Sunday 11 November 2012

Too busy to Blog...

Things have been a bit hectic here. I've been...

Harvesting the last of the nasturtium leaves before the frosts really get going...

Trying very hard to make yoghurt...

Decanting & sampling the Fennel Liqueur...

Roasting quinces...

Recycling more paper...

Trying a different recipe for marrow cake...

Harvesting chillies...

 Making clotted cream...

And trying to dissuade the local cats from congregating in our garden...

Monday 22 October 2012

Preserved Lemons

Bags of ripe lemons reduced for quick sale prompted me to get preserving...

I washed & partially quartered the lemons.

Added sea salt to the insides.

Tightly packed them in a sterilised jar, layering with more salt, peppercorns, a star anise & some bay leaves.

Topped up (& covered) with fresh lemon juice & sealed.

I shall leave them for about 4-8 weeks before testing...

The leftover lemons were turned in to yet more Lemon Curd!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Hummus or Humus?

Hummus, hummous, houmous, hommos, humos, hommus, hoummos not to be confused with Humus (& I'm not even going to mention the Hummus Wars!)

I get easily confused & so I make my own peaceful & very edible hummus.

I put a tin of chick peas & a tin of butter beans in the blender. I realise that this is meant to be a chick pea dish but I like the texture that butter beans add to the mix. (They are cheaper than chick peas too!)

To be thrifty, soak dried butter beans overnight then rinse thoroughly & boil for approx 20 mins to soften. Chick peas need hours of cooking so I tend to buy them ready cooked.

Add a slurp of sunflower oil & a dash of olive oil (too much olive oil makes the mix bitter).

A crushed clove of garlic & a good splosh of lemon juice add zing.

I like spiced hummus, so I add approx half a teaspoon of smoked paprika, cinnamon, ground cumin, ground coriander & a grating of nutmeg. (I sometimes add chopped root ginger from the freezer)

If you have tahini or peanut butter, add a tablespoon.


Add extra oil/lemon juice if too solid.

Season to taste.

I like to add chopped herbs; chopped coriander leaf from the freezer is a favourite too. A drizzle of nasturtium pesto is also is chopped thyme or oregano.

It keeps in the fridge for a few days (& can be frozen too but on defrosting it can be quite, erm, 'windy'...!)

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Paper Cuts

Inspired by the stunningly creative work of Su Blackwell & in need of some thrifty entertainment, a small group of us settled in for an evening of cuts...

What do you do with a book that is falling to pieces, has missing pages & is on it's way to the recycling bin?

...turn it in to something else!

To see more, visit one of my fellow paper-cutters over at the Reading Room

The germs have gone, the food challenge continues but the freezer & cupboards have a lot less in them now...

Monday 8 October 2012

Food Challenge Continued

There is less in the freezer.

There is less in the cupboards.

Looks like it will be chick peas tonight...

We have no bread flour left.

There is not even any chocolate in the house...

...but the challenge continues!

Sunday 30 September 2012

Germs & Food Challenge Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Autumn is definitely here; long shadows, amber light & the first cold virus of the season!

Feeling very croaky, snuffly & generally full of aches & pains, I seem to have spent the majority of my non-work time sleeping or lying on the sofa & watching lots of films.

Still determined to take part in the food challenge, I've had to resort to the freezer to provide most of our meals...

  • the remains of the stuffed marrow
  • roasted veg & couscous
  • homemade soups
  • veggie curry

In a bid to boost our immunity I've added copious amounts of garlic to everything, our house is probably a 'no-go-zone' now!

Mr TH, still blissfully unaware of the challenge, continues to make the bread (I have yet to add garlic to that!)

The costing seems to have taken second place at the moment but we haven't needed to buy any food yet.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

6kg of Tomatoes & Food Challenge Tuesday

How could I resist 6kg of ripe tomatoes for a mere £3.50?

The ketchup tasted good but took ages to reduce to ketchup-consistency

I struggled home with the box & set about cooking. I used 4.5kg to make 4 jars of tomato ketchup (I've always wondered if I could- I now know that I can). The rest were slow roasted with herbs.

Breakfast toast & homemade jam. I made the bread yesterday. We ate about half the loaf.
Approximate total cost for breakfast 40p

Lunch for me was the leftover soup from yesterday zapped in the microwave at work. Mr TH finished off the bread in a sandwich with some leftover ham from Saturday. 20p for me, 40p for Mr TH.
Approximate total cost for lunch, 60p

Dinner was spaghetti with a sauce made from about quarter of the roasted tomatoes, lots of garlic (I'm trying to fend off a cold) roasted courgettes, shredded ruby chard leaves & a good sprinkling of smoked cheese from the freezer.  I will take the remains to work for lunch tomorrow.
Total cost about 60p for 3 portions (bulk bought store-brand spaghetti, tomatoes & garlic, homegrown herbs, courgettes & chard)
Approximate cost for our dinner, 40p

Total cost for the 2 of us on Tuesday was £1.40.
I was only able to do this because of a big store cupboard, buying in bulk & having homegrown vegetables.

Mr TH hasn't noticed yet...

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Food Challenge Monday

Food eaten today (by 2 of us) cost us approximately £1.95 in total.

Breakfast pancakes (1 egg, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of milk). The mix made 5 pancakes which fed us both for breakfast with some added homemade damson jam.
Approximate cost 60p

Lunch, veggie soup (3 cloves of garlic, some dried pasta, a carrot, a stick of celery, homemade chicken stock from freezer, homegrown ruby chard, homegrown courgette, homegrown herbs & homegrown spring onion) There is enough for me to have a portion for lunch tomorrow. Total cost 60p.
Approximate cost for us today, 40p

Baked a loaf of very yellow bread (500g bread flour, 350ml water, dash of oil, a tablespoon of turmeric, salt, sourdough starter from fridge). Total cost 35p.
Approximate cost for us today, 15p (photo taken part way through Monday!)

Dinner, stuffed marrow (Homegrown marrow, tin of tomatoes, 3 sticks celery, 3 carrots, 1 onion, 3 cloves garlic, homegrown herbs, dash of homemade spitfire sauce, 250g minced meat & seasoning) Eaten with homegrown salad. We fed 4 people & still have 2 portions left for tomorrow...This was very difficult to cost so I've averaged it at a total cost of about £2.40
The cost for 2 of us to eat this meal was approximately 80p.

Without all the homegrown veggies which we've recently been given by friends & family, the cost would have been much higher.

Costing things was really difficult, I had to estimate amount used, work out how much I'd paid in bulk & do lots of division!

We ate really well but I could not have afforded this if I had to buy the ready prepared versions.

Monday 24 September 2012

How much does Food Really Cost?

This is a question that I've spent the last week pondering...

Let me go back to the beginning, Sue (from the Quince Tree) contacted me after I left a comment on the Non-Consumer Advocate blog. We both wanted to try the $4 per day per person Food Stamp Challenge but were grappling with similar to do it! I didn't want to lock the food cupboards & start from scratch but I was interested to know how little I could really live off...(The challenge would give me a daily budget of £4.99, £34.57 per week for us both together).

The answer should be simple, add up what you spend.

But what do you do when you've built up a cupboard and freezer full of food; when you've grown lots of fruit & veg & herbs; when you've always bought in bulk; when you collect windfalls; & when you have lovely neighbours and family who give/trade veggies from their allotments. How do you cost these items?

So I'm intending to see how long I can go without buying non essential food (I will need to buy eggs, milk & bread flour). Like Sue, I buy in bulk & freeze pretty much everything too. Unlike Sue, I lacked the energy to list the contents of my cupboards!

I'm going to try to cost each meal as I go along. Please remember that I buy in bulk so this further reduces the costs.

My final dilemma is Mr TH...should I confess or just see how long it takes him to notice?

Monday 17 September 2012

Chilli Success

Inspired by a trade with Mr Silverpebble last year, I have grown my own chillis.

As I wait for them to ripen I need to decide if I go down the Spitfire Sauce route again or try something new?

Any suggestions?

Thursday 13 September 2012

Autumnal Urban Foraging

Who says a city has nothing to offer a forager?

Cobnuts from a local city hedgerow...

I am now keeping a close watch on the local damsons, bullaces, blackberries, elderberries, sloes, crab apples, quince & nashi pears.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Fennel and Lemon Liqueur

Running low on Fennel Liqueur & noticing that this seems to have been a good year for fennel, I decided to make some liqueur of my own. Here's what I did...

Added some fronds, flowers & seed heads to a sterilised jar. 

Crushed them lightly with the end of a rolling pin. 

Added pieces of lemon rind.

Sprinkled sugar over the crushed fennel & mixed thoroughly. 

Topped up with vodka and shook lightly.

Mr TH has rushed off to get more vodka to top it up...

I'll turn this jar regularly over the next few weeks, then strain & bottle. 

If it's not sweet enough, I'll add sugar syrup to taste. (Dissolve 300g sugar in 100g water)

The fronds are good chopped up in salads, salad dressings or mayonnaise.

If you still have fennel seeds left over why not...

Dry some to use in cooking later on this year.

Here's what I did with my dried fennel seeds last year.

It is hard to resist just eating them though...

Friday 7 September 2012

Patty Pan

Our neighbours presented us with a large patty pan.

I cut the top off, scooped out all the seeds...

Added crushed garlic, lemony olive oil, salt, pepper, a bay leaf & a sprig of rosemary.

Popped the top back on & put it in the oven for about 45 mins.

We ate it with sausages, potatoes & lots of chutney.


Thursday 30 August 2012

Milk gone 'off'?

OK, so 'off' milk is never a good start to a day...

But (providing it is only slightly 'off' & therefore past the point of pleasant drinking, NOT milk that is actually physically trying to escape from the bottle) you could:
  • use it to make scones
  • make pancakes
  • make yoghurt
  • make a cake (I loved the sound of this coffee cake)
  • use it in bread making
  • use it in a recipe that has milk as an ingredient and will be cooked
  • soak bone handled knives/cutlery in it to strengthen & maintain whiteness
  • top it up with water & give your plants a calcium boost
  • add it to your bathwater
  • use it as a facial cleanser
  • make clothes from it  (yes, I was bemused too!)
When I was a child, I remember making delicious cottage cheese from milk. I looked it up online and was a bit baffled by the difference between 'off' milk and 'sour' milk. My understanding is that pastuerised milk goes 'off' and can be used for all of the above. Unpasteurised milk goes sour and can indeed be used in cheese making. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!)

To make pastuersied milk 'sour' you need to add a tsp of acid (lemon juice/vinegar) to about a litre of fresh milk & leave it for about 10 mins. Then you can make cottage cheese...I feel another project coming on! Alternatively you can use yoghurt as a cheap replacement for soured milk in recipes.

What other uses do you have for 'off' milk?   

I'm talking slightly 'off' milk that wouldn't taste normal on your cornflakes, not curdled milk which should not be consumed raw.

Tuesday 28 August 2012


I don't like weapons.

But if I did, I'd have a collection displayed like this...

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Why are Flies so Irritating?

I've never understood why flies:
  • need to be quite so noisy
  • congregate around light fittings when the lights are not even on
  • like to settle on the screen of the TV when I'm trying to watch it
  • always turn in right angles when there are no obvious barriers in their way

Mr TH gets even more irritated than I do & has been known to vacuum them up with the hoover nozzle. Despite the fact that this has high entertainment value for me, I do prefer to by fly-free.

There are obvious ways to deter flies such as keeping all surfaces clean and clear of food & food debris.

Additionally, you could rummage in the household cupboards...

To repel flies:
  • put strong smelling spices/herbs (cloves, mint, basil, bay, etc...) in a dish near the window/door.
  • spray the flies with hairspray (acts in a similar way to fly spray).
  • create a room fragrance spray by adding a few drops of essential oil to a small spray bottle. Flies really dislike the smell of lavender and eucalyptus. Alternatively, you could use other oils such lemongrass, citronella or clove.
  • spray them with strong tea (probably not a good idea inside your house).
  • plant rue, lavender or bay near your window/door.
  • put dots of a strong smelling essential oil along the bottom of curtains/blinds. (Please be aware that oil may stain some fabrics/damage paintwork. Always test first or put oil on pieces of fabric/cotton wool/absorbent paper & put in saucers along a windowsill. Alternatively dip cocktail sticks in the oil and put them in a cup on the windowsill).

To attract flies; 
  • buy a carnivorous plant.
  • encourage spiders.
  • hang a bunch of sage leaves from the ceiling (I've seen it work- the flies like the smell of sage & congregate around the leaves instead of the rest of the room).
  • use good old fashioned fly-paper).You could make your own using jam/ honey/syrup/treacle/beer, etc...messy but less chemicals than the real thing!
  • set up a jam jar trap by adding a small amount of sticky sweetness (see above) & water to a jar. Hopefully, they will spend their time there instead of irritating you.

What works for you?

Monday 20 August 2012

Grandad's Apron

Grandad's large butcher's apron was found, unexpectedly, amongst some cotton sheets in the airing cupboard. It brought a host of childhood memories whirling back...

I started to wear his apron for cooking. It's large & covers almost everything.

Others started to admire it's significant coverage...

Tracing round it, I've made quite a few replicas.

The latest apron reincarnation

Why do so many aprons have pockets? (Grandad's doesn't) What would you put in an apron pocket? - a dirty spatula? a tin opener? a butter paper?

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Marrow & Chocolate Cake

As requested, adapted from a Co-op recipe...

Cream together 150g butter/marg with 100g soft brown sugar (recipe said 150g). Then mix in 1 tsp vanilla essence & 2 tbsp cocoa powder. The mixture should be light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, weigh out 250g self-raising flour & 1 tsp baking powder.

Gradually add 2 large eggs to the creamed mixture along with a little of the flour to help absorb the liquid. (I used 3 small eggs instead)

Then mix in the rest of the flour, 2 tbsps of milk and approximately 200g of grated, peeled & de-seeded marrow/courgette/zucchini. (I was overly enthusiastic and added 250g- it worked out fine!)

If you're making it as a loaf cake, cook at 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 4 for approximately 50 mins. Alternatively fairy cakes would take 15-20 mins.

It was very moist & very chocolatey.

The recipe declared that it was best eaten fairly swiftly but that it did freeze well. After we'd tried a slice each we decided that eating it 'fairly swiftly' wasn't going to be a problem....(freezing it- well I'd probably have to make another cake to test that theory...)

Sunday 12 August 2012

Marrow Madness

How much marrow can you cope with?

Our neighbours presented us with a vast marrow. I was thrilled, I love marrow. I cut it in half & stuffed it with spiced meat and vegetables. It lasted us 3 days. (I was too busy eating it to photograph it!) Then I sliced another section, heavily seasoned it with salt, pepper & nutmeg & fried it.

The other quarter sat forlornly in the fridge until today. I was toying with the idea of Marrow Rum but Chocolate & Marrow Cake won...

It was delicious!

Monday 6 August 2012

First Harvest

Originally there were 6...(quality control was a necessity).

I grew them for free: leftover seedlings donated by our lovely neighbours; pots from the shed; soil from the wormery, council & garden; water from the water butt (but mainly the skies!)...

Space inspired by Vertical Veg.

Monday 30 July 2012

Edinburgh Festival

Ok, so I've never actually, really, been to the festival...

But I do have a recommendation...

Having experienced the unique wonders of the Hunt & Darton Cafe in Cambridge during May (once visited far too easily hooked); all I can do is urge you to go along if you are anywhere near the festival...

P.S. Hunt & Darton- if you are reading this, please come back to Cambridge & set up your cafe again!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

To List (or not to List)

I often think that the world is split into two distinct camps; those who write lists & those who know they should but fight the urge.

My Mum & sister are both proficient (& prolific) list-writers; so I naturally, fight the urge. I used to claim that I could keep all the relevant information in my head but I can't.

Mr TH has converted me to the joys sense of writing lists. I will now admit that it is much easier to just write things down. (I've also discovered that 'writing a list' provides an excellent excuse to sit down with a cuppa).

The best & thriftiest reason to write a list has to be the ongoing, everlasting shopping list stuck to the side of the fridge. The unspoken rule is that whoever uses the last of something is responsible for adding it to the list. It works for us & makes a trip to the supermarket less frequent, much quicker & significantly cheaper...

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