The Kitchen in June


Saturday, 30 June 2012

A jug of flowers for the kitchen.
Yellow St John's Wort, so called because it  flowers around the feast of St John the baptist which is 24th June, complemented by the purple flowers of sage and lavender.

I feel I haven't shown you much food this month. I have taken quite a few pictures of it though.

Lamb sausage stew with chickpeas and apricots
Above is a sausage stew I made on one of the many cold, wet June days we have had.
These are delicious lamb chipolatas with chickpeas and dried apricots plus a generous seasoning of Bart's baharat spice blend.

Giant meatballs

These meatballs are an adaptation of  Nigella Lawson's mini meatloaves in Nigella Express.
I make them about the size of a satsuma.

They are great hot or cold. I sliced the leftovers and the kids put them in their sandwiches.

Giant Meatballs

Mix together with your hands until well blended
2 lbs (900g) minced beef
2lbs (900g) sausage meat (or sausages with their skins removed)
6 oz (170g) oats (breadcrumbs will work too)
2 eggs
3 tbsp tomato ketchup (gravy or brown sauce would also work)
1 large onion, finely chopped (I used a tub of veg hash)
1-2 tsp salt
black pepper
thyme or other herbs, or whatever spices you fancy
Shape into satsuma sized balls and place on a greased baking sheet (I use a reusable liner on my baking sheets)
Bake at 200°c (180°c fan oven) for 30 mins

Sliced meatball

Spinach and pea soup
When I gave this soup to my family I called it 'pea soup' but it also contained a bag of baby spinach leaves which needed using up. The addition of crisp bacon always helps sell a dish to my kids.

Viennese potatoes with pickled cucumber and sour cream
This was a recipe from Diana Henry's Food From Plenty. Boiled potatoes are fried with paprika (I overdid the paprika a bit) and caraway. They are served with a sauce made by mixing pickled cucumber with sour cream. I had no sour cream so I mixed yogurt with double cream. I used my home made pickles.

My raspberries have begun to ripen.

I'm loving them simply mashed and stirred into yogurt with some sugar.

Home made raspberry yogurt

This year my gooseberry bush has done quite well. I picked them a couple of weeks ago and stewed them gently with sugar and elderflowers. I discarded the elderflowers after cooking. I put the cooked gooseberries in the freezer and today I defrosted them and made these individual crumbles using some of my frozen crumble topping.

Laundry Cycle


Friday, 29 June 2012

I know, it just gets more exciting every day doesn't it? Freezers, the weather and now laundry!
What can I say? This is life.

I have a weekly laundry timetable. Yes, really. It makes life easier especially if you have several beds to deal with. I wash every day, usually two loads, occasionally one and quite often three. As well as clothes every day  on Tuesday to Friday I wash bedlinen and towels.

Boys must bring their bed linen down with them in the morning to be washed.
They put fresh linen on their beds when they go to bed.
 (When I say linen I mean a fitted sheet, pillow cases and a duvet cover -I store them in sets inside a pillowcase).

Not pretty,  not coordinated, but efficient.

I gather all towels and wash them.
I do not put out towels for people.
Clean towels are collected from the airing cupboard where they are stored rolled up.
Everyone has their favourite towels, this way of storing them makes it easier to grab the one you want instead of pulling it out from under a pile of folded towels.

Again not pretty.
Flannels (face cloths)

Katie must bring her bed linen down to be washed and put a fresh set on at bedtime.
Last night she 'didn't have time' to put clean sheets on her bed so she slept on a bare mattress underneath a naked duvet. I'm not sure why she didn't have time. I didn't see her doing anything other than watch rubbish on youtube from 4 pm to 8.30pm. 
This morning I got her up five minutes early (because five minutes is all it takes to make a bed) and asked her to do it.
Just before she left for school I said 'Did you make your bed?'

Freshly made bed

'Yes' she replied. 

I do our bed and reflect on the fact that Charlie is the only one who doesn't have to make his bed.

I also have a system for delivering clean clothes to their owners. Piles of clothing get taken upstairs (by whoever happens to be passing when I'm sorting it) and put on our bed. Next time I'm in the bedroom I swiftly distribute the clothes into three piles according to which room they belong in. I put my stuff away and hang up Charlie's shirts so that they don't crease and need ironing again. I don't put the rest of his clothes away. I carry the boys' stuff into their room and put it on Tom's bed (it being nearest the door) where they sort it and put it away. I put Katie's stuff on her floor where it stays until she can't tell whether it is dirty or clean. Then she puts it all in the washing basket again.

Spare bed linen neatly folded on the top shelf of my airing cupboard which I can't reach



Thursday, 28 June 2012

(My drive is very weedy indeed)




It's been very humid all week
'What we need is a good thunderstorm to clear the air' everybody keeps saying.
The storm came this morning. Now it has passed.
The air has not been cleared at all. It still feels like the lily house at Kew.
But the sun is shining.

Filling the Freezer


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A rather dull post about practical matters.

A couple of weeks ago I succeeded in almost emptying my big chest freezer in order to defrost it.
An almost empty freezer (some ice blocks, my ice cream machine bowl, half a bag of peas, a loaf of bread and a chunk of ginger) demands to be filled. Just the sort of project I enjoy.
As I said on this post my preferred freezer-filling method is to stock it with meal building blocks rather than ready made meals.

First I made pizza bases.
To do this I used this recipe which I doubled. Once it had risen I divided into 15 portions which I rolled out to into discs about ten inches in diameter. I then par-baked them for 6 minutes at 220°c (200°c fan oven). Once they were cool I stacked them in fives, interleaving with baking paper and wrapping well with foil before consigning them to the freezer.

Next I made a huge batch of simple tomato sauce and tossed that in the freezer along with a big bag of grated mozzarella.
The bases can be topped and cooked from frozen, the sauce defrosts quickly in the microwave.
There are usually other ingredients suitable for pizza toppings in the fridge -olives, mushrooms, peppers, ham.
Pizza night is just moments away.

The next thing I made was this big bag of oaty crumble ready to sprinkle over fruit and be baked for weekend puds.

I also stocked up on beans. I soaked and cooked a packet each (500g) of chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans. After they were drained and cooled I spread them on reusable baking liners on large baking trays and froze until hard. Then I gathered them up into bags so that I had free-flowing beans ready to add to a dish straight from the freezer.

I found a large plastic box to store my breadcrumbs in and made sure I got those crusts blitzed into crumbs before they went mouldy.

I can't do without my vegetable hash in the freezer. I needed the tubs I had frozen it in for other things so I popped the hash out of the tubs into plastic bags.

There was a good deal on small chickens, very small chickens -less than 3lbs each. I bought twelve.
I jointed nine of them keeping the leg joints whole as they were so tiny. I froze the joints on trays until hard then bagged them up.

I put the wings of all twelve chickens in a bag to use in one meal (there are only six in the bag in the photo because I didn't process all of the chickens on the same day).

I kept all the trim, carcases and wing tips. These I put into bags to make into stock later. Because the backs still have quite a bit of meat on them when I cook them up for stock I will salvage the meat before it gets cooked to rags.

The three chickens I didn't joint I poached so that I could freeze the cooked meat.
To do this I put them in a large pot (minus their wings) with a couple of carrots, an onion, some lemon and herbs. I brought it to the boil then put a lid on the pot and turned off the heat. I left them in the poaching water for an hour by which time they were perfectly cooked.

They look ghastly don't they?
I pulled off all the meat and threw away the skin and bones.

I then strained the poaching liquid and put it in the fridge so that the fat could rise to the top and be scraped off later. Then I poured it into tubs in 1 pint portions.

I shredded the cooked chicken and found I had just three lbs from those three chickens. Not much.
I bagged it in 12 oz portions to use in pasta dishes, on pizzas or salads.

The next thing I did  was to cook a small gammon* joint with the intention of slicing it for sandwich meat.
I have always believed that this is the cheapest way of buying quality ham. I dislike wet, slimy, gristly ham. A 2kg joint cost me about £13 from Waitrose (bound to be cheaper elsewhere) . This makes it about £6.50 a kg whereas the packets of sliced ham I usually buy are about £12 a kg. 
Thing was, once my joint was cooked and the fat stripped off it weighed 1 kg not 2 kg making it the same price as the packet ham.
Also, I cannot slice it as thinly as the packet ham, in fact quite often it won't slice at all disintegrating into bits.

I divided it into sandwich-sized portions by laying pieces out in the shape of a slice of bread. It took about 70g to fill one sandwich. A slice of packet ham is about 30g. I could have made 32 sandwiches by buying a kg of packet ham. My kg of ham has yielded 14 sandwiches worth of meat.

I have, however, got about ten pints of ham stock to add to my freezer stash. I put an onion and carrot in the cooking water .If you leave the last layer of skin on the onion your stock will have a good colour.

My freezer is now full to bursting and that is a very satisfying feeling.
By the way, I didn't do all of the above in one day. I've been working at it for about a week.

* Gammon is ham before it is cooked - I think.

Recipe Box


Saturday, 23 June 2012

When I wrote this post two things happened which I had not anticipated.
The first was an email from Down To Earth saying that they had had so many orders for the cookery notebook I had featured that they had run out of stock and had to order more. As a thank you they sent me a little present.
The second thing was even better.  Diana of Pebbledash whose recipe boxes I linked to in the post, emailed me and offered to make a recipe box for me. I was thrilled.

She sent me some samples of bookcloth so that I could choose a colour. That was the easy part. She then asked me what I would like on the dividing cards and the inside of the box. I was paralysed with indecision and said 'I'll leave it to you!'
Last Saturday I met Diana at Kew Gardens and she presented me with my recipe box.

Diana left the card tabs blank for me to fill in.

My favourite things

As you can see, I was right to leave it to Diana.
I have never been given anything that has been made especially for me before.
I am quite enchanted by it. 
Thank you Diana.

Cake of the Month - Everyday Fruit Cake


Thursday, 21 June 2012

A fiftieth birthday surely warrants a cake of special magnificence.
 Layers, icing, gold smarties, sparklers and chocolate.
When I asked Charlie what kind of cake he wanted for his big birthday he said;
'That fruit cake you do, not the dark Christmas one the lighter one',
'What, the everyday fruit cake?'
''No chocolate, layers or icing?'
'No thanks'
'Sad face'.
But, it isn't my fiftieth birthday. Yet. Happy face.
On your fiftieth birthday you should have the cake you like best, so I made him an everyday fruit cake.

This recipe is super-easy. I can't remember where I got it from but it is a fairly standard British recipe.
It's very tasty, excellent in the lunch box and doesn't make your teeth ache.

Everyday Fruit Cake
Grease and base line an 8'' (20cm) loose-bottomed  deep cake tin.
In a large bowl mix all of the following ingredients together. Electric beaters make this an easy task.
8 oz soft butter
8 oz light brown soft sugar
8 oz self-raising flour
4 large eggs
1 tsp mixed spice
Next fold in
1 tbsp brandy (optional)
1½ lbs dried fruit -I used 4 oz glacĂ© cherries (rinsed and quartered), 4 oz candied peel, 8 oz sultanas, 4 oz chopped dried apricots and 4 oz raisins (something like that anyway)
225 g is approximately 8 oz


Scrape the mixture into the tin and bake at 150°c (130°c fan oven) for 2 -2¼ hours. A skewer should come out clean when inserted into the cake. 
Cover the cake with baking parchment after one hour to prevent it becoming too brown.

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