Saturday 29 September 2012

Its that time of the year part 2

The final part of making our mincemeat and the cake turned out well.

Once the mincemeat came out of the oven, it was gently turned every now and then to reincorporate the suet.

When nearly cold, it had brandy stirred into it before being put into two sterilized jars. There was a little leftover that we will use to 'stuff' two cooking apples.

DB decided he wanted to make our cake this year and here are a few photographs of it being made.

After it was cooked and cooled, a little brandy was poured onto its upturned bottom. 

An hour later, it had its top fed before being wrapped in cling film and put in a tin. In a few weeks time, it will have its sides done before being wrapped in foil and cling film for another month. A final brandy feed will be given before it is finished off with marzipan and possibly some icing (something I am not too keen on).

Friday 28 September 2012

It's that time of year...

Herzlich willkommen auf meiner neuen reader FrauSeidonhase. I hope that is correct, although I used to speak very basic German when I lived there, I got this from an online translator!

After tea last night DB and I went off into the kitchen to begin preparing things for steeping overnight ready to finish off tomorrow.

The first thing was mincemeat. I use Delia's recipe (only 1/2 now there are just the two of us). I don't stick strictly to it and can be found replacing or adding things depending what we have in the cupboards.  Her recipe can be found here: Delia's home made easy mincemeat

For example, I only had one pot of cherries which was not enough for the mincemeat and cake. I measured out enough for the mincemeat and the cake part had stem ginger added to it. We don't like citrus peel so extra zest was put in plus some remains of dessicated coconut. If I don't have nuts then pumpkin and sunflower seeds will go in etc.

Every year they taste slightly different but so far, touch wood, we have not had any disasters! Here it is, stirred and ready to sit overnight.

We also had to soak the dry ingredients for the cake. We rarely make a true Christmas cake but this year fancied one rather than her last minute version which we usually make and is yummy. 

Again, a few things had to be added to make up the quantity. Her original recipe can be found here: Delia's Classic Christmas Cake

She says to soak all the dried fruit in the 3 tablespoons of brandy overnight. Never enough we have found so an additional 2 tablespoons of strawberry liquor (a gift) also went in. Sometimes I might add orange and/or lemon juice.

Come tomorrow, the mincemeat will go in a very low oven for an hour to melt all the suet so it covers everything in a fine glaze to stop it fermenting in the jars. (take note: her original mincemeat recipe says to warm for 3 hours. We no longer do this otherwise everything turns to a sticky mush and is difficult to get in the jars.)

Whilst that is in, we will make the cake and unlike Dan, I don't have enough of anything else to cook with it. Anyway I will be using our small top oven and once the cake is in, not much else will fit in with it. I will post the finished photographs later. Finally, here are the last few of my rather poor tomato harvest, ripening on my kitchen windowsill.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Baking and making

The recent snap of cooler weather has seen me, like Dan, in the kitchen making things. It not only keeps me warm but is usually very productive.

We found a small container at the back of the freezer and after opening and sniffing, decided it contained quite old loganberries.

They were thawed, put in the bottom of a dish with some sugar and topped with sponge. The slightly pink tone happened when I added the thawed loganberry juice to the sponge!

I forgot to take an 'after' photograph, but it was very nice over two days with evaporated milk, then custard. It came out a mucky brown colour due to the addition of berry juice but the flavour was unaffected.

Piccalilli came next. I have many recipes for this but last year tried the one entitled Pam's Piccalilli courtesy of this page: Pams Piccalilli

I did amend it this year by adding slightly more honey (60g rather than 50g) and next year it will be amended again to reduce the turmeric to 7g and increase the mustard powder to get it a slightly lighter colour. Overall though, it is nice tasting and all the vegetables have a lovely crunch.

Here are the vegetables being steeped in salt overnight. I used green tomatoes, radish, carrots, green beans and pepper, courgette, cauliflower and celery.

All my other recipes call for the vegetables to be boiled in the sauce for anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes. This one doesn't. 

However, I always worry about botulism or some such thing, especially when it is being given as a gift. With that in mind, this year instead of boiling the sauce on its own for 4-5 minutes, I added the vegetables to the sauce for this length of time.

I had washed and sterilized the jars in the oven,  and managed to make 5 medium sized jars from her recipe. I just need to label them before storing for 6 weeks. After that, it will be ready to eat.

Monday 24 September 2012

Felted slippers part 2

Welcome to my new follower Pattypan 2.

I am 3/4 of the way through knitting my second pair of felted slippers.

After felting the first pair, I thought them a little hairy so sneaked into the bathroom when hubby wasn't looking (oops, he's just read my blog!) and dry shaved them. They look a lot better now.

Also, as I like to wear slippers without socks on, I was a little worried about 'smelling them out' too quickly. Even though they are very comfortable and warm as they are, I bought off the market, a pair of fleecy liners for £1. After cutting down to size and inserting them, I feel I can rest easy! I didn't cut the liners down as per their lines as they needed to be fatter than they would be to fit a shoe. In this picture, you can just about see the liner.

Some pictures follow of the second pair to give you some idea of how much they reduce when washed.

This one is after casting off 10 stitches either side.

Shaping the foot.

Sewn up.

Size difference.

These are a gift so I will send them like this so my friend can felt and fit them to their size and shape of foot. 

The instructions on how to knit them are on a post dated 2nd September 2012 or under the label entitled making. On the pattern, I forgot to mention DO NOT USE superwash wool as it will not felt.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Make do and mend part 2

I thoroughly enjoyed mending my log basket yesterday with the sun beating down on my back! The morning however, was spent indoors doing another job (converting this time) that took nearly 2 hours and was a struggle. I won in the end though the air was often many shades of blue during my battle.

As we use duvets in our house, they are just too big to fit in the washing machine and too expensive to leave at the launderette for them to wash. All our beds use the next size duvet up from their size so a single uses a double, a double a king etc. 

So every 3 years or so, despite lots of airing, they need the heave ho. Goodness knows what is breeding in there after that time.

I don't know about you but I resent paying almost as much to have them cleaned as buying new. Also the waste is a bit difficult to stomach. So what is the answer?

Convert them.

Yep, that's right, do something with them that makes them small enough to wash at home therefore getting many more years of use out of them.

My family refers to me as the princess and the pea. I can feel the stitching that holds quilt filling in place – don't get me started on some mattresses and their button covers. What mad man thought of that!

Anyhow, a new mattress topper was needed. The king size quilt was laid on the floor and the measurements for the mattress drawn out on top of it including an extra inch for tacking and cutting. You need to tack before you cut otherwise it's a bit unmanageable to sew on the machine.

Before it was cut I tacked 1/2” inside the line. OH had to cut it as we have right handed scissors and I am left handed. We did this on the ironing board to save our backs!

Four hands also help for sewing so he held the weight of cut duvet until I got enough through the machine then took up the slack to help 'pull' it through whilst I concentrated on keeping my over-locking straight. Being a winter quilt we were converting, it was like trying to wrestle an anaconda through a keyhole :0) 

The elastic that holds the cover in place on the mattress was still in good order on the old cover so was re-used on this one. 

Also, a new strap had to be fashioned to be attached to the middle for running under the mattress before being tied in place to stop the cover moving in the middle.

I'm afraid I forgot to take a photograph of the finished article but you get the idea. 

The stuffing from inside duvets can be kept for many quilting projects or cushion stuffing etc. I made an entire cot set including bumpers for our son from a single new quilt.

We have enough left over for me to eventually make a yoghurt quilt to keep it at the right temperature whilst 'brewing'. The rest is used to stop cold air from the attic dropping down whilst OH is up there doing jobs (for safety he also has a board underneath it in case you are wondering).

Draft excluder sausage dogs, place mats, feet warmers. All these and many more can be made from an old quilt but more importantly, they can now all be washed.

How's that for a bit of recycling!

Saturday 22 September 2012

Make do and mend

Does your log basket look like this along its top edge? 

Thinking of throwing it out? DON'T.

Make one of these and let's repair it!

Can't remember what this is called but hubby made me one for my basket making course. Take around 18” of coat hanger wire or slightly less diameter if you have it. Bend it in half leaving a gap at the bend of around 1/2” or so. Then seal the two ends together (he used heat shrink wrap) making sure the handle and loop lay flat on the same side. Now you are ready to rock and roll.

First of all, trim any bits of cane sticking out at the top. You don't need to worry too much about the horizontal bits, they will disappear in the weaving.

Choose some scrap fabric and tear or cut into 2”-3” strips. Push the
tool a few inches through the basket from the inside to the outside. Make sure you do this with at least 1” of reasonable willow weaving above.  Apologies for a few slightly blurred photographs.

Thread a corner of material through the loop and gently pull back to the inside of the basket.

Unhook from tool then leave a piece of fabric several inches long hanging on the outside of the basket for this first bit of weaving.

Wrap material over the top of the basket and repeat previous movement to pull it back through to the inside. Ensure material lays reasonably flat and that you hang onto the extra tab of material so you don't pull the whole thing through!

Now keep hanging onto the spare tab of material and pull tightly until your wrapped piece lays flat. Lay the tab of material on top of the basket to ensure it gradually gets covered by subsequent wrapping.

Push the tool through, grab material that should have been flipped onto the outside of the basket, pull it through again to the inside. Pull tightly to begin to cover the tab. Repeat until all the tab and the whole top of the basket is covered.

When you run out of fabric, leave a tab several inches long of the old strip on the outside of the basket, then add a new piece as previously done at the start. Now you need to ensure that both tabs are laid on top of the basket, then continue wrapping. 

When you get to the end go over the beginning then pull the final bit of material through to the inside and up through couple of the top wraps to lock into place. Trim. You can also repair the sides in a similar manner by weaving plaits or twirls of material in and out each vertical piece of willow. The bottom of our basket isn't the best either but hubby attached a round solid mouse mat to the bottom. 

Now you have once again, a functional and dare I say it, a rather lovely looking log basket that should last for quite a bit longer.

Friday 21 September 2012

An autumn book to whet your appetite...

Once Autumn gets here and I can feel the early morning and late evening chill, smell wood smoke on the air and see changes happening all around, it is time to dig out my all time favourite book.

I make a mug of tea, curl up on the sofa (metaphorically speaking as I can't curl up very well any-more) and read to my hearts content. I have done this for many years now and refuse to read this book at any other time.

It is not only well written with lovely snippets of information, but it has the most sumptuous photographs in it. Before long, I can hear the baking things rattling in the kitchen, demanding to be used. I will then decide what little treasures I will make and off I go.

So what then, is this book:

Country Harvest by Linda Burgess (the photographer) and Rosamond Richardson (the author). There are currently a few going at a reasonable price on Amazon, a few more expensive ones on Ebay. Get in there folks, you will not regret it. I paid around £16 or so for mine new, many years ago now, and these are considerably less!

It just seems to ooze Autumn off every page, you can almost hear the crunch of pine cones and sweet chestnuts under your feet. You'll swear you can smell wet leaves and wood smoke and before long, you too will be in the kitchen. 

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Making part 2

On my behalf I have also been busy, making some more marmalade – 2 x orange, 2 x orange & ginger, 2 x orange & Grand Marnier. This was followed by another litre of yoghurt.

Finally, I made some pork 'sausages'. I say sausages as I would normally roll them into sausage shapes as I don't use skins. This time though, I decided to make them burger shaped, which took less time. Each 'burger' is the equivalent of 2 sausages and we shall either have one each for a meal with potatoes and vegetables, or I'll change their shape and use them in a different way.

I managed to make 12 in 3 different flavours from 3lb of pork, belly and shoulder combined. The meat was minced then half was re-minced and it all mixed together. The flavours I choose were wholegrain mustard, honey and crispy bacon as seen below; 

followed by rosemary, lemon thyme, basil and tomato, then sage and black pepper. 

There was some left over which was formed into sausage balls, grilled and added to a tomato and vegetable base. We had half with pasta twists and the rest we will have with spaghetti and cheese.

Price wise they were not cheap, 71p per 'burger' but they are almost 100% meat as I didn't have any bread crumbs. I reckon they would have been cheaper with them as the mixture would have made more. Despite that, we know exactly what is in them and they taste lovely.

Any idea what I'll be making in the next few weeks - yep - a few lovely things for a certain time of year!

Tuesday 18 September 2012


It has been a few days of making in our house. DB had a go at Sachertorte. It wasn't too complicated to do and we used the recipe by Mary Berry which can be found here: Sachertorte

Herewith some photographs:

Something didn't quite go right with the topping as it came out a little gelatinous but set okay in the end. Mind you, it lost its shine as it dried and it had, in places, little white smudges where separation had occurred.

Other than that, it tasted great and in the future when we make it again, we'll use a slightly different topping. We kept 4 slices out and froze the other 8.

Cost wise, it worked out at 63p per slice and would probably have been around 55p a slice if cheaper ingredients had been used. We thought that very good as an original one, if you bought it whole in Austria, works out at £2.76 per slice!

Monday 17 September 2012

Introducing ...

Our second Grand Dog (M) wishes to say hello! She's a little secretive at the moment hence only her initial. Mind you, I think M sounds very grand – James Bond's Boss! 

Like her big sister, she will be trained as a gun-dog.

I think she is about 11 weeks old here and we hope to see her in a few weeks time. She currently has her sister B (on the right) staying with her. DS & FDiL say they are a right handful, running in opposite directions when trying to catch them :-)

On our walk the other day, we saw the whackiest picnic bench – imagine trying to balance your drink on this!

Also on our walk, we saw these two little Alpaca's:

Sunday 16 September 2012

A knitting tip from my mum...

When I knitted my first pair of slippers for felting, I made sure I used one ball per slipper and saved the leftover bits for the next one. I was worried that the join/knot would end up in the area I walked on and didn't want slippers with a lump in their sole. If you are using multiple bits of wool, MAKE SURE the joins are at either end of a row!!

I have just started my second pair and thought to myself “I know, I'll use each leftover bit to make a pretty top to each slipper” and off I went. Can you spot my mistake?

Yep, I had forgotten that what currently looks like the top of the slipper, will in fact be the back of the ankle and foot. Ah well, guess each one will now have a go faster stripe!

When I was quite small, maybe 6 or so, I have a very clear memory of my mum, unpicking a jumper she had presumably got from a jumble sale (what happened to those), and knitting with the black 'poodle' wool to make a new garment. I watched in fascination as she spat on one hand, then rubbed furiously to join her two ends of wool together. I asked what she was doing and she showed me. 

I have always knotted mine and not taking enough care on this slipper, realised that I would end up with a knot in the middle of a row and quickly learnt how to take the row back to the beginning.

All of a sudden, and without warning, that long lost memory appeared in my head like a non-stop video. I unravelled both ends of wool to around 2 inches. Spat on one hand - you could of course use water:) - laid both ends on top of one another in a straight line, rubbed furiously and hey presto, they felted together. You can only do this with 100% wool.

I hardly knew my mum, she died when I was small but that memory popped into my head, clear as day.

Thanks mum, and although I may not have known you very well or for very long, I still love and miss you, even after all these years. I wish I could phone you up when I have baked a cake to come and share some with me, maybe you do!

The memory we just shared together was very powerful and I know, without a shadow of doubt, that you are with me, every day, and I will see you again. xxx

Saturday 15 September 2012


Shara has asked me to print my recipe for teacakes - I'm afraid I don't know where it originates from.

4 oz dried fruit such as currants, sultana's, raisin’s, cranberries etc.
1 lb strong bread flour
1 level tsp salt
1 1/2 oz lard (shortening) or butter or margarine
2 oz sugar
1/2 pint warm but not hot milk
2 rounded tsp instant dried yeast
1 rounded tsp mixed spice

Sieve together the flour, salt and mixed spice. Rub in the lard. Add the dried yeast, sugar, dried fruit and stir well. Add the warm milk and mix well. Knead until the mixture forms a smooth elastic dough.

Put into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film or a tea towel and put to one side until doubled in size. Once ready, give the dough a thump, turn it out and lightly knead back into a smooth ball.

Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions. Prepare baking sheets using either parchment/greaseproof paper or rub lightly with fat and dust with flour.

Gently roll out each ball (don't make them too thin) to around a diameter of 3 inches then place on the tray. Do the same with the rest. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 45 - 60 minutes or so. Give the top of each bun an egg wash if you prefer.

Bake in the oven set to 220 Celsius for between 8 and 10 minutes, until golden.

If you want to make these to hold savoury items, simply miss out the fruit and sugar. However, we often eat ours with either cheese inside, or toasted on top - a nice form of cheese on toast!

Friday 14 September 2012

Adapted Potato Bread

Shara, welcome to my blog - your recipe will be printed tomorrow!

Sarina has asked for the Potato Bread recipe. You can find the link for the original Potato Bread here at The Iowa Housewife: Potato Bread

After making it per that recipe we adapted it to our taste and needs - which I hope Sue and Myrna don't mind me printing here:

Adapted Potato Bread

Use up to 24 fl oz warm water
2 lbs strong white flour (we do sometimes mix our flours as well)
3 1/2 tablespoons Butter - I use oil its simpler
2 - 3 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 oz potato flakes - Smash
1 oz dry skim milk powder **
1 x 7g packet of dried yeast

Put all ingredients except the oil and water into a mixing bowl (either to make by hand or using a food processor.

Add the oil to the water and add 3/4 of it to the dry ingredients. If too dry add some more.

Knead for 10 minutes or process for about 5 minutes.

Put or turn into a greased bowl and leave to rise until double in size, covered with oiled cling film.

Knock back, divide into 2 and put into two prepared bread tins.Leave to rise, covered with a tea towel.

Bake for 25 minutes in a 220 Celsius oven. Turn out and leave to cool.

**If you don't have dry milk, substitute one cup of regular milk for a cup of water.

I thought sometime I might exchange the potato flakes for real, finely mashed, potato mixed into the water at the beginning to see if it still tastes the same. 

Thursday 13 September 2012


Welcome to Tanya from Lovely Greens - glad you found me. 
Yesterday was spent harvesting one small row of my rather overgrown (and forgotten about!), multiple twisted carrots! OH scrubbed and peeled them. I sliced and blanched them for 2 minutes before they were cooled in cold water and open frozen.

We started out with around 2lb and ended up with 1 1/2lb. Some were too far gone with carrot root fly but other than that, the rest were in reasonable condition and taste great.

Now I have carrots and beans in my freezer for winter. One more small row is still growing plus a pot. Hopefully they can be harvested before the cold weather comes. We had carrot and pea risotto for tea.

DB has decided to have a go at a Sachertorte after being inspired by The Great British Bake Off show currently on TV. We had most things but needed almonds and chocolate. It serves 12 so we hope to slice it into that amount, freeze slices individually and enjoy over time. Who knows, if this works out well, he might have a go at another one. We hope it will work out cheaper than buying but will let you know.Watch this space!

As Sunday is our weekly weigh day, that is the day we treat ourselves to something nice. By not over-indulging every day, it helps keep not only our weight down but also our food budget.