Homemade Strawberry Jam

If you’ve ever visited the tea room, you might be aware that we do group tours of the Abbey and church. Normally we organise these for WIs or historic groups, but occasionally we just do a drop in. Well, after one tour we had a few strawberries left over………

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So what do you do if you have 3.5lbs of fruit left over and a tea room. The obvious answer is to make jam. Now, I make chilli jam all the time but shy away from fruit generally. It’s relatively difficult to make because it requires an accurate ratio of fruit to sugar and pectin to set. This is in addition to boiling to a specific temperature. However, as a pretty girl once told me, you’re a surgeon that flies drones, builds model aeroplanes and helps run a tea room, you can do everything……….

So, to rise to that challenge –

Homemade Strawberry Jam

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Ingredients

  • 3.5lbs Strawberries
  • 3.5lbs Jam sugar
  • 2 Lemons (juice)

You ideally also need a jam pan, jam jars, sugar thermometer and a funnel

Start by getting all the ingredients and equipment and taking a pretty photo. Really don’t know what I’ll do if I have to move to the city – farmhouse kitchens are nicer.

Once the photos have been taken, remove the stalk and tops off all the strawberry’s. You can cut into half’s or quarters at this point as well to help them cook faster.

Place the fruit into the jam pan and put on a low heat- the simmering hob of an AGA works fantastic. Simmer the fruit down till it has formed a pulp. At this point I wondered if the pulp cooled, served over ice with gin would be an option- but that’s another day’s experimenting.

To the pulp add the sugar and lemon juice. Return to the Aga but on the boiling hob this time.

Start to increase the temperature to the jam mark on your thermometer. That’s about 104C

While the jam cooks, heat the jars up in the bottom Aga till they are too hot to touch – this sterilises them and helps the jam last.

When the jam is boiling and a spoonful placed onto a cold saucer forms a skin it is time to bottle up. Using a sterile funnel and spoon transfer the jam into jam jars. I decided to go for 4 large jars and a dozen minis. It should last for a couple of months.

 

Let’s eat

Ok, so what do you do with that much Jam.

Well, so many options – eat it on scones, use it to make a cheesecake, fill a Victoria Sponge

Either way, what it gets used for will be available to buy at the tea room tomorrow (22/7). Enjoy………

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Homemade Mince Pies

Merry Christmas everyone.

I love Christmas, not because of the presents or the fact my birthday is close, but because it brings the family together. The hall is decorated with holly, a massive 9ft tree covered in vintage glass baubles stands in the corner and the house is filled with the smells of delicious food. Of course in the weeks before christmas, the hall is used to host friends for a glass of mulled wine and one of Grans famous mince pies. One year it even hosted a choir, but thats a different tale………

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The key to a good mince-pie is thin crisp pastry, lots of filling and a generous amount of brandy butter. I don’t think its worth making your own mincemeat. Robertsons makes probably the best, but adding more fruit, spices and lots of alcohol take it to the next level.

 

Grandma Reynold’s Mince Pies

Ingredients

  • 9oz Plain Flour
  • 6oz Butter
  • 2oz Caster Sugar
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • Whole Milk
  • 1 Large Jar Robertsons Mincemeat
  • 6oz Sultanas
  • Christmas Spirits
  • Cinnamon, Nutmeg and ground ginger

Start by making the pastry. You can use a mixer with a K beater or just use your hands.

Start by weighting out the flour, butter and sugar and rubbing together. If you have cold hands then fantastic, aim to keep the butter as cold as possible. Overworking the butter will cause it to melt and leave you with chewy, not flaky pastry.

When the mix resembles breadcrumbs, add the egg yolks and milk a tablespoon at a time  until the pastry comes together.

Then wrap in cling film and chill for an hour.

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Whilst the pastry chills, make the mincemeat filling. Combine the jar, fruit, spices and alcohol . Don’t add too much, the fruit will soak up some alcohol but not a whole bottle. Again, leave to steep for an hour whilst the pastry chills. It’s about the perfect length of time to put the lights up on the tree.

Once the pastry as rested, roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin on a well floured board. Remember to roll away from yourself and turn the pastry a 1/4 turn each time.

Using 2 cutters, stamp out the base and lid to each mince-pie. The pastry will make around 30 in total. I sometimes make a double batch and give them away as gifts. However as the tea room is open, they will be sold this time. Cheers Mum.

Grease a mince pie tin liberally with butter or Stork. The one I’m using is a vintage tray I bought Gran for Christmas when I was 8 from a long closed Antique shop. Its got a patterned base which makes a pretty mice pie.

Press the base pastry disc into the tin and add a healthy dessertspoonful of mincemeat into the case. Then add the lid, I tend to paint the edge of the pastry with a little water to help it stick. Press the lid into the base to produce a good seal and then glaze with egg wash.

Cook in a hot Aga (or conventional oven at 200) for 15mins, turning half way through the bake time.

When the mince-pies are golden brown, take out the oven and rest on a cooling rack till completely cooled. Don’t be tempted to remove before they have cooled though, they will just break apart.

 

Lets Eat

Grab a glass of mulled wine or a spiced Latte, open the brandy butter and slightly warm a mince-pie in the Aga. Then all that’s left to do is get the family together and enjoy the festive spirit. It seems like a good occasion to use some Emma Bridgewater pottery as well – Thats if the Polar Bear will give up any mince pies at all though……….

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Bonfire Toffee

I have a soft place in my heart for bonfires; I find the soft glow, the wood smoke and the occasional crackle of the fire romantic. Now, the foods of bonfire nights are rather varied, each year I vary what I make for my party. In FY1 it was pulled pork and mini Mac & Cheese, for CT1 it was hotdogs. This year I’ve been making corndogs, just because………but each year there is always one item on the menu, bonfire toffee.

Bonfire toffee is a bit of a Halloween and bonfire night tradition. It’s a hard candy made with black treacle, golden syrup and sugar. Usually served in small grease proof bags, it needs to be eaten on the day. If you can’t be bothered to make it, shame on you………… shop bought bonfire toffee tends to bitter, homemade is far better. Plus, unlike my normal blog posts, this only takes about an hour to make.

Bonfire Toffee

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Ingredients

  • 8oz Dark brown Sugar
  • 65ml Water
  • 2oz Black treacle
  • 2oz Golden Syrup 
  • Sprinkle of cream of tartar

As usual, start by collecting all the ingredients together and taking a pretty picture – add a kitten into the background if required.

Weigh out the sugar and add to a large pan, combine with the water and melt together on a gentle heat. Try to resist the urge to stir the sugar, it will cause it to precipitate out and you will have a horrible grainy mess.

Whilst the sugar melts, measure out the Golden syrup and Black treacle. This will produce a wonderfully sticky mess which then needs pouring into the sugar mix. Then, the temperature needs turning up……

Add the cream of tartar and heat. You can occasionally swirl the pan to get an even heating, the temperature that you are aiming for is 140C. This takes around 30mins to achieve.

When 140C has been reached you want to hold the toffee mix at the temperature for a few minutes. Whilst the toffee boils, quickly oil a large tin, this will allow the toffee to be  turned out easily when cold.

Pour the boiling toffee mix into the prepared tin and leave to cool completely.

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Lets eat

All that remains is to turn the toffee out of the tin. Hit the base a few times to break it up.

Then retire to the bonfire with a few pieces, a pretty girl and enjoy the fireworks.

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Cuban Burgers, D-types and the Mille

“She held my hand and told me to be kind and gentle”

These sadly weren’t the words of a lover to me, but a close friends advice in my final year at Medschool. You see, during that year I had become a bit of a dictator; I had rewrote the curriculum, won a major Wellcome trust grant, deposed the head of the Academic Society. This was alongside becoming a favourite of the Urology team, getting a job offer and a myth about a Jag.

I love myths, this one related to a crashed D-type somewhere in Cuba. Well, I say myth, it’s currently on its way to my workshop. During my trip to rescue her, I stumbled upon a little bar by the beach. Here I had my first Cuban burger. These are a heady mix of lean beef, spicy chorizo, chillis and served in a soft Cuban roll with a side of skinny fries and topped with pulled pork if you’re feeling hungry

Now, I’m just finishing another long run of night shifts on the assessment unit, so fancy a treat. Time to make a few Cubanos and get some food.

Fennel Pulled Pork

As you can tell from the previous blogs, I like pulled pork. Whilst on the trail of my mythical Jag I kind of fell in love with an aromatically flavored Fennel Pork. It again is cooked overnight in a low oven, so those with Agas are at a distinct advantage.

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Ingredients

  • Pork Shoulder
  • Fennel seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Coriander Seads
  • Onions, Celery and Carrots
  • Course sea salt and pepper
  • Caster Sugar
  • Thornbrudge Jaipur IPA (or a good pale ale)

 

Start by making your dry rub. Combine the fennel, mustard, coriander, salt, sugar and celery salt in a pestle and motor and grind to a coarse powder. This relieves some of the pent up stress of finding parts of a Jag race engine.

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Next it’s time for a bit of chopping. Layer the bottom of a large Le Cresuet with onion, carrot, celery and a bit of bay leaf if you have any. On top of this place the shoulder of pork.

Massage the dry rub into the Pork and then add a hearty glug of Worcester sauce and a pint of a good quality beer.
As you can tell I’ve been drinking a lot of Juipur recently and it made sense finish the Keg off.

Cook in the bottom Aga (approx 100) for around 12-18hrs depending on the Pork – if you stick a fork in and it falls apart it’s done.

Cuban bread

Having first had this in a little bakery in Havana and falling in love, I persuaded the owner to teach me how to bake them. She used an old enamel cup to weigh the flour out so I’m being true to this. They are sort of an enriched dough, but lack the eggs of a brioche style. Soft and slightly buttery, you can see why they make a fantastic sandwich.

Ingredients 

  • 2cups strong white flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tea spoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Start by weighing out the ingredients and then combine in the bowl of the mixer.
Using the doughook slowly add the water till a soft dough has formed. Then keep kneading at a medium pace for around 5mins.


The same principle can be used to hand knead the dough, it will help with any bingo wings which are starting to form as well. 
Let the dough rest in an oiled bowl for around 1hr or until doubled in size. In the mean time I would suggest fixing yourself a rum based drink or working out where to get more Jag parts from.


After an hour, your dough should be nicely proved. Knock the dough back and turn out onto a well floured surface.
Divide the dough into 4 and shape into balls, taking care to tuck the bottoms under to aid in the rise.


Prove again for around an hour until doubled in size -more Rum would be my suggestion here.


Cut a cross into the top of the rolls and bake at 190C till brown and delicious -around 15mins. In the last 5 mins you can sprinkle with flour for effect.

Cuban Burger

Basically a burger, but so so much more

Ingredients

  • 1lb. 70/30 lean beef coarsely ground
  • 1 small onion
  • 4oz Chorizo
  • 1 small chilli
  • Parsley, sage and a sprig of thyme

 

I’m not going to lie, I don’t know if the Cuban burger is one which originated in Cuba, or was a bit of an American import during the roaring 30’s. Either way it’s delicious. A mix of smokey chorizo, good quality beef and a kick of chilli.

You can either mince the beef yourself, using something like chuck/brisket or get your butcher to grind it for you as I have. Start by dicing the chorizo into small pieces, approximately the size of a pea.

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After this, finely chop the chilli, onion and herbs. You can leave this coarse, if you prefer a chunkier nature to your burger.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and, using your hands, mix together and divide into 4 balls. This gives you burgers somewhere a smudge over 1/4lb………….

Although I have a burger press, the rustic nature of the burgers at the bar on the beach would be disrespected if I were to use it. Therefore using the palm of your hand, flatten into discs.

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All that’s left to do is cook them in a hot pan with a dash of oil. Flip over after around 5mins when a good char has been achieved.

Lets Eat

All that remains is to assemble the burger. I find that it’s best to toast the rolls to give them some structural integrity. Then just add a good smear of mayo, the burger, some cheese, the Pulled Pork and the bbq sauce. Serve with a side of crispy potatoes, coleslaw and obviously a token salad leaf…………….

 

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Oh, I nearly forgot. The car, well I promised the friend who gave me the advice that I would run the Mille Miglia with her when we both became consultants. Should have the D’ restored by then……..

BBQ time – Vension Burgers

I just bought a microbrewery to celebrate Bake Off – but more on that later.

According to my friend who works as a BBC weather presenter – it is summer, and that can only mean 1 thing – BBQs. I have many happy childhood memories of these.  One of my favourites was the annual trip to a small country pub called the Beeheive for the August bank holiday. The pub would put on a big BBQ, we would take dads Alfa Spider, there would be Maypole dancing and Morris men. Infact it might have been at one of these I had my first pint, held in one chubby teenage hand whilst the other was grasping a burger.

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Well, with the offer of a perfusion PhD in America on my desk once again, I thought I would relive the memory…………but in slightly more fancy style – venison burgers, ciabatta rolls and wild garlic mayo!!!!!

Ciabatta Rolls

  • 1lb Strong flour
  • 1tspn Salt
  • 5g Dry Yeast or a knob of Fresh Yeast
  • 50ml Olive Oil
  • 300ml Water
  • 6 Poaching Rings

Ok, so I realise that ciabatta is a bit of a controversial bread choice for a burger, but I have reasons. I regularly take my F1s out for dinner and at one meal Harry started eating his burger with a knife and fork. He claims the bun wasn’t strong enough, I claim  he needs to man up. Anyway, ciabatta is strong so no need for a fork.

Start by weighing out the flour, salt, yeast and combining in the kitchenaid. To this add the oil and water.

The dough is relatively wet, so it is much easier to make in a mixer with a dough hook. If you want to make it by hand, just remember to oil them and be patient.

Mix on a relatively high speed for 10mins until a highly stretchable dough has been made.

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As the dough is so wet it needs a frame to prove in. Otherwise it would just be a bit of a mess. The poaching rings from my pulled pork blog once again have been pressed into service. Place on a well floured baking tray.

Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for around an hour or until it has doubled in size. When well risen, and you have managed to sink a few Gin and Tonics, it’s time to bake. Make a cross cut onto the top and  transfer into a preheated oven at 200C.

Bake until golden brown – this varies due to size, but around 20mins.

Venison Burgers

Nothing goes with Venison quite like gin, well juniper to be precise. Sadly, I can’t lay claim to having discovered this having stolen the idea from Hide burger a few years ago.

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Ingredient

  • 1lb Venison mince
  • Juniper berrys
  • Gin
  • 2 small white onions
  • Sage, Parsley and Pepper

Start a few hours before you are planning on eating by soaking the juniper berrys in Gin. This allows you to impart the subtle flavours of Gin into your burger. Lets face it, who doesn’t like Gin.

Finely dice the onion, herbs, Juniper and combine with the Venison mince. Season with a twist of salt and pepper. Now to the fun bit of forming.

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Divide the burger mix into 4 and mould to shape. A burger press can be really helpful to get the shape just right. Leave in the fridge for 30mins to firm up.

Now, there are lots of different ways to cook a burger; steam, oven, pan but BBQ has to be king. Given this blog is in honour of the Beehieve, only a BBQ will do. Cook for around 5mins on each side, brushing with oil to stop sticking.

Time to Eat

Right, time to relive the glory days – Burger anyone?

Lightly toast the ciabatta bun then assemble the burger with a generous helping of wild garlic mayo, Bloody Mary Ketchup and a handful of salad. Finish with a side of homemade slaw and a beer.

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P.s I’ll mini blog the Mayo and Ketchup for you all soon x

Infinity Project 861: Time to make beer

In the depths of winter I sat in the snug, the heavy smell of paraffin mixed with that of pie and Bass. We sat opposite a hero, talking about what we had just flown, the roar of 27L of British thunder still buzzing in our ears

My friends have accused me of being old fashioned throughout the years, however I just insist that some things can’t be improved upon. There is a pub which exemplifies this point. Located deep in Lincolnshire approx. 5miles from a ‘disused’ airfield, it was once the haunt of brave young men who fought to keep us free. A few miles have been added to the clocks of these old boys, but the pub remains the same. Lit only by oil lamps, pies kept warm in an oil fired cabinet and no lager to be seen on the taps, it became a favourite of the MMDS during my final years at school and beyond. Its mystery, unlike so much else, never faded………………..

During one of those hazy evenings, after adding a few more hours to my log book, I sat with my two closest friends, Ginger (sadly no longer with us) and Morley, and said no matter what happened we must not let these echoes of the past slip away. Afterall

“Memory is the storeroom of the mind. A dusty attic of experience filled with knowledge; sometimes useless; sometimes priceless.But once in a while we must cast aside the shades, and with our dustily relics try to recapture the past. For in there lies reason for the present and hope for the future”

Let’s face it, most men have wanted to brew their own beer. A few will have tried with homebrew kits and got varying results. So, in memory of Ginger I thought it was finally time I gave brewing a go and keep the memory of those MMDS trips alive.

Here is to hope for the future: Oil Lamps, homemade pies and beer………..

Micro Brewery

There is one undisputed king of beers, Bass! It is a very drinkable, lightly hopped English pale ale and in reality should only be drunk in half so you can keep going back for more. It’s also got the worlds first trademark, a red triangle which I learnt on a trip to the Bass museum a few weeks ago.

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Wandering around the museum, beer in hand, I stumbled upon an elderly gentleman lurking around what appeared to be bunch of barrels and a trough. Trying to work out what it was I finally asked him, he explained it was part of the BurtonUnion system once used to brew beer. These turned out to be needlessly complicated and most were scrapped in the 50s, but as the elderly gentleman told me, beer tastes better brewed in them (I know the science but don’t ask)………….

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One thing the MMDS members realised is don’t get me drunk and let me loose near something mechanical, I can revise engineer it in minutes. So, I did!!!! And thus with the use of meccano, tubing, an old ban Marie and a couple of 5L mini kegs, a Miniature Burton Union was made as well as a mash tun and sparging equipment…………..

Homemade Bass

Beer is made using malt, hops, water and yeast. It’s then left to ferment and after about 2 weeks you transfer into casks to condition for another 2 weeks. You can buy good malt extracts but I wanted to keep mine as close to the original as possible so I am using malt. The yeast is one I managed to propagate from a pint of Bass from my local as well to make it even more authentic.

Ingredience

  •  4oz Crystal malt
  • 3lb Pale malt
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • 7oz Brewers sugar
  • 0.4oz + 0.16oz + 0.1oz Goulding hops
  • 0.8oz Fugggles hops
  • Irish moss
  • Fining

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Start by allowing the malt to mash in approx 7L of water. This should be kept at a steady 66c and the malt being agitated from time to time to allow full exposure to the water. This can be done by sealing the malt in a cloth bag and steeping it like a giant tea bag. Or if you have a lot of spare meccano you can build a system to suspend the malt in to baskets which then pump the water constantly over it. This needs to continue for 1.5hrs to allow full extraction.

After 1.5hrs have passed (and you’ve repaired the pump a few times), you need to drain the liquid into a pan of boiler for the next step. But you haven’t finished with the malt just yet. This is still covered in lots of natural sugar which are removed in a process called sparging. Basically you pass warm water over the malt and collect this for boiling. I again used the recycling system to spare the grain. You need approx 3L in total.

You should have now collected approx 10L of liquid which is known as wort. This contains the sugars which will be converted into alcohol by the yeast. This needs to be flavoured and the bitterness added by hops. This occurs in 2 steps. Firstly the Fuggles hops and the first batch of Golding hops are added  and the wort boiled for 1.5hr along with the Irish moss. The helps keep the beer clear.

 

Then, just at the end more flavouring aromatic  Golding hops are added and the liquid allowed to steep for 10-15mins.

The wort now needs to be cooled rapidly to stop the high temperature degrading the delicate flavour of the hops. This can be done by passing the wort through a length of tubing submersed in a sink of ice cold water. The aim is to reduce it down to 20-25, so it can take a few passes. Sugar can then be added to reach a target specific cavity of 1.045.

 

Once cooled, the yeast can be added and then the mixture transferred to the Union.
The idea of a Burton Union is that as the yeast ferments it produces gas, alcohol, but also a foam on the top. This is forced up the copper swan pipe and into a trough at the top. This trough collects yeast and fermenting beer which is then returned to the Union Barrells. This not only allows you to not waste beer (a sin) but also allows the yeast strains to be uniform throughout all the barrels.

Now it’s just a case of waiting.

After 2 weeks the Unions will slow down their production and the Specific gravity will have fallen to around 1.020. Now you have technically got beer but it’s very young and needs to be conditioned. More barrels to the rescue. Transfer the beer via siphon to the aging casks avoiding transferring all the sediment which will have collected at the base. To the beer, add a priming liquid of water and sugar and more Golding hops (I had some spare pellet type so used them-not a great fan). Also you can add the finings at this point to aid in clearing.

Again wait- 2 weeks till you can drink.

So after 2 weeks,the beer is ready for tapping. Ideally you should keep in a cool room or cupboard and leave a day for it to settle if you move it. Remove the cap and plug the hole with a breathable material, like soft wood. Recap if you finish drinking but not done finishing the barrel.

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The big question is what to drink it with………. Memories oh dearest memories – Steak and Ale pie I think 😉