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.


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.


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.


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