I’m thinking of planting a damson tree in the garden too.  Had never tried them until I found the above beauties at a local farm shop.  A little tart for eating raw, perhaps, but utterly delicious sprinkled with sugar and baked in a cake.

This recipe – damsons replaced the apples.

Spiced Apple Butter (& competition results)

We moved house in June of this year and spent the whole summer and much of autumn sanding and scraping and painting, getting the interior of the house the way we wanted.  Only now (just in time for the sleet and cold winds) are we turning our attention to the garden.  I have plans for a raised vegetable patch (just one at first), my first greenhouse, a wider range of herbs than I’ve ever grown and both a plum and a damson tree.  It’s going to be great.

Until all of this comes to fruition (ha!)  I shall satisfy myself with the one food producing plant currently in the garden: the apple tree.  And it’s a cracker with lots and lots of big shiny red globes hanging heavily.  We have so far feasted on dozens of these lovelies just as they are, cooked them with pork and parsnips, grated them into porridge and sliced them onto cheese sandwiches.  A few kilos have also gone into making the following spiced apple butter.

The basic recipe comes (again) from friends in Finland, Jan and Kaija, and is perfect on its own without the spices.  With the cinnamon, cloves and allspice, however, it’ll make your kitchen smell like Christmas on an icy, grey afternoon.

Spiced Apple Butter

1 kg apples

100ml water

1 stick of cinnamon

3 cloves

1/2 tspn allspice

200-400ml sugar (according to taste)

  • wash apples, remove bad bits and cut in slices. Leave peel, pips etc in.
  • boil water, add apples and let boil until soft. Stir often so apples don’t burn.
  • mash apples then strain through sieve or food mill.
  • add sugar a bit at a time and mix until taste is right.
  • cool then store in sterilised jars or freeze.


And finally, the competition results!  The winner and recipient of The Flavour Thesaurus is….  Ozarkhomesteader!  He/she won me over with this story of a talented cat:

“Have you ever heard a screech owl? (If you’ve seen “My Cousin Vinny,” you may remember the screech owl in the movie.) I live in a rural area in the US, and until recently we didn’t have any close neighbors. What happened the first time my husband left town for a week? A screech owl parked itself in a tree right next to my porch and screamed every hour or so all night long. It was hilarious when it wasn’t terrifying.

Fast forward 5 years, to a day last week. The screech owl was back, but it was far enough away from the house that in our bedroom with the windows closed we couldn’t hear it. Our female cat could hear it, though, and every time it screeched, she screamed for a half hour afterwards. I finally figured out what was setting her off when I moved to her side of the house to try to comfort her. I seriously question her sanity. Nothing would calm her down either. She would seem to be relaxing, but then the owl would screech, and off she’d go again.

Of course, she’s pretty vocal and seems to like imitating area animals. She’s got a feline version of coyote howl. She does the rooster across the road. And when we had goat neighbors, she baaaaaaa’d. If you don’t believe me, we were headed out of town and had to tell our friends who were staying in the house to expect all sorts of bizarre sounds from her. When we got home, the friends said that they hoped we wouldn’t think they were crazy, but was it just possible that the cat was trying to sound like a goat? Yep, she was.

Too bad I can’t get her to do it on command.”

P.S. Fellow bloggers, for a chance to to win a copy of Stephanie Reynaud’s Ripailles head over to Mince and Skirlie who’s starting a new food blogging event.


The above is a rough replication of an amazing dinner cooked for me in Finland by my friend, hostess and cooking hero, Marise.  It’s currently a favourite meal in our house and has been cooked for several guests in recent months.  Ought to be getting sick of it – but I’m really, really not!



(for 2)

1 large aubergine, sliced lengthways into 5mm slices.

Olive oil

1 onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

1 heaped tblspn currants (or sultanas or other small dried fruit…)

1 heaped tblspn toasted pine nuts (or almonds or pumpkin seeds or…)

1/2 cup bulgar wheat (or couscous)

1 cup of tomato sauce – I usually have lots of this recipe in the freezer.

Handful of grated Parmesan cheese

  • Lay the aubergine out in a single layer on a baking tray and brush lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper then roast in a 200 oC oven, turning once, until softened and beginning to turn golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool.
  • Saute the onion over a medium heat in  2 tablespoons of olive oil until golden brown (this will take a good 20 mins),  Add the garlic, currants and pine nuts and cook a minute more.  Stir through the bulgar wheat then add 1 cup of water.  Bring to the boil then cover and reduce the heat.  Simmer until liquid has been absorbed.  Remove from heat and leave covered for another 10 mins.  Remove lid and fluff up with  a fork.  Season.
  • Spoon some bulgar on top of an aubergine slice and roll it up.  Add to a small baking dish.  Repeat until all the aubergine slices have been used up and sit snuggly in the baking dish.  Sprinkle over any remaining bulgar.  Add the tomato sauce followed by the cheese.
  • Bake in a 180 oC for 30 mins until heated through and golden brown on top.

Competition! Hooray!

For my birthday this week I decided to treat myself to a new cookbook.  I had a list of possible purchases in my mind when I walked into the bookshop but I walked out with none of them.  Instead I was drawn to The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnet.

I vaguely remember seeing this book advertised or reviewed or written about somewhere earlier in the year and dismissing it as unnecessary as I already had Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion.  Who needs another book pointing out good flavour combinations?  After spending 10 minutes flicking through The Flavour Thesaurus I decided that I might and having spent the last couple of days reading the book slowly and carefully (not even nearly finished) I can safely say that I do.  Utterly delighted with my purchase.  Sooooooo many ideas.  Sooooo many.  Love it.

Love it so much, I’d like to share it with one of you.  At a cost though.  You gotta make me smile.

Post a joke or nice story or witty insult or limerick or link or ANYTHING that might make me smile before 12 noon Tuesday, 19th October 2010.  My favourite (or a favourite picked by random judges if I can’t decide) gets a copy of The Flavour Thesaurus sent to them.