Sunday, 8 November 2015

Christmas Pudding (Revised Recipe)

I posted my traditional Christmas pud recipe a year or two ago, but I've slightly revised a few of the ingredients. I rather like Nigella's recipe, so I've added some prunes to the mix, so it really can be called a plum pudding, but I can't be paying twenty odd quid for the Pedro Ximenes sherry, so I will stick with my mix of any sweetish sherry that's in the cupboard, and some  dark flavourful beer for the liquid part.

And speaking of beer, I seem to have struck up something of a passing relationship with my local brewery here in Gloucester, called, naturally enough, Gloucester Brewery. They have kindly allowed me to pick up an occasional bag of their spent brewery grains which my cows pigs and chickens absolutely love, and whilst I'm doing that, I get to pop in and have a look around their newly revamped shop on Gloucester Quays. It's in one of the many wonderful old buildings on the quay, and has been done up very sensitively and in keeping with the old vaults. It must have cost quite a bit, and the work has been going on for some time now, but the end result is really good. I generally take them in a few of my free range eggs in return for the spent grains, which I hope they like. So today finding myself in need of the aforementioned dark full flavoured beer, I bought a bottle of this Dockside Dark
with (it says on the label) "coffee chocolate and subtle sweetness". It's just perfect for Christmas pudding, so I might make an extra one for the guys down there as a small thank you. Mind you, I'm not sure how pleased they'll be - although I love it, I know that traditional Christmas pudding isn't everyone's thing. Still it's the thought that counts!

About a pound/450 grams of mixed dried fruit, about half currants and the rest sultanas and finely chopped ready to eat prunes.
Zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
half a teaspoon of cinnamon and nutmeg
6 ounces/150 grams of dark brown muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon of black treacle
a glug of rum or brandy
4 ounces/100 grams fresh white breadcrumbs
2 ounces/50 gr ground almonds
3 ounces75 gr plain flour
6 ounces/100 gr shredded suet
Around half a pint/250ml of sweetish sherry and dark beer such as Dockside Dark 50:50 mix
3 eggs
1 medium cooking apple such as Bramley, grated, I never bother peeling but you can if you like.

Soak the dried fruits in the sherry and beer mix overnight or longer. Add all the other ingredients and stir well.Everyone in the family should get to have a stir, and make a wish.
 Add your family heirloom charms or coins cleaned with an overnight vinegar soak. Turn into a large pudding basin or two smaller ones.. Cover and steam for at least six hours. Allow to cool and store until Christmas day when you will need to steam again for a couple of hours. Or if you're pushed for hob space on the day just use the microwave to reheat for  a couple of minutes or so when you're ready.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Herdwick Sheep,(or Olympic Hurdlers)

First blog post for ages, yes I know, I get more erratic over time, and in all sorts of ways, but that's another story.

Well anyway, when we first came here to Ashleworth in Gloucestershire, I decided to get a few sheep, so I got a couple of pretty Jacobs, a couple of pedigree Coloured Ryelands
Coloured Ryelands

and a ram, Teddy the Tup,
Teddy the Tup as a lamb
and all was well. They wandered about nibbling grass and generally doing sheepy stuff. So far so good.

Then a friend announced that he had five lovely Herdwick ewes for me, and that's when the trouble started. 

Herdwicks are fell sheep, happiest on the windswept landscape of Cumbria, where they rarely see a human being from one month's end to another, and don't come across many fences or other means of containment. It turns out that when they do come across either of these obstacles their first reaction is running and jumping, usually both. Herdwicks are great at browsing on rough grazing, of which I have quite a bit, but when they'd had their fill they were over the months to be found mostly out on the lane, in the vegetable garden, harrasing the chickens in the chicken run ,stuck in the hedge, in the neighbours field or, worst of all, along the lane and on the neighbour's front lawn. (The neighbours were very understanding, fortunately). I came to the conclusion that Herdwicks are not sheep, they are gazelles with woolly coats on.  So although they produced five lovely lambs

 which are Ryeland/Herdwick crosses and so hopefully less wild, I decided that would have to go.

 Two are in  the freezer, and the other three were sold last week to a lovely man who came to collect them in his van with his little daughter.  It took us all an hour and a half  to catch them and load them onto the vehicle, (in the pouring rain I might add) but the nice man and his little girl seemed pleased with them and eventually drove off over the horizon as I breathed a sigh of relief. No doubt a proper farmer with big fields and proper fences would have no trouble with them, but here at the Cottage Garden Farmette, they were just the right sheep in the wrong place, or possibly the wrong sheep in the wrong place.

And just a quick word about the ones in the freezer. My Proper Farmer friend warned me that mutton can be strong, tough and fatty,so it was with some trepidation that we tried the first chops for dinner the other night. They were delicious. And I'm really looking forward to a slow roasted leg or shoulder some time soon as per this recipe of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. The fuller flavour of  the meat of older sheep which has fallen out of favour in recent decades with consumers  (referred to as hogget if it's just over a year or so old, or mutton if  it's a properly older sheep,) has been championed by a number of high profile individuals, the said Hugh FW, and apparently no less a person than the Prince of Wales goes banging on about hogget and mutton at every opportunity. If it's good enough for His Royal Highness, it's good enough for me. I bet he's got proper fences.


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