Saturday, 31 January 2015

Hello, the Lurgey and bit of a catch up

Big wave to everyone  - I am here really!

So sorry I have not been about this week I have had a very bad attack of the lurgey which I have had trouble shifting.  I first encountered said lurgey 5 weeks ago and quite simply has not wanted to budge.

I have been rough this week in bed for most of it and so have not been in to work. When I got home a week last Friday I felt ropey and descended to bed early and to try and sweat it out.  My temperature has been up and down like a yo yo and have had a migraine so I have kept in the warm and have been regularly taking hot drinks of homemade Rosehip Syrup and Elderberry Rob as well as hot Ribena as well as the occasional hot toddy, fresh mint tea and ginger and lemon tea  I had a lot of liquid in my tubes earlier in the week I was gurgling well although it has not been strictly a chest cold it seems to have been for the best part in my throat I have been croaking well.

When I have a cold I keep off the milk as I think it makes my cold thicker and I have problems enough in any event and so say no to milk when I have a cold  - which for me is a bit of a hardship as I love cold milk.  I have not been eating much but I have been drinking a lot and regularly taking paracetamol so as to keep my temperature at bayI still have the cold but not as bad and I am starting to feel a little bit more like myself.

Today has been the first day I have done anything.  We went shopping to the Cash and Carry ostensibly for my soap powder and fabric conditioner but picking up two Pork Bellies and one or two other bits as well including two bags of frozen brambles for £1.69 a bag to pop into home made apple and blackberry pie or crumble.  I looked for forced rhubarb but they did not have any.  Will have to keep my eyes open as that is definitely on the list to bottle for February..

We have also been to the butchers and picked up a few things not as much as I had hoped for as they did not have what I was after although we have quite a few goodies popped into the freezer including a tray of double lamb chops for £10 which will give us approximately three meals, two trays of mince at just over £10 which has been split into 6 bags which is more than plenty for the two of us for either a cottage pie or a pasta dish, a tray of stewing beef yet again £10 - have split into two bags  both at present designated for either a stew which is the more likely or a home made pie.  Some sausages, 6 gammon steaks, some beefburgers and two bags of Frozen Blackcurrants which will either go towards some jam or be used on top of cheesecakes.  I have a couple of packet mixes in the pantry that need using up.   The Blackcurrants were very good value £2.50 a bag so I snaffled a couple of bags.

We always split whatever meat we get into portions big enough for the pair of us and repackage.  We cut one of the bellies up into four flat belly joints and split the other belly into two generous bacon joints  for streaky bacon. They are currently "curing". We had hoped to do a plain and a honey bacon but in the end have done both plain due to time constraints. We also got two sets of ribs which with the size of the bellies one of the racks is more than big enough for the pair of us - I only have  few ribs so one rack is more than enough.  We have a second rack in the freezer for another meal.

I have not bought as much as I would have liked to due to bills, but we have enough together with what I already have in the freezer.  The freezer is starting to fill up nicely which is how I like it.  

Later on I nipped to the Co-Op and there were a couple of bargains to be had in both the meat and vegetable sections.  I bought two packs of mince reduced from £3.50 a pack to £1.50 each and two packs of meat balls at £1 a pack.  Two heads of broccoli reduced from 90p a head to 90p for the two, some asparagus at £1 a pack and two bunches of mini bananas at 50p per bunch so I did not do too badly.  Oh and I bought  gammon for sandwiches.  I will have to go up to the market and the meat market sometime this week to see what they have available as well as getting some sausages and liver from the Butchers.

Right upwards and onwards

Hopefully catch you soon



Sunday, 25 January 2015


For January I was after Seville Oranges and other citrus fruit to preserve and put down for the kitchen Pantry.

For February I will be after forced rhubarb primarily to bottle and put down into bottles for use in puddings throughout the year.  

Rhubarb you say don't like that but its a funny thing.  We were not keen as children  but as we got older it was one of those flavours that we yearned for,  My OH is particularly fond of Rhubarb crumble but I also Rhubarb jam and chutney.

Why not freeze it instead - but I do but my main and primary focus for the freezer is meat and veg.  and so if I can store stuff by another method that frees the freezer up I do do.

Although I had done some fruit bottling over the years I had never tackled rhubarb before and so did some research on the subject.  I have so far made this rhubarb preserve for two years on the trot as a result of this very excellent tutorial.  However one thing I would mention is  that the delicate pink colour can disappear quite quickly if kept on a shelf in sunlight.(I learned that one the hard way).  So really this preserve needs to be kept in the dark.  A quick tip in respect of this is once the preserve is made and has cooled put a sleeve of brown paper around the outside of the jar to protect the preserve from the light.  This is a tip that lady preservers have used down the years to extend the shelf life of their produce and prevent the sunlight from spoiling it.

Its worth putting this preserve down because it is lovely served with home made rice pudding and in pies and tarts especially mixed with a few strawberries like my Nan used to do.

Here is the very excellent tutorial for those of a nervous disposition - it really is simpler than you may think.  Be brave and dip your toe in the water.

 Catch you soon



P.S,  This recipe takes advantage of the forced sweet rhubarb which is available in the UK earlier in the year.  However you can if you grow the rhubarb yourself in the summer months also put this down for puddings in the winter months.  Here is a link for thoe of you who are interested.

New Followers

May I just take a moment to welcome some new followers that I am aware of from the sources of google, bloglovin and via Blogger.  I do not always know from Blogger who is who, so please do excuse me you are all very welcome whatever the source.  I hope you find something interesting an useful in all my burblings.  You are all very welcome



Saturday, 24 January 2015

Staying in the warm

Its been cold and miserable out here today in Peterborough and I have felt rough so I have stayed in the warm as I have got the cold from hell that I have had for 5 weeks and which refuses to budge  Unfortunately every time I cough it cripples me.  I can ill afford the time but needs must and all that. So I have wrapped up and been under a blanket for most of the day.  Needless to say she meaning (Missy the Jack Russell) has been very comfy thank you very much I think this photo speaks volumes.

Catch you soon



Haslet, Hayslet or Harslet

Whichever way you pronounce it this is meat roll/very large faggot/More condensed than a faggot and tasty very tasty - a lot spiceier in flavour.  I am Lincolnshire born and bread and I love proper Lincolnshire Sausage. We all clamour for continental meats such as pastrami, saucisson, Parma Ham, Salami etc when in reality we have some lovely goodies which have been available for English cuisine for a very long time and which in fact go extremely well with Home made pork pie, pickled shallots, chutney and tomato ketchup as well as stuffed chine.  Perhaps its what goes into said Haslet that puts people off but in reality this is peasant food at its most delightful and fits into my waste not want not philosophy.  It does not cost an arm and a leg to produce. I very much want to get back to my kitchen table again for reasons of flavour and economy - yes you can buy Haslet but where I used to buy mine from has closed for good. Franks the Butchers in Peterborough.  We cannot find a decent Pork Pie anywhere since then either. I am in the pros of researching that as well as we do love Pork Pie and if the experiments work well then such items will be budgeted for.  In reality it starts to get expensive where meat is concerned in which case make some and split it in the family say  if two of you go halves on the costs.  Mine will initially be popped into the freezer until I am happy with the recipe and then would pass some on to my mum and baby brother.  In fact in some families this might work well as to seasonality and freshness but also getting good value for money and opening up the family to different taste experiences,.  If a family plays together it stays together and its a joint learning curve.

My Grandparents used to do all this sort of thing, kept their own pigs, geese, chickens, bantams and had a very big fruit and veg garden as well as supplementing the larder with rabbit, wild mushrooms and wild fruits which were all put to good use either in food, wine or beer and of course Nan always made the bread and did a big and I mean big weekly bake.

 This is the recipe I have used before and think meat platters, and pack ups as well as suppers here.

It makes two loaves should be eaten cold cut into slices and if kept in the freezer you can alternate it on a fortnightly turnaround from a ham hock or small gammon cooked to give ham for sandwiches as well as or eating both together.

Makes 1 kg

8oz belly pork
1lb pigs liver or a mixture of liver and lights]8oz of onions
1 teaspoon of chopped sage
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1oz of lard

Preheat oven to gas mark 4 375 degrees F or 190 degrees C

Trim the belly pork discarding any rind or bone.  Chop into pieces and mince with the liver.  Finely chop or mince the onions and add to the meat with the sage and the seasoning.  Use salt cautiously and pepper generously.

Form the haslet into oblong or thereabouts loaf shpes and put into a greased baking pan.  Dot with the lard (or pork dripping if you have it) and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until nicel browned on top.  Remove fro the oven and leave to get cold (make sure the cats are not around) and leave to go cold.  Store in a cool place and eat within three days if not freezing.


Catch you soon



Dates and Date Squares

My father spent some time as a young man in the services (RAF) in Egypt and developed a taste for dates and figs.  Consequentially come Christmas we always used to have dates and figs on the "nibbles" table together with fresh Clementines and other speciality foods.  Unusual for the time but it is something that spilled over into the rest of the family as well.  Looking back I think on both the paternal and maternal side there is a strong link with food and having a good meal. We even used to have Pomegranates which we used to have half of each and prick the seeds out with a pin.  They were a regular favourite enjoyed by all of us.

Mum used to keep dried dates in - when I was a child they were more commonly sold in little solid blocks the size of a jelly pack and you used to have to boil the dates up with some water to create a paste for use in cooking rather  than in the format we purchase them in today i.e. each date individually preserved and dried in sugar.  I know that my mum used to turn the dates together with apples into a chutney but she also used to make a baking tray of what she referred to as Date Palm - which was something I was very fond of with a layer of porridge oats on the top.  I have been looking for the recipe for ages and I think I have found it.  It is quite simply called Date Squares.  


8pz butter
1/2lb dates stoned and chopped
6 tablespoons of golden syrup
4 Tablespoons of water
Juice and grated rind of half a lemon
8oz rolled oats
6oz flour
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
6oz brown sugar

 in a heavy based saucepan melt half of the butter and add the dates, golden syrup, water and lemon juice.  Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes stirring constantly or until the mixture has thickened.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Mix the rolled oats, with the flour bicarbonate of soda, sugar and lemon rind.  melt the rest of the butter and stir into the oats and flour mixture.  Spoon half of it into  12 x 8 inch tin lined with greaseproof paper cover the oats with the date mixture and spoon the remaining oats on top  bake in a moderate oven gas mark 4, 350 degrees F 180 degrees C for about 35 minutes or until golden brown. When cool cut into squares.

As I have some dates to use up guess these will be on agenda for either today or tomorrow.

Catch you soon.




Friday, 23 January 2015

Curing the Bacon Part 2

The recipe I am starting with does not use Saltpetre which is traditionally used to keep the colour of the meat more pink and which helps inhibit any nasties - but because there are some concerns about nitrates and the addition thereof for the time being I am not going there for the present we shall see how we get on.

This is more an experiment for me in the basics of how to dry cure meat and to find my way through trial and error around this unknown quantity and to see if it produces a bacon that will suit our palate as OH is a firm fan of Streaky bacon.  At worst it will be too salty in which case I believe I can soak the bacon in water and then dry and wrap in muslin again or alternatively use it as lardons. Also from what I have read the longer the bacon is in the cure the saltier the product will be so from a start it would seem that we will have to go for a happy medium. I have seen recipes where the meat is left in the cure for up to two weeks.  This particular recipe is based over five days. The other reason I have chosen this particular recipe is because it addresses the problem of saltiness - I personally do not get on well with over-salted food so this was a prime factor for me and at the end of the day I do not really want to ruin the meat if I can help it.

 In reality my interest really lays with Charcuterie  and I would quite like to have a go at Bresaloa and curing my own ham but being as dry curing seems to be a common theme that runs through a lot of recipes, this is where I have chosen to start and in all honesty it will score me brownie points with OH if it works out okay.  My father always told me that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so being a dutiful daughter.....

In reality I have read lots of instructions from various books and websites as well as using this recipe as a tutor and now the time has come to put the theory into practice. This bacon will apparently keep in the fridge for up to two weeks and then can be frozen sliced in quantities suitable to your family so that pleases my waste not want not philiosophy.  I have a meat slicer in any event but apparently it is difficult to obtain nice thin rashers without a slicer but the instructions advocate the use of a nice sharp achieve medium to thick rashers.

Cleanliness is next to godliness with this sort of preserve so the utmost caution must be given to keeping the product at correct temperatures.  May I suggest that you read several resources covering this subject before attempting to cure your own bacon and that common sense prevails at all times.  I have suggested some posts below.

On my preliminary requirements list I mentioned a box or boxes that would fit in my fridge but I have seen people use lock bags in the fridge as well as Freezer boxes with the added bonus of being able to put in and replenish the freezer blocks to keep the meat nicely chilled during the curing process.  So there is a lot to take in.

Streaky bacon is traditionally made with pork bellies and I intend to use one whole pork belly possibly cut in two or three depending on the size of the belly in the first place.  Collar is frequently used I believe to create long back bacon as well as pork loin which is used to create back bacon.

This particular recipe is taken from Diana Henry's Salt Sugar and Smoke.

Makes 1.9kg (4lb 3 1/2 oz)

In addition to the list of ingredients given in Part one of Curing the bacon you are going to need the main ingredient which is the meat.

2kg (4lb 8oz) thick piece of boned pork belly with the rind on


Bone out your bellies first, getting out the ribs intact so that they can be used in a separate meal.

 For the Cure

21lb 4oz /550g coarse  Salt I used Sea Salt

3 Bay Leaves chopped

15 Juniper Berries crushed

6oz/175g Soft Light Brown Sugar 

Crush all the ingredients for the cure in a food processor or pestle and mortar.  Lay the pork on a very clean kitchen surface and rub about two thirds of the cure all over it (you will not need it all at this stage.

Put into a non reactive container (I use a big plastic box) and cover that will go into my fridge easily.  Refrigerate it needs to be kept at about 5 degrees C/41 degrees F and store the left over cure mix in the fridge also.

After 4 hours there will be liquid showing seeping out of the pork. Take the pork out of the box and pour off the liquid and rub the pork with more of the cure.  Do the same again on Day 3 using up all the cure. Leave alone for the fourth and fifth day.  The bacon should now be ready and the meat should feel firm.

Rinse off the excess salt and dry the belly.  Wrap in muslin and put it on a tray in the refrigerator.  It will dry out a little more and mature over the next few days.  Cut pieces off as you need them.  It will keep well for about two weeks and you can also freeze it (or portions of it).  If you find that the bacon is too salty when you first cook it then soak the whole belly overnight in water, dry and then rewrap in muslin and keep as before.


Dry curing bacon  - the Accidental Smallholder: 

If you look around the Cottage smallholder you will find several different recipes.

and the site that really interests me

Me  - I am looking forward to pay day so that I can play but no doubt some of you will get there before me  - let me know how it goes.

I hope this helps



Well we have played today and prepared two joints of streaky bacon from one belly.  It is currently curing in the fridge and should be ready by the end of the week.  I just hope it turns out alright.  We have four flat joints out of the other belly for roasting  which are currently residing in the freezer and then will simply serve with veggies which is a slightly different way of serving them which should result in tasty meat with deep rich crackling.

Catch up soon.


Further update

We are very pleased with the bacon.

I think the pictures speak for themselves

We have prepared one piece for the freezer and have seven bags of 8 pieces of bacon and two bags of lardons.  There is no point in wasting anything and the lardons are ideal for adding a bit of flavour to another dish i.e. starting some soup off or a stew or casserole.  I bought liver yesterday so may well do a liver and bacon casserole.

The other piece is in the fridge and will probably be processed a little later.  It tastes really good too.  The only thing is because the skin has been cured with the salt the rind becomes very hard.  We have just taken the rind off and it cooks beautifully.  We are very blessed.  Will probably do some back bacon next from loin joints but I really want to have a go at some Salami and some Chorizo as well as making some individual pork pies and some proper pork pies.  

Its not always cheap doing things like this but I am a foodie at the end of the day and we prefer food with lots starting to sort myself out and am now pre-planning and budgeting for doing a particular project or projects each month.  So you cannot always do everything but that does not mean you have to miss out and you can have some things the choice is down to you as to what you have a go at. Good eating often does not come down to just what you can get from the shop or supermarket but what you actually do with it.

I hope this has spurred you on to have a go and do it yourself the process is not as complicated as you think it is and I have really enjoyed doing this so much so I see it being repeated again and again and again.


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Paving the way to cure the bacon Part 1

This is on the agenda for having a go at, at the end of the month, but first I need to get some bits together in preparation for having a bit of a play.  Thought I would share in case you want to have a play too.

For Streaky Bacon

To start with I need a reasonable sized box that I can get into the fridge or a couple of Boxes

Some muslin

 For the Cure

2lb Sea Salt

Bay Leaves

Juniper Berries

Soft Light Brown Sugar 

I always keep some latex gloves in for handling bits and bobs as well.

I am looking forward to having a serious play.



Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Hot Water Bottles and Blankets

I think sometimes I am a little odd in that with the introduction of duvets I still hung on to my hot water bottles (I stress the plural) and my blankets and rugs when everyone else was getting rid of theirs.  In retrospect I am so glad I did. They get used on the bed with the duvets as well as when I am sat watching TV or listening to it on the sofa.  You can get hot water bottles from Wilkinsons pretty reasonably (the hottie botties as I call them) and you can always dress them up.  They keep your tootsies warm as well for little expenditure but they do sterling duty and we all have to watch the pennies in this day and age.

Unfortunately I am a cold mortal and once I get cold it takes me ages to warm up and when I am like that out comes the hot water bottle and the blankets.  However if I get really cold on the inside as I call it then I am usually poorly.  The trick is not to get cold but that is not always easy to achieve.

It gets worse -  I have also taken to crotcheting my own blankets.  Some are finished others are still work in progress, but they will be cosy, warm and comforting, as well as individual once they are all done.

The house I live in which we rent is over 150 years old, is a terrace which still has its chimney stacks and a beautiful draw under the floorboards but because of the age of the house and quite frankly the lack of maintenance and what has been done is not of good quality if you wanted to open up the fireplaces it would cost you an arm and a leg. Because of the good draw under the floorboards I think the fires would pull well and also dry the house out.

If I ever get to the position whereby we have to move or get into a position where we can buy I would want a home with chimney stacks that could if closed up be re-instated. Fireplaces are useful pieces of equipment to have as you have  means of keeping yourself warm if the central heating fails.  I would also like a range cooker of some description - my Nan had a woodfired Rayburn as well as keeping warm you need to be able to feed yourself cheaply.  Thats with a nod to the past but they have come up in recent years with green renewable resources to heat the home they may well be worth looking at too.

But we need fire, and heat to keep warm and to cook and in the greater scheme of things everything no matter how small has its place.

Blankets and hot water bottle here I come.

Catch you soon.



Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Lemon Jelly Marmalade

I hve a few more lemons from the shop and his time I have decided to turn into Lemon Jelly Marmalade.  OH prefers jelly marmalades as he does not go a bundle on the peel - there is no need to keep the peel in and I usually run it through a sieve so that he just gets the jelly after cooking and prior to bottling.


3lb lemons/1.4 kg
6 pints of water/3.4 litres
3lb preserving sugar


Scrub the lemons well then peel.  Finely shred the peel and put in a pan with half of the water and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours. 

Chop the fruit roughly and put in another pan with the rest of the water and simmer covered for 1  1/2 hours.  

Strain the fruit mixture through a fine sieve or muslin and add this juice to the peel.  Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes then add sugar and stir until dissolved.  

Boil rapidly until set then pour into hot sterilised jars.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Left Handed Bread Cutter

I was quite industrious in the kitchen yesterday afternoon Sunday dinner was gorgeous, We had Pot Roasted lamb cooked on a bed of veggies which were used to make gravy, roasted sweet potato, red onion, parsnip and roasties, with cauliflower, broccoli, peas and carrots with plenty of home made gravy.  It was very tasty.  There is a scuttle full left so its up to his lordship if he would like that  for tea tonight or something with chicken.  He has a choice - I suspect he will go for leftovers so it will be something with chicken for tomorrow night's tea.

 I made French Onion Soup which is in the freezer and if anything is leftover from the leftovers it will be going into a family favourite of leftovers soup with a few additions here and there.  It would be scrilege to waste what is left of the gravy especially as a lot of effort goes into making it but it makes seriously good gravy and is a good way to use up older vegetables.

I also retrieved fro the freezer a pack of cinnamon swirls and a pack of pain au chocolat  and cooked them which went down well.  A nice sweet treat even if it is a bit of a cheat. You have to have some cheats every so often.

I also cooked a small piece of gammon for packup during the week - and then got another one out to cook tonight for the rest of the week as the original one was not as big as I had thought.

We were out of bread so I made a basic white loaf for OH for his packup and then made a pumpkin seed loaf for myself straight after that should last me a couple of days.  Both of the breads were kits from the Co-op which I decided to try just for quickness and I added  good knob of butter to each mix.  Both have come up superbly so ladies the Co-ops own bread kits were a success and the bread is lovely.  shall get a few in as standbys so OH can have a go at making bread if I am not around or for when I need a loaf in a hurry but I am working on some kits of my own at the moment as I think I can make them up cheaper.

However give him his due he commenced starting his packup this morning but he just cannot cut bread I had to rescue the loaf and take over the bread cutting as the loaf was starting to look like the Leaning Tower of Piza and he would not have had any sandwiches.  He has therefore been banned from slicing the loaf as he just quite frankly makes a mess.

I will have to make another plain loaf tonight when I get in and I might make some buns as well, will see how things go.

Photos are of the Pumpkin Seed Bread

Right upwards and onwards.

Catch you later.



Seville Orange Curd


You will need the rind of one sweet orange 
Juice of 3 Seville Oranges
75g of Butter
225g Granulated Sugar
3 eggs lightly beaten


Finely grate the zest of the sweet orange.

Squeeze the juice from the Seville Oranges.  Put the zest, juice, butter, and sugar (run the eggs through a sieve) into a saucepan and heat gently stirring until thick.

Put through a funnel into sterilised jars and allow to cool.

And you have home made Seville Orange Curd

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Oven has gone on ...

The Oven has gone on and a piece of lamb studded with some garlic and cooking on some veggies (for the gravy) is in full swing and on the second shelf I have a tray of onions (using up onions past their best) roasting for use in French onion soup for later on.  Once that comes out in will go a tray of roasties including red onion, parsnip, potato and sweet potato to have with tea later on which I anticpate serving with some cauliflower, carrots and peas with lashings of gravy.

There is also a small piece of ham on the bubble for packups during the week.

The bread machine is currently hosting a white bread loaf and will probably go on later again for the dough for some buns and also a fruit loaf later on so that we can have hunks of this toasted and dribbling with butter.

Depending on time I might make some pastry as well.  

So its full throttle in the kitchen this Sunday afternoon.

Catch you later.



Things to Look Out for during the year for Christmas 2015 Crafting and Display

 I know its early and we have only just got over last Christmas but I am trying to allow myself more time to prepare and get projects for Christmas presents finished this year and also space the costs out a little so it does not hit the purse as hard. I also want to be able to take advantage of reduced items as well as finding those individual presents at craft markets fairs or in shops as well.
  • Offers on candles for lighting displays especially church style candles of differing sizes.  I love candlelight during the winter months I think it is very soothing.
  • Pretty bottles and jars for Christmas pressies (not only for preserves but for other items as well.
  • Pretty tins.  Ideal for popping some sweets or cookies into.
  • Storage containers/carryalls like for cupcakes and larger cakes.
  • Pretty ribbons, fabric and lace for use in sewing and in card making
  • Cellophane.  Always useful for wrapping presents of a craft or future nature or plant life.
  • Blank cards for making own cards.
  • Stencils, templates, cutters for machines such as the Big shot
  • Pretty fabrics to make pressies/patchwork
  • Recycle glass pudding bowls from bought desserts like Gu and use them for storing fruit "cheeses" in.
  • Pretty string and cord
  • Stockpile soap base or ingredients from starting soap from scratch
  • Lavender dried
  • Rose buds dried
  • Brown Paper
  • Pretty baskets
  • Collect fir cones of differing sizes for ornaments and if you have the luxury of an open fire or woodburner for using as fire lighters or just to burn on the fire.  Smells wonderful.
  • Glass Vintage Cake stands/plates
  • Collect Vintage Baubles
  • Pretty vintage glass
  • Cranberry glass
  • Gold glass
  • Green glass
  • Silver birch logs to turn into candle lamps with simple heart cut outs and little metal looped handles.
  • collect twigs and create free standing ornaments such as hearts and stars
  • 2 glass cloche bells
  • 2  cake domes on pedestals
  • 2 Deep Trifle bowls
  • beeswax
  • Rumptopf pots
  • Plain white wall lining paper
  • Brown labels
  • White labels
  • Candle Lamps
  • Lanterns
  • Stamps
  • Pate/Rillette jars
  • Cake Pop Sticks
  • Lolly sticks
  • Crafting card 
  • 2 Slate three tier cake/cheese platter
  • Various essential oils 
  • Pyrex bowls for Christmas Puddings
  • Wine bottles
  • Beer bottles
So I am going to have my work cut out but then I have a little time to look for bits and bobs.  I will not achieve everything but those that don't get done this year will go on the list for next.

Catch you soon.



Seville Orange Liqueur

 I have the Seville Oranges and a bottle of vodka lurking in the cupboard  and this will not be a time consuming exercise but should make a liqueur type drink for special occasions. Something for Christmas 2015.  It only uses the peel from the oranges therefore with  little extra vodka some Rose wine, red wine or white wine you can make Vin d'orange at the same time so as not to waste the oranges.

Peels of 6 Seville Oranges
6 fresh rinsed leaves if available (optional)
1 1/2 cups sugar dissolved in 1 cup of hot water (stir over flame and do not let it carmelise)
1 bottle of cheap vodka


Allow the sugar syrup to cool.

Place the thinly sliced peels and leaves into a wide mouthed jar, pour in the syrup and top up with the vodka.  Cheap vodka works best because the more expensive stuff has its own flavour and aroma which you do not want interfering with the Liqueur.

After four weeks, taste it to see if you need to adjust the sweetness.  If it does require extra sweetening make up the syrup as before, adding a little each day until you happy with the sweetness and letting the syrup mix in and dissolve.  Do not make any more syrup as this will weaken the alcohol content and each person's palate on sweetness differs so much.  Decant and filter into nice bottle(s) and keep somewhere nice and cool to bring out on special occasions.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Seville Orange Day

Today is the day I picked up my Seville Oranges to prepare my annual batch of home made Seville Orange Marmalade to grace the breakfast table throughout the year. I make other marmalades as well but to my mind Seville Orange Marmalade is King and you cannot really beat the caramelised sweet and sour flavour of this particular marmalade but its not the only thing I do with them.  There is a lot more to the Seville Orange that meets the eye.  

I look for new recipes to me (sometimes they are very old sometimes they are more modern) and sometimes I have had the recipes for sometime and re-find them not remembering where I got them from and sometimes they are passed on to me so a right hodgepodge of resources and ideas. 

Previously I have also posted other recipes.

There are other recipes scattered throughout the blog including a post on how to make marmalade.

I do have other recipes though using the Seville Orange, these include a recipe for Seville Orangeade recipe; Nigella Lawson's bitter orange ice cream, candied citrus peel, rich Seville Orange Tart (Claire MacDonald of MacDonald), Seville Orange Meringue pie (Mary Berry), Seville Orange or Bitter Orange rind preserved in syrup, Seville Orange pieces  in syrup, Recipes for Vin'dorange using Red White and Rose wines to name but a few.

I have bought 10kgs this time round so I am going to have to get a wriggle on over the next few days @£1.50 per kg  x 10kg = £15 but hopefully those that do not get used will be made ready and frozen to use later on.  Now that I have my freezer I am making full use of it for putting up ingredients for use in the run up to Christmas and making pressies as well as feeding the household.

Saturday Roundup

Well its been a busy week one way or another with a surprise visit from my friend Veronika and her son before going back to Russia but it was lovely to see them and spend just a little time with them.  

And then last night I was partying at my firm's Christmas party at the Beehive Pub and there was a live band as well.  Company, Food and entertainment was brilliant and I got up and had  couple of wobbles on the dance floor as well  - lets just say this morning I can feel where I wobbled but that is par for the course these days.  I am also very blessed to have some very good friends.  This morning I have been taking things easy.

My nephew is also 21 tomorrow it does not seem that long ago that I received news from my mum to say that I had a nephew.  The street where I live in Peterborough used to house the District Hospital and the Maternity Wing.  Both have now closed and moved to what was the Edith Cavell Hospital site and which is now known as Peterborough City Hospital. So when he was born it was for me just literally walking out of the door and down the street to go visit him and his mum and dad in the Maternity Wing and have that first cuddle - he was my first nephew.  Happy days but it is lovely to see him grown up into a lovely young man.  Its gone so quickly.

Its very cold again and I have to go out to pick up my Seville Oranges from the veg shop for my annual Seville Orange cooking session as well as freezing some down for use later on in the year but there are some other recipes I want to have a go at too.  So as usual I have a lot to do and so little time to do it.  

I have also got to try and put my bedroom back together after the leak earlier in the week.

Hopefully time depending I will pop back a little later on.

Catch you soon.



Friday, 16 January 2015

Poppy Seed Crackers

Heat oven to 180 degrees C/160 degrees C fan) Gas Mark 4


200g/3 1/2 oz Self raising flour
25g/1 oz chilled and cubed butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp poppy seeds
2 tblsp cold water

These crackers can be made up to two weeks ahead

Prepare a baking sheet by lining with baking parchment
Put Self Raising flour cubed butter salt and poppy seeds into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles find breadcrumbs.  Add cold water and pulse to make a soft but not sticky dough (add some more water if mixture too dry).

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is 2mm thick then cut 6cm/2 1/3 inch squares re-rolling trimmings as necessary (You may need to cover and let trimmings rest for ab out 5 minutes before re-rolling.

Place on the lined baking sheet no need to leave space between the crackers and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crackers feel dry (they ay still feel soft but will harden up when cooling).  Transfer to a wire rack and leave until completely cool.  Makes about 24 crackers.

Serve with Pan De Higo, some cheddar, some Cranbrillo

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Cranbrillo (Cranberry Cheese)

Whenever I buy Cranberries I get double duty out of the Cranberries as I get Cranberry Jelly and Cranberry Cheese.

I have also sourced some ideal containers for the Cranbrillo/Cheese.  You know those posh Gu puddings fro the supermarket come in little glass dishes I use those and then seal with some greaseproof and paraffin wax.  Since dealing with the this way I have not had any cheese go off.

Anyway for the Cranbrillo you will need:

300g/11 oz cranberries
250ml/9 fl oz water
300g/11 oz caster sugar
2 tsp powdered pectin

Put the cranberries in a small pan with the water and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the fruit has cooked down.  Cool slightly then push the fruit through a fine sieve into a clean pan (this is time consuming and will take some effort but it is worth it).

Stir in the caster sugar and pectin then cook gently until the sugar dissolves.  Turn up the heat and simmer for 45-50 minutes stirring frequently until the mixture is thick and deep ruby.

Test the mixture by pulling a wooden spoon across the base of the pan you should be able to see the pan for 1 second before the mixture covers it.

Pot the hot mixture immediately into small sterilised jars with lids or little pots and paraffin wax.  Cool completely.  Makes about 400g/14oz.  Keep in a cool place.

To serve remove wax layer from pot and tip out the cheese - sometimes it will release from the jar at others you will have to run a knife round the edge and place on a plate.  Serve in slices with cheese of your choice and serve with home made crackers.

Pan De Higo/Spanish Fig and Almond Spheres

Last Year I found in Waitrose something different to serve with the cheeseboard known as Pan De Higo (dried fig cake)  which is traditionally served in Spain with cheese. Its usually kept on the Cheese counter. So much so I decided earlier on this year that I was going to create my own to serve with the cheeseboard this year; unfortunately I did not quite get there.  The intent was there, I just ran out of time. Needless to say it is on the list for this year even if I am a tad early at the moment.  The inspiration for this post was me sorting out my dried fruit and how to use it up.

If you want to make the traditional recipe then here is a super link here for a very traditional version.

Then I found this recipe for Spanish Fig and Almond Spheres in one of my magazines.

4oz/100g of whole almonds

500g/pack dried whole figs with the hard stalk and centre removed
85g/3oz dried Apricots chopped into small pieces
50g/2oz dried cranberries
1tbsp brandy
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tsp of ground cloves
100g/4oz toasted sesame seeds

Pop the almonds into a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Tip into a separate bowl.  

Roughly chop the figs then whizz to a sticky paste, scrape onto the chopped almonds in the separate bowl.

Then using you hands mix together with the dried fruit, brandy, honey and cloves.

Divide the mixture into six and then roll into balls/spheres.  Tip the toasted sesame seeds onto a tray and then roll the balls in them until completely covered in sesame seeds and place on a clean tray.

Cover the tray loosely with a clean tea cloth and leave to dry for about a week before packaging in cellophane bags with a label writing serving suggestions on a tag.  Will keep somewhere cool for about two months.

Alternatively pile into a round cake tin and spread evenly; dry in the same way above then cut in wedges.  Serve with cheese delicious and a good way of using up dried fruit you do not have to keep this recipe just for Xmas (they still have it in the cheese counter at Waitrose.

Catch you soon



My lovely friend Bovey Belle mentioned that as she does not eat cheese anymore it would probably be something that she would not make.
I felt that this point was/is relevant to everyone but my honest opinion is  I think you could eat this on its own like a sweetmeat like you would candied ginger and other glace or sugar preserved whole fruit or dates stuffed with marzipan.  Make this in a small miniature cake pan as a sweet treat cut into thin wedges like you would a piece of cake.  You do not in my opinion have to eat it with cheese it is just the traditional custom that it is commonly served in this way.  You can create your own traditions.  However the main reason I believe in this is that I have a recipe for a Provencal dried Fig cake which uses similar ingredients but is layered and presented in a different way. 
I do love traditional recipes of this kind from different countries - and I think this is a common thread among many of us especially judging by how much Pannetone, Nougat, Panforte, Ricciarelli, Turkish Delight, Amaretti, Maccaron etc. are on sale in the bigger stores like Lewis' and M & S - however I do not always like paying the prices such delicacies command hence me locating recipes to make my own as you get more for your money in the long run but it is also a time to explore and experiment.  I have a rule if I do not like something then I do not make it again, but many of the recipes I have used I go on to use time and time again..
I also believe that we have a very strong heritage of English goodies as well  in this country like out traditional Christmas Cakes and Puddings which when home made are far superior to the mass produced versions and moister and oh such full of flavour.  Goodies in which to stock the Pantry and also make as gifts for friends, but there is no harm in making your own versions of said goodies to treat your family members and loved ones.
Every country has something to bring to the table its a cross pollination of cultures that joins seamlessly as we all have a common interest in food.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Sorting out the Dried Fruit and Nuts

Unlike a lot of people I actually keep in a lot of baking stuff and dried fruit and nuts, (including ground almonds), chestnuts in tins or just tins of puree ( I digress  - not dried I know but still useful components) of differing descriptions as I bake, make my own mincemeat, use in breads and tea breads as well as fruit cakes.  I keep a check on the fruit and because it is expensive I try and get the best out of the fruit before it dries out and is of little use in baking or of utilising in preserving.  I tend to buy my fruit anyway when it is on offer.  I am a bit tight and buy as cheaply as I can but primarily I go for quality.  It pays with dried fruit.  

I keep dried cranberries, golden raisins (available from Asian stores), mixed fruit, cherries (of different colours) raisins, currants, apricots, dried mango, pineapple,mixed peel, dried cherries, dried coconut, dried coconut slices, flaked almonds, apple slices, prunes, sultanas and mixed exotic fruits for use in Christmas ice cream, Figs, dates, preserved ginger in syrup and dried and sugared. 

 I use the ginger in both formats when I do a home made stir fry as well and as a digestive served on its own in crystal bowls on the table after Christmas dinner or after a meal - I have a real thing about ginger.. I also pop preserved ginger (the sugared ginger which normally comes in cubes into a jar with some green ginger wine let it soak for a little while and top up the jar if necessary with more green ginger wine (the ginger soaks up the wine) and then use as an alcoholic sauce over ginger or vanilla home made ice cream.  

The same can be done with dried cherries and brandy.   

Exotic luxuries can be made from dried fruit such as Pan de Higo to accompany the cheese board which is basically dried figs with extra flavourings such as fennel seed and sesame seed processed down to a paste and either turned into a small cake pan and left to dry a little before either serving in wedges or turning into little tiny balls. This can be used at any time of the year although predominantly I use it around Christmas.   Panforte, Fig Cake, all cost an arm and a leg to buy but are relatively easy to make at home.  I also use dried fruit in home made muesli and granola.

I therefore at this time of year start preparing bits and bobs to get that little extra time and use out of the fruit during the course of the year  Sometimes I do this by adding alcohol such as brandy to some raisins, which plumps them up and I then store them in a jar and then dribbling all over vanilla ice cream or adding some of the contents to home made ice cream. Making mincemeat, and making chutneys.

You quite simply do not have to waste dried fruit there is always a use for it whether that be exotic or quite simple fare if you catch it in time.  The trick is to catch it in time. 

But predominantly in the past the housewife has made use of the dried fruit by turning it into chutneys which can be used throughout the year in stews and casseroles as well as with the plain cheese sarnie.

Basically look at your dried fruit store -  I tend to be a little over-zealous on this as where I store my fruit is a pantry - but what is known as a dry pantry - even though it is a reasonable size it does not get cold and because of that factor I tend to keep a closer eye on the  said pantry.  Fruit  which appears to be a little over-dry and starting to sugar can if you get it in the early stages be washed in warm water and reconstituted a little before turning it into mincemeat or chutney - but if it has gone too far .......   

Years ago when I first started cooking the instructions were that before you used dried fruit of any description you always washed it, now that does not happen so much in practice but when I make my Christmas cake my dried fruit is decanted into a large basin or jar and steeped in a little alcohol for about a week before I make my cake - only a little but it does help with the flavour of the cake and in plumping up the fruitl.  You can also use wine instead of spirit.

Chutneys will last at least two years on the shelf and often longer - so turning it into something else really does extend the shelf life.  As I have said before - I buy the ingredients and then turn them into something else. 

Some of you may think its a little early for doing things such as this and maybe it is but for me dried fruit has a shelf life in its dried form but not a season so if you have some fruit that needs using up then do it there and then and then you have the product for the rest of the year and for Christmas to come and some potential pressies for friends in the longer term.

I shall post some recipes later on.



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)