Tag Archives: cooking

Autumn’s here. Time for chutney

12 Sep


I don’t normally ‘cull’ green tomatoes for chutney this early, but the fruit on one of my plants got so heavy that the weight pulled it over (even though it was staked!) and damaged the main stalk so much that the toms started to rot on the vine, so I picked the rest. I could have waited for them to ripen inside, but it’s getter cooler now, and that means it’s time to make the Christmas chutney.


I washed the fruit, plus the last of our scrumped apples

…and chopped it all up with a couple of onions – I had about 2kg of tomatoes, and 3kg of apples (after coring and peeling).

Added 500g or demerara sugar and 500ml of vinegar – I used up the white wine and cider vinegars at the back of our spice cupboard.

Cooked it for 3 hours on a lowish heat (with lots of stirring in the last hour to stop it sticking and burning), and mashed it up a bit at the end to make it spreadable.


Then spooned it into sterilised jars – I boil them for a few minutes, but you can do them in the dishwasher too. Added cellophane and labels once it had cooled.

It’ll go in the preserves cupboard now (where it’s cool) and come out at Christmas to play with the ham. There will be pretty homemade fabric covers too for the few I’ll give as presents, but that can wait. For now, it needs to sit in the dark, and get tasty. Mmmmmmmm.

Blackberry and apple crumble. Thrifty noms.

9 Aug

You may recall I spent a lovely afternoon foraging for apples, blackberries and plums.

Well, you need to find something to do with all that free food!

So, blackberry and apple crumble the easy way…


(1) Preheat oven to gas mark 4 (medium). Peel and chop apples. Butter a large tray and bung in the apples and blackberries.

(2) Cover with a thin layer of oats, and a thin layer of brown sugar. Be sure to leave some fruit poking through!


(3) Cube butter into small pieces and spread across the top


(4) Bake for at least half an hour until the fruit is soft and siizzling. You may need to add more butter half way through to prevent the oats burning.


(5) Eat. Lots.

How to grow tomatoes

22 Jul

My tomatoes are just starting to produce lovely ripe nommilicious fruit/vegetables/whatever they are.

This is the first of this year’s crop…


And this was the last of last year’s crop…

(Don’t worry about them being green. You can turn them into chutney, but they’ll ripen on their own if you just leave them to their own devices).

I’ve got six plants this year. I’m a little tomato obsessed really.

So here’s the trick:

(1) Plant them out in the hottest, sunniest part of the garden you can find, as soon as the May frosts are over.

(2) If they’re looking fragile bring them in at night for about a week to help them toughen up gradually.

(3) Forget gro-bags. Plant each tomato in a pot AT LEAST as big as a bucket and fill with tomato or veg compost.


My helpful assistant, practically dressed as ever

(4) Give each pot a full watering can of water every day it doesn’t rain. The back of the leaves should be green – if the veins go purple they’re either hungry or thirsty.

(5) Stake the plants so they don’t fall over in strong wind.

(6) Pinch out the first few side shoots to encourage the plant to grow upwards.

(7) After a month the compost won’t have much food in it, so feed with a liquid feed once a week (Follow the instructions on the label).

(8) Pick off the fruit when they’re ripe – if you leave them on the plant they’ll split…

(9) Come October they’ll stop ripening on the plant, so bring the remaining green fruit indoors and leave them in a dish at room temperature.

Wave goodbye to tasteless supermarket tomatoes forever!

Lemon cake with vanilla buttercream icing and mini marshmallows. Phew!

1 Jun

My little Storm turns three today. We had a lovely family party on Sunday, the highlight of which was watching her huge grin after managing to blow out all three candles (OK, with a little discreet help…). A close second was seeing my charming family, but this cake almost edged it too.


Here’s how…

  • Sieve 500g (2 cups) plain flour with 2tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt
  • Melt 250g (1 pack) butter, and mix in 250g muscavado sugar
  • Zest and juice two big lemons and stir into the flour along with everything else.
  • Add a couple of beaten eggs and a splash of whole milk.
  • Divide the mixture  in half and bake in two cake tins in a gas mark 5 oven for about 20-25mins.

Meanwhile beat 125g butter into 300g icing sugar, a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar and 2tsp of vanilla essence.

When the cake is done you’ll be able to put a skewer in and it’ll come out clean.

Don’t wait for it to cool. If you ice it straight away the icing will sink into the sponge and make it doubly yummy. Ice between the two layers and all over the top. Over the top is a key word here!

Decorate with whatever you fancy. Storm likes mini marshmallows, and I’m not going to argue with that!

I made some banana cupcakes too, because, you know, you can never have enough cake.

Happy birthday honey.

Elderflower Cordial. Again

27 May

Elderflower cordial officially has a three month shelf life. Well, the batch I made on May 16 is all gone already. Bye bye lovely!


No worries though. Our fave foraging place is still bursting with blossom, so off I trotted this morning to pick some more….


I managed to get about 50 heads so, combined with 2kg of sugar, 1,2l of water, the juice and zest of 10 lemons and some citric acid, that should make 3.5 litres.

About two weeks worth then…

Homemade curry powder. Noms!

25 May

I don’t know about you, but I likes me a curry. When I’m feeling flush, it’s off to the takeaway, but my favourite curry is really my own (boastful yes, I know).

The base of it is the curry powder below, which actually works with pretty much anything. Noms!

First get your hands on this little lot…

You want coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, tumeric and dried curry leaves (hiding at the back!). They’ll be much cheaper and fresher from an Asian supermarket.

Get a small non stick frying pan and fill it with a third of each of the three seeds but no oil or fat of any kind.

Like this…


Put it on a low heat and stir gently for about a minute. The idea is to roast the spices without burning them. As they heat up you’ll smell the spices but if they starts to smell bitter, then, oops, they’re burnt and you’ll need to start again.

Once the seeds are roasted, take them off the heat and give them a good pounding with a pestle and mortar. If you haven’t got one then grab a rolling pin and put the spices in a sandwich bag before you beat them up. If all else fails you can even use a hammer! Macho!

Then stick your lovely bashed up spices in an airtight glass jar. If you’re feeling swank you can stir in some of the tumeric, and some torn up curry leaves or dried chillies with them. I normally just stick those in when I cook though.

Voila! Amazing curry powder! When you’re making a curry, saute a couple of onions for a bit and then add a table spoon of the spice mix and cook for a minute before any other ingredients. For an easy, delicious curry I cook some chicken and add coconut milk, tumeric, a smidge of chilli and some chopped up broccoli. It cooks in less than half an hour and tastes great every time. Hurrah!

Elderflower Cordial: summer starts here!

16 May

There is an old overgrown cemetery behind my house that yields a veritable feast year round.

The patch of wild garlic we discovered last year has not yet come into full strength and the juicy early blackberries which rampage across the acres of Victorian gothicarama are three  months away. But the best treat of all has just arrived – elderflowers!

Yesterday we gathered about 30 heads of elderflowers in bloom and made elderflower cordial so fragrant the entire house smelled of summer.

To make elderflower cordial…

  1. Trim off the biggest stalks and then shake the heads of the elderflowers to get any errant beasties out.
  2. Meanwhile add 2 kilos of sugar to 1.2 litres of water and bring to the boil to make a syrup.
  3. Zest a few lemons and limes, and slice them up and add them to the elderflowers. Then juice a few more lemons or limes and add the juice too. If you can get it, you can add ‘proper’ powdered citric acid from your chemist (most recipes call for 75g for this quantity of syrup) which will give you a sharper cordial, but you can get the same effect with lots of lemons! I used 4 limes and 1 giant lemon yesterday which is just enough, but I’ll be serving mine with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  4. Pour the sugar syrup over the mixture of elderflowers and lemony/limey goodness, cover and leave for 24hrs.
  5. Decant (great word!) into sterilised bottles and give to your eternally grateful family and friends. It’ll keep for 3 months, or 1 month in the fridge once it’s opened.

Not in this house though!