Monday 29 November 2010


I don't know what has got into Lily and Milly.  

They seem to be taking it in turns to be Little Madams, and are refusing to go in the run in the evening.   I've tried persuading them, coercing them, chasing them...  I've also tried leaving them out until it starts to get dark.

DH took charge this evening, after I'd spent 10 minutes (in the freezing cold) trying to convince Lily that she wanted to go in,   left her for 15 minutes, then chased her round and round the hen house.    He would show me How It Was Done.

Eventually, when I managed to stop chuckling,  I went out to help him.

We got her in, eventually.

These two are so skittish now they are not laying. Little Madams.

Baby Grandson

Just got back from meeting our newest Grandson, C, who was born on Wednesday evening.  

Spent the whole time asleep (him, not us),  and he is really is a pretty little baby.  Big sister, Z, very excited about him.


We eat quite a lot of mutton, especially mutton mince which is fantastically full flavoured.

I was rooking around in the freezer and unearthed a slightly-past-it's-sell-by-date half leg of mutton.    I was going to low-temperature cook it, but that takes 4 hours and meant we'd be eating very late.  Then I remembered that there was a pot-roasting recipe for cheap cuts in my Margeurite Patten pressure cooker cook book.

Sure enough, I found a recipe for "leg of mutton". 12-14 minutes per pound.   Had to get the potatoes and roasted vegetables underway first,  and then we got on with browning the joint. Few minutes later, and after a bit of deglazing the pressure cooker,  the mutton was back in the pressure cooker along with boiling stock. It took a few minutes to come to pressure. and 36 minutes after that, DH was carving a medium-well cooked joint.   Very succulent,  and delicious.

The mutton took about 45 minutes to cook from start to finish.  Definitely be using that method again.

We'll use the remainder to make something like mutton curry for dinner this evening.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Sausagey success

Mmm, yesterday's sausages are probably the best we've made so far. Want to make a note so we know what we did right for next time!

Used the proportions recommended on the Weschenfelder mix packet:

65% Pork (of which 35% was belly and 65% was shoulder. This is less belly than we have used previously)
12.5% Rusk (we nornally use breadcrumbs)
2.5% Weschenfelder's cumberland mix 
20% Water

Pork was thoroughly chilled before initial mincing, then put back in the fridge until we were ready to mince it again.

Friday 26 November 2010

Sugarcraft Poinsettias

Made these yesterday. I don't have much patience for these things, so I ended up making two smallish ones rather than one big one. Am planning on using one of them on a Christmas cake, and keeping the other one to inspire me to have a go again next year. Just need to find some suitable ribbons/adornments to finish them off.

First steps in Salami

We're making Salami today. Our first attempt.

We're using a Weschenfelder salami pack for the curing and seasoning,  as it's our first time. Once we know what we're doing, we'll be able to experiment with other ingredients.

We found we had to order the hard back fat, as it wasn't a commonly requested item.  In the end, we we went to the lovely Maceys in Cookham Dean.    We had no idea how much meat we needed to make a salami, the recipes supplied give proportions rather than absolutes.  In the end, we ordered a whole load of stuff so that we could make sausages as well.  For the salami, we used 2kg shoulder,  1kg hard back fat, and 1.5Kg of lean beef.  We'll find out later whether that was enough, too little, or too much. 

These are the instructions we're following for the making up of the salami:
Step 1: the culture was made up with lukewarm water, at the rate of 0.6g per kilo of meat.   This was allowed to settle for 20-30 minutes.
Step 2: The meat was cut up and put in the fridge to chill. The hard back fat was cut up and put into the freezer (makes it easier to mince when chilled). Seasoning was weighed out, at the rate of 15g per kilo of meat.
Step 3: soak the casings  (ewww!)

Step 4: The meat was seasoned, and then minced using a coarse blade
Step 5: The fat, culture, and pickling salt (28g per kilo) was added; everything well mixed.....

...and then minced through a finer blade (about 3mm).

Step 6: Whilst DH was busy with steps 4 and 5, I dismantled our enormous sausage stuffer and sterliised it (with Milton).

Step 7: stuff the mixture into the casings
We had a minor problem here as our largest horn didn't fit the machine.  We went to the next horn down though, and that still produced excellent results.

To our surprise, we used up all 3m of casing, and still had a small amount of meat left. Because it had culture and cure added, we couldn't do anything much with we used some normal collagen sausage casings.  No idea what it will turn out like, but we'll see.

We then hung the salamis over our kitchen counter, with a tray underneath to catch the drips.    They have to stay like this for 24-36 hours so the fermenting can kick start, then we'll move them.

We ran out of butchers twine and resorted to sterilised string.  Several of the sausages fell off its hook onto the tray and had to be re-tied.  Next time we need to remember to leave more casing at the ends to allow a better tie.

Washed up everything, and then started again making normal sausages this time!

Tuesday 23 November 2010

French Bread verdict

Really good.

It had a very crispy (yet delicate) crust; the texture was very open and light.  Obviously it wasn't french stick shaped, but the taste was very good.

This morning we had the leftovers for toast.  It was like eating "french toast" that you can buy.   Very crispy, and I could imagine using it as a good canape base. It would also make excellent french toast to serve with pate.

So this one gets a "make again" mark in the book.

Monday 22 November 2010

Today's breadmaker loaf - "French"

As I was noting down the results of my Focaccia in the breadmaker handbook, I saw a recipe for French bread.  

As with the Focaccia,  I don't see how this can be what it purports to be.
I've made proper french loaves by hand, using french bread flour (from the fabulous Shiptons Mill), and proper french bread wire racky things.  Delicious, but took a while to make and went stale quickly. I found that if I wanted them for lunch, I had to get up very early to make them.

Still, I'm in an experimenting mood, so I think I'll try it. I need to time it right though, and fortunately "French" programme allows me to set the timer.  It takes 6 hours (yes, 6 hours) to make, and I need to make sure one of us will be in when the machine goes beep.

Even if it isn't authentic, the description sounds pleasant enough. It promises "..a crispier crust and open texture".



Well, it was a tasty, tomatoey, loaf of bread. Well risen, soft textured. But it wasn't,  in any way , focaccia.

I'd make it again though, just calling it "tomato bread".

Sunday 21 November 2010

Breadmaker Focaccia

At last, work is quietening down and I have time to get back to playing with my food.

I usually make Focaccia by hand (well, I cheat and get the food mixer to do the kneading) and it doesn't take long.  I was looking for Spelt recipes in the breadmaker book the other day, and saw a recipe for Focaccia.  I can't see that it will really be foccacia (no dimples soaked with olive oil), but I thought I'd give it a whirl.

So, it's in the machine now. I'll let you know how it goes.

And later in the week we'll be making our own salami. More on that later.

Friday 19 November 2010


So cold, started giving the Garden Girls some late afternoon porridge.  Big Girls wolf it down,  the Youngsters were a little unsure at first.  Even so, 8 bowls go out, and they are all completely clean each time.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Heart stopping moment

DH and I went food shopping today, which is a very rare occurrence.  We usually have Ocado deliver,  and if we need anything in between, one of us pops to the supermarket.  It's been a loooooooong time since we pushed a trolley round together.

Of course, this meant we had to put the Girls away before we went.    No problem there.   We weren't gone long, less than an hour.  Got back, unloaded the shopping into the kitchen, and straught out into the garden to let the girls out.    There was a very still body inside the run.

7 of the girls were chickening about, doing normal chickeny things.  Tilda's body was lying by the door, head down between the dust bath and the edge of the run.  I wrenched open the run door and most of the  Girls ran out, treading on poor Tilda as they went past.

I shouted for DH as I looked down at my poor little girl.  As he came running out, I knelt down and stroked her.... and she quivered.  I picked her up, and she was fine.  I stroked her, and stroked her, and looked over her for signs of injury.    I wondered if she was being bullied, and put her head between the dustbath and side to try and protect herself.

I put her down, and she hopped into the dustbath and began to dustbathe.  I wanted to cry with relief.

We still don't know what happened. Maybe it was that.  Maybe she put her head down to try and nibble something, and just couldn't back out again.

We'll have to put a camera in the run, to see if we can find out what's going on.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Nostalgia (isn't what it used to be)

Clutterbusting in the loft has been going well.

The first couple of boxes we reviewed together contained mainly books. 95% have been put into bags for the charity shop,   and I've added some books from the bookshelves.  Our local charity shop will shortly receive every book written by Dick Francis, Tom Sharpe, and Maureen Lipman, plus may others.  It's very rare for us to dispose of books, so I need to get the bags out of the house before we change our minds.

I did keep all my Enid Blyton "Find Outers" series. They were in terrible condition having been read numerous times since I was 7.

And we unearthed videos, also now in the Chartity bag, plus some video cassette footage from a video camera we owned in 1992.   DH unearther the video player, hooked it up to my laptop, and we're transferring the films to DVD.

What a nostalgia fest!

Home made....

We make a lot of things ourselves. Our successes include:
Butter (we rarely use shop-bought butter or spread now);  Jam; Marmalade; Lemon Curd;  Vodka (using our own fruit);  Cider (from our own apples);  Beer (from premium kits).

DH has also tried home made wine using our own produce.  But these always taste like home made wine.  And I don't mean that in a good way.

This evening, a glass of something purple was put under my nose.  "Try this".  I took the glass, swirled the contents, and sniffed it.    "It's home made wine, isn't it" I asked,  my heart sinking

I don't know what it is about home made wine.  I guess if you have nothing else, it's a good thing.    And it's probably OK for what it is.  But it's not the sort of thing I want to savour with my dinner.

I tried the wine.

It was actually very good.  Not as wine, per se,  but more as a substitute fortified wine.   An aperitif, or a digestif.   I love Madeira, and this was good.

I expressed my delight and my surprise to DH, who was somewhat taken aback at the fact that I had actually found a home made wine to be drinkable. 

He nearly fell of his chair when I got up a bit later and helped myself to a pre-dinner aperitif.

This was made with Damsons.  We'll be making it again!

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Room to move

I've been working a lot lately, and DH hasn't, so he's been busying himself.  If the weather were better, he'd been busying himself finishing the paving (almost done now, but we've put the cement mixer away for the winter).      He's turned his attentions to the attic.

Some time ago, the loft was bursting at the seams, not least with numerous bargain rolls of insulation.   I popped up there, did a minor bit of clutterbusting, and managed to clear some of the floor area in a relatively short space of time.  DH and I agreed we'd do some more when the weather meant playing outside wasn't possible.

A couple of weeks ago, DH started doing a bit of clearing.   It went well.  He didd some more.   Then we decided we needed more shelves up there (our clutter is well organised), so a trip to Ikea was needed.   DH went to Ikea on his own.   That is a statement of such magnitude, I think I need to say it again.  DH went to Ikea on his own.

I have a love-hate relationship with Ikea. Some of there stuff is just old tat, some of it is very practical.  Some of it, like the shelving,  is exceptionally good value and we'd be hard pressed to buy the wood for the price of the shelves.   Our loft, utility room and sheds are all kitted out with the same shelving.     I hate going to Ikea. It's a horrible journey,  I hate being in Ikea. The queues, the out-of-stock in spite of checking the stock checker before leaving home....  usually  I go onb my own, as a joint trip inevitably ends in a row. Or a Silence.

I can pack a humungous amount into my little hatchback,   I once stopped at Ikea in Edmonton on the way back from visiting DD,  and got enough Billy bookcases, with extra shelves and glass doors for each bookcase, to line the sides of two rooms. 

I digress.

DH went on his own to Ikea.  He bought the extra shelving, came back, and fitted them.  Insulation has been put down.  Many trips to the tip, including the sad goodbye to some rather large tiled-offee-table speakers that DH made some 35 years ago.

It's my turn today to go and sort through boxes and be ruthless.

Sunday 14 November 2010

A lovely moment

I'm sitting at my laptop, working.  

Well, actually, I am uploading some completed work to a Client's website, and I can't do much until it's finished.    I was staring out of the kitchen windows (we have French windows right where I sit to work), looking at the chooks.

Lily came trotting out of the covered run, and I marvelled (not for the first time) about how Persil-white she is today. Her new feathers are coming through, and she's looking stunning (until one notices the missing tail feathers).   She stopped by the door to nibble some grass.

And then I realised.

She and Florence were nibbling grass, beak to beak.

And there was no pecking or chasing.

Things are settling down. What a lovely moment.

Saturday 13 November 2010

This is what happens when you don't pay attention

I went to the Allotment with DH today, first time in weeks as I've been working every day and unable to go.  In the time I've been away, a lot has happened.!

The permanent coops have been turned round 90 degrees, and shelters built for the fantastic Grandpa's Feeders (definitely worth the money, I've had the cheap ones and they just aren't as good).  The Laydees have a second bank of nestboxes, so each Laydy can now have her own personal box.

The Laydees are moulting.  They've been moulting for a while, and DH has been supplementing their food with a sachet of Felix (not chicken, obviously) every 2 days.    They are looking bright and alert, but very scruffy.     They didn't recognise me, and even Norman ran away.   She's such a lovely chook.

The four remaining dinner chickens are looking fantastic.  We thought Roo was  a big boy,   but he is dwarfed by his strapping sons.     

The Breeding Flock are now starting to moult, and are looking very much the worse for wear.   Rose has a bald neck and a bald bum, and lots of missing feathers, she looks like an oven-ready bird;  Ruby has bare shoulders and looks a bit of a mess;  Mrs looks very straggly, and needed her knickers cleaning.

Picked them up in turn to look them over.  They are still wearing their saddles, and we can see some wear on Rose's saddle. in particular.  She is Roo's favourite girl, and seeing the wear made us decide to keep the saddles on for the time being.  I have one spare saddle, so we'll replace Rose's  worn one next time DH visits them. 

As we're going to be keeping them saddled for the forseeable future,   I've ordered 3 new ones so that, as the weather worsens and the saddles need cleaning, we can swap them over and keep them protected.

Close inspection showed that the girls are looking fine, underneath the scruffy exteriors,  and I applied louse powder under the saddles.  There wasn't any sign of lice, but I know the Girls find it hard to groom themselves with saddles on,  so I thought it wouldn't hurt.  These Girls used to look huge, but compared to Florence (our Australorp), they see normal sized.

It was good to see everyone, I do miss them when I don't see them.   It'll be good to add Roobarb and Custard to the flock in the Spring, especially as I guess Roo's eventual replacement will be one of Custard's offspring.  That is assuming we want a Sasso cockerel, not a Sasso/Welsh Black cross cockerel... Fortunately it's a bit early to be thinking about that.   Isn't it?

Sunday 7 November 2010

Sometimes they are really horrible creatures

Daisy (Amber Star, recovering from pneumonia) is much better now.   Lily (White Star) and Milly (Cream Legbar) are moulting and look awful.  

Florence (Australorp, not yet laying) follows me around, crouching whenever I turn to her;  Roobarb (Welsh Black, not yet laying) continues to run around, and has taken to flying up on to the walk in trun, and then across to the top bars of the fruit cage;  Custard (Sasso, recently started laying) is in currently "in" with both the Oldies and the Newbies.

The problem is 'Tilda. Or rather, how  horrible the others are being to her.

Tilda is a Sasso, half sister to Custard,  and is a really lovely girl.  She's bottom of the pecking order, which isn't very nice, but I do understand that someone has to be bottom.   The behaviour which I am finding upsetting, is just how horrible the others are being to her.   Even her hatch-mates now chase her away when they are free ranging outside. When they are in the Run, she tends to sit on one of the perches - I've put food and drink  at perch level so that she can always eat and drink in peace.

When I scatter corn, she comes to join the others to eat it but most of the time (that I see) she is always separate to the others.
I know that Florence was also chased away, until she reached point of lay (where she started crouching), so there is part of me which is hoping that things will settle down when Tilda reaches that point as well.

In the meantime, it's really distressing me to see Tilda so picked on.  I am thankful that she isn't being physically pecked; I do know that someone has to be bottom and that whoever it was I would probably feel the same.  But the reason I am particularly upset is because Tilda is physically misshapen, and I am concerned that this is contributing to her ostracisation.  She's such a lovely girl.