life on a smallholding

not quite a business, but more than a hobby

A warm and spicy bake — Sunday, 29th April

A warm and spicy bake

Ginger spiced tray bake
Ginger spiced tray bake

The chosen cake for this week’s weekly bake-off from Mary Berry’s 100 Cakes and Bakes was Ginger and Treacle Spiced Traybake.  Left to my own devices I would probably never have made this cake but I’m so glad I did.

It uses stem ginger and I have had a jar in my store cupboard for years.  Last week I came across it and decided to some to make caramelised rhubarb and ginger ice cream.  That left me with only one bulb and I needed a total of six for the cake and the topping.  Luckily Himself was off to college to his welding class and practically had to drive past the supermarket.

I gave him a list which included the stem ginger but he had great difficulty locating it and I nearly ended up with “Very Lazy Ginger” in white wine vinegar.  It could have been a very different cake.


The cake itself was simple to make, just had to throw everything in a bowl and mix, but when I turned it out, I don’t think it was quite cooked underneath as a whole chunk came away on the paper.

However, I stuck it back together, let it cool then turned it over and iced it.

It doesn’t look like much but the taste is superb.  It’s moist, crumbly and oh so warm and spicy.

And as for the judging, Himself gave it a 10/10, never before achieved, and has forgotten the pain of searching the aisles for that elusive jar of stem ginger.

Come and join in!

Roulades all round — Sunday, 22nd April

Roulades all round

Savoury and sweet roulades
Savoury and sweet roulades

This last month has been pretty hectic here on the croft.  We have been lambing and although we don’t have hundreds of sheep, the few we do have, need to be watched constantly.  The lack of sleep has left us exhausted so I haven’t had much energy left for baking.  However, now that it’s all over, I thought I would have a crack at this week’s weekly bake-off from Mary Berry’s 100 Cakes and Bake – The Ultimate Chocolate Roulade.

The mention of “Roulade” reminded me of a savoury dish I used to make, spinach and cream cheese roulade.  That inspired me to find yet another use for the pungent plant in my polytunnel and I came up with wild garlic and goat’s cheese roulade so today it was roulades all round.

Chocolate roulade
Chocolate roulade

The chocolate version didn’t turn out quite as neat as Mary’s and in fact I didn’t fill it with cream as most of my goat’s milk is being diverted to a couple of the lambs at the moment so I can’t run it through the separator to give us cream.  Instead I made buttercream which refused to spread and ended up in clumps.

However, it was still delicious and rather mousse-like.  When it came to the judging, himself said it wasn’t my finest work but still gave it 8/10.

Here is my recipe for the other roulade, wild garlic and goat’s cheese roulade, made with my own home made goat’s cheese.


Roulade baked
Roulade baked
  • 30g butter
  • 30g flour
  • 200ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard powder
  • 50g Cheddar cheese
  • 4 large eggs separated
  • 300g soft goats cheese
  • 1 large tomato or sun dried tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 190C and prepare a swiss roll tin 24 x 34 by lining with greased greaseproof paper.  If you grease the tin lightly first, the paper will stick and stay put.
  2. Place the butter, flour, mustard powder and milk in a saucepan and gradually bring to the boil.  Simmer for a few minutes then remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheddar cheese.  Add the wild garlic and stir well.
  3. Leave for a few minutes while you separate the eggs.
  4. Beat the yolks into the mixture. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to form firm but slightly soft peaks.
  5. Beat about a quarter of the whites into the mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold in the rest with a metal spoon.
  6. Pour into the prepared tin and spread evenly making sure it goes right into the corners.
  7. Bake for 15-25 minutes until it is risen and golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you place a large piece of greaseproof on the worktop.  Tip the roulade out of the tin onto the paper and carefully peel off the lining paper from the base.
  9. Allow to cool for up to 10 minutes, trim the edges then roll up loosely in the greaseproof paper and leave until cold
  10. Beat the goats cheese with salt and pepper and chop the tomatoes.  Unroll the roulade and spread the cheese mixture all over, then drop on pieces of tomato.
  11. Re -roll and cut into slices to serve.

    Wild garlic roulade
    Wild garlic roulade

Come and join in!

Easy cheesey — Wednesday, 18th April

Easy cheesey

Goat's cheese with wild garlic
Goat's cheese with wild garlic

A few years ago my Mum sent me some wild garlic bulbs from her garden in the English Riviera and I planted them in my polytunnel, not sure if they would survive outside in a Scottish winter.  They have done really well, reappear annually and are taking over the end of the tunnel.  Not only are the plants pleasing to look at, they are also very tasty and versatile.  In addition to the bulbs, both the leaves and the pretty flowers can be eaten and they are great in salads.

Last year I made wild garlic pesto, this year I’m branching out a bit and I’ve made wild garlic and goat’s cheese scones which we devoured with my own chilli jam.   I’ve used them in an omelette, bread and best of all, when I made new a batch of goat’s cheese I chopped some of the wild garlic leaves and added to the cheese before pressing.

Resembling that well-known soft cheese Boursin, the aroma was wonderful when I unwrapped the muslin.  I baked some wholemeal rolls and for tea we spread the garlic infused cheese on the warm bread.  Lovely.

But you don’t have to use wild garlic, you can add anything that you fancy or is in season.  I often roll the pressed cheese in cracked black pepper or chives.  Alternatively mix in some chopped chilli or even chopped horseradish leaves.

Making the cheese is simple but does take approximately 48 hours before it’s ready for eating so you need to start it a day couple of days in advance.

I always use a “starter” which you can buy from Goat Nutrition Ltd.  The starter comes in the form of a powder that you mix with milk, freeze in ice cube trays and use as required.  You only need to buy it once, just make a new batch from a cube when you get low.  I also use rennet which can be bought at the same place.  You can choose animal or vegetarian rennet.   It is possible to use vinegar or lemon juice instead but I have better results with rennet.  For the cheese mould I have an old vitamin tub with holes drilled in it and a jam jar filled with water makes a handy press.

When you drain the curd, you will be left with a bowl full of whey.  Don’t pour this down the sink, you can use it in your breadmaking, just substitute it for water or, it is rumoured to be an excellent feed for roses or potatoes.

Lightly pressed goat’s cheese

You will need a pot with a lid, muslin, cheese mould (my mould is approx 13cm high x 8cm dia) and a weight.  All your equipment should be clean and sterilised before you begin.

  • 1.5 – 2 litres milk (I use raw goat’s milk fresh from the goat*)
  • 1 ice cube of starter
  • Few drops rennet diluted in a 1/4 cup of boiled and cooled water
  • Sea salt (approx 1 tsp or to taste)
  • Flavouring of choice
  1. Pour milk into a suitable sized pot with lid (*if your milk is straight out of the fridge you should warm it to around 30 degrees C)
  2. Add an ice cube of starter
  3. Stir well until the cube has melted and it’s thoroughly blended into the milk
  4. Add the diluted rennet and stir well
  5. Put the lid on and leave for 24 hours (I get a better curd if I leave in a warm room)
  6. After that time the milk should have formed a solid curd
  7. Cut into cubes using a pallet knife
  8. Pour into a sieve lined with muslin
  9. Leave it for a while and then hang in the muslin and let it drain for a few hours
  10. When most of the liquid is gone open the muslin and spread the curd
  11. Add the sea salt and mix in (rather like kneading)**
  12. Spoon the curd into your mould lined with muslin
  13. Pack it in tight, cover the top and add a weight (I use a jam jar filled with water)
  14. Leave for 24 hours in a cool place
  15. Take out of the mould, unwrap the muslin and roll in black pepper, chives or the flavouring of choice
  16. Eat and enjoy

**If you want to mix herbs into the cheese, do this after you have mixed in the salt in the same fashion


Cheese mould

Curd draining
Curd draining

Adding herbs to curd
Adding herbs to curd

Curd packed in mould
Curd packed into mould

Pressing cheese
Pressing cheese

Goat's cheese with with wild garlic
Goat's cheese with with wild garlic

Goat's rolled in cracked black pepper
Goat's rolled in cracked black pepper

Not just for Easter chilli chocolate cake — Sunday, 8th April

Not just for Easter chilli chocolate cake

Easter cake cut

I had a couple gluts in my house at the beginning of April, milk and eggs, not just chicken eggs but duck and goose too.   In order to alleviate them I first made a some jars of yoghurt from my lovely goat’s milk and then with the eggs, some citrus curd – I had a naked orange and a lemon left over from the Good Friday hot cross bun fest when I stripped them of their zest.

The one thing that I didn’t have a glut of which was strange considering it was Easter, was chocolate.  I had just one bar and a chunk of plain cake covering.  The bar was my favourite Lindt chilli chocolate so that set the tone of the cake.

The yoghurt would be incorporated into the cake and the citrus curd would cut through the rich chocolate.  I had one more special ingredient up my sleeve, some time ago I picked up a jar of lemon sherbet crystals from my local plant centre of all places, and I’d been looking for an excuse to use them.  Well this was it.

It was very chocolatey and the citrus in the centre combined with the sharpness of the sherbet on top took it to another level.  In addition there was the warmth of the chilli and the sprinkling of sea salt in the chocolate gave it and additional twist.  The verdict on the chilli chocolate cake – 9 1/2 out of 10.  Good enough for an entry to Tea Time Treats hosted by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked.


A cake for Easter
You don’t need an excuse to bake this cake
  • 150g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 60g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 235ml  natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 195g self raising flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

For the filling

  • 2 tbls lemon curd (recipe for a small quantity below)

For the icing

Cake top
Top of cake with chocolate lattice and sherbet crystals
  • 150g dark chilli chocolate
  • 4 tbls double cream
  • Pinch sea salt


  • Mini chocolate eggs
  • Chocolate lattice (recipe here)
  • Lemon sherbet crystals
  • Chicks (non edible)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.  Grease and line a deep cake tin.
  2. Place butter and sugars in a bowl and beat well until pale and creamy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Mix in the yoghurt (it may curdle at this point but don’t worry about it) and vanilla essence.
  5. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients and ensure it is all well mixed.
  6. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes or until springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
  7. Allow cake to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.
  8. When it is cold, carefully slice in half and remove the top half.
  9. Spread the bottom half with a thin layer of lemon curd and sandwich together.
  10. Place the chocolate and cream in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, then stir over a gentle heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Add the sea salt and stir.
  11. Leave to cool slightly.
  12. Using a pallet knife spread the chocolate mixture over the top and sides of the cake.
  13. Decorate the top with chocolate lattice, mini eggs and chicks.
  14. Sprinkle over the lemon sherbet as required.
  15. Leave somewhere cool for the icing to harden.

Lemon curd

  • 1 large lemon, grated zest and juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 86g caster sugar
  • 56g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small lumps
  • 1 level tsp cornflour
  1. Lightly whisk the egg in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and place the saucepan over a medium heat.
  3. Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens – about 10 minutes.
  4. Lower the heat and let the curd gently simmer for a further minute, continuing to whisk.
  5. Remove it from the heat and leave to cool.