This is an attempt to document my efforts to grow and eat locally around Melbourne, Derbyshire. My family own a nine acre smallholding on which we grow fruit and vegetables and keep bees, and chickens, but that won't feed us alone, so the idea is to get to know our local produce and to see how easy/hard it is to follow a diet that is local to within 30 miles. The fun part is also trying some new (easy) recipes that use home-grown and local produce. Feel free to comment, send in recipes, and share your experiences of buying and eating locally.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Local Christmas dinner

We are lucky to have no end of local suppliers for our Xmas lunch. I read in the paper that Selfridges sell the Packington chickens that are sold in Chantry Farm shop. We didn,t raise turkeys this year but had one in the freezer from last year. It was a bit of a risk but it appeared just as fresh! The veg were from Heaths - red cabbage, sprouts, carrots, parsnips, onions and accompanied by Chantry pigs in blankets. I have tried unsuccessfully to grow cranberries ( They don't fruit for me) but red currant jelly is just as good.
Xmas pudding is a decidedly international affair as most of the fruits are imported. I wonder if it would be possible to make a local one - a challenge for a future year, perhaps when the fruits from the forest garden are matured.
Boxing Day is even more enjoyable, with all the cooking done we can feast on leftovers.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Pumpkin and Raisin Tea Loaf

This loaf comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in Saturday's Guardian.  I though it was worth a go as there is a lot of pumpkin around at the moment.  I didn't have a lemon so substituted orange as pumpkin and orange is a classic combination.

Grated pumpkin or squash works just as well as carrot in a cake, making for a sweet, moist result. This delicious loaf is also made without any oil or butter. Makes 12 generous slices.
200g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs, separated
200g finely grated raw squash flesh
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
100g raisins
100g ground almonds
200g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Generous grating of fresh nutmeg
Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3 and line a 10cm x 20cm loaf tin with baking parchment. Use an electric whisk to beat the sugar and egg yolks for two to three minutes, until pale and creamy. Lightly stir in the pumpkin, lemon zest and juice, raisins and almonds. Combine the flour, salt and spices, sift these in, then fold them in. Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Beat a heaped tablespoonful of egg white into the batter to loosen it, then fold in the rest as gently as you can.
Tip into the prepared tin and level the top. Bake for about an hour, until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, than transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Bread using the River Cottage Bread Handbook method. This is 50 per cent wholemeal. It looks quite authentic, I hope it tastes it!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Toffee Apples

For Halloween party this week. So much better made with local apples. This recipe is so easy too. I did have the help of a sugar thermometer though, which is a worthwhile investment if you make jam or sweets.

Makes: 15 toffee apples

  • 15 apples
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 350g golden syrup
  • 350ml water
  • lollipop sticks

Lightly grease a few baking trays. Insert lollipop sticks into the whole, stemmed apples.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Chicken tractor

Here's a picture of my lovely new Chicken Tractor. People have said to me that chickens can't drive tractors, but they are missing the point! Chicken tractors allow the birds to do the work of cultivators by eating the weeds and manuring as they go. I had this one especially made to my design and it can be moved by one person and it's designed to fit over a four foot vegetable bed. So far it's doing a great job and when the chickens have cleared one area I move it onto the next bit. Soon to be available to order I hope.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The finished beeswax candle

Looks like an orange but smells like honey!

The Melbourne Area Transition Apple Press

Here's the MAT Apple Press in action at the Real Food Fair at St Peter's church hall on Saturday 20 Oct.

Apple cake - a simple seasonal favourite

This is the easiest cake to make at this time of year. You just mix all the ingredients together and bake. If you want you can add raisins or even chocolate chips. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like it!

12 oz SR Flour

Pinch of salt

6oz margarine

6oz soft brown sugar (light or dark)

2 eggs

14oz chopped apple


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Rub marg into flour.

Add sugar, apple, salt and eggs

Mix well and add a little milk if too stiff.

Put into greased cake tin.

Bake one and a quarter hours until a skewer comes out clean.


We got a little honey this year which was good as it's been a terrible year for bees due to the cold, wet weather. We did have an excess of wax so I'm going to have a go at making candles. I boiled up the wax combs with tap water from the water butt for half an hour and then waited until cool. The wax floats to the top and the rubbish and water stays at the bottom. I then strained through kitchen paper in a warm electric oven. The instructions came from the Reigate beekeepers website. Just looking at honey extractors now.


This is a Delia recipe. The majority of the ingredients sadly are not local but the apples are my own Bramleys. This is so easy to make.  I doubled the recipe to make the two kilner jars shown above, but it's no harder to make double the quantity than to make a single quantity. 

 Makes 3 lb (1.35 kg)

You will also need 3 x 1lb (350ml) preserving jars and 3 waxed discs.

This recipe is adapted from Delia Smith’s Christmas.


All you do is combine all the ingredients, except for the brandy, in a large mixing bowl, stirring them and mixing them together very thoroughly indeed. Then cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave the mixture in a cool place overnight or for 12 hours, so the flavours have a chance to mingle and develop. After that pre-heat the oven to gas mark ¼, 225°F (120°C). Cover the bowl loosely with foil and place it in the oven for 3 hours, then remove the bowl from the oven. Don't worry about the appearance of the mincemeat, which will look positively swimming in fat. This is how it should look. As it cools, stir it from time to time; the fat will coagulate and, instead of it being in tiny shreds, it will encase all the other ingredients.

When the mincemeat is quite cold, stir well again, adding the brandy. Pack in jars that have been sterilised (see below). When filled, cover with waxed discs and seal. The mincemeat will keep for ages in a cool, dark cupboard but I think it is best eaten within a year of making.

NOTE: To sterilise jars, wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse well, then dry thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop into a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350F, 180C, for 5 minutes.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Apple harvest

Not many this year - the trees are still young and the weather has been terrible for fruit. But still they taste good and a basket is off to the Real Food festival at St Peters Church Hall tomorrow to be pressed into juice.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Pumpkin and sweetcorn chowder

This was enjoyed by all.  The recipe is a basic pumpkin soup (liquidised) and then with sweetcorn and fried onions and roasted pumpkin added.   All the ingredients were homegrown apart from the soya sauce, stock cube and fish sauce used to season.  It was definitely a hearty meal and really seasonal.  

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Borlotti Bean and Squash Mole

I found this recipe online after picking the three main ingredients in the garden this afternoon - a happy coincidence. The addition of the chocolate made a really rich sauce which, mixed with chilli, was delicious.

~1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) fresh borlotti beans
~1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) winter squash
olive oil
4 - 5 big leaves of kale (3 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 - 4 red jalapeno chiles, halved, seeded, and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound of fresh plum tomatoes, chopped or 14-ounce can
2 teaspoons paprika
1 ounce of almonds, dark roasted and finely ground
2 ounces dark 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas mark 4. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add the borlotti beans and cook for about 10-15 minute until they are just cooked or even slightly undercooked. Drain and cool under cold running water, and set aside.
Cut the squash flesh into good-sized chunks, about 2 cm or 3/4-inch squares, place them in a roasting pan and toss with olive oil. Roast them in the oven for about 20 minutes until caramelized on the outside but still firm. Reduce the oven temperature to 130C/ 250F / Gas mark 1/2. (hs note: alternately, you can brown the squash in a skillet.)
Without removing the central stem, cut the kale across the leaf into 2cm / 3/4-inch slices. Melt the butter into an oven-proof casserole dish (pot) and fry the onion and chilies gently over a low to medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until caramelized. Add the garlic and fry for three minutes more. Add the tomatoes and paprika, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the ground almonds, chocolate, squash, borlotti beans, kale, and a teaspoon of salt. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven to cook gently for 2 hours.
Serves 4.
These borlotti beans were really easy to grow and were grown as part of a "three sisters" planting - sweetcorn, squash and borlotti beans growing up the sweetcorn.  Borlotti beans work really well for this type of planting because you don't pick them as you go along - you just wait until they are all ready and pick the lot in one go, so you can pick them once the sweetcorn are finished and don't risk damaging the sweetcorn plants whilst they are in full flow.  The yields weren't enormous but all I did to plant them was to stick the beans in the ground in around May, so they were very easy.  (well in fact my nine-year-old planted them).   Apart from anything they are incredibly beautiful so worth it just for that.  The seeds I used were Franchi seeds, bought from Swarkestone nurseries.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A local toastie

Apparently toasties are making a comeback - but if you are going make one then it should be a free range local ham and artisan cheese, like this one from the East Midlands Food Fair.

Roast lamb lunch

This was bought today at the East Midlands Food Fair at Melton Mowbray today, served with a delicious salsa. Unfortunately it was a bit greasy and so I went in search of a strong liqueur to act as a digestif.

Duck breast - pan fried

This duck was bought at the East Midlands Food Fair and was just really simply seasoned and pan-fried.  It was delicious.

Ruby chard at its best

This is so beautiful at the moment and I'm using loads of it.  It should last for months though as a cut and come again.  The seeds were sown in the greenhouse around April and planted out in June.

Duck in Apple and Port sauce

Duck bought at the East Midlands Food Fair today.  I roasted the legs after flash frying them.  Added apple and port to the roasting pan to make a lovely sauce.   To be truly local I could have used Elderberry Wine which tastes very much like port.  The breasts I pan-friend separately.  It was a real luxury but worth it when you get access to such exceptional local produce.

Buttered Cabbage Parcels

Thank you Jo for this lovely recipe.  The cabage was cut into quarters and then smothered in butter, thyme and salt and pepper and wrapped in baking parchment and then foil and put in the oven for about an hour.  The flavour was exceptional.  I love ways of cooking veg to make use of the fact that I have the oven on, and can just bung in the veg and go off and do something else whilst it all cooks. 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Purple cauliflower!

You might think this is purple sprouting broccoli but it's purple cauliflower from Heath's at Woodhouses - won in the raffle in a veg box at Melbourne Festival. Served with bacon, courgette and cheese quiche.

The Enormous Turnip

Not much has grown well in the veg garden this year due to the weather, but this turnip that my son planted is massive! Perhaps someone should write a story about it...

Crab Apples

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Carrot and Herb Muffins

225g Wholemeal Self Raising Flour
pinch of salt (optional)
1 tsp Baking Powder
50g Butter softened
115g Cheddar Cheese (any other cheese would be fine) and bit extra for the tops
1 Carrot grated (I used 2 to up the carrot-y-ness)
1 Onion grated
small bunch of chopped chives (any herb would do)
1 egg beaten (think i used Medium)
115ml Milk

Sift Flour, salt, baking powder in a bowl (gave them a chuzz in the processor) rub in butter ( whacked butter in and pulsed processor) add grated cheese, carrot, onion and chives.
stir in beaten egg and milk pop mixture in cup cake cases or muffin cases or just butter your bun trays. i got 18 out of this amount.  sprinkle on a  bit more cheese and bake for 15 mins (or until golden) at 200C or 400F gas mark 6.  cool on  a wire rack (they are nice still warm though)  good with butter in and make good pick nic food.
From 'The New Vegetarian' by Heather Thomas - a Vegetarian Society book.
Quite a quick recipe.

Monday, 17 September 2012


Instead of going out to buy Hummus from your supermarket, use what is around you, in your garden or grown locally, all you need to do is cook and blend and you have your very own dippy creation!

Enjoy all of these dips with vegetable dippers, breadsticks, homemade breadsticks, on toast, with tortilla chips, or in pitta bread. Try blending any veg up and use tahini or peanut butter instead of dairy products, or potatoes can also be used effectively to lighten the flavour of the vegetable and add creamyness.   

Happy Cooking
Jo Medhurst
BBC Radio Leicester Food Friday Contributor   

Ruby Beetroot Dip

This dip is a lovely way to use up a few beetroot now it's beetroot harvest time.  I used lovage a herb which compliments the beetroot really well, a nice surprise as I just used it because we have a lot growing in our garden.  Use whatever herb is handy at the time for all of these dips and surprise yourself with new flavours!

5 Beetroot, topped, tailed and boiled until soft
5 tablespoons creme friache
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Black pepper to taste
A few sprigs of lovage or parsley

Cut the beetroot into quarters and blend it with the creme, tahini and olive oil  until really smooth.  Add the  seasoning and lovage or parsley, blend again, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Creamy Cauliflower Dip  

If you think cauliflower is boring try this! All that is added is potato, fresh oregano, salt and pepper and lemon juice.  You can use a different herb but again this was in my back garden.  Try it with tarragon or rosemary.

1 cauliflower 
2 large potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
a few sprigs of oregano (take the leaves off the stalks)
salt and black pepper
Juice of half a lemon

Steam the cauliflower until soft, peel the potatoes, cut into four and boil until soft, drain the potatoes and mash them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Blend the cauliflower and oregano until smooth, add to the potato and mix well, add the salt and pepper and lemon juice, mix well.

Carrot Cream Cheese Dip

This is a lovely bright orange colour and the sweetness of the carrots really makes it yummy, so simple to make.
6 large carrots
1 small tub cream cheese
salt and black pepper
A handful of chopped herbs (I used chives Hyssop and dill)
Juice of half an orange

Peel and chop the carrots and boil until soft. Blend the carrots in a food processor until smooth, add the cream cheese, salt, pepper, chopped herbs and orange juice.

Courgette and Tomato Dip

This dip is a classic combination of courgettes and tomatoes, both brimming at this time of year. Cottage cheese is a nice light alternative to cream cheese or creme fraiche.

4 Courgettes
4 cloves garlic
4 Beef tomatoes or 8 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small tub cottage cheese
2 stems rosemary

Cut the ends off the courgettes and slice them fairly thinly, put them onto a baking tray with 4 cloves garlic unpealed, the tomatoes chopped fairly small, 1 tablespoon olive oil.   Roast in a hot oven for 20 minutes and cool. Blend with 1 small tub cottage cheese, 300g or thereabouts, remove the leaves from the rosemary, chop finely and blend with the mixture.  Blend again with the rest of the olive oil and salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Tomatoes are like sweets

When you pick them and eat them straight off the vine they are just like sweets.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Blackcurrant and Mint Jam

Blackcurrant, Redcurrant and Mint Jam

Summer ....catch it while you can!

There is a mixture of Blackcurrants and Redcurrants in this jam, and some mint because it seemed like a good idea at the time....and it works well.

The fruit is from St Brides Farm, very kindly given to me by Sarah, Thanks Sarah, jam tasting and a loaf of spelt bread on its way to you.

 The recipe is a standard jam recipe, see Sarah's blackcurrant jam and add a little mint and the juice of one lemon.
Sugar sugar in the pan 
It's on a roll!

Summer ready to be jarred

All safe now for winter yummyness!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Crab apples

I thought these crab apples looked so beautiful with the sun shining on them today. I'm looking forward to making crab apple jelly with them.

Jam tarts

Made by two talented eleven year old boys - my son and his friend. I didn't interfere and they just got on with it, taking the recipe from a kids recipe book. With home-made raspberry and redcurrant jam.

Monday, 23 July 2012

French onion soup

This is a really easy soup which can be made at any time of the year.  Today it was made because of the poor state of this year's onions from the garden - they are just too wet and won't keep so we will be forced to find recipes to cook and keep them so they don't go off.

This recipe is from the Cranks Recipe Book, which I have had for about 25 years, but it's an old favourite.  It's been cooked so often that the book has fallen apart at that page.

2 large onions
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 pints veg stock (900ml)
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp yeast extract (marmite)
Salt and pepper
Croutons and cheddar cheese to serve

Finely slice the onions.  Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the onions until golden brown.  Add the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Serve with wholemeal croutons and grated cheese.

Serves 4

Fresh artichokes

Artichokes are so easy to grow - these were grown from seed, and if you do that they will flower in the second year. They need a sheltered but sunny spot and not too much attention apart from weeding/mulching. As they are perennial they will come back year after year with little or no maintenance - the perfect vegetable.
To cook, just boil for 20 minutes, then pour vinaigrette over them. Pull off the outer leaves and bite off the fleshy bit with your teeth. When you get down to the middle discard the "choke" (the hairy bit) as this will do you no good, and then eat the heart dipped in vinaigrette.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Morrocan vol au vent

Thank you to Katherine for this lovely recipe.  I am very tempted to try it was a dip or a pitta filling as suggested, as I love aubergines.  Sadly this year they haven't grown at all in my greenhouse due to the bad weather - I wonder if there will be any local aubergines at all?

Roast a whole aubergine, in hot oven for about 30 mins to an hour – has to be really soft inside when done.  skin it and mix up the pulp with splash of lemon, crushed garlic clove, level teaspoon of cumin, about 100g of bulghar wheat (put in

container pour on boiling water seal and leave for 15 mins) check it’s cooked, add some chopped chilli (to taste) pepper, chopped coriander and mint, could add chopped sultanas / apricots.   Fill some puff pastry vol au vents (roll puff pastry cut out circles and then mark a smaller circle a bit so when they puff up you can remove the centre circle.  Put the circles on a oiled baking sheet at high temp about 220C for about 15 mins

variations could use couscous, or brown rice to add to aubergine mixture. Could be just a dip or in pitta with salad.

Stilton and pear puffs

Thank you to Katherine for this lovely recipe.  Stilton is of course a local cheese - eg Long Clawson stilton - from Rutland.

Roll out some puff pastry and cut out circles in buttered/ oiled bun tray. Mix up chopped pear and chopped stilton and a chopped tomato. Put teaspoon in each and then mix one egg with a splash of milk, add a little of this mixture in each one, they will be like puffy mini quiche tartlets.  Bake in 220F oven for about 15 to 20 mins. They really puff up.

Beetroot and apple feta parcels

Katherine made these for the summer fruit evening, as nibbles, but they would be equally good as a starter in their own right with salad.  Sorry forgot to photograph.

Beetroot and apple feta parcels

Mix 1 grated raw beetroot and 1 grated apple with some feta chopped into small cubes add a handful of walnuts chopped up a bit.  Add a dash of lemon juice, olive oil, maybe a bit of balsamic.  Get some filo and wrap up little spoonfuls in the filo, could be spring roll style or samosa shapes – bake at about 180C for 20 mins on a oiled baking sheet. Oil the tops of them a bit before they go in the oven to make them a bit crunchy.

Could try lots of variations on this theme, parsnip, red cabbage, pears, celery. Or forget the filo and baking and just have as a salad/ or in pitta bread.

Raspberry Frangipane Tart

Thanks to Katherine for this delicious recipe.  The tart is beautiful and I thought the raspberries looked like love hearts, so it would be a great one to make for your true love (although not on Valentine's Day as raspberries wouldn't be in season!)

 from ‘ The New Vegetarian’ by Heather Thomas

Frangipan filling

115g/ 4oz Butter

115g/ 4 oz Caster Sugar ( I used Demerara though)

2 eggs

115g / 4 oz ground almonds

15g / ½  oz plain flour

About 220 g of raspberries (but could be a pear or strawberries cherries any summer fruit)


200g / 7 oz plain flour

Pinch of salt (I didn’t bother with this)

100g/ 3 ½ oz butter cut into dice

1 table spoon vanilla sugar (just used some Demerara )

1 large egg yolk

Cold water / for mixing.

Make the pastry – sift flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter. Add the sugar and then bind with the egg yolk and a little cold water if necessary.  Chill for ½ an hour (that’s the pastry!).  Roll out and line a well buttered 25cm, 10inch tart tin. You can chill while you make the filling.

Cream the butter and sugar together beat in the eggs, beat in the ground almonds. Spread over the pastry and then pop in the raspberries in a nice pattern

Bake for 15 mins at 200C 400F gas mark 6 then turn down heat to 170C 325F Gas mark 3 for another 15 or until frangipan is firm and golden. (I think I just turned it down to 180C though. I dusted with icing sugar but you could do like a honey or an apricot glaze. Looks impressive but is quite simple to make.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Carrot and Coriander Soup

This soup always goes down well and can be made at any time of the year.  I made it with the new delicious spring carrots from Blackwell Produce in Melbourne that had been picked the same morning and were still being washed when I turned up to buy them!  I just scrubbed the carrots and didn't even bother to peel them, to get the extra flavour and goodness from the new skins. This level of freshness gave a really intense flavour to the soup. 

2 lb (900 g) carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (or ground coriander is OK)
1 oz (25 g) butter
1 small clove garlic, crushed
2 pints (1.2 litres) chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander, plus 6 small sprigs, to garnish
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
salt and freshly ground black pepper

This recipe first appeared in The Delia Collection: Soup.


Begin by dry-roasting the coriander seeds in a small frying pan over a medium heat, stirring and tossing them around for 1-2 minutes, or until they begin to look toasted and start to jump in the pan. Now tip them into a pestle and mortar and crush them coarsely.
Next, heat the butter in a large saucepan, then add the chopped carrots, garlic and three-quarters of the crushed coriander seeds. Stir the carrots in the buttery juices and crushed seeds, then cover the pan and let the vegetables cook over a gentle heat until they are beginning to soften – about 10 minutes. Next, add the stock and season with salt and pepper and bring everything up to the boil.
Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes, partially covered, or until all the vegetables are tender. Leave the soup to cool a little, then you can liquidise the whole lot in batches (a large bowl to put each batch in is helpful here). After that, return the purée to the pan and stir in the chopped fresh coriander and 2 tablespoons of the crème fraîche. Re-heat the soup, then taste to check the seasoning and serve in warmed bowls and garnish each one with a swirl of crème fraîche, a sprinkling of the remaining toasted coriander seeds and a sprig of fresh coriander.

Pea, lettuce and mint soup

This is a great way to use lettuces that have gone to seed.  I got the peas (fresh ready to be shelled) from Blackwell Produce in Melbourne, and the lettuce and mint were from my garden.

(serves 4)

50g butter
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 baby gem lettuces, core removed and shredded
500g frozen garden peas
750ml good quality vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
150ml creme fraiche
a small bunch of mint, chopped fine

In a heavy based saucepan melt the butter over medium heat togther with the olive oil.

Sautee the onion until soft and translucent stirring regularly. You want to sautee them slowly, as they are not supposed to go crispy and brown.

Add the shredded lettuce and saute for a couple of minutes before adding the peas.

Continue to cook for 5 minutes or so.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Remove from the heat and liquidise with a stick blender or by carefully puring it into a liquidiser.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Return to the heat and warm through.

Remove from the heat before finally stirring in the creme fraiche.

Sprinkle with mint and serve with your favourite crusty bread.

Gooseberry ice-cream

Thank you to Helen for making this delicious ice-cream for our summer fruit evening.  I think this is definitely one for people who think they don't like gooseberries!

To serve 6-8
Place 1 kilo of gooseberries in a saucepan with a dribble of water to get them started and 125g caster sugar.  Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 - 15 minutes, until the gooseberries are completely soft and mostly broken.  Rub the mixture through a sieve into a bowl.
Measure 500ml double cream and combine half of it with 250ml whole milk.  Scald this mixture in a pan until almost boiling.  Mix 4 egg yolks with 125g caster sugar, then pour in the hot milk and cream, whisking all the time.  Return this custard to the pan and stir constantly over a very gentle heat until it starts to thicken.  Remove from the heat and keep stirring as it cools and thickens further. 
Combine the custard with the sievved gooseberry puree, mixing thoroughly.  Lightly whip the remaining double cream and fold it in.  You've pretty much made a rich gooseberry fool and you could chill it and serve it as such at this point - or press on and make your ice-cream. Taste the mixture and add more sugar if you think it needs it.  An ice-cream mixture before freezing should always taste a little too sweet, as sweetness is muted in the freezing process.
Now either pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn until frozen or freeze churn the old-fashioned way, by putting the mixing basin in the freezer and removing it every hour or so to whisk up and emulsify the half-frozen mixture.
Pack into tubs and freeze.  Leave at room temperature for a good half an hour before serving.  Serve with shortbread or other sweet biscuits.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Summer Pudding

This is an absolute must each year and a real indication that the summer fruit is here.  I normally just wing it with the mix of fruit and sugar, depending on what I have and how sweet the fruit is, but here is a Nigel Slater recipe, which is really comprehensive.

850g mixed raspberries and currants, with an emphasis on raspberries
7-8 slices firm, good quality white bread
3 tbsps white sugar
3 tbsps water
cream to serve
Sort through the fruit, tenderly, picking out any that are unripe or mouldy. There's nearly always a few. Pull the currants from their stems then put them, with the raspberries, in a stainless-steel saucepan over a low heat. Taste the fruit for sweetness and add sugar accordingly. For normal, sweet raspberries and slightly tart currants, I add 3 tablespoons or so of sugar. Sometimes you may need slightly less or more. Use your own judgment, bearing in mind that the finished pudding should have a bit of sharpness to it. Pour in a little water, a couple of tablespoons will do, then bring it to the boil.
The currants will start to burst and give out their juice. They need no longer than three or four minutes at a cautious simmer. The fruit should be shiny and there should be much magenta juice in the pan. Turn off the heat.
Slice the bread thickly. Each slice should be about as thick as your little finger. (Thinner if you are making several smaller puddings in individual moulds.) Cut the crusts off the bread. Set one piece aside, then cut the rest into 'soldiers', that is, each slice of bread into three long fingers. Using a glass or cup as a template, cut a disc of bread from the reserved slice and push it into the bottom of the pudding basin.
Line the inside of the basin with the strips of bread, pushing them together snugly so that no fruit can escape, and keeping a few strips for the top. Fill the bread-lined basin with the fruit and its juice - it should come almost to the rim. Lay the remaining bread on top of the fruit, tearing and patching where necessary, so no fruit is showing.
Put the basin in a shallow dish or bowl to catch any juice, then lay a flat plate or small tray on top with a heavy weight to squash the fruit down. Some juice may escape, but most will soak into the bread. Leave overnight in the fridge. (You may have to remove a shelf depending on how deep your fridge shelves are.)
Remove the weights, slide a palette knife around the edge, pushing carefully down between bread and basin so as not to tear the bread. Put a plate on top, and then, holding the plate in place, turn quickly upside down and shake firmly to dislodge the pud. It should slide out and sit proud. Pass a jug of cream around - it is an essential part of the pudding. Serves 6-8.

One-crust gooseberry pie

This is a Delia recipe that Jo and I made for the summer fruit evening. 

For the filling
1½ lb (700 g) prepared gooseberries
3 oz (75 g) caster sugar
2 rounded tablespoons semolina
1 small egg yolk
For the glaze
1 small egg white
6 sugar cubes, crushed
For the shortcrust pastry:
6 oz (175 g) plain flour
1½ oz (40 g) lard, at room temperature
1½ oz (40 g) butter or margarine, at room temperature

You will also need a solid baking sheet, lightly greased.
This recipe is taken from Delia's Summer Collection.


Make up the pastry by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl, then rubbing the fats into it lightly with your fingertips, lifting everything up and letting it fall back into the bowl to give it a good airing.
When the mixture reaches the crumb stage, sprinkle in enough cold water to bring it together to a smooth dough that leaves the bowl absolutely clean, with no crumbs left. Give it a little light knead to bring it fully together, then place the pastry in a polythene bag in the fridge for 30 minutes. After that, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C). Then roll the pastry out on a flat surface to a round of approximately 14 inches (35 cm) – as you roll, give it quarter turns so that it ends up as round as you can make it (don't worry, though, about ragged edges: they're fine).
Now carefully roll the pastry round the rolling pin and transfer it to the centre of the lightly greased baking sheet.To prevent the pastry getting soggy from any excess juice, paint the base with egg yolk (you'll need to cover approximately a 10 inch (25.5 cm) circle in the centre), then sprinkle the semolina lightly over this. The semolina is there to absorb the juices and the egg provides a waterproof coating. Now simply pile the gooseberries in the centre of the pastry, sprinkling them with sugar as you go. Then all you do is turn in the edges of the pastry: if any breaks, just patch it back on again – it's all meant to be ragged and interesting.
Brush the pastry surface all round with the egg white, then crush the sugar cubes with a rolling pin and sprinkle over the pastry (the idea of using crushed cubes is to get a less uniform look than with granulated). Now pop the pie on to the highest shelf of the oven and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm with chilled crème fraîche or ice cream.

Breton shortcake

This is not a shortcake at all, but a really rich cake to make using the egg yolks left over from making meringues.  It's delicious.

225g Self-Raising flour
110g golden castor sugar
110g icing sugar sifted
225g lightly salted butter diced/grated
5 medium egg yolks
3/4tsp vanilla essence
Jam 125g

Oven 190 degrees.

Place flour sugars and butter in food processor and whizz until breadcrumbs.

Blend egg yolks and vanilla and add and whizz to soft sticky dough

Put half of dough in cake tin (lined).

Add jam

Add other half of dough.

Cook 40 - 45 mins

Chocolate version:

Additional 2 tbsp self-raising flour

Add 125g dark chocolate (melted) with egg.

Blackcurrant ripple

This recipe was in this week's Observer food monthly, courtesy of Nigel Slater, so I thought I'd give it a go for the summer fruit evening as it looked so easy.  I suppose you could do a raspberry or strawberry version too.

An easy ice cream terrine requiring no ice cream machine.

Serves 6

For the fruit
blackcurrants 250g
sugar 2 tbsp
water 2 tbsp

For the ice cream
eggs 3
caster sugar 80g
vanilla extract a few drops
double cream 300ml

Line a loaf tin approximately 22cm x 12cm with cling film.

Remove the blackcurrants from their stalks, drop into a small saucepan and add the sugar and water. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and continue cooking until the fruit has started to burst and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool.

Separate the eggs, put the yolks in the bowl of a food mixer with the sugar and whisk till thick and creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Whisk cream till thick but not stiff. It should still be able to slide a little in the bowl.  Whist the egg whites and fold into cream.   Fold the cream gently into the egg and sugar. Transfer to the tin.

Lightly crush blackcurrants with a fork then, holding back the juice, spoon the currants into the tin and gently swirl them through the mixture. Take care not to overmix. Fold film over the top and freeze for a good 6 hours before turning out and slicing

Individual meringues

Try "freestyling" with your meringues by adding extras, eg pureed summer fruit.

  • 4 large organic egg whites , at room temperature
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 115g icing sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to fan 100C/ conventional 110C/gas 14. Line 2 baking sheets with Bake-O-Glide non-stick liner or parchment paper (meringue can stick on greaseproof paper and foil).
  2. Tip the egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl (not plastic). Beat them on medium speed with an electric hand whisk until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks when the blades are lifted.
  3. Now turn the speed up and start to add the caster sugar, a dessertspoonful at a time. Continue beating for 3-4 seconds between each addition. It's important to add the sugar slowly at this stage as it helps prevent the meringue from weeping later. However, don't over-beat. When ready, the mixture should be thick and glossy.
  4. Sift a third of the icing sugar over the mixture, then gently fold it in with a big metal spoon or rubber spatula. Continue to sift and fold in the icing sugar a third at a time. Again, don't over-mix. The mixture should now look smooth and billowy, almost like a snow drift.
  5. Scoop up a heaped dessertspoonful of the mixture. Using another dessertspoon, ease it on to the baking sheet to make an oval shape (pic 3). Or just drop them in rough rounds, if you prefer. Bake for 1 1⁄2-1 3⁄4 hours in a fan oven, 1 1⁄4 hours in a conventional or gas oven, until the meringues sound crisp when tapped underneath and are a pale coffee colour. Leave to cool on the trays or a cooling rack. (The meringues will now keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for a month.) Serve two meringues sandwiched together with a generous dollop of softly whipped double cream.

Rhubarb Kulfi

Serves 6
250ml evaporated milk
250ml condensed milk
250ml double cream
4 cardamom pods, crushed slightly
1.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
150g roasted rhubarb, strained

Pour the evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream into a pan and whist together until well combined: add the cardamom pods and ginger.  Bring to a bare simmer over a low heat and stir for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool and infuse for at least 2 hours.  Strain the mixture into a bowl: discard the ginger and cardamom.
Blitz the rhubarb in a food processor or with a stick blender, or pass it through a fine-meshed plastic sieve, to make a very fine pulp.  Whisk the rhubarb into the infused cream until very well combined and ladle into dariole mould or ramekin dishes.  Frezze for at least 4 hours or overnight.
To make the kulfi easier to unmould, briefly dip each mould into a bowl of very hot water before turning out into a bowl.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Strawberries from Scaddows

It was chucking down with rain when I went to Scaddows Farm Shop so Pick Your Own was out of the question, but I did buy some of their already picked strawberries to make smoothies with the cycle generator at Melbourne Carnival.

Heaths farm shop

I love this poster in Heath's.

First cucumber in the greenhouse

Cucumbers are so easy to grow and produce masses of cucumbers for almost no work, apart from daily watering and a weekly feed with a bit of home-made comfrey liquid feed. I always find that almost every seed germinates so they are also really cheap to grow, and home grown cucumbers are so much sweeter then the watery shop-bought ones.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Half a pig

I bought half a pig from Diana's Kitchen on Melbourne Common this week.  In fact it wasn't half a pig as Bob let's you choose exactly what you want, eg more loin, more sausages, joints of just the right size, and then applies a really generous discount because you are buying in bulk (over £100).  It took up a couple of drawers in the freezer, but this will last us months and is a really good way of buying really top quality pork.  It's also good to remember that small-scale livestock farmers can't stagger their supply as easily as the big intensive suppliers, so have a number of pigs ready around the same time - one sow can have a surprising amount of piglets in the same litter!  So the best way to support them and to get a bargain is to buy in bulk and put it in the freezer. Bob also does loads of other things, eg free range eggs and outdoor reared Dexter Beef.

Liver and onions

I bought this Dexter Beef liver from Diana's Kitchen on Melbourne Common. I was a bit hesitant but it was super fresh and really cheap so how could I resist? The beef is outdoor raised about 5 minutes from my house. It was absolutely delicious and so tender. I served it with potatoes sliced and oven cooked with tomatoes.

  • 2 pounds sliced beef liver
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, or as needed
  • 1/4 cup butter, divided
  • 2 large onions, sliced into rings
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Gently rinse liver slices under cold water, and place in a medium bowl. Pour in enough milk to cover. Let stand while preparing onions. (I like to soak up to an hour or two - whatever you have time for.) This step is SO important in taking the bitter taste of the liver out.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Separate onion rings, and saute them in butter until soft. Remove onions, and melt remaining butter in the skillet. Season the flour with salt and pepper, and put it in a shallow dish or on a plate. Drain milk from liver, and coat slices in the flour mixture.
  3. When the butter has melted, turn the heat up to medium-high, and place the coated liver slices in the pan. Cook until nice and brown on the bottom. Turn, and cook on the other side until browned. Add onions, and reduce heat to medium. Cook a bit longer to taste. Our family prefers the liver to just barely retain a pinkness on the inside when you cut to check.

Blackcurrant and Rhubarb jam

Blackcurrant jam can sometimes have too strong a taste and has too many bits, but this Combination gets over both issues by giving a smoother taste and fewer pips!

(Makes 4-5 jars, 455g - 1 lb) - (Type of Set: high)Like apples, rhubarb makes a good cheap ingredient to allow you to bulk out small batches of berries.
But unlike apples it is low in pectin, so always combine with fruit which is high.

  1. Blackcurrants: 1kg / 2 lbs weight stripped from stalks.
  2. Rhubarb: 1kg / 2 lbs weight cut into 12mm / ½" lengths
  3. Sugar granulated white: 2kg / 4½ lbs
  4. Water 1 litre / ½ pint


Prepare jars. Wash then dry on clean paper towels. Place currants in pan with 600ml / 1 pint of water, cook until soft. Cook rhubarb in 300ml / ½ of water, boil for only one minutes. Combine fruits together. Add sugar then follow the apricot jam instructions, boil to setting point and pot

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Fruit Leathers

Blackberry & apple leather

This recipe comes from Pam Corbin, aka Pam The Jam, the author of River Cottage Handbook No 2: Preserves.  They are so more-ish - I'm going to have to hide them to stop then being polished off by the children.  Jo and I had fun rolling them up into fun shapes.  We made apple and blackcurrant and apple and raspberry.  Fresh from the garden.

Her fruit leathers are addictively simple to make – once you've made one, you'll soon be experimenting (apricots, plums and peaches all make good leathers). Cut off strips to add a healthy, fruity punch to lunchboxes and picnics. Makes two sheets.
500g blackberries
500g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
150g honey
A little groundnut oil, for greasing

Preheat the oven to very low – 60C/gas mark ⅛ is good, though the lowest setting you can manage is fine. Put the blackberries, apples and lemon juice in a pan, cook gently, partially covered at first, until soft and pulpy, about 20 minutes. Rub through a sieve or mouli into a bowl – you should have about 700g smooth purée. Mix in the honey.
Divide between two baking sheets lined with oiled baking parchment or foil, spreading out the purée thickly with a spatula until the sheets are covered with a smooth, even layer about 5mm deep. Bake for 10-12 hours, until it is completely dry and peels off easily. Roll up in greaseproof paper or clingfilm, store in an airtight container in a cool place and use within four months; or freeze it, well sealed, for up to a year.

This is what the leather looks like when it's peeled off the tray.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Fresh fruit smoothies

This strawberry and black currant smoothie was made by my son with strawberries, blackcurrants, a banana, a cup of apple juice and yogurt.

Ingenious apple peeler!

Wow, Jo brought this round today- it peels, cores and slices the apple into one long ring - magic! I want one!!!