Thursday, 27 September 2007

In a pickle...

I finally got around to trying to preserve some tomatoes last night, although I'm not sure how well it's worked out. I followed a recipe I found for tomato chutney, but the result is not like any chutney I've ever had!

I basically just boiled nearly 2kg of tomatoes with some onion to release the juice and then added salt, sugar, vinegar and some spices. The recipe said to simmer gently until thick, but the chutney I've ended up with is quite runny, so I'm wondering if I didn't simmer it for long enough. It tastes quite nice, although the vinegar flavour is very strong. The recipe said that it should be left for three to five weeks to mature, so I'm hoping that it will taste less acidic after this time. I did wonder if the tomatoes were a bit too watery, or perhaps it's a little late in the season. Oh well, we'll see what it's like in a few weeks time!

In the mean time, I might see if I can find some other interesting preserves to try out.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007


One of the problem areas with my eating British scheme has been bread. I posted a little while ago that this was a problem because the types of flour that are commonly grown in the UK are not suitable for bread making. The reason for this is, I believe, that bread needs a wheat with a high gluten content and our climate is not really that suitable for this type. While I was doing my shopping last night I had a look at the range of flours that were for sale and was surprised to find some which claim to have been produced from British wheat! This is good news, since I often have sandwiches for lunch. The company was called "Doves Farm", but as far as I can tell they don't have an active website at the moment. However, according to the bag of flour they specialise in organic flour milled from wheat grown on their farm.

Of course, in order to turn the flour into tasty, lunch-time sandwiches, I had to make some bread first. I went through a phase of making my own bread a few years ago, so it's not something completely new to me. Despite this, I still find the process quite fascinating, especially since I don't have a bread making machine to do it all for me! It took quite a long time, but the results were definitely worth it. I basically just followed the recipe on the back of the flour bag, but I used hemp seed oil in place of vegetable oil because I can be sure of it's British origin (well, it claims to be farmed in Britain!). I'm not sure how long the loaf will last before I've eaten it all, but I have a sneaky feeling that after a while the fascination with making bread by hand will wear a little thin. Perhaps now is the time to investigate bread making machines a little more closely?

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Hawthorn berries

Gosh, it's been a while since I last posted! My excuse is that I've been away - a trip down to Southampton on business, London to visit some family and Lincolnshire. All good, but not too easy to keep up with the eating British thing!

Anyway, back now and aiming to try some new British food! While I was in Lincolnshire, I attempted to make fruit leather from Hawthorn berries, following a recipe I heard about from the TV programme with Ray Mears, called "Ray Mears' Wild Food". I collected a large bowl of berries and then squished them all up with my hands to form a paste which I then pushed through a strainer, as I saw on the programme. However, the berries seemed rather dry, so I had to add quite a bit of water to make it go through. I then left the paste to set - it turns into quite stiff jelly quite quickly. Then, I cut this into strips and dried them in the oven. It should be fairly simply, but I must have done something wrong since by the time a got back to Edinburgh, they had started to go mouldy :-( Oh well, the search for a source of winter vitamin C continues!

I tried a new British cheese today - Cornish Camembert, made by Cornish Country Larder Ltd ( I used it in my sandwiches for lunch and it was really good, with a lovely, creamy texture. It went well with sliced tomatoes and a little salt and pepper.

I don't know how much longer I'll be able to get hold of British tomatoes, so I plan to try to preserve some. I havn't yet decided how to do this, but I shall investigate. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 4 September 2007


Whilst doing my shopping last week, I came across marrows in the vegetable section. I noticed that these were produced in Britain and so decided to try one out. Now, I've never done anything with marrows before, so I wasn't sure what to do with it. So, it sat in my fridge for a few days while I gave this some thought. In the end, a quick web search revealed that marrows can be chopped up and used in stir frys and things, much like courgettes, or they can be de-seeded and roasted. I'm sure there are other things you can do with them to, but I don't know what they are!

In the end, I went for marrow stuffed with minced beef in a tomato sauce. This is really easy to do and turned out to be very tasty indeed. Simply preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (reasonably hot - about 220 degrees C), then slice the marrow into two halves and then slice each of these length-wise down the middle. The seeds can then be scooped out with a spoon, leaving a decent size trench into which the filling can be put. Arrange these on a baking tray, ready for the filling.

To make the filling, I chopped and fried a small onion and a few spring onions until soft and then added the minced beef. Use a high heat and don't be tempted to stir the minced beef around straight away after adding it to the pan. Leaving it still for a while allows it to get sealed and this held to keep more of the juices in, I think.

Once the beef had browned I added chopped mushrooms and continued cooking until they started to shrink. I then added some salt, pepper, paprika and chopped basil (OK, OK, none of the spices were produced in Britain - I'm working on that one!). Finally, I added about 6 decent size tomatoes, chopped into small chunks and then stirred this around until the tomatoes began to release their juice. I then simply put this mixture into the trenches in the marrow and then put it all in the oven for about 20 minutes. It was great, so give it a try and let me know what you think. I guess you could add cheese or any number of other ingredients to make a bit more exciting.

I have frequently had conversations with people about British cheese. Often, visitors to Britain assume that all British cheese is Cheddar and given how much Cheddar is produced and how many different 'varieties' I can see how they get this impression! However, according to, there are around 700 different varieties of British cheese! Although they don't list what they all are, which is a shame. I shall have to try to get hold of some of the more exciting ones at some point. I have been a fan of British cheese for sometime and regularly enjoy the delights of Somerset Brie, Shropshire Blue, Double Gloucester and of course, Stilton (the king of cheese, according to the website!). I know there are some great goats cheeses out there, for example, so I'm keen to find a more extensive source of British cheese. Watch this space.