Monday, 8 October 2012

Marrow chutney

We've got lots and lots of marrows at the moment, the pigs and chickens are enjoying them but I think they are even nicer made into this delicious chutney. It goes particularly well with cold meat. It does take quite a long time to make, 3-4 hours on my aga, but is well worth it.
My mother-in-law gave me the recipe, I don't know where she got it from.

6lbs peeled, cored and chopped marrow
2lb sultanas
1/2 lb ginger
3 pt vinegar
3 1/2 lb gran. sugar
1oz salt (this is what the recipe says - I used 1tsp)
1tsp allspice

Mix the vinegar, sugar and spices in a preserving pan and bring to the boil. Add the marrow and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the ginger and sultanas and simmer until thick, stirring frequently. Poor into sterilised jars, making sure to use vinegar proof lids.

The first time I tried this recipe I used soft brown sugar and cooked it all for far too long. I had read somewhere that chutney was ready when you could see the bottom of the pan in the track left by wooden spoon dragged through the mixture - but the resulting chutney could only be described as tar like and the brown sugar tasted too strongly of caramel.

Apparently the recipe can also be used for apples instead of marrows, but I haven't tried it yet...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Family Chicken Pie

Last night I made this traditional chicken pie. My recipe is so easy and a really filling, comforting pie for a cosy family supper or a quick Saturday lunch. I always make lots when I make pies and casseroles as it's really no effort to make more and it's great to have in the freezer. The quantity below made one generous pie for 2 or 3 adults and 4 small pies (to serve two children each). I don't add any salt as there is smoked bacon in the recipe.

4 chicken breasts, chopped into cubes
2 large onions, diced
6 rashers streaky smoked bacon, diced
2 cans sweetcorn or the equivalent in fresh sweetcorn
100g flour
100g butter
1 1/2 pint of milk
1 egg
1 pack ready rolled puff pastry

Remove the pastry from the fridge.

The filling Fry the onions and bacon in a splash of oil until the onions start to soften. Add the chicken and fry until cooked. Remove from the heat.

How to make white sauce. Melt the butter of a highish heat and stir in the flour until you have a smooth thick paste. Remove from the heat. Very, very gradually add the milk, just a splash at a time at first. Stir vigorously each time keeping the roux (paste) smooth. You will be able to add larger quantities of milk each time. Return to the heat and stir until thick. Do not stop stirring! I put on an episode of Postman Pat to keep the children happy at this stage. Once thickened I like to add an egg to add richness and a bit of colour, stir it in very quickly or it will start to cook. You can speed the process up by warming the milk in a microwave first, or standing on the back of the Aga. Put a piece of clingfilm over the top of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming - the film needs to be in contact with the surface.

Put it all together If you are going to cook the pie immediately then put the chicken mixture in the pie dish/es, add the sweetcorn and dollop the white sauce on top.
Unroll the pastry cut to size and lie on top of the dish. Use a sharp knife to score lines over the pastry, cut about half way through the thickness of the pastry - this helps with the puffing. Be creative! If your pie dish is oval, trim off the corners of the pastry and roll the resulting triangles up to make rosebuds and use them to decorate your pie.

If you are going to cook later I allow everything to cool before assembling.

Bake in the top oven of the Aga until golden brown and sizzling hot.

Variations - replace the onions with leeks, add mushrooms...

Monday, 24 September 2012

A very quick to prepare Sunday roast

Roast pheasant is one of my favourite roasts to cook, partly because it is quick so I don't have to spend all Sunday morning in the kitchen. It's a delicious meat and heathier than pork or beef.
Here's what I do to eat at just after one:
Midday - put the pheasant, breast down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Cover with foil and pop in the top oven .
Next - potato wedges; a quick alternative to roasties. Slice potatoes into wedges, put on a backing tray, generously cover with oil (I like rapeseed oil), make sure the wedges are completely covered. I just roll them over with my hands. Put the tray on the floor of the bottom oven.
Wash hands!
Cheats' Bread Sauce - put a couple of handfulls of bread crumbs in a saucepan with a small peeled onion and a few cloves. Add milk so that the bread crumbs are just covered. Put in the bottom oven. This isn't quite as nice as breadsauce cooked in a double saucepan but it's pretty close, masses quicker and saves that all important heat! Check and stir every 15 mins or so, add more milk if needed.
Check and turn potatoes every 10 minutes or so.
Then - prepare vegetables. I steam my vegetables as this helps to stop the aga temperature dropping and gives lovely fresh tasting results. This weekend we had homegrown: sweetcorn, carrots, mangetout, carrots, courgettes, runner beans and french beans. The steamer was so full it took a bit longer than normal to cook everything. Put the vegetables on to cook as appropriate - in my case at 12.45.
Check the pheasant. When it is done the flesh will have shrunk back on the leg bones and the juices will run clear. Pull a leg out from the body (don't break it off though) and check the colour of the juices. If needed remove the foil and cook for 5 or 10 more minutes to crispen the skin.
When it's done take the pheasant out and put on a plate or carving board, cover with foil and allow to rest.
Gravy - deglaze the roasting pan by adding a tablespoon of flour to it and stiring it with a wooden spoon on the simmering plate of the aga for a couple of minutes. Add about a mug of water from your now cooked vegetables and stir vigourously. I have a gravy strainer, it you don't I recomend one! Strain off the oil from the top of the pan and heat the remaining liquid in a small saucepan until it bubbles, stir continously. Add a teaspoon of redcurrant jelly if you have any and salt if you wish.
Lunch is ready!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Chocolate traybake

Scrummy chocolate traybake

The kitchen is filled with the wonderful smell of a chocolate cake cooking in the Aga. I've based it on my kitchen hero Mary Berry's recipe - one I haven't tried before. It's just out of the oven; fingers crossed it doesn't sink. I'm going to glaze it with my homemade strawberry jam and concot a chocolate ganache/water icing topping.
The chickens have laid their third egg. Hurrah! It was too small, and precious, to include in a cake though.
I finally got round to watching 'Wartime Kitchen' last night. So inspiring. The home canning looked huge fun, if slightly alarming. Their is so much food around us, but so little of the 'foragable' food is used. At least that means their is lots left for me and my girls to gather!

Mainly thinking...

Feeling so excited at the prospect of all the preserving to be done sadly has not led to me actually doing anything with fruit and sugar today. I've been investigating the regulations on selling homemade produce - a call to the local council and I'm now waiting for a form to arrive. It seems much more straightforward than I had expected.
I've been trying to organise my thoughts - what am I going to make, how will I package it and where will I sell it?

My final list of products (fingers crossed) is:
Strawberry jam,
Rowan and crab apple jelly,
Bramble jelly,
Blackberry cordial,
Marrow chutney,
Green tomato chutney,
Apple chutney,
Onion marmalade / caramelised onion,
Candied orange peel,
Russian toffee.

I need to think of some more exciting names...

I also need to work out how to put pictures on here.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Beginning

The school holidays are over, the evenings are getting darker and colder, the hedgerows are bursting with fruit so once again my thoughts have turned to jam making. So far I have collected rowan berries from the tree in the garden. These are in the freezer to help to sweeten them. I've collected elderberries from the hedgerows and made some fabulous elderberry cordial - it was a real labour of love, 2kg of fruit yielded five small bottles and it took hours to take the all the stalks off, even with a fork. I also made some elderberry sauce which apparently tastes at its best after seven, yes seven, years so we haven't tried any yet. I've made masses of strawberry jam, the local farm shop was selling off trays of misshapen fruit.
We have masses of marrows in the garden which will be turned into marrow chutney and possibly marrow and ginger jam. That's my project for this evening. I'm waiting for the crab apples to drop so I can make crab apple jelly to which I will add the rowan berries. Soon the blackberries will be ripe - bramble jelly (so good with scones), blackberry cordial and lots of frozen berries to follow! My little girl adores a handful of blackberries with her cereal in the morning and is getting very impatient, so far she has only managed to gather a few handfuls.
The big difference this year is that rather than just eating all the jams and jellies ourselves and sharing with friends I'm hoping to sell some too. This blog will record my progress - and probably some other ramblings on bees, dogs, chickens, sheep, pigs and children too.