gooseberry

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When we first moved into this house, back in 2000, my husband got a great deal on some gooseberry canes.  He likes a good deal, these were the days before the internet and online selling really took off and much joy was derived from scouring the weekly Ad-mags for bargains to help in the two year rebuild and renovation of the house and grounds.  So we were the proud owners of some 50 gooseberry canes.  Yes, that is correct, no typo.  Fifty canes.

We had the space and there was a perfect spot for them by the secret garden.  However, as even the most beginner of gardeners will know.  Gooseberries need to be pruned and trimmed or they turn into sharp-thorned triffids.

Ours became, over time, sharp-thorned triffids, and the sharper the thorns and the triffidier (I do like that word) they became the less inclined we were to brave the gooseberry patch and whip them under control.

This spring the battle of Gooseberry Green began and we won.2019-07-22 14.06.44

I wasn’t expecting much of a harvest this year.  I was mistaken.  We have had several small bucketloads already and there are plenty more to come.  Thus far I have made mackerel and horseradish sauce for the lovely fresh mackerel Stuart has been catching.

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Then gooseberry and lemon curd, gooseberry fool and still there are more to come.  So if you are passing, pop in and go home with a bag of goosgogs :_

Gooseberry and Horseradish sauce

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  • Gooseberries – a good couple of handfuls
  • Caster sugar to taste
  • Horseradish – I used homemade fermented horseradish but you could use fresh grated or a standard jar of creamed horseradish

It’s hardly a recipe but here goes.  Put the fruit in a heavy bottom pan with a splash of water (only a splash). Add roughly one tablespoon of sugar to each handful of gooseberries.  Stir over a gentle heat until the fruit is soft and squishy.  Add horseradish to taste, I like it quite hot, but even if you don’t, a little gives it a lovely zing.  Cool and pour into clean jars.  Keep in the fridge and use within a week.

Gooseberry Fool

  • Gooseberries
  • Caster sugar to taste
  • Double cream
  • Full fat greek yoghurt

Another recipe that is hardly a recipe.  Prepare the fruit as above.  Whip the cream until stiff.  Add yoghurt, I use equal quantities of whipped cream and yoghurt.  Stir in cooked fruit.  Pop in a bowl and put in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Gooseberry and Lemon curd

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  • 500g gooseberries
  • 100ml lemon juice
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 4 medium or 5 large eggs

This is a proper recipe and comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Place the fruit in a heavy bottomed pan with the lemon juice and cook gently until squishy.  Push through a fine sieve to obtain a puree.

Put the puree, butter and sugar in a Bain Marie and heat gently until the butter is melted and the mixture rich and shiny.

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Leave to cool, you don’t want gooseberry scrambled eggs.

Beat the eggs and whisk into the cooled fruit sugar and butter mixture.  Replace over the Bain Marie and stir constantly until the mixture is thick and creamy.  If you have a thermometer, it will need to reach about 84C before it starts to thicken.  Don’t be tempted to rush this stage, or it will curdle.  If it does start to curdle whip it off the heat and whisk as fast as you can and cross your fingers!

When thick pour into sterilised jars and spread thickly over your breakfast toast!

Love Gillie x

 

lovely left-overs

We have had a busy couple of days.  On Wednesday we were here.

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That is Novak Djokovic serving at the end of the day on Centre Court.

The weather was perfect, the tennis excellent and the Pimms and knitting not bad either.

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We found a small but perfect airbnb The Pancras Parlour just around the corner from Kings Cross with, and this is very important, quite the most comfortable bed.  There is nothing more irritating than a house/hotel who has scrimped on the bed.  I was once told by a B&B owner in Tintern that when asked what made the perfect B&B (his was pretty darn close) he always replied The Bed and The Breakfast.  He is right it really is that simple, anything else is a pleasant extra but get the bed (and in the case of a B&B the breakfast) wrong, then all the toiletries and fancy gizmos will never make up.

However, the previous day I had been hosting our bi-weekly Ladies in Stitches stitching group.  In fact most of us were knitting this week, only one lady brought her stitching, but only after she completed her first pair of socks, we bring most people over to the knitting side at one point or another!  And alongside all of that I have been suffering from a ghastly throat/chest virus, which a week later is still hanging on.  Net result, by the time we returned home from London last night I was in no mood to cook a proper meal, supper was most definitely going to be a fridge left-over offering.

Sour mint lamb pockets (sounds so much better than left-overs)

  • left-over roast lamb sliced thinly
  • half a small red chilli
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon (in this case rather in need of using up as I had zested it a couple of days a go for a madeira cake and it was looking rather sad)
  • 2-4 tbsp mint sauce (our mint is going ballistic, I have masses of home made, if you use commercial mint sauce you might want to dilute it down or use slightly less
  • Left over gravy, if you don’t have gravy water or a little stock would be fine, you just want something to keep the meat moist.
  • Salad
  • Pitta bread
  • yoghurt

Layer the sliced lamb in a baking dish.  The cake tin was already out so rather than dirty a new dish I used that!

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Sprinkle sliced chilli, minced garlic and mint sauce, squeeze the lemon over the top, repeat until all lamb used up.

Dollop the left over gravy over the top (or dribble a little water or stock over)

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I appreciate this doesn’t look too appetising.  Stay with me!  Cover tightly with tin foil and pop in a medium oven (180 C) for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile chop a couple of tomatoes and grab a few lettuce leaves.  Warm the pitta breads.

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The lamb is ready.  Stuff the pittas with lettuce and tomato, fill to the brim with lamb and top with a good sized tablespoon of thick yoghurt.

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This is a messy eat, serve with napkins!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

pudding for main course

I love bread and butter pudding.  If there was no other pudding on earth I would be content.  I can take queen of puddings at a pinch, but find the breadcrumb base a bit namby-pamby compared to the thick crusts of a hearty bread and butter pudding.

So for supper the night before we left for our trip to the deep south of London and Brighton we had this.

Savoury bread and butter pudding, or more honestly fridge bits bread and butter pudding.  It was quite as delicious as it looks.

I don’t like to leave stuff in the fridge to go off whilst we are away.  So armed with:

  • an elderly sour dough loaf
  • butter (homemade no less)
  • tomatoes
  • half a red onion
  • milk
  • an open tin of anchovies
  • an open jar of tomato jam (from the Azores, keep an eye open for it, it’s very good)
  • the heel of an elderly chunk of strong cheddar
  • 3 eggs
  • an open jar of dijon mustard
  • an open jar of olives
  • an open jar of capers

I created a main course from my perfect pudding.  This made a hearty meal for two hungry people (one had been fishing all day).

There is no real recipe, it’s a make do and mend meal, as long as you have the basic ingredients (bread, butter, milk, eggs) it’s not unlike making a pizza, add what you have/like until you are content with the balance.

  1. Slice the bread thickly, I always keep the crusts on.  Spread with butter and tomato jam (you could use chutney or leave plain).
  2. Slice and soften the red onion in olive oil over a low heat for a few minutes.
  3. Beat the eggs into about 400ml of milk.
  4. Add 1-2 tbsp of mustard to the milk mixture and beat in well.
  5. Layer the bread and the rest of the ingredients in a greased oven proof dish.
  6. Pour the milk mixture over the bread and leave to soak in for 10 minutes or so.

 

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7.  Grate the cheddar over the top.

8.  Bake in a medium oven (180C) for 30 minutes until the top is golden and crusty.

You could serve with a lovely crisp green salad, or you could be greedy and lazy like us and just eat a great big dollop on its own!

I don’t make any claim to this as  my own invention, there are varieties of bread and butter pudding all over the internet, but this was particularly delicious and cleared out our fridge as well as filling up our tummies!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

neville’s cross ecofest

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I can’t remember how long the ecofest has been going, but it must be getting on for at leat 10 to 15 years.  Now quite a fixture in the Durham calendar it is a wonderful mix of information, talks, music, food and, like weddings and funerals, one of the best places to catch up with people I’ve not seen in ages.

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First stop Transition Durham where I was helping out on the stand (aka talking to friends).2019-06-16 16.14.39

Right next door to the splendid Abundant Earth, picked up some fruit and veg and locally grown fava beans and stared wistfully at Matt’s beautifully turned wooden bowls, lunchboxes and much more.

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The call of Jo’s baskets was strong but I really don’t need another basket, although these are quite special and I yearn for the one with the wooden handle.

baskets

By now is was time for lunch from the fabulous Refuse, part of the international Real Junk Food Project they turn unwanted food into pay as you feel delicious meals.  If you are ever in Chester-le-Street pop into their cafe.  They are also superb outside caterers if you happen to have an event coming up.

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This was at least the third pan and as you can see there was not a lot left.

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Subscription boxes too.  Why not combine it with a fruit and veg box from Abundant Earth?

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And whilst we are on the subject of food.  Our food choices matter, and we ought to have a genuine choice and even if we are on the breadline, even if we rely on food banks we have a right to know what is in our food, how it has been prepared and packaged, where it came from, how it has been processed.  Which is where Hannah and Peter from Food Durham come in, raising awareness of the importance of food and how it relates to the economy, the environment, health and well-being, and issues of social justice.

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Handmade crafts (the children and adults were swarming over the workshop Erica ran) all made from driftwood and sold to support the camps Erica helps run in Romania.  She also makes exquisite fused glass jewellery and decorations.

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Then perhaps you can clean up with some gorgeous soaps from the Durham Soap Company.

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Fancy a rummage?  Try the Swap Shop your unwanted books could be somebody else’s heart’s desire.

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Talking of books how about a bookcase from Handcrafted?  Handcrafted are based in Langley Moor and “was born out of a desire to see people who are disadvantaged due to crime, alcohol or substance abuse, unemployment, ill health or old age making a positive step and becoming active members of the community again”

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Durham Wildlife Trust (of which I am a member) manage some of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in the county and have masses going on all year round.  You’re not too late to take part in #30dayswild.

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And a quick diversion to pick up a loaf of bread from Sue.

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When it’s all over and you need somewhere to take a break and refocus.

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And finally …..

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Love Gillie x

autumn

 

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The colour of the light in the early morning and last of the windfalls feeding the pheasants who have taken up residence in our orchard remind me that autumn is coming to an end and it will soon be time to prepare for winter.

The changing seasons bring up all sorts of different emotions in me.  During the long hot summer this year I wanted it to go on forever.  I wanted to be able to get up and fling on a sundress and flipflops every day and dreaded the mornings when I would have to think about what to wear because I would need woolly tights, cardigans, I would have to think about coats and scarves.  There would be the usual marital grumbling about whose turn it was to bring in the wood and empty the grate so we could light the fire.

Autumn arrived gently, warm days lasting longer than expected and gradually interspersed with shorter colder ones.  Fortunately there have been few grey days; I think it is the lack of colour that gets me down in the winter.  The harvest was truly bountiful, my preserving pans, dehydrator and pickle and fermentation jars went into overdrive.  I have put down my light cotton crochet and picked up my soft winter knitting.  Our meals are heartier and warmer, the Christmas cookbooks have come out and I reread Making Winter and The Christmas Chronicles.  It is time to dig out The Box of Delights.

I am ready now.

Love Gillie x

 

manky tomatoes

The tomato harvest has finally come to an end.  We mostly grow cherry toms and on clearing out the greenhouse we were left with a bowl of rather mixed and manky looking tomatoes.  On the basis that we, the humans, get first dibs before the chooks the sad looking collection was transformed into bottled roasted tomatoes.

 

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Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray and sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Place in a very low oven (50 C or less or the bottom of the Aga) for at least 8 hours or overnight.  This really is where the Aga comes into its own.  Check on them every now and then after about 8 hours and when they are dark, soft and almost caramel like pop into a sterilised jar and cover with olive oil.

Perfect as the basis for a tomato pasta sauce.

Love Gillie x

herb oil

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Yup it’s that time of year again.  Now we all know that a cute little baby elf will die every time somebody puts up a decoration or sings a carol before the beginning of December?  What you didn’t know that?  Shame about all those poor little elves.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan, in fact you need to plan, unless of course you a bloke with a woman who does all the planning for you.  Massive generalisation I know,  but if the cap fits …

Rather smugly I can say that present wise I am pretty much sorted.  Well, I still have to finish a pair of socks and start a cardigan but the rest is pretty much sorted.  Today was hamper day.  Some exceptionally lucky people are getting a little hamper of home made goodies.  What do you mean “poor sods I hope she doesn’t give them botulism”?!

Today was herb oil.  The lovely bottles originally contained a rather lovely Rosé from Provence.  For reasons of which I am unsure we only drank four bottles.  I may have to purchase some more.  Anyway, I originally bought the wine because I loved the bottle and I loved the glass stopper.  The wine was a pleasant bonus!

Wash and dry bottles and add herbs of your choice.  I tend to use stronger woody ones that can survive in the oil without curling up and looking manky! A whizz round the garden produced:

  • Rosemary
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemon thyme

To which I added:

  • Sliced garlic
  • Red peppercorns
  • Long peppercorns (also known as Indonesian peppercorns)
  • Penja black peppercorns
  • Juniper berry

Topped up with olive oil and sealed.  I’ll tie a pourer around the neck and they are all ready for the little hampers.

Love Gillie x