Sunday, 14 September 2014

Why do I write? - A blog hop

I've been nominated by my fellow blogger Lancashire Food for a blog hop, thanks Lindsey for the nomination. I have many friends in the blogging world, I've met some of them in person and it always surprises me just how well I know them through their writing.  So here's where you get find out a little bit about me and my motivation to blog and it should lead to you some other bloggers who you may not yet have met.  
with mini Kelpies at the Royal Highland Show

Why do I write ?
Sometimes I ask myself this question, mostly when I have a backlog of posts to write and am worn out from the day job!  I love to communicate and mostly to communicate about the things that inspire and enthuse me.  I first started blogging because of the crafting that I did, I was part of a craft forum and one or two people started blogs, so I thought I'd have a go too.  The craft blog, Serial Crafter,  is still there and, even though I rarely post on it, there are still a lot of posts to see. I created Farmersgirl Kitchen at the same time (2007) and  put up the occasional post until it started to take over from crafting

What am I working on ?
I currently have 7 posts in draft including this one, and another couple that haven't made the draft stage yet.  These include a review round up, a Bookmarked Recipe and some recipe posts.

How does my blog differ from others of its genre?
Farmersgirl Kitchen is all about home cooking, I offer my readers a eclectic mix of recipes, product reviews, restaurant reviews, cook book reviews and a little bit of travel.  I've been working hard on my food styling and photography, and what I'd really like to be known for is my story telling, both in words and pictures. 

How does my writing process work?
I just write, no one ever accused me of being lost for words!  I sit down at the computer post up the pictures then fill in the blanks.  If I have time, I'll leave the post and come back to it the next day to see if I can improve the writing, but often I just spell check, preview and post! 

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my blogging life, part of the rules of this blog hop is to nominate two other bloggers, here are two very special blogs full of cake and kindness, I give you... 

Sew White  and  Jo Blogs, Jo Bakes

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Posh Burgers, Velvet Chicken and Scandi Salad - all in a box!

Do you find it difficult to decide what to cook?  And sometimes when you find a recipe you want to make, are you thwarted by not having all of the ingredients?  If the answer is yes, then you might want to order a Gousto box, especially as I have a special discount for your first order (see bottom of post).  Here is how it works:

  • You choose the recipes from the website
  • Gousto does the shopping
  • Gousto measure everything
  • Gousto deliver for free
  • You cook and enjoy

Since the last time I reviewed a Gousto Box in 2012 they've made their boxes even better. Prices have been lowered by 17%, so meals now only cost £4.00 - £5.80 including delivery (three meals £34.99). That's on average 16% better than most supermarkets according to

The boxes still deliver the same great quality, using high quality animal welfare meat from British farms and Soil Association certified organic vegetables.  Gousto also have a new website so you can easily make your menu choices on your mobile phone, you can also rate the recipes more easily.
There are two new chefs at Gousto, Remi and Alice, who are creating amazing new recipes every week.  Have a look at the menu, there are 10 new recipes every week for you to choose from.  I had three recipes, each for two people,  in my box and every single one of them was super delicious and I learned a few tricks that I will use in future cooking.
Posh Burger and Chips with Homemade Ketchup: Rosemary-rubbed chunky chips, shards of melted cheddar and a trio of delicious handmade condiments make this burger something really special. This was a straightforward recipe to make even though there were lots of different components.  Including chunks of cheese in the burgers works really well, you don't really taste cheese, it just adds a lovely creaminess to the meat.  The star of the show was the homemade ketchup which I will definitely be making again.
Crunchy Chicken Cashew Stir-Fry with Basmati Rice: This recipe uses the velveting technique.  Velveting is cooking meat in egg for an extra moist finish. It sounds challenging, but it's surprisingly simple and makes this chicken stir-fry extra special. Cashew nuts make a delicious addition to a stir-fry and they are also rich in essential minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc.

The stir-fry chicken was really simple to make and made two generous portions, I reckon you could serve it to three people without any complaints.  The velveting made for the most tender chicken I've ever stir-fried and I will certainly do that again.

Summer Mackerel with Warm Gem Salad: The use of lemon in this dish helps to give the recipe a real zing and brings out the flavour of the mackerel.  

The quality of the mackerel was excellent and the flavour combinations were reminiscent of Scandinavian food. The onions are immersed in vinegar which reduces the pungency of it's raw flavour, another thing I hadn't tried before.

If you would like to try a Gousto Box you can get £25 off your first box by using the code FARMERSGIRL which works out at approx £9.99 for three gourmet meals for two.  

I received a Gousto box to review, I was not paid for this review and all opinons are my own. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Chocolate and Banana Nut Cake

It was my birthday recently and, although I did have a beautiful Dundee Cake, made by my Mum, on my birthday, I decided to treat myself to a little indulgence and create my own cake.  

I had been sent a packet of cob nuts covered in Ghana milk chocolate by the lovely people at Potash Farm in Kent and decided to use them in a nutty, chocolatey delight.

Kentish cobnuts were favoured by the Victorians who enjoyed them as an after dinner accompaniment to vintage port. They have been grown around St Marys Platt in Kent since the early 1800s and by the turn of the century an estimated 7000 acres had been planted in orchards known locally as plats.  Cob nuts are available from Potash Farm in a variety of forms, but a lightly toasted nut enrobed in either single estate Ecuador plain or Ghana milk chocolate has to be one of the best.

Chocolate and Banana Nut Cake
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons hot milk
100g soft butter
175g caster sugar
2 eggs
225g spelt flour (or plain flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Chocolate Hazelnut spread 
45g chopped chocolate covered cob nuts (or hazelnuts)

1. Heat the oven to 180C.  Grease and line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin.

2. Peel the bananas and mash them in a large bowl.  Dissolve the Chocolate Hazelnut spread in the hot milk, mixing until there are no lumps, then add the bicarbonate of soda.  Pour/spoon this mixture into the bowl with the bananas, then add all the other ingredients except the nuts, and beat well with hand mixer.

3. Chop the nuts roughly leaving good sized chunks, then fold them into the mixture.

4. Fill the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for about an hour.  It should be well risen and brown.  Test with a skewer and if it comes out clean the cake is ready.

5. Turn it out and remove the lining paper.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.  Once the cake is cool make the icing/frosting.  

For the icing/frosting
50g butter
1 tbsp chocolate hazelnut spread
2 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
3 tbsp milk
150g icing sugar sieved

To decorate
40g chocolate covered cob nuts or hazelnuts

Melt the butter in a small pan add the cocoa and the chocolate hazelnut spread, stir to blend and cook gently for 1 minute.  Stir in the milk and the icing sugar.  Take off the heat and mix well, then leave to cool, stirring occasionally until the icing thickens.

Spread the icing over the top of the loaf cake with a wet spatula, don't worry if it looks a little bit oily, it will settle as it sets.  

Chop the remaining cob nuts in half  and place onto the icing to ensure an even coverage.  Leave the cake for a couple of hours before cutting.

This cake was one of the best I've ever made, the texture is fine and it cuts beautifully.  The flavour of the chocolate hazelnut spread is subtle, the banana gives the cake moisture and the icing is just soooo good, the chocolate covered cob nuts really added a lovely crunch and creamy texture to the cake and the topping.  I can assure you that it didn't last long.

If you would like to buy some chocolate covered cob nuts (£6.50 for 120g) or any of the other products from Potash Farm use this code to get 10% discount on all products at Potash Farm: farmersgirl10

Free nationwide delivery direct from Potash Farm available. Order online from

Facts and figures about cobnuts
  • The official cobnut season starts on August 22nd, St Philibert’s Day
  • Cobnut pickers are called ‘nutters’
  • 6 cobnuts offer the equivalent iron and protein of ½ lb of red meat.  They are also high in calcium and vitamin A
  • The cobnut is a cultivated form of hazel. While the classic hazelnut is fingernail shaped, cobnuts are broader, longer and shaped more like a thumbnail.
  • Fresh and unprocessed, cobnuts can be eaten moist straight after picking in late August and September, when they have the texture of a sweet chestnut.
  • As they turn brown in the autumn, cob nuts dry out and the starch inside turns to sugar, they become much sweeter.

I'm entering my Chocolate and Banana Nut Cake for Bake of the Week at Casa Costello

I'm also entering this cake as my afternoon tea delight for The Great Denby Cake Off

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Brodies of Moffat - my foodie adventure for Scottish Food Fortnight

It's time to celebrate Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight which runs from 6-21 September 2014 with events taking place across Scotland.

Each year I look forward to some September food excitement at events taking place throughout Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight.  In previous years I've learned about The Art of Fungi visited a deer farm and taken part in a chocolate workshop.

The focus of this year’s foodie fiesta is to introduce the public to new food adventures and includes food and drink events, cookery demonstrations, promotions and offers from Scotland’s largest food and drink companies to its local craft producers.  I was invited by Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight to undertake a new Food Adventure in celebration of the Fortnight.  A Food Adventure could be anything from visiting a food tourism attraction or attending a Fortnight event to trying a new Scottish product, restaurant or recipe. 

For my food adventure, I decided to visit a restaurant that I've heard a lot about but have never quite managed to visit:  Brodies of Moffat.   The opportunity to dine at Brodies came during a week off work, when having a night out during the week was a treat with no consequences.   When we arrived at Brodies we were greeted by the server and seated in the 'wine bar' area at the rear of the restaurant where we were able to peruse the menu and order a drink while our table was made ready.  As it was mid-week it was pretty quiet, but didn't feel uncomfortable. We were then taken through to our table and found ourselves seated by the window with a view up towards Moffat High Street.  It can be a little disconcerting when passers by stop to read the menu in the window, but otherwise it was great to be sitting with so much light for photographs and the entertainment was watching  the tractors and trailers thundering round the corner!

For my first course, I chose the Spinach Roulade with Cold Smoked Trout, Watercress and Radish Salad. The roulade was soft and delicious and contrasted well with the cold smoked trout which was sweet and not at all oily.  I enjoyed the salad too, that acid crunch cut through the creamy filling in the roulade and the richness of the trout.

Brian chose Crayfish Tails with Melon, cucumber tartare and lemon sherbet dressing and reported that the melon was sweet (I love how finely sliced it is) I had a little taste of the crayfish tails which were good and worked well with the cucumber tartare.

Both of the starter plates were well presented and reasonably priced at £5.25.  Other starters offered were Soup of the Day, Tomato Tarte Tatin, Rabbit Terrine and Aranchini Cheese

On to the mains and we were spoiled for choice, in the end we rejected the Pan Fried Steak, the Roasted Stuffed Chicken, the Venison and the Smoked Haddock Fillet, instead Brian chose the Oven Roasted Duck with Braised Red Cabbage and sauteed Pak Choi. He chose to have his duck cooked medium rare and it was very tender with a really tasty jus/gravy.  The veg were also well cooked including two perfect roast potatoes.  

My plate contained something that Brian doesn't like: Black Pudding, Pork Fillet, Houston's Black Pudding (local butcher) orange segments and rosemary.  The vegetables were little baby carrots and perfectly al dente french beans.  The pork fillet just melted in the mouth and wasn't overpowered by the little cubes of black pudding, gosh it was good!

There were also a good range of vegetarian mains: Roasted Tomato and Mushroom Stack with warm Borlotti Beans, Spinach and Mushroom Spring Roll with Moffat Ricotta and Vegetarian Tart with basil pesto. 

We both felt that the portion sizes were perfect for us, we didn't feel over full and enjoyed every mouthful.  As we weren't over full, we had room for some dessert.

I would say that this was the weakest of all the courses.  The Raspberry Cheesecake was more jelly like than expected although the strawberry ice cream was really fruity.  I chose the lemon tart, the filling was nicely tart, but the pastry was rather thick and not crisp (now I sound like Mary Berry on the Bake off!) it was accompanied by vanilla ice cream which was pleasant but not outstanding. This didn't spoil our meal, but given the high quality of the starters and mains, it was just a little disappointing.  

Here is Brodies, it's set back from the High Street and, as you can see, despite a very traditional looking building, the interior is bright and modern, the opening at the back leads to the wine bar and additional seating.

Brodies serve coffee and cakes during the day, lunches, brunch all day on Sunday or book in for Sunday Lunch.  Brodies also have an Early Doors fixed price menu and many of the dishes on the a la carte can be prepared gluten free.  This might not have been the most adventurous of Foodie Adventures but it was a 'most excellent' adventure and I would certainly recommend Brodies and will be returning.

Here are some of this year’s major events where you could have a foodie adventure or check out the Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight website for more news of what's going on. 

Best of the West Festival 13/14 September
Set on the banks of Loch Fyne this event offers a family friendly day out where visitors can enjoy the very best food from Argyll while sampling some excellent musical performances. For whisky lovers there is the Loch Fyne whisky bar where they can have a dram of the finest refreshment this area has to offer.

Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival 6/7 September
The festival takes place at the idyllic Loch Lomond Shores and aims to showcase small artisan producers with big personalities. From Scottish chilies to gourmet dog treats this event has it all for food lovers and their four-legged friends!

Huntly Hairst Food and Farming Festival 6/7 September
The small Aberdeenshire town of Huntly has played host to the Huntly Hairst Food and Farming festival for the past 11 years. This event features a farmers’ market where visitors can even get into the competitive spirit by taking part in the annual World Stovie Championship.

City of Elgin Food and Drink Festival 20 September
Elgin’s annual food and drink festival has exciting cookery demonstrations using locally sourced produce, to give visitors ideas and inspiration to spice up their menus at home with the best Scottish fayre.

Dundee Flower and Food Festival 5/6 and 7 September
Last year saw thousands of locals and tourists flock to Camperdown Park for a day full of flowers and food goodies. This year is set to be even bigger with chefs like Nick Nairn and Paul Rankin in the cooking spotlight.

Living Food at Cawdor Castle 20 September
Living Food at Cawdor Castle gives guests a chance to sample the best produce the Highlands has to offer. Set in the picturesque grounds of the castle, this event looks as good as it tastes!

Created to highlight the healthy, locally sourced food and drink available from Scotland’s natural larder the 2014 Fortnight aims to be the biggest yet.

The festival will also act as an excellent introduction to the Scottish Government’s 2015 Year of Food and Drink celebrations.

To learn more about Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight and how you can be involved visit:, like

I was provided with £50 to have a foodie adventure, I was not required to write a good review and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Gingered Figs - Slow Cooker Challenge, September 2014

'Tis the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'.  Hopefully we won't have too many mists just yet, as summer seems to have returned for a few more days, however I am looking for some fruitfulness as September's Slow Cooker Challenge is cook with FRUIT in your slow cooker.

Your dish can be sweet or savoury as long as it contains some fruit.  My recipe is a simple one,  I love baked figs and thought it would be easy to pop them in the slow cooker and it worked really well.

Slow Cooker Gingered Figs
4 ripe figs
50ml orange juice
4 dessert spoons Mackays Spiced Ginger Preserve (or chopped preserved ginger)

1. Cut the hard part of the stem from the top of the figs, then slice a cross into the top of each one, be careful not to cut all the way to the bottom or your figs will fall apart.
2. Place the figs in the basin of the slow cooker, open out the sections of the fig a little and fill the space with a dessert spoon of Ginger Preserve.
3. Pour the orange juice around the figs and cover with the lid.
4. Bake on low for 2-3 hours.
5. Remove the figs from the slow cooker to a serving dish, pour the juices into a pan and bring to a rapid boil, reducing the syrup by half, then pour this over the figs and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
6. Serve with greek yogurt, drizzling the syrup over the figs and yogurt.

If you would like to take part in the Slow Cooker Challenge, then please: 

  • Make your recipe in your Slow Cooker and post a photograph and the recipe, or a link to a recipe, on your blog
  • Link to Farmersgirl Kitchen
  • Use the Slow Cooker Challenge logo in your post
  • If you use twitter, tweet your post with @FarmersgirlCook and #SlowCookerChallenge and I will re-tweet it to my followers AND post your picture on the dedicated Pinterest Board. 
  • Please do not publish recipes from cookbooks on your blog without permission, they are copyright.
  • If you are using recipes from another website, please link to the recipe on the website rather than publishing the recipe.
  • One entry per blog.
  • Recipes must be added to the linky by the 28th of each month.

The phrase 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' comes from John Keats' poem 'To Autumn'

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Wisdom for Home Preservers and Spiced Blackberry Jam

When autumn (fall) starts to creep in, it's definitely time to start preserving the harvest from your garden or the hedgerows.  People have been preserving food since ancient times—evidence shows that Middle Eastern cultures were using the heat of the sun to dry their foods as early as 12,000 BC—for reasons of survival or culture or both. Fast forward to the present day, and preserving our food—perhaps home-grown, seasonal, local, organic, or free-range—is an essential and enjoyable part of a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

Wisdom for Home Preservers by Robin Ripley is a comprehensive guide to preserving in all sorts of different ways including bottling, freezing, drying, fermenting, salt curing and smoking and cold storage/root cellaring. This isn't a cook book, there are no recipes, but it is full of really helpful tips which will help you get the most from your produce and answer any questions you might have.  Here are a few of the useful tips:

Tip 158: Pick the right bowls and pots for pickling
Avoid containers and utensils made of unlined copper, iron, zinc or brass when pickling.  These materials may react with acid and salt and can cloud or discolour your pickles.  For pots, pick such materials as stainless steel, heatproof glass or hard-anodised aluminium.

Tip 254: Set your freezer temperature to -18
Freezer temperatures settings should be set to -18 C (0 F) or lower.  Not all freezer settings are accurate, though, so get a freezer thermometer, available at supermarkets and kitchenware retailers, and regularly monitor the temperate and adjust the setting if needed.

Tip 279: Create your own herb meat rubs
With herbs rolling in from the garden by the basketful, don't forget you can mix the match them to make unique and delicious rubs for meat and poultry.  For poultry, try combining dried lemon thyme, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper. For beef, try a combination of dried thyme, sage, marjoram, garlic and onion powders, pepper and salt. 

Garden and food writer ROBIN RIPLEY has been growing, cooking and preserving fresh food from her garden since moving to a small farm in rural Maryland 15 years ago. She is an enthusiastic experimenter of all things related to food, including bread and pastry baking, wine and cheese making, canning and preserving. She is co-author of Grocery Gardening and blogs about her gardening, preserving and made-from-scratch cooking projects at She also raises pet chickens, which she blogs about at Robin writes and talks regularly with groups about gardening, potager design and the importance and joy of supporting locally-grown and fresh foods. 

Wisdom for Home Preservers
Author: Robin Ripley
Publisher: Apple Press
Published: 4th September
RRP: £12.99

I have one copy of Wisdom for Home Preservers to give away (scroll down to the Rafflecopter widget to enter)

As a bonus I thought I'd share this recipe for Spiced Blackberry Jam with you.  The blackberries in our lane have been particularly good this year and it's been so easy to collect  enough to make a few pots of jam. If you would like to make this jam, I found the recipe at 'Putting up with the Turnbulls' you can find it here: Spiced Blackberry Jam  it's absolutely delicious, the spices are very subtle but enhance the flavour of the fruit.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 29 August 2014

We're Jammin' - Slow Cooker Challenge Round Up, Aug 2014

The theme for the August Slow Cooker Challenge was 'Preserves' and my regular entrants didn't disappoint.  Sarah from 'Tales from the Garden Shed' brought a ray of French sunshine, and some inspiration,  with her recipe for Peach Jam.

Now this is a brilliant and unusual combination which I would never have though of.  Slow Cooker Carrot, Lemon and Almond Chutney is the entry from Strong as Soup and is reminiscent of middle eastern cuisine.

Baking Queen 74 has taken to jam making in the Slow Cooker with the enthusiasm of a convert!  In her entry for the challenge she brings us two jam recipes a zingy Blueberry and Ginger Jam AND Blackberry Jam  both look really delicious.

My own preserve created in the slow cooker was Lazy, Luscious Beetroot Relish.  The beets were baked in the slow cooker and then the chutney made in the usual way on the stove in only 20 minutes.

Thanks to all who joined me for the slow cooker challenge, look out for the new challenge which will be posted early in September. 
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