Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Growing your own vegetables

There are so many advantages to growing your own vegetables.  When planned you can have a continuous supply of vegetables in the garden.  I do not like grocery shopping and during the summer I found myself shopping every couple of days to ensure I always had a good fresh supply of salad goods. Now I grow my own I can grow what me and my family like and I always have a supply of lovely fresh salad.

As well as salads I also grow winter vegetables such as leeks, parsnips, butternut squash, cabbages, broccoli, carrots, onions, garlic and sprouts.

It's also great to grow a good selection of herbs so whenever you are cooking there is a supply of herbs right on your doorstep!

What you will need:
A sunny patch of garden or you can grow lots of salads and herbs in pots but they must be in a sunny spot.
Seeds - if you are a beginner a good starting point is salad leaves, radishes, basil, parsley.
A small amount of equipment is an advantage - gardening gloves, trowel, seed labels.

You can start planting out once the risk of frost has passed  - usually around mid May.

Prepare your garden area by digging thoroughly and removing any loose stones.  Add some manure to fertilise the soil.

Seeds should be sewn in rows - make a small trench and scatter the seeds. Cover with a small amount of compost and water.
It is important to label your seeds so you know what they are when they start to grow.
You must also keep the soil moist.

The same principle applies if you are growing in pots,

Watch your seeds grow into lovely vegetables.

Feel free to message me with any questions.   Keep following my blog or follow me on twitter or instagram @countrysidecookery for more information about growing vegetables and great ideas for using them.

Thanks for reading I hope you give it a go!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Why I love my Breadmaker

I have a Panasonic SD2500 bread maker and it literally gets used everyday!  Each evening I put bread on using the timer and it finishes baking at 6.30am the following morning.

When we awake in the morning you can smell the gorgeous aroma of fresh bread.  It is a pleasure to make the kids sandwiches with this bread - it is so healthy - not full of additives.  I use a mix of half wholemeal flour and half white flour - I find this nice and light but it still has the fibre of the wholemeal bread.

At the weekend I love to make what I call my "speciality" breads (post here) - garlic bread, olive bread, stilton bread, garlic & cheese bread, ham and mustard bread to name a few.

I also use the bread maker for making pizza dough.  My garlic pizzas and homemade pizzas are so popular with my kids and their friends.  Making pizza is a great way to involve the kids in cooking and they get to make a pizza with their favourite toppings on - no more picking out the bits they don't like.  The great thing is I'm really popular with their friends - to quote my daughters best friend "all the food you make is lush" - I felt like I'd really made it, getting approval from a teenager!

Check out my post here on how to make pizza:-

Tips for buying a bread maker:-

1. Check out the recipe book, does it cover everything you want to make.  Some bread makers can makes jams & cakes as well as bread.  You may be interested in gluten free breads or speciality breads such as Italian or French.

2. What are the ingredients - are they easy to purchase with your weekly shop.  If there are obscure items you will find difficult to source the chances are you won't bother!

3. Are the measurements easy - I prefer grams and ounces rather than cups but that's my personal choice.  As long as you are comfortable with the measurements then that's fine!

4. Does it have a timer - I think this is really important as you can set the bread to finish at a time to suit you.  It may suit you to put bread on the morning and come home from work to freshly baked bread!

5. Can you bake different sized loaves - I think this is important especially if I have friends coming round I can bake a larger loaf.

Tips for using the Bread maker:-

1. Familiarize yourself with the timer option.  By understanding the option it will ensure your bread is ready when you want it.

2. Use good fresh ingredients - strong bread flour is the best.

3. Add the ingredients in the order they are shown in the recipe.

4. Measure accurately to ensure the perfect loaf!


Friday, 1 April 2016

That feeling of satisfaction when you rear your own pigs

Once a year I purchase 2 or 3 piglets to rear for meat.

For my own personal lifestyle I choose to purchase them in August/September time and then send them to slaughter in January/ February as I like to go away a lot during the spring and summer months which then means asking someone to feed them whilst I am away.  This is my personal choice and others would say purchase them during the spring so you have them over the summer when it is warmer and hopefully not so muddy.

I like a pure breed such as gloucester old spot or british saddleback.  I have tried cross breeds but from experience I think the meat is better on a pure breed.

So how do you not become attached I hear you say.  Well here it is - when you buy these cute little weaners, they are just that - cute.  They usually follow my kids around and the kids love to play with them.  However they grow and they grow big and cumbersome.  They are no longer fun to play with, the kids don't want to feed them any more, the older they get the more they dig up their pen, the more mischievous they become with their digging and generally they start to destroy anything in their path. This for me means its time to go to slaughter.  Do I feel guilty - absolutely not.  Anyone who eats meat should experience this.  I pride myself on giving pigs a good life for the time are they here and I always eat every last bit of them.  I do not expect a pig to sacrifice itself for me and my family and then not eat it because it is not the perfect shaped chop etc.
I get a huge sense of satisfaction from eating my own pork, knowing how it has been fed, it has been reared naturally with plenty of room to roam around.  It has not been injected with chemicals and water to make it grow bigger, faster so it can end up on a supermarket shelf.

Are they easy to keep?

Yes - they are very easy to keep.  You will need a few basic essentials.

  • An area of garden/ land which is well fenced off with electric fencing.
  • A registration to keep pigs from DEFRA How to register to keep pigs
  • An arc for the pigs to sleep in.
  • Hay/straw in the arc
  • pig food - start with growers pellets and then progress onto pig nuts.
  • Fresh water supply
Pigs need minimum attention - each day they will need fresh water and food.  They can be fed vegetable waste (peelings and left overs etc). Do not feed pigs any meat leftovers.
As well as any left overs they should be fed pig food daily - start with growers pellets and then about two weeks before they go slaughter change to pig nuts.

It is important to get the amount of food right - you need enough fat on the meat to make it tasty but you do not want over fatty meat!

Choose a good abattoir who can offer you advise.  I use Bakers of Nailsea bakers of nailsea website who also have a butcher on site which is great as I can talk to him in detail about my requirements.

I love the fact that my kids get involved in every part of this process.  They feed the pigs when they are weaners, help load them into the trailer to go to slaughter, label the meat when it come backs and my really proud mum moment - my 8 year old helping me get the meat from the pigs head!  He was not at all phased about the fact it was a pigs head!

What do I get from my pigs?

Last week I had my 2 british saddleback slaughtered and butchered.  Here is what I got back:-
  • Heads and trotters - I will make a pigs head terrine/pate with this.
  • Offal - liver, hearts, kidneys - this will make fabulous faggots and offal is so good for you.
  • Leg joints - great for that Sunday roast.
  • Pork chops - great for a mid week roast or why not have chops with a different accompaniment.
  • Sausages - really meaty sausages without additives and without all the "extra bits" the supermarkets add.
  • Bacon - dry cured bacon - delicious.
  • Gammon - roasted gammon joint, boiled gammon joint the choices are endless.  I also cook up a gammon joint, thinly slice it, freeze it and there I have good quality ham for sandwiches etc.  Again not the supermarket style ham with lots of added water.
  • Belly joints - I love a good pork belly joint.  Whilst this is quite fatty if cooked slowly and on a low heat for several hours this is absolutely gorgeous.
  • Pork Ribs - great for a BBQ


Pork Leg Joints & ribs

Pork Chops

 For me one of the most satisfying parts of the pig is the head - once I have made my pigs head terrine I really do feel that I've made a gorgeous snack or meal out of something which would normally be thrown away.  Pigs cheeks have also become very popular is restaurants.

pigs head and trotters

Cooked pigs head

My 8 year old pulling meat from the head!

Meat from the head and trotters

Completed pigs head terrine.

Keep watching my blog for more ideas and recipes.

Please comment if you have any questions!!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Countryside Cookery Basics - Shopping

In my first Countryside Cookery Basic post I am going to give you some top tips and ideas for buying your groceries:-

Use Click & Collect - I absolutely love the supermarkets click & collect service.  It is free and saves so much time especially if you have young children (or even older children) who love to add items to your shopping trolley when you're not looking!
This is an online service and you log onto your favourite supermarket - I use Asda but the same principles apply to the other supermarkets.  The lower end supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl do not offer this service.
Once logged on select the items you wish to buy - this is a great budget tool as at the of your shop you can see what you have spent.  If you have gone over budget go back through your trolley and maybe remove any non essential items.
Select the time slot which is convenient for you to collect.
Simply turn up at your chosen supermarket between the times arrange and collect your shopping.

A great tool if shopping on a budget and a great time saver - no more walking up and down every aisle being tempted to buy items you don't need!

Your first shop will take more time as you will have to find all the items you like, however, you can then save this as a shopping list to use another time.  I have a few lists saved such as a small mid week shop, large weekly shop and children s party shop for all the foods I like to buy when hosting a children s party.  You can also go into previous orders and simply add this to your trolley and then add or remove items as required.

Buying meat - the cheaper cuts of meat are just as tasty as the more expensive cuts.  Here are a couple of examples:-
Chicken thighs are far cheaper than chicken breasts and even tastier.
Pork belly is a cheaper cut but if cooked slowly is absolutely gorgeous.
Beef stewing steak if cooked slowly for a long period of time can be beautifully tender.
Beef brisket makes a really good roast joint but must be cooked slowly - a great alternative to an expensive cut of beef.

Always check the price per KG and if possible substitute your meat if an alternative is on special offer.  Could you use turkey instead of chicken?  Could you use a different cut of meat?
Sometimes it is cheaper to buy larger packs - if you intend freezing some do not freeze large packs of meat - you will never use it!  Freeze in sandwich bags in portion sizes suitable for your family.

TOP TIP Remember to label the sandwich bags with the contents and date frozen.

Ask your butcher what special offers they have and what are the cheaper cuts of meat - they can also offer you cooking advice!

If you can ask your butcher if you can buy half a lamb or half a pig - this is a really cost effective way to buy meat but you must have the freezer space to store it.  Ensure you freeze in portions suitable for your family.  Ask your butcher the source of the meat - it should be local and reared outside.  If not buying from a butcher check the labels - good sources of meat are:-
Pasture/ Grass fed
Free range
Outdoor bred/ reared.

I rear my own pigs and this is just some of the meat and sausages I get.


Pork chops & Belly Joints
Pork Leg joints & ribs

Although this meat maybe more expensive than the intensively reared factory produced meat why not buy less but of a higher quality.

Do not be tempted to buy ready marinated meats, stuffed roasting joints or bread crumbed chicken etc - this is an expensive way to buy meat and it is so much better to marinate the meat yourself or stuff your own roasting joint or make your own bread crumb coating.
Generally this ready to cook meat also contains more sugars, salts & preservatives.

Why not try some offal - this is generally cheaper than a cut of meat.  There are loads of ways of cooking offal - maybe add kidneys to a stew, have some liver & onions or how about make your own faggots.

During the winter months it is game season so ask your butcher if you can get pheasant, partridge, rabbit etc.  Some local farm shops will also stock this at reasonable prices.  if you can contact a local shooting syndicate they may be prepared to put you in touch with a game keeper who can supply you with some birds.

Buying Fruit & Vegetables.
Buy Fruit & Vegetables which are in season and british where possible.
Fruit & vegetables which are in season and local are more reasonably priced and taste so much better. If fruit (especially soft fruit such as raspberries & strawberries) is imported from other countries it is generally not ripe when picked and then ripened on its journey making it fairly tasteless when it arrive on the supermarket shelves!
I love the fact I eat strawberries during June & July and will then wait until next year to have them again - I really look forward to it.
A really good way of buying fruit & vegetables is a veg box scheme from a local farm.  This means you can locally produced seasonal vegetables delivered to your door.  Many of these schemes also include recipe cards with ideas for using the vegetables.
Check out my blog post on wonky & ugly vegetables for some inspiration.

Try to eat a good variety of fruit and vegetables.  Different coloured fruits & vegetables will contain more vitamins and nutrients and will also look more exciting on your plate.  Your plate of food will not look very excited if the colours are bland.

TOP TIP - at the end of the week do not throw away any unused wilting vegetables - these can be frozen, made into soup or used in a stock.


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Gorgeous Homemade Breads

Stilton Bread - Delicious!

Who loves the smell and taste of fresh baked bread? My family certainly do!  This bread is top quality, delicious, fresh and can be made for a lot less than the cost of a speciality bread in a bakery.

Whenever I prepare a buffet I love to make a selection of breads using bread dough made in the bread maker. When my guests arrive they can smell the aroma of fresh baked bread - gorgeous! 

Here is how I do it and it is so simple!

Select the white bread dough function on your bread maker.

Once the dough is made roll it out into a rectangle shape about half - one centimetre in depth.

Garlic Butter spread over the bread dough

Cover with the toppings of your choice - here are a few ideas:-

  • Garlic - simply add crushed garlic to butter and spread over the bread dough
  • Olives - roughly chop olives and sprinkle over the dough
  • Garlic and cheese - spread garlic butter and grated cheddar cheese over the bread dough
  • Stilton - sprinkle crumbled stilton over the bread dough
  • Ham & cheese - sprinkle chopped ham and grated cheddar over the bread dough.
  • Ham & Mustard - spread mustard and then sprinkle chopped ham over the bread dough

Bread dough rolled up - cut into segments

Once you have added your toppings roll the dough up.
Cut into segments about 2 inches long.
Place the segments upright in a well buttered ovenproof dish.

Olive bread dough ready to rise

Stilton Bread dough once risen

Cover with oiled cling film (loosely as the bread will rise)
Leave in a warm place to proof (rise)
About about 30 - 45 minutes the bread will be risen - the longer you leave it the better as this will make the bread really light and airy.
Once well risen bake in a pre heated oven (180 degrees) for 20 -30 minutes until browned on top.
I like to remove from the dish to serve.
Serve whilst still warm!



Why not try different flavours?

TOP TIP - this is also great to take on a picnic as an alternative to sandwiches.

TOP TIP - remember to calculate how long this will take to ensure it is ready on time.  In my bread maker it takes 2 hours 20 minutes for the bread dough, then 40ish minutes for proofing and 30 minutes for baking - a total of about 3 and half hours!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Great Ideas for left over roast

I love a roast dinner, especially on a Sunday when I generally have more time to prepare all the vegetables.

I grow a lot of my own vegetables and there is nothing more satisfying than putting on my wellies, heading into my vegetable patch, picking my vegetables and then serving them with my Sunday roast!  At the moment my vegetable plot has parsnips, beetroot, butternut squash, sprouts, purple sprouting & leeks.  I still have potatoes from this years crop stored in a cool, dark corner of the garage and an abundance of home grown vegetables in the freezer which I froze earlier in the season.

Although you may think using a joint of meat for your roast is expensive - think again.  If you use all the leftovers and make stock from the bones your joint of meat will make more than one meal.  It is also so much nicer to cook the roast vegetables around the joint so they absorb all the lovely flavors. The meat juices can be added to your gravy for that extra taste.  Remember the stock from the bones can be frozen and used another time as a base for:-

  • Gravy
  • Soup
  • Curry
  • Chilli
  • Stew
Your homemade stock will be tastier and healthier than the shop bought alternative and your homemade version will have no added salts, colorings and preservatives.

Here are a few delicious ideas for your meat and vegetable leftovers:-
  • Stew
  • Curry
  • Risotto
  • Bubble & Squeak
  • Stir fry Vegetables
Or simply slice the meat and use cold in sandwiches for lunch boxes.

Keep following me and I will post recipes for you to try.

The Sunday roast is a dying tradition - let's bring it back and make the most of our leftovers!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Delicious Pork Curry.

I still have some pork joints left in my freezer from my pigs which went to slaughter some time ago. 
I had miscalculated the number of joints I would use and have run out of sausages, bacon, gammon and chops but the joints now need using up before my next pigs are slaughtered.  I roast the joints and then make this delicious curry and freeze for use another day.
If you don't have any pork joints you want to use up this works just as well with leftovers or next time you see pork joints on special offer why not get one just for this gorgeous curry!

2 onions
8 garlic gloves
100g fresh ginger
2 fresh chillies
1 teaspoon curry powder
750g cooked chopped pork
1- 2 tablespoons plain flour
olive oil
1 can chopped tomatoes
600ml stock
Fresh Coriander

Make a paste in a blender using the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger & curry powder.
Add a little olive oil to a saucepan and lightly fry the paste.

Meanwhile toss the cooked pork in a little plain flour (this will help to thicken the sauce)
Add the pork to the paste and mix well on a low heat.
Add the chopped tomatoes and stock.
Simmer for 2-3 hours until the sauce has reduced and thickened and the meat falls apart.
If the sauce reduces and thickens before 2 hours simply put the lid on the pan and simmer very gently.
If the sauce has not reduced - turn up the heat but keep stirring to prevent sticking.
The longer you can cook this for the more tender the meat becomes and the flavours really develop.
Add chopped fresh coriander just before serving.
Serve with accompaniments of your choice.

TOP TIP - this is a spicy curry - if it is too spicy for your taste simply add a little natural yoghurt (healthy option) or single cream.

This is a great dish for freezing.  When you want to use it simply defrost and reheat.

TOP TIP - pigs are so versatile.  Why not ask your butcher, form shop or local farmer if you can a half a pig or even a whole pig and have it butchered to your requirements.  Here are some ideas:-
Bacon (streaky from the belly or back bacon)
Pork Joints (legs or shoulders)
Pork chops
Don't forget to ask for the offal which makes fantastic faggots.