Category Archives: Countryside Kitchen

Autumn’s arrival

Crab applesAutumn makes me unspeakably happy.  Cable knit cardigans, getting the fires going in the house, TIGHTS, boots, capes and ponchos, russet coloured leaves, sinking into an armchair with a good book and large cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon, stopping with Primrose and Poppy to pick delicious bounty from the hedgerows, TIGHTS, my brown brogues, windfall apples, scarves, long walks in breezy sunshine where the light filters through the trees in the woodland just so, Jerry in warm woolly jumpers, jams and jellies and did I mention TIGHTS, dear Reader?!  Lovely thick opaque tights.  All those wonderful autumnal things and more, seem to make my heart sing.  Even my hair behaves better in the autumn and suddenly rosy cheeks and constantly messy windswept red hair blend into a landscape tinged with the colours of the liquor in the jam pan, rather than stick out like a sore thumb.

thistles

Autumn is almost the best time in the world to get into seasonal cookery.  Who needs more of an excuse to pop a stew into the bottom of the oven to slow cook or pick blackberries on a long walk?  Comfort food at its best.  With that in mind, I popped off to watch a new friend in action.  Everything about the lovely Cherie Denham from Flavour Passion screams foodie!  The first time I met her she rendered me speechless with scones lighter than air topped with lashings of her Blackberry jelly.  Winning me over with food is always a dead cert. for cementing a friendship.  She’s pretty good ‘craic’, as they say in her Irish homeland, too!

Trained at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, Cherie then became a teacher there, earning yet more culinary stripes with her own catering business and as a home economist consultant for none other than River Cottage’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall when River Cottage’s first cookbook hit the scene.  Now running a whole host of seasonal cookery demonstrations from her stunning countryside cottage, Cherie shows her guests how to create an array of dishes from original recipes that can be scaled up or down depending on the occasion and most importantly, shares her culinary hacks.  Easy canapés, crowd pleasing dishes, cosy autumn kitchen suppers, something a little more refined – this is cookery for those with busy lives who need tried and tested recipes that are a bit hit with everyone from the children to Saturday evening dinner party guests.  Jerry was in seventh heaven with the Slow Braised Spicy Chipotle Beef Cherie sent me home with………the whole plateful was snaffled in seconds.

Demonstrations seem to be THE thing when it comes to cooking these days and I can see the appeal.  This is the countryside’s Tupperware party for the 21st century, dear Reader but OH SO MUCH more glamourous and useful!  Rather like your best friend sharing all the secrets you’ve been dying for her to divulge for years.  All cooking abilities are welcome.  In fact, the guest list for Cherie’s demo was rather like a modern who’s who of Cluedo – was it the anaesthetist, the students off to university for their first year, the farmer’s wife, interior designer or godfather’s wife that nicked the last slice of Warm Lemony Treacle Tart….?  I wonder, dear  Reader.  Can’t blame them, it was seriously scrummy and I shall certainly be returning for more culinary inspiration when Cherie demos Christmas in November!

Cherie5

Inspired by my amazing morning and immensely delicious dishes, my kitchen now looks more like a production line than farmhouse haven!  Elderberries, crab apples, quinces, herbs from the garden for drying – we’ve got it all going on in Margot’s Kitchen at the moment, dear Reader! The cottage is groaning under the weight of all the apples that seem to arrive by the carrier bag full and are left on the doorstep by lovely villagers.  With jams and jellies a go go, I’ve taken to trying a few new numbers with the apples too as I can’t bear to see them go to waste.  Crab apple vodka, windfall apple butter, hedgerow compote, fruit leathers for the girls and my favourite so far, apple crisps.  I haven’t even got round to picking the sloes yet but I must, before they are snapped up by the birds.  First frost is just far too long away to leave a batch of sloe gin to chance!

crab apple jam

If like me, your house is turning into an orchard quicker than you can say cider, then this will help turn a few of those appley beauties into something everyone can enjoy.  Here, just for you my dear Reader, is my recipe for Apple Crisps.

apple crisps

Apple Crisps

1 or 2 apples, not cookers

sprinkling of cinnamon

greaseproof paper

Peel and core your apples, cutting out any maggoty bits if like me you’ve used a few windfalls.  Using a mandolin (the culinary version rather than musical), finely slice the apple so that you have rings or half rings depending on how many maggoty bits you’ve had to cut out.   You could do this with a knife but remember it does have to be paper thin slices.

Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and place apple slices on the paper.  You may have to line a couple of baking sheets depending on how many apples you have decided to use.  Sprinkle over the cinnamon.  NO SUGAR NEEDED.

Place in bottom of the Aga (in my case the ever faithful Everhot) or in a very low oven from anywhere from 2 hours or until you have achieved the level of crispness you would like.  Best to do this when you need to do some slow cooking as the oven will need to be on low (no more than 120 degrees Centigrade) for a while.  Keep checking the slices every now and again to make sure they are not burning.  You can choose to leave them until they are really crisp or simple dried out and still a bit chewy.  Lovely as an after school snack, crushed over yoghurt, stirred into vanilla ice cream – the choice is yours!

Happy autumn, dear Reader!  I’m off to buy some more tights……

Episodes in cooking on a camping stove- Part 2

Let there be light - my sparkly new Garden Trading lights.

Let there be light!  My sparkly new French farmhouse style lights from Garden Trading.

 

Episode 2

I left you last week, dear Reader, with a half finished kitchen and a long list of camping stove menus.  Things could only get better from that point on….or so I thought.  However, when darkness fell upon the house (for the second time) as our builders drilled a hole through our electrics, I wondered how I would manage in the glow of camping stove gas and candlelight.  With one wall (new plaster, paint and all) smashed into to find the possible errant screw, the builders prompted left saying that there was nothing they could do until the electrician could come back in 2 days time.  Not ideal.  Being of the non-confrontational sort, I smiled and said with a slightly jumpy giggle “You can’t leave me like this with 2 small children.”  “Well it’s not like we are leaving you with dangerous electrics – the trip switch will just pop loudly if anything else blows”, was the answer.  Reassuring, dear Reader.  In the light (no pun intended, believe me) of our newest drama, I set off to our local farm shop café in search of sustenance, warmth and illumination for the girls.  To be honest, I was determined to find a meal for Primrose and Poppy that wasn’t something along the beans, lentils, chickpeas, chicken, stew or anything cooked on the camping stove front as moaning had reached fever pitch.  We arrived in the hopes of finding a homemade steak and ale pie, only to find that they had stopped serving food ten minutes before we arrived.  Disaster.  With a VERY disgruntled Primrose who reprimanded me for not knowing the opening times of the café off by heart, we returned to cook….yes you guessed it…more chicken.  Chicken, chicken, chicken…..if we eat any more of it, I shall consider taking up residence in the hen house permanently. Continue reading

Episodes in cooking on a camping stove

Lesson 1: make sure you have plenty of camping stove gas

Lesson 1: make sure you have plenty of camping stove gas

Episode 1

Dear Reader, this post is brought to you by a Margot covered in dust and cooking on a camping stove.  Do not be fooled.  I am NOT camping ( Jerry is still trying to find a glamping site that meets all the family’s criteria.  Primrose refuses to wee outdoors and a compost loo counts as en plein air as far as she is concerned)!  But you may wonder why a camping stove is gracing my kitchen table, dear Reader?  Have we suffered yet another power cut?  Have I decided that I can no longer bear to wrestle with the hob that only works if you hit the temperature dial a few times before turning it on?  Well….I can report that currently the village is not suffering from its reputation as a blackout black spot so you can cross power cut off the list of explanations.  We are renovating our kitchen.  Cue a wailing Margot, Primrose constantly moaning about the fact that she can’t have a roast or any fish cakes, Poppy trying to make more noise than the builders and a thankful Jerry who seems to be rather busy at work all of a sudden.  I imagine that the office has never seemed such a place of sanctuary to him!

Monday last week heralded the first day without the beloved heart of our home.  Since we moved to the countryside, we seem to spend ever increasing amounts of time in the kitchen, like they do in The Archers.  Not bottle feeding lambs as yet but we have nursed the odd pigeon and a hedgehog back to health in the warmth of the crematorium-style oven.  With the smoke alarm constantly our background music, it’s where Jerry and I spend our weekends and the majority of our serious drinking time (tea, gin, wine….mostly gin and wine).  My days are spent ‘working’ away on various scribbled bits at the kitchen table too.  You might say, dear Reader, that the kitchen is the place we can be found in if you were to let yourself into our home.  So our hub is the first room we thought to tackle, having survived our first 8 months of rural life.  To help you picture the scene, our kitchen ofday 1 old was a shocker.  Not to look at (on the whole) but to work in.  1 set of electric hobs with only 2 functioning plates, 1 cooker (from the late 70s) that cremates all, despite being set on low temp and kitchen wall cabinets which almost meet the worktop thus preventing use of kettle, toaster or chopping board.  Green gin palace tiles all over the walls, reminiscent of a Victorian pub loo.  A leaky sink that saw me one Sunday in the not too distant past, covered in muck from an exploding u-bend….  I say no more.  At that point, it was me or the kitchen.

With that in mind, I welcomed the team of builders with open arms to fit me a kitchen I could make marmalade in, dry herbs from the ceiling and leave wet clothes draped on the range.  Jerry persuaded them to fit an affordable kitchen instead.  All began well and soon the kitchen was a mere shell of its former self.  Imagine my delight too when the builders uncovered a hidden window behind a bank of wall cabinets.  We had been able to see the window from the outside but it had been blocked up years ago.  The light that burst through into the usually dark and low beamed kitchen was incredible!  A wonderful end to Day 1 in Margot’s kitchen.

Let there be light!

Let there be light!

From this point onwards, my impatience set in and I am now DESPERATE to get my kitchen back, hounding the builders at every turn as to what is going to happen next.  Thankfully, a week in and they haven’t started to despise me quite yet but Stu, the foreman, tends to open the back door with caution each morning, wondering what I will ask him to do next.  On the camping stove front, I have so far managed a catalogue of fairly respectable meals to take us through our first week of kitchen revamp:

  • Sausages and lentils (As I presented this one, Poppy asked me in rather harsh tones, where her ‘bakened’ beans were.  Sausages only go with ‘bakened’ beans and not rabbit droppings apparently)
  • Spaghetti Bolognese (cheat – as I had already made the sauce and frozen it)
  • Risotto con il pollo (sounds more impressive in Italian….)
  • Eggs a la every which way
  • a LOT of chicken based meals
  • oh and some scallops and bacon with balsamic vinegar (fish man took pity on me and sold them at a knockdown price from the back of his fish van), in a desperate bid to cheer Jerry and me up on Friday night when the thought of more chicken was too much to bear.

To be honest, dear Reader, the rate I am going with the stove, I’m thinking of hosting a new dinner party craze – 3 courses from the camping stove.  Could be a winner!  I was even thinking of my own camping stove cookbook – Culinary Tales from Margot’s Stove.  It’s not ALL beans you know..

candles

Many cups of ‘white with 2 sugars’ later, the kitchen is making good progress.  I have even played agony aunt to Miles, the plasterer, as he negotiated a tricky break up with his long distance girlfriend.  Thank goodness I haven’t lost my sense of humour entirely – Thurs night, the builders managed to drive a screw through the electrics, leaving the whole of the ground floor in darkness.  When I protested, I was asked if I had candles as the electrician was on another job and couldn’t come back until the following week.  This hiccup was only made worse by digging out the bottle of cherished 6 o’clock gin, only to find that it was nearly empty.  Darkness for an evening or two, I can live with.  Gin, my dear Reader, I cannot!

Still….you’ll have to be patient and wait for Episode 2 where camping stove cookery starts trending on Twitter and Margot’s half finished kitchen becomes the set of a new and exciting foray into foodie television.  I’ll just leave you with a sneaky peak……

Cabinets going in...progress indeed but STILL so far to go.

Cabinets going in…progress indeed but STILL so far to go.

Getting in the mood…

panettone

Delicious Christmas goodies…we wanted to buy them all!

I have to say, dear Reader, that I have been really suffering from Christmas malaise this year.  Our first countryside Christmas and I am not quite ready to be Christmassy just yet!  I AM excited but there just seems so much to get through before the 25th that pretty soon, I shall be ready to flop by the fire with a bottle of sloe gin and not surface until New Year’s eve!

Desperately trying to be organised, I did manage to get to our local farm shop’s ‘Christmas Fayre’ and it didn’t disappoint!  Hung turkeys, oodles of Christmas gifts, mulled wine and mince pies…..Christmas on a platter!  Newlyns Farm Shop did a jolly good job of twisting my Christmas arm and I stocked up on the essentials: meat, wine, panettone and Gentleman’s Relish!  There were gifts a plenty to buy too so no family member will be without something foodie in their stocking this year.   A wonderful way to start the festive season.  Jerry and I enjoyed being plied with mulled wine and mince pies immensely!  The Christmas feast on the day itself has its festive centrepiece as Jerry and I finally persuaded Primrose that Christmas goose is much like ‘posh chicken’.  (She stills remembers me tricking her into eating Jemima Puddleduck).  Rather nonchalantly, she did ask if we would be slaughtering one of our own chickens for lunch – frightening how she has become more ‘countrified’ than the rest of us so quickly!  So with Primrose’s help, I shall trek over to the farm shop on Christmas Eve to pick up our bird and try to hide it from Monty’s ravenous jaws when I get home.

No turkey for us this year!

AMAZING to see all these oven ready birdies on show!

Don’t worry, Monty certainly won’t be going without – thanks to the lovely farm shop butchers!  He will have his own Christmas gnawfest with this little number…

Fit for a Great Dane!

Fit for a Great Dane!

With festive fayre in the bag so to speak, I could turn my attentions to the buying of presents.  Don’t tell anyone, dear Reader but I am afraid that I might not be able to give some of the presents I have bought to their intended recipients as they are simply too fabulous to give away.  I know, I know……Christmas is ALL about the giving of presents and not the receiving part.  However, I might have to sneak this little kindling set at the very back under the tree and hope that no one notices it.  I would so dearly like to keep it!

Might just forget to wrap this one!

Ever so tempting to forget to wrap this one! (Garden Trading)

With a huge dent made into the long list of preparations, surely dear Reader, it wouldn’t be amiss to treat myself to an early festive tipple or two?!  I have been a good Margot after all…..promise.

A little Christmas punch, anyone?

A little Christmas punch, anyone?

(The lovely Countrywives have very kindly invited me into their country coven and I shall be adding my favourite Christmas recipes over on their website each week – do come over and take a look if you have a mo)

Shot for the Pot week

 

Shot_for_the_Pot_Logo_02_RGB_688The Countryside Alliance’s Shot for the Pot campaign is a marvellous way to induct new ‘gamers’ and invigorate longstanding lovers with ideas on how to eat, prepare and cook those all things gamey.  Having embraced a countryside lifestyle and very much been at the heart of a huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ way of living in recent months, I jumped at the chance to write for Shot for the Pot week and set about creating a recipe in homage to a delicious and free range source of meat.

Knowing relatively little about shooting and game birds before Jerry and I took the plunge to move from town to country, I have found myself learning an awful lot about pens, pegs, ‘pheasies’ and mostly how not to enrage local gamekeepers as the owner of a lively working cocker spaniel puppy.  The weekly pop pop pop of gunshot in the air and the Range Rovers driven by men in their tweedy best are a source of wonder to me and I am always on the lookout for their spoils picked up and sold on by local game dealers.  A sight I shan’t forget in a hurry this autumn is one of a gamekeeper’s Gator with a vast number of partridge hung under the canvas in the back en route to the table of the local landowner.  In fact, it reminds me still of my first encounter with a gamebird up close and personal….a bird in the hand one could say, dear Reader.

On an early morning walk along our bridleway, Monty, our cocker pup, spied a wee little partridge sitting under a tree and not moving.  An injured bird is sadly rather a sitting duck (excuse the pun) for an untrained gundog puppy and I am ashamed to admit that before I even had the chance to get in there first, Monty picked it and wouldn’t let me have it.  Spaniel well and truly chastised, I wrestled the poor bird from his jaws and naively, was hoping to send it on its merry way after a quick once over.  However, the terrified little thing took one look at me and promptly breathed its last in my hand.  I was then faced with a dilemma which only a townie would have deliberated over…..what ought I to do with the bird?  It was past a trip to the vet and I couldn’t take it home as my girls would have cried at the sight of the dead bird and been appalled at the thought of it being hung in the laundry room in readiness for the pot.  So I placed it down gently at the edge of the first field I came to, knowing full well that our local pair of red kites would probably spy it and have a good luncheon.  Guilt remained with me for the rest of the walk but on my return back towards the bridleway, the red legged chap had disappeared.  Terrified that I was going to be in serious trouble with the gamekeepers who have a fierce attitude towards the local villagers and their dogs, I was grateful to the kites for clearing up the scene of the crime.

The poor little chap

The poor little chap

It would seem that I am not the only one who has a few teething problems with gundogs and gamebirds.  The very next day I set out with Monty on our daily romp towards the woods when I was greeted by the head gamekeeper and his dogs.  He was checking the pegs for the day’s shooting and had his two Labradors trotting in tow.  I called out to him to ask if I was alright to carry on my walk and he yelled back his morning greeting and said that all was well.  With Monty firmly on his lead (I am proud to say that I never flout the rule of dogs on leads on the shooting estate as it seems so unreasonable to do so when so much effort seems to go into prepping for a shoot), I continued.  As I narrowed the gap between us and the gamekeeper with his excitable black bruisers, I caught sight of his dogs flushing out a young male pheasant and then with the bird firmly between nashers, chasing off towards their boss!  Monty watched with considerable excitement and started barking rather loudly!  Gripping Monty’s lead firmly, I greeted a rather embarrassed gamekeeper who had promptly snatched hold of said dog with pheasant clamped to his jaws.  He then proceeded to hold an entirely brief conversation with me with the bird pointlessly hidden behind his back, desperate for me not to have noticed.  I’m afraid I couldn’t resist cracking a joke about swapping his ‘well behaved’ dogs for my jaunty spaniel pup!  He was puce with embarrassment and then mumbled something about going back to his car for something he had forgotten.  We said our goodbyes……me giggling to myself all the way to the woods!  In fact, it raises a smile even now!

A brace! - hurrah!

A brace – hurrah!

So in homage to you, dear Mr Head Gamekeeper and for all your hard work with pens, partridge, pheasant and pesky gundogs, I present my little recipe offering for the Countryside Alliance’s Shot for the Pot week:

RSome of autumn at its best!oast Partridge with Quince and Bacon (Serves 2 hungry countrymen or women!)

  • 2 partridge, plucked, hung and ready for the pot
  • 2 ripe quince, diced (pear would work well too)
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, diced
  • a good dash of Somerset Pomona, a cider brandy (Pineau or Calvados would also be good)
  • half a glass of white wine
  • a teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • a tablespoon of double cream
  • butter
  • olive oil

Heat a skillet or deep pan, adding a lump of butter and a splash of olive oil.  When the butter has started to sizzle, then add the partridge to the pan, spooning over the butter.  Fry until the outsides are golden in colour.  Place on a plate to one side to rest whilst you prepare the other ingredients.

Set your oven to temperature 200 degrees centigrade for an electric/fan oven, gas mark  or be ready to add to the hot oven of your Aga, Rayburn or Everhot. 

Into the pan, add the diced quince and bacon along with a tiny knob of butter to prevent them sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Fry until the quince has taken on a good colour and the bacon is on its way to being crispy.  Then deglaze the pan with the Pomona and set alight with a match to burn off the alcohol.  Do watch hair and eyebrows with this one!  Once the liquid has had a good sizzle and the flames have died down, add the partridge back to the pan along with the white wine. 

Place the pan into the oven and roast for 10 minutes – any longer and the partridge has a tendency to be as tough as old boots I think.  Once the 10 minutes are up, lift the partridge out of the pan and place on a plate, under a blanket of foil.  The birds need to rest and you can then crack on with finishing the sauce in the meantime.

Heat the liquid in the pan and allow to simmer gently, adding the mustard and cream.  Cook down for a minute or two until the sauce has thickened a touch.  I like to wilt a little spinach into the sauce but feel free to omit or cook some greenery to serve as an accompaniment. 

Place the birds back into the pan and spoon a little of the sauce over them to coat them in mustardy, creamy quince and bacon goodness. 

Jerry and I snaffled these with a good hunk of bread to mop up the sauce but you could easily serve with mashed potato or indeed, a healthy portion of polenta. 

Gamey deliciousness!

Gamey deliciousness!

Easy as pie so do give gamebirds a go and make sure you have a look at all the wonderful recipes and ‘how to’ guides on the Shot for the Pot website too.  I’m off to track down some venison next as Jerry has a hankering for a good game pie.  Wonder if I could have a word with the gamekeeper’s labs to see if they could bag me a deer…..?!

An apple a day

Horn of plenty!

Apples a plenty and a few lusciously large quinces too!

Harvest is here and the village and hedgerows are laden with sumptuous treats!  Apples are everywhere and almost every villager has offered us some of the bountiful produce!  Our dear new neighbours, the Worthingtons have an orchard the other side of the fence which is truly to die for and what is more dear Reader, is that they have said that we can pick apples until we drop!  I have, of course, taken them up on that offer.  Oooh I am already planning endless crumbles, tarte tatins, jellies, apple butters, chutney……delicious….and it is not even National Apple Day (21st October).

Armed with an apple picker, Primrose, Poppy and I spent a glorious afternoon gathering apples and learning all about old English varieties of cookers and eaters.  Mrs Worthington is now known as ‘apple lady’ according to Poppy.  Trampling in and amongst the apple trees, I was reminded of why we moved to the countryside in the first place – a desire to lead a simpler life.  Well, Margot’s idea of a simpler life at any rate!  There will be no knitting of yoghurt here!  On a sunny day in September, it was heavenly to watch my own dear dots scrambling through the apple boughs and munching on their treasured finds.  At that moment, I could honestly not imagine anything better!  My mind is now full of ideas of growing my own mini orchard once we have tackled the jungle that is the garden.  Perhaps it was the talk of cider that got me thinking about my own apples and the need for an apple press?

What a beauty! Not sure this one made it to the basket...

What a beauty! Not sure this one made it to the basket…

With our baskets laden, we skipped home to cook an apple cake.  I know what you are thinking, dear Reader….MARGOT DOES NOT MAKE CAKES.  This is true.  However, the girls called for cake and I was desperate to use my new gadget.  All hail the miraculous apple peeler and thank the Lord for Nigel Slater who has a really easy cake recipe which even this baking criminal can manage!

Everyone needs one of these - believe me!

Everyone needs one of these – believe me! Go to Garden Trading and get one!

An edible cake!  Makes a change!

Edible! Makes a change!

Girls merrily scoffing cake, I had time to panic about the annual village Harvest lunch.  The form is that everyone makes something for the table and I have been asked to prepare a shepherd’s pie.  Nothing too extraordinary about that – shepherd’s pie is shepherd’s pie.  Well I think it is at any rate but you never know, the village might have an ancient pie tradition which I haven’t discovered as yet.  The real anxiety, resting pie issues to one side, is that in addition to the culinary part comes a request for a harvest floral display for the village church.  Oh dear!  I have been frantically researching autumn displays and wreaths for days now and I am still none the wiser.  Where is a local florist when you need one?  Do they not realise that I am townie and know nothing of arranging flowers?  At this rate, I might just have to hang apples from the church ceiling in a decorative fashion…….apple bobbing anyone?!

Preserving in jim jams

Jammin'

We’re jammin’….

Well, dear Reader, it would seem that I have been burning the candle at both ends somewhat of late and I have been riddled with summer flu.  Ridiculous!  How can one possibly catch flu in the summer?  Feeling utterly useless and wishing I could pull the duvet over my head, I coordinated last minute moving jobs from the sofa and put myself to bed with a whisky (purely medicinal of course).  That was until the cavalry arrived (in the form of my dear Mamma) or so I thought…..  On second glance, I realised that instead of chicken soup and chocolate, she was armed with a jam pan and a copy of one of my childhood culinary favourites, The Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cook book.  Even now, I am still strangely fascinated by this glossy tome which

What more could any dinner party ask for than duck in aspic and steak bites?!

What more could any dinner party ask for than duck in aspic and steak bites?!

features none other than a recipe for ghoulish sounding Duck in Aspic amongst all kinds of 1970s dinner party disaster menus.  The purpose of the cook book’s outing: to make a jam maker of me.  My mother is known for her pots of jam littering the larder and her staunch belief that jam can last years and years!  Many a breakfast has been spent opening jars to reveal green and blue hues of mould and dear Papa is always threatening to throw out the ‘collection’.  I seriously think that there could even be a jar in the pantry from my teenage days……definitely not as palatable as a vintage Margaux!

So, dear Reader, I found myself standing in my kitchen in my jim jams with Poppy in hers too, thinking about how I was going to deal with 3lbs of strawberries and my Mamma’s overexcited enthusiasm for turning me into a preserving queen.

jamHere’s our version of Margot’s Strawberry and Lavender jam

1kg strawberries (leave them whole – freshly picked fruit is better for this, if you can get it or grow it)

600g preserving sugar

350g caster sugar

jam3juice of a lemon

2 lavender flower heads

Heat the jam pan and add all the strawberries and sugar and stir together.  Leaving the strawberries whole gives a more ‘conserve’ style of jam which can be used for cakes, scones and of course, hot buttered toast.  The strawberries being a soft fruit will break up a bit anyway as you stir them.  Wait until all the sugar has dissolved until you add the lemon juice (lemon juice gives a helping hand as strawberries are notoriously low in pectin so I am told). Stir frequently to stop anything catching on the bottom and simmer gently for approximately 7 minutes.  Then allow mixture to come to the boil.  Boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Test for setting point by dropping some jam onto a cold spoon.  Wait for it to cool and then push the jam with your finger – if it crinkles, it has reached setting point.  Wash jars and then place them in a hot oven to sterilise before pouring in the jam (stirring through any scum that may have formed on the top).  Add the lavender flowers at the very end, stirring through the pot to make sure they are evenly spread.  The lavender is there for fragrance and delicate flavour – try not to be too heavy handed with it though as otherwise you will end up with jammy pot pourri!  Seal the jars – jar can be kept for up to 12 months.  Refrigerate once opened.

The perfect summery jam for a Wimbledon tea!

The perfect summery jam for a Wimbledon tea!

What could be more summery than luscious rosy ripe strawberry jam slathered on a buttery scones piled high with cream and extra strawberries?!!  Certainly a diet fail but the perfect accompaniment to watching Wimbledon and the best antidote to a spot of summer flu I can assure you.

With some leftover rhubarb,  we even had a go at some experimental ‘Jarmalade’ – yes, you guessed it, a jam/marmalade hybrid with rhubarb and orange.  Dear Reader, to be honest I think that Mamma and I got a bit carried away with the preserving at this point as we were thinking up all sorts of combinations.  Thank goodness Jerry arrived home just in time before I managed to populate the whole kitchen with pots of jam.  His first thought was that the removal men would be boxing up at least one whole box of jam…….oh my, dear Reader, it would appear that I may have inherited that jam hoarding gene after all!  Perhaps I could endear myself to neighbours in our new village with gifts of jam……?!