Quince jelly

quince jelly

My parents have a quince tree on the side of their house and it really is beautiful, it has very pretty red flowers when blossoming and this time of year the ripe quinces fall to the ground.  They are  a bitter and unyielding fruit and cannot be eaten raw but they smell lovely.  If you never make anything from the quinces you can at least bring the fruit into the house in bowls and they fill the house with their delicious smell.  The unyielding fruit is transformed with cooking and quince jelly tastes delicious.  It is easy to make, it just needs a little time, and it is delicious with a lamb roast or with cold meats or spread onto a cracker before a slice of mature cheddar is put on top.

It is an amazing transformation from green fruit to an amber jewelled juice, which becomes even more jewel-like with the addition of the sugar.

strained quince juice

This recipe for quince jelly is based on Mrs Beeton’s, the original domestic goddess. I used 600g of prepared quinces and that yielded about a pint of juice, as you can see from the above picture.  Mrs Beeton recommends peeling them but that is a very fiddly job, so I washed them and cut out any bruises.  I did heed Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s warning in the River Cottage Cookbook though that you need to remove the pips before cooking as they can cause stomach upsets.  Hugh FW also suggests adding a quince to an apple pie, which sounds like a good idea that I may have to try.

To every 1 pint (570 ml) of juice add 1lb (450g) sugar.

Sterilised warm jars (wash the jars well and rinse well and place in a low oven, 100°c, for about 20 minutes to sterilise)


Wash the quinces and remove any bruises.  Slice into chunks and remove the seeds and place in a large pan or a preserving pan.  Cover with enough water so that the quinces just float and boil until the fruit is tender.  Mrs Beeton suggests that you boil for three hours.  I placed it in the simmering oven of the aga, which is the equivalent of simmering on a very low heat, for about three hours. Remove any scum that rises to the surface and strain the juice through a sieve. Measure the juice and return to the pan, adding 1lb (450g) sugar for every pint (570 ml) of juice you have. Bring this slowly to the boil, stirring to help the sugar to dissolve and then boil for about ¾ hour until a little of the jelly poured onto a cold saucer will wrinkle.  Pour into warm sterile jars and seal.

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Scotch pancakes or drop scones

bacon and pancakes

I couldn’t decide what to call these – scotch pancakes/ drop scones/ american pancakes/ thick pancakes?  Whatever you call them they are delicious.  They remind me of my childhood when my mum (who calls them drop scones) used to make them for us, and of course, on the very occasional visits to a Little Chef when we were travelling to Wales for our holidays and we used to have the cherry pancakes.  They have got more extravagant now then when we used to just have buttered  drop scones, as my girls like butter, melted chocolate and maple syrup drizzled over theirs and the grown ups in the household like to have them with butter, bacon and maple syrup.  They are the occasional sunday morning breakfast when we have a busy day ahead and plenty of chance to work off the calories!

The girls love them because they can make the batter from start to finish on their own as long as I weigh out the flour and measure the milk. If I want these to be a bit healthier I will add sweetcorn niblets to the batter and go easier on the maple syrup.

Makes about 12 pancakes

225g (8oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
275 ml (½ pint) milk


Put the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.  Break the eggs into the centre and add a little  bit of the milk.  Using a whisk begin to beat the flour into the egg and milk mixture trying to get rid of the lumps as you go.  Add more milk as you need it, i.e. when the mixture becomes too thick to beat easily.  When all of the milk is added you should have a fairly thick batter that runs easily but quite slowly off the whisk.

Heat a heavy base pan or griddle until really hot and then turn the heat down a little before ladling the mixture by the tablespoonful onto the pan.  You should be able to cook three or four at a time, depending on the size of your pan of course. I use my tortilla pan for this job. Cook on one side until tiny bubbles appear all over the surface of the pancake and then flip over to the other side and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Transfer to a warmed plate and keep warm in a low oven until all of the pancakes are cooked.

Serve with your choice of topping, which could include butter, melted chocolate or chocolate spread, maple syrup, bacon, jam, stewed fruit or for the more traditional sugar and lemon juice and sugar.

making pancakes

making pancakes 2

frying pancakes

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Roast chicken

roast chicken 2

Mmm a lovely roast chicken.  I love roast chicken.  I make one two or three times a month.  It usually gets eaten in one sitting and then I make a stock with it, if I don’t forget that the carcass is in the fridge. But if there is any left there is little better than a chicken and mayonnaise sandwich the next day.

1.5 kg chicken
1 lemon
olive oil
2 tsp dried tarragon
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Place the chicken into a roasting tin.  Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the inside and outside of the chicken and place the squeezed lemon shells inside the cavity of the chicken with a bay leaf.  Generously spread olive oil over the skin of the chicken and sprinkle with the dried tarragon.  Season all over with salt and pepper. Place the chicken into a preheated oven at 200°c (400°f, gas mark 6) and cook for twenty minutes and then turn the oven down to 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) and cook for a further  1 hour to 1½ hours until the chicken is cooked.  You can test by placing a knife point or skewer into the thickest part of the knife and as long as the juice runs clear the chicken is cooked.  Leave to rest for fifteen minutes before carving.

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Baked pumpkin

baked pumpkin

Further to my post about our bumper pumpkin harvest I have been thinking about how we can use some of our pumpkins.  So tonight I thought that pumpkin goes well with sage and that perhaps adding cream and wine and roasting the pumpkin might be good. I was going to cut it into chunks but when I cut it in half it occurred to me that if I scooped the seeds out the pumpkin itself would be the perfect receptacle for a sauce, so I simply added the cream, wine and sage leaves and cooked until tender and I have to say that this is a really nice way to have pumpkin. It went really well with the roast chicken that we had with it. It’s hard to be precise about quantities of cream and wine as it will depend on the size of your pumpkin, you need to use an equal amount of each to fill the cavity.

A small to medium pumpkin
white wine
double cream
4-5 sage leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place the pumpkin into a foil lined baking tray.  Season the pumpkin with salt and pepper.  Add equal quantities of cream and white wine into the cavity, add the sage leaves and season generously.  Sprinkle the pumpkin shell with good olive oil.   Bring the foil over the pumpkin and wrap well. Bake in a hot oven (200°c, 400°f, gas mark 6) until tender.  The medium sized one I cooked took 40 minutes. Unwrap the foil and place back in the oven for five more minutes until the cream mixture is bubbling.

To serve, take the whole pumpkin to the table and scoop the flesh and the sauce out with a large serving spoon.

This would be good with parmesan cheese grated over before it’s cooked for the last five minutes. You could also try different herbs, a sprig of thyme would be good or rosemary.

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Tony’s tsatziki


This is a recipe from our good friend Tony, who on a recent visit to our house made us a delicious bowl of this tsatziki.  The recipe that follows is his and as he is of Greek Cypriot descent, I suppose it can be called authentic.  It’s lovely and we had some tonight with our roast chicken and baked pumpkin, both of which will follow in new posts soon.

1 long cucumber
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
500ml strained greek yoghurt
½ tsp salt
1½ tsps mint or dill, finely chopped
black pepper

Peel the cucumber and halve lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Coarsely grate the cucumber and place in a sieve over a bowl and squeeze to get as much of the water out as possible (drink this cucumber water or save to add to vodka later).  Leave the grated cucumber in the sieve and sprinkle with salt so that more of the liquid drains out whilst you crush the garlic and chop the herbs. Squeeze the cucumber again and combine all of the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place in the fridge, the longer it sits in there the more garlicky the flavour will become.

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Pea and mint risotto

pea and mint risotto

The adventures in the kitchen today included pea and mint risotto, which tasted very good.  The mint in the garden has flowered and is now shooting again and as a result tastes stronger than summer mint and really added a lovely fresh taste to the risotto. I served it with pork chops that I roast until almost done and then smother with wholegrain mustard and maple syrup and then finish off under the grill.

Generously serves two.

2 oz (50g)butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 oz (150g) frozen peas
200ml arborio rice
1 pint (570 ml) hot vegetable stock
good slug of white wine (or you could use the juice of half a lemon if you don’t happen to be drinking white wine whilst making dinner)
½ oz (10g) parmesan cheese, grated
handful fresh mint chopped

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat, add the garlic and the frozen peas and cook for two minutes.  Scrape out the peas and garlic into a bowl, keeping as much of the butter in the pan as you can, and keep to one side.  Put the pan back on the gentle heat. Add the rice to the remaining butter in the pan and stir for a minute to make sure that every grain of rice is covered in the buttery juices.  Add the wine and stir until the wine has evaporated away.  Now add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring as much as you can until you have pretty much used all of the stock (or you may need a touch more and if you do plain hot water is fine to add at this point) and the rice is cooked. Put the peas and garlic back into the pan and add the chopped mint and place back on the gentle heat to heat the peas through. Stir the parmesan through and serve.

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Oven dried tomatoes

oven dried tomatoes

This is a really good way to preserve any glut of tomatoes that you may have.  My parents built a poly tunnel for my husband’s birthday present last year and we love it.  Our tomatoes have been really productive, although they did show signs of blight at the beginning of the summer. We chopped it out and they have provided us with a bounteous supply ever since. Those that haven’t been snaffled out of the bowl by the handful by the eldest daughter have made many a tomato inspired meal and with the rest we have made a couple of batches of passata for the freezer and several jars of these oven dried tomatoes.

I am lucky enough to cook on an aga which makes this way of preserving ideal as you can just leave them overnight in the warming oven and they are ready in the morning.

olive oil
sterilised jars

Wash the tomatoes and dry well. Slice the tomatoes in half and place onto a grill rack that is over a baking tray (to catch any spills and make it easy to put in and take out of the oven). Make sure they are well spaced and not touching. Sprinkle with salt and place in a low oven (100°c, or if your oven doesn’t go that low on its lowest setting).  Leave for anything from six hours to eighteen hours, it will depend on the size of your tomatoes. When they have dried out take them from the oven and leave to go completely cold. Place into a sterile jar and top up with olive oil.  Store in a dark place. Make sure that the tomatoes are always covered with oil, so top up if you need to as you use them.

I like mine in plain oil but if you prefer you can add vinegar to your oil or add herbs.  A sprig of thyme would be good, a bay leaf or perhaps a sprig of rosemary.

Don’t forget that once you have used your tomatoes, the oil will be deliciously tomatoey and will be good used in dressings or over pasta or used in tomato sauces.

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Stewed damsons

stewed damsons

I think one of the best things to do with damsons is to keep it simple and stew them with sugar. I tend to cook them straight from frozen, they just need a little bit longer in the oven.  It’s hard to beat them when they are served with custard.  My girls love to mix the damson juice with the custard to make a vivid pink pudding.  We each save all the damson stones and then see who we are going to marry by counting them saying “Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief’ and then we count them again to see how we are going to travel to church on the wedding day “coach, carriage, wheelbarrow, muck cart”. It’s daft but it has to be done.

It’s hard to give precise measurements here because it will depend on how tart or sweet you like your damsons.  I like mine to taste tart and then be sweetened by the custard.

Serves 4

300g (10oz) frozen damsons
5 dessertspoons demerara sugar

Put the damsons and sugar into an ovenproof bowl and bake at 180°c for 20 minutes until the damsons are soft and have begun to burst out of their skins.

Serve warm with plenty of warm custard.

damsons and custard

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Our pumpkin harvest – a plea for more recipes

What shall we do with them all?
What shall we do with them all?

This isn’t a recipe, but I did want to share our bumper harvest of pumpkins with you.  I bought a packet of mixed seed and I gave quite a few seedlings away but we still managed this bumper crop.  The plants really took over the veg plot.  We have seventeen pumpkins in storage and the Turk’s Turbans (the yellow ones in the pic) are still producing. Next year we will have to be more restrained with the number of plants we put into the garden.  I have already posted my pumpkin and apple soup recipe and I have also been making roasted pumpkin that I then mash and spread into a baking dish and top with a breadcrumb and cheese mixture and bake at 180°c for about 20 minutes until golden and bubbling.  We will be saving some for halloween carving (if they store well) and we will be giving some to friends for this purpose.  We would really like to use more in cooking though so if any one has any good ideas and recipes for delicious pumpkin recipes I would be very grateful.

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Queen of puddings

queen of puddings

The Queen of Puddings is one of my favourite puddings, it’s a last meal choice I think. It’s the ultimate in comfort cooking and a good one for when the nights are drawing in and the weather is getting chilly.  I made the one in the picture today for after our sunday lunch and it didn’t last long.  It’s an easy pudding to do for sunday lunch because you can cook it in advance to the stage before you put the meringue on top and that last stage takes less than five minutes to prepare, with 10- 15  minutes cooking, so if you do it just before you are ready to serve the sunday lunch, pudding will still be warm when you are ready to eat it .  I made this one with damson jam because that is what I am enjoying at the moment, but you can use any jam you like.  Strawberry jam is a very good choice indeed!

Serves 6
100g (4 oz) white breadcrumbs
1 pint (570ml) whole milk
10 g (½ oz) butter
grated rind of 1 lemon
4 eggs
40g (1½ oz) caster sugar
4 tbsps of the jam of your choice
Separate 3 of the eggs, putting the whites to one side to make the meringue later and add the yolks  to the remaining whole egg, beating them lightly together.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan to boiling point, remove from the heat, stir in the butter, lemon rind and breadcrumbs.  Leave for 20 minutes for the breadcrumbs to swell.

Put the jam in the bottom of a deep baking dish (one that has a three pint capacity). Add the yolks to the breadcrumb mixture,combining well, and pour this mixture over the jam. Put into the centre of a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) and bake for 20-25 mins until set. Leave to cool.

Beat the egg whites until stiff then add the sugar a teaspoonful at a time whilst still whisking.  Spread this meringue mixture over the top of the pudding. Bake in the oven at 180°c for 10-15 mins until the meringue is golden brown.  Serve whilst warm, but should you have any left, which is doubtful, then it is also lovely cold the next day.

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