life on a smallholding

not quite a business, but more than a hobby

Condensing — Thursday, 19th September


Condensed, sweetened goats milk
Condensed, sweetened goats milk

The Great British Bake Off episode this week was another gem.  Traybakes, tuiles and towers of biscuits.  Loved the first two challenges but the third was a little over the top.  I can’t help but worry about having to eat the confections and I really didn’t fancy a bite of that Dalek.

I think certain contestants are beginning to win me over with their personalities, if not there baking and there certainly seems to be a great sense of camaraderie this year, which is lovely to see.

The tension was as sharp as ever and I found myself gasping when they were wrapping those thin bits of baked batter around the spoon handles, remembering a similar experience when I made my own ice-cream cones.  You really do need asbestos fingers. traybakecut

This week coincidentally, I made my own traybake.  Toffee shortbread, recipe here.  The challenge for me was not the bake but the fact that I made my own sweetened, condensed milk from my goats.

It really is simple to make but unless you happen to have a Rayburn that’s running all day, every day, it could work out quite expensive.  The milk needs to barely simmer for at least 4 hours.

I left it steaming away whilst I got on with my day and eventually it was ready to strain and leave to cool, when it thickened up nicely.  Although it did seem to separate slightly, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the taste.

Smoothing the shortbread
Smoothing the shortbread

For the shortbread layer in my traybake I used goat’s butter.  The resulting mixture was rather like putty so instead of trying to roll it out, I pressed it into the base of my tin and smoothed it out with my cake polisher.  It worked really well and made a good foundation for the next layer.

The condensed milk worked perfectly and made a lovely golden toffee which I poured over the shortbread and left to firm up before finally adding the chocolate.  As Himself is not keen on plain I used half milk chocolate.  I also added a couple of tablespoons of cream – goat’s cream, of course!

When the chocolate had set, I cut the whole thing into 9 fairly large squares.  Whilst it tasted fantastic, it was incredibly sweet and a whole square was just too much in one sitting.  In fact I experienced quite a sugar rush.  We decided that half a square was a more appropriate portion.

My first experiment with condensing was a great success and I’m guessing that you could make evaporated milk in the same fashion but just leave out the sugar.

Another great use I’ve found for my plentiful goat’s milk

Sweetened condensed milk

  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 litre milk (I used goat’s milk)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbls butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  1. Pour the cold milk into a saucepan and place on a low heat.
  2. Add the sugar and stir until well combined.
  3. Let the mixture warm up until it is just starting to simmer.
  4. Keep the temperature low to prevent the milk separating.
  5. Leave to reduce for at least 4 hours or longer.
  6. A skin will form which can be removed.
  7. When the milk has reached the desired consistency, remove from the heat.
  8. Strain through muslin into a clean bowl.
  9. Stir in the butter and vanilla and mix well.
  10. Pour into a clean jar and seal the top.
  11. Allow to cool and then keep in the fridge until completely cold where it will thicken up a bit more.
  12. Use as normal condensed milk.
  13. It should keep for a week or so in the fridge.

A whole square was just too much for one person
A whole square was just too much for one person
Toffee shortbread
A more appropriate portion of toffee shortbread
Nothing but the goat — Sunday, 14th July

Nothing but the goat

My All-Goat pie made with goat chunks and goat butter pastry
My All-Goat pie made with goat chunks and goat butter pastry

Our goats are valuable assets, they provide us with fresh milk daily, too much to drink.  I use it to make butter, ice cream and cheese.   There is whey leftover from the cheesemaking and that can be used instead of water for bread.

But there is another side to keeping goats, in order for them to produce the milk, they need to have kids.  Females are usually kept for breeding while the males at some point, just like lambs, go away to slaughter.

Goat meat is not just for curries, you can use it just like lamb or beef.  In fact we find that it tastes like a slightly gamey beef.  It certainly doesn’t have any tang to it.  I have noticed that there are small companies popping up all over the place now, supplying a growing market in goat meat.

I have recreated all our favourite recipes with goat, in some using slightly different herbs and spices but others, such as bolognese, are made exactly the same as when I use beef.

Nothing but the goat

  • Difficulty: easy
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A gorgeous pie made with goat butter pastry and tender goat chunks.
  • 500g goat chunks
  • 25g flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g goat butter
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbls chopped lemon balm
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 free-range whole egg beaten
  • 300g puff pastry approx (see recipe)
  1. Dip the meat into the seasoned flour, then place a large lidded pan on the hob.
  2. Heat half the butter in the pan and add the meat. Sear all over until golden brown.
  3. Add the vegetables and herbs, then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and gently simmer on the stove for approx 2 hours. Add a little water if it starts to dry out – you want some gravy inside the pie.
  4. Preheat the oven to 220C.
  5. Once cooked, season the meat and add the remaining butter, stirring until melted.
  6. Roll out a third of the pastry using as little flour as possible and line the base of the pie dish.
  7. With the remainder of the pastry, roll out the pie lid, ensuring it’s large enough to cover the pie.
  8. Spoon the filling into the lined pie dish and spread out evenly.
  9. Brush the rim of the pastry with beaten egg and lay the lid in position. Trim the edges and pinch the pastry together all the way round. Any leftover pastry can be cut into shapes and laid on top.
  10. Paint the beaten egg over the top of the pie.
  11. Pierce a hole in the centre of the pastry to let the steam escape.
  12. Place on a hot baking tray and cook in the oven for 40-50 minutes until the pastry is golden brown on top.
  13. Serve with new potatoes or seasonal veg.

You can find the recipe for Goat Butter pastry here.

Goat pie served with new potatoes
Goat pie served with new potatoes


Goat butter pastry —

Goat butter pastry

Homemade goat's butter
Homemade goat’s butter

Making your own goat butter is not an option open to everyone and although you can buy it in the supermarket, I have no idea how it compares to homemade.  With it being pure white, it looks more like lard, but I have found that it makes a really lovely, crispy pastry, which tastes lighter than that made with butter from a cow.

Goat butter pastry

  • Difficulty: easy
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A buttery pasty, perfect for pie crusts

  • 225g plain flour
  • 170g butter
  • pinch salt
  • enough iced water to bring it all together
  1. Sift the flour and the salt into your bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour mix.
  3. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour leaving largish lumps. The butter should still visible throughout the flour.
  4. Gradually add the water until the mixture starts to come together and forms into a ball.
  5. Tip the mixture out onto cling film, pat into a circle, wrap firmly and leave in the fridge for about an hour.
  6. When ready to use, sprinkle a little flour on the worksurface, unwrap the cling film and take out as much dough as you need for the pie base, returning the rest to the fridge.
  7. Roll out to the desired shape and size, then place in the bottom of your pie dish.
  8. Make sure you roll out the pie lid before putting the hot filling in the dish.
  9. You may find it easier to roll out the dough on some lightly floured cling film and then use this to lift the pastry onto the dish.
  10. This is a very soft pastry and if it does break, it can be patched up easily.


Making pastry
Making pastry
Not so humble pie — Monday, 3rd December

Not so humble pie

Sausage pie with goat's butter pastry
Sausage pie with goat’s butter pastry

Unlike most people, we rarely have leftovers which is sad as I think they make the best meals.  However, for once I had half a pack of our Dexter sausages open in the fridge and I wanted to use them up, so I settled on this simple pie.  I am very impressed with goat butter pastry, it seems to turn out well every time and this was no exception, it was crisp and flaky.  The eggs mixed with cream, rather than milk gave the dish a luxury feel and the whole thing was not only very tasty, but it looked pretty impressive too.  Certainly one to make again.

Not so humble pie

  • Difficulty: easy
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Suits any leftovers


  • 240g plain flour
  • 120g butter (I used my salted goat’s butter)
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 tbls water (or enough to bind)


  • 6 beef sausages
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 150ml cream
  • Pinch of mustard powder
  • Seasoning to taste
  • Milk for brushing
  1. To make the pastry, put flour and salt into a bowl, add the butter and rub into the flour. Add enough cold water to form a soft dough, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  3. Cut the sausages into pieces approx 1 inch long and brown in a frying pan; remove and put to one side.
  4. Add the onion to the pan and fry to soften.
  5. Beat eggs and cream together and add mustard powder and seasoning.
  6. Grease a pie dish and then roll out 1/3 of the pastry to line the base and the sides.
  7. Arrange the sausage pieces on the bottom of the pastry case and then add a layer of onions.
  8. Pour over the egg and cream mix.
  9. Roll out the rest of the pastry to make a lid. Lay on top and crimp the edge.
  10. Brush with milk and make a couple of small holes to let out steam.
  11. Put on the bottom of the oven and bake for 10 mins then move further up and cook for approx 30 mins or until golden brown. The eggs will cause the filling to rise and may push up the lid, but it should sink back down when you remove it from the oven and it starts to cool.
  12. Serve hot with baked beans or cut thick wedges and eat cold

This time I used leftover bacon and potato
This time I used leftover bacon and potato in layers
I can’t believe I made butter — Tuesday, 11th September

I can’t believe I made butter

Pure white goat butter
Pure white goat butter

It seems to be all the rage these days, the celeb chefs are telling you how easy it is to make your own butter and in theory I suppose it is.  Just pick up a couple of cartons of double cream and beat it in your food processor until it separates into butter and buttermilk.  Drain it off, and there you go – home made butter.


That all sounds very simple and although I’ve never tried it, I’m sure it works.  However, my path to butter making wasn’t quite so easy.  In my case it starts with my goats.  At present we have plenty of milk, the kids are almost weaned so it’s all for our own personal use, which means that I have at least 5 litres to dispose of on a daily basis.  I make ice cream, cheese, yoghurt and even use it in my breadmaking but if I’m not careful, it could become a full-time job just processing the milk.  I am lucky enough to have a cream separator which gives me more options, but even so, how much milk can you cope with?

We have long since been self sufficient with regard to milk, I don’t think I’ve bought any for over 2 years but I still buy cheddar and butter so my goal is to put a stop to that.  I’ve tried many times to make goat butter but it’s never worked out very well.  Instead all I’ve managed is to create a dense cream.  No matter how much I beat it, it wouldn’t separate.

I couldn’t understand where I was going wrong but suspected that I had taken my eye off the ball and actually missed the moment the butterfat and the liquid had parted company and had continued beating until they had fused again into a solid mass.

Soda bread with flamenco duck eggs
Soda bread with flamenco duck eggs

I was determined to overcome my problem with butter making and so for three days I milked the goats and put all of it through the separator saving the cream in a jug.  I ended up with approx ¾ of a litre which I left on the worktop for about half a day to warm up.   I then poured it (or rather spooned it, as it was quite thick by this time) into the bowl of my Kenwood, attached the paddle beater and gently at first, began whisking it.

I gradually increased the speed, watching all the time and after about 10 minutes, it suddenly split into solids and liquid.  I switched off the machine immediately.  I was excited, this could be it.

I drained it through muslin, tipped the buttermilk into a jug and then poured cold water over the “butter” to rinse the milk out.  It was very soft and squidgy but I dumped it out onto a board and attempted to shape it with a couple of wooden spatulas.  Thanks to the Rayburn, it is always very warm in my kitchen so it wasn’t easy.  In the end, I spread it all out and sprinkled ground sea salt over the top, then worked it in with the spatulas.  It was far too soft to make into a roll so I scraped it into a bowl and put it in the fridge.

Antique treen butterpats

A couple of hours later and it was set hard just like butter.  It tasted like butter but was much easier to spread straight from the fridge.  The only real difference was the colour, it was pure white.  If I want yellow butter I will have to add a colouring called “annatto” which is a plant extract used to dye foods, but I don’t think I’ll bother – au naturel suits us fine.

I used the butter in rough puff pastry, cakes and of course as a spread and the buttermilk made a delicious soda bread.  But I really wanted to be able to shape the butter into a block so I turned to eBay and found myself some “antique treen” butterpats.

Butterpats at the ready I was all set to have another go.  I wasn’t expecting much but was amazed to find that they were brilliant at handling the soft butter and I quickly formed it into a log which I wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge to firm up.

So I’m happy to say I can cross butter off my shopping list, permanently.  Now onto cheddar.

Finally, my own goat butter
Finally, my own goat butter