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

 

sore muscle salve

I can bend my fingers in weird ways and and despite my deceptively large size am quite the bendiest person in my yoga class.   While once, when I was much younger, this was something of which to be proud and to show off, now I am still bendy but a lot wiser, and have a pilates personal trainer to work on building muscle strength to hold those joint in place.

Being hypermobile has many disadvantages from a tendency to be flatfooted and twist over on one’s ankle (tick), to gut and bowel problems (those connective tissues just aren’t up to the task)  (tick),  thin skin that heals poorly (tick) to full scale Erlers Danlos Syndrome (fortunately for me no tick as this can be pretty horrible).

As I have got older some joints flake out more than others.  A recent development has been my shoulders.  Quick anatomy lesson, shoulder joints the most shallow and most mobile joints in the human body and is essentially held in place by ligaments, which in my case are long past their sell by date.  Net result, gravity has a tendency to pull the ball out of the socket (subluxation) and not surprisingly it hurts!

As one of the assignments for the Herbology Certificate and the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh  was to create a herbal remedy so it didn’t take long for me to chose something that I could use on my very sore arms and shoulders.  Here is a précis of my assignment, I do hope it is of help to someone else too.

 

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GINGER, CAYENNE AND TURMERIC SALVE

Ingredients 

  • 15ml Ginger root infused oil*
  • 15ml Red chilli (cayenne) infused oil*
  • 15ml Turmeric root infused oil*
  • 6g Beeswax granules

Method

  • Melt the beeswax granules in a bain marie over a low heat.
  • Add the infused oils and mix thoroughly.
  • Remove from heat and pour into clean jar.
  • Wait until salve is cooled and solid and then secure jar lid.

(Storage 6 months)

* To make infused oil

  • 50g Chopped/grated plant material
  • 500ml Sunflower oil

Method

  • Place oil and plant material in a bain marie over the lowest heat possible.
  • Cover bain marie tightly (tin foil is excellent)
  • Leave for 3 hours (check water in bain marie regularly)
  • Remove from heat and leave still covered in a warm place overnight (I use the shelf above the aga)
  • Strain through a muslin and decant into dark glass bottle.

(Storage 6 months)

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At least 115 constituents have been identified in ginger, of which the highest percentage are gingerols. Research has shown that some gingerols exhibit analgesic and potent anti-inflammatory effects.  This is achieved through a variety of actions: 

  • Thermogenesis (heat production), partially attributed to –
  • Vasodilation increasing blood supply to the afflicted area;
  • Modulation of calcium levels affecting heat-pain receptors.

There have been some inconsistencies in clinical trials and the use of ginger in alleviating inflammation, osteoarthritis, and rheumatism. However, the positive results, particularly in double blind, placebo controlled trials have prompted further research and there is a theory that ginger acts in a similar way to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) by inhibiting cooxygenases (COX) production and thus the production of prostaglandins which in turn promote pain, inflammation and fever.  However, prostaglandins are also vital in the protection of the stomach lining and long-term use of NSAIDs can lead to ulceration of the stomach.  Most NSAIDs inhibit both COX1 and COX2, however it is COX1 that is required for stomach and intestinal lining protection and it would appear that ginger falls into the selective inhibition group and inhibits only COX2, therefore acting as an effective anti-inflammatory but not having an undesirable effect on the gut lining.  Clearly this is of relevance when comparing remedies that are taken systemically rather than topically (as this one is) however it is a valuable property of ginger compared to most NSAIDs on the market.

There is also some evidence to suggest that ginger can have a role in the reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines which promote inflammation in body tissue, of relevance here in their role in the promotion of joint inflammation.

Cayenne is a very powerful systemic stimulant, regulating blood flow and energising and stimulating the heart.  In this respect, it encourages blood flow to the peripheral areas and is an effective remedy for peripheral muscular pain and cramps.

The active ingredient in cayenne is capsaicin, a pungent alkaloid with analgesic properties through the release of neuropeptides which control the peripheral neurons. There has been extensive clinical research in the relationship between capsaicin, Substance P, serotonin, somastatin and the pain pathway.  One theory is that it produces a rapid release of Substance P which is required for the production of pain, but the release is so concentrated and rapid that Substance P is depleted from the neurons and the pain threshold released.

Clinical trials have also shown that capsaicin has anti-inflammatory properties at a level to that of diclofenac, and like ginger, it does so without affecting the gastric mucosa, in fact it has been shown to have a digestive stimulant action and aid in the uptake of micronutrients through the intestinal wall.

The anti-arthritic effects of turmeric include the inhibition of joint inflammation and bone erosion.  Clinical trials have shown that turmeric has a positive effect on tissue inflammation and pain control in osteo-arthritis, in post-operative molar tooth removal, in rheumatoid arthritis, 

The main ingredient in turmeric is a volatile oil containing tumerone and a number of agents producing the vivid yellow colour called curcuminoids which are found in natural anti-oxidants.  It is the curcuminoid curcumin which is the main active ingredient in turmeric.  Precisely what the mechanism of action of curcumin is has not been fully determined.  However, it is believed to be a similar COX2 blocking mechanism as demonstrated by ginger.

However, the question is does it work?  Well for me yes it did.  Pain relief within 30 minutes which lasted for approximately 4 hours.

NB:  I am not qualified herbalist, for further information regarding the constituents please consult the references below

  • Bode AM, Dong Z.  The Amazing and Mighty Ginger in Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors.  Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects.  CRC Press/Taylor and Francis 2011
  • Grieve, M.  A Modern Herbal.  Tiger Books 1992
  • Griggs, B.  The Green Witch.  Vermillion 2000
  • Hoffman, D.  Holistic Herbal.  Thorsons 1990
  • McVicar, J.  Jekka’s Complete Herb Book.  Kyle Cathie 1997
  • Prasad S, Aggawal BB.  Turmeric the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine in Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors.  Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects.  CRC Press/Taylor and Francis 2011
  • Wong, J. A Year with James Wong.  Collins 2010
  • Wood, M.  The Earthwise Herbal Volume I.  North Atlantic Books 2008
  • Wood, M.  The Earthwise Herbal Volume II.  North Atlantic Books 2009
  • Wood, M.  The Earthwise Herbal Repertory North Atlantic Books 2016
  • Dinarello, CA.  Proinflammatory Cytokines.  Chest Vol 118, No 2: 503-508
  • Srinivasan, K.  Biological Activities of Red Pepper (Capsicum annum) and its Pungent Principle Capsaicin: A Review.  Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr.  2016 Jul 3;56(9):1488-500
  • Karlapudi V, Prasad Mungara AVV, Sengupta K, Davis BA, Raychaudhuri SP.  A Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Study Demonstrates the Clinical Efficacy of a Novel Herbal Formulation for Relieving Joint Discomfort in Human Subjects with Osteoarthritis of Knee.  J. Med. Food.  2018 May;21(5):511-520
  • Maulina T, Diana H, Cahyanto A, Amaliya A.  The efficicacy of curcumin in  managing acute inflammation pain on post-surgical removal of impacted third molars patients: A randomised controlled trial.  J. Oral. Rehabil.  2018 Sep;45(9):677-683
  • Haroyan A, Mukuchyan V, Mkrtchyan N, Minasyan N, Gasparyan S, Sargsyan A, Narimanyan M, Hovhannisyan A. Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination with boswellic acid in osteroarthritis: a comparative, randomized, double-bline, placebo-controlled study.  BMC Complement. Altern. Med.  2018 Jan 9;18(1):7
  • Comblain F, Barthélémy N, Lefèbvre M, Schwartz C, Lesponne I, Serisier S, Feugier A, Balligand M, Henrotin Y.  A randomized, double-blind, prospective, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy of a diet supplemented with curcuminoids extract, hydrolyzed collagen and green tea extract in owner’s dogs with osteoarthritis.  BMC Vet. Res.  2017 Dec 20;13(1):395
  • Amalraj A, Varma K, Jacob J, Divya C, Kunnumakkara AB, Stohs SJ, Gopi S.  A Novel Highly Bioavailable Curcumin Formulation Improves Symptoms and Diagnostic Indicators in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Two-Dose, Three-Arm, and Parallel-Group Study.  J. Med. Food. 17 Oct;20(10):1022-1030.
  • Srivastava S, Saksena AK, Khattri S, Kumar S, Dagur RS.  Curcuma longa extract reduces inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers in osteoarthritis of knee: a four-month, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.  Inflammopharmacology. 2016 Dec;24(6):377-388
  • Asha J, Ronggian W, Mian Z, Ping W.  Mechanisms of the Anti-inflammatory Effect of Curcumin:  PPAR- µActivation.  PPAR Res.  2007; 2007: 89369
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Capsaicin
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/substance%20P

Love Gillie x

 

herbal loose ends

At this time of year you can usually find me either grubbing around in the garden and hedgerows collecting herbs or in the kitchen infusing, decocting and generally making remedies for the year ahead.

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Today was a catch up day.  I have several tinctures that are ready to be bottled up.  A tincture is a simple method to harvest the medicinal qualities of a herb.  All you need is the herb itself and base solvent.  The most common solvent is alcohol as it has the ability to dissolve almost all the constituents of most plants and acts as a preservative at the same time.  If you prefer not to use alcohol then vinegar or glycerine can be substituted.  Vodka is my preferred tincture solvent, a minimum of 37-40% proof.  I have bought much stronger vodka in Romania and Latvia where is was quite reasonably priced compared to the UK.

The common home method for making a tincture is to fill a small jar with the chopped herb and cover with the solvent liquid.  There are guidelines for different ratios of herb to solvent (see Hoffmann or Bartram for details).  I tend to use the common method but I do make a note of the strength of alcohol used.

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Earlier this summer I had put aside :

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Chilli
  • Chickweed
  • Lemon balm
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Hawthorn leaves
  • Motherwort
  • Dandelion leaf and root
  • Lemon balm and basil in witchazel

So  much of this morning was spent bottling up and labelling.  I add the plant (Latin name if there is a risk of confusion), date of bottling, solvent and place the plant was harvested.

The first three (turmeric, ginger and chilli) are part of my personal treatment for muscular strain in my upper arms/shoulders as a result of hypermobility.  I’ve made a very effective salve using these three ingredients and was interested to see if the tincture taken internally was as effective.  I’ll do a post on the salve later this month.

Chickweed and lemon balm are both exceptionally good for skin irritations.  Mugwort is bitter tonic and helps with digestive disorders, stimulating bile production whilst also providing a carminative action reducing gas in the digestive system.  Hawthorn (more commonly the berries but also the leaves, I shall harvest the berries later in the year) and Motherwort are both cardiac tonics and whilst everyone knows dandelion as a diuretic few also know that it is an excellent source of potassium thus negating the need for potassium supplements required when synthetic diuretics are prescribed. (See Bartram or Hoffmann for detailed information on the herbs listed).  Finally some of you will remember the lemon balm and basil witchazel tincture as the basis of my first attempt at home made insect repellent.  I’ll let you know how it works!

The lemon balm infusion was ready to be turned into a salve.

  • 60 ml Lemon balm infused oil
  • 6 mg beeswax granules

Add both ingredients to a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and stir until the beeswax is melted.  Pour into clean jar and leave with the lid off until the salve is solid.

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Now, I have to bottle up the rest of the tinctures and get out in the garden and do some more harvesting, the sage and verbascum are vast and the mint needs my attention!

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

 

 

 

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

bits and bobs pumpkin coconut curry

I’ve never been a great one for Halloween (if anything I have always been more of a Samhain girl) so it surprised even me when now that the girls are all away at university I came home with a pumpkin today.  I had the urge to do a little carving.  I even found myself googling pumpkin carving ideas.  Wow, there are some serious artists out there.  I am not in that league.

This is a cat (just in case you weren’t sure and were embarrassed  to ask).

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So now I am faced with a lot of pumpkin flesh.  I am not a fan of pumpkin soup, there are far more exciting and tasty soups out there and if I had to choose a pudding pumpkin pie wouldn’t be top of the list.  And anyway even though I chose the smallest pumpkin I have enough flesh to make more pumpkin soups and pies than either of us will ever want.

We are eating down the freezer at the moment so in the spirit of make do with what I have I bring you Bits and Bobs Pumpkin coconut curry.  There is little in the way of measurements because this is a chuck it in and taste recipe.

  • Pumpkin flesh
  • Elderly mushrooms
  • Half a manky red pepper
  • What I could salvage from an almost dead aubergine
  • An onion
  • Some garlic cloves
  • A chunk of ginger
  • A red chilli
  • Tumeric
  • Tamarind paste
  • A tin of coconut milk
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • Some veg stock or water
  • Lime juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Chop the onion (I left mine reasonably chunky) ditto the rest of the veg. Chop/crush/grate the garlic and ginger and dice the chilli.

Soften the onion gently in oil (of your choice I used vegetable) in a large pan.  After a couple of minutes add the chili, garlic, ginger and a generous teaspoon of tumeric.  Continue to cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the rest of your vegetables (including that pumpkin flesh) and stir to cover them with the tumericy paste (at this point take lots of deep breaths, the smell is divine).  Add the tin of tomatoes, tin of coconut milk and enough water/veg stock to cover all that yummy veggie stuff.  Stir in a couple of teaspoons of tamarind paste and the juice of a lime.  Leave to simmer until you can’t wait and have to eat it.  I might add a dollop of sour cream.

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Happy Halloween and Samhain Blessings

Love Gillie x