Each Month in my Garden: September by the Seaside

September is one of my favourite months. Partly because it is ‘autumn’ but nearly always behaves as if it is still summer; it feels like stolen time, a sort of permanently sunny bank holiday. At the end of the month I went to Devon and, driving there, I was surprised how autumnal the countryside looked. It may still have been summer in London but the fields and woodlands of Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset all had a distinctly golden tinge. It was lovely but in a slightly wistful way. As I was driving, in the interests of safety, there are no photos.

My friend lives by the seaside and this too had tipped from the buckets and spades of summer to deserted expanses of sand. But it was still warm enough to paddle.

This has nothing to do with gardens but it was one of the best puddings I’ve had for a long time. It was called something like ‘Every Child’s Worst Nightmare’ and tasted every bit as good as it looked. Thank you Relish in Ilfracombe



Twelve Books for Christmas: Book Nine: The Christmas Diaries, Nigel Slater

I would be the first to admit that I have too many books. Also I probably have too many unread books, not books I don’t want to read but ones which I am intending to read ‘very soon’. The problem is that ‘very soon’ can stretch to years, with some books remaining in situ long enough to be dusted. Last year Nigel Slater wrote The Christmas Chronicles. I was very excited as I love his writing as much as his recipes. It was arranged by date, starting in early November and going through to Candlemas on 2nd February. It immediately appealed to me as I use Candlemas to mark the end of the Christmas season too – January can be a grim month and a few fairy lights make it a little brighter. In the days when I lived in a small and cluttered flat, my tiny tree often remained up until then too, becoming a temporary winter ornament.

His selection of dates meant the book covered just over three months. Surely I would manage to read daily entries for such a short period? The book has sat on my kitchen table for just over a year, the bookmark sticking out accusingly on the entry for 7th November. This year I moved it to a more inconvenient place on the table and resolved to read it. I have, and it is wonderful – why did I wait a whole year?

Nigel Slater loves winter, relishing its arrival in the same way that many people welcome summer. I now like all seasons. When I was young I loved winter: Christmas and snow (yes, I’m old enough to remember reasonably reliable snow at roughly the correct time) and summer – the long (and always sunny) freedom of the summer holidays. Spring and autumn largely passed me by apart from jumping clumps of daffodils on a pretend pony (sadly accompanied by my pretend dog), walking through deep layers of crisp leaves and playing conkers.  That has all changed, mainly through gardening, and I now appreciate each season for its particular joys.

When does winter start? Officially in Britain 21st December, the Winter Solstice, is the first day of winter. This I cannot agree with. For me the Winter Solstice, with its shortest day, marks the turning point towards spring and light – from then on it is (almost) downhill all the way to light spring mornings and long summer evenings. In all my books I mark 1st December as the beginning of winter, not because I particularly regard November as part of autumn but because I cannot think of February as spring (working on the assumption that each season lasts three months). Nigel Slater’s winter begins on 1st November but before that the book has a delightful twenty-five pages of general wintery writing. Pictures in winter gardening books annoy me as, almost without exception, they show gardens covered in a crisp white frost or atmospherically clothed in a romantic mist, whilst the reality of most winter days is a sort of murk somewhere between the two. Nigel Slater’s winter manages to encompass all the best of winter without becoming unrealistically rosy-eyed about it. Yes, I know these photos are ridiculously romantically rosy-eyed but I have to remember that even London is, on occasion, deep and crisp and even. 

So far the recipes look delicious and most are his trademark easy preparation: a New Toad-in-the Hole involving marmalade, Crumble-Topped Mince Pies and Sweet Potato and Kale Bubble & Squeak. Lentils and Basil sounds a wonderful combination (particularly with added cream and mushrooms) but surely this is a dish for late summer or autumn? My basil plants would not allow me to take ‘a good handful of leaves’ in November, although perhaps it would be a fitting way to say farewell to the plant and eat the lot rather than trying to nurse it through to spring on a chilly windowsill.

The book also includes wintery musings: Christmas markets, the story of the Magi and a mass of fascinating information about candles, including the fact that in winter he writes by candlelight! I am enchanted; this will be my New Year’s resolution. I write everything first in fountain pen and have often thought that using a quill pen might be even better. This may be the first step towards that.  

Looking slightly ahead, to Christmas Day I see that, unlike Delia (see Book Six) Nigel recommends the following for mid-morning: ‘May I suggest that you sit down and take it all in, as I do. Collect your thoughts – there is still much to do – but also take in the scene . . . . Five minutes in which to settle your spirit.’  So far I have followed this book date-for-date, rather like a literary advent calendar. I have every intention of continuing to 2nd February.  


As always we would like you to buy this book. Also, as always, we would like you to buy it from your local bookshop. Without your support it might not survive.

Twelve Books for Christmas: Book Six: Delia Smith’s Christmas

This is obviously a brilliant book. The Parmesan-Baked Parsnips are the only way to cook parsnips, the Caramelised Cheese and Onion Tartlets are recommended as party nibbles for vegetarians but are far too good not to be made (in huge quantities) for everyone and the Truffle Torte is, as it says in the book, the best chocolate dessert. All that said, this book is actually included in this list because it makes me laugh. There is a chapter called The Last 36 Hours in which the reader is calmly taken though the run-up to the Main Meal. So far so good, the instructions have probably saved many Christmas Days from disaster. What makes me laugh is the entry for 8.55am: the turkey is in the oven, the bread sauce made and the frazzled cook is allowed to ‘take a break’. Everything should be under control and Delia suggests you ‘help the kids unwrap their presents, have a coffee or TIDY THE HOUSE’!!!!! Who tidies the house on Christmas Day – surely part of the fun is that every surface should be littered with wrapping paper, ribbon, chocolates, half-written thank-you letter lists and wine glasses? And one final quibble; her timings make no allowance for the Queen’s Christmas Message, unless one eats lunch very quickly.


As always we would like you to buy this book. Also, as always, we would like you to buy it from your local bookshop. Without your support it might not survive.

Twelve Books for Christmas: Book Four: Roast Figs and Sugar Snow, Diana Henry

Wintery food is so much more inviting than summery fare. Admittedly summer has scones with cream and jam sitting on the lawn, ice cream on a beach and chilled white wine (that is food, isn’t it?) but I can’t, at the moment, think of much else. Winter has luscious, rich, recipes and this book contains the very best. Sadly, I’ve never been able to make my favourite recipe in this collection: Sugar-on-Snow. This is a kind of toffee which appears in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. It is very simple – all you do is heat maple syrup and butter to the required temperature, which you test by spooning the mixture onto snow. If it sets and forms a web of toffee, it’s ready. Apparently in New England they have parties with dill pickles (this I’m not sure I like the sound of), mulled apple juice and doughnuts.

The book also contains Tartiflette; the most ridiculously over-the-top concoction of potatoes, bacon, onion, Reblochon and crème fraiche, Pumpkin Tarts with spinach and gorgonzola (which taste even better heated up the next day), and the delightfully-named Peasant Girls in a Mist (softened apples layered with sugary-cinnamony breadcrumbs and topped with thick lemony cream).  Even the salads look tempting (which is high praise from me) with cured ham and potatoes, a farmer’s salad helpfully topped with fried eggs and a Friulian Winter Salad with chestnuts, pancetta, spicy Italian sausage, walnuts and pomegranate, oh, and a few leaves to justify the name. Writing this, I realise that this is one of my most-used cookery books. I just wish I could make the toffee. Perhaps this year.  


As always we would like you to buy this book. Also, as always, we would like you to buy it from your local bookshop. Without your support it might not survive.

A New Job, a Late Resolution and Some Biscuits

I have a new job. Well, more accurately, at the beginning of the year my job at Hatchards was tweaked a little and I have become The Shop Scribe. The title was mentioned jokingly at first but it has stuck and I rather like it. The images it conjures up are of dusty Dickensian desks and quill pens. My reality is a laptop that the cat uses as a bed, that is, when she’s not helping me edit.

In addition to writing the shop’s catalogue I am writing a weekly newsletter and reviews etc as and when they are needed. A quick look at the website revealed that the last blog had been written in 2016 so I am also writing a monthly blog, selecting books loosely based on an event or particular date: The Boat Race, St George’s Day, The Chelsea Flower Show. I was telling someone how shockingly out of date it had got and they replied ‘Yours isn’t much better!’ Rubbish, I thought…… but then I checked and realised that our track record isn’t much better. So, my not-so-new-year’s resolution is that when I write a blog for Hatchards I’ll also write a post here. My hope is that resolutions made in mid-March are easier to keep than those made on New Year’s Day. I prefer the word post to blog but a little distinction between the two may not be a bad thing; Hatchards customers probably won’t want to know my opinions on gardens, although they might want this wonderful biscuit recipe.

One of the most important dates in culinary history was 1977. This was when the recipe for Delia Smith’s Chocolate Orange Biscuits appeared in her Book of Cakes. Over the years I have adapted it for all manner of fruits and nuts, combining them with dark, milk or white chocolate. Particularly good combinations that Sally and I discovered for our books Berries, Nuts and Cherries and Mulberries (to be published in June) are:

  • Hazelnuts and milk chocolate

  • Walnuts (replace the orange juice with maple syrup)

  • Dried cranberries and white chocolate

  • Dried cherries, cocoa and dark chocolate
  • Dried mulberries and white chocolate (don’t be put off by the appearance of dried mulberries; they look rather like something you might put on a fishing hook. Once cooked they disappear into the biscuits, giving a lovely chewiness)


  • Makes 25-30 biscuits
    125 g / 4 oz / 1 stick soft butter
    175 g / 6 oz / 1 cup caster sugar
    225 g / 8 oz / 2 cups plain flour
    25 g / 1 oz / ¼ cup cocoa (if using)
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    75 g / 3 oz / ½ cup dark, milk or white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
    1-2 tablespoons orange juice (or 4 tablespoons maple syrup) as necessary

100 g / 3 ½ oz dried berries, chopped OR 30 g / 1 oz nuts, chopped OR for the original biscuits, grated zest from 2 oranges

Heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4

Beat the butter and sugar together till pale and creamy. Sift the flour and baking powder and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. You should have a stiff, slightly crumbly dough. Don’t be tempted to add too much orange juice.

Lightly flour a work top and roll out the dough to roughly ¾ cm / ½ inch. It will be very crumbly but that doesn’t matter, just squish it together. The biscuits will hold together once cooked. Cut into 5 cm / 2 inch rounds and place on a greased baking tray. Allow space between the biscuits as they tend to spread. Bake on the top shelf for about 10-12 minutes until golden, be careful not to burn them. Leave to cool on the baking tray for a couple of minutes to firm up and then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully. In the unlikely event that any are left, these biscuits can be stored in an airtight tin.



This, and many other delicious recipes, come from Jane’s new book, Nuts, Growing and Cooking, which she wrote with Sally Hughes. The first time we discovered Bløtkake (pronounced ‘blurt-kak-ir’) was in Tilly Culme-Seymour’s delightful book Island Summers.  It is a Norwegian birthday cake; at least it was the cake Tilly always had and the moment we read about it we knew we wanted it as our birthday cakes too. It is a wonderful concoction of sponge, cream, fruit and marzipan and makes a perfect centrepiece for any tea table, birthday or otherwise. In the book the cake has to make a fraught journey in a small boat from the mainland bakery to the island, this is not something we would recommend, although one Jane made survived a bike ride to Piccadilly.

Island Summers does not include a recipe for the cake but when Tilly came to sign her books she confirmed that our recipe was pretty near her original.

Ready-made marzipan is fine for this cake but use white, rather than golden for authenticity. You can use any combination of berries, according to your inclination and what is in season.

Serves at least 12; this is very rich and substantial cake, a little goes a long way.


  •             300 g /10 oz / 3 ½ sticks soft butter
  •             300 g / 10 oz /1 1/3 cup caster (superfine) sugar
  •             6 eggs
  •             300 g / 10 oz / 2 ½ cups self-raising flour
  •             2 ½ teaspoons baking powder


  •             300 ml / 10 fl oz / 1 ¼ cups double (heavy) cream
  •             4 drops vanilla extract
  •             3-4 tablespoons apple juice
  •             3-4 tablespoons strawberry jam
  •             100 g / 3 ½ oz / ¾ cup chopped walnuts


  •             300 g / 10 oz marzipan
  •             200 g / 7 oz strawberries
  •             200 g/ 7 oz blueberries
  •             icing (confectioners’) sugar, for rolling out and to dust the finished cake

To make the cakes

Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4. Grease 3 x 23 cm / 9 inch loose-bottomed cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Even if you have to cook them in batches, it is much easier to cook three separate cakes rather than trying to cut one into three layers. They also rise better.

Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour after each egg. Gently fold in the remaining flour. Pour the mixture into the tins and level out. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. The cake will have pulled away from the sides of the tin and a skewer should come out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few moments. Take the cakes out of the tins, remove the paper and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the cakes

Once the cakes are totally cooled put the bottom layer onto the plate you wish to use; the cake will be almost impossible to move once you have decorated it. Whip the cream and vanilla extract till it forms reasonably stiff peaks. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of apple juice over the bottom layer of cake; this will ensure it is deliciously moist and gooey. Spread with a layer of ½ the jam and then add a layer of about 1/3 of the cream. Sprinkle half the chopped walnuts on top. Put the next layer of cake on top and repeat the apple juice, jam, cream and walnut layers.

Put the top layer of cake in place and cover the top and sides with a thin layer of cream. This is not the final coating but merely a ‘glue’ to hold the marzipan in place. Roll out the marzipan into a thin circle, large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Remember to roll it out on icing (confectioners’) sugar, not flour. Using the rolling pin, drape the marzipan over the cake. Trim any excess; tuck the edges neatly under the cake and smooth over any cracks.

Cut a large cross in the centre and peel back the four triangles of marzipan. You should have sufficient marzipan left to cut away the triangles and replace them with fresh ones. This isn’t vital but it saves cleaning off the cream and cake crumbs from the underside of the triangles which are now exposed. Hull the strawberries, cut into quarters if they are large and pile into the centre with the blueberries, or whatever fruits you are using. Put the remainder around the cake. Dust with icing (confectioners’) sugar and put into the fridge. The cake is best made an hour or so ahead to allow the filling to soak in. It is fine made a day ahead. Keep in the fridge and ideally remove an hour or so before serving.



Milk Chocolate Bramble Cake

Berries jacketI have been hopeless about writing posts this summer, but I do have an excuse; I am writing a book on berries. I am writing it with Sally Hughes and it will be similar to Quinces – a mixture of cookery, gardening and history. This one will also include foraging, as there are so many delicious berries one can collect on country walks or even in city parks and gardens. The book isn’t published till June 2016 but, in the meantime, here is our recipe for Milk Chocolate Bramble Cake.

This is a gentle chocolate cake, rich, but mild in flavour. You need to use dark chocolate in the cake mixture as the flavour of milk chocolate is lost in cooking. For a more intense chocolaty taste, use dark chocolate for the icing too. It is best made with small, foraged blackberries as the large cultivated ones tend to make the cake soggy in parts. Earlier in the summer raspberries are a delicious alternative.Milk Chocolate Bramble Cake 4

  • Cake
  • 200 g butter
  • 100 dark chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 200 self-raising flour, sifted
  • 175 g blackberries
  • Icing
  • 100 g good quality milk chocolate
  • 140 g butter, softened
  • 140 g icing sugar

2 x 20 cm loose-bottomed cake tins

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4. Grease the tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

To make the cake:

Bring a large pan of water to boil. Break the dark chocolate and put it and the butter into a bowl which will fit inside the pan. Put the bowl into the boiling water, ensuring that the water does not bubble over the rim. Once the butter and chocolate have melted remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Add eggs and sugar to the chocolate mixture and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.

Reserve a handful of the blackberries for decoration and add the rest to the flour. Stir to coat the berries and then gently fold into the chocolate mixture.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and bake for 30-35 minutes. The top should be nicely risen and a skewer should come out pretty well clean. Remember the berries will make the cake juicy.

Remove from the oven, allow the cakes to cool in the tins until you can handle them, 10 minutes or so, and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing:

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water as before, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Beat the butter and icing sugar until creamy and then mix in the melted chocolate.

Level the top of one cake, if necessary, and spread half the icing onto it. Put the other cake on top and spread the remaining icing evenly over the top. Decorate with the reserved berries.

Amongst other things, we’ve also made (and eaten) Gooseberry and Elderflower Loaf Cake, Raspberry Lemonade, Raspberry Brownies, Heart Attack Pudding, Tartes aux Myrtilles, Cranberry Scones and Strawberry Butter. Perhaps our next book should be on lettuce leaves. Jane.

A Feast of Vegetables

DSC00114Yotam Ottolenghi has now published five books, of which “Jerusalem” is perhaps the best known and the latest of which, “Plenty More” (Ebury Press, 2014, full cover price £27.00), covers vegetarian cooking. Jonathan Lovekin’s photographs occupy as many full pages of the book as the text itself does and show excellent composition, balance and saturation of the intense colours associated with the best vegetarian food. They contribute enormously to the pleasure of reading and possessing the book as well as helping visualise sometimes exotic ingredients and dishes.

This is a book both practical enough to cook with and sumptuous enough to keep on display, even if not on a coffee table. It is the sort of book you might give or be given as a present, admire for its visual fireworks and relatively trendy subject matter; and then surprise yourself by actually using it, again and again.

Its production was clearly a team effort, from an outfit that now embraces restaurants, provisions and media. Ottolenghi’s acknowledgements to those he works with are both fulsome and full of character, for example he writes “Lucy, who’s in charge of Ottolenghi’s purchasing and of my life in general, isn’t hard to please but can be highly observant”

The author points out in his introduction that the prospect of vegetarian cooking can worry many people, as it once did him. Firstly a lot of the dishes, techniques and possibilities are not commonly known and secondly he, like many people, suffered an initial terror of running out of ideas. No danger of that once you’ve been using this book for a couple of weeks.

Its twelve chapters are respectively headed Tossed (salads), Steamed, Blanched, Simmered, Braised, Grilled, Roasted, Fried, Mashed, Cracked, Baked and Sweetened. They demonstrate the range and variety of dishes that can be prepared without the use of meat or fish and those I have tried are frankly delicious. A tart apple and celeriac salad is made special by the use of quinoa, coriander, thinly sliced red onion, poppy seeds and chilli. A rice dish is boosted by the use of cinnamon stick, lemon and fresh curry leaves; delicious pasta made with tagliatelle incorporates roasted walnuts and lemon juice as well as judicious amounts of cream and grated parmesan.

Given his culinary history and background it is unsurprising that Middle Eastern seasonings, ingredients and techniques play such a major part in this book. As the author points out with dishes like these, quality of ingredients is paramount and freshness and condition essential to a first class result. Some of the ingredients may be difficult to obtain outside large cities (verjuice, panch phoran and shriracha sauce seem to spring to mind) but many can be obtained through Ottolenghi’s website (

A small caveat is that, while nothing in the book is actually difficult to make, knife skills are definitely required and the amount of chopping, cutting, peeling and dicing is non-trivial. These are dishes to be prepared with concentrated love and eaten with serious pleasure. On the other hand the recipes are sufficiently filling, interesting and varied to ensure that if you so wanted you could eat off them happily for a very long time.

If you can get a competitive price at your local independent bookshop (it is heavily discounted at certain online outlets) please do consider using them to obtain it. As we always point out, you will probably miss them if they go.


Quince Jam and Jelly

Quince Jelly, jam and Curd

Membrillo may be the way most people come across quinces in shops, but there are other, equally delicious ways of preserving the fruit. Now is the time to take advantage of the last of the quinces and make jam and jelly. This post was meant to go up before Christmas, but jam and jelly make perfect New Year presents too and, if you don’t need to give it away, you can eat it! These recipes come from Quinces, Growing and Cooking (Prospect Books), which I wrote with Sue Dunster.

A Couple of Tips

Making jam and jelly is perfectly simple and incredibly satisfying, but there one or two points to be aware of. Unless specified the instructions below apply to both jam and jelly even though I have referred only to jam.

The type of sugar you use will not alter the taste of the jam but it will affect how it sets. Most importantly you must always use cane sugar rather than beet. Apparently in chemical terms there is no difference between the two, but cane sugar sets much better. If you use beet sugar your preserve will take ages to make and will always be on the runny side. Whether you use granulated or preserving, refined or unrefined is entirely up to you. Preserving or jam sugar is more expensive than granulated and not quite so readily available. The individual grains of sugar are larger and this means they dissolve more easily and, in turn, this speeds up the whole process. It is good if, like us, you are impatient but it doesn’t make better jam. Using refined or unrefined sugar is entirely a matter of personal preference.

The aspect of jam making which tends to worry people most is the setting point. This is the point at which the hot bubbling liquid in your pot will set when it cools. It is crucial not to overcook jam or jelly as they can become solid and rubbery and may taste burnt. The important thing to remember is that you can always cook the jam bit more, you cannot uncook it. With this in mind, always remove the pot from the heat when you test the jam. This way it will immediately stop cooking. It does not matter how many times you do this, you can even recook cold jam if you decide it is not sufficiently set. Testing whether the jam is set is very simple. Before you start put several saucers into the deep freeze. When you think the jam may be ready, remove it from the heat and, using a teaspoon put a small amount of jam onto one of the cold saucers. The jam will rapidly cool. Push your finger through it and if it forms a wrinkly skin it means the jam is ready and will set when cooled in jars. The jam is then ready to pour into jars. If it remains runny replace the pan on the heat and retest using another cold saucer.

When cooking the jam you will probably find a scum forms on the surface. Do not scoop this off while the jam is cooking as you will end up wasting a lot. When making jam you can disperse the scum by adding a little butter. Once the setting point has been reached, put a knob of soft butter into the jam and stir it until it melts. Any scum will miraculously disappear. The amount of butter you need will depend on the quantity of jam you are making and how much scum there is, so start with about ¼ teaspoon and add a little more if necessary. When making jelly you will need to scoop the scum off eventually as it will spoil the clarity of the jelly. Once the jelly has reached setting point allow it to cool slightly and then scoop off all the scum using a clean spoon. It doesn’t look terribly attractive, but tastes just as good and can be put in a separate jar and eaten.

It is important to sterilize your jars properly otherwise you run the risk of the jam going mouldy. It is perfectly okay to remove any mould and eat the jam below but it doesn’t look very good if you give away a jar of proudly made jam and a layer of blue mould has crept in. To sterilise, first preheat the oven to 110C / Gas ¼. Wash the jars and lids thoroughly in hot, soapy water and rinse well. You can run them through a cycle of a dishwasher if you prefer. Put the jars upside down in the oven and leave them until they are totally dry. If you are using metal lids they can go in the oven too. Drying the jars in the oven removes the risk of wiping them with a less than spotless cloth and also means that they are hot and will not crack when you pour the hot jam into them.

When cooking, simmer the fruit slowly to break it up and dissolve the sugar. Then boil it rapidly, as the quicker it reaches the setting point the better the flavour will be.

Quince Jam

This is a wonderful jam which is not too sweet and really thick with fruit.

  • 1kg quinces
  • 1.8ml water
  • 1.250-1.5kg granulated or preserving sugar, according to how sweet you want the jam
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Small piece of butter
  • This will make between 3 and 6 jars depending how juicy the quinces are and how runny you like your jam.
  • Put a couple of saucers in the deep freeze for testing the jam.
  • Wash the jars and put in a low oven (110C / Gas ¼) to dry.

Wash the quinces, removing all the fluff and cut out any bruised flesh. If the fruits are large, cut them in half as they will cook quicker this way. If there are signs that any of the fruits have been eaten by grubs it is worth cutting them anyway to check the inside. Put in a large steel pan, add the water (which should cover the fruit) and simmer until soft. This should take between ½ to 1 hour depending on the size of your quinces. Check periodically to ensure the pan does not dry out.

Lift the quinces out one at a time, place on a saucer and pull apart with a knife and fork and remove the core. You do not need to worry about the skin as this will break up when you boil the jam. The fruit will fall apart as you remove the cores. Cut the pieces in dice sized chunks.

Return the quinces to the juice in the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar and then boil hard until the setting point is reached. (See above.)

Pour into hot, sterilized jars, seal and once the jars are cool, label.

Quince Jelly

One of the joys of this jelly is the beautiful, clear colour, quite apart from the fabulous taste. It can be eaten on toast or scones and is also a delicious accompaniment to chicken, turkey and pheasant.

1kg quinces

Sugar – granulated or preserving

Depending on the fruit 1kg of fruit will give you about 300ml of juice which will, in turn, make just over a jar of jelly.

Wash the quinces and rub off the fluffy down. Remove any bruised or blemished parts and cut all the rest into chunks, you don’t need to worry about peeling or coring.

Put into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and add enough water so the fruit is just submerged.

Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit has turned to pulp. Stir and squash down periodically to help the fruit break up and to prevent it sticking. This will probably take a couple of hours.

Pour the contents into a jelly bag and allow the juice to drip through into a bowl. It is easiest if you spoon the fruit into the bag first and then pour the liquid over. The whole operation is quite difficult and much simpler with two people, one to hold the bag open and one to pour. Do not squeeze the bag or press the fruit down as this will turn the jelly cloudy. The jelly will take a couple of hours to drip through and can be left overnight.

Put a couple of saucers in the deep freeze to use for testing the jelly.

Wash the jars and put in a low oven (110C / Gas ¼) to dry.

Measure the juice and for every 500ml juice add 400g sugar. Put into a clean saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Once the liquid is clear, turn up the heat and boil hard until setting point is reached. (See above.)

Pour into hot, sterilized jars, seal and once the jars are cool, label.



One of Our Favourite Recipes: Endlessly Adaptable Bread

 Bread Pan

This is a marvellously versatile recipe; you can make a wholemeal loaf, a white cob, or anything in between, with the addition of flavourings, herbs or any of the vegetables in the previous post.

The original recipe comes from Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. He is the ‘bad cop’ to Mary Berry’s ‘good cop’ on The Great British Bake Off and his books are all brilliant, as are hers. They are easy to follow and have a balance of favourites and more unusual recipes. How to Bake has recipes for a mixture of breads, pastries, puddings, cakes, pies and tarts, all of which are delicious.

Most vegetables are better with strong white flour, rather than wholemeal.

If you want a sweet pumpkin bread, add 2 teaspoons of runny honey instead of the butter. If you are using a purée of vegetables reduce the butter by about half. Always add the water slowly so the dough does not become too sticky.

The flours and yeast that we use are in brackets, but any strong bread flour and quick yeast will work; experiment to find your favourites.

For 1 loaf

  • 400g stoneground strong wholemeal flour (Waitrose Canadian and Very Strong)
  • 100g strong white bread flour (Waitrose Farm: Leckford Estate)
  • 10g salt
  • 10g instant yeast (Dove’s Farm Quick Yeast, this is loose rather than in sachets so you can measure the exact amount)
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened
  • 320ml tepid water
  • Oil for kneading and to grease the bowl

Tip the flours into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other.

Add the butter, three-quarters of the water and any puréed or grated vegetables. Turn the mixture round with your fingers and add the rest of the water a little at a time until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is soft, but not soggy. You may need a little more or less water. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl, folding the edges into the middle. Keep going till you have a rough dough.

Coat the work surface with a little olive oil, then tip the dough onto it and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 10 minutes, by which time the dough should be smooth and silky. Oil a large bowl, put the dough into it and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until it has at least doubled in size, at least 1 hour, possibly 2 or even 3.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.

Dust the work surface lightly with flour and tip the dough onto it. Knock the air out of the dough by folding it inwards repeatedly until the dough is smooth. Flatten the dough and roll it up into a sausage, then roll this out with your hands until it is about 30cm long. Tie the dough in a knot and place it on the prepared baking tray. Put the tray into a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for about an hour. Large recycling bags are excellent for this, using a wire mesh food cover to keep the plastic off the dough. The dough should have doubled in size and spring back when prodded lightly wit a finger.Wholemeal 1

Meanwhile heat the oven to Gas 7, 200C.

Gently rub flour over the dough and put the loaf into the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, then check it is cooked by tapping the base, it should sound hollow. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Jane