I set off this morning to take the dogs out over the forest.  It was a lovely day and I was checking the blackberries and looking at the apple trees, not long now before I pick a few for my mincemeat.

So there I am, happily walking along when I heard the most awful screaming and one of my dogs was going beserk, stamping at the ground and generally freaking out!  My first thought was that the dog had found an injured bird but when I got closer it turned out to be a teeny little piglet!

I picked it up and it was very cold so I set off back home with it.. well I couldn’t just leave it!

I arrived back home and started wrapping it up in warm towels and blankets.  Tim looked at me in amazement and said it makes a change from me coming home with bags of blackberries or nettles!

Here’s a picture of the pig when I first got home.  I did wonder whether it would survive.

Lost piggy

We warmed some baby formula milk and offered it to the piggy in a baby bottle.  It must have been starving poor thing as it guzzled it down hungrily.

dinner

Then it went to sleep for half an hour and woke up and had more milk.  By this time its colour had returned and it was as warm as toast so we unwrapped it from its blankets and put it on the floor.  It was soon walking around the room, having a good sniff at everything and really perking up.

We sat on the floor with it and it was running around, snorting away and having a good time!  It really enjoyed climbing over our legs and poking its head out as if to say ‘hi’ then running back the other way!

playing

By now it was late afternoon.  I had not heard back from the RSPCA even though I had rang them twice.  I left the kids ‘pigsitting’ and went off to the local farms to try and locate its owner.   I soon found the lady he belonged to.  It turns out that Peter (ok I know, never name your food!) was quiet and not feeding properly the day before so the owner had given him medication and when he wasn’t there at headcount this morning she assumed he had just gone off to die as animals often do.  The last thing she expected was to hear that he was bombing around my front room playing hide and seek!

So I went back home, collected Peter the pig and took him back to his Mum.  He has a lovely shed with plenty of open field to run about in.   His owner is a lovely lady who believes in the old fashioned caring ways of farming.  She even gave me a bag of sausages for my trouble!

Now I actually found it quite hard setting off to find the pigs owner.  What if it had escaped an intensive farming barn?  I hate animal cruelty and I think I would have pushed the RSPCA to find it a petting farm or something.  I certainly couldn’t have taken it back to a cruel home.  For a few moments I let my mind wander to raising the pig myself and letting it play in my garden.  That wasn’t realistic of course.

I’m glad I met the lady owner.  I felt ok giving him back to her.  I know the animals fate.  I also know when.  I am a meat eater and I can’t see that changing but I only eat meat that has been raised well and in a respectful way.

I hope Peter pulls through this.  He seemed to be laughing when I tickled his chin.  I won’t be back in contact with his owner to find out.   I’ll just make up my own happy ending.

Happy belated new year all.

I can’t believe its been so long since I wrote on my blog.  Things have been hectic here.

I’m a grandma now!  My daughter Keelie gave birth to a beautiful little boy just before Christmas.  She is taking to motherhood so well.  She sends me picture text messages most mornings once she’s dressed him to show me how cute he looks in that particular days  outfit.  I’m very proud of her.

I also got another new baby at Christmas… a brand new embroidery machine!  Its wonderful but I have to admit I’m still a little nervous about using it.  It is sitting in the corner looking all majestic and keeps giving the evil eye to my old Bernina.  I hope to start embroidering little shirts and things for baby Dylan.  Once I get the hang of it i’ll put some pictures up if anyone is interested.

Well its only a short post today.  As many of you know the tenth would have been my beautiful daughters birthday so its quite a difficult time for me right now.  We are hoping to go to the seaside again as we did last year.  That was beautiful.  Walking on the beach with a weak sun trying hard to make us smile.  We had fish and chips near the sea and watched the world go by.  I think its important to go out and do something to celebrate the day.   Happy birthday to my little darling x

I am so late making mine this year! 

Its the thing that marks the beginning of the autumn season in our house.  The wonderful aroma that fills the house from the fresh fruit and spices lasts all day and is just heavenly! 

I like to make it around the end of September.  Well I say I like to make it the end of September but every year I seem to get later.  I finally got round to making it last week.  I use Delia’s six pound recipe and find that I usually have a small jar left that gets turned into pies around July…  such a treat!

I like to use wild apples for the mincemeat and I pick them the same day as I use them to make sure they are as fresh as possible.   I just feel it makes the mincemeat that bit more special and of course they are free!  I make it with vegetable suet as my son is a vegetarian.  

For the pastry I always use the self raising/all butter recipe.  I know its not the traditional way but its how we like them.  I hate the rolling out as the dough easily falls to pieces and has to be treated gently but it is so worth it.  They also freeze really well, although I have to hide them in our house as they don’t last very long.

I am hoping to eat them warm and drenched in caster sugar whilst cuddling my new grandson.  He is due on Christmas eve so we should have a few left….

I know I’ve not written anything on my blog for a while but there has been so much going on at this end.

We have finally got most of the renovation finished, just waiting on some new doors coming and then we can actually sit down and relax on an evening!

I’ve been walking the legs off the dogs and we all feel better for it.  Well when I say ‘we’ that’s probably just me as the dogs favourite hobby is sleeping.  They have such an easy life.  They get up, have a little snooze while i’m getting ready for the walk, have food, then a couple of hours serious sleeping after the walk.  Wake up in time for a bit of stick throwing or play fighting, then time for more food before settling down for the evening.  Honestly they are not themselves if they don’t get a good nineteen hours sleep a day!

Anyway we go over into the national forest checking out the wild trees and bushes and remembering where all the best rosehips and apples are ready to start picking them later in the year.  I’ve found some apple trees out in the forest that have lovely sweet apples on them.  I plan to make wild apple and blackberry jam at the end of the week.  Talking of blackberries, I’m really dissapointed in this years crop. I guess its due to the bad weather but most of the berries are small and hardly worth picking.  Anything of a decent size is mushy.  I’ve usually got a glut of them in my freezer by now but I’m struggling to get enough for a decent jam making session.  I hope the weather dries out a bit and they improve :-(

 

I hope to post a bit more often now the nights are drawing in.  I’m sure that will please my parents.  My mother keeps telling me that I should update it more often so people can see what I’m up to.  My dad says if I don’t write something soon he’s unsubscribing!!  I don’t know… forty one years old and I’m still getting told off by my parents!! Bless them both :-)

Well I’m going to shock you all now with my good news…..

I’m going to be a grandma!!!

My second daughter has announced that she is expecting her first baby.  I feel its a gift to our family as the due date is Christmas eve.  Last Christmas was so empty without my eldest daughter and although I don’t think for one minute that the baby will replace her, thats impossible, but I do feel we now have something to look forward to.  A hope for the future.  I feel we deserve this baby and it already has so much love around it.

She has had a scan and its amazing to see that tiny little heart beat on the screen.  She is due another scan in three weeks time and we will find out the sex of the baby.  I think its a girl but we’ll see. 

So it seems my life is going to get a whole lot busier.  I’ve already put my name down for extra babysitting yaaaaaay!

Hi all.

Well I am still here but its rather hectic so writing on my blog has been pushed down my ‘to do list’ i’m afraid.  We have had the wall taken out where the modem was so no internet for a while but I’m back online now.  I missed surfing but its no biggie, however my teenage son was in a bad way and even muttered something about ‘going out’ once or twice.  He’s back to himself now though and we can have a proper conversation… through MSN of course! ;-)

 

I’m going on holiday in a couple of days but after that I hope normal service will be resumed.  I’m off to Spain for a few days to catch a bit of sun.  Actually thats not true, I don’t get sun tanned, I just lose my bluey whiteness!  People always want to sit next to me on the flight home because I’m so pale and I make their tan look great! 

I’ve been checking on the wild apples and they are coming on fine.  The blackberries are well into bloom as well so it won’t be long before I can start this years supply of jams from the wild.  I hope you are all busy collecting jars.  I manage to get most of mine from friends and family, its amazing how many jars they can save in exchange for a nice pot of jam lol!

I’ll see you all when i’m less pale……..  ;-)

 

Hi all.

As you know I had to find a new home for my chickens which meant I had to find a new source for my eggs.  I tried the farmers market but I wasn’t keen as the man who sells the eggs also sells battery eggs.  I didn’t actually realise this until I looked closely at the eggs and saw the number 3 stamp which means caged hens.  The eggs were just advertised under ‘fresh farm eggs’ so i can imagine some people would buy them thinking they were from happy hens… this is a farmers market after all!

Anyway now life is good again.  I’ve found a lady who is supplying me with fresh eggs from her little hen family.  The hens are free to roam and are well looked after so its good for everyone. 

So why am I telling you this?  Its all to do with my yorkshire puddings!  I’ve always had success with yorkshire puds that are well risen but for the short period when I was having to buy my eggs from the supermarket (I was buying large organic ones and looking for the longest sell by dates) they were just average.  I didn’t think much of it as I don’t really measure my ingredients so the recipe is never quite the same.

Then last weekend after getting my eggs from my friend and making up the puds I found that I was back to the well risen ones I used to make.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe its a silly idea but I wonder if eggs from happy hens are slightly different?  Could the fact that caged hens may be stressed make any difference?  I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this but I have to say i’m happy that I’m getting good puds again and I’m eating eggs from happy birds. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just wish I could get them to stay in a nice round shape lol!

Hi all.

I’m sat in the room listening to the thud of the builders hammer as he puts in a new staircase.  I feel bad for sitting at my laptop whilst he is working hard… even though we are paying him!  It seems an endless job this renovating malarky.

The kitchen is nearly done now, just needs the finishing touches like curtains and things.  I love how its turned out.  We had room to make a utility area and its got a pantry in yaaay!  I’ve waited twenty years to design my own kitchen.  I usually end up inheriting someone else’s design and ideas but this is ours and I’m happy.

Of all the rooms in the house I’m most excited about the kitchen because its where my cooking hobby takes place.  If I’m feeling a little down I’ll go into the kitchen and cook up some comfort food such as chocolate chip cookies.

I spend hours in the kitchen roasting tomatoes for pasta sauces, bottling jam etc.  You can usually hear the whirring of the Kenwood chef in the background making up the next batch of butter or a couple of eggs to make a cake.

I love wondering around car boot sales looking for old cast iron pans for renovation projects.  My favourite cooking pots are old cast iron ones that I’ve sanded down to the iron and re seasoned.  They become non stick and can their heat well so are money saving because you can turn off the pan and it will continue to cook for a little while and keep the food warm for ages.  No one else is allowed to use my favourite pans and I hide them at the back of the cupboard! 

We had a discussion over on MSE about moneysaving and is it worth it and I have to say that I would be lost if I didn’t have all my kitchen projects.  I could stop making everything from scratch and have lots of extra time but what would I do with that time?  I get so much pleasure from cooking and its made all the better if I found the ingredients at a reduced price or growing wild.  Moneysaving is no longer a necessity for me but I think its in my blood now.  If I go to the supermarket which is not that often these days as I try to use the farmers markets as much as possible, then I make a beeline for the reduced section.  If I find a stash of cream for buttermaking or perhaps vegetables for sauces then I walk around the rest of the store excitedly planning what to make with my haul….. please tell me i’m not alone in this :-) 

Hi everyone, I hope you all had a good bank holiday?  We are still doing the renovations so I spent most of the holiday at home.   I fancied something yummy for my tea…. a nice scone with a good cup of tea!  The only trouble is I’ve run out of jam.  I made quite a lot but I always end up giving it away to friends and family and of course I use jam in gravies etc so it is used up quite quickly.

I remembered I had some blackberries from the end of last season still taking up space in my freezer so out they came.   I also had some wild apple puree that I had picked whilst out in the forest and was saving for pies.  I took that out as well as I worried the blackberries wouldn’t have enough pectin in to set (I never use jam sugar, far too expensive!)

So in the jam pan goes the frozen blackberries and wild apple puree.  I added a little water but only enough to cover the bottom of the pan. I let the pan come up to simmer and left it for ten minutes.  Once the fruit looked nice and soft I pummelled it with a masher to get all the lovely juice and flavours out.

Then its onto my favourite part… sieving.  I have a mouli that I picked up quite cheaply and its fantastic for jams, tomato sauces etc.

At this stage I’m left with a pan of puree to which I add the sugar.  I usually put in 850g sugar to every 1kg of puree.  I know some people do equal sugar to fruit but I like that little bit of tang and by reducing the amount of sugar you really get the flavours of the fruits coming through.

I let the fruit puree and sugar warm up slowly to give the sugar chance to fully melt into the fruit puree and then its up with the heat until I get a good rolling boil going.  I tend to give blackberry jam around ten mins before doing the set test.  For this I have an old tea plate in the freezer and I drop a couple of drops of the boiling jam onto the plate.  As soon as its cool enough I get my finger and push it through the now cool jam.  If the jam ‘wrinkles’ then its ready to be put into jars, if not it gets another couple of minutes before I try the test again.  I’ve taken a picture here but I’m not sure whether you can actually see the wrinkling.

Now all the time i’ve been making the jam i’ve had my recycled and freshly washed jars sunbathing in the oven so they are sterilised.  I now take them out and give them a few minutes to cool down then its time to fill them up with lovely fruity jam.  Fill the jars almost to the top to limit the amount of air that stays in the jar.

Once the jars are filled up I put the lids on and turn the jars upside down for a few minutes.   Once I turn them back the right way up I find that the original seal works again and the ‘popper’ bit in the middle of the lid is sucked back down.

Of course I didn’t seal all the jars… I had to have my cream scone and jam!  And even if I say so myself, it was delicious!

 

 

 

I was cooking dinner yesterday and wondered what other people do on a Sunday.  We almost always have a roast, even in high summer.  It may be 80 degrees outside but you can find me in the kitchen with the steamer going full blast and the ovens on high making my yorkshire puddings… you could probably fry an egg on my skin but what the heck, we need our Sunday roast!

Over the years things have changed.  I’m always looking for new ‘touches’ to bring an extra bit of flavour to dinner, just little things to make the food stand out.  I guess cooking has become my hobby and for that reason i’m forever looking for new ways to make it even better.

This Sunday we had rooster from the farmers market. 
Roasted vegetable medley
Green savoy cabbage
Mash potato
Yorkshire puds (we always have yorkshire puds, doesnt matter what meat we have with it!)

I didn’t do much to the rooster, just poked some homemade butter under the skin to make it a bit juicier and put it on a high heat for the first fifteen mins to get the skin browing up a bit.

I cooked the cabbage early on.  I boiled up some water and plunged the cabbage in for a few minutes then took it out and let it cool in some cold water.  I then left it to dry off a bit on a drainer.

I prepared carrots, potatoes, parsnips, half onions and garlic and spread them on a tray.  Steamed them for ten minutes then drizzled in some olive oil, a touch of honey and seasoning and tucked some fresh rosemary and bay leaves from the garden in amongst the veg.  When these were almost done I transferred them to a dish to keep warm and added some flour to the tray and then some potato water to deglaze the pan and make a lovely veggie gravy for my son.  It was lightly coloured but had a gorgous aroma from the rosemary and the caramalized onions.

For the meat eaters gravy I used the rooster tin with its lovely juices.  I spooned off most of the fat and juices and was left with the dark sticky residue from the butter.  I added some flour to this and some of the potato water.  It wasn’t quite dark enough so I added a bit of browning powder.  I added back the juices but not the fat, thats gone in the slow cooker this morning for stock making with the bones. To sweeten it I added a good dollop of homemade blackberry jam, then seasoned it and let it reduce down to a thick gravy.

I mashed the boiled spuds, reserving any leftover water that hadn’t gone into the gravies and I’ll use that for breadmaking.  I mashed with butter and milk but took a couple of cubes of frozen double cream out of the freezer and added those for a bit more creaminess.  Finally I took the roasted garlic and squeezed the now gooey contents into the mash with a few chopped chives.

Back to the cabbage.  I heated up a cast iron wok and added to it a knob of butter and a bit of seasoning.  I tossed in the cabbage and cooked until hot and crunchy again. 

At the last minute I sieved off the reduced gravy to make a smooth dark liquid.

I’m sure its not food for the calorie counting folks out there but I enjoy ‘dressing up’ the meals.  Cabbage is so much more exciting when its stir fried instead of just sitting apologetically on the side of the plate.  The sweetness of the roasted parsnips and carrots go really well with the strong mash and topped off with the rich gravy leaves us stuffed and wishing we had all had smaller portions…. we hardly have any room left for the homemade rice pudding!

Hi and thank you for visiting my blog

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