Monday, 14 December 2009

Christmas Stocking

I've been watching Kirstie's Homemade Christmas, and although I didn't have time to blow a few baubles or make any soap in time for the festive season I was inspired to make a Christmas Stocking for our newest granddaughter. Luckily I have more than enough fabrics, buttons and ribbons in store to get going the minute the enthusiasm strikes, and it is far from the first Christmas Stocking I have made, but what I really liked was the idea of making the lining and top all in one operation. I have to admit getting the placing wrong at the first attempt but it is a really neat idea. If you didn't watch the programmes you can look it up on the Channel 4 website.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The Little Chef

We have passed the Little Chef at Popham (made famous by Heston Blumenthal) many times in the last 12 months, and finally made it inside last week. There has never been space for us in the car park before!
I had the ox cheek in a red wine sauce with mashed potato and Chris had what looked like a warm roast pork salad, which he said was excellent, along with the chunky chips as an extra. I loved the ox cheek and creamy mash, but was unimpressed by the vegetables I ordered, most peculiar taste.
Certainly the best roadside meal we have ever had, and we'll be more than pleased to find a parking space again soon.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


This is how I'm feeling today, burned out, fed up etc. No, it's not quite the end of the road for me, but today we have the builder in and although I want the work done, and he's a lovely bloke and all that, he is working just outside my kitchen door, it's noisy and messy the outside door is wide open so it's quite chilly as well.

I've brought my coffee to my little office to escape for a while but I know it's only a temporary respite. I can't even go out because I waiting for a delivery from Dell, (my first order with the company) another fed-up making episode. One month ago I thought it might be a good idea to treat myself to a lap-top and it looked as though I had got myself a good deal. It arrived a week later, but with a most peculiar electrical plug, certainly not one I'd ever seen before. So I got in touch. Three weeks to the day of the lap-top being delivered, and four communications later I am waiting for my UK compatible mains lead. Am I holding my breath, not I am not. Will I deal with them again, no 'fraid not. I feel a bit better now I've shared that! It's still a good photo though, surprising what you find in the woods.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Eat Dorset - Food Fair

Yesterday Chris and I went to the Eat Dorset Food Fair at Parnham House, Beaminster. A lovely bright and sunny day, with quite a frost early on, we thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there. Quite a small affair compared with other events we've been to this year it was so friendly and with a wide spectrum of food producers.
We arrived a little too late to hear Lesley Waters in the demonstration kitchen, and Tamasin Day-Lewis was half an hour late starting her demo so we missed the end of that. Today there were more well known speakers but the Brazilian Grand Prix is on at 5 and my husband is a keen follower so we are staying closer to home!!

We bought some Hungarian Hot Wax chilli pepper seeds from a lovely lady from Sea Spring Seeds who was quite happy to talk about the failure of our butternut squash crop this year, as well as various items to be consumed more immediately.

From Bunnies Love we bought a jar of Carrot, Almond and Chilli Chutney, tasted delicious and it was something I had not seen before, but have now discovered it is call Angel's Hair Chutney!

From Townhill Bakery we got a sourdough loaf and the most amazing Eccles cakes.

Like everyone else Bridport Gourmet Pies was giving away generous samples of their produce. We bought a pork, cranberry and brie pie.

Every county in the west of England seems to have their own version of Apple Cake.

We succumbed to more fantastic cheese, this time from North Wootton Dairy.

I almost forgot the kippers and smoked trout pate we bought, I had the pate on sourdough toast for breakfast this morning, and a hessian bag containing 7 varieties of Fudges Crackers and Biscuits. I didn't know they did sweet biscuits as well, I love their Walnut Crackers.

Saturday, 17 October 2009


Traditions have to begin somewhere, and Apple Day (introduced by Common Ground) came into being on October 21st 1990. Now I see that many National Trust properties have their own Apple Day, as do Allotment Associations up and down the land. For information about Apple Days and the excellent Apple Source Book go to

Imogen has given me the beautiful apples in the photo, from the tree in her garden. I am truly grateful for them, and today have used three of them in my beetroot chutney! Recipe here.

Here is a Somerset wassail rhyme, (although I know that wassailing does not take place until the New Year) found in the Apple Source Book.

Old apple tree, we wassail thee, and hoping thou wilt bear,
For the Lord doth know where we shall be, till apples come another year,
To bear well and bloom well so merry let us be,
Let every man take off his hat and shout to the old apple tree.

Old apple tree, we wassail thee, and hoping thou wilt bear,
Hat-fulls, cap-fulls, three-bushel-bagfuls,
And a little heap under the stairs.
Hip! Hip! Hooray!

Abergavenny Food Festival

The Food Festival at Abergavenny was over quite a large area of the town, which until about 1 pm gave a feeling of spaciousness, but not long after 1 it became so very crowded that we gave up, bought some bread, cheese and olives and headed for the hills.

It's hard to compare it to Ludlow, where we were the week before, but there did seem to be a lot more emphasis on local producers at Ludlow, and one very marked difference was that there was room to sit down to have a cup of coffee or eat some of the delicious food on offer. At Abergavenny there were very few tables and chairs and the steps were soon full of people eating.

This photographic layout was an experiment which is not altogether successful, but I don't want to delete it.

This is what we brought home with us!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Julie and Julia

Three of us went to see the film 'Julie and Julia' on Wednesday. Very entertaining, although I wished that at least they had put up a picture of the real Julia Childs, or had run one of her television programmes behind the credits. Here is my scruffy 1970's copy of her book. I am re-reading it at present. I hear that the book is currently back in demand because of the film.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Beetroot Chutney

Beetroot and Apple Chutney.

1kg. cooked beetroot, peeled and cut into small cubes.
2 medium onions, chopped
450g peeled and chopped cooking apples.
225g sugar
500 ml vinegar
grated fresh ginger, bruised dried ginger root or about a teaspoon ground
1 teaspn salt

Put all the ingredients except the beetroot into a pan and cook until onion is tender and the mixture has reduced, about 30 mins. Add the beetroot and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until thick enough to be called a chutney.

Sometimes, when using ingredients like apple or rhubarb which produce a lot of liquid themselves I will boil down the sugar and vinegar before I add any solid ingredients. I have never found any difference in the keeping quality and it does reduce the time you spend in the kitchen.

Beetroot and Orange Relish,
My favourite preserved beetroot recipe.

450g cooked, chopped beetroot
450g chopped onion
2 oranges, grated rind and juice,
1 teaspoon salt
6 star anise
1 teaspoon fennel seed
350g sugar
500ml vinegar

Put the star anise, fennel seeds, sugar and vinegar in a pan and slowly bring to the boil, add the chopped onion, orange juice and rind, and simmer until the onion is cooked and the liquid is becoming syrupy, add the chopped beetroot and continue cooking until the mixture is fairly thick. I fish out the star anise before bottling. If you have time you could infuse the vinegar with the star anise a few hours before making the chutney, but the flavour is quite pronounced anyway.

I have also made this relish from previously home-pickled plain beetroot, topping up the vinegar from the jar to make slightly under the 500ml, presuming that the pickled beetroot would have absorbed some of the pickling liquid.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

What We Ate Today

Enough for two meals for the two of us.

Spicy root & lentil casserole

SERVES 4 • PREP 25 mins • COOK 20 mins

Low fat

2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
700g/llb 9oz potatoes, cut into chunks
4 carrots, thickly sliced
2 parsnips, thickly sliced
2 tbsp curry paste or powder
1 medium sweet potato
Scant 1 litre vegetable stock
150g/6oz red lentils

(I put in one chopped up Black Hungrian chilli , we've grown them this year!)

Low-fat yogurt and naan bread, to serve

1 Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat for 3-4 mins until softened, stirring occasionally. Tip in the potatoes, carrots and parsnips and sweet potato turn up the heat and cook for 6-7 mins, stirring, until the vegetables are golden.

2 Stir in the curry paste or powder, pour in the stock, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, add the lentils, cover and simmer for 15-20 mins until the lentils and vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened.

3 Serve with naan bread, and a spoonful of yoghourt. We didn't have any naan bread so ate it without, but as I had increased the lentils by 2 oz (50g) it was more than enough.

Adapted from Good Food Magazine booklet November 2009
Any favourite root vegetables could be used, as well as leeks. Not only economical but delicious

Sunday, 15 March 2009

A Simple Loaf

I found the recipe for this oh, so simple bread in one of my favourite blogs Joanna's Food.

I made just the two loaves with the dough, which was in the fridge for a day and a half before baking. The loaves were baked in a Le Creuset pot, on parchment paper, which made for easy transfer to the hot pot, and because when I tried baking my sourdough bread in a Le Creuset it got stuck!!

I didn't get the same covetable holey look that Joanna has, I probably didn't rise it for long enough. The other loaf has a better lift, but as I am giving it to a friend I can't really cut it up to see how it is inside. The flavour however is excellent, with a good chewy crust. Next time I may bake one uncovered to see how that turns out.

The only other unkneaded yeast bread I ever make is the occasional Grant Loaf, which is quite a dense wholemeal loaf. This recipe is definitely one to repeat.

This next recipe I found on
I haven't tried it yet, but it is a good, basic recipe

A Magical Bread Recipe for Novices That Works Every Time

500g white strong bread flour.
7g dried yeast sachet.
1tsp salt
300ml water
3tbsp olive oil. Plus a bit extra.

Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Pour in the water and the olive oil. Mix with wooden spoon until it’s together enough to take out of the bowl.

Kneed on a floury surface until the dough feels elastic and silky smooth the the touch, and bounces back slightly when prodded. This should take about ten minutes.

Place in a warmish area and leave to rise until doubled in size. This should take about one hour.

Knock back the dough and kneed for a minute or so. Dough will be elastic and bouncy when prodded. Mould the dough into a round-ish shape or put it in a loaf tin. Slather the surface with olive oil (this will give a soft, chewy crust).

Leave to rise for another hour or so on the tray or in the loaf tin which you are going to put it into the oven.

Pre-heat oven to 220/200 fan/gas mark 7. Bake dough for 25 – 30 minutes until a nice golden colour.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, 12 March 2009


Toad in the hole is a traditional British dish comprising sausages baked in a batter pudding. My edition of Mrs. Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, published in 1907 contains 2 recipes, one using beef steak, cut up in small pieces, and the second for preserved meat, beef or mutton.

In the Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson refers to an 1861 recipe from Mrs Beeton in which she uses steak and kidney, but says that left over meat could be used. She describes the dish as ‘ homely but savoury’.

Also mentioned is a reference to sausages cooked in batter in entries in ‘The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765’ but not referred to as toad in the hole.

Alan Davidson gives the first recorded reference in print (1787) to toad in the hole meaning ‘meat boiled in a crust’

Jane Grigson, in a footnote to her recipe in ‘English Food’ says that the use of left over meat gave the dish a bad name as one of the meaner English dishes, but goes on to say that 'if you are able to buy really first-class sausages, Toad-in-the Hole makes an excelent family dish which no-one has any call to feel ashamed of' !!

However it came by it's name, I must agree with Mrs Beeton's description, 'homely and savoury'

Here is a recipe for Toad-in-the-hole that always works for me. I make this quantity for two of us, but by adding a couple of extra sausages it would stretch to three.

4 oz plain flour
1 large egg, topped up to half a pint with milk, I use semi-skim
4 meaty sausages, herby ones are nice
A tablespoon or so of oil for the baking pan

Sieve the four ounces of flour into a large bowl (with a pouring lip is good). Beat the egg with the milk, make a well in the centre of the flour, and gradually pour the milk and egg mixture into it, stirring with a fork. Keep stirring vigorously until all the milk is in with the flour, in a lump free batter. It should be the consistency of double cream.

You will need to pre-heat the oven to 200c, putting the sausages and oil in the pan in the oven as it heats. You are just lightly browning the sausages, and getting the oil piping hot ready to add the batter, so you don’t want it in there for ages.

Just before you add the batter to the very hot pan, and you can stick it on a gas ring for a couple of seconds if need be, whisk the batter really well, you should be able to see lots of little air bubbles. I use a Bamix stick blender with a whisking disc for this, but it can be done by hand with a wire whisk if that is what you have.

Pour the batter over the sausages, and quickly return to the oven. It will take about 35 to 40 minutes to bake. I put it one shelf above centre, but have a second shelf lower in the oven to transfer it to if I think it is over-browning. Don’t be tempted to peer at it until about 20 to 25 minutes in, because it might lose volume.

The pan I usually use is 7 by 5 inches, bottom measurement, it is wider at the top, as is the 7 inch round one I sometimes use.

The same batter is used for pancakes, but you don’t have to whisk as much air in for those.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Red Cabbage with Apple

When I was still working I always looked in amazement at all those retired persons who claimed they never had a moment of spare time, and swore I would never be the same. Now here I am, nearly five years into it and my days have filled up alarmingly, although mostly with things I really want to do. Housework has to occupy a little of my time, but otherwise life is very fulfilling, if rather impoverished financially.
This is all to explain why a whole month has gone by since my last post, and that was just a photo!!

Red Cabbage with Apple

Red cabbage freezes and reheats exceptionally well.

2lb (1kg) red cabbage
1oz (25 g) butter
1lb onion, peeled and chopped small
1lb (1kg) cooking apples
3 tablespoons vinegar
1oz (25g) sugar, you may think it needs a little more.
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon each cinnamon and ground cloves.

When serving, or defrosting:-
A tablespoon of redcurrant jelly, a good glug of port (and a knob of butter if it’s been frozen)

Remove outer, damaged leaves and cut the cabbage into
quarters. Cut away the centre core and shred the cabbage
finely. Cover with cold salted water and leave to soak while preparing onion and apple.

Cook the onion and chopped garlic gently in melted butter for about 5 minutes or until soft, add the apple, peeled, cored and chopped small, and continue cooking until apple starts to soften. Do not allow to colour.
Add the red cabbage lifted straight from the salt water.

Add the vinegar and sugar and spices. Stir well together. Cover with a lid and bring up to the boil. Simmer gently for about 45 minutes or until the cabbage is tender.
Add a little extra water only if necessary, the mixture should not be too wet.

If you are going to freeze it, do it at this stage.
Check the seasoning, add the redcurrant jelly and port for the last 5 minutes or so.

To serve from frozen. While still frozen, place in a saucepan along with a knob of butter.
Heat gently, breaking the block of cabbage up with a fork as it heats. Heat through until simmering, adding redcurrant jelly and port.

This is so good with roast pork (or chops) and goose, as well as sausages and toad in the hole.

My original recipe came from Katie Stewart, a Times food columnist of the 70’s but touches of Delia have crept in with the spices.

The more recent addition of redcurrant jelly and port was because of Imogen telling me of the
delicious red cabbage her daughter Sarah had recently served.

I usually make this in batches,with many grumpy mutterings, based on 10lbs red cabbage (we grow them on our allotment now), and freeze it in meal size portions. Every year I am so glad I did make the effort!!

Saturday, 7 February 2009


Just had to add this one of Rags enjoying his first experience of snow

Such a stunning view of a usually benevolent part of Exmoor, sent on by one of the family. I just had to share it.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Beany Thing

I don’t know how this recipe evolved, but it hits the spot when you are looking for a cheap and cheerful meal that's a bit different. If you use canned beans it can even be put together very quickly.

I usually like to use beans I have cooked myself, as I don’t like the flavour or texture of ones from a can, and home cooked beans can be frozen, or kept in the fridge for a few days if you want to cook a big panful in one go.

The quantities here are a bit hit and miss, because it’s a recipe that can be stretched a bit if need be.

For about 4 people:-

Soak and cook about 250g (8oz) cannellini beans, or any bean you like.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan and cook a diced onion, 2 or 3 chopped cloves of garlic, two of each diced carrots and courgettes, and a large red pepper chopped, (you can add a fresh chilli if you have one)

When softened, add a tin of tomatoes, and a tin of sweetcorn. Season with salt and pepper, and some sort of spicy mixture. We like Schwartz PiriPiri Seasoning in this. (There is also a Spicy Season-All, and Cajun Seasoning which would work)

Add the cooked beans and simmer until the tomatoes have reduced a little, approx 10 minutes.

Sprinkle 100g (4 oz) grated cheese over the top and put under a hot grill until the cheese has melted.

If you have allowed the beany mixture to cool, bake it in the oven until it is hot through and the cheese has melted.

Serve it with boiled rice.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Pumpkin, Mushroom and Gorgonzola Pie

This is one of the most delicious recipes I have found for a while. It was in the Sunday Telegraph magazine in a ‘Christmas Entertaining’ article. I think the author was Sally Bailey, apologies if I am wrong.

I didn’t have any puff pastry, it was a spur of the moment thing, so I made some shortcrust, which worked fine, and a bit of cheddar instead of the parmesan.

Pumpkin, Mushroom and Gorgonzola Pie

6oog (1lb 4oz) puff pastry

1.15kg (2lb 9oz) pumpkin or squash (Crown Prince
and butternut have the best flavour)
olive oil

25g (1oz) unsalted butter

400g (14oz) mushrooms, sliced (a mixture of
varieties if you can manage it)

1onion, finely chopped

3 whole large eggs and 2 yolks

350ml (12fl oz) double cream

75g (2¾oz) parmesan, grated

1 tbsp chopped parsley

200g (7oz) gorgonzola,(dolce rather than piccante, if you have a choice), rind removed and broken up into chunks

1 beaten egg, to paint the pastry

Cut off a third of the pastry and set it aside. This will make the top. Roll out the rest. You can use either a spring-form tin or a tart ring set on a metal baking-sheet. Either way you need it to be 25-28cm (10-11in) across. Set the pastry down into the tin, pressing it on to the base and then round the sides. Leave a decent overlap hanging down all round the edge - this makes it much easier to put the top on and also helps if you find your pastry shrinks a bit. Trim off any big bits of excess pastry, though. Put into the fridge or freezer to chill until firm. Bake blind for about 15 mins.

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the fibres and seeds. Slice into pieces or chunks and peel each one. Arrange in a roasting-tin, season and pour over a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Mix it all around with your hands to make sure the pieces are well coated with oil.
Put into an oven preheated to 200°C/400°F/ gas mark 6 for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is completely tender and glazed in places.

Melt 15g (½oz) of the butter in a frying-pan and add a tablespoon of oil. Cook the mushrooms in this in batches, seasoning as you go. Cook each batch until it gets a good colour, then keep cooking until all the liquid the mushrooms exude has been thrown out and evaporated off. If you don't cook them until they're quite dry they'll throw off their juices once they're in the pie and make it soggy.

Heat the last bit of butter in a frying pan with ½tbsp oil and soften the onion.

Put all the cooled ingredients into the pie shell, and pour over the beaten cream, eggs and egg yolks, mixed with the parmesan and parsley. Put the pieces of gorgonzola on top, and cover with the pastry lid, trim, and egg wash. Bake in a hot oven until well browned and piping hot inside.