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This savoury scone recipe is a must in your culinary armoury. It is so flexible and can be a simple afternoon snack, breakfast, or indulgent treat.

Cheese Scones

  • 175g  self-raising flour
  • 25g fat (butter, margarine or hard fat – it depends what you have in stock)
  • A pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard powder
  • 1oog grated really good mature cheddar (organic of course)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoon of cold milk

Put all the dry ingredients, except the grated cheese, into your mixing bowl or mixer. Combine them with the fat, or rub in with light movements using the end of your fingers. You’ll achieve a bread crumb like mixture.

At this point add the grated cheese and stir to distribute. With the mixer running, very slowly add the beaten egg and the milk. You may not need all the milk, just enough so that the mixture comes together into a ball, but not sticky.

Tip the ball out onto a floured board. Gently and lightly shape into a circle approx 3cm thick. Cut the circle into four triangles. Place on a greased baking tray and brush them with a little beaten egg.

Bake in a hot oven (220°C or gas mark 7) for 15 minutes until golden brown. Keep an eye on them after 10 minutes as you may need to turn the oven down slightly.

Remove the scones from the oven and allow too cool on a wire rack. Or just eat with as much butter as you can get on them!

Lists about lists

I’m often teased about my list making – you are either a list maker or you are not. I’m an olympic list maker and when, after a bout of micky-taking, I stop making lists I am somewhat out of sorts, i.e. general household tasks and work just don’t get completed, and sometimes not done at all.

So yesterday I was exceptionally pleased with myself after making a rather comprehensive list in the morning. I dispatched George off on his school trip and arrived in work before 9 o’clock. I had rather a busy day serving customers (OK a lot of them are friends), and still made 3 cakes, 2 batches of date scones, and a tray of flapjacks.

Once home from work, Billy and I completed his maths homework. I hoovered and dusted whilst nodding in agreement (maths has really changed since I was at middle school). I made casualty chicken curry (long story involving a fox) and rhubarb crumble for supper. Nic, our neighbour, who’d called in the shop earlier complaining about cash flow (which I think we are all feeling at the moment) came round with her hair dye. The outcome of our financial  discussion resulted in us both agreeing we didn’t have anything left in the household budget to have a fancy salon cut and colour.

We cut and coloured her hair, and do you know it’s not quite as hard as you might think! In fact I got quite carried away with myself and rooted out some old curling tongs I must have once thought I may use, and set too curling and styling the newly coloured hair, and with quite satisfying results. I must say at this point I’m pleased I have boys – hardly any need to brush their hair. So last night I sat down glass in hand, basking in the glorious knowledge of list plus some completed, with pen and paper to write tomorrows list!

Chocolate orange cake

At last, a busy day in the coffee shop due, I think, to the lovely change in the weather. Actual heat in the sun, and people sitting out in the shop garden. Lots of happy smiley faces! The day goes so much more quickly and I managed lots of baking too.

An excellent offering for tea at home, which always goes down well in the shop, is a chocolate orange marble cake. Really easy to make, but you simply have to use good organic oranges. The zest is fantastic with lots of orangey oil and colour in the skin.

Chocolate sponge recipe

  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 100gs butter
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoon of milk
  • ½ tsp of vanilla essence

Put all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well together.

Orange sponge recipe

  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 100g butter softened
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 organic oranges, zest and juice

Mix ingredients all together.

Chocolate butter icing

  • Chocolate
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Blend together and beat until smooth.

Orange butter icing

  • 60g butter, softened
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • zest from 1 orange

Again, blend together and beat until smooth. You can always add more icing sugar if too soft, or more liquid if too stiff.

Method

Make two sponge mixes, one orange and one quite dark chocolate.

In a well greased cake tin lined with greaseproof dollop alternate heaps of chocolate then orange mixture. Take a large metal spoon and swirl, with a cutting action, the sponge. Don’t over do it.

Bake in a moderate oven  gas mark 4 for 30 to 35 minutes. Do not over cook.

Once cool cut the sponge in half to give you two discs. Sandwich these back together with orange butter icing, not too much save the excesses for the top!

Decorate the top with 2 sorts of icing. chocolate butter cream and orange. again dollop on the icing one dollop chocolate then one orange and spread over cake in peaks not mixing them together too much. Sprinkle over some grated dark chocolate to finish.

Ice the cake, using swirly peaks of chocolate and orange icing.

Trout outside

It’s not that often that you have the good fortune to be offered a lovely freshly caught trout and gutted to boot. Well that’s just the position I was in the other night. A smashing 4lb beauty.

But what to do with it. There are lots of options and the simple ones are generally the best.

It is still April and the evenings are beginning to stretch out, and lately it has been just warm enough to eat outside on the odd occasion. So I am opting for the spiced up version and a little table just outside the door. Lots of candle add a lovely atmosphere.

Simply fillet the trout with a very sharp knife – this gives you two large meaty portions. A fish this size could feed 4 to 6 for dinner.

With the back of a knife rub off the scales on the skin side of the fish and discard. Turn the fish over and rub the flesh with a good pinch of sea salt, a teaspoon of chopped fresh chillies, a pinch of ground ginger, and a pinch of ground garam masala.

Heat a dash of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the fish skin side down for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn it over and cook the flesh side for 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t overcook.

We enjoyed ours with a huge pile of steamed white sprouting broccoli and a large dollop of mayonnaise (there are some great organic ones available if you don’t have time to make your own, you can customise them with mustard, chillies or fresh garlic).

Living by my rules

This easter holiday I have not lived by my own rules. Result, a very  tired and grumpy me.

I really like to be very well prepared, and for one major reason, it is so much easier. I like to have meals made ready in my beloved freezer, the house reasonably tidy (and for those who know me that is a semi-organised chaos, two children , a beautiful partner, and three dogs). My bitch, Treacle, is due to have puppies in the middle of this month, so some lovely puppy pics will come in due course. So like I say, tidy house is almost an impossibility, but cupboards tidied out, the washing up to date, and the freezer groaning with prepared-ahead meals is how I like to start a holiday week or fortnight.

Well I have completely failed! I have chased my tail all week, throwing meals onto the table at the last-minute. Washing piling up and the dogs looking at me rushing about and muttering to myself. There is only one way to deal with the situation – get a grip on the domestic land-slide.  In my defence, George has been unwell with a sick bug, which is very unlike him, but we have had some sleepless nights.

So “clean out the kitchen cupboards” is my battle cry. I set about the task late into the night (late for me is past 9pm). With that job completed, I felt a strange sense of order descend (some therapist would make much of this, but for me it is strangely calming).

The next day, before work, I pegged out three loads of washing on the line (What would I do if I was in my grandmothers situation and had to wash by hand? There would only be one solution, a complete breakdown and a jacket that fastened at the back).

The house now seems to breathe a sigh of relief that I am back at the helm.  A little vinegar in the fabric conditioner slot in the washing machine (no fabric conditioner needed) freshens up the washing, softening the fabric and banishing any odours. Vinegar is good for removing stains, just pour on the stain and pop in the washing machine,. Don’t let the vinegar dry out on the garment, and wash as normal. After George’s bug the vinegar has been working its magic all over the house.

I quickly throw a thick spicy soup together for supper made with lots of root vegetables and stir-fried garlic-y greens piled in on the top of each bowl. As we all sit down at the table and I watch them all tuck in, everything is at peace in my world. Oh, I nearly forgot pudding, a quick jam sponge in the microwave.

Jam Pudding

  • Jam in the bottom of the microwaveable dish. The dish need to be quite large to accommodate the sponge rising.
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g sugar
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients, except the jam, and put the mixture on top of the jam in the microwaveable dish. Cook on high for 4 minutes, and then test the sponge to see if it is cooked. You may need to put it back in for another minute. Serve with ice cream, custard, or cream.

Happy Easter.

Chocolate peppermint slice

This lovely slice is very more-ish, so make half quantities if you have no will power. It does keep well in an air-tight container, but doesn’t freeze well.

The recipe is in cups which works really well and makes it easy for the kids to make. They will need help getting the hot tin out of the oven though.

Base

  • 1½ cups of self-raising flour
  • ½ cup of coconut
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 125g melted butter

Filling

  • 30g hard vegetable fat (palm fat) melted
  • 1¾ cups icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint essence

Topping

  • 125g dark chocolate, chopped (I use milk chocolate if making this for a kids tea party)
  • 30g butter

First, lightly grease a 20cm x 30cm  lamington pan and line with greaseproof paper.

For the base, combine the flour, coconut and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and stir until combined. Spread the mixture over the base of the pan, pressing the mixture down really firmly. Then bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes.

For the filling, melt the vegetable fat and stir in the sifted icing sugar, milk, and essence. Spread gently over the base whilst still hot, and then leave to cool.

For the topping, melt the butter and chocolate over a low heat until smooth. Spread over the peppermint mixture and refrigerate until set.

It really is just like “The Waltons” on Waltons’ mountain at our house at the moment. We have two German WWOOFs staying with us, to help with the lambing and general farming activities (you can read more on Lee’s blog at G & S Organics.

Feeding times are big burly occasions, and keeping everybody well fed is almost a full-time occupation.

These super fast tomato breads are great to fill them all up at breakfast, and go so well with a home-produced cooked breakfast of bacon, sausage, and eggs. Scrambled eggs are an equally good accompaniment, and would produce a fine supper dish with some steamed greens.

Tomato Breads

To make these combine:

  • 1 dessert spoon of tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 organic egg, beaten
  • 200g organic self-raising flour
  • A little milk

Beat all the ingredients together to make a thick paste, adding the milk slowly until you get to the right consistency. In a hot frying pan (here I use a little of the saved pork fat), fry big dollops of the paste.

This mixture make 4 to 5 breakfast sized breads. Fry them for a few minutes on each side, making sure they are coloured on the outside and cooked all the way through. They can be stored in the fridge to be used the next day if you have any left over, but they are best eaten hot and served straight away.

Perserved chillies

With chillies it is either a feast or a famine. When growing your own they all seem to grow at once and you have loads, then the season is over and you have none.

To overcome this, preserving them is the only way. Many people dry them but I prefer to keep them in vinegar.

Very simply chop the chillies, seeds as well, discard the tops into the compost bin, and fill small jars. Then top up with hot (boiled and starting to cool) vinegar. I like to use a good organic white balsamic, then I can use the chilli vinegar in dressing later.

Lid and store the jars in a cool and dark place, like the pantry or cupboard in the garage.

Breakfast Bar

Parsnip Cake

It is always a rush in the morning, getting the kids ready for school and sorting out the days work.

This recipe is great if the morning is just too rushed and there’s nothing left in the cupboard to make a decent breakfast, and it also goes well in packed lunches or picnics.

The cake  has no taste of parsnip, just a sweet and moist texture. So if there are some in the family who don’t like the vegetable, just keep it to yourself. 

Alternatively, you could use carrots, beetroot, or a mixture of the three if you prefer.

Oaty Parsnip Cake

  • 200g butter, warmed (you can substitute with half vegetable oil, half fat)
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup, warmed
  • 1 tbsp molasses, warmed
  • 100g runny honey, warmed
  • 175g rolled oats
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g peeled and grated raw parsnips
  • 100g chopped dates or apricots
  • 1 tsp ginger (optional)
  • ½tsp mixed spice

Put the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix everything together really well.

Pour into a large loaf tin and bake in a moderate oven (gas mark 4) for 25 to 30  minutes.

This cake needs a day to mature, but stores well in an air-tight container, or frozen.

Preserving

This time of year allows me to unleash one of my favourite pastimes – “collecting” (or hoarding as Lee likes to call it).  Mostly  jars, storage bottles, and the like.

With the lighter nights and a little sunshine you can really get to thinking about all the preserving you can be up to in just a few weeks.

Most things can be preserved in some way or other. Jamming, pickling, and bottling are great ways to keep fruit and vegetables for later use. I love to stock the shelves with varying different bottles of colourful preserves. Excellent for presents, but also lovely for that sense of nesting that I get about springtime.

Keep all sorts of jars, big and small, because the small ones look the best as gifts, and the large one are most useful at home. Don’t forget to keep small bottles for liquid to make cordials, like elderflower, later in the season. At this point I can confess the need to keep small pieces of fabric or wrapping paper too, to cover the tops of the jars once filled and lidded. The elastic bands from the post man also come in useful here. Now I feel I may have divulged too much!

Rhubarb is well on the way in the kitchen garden and I hope very much for a glut, to bottle some of the sweet young shoots to eat in the dark mid-winter, to remind me of the early spring.

This Banana chutney recipe is unusual, but lovely with strong cheese and cold meats. My friend Diana gave me the original recipe and this is a store cupboard version. This recipe makes lots, which stores well. Refrigerate once open.

 Banana Chutney

  • 700g peeled and chopped bananas. The over-ripe ones are perfect for this
  • 250g chopped plums, or peeled and chopped apples. Again soft or older fruit will do very well
  • 250g finely chopped oranges including peel, but no pips
  • 500g sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 500ml organic wine vinegar

With all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan, bring to the boil and simmer covered for at least an hour, until the orange peel is soft and the liquid is golden and syrupy.

Pour into warm sterilized jars, and cover.