Sunday, 30 December 2012

Sourdough Classes

Sourdough Classes schedule at the Northampton based Juniper and Rose Cookery School 
It's hard getting a new business off the ground and I am, as always, impatient.  I want results and it's knowing where to advertise courses that really matters.  For the time being each advert is trial and error.  Of course having a degree in Psychology of Human Communication is helpful  .. however knowing the principles of what works and what doesn't is all very well  .. but I guess I will find out as each advert goes in where the response comes from.

It's not as though I have pots of money to waste to see which ones people respond to and which people don't. Although I love social media with all my heart there but is only so many times a day you can bang your drum to the people that follow you before they get fed up of hearing which courses are available this week.

Ironically if I were not to have been working for the BBC for the past 2 years they would be able to interview me ... but perhaps in a few months time they will feel they are able to have me in.

I am wondering about the larger magazines.  Country Living is lovely  .. or Red magazine..   or are they just too expansive to advertise in? Does anyone have any experience advertising with them?

In the meantime here is the advert above for the local parish magazine. I wonder if it is too wordy?  Perhaps making it look like part of the magazine is a mistake? ... who knows .. there are almost 200 people who read it .. maybe one of them would like to learn to make sourdough?

Getting a cookery School off the ground is a whole new adventure for me and I am nervous.. and excited... and nervous  ... Happy New Year everyone!


Monday, 17 December 2012

New Blog New Direction

New Cookery School in Northamtpon

A new blog and a change in direction .. but can I say goodbye to an old friend?

I've been umming and arring about whether to day goodbye to Goddess on a Budget for months.  About five minutes ago I announced on Twitter my new adventure.  I have officially launched my site for my new cookery and gardening school in Northampton called Juniper and Rose Kitchen Garden School.

It's a beautiful site and I'm delighted with it. It has a blog and I love the way it looks. The most important thing for me is that people can see the courses and they are now able to book them and pay online.  Take a peek at it and let me know what you think?

Despite the fact that is going to be double the work I have come to the conclusion that I can't let this blog go altogether.  This is my emotional site.  This is where I pour my heart when I need to write and this site is like a old friend.  So I am not going to say goodbye after all.

I feel both relieved and excited.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Almost Christmas

Not a Black and White Photo .. this is exactly as I took it. 
Oh it's been the craziest of weeks.  I ran a sourdough course on Tuesday and loved every minute, then on Wednesday I flew out to Milan.  I can't say much more on that subject .. because it would ruin the story which will be out later in the New Year.

In the meantime it is time to say goodbye to my BBC radio Northampton Kitchen Garden Show.  It's  exactly 2 years that I have been doing this show and although I am rather sad that it is at an end, part of me is also hugely relived to have the time back, especially as I've spent more than a day a week putting it together, and with just my expenses covered it's been an amazing experience but I am sure you can imagine how thrilled I am to get a lie in on Sunday mornings in bed again!

As with most local BBC it's a lifeline for so many older people. The local paper has been cut down to just once a week, and I am very much afraid that the local BBC stations will be chopped down as they cut back on local peoples involvement  and I believe that it will be regionalised in much the same way as I have witnessed the print media over the next few years as budgets are chopped.  I loved it and it has been really fun, but now it is time to concentrate on a new project.  As one door closes another opens and I am bursting to tell everyone my news .... but I am not quite ready to say what it is yet.

So to change the subject  .. I've been pouring over Chantal Coady's Rococo book this afternoon .. so I am off to buy some chocolate to make something delicious now, and will leave you with a photograph I took on Tuesday morning this week.  It was so dark and frosty as I walked the children to school that it looks as though I took this picture in black and white... it's not, but I loved the shapes so I thought I'd share it.


Thursday, 6 December 2012

A Beautiful Revolution

I planted hydrangeas last year.  They weren’t expensive, but I don’t want to spend money on commercially grown flowers that are imported from abroad.  So these flowers are free.  The jam jar I got from my cupboard is also reusable.  So these flowers are zero carbon and zero cost and as I popped them on the mantel piece  I got thinking.  Why do I do this?  Why do I write and why do I spend my time talking on the radio talking about how to cook from scratch, and grow their own flowers?  It’s sure not for money I can tell you that!

I was wondered if I do this for affirmation? Perhaps I write as I need to be acknowledged?   But then I thought about it and remembered all the radio shows that I have done have not even had a comment or a phone call, and some blog posts I have written are just completely ignored.  Nope its not that.  It’s not for wanting to be liked either.  In fact if I am honest I’ve never been that popular, and I don’t really care that much about being liked.  Either you like me or you don’t.

The people that matter, those closest to me, they know me, and love me for who I am and that is all I need emotionally.

So my I find myself practically needing my keyboard like a drug fix this morning.  As I realised in the night why I need to write and talk.  It’s because I am really an anarchist.  Yes I know you are now laughing and wondering if I have gone slightly mad, but I am serious.

I am a middle class, middle age revolutionary and this is my way of doing that. I am in truth, terrified of what we are doing to our world.  The world my children will inherit from us, and yet wherever I look so many things are simply wrong.  I can’t fix the world. I realised that years ago and it took all my strength not to decide to leave all together.  When I made the decision to stay I decided that I would make a difference, and although this blog is about food and life it is also about choices.  I chose to be here.

Yes it is full of pretty pictures and recipes, but the messages are carried across are real.  They are true.  Stick you fingers up at the system.  Grow your own vegetables, plant your own fruit trees, have posts of herbs growing at your back door, keep your own chickens, buy your food from your local butcher, fishmonger and grocer, cut flowers from your garden an recycle your belongings and make home made gifts.

Ok so appreciate that I am not tying myself to a tree on a construction site or leading a group of revolutionary housewives to Downing street.  This is my way.  To talk and write in a way that changes the way people live.  A real revolution in thinking starts with you.  My reader.  These small changes in every day life will make the difference in the end.  No one person can change the world, but collectively we can.

So although it may be full of vintage pretty pictures and a  cakes, but this is the way I choose, because it is the way I know and it really doesn’t have to be uncomfortable to make a statement. In fact my kind of anarchy is quieter, perhaps more subtle  .. but it still that.  It is still my way of giving the finger to the constant aggressive insidious pressure of commercialism that is ruining our world.  I just happen to enjoy it as part of my every day life, and that is why I write because I believe that I can make a difference. 

Lets do things differently.  We’ll call it a beautiful revolution

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

My Christmas Recycled Rag Dolls

The perfect Christmas gift .. a rage doll made from old clothes. 

It’s that time of year.  The time of year when the evenings are dark and for some unknown reason it seems to speed time up. Christmas is galloping faster and faster towards me and I’m not ready. I’ve so much to do that I am almost paralyzed.

This morning rather than get on with the work I have to do I stayed in my nightdress and cleaned.  I cleaned the floors and the oven and the walls and the tiles.  Of course I really need gloves because now I’ve ruined my manicure. It was the first manicure that I have had time for in months.  I was slightly ashamed of my tragically neglected nails and found myself apologising to the beautician for my lack of upkeep.

Between planting my tulips from Thompson and Morgan, cleaning out the chickens, bringing in the wood from the fire I am hardly one for princess nails anymore!  Still the one thing that I have actually got organised is the rag dolls for christmas.  They make the perfect gift in my book, especially because it recycles old clothes and uses up bits of vintage lace. The one pictured above is made with the dress material from an old 50’s dress from a friend who used to wear it and an old shirt of mine.  She’s so pretty on the sideboard I almost don’t want to give her away. 

Friday, 30 November 2012

Join in the Virtual Version of #letsmakechristmas

Home made chocolate cookies make a superb christmas treat with a pinch of cinnamon added. 

I had an idea.  I have just a few minutes to get it up on here, so I’ll be brief because I’m heading out of the door to the lets Make Christmas gift swap at the Rococo Chocolate factory .. but you know what always happens before an event ..  cancellations.  Life is never straight forward, and I’ve had so many emails this morning from people who wanted to take part,  and just can’t so I thought we could do a virtual Lets Make Christmas that everyone can take part in. 

I suppose I organise this because I think how ironic that Christmas has become so commercial. It’s odd how much pressure we all put ourselves under to tell someone we think that they are special by buying unwanted, needless and Christmas gifts for the sake of it and more often than not spending money we can’t really afford in the first place!

So I say not this year. Lets make it something really special and Lets Make Christmas instead.  here are some idea's from the 2011 Lets Make Christmas event. 

Bloggers are naturally creative people who more often than not do things their way, so if you have a Christmas gift idea you’d love to share please join and I’ll do round up in 2 weeks .. or so.. so please email your entries in to me and pop the 2012 badge up on your site, and the top three favourite entires made of Chocolate will win a prize from Rococo Chocolates. 

Must dash or I will miss my train!

The Rules
You must share your recipe and blog about your gift using the Let's make Christmas Logo in the blog post. 
You may enter up to 3 recipes
Prizes will be sent directly to the winners.  If you win you will need to your your address  to
All decisions by the judge are final  and there are no cash or product alternatives. 
All gifts must be hand made, and credit the recipe to the author if appropriate and ask permission to recreate a recipe if it by another author. 
Please tweet back to the round up so everyone can share their recipes. 

Added on 1st December the video I took .....

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

My last week week of being a thirty something.

The candied fruit is from Bakery Bits and smells divine. 

I was making panttone last week and thinking back to my major decisions in life as I was kneading the dough. I think the smell of the candied fruit must have set off my memories and I was eighteen again. 

Everyone wants me to go to university but I have other plans.  I want to be a chef.  My Italian mother was a chef at Keele University and I love food. I've been cooking since I can remember and spending almost every morning of my holidays helping out in a bakery in the South of France. I know with every bone in my body I want to work with food.  I train as a chef then work as a chef.  I spend a year in France working in another bakery.

When I return home I am eating toast smothered in butter and my mothers home made marmalade reading the paper and drinking coffee.  I am twenty and I spot in the paper a degree in Psychology of Human Communication and Marketing. I am a chef and we are all experts in psychology so I phone up and before I know it I have signed up on the course.  My mother is delighted.  You’ll never finish it she says.. hoping to needle my determination.

I chef to keep the pennies rolling in during my course. When I finish my degree I want to do something with it.  I go into a recruitment agency to get a job.  They have no jobs available to suit me but hire me as a recruitment consultant mainly, I think, because the manager fancies me.   I’m a natural.  I am 24 and after a year in recruitment I decide to start my own agency.  I chef for another year in the evenings to pay the bills. 

As I wait for the bread to rise I chat.  I loved cooking professionally but as the business took off I stop. I am 27. My recruitment agency is rocking. I have 56 people working for me.  I get married and sell it to a large recruitment group. I plan to leave but stay with them until I am half way through my pregnancy of my 2nd child.  I am the sales and marketing director and the group has 700 staff.  In my free time I am fanatical about photography and food.  I cook almost every day and photograph at weekends. I have my third baby and open a lavender nursery, writing for various magazines on he subject.  I grow over 90 varieties on my parents farm and sell lavender bread and cakes, bit not for long.  I have a serious allergic reaction.  My body has had quite enough lavender for one lifetime.

I start working as a consultant delivering online operational systems.  It pays really well until I wake up one morning and know that I must go back to my real love.  Food.

The panettone is ready for the oven. I pop it in and sit back as the kitchen fills with the smell of sweet italian bread and think back to the past three years.  The time has gone so quickly.

It is May 6th 2010 and my husband isn’t surprised when I hand in my notice and tell him that I am going to write a recipe book. I start a blog about writing my book in the hope of getting published.  A year later Prepped is published.  I have a BBC radio show and a column in my regional paper. I love this food life. I love developing recipes and sharing tips and techniques on the radio on the blog and in the paper. I teach cookery to the children at school, but it is impractical with no kitchen as such. It’s good for the soul to teach. 

My bread is warm from the oven.  It's irresistible and spread with cold unsalted butter with a pot of tea I  eat slices unreservidly and consider where I am now. 

It's irresistible and spread with cold unsalted butter with a pot of tea I  eat slices unreservedly.

July 2011 we moved into a beautiful Victorian house in the village where I was bought up.  It’s in a state to say the least, but here I can at least make my dreams come true.

So now I am in my last week of being in my thirties. I have three gorgeous children and a husband who is amazing and I am looking back on the past twenty years asking myself what I want to do for the next twenty years? 

I can't say yet ..  but watch this space. 

I have plans.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Let's make Christmas 2012 Gift Swap

When I first started out to become a food writer there were some people who went out of their way to help.  Chantal was one of those people who helped make my recipe book Prepped happen, so I'm really excited about this years Let's Make Christmas event because Chantal's own book is out and she has arranged for each of us to have one of her beautiful books. 

So .. there is no guessing what the theme is.  I really think it should be called Let's Make Chocolate!

Yesterday Heather McGregor was chatting on BBC radio Four Women's Hour on the subject of the UK's most influential women and I was finalising this invitation.  I was only half listening until Heather mentioned Chantal as one of the women she felt has who has helped shape the way we live today. 

I know I talk on the radio  .. but occasionally I talk at the radio and I was so thrilled to hear Chantal mentioned .. Yes yes... I said to my Roberts Radio and I have been thinking about it since last night. 

Chantal's influence has really been amazing.  She's dynamic and the way in which she has influenced the ethical trade in chocolate as the founder and creative director of Rococo Chocolates  has changed the chocolate scene immeasurably, helping make London one of the worlds most vibrant chocolate destinations in the world.  She has pioneered The Real Chocolate Movement which has had a huge impact on the politics of chocolate, the way society views it and has been instrumental in changing chocolate culture as well as helping the Grenadian economy get back on it's feet after hurricane Emily.  

Chantal brings such passion, joy and creativity to her chocolate so I am absolutely delighted that she 
has also offered to host this years Food Bloggers Let's Make Christmas in the Rococo factory.... which means an exclusive peek right behind the scenes right into the nerve centre of where the winner of The Academy of Chocolate "Chocolatier of the Year" in both  2011, 2012 develop their couture collection. 

Friday 30th November 

2:30 - 5.30pm 
2:30 arrival Hot Chocolate
3pm Rococo Chocolatier, Barry, will be demonstrating how to get a really velvety ganache and his tips on successful tempering. 
4pm Chance to chat with Chantal who will be signing a copy of her beautiful Rococo Mastering the Art of Chocolate personally for you
5:00 Winners of best in section announced. 
5:30 Gift Swap

Gift Categories are: 
Best Chocolate recipe (own or favourite recipe)  
Best recipe from Rococo Book Mastering the Art of Chocolate
If you’d like to participate .. 

1) Use the Let’s make Christmas logo in your blog post and link back to this page.

2) Please make a comment in the box below to tell me that you are taking part. 

3) Tweet this page with the #LetsMakeChristmas

4) Remember to email me your blog post to

This years Judges are: 
Food writer and author of The Contented Cook  Xanthe Clay from the Telegraph
Lucas HollwegWinner of Guild of Food Writers Cookery Journalist of the Year Award 2012 from the Sunday Times & designer and food writer Sophie Conran.  

There will be a first prize and runner up for both categories.
Please include the recipe & your contact details with your gifts

It's a wonderful way to get together, with many old friends and new faces too. Numbers are strictly limited so please email me as soon as you are able for an invitation. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Tickled Pink - listed in the Woman and Home Best Food Blogs

It's really taken me by surprise just how much this has pleased me! 
I'm not one for going in for prizes.  In fact I hate voting competitions with a passion as people round up all their friends and beg for a vote.  In fact I recently removed my blog from a well known directory that listed Goddess On a Budget as the number 3 food blog for almost a year because it brought all the wrong attention from commercial giver awayers of freebies, however this evening I received a tweet to congratulate me on being listed in the Woman and Home Best Food Blogs.

I sat at my computer and got really emotional about it.  You see to me this is a real compliment. It was totally unexpected and to describe my blog as an exquisite food and lifestyle blog bursting with recipes and championing affordable, sustainable produce just made me well up with tears. Proud tears.  So here I am sitting at almost 1 am, and I can't wake up my husband, or phone any of my other friends who are also listed ..  so I am blogging  .. about it  .. or rather bragging about it instead.

Huge congratulations to everyone who made it on to the list.  It's such hard work to write and keep up a blog, often with very little recognition.  A special congratulations to my friends listed below.  Very proud of you all


Ruth at The Pink Whisk
Dom at Belleau Kitchen 
Karen at Lavender and Loveage
Helen writes  Fuss Free Flavours 
Vivian at Vivian Lloyd
Linda at Filled with Love Cupcakes
Patrick at Bakery Bits
Sarah at Maison Cup Cakes
Andrea at Made with Pink
Julie at Angelina Cupcake 
Kavey at Kavey Eats
Jules at The Butcher the Baker
Fiona Author of London Unattached.
Katie at Turquoise Lemons
Pascale at Extra Relish 
Claire writes The things we Make 
Kate blogs What Kate Baked 
Heidi Roberts and Heidi Roberts Kitchen Talk
Ren at Fabulicious Food 

Friday, 2 November 2012

New Bread and Jam making courses in Northampton

Today I put this advert into my local village magazine.  The last course I did was fully booked and went really well.  I'll do another how run a pop up bakery as part of the Sourdough in a Day on 11th December, as part of learning to cook in Northampton.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Inspired by the BBC Radio Food & Farming Awards

I’m always glad that my diary is the occasional diary.  I’ve been so busy the past few weeks that I just have not had the time to sit and write. My brain is full.  Writing is really my brain dump, and like writing a diary I mostly find myself writing at night.  I have twenty-seven years worth of diaries before I started blogging, and I often wonder if blogging is simply really the modern mans diary?

The children have been playing with a box of dominos and I have been showing them how they can all stack in a line and the knock on effect of one action affecting everything else.  This idea has been haunting me most of my life.

It's believing in this concept of being able to do one good thing that then changes everything else that that has meant that I've joined the parish council. I don't think that I am particularly political about anything .. but perhaps I am.  I do feel strongly about community.  I have been my village since I was eleven and now as I am about to turn forty there are a couple of things that really bother me.  The first is the speed at which the cars drive through.  It’s a short cut and the way to the local college.  Someone has to do something about it or I am quite certain something awful will happen.  I am too afraid to let my children walk out in the village because of the speed of the traffic. I’ve been thinking that for years.  In the end I guess nothing happens just waiting around for someone to do something about it and so when I was chatting with our new parish chair and she agreed with my concerns I was filled with hope that things might change. Before I had time to stop my mouth from speaking the words I found myself volunteering to help.  You may now call me councilor Kimbell. *laughing as I type.

Melton Mowbray Farmers Market
I mentioned two things that have landed me in local government…   the second issue means more to me. As a village we have lost two of our focal points in recent years.  There is no village shop anymore and sadly our post office was closed.  When I was little people would stop and chat outside the shop and the cars would drive slowly. 

I’m not is a position to reopen the shop, although running a weekly pop up bakery I must say the thought has actually crossed my mind when I see everyone chatting and laughing.

It was as I was listening to The BBC Radio Four Food Program that I had a light bulb moment.   I realized that the community that the awards celebrate could be recreated in our village. I love farmers markets and my mum has been going to the Melton Mowbray market for as long as I can remember. I love buying my chickens there.  So I was really delighted that the farmers market has been short listed to the final three for an award.  Food brings everyone together and we are still a largely rural and farming community after all, so the idea of having our own market was really well received .. and we are going for it.  

There have been a few set backs and we have some more meetings to decide dates and format and details .. and a few more things to sort out .. but the idea itself is alive and everyone is excited. We’ve got the location sorted in principle. All the money raised will be put back into out local charities.  I am both thrilled and nervous.  I am thrilled that it looks as though it may really happen .. but there is lots of work to do first.  I am quite nervous and hope that people will come along and make it buzz. 

 People chat, laugh, talk about life and buy wonderful seasonal local produce.   
Well I am never one to just leave things to chance I wanted to know what makes a really great market.  I went along to the Melton Mowbray Market to find out and collected some interviews for the BBC Northampton Kitchen Garden show. There were a few surprised faces as people I have known a long time were fascinated as I pulled out my microphone to interview them.  One chap who I've been buying sausages off for years and years kept say well I never  .. well I never ... !  In the meantime I have to share the audio of one particular lady chatting below because she really summed up what makes a great market and you can really understand why Melton Mowbray has been shortlisted for the awards.

I came away from the market even more determined that we shall create a wonderful place in our village.  A space where people can chat, laugh, talk about life and buy wonderful seasonal local produce.  Life is about sharing. 

This morning as I was thinking about writing this post I was tidying up the dominos wondering about how things happen. I was thinking that The BBC Radio Four Food and Farming Awards are actually really amazing.  This programme has the effect of that first domino.  It inspires …  and I wonder just how many other people must also have listened to those stories of real people and decided that they too can make difference?

Follow #BBCFoodAwards on Twitter

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Hand crafted truffles made by prisoners in Milan

Yesterday I was at Chocolate Unwrapped in Covent Garden, having been one of the judges in the international World Chocolate awards earlier in the week .. more about that later in the week.

Now I'm not one to post on a Sunday, but unless I photograph these beautiful Tartufo al Barolo Chinato truffles by Dolci Liberata right now I am afraid in all honesty there will be none left. They are outstanding and won a gold award after winning the best in the Italian section.  They are made by the short term prisoners in Milan to give then the skills to use for a chance at a better and more honest future when they leave the prison.

Find out more by listening to the audio below. 

Hand crafted truffles made by prisoners in Milan 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Ragdale Hall

This morning I found myself yelling at my children.  Really.  You see last week I spent two days getting the house completely clean, perfectly tidy and all the washing and ironing done.  I waltzed off to Ragdale Hall and had a 24-hour reviver break.  What bliss.  The quiet Leicestershire countryside, the fabulous food, divine treatments and time to catch up with my sister.  I felt like me again. However that was last week. This morning if you have been in my house you would think that a bunch of tramps had a party in my house after it had been burgled.

My children are adoring, beautiful clever, cheeky but totally and completely absorbed in their own world.  Too absorbed to give any thought to picking up their socks of the floor or flushing to loo or wiping off the tooth paste off the sink, and although I’m the first to admit that I am slightly bohemian,  I am never the less still house proud.

I told my children that I was going to resign if they didn’t stop untidying, and wreaking the house. Libiana was in tears, William looked devastated and Isobel didn’t get what resigning meant .. but looked sad anyway because it was the appropriate thing to do.

The quiet Leicestershire countryside, the fabulous food, divine treatments

Now I’ve spent the whole day not only feeling guilty for yelling, but fantasizing about Ragdale Hall whilst picking up the socks, shoes, loo rolls and countless other things my kids just drop where they stand.  I remember .. the saunas, the massage and the time to try out new cosmetics without feeling that I must buy. A good nights sleep, a breakfast brought to you in bed, the quiet, the peace, the smiles of the staff, who clearly enjoy their job.  More socks.  Manicures, pedicures, pampering, and in all honesty it is the cleanest spa I have ever been to.  Perhaps that is why I keep going back,  It’s so clean  .. I’d like to say it’s like home from home... 

It’s almost time to pick the children up from school.  The house is tidy again for a short time, but before I go there is just time to book my next visit to Ragdale.  It will keep me dreaming whilst I tidy.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Crazy EU Jam Jar Rules

If I ever buy jam I buy the prettiest jars I can find so I can recycle them. 

The great thing about blogging is that you can move quickly and say what you think in minutes.

This morning I lay in bed quietly watching the mist lift across the copper beech trees. It was a perfect Sunday morning until I checked my phone and noticed a tweet.  It said that the Church of England has banned the sale of all jams, marmalades pickles and chutneys.  At first I thought it was a joke.  Sadly it is not.
This is a link to the article I read in The Telegraph.  

Apparently someone has decided that because glass is slightly porous jam and preserves made in recycled jars may no longer be sold because there is a risk that someone might want to make jam in a jar that has contained something toxic. This ruling means that home jam makers wanting to donate preserves to a fundraiser may no longer do so without breaking EU legislation. 

I do not believe that anyone who makes jam would be so stupid as to use a contaminated jam jar. These rules and regulations made in Brussels are, to me, an insult to basic common sense.  What next?  Will the EU tell me how to cross the road with out getting run over? 

I wonder  - does this mean that milk bottles are no longer to be recycled and when I make a cake for the village fete, if I use my home made jam from a recycled jar of my home made jam am I then breaking the law?

How can you even prove that a jam jar is actually new?   And who are the jam jar police?

The whole thing goes against everything I stand for.  Using up gluts of fruit, supporting my local community, charity, kindness, recycling and being green.  It’s absurd.

I am therefore sending this blog post to David Cameron.  David please stand up for what is decent and right.  Credit us with some common sense and tell Brussels to stick their jam jar meddling laws. 

UPDATE - Monday Lunch time

I rang and spoke to Lou Henderson, Senior Media Officer at the Church of England.  I asked him about the story in the Telegraph and the Daily Mail and he was very clear in his response. 

"Yes The Churches Legislation Advisory Service did advise that this legislation might have implications for the church fundraising sales of home made jam but the news story is not correct.  the Church of England has not banned anything and the information ( in the article) did not come from us.  it is misleading to suggest that it is."

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Crab apple and rosehip jelly

The light is beautiful but I have to be quick,  for the apples turn brown in minutes. 
I have been threatening to buy a terrier for a while and so when I heard that there were some ready for collection I told myself I was just going to have a look.  Even as I write this I am shaking my head and laughing  -  of course I couldn't resist and I bought a little girl home.

Waiting for my husband to arrive home all afternoon I worry that he is not going to be happy.  I am sure that he will love her, but I don't phone him.  I wait, fussing and drinking camomile tea. He walks in the house, straight past her and into the kitchen. I laugh nervously and pick up the wide eyed pup he missed. My instincts are right, and although he tries to be cross he adores her. Her name is Polly .. the children called her Pickle and I think that she might be the naughtiest puppy in the world  .. ever ... and I'm mad about her.

Today the October sun is bright and I go for a bike ride. The weather holds but it takes me over two hours to cycle eight miles. The hedges are full of crab apples and rose hips and I keep stopping to pick them. I suppose really I am foraging, but I must say that the term just doesn't sit well with me and for some reason when I think of the word forage I picture a pig in the Dordogne snorting about for truffles.

I load my harvest into the basket on the back of my bike and reluctantly leave the blackberries and elderberries on the basis that I shall pick them and make hedgerow jam at the weekend.

When I get home  I can't resist cutting them on a beautiful old painted board that shows off the bright red and the acid green.  They smell sweet, appley and tart. The hips burst with seeds and I take no more than five minutes to take a snap shot from above whilst standing on a chair in the garden room.  The light is beautiful but I have to be quick, for the apples turn brown in minutes.

I throw them in to a pan, cover them in water and simmer until the kitchen is steamy and smells like apple pie.  The soft fruit is now sitting in cotton with the juice dripping ever more slowly into a pan and tomorrow I shall add the sugar and make crab apple and rose hip jelly in the morning.

I know that as the children get home from school in the dark in November that I will light a fire, make a pot of tea and spread this peach coloured tart jelly onto hot buttered crumpets.  I think that tart sweetness is even more delicious eaten in front of a crackling fire when it is cold outside.

 The hedges are full of crab apples and rose hips and I keep stopping to pick them. 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Kitchen Diaries II

Autumn Blackberries 
Sunday morning and it’s my radio day. It’s a packed show with a prerecord of Rose Prince opening The Weston and Lois Weedon Horticultural Society's Annual Produce and Flower Show. It’s a nightmare title and despite saying it out loud as I am driving to the show and yet as I go on air  I get it wrong.  Suddenly I get a jab of nerves.  I am unable to say it properly.  Of course Kevin is amused and picks up on it creating second chance for me to get it wrong again.  I determine to say it correctly.  I can feel the people in Weston and Lois Weedon rolling their eyes. Maybe I’ll get it right next year.  

The horticultural show is in it is 72nd year and was a fabulous afternoon. The audio with Rose Prince was made all the better by the chatter and noise of people in the background.  There is atmosphere and  I enjoy chatting with a genuinely lovely lady.  We move out of the tent to get a second audio about her pop up bakery and find a quiet spot by a gate.  As we are talking she spots a mop of black glossy elderberries.  I catch a look of intention and smile as she worries that the farmer will mind.  I like her all the more for thinking about the farmer. 

Having a crumble cake for dessert makes a change from just the usual crumble and custard

I tweet during a record to @RealNigelSlater that I am going to chat about his new book, and read a random paragraph out loud.  His words are poetry and I am thrilled as Nigel tweets back that he was listening in.  I am so glad that I didn’t know beforehand.  I think that there is an assumption that bubbly people don’t get nervous.  We do.  We just hide it really well behind a big smile.

Nigel's new book is an absolute treat to read. The style is consistent with the previous diary, but this book is closer in design to the Tender volumes.  It is a work of art, with an exquisite font, textured cover and heavy paper.  It is in every sense beautiful, but I don't want to to just sit on the bookshelf   ...  I want to bring it to life by cooking lunch from it so I head home via Waitrose. 

As the rain pours down we pop buckets about the garden room to catch the drips and the children get under my feet. We can’t repair the roof until some other work is done ..  I won’t bore you .. but a comforting chicken and parsley pie from The Kitchen Diaries II and a favorite Blackberry Hazelnut and Cinnamon crumble cake from Tender II is exactly what’s needed. 

 When I get home I brave the rain and run into the garden to pick some parsley, but the weather and slugs have got the better of my poor plant and the paltry amount I have left is not worth using. It seems unfair to send my husband out in this rain.  Not having parsley is not the end of the world though when it comes to cooking pie and Nigel’s recipes have a structure, a simplicity, if you like of using uncomplicated delicious combinations and so if like me you run out of a key ingredient you can often substitute without loosing the main characteristics of the recipe. I peer into my fridge and am relived to spot some dill.  It’s remarkably fresh considering it is a few days old. 

The eggs my chickens lay have such yellow yolks they make the pastry golden.
With the crumble cake I have to swap two ingredients because William is allergic to apples and oats. I substitute apple for a conference pear and scatter chopped hazelnuts over the crumble to add texture, but the cake is in essence the same. Nigel suggests that the cake is better the next day ..  but despite making this cake a dozen times I’ve yet to find that out.

It's a perfect rainy Sunday afternoon. There is a constant pitter patter on the roof and the kitchen gets steamy. As I roll out the pastry Isobel asks why it is Nigel’s pie.  She insists that the pie is mine.  I show her the book and explain that the recipe was not by me and so with a five year olds logic she decides to mark it with a pastry N for Nigel and I leave her to it as the phone rings.  It is my sister. I ask if she wants to join us for lunch.  There is no hesitation. She heads straight over with a friend arriving as I am serving up.  She ignores my husbands begrudging welcome as he remarks that now there be no leftovers. There is laugher, rain, a bottle of white wine from my brother’s vineyard and pie. Delicious warming chicken pie, with golden pastry, bay leaf infused gravy and soft leeks. 

My husband was right.  There were no leftovers.  Not a scrap.

Chicken, leek and parsley pie - from page 347 The Kitchen Diaries II

A big, informal pie for a family gathering. Use cooked roast chicken if you wish, but this is something worth roasting your chicken pieces for. By all means crimp and primp your pastry, but I prefer the simpler approach of laying a ready-made pastry sheet over the top, brushing it with seasoned egg and milk for a good shine.

chicken pieces: 800g, on the bone

leeks: 4

butter: a thick slice

plain flour: 3 heaped tablespoons

hot stock: 650ml

bay leaves: 3
parsley: a small handful
all-butter puff pastry: a 375g sheet
beaten egg and milk, seasoned,
for brushing

Set the oven at 200°C/Gas 6. Put the chicken pieces in a roasting tin and
bake for thirty minutes, till golden. Remove from the oven, leave to cool a
little, then remove the flesh from the bones in large, bite-sized pieces and
set aside.

Thinly slice the leeks, wash them thoroughly, then cook them with the
butter and about 100ml of water till soft and brightly coloured. It is essential
not to let them colour, so keep a lid on and don’t have the heat too high.
When they are soft, stir in the flour, leave to cook for a few minutes, then
gradually pour in the hot stock, stirring as you go. Continue to cook, letting
the leek mixture simmer for ten minutes or so, till you have a thickish sauce.
Add the cooked chicken, bay leaves, chopped parsley and some salt and
pepper and continue cooking for a good five minutes. Try not to let the
chicken break up too much.

Spoon the chicken and leek filling into a pie dish. Unroll the pastry and
place it over the top of the dish, letting it overhang the sides. Brush the
pastry with the seasoned beaten egg and milk, cut small slits in the top to
let out the steam and bake for twenty-five minutes or until the pastry is
crisp and golden.
  Enough for 6

*Please note that this recipe was reproduced with kind permission from Nigel Slater and Forth Estate.