recipe

Dec 012012
 

Alternative Christmas Trifle Recipe

Where I grew up the Christmas menu was (and probably still is):

  • Prawn Cocktail
  • Turkey and Trimmings
  • Trifle

The trifle was always ‘home made’ from a selection of ingredients including; a tin of peaches, jelly, UHT spray foam, and the obligatory silver balls!  I was never a fan of this trifle but I’m all grown up now and found a version that suits my taste.  Why not try it yourself and see what you think.

*Health warning – you will have to clean out the hen shed to burn up all the calories this contains*

Cranberry and Chocolate Trifle

This is a pleasure to look at as well as eat so make sure you make it in a deep glass bowl, to show of the layers of brown, white and ruby red.

Prepare everything 48 hours in advance to allow the sugary chocolate to become gooey and sticky and begin to soak into the layers of creamy cranberry.

  • 250g grated dark chocolate (55-70% cocoa)
  • 250g fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 200g unrefined demerara sugar
  • 2tbsp sieved cocoa
  • 1tbsp coffee granules
  • 600ml fresh double cream 
  • 300ml fresh single cream
  • 200ml crème fraiche
  • 250g jar of luxury cranberry sauce
  • a handful of dried cranberries

In a bowl combine 200g of the grated chocolate with the breadcrumbs, sugar, cocoa and coffee.  Stir well.  Whisk together the double and single cream until thick, but not stiff, then fold in the crème fraiche.

In a large glass bowl, place a third of the chocolate breadcrumbs in a level layer.  Top with a third of the cream and smooth it over.  Carefully add half of the jar of cranberry sauce, ensuring it is evenly distributed over the cream.  Continue to layer in the same manner: chocolate breadcrumbs, cream, then cranberry sauce, finishing with a layer of cream.  Cover and put in fridge for 48 hours.

Take out of fridge and sprinkle with silver balls (only kidding) grated chocolate and dried cranberries over the top.  Serve in small portions as this trifle is extremely rich.

 

Enjoy  :0)

 

 

 December 1, 2012  post archive, recipe Tagged with: , , , ,
Oct 312012
 
010adecember2011 034

Blackthorn Sloe Berry 

Last year at Fifesmallholder we harvested our very own sloes for making into that wonderful winter liqueur Sloe Gin.  Many people do not associate sloes with the blackthorn shrub, but this is the name of the seed that it produces.  Like some root vegetables that improve after a frost (makes them sweeter) advice is that you are best to collect sloes after a frost. The skins become soft and bletted (half rotten) and become more permeable.  Sloe Gin made at this time will be ready just in time for Christmas.  

However if you have no blackthorns on your property you are unlikely to find any left by then.  Many people will pick the sloes early winter when they are plump (not wizened) and then put them in the freezer.

What is a sloe?

Also known as blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), the sloe is the ancestor of all our cultivated plums, yet the wild sloe is the tartest, most acid berry you will ever taste.  This deciduous shrub flowers from March to May and bears fruit in September and October.  The flowering of the blackthorn is often accompanied by a cold spell, and this is known as ‘blackthorn winter’.

For all its eye-watering acidity, the sloe is a very useful fruit: it makes a clear jelly, wine, sloe & apple cheese, and sloe gin.

Not sure how to tell the difference between a Hawthorn and a Blackthorn?  

The blackthorn will produce small white flowers before the leaves in March and April.  Hawthorn will produce flowers after leaves.  Hawthorn berries are small and red, blackthorn berries or sloes are bigger and purple/black in colour.

How to make sloe gin

Pick about 500g (1lb) of the berries. Pierce the skin of each berry  with a fort to help the gin and juices to mingle more easily.  Mix the sloes with half their weight of sugar, then half-fill bottles with this mixture.  Pour gin (alternatively brandy or aquavit) in to the bottles until they are nearly full, and seal tightly.  Store for at least 2 months, and shake occasionally to help dissolve and disperse the sugar.  Strain the liquor through fine muslin or filter paper until quite clear. The result is a brilliant, deep pink liqueur, sour-sweet and refreshing.  Bottle, and store for use.

 

 October 31, 2012  garden, post archive, recipe, tree, winter Tagged with: , , ,
Jul 262012
 
cassis

Things to make with seasonal excess produce 

Its summer here on the smallholding, and this is a time of plenty.  Fruit and vegetables are ripening and the chickens are at peak egg laying capacity.  Unfortunately this is when many of our farm gate customers are on holiday and we don’t like to waste anything, so when we have too much we have a range of  things we do to use up the excess or preserve for later.  Here are some of our favourite seasonal recipes:

Egg Mayonnaise

free range egg

Ingredients:

  • 2 free range egg yolks 
  • 1 whole free range egg
  • 2.5ml./half teaspoon of dijon mustard
  • 2.5ml./half teaspoon of salt
  • 1.25ml./quarter teaspoon pepper
  • 300ml./10 fl. oz. light oil (I prefer a vegetable and olive oil blend)
  • 15ml./1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 15ml./1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove crushed

If possible have all the ingredients at room temperature, as eggs taken straight from the fridge tend to curdle.  I use a blender to make my mayo, and start by cracking the whole egg into the blender.  Add the egg yolks, mustard, salt and pepper and beat on a low setting until they become creamy in colour.  Gradually beat in half the oil, drop by drop, until the sauce is thick and shiny.  Beat in the lemon juice, then the remaining oil, then the vinegar.  If you want to thin the mayo, add some more lemon juice, a little single cream or 15-30 ml./1-2 tablespoons of hot water.

Thick mayo may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for about two weeks.

Tip: if the mayo does curdle, beat another egg yolk in a clean bowl and beat in the curdled mixture a teaspoon at a time.

Makes about 350 ml./12 fl. oz.

Goes well with some (freshly dug) cold potato salad. 

Here’s a link to a blog about 30 things you can do with egg shells. 

Blackcurrants

fruit jam

You can’t beat Blackcurrant jam on your porridge. Here is a link to a recipe.

A French WWoofer recently made us a Tarte Au Cassis which was delicious.  Here is a link to the recipe.
blackcurrant tart

You also can’t beat blackcurrant vodka for a sore throat.  Click here for a link to an alcoholic recipe, or here for a non alcoholic recipe.

Courgettes

Try this courgette lemon cake recipe.

 

Sloes

What to do with the left over sloes from sloe gin. 

 

Elderberry 

Recipe for cordial syrup.

 

Bramble or Blackberry 

Blackberry

Make bramble or blackberry oxymel to keep colds at bay in the Winter. Put 200g of blackberries in a jar covered with cider vinegar for 10 days.  Shake occasionally. Strain through muslin. Pour into sterilised bottle and store in the fridge. Put 2 tsps into boiling water. Add honey to taste.

Runner Beans

Here’s a link to making chutney with runner beans.

Onions

It’s harvest time – If you’ve got loads of onions, chop them up and freeze them in a container. They last for months.

Beeswax

I like me you were lucky enough to take some honey from your bees before autumn, then you will probably have some beeswax cappings left over from your frame of honey.  This can be used to make a range of things from furniture polish to hand lotion.  Click here for a link on how to make hand lotion, you can get your ingredients here (including wax balls if you are not a beekeeeper) to make the lotion. Put up into suitable containers and store in a fridge. Shelf life is about one month.  Here is another link which claims to last for up to 6 months.

“One benefit of using natural emollients over synthetic chemical emollients is that the industrial processes used to create synthetic emollients often destroy beneficial elements of the base material, and may require the addition of carcinogenic catalysts.”

Quote source

Jan 152012
 
timber damage after storm at fife smallholder

The relationship between Beech, Bats, Woodpeckers, Owls, and Pigs on our smallholding

‘Piglet has his own house, a “very grand house in the middle of a beech tree,” which he gave to Owl when his house was blown down on a very blustery day’ .
Winnie the poo
large beech trees in winter
We have some large Beech sentinels in our wood that are estimated to be 190 years old, and one of them suffered damage in the recent high winds that hit Central Scotland.  The limbs on these trees are very large and although unfortunate it does offer opportunities from the adversity.
fallen tree trunk from beech tree

Firewood

Beech wood is an excellent firewood, easily split and burns for many hours with bright but calm flames.

Woodlander

Beech wood burns well and can be used to smoke herrings and cheese. Chips of beech wood are also used in the brewing and making of some beers. 

Wildlife

Although a fallen limb or tree is good for firewood, it is also a part of the natural process within a wood and many species depend on this happening to maintain the balance and ecosystem that exists within a woodland.  The larger the concentration of old trees in an area and the longer they have been present on site the richer the variety of species you will find among them.
Many species live here all year round. Some are visitors and some live here permanently. Some come for the spring (Great spotted woodpecker), summer (Insects: Hoverflies, Birds: Green woodpecker), autumn (Fungi), and others for the winter months (such as Brambling birds ). Because of the variety of habitats available. A range of birds use the broad leaved woodland, evergreen conifer, open rough grassland and low bog areas.
nest in beech tree

Beech mast and Beech leaves

Beech mast is also a favourite food of many woodland animals such as badgers, deer, mice and squirrels and birds. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars.

The laughing woodpecker

The Green Woodpecker is the largest of the woodpeckers and has been known to visit our woods and its collection of fallen and rotten timber. It has a heavy-looking body, short tail and a strong, long bill. It is greeny-grey on its upperparts with a bright green rump and red on the top of its head. They have an undulating flight, and will climb up tree trunks and branches and will move around to be on the side away from anyone watching. It has a very distinctive call in that it sounds like it is laughing.
rotten wood and timber

Relationship between bats and woodpeckers

Tree are vitally important for our bats. The majority of British bat species have been recorded roosting in trees and some, such as the Noctule, rely almost exclusively on them. Noctules are often found in Woodpecker holes appearing to prefer them over natural cavities. Some researchers have suggested that Noctules may be dependant on woodpeckers to provide suitable roosting opportunities. Read more about bats.
potential bat roost in old woodpecker hole in tree
The picture shows an old woodpecker hole which could be used by Noctules for roosting. The hole is formed in a soft section of the stem of a tree. The stem has been infected by a decay fungi which has caused the wood to become soft enough to allow the woodpecker to create the hole. This potential roost has been created by a complex ecological relationship between Beech tree (Fagus sylvatica), Tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius) and woodpecker, possibly the Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).  It isn’t just roosting opportunities that make beech trees useful for bats. The trees attract insects and therefore provide valuable foraging habitats.

Bats and Beech

Bats roost in trees, in obvious cavities, cracks and splits, but also in less obvious places such as under ivy and under loose bark.  The damaged parts of a tree are the most likely places to find roosting bats.  Any tree can be used for roosting as long as shelter is provided,  but old oak, beech, ash and Scots pine are most frequently used. Bat roost sites can be at any height, although the upper trunk and branches are favoured. Entrance holes may be narrow slits on the underside of a branch that can be easily overlooked, as well as more obvious old woodpecker holes in the main trunk.

Owls and Beech

One of the best trees to attract owls is the beech tree. That’s not because owls eat the beech mast, or beechnuts, but because the mice eat them. In this way, the carnivorous owls get nice, fat, juicy mice to eat to keep them in the area.
beech nut casings
“As long as owl’s habitat is left alone by man and in such a state as to produce a great number of rodents, there will be no loss of owls in a region. One of the things that those people managing woodlands can do is not to clear out all of the undercover where mice live. Tawny owls will particularly benefit from this practice. Wood left on the ground and a pile left to rot will draw all kinds of insects which also feeds owls.”
decaying wood attracts insects that are predated by owls

Livestock

Pigs and Beech

Livestock were once released into beech woodlands to feast on the beech’s oil-rich bounty. The nuts were also important as a source of food, particularly for pigs. They are energy rich and could be used to fatten pigs up for market. The period when the nuts ripened and fell was perfectly timed to fatten swine for late autumn butchering. A farmer with access to oak or beech mast could thus convert calories present in nuts into calories in pork with little or no additional effort and at no additional cost in fodder. Indeed, by using mast rights a farmer was able to make use of a resource that would otherwise be unharvested or very inefficiently harvested.

Pheasants, Poultry, Turkeys and Beech

Beech mast has also been used to feed pheasants, poultry, and turkeys.  Beech nuts should never be fed to horses.
fifesmallholder beech trees in autumn

Smallholder

It is commonly accepted that the foods used to feed and to finish meat livestock affect the final flavour of the product. Pigs  fed on oak mast, chestnut mast or beech mast has a reputation for producing exceptional finished meat. As a result, with the new interest in artisanal and high quality foods as well as humane stock handling, there is a resurgence of mast-fed pork.
While beechnuts are nutritious for humans, eating too many can cause headaches or giddiness, as vast amounts of potash are contained within the tree.

Beech Tree facts

  • Beech trees are shallow rooted, and mature trees are at risk of being uprooted in high winds.
  • These trees grow slowly, eventually reaching a height of up to 120 feet, with branches spanning 50 feet.
  • The nuts are encased in a spiny bur and are favored by birds and other wildlife. Beech has a full crop of nuts every 5 years but does not really start producing a good crop until it is at least 50 years old.
  • The timber is practically pure white and is used to make furniture and toys.
  • The tree is best known for its many and low branches that create a deep shade.
  • Beech leaves take a long time to decay, so few nutrients are released to nourish ground plants. Consequently, there is little undergrowth in a beech wood, unless trees have been deliberately thinned out (coppiced).

Folklore

names on a tree trunk

Magically, beech is specifically useful for making wishes. To do this write a or scratch your wish on a piece of beech wood then bury it in an appropriate spot.  As your written wish is claimed by the earth so will it begin to manifest in life.  Beech is also popular with lovers, as witnessed by the many hearts arrows and names carved upon the smooth trunks of beech trees.
beech leaves in fifesmallholder wood

Recipe

Beech leaf Noyau

1 bottle vodka
225g (8oz) caster sugar
1 glass of brandy
Collect young, fresh beech leaves and strip them from the twigs.  Half fill an emptly bottle or jar with the leaves  and then pour on the bottle of vodka.  Seal up the container and keep leaves in it for 3 weeks, before straining them off.  Boil the sugar in half pint of water and add this to the vodka with a good sized glass of brandy.  You should end up with 2 almost  full bottles of noyau for the price of one bottle of vodka.

Links

Dec 222011
 

Free Range Scotch Egg Recipe – What to do with stale bread

You can’t beat some free range eggs from Fifesmallholder, even in winter the yolk is still a strong yellow colour.  A reflection of the feed they are fed and  what they eat whilst wandering about our pasture or woodland.  Here is a good recipe for eggs that are not as fresh as they might be (fresh eggs sold direct from a smallholder will not peel as well because they may only be a couple of days old – you need to give them a couple of weeks so that the shell peels away more easily).

* please try to buy locally or support Scottish producers*

makes 4 scotch eggs

Ingredients:

  • 5 free range eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 400g (14oz) free range pork sausages
  • 30g (1& 1/4 oz) flour
  • 4 tbs milk
  • 80g (3oz) fine breadcrumbs from a stale loaf
  • olive oil or sunflower oil for frying

Method:

1. Fill a saucepan with water and place over a medium heat.  When it is simmering steadily, add four eggs.  Cook for 7 minutes then drain and place in a bowl of iced water for 5 minutes.  Cool completely and peel.  Set aside.

2. Open up your sausages to access the sausage meat, discard the skins.  Season the meat well and divide into four. Using wet hands,  flatten each piece, then shape into a cup big enough to hold an egg.  Place an egg into each cup and then pinch the meat around the egg to seal it inside.  Set aside.

3. Line a plate with non-stick baking paper and set aside.

4. Prepare the coating for the eggs by placing the flour on a flat dish then seasoning.  In a wide,  shallow bowl,  beat the remaining egg with the milk.  Spread the breadcrumbs on a plate.

5. Take a meat wrapped egg and roll it in the seasoned flour to coat, shaking off the excess.  Now dip it in the beaten egg mixture, and then roll it in the breadcrumbs.  Set aside on the non-stick baking paper and repeat with the remaining eggs.

6. Pre-heat oil in a deep-frying pan or saucepan (filled one third full with oil) to 160 deg C or 325 deg F and fry two eggs at a time for 6 minutes.  Using tongs, rotate eggs to ensure they brown evenly.  Drain on kitchen paper, and allow to cool before serving or refrigerating.  Once cool, the eggs will last for 2 days in an airtight container.

For more egg information check out my egg page.

 December 22, 2011  post archive, recipe Tagged with: , , , ,
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