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Grow, forage, cook: a Christmas hamper

19 Nov

If there’s a better present in the world than a hamper at Christmas, I’ve yet to come across it.

Oh, wait, I do know of a better one: a homemade hamper, stuffed to bursting with delicious goodies made over the previous 12 months. (Note to readers: please do feel free to read this as a hint, if you’ve been umming and ahhing about what to get me for Christmas, ha ha…)

This year, as you may have seen, I’ve been busy with a new series, Grow, forage, cook, with my lovely friend Laura (of Circle of Pine Trees). We’ve been sharing recipes, ideas and inspiration for homegrown, foraged and seasonal food.

So, for the middle of November, it seemed like a pretty good idea to put together a Christmas hamper using some of our favourite makes.

Homemade Christmas hamper from Wolves in London

The perfect Christmas present? A homemade hamper, stuffed with homegrown goodness…

Come, take a look and see what’s inside…

Well, marmalade is a staple for any hamper, in my opinion. Laura and I, both being bloggers, are naturally Seville Orange marmalade makers (yes, they actually make you sign a contract when you get a blog: you have to promise to make some marmalade and some elderflower cordial before you’re allowed to publish your first post…)

I usually follow a recipe in my ancient Good Housekeeping cookbook. Laura goes by the Riverford recipe to make her equally delicious looking batches.

Homemade jams in a Christmas hamper | Wolves in London

I only have small jars of marmalade to give away, because I’ve already scoffed the rest…

But preserving doesn’t stop there in a hamper, for me. Oh no! I think I am possibly a little addicted to making jams and chutneys, so I’ll be putting in a jar of each of the following:

Spicy plum chutney

Apple and sage jelly (this is my favourite, favourite ever preserve…)

Pumpkin chutney

Blackberry and apple jam

Homemade apple and sage jelly in a Christmas hamper | Wolves in London

Apple and sage jelly: the king of all preserves.

Then you’ll need something to eat with all those chutneys and jams. A few homemade biscuits is a good start. I’ve included some absolutely amazing ginger biscuits, following Laura’s recipe for ginger snaps.

These were unbelievably tasty, and I had a hard time keeping these six biscuits out of ravening maws for long enough to photograph them…

Homemade ginger biscuits in a Christmas hamper | Wolves in London

A little parcel of delicious biccies

Homemade ginger biscuits

A few seconds later, there was just a little pile of crumbs…

If ginger’s not your thing, you could also try the even more festive white chocolate and cranberry cookies.

And then on to the cabbage:

Pickled red cabbage

Cabbage haters, look away now

Now, I know what you’re going to say about my inclusion of pickled cabbage. Cabbage? For a present? For Christmas? My sole rejoinder: if you’re friends with someone who wouldn’t, secretly, love to consume a jar of pickled red cabbage on a winter’s evening, then you should probably stop being friends with them.

I haven’t actually posted a recipe for this on the blog (yet!) but I shall get on the case forthwith. ‘Til then, you can find plenty of different versions with a quick Google.

Homemade cherry vodka in a Christmas hamper

I never get over how much I love the colour of this stuff

Then for the booze. I’ve made some morello cherry vodka, this year, which will certainly be going in, along with some of last year’s blackberry and apple vodka.

Sadly, my haul of damsons from my Dad’s garden was left in the footwell of a hot car, but had they survived I would definitely be adding a bottle of Laura’s amazing damson gin.

Food and drink complete, a few little festive touches to adorn the hamper. I’ve followed Laura’s tutorials for some pinecone firelighters and this lovely orange peel garland to adorn the wicker basket.

Pine cone firelighters in a Christmas hamper

I dried these out in the oven and they smelt amazing…

Homemade orange peel star garland in a Christmas hamper

String this across the lid, or just along the front of the hamper for a suitably festive added extra…

Oh; a word on presentation. It is absolutely key in my opinion when giving homemade presents.

I spent a ridiculously long time once making some chocolate truffles, only to give them away in a Tupperware box. In fact, an old Indian takeaway box at that. I don’t think the recipient can have had any idea that I had lovingly concocted them over the course of a few days.

Homemade looks caring and loving if it’s dressed up prettily. Otherwise, it can just look a bit slapdash and unthinking. (“Oh, shucks, I forgot I was seeing so-and-so today and I haven’t got them a present. Let’s just bung them a jar of this year’s marmalade from the larder, still sticky on the sides and with a scrawl of identification on a peeling old label…”)

The labels I’ve used here are downloaded from the World Label website (free, fillable templates designed by Cathe Holden are available here: Apothecary labels). For the text, I’ve used a free font called Jane Austen. (Available from Da Font here: Jane Austen font.) And I’ve got to say, I’m pretty happy with the way it all looks!

Actually, I should have really covered all those mismatched lids with a nice circle of pretty fabric but, hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing…

So there you have it! A very first Grow, forage, cook Christmas hamper, full of delectable treats (in my humble opinion).

Will you be making any foodie presents this year? Is there anything I’ve missed out that really deserves a place in its wicker belly? Do leave me a comment and let me know: I’m always on the hunt for lovely new recipes and lovely new ideas!

And, finally, don’t forget to keep tagging your makes with #growforagecook on instagram and twitter. This month will be the last round-up we’re sharing until the Spring time, as Grow, forage, cook goes into hibernation for the winter months, so please do share anything before then! We’ve loved the little glimpse we’ve had so far into your winter / Christmas preparations…

Grow, forage, cook: September round-up

30 Sep
Grow, forage, cook September roundup

Grow, forage, cook September round-up. Click on photo to see in greater size, and see below for details of photographers (plus links to some truly delicious-sounding recipes…)

Ah, September, always one of my favourite months of the year.

I say this not just because it is the auspicious month of my birth. (Actually, my birthday was a rather muted affair this year; the sproglet choosing the day to give me two full-on hour-long tantrums and my birthday cake not lovingly made by the hubby, but purchased from the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Not that I’m complaining, as my Mum came up for the day and was the one who bought me the cake, but the hub could do well to take a leaf from Laura’s book, who made this fantastically toothsome looking creation for her husband D’s birthday*: Ginger and pear cake.)

But, birthday ramblings aside, September is usually a month of the most wonderful weather and this year has been no exception. The Autumn light creeps in, the leaves turn, the conkers appear and I thoroughly enjoy sticking on my wellies for a walk to the park.

Of course, this is also the month with the best harvest and I have been so enjoying following our #growforagecook hashtag over on Twitter and Instagram and seeing what everyone has been up to.

My recipe book is heaving with ideas, my “to plant” list for fruit and veg next year is growing daily as I garden vicariously and I am on an ever-more-desperate search for sloes and damsons as I watch others’ gins and jams. (Anyone have any tips for places to search in South East London? Please, please leave a comment below if you know of any good spots…)

Grow, forage, cook: September round-up

See below for photographer’s details

Here is a selection of some of our favourites from this month.

Top selection:

Top row, left to right: Anne Wheaton: The edible hedge in September and @slamseys on instagram; Gemma Garner: making rosehip syrup and @gemmagarner; Amelie and Richard: @amelie_and_richard

Middle row, left to right: Fiona Annal: @fionaannal; Hannah Frances Boulton: @hannahfrancesboulton; For Adventure @foreadventure

Bottom row, left to right: Kat Goldin: @katgoldin; Margot Barbara: @margotbarbara; Growing Spaces: Make your own sloe gin

Bottom selection:

Top row, left to right: Be Nourishd: Sloe gin (I know, two sloe gins, but I just love the stuff, and both of the photos!); Really Pretty Useful: Spiced stone fruit compote and @reallyprettyuseful; Fore Adventure: @foreadventure

Middle row, left to right: Hello Mister Magpie: @hellomistermagpie; Fiona Annal: @fionaannal; Little Green Shed: @littlegreenshed

Bottom row, left to right: Carie May @cariemay; The Linen Cloud: Plum jam and @thelinencloud; Capture by Lucy: @capturebylucy.

All wonderful, aren’t they? And enough to make you reach immediately for the spade, secateurs or mixing bowl!

Thanks so much to everyone for joining in, please do keep on using the #growforagecook hashtag on Twitter or Instagram (and tag either @wolvesinlondon and @circleofpines); or, if you’re not on either of those, do just leave us a comment linking up to posts you’ve published…

And so October approaches, I feel drawn towards winter veg and endless pickling, along with my feet up on the sofa, poring through seed catalogues to plan the veg garden of my dreams for next year… What will you be up to in the coming month?

Grow forage cook: spicy plum chutney

26 Aug
Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

Spicy plum chutney: the harbinger of autumn…

There’s been a definite chill in the air this week and I have to keep reminding myself that, yes, it is still officially August and still officially summer. For one more week at least…

I’m sure I can feel the days shortening imperceptibly each evening and my summer duvet is wrapped more tightly around me each night.

I’m trying not to moan because, after all, we did have a glorious July, but there is something a little depressing about an August that already feels as if autumn has hit.

But, on the plus side, the arrival of autumn a little early this year means the early arrival of harvest time, hurrah!

And what a bumper harvest it has been so far.

It seems to have been an especially good year for plums. My fellow Grow Forage Cooker, Laura (of Circle of Pine Trees) shared three glorious looking plum recipes last week from a basket filled to the brim at the local PYO.

This is a selection of seriously delicious looking plum treats: plum clafoutis, plum cake and plum jam. Head over now if you’ve not already seen the delights: a basket of plums.

This week, I’ve got plums in my hands too, hem hem, since our plum tree has had a rather magnificent bounty this year.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

What a bowl of plums!

So if you, too, have more plums than you know what to do with, here’s another recipe, this one for a spicy plum chutney, that tastes particularly fabulous at Christmas time with cold meats or cheese.

(I know, I know, despite the chilly weather it’s still far too early to think about Christmas, but this chutney is best matured for a few months, so if you make it now you can forget about it all over again until December…)

And if you’re growing, foraging or cooking anything yourself with seasonal ingredients, do please share it with us. Use the hashtag #growforagecook on twitter or instagram and tag either of us (@circleofpines and @wolvesinlondon) or leave us a comment on our blogs to share any photos you’ve taken, recipes you’ve made or blog posts you’ve written.

We’d love to get some inspiration / drool over some delicious photos.

At the end of each month, we’ll share a round up on our blogs of some of our favourites and pin them to our Pinterest board: Grow, forage, cook.

And a huge thank you to everyone who has joined in so far!

And so, on with the plums…

Spicy plum chutney

Spicy plum chutney | Wolves in London

Another, slightly closer up view of the chutney

This makes 5 – 6 jars. You can scale up or down all the ingredients depending on how many plums you have.

Supplies:

  • 1kg of plums
  • 1kg of apples, cored and chopped
  • 400g granulated sugar (I like to use white sugar as the chutney stays a wonderful pink colour, but you can replace with brown if you prefer)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tbsp chilli flakes (or more or less, as you prefer)
  • fresh ginger, an amount about the size of two thumbs
  • garlic: one bulb, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 350ml of cider vinegar
  • Large heavy bottom saucepan, stockpan or (ideally) jam pan
  • 5-6 jam jars
  • wooden spoon

What to do:

1. First of all, get your jars on to sterilise. You can either put them through a normal wash on the dishwasher, or wash them in soapy water and then put into an oven on a low heat. If you do the latter, put them onto a baking tray and then you can pull the whole thing out at once, rather than handling lots of hot glass jars.

You’re supposed to use new lids every time, or sterilise them in boiling water, but – confession – I just stick the lids through the dishwasher as well…

2. Chop the plums in half, remove the stones and weigh them. Incidentally, this will leave you with genuine brown, wrinkled prune fingers; washing them in a bit of lemon juice helps remove the stains…

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

First, chop your plums…

3. Match the rest of your ingredients to the amount of plums you have, by scaling up or down the ratios. For every kg of plums you want approximately a matching weight in apples, 350ml of vinegar and 400g of sugar. Specific quantities aren’t crucial, so don’t worry too much about matching this exactly. The apples on my trees are only just starting to ripen, so I couldn’t quite match the weight of the plums, but just added what I could… It didn’t matter in the slightest.

4. Core and chop the apples – controversially, I don’t worry about peeling them, since I think the skin softens enough not to be noticeable and I am a rather lazy cook – but if you’d rather peel them, go right ahead.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

Apples from my trees

5. Stick everything into a big saucepan and bring to the boil.

6. Simmer, stirring every now and again for around 90 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced and become a thick gloopy consistency.

7. Spoon into the jars while still hot and twist the lids onto the top. The lids should depress at the top and you know a seal has been made.

8. Put aside for at least a month if you can, before eating, to let the flavours infuse. This should store well for at least a year…

Delicious with meats or with cheese and biscuits.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

Plum chutney, cheese and oatcakes. A rather excellent snack, I can attest…

So tell me, what have you been growing / foraging / cooking recently?

Related articles:

I love me a bit of preserving. Take a look at a few of my other recipes:

Grow forage cook: morello cherry vodka recipe

28 Jul

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you might know that the wonderfully talented Laura at Circle of Pine Trees is a good friend of mine.

Laura and I met back in our student days at Bristol Uni, both of us studying English Literature and then taking a masters in poetry (otherwise known as wasting a year in a rather enjoyable but completely pointless pursuit…)

It wasn’t over our mutual love of 20th century poetry though, that we really bonded, but through our mutual love of cooking (and perhaps more specifically a love of cakes, now I think about it…)

In the years since (oh, one or two I would guess, if you’re asking, definitely not more than a decade, ahem) that love of cooking has developed for both of us into a love of cooking with natural ingredients; often either home grown or foraged.

So we thought it was high time we got together and collaborated to share some recipes, growing tips and foraging ideas with each other – and any of you dear readers who might be interested.

Here then, as a first installment for our new series Grow, Forage, Cook, is my recipe for morello cherry vodka.

Morello cherry vodka recipe | Wolves in LondonWhen I removed the giant cactus from the front garden a few years back, I planted a morello cherry tree in its place.

Morello cherries are wonderful because they’re rather bitter and don’t taste good until you cook them. In itself, not necessarily a plus point, but it means the birds don’t eat them and you can use every single last one on the tree. This year, the first year I got any fruit, it wasn’t a bumper crop. (The tree is still very young. Barely into adolescence in tree years.) But it was perfectly sized for a batch of morello cherry vodka.

Ingredients:

Morello cherry vodka supplies

All the supplies

  • Morello cherries (or you could use normal sweet cherries and reduce the sugar)
  • A bottle of vodka
  • Granulated sugar — enough to fill about a third of the bottle
  • And then you need a bottle with a seal to store it in

What to do:

1. Cut all the cherries in half. I leave the stones in, which gives a slightly almondy flavour to the vodka as well, but you could take the stones out if that doesn’t sound pleasant.

Homemade morello cherry vodka recipe | Wolves in London

Good enough to eat!

2. Fill your storage bottle a third full with sugar (you can simply re-use the original vodka bottle if it has a screw lid. Just drink remove a little bit of of the vodka first) and then push the cherries in on top.

Homemade morello cherry vodka | Wolves in London

Looks delicious already, I know

3. Pour the vodka over the top until you’ve filled the bottle…

Homemade morello cherry vodka | Wolves in London

You can see the colour of the cherries bleeding into the liquid already

…and then seal the lid and give it a really good shake.

4. Store it in a cupboard and give it a good shake every time you notice it for the first month or so. (Or, if you’re more organised than me, do it once a week to schedule.)

5. If you can, leave it for a year, even better leave it for two years to really infuse together. Once you’re ready to drink it, strain the liquid through a sieve to remove the vodka-soaked cherries.

Getting all Blue Peter on you, here is one I prepared earlier. Two years ago, to be precise:

Homemade morello cherry vodka

It genuinely is that amazing pinky red colour…

Isn’t it a phenomenal colour?!

So, five minutes prep and a mere two years in waiting and you’ve got some cherry vodka.

What to do with it then? you might well ask.

Of course, you can just swig it from the bottle (I did this a few times while I was waiting. Checking that the sugar content was right, naturally, not just having a cheeky glug.)

But the classier option is to use it in a cocktail.

It’s really good in a cherry vodka fizz: one measure vodka, the glass topped up with tonic water. (A vodka tonic by any other name…)

Cherry vodka fizz | Wolves in London

Top with mint and some spare cherries for a truly photogenic drink

Or, for a more boozy / celebratory alternative, you could put a measure of the cherry vodka in a champagne glass and top with champagne.

Or, of course, you could just use it in place of normal vodka in about a million other cocktail recipes and make them a wonderful pink colour.

[My husband just looked over my shoulder and commented that if he couldn’t see the actual items, he would never believe that these were real, so bright are the colours. But yes! I trick you not, this really is the vodka I made and the cherries really are that bright red. Here’s a final shot of them, unedited straight from the camera:

Morello cherries

Morello cherries; one of the fakes-looking fruits in the world?

So go forth, all, and plant a morello cherry tree in your garden!]

Let me know if you have a go, I’d love to hear any other wonderful concoctions you make with it!

Related articles:

Carrot and rhubarb jam (aka Christmas in a jar)

6 Dec

carrot rhubarb jam

When we moved all our possessions into boxes and suitcases a few weeks ago and decamped to my Mum’s (so the builders could take our house apart and, hopefully, put it back together to be much better) I brought a gigantic box of tins and jars.

When I say gigantic, I mean gigantic. It took two grown men to lift the thing into the van.

It seemed crazy to put all our bits and pieces from the larder into storage, so we thought we’d bring them with us, but I knew my Mum was never going to be crazy keen on the idea of finding space in her cupboards for my collection of random tinned foods that I bought two years ago on a whim and have never used.

So I promised myself (and her) that I would use everything up as quickly as possible.

Top of the list were two tins of rhubarb, purchased when I was last pregnant with the idea it might prevent me scarfing down the treacle pudding and never since touched. I love fresh rhubarb, but this tinned stuff just never quite appealed…

Then, in a rather pleasing moment of synchronicity, browsing the local Oxfam bookshop in Marlow yesterday (a veritable treasure trove, well worth a visit if any reader is close enough to make one) I came across a book all about growing vegetables, for the princely sum of £1.99. I purchased it, thinking it would be helpful for my revision for my horticulture exams coming up in February, and it was only once I’d got it home that I discovered the delights of a small recipe section in the very back.

And one of the very first recipes to catch my eye was, wait for it, carrot and rhubarb jam. Yes, you read that right, jam. Not chutney.

Carrot and rhubarb jam

Jam. The kind you spread on bread…

My interest inevitably piqued (carrot jam? Surely not? But then again carrot cake is pretty damn tasty) and the rhubarb tins crying out to be used, I set about attempting a version of my own.

The original recipe had only three ingredients (carrots, rhubarb and sugar) and those in vast quantities, so I tweaked the amounts, added some spices and, a mere hour after commencing the process, had four jars of this rather wonderful concoction.

Rhubarb and carrot jam

Yum, yum, jam

The thing that surprised me the most is that it tastes like the perfect jam for Christmas. It’s got a good spiced flavor, not unlike mincemeat in fact, but with a real freshness of taste at the same time. I had some on bread this morning and it was really delicious, but I think you could also use it as a compote for porridge or yoghurt, or even in the place of a more traditional rhubarb chutney, alongside some cold meat or cheese.

Because the jam has very little pectin in, it hasn’t set, so much as thickened, and it isn’t something you could store for a long time. The original recipe says three weeks in the fridge.

But if you used a jam sugar with added pectin, you’d achieve a more jelly-like consistency and would be able to store it for much longer.

I also used brown sugar, because that’s what I had to hand in the right quantities, but of course that has made my jam turn a rather brown colour. If you used granulated (or jam) sugar you’d maintain the orangey-pink of the rhubarb and carrots, which would look a little more toothsome.

carrot and rhubarb jam

Slightly brown-looking, but it tastes delicious, I promise…

Anyway, alterations aside, here is my recipe. Make up a batch this weekend and I promise you’ll feel Christmassy every breakfast right up until December 25th

Ingredients

  • 500g tinned rhubarb, strained (two large tins)
  • 500g carrots (peeled weight), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 500g sugar (I used soft dark brown, but I think a white sugar would look nicer)
  • 5 cardamom seeds
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
  • half a nutmeg

What to do:

1. Put the chopped carrots into a large saucepan and add the piece of ginger, the cardamom pods (bruised to release the flavours) and the juice of the orange.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer until the carrots are really soft

3. Strain the carrots, discarding the spices but reserving 125ml of the cooking water.

4. Return carrots to pan and mash them. (You could also blend or liquidise, but I always like the route that involves the least washing up at the end…)

5. Add the reserved cooking juice, the zest of the orange and grate in approximately half a nutmeg.

6. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the jam starts to thicken. This isn’t a jam that is going to take on a traditional “set” so there’s little science involved, just stop cooking it when you think the consistency looks appealing.

7. Decant into sterilised jars (either run them through the dishwasher or wash in hot soapy water and then leave in the oven at about 100 degrees for ten minutes or so) and add the lids. Voila! Christmas in a jar!

Carrot and rhubarb jam

All my breakfasts look like this. Honest…

And do let me know what you think of it if you have a go at this recipe.

Now, I just need to figure out what I could make with those 25 tins of sliced peaches.

PS What do you think of my photos for this post? I’ve been taking part in a Blogging Your Way course, from decor8, and this week we had to try and take some styled photos. It is not something that comes naturally to me (in fact, I shy away from putting food posts up here on the blog as I find it such an absolute bitch trying to take good photos of food, which always need to have excellent styling to look nice) and I can already see loads of errors in the pictures here, but, hey, it’s not a bad start I think.

Related articles:

I’m a real fan of making jams, chutneys and cordials. If you share my passion, take a look at some of these other recipes:

Five woolly baked delights

19 Oct

Which came first: the scheduling for the Great British Bake Off final or National Baking Week?

(I ask this rhetorically, simply because I am too lazy for the three second Google search that would undoubtedly give me an answer…)

Whichever it is, with two such prestigious events in the space of a fortnight, this is a big time for baking. It would seem churlish not to get with the action and join in.

But, just as I was heading to the kitchen to get out the Kenwood, it dawned on me that it was also British Wool Week this week too. Aha! Surely the chance for a double celebration here.

And so it is, I present to you my choice of five delicious-looking woollen baked goodies.

Since my current making schedules are running about six months behind, it’s unlikely I’m going to get any of these actually finished before the week is out, but I’ll definitely be pulling out my needles for the Bake Off final next Wednesday and knitting along.

I’ll show you the results, hmmm, probably sometime next year…

1. Knitted cupcake pincushions, by Little Cotton Rabbits

knitted cupcake pincushion by Little Cotton Rabbits

The first knitted goody has been in my Ravelry queue for some time now. These amazing knitted cupcake pincushions are designed by Little Cotton Rabbits, aka one of my very favourite knitting blogs.

If your knitting mojo is lacking, or you’re looking for knitspiration (sorry!), or you just want to look at some beautiful photographs and read a blog by a brilliant writer, then I recommend a visit over to Little Cotton Rabbits.

Oh and I almost forgot to talk about the cupcakes themselves. Well, take a look at the photo, they’re adorable, aren’t they?

You can buy the pattern here for £2: knitted cupcake pincushions.

2. Crochet jammy dodger, by According to Matt

Crochet jammy dodger

Despite not knowing how to crochet, it seems that I pin some amazing crochet project or other on a weekly basis, each time making me declare that it really is time that I learnt.

The latest was this quite, quite delicious looking jammy dodger, from the blog According to Matt. The tutorial is free and to my non-crocheters eyes, it looks really simple to follow.

Take a look here: crochet jammy dodger.

3. A slice of cake, by Bitter Sweet

Slice of cake

Another free pattern, this slice of cake tickles me something rotten. It’s a slice! With a candle! All knitted from wool!

I’m not entirely sure what you would do with this, once you had knitted it. Perhaps just display it proudly on your kitchen table for all eternity. It’s from a cooking blog called Bitter Sweet, by Hannah Kaminsky. If you’re less a fan of knitted goodies (though if you weren’t a fan, I doubt you’d be reading this far) and more a fan of the genuine article, then this is the blog. Loads of recipes for delicious looking cakes and pies and bread.

Find the free knitting pattern here: a slice of cake.

4. Crochet Battenburg, eBay

crochet battenburg pattern

I’ve got to admit, I prefer buying my patterns through Ravelry, individual designers, or Etsy, but when I came across this crochet Battenburg on eBay, I couldn’t resist including it. Those little pink and yellow squares were just calling out to me…

The seller has an absolute wealth of other knitted food patterns too. Spend too long browsing here and you risk falling down a rabbit hole and emerging on the other side with a knitted cup of tea in your hand, wondering where the past few weeks went. You have been warned…

Find the pattern here on eBay for £1.50: crochet Battenburg cake.

5. More cake, I need more cake! Etsy

Knitted cake selection of patterns

And if you just simply can’t pick just one solitary little knitted piece of deliciousness, then cakescakescakes over on Etsy has six different patterns available, including chocolate eclairs and raisin buns.

Choose a selection of three for £6.34: various knitted cake patterns

So there you have it, a tasty selection for a Saturday morning. If you know of any other great patterns I should have included, do drop me a message in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

Related articles:

  • Find these ideas plus many (many, many) more planned craft projects on my Pinterest board I could make that
  • You know, it’s not just knitted foodstuffs that rock my boat. I have been known to make food from felt too, like this Breakfast fry up for Bacon week. (What can I say? I love a good “week.”)

Blackberry and apple vodka recipe

19 Aug

…AKA a photo a day: August 19th…

Yesterday was all about jamming and chutneying. But even after making 10 jars of the blackberry and apple jam, we still had plenty left over.

With the rest of the blackberries, I decided to make a couple of bottles of fruit vodka.

Blackberry vodka

Oh this is a sight for sore eyes!

We have some seriously cheap, seriously nasty, seriously eye-watering bottles of vodka that have been sitting in our larder ever since my 30th birthday party nearly five years ago. I massively over-ordered on the booze, and for a while went through a phase of cooking everything in a vodka sauce (which is pretty tasty, actually) but somehow these two bottles had escaped that mania unscathed.

But they are much, much too vile to be drunk alone (I hasten to point out, for my birthday they were made into Moscow Mules, I didn’t just force all my friends to drink cheap and nasty vodka on its own) so the addition of some fruit is the perfect solution.

It’s a very simply recipe, based on sloe gin, but which can be adapted to vodka or pretty much any fruit as well.

Ingredients:

  • A litre bottle of gin or vodka, two thirds full
  • 200g of sugar
  • Approximately 300g of blackberries

What to do:

1. Pour the sugar into the bottle of vodka, using a funnel

2. Shake well (with the lid on, obviously) until the sugar is well dissolved

3. Stuff the fruit into the top until the bottle is completely full up. This was around 300g of blackberries in this case, but just keep on going until the bottle is full. Shake again.

4. Store in cool dark place. Check on it every few days or once a week for the first month or so and give it a good shake.

5. Leave it for at least three months before drinking. Ideally, you could leave it about two years for the flavours to really infuse the vodka. But, I should say, the very best sloe gin I ever drank was 21 years old.

blackberry vodka

It’s tempting to drink this straight away, it looks so utterly delicious, but one whiff of the cheap vodka inside put me off immediately… In a year, though, it’ll be a different story.

Other fruits:

You can use all sorts of other fruits (as well as substituting the vodka with gin, of course…) Keep the sugar / booze / fruit ratios the same, but any of these would work too:

  • Cherry vodka. I made some of this last year with the sparse crop from my new morello cherry tree. (18 cherries, if you’re wondering.) Cut the cherries in half and you can either leave the pip in or remove it. If you leave it in, it tastes a bit like almonds as well, which is actually very delicious. This definitely takes a while for the flavours to infuse though. We tested ours after eight months and it was quite unpleasant. Now, about 14 months later, it’s really good…
  • Sloe gin. This is the classic, of course. Prick the sloes all over before adding.  Sloes are ready to be harvested in Autumn time, so keep an eye out for them soon. The gin you make should be ready for drinking in time for Christmas, so this can be a perfect present.
  • Damson gin. Again, prick the damsons before adding to the gin.
  • Apple vodka. This was a new one for me, but I also made a bottle of it yesterday. I had some slightly unripe windfall apples in the garden, so I decided to try a bottle and see how it goes. If you’re still reading this blog in 18 months, I’ll give you the verdict! This is what they looked like before being mixed together:
apple vodka

I’ve got to say, I don’t think this looks hugely appealing right now. We’ll have to see whether it improves with age…

Tell me, do you have any other great fruit / booze combinations I should try?

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A photo a day: August 18th

18 Aug

Ah the overpowering scent of vinegar wafting through my house!

It’s everywhere: in my hair, my clothes, the freshly-washed laundry waiting to be folded… But it’s when you step into the kitchen that it really burns your eyes, bringing tears streaming down your cheeks.

Yes indeed, it’s my first pickling day of the year.

pumpkin chutney

Lovely vinegary, sugary pumpkins…

For some reason, I’d completely failed to eat two Abel & Cole pumpkins for so long that they were really past their best. So there was only one thing for it: pumpkin chutney.

I followed a recipe I found at the British Larder that adds some apples (for which I picked a few windfalls from our garden), raisins, plum tomatoes (I had none, so used a tin) and various delicious spices.

I’m a massive chutney lover and this looks like a good one. I’ll let you know how it tastes, when we crack open the first jar at the start of Winter…

Blackberry and apple jam

This is the jam down the barrel of the jar, so to speak…

Yesterday saw more preserving as well, with the blackberries we’d picked in the cemetery. I made up a batch of blackberry and apple jam, following a recipe from the Cottage Smallholder. I guess it’s somewhere between a jam and jelly, since it is sieved, like a jelly, to remove all the blackberry seeds, but, like jam, will be used on toast, not cold meats. The smell of this stuff was absolutely incredible, and I couldn’t resist opening a jar straight away, so I can report that it is really, really, really tasty.

blackberry and apple jam

Yeah, I like to keep my jams and chutneys out in the garden. Don’t you?

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the fate of the rest of the blackberries. Advance notice. It involves lots of booze…

Joining in with the August Break.

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A photo a day: August 14th

14 Aug
rhubarb syrup bottle

Gloriously pink

On holiday in Rye two weeks ago, we had supper one night at the Ship Inn.

Because we were on holiday, I treated myself to one of the delicious-sounding but outrageously expensive cocktails.*

After a long, serious study of the cocktail menu and a weighing up on the pros and cons of various appealing options, I settled for the rhubarb martini. And boy was I glad I did.

I absolutely love rhubarb, but had never before come across the genius idea of combining it with alcohol.

In a moment of pleasing synchronicity, a few days later I saw this rhubarb mojito recipe on the ever-wonderfully-written Decorator’s Notebook blog.

So, armed with some of the rhubarb that grows prolifically in my garden, I decided to make up some of the rhubarb syrup, so I could add it to gin, vodka or perhaps just some lemonade.

It’s the most fabulous colour, isn’t it? Here’s another picture of the whole bottle glinting away in the morning sunlight:

rhubarb cordial

The only difficulty will be rationing the bottle…

Joining in with the August Break.

*To be fair to the Ship Inn, it’s not that their cocktails are particularly expensive cocktails, rather that I can never quite get over spending £8 for one single drink, when I would never spend more than that on a whole bottle of wine from the supermarket.

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Spiffing elderflower cordial recipe

8 Jul

Elderflower cordial is one of those drinks that make me feel that I’m a character in an Enid Blyton book.

You know how the Famous Five went on endless picnics and every time someone drank a bottle of ginger ale, they’d proclaim to the other four, “I do declare this to be the best ginger ale I’ve ever tasted in my entire life…”

Homemade elderflower cordial

Life is better with elderflower cordial. Fact.

Elderflower cordial is a bit like that for me. I love the stuff. And I feel an overwhelming urge to use words like “spiffing” whenever I drink it.

But despite my great love for it, this is the first year I’ve ever attempted to make it.

For some reason, I always had it in my head that elderflower cordial was really, really tricky to make. Despite being a prolific chutney, marmalade and jam maker, I’ve never branched out into drinks – fearing, perhaps, making something as unpleasant as my grandfather’s notorious home brewed wine used to be.

But I met up with a friend last week, who not only gave me a bottle of elderflower cordial she’d made, but also shared her recipe with me. And it turns out, it’s super simple.

The last elderflower blossoms are still on the tree, so if you’ve been similarly put off giving it a go in the past, head out and pick some now and make yourself up a batch to keep for the summer.

Elderflower blossoms

Lovely and frothy blossoms

Ingredients

  • 20 heads of elderflower
  • 800g white sugar
  • 3 pints water
  • 4 lemons, zested and sliced
  • 50g citric acid

What to do

Zested, sliced lemons

First, take your lemons…

  1. Boil the water and pour into a large bowl.
  2. Put the sugar in to the freshly-boiled water and stir til it has dissolved.
  3. Leave to cool
  4. When cool, add the lemon zest and slices and the citric acid
  5. Check the elderflower heads for bugs and put the flowers in to the bowl. (I could have spent a little longer doing this, judging by the amount of black things that were floating around at the end, but at this point,  you’re making something that looks and smells so delicious, you don’t even care if it’s got bugs in. Bugs? They probably taste just like roses…)

    homemade elderflower cordial

    I know, it looks too good to be true, doesn’t it?

  6. Leave, covered with a tea towel, for 24 hours. (I forgot mine and left it for 48 hours. It was fine…)
  7. Strain through a fine sieve ( muslin would be even better) and pour into sterilised bottles. (I didn’t bother to sterilise my bottles, because I was feeling lazy and I knew I’d drink it all before it would have a chance to go off anyway… I also put some in a plastic bottle and just stuck it into the freezer. I’ll let you know if that worked when it comes to taking it out.)
Elderflower cordial

Enjoy in a completely uncontrived situation like this one…

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