Sunday, 16 October 2011

Where Did That Year Go?

A very special family occasion occurred last week - the first birthday of my lovely grand-daughter!  I can't believe that a year can have passed so quickly, but there we are.

So time for a birthday cake - just a victoria sponge covered in a thin layer of marzipan and then fondant icing - still it seemed to go down well at her official birthday party yesterday.

My other contributions to the buffet feast were: vegetarian 'sausage' rolls, tomato and mushroom quiche, scones and jam, and mini double chocolate cakes.

We had a lovely afternoon and little M really enjoyed being centre stage.  Happy birthday my darling and thank you to Nanny and Grandad W for hosting the event!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Dash for Damsons

I allowed myself to be so distracted with the courgette glut that I almost missed the damson harvest.  Our two damson trees, like all plums this year, have produced loads of fruits and they are at their peak now with a few just a little too ripe.

Anyway, i gathered as much as I thought I could process only to find that I had run out of jam jars, disaster!  So what to do with all the fruit gathered, well there's always damson gin and I did have a couple of large jars available and the required sugar and gin, so that solved the problem for about 1kg of the crop...

ready for shaking
Now what to do with the remaining 4kg?  Fortunately I have recently purchased a second freezer so I bagged up the damsons in 500g lots and into the freezer they went.

ready for freezing
I'm now sending begging emails to friends for jam jars and on receipt of these I'll be retrieving the damsons from their arctic conditions and turning them into jams and cheeses...and perhaps another batch of damson gin?

Easy, Peasy Damson Gin
Take 450g of damsons, prick with cocktail stick, and pop into a clean sterilised jar.  Cover with 225g sugar and then pour in 600ml of gin.  Seal the jar and shake vigorously.  Store in a cool dark place and shake every day for about 8 weeks.  Taste a couple of times during this period and add more sugar if required.  After about 10 weeks strain and bottle.

Note: Try to keep the gin as long as you can; it will definately improve with age, so make some this year for Christmas 2012.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Something from the Garden

I haven't been posting much on my kitchen blog recently spending most of my free time in Holly Grove's garden; then I saw that the No Croutons Required challenge for September hosted by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen would allow me to combine both garden and kitchen.

Like most people who have the luxury of a kitchen garden or vegetable plot I've been growing a couple of courgette (zucchini) plants and have had the usual mammoth crop.  I've used much of the crop in ratatouille, vegetable curries, homemade preserved vegetable stock, and even muffins and chocolate cake.  I've also given some away to friends who don't grow their own veg and I've still got some left over!

So with the weather turning autumnal and the french and runner beans in full production too my thoughts turned to creating a soup with courgette as the main component.

runner beans and Purple Queen french beans
The result has been interesting and tasty, though not a very attractive colour I'll admit.  However it has used up more courgettes, giving us a few healthy lunches with some for the freezer for those evenings when I'm back at work and don't have the energy or enthusiasm to cook much and best of all, all of the ingredients (with the exception of the dried pulses) came from our garden.  It's been difficult to give absolute quantities of ingredients as it was more of a try it and see recipe, but here goes...

Courgette and Runner Bean Soup
1 large onion (peeled and diced)
2 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
4 large courgettes (washed and cut into chunks)
a good handful of french and runner beans (topped and tailed and cut into short lengths)
1 tsp ground cumin
75g broth mix (dried pulses including peas, pearl barley, lentils)
1.5 litres vegetable stock (made with either good quality stock cubes or 2 tsp homemade preserved stock)
2 or 3 tsp curry paste (I used Goan paste; similar to a Thai green curry paste but a little less spicy)

Add about 1 tablespoon of oil to a large stock pot then add the onion and garlic and cook gently until softened but not browned.  Now add the courgette, beans and cumin and mix thoroughly with the onion and garlic.  Cook gently for a couple of minutes.

Add the broth mix and the vegetable stock and curry paste.  Stir well and bring the soup to a gentle simmer.  Cook for between 1 and 2 hours to allow the dried pulses to cook through.

Remove from heat and blend with a stick blender. 
Serve the soup in bowls or large cups with some garlic ciabatta.

Note: If your runner beans are a it stringy I'd suggest passing the blended soup through a sieve to remove the stringy bit of the beans. Our beans were lovely and young so no need to sieve.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A Jar Full of Vegetable Stock

I'm frequently saying to myself that I really ought to make my own vegetable stock but I never seem to have the time and so reach for the stock cube jar; so how exciting to find a recipe for a homemade version of the stock cube.

I can heartily recommend River Cottage Handbook No 2 Preserves as a mine of interesting preserving ideas amongst which can be found a recipe for a preserved vegetable stock mix.  I amended the recipe to suit the vegetables I had available and basically it goes like this:

Makes about 3 jars
about 900g washed, peeled and chopped vegetables (I used leek, onion, courgette, peppers, runner beans, carrots)
3 cloves garlic
200g fresh herbs (I used thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley)
250g salt (don't reduce the amount of salt as this is the preservative)

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until blended to a granular paste. Then simply put into sterilised jars and seal.  The 'stock cube' paste will keep for six months unopened. Once opened keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

Note: The recipe recommends adding 2 tsp to 500ml of water to make the stock.  I found this a bit salty for my taste so added 2 tsp to 1lt of water.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tasty Tatties

As usual I made far too much creamed potato for our meal last night, so rather than waste what was left I popped it in the fridge and waited to be inspired.  This morning as I pondered what to have for my breakfast I remembered the mash.  What about some good, old traditional Scottish tattie scones (or potato scones to the uninitiated). 

unadorned scrambled egg with potato scones
These flatbreads are savoury and go very well with sausage, bacon and eggs in a traditional Scottish breakfast or just with a scrambled or poached egg. They also freeze very well, just allow them to defrost and then reheat in the frying pan or under the grill. 

A quick and simple recipe to use up leftover potato and tasty enough to encourage you to make more mash than you need.

with a dash of HP sauce
Tattie Scones
leftover creamed potatoes (potatoes boiled and mashed with milk and butter)
plain flour
pinch of baking powder

Mix the potatoes with enough flour (about 50g per 200g potato) and pinch of baking powder to make a soft dough.

Roll out the dough quite thinly and cut into about 6-8 scones and prick over with a fork.  Traditionally they should be triangular though mine were cut into rounds.

Heat a heavy based frying pan until hot then turn the heat to medium.  Cook the scones for 3 minutes each side, then remove from pan and cover with a cloth.  Eat warm with topping of your choice or cool and freeze for later.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A Set At Last!

Having had two recent attempts at jam making with neither providing a decent set I was beginning to think that I'd lost the knack.  Two batches of Opal plum jam have failed to set properly, though we are using it poured over icecream and added to plain yoghurt; which has proven a real hit.

But I was longing for some proper jam...then whilst doing the weekly shop yesterday I bought a couple of punnets of British strawberries reduced in price for a quick sale.  My initial intention was just to eat these, they were beautifully ripe and smelt delicious.  Then whilst wandering down the baking aisle I saw some jam sugar with added pectin and, thinking of my recent failures and my need for jam, I bought a kilo and headed home to defeat the setting gremlins.

I didn't have quite enough strawberries for the recipe so I added a small box of Holly Grove raspberries that I had in the freezer. I have to say that I was exceedingly nervous, however...we have jam!  Can't wait to try it on my toast this morning, I may even make some scones later, with a dollop of double cream...yummee!

all set and jarred up
Strawberry Jam with a Touch of Rasberry
Makes about 3.5lbs
800g strawberries
100g raspberries
1kg jam sugar
knob unsalted butter

Hull the strawberries then put in a preserving pan with the raspberries and mash the fruit to extract juices.  Add the jam sugar and place the pan on a medium heat.  Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved - do not allow the fruit/sugar mixture to boil at this point.  When the sugar has dissolved add a knob of butter and stir until the butter has melted.

Gradually bring the mixture to a rolling boil stirring all the time.  When a rolling boil is achieved stop stirring and boil rapidly for 4 minutes - by this time the jam should be at setting point, I used a sugar thermometer to check.

Immediately remove from the heat and pour into sterilised jars and seal.
Et voila! strawberry jam with a touch of raspberry.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Summer Pudding?

I've been so disappointed in the weather this summer and have felt like I've been fighting nature making summer desserts; sorbets, cheesecakes, icecream etc.  So last night I decided to give in to my instincts and make a good, oldfashioned, comforting, pudding.

out of the oven...
The pudding in question was a lovely, creamy rice pudding.  This has been at the back of my mind since seeing Simon Hopkinson make one on his latest television series, The Good Cook, a couple of weeks ago, though the recipe I used wasn't this one. 

I can't remember where my recipe came from and I've also had to amend it.  I didn't have enough milk in the fridge or any double cream but it turned out just as I recall from those Sunday afternoons when my boys were younger and they would always vote for creamy rice pudding, baked exceedingly slowly in the oven - lovely memories, lovely pudding...

...and onto our plates
Yummy Rice Pudding
Serves 4-6
4ozs pudding rice (I didn't have any so I used risotto rice)
1.5ozs demerara sugar (or caster sugar)
1 litre whole milk (I used organic soya milk and 0.5oz of skimmed milk powder)
2-3 tbsp double cream (I used creme fraiche)
half a whole nutmeg, finely grated
1oz butter, finely diced

Mix the pudding rice (milk powder, if using) and sugar in a large pie dish or casserole dish.  Pour in the milk and cream (or creme fraiche) and stir together.

Grate the nutmeg over the top of the mixture and dot with the butter.  Place the dish in an oven preheated to 150C.  After 30 minutes remove the dish from the oven and stir well.  Return to the oven and stir again after another 30 minutes.  Return to the oven and leave to bake gently for a further 60 minutes.

You should now have a lovely creamy rice pudding sitting under the milk skin.  Simply serve on its own or as we did with some homemade (slightly underset) plum jam - yummy!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Rediscovering Passione

Recently I've been reviewing my cookbook collection and have rediscovered an Italian cookbook that's been languishing at the back of the larder. I keep a few books close to hand in the kitchen; my most frequently used ones - Delia's Complete Cookery Course, Hugh's Everyday, Mary Norwak's baking book etc and in amongst these I found Passione from Gennaro Contaldo.  From the condition of the book I 've obviously leafed through it many times but I don't recall using any of the recipes until recently...

It's become one of my favourite books in less time than it takes to whizz up a torta alle pere - recipe to follow in another post.

So far I've been tempted by the chocolate and red wine cake (sounds so much better in Italian - torta al cioccolato e vino rosso); a lovely dense and rich, but not too rich, cake.  It makes an ideal dessert served with summer fruit compote and icecream. 

with a sauce made from Holly Grove's first raspberries of the season, yum, yum!
 On the savoury front we've tested the peperoni ripieni - stuffed baby peppers.  I'll definitely make this one again with a couple of tweaks to the recipe - simple and delicious with a green salad. 

Very soon I'm going to attempt the fagottini di zucchini when my courgette plants start to mass produce, any time now, and then there are the delicious sounding Italian salads: insalata di zucchine con menta fresca, insalata di arancie e finocchio.

So a book to keep us well fed through the summer months and dreaming of the Amalfi coast!

Torta al Cioccolato e Vino Rosso
200g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
25g cocoa powder
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I didn't include this)
100ml red wine
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150g plain chocolate drops (I mixed plain, milk and white chocolate drops as I didn't have enough of the plain ones)

Heat the oven to 180C and grease and line an 20cm cake tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together then gradually beat in the eggs.  Sift in the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder (and cinnamon, if using) and fold in gently.  Mix in the red wine and vanilla extract and then fold in the chocolate drops.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour until the top of the cake springs back when gently pressed.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.  Cut into wedges and serve with a summer fruit compote and good vanilla icecream.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Despite the Weather

After an incredibly dry Spring, the weather here is unseasonably cold and wet for June, we even had a hail storm on Saturday - poor garden!  Anyway I decided to ignore the weather and my cravings for winter-type baking (steamed puddings, custard etc) and adapted an easy all-in-one sponge recipe using some zingy citrus flavours.  I've also used a mascarpone icing; it's becoming a favourite icing as it is so soft and creamy and really adds a bit of luxury to an otherwise simple sponge.

The cake was light, fresh and very summery; I'll try it again with a few of our homegrown raspberries and a dollop of fresh cream on the side when we get our crop sometime in July - can't wait!

Lemon and Lime Sponge
for the cake
6ozs softened butter (if you don't have softened butter you can use a soft margarine such as Stork)
6ozs castor sugar
6ozs self raising flour
1 level tsp baking powder
3 free range farm eggs
juice of half a lime
zest of half a lime and half a lemon

for the icing
250g tub mascarpone
10ozs icing sugar
about 1 tbsp lemon juice
zest of half a lime and half a lemon

Set the oven to 180C and grease and line two 7" sandwich tins. Place all the ingredients for the cake in a food mixer and mix together for 2-3 minutes until all ingredients are well combined and you have a smooth, light sponge mixture. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and smooth out. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The cakes will be golden in colour and the tops will spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Whilst the cakes are cooling, make the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a clean bowl. In a second bowl beat the mascarpone until it is smooth then gradually add the icing sugar beating in well after each addition. When all the icing sugar has been combined, add the zest and juice of the citrus fruits and mix well. Place the icing in the fridge until the cakes are completely cooled.

Finally sandwich the cakes together with just over half of the icing and then spread the remaining icing on the top of the cake – et voila! This cake is delicious with a cup of tea or coffee or served as a dessert after dinner with any orange liqueur.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Fishy Friend

On Friday with the prospect of a few days off from work I decided to treat myself with a visit to a local rose garden - more of that at Holly Grove Garden - on the way back home I took a detour via the Handyman's brother's house and stopped for a coffee and a gardening chat - C has just built a fruit cage; the subject of much conversation and another reason for my impromptu visit.

Unexpectedly we moved on to the topic of fishing, coarse or game?  Now I know little or nothing about the sport but have spent a few sunny afternoons with a good book on a riverbank in a previous life whilst my then in-laws did a spot of coarse fishing - lovely memories!

ready for the oven
C, on the other hand prefers game fishing, as he says you can eat what you catch!  And lucky us, he produced from his freezer two beautiful freshwater trout that he had caught a couple of days before from a fishing trip to Wales and gave them to me.  C prepares the fish, gutted and scaled, before freezing so all I had to do on Friday was pop one back into our freezer and let the other defrost whilst I found a suitable way of cooking it.

Jamie to the unbelievably simple, quick and tasty way to prepare such a thoughtful gift for the table.  The Handyman and I shared the trout, more than enough for two, and are looking forward to the one left in the freezer!

Trout Roasted with Thyme and Lemon
Serves 2
1 large (or 2 small) whole trout
1 handful of lemon thyme (ours came from HG kitchen garden)
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, cut into halves
2 bay leaves

Heat the oven to 230C.  Line a roasting tin with foil.  Then wash the fish inside and out and dry with kitchen paper.  Put the thyme with the olive oil in a pestle and grind together.  Spread the thyme mixture on the inside and top of the fish and place in the prepared roastng tin.  Cut a small slit in the lemon halves and insert the bay leaves.  Add to the roasting tin.  Place the fish in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes (10 minutes if using 2 smaller fish).  And that's it!  The fish will lift easily off the bone and has a lovely delicate flavour; for those who don't like salmon, just try trout...much more subtle.

ready to eat
I made saute potatoes with garlic and red onion and a plain green salad to go with the fish, de..lic..ious!!!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Freshest of Fruit

Not enough to cook with, but so delicious...find out what I've been eating straight from the garden here...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Where Have We Been?

Busy in the garden at the moment!  See what we've been up to in Holly Grove garden preparing things for (hopefully, fingers crossed) bumper crops to use in the kitchen over the coming months...

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Presto Pasta Nights Event

I'm going to try my hand at another blogging event - Presto Pasts Nights.  This is a weekly event hosted by Ruth at and guest hosts.  This week's guest host is Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes, so how could I resist.

I've resurrected a pasta dish from my archive way back in August 2009 - Pasta Bake with Pepperoni, Tomatoes and Garden Herbs.  As you can see from the title this recipe contains pancetta and pepperoni but for vegetarians this could be left out and mushrooms and courgette added instead.

It really is a quick, simple and tasty supper - so wish me luck!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Coffee and Cake

Just had the last piece of the most delicious coffee cake!  I made it a week ago and, apart from the miracle that there was still a slice left in the tin, I was amazed at how moist and fresh it had remained...definately worth the making and a post on the blog.

Another interesting thing about this cake is that there is no butter or margarine, corn oil is the magic ingredient. The recipe calls for the cakes to be baked in two 20 cm sandwich tins, just make sure that they are at least 4cm deep as my cakes spilled over the sides when baking. I managed to disguise the damage with the mascarpone topping - phew! Next time I think I'll make on large cake and slice it through the middle when baked.

The recipe came from 'baking with passion' by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington.

Coffee Cake with Mascarpone Cream
for the cake

225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
225g caster sugar
225ml corn oil
2 eggs, separated
2 heaped tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 2 tsp boiling water
75ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)

for the icing
250g mascarpone
quarter tsp grated lemon zest
350g icing sugar, sifted
2 heaped tsp instant coffee granules dissoled in 2 tbsp boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180C. grease and line two 20 cm sandwich tins (at least 4cm deep).

Sift the flour, baking powder and caster sugar into a mixing bowl.  Beat in the oil, egg yolks, coffee and milk.  In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.

Stir in a spoonful of the egg whites to the cake mixture and then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.  Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for about 45 minutes or until the sponge springs back when gently pressed int he centre.  Remove from the oven and cool oin a wire rack.

To make the icing, put the mascarpone and lemon zest in a bowl and mix together.  Slowly add the icing sugar, mixing in well, until you have a thick paste.  Finally beat in the coffee.

Sandwich the cooled cakes together with half the icing, then smooth the remaining icing on the top of the cake - delicious!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Back with a Challenge

Well, it's been a while but I'm back and the encouragement I needed was to be found in this month's No Croutons Required challenge.  Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes has been very generous this month allowing a choice of challenges and, as a July baby, I've gone back through my archives to find a delicious bread to enter the fray.

A reminder of July - beautiful sweet peas

Rosemary and Walnut Soda Bread - Yum!

The recipe of choice from my archive is Rosemary and Walnut soda bread, easy to make and bake and delicious with almost any soup - here's the link to the recipe.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Spring is in the Air!

Primroses, daffodils, seed sowing, sunshine and thoughts of light, crisp, fresh al fresco meals - with this in mind I've brightened up the blog with summer colour.

I'll be back from the winter gloom with some more recipes very soon.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

HFW's Fish Fight

Having watched Hugh's Fish Fight programme on television the other evening I was so saddened by the damage and waste that I've signed up to the fish fight; as fellow food bloggers why not have a look at the issues and sign up to put pressure on the EU to stop these wasteful practices...

Friday, 7 January 2011

Cook Book Clearance

It's the new year and a tradition time for clearing cupboards and cleaning at Holly Grove.  During this process I came to the conclusion that I just don't have enough space for my ever expanding cook book collection; but what to do about it?

Well, I could sort through and take the less well used books to the local charity shop or I could pass them on to family and friends.  So with my mind set on reducing the library I spent a few hours going through the titles and the result was...I can't bear to part with any of them!  But as a salve to my conscience I'm going to give one book away to a reader of my blog. 

To be in with a chance to receive my copy of Second Helpings of Roast Chicken by Simon Hopkinson (in very good condition) all you have to do is add a comment to this post and/or become a follower of Holly Grove Kitchen blog, please provide your email address in the comment and I'll contact the lucky recipient for their address details.  

I'll select the winner at random on 31st January - unfortunately I have to restrict this giveaway to UK readers (postage costs and all that!).

Monday, 3 January 2011

First Post of 2011

I was wondering what my first post of 2011 might be: sweet or savoury?  Perhaps it's the winter weather making me long for summer days or just that I had some Holly Grove raspberries from our July harvest lingering in the freezer and some mascarpone cheese in the fridge, a remnant of Christmas plans, that made me consider a cheesecake.  The cheesecake recipe I usually follow is a no-bake version but this one is baked in the oven for an hour - which is where it is as I write this post.

It took about an hour to prepare for the oven and I've had to substitute a few ingredients, so I'm a bit nervous of the outcome - which I'll add to this post later.  In the meantime here's the recipe annotated with my substitutions in italics...

ready for the oven

Raspberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake
For the base
50g unsalted butter
225g ginger nut biscuits (225g digestives with 1tsp ground ginger)
50g chopped walnuts 

For the filling
275g mascarpone cheese
175g fromage frais (140g creme fraiche with 35g Greek yoghurt)
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp caster sugar
250g white chocolate, broken into squares
225g raspberries (frozen from July's harvest)

For the topping
115g mascarpone cheese
75g fromage frais (75g Greek yoghurt)
white chocolate curls and raspberries to decorate (white chocolate drops and raspberries)

Heat the oven to 150C. Melt the butter in a large saucepan then mix in the crushed biscuits and nuts. Press into the base of a 9" spring form cake tin.

To make the filling beat the mascarpone and fromage frais (or substitutes) together in a bowl.  Then beat in the eggs and the caster sugar.  Meanwhile melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.  Stir the melted chocolate and the raspberries into the cheese mixture.  Pour on top of the biscuits base and place the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour or until just set.  Switch off the oven but leave the cheesecake in the oven until cold and completely set.

Release the cheesecake from the tin and place on a serving plate.  Make the topping by mixing the mascarpone and fromage frais in a bowl, then spread over the cheesecake and decorate with chocolate curls and raspberries.

Here's the update on the finished item...

Above is the cheesecake as it came out of the cold oven.  I decided to forego the topping (this time) and just add a few raspberries - the very last of the HG harvest until July - and a dusting of icing sugar.  

The base of this cheesecake was lovely and crumbly, but needs a bit more ginger next time.  It is a soft set cheesecake, probably due to changing the fromage frais for the creme fraiche and yoghurt, and quite sweet, I think I'll reduce the caster sugar to 2tbsp when I next make it.  It turned out to be a lovely light dessert, less rich than I anticipated (a good thing) and very delicious.
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