Bramble Jelly

So I made bramble jelly from the brambles I collected whilst foraging and, as promised, here is how I went about it. It’s really really easy and if I can make jelly anyone can ( my marmalade needs work but that’s a story for another day).

DSC_1750
Lovely just picked Brambles 

To start, give the brambles a wash and place them in a jam pan along with some water and the juice of a couple of lemons. I had 5lb’s of brambles so used the juice from 2 1/2 lemons and about 3/4 pint of water. I simmered on a low heat until some of the brambles had started to become mush.

Whilst the brambles are simmering you should be setting up your strainer contraption. First time I used this my hubby thought I was using a pair of tights! You can probably see why he thought that!

DSC_0434Pour the bramble mix into the strainer and leave. I tend to leave this overnight surrounded by towels as it can splatter everywhere and make your kitchen look like a crime scene.

Once all the juice has been strained place the juice in a jam pan along with sugar. I use about 1lb of sugar for every pint of juice. Brambles are low in pectin so I used jam sugar instead of just normal sugar to ensure that it set. Yup, I cheated but hey it sets every time and takes the stress out of jam making.

I simmered the brambles and sugar, stirring until the sugar had completely dissolved and I then left to simmer until it has reached setting point. I test the setting point by dropping some of the mix onto a frozen plate ( remember to place a plate in the freezer before starting to make your jam) and pressing with my finger, if it wrinkles its ready. If it runs all over the place, it’s not. You can also use a thermometer and setting point is about 105C however when I use my thermometer it never ever ever reaches 105C, so I stopped using it and use the frozen plate method… sometimes the old tips are the best! But I suppose I really should just buy a new thermometer and get rid of the old one.

Once the mix has set place into sterilised jars. I got 4 jars from 5lbs of Brambles, which is an increase on last year, so I’m pretty happy.

I would love to know if anyone else has been foraging lately, what you’ve found and what you’ve made.

DSC_1769

 

 

 

Foraging Foray – Bramble picking

Brambles

After being away from this blog for a very very long time, its seems apt that my first post would be able foraging, scrabbling about ditches and bushes looking for brambles and being stung whilst doing so. This definitely feels like what I’ve been doing with my life lately!

Brambles (or some people know them as Blackberries) are usually in season August/ September and we are lucky that were we stay there are a number of bramble bushes and also that none of our neighbours pick them!

Last year, we (hubby and I) filled two ice cream tubs full, feeling very happy with ourselves, however it only made a jar and a half of bramble jelly. This year we set off with 4 ice cream tubs, feeling very optimistic and hoping to produce a whopping 3 jars of Bramble Jelly!

Hubby had spotted a new patch between the grain shed and the paddock so we headed for this new spot first but quickly realised a lot of the brambles were not yet ripe and some were way past ripe. We filled our tubs with a mere handful.

We then walked down to the bushes near one of the boundary ditches ( a place that last year had been abundant) but unfortunately we found the same situation, not yet ripe or had already been wasted.  We have seen record temperatures this summer I wondered if this had had a impact on the rate of bramble growth.

We moved onto the patch behind one of the sheds, where there is also a huge amount of nettles. Here we hit the the mother load! Lots of brambles were ready and our hands ( (and my sleeves) quickly became stained pinkish/purplish from the bramble juice as we filled our four tubs ………….hrmmm…. we should have brought more tubs.

brambles 3

Hubby came in handy at reaching the bushes out with the grasp of someone who is 5’2″ and also trampling down the nettles. Despite this, I still received many nettle stings and scratches and half of one tub ended up tipped on the ground ( or rather violently thrown) when I was stung by a wasp. Fortunately there were still plenty left on the bushes that we were able to fill the tub back up very quickly and I’m sure the birds and other animals will gobble up the brambles I had thoughtfully dropped for them.

 

This batch was ear-marked for bramble jelly however as there are still more brambles left I’m going to head out later to gather more. Although I’ll wait until my hands stop stinging!

Bramble Jelly recipe to follow.

Cranachan

Disclaimer/ Warning: Some pretty dodgy and unflattering photos. This in no way is the Cranachan’s fault but rather this blogger’s ineptitude at photography, along with lack of space and light in the kitchen! Please note I did also over whip the cream.

sam_7937-2

As I stated in today’s ” Burns Night Supper” post I made a Scottish dessert called a Cranachan to follow the haggis, neeps and tatties.

This is such a simple and quick recipe with only 5 ingredients, of which you more than likely have three of them in your cupboard right now.  Even in my cooking-phobic years (that’s totally a thing) I would make this and not get stressed out by it because its so easy. So easy really, it probably does not need a whole blog post!

Ingredients ( Roughly 4 portions)

80 grams of porridge oats

250 grams of Raspberries ( washed)- although you can add more or less.

300 grams of double cream

3 tablespoons of honey ( clear or heather, whatever you have really will do)

3 tablespoons of good quality malt whisky -well it is a Scottish dessert after all! You may want to start with one tablespoon and add more to taste. I have found other peoples versions of Cranachan the whisky varies greatly!

Oh and please ask the whisky drinker of the house before raiding and using the whisky stash. I made the mistake before of using some of hubbies “guid” whisky in a BBQ sauce and he was very unhappy about it ( it was an amazing BBQ sauce though!)  He has since struggled to purchase any more of that particular kind which has disappointed him greatly. Ironically for the Cranachan, I used a Japanese whisky that had been languishing in the cupboard and which hubbie deemed acceptable for cooking with. Obviously one he doesn’t drink then!

Or to save any hassle you could just buy a miniature of whisky instead.

Method

Lightly toast the porridge oats for about 5 minutes or so, until you can smell them ( a nutty toasty smell… if that makes sense??). I did this on the hob using a crepe pan, however I’m sure it could be done in the oven too.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and try not to over whip like I did… and I said it was easy.Maybe I should have said, yes it’s easy but don’t get distracted by other things like I did! Pay attention to the mixer.

Keep back some of the raspberries to use as decoration. Add the rest of the raspberries to the cream, add the honey, whisky  and oats and carefully fold these into the cream.

Although I had Cranachan where the raspberries and oats were omitted from the cream and instead the separate elements layered  in the glass e.g add the cream/honey/whisky  mix into a glass, then some raspberries, then oats and repeat. The layers do look really pretty in glasses done this way, but it takes a bit more time and I’m more of a clash everything together quickly kinda gal!

Decant into serving glasses, you don’t need a huge amount three – four tablespoons of the mixture into each is a nice amount after a heavy meal. Also with whisky flavoured foods, I find it can be overpowering if there is too much of it. Add raspberries on top. Maybe add some oats if you have some left over or a dribble of honey.

It does taste a lot better than it looks, but if you don’t believe me then please give it a try.

 

Burns Night Supper

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!” ( Address to a Haggis, Robert Burns, 1786)

Happy Rabbie Burns day!!!!

Unfortunately our haggis hunting was disappointing as we didn’t get so much as a glimpse of a haggis let along the opportunity to capture one. They are devious sleekit wee beasties and their different size legs enabled them to scamper and scurry quickly up the hills as soon as they heard us approach!!

As a result tonight ( to my husband’s disappointment) we had vegetarian haggis instead.

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties…..(in case anyone is unsure Neeps are Turnips and Tatties are Potatoes).

If your haggis hunting is as disappointing as ours, then buy a haggis from your local butcher shop or from your local supermarket. It doesn’t have to be veggie but I don’t particularly like haggis ( eck, my Scottish Nationality may now be questioned!) as it has lamb and beef in it.  As well as lamb and beef, haggis also contains oats, onions and spices too. Veggie haggis also contains oats, onions and spices along with veggies, seeds and pulses.

Prepare as per instructions.  In this case, I wrapped the haggis in tinfoil and placed in a oven dish with 2cm of water. This cooked for 1 hours and 10 minutes in a 180°c oven.

In the meantime make your mashed neeps and tatties. I don’t think I need to go into detail how to do this, other than I keep it simple with a bit of butter in the neeps while mashing them and some butter and milk with the tatties. Although we had one spring onion in the fridge to use up so I chopped and added to the tatties.

Then eat…..

sam_7931

Hope you all have a great Burns night whether celebrating in Scotland or abroad or attending a formal Burns supper or having one in your own home.

In keeping with tonight’s theme I made and served Cranachan, a traditional Scottish dish.

Psst….Don’t tell anyone but hubbie really enjoyed the veggie haggis! This, after he wouldn’t even admit to anyone that we were having veggie haggis tonight!

TV delicacy

Whilst watching Rick Stein’s “Long Weekends” I salivated over this dish, which Rick tried whilst in a market in Palermo. Given the simplicity of the dish, having only two ingredients; bacon and spring onions, I decided to give this a go at home.

Despite being only two ingredients ( well three if you count the butter), I must stress that the bacon has got to be good quality unsmoked bacon. Cheap bacon will have too much fat and grease.

Set a griddle pan on the heat.

Wash some spring onions and cut off the root end.

Melt some butter and brush over the spring onions. Wrap a slice of bacon around the spring onion. Repeat until all spring onions and bacon have been used.

sam_7887

Place on the griddle plan and cook for a few minutes until the bacon is cooked, turning over carefully. The spring onion will still be crunchy with the strong onion flavour which works well with the salt of the bacon.

sam_7896

(Don’t worry the liquid you see in the photo is actually the melted butter and not grease from the bacon).

Serve, either as a starter or as part of a main meal.

 

A chunky veg soup to beat the January blues

sam_7884As I’d said in my previous blog post, I’ve been ill, suffering from the “queens cold”, named as such cos apparently her Madge suffered from it first. I’ve been told this was not a cold but not the flu but in between the two. Although, I’m not convinced this is what it was for me as I have a low immune system so it could have just been a cold that I’ve struggled to fight off.

One thing I’m sure about is when you feel rubbish you can not beat a bowl of homemade soup, of any kind. The only requirement for me is that it’s gotta be homemade, gotta be hot and full of chunky pieces of veg or lentils or barley or all of these! I love a spoonful of veg!

To be honest I probably don’t need to put up a recipe for soup, soup is so easy to make  and I’m sure everyone knows how and also has their own favourite recipe but here we go …..the soup that I’m pretty sure helped to cure me!

Ingredients

Mix of one organic leek, one onion, one carrot , 1/2 left over potato , 1/2 head of celeriac and a very non organic broccoli (1/4 of a head). Basically it was a mix of whatever veg I had left over, hence the 1/4 of a head of broccoli and 1/2 a potato along with some veg freshly dug by my lovely hubby. This is the beauty of veg soup, you can use whatever veg you want to or whatever you need to use up, but I always find the more veg the merrier.

The exact measurement of a handful of Barley ( my freakishly small hand so probably about 50 grams!)

Couple of slices of unsmoked Scottish bacon

One chicken stock cube ( or whatever stock cube you have to hand, I’ve used all types) dissolved in about 2 pints of boiling water.

In an ideal world you’ll also have saved and frozen the stock from boiling a ham or a chicken carcass or you’ll have planned ahead bought turkey legs to make a stock from. Although its rarely an ideal world for me, so bacon and stock cubes are a great alternative.

Method

Chop the bacon and fry in a wee bit of oil in a large pan. Once cooked remove from the pan and leave to one side. Do not clean the pan or pour out the bacon fat.

Whilst the bacon is cooking, prepare your veg e.g finely chop onions and leeks and chop the potatoes, celeriac and carrots into cubes.

Add the onions and leeks into the pan, saute for about 10 -15 minutes or until softened. Then add the remaining veg and continue to saute. The longer you leave the veg to saute the better flavour it will have.

Add the stock to the veg and simmer. I simmer on low heat for a long time ( about 1 hour) but carefully watch the soup as you may need to add more water/ stock depending on how thick you like your soup. If you sick ill, as in not able to eat and not able to hold much down I would recommend having fewer veg and having more of a liquid broth/ soup. But I love soup so thick that your spoon stays upright in it and every spoonful is full of lovely veg.

Add salt and pepper.

Cook the barley as per packet instructions, which in this case I had to wash them then boiled them separately before then adding to the soup pan.

I added the broccoli towards the end as it didn’t need much boiling, however the florets did break up ( as you can see in the photo above).

The soup will provide you with much needed sustenance and strength. It’s so comforting just curl up on the sofa under a warm cosy blanket and enjoy.

Oh and don’t forget the bacon, add a sprinkle on top of the soup.

 

Picture this!

16 days into 2017! Wow, this year is flying by mostly as I’ve been suffering from the “queens cold” for about 14 days  and only dragging myself to work and back to bed and not doing much else!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year. Ours was spent with family and friends all over Scotland, hence alot of travelling in order to do so but so worth it.

I had promised a photo of my iced Christmas cake, unfortunately the photo was taken on hubbies phone and he seems to have managed to misplace or delete it. It was maybe for the best though, as I hadn’t time to finish the decoration with the 101 things I had to do so hubby took it upon himself to finish it. He’s lovely that way, it also kept him from getting under my feet. He’s very toddler like and can’t sit still for any length of time so needs tasks to occupy him. This can also be good for me as he does the housework.

Anyway, when the cake was unveiled at New Year ( not Christmas as we were too full after all the turkey, trimmings and chocolate orange cheesecake) I discovered he had decorated it with lovely snowflakes ( I had snowflake stampers) but also in the centre of the cake was a red tractor. I had a tractor stamper ( bought for decorating his birthday cake a few years ago) and he obviously decided “what says Christmas more than a tractor?” He also used a red icing pen on the tractor to convey his favourite tractor….a Massey Ferguson . I did say he was a bit like a toddler and this is obviously conveyed in his decorating  skills. Bless, he tried, he really did.

Note to self: Check when hubby decorates a cake unless I want all my cakes to have a red tractor on it. Hubby decorated it, then packed it and I didn’t see it until the grand unveiling and what an unveiling!

So you probably don’t actually need a photo to picture a white iced covered cake, with white snowflakes and a red tractor in the middle! Oh and no ribbon around the cake, as that was too ” girly”.

 

Christmas Pudding Truffles

With these little adorable treats it’s definitely feeling alot like Christmas.

I decided to make these to use up a Christmas pudding left over from last year that hadn’t been opened and had been languishing in the cupboard. However, it’s a great way to use up leftovers from pudding on Christmas Day.

They look so darn cute that if you popped them in gift boxes or into cellophane bags tied with ribbon they would make great Christmas gifts or hostess gifts. During the holidays there are so many parties and visits to relatives, so these are unique way to say ” thanks for having us”. They’re also incredibly easy to make and no baking involved… unless you count melting chocolate baking!

sam_7870

Christmas Truffles- Although no matter how cute they are I can’t take the credit for the recipe as this is a Nigella Lawson recipe.

Ingredients

Left over cold Christmas pudding or cake about 450 grams.  Alternatively you can buy one specifically, heat in the microwave and then leave to cool.

60ml of Sherry or brandy

2 tablespoons of golden syrup

150 grams of dark chocolate.

150 grams of white chocolate

Glace cherries ( red and green) – if you can’t find green coloured glace cherries then you can use a green icing pen like I did. I had these in the cupboard already and got them in a pack of 4 along with red, yellow and blue. These are were used to create a holly for the top of the truffle so whatever you feel would work, then go for it.

Method

Line baking trays with greaseproof paper.

In a saucepan, bring some water to the boil and place a bowl on top to make a poor man’s bain-marie. Break up the dark chocolate and add to the bowl and slowly melt the chocolate. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, add the Christmas Pud and break it up. Add the golden syrup and the brandy or sherry or whatever alcohol you have to hand and mix well.Then add the melted chocolate and mix well.

This is the icky bit, so if you have disposable gloves that can be used with food, then I’d recommend using them! Pinch a bit of the mix and roll in your hands to form small truffle size balls. Place on the grease proof paper. Keep going until all the mix has been used up. I made some of mine slightly too big, however it is better to keep them small, especially if you have been heavy handed with the alcohol like I was!

Place the truffles into the fridge to firm up.

In the mean time, creating another Bain-marie, melt the white chocolate and cut up the glace cherries. The red into small bits to form the holly berries and the green cherries to form leaves. If you are using green icing pen instead then you will need to add the icing direct to the truffle, so leave that to the side for a minute.

I would leave the melted white chocolate to cool for a bit, to firm up to make it less messy when using.

Dripple some of the white chocolate on the top of the truffle, then add the bits of the cherry or cherries on top. Or use your green icing pen to add the holly leaves. Continue until you have decorated all the truffles, then leave for the chocolate to set.

Then gift box to give as gifts or serve on a serving plate as after dinner treats to guests. Or my favourite is curl up on the sofa, with a Christmas movie, cuppa tea and eat all these morish Christmas Pudding Truffles to myself!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!!

 

Traditional Christmas Cake

It just wouldn’t be Christmas unless there was a boozy Christmas cake for afters. Although, disappointingly  the tradition of making homemade Christmas cake seems to be going by the wayside with many people preferring to buy store bought ( and why not when Marks and Spencers do such delicious cakes for reasonable prices and no preparation required) or forgoing Christmas cake all together.

I’ve came across many people who dislike fruit cake or dislike eating it after the huge Christmas dinner preferring lighter desserts. Thankfully my hubbie loves fruit cake so he makes sure it doesn’t go to waste, but to be honest fruit cake lasts a long time ( I still have the top tier of my wedding cake in the cupboard awaiting my first child’s christening…. I was married over 5 years ago!) so don’t worry if it doesn’t get eaten all at once, this can be kept and devoured long after Christmas has ended.

There is something quintessentially christmassy about baking a Christmas cake, the waft of brandy coming from the fruit as its soaks overnight, the house filling with the aroma of the wonderful festive spices as the cake bakes, the unwrapping of the cake every week to feed with more brandy ( a bit like a Christmas present) and then wrapping it back up in the brown greaseproof paper. The preparation and steps are like my very own advent countdown to Christmas.

Making a home made Christmas cake does requires forethought, organisation and preparation ( oh and many many mixing bowls) but its actually not that difficult and the results are well worth the effort.

The actual baking should take place in early November although this year I was later making it on the 23rd November!! Gasp….. the horror! However, I did read somewhere that November 20th was the last day to bake your Christmas cake so if this is true then I wasn’t too far off! But really my preference is to bake the cake in the first week in November.

You really need to pinpoint a day you have completely free as the baking time can take between 4 – 4 3/4 hours, with the preparation time on the day taking about 30 minutes. and then of course the cooling period before you can start to soak with brandy.

The fruit itself needs to soak for 12 hours, so it really needs done the night before.

The recipe below is my mother in laws, she is the queen of baking cakes. I’m not sure where the recipe originally came from, it could be from Readers Digest back in the day or the Dairy cookbook or word of mouth or experimenting through the years but wherever it came from it’s really good and I’m chuffed to be carrying on her tradition.

Ingredients

450 grams currants, 175 grams sultanas, 175 grams raisins, 50 grams glace cherries ( rinsed, dried, chopped), 50 grams mixed peel, 3 tablespoons brandy, 225 grams flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice, 225 grams of unsalted softened butter, 225 grams soft brown sugar, 4 large eggs,  50 grams chopped almonds, 1 dessertspoon black treacle, zest of 1 lemon, zest of 1 orange.

The Night before Christmas Cake bake day……..( try saying that three times fast!)

Mix together the currants, sultanas, raisins, cherries and mixed peel in the 3 tablespoons of brandy. ( Bowl one).  Cover the bowl with a tea towel and soak overnight or for 12 hours.

sam_7802

Christmas Cake Bake Day….

Prepare a 8 inch round cake tin, butter and line with greaseproof paper. Also measure out a double layer of greaseproof paper that would fit on the top of the cake, set this aside as this will be used later.

Preheat oven to 140°C.

Sift the flour, salt and spices into a medium bowl. ( bowl two).

In a large ( and I mean large) mixing bowl ( bowl three) whisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl ( bowl four) or if you’ve run out of bowls a measuring jug would do, beat the eggs and then add them to the butter/sugar mixture a tablespoon at a time whisking the mixture continuously until the eggs are all combined.  This is to stop the mix from curdling, but in my experience it can still curdle but don’t worry if this happens, the cake will still be delish!

Gently fold the flour/ spice mix to the butter/ sugar/ egg mix. Then fold in the brandy soaked fruit, nuts, treacle and the lemon and orange zest to the mix. I always find this a great workout for my arms! Beats the gym any day.

** To make the treacle more manageable I usually place the tin into a pan or bowl ( if you have any left) of boiling water**

Transfer the lovely mixture into the prepared tin. I tend to do this using a serving spoon and transfer over a spoonful at a time. Make sure to spread the mix out evenly and smooth out the top.

Take the double layer of greaseproof paper and cut a hole in the middle, about the size of a 50 pence piece, then place on top of the cake mix. This will help to protect the cake during its long baking time in the oven.

sam_7804sam_7805

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place the cake on the lowest shelf in your oven. My cake was very very ready after 4 hours ( as you can see from my photos), but my oven is very wonky. The cake can take anything between 4 hours and 4 3/4 hours, but definitely check about the 4 hour mark.

 

Take the cake out the oven, leave in the tin for about 30 mins then remove completely and place on a cooling rack. Once the Christmas cake completely cools, use a skewer to make holes in the top and bottom of the cake, then pour 6- 8 teaspoons of brandy over the cake. Then wrap the cake in greaseproof paper and tinfoil and place in a box or tin.

Remove the cake every week and pour another 6-8 teaspoons of brandy over the cake, then re-wrap. Do this until you are ready to cover with marzipan and icing.

Once I have done the icing stage I will post pictures of the finished and decorated cake.

 

Let them eat cake and biscuits!

So this was a busy week for baking. After the Halloween cake, next up was hubbies birthday cake. As his request I made Guinness cake but minus 33 candles as that would be a fire hazard.

sam_7772

Following this Carrot cake and Empire biscuits were made for a 30th Birthday party we were going to. I had to skip the Brownies as I just didn’t have enough time. These were both part of the dessert table. Much needed after a few Ceilidh dances and adult musical chairs!

sam_7789

Empire Biscuits ( formerly known as German biscuits apparently renamed during World War 1) or in my house known as Vampire biscuits  ( hubbies childhood name for them!) are something I’ve only made once before, not too sure why as they are actually really simple. They are a really popular Scottish sweet biscuit.

I use a recipe that I’m not sure where it came from but it appeared in my recipe drawer written on a old scrap piece of paper. I presumably was given or wrote the recipe down and filed it away. Its a good and easy recipe to follow with few ingredients most of which are store cupboard staples and the recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.

One of my friends loves Empire biscuits, he is somewhat of an Empire biscuit connoisseur, it was his wife’s party we were attending and I couldn’t not make these. He also requested them when I asked what I could bring! He considers them an appropriate breakfast item too and I won’t say that he is wrong.

sam_7782

Ingredients

250g of softened butter, 100g of caster sugar, 250g of sifted plain flour, glace cherries, raspberry jam and icing sugar.

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180° C and line baking trays with greaseproof/baking paper.

Cream the softened butter and sugar together. Add the sifted flour slowly until well blended.

Roll the dough onto a floured surface, roll out to about 4-5mm thickness or thereabouts. Using a 7cm diameter round fluted cutter ( or whatever size you want really but this will obviously effect how many biscuits you get out of the dough) to cut biscuit out of the dough. (No photos of this as my hands and me were covered in flour. I don’t do clean baking!!)

Then place them onto the lined baking trays evenly spaced apart. Pop in the oven for about 10 minutes. Some of them, the trays on the bottom of the shelf needed to go in for an extra couple of minutes. Keep an eye on them as they should only be very lightly coloured.( see photo below)

Remove from oven and leave in trays for 5 mins, then remove to a cooling rack.sam_7780

You want them completely cool before you start assembling them together.

Take one biscuit, place about a teaspoon of Raspberry Jam in the middle, take another biscuit and place on top ( I usually place the flatter of the sides facing upwards).

Make up your icing as per packet instructions and so the icing is not runny but can be spread easily.

Spread some icing on top of the biscuit sandwich and whilst still wet add half a glace cherry on top.  Repeat with remaining biscuits then leave them until icing has set.

Results of cake week……….