Monday, 17 March 2014

Welcome to Rosie

I've got a cow. A beautiful pedigree Jersey heifer, Dalena Gunner Rosen or Rosie as I call her. She's absolutely lovely, halter trained so easy for me to handle, and with a quiet and docile nature. I've always wanted a cow, and when the opportunity to buy Rosie came up I couldn't resist. I've had her about a week or so now, and it's been a steep learning curve for me, but I've had a lot of help and support from Lena who breeds Jersey cows, and from farming friends and neighbours. The first day I spent trying to work out how to keep the cows feet out of the milk bucket, and the second day, I managed with aching back and arms to get about half a bucket of milk when Rosie decided to change position and in the blink of an eye, over went the bucket. I now know the origin of the saying about not crying over spilt milk!

On about the second or third day, when I was starting to think I'd never be able to manage it, and I don't mind admitting that tears of frustration were not far away, along came Jeremy my farming friend and gave me an on site demo and a few tips. I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. Among Jeremy's suggestions was to get
a calf for Rosie to nurse. It's important that all the available milk is taken from the cow at each milking, or the cow's system takes any left unmilked as a sign to reduce the supply. So  a few days later a lovely little Aberdeen Angus cross calf came along and she takes any milk that I fail to get and will enable me to go over to once a day milking in due course, as she grows and takes a larger supply. Also she's really cute and Rosie loves her. and I don't think it's ever ideal to have one of any animal on its own

Of course it's pretty unusual these days for people to keep a single cow, it's not economic in modern farming terms, but in days gone by many country people kept a house cow, and enjoyed their own dairy produce. I've so far made some delicious butter, some crème fraiche. I've also made some not very successful clotted cream, and some soft cheese that was rubbery enough to stuff a mattress with.  But never mind, there's an endless supply of fresh milk every day at the moment I'll try again, and as I say it's a learning curve. I've learnt so much since I've been here at Chidgley, and fulfilled some long standing ambitions, so I'm grateful for that. Anyone know where I can get one of those old fashioned three leg milking stool with a little handle on the side for any quick position changes that may be needed? -  I'm sitting on an upturned bucket at the moment and the maker's mark is becoming indelibly imprinted on my rear...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Spot The Goose Egg

 My geese are laying well. I've never had geese eggs before and they are certainly impressive in size, and the taste is just gorgeous. Recipes suggest allowing three chicken eggs for one goose egg, so you'd think they wouldn't be difficult to spot. But the geese seem to like burying the eggs in the straw in their nest, so you have to dig around quite a bit to find them.

I have four geese, or rather three geese and Hissing Sid, the gander. Ganders are known to be a tad on the over protective side during the mating season, which is about now, but although he does hiss a bit at any passing individual, including the dog, who just ignores him, I can't say he's particularly intimidating.

I made a  jam and cream sponge the other day for the holiday cottage visitors with a goose egg, and it seemed to go down well. They weren't on holiday in fact, but were  students who were making a murder mystery/comedy film as a final exam project for a film studies degree, and for some reason decided that we would make a good location for the action. They had part of the field roped off as a "police investigation area" and with policemen and white suited forensic officers wandering about in the field it certainly kept us amused. I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished production.

But back to goose eggs, delicious to use in any recipe but probably best of all soft boiled with a big pile of toast soldiers. Place egg in tap hot water, bring to the boil, boil for about eight minutes.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Ginger and Marmalade Cake

The thing about having a good supply of home made marmalade, or indeed any other preserve, is what to do with it once you've made it. I do give quite a bit of it away, and it's quite handy for guests in our holiday cottage, but that still leaves a good supply to use ourselves. So this is an easy mix cake that keeps moist in the cake tin, and has a good flavour without the need for icings, fillings and all the attendant sugar calories and effort. It's a versatile recipe, you don't have to be too exact with it, and it's useful for using up odds and ends of things in the cupboard, the last of the golden syrup,
 remains of a jar of crystallized honey, and so on. You can use all syrup if you like, and grated citrus makes a good addition if you have the inclination.


Marmalade and Ginger Cake

Stand a saucepan on your digital scales and weigh in
350grams/12 ounces of golden syrup, honey and marmalade in whatever proportions you like
150 grams/6ounces of butter
and warm over gentle heat until just  melted

Put the pan back on the scales and add
9ounces/250grams  of plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
good pinch salt
2 medium eggs
about a quarter pint/150 ml milk

and beat briefly with a hand mixer till smooth. Or a wooden spoon if you are from Yorkshire (ie strong in  th' arm and weak in th' 'ead, Yorkshire born and Yorkshire bred)

Pour into a lined tin, mine was 11" x8"/ 27cm x 20cm

Bake in a moderate oven for about 30 mins till risen and firm.  Try to avoid getting the top too dark.


Monday, 17 February 2014

Best Ever Yorkshire Pudding Recipe

Now you may think that this tray of charcoal boulders is less than the post title suggests. But you would be wrong.  They are in fact  Perfect Yorkshire puddings. It's just that they've been in the oven about an hour too long! Yesterday was the only normal day of weather we have had around here for weeks, and when I say normal I mean normal mildly wintry sort of day, but not raining,  I repeat in case you live in Somerset and can't believe it, not raining so we were outside plodding about in the mud, talking to people we hadn't seen for ages, enjoying the relatively dry air,  discussing the floods again.
Then I suddenly remembered  the oven. Aarghh!!

Luckily I made the full amount of the recipe, which does two twelve hole muffin size tins, so I was able to quickly despatch this lot to the chicken run, and bung a second lot in the oven,. And this time I stayed in the kitchen till they were done!

Anyway to get to the point, the recipe is James Martin's recipe as demonstrated recently on BBC1 Saturday Kitchen. I've tried many recipes over the years but this is my favourite. I really tried it because I have a million eggs to use up at the moment, all the chickens have decided to come into lay, and this recipe uses 8 eggs or even 10 if you have some tiny pullet eggs like I have. You get a good flavour, and a spectacular rise, which is really the whole point.  I stuck pretty much to the recipe except the first bit, I just measured everything straight into a pyrex jug and mixed with an electric hand mixer until smooth, then put it into the fridge overnight. Make sure the tins are hot, the combination of smoking hot tin and fridge cold batter really makes the difference I think. All in all a great recipe for impressing the in-laws, or anyone else really. And if you must go off down the garden, take a timer with you.

Classic Yorkshire Pudding


  • 225g/8oz plain flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 free-range eggs
  • 600ml/1 pint milk
  • 55g/2oz dripping

Preparation method

  1. Place the flour and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper into a bowl. Add the eggs, mixing in with a whisk, then gradually pour in the milk, mixing slowly to prevent lumps forming.
  2. Cover the bowl with cling film and chill in the fridge overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
  4. Put a little of the dripping in four non-stick Yorkshire pudding tins. Place the tins in the oven until smoking hot.
  5. Remove from the oven and quickly fill the moulds with the batter. Return to the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Turn the oven down to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and cook for a further 10 minutes to set the bottom of the puddings.
  7. Remove from the oven and serve.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Pink Gin and Other Antiques

I love old stuff, (no untoward joke will be inserted here at the expense of Mr Wilkinson, it's Valentines Day after all), but so apparently does everyone else. Again, I'm not referring to Mr Wilkinson here, but antiques programmes - you can't turn on the telly without being regaled by some tweedy suited expert in a bow tie going on about the value of some bit of old tat. Of course I do realise that one person's bit of tat is another's priceless antique, or at least "Vintage Collectable". And as I say I do love old stuff.
I have no idea of the values of things, and I only buy what I like, but Mr Wilkinson and I have a bit of an ongoing issue with what is called de-cluttering these days, so I try to limit myself to buying things that will be of actual use. Trying to go with William Morris "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" would be my ideal, but you can't help thinking that Anti-Clutterists only read the first phrase,- Have nothing in your houses - and leave it at that! I could never be a minimalist!

So anyway that summarises my excuses for buying these lovely little glasses in a charity shop the other day. I say little, and they are small in comparison to the vast modern wine glasses we all use now, but they are so pretty I couldn't resist them. As I was standing at the counter to pay for them, all of £4.50 in total, the lady behind me pointed out that they were really too small to be of much use, what was I thinking of putting in them, clearly thinking no more than a small sherry when the vicar calls round.
  "Gin" said I,
"No room for the  ice lemon and tonic water though" she said doubtfully,
"Indeed," I said "but if you get your husband (other cocktail wizards are available) to shake it up in a cocktail shaker with ice and a dash of angosturas, then strain it into the glass, it should be just about the right size".
And indeed it is.


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