a busy domestic blog of knitting, sewing and all kinds of needlecrafts, cooking my garden produce and preserving it

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas Cakes

I've made two cakes for Christmas. Firstly a bara brith variant for the lovers of traditional fruit cakes - soaking the fruit in brandy rather than tea and adding extra spices for a festive taste -

and a 'log' for those who prefer chocolate and cream.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Recipe testing - Abel&Cole cookbook - Red Cabbage Braised in Balsamic Vinegar

Normally I have so little red cabbage that it all goes into pickles, which I love.
This year though, I have a surplus. Left too long in pickling vinegar it will go soft and there's only so much of it I want to eat raw in salads, so I'm hunting about for recipes. Most seem to call for very slow cooking in the oven, taking an hour or so, therefore I thought I'd start with this top-of-the-stove recipe.

It's very simple - shred the cabbage, pop in a pan with sugar, balsamic vinegar, water and olive oil, and let it simmer away for an hour. There was the usual problem with Abel and Cole recipes of measuring. The recipe calls for '1 whole red cabbage' but how does that compare to my two rather small cabbages? Sometime weights and measures can be helpful. I think I may have added too much vinegar and sugar for the amount of cabbage I used but it was nice though rather like a warm, soft version of pickled cabbage.

 So, although we enjoyed it - and ate up the leftovers with salad for lunch - next time, I'll look for something a little more 'different'.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Making 'real' wine

 My parents have been asking me for a while if I wanted any of the grapes from their greenhouse and I haven't got round to picking them. Normally they turn their surplus into wine - only a couple of gallons and sometimes a bit dodgy in taste - but this year they decided it was too much effort. So I thought I'd better volunteer.

When I checked them out though, I found a lot to be frosted or mouldy, or both.

 I normally make 'wine' from hedgerow ingredients - elderflowers or berries, blackberries, rose hips - so I didn't have quite the right equipment for this.

 There weren't enough grapes to warrant treading them in a big barrel ....

and the 'grape press' had to be invented on the fly...

'Real' grapes don't require sugar or yeast adding but the recipe I found advised that for home grown grapes I should add some.
BUT....I don't have a hydrometer, so can't check the sugar levels and have just added a few tablespoons as a guess. I don't have any wine-making yeast, so have used some intended for bread.

It's now all sitting in a demijohn, for which I don't have a proper air-lock, but hopefully will start to bubble soon and maybe, despite all the making-do with equipment, I'll get a bottle or two of wine.

Lunch from the Lottie - winter salads

 Still managing to put together lunchtime salads from my allotment offerings. There's a rather wintry feel to them now with lots of cabbage and home-made pickles but I still have some tomatoes ripening in the kitchen and apples, beetroot and big blue radishes in store. One day when I find time though, I'm going to get back to soup making for lunch.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Spot the difference

I've taken a long while over knitting this cardigan - because of the patterning and colour changes I've not been picking it up so much while watching TV. It is at last starting to get somewhere - front and back are finished (on the right) and one sleeve (left of pic). As so often when trying to use up my leftovers, I've run into problems over the amount of wool I have left - so mush so that I've had to really cut back the amount of darker green used in the sleeves. Hopefully, as the colours changed with each pattern repeat, this isn't too noticeable.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Cooking radishes.....

I've been growing some unusual radishes at the allotment this year - BLUE ones that grow quite large and crop from autumn to winter.

So far we've only eaten them as salad radishes or sliced in sandwiches where they pack a horse-radish-like punch. But now we've lifted the larger ones and although I expect them to store well, much like parsnips or carrots, I decided it was time to find ways to use them.

Here's one all nicely cleaned up, looking purple rather than blue. You can see from the fork and small knife, that it's about 6 inches long and maybe 2 in diameter.

Anyway, I quickly searched the web for recipe ideas and was surprised how quickly I found some. A lot were talking about using them much the same way as turnips or parsnips but this was the easiest - chop into chunks, toss in olive oil, roast for about 20 minutes. So I threw some in with the dinner-time chicken drumsticks and potatoes.... and they tasted much like roasted turnips!
So far I'm inclined to think they're just a bit of a novelty but they certainly look different with their strange coloured skin.

Monday, 11 November 2013

While the dinner cooks.....

 I'm making full use of the cooker while it's roasting the dinner by popping apples and blackberries for breakfast toppings in the oven as well
and spreading sliced apples on the grill in the top oven

 - there in less heat they'll dry out without cooking

Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Variety of things to make with Too Many Cucumbers

 We've had a bit of a a cucumber glut recently - quite a few 'normal' long ones but lots of round crystal lemon types - and all at the point where the weather has dropped cooler and no one wants cucumber salads any more.

It was time to look for more ways to use them up!

I started with my slightly bizarre standby of cucumber jam

This always sounds odder than it tastes as once cooked up the cucumber doesn't taste much and the flavour of the lemons is far stronger

Then cucumber chutney tweeking my normal pumpkin recipe - cucumber boils down more than pumpkin and I didn't end up with as much chutney for my efforts...but at least the number of cucumbers in the bottom of the fridge was going down.

In the end, I got out the recipe books and cooked them!
This is one of a variety of recipes for braised cucumber. As I was using the round crystal lemon cucumbers I cut them into wedges and left the seeds in. They're then left to stand in a mix of salt, sugar and lemon juice for 30 mins or so, drained, covered with breadcrumbs and baked.
I'd half expected them to turn soggy when cooked but they didn't, turning surprisingly crisp. They didn't taste of cucumber either but of something far more unusual. I'm not sure I'd try it again though - if there's a glut next year, I'll go for salsas and more pickles instead.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Tomato day

 Despite the weather turning colder, I've a glut of tomatoes from the allotment - and no space in the freezer for them so I got out the saucepans to use them up - well some of them.

First - passata. I've been trying to avoid the fiddly sieving and leaving the pips in with most of this year's jarred tomatoes but I had lots of little cherry types that were best sieved to remove skins as well.

 Second - lunch. Minestrone with turnips, white beans and spinach.

 Last but not least, a huge batch of green tomato chutney.

The day's jars all lined up.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Lunch from the Lottie/Recipe Testing; Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and potato soup from Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian - which has to be the easiest soup ever. There are two very similar recipes in the book - one being 'chunkier' than the other. Basically both are very simple - Put leeks and potatoes in water, add teaspoon of veg stock and some freshly ground pepper, boil till soft, mash and serve, possibly with more pepper.
It's quick, extremely easy and, best of all, it uses veg from my allotment.

Homegrown dinner - favourite leek and cauliflower curry

I've cooked this curry from Rose Elliott's cookbook before as it's one that uses up a lot of the 'spare' veg from my garden and allotment, and the ingredients can be altered a bit here and there - this time I threw in an odd courgette that needed using up and intended to stir some spinach through at the last minute - but forgot!! I made a mistake with the curry powder too - the recipe doesn't specify 'hot' of 'mild', both of which I have in the cupboard and I used 'hot'. Not a mistake I'll make again! The rice, of course, is NOT homegrown - maybe I should have served it with potatoes or chips!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Cucumber jam

This week's glut is.....cucumbers! 
The weather's turned cooler, no one wants to eat salad and I can hardly freeze them, so it's back to my weird jam making.

Having tried this recipe before I don't think cucumber jam (or marmalade) is so very odd.
The cucumber just gives bulk and picks up the flavour of whatever is added, in this case lemons.

It looks quite marmalade-like but I don't think I was generous enough with the lemons this time as the flavour isn't very strong - in future I'll add more.
Still, it's ok and has saved the surplus from being wasted.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Homegrown dinner #2 Goulash or something close

Continuing to 'eat what we've got', I decided to make goulash - probably not remotely authentic, it involved lots of tomatoes, an onion, some small peppers, a jalpeno, white beans, runner beans and potatoes, helped by some left-over chorizo slices and gammon stock from the freezer.

For an experimental, make-it-up-on-the-go dinner it worked well - so well I'd try to make it again, but homegrown chillis are always very variable and the next version of this may be a lot milder.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Homegrown dinner

 A homegrown dinner today, rather than a lunch from the lottie!
We have such a lot of veg all ready to be eaten, and no freezer space left, that it seems only sensible to use it as much as possible.

 I was trying to use up the glut of tomatoes, runner beans, turnips and spinach, preferably in a way that could be served with our home-grown potatoes.
The nearest dish I could think of was minestrone - ok, without carrots or beans which I'd normally include, but close enough.
So I went for a sort of drier version.
Onions, tomatoes, a couple of small peppers, another which turned out to be a jalpeno chilli, chopped turnip and sliced runner beans all cooked through, then the spinach and a few leaves of red kale added at the last minute

It actually worked quite well with the potatoes - I mashed mine on my plate and soaked up the tomatoey juices with them. Next time, I'll check first for jalapenos mixed in with peppers!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Lunch from the lottie #14

Another batch of salad variations - how many ways can the same ingredients be put together?

Although there's still plenty of salad stuff cropping, the weather's turning colder so it may be time for more soups instead of cold lunches everyday.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Recipe testing - Abel&Cole Cookbook - Husk-wrapped and roasted Garlic Corn

We suddenly have a lot of sweetcorn ripening at the allotment - so it's recipe hunting time. 
This is a really simple way to cook sweetcorn form the Abel and Cole Cookbook - basically, remove the silk but not the husk, spread garlic butter (the recipe includes ingredients in case you're not sure) over the corn, pull back the husks and bake. 
 Did we like it?
I think this picture speaks for itself.
 A recipe I'll definitely use again, and may follow the method but with differently flavoured butters.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Quick Finish before Autumn

I started this upcycling skirt project at the end of last month but abandoned it as the temperatures dropped. I thought Autumn had come to stay and there was going to be no more need for thin cotton skirts, but yesterday Summer retained so I'm going to finish this quickly in the hope of having chance to wear it.

It's another re-make of an old skirt - turning one that was gathered at the waist into a smoother fitting bias cut. I liked the material, but not the shape! Of course it wasn't wide enough to just cut out the new skirt shape so it had to have lots of triangular add-ons to gibe width and length. From the right-side these joins are barely visible but the inside shows them all! The side seams are done, the waist is to be loosely elasticated which shouldn't take long but the tricky bit may be getting the bottom level - the added in sections have left it with a zigzag line for now!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Two very different preserves with green tomatoes

I'm starting to pick green tomatoes from our plants at the allotment because the fruit is so heavy that the plants are breaking! This just ends up though with green tomatoes balanced precariously in a variety of bowls on the kitchen work-surfaces, so I thought I'd get busy and turn them into something.
First up, was a hot Green Tomato Chutney from Sensational Preserves by Hilaire Walden. This is recipe I've made up many times though it's a little hot due to the chillies in it.
Then, following the success of last week's Green Tomato and Lemon Marmalade, I thought I'd have a go at something similar but with a slight variation - Green Tomato and Orange Marmalade. The main difference was that, not having the same amount of orange peel to hand in the freezer, I started by boiling the tomatoes and peel in 1/4 pint of orange juice. Other than that the recipe was the same. It has a much sweeter taste than the lemon variety, being a little like apricot jam, though with bits of peel giving it a 'proper' marmalade texture.
So, two very useful additions to my store cupboard - the only snag is, without labels, can you spot which is marmalade and which chutney in the photo above?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Recipe Testing. Abel&Cole Cookbook - Swedeaphobia Cure

Faced with a glut of turnips I've been searching the recipe books for interesting ways to serve them - rather than just as extras in a stew. There may be a slight difference between swedes and turnips, but not one that I feel matters, so when I saw this intriguingly named recipe I thought I'd try it out. The strange name for this comes from the idea that it will cure the eater of any fear they may have of swedes - the edible kind, not people from Sweden. Basically the swedes (turnips) are cooked and mashed, with cream (though I used milk), then breadcrumbs, spices and golden syrup stirred in. A dish is lined with sliced potato and filled with the swede purée, then more breadcrumbs sprinkled on top and the whole thing baked.
I hit a problem quite early on with converting the 'big swede' in the recipe to the middling sort of turnip I'd got. The Abel&Cole cookbook prides itself on the fact that you barely need scales to make up the recipes - but in this case they might have been handy. Anyway, I decided my turnip was about half-size so altered everything accordingly then panicked over a lack of potatoes and added more - maybe too many as I ended up the base of the dish filled with them and some didn't cook through properly. I was also a little confused over quantities; the recipe "says serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish". Well, I was cooking this as a side dish to go with vegetarian meat pies and half quantity was about right.
Anyway, we loved it. The ginger, nutmeg and syrup added a curious sweet and spicy flavour to a rather dull vegetable - and next time I'll go easy on the potatoes, and the amount of pepper I ground on top!