Butternut Squash & Chestnut soup


I managed to pick a bag full of windfall Sweet chestnuts a couple of week’s ago. I roasted them and peeled them and after eating a few, because they were so delicious, I put half in the fridge and froze the rest.

I was contemplating cooking Chestnut risotto, however hubs isn’t keen so instead I made this wonderful hearty, autumnal soup. You could use rosemary instead of sage, spice it up with a pinch of paprika or use an onion instead of a leek.

I’m gluten and dairy intolerant so I didn’t add a swirl of sour cream, but you could and a sage leaf or sprig of rosemary.

I hope you enjoy trying out this recipe. If you can’t get fresh chestnuts I think you can by them in a pouch from the deli or supermarket.

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Harvest Chutney

September has been fun in the garden, collecting crab apples, eating and cooking apples and plums from our trees. I’ve also harvested lovely Tomatoes from my five plants from which we’ve been eating daily in salads with our home grown lettuce.  Laterly I’ve made pasta sauce to freeze. In the fields surrounding Cople, on my dog walks,  we’ve enjoyed picking Elderberries and Blackberries. The Sloes are ripening nicely too, although we’ve still got plenty of Sloe gin to drink and give away.

I love the look of the hedges jumbled with tumbling blackberries and rosehips. Today the sun is shining, the tractors are ploughing the fields, the crows and blackbirds sit on bare branches watching over the landscape; hares dart about and deer run in and out of the furrows and hedges around the fields. Every day has a story to tell.

Harvest Chutney Recipe

300g onions chopped

700g plums, stoned and quartered,

350g blackberries

600g cooking apples

75g elderberries

600ml organic red wine vinegar

125g dried cranberries

350g soft light brown sugar

1tsp all spice

1tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp coriander

A pinch of sea salt

A ppinch of chilli flakes

Makes 6 x 340g jars

Keeps for 12 months

Method

Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring. Make sure that the sugar has dissolved.

2. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the chutney has reduced, stirring frequently. 

3. When the chutney is ready, check by drawing a wooden spoon across the surface, it should leave a trail. 

4. Pot the chtney into sterilized jars, label and date and put jars into a cool dark place for at least a few weeks before eating. 

Artful country foraging

At last summer’s here and since the month of June I have enjoyed foraging for Elderflower heads, then this month for cherries. I have my eyes peeled for the ripening rosehips, the wild plums, elderberries, blackberries of course and hazel, cobs, sweet chestnuts and if I’m lucky I’ll get a small harvest of green walnuts. I’ll add my garden herbs to nuts to make pesto and make cordials, cakes and coulis with my fruit harvest.

So far I’ve made wonderful Elderflower cordial, which is delicious poured over ice with water, amazing drizzled over strawberries as an alternative to dairy options and sublime with a measure of dry gin, natural tonic water and ice.


Note, I used the Belvoir bottle but my cordial is not as sweet, it has a hint of rose water and is gently refreshing.

Elderflower cordial

2.5 litres cold water

500g sugar

4 unwaxed lemons

20 or so freshly gathered healthy elderflower heads

2 tablespoons of rose water (optional)

50 grams citric acid( from chemists or jam making shelf)

1 Campden tablet (from brewing shops or ddepartments)

You will need a very large saucepan, a bucket with a lid, a washing up bowl, wooden spoon, a clean tea towel, two litre bottles with lids and a half litre bottle and a lemon zester.

Method

1. Put sugar and water Iinto the pan and gently heat without boiling until the sugar has dissolved. Sir now and again.

2. Pare the zest from the lemons then slice the lemons Iinto rounds.

3. Add the rose water, stir then bring the syrup to boil, then turn off the heat.

4. Fill the washing up bowl with cold water and gently give the heads a clean. Discard any dried up looking flowers.

5. Shake off the water.

6. Put the cooled syrup into the bucket or tub and add the elderflowers, sliced lemons, citric acid and the crushed campden tablet as well as the lemon zest.

7. Stir put the lid on and leave for at least 24 hours. I left mine for 3 days stirring occasionally.

8. Line a colander with a clean teatowel and sit over a large bowl or pan.

9. Let the syrup drip through slowly, enjoying the aroma.

10. Discard the bits in the towel.

11. Using a small funnel pour your cordial into clean sterilised bottles.

12. Put in the fridge.

13. Will keep for a few weeks. Enjoy!

Lovely light gluten and dairy free lemon, rose and Strawberry drizzle cake

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This drizzle cake was so easy to prepare and bake and tastes delicious. Even though it’s free from gluten and dairy, it is moist and fruity: my husband agrees and it has all been eaten! You can use other freeze dried berries such as rasberries, go for orange instead of lemon. Have fun and let me know how you get on. I love homemade cakes and hate overpriced additive packed shop bought cakes. For me this cake is perfect for afternoon tea: it is ‘free from gf and dairy heaven’!
The ingredients and recipe
175g dairy free spread
175 natural cane caster sugar
Zest and juice of two lemons
3 large free range eggs
200g gluten free self raising flour (I used Dove farm)
1 teaspoon of gluten free baking powder
1 large handful of freeze dried strawberries
For the rose and lemon drizzle
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of  natural cane caster sugar
2 tablespoons of rose water
A sprinkling of strawberry sprinkles

Method
Preheat your oven to 180ยบ or gas mark 4.
Grease a 900g loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper or a lpaper loaf liner (preferable)
1 Cream spread, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy (I used a hand mixer)
2 Beat in eggs one at a time
3 Mix together the flour, baking powder and strawberries
4 Add lemon juice and combine
5 Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth on top.
6 Bake for 40-45 mins until golden. (I peep at it because gf cakes can coom quicker in my experience,  but DON’T open the oven door until you’re ready to take out your cake)
7 Leave cake in tin and immediately make your drizzle syrup.
8 To make the drizzle, put all ingredients apart from the sprinkles into a small saucepan and gentle heat until the sugar mixture becomes syrupy.
9. With a skewer, put little holes throughout the top of the cake
10 Gentle pour over the syrup making sure it seeps through the holes.
11 Leave your cake to cool completely before lifting it out onto a plate.
Eat and enjoy!