Pan Fried Wood Pigeon Breasts with Rocket and Mixed Salad Leaves

This simple meal takes 5 minutes to make and tastes absolutely sensational.  It’s currently in season, and one of my favourite recipes when I want something hot, nutritious and quick.  I’ve served with home-grown salad and Baby Tom Tomatoes from my garden.

Ingredients

Serves 2 as a starter or 1 for a hearty supper!

4 wood pigeon breasts (I get all my game from my lovely friends Jack and Jess Smallman at Southdowns Venison and Game).   

Plain flour and salt and pepper for seasoning

Olive/Sun Flower Oil

Method

wood pigeon seasoned and pan frying

Firstly, toss the breasts in a few tablespoons of plain flour seasoned with a good grinding of salt and pepper.

wood pigeon after pan frying

Next, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan at a high heat.  Add the breasts to the pan and quickly sear on both sides before turning down the heat.  Pan fry on each side for approximately two minutes depending on how rare you like your meat and serve.  This tastes delicious with red currant jelly and salad.

Salad Dressing

sea salt

runny honey

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

whole grain mustard

In a jug or small bottle add a few good grinds of sea salt, two teaspoons of whole grain mustard, two teaspoons of runny honey, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and dilute with a good glug of olive oil.  Taste and adjust the quantity ratios to suit your palate and stir before serving.

For more delicious game and venison recipe ideas do visit www.sountdownsvenison.co.uk

Happy feasting!

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Delicious Homemade Raspberry/Blackberry Vodka

With the nights drawing in and a definite autumnal chill in the air, I’m beginning to turn my thoughts to Christmas and making my favourite yuletide tipples – Raspberry and Blackberry Vodkas. 

They’re incredibly simple to make and taste delicious, and the perfect nightcap after a long days entertaining. Luckily, they’re always a big hit with our guests!

Raspberry Vodka

To make two bottles you will need:

300g of raspberries

330g of white caster sugar

1.5 litres of medium range vodka (Sainsburys have a good deal at the moment)

a funnel and 2 sterilised bottles (I used an old wine and gin bottle and sterilised them in the dishwasher!)

Method

First wash the raspberries discarding any mushy fruit and cut in half so they fit through the neck of the bottle.

Using a funnel, add the sugar and top up with vodka to the rim.

Shake every day until the sugar has dissolved and then store in a cook dark place for at least 3 months (my present batch is zipped up in my son’s cricket bag!!)  The longer you can leave it the better, and is often best drunk after a year or over.

Blackberry Vodka

To make blackberry vodka follow exactly the same method as raspberry vodka but remove the fruit after 3 months by pouring the vodka through a muslin, to prevent a woody taste developing.  For best results leave for a year – but I often drink mine at 3 months!! 

Good luck and happy vodka making!!!

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Growing Heavy Cropping Peas, Broccoli, Russian Tarragon, Dill And Wild Rocket From Seed

I’m a “real grown your own” fanatic, but sometimes in life things don’t quite go according to plan! 

In early May I planted broccoli and wild rocket in my veg patch and waited patiently for my seeds to burst into life.  Well I’ve waited and waited and the results are pants!! 

I’m not a girl whose easily defeated, so a few weeks ago I dusted off my seed trays and planted the following:

Peas and Broccoli

I’ve used Kelvdon Wonder Peas from Johnsons.  They’re a dwarf versatile variety, very suitable for summer sowing in June or early July for an early Autumn harvest.  This variety produces masses of  narrow, dark green, well-filled pods filled with delicious juicy peas

I’ve sown the peas in a seed tray with 5cm between each seed and have placed on a window sill.  Seedlings appear between 10-18 days and I’ve kept the soil moist to ensure good growth.  When they’re slightly more robust I’ll plant out directly into my veg patch.  For best yields pick regularly!

A picture of my Broccoli patch in Melbourne, A...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve used Mr Fothergill’s (www.mr-fothergills.co.uk) Broccoli (Autumn) Beaumont F1 seeds.  This type of broccoli is a vigorous early cropping variety, with well-rounded, quality heads of tight beads.   They also have a long growing season and are an excellent source of Vitamin C and antioxidants.

Wild Rocket

This is a great way to pep up all types of salad.  The delicious pungent, spicy leaves, are best used as “cut and come again” baby leaves.  Wild Rocket is slow to bold, cropping over a long period. 

I’ve used Johnson’s Wild Rocket seeds which can be sown from April to August.  For continuous crops sow every 2-3 weeks.  In a seed tray sow seeds thinly in rows 25 cm apart and cover with 0.5 cm of fine soil.  Seedlings appear in 7-21 days.  To harvest take a few leaves from each plant and they will regrow for up to 3 or 4 cuts or pick whole mature plants.

Tarragon and Dill

Tarragon has always been one of my favourite herbs, especially with chicken (do look up my chicken, mushroom and tarragon pie recipe!)  I’m growing some Russian Tarragon from seed.  This is a strong growing type, hardier and easier to grow than French Tarragon but with a less distinct aniseed taste.

In trays of seed compost sow thinly and cover lightly with compost.  Seedlings appear between 21-35 days.  When large enough to handle acclimatise to outside conditions.  Pick the leaves as required but note the leaves do lose flavour in winter so freeze for winter use.

dill and tarragon shoots

 This year, I’m trying my hand at dill for the first time.  It’s a hardy annual and I’ve bought my seeds from Unwins.  I’ve sowed them thinly in a shallow row and will harden off in my veg patch once they’re slightly bigger.  I’ll harvest the leaves when the plants are about 30cm high.

In my book it’s never too late to sow, even if I sometimes  end up growing things inside! 

Good luck and happy sowing!

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Hen Mauled By Fox Requires Urgent Medical Attention

Bluebell today

The Story So Far

At 7:45am on Tuesday morning, a fox entered our garden and killed Rosemary, our Light Sussex Hen.  Bluebell (pictured) was also attacked but mercifully managed to escape despite losing a great many feathers

Why I Decided To Take Bluebell To The Vets

Bluebell with fluffed up feathers suffering from a temperature of 106 C

Having carefully observed Bluebell for 48 hours I was concerned by her general lethargy, feathers constantly plumped up and poor food and water intake.  Having sought the counsel of my local hen experts, it was decided that Bluebell’s best chance of survival was a course of antibiotics.

After a thorough examination by the vet, it became obvious that poor Bluebell was far more critically injured than I’d first anticipated.  The wound to her back where the fox had grabbed her was large and bloody, with signs of infection, and was only apparent after her feathers were expertly drawn back by the vet.  Unfortunately, Bluebell hadn’t allowed me to examine her like this, otherwise I would have sought medical attention sooner.  The vet administered a shot of antibiotics, followed by a strong painkiller, and I now have to inject her night and day for the next five days.  Although she had appeared to eat and drink, she has not consumed nearly enough and the next 48 hours are critical.

box to take Bluebell to the vets

My husband is still coming to terms with the fact that I took the hen to the vets, but having nursed this hen back to health in January, I’m not about to give up on her now!  Just in case you’re wondering my vet’s bill came to £40!

Tonight, the swat team are out in the neighbouring paddock flushing out the foxes.

Please keep your fingers crossed for Bluebell.

A Happy Ending

I’m delighted to report, a month later, Bluebell has made a full recovery and so far the fox has not come back for my other hens.  After the initial attack, my husband reinforced our pen and I kept my hens in their coup and run for several days.  Due to the time of year I now only release the girls into our garden when the dog and I are present.  Luckily due to the weather and my enthusiasm for gardening this is quite alot!

No Eggs from Bluebell for a month

Unfortunately, because the antibiotics used are not approved by the Health Standards Agency we haven’t been able to eat Bluebell’s eggs for a month, while the medication works it way through her system.  I’m now counting down the days until we can do so!

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Fox Fatally Attacks The Hens

However, experienced you are at Hen Keeping, nothing is worse than losing one of your brood.  This morning our worst nightmare came true when Rosemary, my daughter’s Light Sussex hen (pictured at the top of the photo) was snatched from our garden by the fox, and taken home to be devoured by her cubs.

An adult male chicken, the rooster has a promi...

Image via Wikipedia

As it’s half term, our morning routine has altered slightly with my husband releasing the chickens into the garden with the dog at around 7:30am.

How did I know my hen had been killed?

As I opened my son’s curtains at 8am my eyes were drawn to the tell-tale sign of an abundance of white and black feathers scattered on the lawn and flying in the breeze.

 As I rushed outside, my heart sank further as I saw a large clump of Bluebell’s blue/grey feathers outside the front door.

Miracles Do Happen

After running around the garden calling for my hens, I telephoned a neighbour whose Bantams gave birth to chicks yesterday to forewarn her.  Whilst on the phone I spotted my son’s hen, Matilda, sitting on top of a hawthorn hedge and quickly carried her to the safety of our chicken coup

Next, while on the phone to my mother, I spotted Augusta (my red Plymouth Rock) returning home and placed her back in the coup, and finally by some miracle an hour later Bluebell reappeared looking dazed and bedraggled but mercifully still alive!!

Why Are Chickens Particularly Susceptible to Foxes In Early Summer

Foxes are extremely rife at this time of year, as they’ve weaned their cubs and need to provide them with a ready supply of food.

How Can I Keep My Hens Safe?

This is always a difficult question to answer as foxes are renowned for returning to a garden until all food supplies have been exhausted.

If possible reinforce your coup, ensuring perimeter walls are high and covered with netting.  For higher security metal mesh can be buried underneath the coup to prevent burrowing.

Foxolutions are a company providing fox repellents, fox deterrents and fox control expertise.  They stock cages to trap foxes alive as well as sprays to deter them from coming into your garden.

I’m enlisting the help of our local Game Keeper!

Good luck keeping your brood safe.

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Easy Peasy Home-Made Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Cordial encapsulates the perfect English summer, it’s so quintessentially English and so easy to make! 

On a hot summer’s day I love nothing better than the clink of icecubes, the smell of elderflower and the fizz of sparkling water.  It’s so refreshing and delicious. 

Over the years I’ve dabbled with various recipes but I think Sophie Grigson‘s recipe, shown below, is my absolute favourite. 

It makes 1.5 litres and once refrigerated, lasts for 3 months

Ingredients

20 heads of elderflower

1.8 kg of granulated/caster sugar – you will need two bags!!

1.2 litres of water

2 unwaxed lemons

75 g of citric acid (Sainsburys sell 50g boxes and I’ve always found this works perfectly too)

Method

Put the sugar and water into a large pan (I’ve used a preserving pan)  and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Next place the elderflower heads in a large bowl.

While the sugar syrup is heating, pare the zest of the lemons off into wide strips.  Slice the main body of the lemons, discarding both ends pieces for your compost.  Once the lemons have been prepared add to the elderflower bowl.

Pour the boiling syrup over the elderflower and lemons, and then stir in the citric acid.  Cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

On the following day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with a muslin (or a new j-cloth) and pour into thoroughly cleaned glass or plastic bottles.  Screw on the lids and pop into the cupboard ready to use.

Serving Suggestions

Elderflower Cordial

Dilute the Elderflower Cordial to taste with fizzy water, and serve over ice with a slice or two of lemon or sprigs of mint from the garden.

Alcholic Elderflower

For something with a bit more of a kick why not add a shot of gin or vodka and a lemon slice.

Elderflower Spritzer

Add to white wine and sparkling water to made an Elderflower Spritzer

A Few More Facts About Elderflower

Elderflower usually flowers between late May and early June and can be found growing in wasteland, hedgerows, beside paths and in my garden!  The flower contains antiviral properties and is a good anti-inflammatory and decongestant, as well as tasting absolutely delicious!

Good luck and happy Elderflower Cordial making!

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Planting Out Seedling Courgettes, Tumbling Tom Tomatoes and Harvesting First Swift potatoes

This Spring I had every good intention of growing my own courgettes from seed, but time ran away with me.  Luckily, this week I went to a fabulous early summer fayre and bought two healthy courgette plants.

Last year I planted my courgettes in a raised vegetable border and they expanded so much they swamped some of my other veg!!!  To avoid this problem again,  I’ve decided to grow them in growbags.

I began by turning the growbag over and perforating the bottom of the growbag with small holes for drainage.

I flipped the growbag face up and cut a hole in the top of the growbag, the same diameter as the courgette plant pot.

Finally, I made a well in the growbag, the same size as the courgette pot and watered, before taking the courgette out of it’s pot and planting in the growbag.

I’ve placed the growbag in a sheltered, sunny position and will keep well watered.  The trick with using a growbag is to make sure it doesn’t dry out!

Planting out Tumbling Toms

I sowed 20 Tumbling Tom seeds in mid April in a seed tray on a window ledge and 11 seeds have taken.  With all signs of frost over, I’ve decided now is the time to plant out my seedlings.

Planting out couldn’t be easier.  I started by filling up the hanging basket with multi-purpose compost virtually to the rim.

 I then very carefully removed each plant from the seed tray and planted into two hanging baskets, planting at regular intervals before watering well.  The baskets are now hanging on a sunny wall and I can’t wait for a bumper crop of delicious, juicy tomatoes to come tumbling down!

Harvesting First Swift Potatoes

The Swift Potatoes I chitted in February and planted out on the 13th March are now ready for harvesting.  Today, I carefully rummaged inside the potato sacks and extracted enough new potatoes for two adults and two fussy children!

I’ve left the plants still intact in the hope that they’ll continue to produce more potatoes. I plan to serve today’s crop with melted butter and fresh mint from the garden.

Happy growing!!

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Sizzling Garlic and Herb Infused Escargots

Sometimes it’s rather fun to serve something slightly different for supper and I find escargots are always a great conversational piece when entertaining friends!!  Escargots are incredibly easy to prepare, have a certain wow factor, as well as tasting fabulous!  I served these last night when some great friends, including our lovely french neighbour, came for supper.

Ingredients – Serves 8

*1 tin of Escargots de Bourgogne (400g)

*1 box of Coquilles d’Escargots de Bourgogne (48 snail shells)

200g butter

20g finely chopped parsley

8g garlic – (I used four cloves but do adjust to taste!)

8g shallot, onion or chives – (I used chives, as it’s currently in season and growing abundantly in the garden!)

Nutmeg – a good grating according to taste.

*I bought the escargots and shells from www.confitdirect.co.uk and purchased 8 snail forks for 99p each at the same time!

Method

 Put the butter, finely chopped parsley, crushed garlic, chopped chives, salt, pepper and good grating of nutmeg in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork until the mixture is soft and well combined.

Drain the escargots and carefully place in the empty shells before smearing the escargots with deliciously fragrant herby butter.

Place the escargots on a baking tray and heat in a medium oven until the butter begins to bubble.  (I heat mine in the rayburn at 180C for 25 minutes)

I like to serve 6 escargots per plate, drizzled with herby butter from the pan, with slices of warmed baguette to mop all the delicious unctuous juices.

If you love escargots and have never tried to recreate this at home, do have a go as I think you’ll be delighted with the results. 

Shopping

If you like all things French, Confit Direct, sell over 200 gourmet products from around France including truffles, escargots, foie gras, pates and rillettes, plus tapenades and preserves.    

Au Revoir and happy escargots eating!!!!

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Hooray For Hanging Baskets!

For maximum wow factor in a confined space it’s hard to beat the trusty hanging basket

This week, I’ve been busy preparing hanging baskets ready to house gorgeous pink Busy Lizzies (Impatiens), cascading pink, white and purple “Sweetie” Sweet Peas and succulent Tumbling Tom Tomatoes.

Busy Lizzies

My Busy Lizzies arrived in plug form from Van Meuwen’s this morning.  After giving the plugs a quick water I filled two hanging baskets with multi purpose compost virtually to the rim and watered.  I then subdivided 14 plugs between the two baskets.

Busy Lizzies are happy in partial shade and are ideal for planting under trees and in shady corners as well as hanging baskets.  After potting, keep the plants warm and water well.  BL’s are extremely versatile and will grow well in most conditions but do benefit from some shade during a hot summer.  Moisture is important so do plant in good compost or well-prepared soil.  If your plants become too tall, cut them back by a third, using a sharp knife, and new shoots and blooms will soon reappear.  Water well in dry weather but avoid water on the foliage.

Sweet Peas

“Sweetie” Sweet Peas are a dwarf type of sweet pea  perfect for growing in hanging baskets. 

Plant between February and May by filling hanging baskets with multi-purpose compost until virtually full.  Scatter

Midsummer Sweet Peas

Image by Elle-Epp via Flickr

the seeds evenly over the surface and cover with a dusting of compost, adding water to make the compost moist but not wet.  Place the basket in a warm place indoors, away from direct sunlight and keep moist at all times. 

After seeds have sprouted the basket can be placed in a sunny, sheltered spot outdoors.  I bring mine indoors at the first sign of frost and flowers should appear from July to September.  Pick out flowers as soon as they begin to wilt to encourage repeat flowering.

Tumbling Toms

Tumbling Toms are ideal for growing in hanging baskets and containers, from which they will “tumble” bearing lots of large “cherry” size fruit.  They require no support and are best grown in a sunny position outdoors.

I’ve sown my Johnsons Tomato Tumbling Toms in seed trays.  They’re perfect for indoor sowing between March and April.  I sowed one/two seeds per segment and covered them with a fine layer of compost before firming gently and watering. 

Next cover with glass, polythene or a propagator lid and keep at approx 15-20C. 

Seedlings should appear between 7-14 days.  Stand outside for few days in late May to avoid frosts before planting out 45cm apart.  Harvest between August to October.

And finally to all my regular readers a huge apology for the delay in posting this installment.  Unfortunately, due to work commitments, a camera malfunction and the motley crew above I haven’t been able to post as much as I would like. 

Thanks for bearing with me and happy planting xxx

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How To Make Your Own Delicious Prosciutto

Here on the farm, we rear our own organic pork.  As well as producing fabulous joints, chops and sausages, one of the things we enjoy most is curing our own prosciutto.  Curing is incredibly easy and you can do this at home with a good quality rear leg (ham) from your butcher.

You will need:

1 ham (rear leg) weighed

15 kilos of salt (salt ratio is dependent on the size of your box – see more details below)

A wooden box, a lid or piece of wood smaller than the box, plus a heavy weight (we use a brick!)

Method

First weigh your ham and record the weight for future reference.

Pour half an inch of salt in the bottom of the box before placing the ham on top of this.  Continue to pour salt around the sides of the leg and rub into the ham, before covering the top of the ham with an inch of salt.

Place the lid/small piece of wood on top of the ham and weigh down with a weight before storing in a cool, dry place.

Now for the maths!  Cure for 3 days per kilo, knocking one day off your total.  Our ham weighs 4.5 kilos so we’ll be curing for 13 days.

Once curing is complete, tie up your ham and air dry for 6 months to 2 years!  We place our ham in a game safe (pictured) which hangs outside everyday unless it’s raining or the day time temperature is below freezing.   In hot weather it’s placed in the shade and not direct sunlight.  Whatever the weather I bring ours inside every night.  If you have a secure outbuilding or garage with plenty of ventilation this would work well too. 

After 6 months we can’t resist carving and then devour with gusto – it tastes delicious!!!

Shopping

I bought my Bodega Ham Stand from www.efoodies.co.uk

Good luck and happy curing!!!!

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