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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

autumnal herbs

When I wake in the morning I can no longer hear the dawn chorus, when I sit outside in the evening even I need a jumper and we lit the stove for the first time last night.  I can no longer pretend that summer isn’t coming towards its end.  I had never really thought of myself as a summer girl, but as I have got older I have become aware that summer is the time that I truly come alive.  I am more productive and my creativity ups several notches.  Getting dressed in the morning takes seconds and I live in my Birkenstocks all day and every day.  The garden is full to bursting and we have fresh flowers in every room of the house.

However the is a reason for every season and as autumn begins to take the upper hand I can start to gather in.  Our vegetable garden, along with much of the house, was being rebuilt this year so we didn’t have as big a harvest this year.  However, the winter veg are in, the greenhouse has brought forth a bumper offering and the herbs have been as abundant as ever.

I do have a dehydrator, but I prefer to use that for roots and fruits.  For leaves I leave them to hang in the boiler house.

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Parsley, lavender and marjaram.

The mint, lemon balm and sage have been hanging for a few weeks and are now ready to put away in jars.

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We have also made our own bacon, salt beef and lox.  Today I shall be picking the rosehips for syrup, shrub (sweet vinegar), jelly, ketchup and elderberry and reship tonic.

What are you drying and preserving this autumn?

love Gillie x

 

mango mango mango

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There is nothing like a mango, nothing that I can know.  With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II.  One of the many, many bonuses of being in SE Asia is the proliferance of mangoes.  Back home we usually only have two choices of mango (Kent and Keitt) both of which are relatively bland compared to the huge choice available across Asia.  Mango is sold on almost every street corner in Thailand, chopped up in little bags with convenient little wooded sticks to avoid getting your fingers sticky.  As the girls will confirm, any attempt to prevent my fingers getting sticky and dribbling food down my front is bound to fail.  I am the messiest eater I know.  As a result when travelling and needing a snack to keep me going I avoided the fresh variety and instead stocked up on dried mango.  The only problem was that I could eat an entire family sized bag in one sitting, and frequently did!

The good news is that it is now possible to get other varieties of Mango in the UK.  One option is to seek out your local specialist Indian supermarket or if you live in Durham the wonderful Robinsons Greengrocers on North Road, but if you are in a specialist shop desert you can find some delicious Pakistani and Indian mangoes in some of the larger supermarkets and I am reliably informed that Thai mangoes will be available this year too.  Get hunting mango lovers.

However, dried mango is readily available and to maintain my mango fix without dribbling down my front I made these yummy mango balls from Madeleine Shaw’s Ready Steady Glow

  • 200g dried mango
  • grated zest of one lime
  • 180g desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • sesame seeds for rolling

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Soak the mango in water for half an hour or so and drain.  I kept the water and put it in my water bottle for the next day.

Add the mango to the rest of the ingredients and blitz in a food processor.

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Mould into bite-size balls and roll in the sesame seeds.  Keep in the fridge for as long as you can!

Next time I may pass on the sesame seeds or perhaps toast them first as I didn’t think they added all that much and they kept sticking between my teeth.  But the wonderful thing about this kind of recipe is the total adaptability.  Swap mango for dried apricots, swap coconut for chopped nuts (I’ve tried apricot and pistachio – you can see the little green squares on the left of the top photo – they were delicious and as you can see there are only a few left!)

Enjoy.

Love Gillie x

food glorious food

Family Smellie is very keen on its food and Thailand has not let us down once.  So we thought it was time that we did a little hands on cooking.   Rather than just stuffing our faces with the delicious food cooked by others, we would do some of the preliminary work ourselves.

Enter Toi, chef extraordinaire at Sea Dance.  She was chosen to bravely steer Family Smellie through the cooking process.  This is what awaited us when we arrived for our lesson.

 

Even if we didn’t cook it but just feasted with our eyes and noses that would have been a sensual journey in itself.  But Family Smellie needed to fill its bellies so onwards and upwards.

First up, as in any good project of any kind, is the preparation.  I was put on chopping duty and managed to impress Toi not only with my knowledge of nam pla but also my prowess with a mini machete!

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We began with seafood salad and followed with chicken green curry and chicken and ginger stir fry.  The Travellerwas not impressed by having to skin and scour the squid, but she did an excellent job.

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The seafood was left to marinade in soy sauce, nampla, chopped chilli, chopped garlic and palm sugar.  The Boss was in charge of chicken prep.

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First up was the green curry.  The curry paste was added to hot oil and the coconut cream added spoon by spoon.  I am used to chucking the tin in all at once, but this way the sauce remained thick and cooked more slowly, it was thinned with water or chicken stock later.

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Chicken first and finally vegetables.

 

The volunteer took notes.

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Stir fry was down to the Traveller and she was not convinced she could do the flip so expertly demonstrated by Toi, convinced that instead she would cover the Boss with a selection of chicken and vegetables.

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But she got the wrist action and managed a perfect stir fry flip with no stray veg at all.

 

And the finished products.

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And time to eat.

 

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A few days later I bumped into Toi in the gardens and she showed me around her kitchen garden.  Many of the vegetables used in the kitchen are grown on site and Toi is an excellent gardener as well as chef.  I also managed to impress her again with my knowledge of Holy Basil, there are hidden depths to me yet!  She not only grows a huge range of vegetables, salad leaves and herbs for the kitchen but also a comprehensive range of herbs for the spa as well.  And I can testify that the spa is as good as the kitchen!

Love Gillie x