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.


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


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


  • 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.


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.

Homemade Chocolates

Homemade presents always go down very well and with Lee’s birthday on Friday a box of homemade chocolates is the perfect gift.

You have probably already guessed that we are confirmed foodies and we may well have a sweet tooth, but nothing can beat a box bulging with homemade truffles, chocolate coated candied peel, and peppermint creams.

I have two very willing helpers at hand (Billy and George) and another in the wings. The “other” is a lovely German girl we have staying with us at the moment. Sarah is here to primarily help on the farm planting strawberries, rasps, and help with the lambing (due to start any minute).

Living in means you can opt into all the other family activities if you like. With Lee’s big birthday at the end of the week the children and I have converted the house kitchen into a chocolate factory, and Sarah is just as keen to get cooking.

These homemade sweet are really easy to make with the kids, they do however lose interest when you get to the clearing up stage. Unless it means licking out the bowls!

Peppermint Creams

  • 225g sifted organic icing sugar
  • 1 large organic egg white, beaten until frothy but not stiff
  • 4 to 5 drops of peppermint oil
  • 150g dark organic chocolate

Combine the sugar, peppermint oil, and egg white into a smooth paste. You can add a few drops of green colouring at this stage (which appeals to the kids) if you like green peppermints.

Dust a surface with icing sugar and knead the paste until really smooth. Divide the paste into about 30 balls, flatten these with the back of a fork. Place the peppermints onto grease proof paper and allow to dry for a few hours before dipping half way into melted chocolate (melt the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl very slowly in the microwave, being extra careful not to burn it!).

Place back on the greaseproof and leave to set, before storing in an air tight container away from children!

Old chocolate or cheese boxes recovered in brown or pretty paper make lovely presentation boxes for your home-made gifts.

Very Easy Chocolate Truffles

  • 150g dark organic chocolate
  • 150g organic double cream
  • 2 tablespoons of brandy or rum
  • 1 tablespoon organic cocoa powder

Break the chocolate up into pieces. In a small sauce pan bring the cream to simmering point. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate pieces and rum or brandy. Stir until you have a smooth mixture. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool, before covering with cling film and putting in the fridge overnight.

The next day take the mixture out of the fridge and roll into little  balls.

We normally roll some of the chocolates in the cocoa powder, some in chopped nuts, and dip some in melted chocolate, before arranging them all in the decorated boxes.

You can store in the fridge for about ten days.