Thursday, 29 December 2011

Granny's Marmalade

Granny lived most of her adult life in Dundee and was famous for her Dundee Marmalade. She was making marmalade on the day that she died - the fruit and the sugar were all weighed out and the jars were ready.  The following day my Mum finished the marmalade in her honour and family members all received a jar at the funeral.  I have a copy of Granny's recipe in her handwriting and I use her old preserving pan.  Seville Oranges have a fairly short season so I adapted this recipe and substituted clementines for Christmas which worked just as well.

Preparation Time: 35m  Cooking Time 35 m (These were Granny's times, I think it takes longer!)

3lb seville oranges
3 lemons
3 sweet oranges
6 pints of water
6lb preserving sugar (but granulated sugar is fine)

Wash the fruit, put in a large preserving pan with the water and cover with a lid.  Bring to the boil and cook over a low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until the fruit presses easily.

Weigh the sugar and put it in a low oven to warm, together with your jars (minus lids - the heat will melt the rubber seal).  Boil the lids then leave them to cool separately.  Make sure they are completely dry or the marmalade will go mouldy.

Lift out the fruit and leave to cool.  Reserve the liquid.  Scrape out the fruit from their rinds and separate any pips, putting the fruit (chopped if necessary) into the liquid and the pips into a muslin bag.  Add the muslin bag to the liquid and boil rapidly for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, finely shred the orange and lemon rinds with a sharp knife (you can do this in a food processor but it won't look so pretty).  Remove the bag, leave it to cool and then squeeze it into the marmalade.

Add the rinds and the warmed sugar and slowly bring back to boiling point (sugar should always be dissolved slowly or it will crystallise).  Boil the marmalade until setting point is reached - about 30-35 minutes. 

What is setting point?  Officially it's 104c with a sugar thermometer.  However, my experience is that thermometers are not always accurate and the pan you use makes a difference.  I use my Mum's easy method - ie the marmalade should turn more syrupy - dip a wooden spoon in the marmalade and hold it high above the pan.  If it runs straight off like water it's not ready yet.  If it forms a slow, sticky drip it's there.  Alternatively see

Put into heated, sterlised jars and cover whilst warm.  Pretty labels and lid covers optional!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Granny's Girdle comes into its own

My grandmother was a wonderful woman.  A midwife, a Dundee doctor's wife (and his dispenser), a powerhouse of energy and a model housewife who could clean something to within an inch of its life and remove any stain from anything.  She (Sadie) was one of 10 siblings and had sisters called Beldie, Katie, Maisie, Ovie and Flora.  Most of them lived well into their 90s (and Ovie is still going strong at 90+).  Katie was 102 when she finally popped out to the Chemist and popped her clogs. 

I an proud to have a few of my Granny's things  but two I treasure above the others - her preserving pan and her Girdle.  North of the border this is not a complicated item of underwear but the perfect receptacle for a batch of pancakes. The Girdle comes out on lazy Saturday mornings or days when we find ourselves with a little more time and the chance of a leisurely breakfast.

If you cook up a batch of these, spare a thought for Mrs. Sadie Duncan and the inspiration and love she brought to our lives.

Gluten and Diary Free Breakfast Scotch Pancakes (Drop Scones)

Heat and lightly grease Granny's girdle or a large non-stick frying pan.  Place a large plate and a clean tea towel in a very low oven to keep the pancakes warm as you make them. 

Place the following ingredients in a large bowl or jug:

175g gluten-free self-raising flour (Doves Farm and Asdas are both good)
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
45g caster sugar
1 egg
200 mls soya milk (or a mixture of soya milk, plain soya yogurt and water)
20g melted sunflower (or other dairy free) margarine

Whisk until there are no lumps but don't over-mix.

Place large tablespoons of pancake mixture onto the girdle, about 4 at a time or however many you have room for.  Turn when the tops are all bubbly and no longer wet (usually about a minute).  Remove to the plate when both sides and golden and keep warm in the clean tea towel.

Serve spread lightly with sunflower margerine and maple syrup (or melt some golden syrup in the microwave so it pours).

Great with a plate of fresh fruit, soya yogurts and fresh coffee :)  Good with bacon and egg too.

For ordinary pancakes just use regular SR flour, dairy milk and butter.
You can make a really big one like Hannah, if you wish!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

An old fashioned pudding - my way

Once again today we enjoyed the company of our friend and neighbour, Mr Webley, for Sunday lunch.  Roast lamb, roast potoatoes, beans, baby carrots - and instead of redcurrant jelly we had Blackberry and Apple jelly which was delicious with the lamb (sorry to my veggie friends...)!

It was a drizzly day, perfect for an old fashioned pudding.  I have a bag of apples in the shed from my friend Kerry's garden and the store cupboard provided the rest:

Gluten and Dairy Free Apple Sponge Pudding

'Butter' a pudding dish with sunflower margarine and place a generous layer of apples (peeled and chopped) in the base.  Dot over a few teaspoons of jam or jelly - I used the end of a jar of Damson jam but anything would do.  Or, a generous tablespoon of Demerara sugar with a sprinkling of cinnamon would be good.  Not cinnamon and jam together though, I don't think that would work.

For the sponge, mix together with an electric mixer:

4 oz sunflower (or any diary free) margarine
4 oz caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
4 oz Dove's Farm gluten free self-raising flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

Spread the sponge mix over the apples and jam, and bake at 180c for approx 30-40 mins until the top is golden and the cake mix is cooked through.  Serve warm with Alpro Soya Custard or soya cream. 


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

I do like a challenge.... and I don't like cooking separately

After a spell in hospital last year and six months on high doses of steroids I was feeling lousy and very fat.  Determined to find a sustainable way to lose some weight and regain a sense of health and well-being I gave up gluten and dairy, following advice from several friends who had done so and never looked back.  Ten months on it has been the best decision I have made in a long time (along with giving up full-time work and getting a dog!)  I am 3 stone lighter, much fitter and not really missing much of what I used to eat (when I get the urge for a cheese sandwich some egg mayo on a gluten-free oatcake seems to do the trick!)

I'm not fanatical about it.  I don't think I am truly allergic to those substances - though probably intolerant.  However, if someone gives me a cup of tea with ordinary milk I drink it  - and I eat the bread in communion services!  Generally though, I avoid gluten and dairy where I can.

Tonight my daughter asked for Spaghetti Carbonara - one of her favourite dishes.  Yes, we did have a sachet of Dolmio Carbonara Sauce in the cupboard - but I wanted to keep that for a work-day when I send her round to the neighbour's with her supper in hand.  I don't like cooking two separate meals and I try to eat together as a family where we can.  So I created a version that we could both eat happily and share it with you to tickle your tastebuds if that's your thing:

Cut 4 slices bacon into strips and fry until crispy.  Set aside.

Cook 2 servings of gluten-free spaghetti (I used Morrisons).  Add a handful of frozen peas a few minutes before the end of cooking time (my concession to 5 a day).

Meanwhile, put 2 fresh egg yolks in a large bowl with 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard.  The mustard flavour goes some way to replacing the cheesiness of parmesan.  Add 75mls soya cream (Alpro soy is the best) and about 2 tbsp soya milk.  Try to use unsweetened cream and milk - the cream I used today was sweeter than I would have liked and I will try it with Alpro next time).  Whisk this all together with some seasoning.  Go easy on the salt as the bacon is salty - but lots of pepper is good!

Grate some parmesan cheese for anyone who is eating dairy.  Chop some chives.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and immediately stir into the sauce, leaving for a few minutes for the hot pasta to 'cook' the sauce.  Add in the bacon and chives and put the cheese on the table for anyone who wants it.

Nice :)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Spicy Dairy-Free Mussels with sherry and soya cream

I love mussels but never cook them at home because no one else in the house is that keen.  In fact, before tonight I have never cooked mussels but have eaten them many times in restaurants and seen them cooked on TV and in my sister's kitchen on numerous occasions.

Lingering at the Morrison's fish counter this morning I wanted squid but there was none - then I spied the bag of mussels.  I didn't know what I would do with them but I knew I wanted them!

Tonight, with the rest of the family on a sporting sojourn at the far end of the county I browsed the BBC website for Mussel recipe ideas, then adapted them to create my own.  I have to say they were the BEST mussels I have ever eaten, so share the recipe for you to try for youself.

Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a large pan with a lid.

Finely chop 1/2 large onion, 1 stick celery, 1 clove garlic and 1/2 red chilli and gently saute in the pan until soft.

Meanwhile, clean the mussels (not a difficult job).  Pull off any 'beards' and throw away any mussels that are still open and don't shut when tapped.  Rinse the mussels under cold running water.

Turn the pan up high and add the mussels.  Throw in 1/2 wine glass of dry sherry and put the lid on the pan immediately.  Steam for about 4 minutes until all the mussels are open, shaking the pan periodically.  Add 2 tbsp soya cream, salt, pepper and a handful of chopped coriander and serve in a big bowl with a spoon (for the juice) and a separate bowl for the shells.  Don't eat any mussels that remain closed.

I didn't have anything else with this - no chips, no bread etc - it didn't need it - just used the spoon to consume the yummy 'soup' at the end!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

I often bake a cake on Sunday afternoons or Monday mornings for the Oasis Fairtrade Tearoom, open on a Monday from 2.30-4.30pm at Ditton Church Centre.  The tearoom is free and you get pretty bone china teacups and a cake fork, plus a warm welcome and a chance to catch up with friends and make new ones.  It coincides with school pick-up times - and being placed right next to 2 schools, a preschool and an Old People's Home it is wonderfully located.  You can sit outside when the weather's nice and there's a lovely garden for kids to play in.  If you haven't been there yet, go soon!  You can buy Kemp's Kitchen Homemade preserves there too...

Today, amongst other yummy delights, you will find a Rhubarb Crumble Cake - it's currently in the oven downstairs and will be dusted with icing sugar and delivered to the tea-room once it's cold.  Thanks to my neighbour Laura for the Rhubarb - the second generous donation this summer.  In case you don't get a chance to visit the tearoom, here's the recipe so you can make it yourself.  It's adapted from Leith's Baking Bible - a mighty and wonderful tome.

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

Pre-heat oven to 190c.  Grease and line a springform cake tin.

First, make the crumble topping.  Rub 80g butter into 100g plain flour.  It will be more buttery and lumpy than normal crumble mixture.  Stir through 50g granulated sugar.

Prepare the rhubarb - wash  about 800g rhubarb and cut into 1 inch pieces. Toss with 2 tbsp granulated sugar.

Prepare the base.  Mix together for 2 mins in an electric mixer: 100g softened butter or margerine, 100g caster sugar, 2 large eggs, 100g self-raising flour and a pinch of salt.  All the ingredients should be at room temperature to avoid the mixture curdling.  Here's a picture of the different bits ready to assemble:

Turn the base out into the prepared tin.  Cover carefully with the Rhubarb, then sprinkle over the crumble topping.  It will seem like not much cake mixture and too much rhubarb - but it does work! Bake for about an hour or until cooked through.  Here it is, ready for the oven.

Cool completely in the tin, then turn out and dust with icing sugar just before serving.

This is also great as a dessert with cream or custard.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Alone but not lonely

We are studying 'The Prodigal Son' with our 15-21 youth group on Sunday evenings this term. Some of you will have studied the series before - it takes an unusual view on the familiar story, looking at each character in turn through a reflection on Rembrandt's painting on the same theme.

Last week we looked at the father and the nature of his unconditional love for his son.  Rembrandt painted this picture near the end of his life - and it seems he identifies himself with the father in the picture.  This week, however, we were examining the prodigal son himself.  As a young man Rembrandt had apparently followed a similar path - spending money foolishly and ending up penniless and dejected.  So he identifies with both characters.  We pondered on how lonely the son must have felt, feeling of no worth to anyone.  He was not alone - his father loved him unconditionally - but he had to make the brave journey home to experience that love once again.  There was much discussion about his shoes - and why Rembrandt chose to paint them that way - and another debate about food - and whether being lonely was when you realised no one cared whether or not you were getting enough to eat.

Whilst we had this erstwhile deliberation, we munched Chocolate Chip Cookies, made by Hannah earlier in the evening.  And we bade farewell to two group members, off to Uni this week.  We hope, as they remember these cookies, loving prepared, if they are ever lonely they will know they are not alone and are loved unconditionally.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sausages with Boulangere Potatoes and Apples

Sitting in church, whilst (naturally) listening intently to the sermon, an image of meltingly delicious slow roasted pork shoulder with boulangere potatoes kept tantalising me.   I invited Mr Wobbly, our regular Sunday lunch companion, to join us at 5pm.  I had arranged to walk with a friend at 1pm, so planned a quick trip to the supermarket (not, of course that I go shopping on a Sunday as a matter of course...) and to put the joint into roast slowly in a moderate oven whilst we were out.

However, a search for my keys revealed that I had packed them in the neighbour's baby's suitcase when he stayed over last night.  The neighbours were out.. no trip to the supermarket for me.

So instead I searched for inspiration in the freezer.  Boil in the bag cod with Boulangere potatoes?  Perhaps not.  Chicken soup?  2 chops?  But there were 4 of us.  Ah - sausages.  Well, they're pork aren't they?

So here it is - Sausages with Boulangere Potatoes and Apples

In the food processor, thinly slice 2 onions and about 5 large potatoes.  Core but don't peel 2 cooking apples and slice into 1/2 centimetre rounds.

Mix the onions and potatoes with your hands, and layer into a baking dish with the apple slices.  As you layer it up, add some chopped garlic, fresh chopped sage leaves, thyme, salt and pepper.  Pour over 1/2 pint of vegetable or chicken stock and lay 12 pork sausages on the top of this.  Cover with foil and bake slowly for 2-3 hours at 140c.  Remove the foil, turn the sausages and cook at 180c for the last 30 mins.

Serve with fresh runner beans (Mr. Wobbly arrived with a pan of the same - ready prepared) and good company.

Poached pears with chocolate sauce makes a good - a seasonal - pudding to follow.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup with Red Lentils

It's a welcome day off and, though I have been up since 6, I have spent the morning in PJs doing things around the house and chatting - to family, to friends on the phone, to the dog - and often to myself!  Over a breakfast chat, the daughter requested soup for supper tonight, so I waved her off at 7 and rummaged through the kitchen cupboards for inspiration.   I happened upon a butternut squash bought for £1 and then forgotten.  I chopped a bit and stirred a bit - and the result was so delicious I had 2 bowls for breakfast and the daughter may be getting sausages for tea instead...

Here is the recipe.  I hope you like it :)

Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup with Red Lentils

Boil the kettle.  Make a cup of tea, and keep the rest of the hot water to add to the soup.  Drink the tea whilst pottering in your kitchen (listening to Radio 4 is optional but recommended).

Melt 1-2 tbsp butter (or dairy-free margerine) in a heavy casserole or saucepan.  Add:
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped (I don't bother to peel them)
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 peeled and diced butternut squash, seeds and stringy bits removed
Saute over a medium heat until soft and just beginning to caramelise on the bottom of the pan.  Add 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste from a jar (or chop some fresh root ginger and garlic) and 1 tbsp curry powder (I used Madras).  Stir through the veg and cook for a further few minutes.  Add 2 handfuls of red lentils and again, cook for a further few minutes.

Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme (I tie the ends with a rubber band to make it easier to remove the stalks later), salt and pepper.

Pour over enough water to cover the veg generously.  Add a couple of veggie or chicken stock cubes, crushed, or 1 tbsp of gluten&dairy free stock powder (I used Marigold).  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 1/2 hour or until everything is soft.  Blitz (or leave chunky if you like) and heat through before serving.

Chef's recommendation: Eat 2 bowls for breakfast and try to keep the rest for supper - or serve them something else and pretend the soup never existed.

Special Birth Centre Lemon Drizzle Cake

Last year I was part of the local birth centre planning group at the invitation of the local consultant midwife.  As chair of the local RCM I wanted to ensure the midwives wishes were being heard and that the new midwife-led service would serve the needs of local women.  As a midwifery lecturer I wanted to ensure it would be a supportive and nuturing environment for students.  As a midwife I wanted to work clinically there.  As a friend, I wanted to support Sarah, the consultant midwife, who felt like she was swimming in treacle trying to move the plans forward in the face of strong opposition.

Several unproductive meetings left us all disheartened - NHS red tape is well renowned.  Another meeting was scheduled and I felt some cake might be welcome.  I made Mary Berry's Lemon Drizzle Traybake and went along with my Tupperware box, a knife and some napkins.

I had COMPLETELY misjudged the occasion.  Unlike other meetings, this was a formal elite gathering in a remote trust office with executive directors and heads of departments all in suits.    They looked aghast at the midwife in denim carrying her cake tin and a dangerous knife.  The Senior Midwife cast a glance that spoke a thousand words - I was a typical midwife, representing the profession badly again, reinforcing the sterotype of a lentil eating do-gooder wearing inappropriate comfortable shoes and clothes.

The meeting began.  I hid the cake tin under the table and tried to regain some sense of equlibrium, resisting the urge to run away and attempting to find some credible insights to disarm their first impressions of me.  However, we were soon swimming in treacle again.  Stalemate.  Getting nowhere.  Our scheduled meeting time was nearly over.  Sarah looked close to tears with frustration.

I took a deep breath and said 'Would anyone like some cake?'  Another disapproving glance from The Senior Midwife.  Oh well, I thought - in for a penny, in for a pound.  'It's lemon drizzle and one of my favourites'.  Frank - the suit from estates - was the first to say yes please.  Then the blonde with kitten heels.  Then they all couldn't get a piece quick enough.

'Look', said someone, enobled by a lemony sugar-rush.  'Let's make this happen'.  10 minutes of brainstorming and bullet pointing was all it took. Afterwards Gill and I took Sarah to lunch, gave her tissues and more cake and  encouraged her to be strong, to 'hold the faith'.

Next week, our brand new purpose-built free-standing midwife-led birth centre opens to the Public.  It is everything we have dreamed of.  Sarah remains convinced it was the lemon drizzle cake that made it happen.

In case you have the chance to change your world through the power of cake, here is the recipe:

Mary Berry's Lemon Drizzle Traybake
Preheat the oven to 160c.  Grease and line a traybake tin.

Mix together for 2 mins with electric mixer:

225g softened butter or margerine
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
275g self-raising flour
4 tbsp milk

Bake for 45 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. 

Whilst the cake is baking, prepare the drizzle mix:

175g granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins then pour over the drizzle mixture whilst warm.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Rhubarb and Ginger Chutney

When we moved into this house, our good friend and neighbour Simon Webley (an elderly statesman of the village) gave us a Rhubarb plant that had been divided from one in his own magnificient kitchen garden.  The rhubarb has flourised in a reasonably sunny spot despite no attention whatsover (though I think the dog has fertilised it from time to time, it being placed relatively near the back door...)

I harvested some Rhubarb in the early summer and ate it lightly stewed with orange zest for breakfast with oats and yogurt.  Yum.  Today I had a pleasing second harvest of over 4lbs, so am cooking up a large batch of Rhubarb and Ginger chutney.

I share the recipe with you (I got it from an allottment website).

Rhubarb and Ginger Chutney

4 lb rhubarb, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
6 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
6 large onions, peeled and chopped (I used the processor)
1 head of garlic peeled and chopped with 1 large piece of peeled fresh ginger root (I do these both in the food processor)
3 pints malt vinegar (I used Tesco value for 13p per bottle!)
2lb 4oz demerara sugar (though I didn't have any so I used a mix of half granulated and half dark-brown-soft)
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp curry powder (I used Madras)
2lb 4oz sultanas and/or currants

Mix all the ingredients together in a large preserving pan, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for about 2 hours or until thick. 

Pour into heated sterlised jars and seal.

Leave to mature for 3 months before eating (so make it now and it will be perfect at Christmas!)

It should keep for at least 1 year on the shelf.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Wild Plum Jam

Wild Plums make the most amazing jam.  I picked mine from an abandoned orchard behind the Wheatsheaf Pub in  Leybourne/West Malling  (ME19 5AT).  It's worth a visit as there are loads of apple and plum trees with the fruit just going to waste.  I think these are Mirabelles - though some pictures show Mirabelles as Yellow.  Whatever they are, they're delicious - and they make great Wild Plum Gin too!

Wash and weigh the fruit, removing any stalks, leaves or bruised fruit.  I leave the stones in and remove them during the cooking process - but you could take them out before if you like.

This picture shows 4lb plums.  Add about 1 pint water and bring to the boil, simmering slowly until the fruit is soft but not mushy.  As the plums get warm and slightly softer I remove the stones at this point - just with my bare hands, squashing the fruit and taking out the stone - but you could do it later if you like.  It's a pain in the neck but also therapeutic at the same time!

Once the fruit is soft add 1lb of granulated sugar for every 1lb of fruit (so I used 4lb sugar) and heat slowly to dissolve the sugar.  If you boil it before the sugar disolves it will crystalise.  My Granny used to heat up bags of sugar in the oven to avoid this happening but I just leave it on a very gentle heat, stiring from time to time, until all the sugar has dissolved.

Then, bring it to the boil and heat rapidly (it should be furiously bubbling) for about 10 mins or until setting point is reached (104c).  I have tried various methods to determine this, including a jam thermometer, but the best one is my Mum's trick of holding the wooden spoon up high above the jam.  If the juice just runs off it's not ready yet, but if it forms a slow drop that looks sryupy then it's done.  Very technical!  I think slightly runny jam is better than a solid brick so don't boil it too long.

Pour into sterilised jars, seal and label.  Perfect!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Everyday Curry - Veggie, Fish or Chicken

This is not an authentic curry from any particular region.  It's a store cupboard and fridge curry that you can rustle up after work in the time it takes to cook the rice.  I make it quite mild as Hannah is more 'Korma' than 'Vindaloo' - but you can add more spice to taste!

Peel and chop 1 large or 2 small onions.  Sweat with some vegetable oil in a large-ish saute pan (or wok).  Add equal quantities of chopped fresh ginger and garlic, or just spoon some garlic ginger paste from a jar (I keep one in my fridge).  Add 1-2 tbsp of curry paste or curry powder (I used Madras curry powder as I didn't have any paste open).  Technically this is a South-Asian-ish curry so Indian curry paste would be good but I often use Thai and get away with it.  The point is that this is everyday curry - so it's made with what you have in the cupboards and the fridge so you don't have to go shopping.

Roughly chop some veg, whatever you have in the fridge, to bulk up the curry, add goodness and niceness.  Tonight I used 3 carrots, 1/2 a small butternut squash and some green and yellow peppers.  I have added potatoes before - especially good if it's a veggie curry.  Green beans and frozen peas work well too, but add them later on so they don't get overcooked.

Pour in 1 tin of coconut milk, fill the empty tin with water and add that too.  Add a tbsp of tomato puree, or a large squeeze of tomato ketchup.  Trust me,  it works.  Season to taste.

Add some protein here if you're using it - chunks of skinless, boneless chicken thighs are our favourite, but breasts are OK.  Turkey chunks is good.  Fish works - tonight we had frozen coley fillets (el cheapo) dropped in whole from frozen and just flaked through at the end (salmon too, but I prefer that in parcels).

Simmer everything until the veg and the meat/fish is cooked, and serve with steamed basmati rice (or value long grain) and chopped coriander.  Mango chutney is essential.


Autumn Foraging

Well, it's my favourite time of year for foraging.  It's all begging to be picked, and I don't have enough time to gather what I need.  Small handfuls of blackberries have fortified my morning dog-walks for the past month - with the occasional doggy bag (literally!) full of berries brought home when I couldn't resist it.  But I have had a couple of serious foraging mornings, one in the quarry and one in Leybourne Woods that have yielded huge bags of apples and mirbelle plums, some bullaces, blackberries and rosehips.  I just love these 'me-times', soaking in the peace in the woods and  countryside and thinking about the happy hours I will spend pottering in the kitchen putting them to good use.

I was also given 3 tubs of Damsons by my neighbours - and various friends and neighbours have left empty jars on my doorstep over the past few months.  People are kind - and they always get a full jar in return!

Produce so far has included Damson Jam, Hedgerow Jam and Pickled Plums.  There was wild cherry and apple jam earlier in the season.  Lots of Blackberry Cakes too.

Here's a recipe for Blackberry and Apple Crumble Cake:

Preheat oven to 180c and grease and line a small traybake tin.

Mix together for 2 mins in electric mixer:
4 oz softened butter or margerine
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
5 oz self raising flour

Pour into the prepared tin.  Scatter over 2 generous handfuls of blackberries and 1 large Bramely Apple, peeled, cored and sliced.

Rub together 2oz plain flour and 1 oz softened butter or margerine.  Add 1 oz caster sugar.  Add this crumble mixture to the cake, on top of the fruit.  Sprinkle with demerera sugar and bake for approx 40 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool for a while in the tin. 

Have some friends over, make a big pot of coffee or tea and eat the cake whilst slightly warm - with cream if you are feeling naughty.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Slob's Cooking

Just in case you think it's all haute cuisine Chez Kemp, some recipes from this past weekend.

Chicken Provencale-ish

1 packet skinless, boneless chicken thighs (from the reduced shelf if you really want to to be true to my recipe)
1 jar of tomato-based spicy pasta sauce from your cupboard (I used a Lloyd Grossman 'Puttanesca' that had been languishing for about a year because I don't eat pasta anymore)

Put these 2 ingredients in a casserole dish (I used a small Le Creuset), put the lid on and bung it in the oven (180c) and forget about it for roughly 40 mins.

Eat it out of the pan in front of the TV - with some rice and a salad if you can be bothered (definitely a packet of microwave rice is called for here!)

Have the left-overs for Sunday lunch with some other strange dishes made from what you can find in the fridge.  Invite some un-fussy and lonely friends who will eat whatever you put on the table and be grateful for it.

Marrow ratatouille-ish (best served for Sunday lunch with other unidentifiable dishes)

Find 3 nearly mouldy aubergines in the fridge, cut off the bad bits, cut them in half lengthways and bake in the oven, drizzled with olive oil, until soft. Leave until cool enough to handle.

Finely chop 1 onion and 1 clove garlic and seat in some olive oil in a saute pan.

Peel 1/3 of an overgrown marrow, remove the seeds and chop into 1/2 inch cubes. Add to the pan.

Scoop out the aubergine flesh and add to the pan.  Use up any passata or tinned tomatoes that you have lying around and add to the pan, season with salt and pepper, some dried herbs (I used marjoram), 1/2 tsp sugar and a slug of worcester sauce. Cover and simmer until the marrow is soft.  Serve lukewarm.

Salad Un-Nicoise

Use up old sprouted potatoes from the bottom drawer.  Cut of the eyes and peel them, then boil until tender.  Estimate when they have 5 mins to go, and add 4 eggs and a handful of frozen green beans and cook for a further 5 mins then drain and refresh everything in cold water.

Chop the potatoes into bite sized chunks, mix with the beans then 1/4 the eggs and arrange on the top.  Drizzle with a vinaigrette dressing.  If you had any tuna, fresh tomtoates, black olives or anchovies you could add them to make a proper Nicoise!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Blackberry and Apple Cake

Picked a huge bag of blackberries this morning and some apples - they (apples) weren't quite ripe but fine in a cake - and free, that's the main thing!.

A cake is in the oven as I write, and will be taken in to work, still warm.  Must make sure the boss gets a big slice...

Preheat oven to 180c.  Grease and line a large brownie tin or medium roasting tin.

Mix with electric mixer:

6oz margerine
6 oz caster sugar
3 large free range eggs
6 oz self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder

Add several handfuls of freshly picked blackberries and about 3 medium apples, cored and chopped (I don't bother to peel them!)  Mix gently to combine.

Pour mixture into tin and sprinkle with demerara sugar, then bake for about 35-40 mins.

Enjoy - picture to follow!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Blackberry and Lime Drizzle Muffins

I was SUCH a donestic goddess this morning.  Not only did I bake muffins before taking them into work  but picked the Blackberries whilst out walking shortly after dawn before returning home and turning them into delicious offerings for my colleagues.  Sadly however, having extolled my own virtues to my boss she wandered along to the kitchen to discover all 14 of them had disappeared to those with quicker responses.  So now I am in the dog house, and it seems I will need to pick MORE blackberries and make MORE muffins be be assured of continued employment.

Here is the recipe for those who wish to try it (it's my own recipe but heavily influenced by my Granny's trusty Victoria Sponge recipe, Mary Berry's Lemon Drizzle Cake and the BBC's Lime and Blueberry Drizzle).

Preheat oven to 180c.  Line a muffin tin with paper cake cakes (Makes about 12-14 large muffins or more cupcakes).

In an electric mixer, combine the following and beat for 2 mins:

6 oz softened butter or margerine (I used Stork)
6 oz Caster Sugar
Zest of 1 lime
3 large free range eggs
7 oz self raising flour
1 tsp baking power
3 tbsp milk

Add 1/3 clean doggy bagful (or whatever container you used to collect your berries!) freshly picked Blackberries and stir through gently.

Spoon into muffin cases - fill them just over half full.

Bake for approx 20 mins or until risen, golden and springs back when pressed (or when a cocktail stick inserted comes out clean).

Whilst they are baking make the drizzle:  juice the lime and mix with about 3oz granulated sugar.

Cool in the tin for about 5 mins then spoon a little drizzle mixture over each muffin.  Lift out of the tin carefully and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Take into work and make sure your boss gets one before the other gannets empty the tin.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Comfortable Shoes

I wear comfortable shoes.  I am comfortable with wearing comfortable shoes.  If you are uncomfortable with that, then I am sorry, but I will remain comfortable in my comfortable shoes.

I have always loved comfortable shoes.  However, I have not always been comfortable with the fact that I prefer comfortable shoes.  After all, can you be a real woman in comfortable shoes?  Are comfortable shoes not the preserve of those with hairy armpits (current body hair status undisclosed) or those of a different sexual persuasion (views undisclosed).

But in my comfortable middle years with uncomfortable middle-year knees I am comfortable with comfortable shoes.  And I was glad of my comfortable shoes yesterday when, due to middle-years forgetfulness, I arrived at the station without my car keys and had a much-extended journey home with 2 extra train rides and a walk from the station through rocky country footpaths.  I have observed many female commuters in uncomfortable shoes and wonder whether they would have managed the walk home with such ease.  But then I remember they are probably not in their middle years and would not have forgotten their keys!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Of Mice and Men

I love my husband.  No, I really love him.  You see I can't deal with mice.  Dead ones are just about OK as long as they are still whole and not dripping juices.  But live ones that jump about and run up your arm will reduce me to a screaming quivering wreck.  And our cats frequently deliver mice presents (sadly not nice presents) at 4am.  And they miaow loudly to let us know how generous they have been.  And my husband always gets out of bed without complaining and sorts it out.  He even talks to them.  Last night was one such night.  And he caught the invader with 2 wellie boots and a shopping bag.  And I didn't hear him swear once.  Unlike last week.  I had to ban his mobile phone for that - it was only fair as the same punishment had been meted out for our 11 year old the week before.

Another time I'll tell you about my screaming-on-the-sofa-because-the-cat-brought-in-a-mouse-only-it-was-only-a-half-eaten-burger-story but that will have to wait for another time.

I really really love my husband.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sunday Sermons and Salmon

Today is week two of four consecutive Sunday mornings on the woman at the well - John 4.  Just glad he's not doing 56 sermons on the same passage as Lloyd Jones apparently did in the 1960s! This morning we were challenged that our faith is more than religion, but a real experience of a living God.  Powerful stuff.  Enjoyed the songs too - though hoped no one noticed that I was playing 'All my days' by ear as I had brought the wrong song book with me. 'Love Divine' for the last hymn - pulled out all the stops on the organ (literally) for a rousing finish :)

An early Sunday lunch of Salmon Parcels with steamed rice:

Pre-heat oven to 200c. Cut generous squares of foil and butter the middle bit.  Allow 1 salmon fillet per person.  Place 1 fillet fish on each piece of foil then add finely chopped veg - today we had carrots, spring onions, brocolli, chicory and leeks - you can add anything you have in the fridge but it needs to be chopped fairly fine and all the same size so that it cooks in the same time as the salmon.  You don't want overdone fish and underdone carrots!  Add 1 tbsp soy sauce per person and close up the foil parcels, not too tight so that the steam can circulate inside the parcel.  Cook in pre-heated hot oven for approx 12-15 mins depending on the size of your fillets.  It should be just done.  Serve with rice and more soy/chilli sauce on the side depending on your tastebuds.

About to go walking with friends - attempting the '10 walks in West Kent'  over our summer weekends - Horsmonden today.  Hopefully there will be 5 people and 2 dogs - can't wait.  Finishes at a Pub :)

Just going to make some brownies before I go for the youth group tonight.

Brownies: Preheat oven to 180c (160c if a fan oven) and grease and line a brownie tin.  Mix together with an electric whisk for 2 minutes:
275g butter
375g caster sugar
4 eggs
100g self raising flour
70g cocoa powder
100g packet dark chocolate chips
Pour into brownie tin and cook for 35-40 mins - should still be squidgy in the middle.  Cool in the tin then cut into squares.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Foraging Forays!

Welcome to my 'Kemps Kronicles' blog!  I'm a singing, foraging, baking, preserving, vegetable-growing, lecturing, researching and  dog-walking midwife - so I can't guarantee a cohesive thread through the blog.

Last summer, due to a period of ill-health, I had time to forage through the Kentish country lanes and made mountains of preserves - selling them throughout the year for the local midwives' charity. I made quite a bit of money as it goes but wouldn't recommend it as a sole means of income - by my calculations I earned £1 an hour!  For Christmas my husband (Mr. Know-it-all [no really, he does!]) bought me a foraging day in Dorset with Mat Follas (winner of Masterchef 2009) and finally this week the long-awaited day came.  I was not disappointed - neither with what I learned in the lanes and hedgerows or with the 3 course lunch that followed.

Today I put what I had learned into practice.  Walking the dog through the local nature reserve (dis-used ragstone quarry) I identified and filled my pockets with the following: Wild horseradish, vetch (a member of the pea family that grows everywhere), cow parsely (I now  know the difference between this tasty edible flower and it's deadly cousin Hemlock!), wild marjoram, dandelion leaves, hawthorn leaves and dead nettle flowers.  Arriving home I paired these with smoked mackerel and added spinach leaves from the garden, rice noodles, cucumber, spring onions and coriander - and a vietnamese style dressing - and we sat by the stream to enjoy the fruit of my endeavours.  Happy times!

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