life on a smallholding

not quite a business, but more than a hobby

Strawberries and cream with a twist — Monday, 29th June

Strawberries and cream with a twist

Strawberries and cream cheesecake with mascarpone and rhubarb coulis jelly

With Wimbledon coming up, the strawberries and cream will be out in force, always a firm favourite and why not, they make the perfect pairing.  However, there are many different ways they can be brought together and this week I have been doing just that, inspired by a punnet of the locally grown fruit.  But, there is a twist in my recipes, as they are all made using cream from my goats.  I know you can buy goat’s milk in the supermarkets, but has anyone thought of selling the cream? It’s not easy to come by, I have to collect the milk from the two girls for three days before I have sufficient to make it worthwhile to fire up the separator.  With a cow, I would probably have enough with one milking!  I’m no expert on the difference between the two, but I believe the fat globules in goat’s milk are smaller, making it easier to digest.  Nevertheless, you can do all the same things with it and when it is fresh, it doesn’t have a goaty taste or odour.

Strawberries and vanilla cream on a meringue nest
Strawberries and vanilla cream on a meringue nest

First up, I made a batch of meringue nests with leftover eggwhite, combined them with a generous dollop of vanilla whipped cream and topped with locally produced strawberries.  A light dusting of icing sugar sets if off to perfection.  So easy to make and yet absolutely delicious.

Strawverry sundae with vanilla gelato, chocolate ice cream, chopped strawberries and whipped cream
Strawberry sundae with vanilla gelato, chocolate ice cream,  crushed meringues, chopped strawberries and whipped cream

This sundae contained two types of ice cream, both made from goat’s milk.  The first a simple vanilla gelato, and the second a chocolate ice cream, made in the traditional way with egg yolks, hence the leftover whites.  Crushed meringues, chopped strawberries and whipped cream, made this dessert delish.

Vanilla panna cotta with crushed meringue, strawberries and rhubarb coulis
Vanilla panna cotta with crushed meringue, strawberries and rhubarb coulis

One of my all time favourites, creamy, silky, panna cotta.  It’s so easy to make, yet such lush tasting little treat.  I love it with coulis and this one came from the garden.  A few stalks of rhubarb, sugar and water in a pan, run it through a food processor, strain it, and it’s done.  Again, I added crushed meringue for a bit of crunch, and then finished it with the ever present strawberries.

Rhubarb ripple ice cream served on XXX with strawberries and blackberries
Rhubarb ripple ice cream served on a meringue nest with strawberries, blackberries and rhubarb coulis

I found another use for the coulis in the rhubarb ripple ice cream, which left me with more egg whites  When you’re faced with egg white, make meringues.  Put them together with the strawberries and a couple of blackberries (not from my garden, it’s far too early) and another beautiful but simple dessert is created.

Ginger snaps, crushed for the cheesecake base
Ginger snaps, crushed for the cheesecake base

Finally, we have the cheesecake.  This one was created from mascarpone (which was, of course made from my goat’s cream).  I firstly baked the ginger biscuits (a favourite Delia recipe).  Crushed gingernuts mixed with goat butter, formed the base, where I laid out the last of my strawberries.  I combined cream and mascarpone together with some caster sugar, then ladled the mix onto the base and smoothed it down.  Lastly, I made the jelly with the remainder of the rhubarb coulis and a couple of sheets of leaf gelatine to set it softly.  Left overnight in the fridge, the next day it was firm and ready to devour. Five glorious days of strawberries and goat’s cream.

Rhubarb coulis
Rhubarb coulis
A mere trifle — Thursday, 5th September

A mere trifle

Rhubarb trifle with whipped goat cream
Rhubarb trifle with vanilla custard and whipped goat cream

The signature “bake” this week on the Great British Bake Off  was the humble trifle.  One of my all-time favourites which I make instead of Christmas pudding every year. When I was a child my mother would cook a roast dinner every Sunday.  Most weeks she would bake a cake, usually from a packet mix and I would get to lick the bowl.  She would also make a trifle for dessert.  This too was from a packet, the good old Bird’s trifle.  I loved the cream and the custard but I was never very keen on the jelly layer.  However, this became my idea of the perfect trifle and when I made my own trifles, not from a packet, they never quite tasted the same. I watched with interest when Heston Blumenthal was in Pursuit of Perfection and attempted to make the ultimate trifle.  It was a long and complicated recipe but I did try a couple of his ideas.  For instance, beating some ground tapioca into the cream makes it taste remarkably like “Dream Topping”.  Another little thing I tried was adding a layer of black olive jam but I’m not sure that was my idea of a perfect trifle.

I got this mould for Christmas and I intended to make tea cakes as demonstrated on the Bake Off last year but so far all I used it for is trifle sponges.
I got this mould for Christmas and I intended to make tea cakes as demonstrated on the Bake Off last year but so far I’ve only used it for trifle sponges

As you may expect the contestants on the bake-off produced a wide range of exotic desserts, not really my cup of tea.  If it hasn’t got hundreds and thousands on the top, it’s not a trifle as far as I’m concerned.  In fact I rarely even add a glass of sherry. I always bake my trifle sponges a few days in advance and they freeze well.  I use a simple fatless sponge or alternatively a Swiss roll recipe is perfect.  In fact the last time I made a Swiss roll I couldn’t fit all the batter onto the tin so I poured the leftover into tea cake moulds and they made the cutest little sponges yet.

Trifle sponges

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A simple fatless sponge, perfect for trifles
  • 2 eggs
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 45g plain flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and beat thoroughly
  2. Grease and line a small cake tin
  3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch
  4. Turn out on a wire rack to cool
Trifle sponge spread with jam
Trifle sponge spread with jam

For the custard I use one of Delia’s recipes which includes cornflour.  If it gets over-heated and goes horribly wrong, just tip in a clean bowl, beat well with a whisk and it should return to a smooth custard. The jelly layer is made up of whatever fruit I have to hand.  I usually simmer it in a little water then add 3 sheets of gelatine to get it to set. To assemble my perfect trifle I spread the sponges with jam, arrange them in my bowl, then pour over the jelly.  This goes into the fridge and when set the custard goes on top.  I usually put in back in the fridge with a layer of cling film on top to stop a skin forming. All the above can be done the day before.  On the day itself, I add the lightly whipped goat cream layer and finally finish it off with hundreds and thousands – what else?

My perfect trifle
My perfect trifle


Mascarpone, is it really cheese? — Tuesday, 20th August

Mascarpone, is it really cheese?

Home made goat's cream mascarpone
Home made goat’s cream mascarpone

Mascarpone cheese is the simplest cheese to make, but it’s not in the least bit cheesy.  It’s more like a thick slightly sour cream.

It’s perfect for cheesecakes, scones and cakes but equally good in savoury dishes.

Mascarpone, is it really cheese?

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
  • 500 ml double cream
  • 1 lemon
  • 30g dried milk powder
  1. Put the cream and milk powder in to a pan and mix well.
  2. Heat the mix to 82 degrees C.
  3. Squeeze the juice from the lemon
  4. Remove the cream from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, making sure it is very well combined.
  5. Leave to cool.
  6. Refrigerate overnight where it will thicken.
  7. Next day spoon into a sieve lined with muslin and drain.
  8. Twist to squeeze out excess moisture and use.
  9. Keep refrigerated.

Jar of goat cream
Jar of goat cream
Scones with mascarpone and jam
Scones with mascarpone and jam
Milking it — Sunday, 12th February

Milking it

Apple and almond desert cake
Apple and almond dessert cake with goat cream

We were out of cake so I had to make a few American style pancakes to keep us going until this week’s recipe for the baking challenge was announced.  It was an apple and almond dessert cake from the book Mary Berry’s 100 Cakes and Bakes (similar recipe HERE) as a tribute to Bramley apple week 5-12 Feb 2012.

I didn’t have any Bramleys so instead I used Gala.  I was also completely out of flaked almonds but I found I few nuts in shells leftover from Christmas two years ago and persuaded Himself to break out the nutcrackers.  I was left with almonds in a brown wrinkly skin, not a good look, so turned to the internet for advice.  I discovered that I should cover them in boiling water and leave for a few minutes.  The skins came off easy as anything with a little rubbing.

Little Lily
Little Lily, my maiden milker

With the cake baking in the oven, it was time for my own personal twist.  I set off outside to milk the goats, armed with the apple cores as a little treat, and returned with a pail full of lovely creamy milk which I poured straight through my cream separator and hey presto, gorgeous goat cream.

By the time I’d finished preparing our lunch, everything was ready.  We had a lovely chunk of warm apple and almond cake with a fresher than fresh dollop of silky goat cream.  Perfect.

Come and join in!

Separation anxiety — Thursday, 15th September

Separation anxiety

Separating milk
Separating milk

Some time ago our good friends and neighbours leant us an old hand cranked milk separator.  We dragged in out once before, cleaned it up and tried to use it but couldn’t quite get the hang of it.

This morning I had more milk than I knew what to do with so I thought I might have another try with the separator.

To get started we ran some hot water through it and found it was pouring out where it shouldn’t until Himself had a “eureka moment”, tightened up one bit and got it working.

The manual
The manual

It’s a heavy piece of kit and had to be clamped to the table so that the handle could be rotated at the correct speed, which I believe was 3 revolutions every two seconds or when the bell on the handle stopped ringing.  There are also many parts that all have to be fitted together in the correct order but luckily it came with an old manual.

His monkey arms were perfect for the job and in total we processed 8 litres of milk after heating it to 30˚C.

When we put the first 2 litres through, the skimmed milk was pouring out of one of the spouts but no cream from the other.  When we opened it up the cream was sitting inside so we spooned it out into the jug.  Two litres obviously wasn’t enough to push it all the way through and only resulted in 100ml of cream.

As we put in larger quantities of milk into the slightly unsteady bowl, it rocked from side to side with the rotation and slopped all over the table.  Nevertheless the cream eventually emerged in drips from the second spout.

All those moving parts
All those moving parts

We ended up with only 1/2 litre of cream from all those litres of milk.  However the skimmed milk was lovely and frothy and the thick cream was absolutely delicious.  My plan was to make butter but I don’t know if I have enough for that.

Sadly, I still have more milk than fridge space, albeit skimmed milk, as the process didn’t actually use up any of it.  Don’t know why I thought it would.

I have waited a long time to get to this stage so I was thrilled with the cream and think I may have to invest in an electric milk separator as Himself is not always available to do my bidding and you really do need two people, one to do the turning and the other to hold it steady and swap jugs as you could end up with milk everywhere.

Now what shall I do with 1/2 litre of the best cream I’ve ever tasted and 8 litres of skimmed milk?