Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas 2011

 A week or so before Christmas in the early 1980's this little knitted Santa was brought into our village post office on the edge of Dartmoor.  He had been found at the nearby bus stop and it was hoped that if we displayed him in our shop window he would be re-united with his owner.  He was duly displayed until 4pm on Christmas Eve when, still unclaimed,  I couldn't bear to leave him all on his own over the Christmas holiday so he came to sit on our Christmas tree as he has done every year since.  Whatever the tree colour schemes have been over the last 25 or so years he has made an appearance and witnessed the joys and the sorrows of each festive season that has passed since.

In a charity shop a few years ago I found a book called Knitted Toys by Jean Greenhowe, and there he was, a Witty Knit.

Have a lovely Christmas everyone!

Sunday, 27 November 2011


We have been in the fortunate position for about 15 years of having two allotments.  Although it wasn’t our choice to work two all that time ago we were begged by fellow allotment holders to take on another as no-one wanted the unused one and at that time it was feared the whole site could be taken over for development.  It’s meant that we’ve been able to experiment with crops and also give over part of one of the allotments to fruit bushes and even last year we planted three apple trees and two cob nuts.  (The nuts were my husband’s idea, a total surprise to me when they turned up, but we actually harvested 6 nuts this year!).

However this autumn we decided to give up half of one of the allotments as we are getting older and the waiting list is growing longer.  We’ve seen lots of people over the last twenty odd years ‘have a go’ but are the first to admit that it’s jolly hard work to keep a vegetable patch in tidy order and actually see a return for all your hard work and financial investment.

Beetroot, something we have always grown, is suddenly fashionable, cropping up in all sorts of recipes from cakes to roasted vegetables. It does make fantastic chutneys, and we are not averse to lightly pickling them, but  currently our favourite way of using them is in a

smoked mackerel and beetroot pate

dead easy to make and great on good toasted bread, there are only four ingredients.

You need a smoked mackerel, skin removed and checked over for any bones, about 150 grams cooked beetroot, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and a dessertspoonful of yoghourt.  Whizzed up in a processor, I use a stick blender, it couldn’t be easier.  I have recently seen a similar idea using a can of sardines in oil, draining the sardines well.  This is also very nice, but we actually prefer the smoked mackerel.  We have also used pickled beetroot, but only those that have been lightly pickled by us at home.  If you really like the taste of beetroot in vinegar you could give it a go with a commercial jar, or one of those little packets.

Ingredients ready to be whizzed up

Last time I made this it was a dismal old day and I was feeling in creative mood so  made some crumpets and pikelets which we ate with the pate. They keep for a couple of days, we didn't eat 18-20 at one sitting!

I used a recipe from a book by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake, although I admit I didn't have the cream of tartar called for in the recipe. The cooked crumpets stuck to my crumpet rings, so having done battle and made two batches with crumpets rings, 12 crumpets, I thought I'd do pikelets instead which are free form.  Of course I did not read the instruction which said add more milk to make pikelets!!  Still they all tasted wonderful, totally unlike the rubbery purchased ones even if they would have won no prizes for their beauty.

sweet pickled beetroot
This way of saving beetroot for later in the year is something that Chris is quite fond of, and whole cloves of garlic added to the jar at the same time are a welcome addition.

Simmer together for 30 minutes:-

2cm peeled and crushed ginger
600ml vinegar
200g sugar
2tsp salt
1tsp black peppercorns
1tsp mustard seeds.

Cool and strain the vinegar.  Into clean sterile jars, pack cooked beetroot, we leave them whole or halve them if small, otherwise slice or dice them, and pour over the cooled vinegar. Seal the jars.           

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Such a Lucky Win

After a pretty awful year during which I haven't really felt like blogging I have just won a wonderful book in a give-away by Maureen.  The book by Diana Henry, who writes for the Sunday Telegraph, is called 'Roast Figs Sugar Snow'.

There is just so much in it I want to try, from Onion and Cider Soup to Italian Christmas Chocolate Cake, I'd like to cook just about everything. Wonderful photographs, and lots of text makes interesting background reading to each recipe, there couldn't be a better time of the year to aquire this book.  After Maureen's blog post it would definitely have been on my Christmas list if I hadn't been lucky enough to win it.

Another of my favourite Diana Henry books - Food from Plenty