Monday, 27 June 2011

A Busy Weekend

Here we go again, after the last post I realised that I hadn’t updated you on the mixer saga, I was told by the makers that it was still under warranty so I sent it back. (I can’t find the paperwork for it, so not sure if the warranty was for 1 year or 2), anyway it got lost en-route but is now found. I got a call yesterday, it’s NOT under warranty, but because of the mix-up and because they are good lads, they are going to send me a re-conditioned one. RESULT. I must admit that I was surprised; I thought they would just send me the old one back. It’s refreshing to find that attitude and if I ever need another one, or get asked for a good make I will say without hesitation ANDREW JAMES. Not only that, it is a very good mixer.

Anyway, I was at an Italian food fair on saturday, some lovely food, but a bit expensive I thought. I already do the bread; have been warned off the sweets and biscuits, so that just leaves the flavoured oils and vinegars. Well flavoured oils are easy, I infuse with home grown Garlic or herbs, but I have never tried flavoured vinegar. At £6.50 for 200ml when basic balsamic is on sale in our local 99p shop (500ml bottle) it must be worth a go.

So this morning I picked about half a pound of mixed berries (wild strawberries, blackcurrants and early raspberries), washed them and put them in the slow cooker with 300ml of balsamic vinegar and about 100g of dark brown sugar. I stirred it all together and then ignored it for an hour. The aroma filled the house. After that time I mashed the berries in and ignored it for another hour. Then I strained the lumps and seeds out of the mixture, put it back into the slow cooker and left it on high with the lid off for about 30 minutes. It was starting to set around the bowl so I let it cool a bit and bottled it. I tried a bit on some ciabatta that I had left over, and it tasted very similar to that at the food fair. Total cost to me for 250ml was less than £1. All I need now are some of those ornamental bottles and I can rustle up some Xmas pressies for my foodie acquaintances.

I needed to clear out my freezer to make way for all the soft fruit, and I found a collection of bits of bread that I had saved for some unknown reason. Sliced up and cooked in a slow oven (125C) for 2hours, then blitzed they made good breadcrumbs.

Peter next door has given me some big jars for my pickled beetroot, I used to buy a big sack locally in Kent, and now that I am down here I need to find a new supplier.

I also dug up the Anya potatoes from their bag and got about 10lb.Still got one bag to dig, but I can’t remember what sort of spud they were.

We have (Well Yvonne has) been eating a lot of marmalade recently, so I decided to make some red Grapefruit marmalade, I have a W.I. recipe which I have used before, but this time it didn’t seem to want to set, even after boiling for nearly an hour and a bottle of Certo. When I looked it had made much more than last time as well, and I know I used to right quantities. Naomi (daughter #2) reckons its GM fruit, I’m more inclined towards Aliens myself, anyway after re-boiling for a further 15 mins it has now gone rock hard – but very tasty.

Took the dogs out this morning and discovered loads of brambles in flower, so I think that there will be all manner of things Blackberry style later, i.e. wine, cordial, jam and maybe some Balsamic Glaze as well. And as I take the dogs out early in the morning, I can get them before anyone else has the bright idea. Seriously though, there are so many down there that there’s enough to go round.

Fish Pie.

I do like a good fish pie, and here is my foolproof method.

300g mixed fish pieces, smoked haddock, cod and salmon

2 Cod portions in butter sauce

150g grated cheese

Some Ikea Gravlax sauce (or similar)

Mashed Potato to cover.

Mix everything except the potato together in a casserole and cover with the mash.

Cook at 180C for 40 minutes.

Whilst we are peeling potatoes,

What’s the difference between:

1) Bake potatoes, halve and scoop out the flesh, slice the skins into small strips, oil and sprinkle with cheese, and pieces of cooked onion and bacon. Return to the oven until bubbling.

2) Fry potato peelings until soft and starting to brown, place in an oven dish and sprinkle with cheese, and pieces of cooked onion and bacon. Return to the oven until bubbling.

The clue is that one of them is described by my wife as “Delicious” and the other as   ”A stupid idea with potato peelings”

Now I suppose its all about perception. After all both taste the same (Largely because they ARE the same), but the peeling is seen as waste, because it’s a by product and not the object of the exercise.

But in the interests of frugality, and by that I don't mean hair shirt No-thank-you-ness why do we think of the peeling as waste. In the same way that Hugh F-W says respect the animal by using as much of it as you can, then surely we should use the same logic with all our food, vegetables included.  

 Try frying onions until soft, with a bit of Garlic if you like, let them cool a bit and mix in the fried potato peelings and a good handful of grated cheese. Put it all in a greased casserole for about 25 minutes at 180C.

Made Blackcurrant wine today as well, 2lb currants, 2.25lb sugar and 1 gallon water, all mashed together, I will strain the pulp out in the morning and add the yeast. It should be fermenting by lunchtime. I haven’t been taking enough photos of my activities for this blog, you’ll just have to use your imagination, but then there’s a limit, I guess most of you know what a mixture of water, sugar and berries looks like. Or maybe not.

Monday morning, added the yeast at 7 this morning and its fermenting as we speak, the rose petal is nearly ready for racking, and I have Rhubarb and Elderflower that will be ready to drink for Yule.

Thought you might like a picture of my dog Fliss in a very fetching hat.


  1. Hi there, I came to visit your blog by way of down to earth forum. I live in an arid part of South Australia.

    I have read through your posts and it is nice to meet you. I like how your Grandmother's dresser turned out and the hall stand, they look nice and bright and refreshing. Your marmalade looks good too. I have grapefruit (yellow flesh) that I am wondering what to do with, so marmalade might be the way to go. Thanks also for sharing your recipes.

    I will follow along and look forward to reading your future posts.

  2. Hm... The difference I see between the skins/peelings dishes is the type of potatoes used. I've always only eaten the skins on "new" potatoes - those soft skins that tend to peel off when you wash the potatoes with a brush.
    I'm not sure what's the reasoning behind that, but that's the way it works around here. Interesting issue!