Tomato ketchup from courgettes, yeah right!

I didn’t mention in my last post that we (Gosia) cooked up the first batch of tomato ketchup. Her mum stumbled across the recipe about three years ago and sales of tomato sauce have taken a serious hit in the village ever since, some shops see no reason to stock it all!

No pictures, just a copy of the scribbled notes from Gosias recipe book, an increasingly thick binding, with a few notes on preparation.

You will need:

2Kg (4.4lb) of Courgettes. You know the big ones that appeared in your garden overnight that could be marrows!

1/2Kg (just over a 1lb) Onions

400g (1lb) Tomato puree

200 ml (7fl Oz) Strong vinegar (10%)

400g  (1lb) Sugar

Handful Dried Basil

Handful Herbes de Provence (mixed herbs)

2tsp Sweet paprika

1tsp Chilli powder

Handful of salt

We scaled up the recipe to 6Kg and it made a total of 42, 200ml jars, the meaning of life perhaps!

What you need to do:

Peel, deseed and then grate the firm flesh of the courgettes and onions, or finely chop. (we do this ‘washing up’ bowl scale)

Add salt, mix in and leave for 4-6 six hours

Come back to the bowl when you remember about it and squeeze the mixture to remove the water.

Put in a big pan, cook till soft and mushy

Add the rest of the ingredients

Cook for a further 10-20 minutes to thicken it up a bit, them blend for a smoother sauce if desired

Add to jars and then pasteurise in a big pan of water for about 10 minutes


We will make another two batches before the courgettes disappear, dropping the sugar and vinegar content slightly as a matter of taste. One batch will also have added fresh chilli’s to keep BBQs entertaining.

You could of course make your own tomato puree, if you had a bumper crop, you could also use your own herbs, it’s also possible to make your own vinegar, which would just leave the sugar and salt as the shop bought ingredients making this a seriously low cost ketchup. But for now we bought it all in bar the courgettes and onions, and the cost still only came in at around 15p for a 200ml jar.


A bug free, cherry full, jam making June

What a great month we had, the weather was warm but not overly so despite a few days exceeding 30C, the orchard is providing fruit by the bucket and we didn’t see a single mosquito or horse fly. If you ever decide to holiday in Poland then June is the month to do it. Rooms available from Easter 2016!

With the good weather I happy to report that the house heating has now remained dormant since early May, although topping up the waters heat is still required on occasion. Of course the downside of the sunshine is the lack of rain, although despite a slowing of growth on the crops everything is managing to hold on without human intervention. The watering can came out for some late plantings, but I like to let things fend for themselves if possible.

Our first cherries of the year came around the 10th of June and we thanked the previous owner for their foresight in planting successional fruiting trees. As one tree finished the next came of tap and we are still picking cherries now, in the middle of July. I thought my tree climbing day were over!

The strawberries came and went, leaving many an empty flan dish and nine jars of jam, made from a mixture of cultivated and wild fruit. Contrary to Mrs Beeton’s recipe of 14lbs of sugar to 12lbs of fruit, we use half as much sugar to fruit and the result is a jam that tastes of the fruit used, 4Kg (9lbs) of fruit 2Kg (4.4lbs) sugar in our case.  Cost per 400g (1lb) jar works out at about 15p (for the sugar and heat) Mrs Beeton noted that it cost 7d per jar in 1904, I wonder how the two compare?

Official jam taster Malina gives the nod f approval to the latest batch of jam.
Official jam taster Malina gives the nod f approval to the latest batch of jam.

The freezer is also starting to fill up with vegetables and our decision to hold on with the chest freezer purchase until we have the pigs to fill it may have to be brought forward. I noted the advice given on a blog about freezing fruit and making jam in the winter when the heat of the stove helps to heat the house, sound advice and something I think we will do next year, as long as the pigs leave some room!

Despite the increasing harvest and crop maintenance (weeding), Gosia and I managed to continue work in the house and a week with Gran as babysitter saw the upstairs plastered with the first coat of lime. Another step closer.

I’m reminded of Orwell’s Animal Farm every time I visit the stable, as the pigs seem to be slowly edging themselves towards a higher station, already they have taken up residence in the stable leaving behind the arc that I lovingly crafted for them! Thankfully the goats have other ideas and a butt to the butt is a comical site if there is a tasty morsel to be had and the hierarchy is to be maintained.

Out my way!

Mind you I can see a pattern of weight throwing going on and it’s only a matter of time before King George will be crowned. The pneumonia that Peppa suffered from, costing more in vet bills that her purchase price, seems to have cleared up, however her weight gain is slow as is typical of the condition (so I read). Still it’s good to see her healthy and enjoying her food at last.

The chickens remain oblivious to the targets that I set, although at 275 eggs for the month they almost received their bonus. With the addition of an extra hen donated by a friend and the more of the pullets coming on line, a dozen a day is more and more common in July. 300, 400 eggs a month, where will it end? My ability to count them in on a evening is becoming more difficult and to put even further stress on my fingers and toes we invested in 10 broilers and 5 cockerels, food for the future and a test for my convictions.

Given all the food that has to be prepared for the 55 mouths that now reside in the stable, it would be good practice for running a restaurant. I’m just glad we are getting by with our own feed from last years harvest, I dread to think how much it would cost if we bought in the commercial offering. We are keeping a close eye on cost to plant and harvest this year so we have a good idea how much our food is costing. Of course it’s more important to us to know how the animals are treated and what they are fed, but if the cost is comparable to that of a supermarket then we are quid’s in.

One of the old battery hens showed signs of illness early in the month, refusing to leave the nesting box, I thought her days were over and expected to find her dead. After about a week of this behaviour it struck us that she may just be broody, so we put a clutch of 12 eggs underneath her. More mouths to feed, or more chickens to feed us? As an optimist I go with the latter.

Reading back over this post I’m reminded how quickly time goes and how much we still have to do to be up and running for next year, a target that sometimes seems unattainable. But then we have a day like yesterday (18th July) with the delivery of 60 cubic meters (about 70 tonnes) of crushed rock to spread over the dirt track that passes as our road. A big job for Gosia and I, but then the a Gran and Granddad, a brother and two nephews arrive with rakes, sledge hammers and shovels at the ready. I’m happy to report that despite the heat of the day we all enjoyed a BBQ and a beer by 3pm with the job completed. I even had time to pick a bucket of cherries, as nothing says thank you quite like a bucket of fresh cherries !

Elderflower beer; my first attempt!

About three years ago, soon after we bought the land, I also bought a chain saw; the brambles and brush were so thick that the strimmer just wasn’t up to the job. I also had big plans about clearing some of the trees to provide firewood in the future, but that’s another post in itself.

One thing we did have lots of was elderflower, most of it overgrown with wild vines, so out came the chainsaw and I did my best to clear an area round the old house to provide access to the orchard. One thing that I hadn’t anticipated was the elders survival instinct. Every one of the stumps has since coppiced and sent out multiple new trunks and now, three years on, we have more elderflower than we know what to do with.


So what to do with all of this elder? Why not try some beer 🙂

Elderflower beer, a work in progress recipe based loosely on the words I found in a book at a garden centre many years ago; who knows how it will turn out!

First of all you need a hot sunny day as that’s the best time to pick the flowers, when they are fully open and dry; pick about one litre of flowers. I pick them on the stalk then use a fork to strip the flowers off.


Six oranges, lemons or grapefruit; ideally a mix. I used two oranges and three lemons as that’s all we had.

A kilo of sugar.

Chop up your fruit and put in a pan with 4.5 litres of water, bring to the boil adding the sugar to dissolve, simmer for about half an hour and leave it to cool.


Once cool add the flowers and leave to steep for a couple of hours then strain the mixture into your chosen receptacle to ferment. There should be enough natural yeast in the elder flowers, but you could add yeast if you wanted to be sure of fermentation. Leave to ferment at around 20c for three or four days

Once fermentation is over, bottle it up and leave in a cool dark place for three or four months.

What does it taste of? I have no idea, I’ll let you know when I crack open the first bottle 🙂

Or you could try this great recipe for cordial

Papo Secos

Or Portuguese rolls as I have known them as for the last 25 years.

I know you may have been expecting a post about the snow covered hills, the inaccessible road to our land, the drink fuelled reunion with our neighbours or yet another meal that couldn’t be beat; well sorry, five minutes after writing my last post the snow started!

Admittedly it only lasted for a few hours, but that was enough for us to change our plans and hole up in Rzemien for another day.

Gosia has plenty to do and has nipped off down to Meilec for a few vitals and no doubt an extended inspection of the second hand clothing stores; it’s 1Zlt day today (20p) and you can never have enough jumpers, work trousers, hats, coats, skirts and shirts; can you? I have to admit I look forward to seeing what she has bought as I know that I will be treated  to some item of clothing that caught her eye; not just any old thing, oh no, Gosia has a trained eye and years of knowledge that identifies only the finest and most sought after brands, discarded by the affluent West and I’m sure that the value of my next jumper will be hundred times more than the 1 Zlt paid. I am, as I type this, wearing a Fat Face  lambs wool jumper and Gosia left the building sporting a cracking pair Diesel jeans; all courtesy of the second hand cloths markets that flourish in Poland.

On this occasion I know that she is looking for items than she can cut into material triangles as she is making fifty plus meters on bunting for an up and coming event, she has sewn over a hundred triangles so far but I’m sure chatter of the sewing machine will be heard again tonight.

BuntingWorking into the night

Anyhow, I digress; I started off with the intention of popping another recipe in the blog as I have taken to trying to make a batch of bread rolls most days since I got back to Poland. Having our own milled flour means that I can knock out 8 rolls for little over 10p a batch (ok maybe 20p if you included the electricity)

One of my favourite rolls to eat is a Portuguese roll or Papo Secos; no doubt because they are sold fresh in practically every corner shop in Jersey (Channel Islands). Because of the high number of migrant workers that originate from Portugal or Madera they have become one of the Islands culinary staples and if you ever buy a bacon roll you will always be offered Portuguese as one of the options.

I have now made them about half a dozen times and think I’m just about starting to get them right, so if you’re ready I will begin:

Papo Secos

  • About 400g of flour (or my usual third of a bag, if I had flour in a bag)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 15-20g of fresh yeast or one packet of fast acting.
  • About 300ml of lukewarm water

Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt, cream the yeast with the water (yeast in, a bit of water to mix the lumps out, then add the rest of the water; put to one side for a bout 10 minutes in a warmish spot until it starts to bubble.

Add the water\yeast mix gradually to the flour until you can bring in all together, then turn out onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes. Once you have a smooth and elastic consistency pop it in an lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel, find it a nice cosy spot and let it rise for an hour or so.

Once risen remove from the bowl and knock back the mixture and roll out into a large sausage shape; this helps you to now divide into eight or nine equal parts which you then roll into balls. Now cover these again with your damp tea towel and let them rise for 15 minutes.

Now the final part and at this point I’d put your oven on about 220c and more importantly place an oven proof dish with a couple of inches of boiling water in the bottom of your oven.

Slightly flatten the balls of dough and create a groove down the middle of each flattened disk, using the karate chop part of your hand! Don’t worry the pictures will help with this description.

Then fold the little disks of joy into a set of kissing lips, flip then upside down and place on your oiled baking tray, cover with your tea towel once again and let them rise for a further 30 minutes.

Ok I lied that wasn’t the final thing, but all you have to do now, after this final 30 minutes of waiting, is to spin them round, lips up, brush on some milk and slam them in the oven for about 10-12 minutes.

I have to say I think I could have done better with this batch, the cold air got in somewhere along the line and I didn’t quite get the rise I was hoping for; they should have a little more bulk. Non the less they were all eaten within 2 hours of completion 🙂


By the way I got two teas shirts!

Fractional baking for men: Pita Bread and Flapjacks

As I have mentioned in a few previous posts I have taken on the role of chief cook and bottle washer for my sister in the Yorkshire Dales. My tasks are varied and something I’m doing on quite a regular basis is baking; I know this might not be considered the task of your everyday Yorkshire man, but it’s something I have always liked doing and I have managed to add a few more recipes to my repertoire.

In my quest to become as proficient as possible I have found myself doing away with the scales and judging the quantities of ingredients I use in an attempt to make appear that I know what I’m doing. So the following recipes and methods are recounted from memory, only using the scales once, just to see how accurate I actually am. By the way don’t be put off by the title, the intention is not to eat them together, but if you happen to do so then I would be interested to hear your comments 🙂

Ok, here goes, hold on tight and don’t be scared: By the way I added a few links on kneading bread and knocking back, but don’t worry if your dough doesn’t look like the video, neither did mine!

Pita Bread (makes anything from 10 to 12)

  • A third of a bag of bread flour; about 500g (I used 250g white and 250g wholemeal)
  • A packet of  fast acting yeast
  • A splash of olive oil
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A pinch of sugar
  • About a half of pint (250-300ml) of warm water

The most difficult thing about the recipe is judging the quantity of flour, but by using the power of fractions, safe in the knowledge that you know how much flour is in the bag you stared off with, it’s quite easy to work out.

A full bag of flour in my case was 1.5 Kg so a quick calculation means that I need a third of a bag; or a sixth of a bag of white and a sixth of a bag of wholemeal (easy?) I have to admit that I checked to see how well I had gauged it and I came out with 547g; a variation that is easily dealt with by adding a tad more water.

Take a bowl, sieve in the flour (I forgot to) add the packet yeast, the salt, the sugar and slug of oil, mix it up, add your water and mix again. It’s better to add too little than too much and I turn my mixture out on to the board with quite a bit of dry mixture still remaining.

Start to knead the bread and if you don’t manage to pick up all the dry mix in the process then add a splash or two of water until all the mix is incorporated. Kneading is a process of folding the dough mixture to trap air and stretching it to create the gluten (I think that’s what Gosia told me when I received my first baking lesson)

Knead for about 10 – 15 minutes; until the mixture takes on a kind of smooth silky pliable texture, if your not sure then just judge it by time, you cant go far wrong.

Lightly oil the bowl you used for mixing in the first place and place in your dough ball, cover with a damp tea towel and put somewhere warm for about 90 minutes (or until it doubles in size)

Meanwhile, you can start on the Flapjacks and you will need:

  • 180g of butter (about 3/4 of a standard block)
  • 180g of brown sugar (about a 1/5 of a 1Kg bag)
  • 2 good dollops of syrup
  • 360g of porridge oats (just over a 1/3 of a 1Kg box or bag)
  • 3 handfuls of cornflakes
  • 3 handfuls of seeds (I have used 2 of sunflower and 1 of pumpkin; use whatever you have, even dried fruits, or don’t add any at all; its not essential)

Pre heat your oven to 180°C (350F or Gas mark 4).

Put your butter in a pan over a very low heat and as it begins to melt add your brown sugar and syrup, let this mixture melt slowly and stir on a regular basis; meanwhile add your oats to a bowl along with your seeds and mix in the molten mix once it has melted together. Stir in to coat the ingredients and then add the cornflakes. You can add the cornflakes earlier but adding them last stops them breaking up too much.

Once mixed together you can use one of the ingredients I haven’t mentioned yet; a baking tray! I’ve used one about 30cm by 15cm by 4cm deep and lined it with grease proof paper with a little butter smeared over it to stop the mix sticking. Spoon in your mix and level it off, packing down as required, until you have a reasonably flat surface bang it in your preheated oven for about 15 minutes, maybe 20; keep an eye on it and when it starts to brown at the edges then its just about time to take it out and leave on the side to cool. When cool trun out and cut it up into equal parts.

Just in time, as the edges start to brown its time to take it out.
Just in time, as the edges start to brown its time to take it out.

Ok, how are you doing? As this is a mans guide then please grab yourself a bottle of beer, you have done really well and you deserve it, but only one for now as things are going to get intense now as we move back to our Pita Bread mix, which should be rising nicely by now and should be ready to go once you finish your beer.

Turn out your dough onto a wholemeal flour dusted board and knock back the mixture; this basically means taking the air out of it to get in back to close its original size, I do this by kneading again for a minute or two. Then roll out into a cylinder shape and divide the mixture in half, put one half back in your bowl and start on your remaining half, rolling out again and then dividing into 5 or 6 equal parts and roll each of these into balls; don’t worry if they are different sizes, it adds to the authenticity 🙂

Roll out the individual balls to make a rough oval shape about an 1/8 of an inch thick (3-4mm), place of a baking tray and put the damp tea towel over the top to let them rise for about another 30 minutes.

Crank up your oven to maximum whilst they are rising, then place the tray with your rolled pita breads on the middle shelf; they take about 5 minutes to bake and they should rise to create the pocket in this time, browning lightly on the top side; its all about judgement at this stage so take a quick look at 5 minutes and maybe give them a minute or two more if they haven’t puffed up.

Repeat the process with the remaining mix and you should end up with more than 10 pita breads; I ended up with 11, you may get 12 or more!

I also got 8 good sized flapjacks out of the recipe so we all have an energy boost available whilst walling for the next few days:)

Don’t worry, normal service will resume soon; I’m starting to gear up for Poland and I can’t wait to make these for Gosia and family as she doesn’t believe I have made them 🙂

Bhutta aur aloo ki mazedar tarkari

Or should I say Sweet corn and potatoes with mustard seeds and mint; A real winner and vegetarian to boot, definitely one to remember, unfortunately the Shahi korma (Royal beef in a creamy almond sauce) didn’t really come up to scratch; maybe a little mild when served with the afore mentioned aloo. Just as well I also made a spiced lamb biryani to make sure we all had plenty to eat.

Four hours in the kitchen, four hours! And I loved every minute of it 🙂 Although it did cross my mind that my sisters faith in me was misplaced along with her ability to portion size! But as she decided to empty the freezer she also let loose her imagination on what to do with the various bags of meat that came from the frost bitten depths.

Madhur Jaffrey is responsible for the first two dishes and the good old BBC provided me with the step by step for the biryani and whilst I had a few hectic moments, especially near the end, I managed to produce enough food to feed the village. Or alternatively two nephews, my sister and I for two days; including breakfast!

I won’t give you a run down of the recipes as I’m sure you will find them from the references above, just take my word for it, that the Bhutta and Biryani were well worth the effort.

The next day I was pointed in the direction of the World Encyclopaedia of Bread, or should I say my sister presented me with the book and several bookmarks; and Rye bread and a Polish Poopy Seed Roll were demanded as things that would make her feel better:) Of course I obliged and another marathon slog in the kitchen, with time to run to the shops and do the recycling filling in the gaps between the rising of the dough!

Both turned out ok, although I did fall foul of an over enthusiastic fan oven; with both specimens surrounded by a convincing crust, but you live and learn and the following days pita bread turned out just fine. A bad workman always blames his tools, I’m just getting used to the tools I’m working with.

All this activity it’s no wonder why I haven’t blogged a lot recently:)


A recipe

I know its a little off subject, but then the more I look back over my posts the more I realise there is no real subject, although I’m sure my niche in straw bale building and composting toilets will come into it’s own as time passes and the sun begins to shine once again.

In the meantime, I thought I would share a little bit of the food heaven that I live in. I have eaten this cake on several occasions and recently put in a special request, so thanks to Gosia for humouring me and sharing her secrets; even though the recipe can be attributed to many famous chefs on the web, Gosias is the best one I’ve tasted 🙂

To keep it simple, for me, it’s a two bowl affair. A wet bowl and a dry bowl; so the first thing you need is two bowls.

For the first (wet) bowl you will need:

3 eggs, whites and yolks separated

200g sugar

300g cooked beetroot (about 3 medium sixed) Wizzed up in a blender


1 teaspoon vanilla extract or if you have pods go for it, use them now!

200ml olive oil (or veg oil)


At this point I should explain that all measurements are estimated and a deviation of 10 even 20% is allowed. Gosia didn’t say this, but I watched what was going on and reading the scales wasn’t one of them 🙂

So start with the eggs, separating the yolks from the whites, or the other way round, and add the sugar to the whites; get a mixer and spin them up until the sugar dissolves. DSC05973DSC05974DSC05975

Now add the yolks, beetroot, vanilla and oil; continue to mix


I once had a shirt that colour, but not for long!

Moving swiftly on from my fashion mistakes, take your second (dry) bowl

Sieve and add the following

180g plain flour

50 g coco powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

Mix them up


Add them to the wet bowl

Ok, so far so good, just give me a minute to check what happened next.

That’s it, remember not to mix them too much as this may make the cake ‘heavy’ although Gosia did also say that she doesn’t believe this; but then she didn’t mix it too much, so what do you believe?

Now for money saving tip number two, number one was to use the water from boiling the beetroot to make barszcz czerwony. but number two is to use old butter or margarine wrappers to line your baking tin.


Then pour in your mixture, making sure lick your fingers clean of any that tries to escape, including that left in the bowl.

Throw it in the oven at 160-170°c for about an hour, maybe 50 minutes is it’s a good oven (check with a wooden skewer, it should be dry as you pull it out) , let it cool and eat


I might add some more pics tomorrow as we debate whether its better with cream or custard; we tried cream and it went down pretty well :), but I’d like to give custard a try, if there is any left.