Saturday, 31 October 2015

puddings 'n' pies

With longer nights and chillier days, it's comfort food that we need. So, it's out with the salads and in with the pies and puds! The other day, I resurrected an old favourite of ours: baked apples. I used to make these a lot when the girls were small. Baked apples are quick, easy and delicious. So easy they don't even require a recipe.

The fun comes with choosing the filling. After coring and lightly scoring round the middle of the apple, I filled ours with raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon and a few almonds. A knob of butter on the top, a splash of water in the baking dish to stop them burning and into an oven at about 180c for 20 to 30 minutes.

Then when the flesh is soft and fluffy as a duvet, take them out and serve, either as they are or with something creamy. I love the slightly butterscotch flavour that the raisins and brown sugar impart.

And still in the mood for comfort food, I decided to make a warming pie, like a good old fashioned meat pie, but with a vegetable filling. An autumn pie. After a morning spent pottering in the kitchen, I came up with :
                               An autumn pie with butternut squash and mushrooms. 
I made flaky pastry following this method but used 4oz/110g butter and 6oz/175g plain flour.

For the filling:
1 medium butternut squash
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
300g mushrooms
15g dried porcini mushrooms soaked in 300ml hot water for about 30 minutes
1 rounded tablespoon plain flour
fresh thyme
lemon juice
sweet smoked paprika
creme fraiche (optional)

Chop the scrubbed squash (no need to peel) into bite sized pieces. Toss with a little olive oil, 1/2 teasp. smoked paprika (sweet not hot variety) and salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven 180c until browned - about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile saute the chopped onion and garlic in a little olive oil. When golden remove from the pan and add the mushrooms to the pan. Fry until golden brown. Return the onion mix and stir in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes. Strain the liquid from the dried mushrooms in a sieve lined with kitchen paper to remove any grit and gradually add to the onions and mushrooms to form a sauce. Season with salt and pepper, thyme and lemon juice to taste. Add a dollop of creme fraiche if liked and spoon into a baking dish.
When cool, top with the rolled out pastry and cook in a hot oven 200c for about 35 minutes.

Makes a pie to serve 2 greedy people or 4 with more modest appetites.
I served the pie with creamed potato and spinach.

So it's goodbye October today. It's been a beautiful month; the month our tiny girlie celebrated her first birthday! ... and welcome November tomorrow.

Happy weekend!

annjenny x

Saturday, 24 October 2015

beetroot soup for an autumn day

The clocks change this weekend. We have an extra hour to stay snuggled up in bed - yay! But it also means of course darker, longer evenings.

No need to be gloomy though. Be like the Danes. They positively welcome and enjoy the long winter nights.
They even have a word for it - hygge. Pronounced 'hooga', there is no direct equivalent in English, though it is often roughly translated as 'cosiness'.
roaring log fires,
 thick woolly socks and jumpers
a warm blanket to snuggle under
mulled wine
sharing food with friends and family
candles .... and more candles.

It sounds good to me - and the Danes should know as they have the reputation of being one of the world's happiest nations.

I'm sure a big bowl of soup fits the idea of hygge. Clasped in hands it warms both physically and emotionally!
This lovely soup is made using beetroot from our allotment. This year I grew a variety called Rainbow .

They are a mixture of the usual deep red roots and stripey ones that look like a stick of rock.

The recipe, which I have made several times is from Steve at The Circus Gardener's Kitchen. Click on the link to his blog for the ingredients and method.
I can really recommend it. It makes a delicious,warming soup mildly spicy due to the horseradish. 

Steve's recipe uses fresh horseradish. I don't grow horseradish on the allotment and it is difficult to find horseradish root in the shops, so I substituted a tablespoonful of creamed horseradish from a jar.

Absolutely delicious! Do give it a go.

Happy weekend ...and hoping you are able to stay warm and cosy.

annjenny x

Saturday, 17 October 2015


It is looking very autumnal down on our allotment.
Green is turning to yellow and brown; on misty mornings the grass and plants drip with damp and dew.

A few days ago, I picked all of the butternut squash and brought them home, laying them out on a table in our south facing garden so that on sunny days they will benefit from any available sun and hopefully ripen some more.
This year we had four squash plants, grown from seed ( a variety called Hawk ) earlier in the year.
I started them off in pots at home and after all danger of frost had passed, planted them out on the allotment.
Soon they were romping away, but this year I was a little more ruthless and after a number of fruit had set I pinched off subsequent flowers.

As a result we have harvested about 15 squash. They are quite small this year but as there are only the two of us now this is not really a problem.
I made sure I left a long section of stalk when picking as apparently this helps prevent rot when storing them.

Squash are one of our favourite vegetables as they are so versatile.
For supper the other day, I chopped one of them into wedges and roasted in a hot oven with olive oil, salt and pepper until golden then served on top of creamy oven baked mushroom risotto using  this Delia recipe.

I had forgotten how simple oven baked risottos are compared to the more traditional stove top method which requires a lot of stirring.
 Definitely something to try again.

Happy weekend everyone.

annjenny x

Friday, 9 October 2015


Until recently, I thought that it was difficult to grow raspberries successfully. Perhaps I was under the misapprehension that the high price supermarkets charge for a few berries was an indication of the difficulty involved in their cultivation.
But, it turns out they are really easy to grow. Just plant a few canes and leave them to it. In fact, dare I say it, the raspberry can be a bit thuggish!
The Autumn Bliss raspberries on our allotment are in their second year and stray runners are already popping up in unexpected places. A thwack with a sharp spade is needed to stop them in their tracks.

We have had lots of delicious berries over the last few weeks. The advantage to the autumn fruiting varieties, is that they ripen at a time when most of the other soft fruit - gooseberries, blackcurrants, strawberries - have all finished.

On a whim, I decided to make a batter pudding or clafoutis with some of the berries.
I had never made a clafoutis before, but the idea of a softly set custardy pudding dotted with ruby red berries seemed very appealing as an early autumn treat.
Normally, clafoutis is made with cherries and is a speciality of the Limousin area of France.
Before making my clafoutis, I'm not sure that I had ever eaten one before, despite the fact that many moons ago I lived for a year in a small town in Limousin.
As part of my French degree I spent 12 months as an English assistant in a French lycee in the pretty little town of St Yrieix la Perche
I don't remember clafoutis but I do remember being offered cups of tea made by boiling water, teabags and milk in a saucepan! Kettles and teapots are not widely used in France and coffee was always their preferred hot drink, but according to this article that could all be changing!

There are lots of variations on a batter pudding. In particular the amount of flour to eggs seems to vary greatly. In the end, I went with this recipe from Nigel which produced quite a thick, but nevertheless delicious pud.

Happy weekend everyone from this little corner of the fens.

annjenny x

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Welcome October

'I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?'
Anne of Green Gables  : L.M. Montgomery

Both our girls loved the Anne of Green Gables books. Older daughter in particular read and re-read the stories over and over again.  As redheads themselves, I think they identified with the auburn haired heroine!

With the beginning of October, autumn is well and truly here. And in this little part of the Fens it has brought some stunning weather; crisp, misty mornings which give way to beautiful warm sunshine and glorious blue skies. 

There have been early morning walks along the river and over night Nature has displayed all her jewellery in the form of beautiful diamond necklaces.

Although summer is over, there is still much to harvest in the garden and on the lottie.
Oldest lovely daughter and her husband have an old, gnarled pear tree in their garden, variety unknown.

Although the fruit, with their marks and blemishes, would not pass the supermarket test, they are some of the juiciest and most delicious pears you could wish for.

This year has been a bumper crop.

I decided to preserve some of the pears by drying them in the oven set at its lowest temperature. After about 8 hours the slices were still only semi dried at which point I gave up!  They tasted good chopped up on yoghurt or cereal but I kept them in the fridge and used within several days, so not really a long term preserving solution.

Our little granddaughter enjoyed them...

..though with only a few teeth she sucked them rather than chewed!

Thinking that a cake would be a good way to use some of the pears, I looked through my collection of cookery books. I was not disappointed - one of my favourite cookery writers, Nigel Slater, came to the rescue with a recipe for a lovely autumnal cake using pears .
The recipe, called ' A cake of pears, muscovado and maple syrup' is from Tender volume 2.

A beautiful moist cake, just right for this time of year.
Comfort food par excellence . Perfect with a cup of tea or a dollop of something creamy for pudding.

Happy October everyone!