Tag Archives: recipe

A little slow food love

January over in a flash, February trying to race past the post.  Where HAS the time gone, dear Reader?  Already at half term, at this rate it’ll be Christmas again before I know it.  Busy isn’t even the word.  What with new columns here and there, and work on something a bit bigger too, I think that I’ve spent at least half of the last month and a half mopping floors and spraying them with doggy disinfectant due to Piddling Piglet, also known as spaniel pup Dora.  Perfect in every way except the fact that at 17 weeks old, if it’s cold or rainy outside, Dora will come back in from the garden and decide that the dining room floor is much nicer to widdle on than wet grass.  It is a good job that she is so utterly adorable…..
Dora Paws

Dora hasn’t been the only thing contributing to puddles indoors either.  Thanks to Storm Imogen, the sitting room ceiling decided to spring rather a big leak (again) and we awoke to the sound of steady dripping one morning.  We are lucky that that’s all it was.  The wind in the night was battering the house with such force that we thought the windows would blow in and trees hanging precariously over us would crush the house.  The mini greenhouse took to flying and was last seen going over the garden gate and onto the lane.  Poor old hens thought that Chicken Little’s prophecy was more fact than fiction too.  Still other than the roof and a fair bit of debris in the garden, all was well.

Henny Pen

On the subject of the hens, dear Reader, we have some sad news to share.  We lost our two favourite hens over Christmas.  Not to Mr Fox but to a serious case of gapeworm that came on too suddenly to cope with usual treatment.  Henny Penny and Layla were quarantined in a makeshift chicken hospital (the girls’ wendy house) but despite all our care, both passed away within 24hrs of each other.  It was Henny’s death on Christmas Day that was perhaps the most devastating for all of us, with Poppy weeping buckets.  She really was such a plucky hen – so funny to watch and bags of character.  Silly to be so sad about losing a hen but she really was exceptionally special.  The coop just isn’t the same without her and with only three remaining, it may be time to think about some new girls joining us.


With snowdrops on the ground and the bluebells beginning to wake from their winter’s nap, it’s time to start thinking about tidying things up a bit.  Well in the garden at least, since the walls are too wet and the brickwork needs to dry out before it can be repaired.  Too depressing to look at the forecast and spy yet more rain on the horizon.  Still new roses need potting up for growing up the house, a lot of demolition work is already complete and plans for the kitchen garden are all sketched out and seeds purchased – the garden is almost unrecognisable.  Thank goodness too as I had the lovely Becs Parker from BBC Radio Solent’s The Good Life here recording a series of three new recipes from Margot’s Kitchen – Slow Food for Gardeners.  Tune in on Sunday 14th Feb from 1pm-2pm – no doubt you’ll hear Monty and Dora giving their woofs of approval in the background.

What better way to feed the soul on Valentine’s Day than with a bit of slow food love, dear Reader.  Call it a big hug and kiss from me to you.  Perfect whether you’re gardening, dragging the small ones and pups on a walk in the countryside (this passes for romance at Margot and Jerry HQ) or sinking into an armchair to while away the day with a good book.

Slow Cooked Spicy Beef Short Ribs with Chipotle Beans

Chipotle beans and spicy beef

Marinade for beef short ribs

beef short ribs or brisket

1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet depending on how spicy you like it)

1 tsp of mixed peppercorns (grind these in a pestle and mortar)

1 tsp mustard powder

2 tbsp runny honey

1 garlic clove, whole

500ml good quality beef stock

1/2 can of real ale

Add all the ingredients for the marinade and rub onto the short ribs.  Leave to marinade overnight or for at least 4-6 hours.  Overnight is best for maximum flavour.  When you are ready to cook, seal the meat on a high heat until all the surfaces have colour.  Use a large pan with a lid to do this as you will be cooking the beef for hours and hours in its marinade.  Once all the meat is brown on the outside, pour over beef stock and ale, pop on the pan lid and place in a low oven (no more than 120 degrees) for slow cooking.  The ribs will be ready when the meat can be pulled apart with two forks.

Take the ribs out of the pan once cooked and leave to one side to shred the meat from the bones.  Pop the pan on the stove and reduce the liquid that is left by half.  As it reduces, add 1 tbsp of tomato ketchup and a dash of Worcestershire sauce to thicken it.  Pour this over the shredded beef to serve.

Chipotle beans

1 onion

2 tsp chipotle paste

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 can of haricot beans (include all the juice in the can too)

salt and pepper

Cook this at the same time as the beef short ribs as the beans will be really tender if slow cooked and have bags of flavour too.  Fry roughly chopped onion in a pan (needs to have a lid so a casserole dish with lid would work too), adding the chipotle paste and pomegranate molasses. Fry until the onion has softened a little and is coated in the paste and molasses.  Then add the can of beans and mix until combined.  Pop in low oven alongside the beef to cook for at least 3 hours.  The beans should look thick and be squishy to the touch.  Check the beans after an hour or so and see if you need to add a little water if they are looking a little dry rather than unctuous.

To serve the beef and beans, warm a few tortillas in the oven, add some chopped coriander or parsley, a squeeze of lime juice and a good dollop of crème fraiche/soured cream.

Heaven and you won’t be slaving over the stove all day either!  Happy Valentine’s Day, dear Reader.

Monty and Dora

Autumn rolling in


Never have I felt the juxtaposition of town and country more acutely than a recent weekend dash to New York and back for a dear family member’s wedding.  Saying goodbye to straw bales on the school run and green fields (plus two small girls) to be greeted by cabs honking, neon lights flashing and the whoosh of urban living was a far more epic contrast from our every day life than I could ever have imagined.  Continue reading

Cooking full circle

Time for a spot of cooking!  It seems ages since I last shared a recipe over here so when The Happy Foodie asked me to take a little culinary challenge, well I simply couldn’t resist, dear Reader!

As anyone who knows me well knows, new cookbooks are pure heaven to me. I simply can’t resist flicking through tantalising recipes, thinking of occasions that I might try one out – some of them are even to be found on the bedside table for just before bed reading! So when I came across Rosie Ramsden’s new cookbook, The Recipe Wheel, I was intrigued to find something rather more exciting than a collection of delicious treats to cook and serve up.

Rosie Ramsden's fab new book, The Recipe Wheel

Rosie Ramsden’s fab new book, The Recipe Wheel

The concept is simple but innovative at the same time. There are series of mind maps – one basic recipe at the centre of the wheel which can be adapted to suit any occasion, mood or variety of ingredients: Cooking for Friends, something for a Night In, creating a dish to Impress, hassle-free No Frills recipes and even ideas for what to do with those Leftovers. The core of one recipe ‘mind map’ could be Roast Chicken and then with Rosie’s creative recipe wheel, this basic recipe is translated into a Chicken and Mango curry for a Night In or a delicious dish to Impress like Chicken salad with Blood Orange. No hard and fast rules which allows the cook to mix and match ingredients and be creative with a dish. Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Perhaps one of the best things about the recipe wheel is that it gives great ideas for leftovers too.

Inspired by Rosie’s recipe wheel idea, I wondered if I could have a go at creating my own wheel using an ingredient at the centre of the wheel rather than a dish. Take the humble courgette – there always seems to be one or two lingering at the bottom of the vegetable drawer in our fridge and I’m always trying to think of new ways to jazz up the way I use it. You know that this Margot loves all things foodie, dear Reader! The garden is certainly showing signs of there being tons of them in our little veg patch before long and so Rosie’s recipe wheel revelation couldn’t have come sooner! With a little bit of thought and to kick off Margot’s new Kitchen blog post page where I’ll be featuring recipes of all sorts, I created my own wheel with a little illustrative help from Primrose (aged 5, she draws courgettes and everything else so much better than I do):

My very own courgette wheel!

My very own courgette wheel!

All of my recipes are courgette based, some using a little to add background flavour, some where it is the star of the show and some fancier than others but, just like Rosie’s fab recipe wheel idea, each dish suits a particular mood or occasion. Jerry certainly hasn’t complained about my 5 new ways with courgettes and he’s a self-certified carnivore.

Friends: Courgette and feta fritters with lemon and mint dipping sauce

Night in: Almost Ratatouille (my very own take on that fab Provençal number)

Impress: Courgette, sorrel and pea risotto served with zucchini fritti and basil oil

Leftovers: Arancini with roasted tomato sauce

Bitten by the bug, I’ve been thinking of recipe wheel ideas ever since and have already tried quite a few dishes from The Recipe Wheel. It’s amazing that no one has thought to put together a recipe book like this before. No more endless thumbing to the index to work out recipes using up the ingredients in the fridge, no more wondering about how you can elevate a recipe you’ve been churning out for years – Rosie’s done that all for you! She’s certainly given me lots of new ideas.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourites from this week – Get Creative: Smoked salmon bruschetta with sweet courgette relish. A perfect dinner party starter that allows you to spend your time with a chilled glass of rosé rather than slaving over the stove when your guests arrive.

Sweet courgette relish (makes enough for a dinner party starter for 4)

1/2 courgette, grated

1 spring onion, chopped finely

1 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard

1 tsp runny honey

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or apple balsamic vinegar

black pepper and salt

a good handful of fresh dill

Couldn’t be easier…..  Into a mixing bowl, grate the courgette and add the finely chopped spring onion.  To this, add mustard, cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper.  Using a little whisk, whisk the wet ingredients into the courgette and spring onion and taste.  Now add a handful of chopped fresh dill and leave for 1 hour in the fridge in a jam jar for the flavours to infuse.

Bruschetta part: Make some rough croutons using French bread sliced on the diagonal, drizzle over some olive oil and bake in a hot oven (180 degrees centigrade/350F/gas mark 4) until golden.  Leave to cool.

To 2 heaped tbsp of crème fraiche, add 1 tsp of horseradish, a squeeze of lemon and a tiny pinch of salt – mix well.  Using a teaspoon, place a small amount of the flavoured creme fraiche onto your toasted croutons, add a piece of smoked salmon to finish.  Garnish with more fresh dill and serve with the sweet courgette relish on the side.

Now all you need is someone to pour you a drink – summery heaven!  Long may this glorious sunshine last!

Get Creative: Smoked salmon bruschetta with sweet courgette relish

Get Creative: Smoked salmon bruschetta with sweet courgette relish

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…..?!