Tuesday, 1 September 2015

in my kitchen :: thrifty finds, comfort food and repurposing an old pine wardrobe

Did you know that potatoes are related to tomatoes? I didn't. I suppose the clue should have been in the name...the 'toes' bit. After our potatoes flowered we noticed two little green fruits that looked just like tomatoes growing on one of the plants...curious. A quick google query 'fruits that look like tomatoes on a potato plant,' revealed that they are the poisonous fruit of the potato plant that carry seeds. Apparently they only produce this fruit when growing conditions are perfect and if you sow the seeds they'll  produce a variety different from the one that you planted and it might be difficult for them to germinate. I think that I'll stick to planting potatoes when they start shooting out little roots in the vegetable basket the same as we do with the onions. 

In case you wondered...also in the kitchen:
  • Quick summer crumbles. Lots more, including peach, egg plum and cherry. I think apricot is still the favourite. I have to stop now before I get crumbled out...
  • Bay leaves from the garden to stock up kitchen herb supplies. 
  • Vintage shopping...I can't resist white pillow cases. Especially if there's a lace border or even a peep of broderie anglaise to be seen. And a cute little stoneware pie funnel. It will hopefully encourage me to move on from crumbles to pies.
  • The teeniest, weeniest frog spotted jumping on the kitchen floor. It must have hopped in when the door was opened. I began to think we had a mini plague after we rescued two on subsequent evenings. Now I think it was the same one that just liked our kitchen so much that it popped back in again...
  • A solid old pine wardrobe that was a real bargain from a charity shop. I have been scouring the auctions for months since I left a bid on a larder cupboard and lost it for just £2 above my bid. Had I been there I would have gone much higher and still had an amazing bargain. But this one is still very cheap even though more than twice as much as the one in the auction sold for and the money will go to a good cause. With the clothes-rail removed and shelves added it makes the perfect pantry. Hey presto from wardrobe to larder cupboard in an hour. We're not quite sure whether to paint it to blend in with the rest of the kitchen. What do you think?
  • Seeds collected from the garden ready for next year. My mission is to avoid buying as many seeds as possible. (Do you like my classification? 'green spiky')
  • Comfort food...more risotto. Another green one, this time with spinach and mange tout.
  • Haleem, Persian chicken porridge...more comfort.
  • Mini omelette made from lovely local free range eggs.
  • There's also been lots of sewing but I'll show you that later...

Haleem, Persian chicken porridge

To make enough for three to four people place a teacupful of oats into a saucepan or porringer and a good pinch or twist of sea salt. Poach a chicken breast in salted water until just tender but not dry. (I usually reserve the cooking liquid to make chicken stock.) When cool, shred the chicken with your finger or two forks using the same method used in Chinese restaurants to prepare duck with pancakes. Add this to the oats in the saucepan.  Gradually add  cold water into the oats and cook over a moderate heat, feeding the water in, in the same way that you would a risotto.  This is one of those dishes where you need to stand and stir...a bit of cooking therapy...After a little while you can add milk instead of water to give a much creamier texture. Cook until the oats are broken down into a smooth porridge.  

I like to eat it with the traditional spoonful of butter. It's also served with the addition of a little cinnamon and sugar or clotted cream stirred in but I prefer to keep it savoury.

That's just a bit of my kitchen chaos...I wonder what's going on in yours. 

Oh and about painting the pine cupboard. I really would appreciate your advise...what do you think? To paint or not to paint? 

Sunday, 30 August 2015

long weekend

Last friday night brought a good friend for a bit of broken heart mending. We had quality time together and I think that lots of talking, warm bubble baths, good music, homemade cherry wine and hearty food including clotted cream scones, helped. Sunday evening Hannah arrived to stay for a bit too. So there was even more of the above. Monday I persuaded my friend to stay another day and help with the blackcurrant wine making, thanks to ten massive boxes of fruit acquired from a local farm for the price of a few bottles of the wine once it's made. 

Here's Ahmad's cherry wine recipe that I can highly recommend. The blackcurrant wine is still in the demijohns. I'll share the recipe if that one turns out as good...

Homemade Cherry wine

  1. For each one gallon of wine that you make you will require two kilograms of fresh cherries. Wash the fruit  and remove all the stalks. One demijohn holds one gallon that's four and a half litres of liquid. Put the fruit into a sterile container cover with the appropriate amount of water.
  2. Add one crushed campden sterilising tablet and the juice of one lemon per gallon of liquid. Cover and leave for five days stirring daily, crushing cherries as you do so.
  3. After five days add one kilogram of sugar per gallon of wine continuing to stir and crush daily.
  4. After a further five days add one teaspoonful per gallon of wine yeast. If using regular bread yeast add much less as it's stronger. Again stir and crush. This time drain off the liquid leaving the fruit behind decant into glass demijohns. Close each one with an air lock that you've put a little water into. This is the fun bit when the wine begins to bubble and ferment and play a tune as the sugar turns to alcohol. 
  5. Leave until the fermenting has stopped. The wine needs to clear before drinking. This can take a while but will happen naturally if you just leave the wine.  If you are more impatient you can speed up the process by adding clearing agents.
This is a lovely deep red, mellow fruity wine...

old school scones
butter shortbread biscuits 

...I'm having a problem commenting on some peoples blogs at the moment...hopefully things will be sorted soon and I'll catch up with everyone...

Love and hollyhocks...

Friday, 28 August 2015

Highland Fling and simple Highland butter shortbread biscuits


We went to Scotland. Not the highlands but we did dance. I don't think it was a highland fling even though I did get flung around quite a bit. Maybe that's because I kept going in the wrong direction. One of Hannah's old school friends got married in Edinburgh last month (18/7) and we were invited. As her friend is an opera singer and her new husband a conductor/concert pianist the music was awesome in the true meaning of the word. Really awesome...not your favourite band awesome but Bach and Mendelssohn awesome...(you wouldn't know it, they look more like hipsters or an indi band than classically trained musicians) It's a shame the video files are too long for the blog so I can't post them. Just the bagpipes...so I recommend fingers in ears if you click on it...

We were greeted on arrival by a kilted bagpiper and then more kilts as the groom and his brothers, the cute little nephews, then gradually all the guests appeared. The wine flowed, the band played and everyone danced the night away...

These highland shortbread biscuits remind me of my highland fling...

It is so easy to make Butter shortbread just like the real Mccoy. If you've never made them before you MUST have a go...

Butter shortbread


  • 2oz  caster sugar plus a little extra. I used golden caster sugar
  • 4oz butter or non-dairy alternative. I used slightly salted butter
  • 6oz plain flour. I used strong white flour because I didn't have any regular plain flour and they turned out amazingly  good. 
  1. Cream the butter and 2oz of sugar.
  2. Add the flour and continue to beat together. Draw together and make into a ball of dough.
  3. Sprinkle a little sugar onto a clean work surface and roll out the dough until about half and inch, that's about a centimetre thick. I made twelve biscuits.
  4. Cut into fingers and place onto a baking tray prepared with baking parchment. Prick with the tines of a fork and bake for about fifteen to twenty minutes until pale golden brown. 
  5. Leave to cool for a little before transferring to a wire rack. 
I'm not a big biscuit fan but these are extremely moreish and so easy to make.  

I've just put the second batch into the oven...double quantities this time...

I've got photos of Edinburgh city that I'll share later...