In a pickle.

BEETS sept 14


Since we’ve been out of the smallest cottage in the world ™ for the longest renovation in the world ™ I’ve not been doing a great deal of ‘proper’ cooking so I put that right this weekend and had day in the kitchen yesterday making pickle, roasting ham and baking jam tarts and quiche.

We’ve been really fortunate that during the longest renovation in the world ™ we’ve not had to go very far.  We had a month in my parents house while they selflessly headed off to stay with friends in France, and then lovely, lovely friends have leant us their holiday cottage which has made life a lot easier.

I did not appreciate though just how much I love the tiniest kitchen in the world and how I’ve got everything just *exactly* right in there, until I was cooking elsewhere.  As a result Science boy and SmallLovely had been deprived of the jams and pickles I’d normally start during the summer.

As moving back date approaches though I’m starting to get excited and feel like nesting – I could express this by actually making the curtains that need making for the apex window but frankly I’m a bit scared of that 🙂  I could also start getting ready to do the painting as the whole house needs re-painting when it’s done.  Although that would leave ScienceBoy with less to do.  So, I’ll start cooking again.

I usually roast our own ham because home roasted ham is critical for the full appreciation of home made pickles, the recipe is the definition of ‘simple’ and always tastes better than anything I can buy.

I get a lump of gammon, rinse it in cold water, bring it to the boil.  cover it in a marinade  – something sweet mixed with something spicy like marmalade and mustard… then roast it for about 40 mins at around 160.  If you think roasting ham is hard, really do try it, I was amazed at how straightforward it is and I love not having that ‘hammy’ smell of the packaged stuff

I never get through the summer without running into a glut of some fruit or veg and pickling is my perfect answer – once I found out it’s not a legal requirement to put sultanas in them.

We’d been given some rather woody pears so they formed the pickle base with some slightly tired beetroot, over-sour apples that even SmallLovely had turned down and fennel.  All tipped into the pan and boiled for a while with yellow mustard seeds, cardamom and fennel seeds.  It was still fairly chunky though and in true ‘what happens if…?’ form, Scienceboy suggest I experiment with the texture.  Blitzing it turned it to a fabulous spreadable consistency, though I left some chunky bits in as I need to keep us both happy.


The result – apart from being this fabulous deep pink colour which is going to cheer up many a winter dining table is utterly delish.   For me, the smoother texture means I’m not reminded that I’m eating fruit with vinegar which to be fair has always been the problem with pickle, bit for Scienceboy the combination of the chunks of pear and fennel in sweet, tart mustardy coating is the part he likes the most.   Pickle, another addition to the ‘list of things I will always make at home in future’



Pickles and ham Sept 14
Pickles and Ham.



..and then there was cake


(No not this one, this was from the Village Show last year……)

As I mentioned in the last post, I’d been asked by the Mayor to make some cakes for an event he was hosting.  It’s not that I move in particularly Civic Circles, but my ‘day’ job is with the local Town Council and you know, it’s kind of hard to keep a cooking obsession like mine under wraps so they hear about it a lot….

So, I gaily agreed I’d provide 4 cakes and some shortbread, I was full of confidence (when I make promises my motto is the rather gung ho! ‘how hard can it be?’).


I did stick to what I know with a Fruitcake, Victoria Sandwich, Coffee Cake, a Lemon Cake which are my staples.  I suggested shortbread as an alternative to cake and immediately planned ‘improvements’ by deciding to add Choc chips and Orange to half the batch.

Did I mention I’ve not made shortbread before?

Did I mention we’re not in our house at the moment because of the epic extension being built so I don’t have an oven I can rely on?

Did I mention I get a bit harebarained sometimes? after all how hard can it be?

I do however, have a smashing Mum and Dad with a brilliant oven next door to the house we’re staying in.  They also have a high level of tolerance for my schemes.

My family do marvel at my capacity to fail to spot the flaws in any plan.  They also marvel at my inability to learn from experience.

However, improbably, it worked…the cakes were lovely, nice fresh springy sponge cakes – you know the sort where you feel like you’ve eaten a nice bit of cake.. the shortbreads were ridiculously crisp and buttery and the hint of orange from the zest complimented the dark chocolate chips perfectly.

I almost didn’t deliver them…..

I feel proud and relieved, getting my cooking and making ‘out there’ has been a big step for me, and my confidence is slowly growing.  In writing about it I hope that I’ll start to learn lessons, keep myself gainfully occupied and focused and set up some sort of file of foolproof recipes 🙂

That new school year feeling.

Periodically I drop in here – well I say periodically, it’s more like era-odically


walk to school june 13


Well in true new school year fashion, I’ve sent SmallLovely back to school, re-covered my metaphorical exercise books and sharpened my new pencils and I’m starting afresh…

I love this time of year, even though I left school well before some of SmallLovely’s current teachers started,  I still get a kick out of the new school year and yearn for a new diary and some files.

I’m back on a making fest following a bit of a dry spell while we were out of ‘cosy country cottage’ (TM) for a pretty extensive renovation.  It will be worth it because I’ll have some more space for making and storing (I haven’t outlined my plans for the extra space to Scienceboy just yet so that’ll be a nice surprise for him 🙂 )

Thankfully I’ve been asked to make a few cakes for an event later this week so I’ll get back onto the wagon with those and a few pics along the way I hope.