Thursday, 31 December 2009

Christmas leftovers - part 2

What does 31st December mean to you? To me it meant the roast ham was on its use by date! So today I chopped 5 oz of it up to make some tasty pea and ham soup. This is a soup I usually make towards the end of July when I realise I have missed a few peas when picking them and I now have some old, slightly floury peas on the vine that are stopping the production of new pods. These mealy peas (some might call them marrowfat) are pretty horrible if included with the lovely fresh, young ones but they make a splendid soup. Despite the lack of old peas at this time of year I decided soup would be a good way to use up some of the ham and enlisted the help of good old Captain Birdseye for the peas.

Before I could make the soup though I needed to restock on potatoes. We still have quite a few in the ground, which are generally surviving well despite the inevitable slug attacks. However, just before Christmas my stocks in the bucket in my shed ran alarmingly low and with snow on the ground I panicked and resorted to buying a bag of King Edwards to see me through Christmas. It had been 6 months since I last bought potatoes and I was shocked by the difference in quality. OK, I didn't need to scrape a layer of sticky mud of these ones but they tasted dreadful. When I tried making them into chips I was mystified by the weird black/grey patches under the skin as I peeled them. These are not marks I ever find on homegrown potatoes and they do not appear in the gardening book sections under pests and diseases affecting potatoes. Steve reckons they are bruises caused by the general rough handling potatoes receive and this seems likely. Then once cooked they browned more than they should because they have been out of the ground for so long most of the starch has turned to sugar, and they remained limp and soggy instead of crisping up. Fortunately, they fared better roasted in a deep pool of goose fat so they didn't wreck the Christmas dinner.

But now with the snow gone (temporarily at least), it was time to dig up some more spuds. I probably could have eeked out the ones in the bucket for a day or two longer but to be honest my girls were driving me mad and they clearly needed to get out of house and run around a bit. So after several minutes of finding old clothes and pulling on coats, hats, gloves and wellies, we set off for the allotment. As an added incentive I told me youngest that she could practise riding her bike without stabilisers so we pushed her bike round to the allotment too and spend the first twenty minutes running up and down the allotment car park as she wobbled her way to learning to ride her bike. I'm pleased to say she managed it and we got it on video!

Anyway, back to the task in hand. I dug up 4 enormous parsnips first then a row of Charlotte potatoes. A few of them had been turned into bug hotels with a detailed collection of holes and chambers but most were fine. As you can imagine, clay soil at this time of year is terribly heavy and sticky and both the parsnips and the spuds were in need of a wash. Fortunately, I had come prepared with a pair of Marigolds so I tracked down my trug which was conveniently filled with rain (or was it melted snow!). I pulled the rubber gloves on over a pair of thin gardening gloves for extra warmth and rubbed the mud off the vegetables before throwing them into plastic bags to bring home. It was certainly better to leave the mud on the allotment rather than to wash it down my kitchen sink.

By this point my eldest was complaining of numb feet so I grabbed a couple of leeks and we all headed home. We all felt a good deal better for having got some fresh air and exercise, the girls had stopped grumbling at each other and I had some lovely fresh veg.

Then it was time to make the soup using the fresh potatoes, a onion from the shed and, of course, some goose stock.

Pea and Ham Soup (Serves 4-6)

Oil (for frying)
1 onion (small to medium)
1 large garlic clove
13 oz (370 g) potatoes
2 handfuls of celery leaves
1 pint (660ml) stock (or water)
1 lb (450 g) peas
5 oz (145g) cooked ham
Salt and pepper

Heat some oil in the bottom of a large saucepan or preserving pan. Chop the onions and fry until soft. Add coarsely chopped garlic and fry for a further 1 to 2 minutes. Peel and dice the potatoes and add them to the pan with the celery leaves and stock. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cut the ham into small pieces and put about half an ounce (15g) to one side. Add the peas and ham to the pan and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat then puree it in a blender in batches until smooth. Pour into a clean saucepan and add water as necessary to thin. Add the reserved ham pieces and season to taste (being cautious not to over salt it). Bring back to the boil then ladle in serving bowls or into hot jars and seal immediately.

With 5 jars of beautiful pea-green soup made there was still a little bit of ham left so I chopped this up finely and decanted it into several freezer bags in small portions. This can be added to pizzas or to stir-fried rice or pasta dishes. So with the leftover dealt with, maybe I can start the new year with some new food!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Christmas leftovers - part 1

I love Christmas leftovers! All those tasty things and so many possibilities. I don't think I need to go shopping for about a week after Christmas, although of course I do (just to see what Christmas stuff they have reduced to clear). Along with the cold meat there are those nice things you buy before Christmas because they are traditional even though you don't have a clear idea when you will eat them. My mother-in-law always arrives with a bag full of nice food that she feels we ought to have a Christmas too. I'm getting used to what things she might bring so I try not to duplicate but this year we somehow ended up with about 4 packs of ham, 12 pork pies and 5 lots of bacon. Could be worse!

Not only does goose make a tastier bird for Christmas dinner than turkey but it makes better leftover too. Firstly there is the fat that runs into the roasting tin whilst it is cooking. Once cool enough it can be poured into a plastic container and stored in the fridge. Whenever required, a big dollop can be spooned into a tin and potatoes roasted in it. Then there is the carcass itself which can be used to make a tasty stock. This is really easy, just put the carcass - whole of broken up a bit and including the sage and onion still inside the cavity - into a big stock pot, pour on some boiling water and let it simmer away for an hour or so. Just before you are ready to bottle it, place some glass jars in an oven at 80°C. Then remove the carcass from the pan, strain the liquid through a sieve to remove any bits and ladle it into the warmed jars. Put the lids on the jars immediately and as it cools down the stock should become heat sealed in the jars. This is particularly well illustrated when using jars with "safefty buttons" because the safety button gets sucked back down again with a satisfying "pop!" once cooled. I expect these would be safe to store in the food cupboard but to be cautious I store them in the fridge. Then any fat in the stock solidifies at the top, making a protective layer above the stock which can also be easily removed and discarded before using the stock so that the stock is less fatty. The stock can be used to make soups or in casseroles, or to cook rice, noodles etc. or to make gravy.

Cold goose is tasty too so can be eaten with salad, sandwiches or with chips. It can also be broken into small pieces and stir-fried. Very tasty with a Chinese sauce such as oyster sauce and served with stir-fried leftover vegetables and some rice. Cooked goose is fine to freeze too so if by the forth day of Christmas you are growing tired of it you can freeze it for later. My girls love goose but aren't keen on the oyster sauce dish so for them I make goose rolls. I make these on other occasions in the year using duck, which works equally well. Firstly, I shred some of the cooked goose into a bowl and to that I add one large closed cup mushroom, very finely chopped and some grated or finely chopped carrot. I have found that I can get these vegetables in without the children complaining but you could add other things such as shredded leek, peppers or even bean sprouts. Finally, I add a tablespoon of hoi sin sauce and mixed it all up. Then I roll out half a block of ready made fresh puff pastry and cut it in half. Then the goose mixture is dolloped all along it. Using milk to stick it together, I roll the pastry over as if I were making sausage rolls. Finally, more milk is used as a glaze and then they are cut into sausage roll size lengths. This makes about 12 rolls, which will feed my two children 3 times. These can be frozen then cooked from frozen at 200°C for 25 minutes until golden. Monday night I served these with some rice, a few noodles and some carrot and cucumber sticks and they were eaten with enthusiasm whilst Steve and I had goose in oyster sauce. In my pre-Christmas focus I had forgotten to buy prawn crackers but we discovered that Kettle Chips work well too!

Roast ham is another versatile leftover ingredient and goes particularly well with the remains of the cheese board. This year I bought a wedge of pre-cooked roast ham for Boxing Day to save on the cooking. It was very tasty cold on that occasion and we have also eaten it in sandwiches for lunch, along with some leftover pork, sage and onion stuffing. My girls love it with cheese in cheese and ham toasties. Then yesterday Steve cooked some ham up with vegetables and potatoes to make a ham casserole. Today it was my turn to pull a meal out of the fridge so I made one of my yummy quiches. If you have only ever tasted shop made quiche you would be forgiven for thinking you didn't like the stuff. It has a weird flavour but it is nothing like the delicious version you can make at home. I was fortunate enough to be brought up on my mum's home made version so I have always loved quiche. Unfortunately, in recent years I have developed a dairy intolerance which has stopped me eating it. Luckily, my discovery of soya alternative to cream has put quiche back on the menu. It tastes just the same once in a quiche and I figure with a lower saturated fat content, it is healthier too. Better still, I just happened to have some soya cream left in the fridge from the Christmas puddings.

Making a quiche from scratch is fairly time consuming but the pastry is much better if home made. Of course, like pizza, there are any number of different versions depending on what ingredients you add to it but here's my favourite recipe.

Ham & Mushroom Quiche (serves 4)

4 oz (110g) plain flour
4 oz (110g) wholemeal flour
4 oz (110g) butter or margarine
3 oz (85g) roast ham or 4 rashers of smoked bacon, finely chopped
2 oz (55g) mushrooms, chopped
2 oz (55g) tinned sweetcorn
Grated cheese (whatever is leftover from the cheeseboard)
250ml soya or single cream
2 eggs
Black pepper

Sift the flours into a bowl and mix in the butter/margarine until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Splash in a little cold water until it is wet enough to bind the mixture into dough. Wrap in Clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour. Preheat an oven to 190°C and grease a suitable tin or pie dish. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and line the tin with the pastry, trimming to fit. Cover the pastry with greaseproof or baking paper and weight it down with baking beans. Blind bake the pastry for 15 minutes.Put the ham, mushroom and sweetcorn into the pastry case and grate in some cheese. Beat the eggs with the cream and season then pour this into the pastry case. Level out the filling and grate a little more cheese over the top. Bake for 30 minutes until the filling has set. Serve hot or allow to cool, cut into portions and freeze. Thaw and reheat in the oven or microwave.

Saturday, 26 December 2009


Phew, Christmas dinner is a big meal, isn't it? I switched the oven on just before half past 2 yesterday afternoon and we sat down to eat just after half past six. It started, of course, with stuffing the goose. Just coarsely chopped onions, sage, rosemary and celery for inside the bird and some of my apricot stuffing (defrosted from the freezer) for the crop. Fortunately, nothing more needed to be done for a couple of hours after placing the goose in the oven so I had chance to sit down and open a few more presents.

Later, it was time to get the roast potatoes on, along with roast parsnips. There was the added complication of the vegan meal for my step-daughter so I had to cook her some roast potatoes separately in sunflower oil. Also for her I did some roasted butternut squash. For that I retrieved a nice little one from storage, peeled it, deseeded it and chopped into into chunks. Then I tossed it in salt and pepper, crushed garlic and a little olive oil before spreading it out in the tin with her potatoes. They smelt so delicious when cooking that I decided to have some too and it was lovely.

Once the goose was cooked, it came out of the oven to rest for 20 minutes, allowing time to move the potatoes and parsnips up a bit in the oven to crisp and to cook the "trimmings" - stuffing balls and pigs in blankets, as well as the mushroom and walnut rolls. It also gave time to boil some carrots and to cook the Brussel sprouts. What beauties these were this year, I felt like a proud mother dishing up those homegrown baubles.
"Awesome", was the word used by my step-son to describe the meal, "lovely", said my mother-in-law, and all the plates were cleared. And after that I was glad I had put in the preparation to have a multitude of different desserts on hand to suit everyone's tastes. My mother-in-law wanted a mince pie so I asked her which type she wanted - plum & orange, apple & cider or figgy pear. And do you know what she said? "Can I just have a plain one?" You have to laugh! In the end she had Christmas pudding but I didn't mention it contained pumpkin!

I have to admit, though, I went to bed feeling totally pooped!

Boxing Day was a chance to catch my breath. I started the day with a lazy lay-in and did little more with my day than playing with my girls, although we did spend a little time making snowmen shaped bread rolls out of a packet of bread mix ready for a cold buffet for tea. There was chance for a family bike ride in the afternoon to burn off a few calories and to build our appetite. So all the cooking that was needed was to boil some beetroot and to cook some sausage rolls, using up some sausagemeat stuffing that wasn't needed for the Christmas Day meal. After that, the most complicated dish was some seasonal coleslaw made from red cabbage, beetroot and red onion. Still, with lots of serving dishes, bowls and plates the dish washer was still as stuffed as the rest of us by the end of the evening!

Pink Coleslaw

4 oz (110g) red cabbage

2oz (55g) raw beetroot

1 oz (25g) red onion

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

2 1/2 oz (70g) mayonnaise

Shred the red cabbage and place in a bowl. Peel the beetroot then grate into the bowl then finely chop the onion and add that too. Mix the vinegar, oil, sugar and celery salt together in a jug then pour into the bowl. Finally, add the mayonnaise and stir until well combined and evenly pink. Serve immediately or store in a fridge for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Catering for everyone

I love watching food programmes on TV and thumbing through foodie magazines. It is particularly fun at Christmas time when there are so many delightful foods on offer and the perfect excuse to make them. I find myself thinking I'd like to make this or give that a go and then I have to rein in my enthusiasm as I remember what Christmas is really like and how I have to cater for everyone's needs. And what a mix of needs I have to cater for.

Firstly, there is the minor issue of my dairy intolerance. I say minor because I can have some dairy and also because there is such a huge range of non-dairy alternatives on the market that it is bearly a problem... apart from cheese, which I love and for which there is no decent alternative. I do find myself squirming uncomfortably about half way through a Delia recipe, when just as I was thinking it was going to be nice she tips half a pint of cream into the dish!

My girls have their own finicky likes and dislikes. My youngest would be quite happy with a plate of vegetables at Christmas and is very enthusiastic about Brussel sprouts. My eldest has a more restricted range of favourites when it comes to fruit and vegetables but will eat raw carrots and frozen peas (still frozen). But this is easy to arrange as long as I remember to leave a portion of carrots uncooked.

Then there is my mother-in-law who, when once faced with 150 flavours of ice-cream, chose vanilla. She likes her food traditional, simple and bland. No spice, no garlic and nothing with mayonnaise. She also lifts the salt pot before her fork! And while I'm on the in-laws, there is my sister-in-law who is diabetic so can't have too much sugar. She also happens to not care for potatoes. No, I'm not making this up!

But all this pales into insignificance when my step-daughter arrives, for she is a vegan. On the surface of it Christmas and veganism seem completely incompatible with the central bird, the sausagemeat and the streaky bacon. Then there are the puddings, pies and cakes containing butter, eggs and drowned in custard and cream. Actually, it is worse then you might imagine. I remember the first Christmas after her conversion when her puzzled gran asked her whether she could eat things like oranges. Of course she can, I thought to myself only to hear her reply "It depends whether they have a coating of beeswax on them." Oh, that put me in my place... better whip the orange out of the stocking then! But I'm not one to panic and with some thought and preparation it is no bigger an inconvenience than anyone else's needs.

I saved the walnuts harvested from the autumn for my step-daughter's Christmas main dish - Mushroom and walnut rolls. These can be made well in advance, frozen raw and cooked from frozen on the day - as easy as cooking sausage rolls. Surprisingly, because readymade puff pastry is made with vegetable oil it is vegan-friendly, as long as you avoid the "all butter" ones of course. I serve the rolls with the same vegetables as everyone else, potatoes roasted in a separate dish (in sunflower oil rather than goose fat), sage and onion stuffing and gravy made using a vegetable stock cube. I have to say that when served it looks like a decent meal rather than a poor vegetarian option after thought. It must be OK because she has had this dish for 4 Christmas's in a row and takes home the uncooked spare ones.

Mushroom and Walnut Rolls (makes 12)
1 small onion or shallot
1 cloves of garlic (optional)
2 oz (55g) mushrooms
1/2 oz (15g) walnut pieces
A little oil
1/2 oz wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 dessert spoon cornflour, mixed with water
A little fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
8 oz (225g) fresh puff pastry

Place the onion, garlic (if using), mushroom and walnuts in the food processor and blitz. Heat the oil in a frying plan and gently cook this mixture for about five minutes until soft. Tip the mixture into a bowl and mix in the breadcrumbs, parsley, seasoning and cornflour. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle and cut into two long strips. Place the filling along the strips and brush the edge of the pastry with soya milk before rolling the pastry over the filling. Glaze with more soya milk then cut into suitable lengths. Freeze. Cook on a baking tray at 220°C, gas 7 for 10 minutes from thawed or 25 minutes from frozen.

With the main meal sorted I spent today organising the desserts. I started with raspberry trifle - not in the least bit vegan or diabetic but just plain yummy! This I made with 8 oz of raspberries from the freezer following my usual trifle recipe. Next I set about making mince pies. I already had 3 different flavours of mincemeat in my cupboard, made as the fruit was available - plum and orange mincemeat made in August, apple and cider mincemeat made in September, and figgy pear mincemeat made in November. So my daughter and I made 12 pies, 4 each of each flavour, adding a different shaped piece of pastry on top of each pie to indicate the flavour. As it happens by using Trex as the fat in the pastry and soya milk to glaze these are vegan too, not that that matters as my step-daughter to top it all doesn't like raisins! Still, the apple and cider mincepies are suitable for diabetics if the sugar is left out of the pastry.
Figgy Pear Mincemeat
My personal favourite and something you can’t buy in the shops so even if everyone has already eaten lots of mince pies this Christmas they will enjoy these for their different flavour.

Makes 4-5 jars
1½ to 2 lb (680 – 900g) pears
2 lb 4 oz (1 kg) mixed dried fruit
9 oz (250g) dried figs
1 lb (454g) Demerara sugar
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 fl oz (150ml) sherry

Put the mixed fruit in a non-metallic bowl, grate in the pear and use scissors to snip in the figs. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, cover and leave overnight. Heat in a preserving pan until boiling then simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer into warmed jars and seal immediately.

Plum & Orange Mincemeat

Makes 5 jars
3 lb (1350g) plums
2 large oranges
8 oz (225g) sultanas
8 oz (225g) raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1½ lb (680g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brandy

Wash, stone and finely chop the plums and place in a non-metallic bowl. Grate the rind off the oranges then peel the orange and chop the flesh. Add the dried fruit, spices, sugar and brandy to the bowl. Stir well, cover and refrigerate overnight. Tip the mix into a preserving pan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour until thick. Pour into warmed jars and seal.

2 lb (900g) mixed dried fruit
1 lb (454g) apples
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
1 pint (660ml) cider
2 tablespoons brandy

Peel and grate the apples and place them in a preserving pan with the mixed dried fruit. Add the spice and cider and cook for 10 minutes until the apple is soft and the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the brandy and pack into warmed jars and seal immediately.

For the Mince pies:
7 oz (200g) of plain flour
1 oz (25g) wholemeal flour (or a total of 8 oz, 225g plain flour)
4 oz (110g) margarine or butter
2 oz (55g) caster sugar (adjust this quantity according to taste preference)
A little milk

To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl and add the margarine (or butter). Rub the two together until it looks and feels like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix in. Add a little bit of cold water at a time and start to bind the pastry. The pastry should form a ball that is not too sticky or likely to crack. Wrap in Clingfilm and refrigerate for about half an hour.

Preheat an oven to 220°C (gas 7). Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until about 5 mm thick. Use two pastry cutters to cut out bases and lids to fit your tin/cases. Place the base pieces in the tin/case then fill three quarters full with mincemeat (do not overfill or it will leak out when cooking). Use a pastry brush to brush milk around the rim of the base then press the lid on top. Make air holes in the lid then glaze with milk. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin then transfer onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

After all that my daughter was still keen to keep on baking so we made some gingerbread stars, also vegan with the use of vegan margarine, and a vegan chocolate log, using vinegar instead of egg. Then after a break for lunch we made popcorn. Believe it or not we grew the popcorn too! And what's more it was pink! I have grown a variety of sweetcorn for a few years now with the intention of making popcorn. It is a variety called "Strawberry" and it grows large, strawberry shaped cobs of hard red kernels. It is a bit tedious pushing the kernels from the cob but once done it can be popped like any other pop corn. It is nice, however, that once popped it retains some of its red colour. Once again, totally vegan and diabetic friendly.

I wrapped a gingerbread star and some popcorn in cellophane bags, tied them with some red and silver curling ribbon and popped them into her stocking. Better than an orange any day.

A final job was to put the remaining walnuts in a star shaped container that I saved from last year, along with some other nuts and dried fruits. Surely everyone should find something they like in there.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A package to American

I posted a parcel to my brother-in-law and his wife in the USA yesterday. Yeah, yeah, I know I missed the last posting date but what can you do?! It is always tricky to know what to post to them for two reasons. Firstly, we don't see them much (for obvious reasons) so don't know them particularly well (I don't even know their shoe size so slippers are out!). Secondly, when buying for abroad you have to take the cost of postage into account so you need to think about both cost and weight. My brother-in-law came from England originally and quite likes to receive quintessentially English gifts so food items are often a hit.

A few of years ago we sent them a hamper from the Grasmere Gingerbread Company which was decidedly convenient because they post direct to the specified address - job done. However, having done this for two years in a row, last year we decided to look round for other hampers to send. But after a few days of searching the web it struck me as a bit daft as we were paying for 1) someone else's time, 2) a basket we didn't need and 3) a selection of food and drink that wasn't a perfect choice, as well as the postage on top, making it an expensive gift of low value. This year we decided instead to put together our own "hamper", only without a basket. After all, I have boxes and boxes full of jam and chutney and I'm more than capable of making a batch of shortbread or two.

Last year, with a bucket of enthusiasm I put together a selection of homemade preserves, biscuits, and cake and Steve added a couple of bottles of real ale to complete the gift. But then came the tricky bit - posting it! When we weighed the box it came to 4 kg which proved to be the first obstacle because the Royal Mail has a 2kg limit on parcels abroad. Not defeated, I looked around for other couriers but soon discovered that they would ship pretty much anything except food and drink. I think it might have been easier to have sent fireworks through the post! So, back with the Royal Mail, I split the items and repackaged them into two boxes, each roughly 2kg each. Then I filled out the obligatory customs declaration and stood in a very long queue at the post office in order to buy the necessary airmail stamps. These cost me roughly £40!

Well, you learn from experience, don't you. This year we decided to downscale the whole thing. 3 jars of preserves, two mini Christmas cakes and a bag of homemade fudge. All in one box, weighing 1.5kg and costing just over £17 to post. Much more like it!

My brother-in-law's favourite spread on his breakfast toast is marmalade so along with a couple of jars of jam I included some of my All Hallows Marmalade. Why "All Hallows", I hear you ask? Because it contains pumpkin! Yeah, I could have called it Pumpkin Marmalade but I suspect it wouldn't sell as well under that name. It is yet another sneaky way to use up some of my pumpkins. Did I mention I had grown 19 of them this year...? Yeah, I think I might have! But more than that, it adds a lovely smooth texture of the spread without compromising the flavour.

All Hallows Marmalade

Makes 4-5 jars

3lb 5oz (1500g) pumpkin
1¾ pints (900ml) water
1½ lb (680g) oranges
1½ lb (680g) lemons
3 oz (85g) root ginger
3 lb (1350g) granulated sugar

NB: Every pound of pumpkin requires ½ pint (300ml) water, 8 oz (225g) oranges, 8 oz (225g) lemons, 1 oz (25g) root ginger and 14½ oz (390g) sugar.

Peel and remove the seeds and fibre from the pumpkin and dice. Thinly slice the oranges and lemons to give the size of bits that you want in your finished marmalade. Peel and grate the root ginger. Place the pumpkin, citrus fruit and ginger in a preserving pan with the water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the citrus peel is soft. Warm the sugar then when the fruit is soft add the sugar and stir thoroughly until it has completely dissolved. Return to the boil then simmer until the marmalade has reduced to a thick liquid. Ladle into warmed jars and seal immediately.

Next into the box went two individual Christmas cakes. These make lovely little gifts. When I first started making these a few years ago I saved small baked bean tins for a few months beforehand so that I could use them as mini cake tins, perfect for little Christmas cakes. Since then my girls have got bigger and eat larger portions of baked beans and we have moved up to full sized baked bean tins as a family. I thought that marked an end to my mini Christmas cakes but then it occurred to me that I could bake one large rectangular cake and cut it into small square cakes. In a way the circular ones are a little more special but the square ones are still very effective and less fiddly to make. Once cut to size, I iced them with ready made RegalIce icing (no marzipan as they don't like it), and decorated the top with a icing star and silver balls. To finish, I made little silver cake board out of squares of cardboard coated in aluminium foil, and finally wrapped each cake in cellophane.

Mini Christmas Cakes (makes 8)

7 oz (200g) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons sherry or brandy
6 oz (170g) butter (or margarine)
7 oz (200g) dark brown sugar
3 oz (85g) golden syrup
1 tablespoon black treacle
14 oz (400g) mixed dried fruit
2 oz (55g) glacé cherries
2 eggs, beaten

You will need for this 8 small, clean baked bean tins. If they had a pull off lid there will be an internal rim. You will need to use a tin opener to take the bottom off the tin then turn the tin upside down and drop the removed base inside the tin so that it rests on the internal rim to make a mini cake tin with a removable base. To line each tin, use the removed base as a template to draw a circle on greaseproof paper. Then cut out a strip of greaseproof paper the same width as the circle. Cut out the circle then cut short incisions along the whole length of the paper strip to make flaps. Insert the paper strip into the tin to line the edge of the tin, allowing the flaps to fold into the base. Then place the paper circle on top of the flaps to cover the base. Place all the lined tins on a baking tray for easy handling. Preheat oven to 150°C, gas mark 2.
Sift the flour, raising agent and spices into a bowl and set aside. In a large pan, melt together the butter (or margarine), sugar, syrup, treacle and 1 tablespoon of sherry. Add the mixed dried fruit and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. Add the cherries and remaining sherry to the mix then pour the mix onto the dry ingredients and stir well. Stir in the egg then pour into the cake tins, filling each about three quarters full. Cook for one and a half hours. Test with a skewer and cool in the tin.

The last thing into the box was a bag of homemade fudge that I helped my girls make at the weekend. I tried making fudge about 8 years ago for the first time and again was brimming with enthusiasm so decided to make several different flavours. I then optimistically put the sloppy trays of fudge mix into the fridge to set only to discover the next day that they were still sloppy. Puzzled by this I looked for an answer on the Internet only to discover whole websites dedicated to "fudge disasters", explaining why your fudge hadn't set. Well, at least I'm not alone but sadly there was no remedy and it was suggested to pour it onto to ice-cream as a fudge sauce. Hmm... I really don't eat that much ice-cream. But it was enough for me to vow never to attempt to make fudge again and to fully appreciate the ubiquitous fudge stalls at craft fayres. Hey, I make jam, other people make fudge... I can live with that.

Well, finally this weekend I decided it was time to face this particular demon and to overcome it, after all, eight years on I have learn a lot about making food. I have to admit I was a bit nervous but I thought if I followed the recipes to the letter I would be fine. And that is was I did. When making jam there are certain rules that have to be followed and certain signs to look for before moving on to the next step and if you follow them then your jam will set and it is the same with fudge. I shan't include fudge recipes here because the Internet is awash with them but the main thing to remember is to check that it forms a soft ball when dropped into ice cold water before removing it from the heat. Anyway, by the end of Saturday we had a batch of white chocolate and cranberry fudge, chocolate fudge and vanilla fudge then on Sunday we made up mixed cellophane bags of fudge and tied them with curling ribbon. On Monday morning my girls took bags into school to give to their teachers, leaving 3 bags at home for various hampers for relatives. Another simple and attractive gift, once you have mastered the basic technique.

I know my brother-in-law was thrilled with last year's hamper and let's hope he is happy with this smaller offering this year. So what, you may wonder, does he give us for Christmas? Facing the same problems he opts for the simple solution and sticks a few dollar bills in with his Christmas card. Thankfully, one has never gone astray in the post. And once we have converted them into Stirling, it is usually just about enough to cover the cost of postage on his present!

Friday, 11 December 2009

It may be nearly Christmas but there are still pumpkins to cook!

Things tend to get a bit manic at this time of year. On top of preparing for my own Christmas, I always arrange to do a few craft fairs in order to sell my jams and chutneys. Last weekend I had one on Saturday 10 till 2 and one all day Sunday. I don't know if it is something to do with the "current economic climate" but the number of people attending was down on last year and the number of sales was down too. Funny really because most of the time people are quite keen to buy jam and chutney. It is one of those universal presents, right up there with slippers, that you can buy for that relative you hardly know - you don't even need to know their shoe size! And, people usually like to buy something a bit different to go on the Christmas table too. Not this year! I didn't sell one jar of cranberry sauce. Still, I shouldn't grumble, I came home with a pocketful of cash that will help to pay for my Christmas.

Cranberry Sauce

Should you need to buy cranberries for this recipe, it is worth knowing that they tend to appear in the supermarkets from about the third week in November.

Makes 2-3 jars
2 Oranges
12 oz (275g) granulated sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) port
1lb 5 oz (600g) cranberries
2 eating apples
Grate the zest from the oranges and squeeze out the juice. Put the juice, sugar and port in a pan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the cranberries, orange zest and grated apples. Cook, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes until the fruit is soft and the juices are thick. Ladle into warmed jars and seal immediately.

And what a relief to get the craft fairs out of the way so now I can concentrate on my Christmas. I'm intending to spend the whole weekend being festive. I may even have another go at making fudge, something that has alluded me in the past. Then there are hampers to make up for relatives, a wreath for the front door to fashion from trimmings from the herb garden, and plans for the last gardening club of the year to sort out.

Still, I am going to need to spend a little bit of time in the garden too. I spotted in the gloom as I went to get some more potatoes from their sack earlier this week that some of the stored marrows and pumpkins have gone mouldy. Pretty spectacular stuff - all runny and sloppy. So I'll have to transport the remains to the compost bin. I managed to catch one pumpkin just as the top started to turn furry so I've been forced to find yet more new and inventive ways to use pumpkin this week. I started with some pumpkin achar - spiced Indian pickle, using the River Cottage recipe

Then I made another pumpkin ginger teabread for Steve. We have been eating thin slices of pumpkin all week too, fried with mushrooms, onions, garlic, ginger and a splash of Balsamic vinegar. Then yesterday I made a pumpkin lemon meringue pie. All the glory of a normal lemon meringue pie but healthy! Despite all that I still have some of the pumpkin in the fridge and more in storage. Hmm... what next? Someone suggested pumpkin on toast but I'll have to give that more thought.

Pumpkin lemon meringue pie

For the pie crust:
3 oz (85g) plain flour
3 oz (85g) wholemeal flour
3 oz (85g) margarine

For the lemon filling:
1 lb (454g) pumpkin
2-3 lemons (depending on size)
1 oz (25g) cornflour
2 oz (55g) caster sugar
3 egg yolks

For the meringue:
3 egg whites
1 oz (25g) caster sugar

Preheat oven to 190°C (gas 5) and grease a flan case. To make the pastry, sieve the flours into a bowl and add the margarine. Use finger tips to rub the margarine into the flour until it forms a breadcrumb consistency. Use a little cold water to bind it into a dough. Roll the dough out on a floured surface and then transfer it into the flan case and trim the edges. Place a piece of greaseproof paper in the pie crust and weight it down with something like rice or baking beads. Bind bake the pie crust for 10-15 minutes until partially cooked. Then turn the oven down to 150°C (gas 1).

In the meantime prepare the lemon filling as follows. Remove the skin and seeds from the pumpkin and dice. Steam for about 20 minutes until very soft. Mash, or better still, blend the pumpkin until smooth. Tip it into a measuring jug. You will need about half a pint. Grate the rind off the lemons and squeeze out the juice. Use a little lemon juice to mix with the cornflour. Heat the remaining lemon juice, pumpkin puree and lemon peel in a saucepan until just boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the cornflour. Return to the heat and stir constantly for about 2 minutes until thick and smooth. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool a little. Add the caster sugar to the lemon filling, stir in and taste, adding more sugar if required. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the lemon mix.

Next prepare the meringue. Whisk the egg yolks vigorously until very stiff – an electric whisk is best for this. Then carefully fold in the sugar.

Pour the lemon filling into the pie crust and even out. Top with the egg white mix and sculpt into an attractive shape. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes until the meringue is brown and crisp to the touch. Cool in the tin. Serve hot or cold.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Is life too short to stuff a mushroom?

This week saw us pass through the 1 month to Christmas mark and finally the weather has turned a little nippy. Amazingly, however, we have yet to have our first frost here in Milton Keynes. Last year frost came fairly early in October and I was caught unawares and this lead into what I would call a "proper winter" with snow on the ground for a fortnight. This year I certainly won't be putting a bet on for a white Christmas. We could do with a bit of a cold snap to kill off some of the bugs that would otherwise be ready to infest the plants next year.

With Christmas looming large on the horizon I decided to make some stuffing balls to freeze until the big day. It also provided a useful way to use up some cut pumpkin I had in the fridge.

Christmas stuffing balls

3 slices of bread made into breadcrumbs
5 oz (150g) pumpkin
3 oz (85g) dried apricots (plus a few extra)
A sprig of sage
8 oz (225g) sausagement
4 ish mushrooms
A dash of nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut up the pumpkins, apricots and sage in a food processor then add the rest of the ingredients and whizz again until combined. The mixture can now be frozen for use in the crop of the bird or it can be rolled into balls and placed on a tray for freezing. Before freezing, add a third of a dried apricot to the top of each ball for decoration. Cook at 180°C, gas 4 from thawed for 25-30 minutes or from frozen for 35-40 minutes.

Last week on a whim I brought a bag of rocket, water cress and spinach whilst in the supermarket and we made a couple of salads out of it. Then this week, after the bag went past its best I decided to nip to the allotment to see what leaves we had left. With no frosts to damage them I had quite a few to choose from but in the end I just grabbed a big bunch of 4 different types of lettuce and a couple of beetroot. When I dished up salad for tea again my husband thought nothing of it but was somewhat surprised when I told him that the leaves had comes from the plot rather than a poly-bag. With it we had some of the beetroot and some tomatoes from the line across the conservatory. I'm truly staggered how well those tomatoes have kept. Good grief, it's almost December and we are still eating fresh homegrown tomatoes!

Salads aside, now is time to really get stuck into the joys of autumn and winter veg. My brussel sprouts are amazingly plump this year but I shall save those for Christmas. I'm not sure what we did right this year with them - probably made sure the soil was nice and firm around their roots. But now is the time to eat leeks, cabbage, and baked potatoes. Actually, speaking of baked potatoes I had a lovely one for my lunch today. It was an overgrown Charlotte as it happens but I decided to bake it anyway then I dolloped a couple of spoonfuls of pasta tomato sauce and some grated cheese on top. Baked potato, pizza style... yummy! Bring on the lycopene too!

Earlier in the week I turned 4 large flat mushrooms and a leek into a meal for two by making stuffed mushrooms. I have been told that Delia Smith once said that life is too short to stuff a mushroom. I don't know whether she did but I certainly don't agree. It is dead easy and really tasty.

Stuffed Mushrooms

4 flat mushrooms
1 leek
1 clove garlic
Grated cheddar cheese
8 rashers of streaky bacon

Preheat oven to 190°C, gas 5. Pull the stems off the mushrooms and finely chop them. Chop the leek and the garlic. Fry the mushroom stems, leeks and garlic together until softened then spoon this mixture equally into the 4 mushrooms. Scatter over with cheese if desired. Then place each mushroom on a cross made from two bacon rashers of bacon and bring the bacon up to meet in the middle of the mushroom. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked. Serve hot with potato cakes and salad.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Preparing for fairs

I keep thinking next week will be less busy but I have been thinking that for weeks now and there's no sign of a let up. Next week I have the first craft fair of the season so I have been busy preparing my preserves for that. Despite the fact that I have been steadily making jam and chutney every week since the summer I still have quite a bit of frozen fruit in the freezer and marrows in storage. Last week I was invited to a selling evening at a friend's house. Originally I was invited just to be a customer but I asked if it would be OK if I brought some jam and chutney sample jars over for people to have a taster. So this focused my mind and I spent the days beforehand preparing, printing and sticking 660 labels on 330 jars! I decided that as well as a sample of every preserve I make, I would also take two jars of each as stock should anyone decide to buy some on the night. This turned out to be two boxes of jars simply because I make such a huge variety of different preserves. I don't usually take samples when I run a stall at a craft fair because I usually have so many heavy boxes to carry as it is that I don't want to lug another box along (full of stuff I can't sell). I have, however, occasionally been asked if I have a taster so I thought this particular evening would be a useful experiment to see how useful taster jars are.

On the night itself I put out the sample jars, labelled roughly with handwritten labels, and the hostess provided some pieces of French bread to try the preserves on. I had also made some mini pastries with plum and cinnamon jam for people to nibble on. So I found myself in the kitchen, chatting away to the 10 or so other guests at the party about my preserves. But how did the sampling go? Well, bizarrely nobody tried any of them! All the pastries went but no one got as far as spreading a preserve on a piece of bread. The closest we got was a couple of people who took a lid off and sniffed. But far from the evening being a failure, I sold £37 of preserves. It just goes to show that people aren't particularly bothered about tasting the product, they just go on the sound of the name of the preserve and the description on the label. This is particularly true for preserves bought as presents.

Plum and Cinnamon Jam

3 lb (1400 g) plums
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ pint (150 ml) water
3 lb (1400 g) sugar
3 heaped teaspoons of ground cinnamon

NB: Every pound of plums requires 1¾ fl oz (50 ml) water and 1 pound (450 g) sugar.

Wash the plums, cut in half and remove the stone. Put the plums in a preserving pan with the water and the cinnamon sticks and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until soft and pulpy. In the meantime warm the sugar. Once the fruit is cooked, add the warm sugar and stir over a gentle heat until completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and heat rapidly for 10 to 15 minutes until the setting point is reached, stirring occasionally. Skim off any scum and remove the cinnamon sticks. Then add the ground cinnamon and ladle into jars and seal immediately.

Plum & Cinnamon Pastries

Puff pastry
Plum and cinnamon jam

Grease a baking tray and preheat oven to 200°C, gas 6. Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle. Smear the jam all over the pastry and scatter on sultanas. Roll the pastry up then cut the roll into 1 cm wide pieces. Turn the pieces on their side and place them on the baking tray then cook for 10 to 15 minutes depending on their size until risen and golden. Eat the same day.

Anyway, having got all the jars labelled for that evening, it was time to return my attention to the fruit still in my freezer, especially with Christmas approaching when my freezer needs to be used for other things. So since then I have made tayberry, blackcurrant and liquorice, and raspberry jams and redcurrant jelly. Of course, now I have a few more jars to label before the craft fair on Thursday.

And with Christmas in mind I spent a day this week making Christmas pudding and Christmas cake. My husband asked if I'd make another pumpkin and ginger loaf as he had enjoyed it so much so I cut into one of my mini pumpkins for this. Despite making the cake there was still pumpkin left so I decided to sneak a little of it into the Christmas pudding! I'm sure no one will ever know. I still have some of that pumpkin left over and I have a few ideas how else I might hide it in the Christmas fayre. But in the meantime I chopped some up and put it in the stir fry we had on Friday night. That turned out to be a delicious meal, helped, it has to be said, by the addition of my home made sweet chilli sauce. Tonight's dinner was less exotic, just fish in batter, but I did pick 5 French beans from the plant growing on the windowsill which added a welcome freshness to it.

Christmas Pudding (makes 6 mini 1/4 pint puddings)

5 oz white breadcrumbs
4 oz plain flour
4 oz suet
10 oz mixed dried fruit
2 oz raw, grated pumpkin
4 oz light brown sugar
Grated rind and juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 pint ale
2 eggs
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

Mix all the dry ingredients together except the baking powder then combine with the eggs and ale. Cover and leave to stand overnight. Bring a large pan of water to the boil then stir in the baking powder and transfer the mixture into the pudding basins. Cover each pudding with a piece of cloth, tied with string. Boil for 5 hours. To serve, reheat in the microwave for about 1 minute and serve hot with custard and/or cream.

Beef stir fry (serves 2)

1 sirloin steak cut into strips
1 carrot, cut into juliennes
1 piece of celery, cut into small pieces
4 mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, sliced
A piece of root ginger, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Pumpkin, cut into juliennes
A fair dollop of oyster sauce
Same again of sweet chilli sauce
A little mushroom ketchup

Stir fry the steak and vegetables until cooked then add the sauces. Serve immediately with rice and prawn crackers.

Also this week I got round to pureeing the tomatoes from my tomato chandelier. In a way I was reluctant to see it go but I decided to leave the line of tomatoes across my conservatory for the time being to eat fresh and because they look so pretty! It was nice this lunchtime to be able to just reach up and pluck a ripe tomato from the line. My husband said we could almost pretend we were sat on some Mediterranean patio somewhere, picking fresh tomatoes straight from the vine. That would have been fine had it not been for the clattering of rain on the roof and the howling of a gale but fortunately I do have a particularly good imagination!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Fireworks night

November the 5th came and went in our house with little more than an excited exclamation by the girls when they saw a firework from the window, but the lack of note was mainly because it was on a Thursday. We saved our own celebrations until Sunday night when, following a 5 year old family tradition, my parents came over for dinner, followed by fireworks in the garden. So on Sunday I made an effort to make it look as if the string of tomatoes across the conservatory were in fact seasonal decorations rather than ripening fruit. The previous Tuesday we had collected and laminated autumn leaves as part of my after school gardening club and I had a few left over so I threaded these onto rustic looking pieces of twine and strung them up along the line of tomatoes. I had convinced my daughters when the tomatoes were green that they were harvest festival decorations, and now they were red it was time to convince my parents they were bonfire night decorations. And for added effect, we lit the pumpkin lanterns for one last time too.

Being a Sunday night, I decided to opt for roast chicken for dinner and I'm pleased to say we are still eating meals where all the veg is home grown. On the menu that night were roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, leeks and calebrese. And for dessert, I took the individual plum crumbles out of the freezer and served them hot with custard. It was a yummy meal.

The usual bonfire night fare should include plot toffee but as my dad has a few false teeth I decided it was probably best to avoid this. However, I had decided some time ago to save my small plate full of hazelnuts for this particular occasion. When I weighed them, complete with shells, there was just under 150g but after spending about 20 minutes supervising my daughter with the nutcracker, our annual harvest weighed a mere 35g. After a few moments thought I decided to modify a Florentine recipe and make hazelnut and sesame seed Florentines. It probably breaks with all the rules as to what Florentines should contain but my daughter was pleased we had made something she liked with our hazelnuts and they were soft enough for my dad to enjoy too.

Hazelnut and Sesame Florentines (makes 12-16)

1 1/2 oz (40g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 oz (40g) golden syrup
1/2 oz (15g) plain flour
1 1/2 oz (40g) chopped hazelnuts
1 1/2 oz (40g) sesame seeds
1 oz (25g) glace cherries
1 oz (25g) dried mixed fruit

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and line a large baking sheet. Melt together the butter and the syrup in a pan over a gentle heat then remove from the heat and add all the other ingredients. Stir well and leave for 2-3 minutes. Dollop teaspoons of the mixture well spaced out on the baking paper then bake for 5-8 minutes until golden. Cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Pumpkin for breakfast!

Another week and still I'm working my way steadily through the pumpkins. Having neglected to buy pancakes from the supermarket I decided to offer my girls pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. This was met with enthusiasm! As it happened, I had frozen the last batch I had made and I quickly discovered that two pancakes sandwiched between two plates needed only 1 minute in the microwave to reheat them from frozen. Then a light scattering of sugar and a squirt of cream before putting them on the table - a quick and easy breakfast that looked like it took a great deal of effort. Having watched a TV programme last week that discussed the nutritional horrors of the average breakfast cereal, this breakfast compares quite favourably even though it feels like an indulgent treat.

I had 9 oz of pureed steamed pumpkin left over from the Halloween lanterns so early this week I used that up making pumpkin drop scones. I imagined my husband tucking into them after dinner, maybe sandwiching two together with a lick of butter and a splodge of jam but as it turned out he grabbed a couple on his way out of the door the next morning as he rushed off to a meeting. Who would have thought we'd be eating pumpkin for breakfast!

Pumpkin drop scones (makes 12-16)

9 oz (250g) pumpkin puree
1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 fl oz (55ml) condensed milk
3 oz (85g) sultanas (optional)

Preheat oven to 200°C, gas 6 and grease a large baking sheet. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend together. Dollop spoonfuls onto the baking sheet then bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden. Use a palette knife to remove them from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Can be eaten plain, with butter, jam or cream and can also be toasted.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Well it was Halloween yesterday so as you can imagine it was time to do more stuff with pumpkins. The day before we'd gone out for the day to a local wildlife attraction where one of their Halloween themed activities was carving pumpkins. This could be done for an additional charge of £2 and most people were getting stuck in. They had a huge trailer full of pumpkins and bin loads of pumpkin inners. It is a weird thing when you stop and think about it to take a huge edible fruit and to turn it into something completely inedible. With the pumpkin industry becoming big business, there must be fields dedicated to growing pumpkins which will all be thrown away!

But I'm no spoil sport and I love carving pumpkins for Halloween. Of course, I may have looked like a spoil sport as I whisked my children home from the wildlife attraction without a carved pumpkin each. Instead we went home and selected a pumpkin each from our homegrown collection. My now seven year old daughter decided that this year she wanted to carve her own pumpkin so I gave her a few instructions and words of caution and wisdom and let her get on with it. When she paused long enough from her hard concentration she asked me how old I had been when I carved my first pumpkin. I had to confess that I had been 24! Still, it wasn't the done thing in my day! As it happens, my daughter turned out to be a natural and produced a beautiful carving.

This had taken about an hour longer than I had anticipated and it was dinner time so we took a break and I resumed pumpkin carving in the morning for my youngest daughter. She wasn't keen to carve her own and that was just fine by me so I set about doing hers. But as soon as I'd got past the gooey and tiring emptying of the pumpkin stage my eldest appeared and declared she wanted to carve this one too. I let her get on with it until the tool blade snapped and it all became a lot trickier at which point I finished the job for her. She was also noticeably absent for the smearing of Vaseline over all the cut edges. She apparently hates Vaseline on her hands more than pumpkin goo!

I noticed that our homegrown pumpkins had much thicker flesh than the ones being carved the day before. In a way that makes carving them harder work but it does mean they yield quite a lot of pumpkin that can be eaten. With the flesh from the first pumpkin we made some pumpkin cup cakes and decorated them ready for our Halloween party after dark. I have steamed the flesh from the other one but have yet to make it into anything. Where am I now with my 101 things to do with a pumpkin? Number 10 maybe... I'm not sure I'm ever gonna make it to 101!

Pumpkin Cup Cakes

6 oz (175g) light brown sugar
3 oz (85g) butter, softened
2 large eggs
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
8 oz of steam, pureed pumpkin

4oz (110g) cream cheese
2 oz (55g) icing sugar
1 oz (25g) cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Orange food colouring
White chocolate
Liquorice wheels

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and put paper cases into a fairy cake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar then stir in the eggs. Sift in the dry ingredients then add the pumpkin puree and stir until mixed well. Spoon into the paper cases and bake for about 20 minutes until golden and risen. Cool on a wire rack. Whisk together the cream chesse, icing sugar, cornflour, vanilla and food colouring to make the frosting. Once the cakes are cooled, spoon the frosting on top each cake. To make the chocolate decorations, melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water then pour into Halloween themse ice-cube trays. Chill overnight until hard then remove from the trays and stick them into the frosting. To make the liquorice spiders, unravel a liquorice wheel about half way and snip the liquorice off. Stick the remaining wheel onto the frosting then cut some of the remaining length into 8 legs and two claws and stick these on too. Store in the fridge but eat at room temperature.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Hot (and spicy) in the kitchen!

Having grown up in a house where the only spice in the cupboard was ground ginger (for home baking purposes only) I still find it hard to eat and enjoy spicy food. Having said that, there was no garlic in my home as a child either but now that is an essential ingredient in my kitchen. I have slowly increased my tolerance for spicy food but you are never likely to see my in a curry house. My husband is much the same, although he enjoys a good dollop of mango chutney on a baked potato and will splash sweet chilli sauce on the occasional meal.

My husband's favourite version of mango chutney is the one with lime, which sadly is difficult to find in most shops. Knowing this, last year I found a recipe for lime chutney and thought this would make a good alternative. How wrong I was! I don't know whether there was a typing error in the recipe or something but it contained 4 limes, a variety of spices and no sugar. The next baked potato was rendered inedible by a dollop of this stuff on it. Not one to give up nor to throw food away, I decided to try to tone the chutney down a bit, first by adding sugar, and secondly by adding one and half pounds of pumpkin to it (nice and bland). And it worked. So this year with pumpkin to spare I popped down to my local Lidl's where you can buy limes at the moment for either 20p each or 5 for 50p (no brainer!). To moderate the lime flavour a little more I decided to peel two of the limes this year and use two more with peel and all. Of course, I need to wait 6 weeks for the flavours to mellow before tasting it as it should be but so far it seems to be a very promising chutney and a good one to use with Indian food.

Lime Chutney

Makes 2-3 jars
4 limes
1 small onion
2 handfuls of sultanas
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
½ teaspoon crushed chillies
4 crushed garlic cloves
1 inch (2.5cm) grated root ginger
2 teaspoons peppercorns
7 cardamom pods, seeds extracted
1 teaspoon turmeric
A dash of olive oil
1½ lb (680g) pumpkin
8 oz (225g) light brown sugar
1 pint (660ml) white wine vinegar

Peel two limes and leave the others unpeeled. Finely chop the limes, onion and sultanas in a food processor. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the spices until they start to pop. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 1 minute. Put the lime mix in a preserving pan, add the spices and 12 fl oz (350ml) of vinegar. Simmer until thick. In the meantime, peel and dice the pumpkin then cook in the remaining vinegar for about 30 minutes until soft. Stir the sugar and the lime mix into the cooked pumpkin. The chutney should be thick at this point but it can be simmered to reduce it further if necessary. Lade into warmed jars and seal immediately.

On a similar note, I decided that rather than buying sweet chilli sauce I should try to make some. We don't usually grow chilli peppers because they can be tricky without a greenhouse and because we generally don't like them. However, this year I was given some seed so popped them into pots to see what would happen. I grew them for several weeks in our conservatory with some tomatoes but put them outside in their pots when we went away on holiday for 3 weeks. We never did bring them inside again but amazingly they managed to ripen and there are still a few green ones on the plants.

Not being a huge fan nor connoisseur of chilli peppers I took a friend up on her offer to try one for me and she declared them tasty but not at all hot. With that established, the next step was to work out a recipe for sweet chilli sauce. I started by examining the ingredients on the open bottle in my fridge. This proved alarming as it seemed that 95% of what was in the bottle was sugar water, leaving room for some thickener and a bit of chilli and colouring. Then I examined the more expensive version of the sauce that was still unopened in my food cupboard. This one had a few more ingredients, including 11.5% plum paste but the only chilli in it was 1% chilli powder. So then I decided to google for a recipe (or at least some ideas) but this proved just as difficult as it seems that everybody who makes some has their own idea about what should go into it and how to make it. None the wiser, I returned to the bottle in my cupboard and decided to work out something based on that and the ingredients I had to hand - principally 4 oz of chilli peppers and some frozen plums.

So the recipe below is my version of sweet chilli sauce. I would say that anyone making a sauce like this needs to be fairly flexible with their ingredients because the strength of chilli varies enormously and so does our tolerance for them. Anyone wanting to add more heat to their sauce could add crushed chillies from a jar or chilli powder or cayenne pepper. If on the other hand you need to reduce the heat then cut the peppers open and remove the seeds and white bits inside the peppers as this is where the heat is contained.

1 pint (660ml) water
1 lb (454g) granulated sugar
8 oz (225g) chopped plums (Victoria are best for colour)
4 oz chilli peppers
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornflour

Put the chopped plums in a saucepan with 2 oz (55g) of the sugar and 5 fl oz of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes until soft. In the meantime, remove the stalks from the chilli peppers and roughly chop. Mix about 2 tablespoons of the water with the cornflour to make a white liquid. Once cooked, place the plums into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the chilli peppers and blend again to finely chop the peppers. Return this mix to the pan and add the remaining water, sugar, salt, paprika and lemon juice. Bring to the boil, adding the cornflour just as it starts to bubble, stirring as it goes in. Continue to stir it as it boils until it thickens. Ladle into warmed bottles and seal immediately. The sauce should keep well in the bottle until opened then keep refrigerated.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Pumpkins still

I had another pumpkin themed day again today. I still had a bit more than a pound of pumpkin left over from the large one I cut into last Friday and to that I had added a bit whilst making the bird feeder on Sunday. There was only one slice of the pumpkin and ginger tea bread left in the cake box, my husband having declared it the best cake I had ever made (wow, now that's a complement!). So, having stocked up on ingredients I set about making pumpkin and orange tray bake this morning to refill the box. This proved a deliciously moist and fruity cake which my daughter declared the best cake I had ever made (not quite such a complement as she is only 7 and says "best ever" at the drop of a hat!).

Pumpkin & orange tray bake

200g butter , melted
4 eggs , beaten
zest & juice of 1 orange
300g self-raising flour
300g light muscovado sugar
3 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g sultanas
½ tsp salt
500g (peeled weight) pumpkin, grated

200g pack soft cheese
100g icing sugar , sifted
zest & juice of 1 orange

Heat oven to 180°C, gas 4. Butter and line a 25 x 25cm square tin. Beat the eggs into the melted butter, stir in the orange zest and juice, then mix with the dry ingredients till combined. Stir in the pumpkin. Pour into the tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch. Cool for 10 minutes then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Whilst still warm, prick it all over with a skewer and drizzle with the orange juice from the second orange, retaining 1 tablespoon of juice for the icing. Leave to cool completely. To make the frosting, beat together the cheese, icing sugar, orange zest and 1 tablespoon of the juice till smooth and creamy. Add a little cornflour to stiffen if necessary. When the cake is cool, spread the frosting over the top of the cake in peaks and swirls. Store the cake in the fridge but return to room temperature to serve.

With the cake still warm and the smell of delicious home baking filling the house, I dashed off to gardening club where the theme was... you guessed it... pumpkins! We had managed to grow one little pumpkin which this afternoon we turned into two bird feeders. I also took one large pumpkin in from home and showed them how to make a pumpkin lantern and we baked pumpkin muffins so that they realised that pumpkins can be eaten too! A packed afternoon but a lot of fun for all.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

More pumpkin stuff

How am I doing on the 101 things to do with pumpkins? Is it 5 or 6 so far? Well, this morning I made some of my delicious pumpkin and butternut squash soup.

Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Soup (serves 3)

1 lb (450g) pumpkin flesh
1 lb (450g) butternut squash flesh
Olive oil
10 fl oz vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato puree
4 sage leaves
Salt and pepper

Peel and chop the vegetables then fry them in some olive oil for about 5 minutes in the bottom of a large saucepan. Pour in the stock, add the tomato puree and sage leaves and simmer for 30 minutes until soft. Pour into a food processor and blend until smooth. Return to the pan. Season to taste and bring back to the boil then either serve it hot or pour into warmed jars, seal and put in the fridge until needed.

Then after my hearty lunch, I made one of my mini pumpkins into two bird feeders. For this I just chopped it in half and scooped out the inners to make two dishes. Adding Vaseline to the cut surfaces helps to preserve them for a few more days. Next I plaited 12 pieces of string into 4 cords (it helps that I just happen to be super speedy at plaiting!). Then I secured two cords to each pumpkin dish using a drawing pin underneath. Finally, I filled the dish with seeds (including some of the pumpkin seeds) and hung them up outside. This is a lovely simple idea and could be the perfect thing to do with my gardening club gardeners this week with our one small pumpkin.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

101 things to do with a pumpkin!

I'm not sure I'll find 101 things to do with a pumpkin but I need to find quite a few; after all, I have 19 of things to use up!

Whilst my yellow tomato and pumpkin chutney was happily bubbling away, I chopped up a fair amount of the remaining pumpkin and put it into the steamer to cook for a while. When soft, I put it into a bowl and mashed it. Once pureed, pumpkin is very versatile and can be used in a number of sweet recipes where its presents can pass unnoticed. Some of these, such as muffins and pancakes, I have made before and have become family favourites. But others remain untried but interesting.

One such untried recipe was pumpkin ice-cream. I saw something written by James Martin in a magazine the other day suggesting stirring pumpkin puree through vanilla ice-cream. I thought for a moment he had lost the plot but on further consideration it sounded like it had potential. I was still surprised, however, when I googled it to discover something like 240,000 hits for pumpkin ice-cream. The one thing about pumpkin is that it goes very well with spices such as ginger and cinnamon. I think vanilla is a bit wish-washy to go with pumpkin so when I saw a recipe with cinnamon, ginger and pumpkin I decided to give it a go.

Pumpkin Ice-cream

450g fresh pumpkin
300ml whipping cream
120g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch of salt

Peel and chop the pumpkin then steam until soft. Mash until a smooth puree is formed. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend for about a minute until well mixed. Pour into suitable containers and put in the freezer. Take out of the freezer after 2-3 hours and whip up with a fork to break up the ice crystals before returning to the freezer.

It makes an interesting ice-cream, unlike anything you are likely to find in the shops. As you can imagine, the spices are the dominate flavour with a slight toffee flavour from the sugar. No hint of pumpkin! I think it would go very well dolloped next to a hot winter pudding such as apple pie or sticky toffee pudding.

After that I immediately froze a pound of pumpkin puree to make into pumpkin muffins at a later date. They are a good one to have in the cake tin in the run up to Halloween.

Pumpkin muffins

1 lb (450 g) pumpkin
3¼ oz (90 g) wholemeal flour
6½ oz (180g) self-raising flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
3¾ oz (95g) dark brown sugar
2 oz (55 g) sultanas
2 eggs
4 fl oz (115 ml) sunflower oil
4 fl oz (115 ml) whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel, chop and steam the pumpkin for 20 to 30 minutes until very soft. Squash until smooth then allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight if desired. Preheat oven to 210°C, gas 7. Sift the flours and spices into a bowl, adding any bran remaining in the sieve. Whisk the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla together and add to the dry mix then add the pumpkin. Combine until just mixed. Spoon into paper cases in a tin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

The next day, I grated some of the remaining fresh pumpkin into a recipe to make pumpkin and ginger tea bread. What a delicious recipe this proved to be - a lovely moist cake with a yummy ginger flavour. I had a piece mid afternoon and when my husband had a slice for his dessert after
dinner I couldn't resist having another slice!

Pumpkin and Ginger Tea Bread

175g melted butter
140g clear honey
1 egg, beaten
250g fresh pumpkin
100g light muscovado sugar
350g self-raising flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and line a 2lb load tin. Mix together the butter, honey, egg and pumpkin. Add the muscovado sugar, flour and ginger and stir until well combined. Pour into the tin then sprinkle over the Demerara sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes until risen and golden. Leave in the tin to cool for 10-15 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.

With some of the remaining pumpkin puree I made a batch of pumpkin pancakes. These are similar to Scotch or American-style pancakes. My daughters like to have pancakes for breakfast every now and then so it is nice to be able to make some rather than buy them. They can be frozen, thawed and reheated in the microwave for the ultimate in convenience food. As it happened, my daughters were hugely enthusiastic about them whilst I was making them and they both wanted a freshly cooked one right there and then despite only having just eaten their lunch!

Pumpkin pancakes (makes 16-18)

250g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp mixed spice
55g light brown sugar
3 eggs
284 ml carton buttermilk
175 g pumpkin puree
4 teaspoon sunflower oil

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, raising agents and spice. In another bowl, mix together the sugar, egg, milk, pumpkin and oil. Make a well in the centre of the flour and gradually mix in the wet ingredients until a batter forms. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and add 60ml (2 tablepoons or 1/4 cup) of batter at a time. Cook until the base is set then flip and cook until the second side has set and browned. Either serve hot or cool on a wire rack and freeze for use later.

After this I still had a bowlful of puree so I weighed it out into bags for other recipes I want to try and put them into the freezer until we have eaten our way through the tea bread and I have stocked up on a few ingredients.

So, how many of my 19 pumpkins have a worked through so far... not quite one! Maybe I will find 101 things to do with them after all!

Tomato chutney

My mum has to be the only person I know who likes it when blight strikes my tomatoes. This is because she loves my green tomato chutney. I say 'my' but in fact the recipe is my grandma's - that's my mum's mum. I grew up with the flavour of this chutney in cheese and chutney sandwiches both from visits to my grandma's house and also because my mum had jars of the stuff in her cupboard too. I don't think that my mum has ever made it herself so not only does she love the flavour of it but also the memories it holds. So when blight strikes I end up harvesting my tomatoes whilst still green - thus green tomato chutney.

Unfortunately, from my mum's point of view, I sprayed my tomatoes this year with copper sulphate at fortnightly intervals and managed to go the whole season without a single plant succumbing to the dreaded disease. From August to October I harvested ripe tomatoes every week and despite my youngest daughter's attempt to eat every tomato available, even she couldn't keep up and I have had pounds and pounds of tomatoes off the plot. Most of them have ended up in my freezer with the intention of turning them into chutney at a later date. What I hadn't realised with this slow accumulation was exactly how many pounds of tomatoes I had stashed away. And then, with the final harvest last weekend, I had pounds more tomatoes strung up in my kitchen.

Over and over again you hear people on the telly and read stuff in gardening magazines saying that if you have to pick tomatoes green just put them in a bag or drawer with a ripe apple or banana and the ethylene released from the fruit will cause the tomatoes to ripen. Well, in my experience, this isn't the case. If a tomato has started to ripen, no matter how slight, then this method will work but if it hasn't then it will stay green. It can sit happily on a sunny windowsill for weeks and weeks neither going mouldy nor turning ripe. So, even without the dreaded blight, at this time of year there are always enough green tomatoes to make green tomato chutney.

Green tomato chutney

Makes 2-4 jars
2lb (900 g) green tomatoes
1lb (454g) cooking apples
8 oz (225g) onions
1 oz (25g) salt
4 oz (110g) sultanas
1 pint (660 ml) malt vinegar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon pickling spice (e.g. cloves, cinnamon, allspice berries)
8 oz (225g) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle

Coarsely chop the tomatoes then peel, core and chop the apples (weigh after preparation). Peel and chop the onions and tie the spices in a piece of muslin. Mix all the ingredients except the sugar and treacle in the preserving pan and bring to the boil. Drop in the spices. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the pulp is tender (20 to 30 minutes). Add the sugar and treacle and stir well until it has completely dissolved. Bring back to the boil and continue to boil until thick. Pour into warm jars and seal immediately.

From the strings of tomatoes hanging in my kitchen I managed by mid week to pick enough red tomatoes to make the very tasty red tomato and ale chutney.

Red tomato and ale chutney

Makes 4-5 jars
4 lb (1815g) red tomatoes
12 oz (340g) onions
2-3 cloves garlic
12 oz (340g) sultanas
12 oz (340g) soft light brown sugar
12 fl oz (350ml) malt vinegar
6 fl oz (175ml) ale
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Puree the tomatoes to remove the skin and seeds. Plunge the tomatoes in hot water and then into cold then pinching off the skin. Roughly chop and blend in a blender then sieve to remove the seeds. Pour the puree into a preserving pan. Finely chop the onions and garlic and add these and the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Bring to the boil then simmer for 2-3 hours until thick, stirring occasionally. Ladle into warmed jars and seal.

Then to complete the set, at the end of the week, I thawed out 2 pounds of yellow tomatoes for my yellow tomato and pumpkin chutney.

Yellow Tomato and Pumpkin Chutney

Makes 3-4 jars
2 lb (900g) chopped pumpkin flesh
2 lb (900g) yellow tomatoes, skin and seeds removed.
12 oz (340g) onions
2 tablespoons of salt
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
3 teaspoons of turmeric
2 teaspoons of ground allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, crushed
20 fl oz (500 ml) white wine vinegar
1 lb (454g) granulated sugar
2 oz (55g) stem ginger

Put all the ingredients except the sugar and stem ginger into a preserving pan and mix well. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 minutes until very soft. Stir in the sugar and stir until dissolved then simmer until the chutney is thick (about one and half hours). Add the freshly chopped stem ginger to the chutney and ladle into the jars and seal immediately.

What a satisfying week that was but with two drawbacks. The first is that I have made jars and jars of chutney and hardly touched the pounds of frozen tomatoes in my freezer. And the second is I had to cut into a pumpkin to make the yellow tomato chutney. So, now I have most of a huge pumpkin to use up. Well, folks, tune in to the next exciting installment to find out what I did with the pumpkin!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Chutney poisoned the lettuce

Currently we have our stored fruit and vegetables in a covered area in our back garden between our conservatory and our neighbours wall. It is sheltered from the rain and warmer than the garden but still open to the weather. We have our potatoes in sacks, our pumpkins, squash, courgettes and cucumbers in boxes, onions, shallots and garlic in trays and apples in a box too. Last weekend when I went to fetch some potatoes for dinner I noticed that two of the potatoes in the bag had nibble marks in them. I concluded this was probably from mice so I moved the bag up to a higher shelf. Unfortunately, the next morning I noticed nibble marks in the apples instead! And there was no more room on the higher shelf. My husband had two more shelves to screw to the wall but I figured it would be quicker to use up the apples instead so I decided that this week would be my use up apples weeks.

I started on Monday by making summer fruit jam - apples with strawberries and raspberries from the freezer. This is my youngest daughter's favourite jam and I have to admit that it is delicious! On Tuesday I made apple and blackcurrant jam with a pound of blackcurrants from the freezer. Unfortunately, also on Tuesday I was struck by a cold. Don't you just hate them...? They make you feel lousy but you still feel obliged to carry on as normal.

I had a bad day on Wednesday. It started cold and I was a bit worried that there might have been a frost and I wondered if my tomatoes were OK. But I had no time to go and check. I had to wait in for an important parcel so decided that it would be a good day to make a batch of brown sauce. By now my cold was taking its toll so I wasn't feeling my usual cheery self. Brown sauce isn't too tricky to make but it does need time to evaporate to the correct thickness. That meant I had to start shortly after dropping my girls off at school if it was to be finished before I had to collect them again at the end of school. However, my husband had worked until the early hours of the morning and was still in bed. I don't like to cook chutney when there is anyone else in the house because they tend to moan about the smell. I can imagine it can be unpleasant if you are trying to tuck into your cornflakes in a kitchen filled with vinegar fumes. He appeared in the kitchen for his breakfast shortly after I added the vinegar to the sauce. I had opened the conservatory doors but he complained that it was freezing and closed them again whilst he ate. Eventually he sloped off to work and I opened the doors again.

The sauce bubbled and the day past but the parcel didn't turn up and it was time to pick up the girls but the sauce wasn't thick enough. I bottled it anyway, hoping it would be thick enough when it cooled (it didn't!). Then later that day I noticed that the lettuce, French beans and peas on the conservatory windowsill were looking a bit droopy but when I went to water them they were still damp. It took a couple of hours for me to slowly realise that I had poisoned my plants with the vinegar fumes!

What a day! No parcel, brown sauce that is too thin and poisoned plants!

Still, by this weekend my cold was all but gone and I was feeling my usual level of optimism. But I was still wondering if there had been a frost on Wednesday. Around on the allotment it was clear that there hadn't been a frost. However, we decided it was time to bring in the remaining tomatoes. I cut all the tomato trusses off and composted the plants. Back home, my husband rigged up a "line" using bungees and clips across the conservatory and we strung the tomato trusses up on it. My daughters thought this looked a little strange but we decided they made a lovely harvest festival garland and they liked that idea.

As for the apples, the mouse hasn't been back since and now all that this left is just enough apples to add to a big batch of green tomato chutney. Guess what I'll be making next week!

Summer fruits jam

1 lb (454g) strawberries
4 oz (110g) raspberries
1 lemon
2 lb (900g) apples
16 fl oz (450ml) water
3 lb (1350g) sugar

NB: Every pound of apples requires 8 oz (225g) strawberries, 2 oz (55g) raspberries, half a lemon, 8 fl oz (225ml) water and 1 lb 8 oz (680g) sugar.

Cooked the strawberries and raspberries with the lemon juice and about 4 fl oz (100ml) of water for a few minutes until soft. Pour into a jelly bag and allow to drip until cool then squeeze the juice through. Peel, core and chop the apples and cook with the remaining water until soft and pulpy. Add the red fruit puree then the warmed sugar and stir until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil vigorously until set. Pour into warmed jars and seal immediately.

Apple and Blackcurrant Jam

2 lb (900g) apples
1 lb (454g) blackcurrants
15 fl oz (425ml) water
3 lb (1350g) sugar

Bring the blackcurrants and water to the boil then simmer whilst you prepare the apples. Peel, core and slice the apples then add them to the pan. Cook until the fruit is soft and pulpy (roughly 40 minutes for the blackcurrants and 20 minutes for the apples). Add the warmed sugar and stir thoroughly until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until set. Ladle into warmed jars and seal.

Brown Sauce

4 lb ( 1815g) apples
1 lb (454g) plums
2 large onions
2 pints (1300ml) water
3 pints (2000 ml) malt vinegar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 oz (55g) salt
2 lb (900g) light brown sugar

Peel and core the apples and cut into pieces. Halve and remove the stones from the plums and cut into pieces. Peel the onion and finely chop. Put the fruit and vegetables into a preserving pan and pour in the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-20 minutes until the fruit is soft and pulpy. Blend in batches until smooth in a blender then return the puree to the preserving pan. Add all the other ingredients and bring back to the boil then simmer until thick. Remove from the heat and transfer into warmed bottles and seal immediately.