Category Archives: vegetarian

The Beekeepers Apprentice

This year I have undertaken the role of a beekeeper’s apprentice as my father has a small apiary at the bottom of one of our fields.  At the start of the year we had three hives which required very little attendance, other than making sure they had enough syrup during the cold winter months.  The fun really started when around April when the decision was made to artificially divide the hives in the hope that this would stop the hive from splitting and then swarming later in the year.  Well… that was the theory…

I spotted the first swarm on the first truly hot day of the year in the middle of May, fortunately my father was in the house when it happened, and with his help and guidance together we caught the swarm in a box – before then re-housing it in a ruchette (little hive).  The following day there were two more swarms.  So once again we donned our bee-suits and caught them both before once again re-housing the swarms in separate ruchettes.  I vividly remember half way through rehousing the second swarm (which is done by placing a white sheet in front of the ruchette with a plank of wood leading up to the entrance – so they can quite literally walk into their new home once you’ve upended the box of bees on to the sheet) my father turning to me and asking me if I could try to spot and then catch the queen (please bear in mind there tend to be thousands of bees in a swarm) whilst he popped back to the barn to get something.  I set about this task during his absence and with the help of the workers bees who tend to bow with their tails in the air when a queen is in close proximity, I managed to catch not just one queen but five queens (please note this is NOT normal).  After a lot of deliberation we decided to let all the queens go and watched them all head on up into the Ruchette – which with the joy of hindsight and a little bit of research on Google was entirely the wrong thing to do.

I suspect you might have already guessed what happened next…

 

       

The following day when both my parents were out at a friend’s birthday lunch, I popped down to check the hives at midday to find three swarms.  With no option other than to catch the swarms myself I armed myself with the swarm catching kit (aka 2 wine boxes and a wicker waste paper basket) and set about catching and attempting to re-house each of the swarms.  To say I had one or two problems was an understatement!  One of the swarms decided they did not want to enter the new ruchette but instead they would rather remain in the wooden box – so after two attempts I decided to leave them in the box.  One of the swarms did enter the ruchette but two hours later decided they would rather swarm again and  take up residence on a branch 3 metres away.  So I had to catch and re-house them twice.  As for the third swarm that was placed in the wicker basket I decided after all the excitement of the second swarm I would leave them be (excuse the pun) until my father’s return.

Similar events occurred the following weekend (typically when my parents were away visiting friends leaving me in charge of the smallholding and all its occupants).  Below is an email I sent to my father whilst he was away to update him on the “Bee situation”…

To: Dad

Subject:  Bees

Dear Dad

 Well this is how yesterday went.  Saw big swarm – put it in a box very easily.  Went to get Ruchette, with Susan’s [A Beekeeping Friend who was somewhat of a life saver] help kitted it all out and went and put them in the box.   Meanwhile another sneaky swarm was forming so after rehousing the first, went and put 2nd swarm in box.  Left them until 7pm – both swarms were still in situ so I rang Susan!  Susan had fortunately just reorganised her bees, so told me to pop over and collect her display hive.  She gave me more wax and cardres…  I then came home and sorted it all out, and put the bees to bed – which was in fact a much bigger swarm by the time all the bees had gone into the box than I would have thought.  So I then put those bees to bed (please note as I did so I saw what looked like a new young queen – who must have gone into the ruchette as the bees flooded in…)

So this morning, I am going to remove one of the feeders from a ruchette and give it to the second new swarm.  Will look at the big hive at the same time…

Love Ant

P.S  I dislike your bees immensely right now!!!

P.P.S Lambs and I are not on speaking terms as they have taken a chunk out of my index finger.

After all the excitement of the swarms during May, things calmed down considerably and the only thing that needed to be done to the hive was place a super on top to allow the bees to start making their honey which they have been doing all summer.  At the end of last week it was decided that the honey harvest was to happen and so, over the course of one afternoon, we spun the honey out of the frames using a centrifuge which has left us with roughly 82kg of honey…

I apologise for the length of the blog and don’t blame anyone who scrolls straight down to the recipes, which surprise, surprise involve honey as an ingredient…  Over the last couple of days I have made a number of dishes but there are really two that stood out.  The first was a play on an upside down cake and the second can really only be described as a fancy cheese on toast starter.  But without further ado here are the recipes.

Honey, Reine Claude Plum and Apple Upside Down Cake (Serves 8-12)


Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs
  • 250g cooking margarine
  • 250g sugar
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cardamom pods (shells removed and seeds crushed)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 15 plums (stoned and halved) – I used Reine Claude
  • 2 medium apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 5-6 tbsp honey (runny)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 160C fan.  Line and grease a 30cm cake tin.
  2. In a bowl, beat to together the margarine and sugar until soft.
  3. Add the eggs to the mixture slowly (adding a little flour if the eggs start to curdle).
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and beat together thoroughly.
  5. Pour the honey into the bottom of the cake tin, using the back of a spoon to help evenly spread the honey around the bottom of the tin.
  6. Add the fruit in the pattern you would like (remember it will become the top of your cake).
  7. Finally pour over the batter and place in the over for approximately 50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).
  8. Serve with crème fraiche.

Fancy Cheese on Toast (Serves 3)

Ingredients:

  • 6 pieces of melba toast
  • 100g soft goats cheese
  • small handful sliced almonds
  • 6 fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp runny honey
  • Black pepper (seasoning)

Steps:

  1. Cut the cheese into 6 slices.  Place a slice of the cheese onto each of the melba toasts.  Place under a hot grill for 1 minute.
  2. Whilst the cheese is under the grill, heat the almonds in a frying pan on a hot heat for around 1 minute.
  3. Remove the cheese on toast from the grill and plate up – by placing two of the toasts on each plate, scatter over a few almonds, drizzle over ½ tsp of honey, place a coriander leaf on each of the toasts and season with black pepper.  Then serve quickly so you can enjoy them whilst they are still warm.

There may have been tears at the start but it was worth it in the end…

No, for those who are wondering I am not an emotional wreck today, I have merely been cutting onions.  Over the years I have pretty much tried everything to stop the tears flowing when cutting onions including: wearing glasses, sticking out my tongue and putting a spoon in my mouth, but in the end it always seems more hassle than it’s worth and it doesn’t always work.  Subsequently, for roughly five minutes this morning as I peeled some red onions I had tears running down my cheeks.

Today I have been trying to recreate a Red Onion & Port Marmalade that I made two weeks ago on a bit of a whim.  I had seen some red onions for sale in the market which looked pretty good, so I thought why not try something new that would work well with cheese – the end result was a red onion & port marmalade.  The major problem I have in the kitchen when I try out a new recipe is I never write down what it is I am doing especially quantities of ingredients (this is partly because I largely cook by eye and by tasting things regularly).  So when the first of the 3 pots of the onion marmalade was opened and finished in less than a day last week and the second pot quickly disappeared too, I thought I had better try and work out what exactly I did before all memory of what I’d done disappeared.

The first thing I should mention is that in the first batch I made, I used up a rather old bottle of port that had been lying around for years called Sao Pedro (aged for 10) years which had a lovely strong flavour and really good smell which really came out in the marmalade.  However, this morning I used a somewhat cheaper Tawny port, that was much sweeter and in my opinion far less fragrant.  But that being said they both have worked well despite tasting slightly different. So I would say depending on your budget or what you have left lying around it doesn’t really matter what type of port you use.

Red Onion & Port Marmalade

Ingredients:

  • 5tbsp olive oil
  • 2.4kg (weight after being peeled)
  • 2tsp thyme
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 250ml port and ½ small wine glass of port
  • 350ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

Steps:

  1. Sterilise some jam jars ready for use once your onion marmalade is made.
  2. Finely slice the onions (I use a food processer to do this for ease).
  3. Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and warm on a low heat.
  4. Add the onions and half of the sugar to the pan and stir.  Cover with a lid and leave the onions to soften slowly, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the onions are soft, add the thyme, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar and the remaining sugar.  Turn up the heat a little and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
  6. After about 5-10 minutes add the port (keeping back the port in the wine glass as you’ll need this later) and stir together.
  7. Now it is a waiting game, as you stir your pan occasionally until the liquid has reduced down so there is only a little liquid left in the pan.
  8. When you think your onion marmalade is almost ready give it a little taste to see if it needs a little more seasoning, before you add the remaining port (if you think it needs it) that you have held back in the wine glass, stir the port in and cook for a further 5-10 minutes before removing from the heat and placing in the sterilised jam jars for storing.

Ideas for what to serve the Red Onion & Port Marmalade with…

All of the ideas I have for the Red Onion & Port Marmalade involve cheese as that is what I originally had in mind when I first made it.  I made both of the following recipes as a starter as they were good to share amongst a large number of people…

Goats Cheese and Red Onion & Port Marmalade Tarts (makes 4 small tarts)

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 200g of soft goats cheese (remove any rind)
  • 14-16 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 4 heaped tsp of the red onion & port marmalade
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Black pepper for seasoning
  • 1 small egg

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C fan.
  2. Lightly flour 4 individual tart tins (12cm diameter).
  3. Roughly cut the puff pastry into four pieces and place in the tart tins.
  4. Spread 1 heaped teaspoon of the onion marmalade on the bottom of each of the individual tarts.
  5. Cut the goats cheese into small chunks and distribute equally between the tarts along with the cherry tomatoes, drizzle over a little olive oil and add a little black pepper.
  6. Finally beat the egg in a small bowl and using a pastry brush, lightly brush some of the egg wash over the exposed pastry.
  7. Place in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes (until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese is melted).

Baked Cheese Parcel served with Red Onion & Port Marmalade

Ingredients:

Cheese Parcel:

  • 1 packet of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 500g wheel of either Coulommiers, Brie or Camembert (depending on what type of cheese you like most)
  • 1 egg
Serve with:

  • Red Onion & Port Marmalade
  • French bread
  • Carrot batons

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C fan.
  2. Using a fork prick the top of the cheese you are using 6 times through to the middle of the cheese.
  3. Place the cheese in the centre of the pastry.
  4. You now need to make the cheese into a parcel, I do this by cutting the pastry into 8 segments and then folding the gently into the middle of the cheese and cutting off any excess.
  5. Finally beat the egg in a small bowl and using a pastry brush, lightly brush some of the egg wash all over the pastry.
  6. Place in the oven and cook for 20-22 minutes (until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese is melted).
  7. Remove from the oven and serve with the red onion & port marmalade, french bread and carrot batons.

 

Side dishes

As ever it has been a busy couple of days picking the apples, pears, plums off the trees ‘squirreling them away’ as my father says, ready for the winter months.  During this time I have been thinking about what to write about and have fallen on the subject of side dishes.  There is absolutely no way I can cover this huge food area in just one blog, so I have decided I will give ideas for various side dishes over a series of blogs over the course of the next couple of months.

For me side dishes are just as important as the centre piece that makes up any meal – because they can be the thing that makes or breaks a meal.  At the moment we are eating a whole host of different types of salads and couscous dishes because they are fresh and tasty.  However, I am looking forward to the start of autumn and the weather cooling slightly so that I can justify making potato dauphinoise (obviously with a healthy quantity in it), macaroni and cheese and roasted root vegetables…

For this blog I thought I would start with a couple of dishes that we often serve with a BBQ: Roasted Vegetable Couscous, Tomato and Red Pepper Salad and A Mixed Salad.

  Continue reading

Pizza from scratch

The last couple of days have been frantic at home and have involved a lot of cooking.  As promised I said I would fess up to any disasters that I have had and yesterday I had a spectacular one!!  I have had an idea about making a courgette and chocolate cake but rather than making a standard sponge I decided that I would make a flourless sponge.  All I can say is BIG MISTAKE!  The end result was a flat custardy in texture brown cake that was well interesting to try.  After encouraging everyone to try it I am ashamed to say it ended up in the bin…  That being said, I intend to learn from my mistakes and try again this time with flour and make a batter not dissimilar to that of a carrot cake and if it works and more importantly tastes nice I will share the recipe in a future blog.

Yesterday, evening with nine of us to feed I thought I would go for something fun but a little different, a sharing food that required everyone’s involvement – Make your own pizzas…  When people have been asked to sum my family up in one word, the word that comes up time and time again is “competitive”, last night was no exception!!!  True to form, the banter was flowing, the jokes were coming quick and fast – but beneath all the ‘tomfoolery’ tensions were running high as to who would be deemed to have made the best pizza!

The preparations started around 2 hours before we actually sat down to eat as the dough needed to be made, kneaded and left to rise and a basic tomato sauce needed to be concocted.  It was quite a sociable affair as everyone was in the kitchen chatting in a desperate attempt to keep cool as yet again the temperature outside was above 40C.

Before everyone piled into the kitchen, where the games would really begin, a couple of us kitchen monkeys headed in to prepare the toppings, of which we had many: cured meats, goats cheese, red pepper to name a few.  After knocking back the dough and dividing it into 8 equal sized balls ready for rolling, we called the competitors family in to make up their pizzas two at a time ready for scrutinising.

Before sharing the recipes I have another confession to make – I didn’t make enough dough.  My family can eat a lot and were still hungry after 8 pizzas, so I ended up making a really quick flat bread dough recipe to use a pizza dough substitute which worked far better than I could have ever imagined so I will share that with you too!

 

Pizza Dough (makes 8 pizzas)

Ingredients:

  • 750g plain flour
  • 1oz fresh yeast (or a packet of dried yeast)
  • 375-400ml water
  • 1 ½  tsp salt
  • 2 ½ tsp ground pepper (optional)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Steps:

  1. Mix together the flour, pepper and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl mix together the yeast and sugar.  Add in the olive oil and water then stir together to start the yeast activating.
  3. Combine the wet mix with the dry mix.  Using your hands bring the mix together  until it forms a ball of dough. (Add a little more water if the dough is flaky).
  4. On a lightly floured surface start kneading your dough.  It is going to take roughly 10-15 minutes until the texture changes and becomes the perfect pizza dough.  (What you are looking for is the dough to spring back to its original form when it is pressed lightly with your finger).
  5. Once you have finished kneading the dough place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and set aside for around 2 hours to rise.
  6. After two hours, knock the air out of the dough and cut into eight pieces.
  7. On a lightly floured surface roll out your dough until it is roughly 2/3mm thick.
  8. Place the rolled dough on a piece of baking paper and add a little tomato sauce and then toppings of your choice (for ideas see below).
  9. Cook pizzas in a hot oven roughly 225C fan for 10-12 minutes or until crispy.

 

Simple Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 heaped tbsp of tomato puree
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Olive oil for cooking

Steps:

  1. Finely dice the onion and finely chop the garlic and place in a pan with some oil and the sugar then place on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, thyme, season with salt and pepper, then stir all the ingredients together and leave to simmer on a very low heat for 5-10 minutes.

Flat bread dough substitute for pizza if time is short

Ingredients:

  • 300g plain flour
  • 175ml water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Steps:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in bowl.
  2. Divide dough into 3 equal sized balls and roll out on a floured surface, cover with a little tomato sauce and the toppings of your choice.
  3. Cook pizzas in a hot oven roughly 225C fan for 10-12 minutes or until crispy.

Pizza Topping Ideas

  • Goats cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Grated emmental
  • Red pepper
  • Mushrooms
  • Pesto
  • Chilli
  • Salami
  • Bacon
  • Basil leaves
  • Roasted aubergine
  • Parma ham
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Red onion

 

BBQ marinades and recipes

It is so hot outside – the heat-wave is well and truly here!  Right now I think it is about 41C outside, subsequently, having a BBQ for lunch was really the only option.   All the family are here this week, which means big quantities of food are needed.  Having raided the deep-freeze last night for various types of meat, this morning all I had to do was make some marinades.  Deciding what marinade for the chicken would be was a no-brainer – honey and mustard is a classic marinade we have used on chicken legs for years, because the honey caramelises so nicely on a BBQ.  The more important question was what to marinade the spare ribs in?  I woke up this morning thinking some sort of Chinese plum sauce might be nice, but unfortunately we didn’t have any already made up, so I decided to try and make it.  The result was a sticky plum sauce that worked really nicely.   To balance out the vast quantity of meat I decided that vegetable skewers might not be a bad idea.  Aside from the plum sauce that took about an hour to make (but now that’s done I have 7 big jars of the stuff ready for use later in the year) the rest of the preparation for the BBQ took no time at all.

I am pleased to say that there was hardly any scraps left over from the BBQ other than a few bits of salad, so all in all a job well done by all members of the family.

ImageChinese Plum Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3kg of plums – stoned and halved (I used Prune d’Agen)
  • 4 garlic cloves – crushed
  • 900g white sugar
  • 300ml cider vinegar
  • 200ml soya sauce
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp pepper
  • 2” fresh ginger – peeled and grated
  • ½tsp cloves – crushed into a powder
  • 2 small dried chillies – chopped finely

Steps:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a large sauce pan and mix well together, place on a medium heat and bring up to the boil.
  2. Leave on a rolling boil for roughly 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit catching on the bottom of the pan.
  3. After boiling for 40 minutes – remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before blending the mixture with either a handheld blender or a liquidizer.
  4. Place back in the pan and bring back up to the boil.
  5. Leave the sauce to boil for roughly 5 minutes before placing in sterilized jars.

ImageSpare Ribs in Chinese Plum Sauce (fed 8 people very well / if a little too well)

Ingredients:

  • 2kg Spare ribs
  • 400ml Chinese plum sauce

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 160C fan.
  2. Place ribs on an oven tray and pour over half the plum sauce, making sure that each rib has got the sauce on each side.
  3. Cover with tin-foil and place in the oven for 40 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and set to one side until your BBQ is hot.
  5. Once your BBQ is ready, place the ribs meat side down and place some of the remaining sauce on the back of the ribs, let the ribs cook for about 3-4 minutes or until nicely caramelised, then turn over and do the same again.
  6. Just before you are ready to serve turn the ribs one last time and cook for just a minute.

Image

Chicken in Honey and Mustard

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 Chicken legs
  • 3tbsp runny honey
  • 3tbsp whole grain mustard

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C.
  2. Mix together the honey and mustard in a bowl.
  3. Place the chicken on an oven proof dish and pour over the mixture, making sure that all of the legs are coated.
  4. Cover with tin foil and place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
  5. Remove the tin foil and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked or the juices run clear.
  6. Once your BBQ is hot place the chicken legs on the BBQ for 4-5 minutes on both sides to give it that nice BBQ flavour.

ImageVegetable Skewers

Ingredients:

  • 1 Aubergine
  • 1 ½ Red Peppers
  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 4 Courgettes
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1 tsp dried coriander leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning

Steps:

  1. Cut all the vegetables into bit sized chunks and place in a large dish.
  2. Squeeze over the juice of the lemon, scatter over the coriander leaves and garlic and finally pour over the olive oil.  Mix everything together well and then make up your skewers ordering the vegetables as you please.
  3. Once your BBQ is hot place on your skewers, turning them regularly so that they don’t burn and cook for roughly 15 minutes.

Roasted summer vegetables layered with mozzarella and a rich tomato sauce

The problem with vegetarians is… you often tend to panic and think that you have no idea what you can feed them.  Over the years we have had a number of friends who are vegetarians come to stay and there has always be a slight concern at the time about what we were going to feed them.

However, I think it is true for most people that when they think of what they can feed a vegetarian they for some reason automatically think quiche.  This can present potential problem for those of you who follow a traditional short-crust pastry recipe which includes lard…  Yes it has happened in our household – but, breathe a sigh of relief the mistake was caught in time (funnily enough by vegan who was also staying with us) and the error of our ways were corrected.  (Please note this mistake has not happened since that incident!).

Once you get past the initial panic and actually think about it, there really is so much that you can cook for a vegetarian.  Having lived with a vegetarian for a year I was introduced to a whole wealth of ideas, butternut squash and sage risotto, vegetable cous cous, vegetable curry, roasted vegetable pasta, some really interesting salads and mezze dishes, vegetable tarts as well as a whole host of things that involved cheese in some form or another.

One recipe I have been working on lately involves roasted summer vegetables with mozzarella, it has a somewhat Mediterranean feel to it as it involves a rich tomato sauce.  This recipe will certainly allow you to tick off one if not two of your necessary 5 a day fruits and vegetables.  It seems to go down quite well in our house so I thought I would share it – I hope you enjoy.

Continue reading