How often have you been seduced by the REDUCED label in a supermarket – say ten or more onions, or like today, twenty limes – in your supermarket and find it irresistible and confidently expecting to make something of it? But it gets put to one side, gradually to the back of the fridge, forgotten and then discarded, optimism lost in the chasm of inertia! Well it has happened to me of course. The good news is that it happens less often now. Why? I can explore the web for ideas of what can be done with whatever I have bought.
Today I have twenty limes – these are going to be either made into lime curd (my mouth is watering at the prospect!) which takes very little time, or lime chutney – here’s a Google page with lots of recipe sites to choose from.
I collect jars to re-use and buy new tops from Lakeland. Jam and curd take time but very rewarding and make good standby gifts for many occasions.
A recent cookery course I attended included truffles – three different flavours, one including lime zest* which gives me the excuse to make some. They are so luscious I’m not sure they will get to their intended recipients … we just love ‘em! We rolled the truffles in a mix of plain and toasted coconut.
Here’s a recipe I found on the web which is similar to the one I used on the course.
Celeriac, not as often used by home cooks here as they do say in France, is frequently reduced in my local supermarket and it gives me the opportunity to produce Salmon with mustard coating, potato, pea and celeriac mash found on the BBC Good Food website. Again a recipe that works very well.
It’s this time of year when I look out for peaches and nectarines getting lower and lower in price and especially in the Reduced section. Then I usually reach for Elizabeth David’s cook book – At Elizabeth David’s Table – for her easy recipe Peaches in Wine. She tells us the best peaches for this dish are the yellow-fleshed variety. Dip the fruit in boiling water so the skins can be easily peeled off. Slice them straight into big wine glasses, sprinkle with sugar and pour a tablespoon or two of white wine into each glass. Preparing them too far ahead will make the fruit go mushy. If you would like to give the glasses an attractive look, before you start working on the fruit, put a little water in a saucer, put sugar in another saucer, holding the glass upside down gently dip the glass in the water, shake it to remove any excess water, dip the glass in the saucer of sugar, shake off any excess. Voila! You can now add the fruit and wine, carefully! This works with lots of different fruits and you could experiment with flavoured liqueurs – Cointreau and oranges, raspberries and pear vodka! Pears and raspberry liqueur, the list could go on … and on. Just experiment, great fun.
By the way, my favourite prune sweet is to use prunes soaked in white wine – could be red – for at least 3 months. I use screwtop jars, covered with cling film and the cap screwed on lightly, no need to tighten hard. This is so easy to do and makes a wonderful treat with custard! or cream or even better fromage frais, unsweetened. I keep them in a cupboard out of sight otherwise they are just too easy to dip into and devour the lot!
* For any recipe using lime zest be sure to remove the wax generally added to citrus fruit, unless marked as unwaxed. The easiest way to do this is to dunk the fruit in boiling water for 5 minutes, twice if needs be.
Katie Simpson Guest writer, Caterer for the Choosey
Last year I ran the bath water on the front garden via a hose connected to seeper hose but it took a long time for the water to filter through. So I finally got round to organising a watering system for the front and back garden using rain water from the roof and what a difference it has made. All my plants made much better growth than in any previous years.
I don’t have the patience to stand watering the garden with a hosepipe and have never had a spray system, if I had I’m sure I would have left it on by mistake and racked up a terrific water bill – we are on a meter, so a seeper hose system was the obvious answer. It was reassuring to read a typical drip irrigation system uses up to 92% less water than a hosepipe and is a far more efficient way of watering the garden – www.the-hta.org.uk/water.
The system I devised for the back garden, after a lot of head scratching and frustrated thought, was to put in place rain diverters on the downpipes from the roof, attach a hose to that which led to the seeper hose system. When that overflowed the rain was diverted back to the downpipe and on to another diverter that was connected to a water butt. When that overflowed the water then feed back into the downpipe to the main drainage system.
The roof on a house collects about 85,000 litres of rain each year in the UK which runs straight into the sewers. This could fill 450 water butts which can be used to water garden lawns, vegetable patches and house plants.
Altogether I used 6 x 15 metres of hose and linked up some small supplementary hose to water the pots on the patio via a separate water butt which made a huge difference to those plants.
Then in times of drought the water butts are linked up to the seeper hose. I generally leave them on for about 4 hours when needed. Now you may feel this sounds all rather complicated and at the time I thought so too, but it in reality it works and is very simple in action. The key is to make sure the water flows in at a slightly greater height than the ground you are watering.
At the moment although there is a hosepipe ban, seeper hose systems are exempt where we are, so when the water butts are empty, I can link the outdoor tap to the seeper hose system and to the water butts. Check the website of the water company in your district to be sure.
Not all parts of the garden need to be watered, for instance the peripheral areas with the wild flowers – bluebells, muscari, oxalis – that look after themselves, so I inserted sections of ordinary hose to bypass those areas. It meant adding connectors which increased costs.
What is important to remember is to cover the hose with mulch or set it into the ground and cover with earth and then mulch – by far the most efficient arrangement, it keeps the moisture in the ground which evaporates very slowly.
Overall, when it rains the garden gets about third extra which is all stored under the mulch. Another important point is to water at night, again to reduce evaporation.
So what plants are important? Fruit trees, crops like peas, climbing beans and broad beans, broccoli, cabbages, spinach, carrots, beetroot, onions, tomatoes, salads, kale. All these came good last year even when we had extended periods of drought. This spring I have noticed the fruit trees all have much more blossom than in previous years.
I have been really interested to see that plants grow slowly but steadily through the winter. I think it might be because the thick layer of mulch keeps the cold off the roots. I try, but seldom succeed, in putting at least a depth of 8-9 inches of mulch/compost/manure, which by spring time has been processed to some extent by the worms which means the ground is very easy to prepare for seedlings and plant plugs.
I sow annuals in with my vegetables to make it look less like an allotment. Nasturiums look really good, loving the extra moisture.
This year I have seeds of african marigold, red cornflowers, calendula, nigella and poppy to scatter through the garden. Attracting beneficial insects makes a difference to the life of the garden, they attract birds, making the garden more alive. Better than just putting out nut and seed feeders.
This year I interplanted self sown garlic plants found all over the garden with Malwinnie strawberries as they help the berries to fight disease. I had tasted these at the 2011 Thompson & Morgan Press Event and they were dribblingly good! Will have to think of some surefire way of keeping away the mice, birds and other creatures that know a good strawberry when they taste one!
Carrot, beets, kohlrabi, brassicas, dill, lettuce and tomatoes all do well when interplanted with the onion family.
A water saving tips poster and up to date information on the current water restrictions can be found at www.the-hta.org.uk/water
One of winter’s best features is having the excuse to sit down with a good book. And Anna Pavord, my favourite gardening guru, published Growing Food last year and it is always going to be on the bookshelf to dip into from time to time.
Anna describes different planting plans, one such is the Exuberant Potager, where she mixes flowering plants to complement the vegetables. Here she advocates areas with different plant mixes:
- nasturtiums, beans and squash
- lettuce, onions with eschscholtzia
- carrots, beetroot with marigolds, among others
In fact, a bit like my planting which is very mixed, but not so well thought out. I’m working on a plan to incorporate her ideas.
Other plans include a formal herb garden, a Mediterranean garden, a city larder for a small balcony, cottage garden, salad and herb plot, a vegetable patchwork, traditional kitchen garden, an alcholic hedge (!), and a formal fruit garden. All the plans illustrated with delightful drawings, much in the style of the Dorothy Hartley books of yesteryear. The plans are easily adapted to suitable most plots, with a bit of artistic licence. Anna is such a respected gardener, she has had a hellebore named after her, Anna’s Red.
The ‘cunning plan’ of last November was to clear all the plants from most of the beds in the back garden and cover with leaves and horse manure. The leaves to provide an airy protective covering and eventually be taken down into the earth by the worms, with the manure holding the leaves down so they don’t fly around the garden. This mulching also ensures the bluebells, that have grown in large patches and grow between and through plants, come through the leaves and can be seen and easily dug up. Well as I said, that was the plan and it has worked reasonably well, although I think some bluebells have been missed, again, so probably next year will see me digging more up. We replanted them on the periphery of the garden and down a grassy drive beside our house.
Mulching is big in Sepp Holzer’s activities in his property in Austria. Famous for his permaculture philosophy and practices, Sepp is so down to earth and practical, it is a joy to read his book. There are web pages you can read and also videos. He writes about using pigs to clear ground before planting – so similar to Phil Drabble‘s experiences I read about many years ago.
Both inspirational men. I would love to meet Sepp and talk gardens, sadly Phil died in 2007 at the age of 93.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
I knew we were low on wine, in fact only a couple of bottles of rose cava which we usually only drink on special occasions, were loitering on the shelf. So I thought I would have another look at the Virgin Wine website where I had ordered a case of mixed white wines earlier in the year. Although my husband had sniffed at the absence of corks we rather liked the selection and they were drunk enthusiastically.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am most definitely not a wine connoisseur, I’m unable to tell one grape from another. However I have made wine over a period of more than 35 years with various ingredients, from potato to sultana, from peach to raspberry and also our own grapes grown in the garden, so I have a certain tolerance/experience of unusual/different flavours.
With wines conventionally made from grapes I know what I like the taste of and it is quite a range, but I always enjoy Chardonnay and Merlot, without always looking at the label. So looking at the Virgin Wine website I was interested to see what was on offer in their Auction section.
Several cases of really interesting mixes and bids were quite low. The bidding works like e-Bay, so I put some bids in and noticed the bidding increased as the time ran out, and I didn’t win any.
I decided then to place a fixed bid overall on eight different auctions running at the same time and watch how things went. The strategy worked … rather too well actually. Within a few minutes of the auctions closing I received an email telling me I had won one auction, then another, and another, and another, and another, and another. Six in all! I was breathless with surprise. I felt a bit like the sorcerer’s apprentice in the Disney film, they wouldn’t stop coming.
Although I was pleased my strategy had worked, how on earth would I explain this ‘success’ to my ever loving husband? I really hadn’t expected to win any actually, the bidding was quite fast towards the end and I couldn’t tell whether mine had been successful. I knew the auction conditions do not allow cancellation of bids, so six cases of wine were instantly winging their way to me. I decided to send him an email, much easier to explain the finer details than face to face explanation – no I’m not a coward, but he is profoundly deaf and all that entails …
Darling Good news, I have ‘won’ several Virgin wine auctions, average price £4.0729 a bottle. The bad news is we will have to find enough space as I have been rather more successful than I expected … Good news also, we won’t have to buy any wine for a few months … Just don’t be surprised when several boxes arrive … L/Kate, your rather too successful wine auction bidder!!!
I received what I thought was a fantastic reply:
We could ask the family to look after the excess. Well done!
How supportive is that? Actually I wouldn’t trust the family to look after the excess … too much of a temptation, so we will be finding space in the garage. I wonder whether I would be just as successful again … reluctantly I have given myself a six month ban before I have another go. The Virgin Wines promise of a refund if you don’t like the wine was very reassuring. I hope we like all the wines, but realistically there may well be some we don’t, in which case it will be interesting to see how the system works. One bonus that popped into my mind, with the cost of the cases being so reasonable we might consider giving some as Christmas presents, but then again … www.virginwines.co.uk/auctions
Can you imagine missing the chance to try some mouthwatering brandy butter ice cream? We did!
We were sent vouchers to redeem for ice cream and mislaid them. By the time they were found the brandy butter ice cream season had passed … So instead we went for the plain clotted cream variety. Oh dear! Big mistake! Why? Because we now are besotted with clotted!
We have always managed to squeeze in a small portion of something sweet after our dinner and now the clotted cream ice cream is central to our desire.
We swirl some fruit juice, or alcoholic concoction such as cointreux, or even tia maria, or sloe gin, over a small dollop, add a little unsweetened low fat greek yogurt for contrast, and on a special occasion add a chocolate or shortbread biscuit. The mixes are endless, we sometimes add fresh fruit, stewed fruit especially apricots, toasted sliced almonds, crunchy chopped hazelnuts that only heighten our anticipation.
OK, so we’re nuts! So what! We make the portions as small as possible, and we use a teaspoon to eat it!
So there you have it. Two very happy, clotted cream addicts, nearly every day.
We’re looking forward to next November when the brandy butter ice cream will be available once more. Think we’ll stock up with a tub or two, or more!
In the meantime the next visit to the supermarket will include buying another flavour – Clotted Cream and Strawberries. Oh God … there’s even another one – Clotted Cream and Honeycomb.
Not sure we should tell you this, the ice cream is made in Cornwall. The website has lots of recipes. Leave some for us!
By the way there is a competition to win some Devon made Raspberry Lemonade …
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Jennifer Worth, author of Call the Midwife – currently a hugely successful TV series – sadly died just before filming began in 2011.
Some seven years previously she had contacted me offering a feature about the severe eczema she had developed at the age of fifty five and her efforts to relieve it.
The first line was startling: Severe eczema doesn’t kill you; it just drives you insane.
Written in much the same style as her books the feature chronicles the development and relief of the eczema she experienced.
I developed eczema for the first time when I was fifty five. Within three short months two tiny patches of eczema on my legs had spread to cover my entire body. It is the itching that drives you mad. I would scratch the whole night long until I drew blood, then it would begin to hurt, but the pain was infinitely preferable to the itching.
Dermatologists could only offer steroids. These helped a little, but the itch came back worse than ever afterwards. I was in despair, until I happened to eat a Chinese meal, which gave me food poisoning and I did not eat for four days. During that time my eczema virtually cleared up. When I started eating again it came back. The cause was obvious – food allergy.
The dermatologists told me it was coincidence, as in their view there was no connection between food and eczema. But I was not convinced and searched every path for the offending foods – with no success. Let me say here that most people fail if they try to identify food allergies alone. It is too complex for the layman and you need an allergy specialist, a qualified nutritionist or at least a reputable book to follow.
I was fortunate in finding the right specialist, who guided me through a strict elimination diet. Once we had found the right diet, my skin cleared within three weeks. Then he led me through the challenge/reintroduction phase of the diet, which was very difficult and troubled by many pitfalls. After about six months, my skin was completely clear and I felt wonderful. Incidentally a side effect of an elimination diet is a surge of good health. Eliminating dairy products, gluten, yeast, sugars and chemical additives from your body can only be beneficial. We all eat the wrong things and suffer for it.
My specialist advised me to have a course of Enzyme Potentiated Desensitisation (EPD) because, he told me new allergies would develop. I have had EPD – see below – twice a year for nearly ten years and my skin remains perfect, for which I thank God every day of my life.
The charity Action Against Allergy asked me to write a book about my experiences detailing the elimination diet given me by my specialist. I was asked for this because there is so little information available on this subject. My book Eczema and Food Allergy was published in 1997 and featured in the Nursing Times, the Sunday Telegraph and the magazine Here’s Health. It sold out of two editions and last year they decided to republish online – see below.
This is a very controversial subject. Doctors, dieticians and even the National Eczema Society will state that eczema is not connected to food. But I have proved that it is.
In this article, I have deliberately refrained from giving any advice to eczema sufferers about diet. It would be rash and irresponsible for me to do so, because the subject is far too complex for a short article. But my book contains all the details necessary for a successful elimination diet and includes many addresses for specialist treatment. My heart goes out to anyone afflicted with severe eczema. I know the suffering involved and it is beyond description. If my experience can be of help to anyone, I am well pleased.
Many people have asked me what EPD is; how does it work, where can you get it, and what does it cost? It is a very subtle and complex medical process, and I give below a brief summary of what it is about.
Enzyme Potentiated Desensitisation is a form of immunotherapy developed by Dr. L. M. McEwen in the 1960s and now used worldwide. It has the potential to desensitise anyone to the allergens to which they are allergic. This includes foods, dust, animals, birds, grasses, pollens, moulds, and many chemicals. An ultra-low dose of allergen is used – approximately 1/1000 part of a routine skin-prick test – combined with the natural enzyme beta-glucuronidase which enhances, or potentiates the desensitisation process (thus we get the rather curious name). It is particularly effective for the treatment of eczema, and will work quickly for children – the younger the child the quicker it will work. It takes about 2-5 years to be effective for an adult.
EPD is only available on the NHS at the Royal Homeopathic Hospital (60 Great Ormond Street, London W1N 3HR). Dr Michael Jenkins, Consultant Allergist will see patients via a referral from their GP. EPD has a ‘Specials’ licence. This means it is accessible only to suitably accredited doctors to supply on a ‘named’ patient basis. The doctor must be a qualified MD trained in allergies, and who is specially trained to hold a licence to administer EPD.
There are about twenty such doctors in the country, and their names and addresses can be obtained from the British Society of Allergy and Environmental Medicine, PO Box No. 7, Knighton LD7 1WT Phone: 01547 550378; Web site: www.bsaenm.org.uk. This is a charity which will give you the address of your nearest medical practitioner of both EPD and Neutralisation. An adult course of EPD, lasting about five years, will cost around £2000, but far less for a child. This may seem a lot, but, believe me, EPD is worth a second mortgage.
In my book ‘Eczema and Food Allergy’ I devote two chapters to EPD, which gives far more detail than I can give here.
Eczema and Food Allergy is available in print from Merton Books www.mertonbooks.co.uk
Jennifer Worth, born 25 September 1935 died 31 May 2011, was a nurse, midwife and ward sister from 1954-1973.
Her book Call the Midwife about her years as a district midwife in the slums of London’s East End is published by Orion Books There is an interview with Jennifer talking to Danuta Kean about writing her books on that web page.
Two more books Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End make up a trilogy. All three books have sold almost a million copies and stimulated a publishing subgenre of nostalgic true life stories.
You can watch a short video interview where she talks about her nursing career and working with the nuns in the East End of London.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
A quick survey of friends and colleagues showed that more men than women like chilli.
Some men were quite adventurous and consumed meat dishes containing large amounts of chilli. We wondered whether there would be any taste in the dish apart from chilli, so why such a volume?
We guessed it might be the endorphins that are stimulated, so chilli gives a kick, or perhaps it’s something else …
Another question is what positive benefits are there to be gained?
Searching Google with chilli+stomach we found:
- Chili stomach ache
- Chili stomach cancer
- Chili stomach ulcer
- Ghost chili stomach pain
- Chilli and stomach ulcerts
- Stomach pain from chilli
- Stomach pain after chilli
- Chilli burning stomach
- Chilli and stomach cancer
We didn’t go any further.
We then entered chilli+stomach+healthy and found many websites with advice for all kinds of ills, including cancer, from all kinds of self-appointed experts.
So, what should the discerning enquirer do?
Our advice is to follow the old adage of a little of everything does you good and, if you like chilli make sure you which find out which are the most reliable websites to refer to.
Websites providing reliable health information we recommend are:
- www.mayoclinic.org – very interesting
- General advice on using the web … www.gosh.nhs.uk/EasySiteWeb
www.justanswer.com/health is a website where you can pay to talk to a doctor direct
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Seville oranges you can use to make marmalade at home are in the shops now.
If you love marmalade, there is absolutely nothing like making your own. You can make it as sweet or as sharp, as thin or as thick as you desire. In the past I have used prepared tinned seville oranges which was good, but making it from scratch is a job that rewards you every time.
- A preserving pan is ideal but not essential, a large saucepan that will take at least one and a half kilos of fruit and three kilos of sugar will do.
- A long wooden spoon, essential to avoid hot spits of marmalade when coming up to a full rolling boil.
- A sharp knife. This year I used one of my very sharp Novelli knives which did the job but after a while the handle slipped as my hands became wetter and wetter with juice. So I used my new Kitchen Devils Kitchen Scissors – see lefthand side of magnetic knife bar below. They did the job pretty well, the serrated blades really made quick work of slicing the peel, not quite as symmetrical as using a knife, but I didn’t develop aches nor sore fingers from the repetitive job. The handles have a soft touch grip, preventing slipping. The scissors are designed for both left and right handed users. They are dishwasher proof and guaranteed for 15 years.
- A jam thermometer is useful but not essential but gives reassurance if you are worried about whether the marmalade is ready to pot. A temperature of 105C/220F is recommended in a recipe I found on the BBC website.
- 1.5 kg bag of Seville oranges from Sainsburys
- Granulated sugar
- Lemons – only use unwaxed fruit
- A small piece of muslin and some string
There are many recipes on the web, from Delia to James Martin to Nigel Slater which look reliable. I use a recipe I’ve had for years and which is now done by eye I’m so familiar with it. I made three batches to provide us with enough marmalade to last about a year plus some small jars to giveaway. I added 1-2 tbspns of brown sugar to one batch to give it a tawny look and slightly different flavour. Don’t add any more than that, on one occasion when I added a generous amount to a batch of rhubarb jam it tasted like chutney!
The Kitchen Devils Kitchen Scissors are available online at Amazon and at Asda, Lakeland, Morrisons, The Range and independent cook stores nationwide.
Kate Campbell, A self taught cook who loves preserving fruit and vegetables
We love chocolate. Not the sweet, cloying stuff you can buy in big bars, made using all kinds of ingredients and added chemicals.
Oh no. We love dark, dark chocolate often referred to by is percentage cocoa solids. One such is the Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Orange. Suitable for vegetarians and carrying the Kosher mark, it is available in Sainsburys nationwide and online £1.69.
Divine chocolate is only made with the best Fairtrade cocoa beans from Kuapa Kokoo, a coopertive of smallholder farmers in Ghana. Many of you will know all about Divine chocolate, but have you noticed the brand new Christmas gift boxes – dark chocolate disks with mint, and dark chocolate with raspberry.
The raspberry taste is really fantastic, the aroma is enticing and the taste confirms your wise decision to eat it!
All the chocolate is free from artificial flavourings, preservatives and colourings.
Available from Waitrose, Booths, Liberty of London and Oxfam. RRP £4.50
The other Divine chocolate allowed in the house – not much is because we just eat it until it has gone and then we feel rather guilty – is the 70% Dark Chocolate Covered Salted Fudge. This is a serious grown-up fudge, you experience a mouthful of delightful textures and tastes. Like no other fudge we have ever come across, we will have a secret stock … Only offered to those who really appreciate unusual, top quality confectionary!
A little of what you fancy does you good, with the emphasis on little, we were intrigued with the Cocktail Bitters Traveller’s Pack. This little box contains tangy aromatic bitters with hints to cinnamon, cardamom, anise and cloves, gingerbread aromas perfectly suited to drinks based on spirits like Whisky, Rum, Brancy and Tequila. We made up several cocktails Manhattan Cocktail, Dry Martini Coctail, Brandy Cocktail, Bloody Mary and Old Fashioned Cocktail. All went down a treat with no particular favourite emerging … After trying all five! It was fun making up these wellknown cocktails and kept us entertained for an evening. These bitters come in a neat metal container, ideal if you want to make and enjoy your own cocktails when away without paying what are sometimes extortionate prices. Unusual liqueurs are also available to liven up things: Apricot Liqueur, Pimento Dram, Violet Liqueur for instance and of course Sloe Gin with tonic. Have you ever tried Sloe Gin with champagne? Do try it, lovely on a hot summer’s afternoon. More information and cocktail recipes on the website.
We also came across Abelha Organic Cachaça, a very unusual spirit made from fresh sugar cane with no pesticides nor artificial fertilisers, fermented with natural yeasts, and aged in native ash barrels. Find out more about this most unusual spirit from Brazil on www.abelha.co.uk.
While on the subject of the unusual, we have been trying Harveys Bristol Cream served over ice with a slice of orange. Rather good, and then, for the purpose of making sure Aunt Aggie is fully catered for, we have tried drizzling Harveys VORS Pedro Ximénez 30 y.o. over creamy vanilla ice cream. This is just fantastic. With any luck you might have some over for Boxing Day … Although we have the suspicion that it won’t last. It was absolutely fab. Do try some. There are more suggestions and cocktail tips on the Harveys website www.harveyshalfhour.co.uk.
And finally we tried a Funkin Mixer – Strawberry Woo Woo with a shot of vodka. This was so well received we had to fight off the staff. One swig and they were hooked! We had to promise to get some for our office get together on Friday. When we found the order line we were hard pressed to choose which ones, in the end we chose a Party Pack so everyone will be happy – especially on Friday.
Wishing you good fun with your Festive Spirits!
Val Reynolds Brown