Sunday, 26 February 2012

Now this is what I call butter....

You can't beat a bit of butter now and again and so far I've not been able to find any in local shops. I've had to make it myself....

Now before you starting thinking I've put a cow on the lawn, am handmilking too and taking this challenge far too seriously, I haven't!

But I've been using the age old technique

 of throwing some cream (from Leicestershire) into a jam jar

 and shaking it all about

 until the magic moment when hey presto!

It's butter!

I know it's not a huge pat of butter and I haven't got any butter patts or paddles, so I had to shape it by hand.

And there's buttermilk. well I wasn't going to waste that so I whipped up a batch of scones (Mary Berry's recipe) too.

I've still got a few jars of  homemade blackcurrant jam too so all in darling daughter and I had rather a nice Sunday afternoon tea, completely using local produce completely apart from a few ounces of sugar.

 It did take quite a time to turn from cream to butter today  and I'm absolutely cream crackered. Literally.

All that moving and shaking arms are about to fall off!.I must have used hundreds of calories -so it 's a case of Hello home made butter - bye bye bingo wings! Result......(well I haven't got bingo wings  really but making my own butter will prevent them from appearing!)

Should I buy a churn? In the meantime- I really would like to know where I can buy locally made butter. Fellow tweeters on twitter suggest there may be some one from near Hinckley, and someone near Melton.....

Do let me know and let me know. I shall be buying some soon,. I bet they've got really big biceps....

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Pancake day!

SO yesterday was Shrove Tuesday - traditionally the day before Lent starts. A day to cleanse the soul, a day of penitence, a day of shriving.

A day of feasting before Lent too....feasting on pancakes.

That's the part that our village takes seriously...eating pancakes. For many years now, most villagers have got together on this day and have a party. A pancake party where lots of pancakes are made by the more able cooks here, and people from the next village come along too and bring the puddings.

Over the years it's been held at different houses  at John and Annie's, Chris and Vonnie's,  but for the last few years Rob and Georgina have bravely thrown open their home to about 70 people who are there to eat, drink  and socialise.

Jules is the mastermind behind the pancake making junta .Capable, unflappable, expertly flipping one  after another.

There's normally a varietry of different flavours to choose from -

 beef and tomato smothered in a tomato sauce,

 ham,leek and cheese pancakes in a creamy cheesy sauce and veggie ones too.

It's amazing how many we all manage to eat. I think the village record  is 11 pancakes...and that record's been held by Jane for quite a few years. (You wouldn't think she could eat them all -she's lovely and slim!)

And then there were the puddings: fruit, lemon, sugar and cream toppings for sweet pancakes, a crumble, several cheesecakes, a huge pavlova, a chocolate torte ,a roulade and angel delight.

 And of course to wash all the food down there was plenty of wine and water...

Of course the pancake party isn't just about feasting before lent - it's a fundraiser for the two churches ,one in our village , the other a couple of miles away. So that means a raffle,and with so many endless bottles and a few unwanted Christamss prezzies as prizes ,it takes ages .

The end of the raffle is the signal to say thanks to Jules and her team of stalwarts , to Rob and Georgina, to say thanks for the feasting...and after a brisk walk up the lane, home to think quietly about cleansing the soul.

And for a spot of penitence - about abandoning my local food rules challenge so comprehensively for the evening!

Meanwhile, some music.From Jack Johnson.If ever I'm feeling out of sorts, his smooth laid back songs always make me feel better.....

I give you...a lovely accoustic version of Banana Pancakes .....with Ben Harper on slide...

Friday, 17 February 2012

a day of local food rules

A few weeks a go, I started another

Have you had a look yet?

Over the last few months I've been thinking alot of about what I eat and where it comes from. I do my best to eat well, and support local producers but over Christmas time, I couldn't believe how much I spent on food in the supermarket, and where it had all been flown in from.

Well, at the beginning of this month I decided to set myself a food can read all about it at the new blog and follow my progress.Will I survive  ? Will I manage to make sure 80 per cent of what I eat comes from Leicestershire and Rutland.

There's a new post  so you can hear how I'm getting on - literally! I'm also featuring this challenge on BBC Radio Leicester. So you can read and listen!

But don't think I'm thinking of stopping posting here on thinking of the days! ( I love the verb to think!) Far from it....see you next week.....

Just over two weeks in to the new diet......

Two weeks  into a new way of eating....and although the range of foods I'm eating are somewhat restricted at this time of year, I'm really enjoying my grub!

I have to say I'm eating a lot of kale at the moment though! At one of the allotments, I've got curly kale and cavalero nero growing. I like it steamed , but the other day , I slathered the curly kale in a cheese sauce (Sparkenhoe Red leicester before you ask) , threw some breadcrumbs (from a Hambleton Hall loaf) on top, and baked in the oven ...absolutely delicious.

Leeks are also featuring quite heavily on the menu. Leek and  potato soup, a leek tart, you name it, a leek will be involved somewhere at least twice or three times a week!

Last night, I felt like Old Mother Hubbard...the cupboard was bare.  I only had two leeks and 3 potatoes in the vegetable basket.So, necessity being the mother of invention,  I steamed the leeks over the potatoes while they were parboiling. Sliced the potatoes and put them in a gratin dish with the leeks.Added milk and some cream, salted and peppered them and baked in the oven for 25 minutes.

A delicious take on potatoes dauphinoise....and one that I will definitely make again.

So I'm enjoying this food challenge....and I've been encouraged by Mike and Karen Small from Scotland. They're real pioneers who devised the Fife Diet.That's not about purely or exclusively sourcing their food just from the Fife area. Although they did do that for a year!

No, they say it's all about aiming for about 80 per cent of the food sourced from the area they live in leaving 20 per cent for the produce they couldn't get locally. That 20 per cent covers things like tea, coffee , sugar, wine, bananas -all from fair trade sources.They've been eating like this for a number of years now.

At the moment , about a third of the emissions that contribute to climate change come from the way we produce, transport  and consume our food. Mike and Karen now have over 3,000 followers of the Fife Diet. -and they've seen saw their carbon 'foodprint' drop to 27 per cent below the national average.Collectively what a huge, impressive difference they're making.

I urge you to go to their website and find out more....

They produce a number of recipe books devised to help with seasonal eating too..which are very good....

I spoke to Mike a couple of weeks ago as part of a radio feature on my food challenge...please have a listen....and find out what inspired him to change the way he and his family ate. One decsion that's having a big impact.

More news soon...and you'll be able to find out why local food rules mean unfortuantely I'm having to change the habit of a lifetime.......

Saturday, 11 February 2012

days of feeling cold

Cold, cold, cold. Yes, it is....last night temperatures went down to minus 15 celsius.This morning, it's still minus 6 at nearly 11am.

The heating is on, I'm dressed in layers and am even wearing a scarf indoors.That's what I call cold.

Mind you, it's pretty out there.....look....

But I'm not going anywhere today. I shall pop outside to feed the birds, but that's it.I'm definitely not driving anywhere...we live on top of a's half a mile downhill and there's only one passing place for another car. You just have to drive down in second gear...and coming up, you just pray another car isn't coming down quickly!

But I'm staying in.And you know what are my two constant companions are at the moment.? Two faithful little friends which I can't do without at night?

I don't have to say's sad....but these old hotties are rocking my world  right now....

and so is this.....Mama's blanket. My mum knitted it for me  and I love it - such a perfect, practical present which has been used and used.It's over my knees at this very moment...

So a quiet weekend in store with lots of writing to do....and perhaps a snooze this afternoon by the fire.

Meanwhile I've had this song swirling around my head all if you like some retro Little it's is "Cold, cold,cold"

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A day of snow and birds

It snowed yesterday - about five inches worth, and it's still lying deep and crisp  and even today. I wanted to capture the garden and whoops, fell over, clicked the camera at the same time and this is  how it turned out.

I've told you before how I've never been a good photographer! The reputations of Margaret Bourke White and Annie Leibovitz  have nothing to fear from me,but I actually quite like this.  I suppose it has a certain wonky appeal....


This time last week, it was a very grey, heavy skied afternoon. I was in the kitchen listenening to Gardeners Question Time on Radio 4 and taking part in the RSPB (the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds) survey. Like thousands of others around the country I was recording what birds came into the garden for an hour and then posting the results online.

Bird books and binoculars are always by my kitchen window.I wish I was one of these wonderful people who can identify any bird at about 50 metres, but I'm not. Unfortunately my bird watching skills are on the same level as my photography skills.

It was interesting though if not quiet.We normally get quite a lot of birds here as there's quite a few feeding stations around the garden. fat balls, seeds, name it....they fly in for free food.
But last Sunday, as I say, it was quiet. I still managed to record blackbirds,great tits, dunnocks,sparrows,piedwag tail, doves,wood pigeons,robins,chaffinches and blue tits though.

But today, it's been busier than Heathrow Airport. Flights might have been postponed there but birds were flying in every few seconds from every direction, they were obviously starving.You can just about see one on the feeding station on the right, enjoying the potato skins which I boiled up, mashed and put out.

It was good to go out into the snow for a quick walk and to see what the road through the village was looking like. I'm supposed to reading late night news bulletins tomorrow if I get there.....

But tomorrow is another day, and it was far too cold to stay out for long.So I'm back home, in the best possible place to be......


Today's track from the  Byrds.Always a favourite song of mine, I only saw this piece  of video for the first time about three weeks ago..There is a season for everything...including snow

Friday, 3 February 2012

So, it's the third day of my challenge...and already it's very interesting.

On day one, I started off with boiled eggs and soldiers.The free range eggs were from a friend's farm about  four miles away, and the bread was from Jessica, a local artisan baker who uses flour milled in Leicestershire. So a good start to the day....

For supper, I took out of the freezer a pasta sauce I made in the autumn using my homegrown tomatoes
(you can read the recipe on my other blog at www.

Now usually I would of course accompany this with some dried pasta, but that 's not an option now  so I had a jacket potato and some of  last year's homegrown peas which were also in the freezer. Unfortunately there's not many of those left so I'm going to have to start sowing peas earlier this year!

I completely forgot  to preplan what I would have for lunch though. Luckily, a hunk of the same bread  and some excellent Sparkenhoe Red Leicester cheese ( made in Market Bosworth and made from unpasteurised milk from their farm) did the trick.

So day one of the challenge was least eighty per cent of what I ate was  grown or made locally. I did have two cups of coffee though and there was a  third of a cup of red wine in the pasta sauce.Oh and I drank alot of tap water....

I was more prepared yesterday --and  luckily as it was the first Thursday of the month..I popped down to the Farmers Market in Market Harborough.

I couldn't resist some Gloucester old spot sausages from March House farm in Great Dalby. Boy, did they hit the spot last night with mashed potatoes...and a lovely crisp  January King cabbage, which I steamed and drizzled with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar on top.

And yes I know, the balsamic vinegar isn't from Leicestershire....but that's why I 'm trying the eighty per cent local  food challenge and not a one hundred per cent one! Day two a success and I felt I simply had to celebrate with a glass of merlot...from France.

Cheers  my dears! But don't worry -this  isn't going to be a day in, day out diary of exactly what I've eaten.. Coming up will be reasons why we should all be eating more local food....and  I'll be telling you about a remarkable man from Fife who 's inspired thousands of people to really think about local food challenges.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Hello !

A sunny but freezing start today  to a new challenge where local food rules!

I love food. I adore growing some of my food, cooking is always a pleasure.(if not an adventure for those who I force to eat my culinary efforts) and as for eating....well, it's what I'm good at. Throw it at me and I'll eat it - apart from shellfish. ....

So apart from the stuff I grow myself, where do I get my food from? Well, I like to shop locally if I can - using a local butcher and the nearest  farm shop, but about once a fortnight I do a supermarket shop for the essentials.

Those "essentials" mount up ...and although I do try to buy foods in's so easy to get sidetracked, and at Christmas I found myself buying green beans from China and clementines from Morocco amongst other things.

I resent the fact that some of the fruit and veg I'm eating have travelled further than I have in the last twelve months! It's also a fact that eighty per cent of the food we eat in this country is imported. Eighty per cent! Yes, I know, I had to sit down and fan myself when I found that out.

So, the challenge is...cue the roll of drums - to turn that statistic on its head. I'm going to make sure that eighty per cent of what I eat has been grown, made or produced here in Leicestershire and Rutland.

The other twenty per cent will take care of food and drinks such as bananas, coffee, red wine and the occasional treat .

As well as writing about this challenge here on this blog, I'll be covering it on air on BBC Radio Leicester. Why not?It's what I do for a living...but usually I'm featuring other people's stories!
Here's the very have a listen...

I'm looking forward to seeing what food I can buy locally , how much I can grow on my two allotments and I can't wait to meet lots of independent growers and producers around here in the coming months.

The challenge means a new way of thinking, eating and bring it on!