Bryony's Blog

blackberry pudding and custard

(31/07/10)

When I went to check up on the chickens yesterday afternoon - the little grey one Haynsie, has become increasingly broody and I have to keep on removing her from the nest - I noticed that the cultivated blackberries were beginning to ripen. They are only fifty yards away from the three bee hives and judging by the millions and trillions of fruit, the bees have certainly been doing their stuff! There were plenty to pick for a pudding for supper.

1-1 1/2 lbs blackberries
sugar to taste to sprinkle over the fruit
juice and zest of half a lemon
1 egg
2 oz butter
2 oz flour
2 oz sugar

Make sure the butter is really soft. Wash and drain the blackberries and put into a shallow oven proof dish. Dust with sugar.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, egg, butter and sugar to a smooth cream. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix in. Spread roughly over the blackberries and bake in a moderately hot oven for about 20-30 minutes or until it is bubbling and the top brown. Serve either luke warm or cold.

For the custard you will need:

2 egg yolks (don't waste the whites - make some meringues*)
1 level dessert spoon of cornflour
sugar to taste
vanilla extract
1/2 pint of milk

Warm the milk with the sugar in a non-stick pan until it just coming up to the boil. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks into the cornflour and add the vanilla extract making sure there are no lumps. Remove the milk/sugar from the heat and pour in a very little into the egg mixture, stirring quickly. Then add a little more, stirring all the while. This will heat the eggs without cooking them. Next, pass the egg mixture through a small sieve into the warm milk, stirring as you go - straining will remove any stringy, yaggy bits of egg. Put back onto a moderate heat and allow to heat slowly, stirring all the while to prevent the egg from curdling. It will thicken quite quickly (because of the cornflour) and just before it comes to the boil and when the custard coats the back of the spoon REMOVE from the heat immediately and pour into a bowl to cool.

By adding a little cornflour the custard will thicken much faster and although the powers that be insist they can taste cornflour and therefore it's not a PROPER egg custard, who cares? I certainly didn't get any complaints last night. The best compliment came from my husband who said it was just like real custard, ie Bird's! What more could a girl ask?

* If you decide to make some MERINGUES, reduce the heat of the oven to the required temperature - can't help you here I'm afraid as I forgot to look it up before doing this blog! A cool oven is what you need. Sorry!

Whisk the whites in a very clean, grease-free bowl until you have nice stiff, glossy peaks. Whisk in four table spoons of caster sugar, one at a time then spoon dollops onto a greased baking sheet or onto a baking sheet covered with baking parchment (my preferred method). Cook until they are just beginning to take on a little colour and are nice and dry when you tap them. Store in an airtight tin until needed.

Back to normal...

(28/07/10)

After yesterday's horror, my faith in my cooking ability was just about restored today with a very simple dish we had for a light lunch. It was quick to assemble, quick to cook and even quicker to eat! The following fed three of us (just) but would be better for two.

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1 - 1 1/2 lbs courgettes
6 spring onions
2 tomatoes
1 egg
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tub creme fraiche (approx. 3 tbsp)
lots of flat leaved parsley (approx. 3 tbsp)
3 oz cheese (cheddar, emmental, gruyere, whatever you have or a mixture)
salt and pepper

Grate the courgettes into a bowl. Wash and slice the spring onions. Chop the tomatoes finely. Wash and roughly chop the parsley. Grate the cheese.

Put the flour into a separate bowl and break in the egg. Stir a little then add the creme fraiche and mix well. Add the cheese and salt and pepper. Mix with the other ingredients and pour into a shallow baking dish, roughly levelling the mixture with the back of the spoon.

Bake in a moderate to hot oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown on top.

Eat with a green salad.

PS - 30th August, 2010. On Saturday there were four of us to lunch and I made this but I doubled the quantities and it worked out beautifully - it was light, savoury and didn't (like some recipes when you increase or reduce quantities) change in character. There was even a little left over which I put into a small dish, covering it with a small piece of aluminium foil which I reheated the next day.

MY VERSION OF THE FRENCH DISH, PISSALADIERE

This is rather like an onion pizza but using a flaky pastry base. You will need:

4-5 large onions (I used red ones from the garden)
1 jar of anchovies
1 small tin of pitted black olives
1 packet all-butter flaky pastry
olive oil
fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, basil for example
pepper

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Begin by peeling and slicing the onions finely. Put them in a shallow pan or frying pan with a good splosh of olive oil and a cup of water. Bring to the boil then simmer until the water has evaporated and the onions are soft but with no browning, stirring every now and then.

Roll out the pastry into a rectangular shape. Take a flat oven tray and cut a piece of baking parchment to fit. Scrunch the parcment, open it out and lay it onto the metal tray - by scrunching it first it will lay flat. Carefully lift the pastry with the rolling pin and place on top. With a knife, cut arround the edge almost to the bottom of the pastry, to create a 'frame'. Prick the middle all over. Allow the onion mixture to cool slightly and then spread onto the pastry within the 'frame'. Drain the oil from the anchovies and cut any wide ones into thinner strips. Lay these criss-cross on top of the onions. Next, place an olive in each diamond. Chop the herbs and scatter over everything, give several good grinds of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Bake in a moderately hot oven for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through. It may burn on the edges, but these can be cut off before serving.

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Eat luke warm or at room temperature with a salad of your choice.

DISASTER!!!

(27/07/10)

This Angel in an Apron has found that she has feet of clay...

Yesterday an old school friend came to lunch and I thought I would make a French-style, apricot tart in order to use up some ready made, all butter, flaky pastry which was sitting in the fridge. Hmmm...The best laid plans and all that...

In its raw state the tart looked pretty as a picture, but something disastrous happened between that euphoric moment and when I removed if from the oven. It was completely inedible: the fruit was singed to within an inch of its life and the pastry underneath was completely raw, resembling a soggy, grey dish cloth. Into the bin it went. This is one blog which will not be graced by a photo - I am too ashamed!

There will be other days, and other tarts - I hope!

morning harvest

(25/07/10)

I am guaranteeing rain by giving the vegetables (particularly the beans and courgettes) a really long drink...if it does pour, blame me! I soaked the ground where the peas had been and added some compost so that I can sow some seeds this evening. I'm not sure what I shall plant, but it will probably be another row of carrots, beetroot and fennel. Maybe, if I have room, I shall sow some more Swiss chard as some of the existing plants are bolting with the heat. As it has been so dry, I lifted the shallots and the red onions, laying them out in the greenhouse to dry - I didn't dare leave them on the beds in case it does rain.

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Here is what I harvested this morning: more fantastic, super-food beetroot, some Lebanese courgettes, a pattypan squash, red onion, the first aubergine, a plait of shallots, sweet peas galore and some gladioli.

mike's sausage dish

(24/07/10)

the raw ingredients

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the finished article

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Mike the Gardener's Sausage Special

I want to share with you this recipe given to me by Mike, our long-suffering gardener, which appears in Angel in an Apron. I have to confess that until last night I hadn't actually cooked it, and I am very glad I did. It was delicious and a lovely change from plain old bangers and fiddly onion gravy. When Mike was slaving away yesterday in all that humid heat, he found a flourishing rogue potato plant amongst the spent peas and on lifting it, there was over a pound of beautiful red spuds.

Here is what you will need for two healthy appetites:

The best pork sausages you can find: free-range, high pork content (shoulder meat). I used Jamie Oliver's coarse, Italian-style sausages with red wine, herbs and proscuitto and the meaty texture worked really well with the soft, cooked apple.
1 white or red onion/or shallot
1 stick of celery
sprigs of rosemary and thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 or more firm, not too sweet eating apples - I used Pink Lady

Begin by peeling and chopping the onion finely. Spread onto a shallow baking dish. Wash and chop the celery, again finely and add to the onion. Separate the sausages but don't prick and place on top fo the onion/celery. Wash the potatoes and cut into wedges and add to the dish. Drizzle a little olive oil over the spuds and season these with salt and pepper - no need to go near the sausages. Sprinkle a few chopped herbs over everything and put on the middle shelf of a pre-heated hot oven.

In the mean time, wash and core the apples. If they are going to wait a while before being cooked, squeeze a little lemon juice onto the bare flesh and this will prevent it turning brown. With a sharp knife, cut a circle into the skin a third of the way down - this will prevent the apples from exploding when they cook.

After about 15 minutes remove the dish from the oven, turn all but two sausages so that the underside can brown and then, using the tongs, insert a sausage into each apple. Put the dish back into the oven and continue cooking for about another 30 minutes - you want the sausages to be nice and brown all over and the apples soft all the way through.

Apart from the bonus potatoes, my evening trip to the veggie plot produced a good bowl of French beans, a fine bunch of carrots, a couple of courgettes and some parsley. I cooked the beans for about 10-15 minutes (we only eat them with a crunch if they are to be added cold to a salad), drained them and tossed them in some butter, crushed garlic and the parsley. The other vegetables were steamed altogether in the same pan. I added a splosh of boiling water to the sausage dish, scraping up as much of the delicious caramelised onion/celery goo and made a small amount of gravy. The only thing left were the skins of the apples! A huge success!

more of my pictures for sale

(22/07/10)

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Poppies. Original watercolour. 10.25" x 14.25". 75 plus p&p


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New England Pebbles. Original watercolour. 15" x 11". 70 plus p&p

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detail from 'Poppies'

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Morning Catch. Original pastel. 11" x 12.5". 95 plus p&p

light lunch

(21/07/10)

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This is typical of the sort of lunch I can prepare in no time with the ingredients available in the garden:

baby glazed artichokes, cooked beetroot, salad, asparagus, hard boiled eggs and herbs.

To prepare the artichokes (they must be small, i.e. before the 'choke' has formed: no bigger than a tennis ball), wash them thoroughly. Black fly LOVE them. Cut them in half with a sharp knife and place them cut side down in a shallow pan. Pour on half a glass of dry white wine, the same of water and the juice of a lemon. Add a good slug of ordinary olive oil, some salt and pepper. Put on the lid and bring to the boil, and cook for about ten minutes. Remove the lid and allow the liquid to evaporate for about another five to eight minutes. Allow to cool.

Steam the asparagus and when still a little firm, remove from the heat and run under the cold tap to stop any further cooking.

When ready to eat, arrange everything on a pretty serving dish and drizzle with some good, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a splash of red wine vinegar and some salt and pepper.

The only way to eat the little artichoke halves is to pick them up in your fingers and suck off the soft bits and the juices - you won't be able to eat the leaves, so throw them away. Messy stuff but yummy!

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This is a good example of my emergency picky-picky lunch, made from anything and everything available in the garden/fridge/larder. For example, here there is:

smoked trout fillets
a selection of salami and parma ham with a remoulade of celeriac
a bowl of lettuce with a light dressing made from sunflower oil
tomato, cucumber and onion salad
crusty loaf

To make the remoulade you need to remove the outer skin of the celeriac with a vegetable knife and cut away any hidden muddy bits. Cut it into manageable pieces and grate them into a bowl. In a separate dish, mix some good mayonnaise (delouis fils or Helmann's) with a full teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a little salt and several grinds of pepper. Add this to the grated celeriac and mix well. Put into a clean dish and sprinkle with some chopped parsley.

colour galore

(21/07/10)

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what's the recipe today, Jim?

(21/07/10)

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Because I am having so much fun with this new website thingy, and because I cook two meals a day for us, I can't stop myself from telling you what appears on our table. The problem is, if we like it and I don't write it down immediately, I KNOW I won't be able to remember what it was or how I did it 48 hours later...

SOOOO, for today's lunch a deux I did the following: Smoked salmon pasta

You will need (for two as a main course or 3-4 as a small starter):

1 small packet of smoked salmon slices
1 lemon
creme fraiche
fresh flat leafed parsley
1 largish tomato
salt and pepper
5-6 'nests' of tagliatelle pasta

Start by bringing to the boil some lightly salted water in a good-sized pan - you don't want to have to worry about it boiling over once you have added the pasta.

When it is boiling, add your pasta 'nests'; wait a minute or two and then stir to loosen them and set them free. Follow the instructions on the packet re timings. I probably will annoy the purists amongst you in that we like our pasta to be just a touch more done than al dente, but there you are. Also, I believe that most Italians tend to use dried pasta rather than fresh, but once again, it's a matter of taste and convenience - dried pasta takes ages to go off in the larder, fresh doesn't.

While the pasta is cooking finely chop the tomato, slice the smoked salmon into small strips and chop the parsley. Mix together in a bowl with the creme fraiche, zest of the lemon, a very little salt (the salmon will have plenty) and several good grindings of pepper.

When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander or sieve but leave a little residue of the cooking water. Tip straight back into the pan and add the salmon mixture. Squeeze into it the juice of half the lemon. Stir again and serve immediately with a nice glass (or two...!) of white wine and some bread to mop up the juices.

By the way, NEVER grate parmesan or any other cheese onto a pasta dish where fish is the main ingredient!

some of my artwork - for sale!

(21/07/10)

I am happy to sell some of my original artwork. If you are at all interested, the means of contacting me through the website is in the process of being organised, so please be patient! This should be up and running within the next two weeks or so. Please bear in mind that my photography has somewhat distorted the colours!

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Blue lustre vase. 10.75" x 14". Pastel. 85 plus p&p
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Happy Pigs. 13.5" x 11". Fine art giclee print. 50 plus p&p

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Springtime. 15.5" x 11". Fine art giclee print. 50 plus p&p

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Summer Scene. 15.5" x 11". Fine art giclee print. 65 plus p&p

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Flowers in a vase. 8" x 11". Watercolour

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Beach Huts at Walberswick. 9.25" x 14". Pastel. 75 plus p&p

beetroot summer soup

(20/07/10)

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This is what I picked this morning: 1 egg (lazy girls!), broad beans, parsley, courgette, red onion and some beetroots. One was a bit too large so I thought I would make some soup using bits and pieces in the salad drawer. It tasted really nice.

1lb uncooked beetroot
1 large onion
1 carrot
1 large stick of celery
1 clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon of chilli flakes
2 pints chicken stock (either fresh or made from a cube/granules)
salt and pepper
butter

Peel and chop the onion and carrot, chop the garlic and celery. Peel and grate the beetroot into a separate bowl. Melt some butter in saucepan and tip in all the vegetables bar the beetroot. Stir and let them sweat for five minutes. Then add the beetroot. Stir and add the stock, salt and pepper to taste, and chilli flakes. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are nice and soft. You can either blitz the soup or leave it nice and lumpy - this is how we like it. Before serving, sprinkle a good amount of fresh, finely chopped parsley and maybe a swirl of cream.

I am not a huge fan of cold soups but I reckon that if this is blitzed and then passed through a sieve to make it velvety, this would probably make a lovely cold soup. It made need to be made a little more liquid, either by adding some water or a little cold milk. When chilled and ready to serve, again add a swirl of cream and instead of parsley sprinkle some chopped chives.

veggie plot

(19/07/10)

The vegetables are growing like billyo. We have had to hoick out the first crop of broad beans, removing the little white bobbly nodules and leaving them in the soil as we go - these nourish the earth for the next crop. The peas followed soon afterwards, all the spent growth put onto the compost heap.

If you grow courgettes and squashes, even neat bush varieties tend to spread. They are very thirsty plants and when watering it is difficult to locate the exact spot where the base of the plant is and you can end up wasting valuable water. When I plant out a courgette I place a tall cane where the base of the plant is so that when it grows and spreads, I can see straight away where to point the hose or watering can.

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This year I planted a wigwam of runner beans (plants left over from the main crop which I couldn't bear to throw away) in a bed with sweetcorn and a variety of courgettes and pumpkins. This is roughly based on the three sisters method of planting carried out by native Americans. The plants give out necessary goodness which promotes growth in their neighbours and also the leaves of the courgettes keep in moisture and prevent the weeds from taking over. I planted several different sorts and because I wanted to remember what I had sown, I stuck a label identifying them in the top of the tall cane. The bed is ring fenced by self sown borage which the bees love and will help pollinate to fruits. One other tip: sometimes, if water sits in the open blossom the end of the courgette rots. If you have time, stick your finger through the lower part of each flower so that the water can drain away.

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Apart from the little bean wigwam mentioned above, I now grow runner beans on a special frame with holes drilled in to support the canes. These go into the ground in a straight row and go outwards at the top. This means that the beans dangle mostly outside rather than hiding in the normal way of supporting them. When this frame collapses I shall make another one but with a much wider upper part so that the angle is greater.

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Only three of my cucumber seeds germinated and rather than put them out into the veggie plot I used the empty cold frame. I added a good load of organic vegetable compost and planted the three cucumbers, each with a cane to support them. In front I planted several marigolds to detract white fly. They are sheltered against the wall, easy to water and feed, and we have already eaten two sweet cucumbers.

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The herb walk leading to the field and the chickens. It smells wonderful when your legs are brushed by the lavenders, curry and rosemary plants.

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blackbirds

(17/07/10)

For the past two summers a family of five blackbirds have become increasingly friendly and during the harsh winter ate out of our hands. Since then, we put a regular supply of sultanas or mixed dried fruit on the kitchen window sill for them to feast upon. If the supply runs out (which happens quickly) then they make it very clear to us that it's time we topped up! This morning when I went to collect the newspaper from the gate one of the lads saw me. I told him (I really am mad!) that I was about to put out his breakfast and he followed me back to the house. By the time I was in the kitchen he was watching my every move from the bird bath and flew up to eat before I had finished putting down the fruit. He has a brother who must be a careworn father, since all the feathers on his head have turned completely white. He has managed to copy exactly the ring tone of our telephone which is very confusing when we are sitting in the garden!

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For Christmas I gave Jimmy a bird box camera which we erected on a tree which had previously housed an ordinary box. Sometimes it can take quite a while for the birds to get used to a new box but within weeks a pair of blue tits moved in. We watched them on the television, which was within view of the bird box and saw them fly in outside, and then instantly inside the box on the small screen. The parents were absolutely amazing to watch. The mother fluffed up the feather-and-moss-filled nest, settling the eggs and sitting on them, and eventually, of the nine eggs eight hatched. Soon after the youngest chick died sadly. It took possibly ten days before their eyes opened and my goodness, they were greedy. Silent at first and of course blind, gradually they began to cheep. They seemed to sense the parents arriving and then they went into overdrive. In fact, when we walked around the garden and passed by other boxes the chattering from inside coming from the babies was deafening!
The parents, once they had delivered the caterpillar, bug or insect to their offspring, instead of flying off to get more food they waited patiently for a moment. Instantly one of the chicks would go head first into the bottom of the nest, up-end its little bottom and would expel a little sac of poo, which the parent plucked and removed from the nest. I don't know whether or not they will have another clutch, but they have been back to have a look and apparently, if conditions are right, then they may well have another family. Watch this space!

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cup cakes

(17/07/10)

After the wonderful fortnight which we spent mostly in the garden, eating more meals on the terrace during that time than we have over the last two years, the windy weather came as a bit of a shock. It has done some damage to the garden notably knocking over the sweetcorn and bashing the courgettes, but it did bring with it some vital rain. To celebrate the return of a sunny weekend, why not make a batch of cup cakes?

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The recipe couldn't be easier.

Weigh one egg (size in this instance doesn't matter) and then weigh the equivalent amount of unsalted butter, sugar and flour. Make sure the butter is really soft. Put everything into a bowl or small blender (if you use a large mixer the ingredients will get lost and won't blend), add a tiny pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of baking powder. Whizz quickly or beat by hand for a brief moment. It will all come together within seconds.

Before you blend everything why not add a flavour? For example, a few drops of vanilla extract, the juice of half a lemon or an orange, or even half a tablespoon of cocoa powder.

Put some paper muffin cases (these are bigger than the others!) onto a tray and half-fill with the cake mix. Place on the middle shelf of a moderately hot oven and bake for about eight minutes, but check once. Using a clean skewer or a very pointed knife, dip into one cake. If the skewer comes out clean, then the cakes are done. If there is any mixture left, put them back for a minute or so more.

Remove from the oven and cover with a clean cloth until they are cold enough to decorate.

A quick and easy icing is to pour some icing sugar into a bowl. With one egg you will probably end up with six or seven cakes and for this amount two cups of icing sugar should be plenty. Moisten it with either the juice of the remaining half of lemon or orange, or plain water and colour if desired with food colouring. GO GENTLY WITH THIS or the icing will end up looking like My Little Pony! Spread the mixture roughly over each cake and decorate with sprinkles. Work quickly as this icing sets fast. Perfect for Sunday tea on the lawn!

photos of the garden

(16/07/10)

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salmon 'turtle'

(10/07/10)

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Yesterday I made up the following recipe, which made a really nice supper dish. Although only two smallish pieces of salmon were used, with everything else it could easily have fed four people.

Salmon 'Turtle' en croute

half a packet of all-butter, ready-made pastry
one piece of salmon for two people, or a packet of two fillets
1 boursin cheese aux fines herbes
1 packet of ready washed baby spinach leaves
1 lemon
1 egg
salt and pepper

I always like to give the spinach a quick wash. Put in a pan with no water and stir, allowing it to wilt but not cook totally. Remove from the heat and strain. When cold enough, squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

Allow the pastry to reach room temperature and roll out fairly thinly.

Roughly spread a little (about 1/3) of the boursin onto the pastry. I chose boursin because I didn't then have to fiddle around with garlic and herbs, and also because the supermarket were doing two for the price of one.

Next, spread some of the cold spinach on top.

Remove the skin from the fish - this is easy with salmon: peel a bit back with your fingers and then lay it skin-side down on a board. Hold onto the flap of skin and run a very sharp knife firmly against the board, between the skin and the fish. Rinse, pat dry and place on top of the spinach.

Spread one more layer of boursin and cheese on top of the fish.

Wash the lemon and grate a little zest over everything - about half the lemon.
Season lightly with salt (the cheese will have plenty) but give some good grindings of pepper.

Beat the egg in a bowl with a little cold water to loosen it and brush the outer edges of the pastry. Pull the empty side over and seal, making a rather lumpy bundle. I intended to make a nice fish shape with head, fins and scales but it turned out more like a whopping turtle, hence the name of the dish!

Lift carefully (using a fish slice or something flat) onto a greased baking sheet. With scissors, nick the body here and there to look like scales. I used some of the left over pastry to shape a head and legs, etc., attaching them to the body with the egg. Brush liberally all over with more egg and place in a moderately hot oven (gas mark 6, 200C) for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and cooked.

black currant jelly

(10/07/10)

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Blackcurrant jelly

The bushes are covered with ripe fruit but if I don't hurry, the blackbirds will eat them all before I can pick them. As blackcurrants appear on year old branches, the easiest way to harvest them is follows: On a dry day, cut back the whole branch bearing ripe fruit and put into a basket. When you have cleared the bush, lay a cloth either on the ground under a tree, or on a table and remove the fruit by gently raking your fingers along the stalks. Be careful not to squash the fruit. If you are making jelly, it doesn't matter if the leaves and most of the stalk comes off as well. By cutting the stems from the bush you are also pruning it ready for next year: two jobs done in one.

Blackcurrants can get very dusty so a good rinse in a bowl of cold water is a must. I only make jelly, not jam, so I don't need to be too particular about what goes into the pan; I remove any leaves, brown bits etc. but the stalks and less ripe fruit are fine.

There is no need to weigh the fruit at this stage. Put into a preserving pan with a good cup of cold water and bring slowly to the boil. Mash the fruit with a potato masher to release the juices and when the fruit is cooked, put to one side to cool slightly before passing it through a piece of muslin or a proper jelly bag. When it's cool enough to handle, I put on clean rubber gloves and squeeze to get as much juice out as I can.

Measure the juice and weigh some granulated sugar. The proportions are one pint of juice : 1 lb of sugar.

Put the juice back into a clean preserving pan, and place the sugar in a bowl into a warmish oven to heat - it will dissolve more quickly. When the juice comes up to the boil, tip in the sugar and stir till its dissolved. Heat and sterilise some clean jam jars in the oven and put a metal saucer or dish into the freezer. Add a knob of butter to the juice and stir - this will prevent a lot of scum from forming. There will be some as it cooks, but remove this with a skimming ladle and discard. If you have a jam thermometer, allow the jelly to boil (stirring every now and again to prevent it from burning on the bottom of the pan) until it reachs 220 C. Remove it from the heat and put a small amount on the chilled dish. If it wrinkles when you run your finger across, it means it will set.

Pour carefully into the hot jars and seal.

strawberry jam

(08/07/10)

Well, I didn't realise how much reaction I would receive from the photograph of the freshly picked strawberries! Therefore here is the recipe on how to make THE best jam ever. Now, pay attention and learn!!

Weigh your strawberries (with hulls in - the stalky bits). You will need about 1 1/2 lbs of fruit.

Rinse them quickly under the tap, then remove the hulls with a knife. Place in a large bowl.

Measure the same amount of ordinary granulated sugar and add to the strawberries.

Cut a lemon in half and squeeze out the juice of the whole lemon, removing the pips. Add to the above and stir. Cover with a cloth and allow to macerate (soak) for as long as you can: overnight is ideal. Stir every now and again -although don't worry if you have gone to bed! After a few hours the sugar will have (mostly) dissolved and the strawberries will be soaking in the most heavenly scented syrup.

Pour into a preserving (or large) pan, and bring to the boil gently, stirring every now and again. Break up the strawberries by using a potato masher. In the mean time, put some clean (about 6) jam jars in a low oven to heat and sterilise. Also, place a metal dish/saucer in the freezer.

When the jam comes to the boil, add a knob of butter and stir in - this will help prevent too much scum from forming. If there is scum, scoop it off (and discard). You need the jam to reach a temperature of 240 degrees fahrenheit, 225 degrees centigrade. If you don't have a jam thermometer, don't worry. When it looks 'good', ie thickish, take out your cold metal dish and drop a little jam mixture onto it. After a moment, if it wrinkles when you run your finger through it, it's done. With strawberry jam you aren't looking for a set jam - more of a fruity, syrupy concoction.

When you are happy, remove your jars from the oven and carefully pour in the jam. Seal immediately and allow to cool. Because strawberry jam has a tendency to grow mouldy, I keep my jars in the fridge - if I have the space. If not, I eat it quickly! However, it should last at least three to six months if kept in a cool place, like a larder.

My Summer Garden

(08/07/10)

Here are a few snapshots of the garden this Summer!

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And here is a quick and easy lunch recipe for my omelette!

For supper the day before I picked a few leaves of Swiss chard, a red onion, and a couple of tiny courgettes. I fried the sliced onion in a pan with a little olive oil until it was soft, then added the sliced courgettes, and a couple of ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped. I added one crushed clove of garlic, then folded in the chopped chard, sezsoning it well with salt and pepper. I let this simmer for about ten minutes, stirring once in a while and served it with some chops cooked on the bar-b-q. There was a small amount left over, and too good to waste, I put in the fridge once it was cold.

The next day, the girls had laid four eggs between them and so I decided to make an omelette for the two of us for lunch. I beat the eggs in a bowl with some s & p, put a large knob of butter in the hot omelette pan and let it melt, sizzle and then turn quiet. When it was just beginning to take on a light brown colour, I poured in the eggs. I swizzled several times with the back of a fork until the base was firm, the top still a little runny, then poured on the vegetables, spreading them over the nearly cooked eggs. I allowed it to cook a further two or three minutes and then folded the omelette in half and slid it onto a warm plate. We ate it with a salad, again freshly picked from the garden. It was delicious!

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Jelly and Jam Jamboree!

(07/07/10)

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For the last two weeks I have been up to my eyes in fresh fruit from the garden: gooseberries, red currants, tayberries and now black currants. It is a busy time, making sure that the fruit is as fresh as can be and made instantly into jams, jellies and chutneys. So far I have made several pounds of gooseberry and strawberry jam, gooseberry and mint jelly (delicious!), gooseberry chutney (my great-grandmother's recipe, to follow), rec currant jelly and tayberry jam. The house smells of heaven and I can't wait for it all to be cold enough to taste.

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Here is the recipe for the gooseberry chutney: (Auckland, NZ, 1948)

1 1/2 lbs gooseberries
1/4 lb raisins
1 level tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
6 oz brown sugar Demerara, light brown sugar - up to you)
2 onions, finely chopped
2 oz sultanas
1 teaspoon ground ginger
a pinch of cayenne - more if you prefer more heat
a good pinch (1/4 teaspoon) turmeric

Put some (about four) clean jam jars into a warm oven to heat and sterilise.

Wash, top and tail the gooseberries. Put all ingredients into a preserving pan and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for about one hour until thick enough. When you can draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and the mixture divides, it's done. Pour carefully into the warmed jars, seal and store. This can be eaten straight away. Note: there is no vinegar in the recipe - I haven't forgotten to include it!

For all my patient friends, hello at last!

(05/07/10)

Well, at last I am up and running, although (Luddite that I am) I have to learn to walk first, so please forgive any blunders which may occur. My aim for this website is to keep you in touch with what is happening in the garden, my life and things in general.

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I want to share recipes, ideas, photographs - in fact anything you find interesting or amusing. Whilst the website was being prepared for me by Dave Sharp, I have been busy cooking, making jams, jellies and chutneys and taking photographs. I hope you enjoy coming onto my website and I look forward to writing regular updates.