Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Normal service resuming...

My apologies dedicated readers (all two of you,) but the squirrels and BT conspired to prevent my communications. I am now returned to the blogosphere, and hope to be a little more regular in my posting.

My return nicely coincides with the start of the summer "gluts" and having found many recipes last year, but not thought to share them before the produce in question was out of season, I thought I'd try again. One of the "problems" with growing your own is that everything arrives at once and there are suddenly kilos of berries getting rapidly over-ripe whilst you feel you can never quite look a tomato in the eye again.

Let's start off with my "problem" this week: some rather squishy raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants clogging up my tiny 'fridge. (No seriously, it is miniscule, the freezer is massive, the fridge... it leaves a lot to be desired, but you know, first world problems and all that.) "Aha" says you (yes, you,) "why not a lovely summer pudding, everyone loves a summer pudding!" Unfortunately, I do not love such a thing. Soggy bread?! Since when was very soggy bread an acceptable dessert?! "No, no," says I, "why not a nice cordial?"

Summer Berry Cordial:
Summer soft fruits, washed, but no need to hull/peel/de-stalk

Large pan
Jelly bag
Glass bottles or freezer proof tubs

1. Weigh your fruit and taking note of the weight, place into a pan. For every 500g of fruit, add 300ml of water.
2. Gently heat the fruit and water and cook over a low-medium heat until the fruit has disintegrated into mush. Give it an encouraging stir from time to time to help the fruit mush.
3. Strain through a jelly bag for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Keep the juice, compost the fruit mush.
4. Measure the juice and taking note of the volume, pour into a pan. For every 500ml of juice, add 250g of sugar.
5. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, once boiled, remove from the heat, skim off the froth (it looks hideous in bottles, like a weird, creepy, mould.
6. If you are bottling, then you will need to sterilise the bottles in the oven during step 5 and bottle the cordial whilst hot. If you are putting into freezer tubs, allow the cordial to cool thoroughly, before decanting into tubs, labelling and freezing.
7. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Queen of Hearts...

made some tarts, all on a summer's day.

Apologies for the hiatus in blogging, I had a series of rather gruelling and nasty exams, which are, thankfully, now over. So it's nearly time for a summer tea party, and Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter and Jam Tarts are on my mind. These are filled with gooseberry jelly, which gives a rather delightful pinky-red hue.

You will need to make the jelly at least two days beforehand, or use shop bought.

Jelly (I don't know where this recipe comes from, my mother read it to me over the phone):

1.8kg gooseberries
Granulated Sugar
Liquid Pectin
Lemon juice

1. Put gooseberries in a very large pan and add enough water to just cover them. Bring to boil, simmer for 1 hour until the fruit is very soft. Stir occasionally to stop the fruit from sticking.
2. Filter the fruit mush through a jelly bag into a bowl overnight.
3. The next day discard the fruit mush, and measure the volume of juice. For each 600ml of juice use 450g sugar.
4. Put the sugar and the juice into a large pan (larger than you think - when it boils it will double or triple in size, and gooseberry caramel is less than fun to clean off the cooker) and heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
5. Bring the jelly to the boil and boil for abour 15 minutes. Take off the heat and add about 50ml of pectin and about 20ml of lemon juice. Using an iced saucer you can test for set, or you can just chance it!
6. Whilst hot, pour into sterilised (and still hot) jam jars and put the lids on tightly (this requires skill and good oven gloves to avoid burns and scalds). Leave to cool completely.

Pastry (loosely based on: this one:

220g plain flour
100g COLD butter chopped into 1 inch pieces.
3 heaped tablespoons of caster sugar
75ml of COLD water (may need more or less depending on flour, humidity, etc)

1. Put flour, sugar and butter in a food processor (Magimix) and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs and there are no lumps of butter left. (This can be done by rubbing in by hand too, but in the summer weather my hands are too hot to effectively do this!)
2. Slowly add the water bit by bit, continuing to mix or pulse until the dough comes together in a ball.
3. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile grease a shallow 12-hole tart tin.
5. Retrieve dough from fridge and roll out to about 3 mm thick. Do not roll it too thin or it will fall apart and leak. Cut rounds - for a standard tart tin you will need a cutter at least 3 inch (~8cm) in diameter or the tarts won't have tall enough walls. Place these into the tart tin. Gently fit to the tin, but take care not to stretch the pastry, or they will shrink back during baking.
6. Put a teaspoon of jelly into each tart. Resist the temptation to overfill - they will overflow and make more gooseberry caramel.
8. Top with a little cut out of a heart (I used some rather ancient aspic cutters) then leave the tarts to rest for about 15 minutes.
9. Bake for 15 minutes in a 200C oven.
10. Leave to cool COMPLETELY before eating - these will be like jam volcanoes and dangerous to eat initially.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sourdough Spelt Baguettes

Crispy crust, chewy sourdough middle, delicious! (Though I say so myself).


7g salt
125g strong white bread flour
250g spelt flour
250g sourdough starter
180-220ml water
Olive oil, for kneading

1. Mix salt, flours and starter together in a large bowl.
2. Slowly add water - starting with 180ml, and gradually kneading in additional water until you have a slack dough - it will be quite sticky.
3. Turn dough out onto an oiled surface (do not add extra flour, it will make the dough act most peculiarly) or into the oiled bowl of a freestanding mixer.
4. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
5. Cover the dough and leave in a warm place to prove for 5 to 6 hours, until the dough is doubled in size.
6. Shape the loaves - on an oiled surface divide the dough into 3 parts. Each should weigh about 275g (more important than the exact weight is similar size). Roll the dough gently into sausage shapes.
7. Transfer the loaves carefully to a floured, linen, tea-towel or baker's couche, pleating the cloth to stop the baguettes touching.
8. Leave the loaves to prove for 12-18 hour. A longer, slower rise (ie in a cooler place) will give a more sour dough. Beware of leaving the loaves too long at a warmer temperature as they may rise well and then collapse on themselves.
9. Preheat oven to 190C. Spray the inside and bottom of the oven with water to generate steam.
10. Transfer the loaves to baking sheets lined by non-stick baking paper. Apply more water around the loaves (but not touching the loaves) to generate further steam.
11. Bake the loaves for 15-25 minutes until the bases sound hollow when tapped.

Serving suggestion: Alongside some rich tomato and chorizo tapas (recipe to follow), or just slathered with creamy British butter.

Edited to add: Never done this before, but I am entering this in: Bake Your Own Bread
And: YeastSpotting
(I hope I did that right!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

When life gives you guavas...

make guava sorbet!

I inherited an old tin of guava halves. Feeling the need for sweet, fruity goodness, my mind turned to sorbet. Unfortunately, however, Google was less than forthcoming on a recipe for guava sorbet involving the tinned kind. Seeing as I have never even seen a fresh guava, let alone tasted on, fresh guava sorbet was not going to be an option (quite aside from the fact that the tinned guavas were already staring at me)

So, as per usual This Is Not My Home protocol, I maded it up.


1 tin guava halves (the 400g+ size tin - guava "shells" are probably better as they are seedless, but that's not what I had)
125ml water
62.5g granulated sugar (sorry if your scales can't weigh to 0.5 of a gram, round in whichever direction pleases you)

1. Put guava halves into a food processor (Magimix) and puree into oblivion. Set aside
2. Put sugar and water into a small but substantial pan. Bring to the boil, stiring constantly until the sugar has dissolved, then stop. Boil the sugar syrup for 5 minutes - do not leave it unsupervised and keep pets and children away. Leave the syrup to cool.
3. Sieve the pips out of the guava puree - really push it through the sieve with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. You want as much puree as you can without actually grating the seeds through.
4. Mix the puree with the cooled sugar syrup.
5. Pour the guava puree into an ice-cream maker and churn until softly frozen.
6. Turn the sorbet out into a freezer-suitable container and freeze until properly frozen/required.

(In a correction to a previous statement, this is in fact the 100th post - the one before took into account unpublished posts - I read the wrong number!)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Devil's food cupcakes

A couple of weeks ago, I went to stay with Lady Pink and Lord Fisherman. Since I was brought up never to arrive empty handed, I thought a home-baked gift would be in order.

My local Sainsbury's sells these rather nice gift boxes, which make the whole transporting and giving of cupcakes that little bit easier.

The recipe (below) is a modernised and metricated (is that a word?) version of a 1920s recipe. I originally found the recipe online sometime ago, but cannot find any longer. They were iced with chocolate fudge icing from Mr Oliver Peyton, using an icing gun supplied by the Mission Doctor as she headed off. It is my new favourite baking thing. Pretty icing swirls, minimal mess, and very quick.

In three parts.

Ingredients for each part are listed under each part.  

Part One
220g dark brown sugar
115g butter
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Cream the sugar, butter and the soda together. Beat in the egg yolks. Set aside. 

Part Two
220g dark brown sugar
240ml milk (the original recipe specifies sweet milk, just so you know)
100g dark chocolate (here the original said 2/3 cup grated chocolate. I approximated)

Put the sugar, chocolate and half of the milk in a saucepan, set over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Take from the heat and add the rest of the milk.

Mix Part One and Part Two together and set aside.  

Part Three
255g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together three times.

Add Part Three to Part One and Part Two. Mix well.

Bake at 160C for 20 minutes or until well risen and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (The original recipe just said "bake in a medium oven")

Leave to cool, then ice. And eat.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I am sure at some point I had a plum cake recipe to share with you. However, I seem to have mislaid both the recipe and the picture.

Therefore, I leave you with a picture of frozen plums in a vintage dish.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Beginnings

 The hyacinths are blooming (and releasing a fragrance that can be detected 3 rooms away!)

 A quilt has been begun.

 An apple tree is growing.

And a new sourdough starter is breeding (oh, yes, it's time for Return of the Sourdough.)

In other news, this is the one hundreth post.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


Beckie is revising.

That is all.

Normal service may be resumed shortly.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Latest In A Long Line of Eccentrics

I was thinking today about how I am the latest in a long family line of eccentrics. My grandfather, for example, used to think that a double-barrelled shotgun down a mole-hill was a good mole-control technique. My grandmother sent my brother and I out with pickled onions to put down mole-hills, also to deter them. She also used to share around the chocolates whilst we watched television by clutching the box and throwing them at you like grenades during advert breaks. My parents are still alive so I shall not embarrass them by any details.

Today I had a half holiday. Instead of lounging around watching television (which would be tricky since I have no (working) television,) I picked rosehips to make rosehip syrup. Blame Wartime Farm for making me think of this!

I used the recipe from Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables, first published 1929, the copy I was using is the second impression of the thirteenth edition, from 1979.

I like how rose hips look. Like red jewels.
The recipe below is half of what is actually documented in the book, as I only managed 1 lb of rose hips after 1 hours picking!

1 lb ripe rose hips
1/2 lb sugar
2+1/4 pints water

The following method is recommended if a syrup with a high vitamin C content is required.

 Extracting the juice
Have ready 1+1/2 pt boiling water, preferably in an aluminium (I wouldn't use aluminium pans personally due to possible health scares around these) or unchipped enamel pan. Mince the rose hips in a coarse mincer (I used a food processor/magimix),

 place them immediately in boiling water and bring this again to the boil. As soon as it re-boils remove the pan from the heat and leave it for 15 min, then pour into a scalded jelly bag and allow the bulk of the juice to drip through. Return the pulp to the saucepan, add 3/4 pt boiling water, re-boil and allow it to stand without further heating for another 10 min, then strain as before.

Adding the Sugar
Pour the juice into a clean saucepan, and boil it down until it measures about 3/4 pt, then add 1/2 lb sugar and boil for a further 5 min.

Bottling and Processing the Syrup
Pour the syrup while it is hot into clean, hot bottles and seal at once. (I put it into yogurt pots and freeze it and defrost what I need each time - once opened it only keeps for a week or two in the fridge)

Why don't you join me in my Land-Girl eccentricity?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Two weekends inspired by Mr Peyton

The first: chocolate swirl buns. Mr Peyton's sweet bun dough, with the addition of 25g of dark cocoa powder (and 25% less yeast, as I use fast action dried, and he uses regular dried). Rolled out flat, spread with Mr Peyton's pastry cream recipe (surprisingly easy) and chopped chocolate. Rolled up like a swiss roll, cut into slices. Baked.

The second: English muffins. These are three batches in the making. The first had WAY too much yeast (sorry Mr Peyton, but they were disgustingly bitter) - the second had the perfect quantity of yeast, but I hadn't quite got the hang of cooking on a cast iron skillet. This, the third batch are mine. All mine. Sorry!

So thank you Mr Peyton!