life on a smallholding

not quite a business, but more than a hobby

Yorkshire pudding has its day — Sunday, 3rd February

Yorkshire pudding has its day

Curried “Yorkshire” pudding

I’ve just heard that it’s British Yorkshire pudding day.  I’ve never had much luck cooking a humble Yorkshire pud, the problem being my ancient old Rayburn.  You need a hot oven and mine likes to hover around 180 degrees C.  Anything above that only happens occasionally.

Last week we had one of those occasions.  The oven was red hot but that wasn’t the reason I chose to make my pudding.  The chickens and ducks are laying like mad and an egg mountain is starting to form.  Since we’ve had such appalling weather, no customers have been brave enough to trudge through the snow to buy any.

I was making a vegetable curry but instead of rice to accompany it, I decided to make a curried batter pudding to use up some eggs.

It turned out beautifully, not only was it a gorgeous yellow colour, it rose way above the edges of the tin and best of all – no soggy bottom.

Curried Yorkshire pudding

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A Yorkshire pudding with a twist

  • 3 medium to large eggs
  • Plain flour
  • Milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Heat the oven to 220C.
  2. Pop a bowl on the scales and crack 3 eggs into it. Make a note of the weight.
  3. Add the same weight of plain flour.
  4. Then add the same weight of milk.
  5. Add the salt and the turmeric.
  6. Whisk into a smooth batter.
  7. If it’s a little on thick side add some water to thin it down.
  8. Put the oil into an oven proof dish and put into the oven until very hot.
  9. Remove the dish from the oven and pour the batter in. Return it to the oven and leave to bake for approx 40 mins or until risen and golden.
  10. Serve with a good vegetable curry.


Yorkshire pudding with vegetable curry
Yorkshire pudding with vegetable curry

A thrifty curry — Thursday, 3rd January

A thrifty curry

Turkey, vegetable and lentil curry
Turkey, vegetable and lentil curry

I was a vegatarian for over 25 years, therefore cooking with vegetables comes easily to me, so much so that it often doesn’t occur to me to add meat to a meal.  I first starting eating meat again when we raised our own pigs and now I rarely buy it as our freezer is usually stuffed full of our own produce.

For Christmas dinner I planned to roast a joint of our Dexter beef but my mother surprised us with a hamper containing a turkey, so I thought why not?

I didn’t want to spend the big day cooking so I roasted the bird on Christmas eve and we had “leftovers” in the form of a turkey sandwich for our tea before we even got to the festive dinner.

On Boxing day, we had the usual cold meat and pickles but of course there was still plenty of turkey left and lots of recipes to choose from.

I settled on a turkey curry.  Under normal circumstances, I would make this dish with just vegetables.  It’s quick, simple and since you can use up any veg that you have laying around, usually very cheap.

Indian food was not something I ate a lot of, but in the last few years I have been experimenting with spices and this is my very favourite combination – the turmeric gives it a beautiful golden colour and if I have any goat’s cream languishing in the fridge, I add a touch at the end of cooking.  The dish goes down well with or without meat.

A thrifty curry

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This curry can be made with any vegetables or meat
  • Leftover turkey (or any meat raw or cooked)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 medium carrots
  • 2 parsnips (or any veg)
  • 1/4 cup of red lentils
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small piece of chilli (or 1/4 tsp of chilli powder)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 litre stock plus extra liquid as required
  • 50 ml double cream
  1. Heat oil in a frying pan, add the onion and fry until softened. If using uncooked meat add that to the pan now and brown.
  2. Add the carrots and continue to fry until slightly softened, then add the parsnip (or other veg).
  3. Next add all the spices starting with the garlic and chilli and followed by all the dried spices and salt.
  4. Give it a good stir and allow to fry for several minutes, making sure everything is coated. Don’t let it burn.
  5. Tip in the lentils and stir again.
  6. Add the stock, put a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for at least 15 minutes or until all the meat is cooked, vegetables are soft and so are the lentils.
  7. More water can be added if it begins to dry out.
  8. If you are using cooked meat now is the time to add it to the pan. Keep simmering and make sure it is thoroughly heated through.
  9. Add more water if necessary so that there is a fair bit of liquid in the pan.
  10. Finally add the cream, stir well and bring up to the boil.
  11. Leave the lid off the pan and simmer until the sauce thickens.
  12. Serve immediately with rice or naan bread.

My Christmas muffins — Thursday, 20th December

My Christmas muffins

Snow capped fruity muffins
Snow capped fruity muffins

We were out of cake.  It was too soon to cut the Christmas cake, which I haven’t even iced yet, so instead I made some fruit packed, Christmas inspired muffins with a good dollop of snow on top.

Christmas muffins

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • Makes 16
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsps ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 240ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 4 medium sized carrots, grated
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 30g dessicated coconut
  • 60g chopped dried figs
  • 60g sultanas
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • [b]Icing[/b]
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • Silver balls
  1. Heat oven to 180°C.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, oil and vanilla.
  4. Add the liquid to the flour mix and stir until well combined.
  5. Grate in the lemon zest then fold in the carrots, apple, coconut, and dried fruit.
  6. Stand paper cases in a muffin tray and spoon mix into each one so it’s approx 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for approx 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centres comes out clean.
  8. Cool for 10 minutes in the tray and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. For the icing beat the butter until light and fluffy and then add the icing sugar. Gently beat in.
  10. Add the vanilla and mix, then add a few drops of lemon juice. Beat well. Add more lemon sparingly, be careful not to make it too wet.
  11. Spoon the icing into a piping bag and decorate the top of each cake; alternatively spread on with a pallet knife.
  12. Finish off with a festive silver ball.
  13. Leave to set before serving.


Muffin packed full of fruit
Muffin packed full of fruit
And now Bourbons — Sunday, 12th August

And now Bourbons

Home made Bourbon biscuits

I am continuing in my quest to make traditional biscuits and focusing on the ones I like least to see if home-made can improve them.  This time I decided to tackle the humble Bourbon biscuit.  Next to custard creams, these are my second least favourite.  I discovered that these chocolate and cream creations were the invetion of Peek Freans back in 1910 and traditionally made of two oblongs sandwiched together with a chocolate filling.

Bourbons filled
Bourbons filled

Rather than stick with tradition and anyway I don’t have an oblong cookie cutter, I decided on a pretty flower shape.  Mine certainly looked good and although not wildly exciting, they were certainly better than the shop bought variety.

The one niggle I am coming across with biscuits in general is that they tend to go soft very quickly, even though I store them in an airtight tin.  Not sure what the solution is to that problem.

And now bourbons

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Makes approx 10 complete biscuits

  • 50g butter
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbls golden syrup
  • 110g plain flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbls Demerara sugar (ground) for decoration
  • 50g plain chocolate
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 tbls strong black coffee
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
  2. Sift together flour, bicarb and cocoa powder.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and beat in syrup.
  4. Add the flour and mix until a soft dough is formed.
  5. Turn out onto cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour.
  6. Lightly flour the worktop and roll out the dough to 1/2 cm thickness.
  7. Using a cookie cutter of choice cut out an equal number of shapes and place on a greased baking sheet.
  8. With a fork, pierce the surface of the biscuits several times and then sprinkle the ground Demerara sugar over half of the shapes.
  9. Bake for approx 15-20 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet for 10 minutes to harden up then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. For the filling, melt the chocolate over a bowl of hot water, then beat with the icing sugar and vanilla, adding the coffee gradually (you don’t want it too runny) until you have a smooth paste.
  12. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and with the biscuits centre side up, pipe onto half of them.
  13. Sandwich biscuits together in pairs with the sugar side on top.

Pretty Bourbons
Pretty Bourbons
A surprising cake — Thursday, 19th July

A surprising cake

A surprise centre in a Victoria sandwich
A surprise centre in a Victoria sandwich

I love Lakeland.   Our nearest store is in Aberdeen and one day we drove all the way there, me filled with excitement and Himself with trepidation, only to find it was closed for refurbishment.  I know I can shop online but sometimes you just need to see and feel the things in real life.

My experimental flan case
My experimental flan case

I was browsing a little while ago and I came across the Silverwood Victoria Surprise Cake Tin.  I desperately wanted it but with a cupboard full of cake tins, I couldn’t really justify the cost.  The fact that you could also bake sponge flan cases as well as cakes, made me want it all the more.  However, after examining the pictures carefully I rummaged around and pulled out a couple of stainless steel bowls, the kind you use to feed dogs (I would just like to point out that I haven’t used these bowls for dog feeding).  I put the smaller one upside down inside the other, made a fatless sponge and managed to turn out a flan case of my own.  It was a bit on the deep side but I filled it with orange roasted rhubarb, poured over a fruit jelly and left it to set.   It was quite pleasant served up with some goat’s milk ice cream.

I mentioned my experimental baking to my mother and within a few days, a parcel from Lakeland turned up on my doorstep.  Inside was the Silverwood Cake Tin.  I was thrilled and wanted to get started on my cake immediately but unusually for me, I had no sugar.

Insert baked into the cake
Insert baked into the cake

A few days later, with bags of sugar at the ready, I milked Lily and ran it through the separator hoping for a big jug of cream.  For some reason the milk only produced a few ml so I had to think of something else for the filling.

I had studied all the reviews on the website and I knew I had to grease and line the inserts to prevent sticking so I didn’t stint on my prep.  I made the batter according to the recipe on the leaflet that came with the tins – see recipe below.

In the oven the cakes had to sit on different shelves but both rose beautifully, although rather unevenly but that is the fault of my Rayburn.

When both were done I left them to cool for 10 minutes on a rack before turning them out.  I was delighted when they slid out easily until I discovered that the inserts had been baked into the sponge.  For some reason the cake mix had managed to get in between them and the base.  I had to cut them out.  It rather ruined the look of the sponges which was a great shame.

Sponge halves or flan cases
Sponge halves or flan cases

With the minuscule amount of goat cream, I made a vanilla buttercream filling for one half and in the other half I put leftover lemon and ginger that I saved and preserved in sugar syrup, from my recent ginger beer brewing.  Getting the two halves together was a bit tricky and I did think the top sponge was going to break up as I plonked it on top of the bottom, but it survived.

It sealed up quite well, hid the uneven bake and the filling and with a quick sprinkle of icing sugar, actually looked quite spectacular.

Cake done, hiding the filling
Cake done, hiding the surprise filling

I left it overnight in the cool utility room and the following day served it up after lunch.  As we excitedly cut into the cake, I warned Himself that since it was stuffed full of the rich buttercream, he may only want a small slice but that didn’t stop him.  Despite it’s unevenness, it still looked pretty impressive, but the sponge did look a bit stodgy.

Overall when you got the mix of sharp lemon and tangy ginger plus the sweet vanilla cream and sponge it tasted superb. The only thing that let it down was that when it came to eating the edge, you got more sponge than filling and it was a bit bland. If I can overcome the problem of the inserts, it should be capable of producing a superb cake.

A surprising cake

  • 175g butter, softened
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Filling
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 280g icing sugar
  • 50ml double cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ jar jam
  1. Heat oven to 180C. Beat all the ingredients together into a smooth batter then spoon into the prepared tins and spread evenly
  2. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch
  3. Remove from the oven but leave in the tins for 10 minutes to cool
  4. Turn out onto a cooling rack and remove inserts and greaseproof paper
  5. Leave to cool completely
  6. Make buttercream filling by beating the softened butter with icing sugar, double cream and vanilla essence until well mixed and fluffy
  7. Spoon the buttercream into the well in one half of the sponge and spread out evenly
  8. In the other half spread the jam
  9. Carefully place the half with buttercream on top of the half with the jam
  10. Decorate with sifted icing sugar