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Seedheads and blue skies

I am ever-so thankful for the beautiful sunny (if rather chilly!) autumn days we’ve had over the weekend and at the start of the week here in Cheshire – particularly so, because less than a week ago I was still soaking up the heat and basking under spotless blue skies in Greece.  I’ve got so many lovely things to share from our holiday but before that I wanted to just enjoy a few snaps of all that I love about an English autumn.

There are pumpkins at the farm shop, I can’t help but fall in love with all those shades of orange – I just wish the little punks in our neighbourhood wouldn’t see a pile of them by my front door as a good excuse for some street football. B*%!@^#s.

Pumpkins

This morning I made some chicken stock with a leftover roast chicken carcass, I am trying harder to find time to do this and it is so satisfying to have your own homemade stock.  The best I’ve made so far went solid like jelly, which is a sure sign of its tastiness.

Homemade chicken stock

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Last weekend we had some beautiful bright, crisp weather – blue skies, sunshine and lovely autumn colours.  Mr Rigg, Buddy and I walked to our local woodland in search of sloes to make sloe gin.

Armed with baskets we headed to the first spot I knew of – however, someone else had thought it was a good day for picking sloes so we carried on to the second patch I knew of and thankfully we found quite a number of them.

Picking sloes is a long slow process.  They are small and dotted along branches that are armed with long thorns to prick your fingers.  With the weather so lovely we were in no hurry, so pushed our way into the bushes picking off the fruits.

When we had picked what we could we headed into the woods in search of more bushes.  We had almost given up when we came across three good bushes where we picked the remainder of our haul.

At home we discovered we had picked 1.6kg of sloes!  We had only wanted about 400g…oops!  With a couple of bottles of gin and granulated sugar we started to make our sloe gin.  Sat in front of the Grand Prix we pricked every sloe multiple times with a pin, then we measured them into bottles and topped up with the sugar and gin. 

We followed Darina Allen’s recipe for Sloe Gin from her Forgotten Skills of Cooking – to 700g of sloes use 350g granulated sugar and 1.2 litres of gin.  Once bottled, seal tightly and store in a dark place, turning every couple of days to start with, then every couple of months.

Last night we had the first fire of the season in our wood burning stove.  It was such a treat to bring the logs in and curl up on the sofa by the fire.

We also made a delicious dinner from one of my favourite recipe books (it must seem like I have a lot of favourites!) – the Complete Traditional Recipe Book from the National Trust.

It was a Hobbler’s Seafood Pie – a so simple fish pie with rich creamy sauce and mash potato topping.  Many of you readers will know that my camera’s broken, so I have included a photo of what it looks like in the recipe book – ours wasn’t far off!

Here’s my version with a couple of tweaks to the original recipe…

Hobbler’s Seafood Pie

Feeds 2 with enough leftovers for a light lunch

6 oz white fish (we used Coley)
2 oz prawns
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 oz butter
1 oz plain flour
150ml milk
150ml fish stock
salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
mashed potato to cover (add grated cheese for added luxury!)

*Note: use the best fish stock you can – obviously the best would be homemade, but we used ready-made fish stock from Waitrose (not the stuff in the fridge, but in the cooking ingredients section) and it made a great rich tasting sauce.

Put your potatoes onto boil – once tender drain, mash and add some grated cheddar.

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Into your pie dish, cut the fish into largeish chunks.  Scatter over the prawns and parsley.

Now make your white sauce: heat the milk and fish stock until warm.  In a separate pan melt the butter, then stir in the flour.  Cook for about 3 minutes stirring all the time.  Stir in the warm milk mixture a little at a time, stirring all the while.  Beat your sauce and bring to the boil – I read that the harder you beat your sauce the smoother it will be.

Once your sauce has come to the boil, turn it down and cook it a little longer whilst beating it.  Turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and grate in some nutmeg.

Pour the sauce over your fish and prawns, then top with the mashed potato – fluff up with a fork and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden on top.

I thought I should just explain the lack of posting…my camera is broken.  I feel lost without it – I don’t quite know how I can blog, food just doesn’t seem as interesting when only written about.  So I shall have to post lots of other people’s lovely images.

So, at a time when money is tight and I can’t go out and just buy a new one I am having to think creatively about how to raise the funds for a new camera.  Until that time, you and I are going to have to be content with camera phone pictures – great from a distance, not so good on close-ups of scrumptious food.

Oh well.

Recently we have eaten lots more corn on the cob cooked simply with butter, salt and pepper; sweetcorn fritters – this time with slithers of crispy bacon and tomato salsa; homemade rice paper rolls filled with loads of raw veggies and a soy and ginger dipping sauce – Tes at Home has a great recipe for her spring rolls with creamy peanut sauce.

And I have finally accepted autumn is upon us by starting my day with a bowl of porridge drizzled with maple syrup.  I am quite excited about autumn…Halloween…Bonfire Night…and then Christmas.

Images: {1 and 2} Martha Stewart; {3} Country Living

Where has the past week gone?  I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything for a week now – it seems to have flown past.  Mr Rigg and I have just spent the weekend with my family in Gloucestershire, which was lovely. 


Image: Izzy Burton Photography

Although very chilly we had bright blue skies and the autumn colours are started to appear.  On Friday I spent the day working at the National Trust head office in Swindon as part of my volunteer work for them.  I am the Sustainable Food Communication Officer working alongside the Local Food Co-ordinator, and I am really enjoying my work.

So after a great day’s work, my afternoon was made complete by meeting Valentine Warner – who did the fantastic tv show and books called What to Eat Now and What to Eat Now More Please! 

I loved his programmes and the recipe books, so to meet him was just incredible.  He seemed really down-to-earth and interested in the work the National Trust is doing.  What a great man!


Image: Valentine Warner

Saturday morning was spent getting measured for my wedding dress (aah!) which was both exciting and slightly surreal. 

I have already found my wedding dress in a beautiful boutique in Cheltenham but it needs some alterations.  My dress is handmade by an incredible lady who runs the boutique, and is made from 100 year-old handmade lace.  I can’t wait to wear it!


Image: Izzy Burton Photography

In the afternoon my little sister did a photo shoot of Mr Rigg and me picking blackberries – she is going to be taking photographs at our wedding and so she’s practising.  Mr Rigg and I aren’t that comfortable in front of the camera, but she managed to take some lovely shots.


Image: Izzy Burton Photography

Saturday evening we celebrated her 17th birthday with roasted vegetable lasagne and warm apple cake. 

 

Happy Birthday Iz Biz!

The weekend finished with a lovely autumnal walk on Sunday morning with my mom, dad and Alfie the deerhound.  We came across a pear tree that was overhanging the lane, so picked some pears to take home.  Then we discovered a walnut tree! 


Image: Izzy Burton Photography

We gathered pocketfuls of walnuts and once home opened some up to reveal the walnuts inside.  Mom popped one in the oven to roast it slightly and it was delicious!

Mr Rigg, Buddy and I have been out this past week foraging for wild goodies.  We collected a basket of blackberries, cobnuts/hazelnuts and rosehips. 

I’m not sure whether we’ve been gathering hazelnuts too early – I must look it up.  Our little hazelnut tree/bush in the garden has got a few nuts on it for the first year!  My parents have a huge tree which drops loads of nuts – I’m sure in a couple of weeks I’ll come home with lots.

There are quite a good number of blackberries, although they’re all quite small and I have yet to find one which isn’t sour.  Ours are destined for apple and blackberry pie with apples from the farmer’s market.

And again with the rosehips, not sure if we’re picked them too early, but I want to try making rosehip syrup to make into cordial…turns out the recipe I have requires 800g!  Wish me good luck!

I have just created a brand new Recipe Index for the blog to help people find the recipes they want – and hopefully some others you’d like to try! 

I thought it would be a breeze to put it together…but in fact it turns out I’ve added rather a lot of recipes and took me a lot longer than I expected.

Hope you enjoy!

These are the last of the berries from my garden: blackcurrants, raspberries and loganberries.  Although there are a few loganberries still ripening, the raspberries and blackcurrants are all but finished. 

We’re heading off to Yorkshire this weekend to visit Mr Rigg’s family and be joined by my parents.  A restful few days awaits and someone else to do the cooking – and very good cooking it is. 

I will pop this small bowlful of berries into the freezer, and cook with them over the coming weeks (at least that’s the plan!). 

Whilst picking the berries I was dreaming up different ideas of what I could do with them, and my favourite idea so far is a sort of late summer berry crumble or pie

I have spotted blackberries turning deep purple in the hedgerows, so think supplemented with a few of these a crumble or pie would be lovely.  Plus we have a tub of homemade clotted cream ice cream to finish.

Is anyone else starting to feel that summer is waning and autumn is approaching?  Maybe it’s just the warm, wet and windy weather we have had recently in our part of England that has awakened a longing for stews and pies.

Have a lovely weekend and I hope to be back afresh next week to catch up on all that I’ve promised to post – this week has been unnaturally busy and I’ve barely had a chance to breathe.

Brie and Onion Tart

Brie and Onion Tart

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

200g puff pastry
100-120g Brie
6 onions
50g butter
Thyme

In a large frying pan heat the butter.  Peel the onions and cut into segments.  Cook the onions in the butter on a gentle heat until they are meltingly tender and slightly caramelised.  Let them take their time.

Preheat the oven to 220°C.  Roll out your puff pastry until it is only a couple of millimetres thick.  Carefully place the pastry onto a baking tray and score a border around the pastry about 2cm for the edges.  Prick with a fork.

Once the onions are cooked, spread them out over the pastry leaving the border free.  Brush some of the remaining oniony butter from in the pan around the border – this will help it to go lovely and golden.

Cut the Brie into pieces and scatter over the onions.  Sprinkle over some thyme leaves and a little salt and pepper.

Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the cheese has melted and oozed amongst the onions.

Eat with a big pile of crisp and crunchy salad tossed in a tangy homemade dressing – just a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is all it needs.  Scrumptious.

Bried and onion tart

This delicious recipe is taken from the fabulous Nigel Slater’s Appetite.

halloween

N and I are away for the weekend visiting friends and relatives – have a lovely Hallow’een weekend!

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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