Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas turkey and ham pie

We managed to get a bit of the turkey used up in this pie. You could use leftover veg if you were making it on Boxing Day, but its also a good way to use up what's in the fridge.

Soften an onion in butter for about 7 minutes then add sliced leeks and carrots. Cook for a few minutes. Add 200ml stock and 200ml cream (use less cream/more stock if you need a few less calories). Let the sauce thicken.

Add diced turkey and ham, then place mixture in dish. Top with puff pastry. Glaze the pastry with beaten egg then bake at 200C for 20 minutes or so until golden.

Enjoy!



Sunday, 23 December 2012

Rum and whiskey truffles

Another warning - these are delicious. They are seriously easy to make and I am planning to give them as Christmas presents. Well, some of them anyway.

Bring 150mls of double cream to the boil. Pour the cream over 200g of broken up chocolate. I used milk chocolate (about 35% cocoa) for the rum truffles and slightly darker chocolate for the whiskey truffles. You could use really dark chocolate - whatever you like!

Stir the cream and chocolate until the chocolate has melted then add 5tsps of your favourite tipple. I added Morgan's rum to the first batch and Glenfiddich to the second.

Leave to set at room temperature. Then, shape into bite size pieces using a teaspoon or melon baller. I found the whiskey truffle mixture to be quite soft and couldn't shape it by hand.

Dip or roll the truffles in e.g cocoa powder, icing sugar, chopped nuts or similar, then place in the fridge to set. The truffles should keep for a week in the fridge but I don't think that will be an issue.

Enjoy!





Saturday, 1 December 2012

Brendan's coffee and walnut cake

I'm going to start this post with a warning.

This cake is delicious and addictive!

The first attempt to make a coffee cake was a total disaster. So I turned to the master...the lovely Brendan from The Great British Bakeoff.

I followed the recipe with no ad libbing and it turned out brilliantly. The only changes I made were to use a different tin size and a simple coffee buttercream.  Visit Brendan's website.

Cream together 175g butter with 175g sugar. Beat in three eggs. Add 175g self raising flour plus 1tsp baking powder.

Dissolve 3tsps coffee granules in 1. tbsp boiling water and add. Finally, add 65g chopped walnuts.

Bake until done at 180c. It took about 35 minutes using my tin.

To make the buttercream, use a ratio of half butter to icing sugar. Eg for 100g butter use 200g icing sugar. Add 3tsps coffee granules dissolved in 1tbsp boiling water to the buttercream.

Cover the cake with buttercream and decorate with walnuts.

Apparently the cake will keep for several days in a tin. Mine didn't last that long!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Duck tales #2

A (not) very sad farewell was said to four fawn runner drakes today.

Of the six duck eggs hatched in the incubator, only two were ducks. Could have been worse...

It was impossible to tell the boys and girls apart until they began to moult. The drakes then developed the give-away curly feather on their tails.  They were much bigger than the ducks and developed beautiful plumage.

The other way to tell them apart is by their quacking, or lack of. Drakes make a characteristic rasping noise and ducks quack. Loudly!

Anyway, the boys are off to their new life on a pond with lots of other ducks. And I am looking forward to making duck egg sponge cake in the spring.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Egg shortage!

Winter is definitely approaching - the hens have gone on strike!

In fact, I have had to buy eggs. Really not impressed.

The ladies are moulting and so are putting their energies into fabulous new feathers rather than eggs. Also, egg production is linked to daylight and since the flock is free range and not under artificial lighting, they will have a wee rest until about February.  Read more here.

Buying eggs proved a bit tricky! Clearly they had to be free range, from hens with access to outside rather than barn eggs. Despite the changes to enriched cages for battery hens, they are definitely off limits. Yes, they may be cheap, but at what cost?  Read DARD guidelines on hen welfare here.

The other downside of not having eggs from my own hens is the colour of the yolks. My traditional and ex batts, which have the run of the orchard, produce eggs with bright yellow yolks. This in turn produces lovely yellow sponge cake...

Roll on the spring...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Chocolate cake for Arlene

This is a first go to perfect a chocolate cake. My friend Arlene is hunting for a recipe so thought I would give it a go. Of course if I was any sort of decent friend I would have taken her some to try.... But it didn't last long enough!

I will just have to make another one.

This recipe is from Cake Icing and Decorating, another from the St Michael cookery library circa 1978.

Cream 100g of butter with 100g sugar until pale and fluffy (as always I did a bit extra due to my addiction to the mixture).

Beat in 2 eggs, a little at a time. Then, sift in 100g self raising flour and 4tsps cocoa powder.

Fold on the flour then place mixture in cake tin, which is lined and/or greased appropriately.

Bake at 160c for about 20 minutes or until cooked. Turn out into a cooling rack.

The cake didn't rise as much as I thought it might but my cake tin might have been a bit big.

To decorate I used buttercream icing.

Cream 100g butter then add 200g sifted icing sugar. Beat together but if not coming together add 1tsp milk. If you need to add more milk then do it 1tsp at a time.

Spread over the cake. Lick the bowl so as not to waste any!

Enjoy.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Cranberry and clementine chutney

Much as I try to avoid anything Christmassy until at least the 1st December, this needed to be made so it has time to mature.

While most chutney turns a shade of brown, this is a lovely red colour. I'm looking forward to my turkey sandwiches already!

The recipe is based on one from November 2012's Good Housekeeping magazine. I only ad libbed a little....

To a large pan add:
650g chopped apples (I didn't bother to peel them)
6 clementine oranges (peeled and roughly chopped)
2 large onions (peeled and chopped)
200g sultanas
700g cranberries
15 peppercorns (approximately!)
500mls red wine vinegar
500g light brown soft sugar
1tsp chilli flakes

Bring to the boil, stirring, and then simmer for about 45 minutes until fairly thick.

Stir in 300g cranberries and cook for another 5 minutes until they have softened.

Put into sterilised jars and open at Christmas.

Give extra jars as Christmas pressies.

Enjoy!









Friday, 2 November 2012

Choccy Halloween buns

The correct title for this post should be badly decorated Halloween buns but not to worry. They taste good!

Cream 100g sugar with 100g butter. Beat in two eggs. Sift in 100g self raising flour and 3 tablespoons coco powder.

Bake in individual bun cases for 15 minutes or so at 180c.

Decorate and enjoy!

The pumpkin turned out better so there is a pic of him guarding the back door too :-)





Friday, 26 October 2012

Baby biscuits #1

Miss Maisie loves food and hasn't refused anything yet! Now that she is on three meals a day the next problem was suitable snacks. I don't want to give her sugar or salty snacks with any additives.

So, I came across this easy peasy biscuit recipe here and made them for the first time this morning.

They are a huge success! They take less time than getting packed up to go to the shops to buy sugar loaded baby rusks so give them a go. I'll try them again and experiment with flavours.

Heat oven to 180c and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Wizz a couple of handfuls of oats in a food processor. Mash a banana.

Add oats to the banana to make a thickish paste then shape on the baking tray.

Bake for 15 minutes or so. The longer you bake them the harder they get.

Cool and enjoy.

Seriously, that's it!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Sweet peas (at last)...but no strawberries

Its been a pretty rubbish summer and the sweet pea refused point blank to flower. However thanks to a few days of warm weather at the end of September there are approximately 15 blooms. Hurrah!

They're now in a vase in the living room and smell fabulous.

The strawberries are worse. Masses of flowers and zero fruit. The plants aren't even putting out runners to get new plants for next year.

Its as well we're not trying to be self sufficient!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Irish marrow chutney

This is my favourite! It's won prizes at Saintfield Show and it is great on a bacon sandwich. However it varies year on year as inevitably I don't have some of the ingredients.

This year I used courgettes from my chum's garden, as well as apples from the orchard. And I pretty much followed the recipe as I remembered to buy all the other ingredients!

The recipe is adapted from Home Preserves by Jackie Burrow (St Michael Cookery Library 1979).

3lb marrow (or courgettes or both), chopped
3lb apples, peeled and chopped
8oz onions, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
4oz sultanas
4oz raisins
4oz dried apricots
1 tbsp ground ginger
2oz ground almonds
4 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp ground chilli powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
11/2 pints malt vinegar
4lb sugar
5 tbsp whiskey

Hint: if you are putting in a glug of your hubby's Glenfiddich, make sure he's not watching!

Put everything into a large pan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 2 hours until thickened. Stir occasionally.

Spoon into sterilised jars while hot and seal.

Let the chutney mature for a few months before enjoying.




Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Earl and Lady Grey Tea cake

There's something about warm fruit loaf with butter.... And this is my current favourite.

It's adapted from Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Great Britain".

I have made it with both Earl Grey and Lady Grey tea.

Ingredients:
Earl or Lady Grey tea
400g dried fruit
1 large egg, beaten
300g caster sugar
400g self-raising flour
1tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Make the tea with 300ml boiling water and add to the fruit. Leave to steep overnight.

In the morning, add all the other ingredients and mix. It will be very dry but don't worry.

Spoon mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Let it cool for as long as you can then enjoy buttered with a cup of tea.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Its raining its pouring...more duck tales

After seriously heavy rain, the ducks are the only happy things on the farm. They are growing fast and have most of their feathers.

While the hens are looking a bit bedraggled, the ducks are overwhelmed with excitement at the puddles.

I still have no idea how many ducks and drakes there are, but I'm hopeful there's at least one duck.

The beech tree was a casualty of the high winds. At least there will be plenty of firewood given that we seem to have missed autumn and gone straight to winter.



Monday, 24 September 2012

Green tomato chutney

One of the main reasons I like to make chutney is that I hoard jam jars for the occasion and so need to use them up.

The main thing I hate about making chutney is that you start with a large pan of lovely veg and end up with just a few jars full...

Anyway, there were green tomatoes left in the greenhouse so it was green tomato chutney time.

The chutney bible in this house is "Home Preserves" from the St Michael cookery library circa 1979. It's full of marmalades, pickles, preserves and chutneys of every description.

I have adapted the green tomato chutney recipe as follows:
4lbs green tomatoes, chopped
1lb apples, peeled and chopped
1lb onions, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8oz sultanas
1 tablespoon pickling spice
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon chilli
1 pint vinegar
1lb sugar

Place tomatoes, apples, onions, garlic, and sultanas into a very large pan. Add the spices. Add half the vinegar and bring to the boil, then simmer for about an hour until the mixture is thick.

Dissolve the sugar in the remaining vinegar and add to the chutney.

Simmer, stirring frequently, until the chutney is thick (up to 1 1/2 hours).

Put chutney while hot into sterile jars and seal with lids or airtight covers.

Makes about 51/2lbs.

Enjoy.





Friday, 21 September 2012

I'm going to eat you little fishy fish pie

I finally made it to the local market on Thursday to get some fresh fish to make fish pie.

There was plenty to choose from and ended up with smoked fish and white fish (wish I could remember what type! I know it wasn't cod) and salmon.

Anyway, it got made into an exceedingly good fish pie and when I go back next Thursday for more I will just ask for the same again. One of the benefits of shopping locally!

Here is what I did. By the way, there are no quantities stated because it depends on how much fish you start with. I managed to make three pies us two mini ones for Miss Maisie.

Boil some peeled potatoes.

Put smoked and white fish into a saucepan, plus some salmon and/or prawns if you like. Cover with milk and simmer for a few minutes until the fish is just cooked and flakes. Drain and reserve the milk.

Sauté some onion and leek in butter until soft and mix with the flaked fish. Add some frozen peas.

Make a white sauce using the fish flavoured milk (whisk milk, butter and flour over a low heat). Add extra milk to make up the quantity.

Pour the white sauce over the fish and vegetables, then top with mashed potato. Sprinkle some cheese on top.

Bake in the oven until the sauce is bubbling and potato is golden.

Enjoy.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

My meringue showstoppery thing

I managed to save the meringue long enough this time.

The results took about three minutes to eat!

My next meringue challenge is a pavlova for the in-laws wedding anniversary.... Better start practising.


Saturday, 15 September 2012

Anyone for eggs?

One of the better results of rehoming the dozen or so roosters is that egg laying had picked up. I think the girls are getting peace to lay.

There are a number of breeds free ranging on the farm, which lay eggs in varying shapes and sizes.

The Anconas lay white eggs; the New Hampshire Red eggs are tinted. Five ex battery hens lay brown and tinted eggs; there are even some Arucauna crossbred ladies whose eggs are green.

Size wise, the Japanese Bantams lay the smallest tinted eggs, while the large Arucauna crossbred has been known to lay double yolkers. Ouch.

The other main difference between my flock's eggs and those from the shops is the colour of the yolks. They are bright yellow! This, in turn, makes for lovely golden sponges and tasty scrambled eggs.

Let me know if you would like some.



Meringues

In true Great British Bake Off style I was going to do a meringue showstopper.

However, it would appear that the Blacksmith has, in fact, eaten most of the meringues.

The (short) conversation went like this:

Me: Would you like some meringue for pudding?
Blacksmith: No thank you.
Me: Why? What's wrong? (the Blacksmith *never* turns down pudding)
Blacksmith: Do you promise not to hit the roof?
Me: That's not a good start to a conversation
Blacksmith: Promise?
Me: Hmmmm
Blacksmith: I have a confession to make
Me: Hmmmm
Blacksmith: Those meringues you made were the best ever
Me: You've eaten them! I was going to make a showstopper!
Blacksmith: But they were lovely. Oh, and I've had half the cream as well.....

So, pictures of a towering meringue resplendent with cream and raspberries will have to wait.

In the meantime, to make meringues:

You need 2oz of sugar per egg white.

Whisk egg whites until they are stiff. Check by tipping the bowl upside down. If they stay in the bowl, they are ok. If not, then clean up the mess and start again!

Add sugar one tablespoon at a time and whisk well. Keep going until all the sugar has been added and you have a bowl of white glossy meringue.

Use a piping bag to pipe out the meringues. Place in warm oven (about 130C) for about an hour then turn the oven off and leave overnight. Don't open the oven.

The meringues should be crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Enjoy!

Ps there will be a better pic at some point of a meringue show stopper








Saturday, 8 September 2012

We have a winner!

I've always wondered who wins competitions in magazines. It turns out its me!

Yes, I have won two tickets for the North of England Horticultural Society Harrogate Flower Shows after entering a Garden News online competition. Hurrah!

It's on 14 - 16 September at the Great Yorkshire Showground. While i would love to go and get some inspiration for the garden, unfortunately Miss Maisie and I won't be able to go.

It seems a waste not to use the tickets. So, if you fancy going, let me know!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Duck Tales #1

Summer has finally arrived in Co Down and the six runner duck ducklings have been enjoying the sunshine.

They are about six weeks old and will likely be fawn in colour.

Runner ducks are characterised by their long bodies and upright stance, and the ducklings spend quite a lot of time lying down at the moment as they aren't too balanced yet.

According to the Poultry Club, the Runners are good layers.  However I only ever seem to hatch drakes so fingers crossed.  Duck eggs are particularly good in sponge cake....

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Fruit soda bread....warm with butter

I had some buttermilk about to go out of date and so this was the easiest thing to make late last night.

The recipe is adapted from the Avoca Cafe Cookbook. However a lot of the recipes in it make large quantities so I halved the ingredients.

Mix 225g (8oz) plain flour, 12g(1/2oz) sugar, 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and 12g (1/2oz) sultanas (I used mixed dried fruit).

Add 200ml buttermilk slowly and mix to form a dough.

Form into a round, place on a non stick baking tray, flatten a bit and cut into quarters.

Bake at 200c until cooked - about 30 minutes depending on your oven. The bread should sound hollow when you tap it on the base.

Let it cool a bit then eat! Preferably warm with butter.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Rhythm and rhymes!

Great excitement this morning - rhythm and rhymes has started again in the library!

Miss Maisie has been a member of the library since she was 10 weeks old and enjoys a good old singalong on a Monday morning.

What I have discovered in the past six months is that once you have a baby you end up reciting and singing any number of nursery rhymes endlessly. Google has proved invaluable more than once to make sure I have all the words correct. And, of course, we make up our own, including the getting into pyjamas song, the eating carrots and broccoli song...

Anyway, the library in Ballynahinch is just fabulous - bright, modern and friendly, and a great place to hang out and do some singing and nursery rhymes with lots of other little people.

Definitely worth checking out.

Miss Maisie ready for some singing

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Marbled cupcakes

If you are feeling inspired by The Great British Bake Off, these are really easy to make and look a bit different. They are also good to give as a birthday present to your father-in-law.

Cream 110g (4.5oz) butter with same quantity of sugar. Do a wee bit extra as creamed butter and sugar is yum!

Beat in 2 eggs, a little at a time.

Fold in 110g (4.5oz) self raising flour using a metal spoon. Add a spoonful of milk if mixture a bit stiff. It needs to drop off the spoon.

Divide mixture in two. Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to half and a drop of vanilla essence to the other.

Spoon mixture into bun cases in 12 hole bun tin. Do one teaspoon at a time, alternating the mixture.

Don't mix them!

Bake for 15 or 20 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Make some buttercream icing with 75g (3oz) butter and 175g (7oz) icing sugar. Spoon icing onto buns. If you are trying to impress even more, then pipe the icing in a fancy swirl.

Admire.

Eat and enjoy!
Think I need to invest in a cake stand....but they don't last long enough....

Saturday, 25 August 2012

International hen dealing

We've gone international with the poultry dispersing!

The advert in DoneDeal.ie resulted in several sensible enquiries and last night, the roosters left for their new life in Co Cavan.

About a dozen boys of various shapes and sizes were loaded up and away they went.

Hopefully the feed bill will drop significantly.

And now we just have to wait and see if the two chicks and six ducklings are boys or girls...

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Random conversations with hen owners

I have a bit of an obsession with my hens, showing eggs in particular (but that's another story).

There are a variety of shapes and sizes free ranging on the farm. However despite best efforts to increase the laying flock, I do nothing but hatch roosters. Whether in the incubator or from a clocking banty....the majority will be crowing loud and clear...

So, what to do? I'm not one for wringing necks. All my animals generally live a long and happy life. I usually advertise the roosters in a local free ad paper. But disaster! It's stopped trading!

I shall miss the randomness of the enquiries. For example, if an advert states "roosters, free to collect" the conversation might go something like this:

Me: (phone rings). Hello?
Caller: Hello there dear. I was phoning about your advert.
Me: Oh yes. The roosters.
Caller: Have you any hens?
Me: No, just roosters.
Caller: Oh. Well what I was looking for was hens.
Me: Sorry, just roosters.
Caller: You see I've got (insert breed) hens and would like some more.
Me: Sorry, I've just got roosters.
Caller: You've no hens available?
Me: No.
Caller: So what kind of hens have you?
Me: I've got (names current breeds on farm and has 10 minute conversation on the various types).
Caller: But you've no hens available.
Me: No.
Caller: Have you any hatching eggs?
Me: No.
Caller: Oh. Sure I'll keep your number and maybe you will have hens later in the year.
Me: Ok, but its unlikely. I've just got roosters available.
Caller: Bye dear.
Me: Bye

PS I currently have an ad on DoneDeals.ie. Dissapointingly sensible enquiries so far.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Crucknamara Cottage - a 200 year old cottage in Donegal - heaven!

We have just spent a few days on a family holiday in Donegal. The weather was great (ok, so it rained a bit but we were indoors so it didn't count) and the craic was great, but the best bit, by far, was staying in a 200 year old cottage.

Crucknamara Cottage is just outside Downings. It is small but perfectly formed, having been renovated to retain its fabulous character.

Driving through the surrounding countryside I was struck at how many new "cottages" have been built, which further enhances Crucknamara's uniqueness.

We entertained ourselves on the nearby beach, with a visit to Glenveagh Castle and a short tour of the Atlantic Drive.

But back to the cottage.  There are two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and roomy kitchen with all mod cons.  Wood burning stoves and an open fire were set for our arrival, with bread milk and, of course, tea, provided.  The garden is packed with wild flowers and the hedge is full of bright pink fuchsia.

I can't recommend this cottage highly enough for somewhere to stay if you fancy either some peace and quiet or a family break. We can't wait to go back.



Wednesday, 15 August 2012

So let's start with baking - Swiss Roll!

An assortment of hens keeps us supplied with eggs. It's waste not want not round here so quite a bit of baking goes on.

My current favourite is Swiss Roll, mainly because it's dead easy but looks tricky.

So, to have a go:
Whisk three eggs with 75g (3oz) sugar until nice and fluffy.
Fold in 75g (3oz) self raising flour.
Pour into lined Swiss Roll tin and bake at 200c for 10 minutes.
Turn onto sugar coated grease proof paper and cool on a wire rack covered with a damp tea towel.
When cool, fill with cream and whatever else you fancy then roll.

Enjoy.

PS if it doesn't roll call it a Swiss Tube. Or if it collapses - put in individual glasses, add fruit and cream and call it whatever you like!