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

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Bringing summer back to the kitchen

It's January so you can't expect the weather to be warm and sunny, but I always find it a good time, especially on a miserable rainy day, to raid the freezer and bring back the scents of summer to the kitchen.

First, my lazy version of passata. Frozen tomatoes are much easier to peel than fresh - drop them in boiling water and the skin falls off - then I just simmer them for a while till they're cooked and the consistency looks right. At this point, a more enthusiastic person might sieve the pips out. I don't mind them in soup or pasta sauces, so I don't bother with the fuss. I just pour the gloop into jars and boil to seal. The last bit always used to worry me - boiling a glass jar seems such a wrong thing to do - but, so far, I haven't had any accidents.

Then, a few days later, spurred on by the sight of stored apples rotting in their boxes, I decided to make jam. It's probably possible to use just apples but that doesn't seem a very exciting spread for toast or whatever, so I'd normally add some blackberries out of the freezer - this time, for a bit of variety, I used raspberries. I use roughly 2lbs apples to 1lb of other fruit, which I find works well. The jam tastes of the berries, but doesn't contain anything like the amount of seeds as jam made solely from them. It's more culinary laziness really.

We still have quite a few home-grown apples remaining, so I need to find some way of using them  - not cakes or puddings but maybe in casseroles with pork or sausages.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

When life gives you courgettes ... make marmalade

If there's one surplus from the allotment that I hate, it's courgettes. There's only so many of them that you can eat (and to be honest I having been cooking much with the heat), and they don't freeze well.

 The only options left are chutney and marmalade - and we eat more marmalade.

It's weird, but simple, and does actually taste like marmalade once cooked. Basically, peel and chop the courgettes, getting rid of any seeds. Weigh them and put them in a jam pan with their weight in sugar, and leave overnight.
 For each pound of courgettes, add a lemon or two (I save squeezed out ones in the freezer) and a handful of frozen leftover orange rind. I boil these separately to soften, then cut up finely and add to the courgettes.


Next day it all just needs boiling up - gently at first to be sure the courgettes are soft (sometimes I mash them to avoid lumps) then quickly to set.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Baby shawl

For the first time in ages, I've picked up my knitting needles!

With my first grandson expected just after Christmas, I got out the ancient battered, family shawl pattern and got busy - this was round about the middle of November.

Then, I discovered it might all take longer than I thought! At 255 stitches the rows seem appallingly long, and take forever to knit, so there's no chance of doing a few in odd moments during the day.
So, I've found a Netflix boxset - or three - and settled down to many. many evenings of knitting.

At last, I have the main body of the shawl finished. Only the edging to go ...

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Passata and Pickles

I seem to be in non-stop preserving mode at the moment. If there's a fruit or vegetable that can be stored by turning into jam, chutney, pickles or whatever, I'm doing it.
I've already pickled our home grown onions, turned cucumbers into bread and butter pickle, made chutney with pumpkins and jam with apples and blackberries.

This weekend I've turned my eye to the stock-pile of frozen tomatoes, and cleared some space in the freezer by making passata. Mine's a rather lazy version,with no sieving required! I pour boiling water over the still-frozen tomatoes so I can easily slip the skins off, then boil them for half an hour or so till the fruit 'collapses' - and that's basically it. Once the jars are sealed, I've found this to keep almost indefinitely, but over winter, I'll use it in soups, added to pasta sauces, or poured over enchilladas.

Next I decided to tackle the courgette glut that's filling my fridge vegetable compartment. It's possible to freeze them but they always seem so limp and damp afterwards, no matter how they're cooked, but a couple of years ago I tried using them instead of cucumber in bread and butter pickles, and the experiment paid off. I think they might actually keep longer, which is good as I already have two jars of cucumber pickle to eat!
So, an hour or so salting, some hot vinegar poured over, and that's another batch of preserving done ...

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Preserving time again

'In progress' chutney

Autumn's always the time of year for making chutneys and jams on a massive scale. Although sound pumpkins and apples keep easily enough, there are always damaged ones thatneed to be processed in some way, so ... out with the preserving pan - first to rescue a couple of butternut squash by making chutney, then to turn some damaged apples, with the help of blackberries from the freezer, into jam.

The finished chutney

Friday, 27 January 2017

Something new for Burns Night dinner ... haggis nachos

We like haggis at our house, so, in preparation for Burns Night, I'd picked up my haggis from the supermarket, and was planning to make our normal haggis supper - haggis, chips and mushy peas - when my teen spotted someone on the web talking about haggis nachos.
Now, at first, that sounds like a rather weird culinary-fusion idea, but I thought a while and decided to try it. 

There are a variety of versions on the web, and I remembered I'd seen one in Sue Lawrence's Eating In book, but basically, you cook the haggis (I did ours in the microwave) then break it up and layer the meat with nachos, cheese and jalapenos before popping in the oven to melt the cheese. You could always serve guacamole or salsa with it, but we didn't. We were a bit too enthusiastic with the jalapenos,especially as haggis is rather spicy itself, but apart from that we enjoyed it. Nest year though I think I'd like to find a way to make 'traditional' deep-fried haggis sausages ...

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Frost details

 It's an accepted thing that a touch of frost will turn anywhere into a winter wonderland. 

Well, I wouldn't quite claim that for my garden this week, but the frost has certainly brought out the beauty in plants that would usually pass unnoticed.

Even this ordinary winter cabbage suddenly becomes 'art'.


Icy edging turns oregano into lace.

Is this a skeleton tree or a river system revealed on this foxglove leaf?