Bryony's Blog

the pickling continues...

(26/08/10)

Yesterday, in between torrential rain storms, I managed to pick a bowl of raspberries and some blackberries with the intention of making some fruit-flavoured vinegars.


RASPBERRY AND BLACKBERRY VINEGAR

I have been collecting pretty bottles for this purpose with vinegar-proof stoppers. I washed them again and put them into a warm oven to sterilise and once they were cold enough to handle I force-fed two with the raspberries and the third with the blackberries.

In the first I poured cider vinegar, the second red wine vinegar and white wine onto the raspberries. Once securely closed, I gave them a good shake and put them on the window sill by the sink - to sit in the sunshine (ha ha ha...) for a couple of weeks, giving them a daily shake or two. The final step is to filter the vinegar into a jug, wash and sterilise the bottles once more and return the vinegar to be used on salads, in casseroles, gravy etc.

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BASIL OIL

In spite of a lack of sunshine recently, the garden-grown basil is still performing and I wanted to make some basil oil. I picked a big bunch, rinsed it under the tap and shook as much of the water from the leaves. I put them into a mini whizzer along with a small bottle of olive oil and blitzed it. Then, I poured the mixture into a saucepan and brought almost up to the boil and let it heat for about three minutes. I removed the plastic stopper from the bottle - this would make it easier to pour in the oil. I took the pan off the heat and strained it into a jug through a small piece of muslin, and then into the bottle it went. This must be consumed within 10-12 days, so I put a sticky label on it with the 'use by' date. It's very important to do this because sometimes bacteria can grow if it is kept too long, particularly if you put garlic into oil or vinegar.

We had some for lunch once it was cold enough, poured over the first pickings of beef tomatoes and yes, more basil!

coping with a tomato glut for winter sunshine...

(24/08/10)

FRESH TOMATO KETCHUP

This is absolutely delicious and if you make it yourself you know exactly what goes into it - no E numbers, no preservatives, just pure, unadulterated goodness. However, you will need two things: 1) a very large (and I mean large) preserving pan, and 2) a lot of time - this does take an age to cook, but it's worth it!

You will need:

8lbs ripe tomatoes
6 onions
2 large red peppers, de-seeded and roughly chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
4oz soft brown sugar
4oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon salt
16 fl.oz of red wine vinegar

PLUS:

either one red chilli or half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
2 bayleaves, torn up
1 tablespoon of celery seeds (NOT salt)
1 tablespoon of mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of black pepper corns
1 stick of cinammon, broken in two or three pieces

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1. Put your clean bottles or jars into a warm oven to sterilise. Wash and roughly chop the tomatoes and put them into the pan, pips, skin, everything. Peel and chop the onions and add to the pot. Add the peppers and garlic and enough water barely to cover the vegetables. Bring to the boil and simmer until they are completely soft, stirring now and again.

2. Take off the heat and whizz with a hand held blender until nearly everything is pureed. Don't worry if there are still some lumpy bits.

3. Put the spices into a muslin bag or a piece of muslin cloth and secure it tightly. Add this to the tomato mix along with all the other ingredients.

4. Bring it up to the boil and stir. Leave to cook for simply ages until the liquid has reduced by at least a half and the mixture is getting nice and thick. Remember that it will continue to thicken as it gets cold. When you are happy with the consistency, gradually pass it through a sieve to remove any pips, seeds etc.

5. Pour carefully into the hot bottles or jars and wait until it is cold before sealing. Store in the fridge. This can be eaten immediately and should last a couple of months at least if stored correctly.

herby jelly

(22/08/10)

APPLE AND HERB JELLY

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Jimmy's collection of windfalls is rapidly taking over the house so I thought I had better get to grips with the more ripe ones. We love jellies of all kinds with meat and poultry and instead of doing a bog standard apple jelly I mixed in a combination of mint, rosemary and thyme.

You will need: fruit, sugar, herbs, a little water.

First of all wash the apples, then cut out any bruised parts or evidence of insect activity. Cut them up roughly, pips, skin and all and put into a preserving pan. I added a good bunch of fresh mint, a few sprigs of thyme and a couple of sprigs of rosemary to the pan, along with enough water to come half way up the apples. Put some jam jars into a warm oven to sterilise.

Put it onto the hot plate and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently until the fruit is really soft. Pass it through a muslin or jelly bag and when cold enough, squeeze it to get out as much of the juice as you can.

Measure the juice and add the same amount of sugar or as I did, the suggested quantity of preserving sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and boil until setting point is reached, or according to the instructions on the packet of preserving sugar.

Pour carefully into your hot jam jars. If you wish to add some fresh mint to the jelly, wait until it is almost set before stirring in some very finely chopped mint leaves - by waiting the mint will remain suspended in the jelly as against rising to the top and sitting there. Seal and store in a cool, dark cupboard.

kitchen sups

(19/08/10)

Last night, unusually for us now that we are in our dotage, we had some friends from the village over for kitchen sups. She is a veggie and he is a self-confessed, very difficult person to please and hates shellfish. Soooo, chicken it had to be with loads of vegetables. Here is the menu:

No starters but nibbles: a delicious selection of Indian tasty savoury mouthfuls courtesy Monsieur Sainsbury washed down with a scrummy bottle of champagne they gave us.

Then we had: Roast Chicken with tarragon
Baked tomatoes with four different basils
Mixed courgettes with red onion and a cheese topping
New potatoes (which were very scabby so I peeled them)
A huge bowl of runner beans

In the morning I picked about 1 1/2 lbs of raspberries and made an ice cream.
We have a peach tree growing up against the barn wall and although it was covered in blossom, the late frosts killed off most of it. However, on closer inspection I found a cluster of ripe peaches tucked away only a foot off the ground, hidden behind the black currant bush - even the squirrels hadn't found them! I picked four and also a tiny bunch of grapes which were more or less ripe from a bit of the vine which had winkled its way through the window into the greenhouse.


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First of all, I boiled a kettle of water and poured it over the peaches and left them for a minute to soak. This loosens the skin and makes it easier to peel them. I rinsed them first in cold water and then put the slices into a saucepan with the juice of half a lemon. I washed the grapes, cut the larger ones in half and removed the pips - the little ones (no bigger than a tiny blueberry) had no pips and they went in as is. I added some sugar and gently stewed them until the juices were flowing.

For the ICE CREAM, I put the raw raspberries into a blender and whizzed, then passed them through a sieve to remove the pips. I whipped 1/2 pint of double cream until it was firm but not solid - you want it rather like shaving foam, not stiff peaks like with meringue. I added the juice of the other half of the lemon to the raspberry juice and then poured it onto some sugar in another bowl. If you pour the juice ONTO the sugar rather than the other way around it melts much more quickly. Next, I folded the juice/sugar/lemon into the cream and poured it into the ice cream maker. This took no time at all to freeze and I carefully decanted it into a plastic container with a lid and into the freezer. Job done.

main course

(19/08/10)

Now to the ROAST CHICKEN.

I picked some French tarragon and a bunch of parsley and roughly chopped them. I added a crushed garlic clove or two, plus more lemon juice (about two tablespoons/half a large lemon) to about 1 oz of very soft butter. I mashed these together as best I could then, very carefully, I pushed my fingers and thumb under the skin of the chicken along the breast meat. If you have beautifully manicured, long fingernails you might be in danger of ripping the skin so use the round end of a wooden spoon - I garden and have no nails...

Then, push the buttery herby mixture under the skin on each side. I ripped the skin last night but it didn't matter too much as I was able to knit it together with some cocktail sticks. As I had some time before putting it into the oven, I stuffed it in a plastic bag and into the fridge.

VEGETABLES

Because of feeding a veggie (who is very amenable and didn't want me to go to any bother)I didn't do a separate dish and thought that the cheesy courgette bake would be ideal.

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I had one yellow, 1 green courgette and 1 white patty pan squash. These were sliced and put in a shallow gratin dish. Next, I peeled and sliced finely 1 red onion and scattered this over the top along with some flat leafed parsley, torn not chopped. A good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and into the oven to bake until the veggies were practically cooked.

For THE TOPPING you will need: 1 egg
1 tablespoon of flour
Creme fraiche - I only had the tail end Charlie of a pot (about a dessert spoon) so made it up with some single cream.
3 oz of grated cheese - I used a mixture of Gruyere and Emmental
salt and pepper

In a bowl, mix the egg and flour together so that there are as few lumps as possible, add the other ingredients and again, mix well. Scoop this over the vegetables and spread roughly - it doesn't matter if not everything is covered with cheese sauce. Bake in a moderately hot oven until it is bubbling and golden brown. It looked absolutely wonderful (and tasted it) but by the time I was dishing up I had had several glasses of the old vino and completely forgot to take a picture!

Baked tomatoes

(19/08/10)

So far so good this year, in spite of the horrid weather we've been experiencing lately and there is (BIG TOUCH WOOD) no sign of blight - yet - on the tomato plants outside. I gave up growing them in the green house to avoid blight because when I tried this, guess where blight struck first??? Anyway, I picked a lovely selection of Gardeners' delight, some tear-dropped shaped teeny ones and the first pair of large beef Italian tomatoes.

I cut the small ones in half and put them in the bottom of a dish, then sliced the large ones and positioned them on top in a line. I splashed on a good drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper and lots of lemon juice along with the torn leaves of FOUR different basils I have grown this summer: huge, crinkly leafed lemon, purple, sweet and Greek basil. Into the oven it went to bake until soft - it was a perfect accompaniment.

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All I did to the runner beans was to strip them of the ribs and slice them very, very finely - like thin tagliatelle. I do cook them with a tiny (and I mean tiny) pinch of bicarbonate of soda plus a little salt as this keeps them really green. Cooked this way they only take minutes and taste as though they have been smothered in butter.

Pudding - the raspberry ice cream and stewed peaches and grapes - was a huge hit. Our tricky to feed guest ate everything given to him and said that, had he been at home, he would have licked the plate. Maybe next time they come to see us he will!

Saturday lunch

(14/08/10)

Yesterday, out of the blue I was suddenly cooking lunch for eight today. I took two free-range ducklings which I had bought on special offer and allowed them to thaw quietly overnight in the lobby by the front door - it's cooler there than in the kitchen. This morning I removed the giblets and decided to use the livers which were nice and big, to make some quick pate. It was delicious and we had it as a nibble instead of a starter.

You will need:

The liver(s) from the duckling(s)
1-2 slices of pancetta per liver
1 small shallot, chopped finely
little fresh thyme
salt and pepper
butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed.

Wash the liver and place on a board, then take hold of a piece and run the knife across the liver, gently scraping the flesh in order to remove the little stringy, sinewy bits. Put to one side. Heat a small frying pan and add the pancetta, garlic and shallott. Stir from time to time until the shallot is soft and the pancetta cooked but not crispy. Add the liver and stir. Add the thyme and season with a little salt and pepper. The liver will only take a minute or two to cook. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before putting into a small blender (or into a container and use a hand held blender). Blitz until smooth and put into a small dish or ramekin. Leave to one side to cool and once cold, melt a little butter and pour this on top of the pate. Put into the fridge to chill thoroughly. Serve on little toasts or as I did, oat cakes with a dish of tiny cornichons (gherkins) to crunch along side.

THE MAIN COURSE

(14/08/10)

I always cook duckling and goose on a rack in a roasting pan to avoid the beast sitting in a pool of fat. First into the dish went a stick of celery, roughly chopped, ditto a large onion. Then I snuggled in the remaining giblets (neck and heart). I rinsed the ducklings and cut two clementines in half and stuffed these in the cavity of each bird along with a few crushed cloves of garlic, still with their skins on. You could do this with an orange, apple or an onion. I sprinkled each bird with salt and pepper and put in the middle of a hot oven to cook for about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours or until they were deep golden brown and the juices ran clear.

I lifted them onto a dish, covered them with foil and kept them warm while I made the gravy. Ducks can give off a considerable amount of fat and you need to drain it into a container; use it another day for wonderful roast potatoes.
I scraped the gooey bits in the dish and added some chicken stock I had made yesterday - you can use vegetable stock, or even plain water. Back into the oven it went while I prepared the chard.

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My early morning harvest included new potatoes, the chard, a mixture of different courgettes, parsley, red onions, tomatoes, mint and thyme and some eggs. To make life easier, I decided to bake the vegetables (except the chard) and this is how it looked before it went into the oven:

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I sliced the courgettes and laid them in their assorted colours in the baking dish. Then I cut the tomatoes and added them also in rows (I need to get a life...). The onion was peeled and sliced and the rings draped over everything, along with some parsley, a good drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. I didn't add any garlic as there was enough in the ducklings.

I put it into a moderately hot oven to bake for about 45 minutes. This is a lovely way to cook these ingredients because they don't disintegrate into a mush and you can really taste their individual flavours.

I cooked the chard very simply: washed and drained, I kept it whole and packed it into a saucepan with a little salt and a splash of water. Cook it quickly, stirring every now and again, for about five minutes. Drain, and cut it up roughly with a knife. You can gild the lily by adding lemon juice and butter, but I didn't because I wanted to keep things simple.

PUDDING

(14/08/10)

I forgot to mention that I also managed to pick a large bowl of beautiful raspberries which had by no means suffered from the drenching downfalls of rain we have been experiencing recently. I made the following pudding:

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You will need:

The whites of 4 eggs - keep the yolks to add to a couple of whole eggs and make some scrambled eggs or an omelette.
225g of caster sugar
a little icing sugar
1/2 pint double cream

Heat the oven (fan assisted 160 C). Take a piece of baking parchment to fit your baking tray and scrunch it up, then unravel it and place on the tray - by doing this it will keep flat.

In a very clean bowl whisk the whites until they are nice and stiff and form peaks - don't whisk them at full throttle, but one or two notches under the max.

Then, add the sugar, little by little, whisking all the time until it is all incorporated.

Spread the meringue mixture onto the parchment in a square shape, about 1.5" deep. Place in the middle shelf of the oven and cook for about 15 minutes until the top is turning golden. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a moment or two. Next, flip it over onto a serving dish and gently peel off the parchment. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to get completely cold.

When ready to serve, whip the cream (not too much - it will turn into butter) and spread it over half the square. Tumble on top some of the raspberries and gently fold over the empty half of the meringue. Dust with some icing sugar and scatter the remaining raspberries around it. Yum yum yum...

update on raspberry jam recipe

(13/08/10)

The Autumn Bliss raspberries are really coming into their own and I have now made over a dozen pots of jam. Today I noticed that some of the wild blackberries were ripe in the field boundary nearby - they must be at least two weeks late this year. Also the fruit on the apple tree at the bottom of the garden is starting to be edible and as this particular variety (heaven knows which) doesn't keep it's a question of striking whilst the iron is hot.

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Instead of freezing the raspberries I thought I would add the juice of the blackberries and apples to the mixture. There is nothing worse than blackberry pips in jam getting stuck in your teeth! I washed the apples and cut them into small chunks, pips 'n' all and put them in a pan with the blackberries and a little water. I brought it up to the boil and cooked it gently until the fruit was soft,stirring now and again, and then I passed it through a muslin cloth.

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Next, I weighed the uncooked raspberries and added the appropriate amount of special preserving sugar and put it into a clean pan along with the strained juice. If you use preserving sugar, as I have mentioned previously, do please follow the instructions and measurements on the packet.

The jam set as soon as it was cold and was lovely - just a hint of apple/blackberry alongside the pungent raspberry flavour.

A very unusual chutney to try

(13/08/10)

I am always on the look out for different pickles and chutneys since over the years my tooth has become sweeter, and I tend now to spurn the more vinegary recipes. At this time of year Jimmy is on full time apple duty, collecting the windfalls into a pile for the compost heap, and saving some good ones for the kitchen. This summer, for whatever reason, the outdoor cucumbers have been hugely (and I mean it - enough to make a maiden blush!) prolific, sweet and with no hint of bitterness. I grew three plants of the Burpless variety and I am finding it difficult to cope with the crop. This is one brilliant way of disposing of both gluts:

Apple and Cucumber Chutney.

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You will need:

2 lb apples - I used a mixture of eaters and cookers
2 lb cucumbers
8 oz onions - I used a red onion from the garden
1 pint of vinegar - I used white wine vinegar but you could always use red wine, cider or malt but bear in mind the flavour will change
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 lb demerara sugar

Begin by putting your clean jars into a warmed oven to sterilise.

Next, peel the cucumber. A quick way to turn them into tiny chunks is as follows: hold the cucumber in your left hand and then cut into the flesh lengthways to about four inches, then do the same at right angles to the first cuts. Put the cucumber onto a board and slice through it - the little chunks will fall off. Continue on down the cucumber until you have cut it all up. Put this into a stainless steel pan.

Peel and slice finely the onion. Add to the cucumber and pour on the vinegar.

TIP: a quick way to prepare a lot of apples for a pie or chutney: peel the whole fruit with a vegetable peeler then take a knife and cut into the flesh in a random, criss-cross way. Then slice the fruit through almost to the core - once again, the little (albeit irregular - it doesn't matter) pieces will fall off. Far easier than having to peel, core and slice. Add the fruit as you go into the pan and stir - the vinegar will stop the apple from going brown.

Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil. Cook gently until everything is soft, stirring every now and again - this could take fifteen to twenty minutes. Then add the sugar, salt and cayenne. Stir and bring to the boil. A word of WARNING: you need to cook this for at least half an hour, maybe more until it thickens but the hotter and less runny it becomes will mean that it will spit at you when you stir - and you must stir frequently to prevent the bottom from burning. To avoid accidents, place one of those anti-splatter things over the pan lifting it enough to put a wooden spoon underneath when you stir.

When it is nice and thick but still slightly sloppy, pour carefully into your pre-heated, sterilised jars. Seal and store for a month in a cool, dark place before eating.

Today's pickings for lunch...

(11/08/10)

This is a special recipe for my dear friend Jean who was very cross with me this morning (only joking!) because I put something as naughty as the Lemon Drizzle cake onto the blog...Hopefully this will restore the status quo!

I hadn't a clue what to do for our lunch today and needed to go and see if our broody hen Haynsie was still being a silly girl. Miracle of miracles - instead of sitting in the coop on the eggs laid by her sisters, she was running about with the others, happy as Larry. It looks as though my tactics of going down three or four times a day to remove her off the nest has worked! There were three quite cold eggs in the nesting box, freshly laid this morning, which means I might have succeeded in curing her. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I wandered about the raised beds to see what to gather for lunch.

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I came up with, apart from the eggs, a good picking of French beans, flat leafed parsley, a magnificent bunch of beetroot the size of cricket balls, some ripe (I pray that this damp weather won't bring on blight...)Gardener's Delight tomatoes, an embarrassing large cucumber and some basil.

Back in the kitchen I topped and tailed the beans and cooked them quickly in boiling water, refreshing them under the cold tap when done - I wanted to keep a little 'bite'. I hard-boiled two eggs and shelled them, sliced the cucumber and tomatoes, chopped the parsley and assembled everything on a pretty dish.

I didn't want to make a vinaigrette dressing and instead mixed two tablespoons of mayonnaise with one tablespoon of creme fraiche, a splash of olive oil, ditto red wine vinegar and some freshly ground pepper. I tipped in the chopped parsley (about two tablespoons) and mixed together. I poured this over the other ingredients. I served it with some French bread and the beetroot in a separate bowl. Very healthy and very tasty! Shame about the butter on the bread...

sunrise and sunset over Sussex

(11/08/10)

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Blackberry jelly pudding

(10/08/10)

What a wake up call the last few days have been...rain, cloudy skies, cool mornings - even the robins have started to sing differently, sounding quite wintery. However the blackberries, as I have mentioned before, are firing on all cylinders and it's a case of getting to the end of the row and having to start again at the beginning to keep up with them - like painting the Forth Bridge! Rather fed up with boiling jam, sterilising jars and waiting to see if it sets successfully, I decided to make a BLACKBERRY JELLY for pudding, using one of my old porcelain moulds.

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I picked a colander full of fruit and, after giving them a quick rinse under the tap, put them in a pan with some sugar (not too much - if needed, I could adjust it later) and the juice of a lemon. It came quickly to the boil, and after a stir or two I passed the lot through a sieve to extract the juice and leave the pips behind. I ended up with 1 1/4 pints of juice.

I like to use leaf gelatine and the packet said that for every quarter of a pint I needed 1 leaf of gelatine. I followed the instructions and poured the juice into my mould. Once it was cold I put it in the fridge overnight.

I have just turned it out onto a cake plate, but before the photo was taken when I de-moulded it, the jelly slipped on its side and I had to manhandle it with spoons, spatulas and hands to get it upright! There were a few dents around the edge which I disguise with some fresh fruit. It ended up looking not too bad - also I had a quality control taste and it was absolutely delicious and so easy to make.

raspberry jam

(10/08/10)

I have discovered that I am now suffering very severely from what seems to be a potentially incurable illness - it attacks at any time of the day (and night) and so far I cannot think of a cure. It is called e-bayitis. Since learning how to drive this computer it has opened up huge potential for exploration and also...selling some of our accumulated clutter. The thrill of flogging a Florence & Fred frock which no longer fitted for 5 plus p&p was thrilling! Then I sold another one which was languising in the wardrobe for a further four quid. Now, with those two successful auctions behind me I find myself going from room to room, picking things up, looking at the odd book we have read and no longer want, then doing some research. Having made a choice I grab my camera, take a picture, use that wonderful free thing called Fotosizer which enables me to upload the images, then on they go on my ebay site and bingo! In less than the time it takes to boil an egg, my clutter is listed! It doesn't stop there: I have to keep going on line to see if anyone is watching it, or better still, putting in a bid. This is in danger of becoming an obsession, but on the plus side we have fewer bits and pieces gathering dust!

To get a break from this habit, I wandered down the garden to see what damage the heavy rain has produced, in particular the autumn fruiting raspberries. Last year we hardly had any crop but today the branches were laden with glistening jewel-like berries. In ten minutes I had filled a bowl and in less than a half an hour I had bottled five jars of jam.

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I rinsed the fruit quickly and then put it into a deep pan. As I had run out of bog standard granulated sugar I used some special preserving sugar (with added pectin) instead. I won't give you my weights and measurements as they won't be of much help since I had picked an odd quantity, but if you do want to make some jam using this special sugar, follow the directions on the packet
and you can't go wrong.

Incidentally, rather than use up old jam jars in this instance I used some I bought last week from Dave Sharp's cookshop in Hurstpierpoint. For his link, go to 'My Friends'. It's well worth a visit as his website is to die for.

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Lemon drizzle cake

(07/08/10)

The chickens have at last gone back to their normal routine and are producing an egg each a day, except our broody bird, Haynsie who has pulled up the drawbridge now for over a month. I didn't want to bother with making a full-blown sponge cake plus icing etc., so decided to make a lemon drizzle sponge. I haven't made one for simply years and having just eaten two (oops! three!) slices I don't know why it's taken so long. This yummy sponge was ready to eat in less than thirty five minutes from start to finish.

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For the sponge you will need:

6 oz unsalted butter
6 oz self-raising flour
6 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
small pinch of salt

For the topping:

Juice and rind of one unwaxed lemon
4 oz caster sugar

FIRST, heat the oven to moderately hot. Grease a swiss roll tin or similar small shallow roasting dish, as in the photograph. Melt (but don't boil) the butter. Take off the heat and add to the other ingredients, beating so there are no lumps.

Pour into the prepared dish and bake until risen, golden brown and a skewer or knife comes out clean - about 20-30 minutes depending on your oven.

Mix the lemon zest and juice with the remaining caster sugar and pour over the cooked cake. Leave to cool and cut into wedges. If you are like me, you won't be able to wait until it is completely cold before you eat it!

blackberry harvest has started with a vengeance!

(04/08/10)

Well, I did have some idea that our wonderful tenant bees were hard at it in the garden and the proof of their industry is in the picture below. We are literally going to have tons and tons of fruit - it took me less than ten minutes to pick this lot and as you can see from the single fruit, it is larger than a five pence piece!

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Blackberry jelly couldn't be easier to make. I always include a few unripe fruits to increase the pectin level - this is what makes the jelly set. Don't bother to weigh the raw fruit, merely rinse it thoroughly under a cold tap and put in a deep pan with a little water and bring to the boil. Stir and mash the fruit with a potato masher. It shouldn't take long to cook, maybe five to six minutes.

Strain into a bowl through a piece of muslin. Leave until cold enough to handle and squeeze out any remaining juice. Measure the juice and for each pint, add 1 lb sugar. To about 1 1/2 pints of liquid add the juice of a lemon.

Put a small metal dish into the freezer and some clean jam jars into a cool oven to sterilise. Heat the juice and add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves. Bring to the boil, add a knob of butter - this helps reduce scum. If there is any, remove every now and then. Wait until the temperature reaches setting point (220 C), then remove the chilled dish and drop on a little of the jelly. It will get cold quickly and if it wrinkles when you run your finger through it, it is cooked enough. If it doesn't, put the jelly back onto the heat and boil a further five minutes.

When you are sure it is ready, pour carefully into the hot jars and seal immediately. Don't forget to label when cold - blackberry jelly looks just like black currant!

It's raining, and I'm bored....here are some more photos of the garden.

(04/08/10)

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more pics

(04/08/10)

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Sunday sups after a big lunch

(03/08/10)

Sunday lunch is a wonderful invention, to be enjoyed at leisure in good company, however in the evening I always feel deflated emotionally and inflated physically - not an ideal combination! In order to prevent night starvation (!) a light supper is on the cards. It could be a toasted BLT and a cuppa, or scrambled eggs with chives on buttered toast, or even good old baked beans and a tumbler of ice cold milk.

This Sunday, always a devil for punishment, I decided to cook. When I was watering the vegetables I found, lurking under the leaves, a very large courgette. I picked it, along with some chard and retired to the kitchen.

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I washed and sliced the courgette lengthways (about 1/4 inch thick) and laid them in a baking dish. I scattered some chopped garlic, salt and pepper and a few dots of butter and baked it in the oven for about 20-30 minutes.

Then I washed the chard and cooked it quickly with a very little water, drained it thoroughly and squeezed out as much of the water as possible.

I removed the nearly cooked courgette from the oven and spread the chard on the top. I made a very quick cheese topping with: 1 tablespoon of flour, 1 egg, about 2-3 oz of grated cheese and 2-3 tablespoons of creme fraiche. This was quite thick and wouldn't pour, so I spread it as best I could over the vegetables. Into the oven it went for about 6 minutes when it was just beginning to brown.

Finally, I made two little nests, one either end of the dish, and cracked an egg into each hole. Back into the oven it went for a further five minutes until the whites were cooked, the yolks still runny.

With some re-heated French bread left over from lunch, it was lovely and well worth the effort. The only problem is I always dream when I eat cheese at night - can't remember what it was, but it featured Terry Wogan!! Bon appetit!