Thursday, 28 July 2011

Jam Tart (one of Each)

Look what I found in my local supermarket, £2 a pack, I don’t think I’ll be buying any.

Over the last week, I have picked 4kg of Blackberries for various projects and all for free, I’ve got most of them on my morning dog walks, while they are chasing rabbits.

So at £2 for 227g that lot would have cost me about £35.

So where have they gone. Well 2kg went into  Blackberry and Apple Jam, recipe courtesy of the British Women's Institute, 550g into Blackberry Whisky (Thanks Alys Fowler) and about 200g into Mixed fruit Liqueur along with Blackcurrants, Strawberries and Raspberries. The rest are either residing in the freezer for winter consumption or in crumble.

However I still need about 2kg for wine, so I need to wait for some more berries to ripen then I’m off again.

The jam was from an old recipe, 4lb berries, 2lb Bramley Apples (peeled cored and cubed) 6lb Sugar and about half a pint of water.  

Using half the water, soften the berries on a low heat, then roughly mash. Use the rest of the water with the apples, doing the same, when they are soft puree them.

Add the pureed apple to the softened berries and mix together.

Take off the heat add sugar, and dissolve. Return to heat and boil until setting point is reached.

Bottle into sterilized jars

Next item on the agenda was a vegetable tart using puff pastry.

I use frozen puff pastry, I did try to make my own but it took forever and I wasn’t really satisfied with the results. So now I just pick up a pack of frozen (or fresh, whichever is cheaper) at the supermarket when I stock up on bulk items and promotions.

While the pastry is defrosting (if appropriate) fry some quartered mushrooms and onions in a little oil with garlic to taste. When starting to soften drain and reserve.

So having defrosted the pastry put it on a baking sheet with a low lip, then roll it out using the lip as a thickness guide. You want it about 2-3mm thick.

Next score a line around the pastry, about 25mm in from the edge all the way round. This will rise whilst the middle will not.

 Coat the surface with oil and add your fried veg mix, top with some chopped sun-dried tomatoes and pieces of roasted pepper.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C, and place the tray in the middle of the oven, after about 10 mins the edge will start to rise,

Sprinkle grated cheese over the veg and cook for about 20 mins more, or until it looks like this


Thursday, 21 July 2011

Back to the Day Job.

I’ve been blogging for a while now, and while I enjoy writing about the food and various home projects, it all feels a little impersonal, there is not a lot of real information about me and mine, whilst I don’t intend to bore you with my life story, or my bank account details, a bit more background may not come amiss. It also gets quite hard to post without saying anything personal.

After 10 weeks off, in which time I had a small operation on my knee and generally got used to not doing much I had to go back to work last week. It was a bit of a shock to my system, especially as I had to start at 0700. It meant driving from my house the night before and staying in Gravesend, which I always used to do, but after all this time it felt strange.

So that you know, I work for the Port of London as a ships pilot on the River Thames, assisting ships of all sizes navigating anywhere between Southend and London Bridge.

You never really know what to expect, you just do whatever comes past the window, and these are the ships I piloted whilst I was on watch.

 As you can see; quite a varied days work.

When I got back to Devon, I needed to make some bread, and had a few ideas for meals that I wanted to try out. Also there were berries to pick, and the first of the runner beans for dinner.

First, I had ordered a replacement cherry tree, mine died in the frosts last winter, and as it had arrived I had to plant it. I now have a five tree orchard, 2 apples, a plum a pear and the cherry, hopefully there will be fruit next year.

To make room for the tree, I had to cut down a huge Cardoon that had been left by the previous owners, a shame because it was a striking plant, but it was covered with blackfly, which were spreading.

Whenever I make bread, there is usually more than Yvonne and I can eat, so I share it around the neighbours, the last time I took some round to next door Tracey told me that she suffered from Coeliacs and could not eat any, although Jason enjoyed it. It was slightly embarrassing as we have lived here a year and I didn’t know. Jason gave me some Gluten free flour and I tried a loaf for them today, it smelt great, although the dough seemed a bit runny when I kneaded it. It rose well and coloured nicely, I will have to wait for her comments on the taste.

I found two pork loin steaks when I was cleaning the freezer, and thought of cooking them with apple, honey and breadcrumbs, they should be complimented by the runner beans, and some new potatoes baked with olive oil and salt.

Added Stewed Apple and Honey

And Breadcrumbs

I’m still picking broad beans, although they are coming to the end now, and the bean skins are very tough and bitter. A tip for you if you aren’t keen on the skins is to steam the beans for a couple of minutes, you will find that the skins split and you can peel the beans easily.

The potato peelings pie made a welcome return, this time with onion, grated cheese, chorizo and some shredded chicken. That will be good with salad tomorrow.

 Several years ago, I produced a framed Cross-Stitch picture for my eldest Daughters 21st Birthday,

 and also for my middle daughter,

When it came to the youngest, who was travelling in Australia I couldn’t decide what to do. In the end I decided on a cushion, which, with my wife’s help has just been finished. I hope she likes it; she will be coming home in a couple of weeks for a short stay.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Homity Pie and Ice Cream

Well after all the computer issues, it’s a relief just to get back to the simple life, a bit of cooking, seeing family and general relaxation. The plan was always to live with less, but sometimes stuff happens and you realise that it is very hard to disconnect completely.

 While we were up in Kent, I gave my daughter some of the home made balsamic glaze with summer fruits that I recently tried making. She said that it was as good as any that you could buy, so I rather bravely went into our local craft shop and asked if they would be interested in selling it. I almost wish I hadn’t bothered, once again the real world intervened and I discovered that I need a registered kitchen, a qualification in Food Hygiene and Public Liability Insurance before they will take the product.

Now I understand that the food must be properly prepared and that no-one should be at risk from eating it, but the cost and effort involved, for what will be about 10 jars of vinegar makes it a non-starter. No wonder things are more expensive than the cost of making them yourselves.

The shop owner told me that these rules don’t apply if you give it away or sell it for charity, which leads me to wonder if the whole thing isn’t just a money making exercise.

So I will just make the stuff and give it to friends and family, to be honest the idea was not to make money, just to share what I like with others.

On to the serious stuff now, followers of my blog will know of my passion for potato peelings, well here is my version of Homity Pie: a Devon delicacy usually made with potato cubes, garlic, onion, cheese and herbs, in a pastry case.

Mine involves caramelising shallots and garlic in oil and brown sugar

Then add your blanched potato peelings and brown

Finally, mix in with the grated cheese in a casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs

Spray with Olive Oil and cook in a 180 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the top is crisp and the cheese is bubbling, Serve with salad.

I have an ice-cream maker, brought in a rush of enthusiasm when I was a rich metropolitan type, having said that I do prefer home made to most of the commercial offerings.

Well I picked some mixed berries and made a compote

Whilst that was cooling I made the ice-cream, not the egg custard type, this is just double cream, milk and caster sugar. The machine takes about an hour to work its magic, and this is what you get

The next step is to ripple your cooled compote into the tub

Then put it back into the freezer until you are ready to serve.

I have never seen so many Blackberries as this year; they are everywhere I go, out with the dog, in my garden or even just walking to get a paper. Some seem to be nearly ripe now, whilst some are just in flower, and others not even that far on. So I think it will be a long season, I have plans for Wine, jam, compote and Balsamic Glaze.

Now that I have become detached from the urban rush I feel more in tune with the seasons, and can see the natural progression of the year, it all makes sense whereas before it was a bit of a mystery. I haven’t quite got rid of my impatient ways yet and can’t wait for nature to hurry up sometimes, I want the fruit to be ripe now, but I think I’m improving.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Computer update, I’m typing this on my old laptop, waiting for parts for the main machine, and hoping I can salvage some of my old files, I’ve found some but suspect many old photos are gone. I know I said last time that they are only files and on one level they are, but I MISS them. Or maybe I just miss the concept of them, after all the memories are still there; I don’t need any physical manifestation to re-live them.

We went up to Kent last Friday, I had a medical at work and #2 daughter was free for lunch, anyway I left Yvonne at Bluewater (Shopping Mall) with Naomi and went to the Doctor. On my return I found them for lunch.

I was surprised after a year in the country just how busy the mall seemed, and how noisy, and how I found that I hated it. And Yvonne thought the same, after a year in the country it seemed so alien with everyone rushing around. When we lived 20 miles from it, it was a place to go on a rainy day; it’s lost its appeal now, I had trouble coping with it all, and found myself longing for open fields. Everyone was dressed and acting in roughly the same way, and seemed too busy to be enjoying themselves.

It was so nice to get home, take the dogs out and potter in the garden, my early strawberries have finished fruiting and are putting out runners. I read that the plants should be moved every three years so I’m catching new plants in pots of compost, once they have good roots I’ll cut the runners and pot them on. Next year I’m growing them in troughs and baskets, it’s easier for pest control and will free up space for other things.

We have a huge Comfrey plant in the front garden; if you chop it all down it grows back in a matter of weeks. The leaves are great added to the compost bin, and you can also make a superb plant food. You need a large container with a lid and a tap, some chicken wire and a heavy weight.

Scrunch the chicken wire up into a ball and place it in the container covering the base. (place it so that the leaves do not block the tap) Cut the leaves off the plant, roughly chop them and place on top of the chicken wire. Put the heavy weight on top and put the lid on, now ignore it for about 6 weeks.

If you turn the tap on after 6 weeks you will get a thick brown, rather evil smelling liquid. Dilute this 15:1 and water your fruit and veg with it. It has more nutrients than some fertilizer that you can buy.

You will find that you get more than you can use, it makes a great gift for gardening friends that don’t have the comfrey plant. And by the time you have the first batch made, the plant has grown back and you can start again.

I've made the Pea Pod wine as well, 4 lb of pea and broad bean pods from the garden, it's good that I managed to use the pods, because I think I got more pods than peas and beans in the end.

Here they are boiling away, with added orange and lemon rind, it's fermenting in the airing cupboard and should be ready for Yule,it's a pity that you have to wait so long. Hopefully by next year I will be drinking this years. Next to come will be Blackberry, one of my favourite fruits.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Computers Broken

Oh Dear, I tried to get online when I came back from a walk on Haytor last Tuesday, only to find that the computer had turned itself off. It wouldn't start normally and I found that the Hard Drive was locked.
Never mind, I thought, I have all my stuff backed up on a second hard drive in the PC so all I need to do is get a new drive and reload everything. Well I don't know quite what has happened, but that drive is fried as well. As I have all the stuff plugged in on surge protectors I'm a bit mystified. Also one of the two CD drives in the PC has gone down as well.
I do have some disc backups but they are scattered around the place and after all how many copies can you make without being paranoid? I guess the answer is one more than you have assumed is enough. Its taking me a while to get organised. I still don't really know what I have lost forever.
Anyhow the reason for this post is to tell my followers that normal service should be resumed shortly, both here and at Down to Earth.

To cheer myself up I went for a walk with the dogs, fortunately 10 minutes away from home I saw this,

and this

How can you be miserable with views like that, and how important are a few files, everything can be replaced.

Monday, 4 July 2011

One Chicken

This didn't start out as a frugal challenge, but rather seems to have turned into one on the way. And the thing is, I've enjoyed seeing where it could end up.

Any how I brought a chicken last Friday, Local of course and weighing in at 1.25Kg. The plan was to roast it with home-grown potatoes and veg for Sunday, and have cold chicken with salad on Monday.

There was so much meat on this bird that it was clear that there would still be left overs and then there was the carcass to make stock with, that’s when the idea of seeing just how many meals we could get out of one chicken came up. And just so that you know, we do eat proper portions!

So we had roast chicken, with potatoes, peas, broad beans and spinach from the garden – 2 meals,

I picked all the meat off the carcass and put it in the slow cooker overnight with carrots and onions.

Next morning I let it cool and picked out the bones (Dead easy, they had all gone to the bottom) and liquidized the remainder, it made two jars of soup base – 4 meals

Some of the meat went into tonight’s meal, cous-cous with harissa paste, apricots, raisins, chicken and chopped Chorizo. Served with ciabatta and tomatoes. - 6 meals

The rest of the meat went into the freezer, there's still enough for a curry - 8 meals, and to put in egg fried rice with some veg – 10 meals.

Not bad for one Chicken.