Three Things Thursday: 18 May 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes. Anyway, here are my three things this week…

First, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook. It has been a great honour to make a contribution to this wonderful project, but today I am bidding farewell to the sketchbook and sending it on its way to The Crafty Creek. If you want to read more about it, check out its very own web site here.


Second, four eggs in one day. We have four hens – Anna, Tiffany, Mags and Alice. The latter three are regular layers, but Anna (short for Annagramma – the awkward one for those of you in the know) has not laid for eighteen months. Recently, however, there was evidence that she was going to start again. Over the past few weeks, there have been two or three eggs that might have been from her, but we have never been certain… until yesterday, when four eggs were laid. Hens only lay once each day, so four eggs means one from each hen and that means that Anna is doing her thing again. Hurrah!


Third, fool-proof recipes. Some friends came for lunch on Monday and I decided to try a new recipe – peaches and cream cupcakes. What a disaster – never test out new recipes when you are cooking for guests. Fortunately there was still time before they arrived to make something else, so I fell back on an old favourite, based on the recipe below (much covered in ingredients), which comes from a little book called Country Inns in the White Mountains: Favorite Recipes:IMGP2886

I generally make this with raspberries and white chocolate chips rather than strawberries, but you can use any fruit you fancy. The other good thing about this recipe is that you can use an off-the-shelf gluten-free flour if you need to and it still works well. When I have whey from cheese making, I use that rather than milk and the recipe still works… honestly it’s one of the most reliable recipes that I have and the muffins are always delicious. To give you an idea of how good it is, my guests all wanted this recipe to take away and use at home (and one of them runs her own B&B).

So, those are three things making me smile and that I am grateful for this week. What is making you happy?

Hot, hot, hot

Well, as the song says “the weather outside is frightful” (rain and wind) but indoors we are revelling in a warm fuzzy feeling brought on by produce from the limery and the generosity of friends.

Part of the chilli harvest

Part of the chilli harvest

Despite the relatively late completion of the limery in the summer, it has still provided us with an abundance of food, not to mention being a lovely place to sit and a great place to be messy with water! We’ve had a decent number of tomatoes, plenty of sweet peppers and some courgettes (still producing slowly), but the biggest success has been the chillies. Admittedly this is because I went mad and sowed far too many seeds, but even so, it bodes well for production next year. The heat in the chillies is variable – currently the Bartlett’s bonnets are the mildest, which has come as rather a surprise – and so making curry or our our much-loved red-hot cauliflower has been a bit hit-and-miss. With this in mind I decided to have a bash at making chilli sauce to use as a condiment with a guaranteed level of heat. I trawled the internet for inspiration, found a recipe I liked the sound of and proceeded to modify it beyond recognition! This is what I ended up with:

Sweet apple chilli sauce

100g chillies, chopped (I used 5 lemon drop, 2 Barlett’s bonnet and 18 pyramid)
200g caster sugar
200g Demerara sugar
3 cloves garlic chopped
15g fresh ginger chopped
200g roast tomato passata
400g stewed apple (unsweetened)
160ml cider vinegar
1tsp salt

Put all the ingredients in a pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then liquidise.

All in one pot

All in one pot

With my chillies, this produced about 1 litre of very hot , very sweet sauce. It provided a great accompaniment to smoked mackerel fishcakes last night and I think it could easily be used as an ingredient in a curry… you wouldn’t need much!

Ready to eat

Ready to eat


Having mentioned homemade mayonnaise yesterday, I have had a number of requests for the recipe I use, so here it is:

Mayonnaise with a little black pepper

Mayonnaise with a little black pepper

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • ¼ pint extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ pint sunflower oil
  • apple scrap vinegar (or commercial cider or white wine vinegar)

I use my Kenwood Chef with the balloon whisk attachment. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature.

  1. Put the egg yolks in the bowl with the mustard and salt and whisk up together
  2. Very gradually, add the oil (the two sorts mixed together) – just a few drops to begin, whisking on a high speed
  3. Very slowly add more oil, whisking all the time until the mayonnaise thickens
  4. Once you have a thick mixture, you can add the oil more quickly, but make sure you whisk it all up to combine it well
  5. Once combined add vinegar to thin it to the desired consistency. With commercial vinegar a teaspoon might be enough, with homemade you might need a tablespoon or more.
  6. Store in the fridge in an air-tight jar.
  7. Flavour as desired with, for example, crushed garlic and freshly ground black pepper

You can make it by hand, but it is a slow business and you need to be really patient and add the oil a drop or two at a time until quite a lot of it is combined.

I don’t see any reason you can’t use duck eggs instead of hens eggs. Wherever they come from, though, remember that mayonnaise is not cooked, so you will be eating raw egg.

If you haven’t made your own mayonnaise before, you might be surprised how yellow it is and how rich. As you can see from the recipe, I use half olive oil and this comes shining through in the flavour, so choose oils you like the taste of and play around with the relative amounts of different oils.

Every last bit

For anyone trying to live a sustainable life, avoiding food waste is really important. But it’s also important for anyone on a budget or wanting to save money. I have written before about this issue of throwing food away, so here I’m going to share a recipe for using up bits and pieces.

I don’t mind giving scraps to the chickens, as that just converts one sort of food to another (although I prefer them to eat snails, slugs and weeds), but I much prefer humans to eat food from the kitchen (and garden). And so, I regularly find myself making Glamorgan Sausages. Now, although I do eat meat, these sausages are vegetarian. For them, you require breadcrumbs, cheese, onion, sage and an egg, plus salt, pepper and mustard if any of those things appeal to your taste buds (I tend not to add any of them).

First, whiz up some bread (any sort, with or without gluten, just nothing sweet) in a food processor. To the bowl, add onion (I usually manage to have half an onion hanging around that needs eating up or I use onion tops or spring onions from the garden) and some chopped cheese (fine if you have a piece of cheese that’s gone slightly dry) and whiz it all around again. Then add some fresh chopped sage or dried rubbed sage and give it a quick pulse to mix it before breaking in an egg (or two if you’ve made lots) and whizzing it again until it’s all combined (adingd seasonings at this stage if required). After this, divide the mixture up and roll into sausages before shallow frying.

Glamorgan sausages with garlic potatoes and lettuce

Glamorgan sausages with garlic potatoes and lettuce

I usually serve them with potatoes (especially good with boiled new ones), lettuce and apple chutney, but you can have them with baked beans, vegetables or in a bun. The mixture is brilliant for making vegetarian Scotch Eggs too. The only problem is that I never measure quantities, so you’ll have to be creative! I can say, however, that I always use a relatively small amount of a strong cheddar cheese.

They are, in fact, too good only to make when I have stale bread and elderly cheese and quite often, chez snail, they are made from fresh ingredients… and they always go down well.



A breakfast fit for… well, me

Almost every morning for breakfast I have a bowl of something oaty: porridge or muesli or granola. In the case of the latter two, I have it with stewed apple (yes, I’m still eating bottled apples) and homemade yoghurt. My favourite sorts of muesli are the ones where the grains are toasted, but no matter what brand or variety I buy, there is always at least one ingredient that I’m not keen on… very hard dried apricot in one (I’d like it if it was soft) and an excess of fat raisins in another. Granola is better as there are types that only contain seeds or nuts and seeds, but they tend to be very expensive. So, the other day I decided that I should find some recipes for granola and make my own, after all it’s only broken-up crunchy flapjack.

Halfway through cooking - personalised granola

Halfway through cooking – personalised granola

Granola is not something we make much in the UK, so almost all the recipes I could find were American, but this is fine because I have a set of volumetric cup measures. I trawled through recipes, rejecting them for exactly the same reasons that I reject ready-made breakfast cereals – ingredients that I don’t much like – before I realised that it didn’t matter. All I needed, in fact, was a recipe that gave me an idea of the relative proportions of dry ingredients (oats, seeds, nuts, sugar etc) to wet ones (oil and syrup). The one I settled on had approximately 3 cups oats, 3 cups seeds/nuts, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup syrup and 1/4 cup oil plus 1 cup dried fruit added at the end. Basically, you mix everything up together (except the fruit) and bake it in a cool oven for an hour and fifteen minutes, stirring it four or five times during the cooking. I warmed the syrup before mixing to make it more runny and easier to handle (I used golden syrup).

Because I wanted only to use ingredients that I like, I just took them out of the store cupboard. So, in addition to the oats, my granola contains cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds (which I grew myself) and Shipton Mill five  seed mix (malted wheat flakes, barley flakes, sunflower seeds, millet and oats). I completely forgot, but I also have homegrown poppy seeds that I could have added… I’ll use some of those next time. After cooking I added chopped dates. Now I have a breakfast cereal completely tailored to me.

It’s just cooling as I write, but already I can tell you it tastes delicious. In the future I will aim to increase the proportion of homegrown ingredients, but I’m already quite pleased with my first attempt.


And a little addition following some discussion on Facebook… as well as adapting the dry ingredients to your taste, there’s no reason to stick with golden syrup (I used it because I had some in the store cupboard). You could try honey, maple syrup, yacon syrup (you can grow yacon in the UK so you could make your own) or whatever you fancy. And you can change the quantities. All you need to do is coat the dry ingredients, so warming the syrup to make it thinner means you can use less, or you can water it down if you want something less sweet. I should note that I used a dark raw sugar in mine, which is less sweet than granulated sugar and adds a different flavour. Oh, and I guess you could use molasses if you fancy instead of syrup. Really, the point is that this is not so much a recipe as a pointer towards experimentation.

Recipes old and new

My next-door-neighbour, Betty, phoned the other day to ask what I do with marrows. I restrained myself and did not say ‘as little as possible’, but instead mentioned soup (always a good stand-by). She then told me she was trying out a new recipe and would bring a sample round later… without actually mentioning what she was making!

IMGP1688We waited with anticipation. I know that she normally turns marrows into chutney, so the only thing we were sure of was that it wouldn’t be that! I was half expecting marrow and ginger jam, as that was something Mrs Robinson had been waxing lyrical about over the weekend. But what, in fact, finally arrived was a jar of sunshine, Isn’t it beautiful? It’s sort of sweet and sour preserved marrow chunks. Betty (who is in her 80s) says that her mother used to make them and that they would eat them with cold meats or even as part of a dessert. We think they would make a lovely addition to a stir-fry. Anyway, they recipe had disappeared from her family and she has only just managed to track down a version of it.

As you can see, Betty wrote out the recipe for me. I have a book in which I store such recipes, and as I was putting this latest addition into my stash, I came across a much older hand-written recipe – one that my paternal grandmother gave to my mother when she married my father. It is a recipe for pork pie – something that may father has always been inordinately fond of and that, clearly, my grandmother expected my mother to make for him. I’m not convinced that she ever did – I’ll have to ask! There were professional bakers on both sides of my family, but my father’s side seem to have been better known… there’s even a book of recipes from the family bakery in Lincolnshire – A Pound of Fine Flower –  so I’m sure my grandmother’s recipe was well tried and tested. Anyway, if you fancy having a go at making a traditional pork pie, here’s how to do it:


And if you do try it out, please let me know, as I’ve never attempted it myself!

On reflection, the two recipes probably go really well together – now that’s serendipity.

(Apple) butter me up

I still have lots of apples to process, even though I’m still on the first batch that we collected from High Bank. However, today I have decided to make a preserve that does not require lots of peeling and coring, but does require cider – apple butter.

Simmer the apple chunks with cider

Simmer the apple chunks with cider

It’s a really easy preserve to make. Simply roughly chop 1.5kg of cooking apples and simmer these gently in 600ml cider (medium or dry) until it’s all cooked to a pulp. The next bit is the biggest fiddle – you need to pass the pulp through a nylon sieve to get a lovely apply puree. Measure this and return it to the cleaned preserving pan with 340g of ordinary granulated sugar for every 600ml of puree with the spices of your choice – today I added half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Warm gently to dissolve the sugar, then boil vigorously for about 15 minutes before transferring to hot sterilised jars. Once filled, cover the open jars with a tea towel and allow them to cool before sealing.

Delicious in a cake, on scones or on toast.

Potted up and coolng

Potted up and coolng

Beans out of time

Temporally shifted beans

Temporally shifted beans

I know that it is entirely the wrong time of year to be harvesting broad beans, but I am… well, field beans at least.

Once again this year, I didn’t plant my bean seeds at the right time. I know that you can plant broad beans in the autumn for a nice, early crop the following year, but it doesn’t seem to work well round here. I think it is because it’s usually so wet over the winter, and the seeds tend to rot before they germinate. As a result, I try to plant my beans in the spring. This year, however, it was so cold in March that somehow it didn’t get done, and I ended up planting my runner and broad beans at pretty much the same time.

Never mind! It just means that I’m just starting to enjoy them now. Lots of people have had bad experiences with eating broad beans, but I think those are generally the huge, tough, mealy things that supermarkets seem to sell. I love them fresh out of the garden – removed from their squishy pods just before cooking. And my favourite recipe? It has to be one adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (here’s the original):

Fry a finely chopped onion in oil until soft, add some chopped pancetta and allow that to crisp up, then toss in some fresh broad beans and  allow them to cook through.

Hugh eats his beans cooked this way on toast, but I like to serve this with sautéed potatoes cooked with paprika and garlic mayonnaise… yum. It’s a recipe that you could equally use for thinly sliced pole, runner or French beans.

Glut busting

Some of the ingredients (not in the right proportions, though!)

Some of the ingredients (not in the right proportions, though!)

It’s the time of year when lots of produce is coming out of the garden. In the past week I have made courgette and carrot soup for the freezer, and moussaka with courgettes rather than aubergines as ways to use some of the abundance. Despite this, I still have five or six courgettes in the fridge and many more growing in the garden, so I thought that I would return to a favourite recipe: Mulligatawny soup. The recipe I use is adapted from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery course, although there is a slightly more ‘modern’ version on her Delia Online website.

I make this with olive oil rather than butter as I am lactose intolerant and I vary the curry powder according to whim (the original recipe recommends Madras curry powder, but I don’t think I’ve ever used it).

3 large onions, chopped
75g butter or oil of your choice
700g courgettes, diced
225g tomatoes, chopped and skinned
I large potato, diced
425ml stock or water
1 dessertspoon Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon curry powder
about 200g cooked rice
salt and pepper

  1. Cook the onions in the oil until they are golden brown.
  2. Add the potato, courgettes and tomatoes
  3. Season, cover and cook over a low heat until soft (20-30 mins)
  4.  When cooked, puree the vegetables.
  5. Mix the puree, stock/water and cooked rice together with the Worcester sauce and curry powder (to taste) in the saucepan.
  6. Reheat and cook for 5 minutes.

I love this recipe because, in a good year, all the vegetables are available from the garden at the same time. Sadly this year, I don’t have any onions, but other than those I think I should manage a good few batches using homegrown produce. We have an organic farm not far away who grow onions, so I will be using those and supporting a local farmer too.

This is a lovely warming soup for the winter, so I will be freezing batches of it for use in the cold and gloomy days of November and December.

Merav’s falafel

I don't have a picture of the falafel as I was too busy eating them, so here is a picture of a lovely spot at Karuna.

I don’t have a picture of the falafel as I was too busy eating them, so here is a picture of a lovely spot at Karuna.

One of the delights of teaching at Karuna is Merav’s cooking, with my favourite dish being falafel… something that I’ve never had much success at making at home. These delicious little spicy chickpea patties are really good, so this time I remembered to ask her how she makes them. Since Merav is from Israel, I’m assuming that this is a really authentic recipe.  I’m sure that she won’t mind if I share it with you here:


2 cups chick peas
1 chili
4 garlic cloves
2 spoons flour
0.75 tsp baking powder
salt, pepper & cumin to taste
lots of fresh coriander

  1. Soak the peas overnight, drain and let them sprout for a day or two (this reduces the amount of gas and the peas will be more easily digested).
  2. Mash the peas through a manual meat mincer with the garlic.
  3. Mix all other ingredients with the mashed peas.
  4. Make small flattish balls and fry in shallow oil medium heat for about 10 mins.
  5. Serve with various salads, tahini dip, and pita breads or wraps

I haven’t tried making them yet as I haven’t been organised enough to sort out the chickpeas, but I think I’ll get round to it next week.

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