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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.
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!
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!
Juice bars seem to be springing up everywhere and people are talking about the advantages of wheatgrass juice and sprouting seeds.
As a person who mills my own flour, I always have a large supply of wheat grains in stock. Sprouting grains is incredibly easy to do and you do not need fancy and expensive machines so save your money and use an old container and your windowsill.
I have an old Tupperware steamer that I use for my sprouting grains. It is in three parts. A base, a middle colander type basket and a lid. This is rather a sophisticated set up actually and you can make do with an old jar and a pair of clean tights for straining the liquid off.
This is my method.
I get a few grains of wheat and rinse them under the tap to remove and dirt and debris. Then I leave the wheat grains in plain water overnight just to get the germination process started.
Next morning I drain them off and just leave them. Within a day the little shoots are beginning to come through. A couple of times a day (when I remember!) I take the middle part of the steamer with the seeds in and let the water from the cold tap very gently wet the seeds. This keeps them hydrated and ensures good germination. A day or two later I start nibbling on them every time I walk past the windowsill. They have a lovely fresh taste that I would liken to podded peas.
You can sprout lots of different types of seeds and grains so experiment. They are so good for you… its like eating little nutritional powerhouses!
Here’s a picture of my seeds set up. As you can see, the little steamer works perfect, no need for expensive seed sprouters!
Don’t worry about liquid feeding the seeds. Each seed comes with its own little food supply built in and that will last it until you eat it.
If you leave the seeds for a week or so you will have the wheatgrass that is often seen in the juice bars.
At this stage you can juice the seeds and make delicious wheatgrass juice. If you don’t have the right type of juicer for the job then its best to eat the seeds before they grow to this stage. They are still edible but you will probably end up spitting out the fibrous part once you have extracted all the juice and goodness from it. Not very ladylike, but a lot cheaper than buying a glass from a juice bar!
Every third Saturday of the month is Ashby de la Zouch farmers market. I love to go along and check out all the lovely stalls, sometimes I treat myself to a freshly cooked burger whilst browsing. There’s a real mix of characters and I always ask questions of the stall holders as they have such a wealth of knowledge between them that they are willing to share. Most of them stand out as being really passionate about what they do. I buy from them and feel happy to know a little about the meat I’m buying.
There’s a man there who sells roosters. I always make a beeline for him as rooster is a fantastic alternative to chicken. Unfortunately in today’s society of egg farming and high output production there is often no place for the males. The chicks are sexed at a very early age and the males are often destroyed as they are no use to the egg farmer and to keep them alive would cost as they need feeding. Anyway that’s a debate I don’t want to get into here….
The roosters that I buy lead a good life. They sit around all day looking manly and keeping watch for danger, get up for a spot of dinner, maybe strut their stuff if they have the urge and then its bedtime! The meat of the rooster tastes like chicken but much stronger if that makes sense. The rooster doesn’t have to stress its body by using valuable energy and nutrients in the process of egg making each day which results in a wonderfully flavoursome meat. The stock from these birds is a thick gel that smells divine and is so deep and rich that it lifts any dish that it is used in. The rooster isn’t an expensive bird. I find it cheaper than an equal sized organic chicken in the supermarket.
I also bought some wonderful rare breed beef. I tend to buy a piece larger than I need so I can use the leftovers to make a meal for the next day. I treated us to some fillet steak too but we haven’t eaten that yet as I’m saving it for a nice weekend meal with a ton of onion rings all smothered in a mushroom sauce… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
I bought a couple of nice pork joints, chops and tenderloins for the freezer and some good streaky belly and shoulder to make into sausages. I shall be doing a sausage making entry shortly if anyone is interested?
Here’s just a selection of the meat I bought before I portioned it up for the freezer.
Another really good buy is the lamb pieces. I get a decent sized pack of gorgeous free ranging lamb pieces for a couple of pounds. I freeze them and use them for casseroles or curries. The flavour is so different to what you get in the supermarket and probably works out cheaper!
I came away with a real haul and hopefully that’s the families meat supply sorted until the next market. I also bought veg and ordered some oat groats as I like to mill them myself for porridge and muesli bars.
If you get the chance to visit a farmers market then I highly recommend it. Its such a relaxed atmosphere and I’ve noticed that lots of people go with their families and treat it as an afternoon out. No one seems to be in a rush and there’s always plenty of time to just browse and read the labels and information boards to find out more about where the products come from. There’s always children running about and quite a few people bring their dogs. I daren’t take my two boxer dogs as they are fed a raw meat diet and I have visions of them running around with sausages in their mouths being chased by angry stall holders in that Benny Hill style…. bless em!
So here I am with a well stocked freezer full of locally grown, thoughtfully raised meat. I feel good supporting the local community and feeding the family with ‘happy food’ Oh dear I’m sounding a bit Delia Smith now, well before she lost the plot and brought out her new book…. another entry for that one methinks!
Ok I’m posting another left over beef meal because the first one has been really popular – its one of the most searched recipes on my site!
So this dish is my take on a cottage pie but its a very ‘rich’ meal because of the dark chocolate and cream that I add. I use sweet potatoes as I love the sweetness but to keep costs down go half and half with white potatoes.
Leftover beef joint
Tin of tomatoes (I add this to help bulk it out a bit but it works fine without it)
Couple of squares of good dark chocolate
Two or three sweet potatoes and a couple of white potatoes
Few tablespoons of cream
Butter/milk for creaming potatoes
Steam the potatoes, remembering that sweet potatoes don’t take quite as long as white ones.
Fry the onions.
Whizz the beef around in the processor or chop it up with a knife. Don’t go overboard with the chopping as its nice to have chunks of meat in the dish. Add the beef and the tomatoes to the onions with a little stock or water. Heat it up but remember it doesn’t need to cook again. At this stage you could add other things such as a stock cube, bit of gravy mix etc. Add in the dark chocolate and let melt into the beef.
Mash the potatoes together. I find it easier to mash sweet potatoes with a potato ricer otherwise they can seem a bit stringy. Add the milk, butter and the cream.
Pop the mash onto the beef and cook in the oven for approx 30 mins.
You really don’t need to put in the chocolate and cream but it makes the dish so rich that it doesn’t seem like a leftovers meal at all!
I served it with Carrots batons finished off in the oven to concentrate the flavour and sprouts steamed until just cooked and then tossed into a hot cast iron pan with a bit of butter, it gives them more of a crunchy edge.
Sorry if the pictures are a bit messy, but its a week day meal for the family… I bet Gordon Ramsay would wipe the dish before showing it!
The night before last we had a lovely piece of organic beef for tea. I cooked it raised on a rack of veggies to let the lovely juices run out. I drained off the juices and added some fat back to the pan and squashed down the veggies. I then made a delicious gravy by adding a bit of flour to thicken it and then slowly added some water from my steamed vegetables. I then strained it to get rid of the veggies that had supported the beef. I ended up with a gorgeous thick gravy and didn’t need to add anything but a little seasoning to it. Perfect!
The remaining steamed vegetable water was refrigerated overnight to go in yesterdays ‘breadcakes’ That just leaves me with the remaining beef from the joint…. so I made a spaghetti!
As its a leftover dish, the ingredients change every time but here’s what I used in last nights meal:
Leftover beef joint
One onion plus a couple of garlic cloves.
Tin of tomatoes.
One carrot, grated finely.
Mushrooms/celery from my dehydrated stock as I had no fresh.
Heat a solid bottomed pan (I always use cast iron pans) and gently fry the onions until they go a golden colour. I make no apologies about my big onions in the picture… we love them! Add the garlic at this point so it doesn’t burn.
Cut the beef joint into small pieces. I find it easier to whizz it round a bit in the Magimix. I leave some pieces of meat a bit on the large size, I just think it adds to the dish.
Add the meat and tomatoes to the onions and garlic mix.
Next, pop in mushrooms, celery and carrots. I had no fresh mushrooms or celery in so used the ones I had already dehydrated. I often prefer the dehydrated ones as the flavour is so concentrated.
Season and add any extras you may think it needs for flavour. I added some mixed herbs, basil, half a kallo cube, a little honey and a square of chocolate. Add a little water if it looks dry. I left it simmering for about an hour because hubby was late in from work. It wont spoil, just add a little more water if needed.
I always add something sweet such as honey or a little chocolate to a savoury dish. It really adds a depth of flavour to the dish. And the chocolate seems to add a real richness. Give it a try when you are next experimenting
I have to apologise for the blurry picture… its my hubbies fault. I took one photo and was just lining up the dish in my viewfinder again so I had a couple of pictures to choose from when the dish dissapeared from the screen… hubby had knicked it! He wouldn’t put it back as he said he was starving so I’m afraid we all have to make do with this picture. I’ll not shout him in next time until I’ve finished lol!