Thursday, 19 May 2011

Home Made Wine Part 1

A bit of Wine-making today, I have this huge Elderflower tree in my front garden and the flowers are open and giving off a fabulous scent. Having failed to keep a record of all the wine recipes that my parents and grandparents used, I'm starting fresh with Home made Wines, and having a bit of nightmare. The first thing you have to remember is, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. And the second thing is, you don’t know that its gone wrong until its probably too late to fix it, or do it again.

Back in April I spent all morning collecting nettle tops, (the small new ones) for nettle beer, which I remember from my Grandmother (Her of the Dresser) and boiling up the results as per a little recipe I found online. After a week, it became obvious that either I had done something wrong, or the recipe was incorrect.

As the recipe only had about 3 steps, and I'm pretty sure that I did them all, I conclude its the quantities of ingredients that caused that one to be added to the compost. After looking at other recipes I don't think that there was enough sugar in the one I chose.

Next was the Dandelions, next door kindly let me pick all the ones on his lawn? And after a forage around near home my wife found a lot more, so we had the right quantity. All went well, fermentation started and it was time to put the must into a demijohn. The recipe recommended filling the airlock with a sterilizing solution, which I did, however some of it got into the must, more compost! Now I fill my airlocks with water, what my wife’s friend Marilyn used to call an A.F.G.O. (Another F***ing Growth Opportunity)

But my Rhubarb wine is going well, learning from my mistakes I have successfully completed fermentation and its now clearing, hopefully bottling in a month or two. Not only that, all the Rhubarb and sugar pulp left from the syrup extracting stage made a very nice crumble!

On safer ground, I have made Elderflower Champagne from a previously tried recipe, no problems there.

I'm now on the Elderflower wine and the second lot of Champagne, I have enough pressure bottles for three brews of Champagne (And you do need pressure bottles- believe me)

The plan is to make some elderflower cordial and freeze it but that requires a huge amount of flowers, not a small job as there don't seem to be that many wild trees around here and you have to leave some flowers or you wont get berries later in the year.

After all that work I fancied food, here’s a simple idea for quick Egg fried rice style meal.

Take an onion, chop it up very fine and fry in sesame oil for a couple of minutes. Whilst its frying whisk three eggs in a plastic jug and put in the microwave. Back to the pan, add a handful of frozen peas, the same amount of frozen sweetcorn, a teaspoon of five spice powder and a tablespoon of plum sauce to the onion and continue frying, Give it a couple of minutes then add some cooked prawns and small pieces of cooked chicken to the mix. Then the radical bit, add a packet of pre-cooked rice, keep stirring and turn the microwave on for a minute. When it dings check the eggs, if they are lightly scrambled add to the frying mixture, if not give them another 30 seconds then add and stir it all together. When piping hot and well mixed serve, with prawn crackers and sweet chilli sauce.

No photo for several reasons

1) Daughters borrowed my camera for her holiday
2) Ate it too quick, before I could get my phone camera going

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Grans Dresser

When I was growing up in Devon, I remember my Grandmothers dresser as the place where the treats were kept, as well as all her old china and best tablecloths. When she moved in with my parents, my father went to sort her things out and asked me if there was anything I wanted for my house, naturally I chose the dresser, amongst other things, as it would always remind me of her. It stayed with me in Kent for 28 years and has seen my children grow up, we now use it for storing food but it has had a multitude of functions, just as it should do. Now that I have returned to Devon it sits in our conservatory, but was a little dark for that light, open space. My daughter recently stayed with us and was reading a home magazine when she found an offer for a free tin of paint.

One Coat

“Is that any good to you Dad” she asked, well one of the colours would have been perfect for giving the dresser a lighter, distressed look, and after some discussion the job was done. I just hope that Gran can see it and approves. And there was enough left over to do the hallstand as well.



Saturday, 14 May 2011

A Bit of Baking

Today is Bread Making day, I usually do this about every 5 or so days, funnily enough the bread I make keeps for about 5 days without preservatives, but supermarket bread (Not the Stayfresh stuff) seems to keep for a lot less time, WITH preservatives. Any way before I did that I took my two Labs out for a walk to the coast. Its about 10 minutes away and at 6 this morning was very quiet and quite breathtaking

Last night I made a ferment from Richard Bertinets “Dough” book, sort of my bread bible, I like his style and method, its precise but easy, and once you've done it a few times very simple. So today I completed the dough and left it to rise.

I also started a fruit loaf using Paul Munseys excellent Apple and Cinnamon flour, with added mixed fruit and using milk and honey instead of water (Still 350g for 500g of flour) I always weigh liquids as you do get a better loaf.   Heres His Website Wessex Mills

While that was sorting itself out I had some Chilli plants to pot on

and a few other bits to do but after about 90 minutes the dough was nicely risen and ready for shaping. I'm making two Ciabatta loaves and one Stromboli, the two loaves are made as normal but the third one is done like this.

Oil an oven tray and put your dough on it, stretching it out to cover, you may need to repeat as the

gluten in the dough doesn't like being stretched like this and tends to contract.

Once you have got it flat cover it with tomato paste and a sprinkle of mixed herbs. Top with grated cheese and small pieces of Sausage (I used Chorizo, cos its all I had)

Roll into a Swiss roll shape, seam down, and cover to prove while the oven heats up to 220 degrees

If you have any bread left over from your last baking day, you can dry it in the oven as its heating up, either in thin slices that you blitz for breadcrumbs or if you cube it and splash with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar the result is superb croutons for soup/salads. Keep an eye on them and keep turning so they dry without burning

Leave the bread for 45 minutes to prove then put into the oven, Check after 20 minutes ( I have to turn

mine because the oven is uneven), but the Ciabatta and Stromboli should be done in 25-30 mins and

the fruit loaf in 35 ish. Your oven may vary, so treat all my times/temperatures as approximate.

And here they are, first the Stromboli,

  And the fuit loaf

Thats all for today, hope there has been some inspiration for you, I'm off to do some quality control.

Friday, 13 May 2011


Hello from the Sunny (Today) South West of England, and my first fumbling steps into the world of blogging. Technically this should have started in January, but as they say stuff happens, here we are at last, at least it gives me a lot to write about because I can bang on about what's happened since then, I have been ghosting the blog so just need to put it up.

Why am I here? Well its a long story but to keep it simple and I hope interesting, I have chosen to live a simpler life, with a lot less stress and as a result have a lot of time on my hands. Luckily my wife is with me on this, having wanted to change lifestyle for longer than me. According to family members I have a lot to say. So as they don't listen to a word, or claim to have heard it all before, I've decided to inflict it on the world. I'm also studying creative writing, so this is all good practice.

This blog will primarily be about my culinary efforts and my attempts at living the more self sufficient life that I've always wanted, after all that’s why I'm here after years of drudgery and full time labour. Of course financially the timings perfect, (you may spot my sarcasm from time to time) but once committed there's no turning back.

I'm a frustrated cook, not because it always goes wrong but because I would have quite liked to have been a professional one, and after years of practice feel that my creations need a wider audience, I have shamelessly blagged ideas and recipes from the famous and not so, with added twists of my own, which I will share with you. Also my attempts at making country produce from ingredients foraged and or grown. I have been making my own bread for a couple of years and selling it small scale so I will share that later as well. Also I know that the layout is a bit basic but as I progress I will alter that. Likewise personal details will have to wait for a bit.
Next time I will get you up to speed on my exciting adventures this week, plus a bit of background. Basically we'll just see where we end up.