Please join me on Facebook(Beardog and Joolz), Pinterest (Beardog) and Tumblr (Naughty Naked Bear).

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Sweet Oven Dried Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes is something anyone can do whatever the size of their gardens. Two tomato plants in a couple of pots will yield enough harvest to make several jars of chutney and adorn a salad or two. As I am, unlike my husband, not a big fan of chutney, this year I decided to oven dry some of the tomato harvest. Unfortunately given the unpredictable weather in England, sun drying is not always an option. Oven drying however is a good alternative and easy enough that very little skill or effort is require, except perhaps a good memory. When choosing the variety of tomatoes to grow, go for the very sweet variety for oven drying purposes, as the sweetness is intensified by this method of preserving and makes for better eating pleasure.

You will need:

A good amount of ripe tomatoes, sliced quite thinly.

Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil


That’s all. This method of preserving relies solely on the flavour of the tomatoes.

Place the slice tomatoes in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet, sprinkle with salt. Place in the oven at the lowest temperature possible and leave for about 10 hours. The tricky part is not forgetting about them completely, as you may find that they are dried beyond the point of redemption. Once they are dried but still with a tiny bit of moisture and flexibility, put them in a clean sterilised jar and at this point you can add fresh torn basil. Pack them in tightly and cover with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Seal and label and store in a dark cupboard for a few months to let the flavours infuse before use.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Cinnamon Apple Sandwich Cake

Cinnamon Apple Sandwich Cake

At this time of year there is always a glut of apples and over the years I have made a whole array of recipes. There is, however, only so much you can take of row upon row of apple jelly, crumbles and pies. So this year I have been looking for different ways to diminish the glut. Last night when I came home I had the urge to bake so I made up this cake, based loosely on a Victoria Sandwich.

Weighing your eggs is a tip I stole from the Hairy Biker’s cookbook. You weigh the eggs and simply use the same weigh of butter, flour and sugar. My four eggs came to 9 ozs so the recipe is based on that.


4 free range eggs

9oz butter, at room temperature

9oz caster sugar

90z self raising flour, sifted

1tsp baking powder

2 cooking apples: one diced and one thinly sliced.

4 tbsp crème fraiche

A pinch or two of cinnamon to taste

A few drops of vanilla extract


½ tsp cinnamon

½ oz melted butter

2 tbsp caster sugar


5 oz soften butter

Icing sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

Jar of home-made Apricot jam


1. Heat the oven to 180c (160c fan) 350F, gas mark 4.

2. Grease and line two sandwich tins

3. Beat the butter and caster sugar together until light and creamy. Then gradually add the beaten eggs and crème fraiche. Add a small amount of flour to avoid curdling.

4. Gently stir in the vanilla extract, sifted flour, baking powder and cinnamon until it is a smooth, soft dropping consistency. Stir in the chopped apples.

5. Divide the mixture between the two tins. Arrange the thinly slice apples on top of one cake.

6. Mix the melted butter with the caster sugar and cinnamon and brush over the top of the cake.

7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the cakes have risen, is golden and firm to touch. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

8. Mean while beat the butter until light and fluffy, incorporate the icing sugar and cinnamon. When the cakes are cool sandwich them together with the butter icing and apricot jam. Sift caster sugar on top.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Utilitarian Simplicity

How to make your own Eco Friendly Householder Cleaner..

There is really no need to use harsh chemicals, fact is with a few basic ingredients you can make your own household soap cleaner. All you need is about 50g of pure soap flakes, 1/2 a cup of soda crystals, the same of white vinegar, a few drops of tea tree oil and lemon essential oils , have ready five litres of cold water and four and a half litres of hot water. It is simple. First you place the soap flakes and two litres of the cold water in a sauce pan and bring to the boil, then add the soda crystals. Stir it until completely dissolved, stir in the essential oils and white vinegar. Pour into a bucket and add the hot water and the remaining cold water. When cool transfer to smaller containers and label. The is basic cleaner is good for soaking heavily soiled items before washing and then add 2 cups to the washing machine per load for fresh clean laundry. Give it a go.

Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

You will need about 3lbs of strawberries and the same of sugar and the juice of half a lemon. That's it...3 simple ingredients. Wash the strawberries and hull them (that's taking the green stem of the top) and mash a few of them. Warm the sugar in a bowl in a low oven about 120 Celsius, 250 Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 1/2. If I'm in a rush, I tend to miss this step out, it doesn't seem to harm the process or the end result. Put the mashed and whole strawberries in a big preserving pan with the lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Then add the warmed sugar and let it all slowly dissolve over a really gentle heat. Then let the jam boil rapidly for about 10 to 15 minutes or until setting point is reached. Remove from heat. Leave to stand for a few moments, then stir until the strawberries are well distributed throughout the jam. Pour into warmed, sterilized jars, seal immediately, label and date, sit back and feel like a true domestic goddess. (It is a fleeting but wonderful feeling). NB: To sterilize jars see the Finer Details above. Seal jams with a circle of wax paper and a screw top lid. Store your jams in a cool dark place for up to a year, but depending on your family they won't last that long!!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Garden Harvest: fruit

Having inherited a garden crammed with fruit trees, I find at the end of every summer I am overwhelmed with the bounty of fruits from plums to figs to pears. Of course I tend to give most of it away as I find I hardly have time to make jams and pies and chutneys. I feel incredibly guilty of course being a self proclaimed domestic goddess, that I have not got row upon row of gleaming jars of apple butter, plum jam, preserved pears and fig and tomato chutneys. However, I like to make a jar or two of jam and five or six pies to tide the household over the winter months.
Plum Jam.. well of course you need plums; about 3 lbs/1.35kg will make 8 half-pound/225g jars. The plums need their stones to be removed, this is boring, bribe a child to do it for you, one that you can trust with a knife. Add the stoned plums to your nice big jam pot and add the same amount of jam sugar. A touch of lime zest and the juice of one lime will make your jam memorable for all the right reasons. Bring slowly to a rolling boil, and let it boil away for at least 30 minutes. This is not the stage in this recipe to go off to inspect your tomatoes or to get on the phone for a marathon chat with a best girlfriend. No, this is the time you stick to the kitchen, wooden spoon in hand, ensuring that your jam does not stick and that you are angelically spooning off the scum that forms on the top. Getting rid of the foamy scum will give you a nice clear luminous jam. After 30 minutes or so, do the jam set test, put a little of your jam on a chilled saucer, place in fridge to cool. If it wrinkles and leaves a clean path when pushed with your finger it is ready. If not, then boil for a while longer. Your jam jars should be sterilising in the warm oven, get them out, pour in your jam.
Apple Crumble is an old family favourite and here is the recipe I use:


For the crumble

For the filling

Preparation method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. Place the flour and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Taking a few cubes of butter at a time rub into the flour mixture. Keep rubbing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

3. Place the fruit in a large bowl and sprinkle over the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Stir well being careful not to break up the fruit.

4. Butter a 24cm/9in ovenproof dish. Spoon the fruit mixture into the bottom, then sprinkle the crumble mixture on top.

5. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the crumble is browned and the fruit mixture bubbling.

6. Serve with thick cream or custard.

One further recipe using the figs I have in abundance:

Roast figs with honey and yoghurt


· 2 figs

· 2 tbsp honey

· 1 pinch cinnamon

· 50g/1¾oz Greek yoghurt

· 1 orange, segmented

Preparation method

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

1. Cut into the figs to make a cross on the top. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with the honey.

2. Place into the preheated oven and cook for five minutes.

3. To serve place the figs on a plate with the Greek yogurt and garnish with the orange segments.