnuts on a one by one basis holding the hot nuts in a towel as I do not have asbestos fingers in order to peel them.  The fiddly part comes when the inner skin will not shift and I have ended up teasing the skin away with the point of a knife. 

    The nuts will not come out perfect each time - but hey I can live with that but I am still preparing the broken lumps as well.  It would seem that the chestnuts which remind me or wrinkled brains seem to have a natural fault line some actually split in half one way and some the opposite so you can end up with halves, wedges and lumps.  Several have come out perfect but being as I have gone to all this time and trouble I will separate the good whole ones off from the not so perfect.  It will all be edible at the end of the day and it will just be down to presentation.

    if you were selling them on a commercial basis things would be different but I am just aiming to have a few different things available i.e. as a sweetmeat or as an accompaniment for pancakes, ice creams, waffles  sprinkled over cheesecake.
    One of the simplest puds is created from home made vanilla ice cream, butterscotch sauce and some chopped nuts or some nuts in honey.  When you are busy you always need something quick that is not necessarily time heavy but which produces a result.

    I have also made hazlenuts in honey, almonds in honey and pecans in honey and I have some chocolate, butterscotch sauces to make at some point too.  The strawberry sauce is already made. 

    So despite the detour I have managed to get some things started its just not what I had hoped to do.  That will teach me to have a go at something new!

    Catch you soon



    Sunday, 24 November 2013

    Christmas Hoarding Part 7

    I have added a few more goodies to the list and the store cupboard under the stairs is starting to fill out very nicely.  I am one of the lucky ones I realise that, but we never know what is going to happen on the morrow so it is better to be prepared wherever you can. Save what you can when you can  It may not be much but at least its something and the bits and bobs collected together will get used at Christmas but will also get used into the New Year as well.

    I have managed to add the following to the Christmas Hoard:

    • A  tin of Roses
    • A tin of Quality Street
    • 2 boxes of Gruyere Sticks
    • 2 Packets of Cheddars
    • 2 Boxes Thorntons Chocolates
    • 2 packets Chocolate Digestives 
    • 1 pkt of plum chocolates
    • 1 pkt of cherry chocolates
    2 bags crystallised Ginger  

    Every little helps



    Planned For Today

    I have quite a bit of cooking to do today on the preserving front.  On Saturday my mum had stripped her tomato vines out and there were quite a few green tomatoes left over so I have them to make some green tomato chutney with.

    However these are the things I have to do today:

    Make the stew for tea
    Make a Treacle Pudding to be served with custard
    Make some soup with the stock from the ham  - possibly French Onion
    Make a Marmalade and carrott cake (I found a recipe to use the Seville Orange Marmalade up in)
    Make some more Chunky  Apple Sauce
    Make some Apple Pop
    Make some Ginger Beer
    Apple Chutney
    Green Tomato Chutney
    Pecan and Honey sauce
    Almond and Honey sauce
    Butterscotch Sauce
    Chocolate Sauce
    Marrons Glace
    Chestnut Jam

    I am out this evening so some of it may be taken over to the next day, but I am getting up at normal time so as I can get as much as I can done and get a wriggle on.  There are other things to do like the washing, but that can be done in-between everything else.  So it looks as though I am going to be busy, busy, busy.

    Catch you later



    Sunday Potterings

    Today I have been busy in the kitchen.  I have peeled a load of apples and made a chunky apple sauce which has been bottled and is about to be hot water bath processed to make sure that it keeps on the pantry shelf for a little while. I processed 2kg of Bramley apples and then added 8 small dessert apples (they form the chunks) as well as lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar and some water.  For my efforts I have 5 x 1 litre jars of apple which will come in useful for making apple pie, apple sauce cake, apple sauce for serving with roast pork, apple amber, apple puffs wherever you would use pureed apple. 

    I like rootling around in the kitchen, trying a bit of this and that together sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't and those we just put down to experience.  You have to play with your ingredients to understand them all the better and for the best part I work with what I have to hand even when the pennies are scarce I usually somehow manage to rustle something up.

    For Sunday tea this evening I cooked a gammon joint that I had picked up for £5 and rather than just cooking it for a ham and meat for sandwiches or for serving with potato wedges or home made chips I thought I would cook and get a nice hot meal out of as well. Once the gammon was cooked I grabbed a jar of my home made Seville Orange marmalade that needs using up and slathered a load of the marmalade over the gammon joint and simply kept basting the meat until it was nice and shiny and the meat fat had started to gently caramelise. ( I had soaked the gammon joint before cooking bringing to the boil slinging he water away and then cooking with some fresh herbs, rosemary, thyme, parsley bay leaces, a shallot some cloves and black pepper, white pepper and I now also have some nice stock to make some soup with tomorrow).  I now have about half a jar of marmalade left over to use.  I shall have to go rootling and see what I can come up with.

    The gammon was served simply as it was in slices and it was nice a lean served with steamed kale, broccoli, cauliflower, mashed potatoe and carrots.  I used the remnants of the marmalade and meat juices to form the basis of the gravy adding other bits and bobs as I went and it made a lovely tasty meal, just right for a cold wintry evening.

    I think it might be stew for tomorrow - I am supposed to be out tomorrow evening and OH will need something substantial after being at work all day.  I will get the pressure cooker out and make it first thing in the morning and then I can forget about it.   I am home on holiday for the week trying to get ready for Christmas this week so I will be able to play for a change with the cooking.  

    OH will be having the left over ham for his pack up - there are some veggies left so I might make some bubble and squeak patties to go with the stew and to help use up some of the veggies left over from tonight.

    Right I have things to do  - quite a lot of them.

    Catch up soon



    Friday, 22 November 2013

    Christmas Pudding Instructions

    Further to the ingredients list posted here is the method on how to make the Christmas Pudding(s).

    Begin the day before you want to steam the Christmas Pudding.

    I use a very large mixing bowl and start by sifting in the flour, breadcrumbs, spices and sugar.  Thoroughly give these ingredients a good mixing with your hands then gradually add in all the dried fruits, mixed peel and nuts followed by the apple, carrot, grated orange and lemon zests.  (Best to tick off each ingredient saves you forgetting to add something in).

    Then in a second smaller basin measure out the rum, barley wine and stout (I have been known to use just rum and stout leaving out the barley wine but adding in the same quantity extra of stout) or mixing just with cider and rum.  Then add the eggs and beat these thoroughly together.  Next pour this smaller bowl into the larger bowl of dried ingredients and then begin to combine and mix thoroughly.

    At this point it is traditional to call the family together  and invite everyone to give the pudding a good stir and make a wish a the same time!

    The mixture should be fairly sloppy it should fall from a spoon immediately it is tapped on the side of the bowl. If you think a little too dry add some extra stout. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave overnight to allow the flavours to develop.

    Next day take some greaseproof paper and using the outer perimeter of the bowl place this on a double layer of greasproof paper and cut out two circles for each pudding and leave a good inch free at the top of the bowl for the pudding to expand when it is put to steam. (this is the inner liner that will go next to the raw pudding mix) then grease the bowl or bowls you are going to use add the mixture to the bowl, add the two circles of greaseproof paper to cover the raw mix then add an outer layer of greaseproof a double layer again and roughly have an oblong of greaseproof and put a centre pleat in the greaseproof (this is the expansion channel for the pudding) and then tie this on to the top of the bowl making a handle with the string after tying it round the circumference of the pudding.  Then add a foil lid in the same way again tying on and making a handle with string (You may need someone else to give you some assistance in getting this as tight as possible the lend of a finger or two might well make the job easier.  Cover with greaseproof paper with a pleat in the middle and then some foil and tie securely with string I also make a handle to get the bowl out of the pressure cooker or steamer.

    Add water to a deep pan and add your steamer pop the pudding in the top of the steamer pop on the lid bring to the boil and then turn the temperature down to simmer.  Keep an eye on the water level you may have to fill it up a couple of times.  On average I cook one pudding for about six hours which increases the colour of the pudding the more it is cooked the darker it gets.  You do not have to do the cooking in one fair swoop but to start do for at least a couple of hours and then add extra time here or there. Once cooked add new greaseproof and foil, and a new handle and store in a nice dark cool place until ready to use.

    I use the pressure cooker for cooking the puddings as it takes less time and gives a lovely result cheaply.

    Enjoy your homemade pudding you really can make the difference. 



    Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    Advent Sunday - Stir Up Sunday - Time to make the Christmas Puddings

    The First day of Advent this year is Sunday 24 November 2013 this coming Sunday.  The day when the first Advent candle is traditionally lit, we are all familiar with the Advent Wreath with four candles in situ, but it is also the day when traditionally the housewife makes her Christmas puddings or in this modern age many people go and buy them. I grew up with my family making the puddings on Stir Up Sunday and also with the tradition of every family member having a stir (then making a wish) each taking their turn of stirring the pudding a ritual that happened every year.  There was also the silver threpenny bits.  At first my Nan used to pop them into the pudding and leave them in.  In later years however she used to slip a couple into the pudding before serving. and the recipient of the silver threpenny bit was said to have luck for the coming year.  Each year the threpenny bits were recycled.  One of the charming Christmas customs that has been practiced for time immemorial.

    Christmas puddings are however relatively easy to make the time consuming bit is the cooking.  I use my pressure cookers to do these as it cooks and darkens the puddings a lot quicker and is economical on the fuel for cooking.

    So if you want to have a go at making your own Christmas Pudding then get together your ingredients for making the pudding or puddings this Sunday.  However you will have to start the process on Saturday as the mixture will need to stand overnight to be completed on the Sunday.  I use the Delia Recipe but I do fiddle with the ingredients and use what I have to hand.  There are other recipes available but for one large 2 pint bowl pudding or two smaller ones you will need the following ingredients:

    4oz shredded suet (My mum has in the past used grated butter which makes for a softer pudding which does not always hold its shape but it tastes good)
    2oz self raising flouir
    4oz white breadcrumbs
    1 level tablespooon of mixed spice
    1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    A good pinch of ground cinnamon
    8oz soft dark bron sugar
    4oz sultanas
    4oz raisins
    10oz currants
    1oz mixed candied peel finely chopped
    1oz almonds blanched and skinned then chopped
    1 small cooking apple peeled cored and finely chopped
    grated zest of 1/2 a large orange
    grated zest of 1/2 a large lemon
    2 eggs size 1
    2 1/2 fl oz of barley wine
    2 1/2 fl oz of stout
    2 tablespoons of rum

    I also add one grated carrot

    One 2 pint/1.2 litre pudding basin or two smaller ones lightly greased

    If you do not have barley wine double up on the stout (Guinness is usually used to give the pudding a nice   or use cider instead.  Maybe even a ginger crabbies. Experiment its all about playing with the ingredients.

    So go on have a go get your ingredients together and then on Friday evening this week I will post the balance of the recipe.

    Catch you then if not before.




    Sorry folks I seem to have got ahead of myself and got my weeks muddled up. (I have a few days off in the next few weeks or so and seem to have landed my dates in a right pickle.  The First Advent Sunday is December 1st.  Thank you Frugally Challenged for pointing this out.  I think the old adage applies less haste more speed.  I will still post the rest of the recipe at the end of the week so that you can plan a little more if you wish.

    Take care



    Monday, 18 November 2013

    The Case of the Disappearing Stew

    Last Friday I had the day off and having some stewing meat in the fridge that needed using I decided to make a stew.  Now me and stew did not have a happy relationship when I was a child and I hated it with a vengeance. In fact it is only in the past five years or so that I have started eating stew and appreciating it.   I hated swede and parsnip with a vengeance but most of all I hated kidney beans and mum would insist on putting them in stew.  I used to religiously sort out all the bits that I did not like and stack them on the side of the plate. There then commenced a battle of wills as my parents were equally adamant that I was going to eat everything up on my plate and I was not allowed down from the table until I had made an effort. (invariably they would get fed up and let me off). Needless to say for many years I did not eat stew.  Its funny how your tastes change when you are an adult things like stew, rhubarb gooseberries etc which were no no's as children now  as an adult I find myself craving for such goods and they subsequently make an appearance now and again on the menu.

    Anway I digress.  I made the stew in my pressure cooker.  Its the most economical way of cooking a meal and it makes even cheaper cuts of meat very tender, and is good for making stock in.  I always use the pressure cooker for making my Christmas puddings, steamed treacle sponge etc. etc. You can cook a whole meal for four in one; the meat course and veggies in one fair swoop.  Most people are frightened of them but really there is nothing to fear - they do hiss but my mum has always used one and I suppose it was only  natural that I would end up with one too.  Except I have three as I used them in preserving as well.  I have a Tower and two Prestige ones and yes you can still get the replacement seals etc.

    For making the stew  I started with some oil and then some butter and then fried  a couple of the onions until nicely golden brown then added my stewing steak I did not flour but gently cooked through and then added some gravy that was left over from a meal in the week.  A stew is a good way of using up odds and ends.  Then I added some carrot cut in chunks and then some swede, bay leaves, some fresh parsley and potatoe to thicken up the stew (especially good if you have allergies)  some white pepper, some lea and perrins (worcester sauce) and some marigold flavouring and some mixed herbs  as well as a couple of stock cubes and some water or some freshly made stock and some stock cubes, and a smidgeon of tomato ketchup and then cooked it for 40 minutes in the pressure cooker.  When I took the lid off it smelt really good and I tasted with a teaspoon to see if the seasoning needed adjusting and it was just right. It was Destined for Friday night's tea for OH and myself. Well that was the plan.

    In the afternoon I was at the hospital with my mum who had to undergo a procedure under sedation.  It turned out that she was last on the list so we spent the whole of Friday afternoon at the hospital and because we were late out and the sedation had affected mum I stayed with her overnight which had not been the original plan, but we had to make sure she was safe.  I mentioned in passing to OH  when I called and explained that I was staying over that there was some stew in the pot if he wanted something to eat.  Fatal mistake.

     On my return on Saturday I went to get some stew and the pan was scraped clean.  He had snaffled the lot.  So because I missed out last week on stew it is destined for one night this week for tea.  I might even add some dumplings to this batch.  If the weather is going to be as cold as predicted you need something warm and satisfying and substantial to keep you going through the bad weather and it just uses simple ingredients.  Good simple substantial food which if you do not have a gannet in the house should last a good couple of meals.  I currently have a chicken carcass on the go with some veggies that needed using up so that we can have some home made soup during the week. I have plenty of onions and pumpkin that need using up as well as some carrots and coriander.

    Hopefully I will get a look in later in the week.

    Catch you soon



    Tuesday, 12 November 2013

    Its busy here of an evening

    Its been very busy here so far this week.  I was given about 20 lb red grapes from someones local vines and so I started a couple of gallons of grape wine last night. I have never made grape wine before so it is a bit of a learning process.

    Tonight I have processsed 5 standard size Kilner jars of Rocha pears and 2 double sized jars in sugar syrup.  A very useful addition to the pantry shelf .  They are the little tiny child sized pears and they were on offer at £1 per bag so I purloined four bags.  Hopefully I shall be able to get some more later in the week. Equally they will be nice served simply on their own or in a tart or tarts or in home made gateau style cake.

    Tomorrow evening I will be starting the Clementine and then the Lime Curd. I also have Pink Grapefruit Curd, Orange Curd and Ginger Curd to make which  will all make a delightful filling for a large tart or individual tarts or as a delicious filling for a Roulade or a Victoria Sponge make it really wicked with lashings of fresh cream.  Pink Grapefruit Marmalade and Cordial are also on the cards to make. I also have a new gadget a citrus processor which I am going to try out on the peel. I have  been given a lot of Cooking Apples and I picked up some eating apples as well.  So Apple Pop and Ginger Beer are also on the cards as well as apple sauce, and apples slices in syrup.

    So its busy again around here fortunately I am home this week so I should be able to get a wriggle on.  Then it will be a question of rearranging the Pantry so I can squeeze everything in.  The other week I made three bottles of strawberry sauce for topping off home made ice cream yummy.

    Right upwards and onwards have to get ready for work tomorrow.

    Catch you soon.


    Sunday, 10 November 2013

    Tudor Monastery Farm

     A few weeks ago I mentioned that there was a new programme scheduled for our TV this Autumn, the Tudor Monastery Farm.  It Starts this week on Wednesday at 9 pm  see the link here

    Unfortunately I will not be in so will have to watch on Catchup.



    Mum Time and Viennese Fingers

    I went to mum's yesterday to do the weekly sort out and get the house all nicely spick and span.  Fortunately her home is very easy to keep clean and I can soon whizz through getting everything as it should be.  Me going to my mum's and doing this is not just a one way situation.  It benefits us both in so many ways; It is a win win situation.   I get to spend precious valuable one to one time with my mum; find out about family members: if I need advice I discuss things with her but she always leaves us to make our own decisions.  Mum equally gets all the jobs that she finds difficult to do like the cleaning, lifting and bending.   (My brother also pops in during the week to ensure that she is okay.  If she wants any jobs doing he also assists) and between us we are doing our best to support her and give her the love and attention which she deserves whilst still remaining in her own home.  Through her recent spate of illness she has been in much pain (she cannot stand for very long) and has found it very difficult to do things but she is starting to see some good days again which I am pleased about for her.  It is noticeable with little things.  I have always been willing to do whatever I can for her but if she wants to have a bash at doing stuff I let her; but am always there quietly in the background ready to assist if things get too much.  During the early stages of the recent spate mum has just had to sit and has become extremely frustrated that she cannot get on under her own steam and do things for herself so it is nice to see her having a go again.  None so more than yesterday.  

    When I arrived there was the smell of baking in the air.  Mum had been busy baking and had again cooked dinner for me.  Everyone has heard of Viennese Whirls - mum had made the mixture up and piped it into strips which she believes is a more economical way of dealing with the mix. Hence Viennese Fingers.  Traditionally the mixture is piped into whirl in the bottom of a cake paper.  She then dips one or both ends in chocolate after creaming two of the biscuits together with buttercream.  Mum had done the same the day before for my brother.  Mum's way of showing that she cares.  A naughty nice and very welcome treat which was gratefully received. My mum has always been an excellent cookl.

    The Verdict: They are delish - thank you mum. There are not many left.

    And Dinner  - delicious as usual.

    Catch you all soon



    Saturday, 9 November 2013

    Marmite Love it or Hate it

    Well its true you either love it or hate it.  I fall into the love it camp.  I use Marmite and the vegetable version on a regular basis  and I love twiglets.  OH bought some Marmite cheeses the other day and I was non too convinced but I have been pleasantly surprised they are delicious.  I think they will be making a regular appearance in my pantry fridge for the foreseeable future.

    Go on pick some up you may be pleasantly surprised just like me.  It will be now be a case of who nabs them first.

    Catch up soon.



    Friday, 8 November 2013

    Christmas Hoarding Part 6

    As many of you know I like to make things from scratch rather than buying them pre-bought and in order to do this sometimes you have to purchase useful equipment, moulds, cake tins etc to enable you to do this.  However I am a tad tight and I do not believe in paying through the nose for things.  One of the ways I do this is that I check out the pound shops on the off chance that they may actually have something useful and today I struck lucky.  I popped into two pound shops today. In the first one I spent precisely £10.

    I came away with:

    Two Silicone Christmas Tree mould for chocolate, ice cubes or cookie mix. The mould can be used in the fridge/freezer or in the cooker. £2.

    Two Packs of Silicone moulds one a snowman the other a christmas tree one in each pack and by buying two packs I have two of each.  Again can be used in the fridge/freezer or the oven £2.

    Two Packs of metal cookie cutters one pack consisting of 5 cutters including an Angel, star. bell, Christmas Tree, and Boot. £1

    The second one consisting of four cutters including a gingerbread man, Christmas Tree. poinsettia flower and candy cane. £1

    Two packs of cake sprinkles £1 each  £2

    A pack of 6 Christmas Reindeer Decorations in a red glitter £1

    And finally a pack of plastic teaspoons which I intend to dip in chocolate and then serve with fresh brewed chocolate or coffee. They cost a fortune to buy but they are relatively easy to prepare yourself. £1

    So you can do things cheaply with a little careful window shopping and planning and it will give me some playing time to let the inner child free.

    Catch up soon.



    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)