Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Whisky & Ginger (Marmalade) Fruit Loaf

This is a wonderful recipe, perfect for all times of year and especially around Christmas.  The joy of this Whisky Ginger loaf is that you make two at a time, I usually freeze one and then the other can be eaten.  Alternatively you could freeze both as they keep beautifully, but only if the rest of your family haven't realised you have baked them! (the smell as they come out of the oven is too good to miss).

The recipe is adapted from the orignal recipe taken from 'The Three Chimney's' cookbook by Shirley Spear.  Still on my wishlist of places to visit and eat, I enjoy cooking from this book which feels like part journal/part travel guide, with truly stunning photos.  *I will include the orginal options in the recipe for information.


You will need;

170g raisins
170g sultanas
140g currants
250 ml water
115g butter
140g soft dark brown sugar
3 eggs beaten
280g self raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
2 heaped tbsp Ginger preserve (*original uses marmalade)
30g roughly chopped almonds
75g chopped mixed peel
75g chopped crystallized ginger
75g chopped glace cherries* (original just uses 115g of peel and 115g of cherries)
3 tablespoons of whisky

2 x 2lb loaf tins, greased with a bit of butter and lined.  Preheat oven to 180oC (I use my Aga, grid shelf on the bottom of the top oven, cold plain shelf on second set of runners).


Weigh out the raisins, sultanas and currants.  Place in a large saucepan along with the water, sugar and butter.

Heat gently until the butter and sugar have melted together and the whole kitchen smells of delicious sweet, warm fruit.  Don't let the mixture boil.

Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool slightly.  Now assemble the rest of your ingredients, and when the fruit mix has cooled, mix through everything else (sieve the flour and mixed spice).

I add the Ginger preserve and whisky last, giving it all a quick stir together to make sure everything is mixed through.

Split the mixture between two greased and lined 2lb loaf tins (I don't have two the same size but it doesn't seem to matter).  Bake for about 1 hour, the finished cake should be lovely and brown.

Out of the Aga!  Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for about 30 minutes before putting on a wire rack to cool.  My Aga was quite hot when I baked these, so they only took 50 minutes and the one in the silicon 'tin' is slightly over (well lets say a bit more caramelised!!).  But it still tastes delicious.  Keep in an airtight tin until ready to use or wrap well and freeze (defrost thoroughly before using).

The finished Whisky Ginger loaves

Monday, 16 July 2012

Easy Garden Soup for a Summer (?) Day

Well, Summer what can I say?  Wettest June on record, greyest too.  I've been putting rugs on my horses as the temperature, wind and driving rain has been making them miserable.  The garden has suffered, thank goodness for the greenhouse and polytunnel or there would be nothing to eat from the garden this year (slugs are doing well but I don't fancy eating them!).

To cheer myself up on another wet Monday I've made soup, I know it sounds odd and shouldn't make me feel cheerful - but it worked.

It's sort of based on a summer minestrone or soup au pistou but I just used what I had in the fridge and polytunnel.

You will need;

Olive oil (scant amount - 1 tablespoon?)
One onion, finely chopped
Two carrots - peeled and sliced
Three large celery sticks, chopped
Two courgettes (I had one yellow and one green - looks pretty)
Handful of flat leaved (Italian) parsley
Tin of ready chopped tomatoes (organic)
1 teaspoon of Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillion powder
salt and pepper

Saute onion, carrot and celery in olive oil for 5 minutes

Courgettes and parsley from the greenhouse

Add sliced courgettes to the vegetable mix and soften gently for about 5 minutes.  Next add the tin of tomatoes, then fill the empty tin with water and rinse the leftover tomatoes and water into the pan as well.

Now I added my chopped parsley and the parsley stalks chopped very fine too.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Do not overcook otherwise the vegetables will lose their colour and crunch.

After 10/15 minutes taste and adjust seasoning.  I added salt and pepper and a couple of dashes of Piri Piri sauce, to give it a bit of warmth.

Serve topped with some shavings of a hard cheese (Parmesan, Pecorino, Cheddar etc, I used Manchego it was all I had in the fridge).

Other ideas to top it, a drizzle of basil or garlic infused oil, a swirl of pesto, some crumbled goats cheese, I tend to go with whatever I have.

So delicious, colourful and healthy - it almost makes up for our lack of summer (almost).

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Hot Cross Bun (Bread) and Butter Pudding just in time for Easter

I made this last week and enthusiastically tweeted about it, promising to post the full recipe and photos on here later that day (ahem!).  So here we are a week or so later.  Anyway, life has been busy I've finished painting the outside of my stables, we've been planting up plants in the greenhouse ready for planting out later and Paul has been getting on with the new deck outside.  Spring really felt like it was springing, until this Monday when we had a slight dusting on snow and then on Tuesday 3rd, my Dad's birthday, he was up visiting from Glasgow, we woke up to 7 inches of snow.  Winter not quite ready to let go of us yet!   It was sad to see our tiny narcissi daffs flopped over underneath the snow but hopefully it will warm up again soon (-2oC when I woke this morning).

Hey ho, back to the task in hand.  Here is my recipe for a bread and butter pudding made with slightly stale hot cross buns, it was truly delicious.  This recipe is not terribly sweet as I served it with Vanilla ice cream, if you prefer a sweeter pudding I would add a couple more tablespoons of caster sugar in the custard mix.

You need;

6 hot cross buns;
softened butter (enough to spread over the bread and grease the dish);
6 fl oz double cream;
6 fl oz milk;
2 tablespoons caster sugar;
3 large eggs;
2 tablespoons brown or demerara sugar.

Preheat oven to 180oC - I baked in Aga, shelf on the bottom of the top oven, plain shelf on the 2nd set of runners.

Slice up the buns, across the way.  Butter both sides and layer in a buttered dish.

 Combine the cream, milk, eggs and caster sugar - mix well in a jug.

There is almost a pint of custardy mix.  Pour this over the buttered buns in your baking dish. 

Finally sprinkle brown sugar over the top and bake for around 35 minutes in a moderate oven.

Remove from the oven, leave to cool for about 5 minutes, then serve with your choice of ice cream, custard, double cream or all 3!! 

The finished pudding - and very delicious it was too.  Happy Easter everyone!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Come on Spring - more springing please!

Goodbye February, you've been a short but sweet month, complete with Scottish Higher prelim exams (daughter), a ski trip to Meribel in the Three Valleys (en familie), France and then rounded off with tonsilitis (youngest son) and a broken hand (oldest son)!

Me and the kids skiing - blurry photo!

View down the Doron piste from the chalet we stayed in - iPhone photo

In Aberdeenshire we had the warmest recorded temperatures for February since 1998.  Zac and Brea went from winter rugs to no rugs (naked horses, the nicest thing is to see them rolling, it makes me so happy!) and now we are back into winter rugs as the temperature has dropped this weekend.

I've only got a few photos for this month, I had taken our small point and shoot (ie idiot proof) camera to France for skiing, so I could stick it in my ski jacket and not worry about lens caps etc.  Unfortunately, the camera was not idiot proof enough for me as I managed to get a sticky finger print on the lens, which I didn't realise until I got home and loaded the pics on the pc - lots of nice 'soft, smudgy' focus pics!  Never mind, you live and learn.  The photo below was the day we arrived back in Aberdeenshire from France, we brought some snow home with us you see - Dash and Coco enjoyed being back home after their stay at the local Pet Hotel.

We have crocuses out in the garden at the moment, no daffodils or narcissi yet but spring is definitely arriving according to the amounts of garden birds singing, courting and fighting.
home sweet home
I love this time of year, so much promise for long days in the garden and stables ahead.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Stuff that works for me in cold (baltic) weather!

Another very cold and absolutely freezing day today!  However, the sunshine and clear blue skies make up for the fact that it's still -6oC at 10.00 am.

Having kept animals at home for the last ten years I have found the following things really help when we hit the 'very cold' part of winter.  This year hasn't been so bad so far, last year our lowest temp was -27oC and we stayed at below -20oC for a week.  All this is fine for us humans, central heating, an Aga, a couple of log burning stoves and even some electric fan heaters kept us warm inside but dealing with our horses and chickens outside was more challenging.

Here is my list -
  • Musto snug jodpurs - warm legs and happy me
  • Muck boots - these are neoprene wellies, and keep your feet warm and dry (but they do really stink when you take them off, I Febreze mine and my OH's!!)
  • I have two galvanised waterers for our chickens - one is always defrosting/defrosted inside the house, ready to be swapped over for the outside one once it freezes (and this can happen a couple of times a day if it's -20!)
  • Last year we finally bought and fitted a heatsource tape to the water pipe that supplies my stables - it has a built in thermostat which automatically heats the length of blue water pipe if the temp drops below 3oC.  It means that I can fill the horses water buckets in the stable and also outside without having to fill containers from the house and move to the stables/field by wheelbarrow.
  • I now use large Tub Trugs as water buckets in the horses stables and in my fields (especially as my automatic waterer freezes solid pretty quickly).  They are easy to remove the ice from and flex a bit if they get frozen solid.
  • I use a kids (clean) shavings fork to lift ice out from the buckets before I refill them with water - bit basic but stops the water freezing again so quickly.
  • We have a section of hardstanding in our paddock nearest the stables, I feed the horses hay from a round (Highland Cattle!) feeding ring there, it stops them standing in mud and means I don't have too far to go to move hay.
  • When the temp is really cold, I feed the horses in their stables, do rug checks etc etc and then I leave the stable doors and the gate to the field open.  This means they are free to come and go as they please.  My two big horses moved home with us from Calgary, Alberta and are used to cold temperatures, but I have found on really cold nights that they keep warmer if they can move/walk around rather than standing in a loose box all night.  This seems especially true with Zac, my paint horse, he is around 24 years old and is quite stiff in his pelvis so keeping moving is much better for him.
  •  I keep a chicken feeder filled up with layers pellets under a small weather shelter at all times.  The chickens also get two poultry corn feeds a day, and an extra feed of grain at night just before roosting.  My theory is that this keeps them a bit warmer when they are roosting!
  • We have a automatic pop hole opener on our chicken house, which is great, but sometimes if there is a lot of snow I dig small paths for the chickens to go from their house, to the water, to the feeder etc.  A sprinkling of hay outside their door can help them jump down, they don't seem to like the initial shock of going onto cold snow.  We just rake it up again once the hay has gone. 

A list of simple things, but they mean I can look after my animals, even when it does feel like we're in a freezer outside.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

It's February and it's fantastic!

Hurrah! it really feels like the days really are getting longer now.  The first snowdrops have appeared in the garden and with the nice (cold but not too cold and no snow!) winter we are having we've managed to get on with quite a few jobs around the garden.  Including completely clearing out our greenhouse and managing to lay slabs completely covering the ground inside it too, this means we will just use the deep beds inside the polytunnel for growing beans etc in and use the greenhouse for stuff in containers and seeds etc.

I'm making marmalade, again, I make my own every year.  I love when we get Seville oranges in the shops, their gorgeous smell of sunshine and Spain really lift my spirits.  This recipe is from a very old book I have called the Complete Book of Home Preserves - by Jill Nice and the Woman's Institute.  The recipes in it never fail and if you grow a lot of your own soft fruit, tomatoes etc it's well worth seeing if you can get hold of a copy, I really recommend it!

Not quite marmalade yet!

Seville Orange Marmalade

1 kg Seville oranges
1 lemon
2 kg white sugar
4 pints water

(8 or 9 hot, dry, sterilized jam jars - I wash mine in the dishwasher then pop them in the bottom oven of my Aga and take them out just before filling)

Wash all the fruit, using a large dish or bowl slice the fruit up thinly, or chunkily (depending on how you like your marmalade - as you can see mine is pretty random, I like the chunks!).  Collect all the pips and tie them into a muslin bag or pop them in a spice ball/strainer (what I do).  Put the pips, fruit and water in a large bowl, cover and leave to stand for 24 hours (as above). 

When ready to make, transfer the soaked fruit etc to a preserving/jam pam and simmer gently until you have reduced the contents by half (the peel should be soft and transparent by now).  Meanwhile put your sugar in a dish and warm it through (I put mine in the bottom Aga oven).  Once the contents are reduced add the warmed sugar and stir until it is dissolved.  Now bring the marmalade back to boil and boil hard until you have obtained a set. I start testing after 5 minutes, I put a pile of saucers in my freezer, if I think the marmalade is almost set I take a saucer out, (take the marmalade off the heat while you are doing this) pour a spoonful of marmalade on the saucer and after about 30 seconds if you can push a clean finger through the marmalade and it leaves a gap then it is done.

Take the marmalade off the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes before potting (this stops all the peel sinking to the bottom of the jars).  I use a soup ladle and a jam funnel as I'm very clumsy when it comes to this sort of thing and have ended up with marmalade everywhere before!

This recipe gives a dark, chunky marmalade which has that background bitterness which I love, if you want to pep it up a wee bit try adding 2 tablespoons of whisky to the marmalade just before removing from the boil and stir well - I suppose you could use Brandy or Rum too, but I like whisky so Whisky Marmalade it is for me.


Sunday, 15 January 2012

January ramblings

Happy New Year to one and all!  I know it's a bit late but at least the thought is there :-)

What a gorgeous start to the year, (sadly not for skiing this year as there really has been no snow in Scotland) but we've had clear blue skies, frosty mornings and cold sunshiney days.  Zac and Brea are in their stables at night but out grazing and eating ad-lib hay during the day, Poppy our Welsh Sec A is on "holiday" at my friends' farm, they sadly lost one of their horses before Xmas and needed a companion for their other horse.  Poppy has stayed up there before so she is happily moved in, she'll stay up at their farm until they manage to buy or rehome another horse.

We have been out for some lovely walks, I'll post some photos below.  I've been inspired to try and take more photos with the camera I got for Christmas (2010!!!) - so have been amusing myself trying to capture some of the beautiful sunsets, long shadows and frosty mornings.

twisty tree

Craigievar Castle in all it's pink splendour!

Leochel Burn

Craigievar - our 'local' castle    

This next lot of photos was taken at home one evening this week, I don't think they are quite right (over-exposed?) and I have no idea about how to chose the right settings, and mostly snap away in "auto", but I'm sure with trial and error I'll get better.  It's probably a good think that it's a digital camera and I'm not having to spend money on wasted prints!  On the positive side, there is lots of room for improvement too. 

Pink sky over the paddock

Brea - "does my rug match this?"
 Here's to a good 2012 for us all, looking forwards to more blogging about cakes, horses, gardening, knitting and life in general!