Bakes in the rain

No one leaves a cake out in the rain in this house… they are far too much in demand. However, yet more rain this weekend kept us indoors (mostly). Much of my time has been spent in the kitchen, where it’s warm and the smell of cooking is comforting.

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Bubbling away

As the chilli harvest just goes on and on, with more ripening up every day, I decided to make another batch of hot, sweet chilli sauce. I made double quantities this time,  so that used up about another 50 chillies and even so we have loads left. I did see reference on the internet this week to the health-giving properties of capsaicin (the source of ‘heat’ in chillies), so it’s not just yummy (if you like that sort of thing) but good for you too.

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Lots of pots!

My cooking produced some things that I make regularly: granola (although with dried cranberries this time… never let it be said that I can’t be festive when I want to) and dog biscuits. Making the latter has been much simplified and the cost reduced by finding a source of medicinal charcoal powder, rather than having to crush up charcoal tablets.

Then I tried a new recipe – apple brownies – which did not really work as brownies, being rather too soggy, but did taste delicious warm with cream as a pudding.

We had comfort food on Saturday evening: baked gammon with bubble and squeak and cauliflower. This was served. of course, with hot sweet chilli sauce! In fact, I had ulterior motives for cooking the gammon: I wanted to have a go at making Shropshire Fidget Pie. which I did on Sunday.

My interest in this particular pie was piqued when we saw them for sale in The Ludlow Food Centre… mainly because of their amusing name. But then I found a recipe whilst browsing my cookery books for interesting things to do with apples. And finally, a pie-related discussion with Helen over at the Beastie Blog (a couple of the Beasties are pie-makers) finally roused me to having a go myself. It appears that there are many versions of Shropshire Fidget Pies: completely enclosed pies, pies with a pastry base and topped with mashed potato, pot pies, pies containing various condiments, pies with a creamy sauce, pie with added cheese… In the end I decided to make a relatively simple pot pie type (i.e. with just a pastry top). It consisted of layers of sliced potato, onion, apple and baked gammon, with cider added to provide some liquid. I topped this with shortcrust pastry and glazed it with beaten egg.  Of the filling ingredients, only the ham is pre-cooked, so it has to be baked for quite a long time (1 hour and 20 minutes). We ate ours with the remains of the bubble and squeak… and very good it was.

In future I would be tempted to pre-cook the filling and create more of a sauce to make it moister, and so that the pastry is in the oven for less time. Apart from these minor tweaks I think I shall be adding this to my repertoire… especially since we can get such amazing, local, ethically produced ham and gammon from Sarah Rose and her company From the HedgeRose.

So, those were my recent culinary adventures… have you had any?

DIY dog biscuits

Some months ago I discussed making the dog’s diet more sustainable. In the intervening time we have started feeding them more raw meat: minced offal has proved particularly popular with them and we are able to buy it from the same place that we buy much of the meat that we eat ourselves. It is organic, and the sort of thing that the dogs like is often rejected by us pernickety humans. I have to confess that I’m not a great offal fan, so being able to feed it to the dogs makes me feel a little better.

Dogs, being omnivores, cannot live by meat alone. We are fortunate that our two are fond of vegetables. Max will happily disappear off with a cauliflower stalk or a carrot for a quiet chew under the kitchen table.

Unfortunately, we have not solved the problem of dry food yet. Max suffers from Colitis and the latest research, according to our very knowledgeable vet, suggests that highly processed protein in the form of complete biscuits is the best diet. So, whilst we do give him a variety of fresh foods, Max still eats quite a lot of commercial complete dry food. There is another aspect to their diet, however, that I can contribute to. To help calm Max’s delicate digestive system, we give him (and Sam) charcoal biscuits as treats. I have always, until now, bought these from our local pet shop, but I realised yesterday, as stocks were getting low and I didn’t fancy going out because it was raining , that I could probably make these myself and thus avoid any artificial additives and simultaneously reduce our ‘dog food miles’!

Homemade charcoal biscuits - yum?!

Homemade charcoal biscuits – yum?!

A quick survey of the interweb and I was ready: organic wholemeal flour (milled at our local watermill), organic olive oil (from Spain… few olive groves in west Wales), some ground up charcoal tablets (designed for human consumption, but slightly out of date) and water. I mixed it up to a dough, rolled it out and baked it whilst I was cooking other food in the oven last night.

And the verdict from Max and Sam? Well, see for yourself:

Biscuit time! Yum!

Biscuit time! Yum!

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