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A little taster of what's cooking...


  • Home made butter, jam and vanilla scones – Jubilee food!

    As a child, I loved making butter, bread and growing cress to make every part of the cress sandwich that I was going to eat. I loved all of the processes and felt very clever when I sat there eating something so simple and so good!

    Butter making was my favourite bit. My Dad showed me how to make it with creamy milk, in a jam jar. We took it in turns to shake the jam jar until small, wet pearls of butter sat on top of the watery milk. Not much butter to go round, but it was delicious!

    This is a great project to do with your children during half term in readiness for your afternoon Jubilee tea!

    Butter making is a doddle with a food processor and from a large tub of double cream (which was in the reduced section at our local supermarket), we got a good amount of butter.

    Our butter, decorated with pretty Borage flowers

    How to make butter

    Pour the cream into the food processor and turn it on. You’ll hear it slosh around a lot and then all of a sudden the sound will change to a dull thud when the butter ball bumps onto the sides of the processor bowl. The liquid that has separated from the butter is buttermilk and this (handily!) can be used in scone making. Pour off the liquid and put to one side. We were going to use the butter straight away, but if you want to keep it for any length of time you need to wash the butter to remove every last trace of butter milk or it will quickly go rancid. To wash the butter just pour some very cold water (if the water is even slightly warm, you will melt the butter) into the processor bowl with the butter and process again for 15-20 seconds, strain and repeat the process until the water is clear.


    Everyone has their own scone recipe and butter milk can be substituted in any recipe for the liquid that you would normally use. Our recipe is: sieve together 225g (8oz) self raising flour and 1tsp baking powder in a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor. Add 40g (1 1/2 oz) butter and either rub it in, or process until the butter has disappeared. Add 150ml (1/4 pt) buttermilk and 1tsp vanilla extract and pulse or stir gently until a soft, sticky dough is formed. You may need a little more or a little less buttermilk, depending on the flour.

    Tip out onto a floured surface and roll out to 2cm (3/4 inch) and cut out circles with a glass or a cutter. Put onto a baking tray lined with paper. Bake at 220C (425F) Gas 7 for about 10 minutes until golden and risen.

    Fresh from the oven.

    We made a very small amount of low sugar strawberry jam, which didn’t set very well but tasted heavenly! We kept the rest of it in a jam jar, in the fridge and used it on ice cream.

    If I had best china and a best teapot, we’d have got it out for this occasion! Instead we sat out in the garden with our wonderful cream tea and huge smiles on our faces!

    It seemed rude not to add the obligatory clotted cream – we didn’t make it though!

  • Friday’s Show & Tell (or what I bought from the shops today!)

    One of my passions home and abroad is looking in supermarkets/shops that cater for local communities. It’s an ideal time to have a chat with other Mums who are shopping to prepare family meals – there have been plenty of times that I’ve been invited back to their homes for a cup of tea and a chat, while they show me what they are making out of various ingredients that I’m not familiar with.

    I had a wander round our local shopping area this morning and came back to work to have a good, old fashioned ‘Show & Tell’ time!

    This kind of ‘Ready Steady Cook’ shopping makes you think outside of the box when it comes to deciding on dinner! Three of these ingredients (beef ribs, Bangladeshi Lemon and herbs) have come together to enable me to make a wonderful slow cooked Beef Shatkora Curry for tomorrow night – can’t wait… (recipe to follow)

    Bangladeshi Lemon (Shatkora)

    These are very similar to Kaffir Limes and if you can’t get hold of a Kaffir Lime if you’re making something like a Green Curry, you won’t go far wrong by using the skin of a Shatkora instead. They’re actually lemons, but you usually buy them unripe, like these. They eventually go yellow. Their fragrance is absolutely beautiful! The lady in the shop said that the smell reminds her of her Mum – they had a Shatkora tree in their back garden in Bangladesh and her Mum used to make a beautiful Lime Pickle with them. She says she’ll pass the recipe on to me!

    Soap Nuts?!

    I have absolutely no idea! I had to buy them though – I’ll let you know…

    Bunches of herbs

    Nothing overly unusual about bunches of herbs, but the substantial bunches that you can buy in Asian shops, compared to the feeble ones in supermarkets makes you realise that in other cultures, herbs are used as an essential part of the diet – not just as a garnish or as a mild flavouring.

    Beef Ribs

    A cut of meat that is coming back into fashion. Everyone uses pork spare ribs, but not so many people use the beef variety. They take a lot of cooking as you’d imagine, but for around £6 for all of this meat, it’s well worth the time spent slowly cooking them until they’re soft, silky and falling away from the bone.

    Errrrm – a type of herb!

    Last, but not least – this is a herb that you don’t see very often with a very off-putting name! It literally translates as ‘foul smelling thistle’, which I think is a little unfair! It’s otherwise known as Mexican Coriander and the taste is like very strong coriander. I reckon going into any shop and asking for a bunch of ‘Stinking’, is risky! It’s worth looking out for – once you’ve tasted it you’ll be back for more.

  • Fresh, juicy Ginger

    I’ve always appreciated fresh ingredients and know that the fresher they are, the better your cooking will taste. I go to the market once or twice a week, so that I can choose the best possible ingredients for the kits that we produce and I always look forward to going at this time of the year – not only because there are so many lovely fruits and vegetables in season right now, but also because of the new short season Brazilian Ginger.

    I excitedly brought some back with me yesterday morning. The first thing that you notice about it is that it’s much smaller than the regular Chinese ginger, the tubers aren’t as thick. It’s a lot more dense because it’s tightly packed with vibrant, hot lemony juice! It also has amazingly smooth, shiny skin.

    Another way to tell if you have Brazilian ginger is to cut into a piece. You’ll notice that the ginger either has a blue/grey tinge to it, or a blue ring just underneath the skin. This is why Brazilian ginger is sometimes called ‘Blue Ginger’.

    This marking should make you confident that what you’re getting is ginger at its very best – juicy with a beautiful hot, spicy flavour.

    We immediately celebrated with a cup of ginger tea! Add a teabag of your choice (one that you can drink without milk) to a cup of hot water and add as much sliced ginger to it as you can bear. Leave to steep for as long as possible and then enjoy.

    If you’re lucky enough to find one of these in one of our kits at this time of the year, you know that you’re in for a treat! – search for Hare’s Moor

  • Foraged ribwort plantain and blackberry crumble

    It’s getting towards my favourite time of the foraging year – harvest! Just like an allotment, the fruits of nature’s labour are nearly ready to go out and pick.

    Last week end after a good bout of sunshine, the blackberries had started to ripen. Big, juicy ones this year because of the good watering they’ve had. It wasn’t long before we’d got a basket full – enough to make jam and a crumble with.

    We managed to find a few wild plums, but only enough to eat as a snack along the way. Sweet and sour all at the same time, just gorgeous!

    Lovely hedgerow snack!

    Plantain is readily available at this time of the year. When I was small, I liked to wind the stem around the more common Ribwort Plantain and pop the seed heads off to see who could get theirs to go the furthest!

    Ribwort Plantain

    The longer stems of the Greater Plantain weren’t so entertaining, but they hold the most seeds, so they were the ones that I used to pick to munch along the way!

    Greater Plantain

    It’s either of these plants that I turn to when I get stung rather than dock. Just peel a few of the ribs on the leaf down to extract some of the juice and rub it straight onto the sting. The pain and itching is gone before you count to 10. It’s a very easily recognised plant with prominent ribs running down the back of the leaves.

    Look for the long ribs down the back of the leaves of the ribwort family to identify it clearly.

    The leaves have been used for centuries to combat infection and aid healing. The most common way of using the leaves was as a ‘spit poultice’ which is exactly what it sounds like – take a leaf and chew it until it’s completely broken down before putting it directly on the wound! I’ve never tried this, but you never know – this information may come in handy one day!

    The young leaves can be cooked or used in salads, but today I was looking for the seed heads. The seeds are packed full of nutrients, essential oils and vitamins and are lovely eaten straight from the stem as a snack. If you can’t find any seeds on the stem, it may be that the birds have beaten you to it and it’s obviously important that you leave some for them!

    I wanted to gather enough seeds to roast and grind to add to the flour that I was making the blackberry crumble with. They’re also really yummy just added raw or toasted into biscuits or trail bars, or just thrown onto salads.

    Getting them off the stalks is quite tedious work, but it’s worth it when you taste the nutty difference that it makes to the crumble.

    Strip the stems and then place on a metal tray.

    Ribwort seeds stripped from the stems

    Bake in a hot oven for a few minutes and let the kitchen fill with their gorgeous peachy, biscuity smell. Keep an eye on them and don’t let them burn.

    Seeds golden from their toasting in the oven

    Empty them into a pestle and mortar and grind up.

    Finely ground in a pestle and mortar

    When making your crumble topping, just rub the butter into the flour and then stir in the ground seeds when you add the sugar. Any crumble recipe will do, just make sure that you take into account the weight of your ground seeds when weighing out your regular flour.

    The jam made a bit extra than the three jars I’d got ready for it, so I stirred the still runny jam into the blackberries before I baked the crumble.

    The crumble was nutty and golden from the ribwort, sweet and tangy from the juicy blackberries – I think I’m going to love autumn this year!

  • Flour Tortillas

    You will need:

    280g strong white bread flour (or plain flour)

    1/2 tsp salt

    3 tbsp oil (olive, rapeseed, sunflower)

    180ml water

    In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the oil and stir. Add 3/4 of the water,stir, then squeeze the dough with your hands to form a rough ball. If the dough seems dry, add some more of the water (and more if you think it needs any) You need a pliable dough but not sticky. Knead for 2 minutes to combine. Put the ball of dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel for a couple of minutes.

    Lightly sprinkle your work surface with flour and put a frying pan on a high heat to get nice and hot.

    Split your ball of dough into two, then split each of those pieces into 4, to make 8 pieces of dough. Roll one of the pieces into a ball shape inyour hands, then put on your floured worktop and squash slightly. Using a rolling pin, roll your piece of dough out as thin as you can get without it tearing. You might need to sprinkle some more flour on the dough as you work if it starts to stick. Put your rolled out dough into the pan and turn the heat down to medium.

    Cook for 1-2 minutes until bubbles have formed all over the surface of the tortilla. Have a look underneath the tortilla to see if there is any colour appearing. When slightly browned, turn the tortilla over to cook the other side. Bigger air bubbles will start to appear. With a spatula, push down on the air bubbles gently to push them around. The idea is to get the whole tortilla to puff up!

    After 30-40 seconds check to see if the other side of the tortilla has browned. If one side has browned more than the other, you can flip them back over to cook the other side for another 30 seconds. Put the tortilla to rest on a piece of foil and cover to keep warm. If you’re tortilla didn’t puff up a lot, they may not be thin enough so you may need to roll the rest a little thinner. Repeat with the rest of the dough.