Wednesday, 22 July 2009

This year's veggie garden in pictures!

pepper plants:

view of little corner between barn and bread oven:

tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, beans and parsley:

grapes over the barn:

very green grapes!

Blackberry Jam

We have heaps of blackberries in the garden at the moment. The ones we have are an early, thornless variety, so they're nice and easy to pick!

I popped out into the garden the other day and came back with 4lbs, so I decided to make some blackberry jelly, using a recipe from my mother's Cookery Year cookbook, but then I couldn't let the left-over cooked/drained fruit go to waste so I passed it through a mouli to get rid of the seeds and then turned it into jam.

4lbs blackberries
1 pint water
juice of 2 lemons

First, simmer the blackberries with the water and lemon juice until tender (about 45 min). Then pour into a sieve lined with muslin and allow to drip for about an hour.

To make the jelly:
Collect the juice and allow 1lb of sugar for each 1lb of juice. Heat in a copper pan, and boil rapidly until setting point is reached. I use Nigella's tip and place a saucer in the freezer beforehand and then just test little blobs of jelly/jam to see if it crinkles when it cools. Then pour into clean, sterilised jars.

To make the jam:
Pass the remaining fruit left in the sieve through a mouli to get rid of the seeds. This will make a nice puree. Then weigh equal quantities of the fruit puree and sugar, and proceed as above to make the jam.

Cuisses de grenouille à la crème

I had family staying last week, and the kiddies were desperate to try some frogs legs French style! I'd never plucked up the courage to make them before, and had only eaten them once at friends... so it was a great opportunity for me to have a go at last!


Two packs of frozen frogs legs
Milk and water to cover
Half a pack of butter (125 g)
Whole head of garlic, crushed
Bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
Large tub of creme fraiche

Leave the frogs legs to defrost in a mixture of milk and water for a few hours at room temperature. Drain, then pat dry with kitchen paper, and coat with flour. I'm pretty squeamish so it was kind of freaky - everyone kept telling me they looked like little fairy legs and so I had to put on latex gloves to be able deal with it haha

Melt some of the butter in a frying pan, and fry the frogs legs in batches 'til golden on each side, flipping half way, and placing them in a warm earthenware dish. Keep adding butter as necessary, until all the frogs legs are done.

Drain the cooking fat, and deglaze the frying pan with a glug of Madeira.

Add the crushed garlic and creme fraiche, stir well, and allow to bubble and reduce. Then add the chopped parsley, stir thoroughly, pour over the frogs legs and heat in the oven for a few minutes.

They turned out really good, and the kiddies loved them especially, and piled their plates high!

It's quite labour-intensive, but really nice for a special treat!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A poem


Gust of wind, warm as summer’s day
Wild plum leaf falls into my hair
Owl flies overhead
Imminent storm


Friday, 12 June 2009

Mint Tea

Just been out in the garden picking some herbs to hang in my kitchen to dry (lemon verbena, oregano and mint for now), and then had to make a pot of mint tea!

Summer is most definitely here!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Elderflower cordial

The elderflowers suddenly appeared in the hedgerows a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to have a go at making some elderflower cordial.

The hub went out and braved nettles and brambles, and came back with 2 bagfuls of flowerheads for me... I followed Sophie Grigson's recipe, with slightly less citric acid.

I was so pleased how it came out, I sent the hub out foraging again the next day, to make some more!


20-30 elderflower heads
1.8 kg granulated sugar
1.2 litres water
2 unwaxed lemons, zest pared in wide strips, and flesh cut into slices
2 tbsp citric acid

First, I gave the flowerheads a good ole shake to make sure there were no creep crawlies left, then I placed them in a stock pot with the lemon zest and slices.

Meanwhile, I made a sugar syrup by heating the sugar and water in a pan, stirring til the sugar dissolved and bringing to a boil.

I then poured the sugar syrup over the blossoms and stirred in the citric acid, covered the pot with a cloth and let it stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

The next evening, I strained the cordial through a sieve lined with 2 layers of muslin, and then poured the syrup into glass and plastic bottles. I kept the glass bottle in the fridge to use right away, and popped the plastic bottles in the freezer. Makes about 5 x 50 cl bottles.

It is truly delicious and very refreshing. Best served with ice-cold sparkling water. I often add a little cordial to redcurrant and blackberry summer compote and serve as a verrine with greek yogurt - delish!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Party Cake

J's party cake:

quadruple-layered genoise sponge, brushed with sirop de canne with a teensy bit of kirsch, filled with strawberry-flavoured cream and fresh strawberries, iced with strawberry-flavoured cream and decorated with home-made sugar flowers.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Sugar Flowers

I have been desperate to have a go at piping some flowers, so on Saturday, the sunniest day of the year so far, I ended up making a big batch of Royal Icing, and experimenting in my kitchen! Bliss!

It was real fun! I thought they could come in handy for topping cupcakes, and will also be using them to decorate J's party cake this coming Wednesday.

J's bday cake

J is pony mad, and specifically asked for a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, so I had to get a pony squiggle in there too!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Homemade Easter Chocolates

This was my fourth mini-batch - milk chocolate shells filled with milk chocolate ganache.

The first batch was an experiment: white chocolate half-eggs filled with milk chocolate ganache which ended up being eaten at D's party; the second batch was a complete failure and impossible to unmould (think I must've botched the tempering), and the third batch was a success - white chocolate flower shapes filled with rose-flavoured ganache, but they disappeared before I could take any piccies (will definitely make some more!).

I need to remember to tap the moulds though, to get rid of any air bubbles.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Drum-Kit Cake

It was my D's 13th birthday yesterday, so I made him a drum-kit cake!

The cake base was rich 50%/50% dark/milk chocolate cake with a milk chocolate ganache topping, and the drums were made of the same, but cupcakes, brushed with apricot jam and covered with fondant. Next time I will wait for the drums/icing to set properly before assembling, as it was all a bit squishy! It was fun but incredibly tricky making the little marzipan figure - the best bit were the little Converse sneakers, but I forgot to take a photo of them and they ended up drowned in chocolate ganache hehe arms and torsos were a little unruly too haha

Monday, 16 February 2009

Pate d'amandes roses

I've been meaning to try making some chocolate roses, but just haven't had time to get round to it, and so last night I found some "pate d'amandes" in my larder so had a go at marzipan ones instead...

I'm really happy with how they turned out. I kneaded the marzipan to make a little cone-shaped base, then used a little modelling tool my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas, and worked the marzipan in between two sheets of cling film to make the petals.

I also had a go at making teeny tiny rosebuds as well and they look really sweet!

Here is my first rose:

Saturday, 10 January 2009

My Jamaican Christmas Cake

Yay! It worked!

This was a real experiment as I had no idea how it would turn out, but I was so pleased with the results. The cake was rich, heavy and moist - it tasted just how I remembered it as a kid! Felt really nice, sort of comfort memory food. I will definitely make it again! I think it will become another new tradition hehe. I had enough mixture to make one big cake, and two mini cakes which I gave to friends.


Soaked fruit from


9 oz butter
5 eggs
1 tsp Madagascan vanilla extract
9oz dark brown sugar (I used vergoise brune)
9 oz self-raising flour
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt
2oz chopped pecan nuts

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs.
Sieve the flour, salt and spices over the butter/eggy mixture, and stir well to combine.
Add the soaked fruit and pecan nuts. Stir thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into a double-lined tin, and bake at 140 degrees for 3 hours, then cover the cake with double greaseproof paper and bake for another hour.

Allow the cake to cool completely, then wrap in greaseproof paper and foil until it needs to be marzipaned and iced.

I used Delia's recipe for the Almond Icing - it was surprisingly easy and really delicious too!
And also used her Fondant Icing recipe as well, and kept the leftovers to make decorations.

Cool Yule

I rolled out my traditional yule log again this Christmas - well, a new tradition for me really... I discovered this recipe 3 years ago and it was voted "Favourite Yule Log Ever" by the kiddies, so have stuck with it ever since! It's a Joconde base, brushed with sugar syrup and rum, and filled and iced with French chocolate buttercream, dusted with icing-sugar snow and sprinkled with edible white snowflake-like sprinkles. The kiddies always help decorate the yule log, so this year we cut out some ivy leaves, and D made a herd of tie-dye green rhinos out of the leftover icing hehe

I always make two as they disappear pretty quickly, and it's not much more work. This year I popped the extra Joconde sponge and the extra buttercream in the freezer for a week, and then defrosted and assembled it for our New Year's Eve party.