Lemon Curd

The hens are in full production now, so there are plenty of eggs to be consumed. Now that pancake day has been and gone, and while there are still lots of lemons in the house thoughts turn to lemon curd.

It’s really very quick and easy to make. We only make small amounts at any one time because delicious as it is it has a relatively limited shelf life and needs to be kept in the fridge once made.

 

The Recipe we use for Lemon curd is as follows:

50g butter

110g caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 organic eggs and 1 organic egg yolk

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the sugar, lemon zest and juice, and finally whisk the eggs and stir in over a very gentle heat. Once the mixture has thickened, pot, and when cool refrigerate.

All the recipes say ‘best eaten within a fortnight’. It’s so delicious on toast or fresh bread that it is unusual for there to be any left after a fortnight.

>Seville Orange Marmalade and Oat Biscuits

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It’s January, so as always its time to take advantage of the short Seville orange season and make marmalade.
I’m on batch number two of the 2012 season, but once all the slicing is done there is alot of hanging around in the kitchen while things boil, so today I decided to make some Oat Biscuits.
We use Pat Lalor’s “Kilbeggan Organic Porridge Oats” for both porridge and flapjacks but just before Christmas we were at an event where the Lalor’s were promoting their oats and had made biscuits. They were kindly giving samples and the recipe to all who were interested. They were delicious, so today was the day to make them at home.
Kilbeggan Porridge Oat Biscuits:
3ozs soft brown sugar
30zs plain four
4 ozs Kilbeggan organic porrdige oats
5ozs butter
half a teaspoon of bread soda
Mix all the ingredients together. Roll into small balls and place on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Flatten them slightly, and then bake until golden – roughly 15 minutes in the Aga.
Once cooled the biscuits just about get onto a plate before they are devoured by family and friends.
At this stage the marmalade should  have reached setting point! So its time to pot up before relaxing with a cup of tea and a Kilbeggan Porridge Oat Biscuit.  Yummy!

>New Year

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Leeks are the only thing left in the garden at this time of year.
But once the chores are done it is nice to sit by the fire in the evening and browse through the seed catalogues.
have all sent out their catalogues and somehow it is nicer than browsing on the computer. Pen in hand we mark all the seeds we think we might like, and then cut down our order trying to be realistic about the amount of time and space we have. Never enough of either!

>Autumn

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I’m not sure what happened to summer but it seems as if autumn is with us in the form of conkers at least.

The damsons and the crab apples are the last of the fruit to ripen, and while the recent windy weather and the birds have had their share there was still plenty for us to pick.
After much teetering on ladders we can return to the house and start processing the haul!
More jellies and jams – lets hope our guests, family and friends enjoy them as much as we do. 

>Home Made Ribena

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Summer is rushing by and the last of the blackcurrants have been picked, for the past few years having frozen lots of blackcurrants and made lots of jam we now also make  a blackcurrant cordial – probably better known by its commercial name of ‘Ribena’. It makes the taste of summer last all year, is so easy to make and so much more delicious than any shop bought variety. Everyone should give it a try.

Put two and a half pounds of blackcurrants in a large pan with four litres of water and bring to the boil. Boil for fifteen minutes.

Strain off the fruit. Add fifteen cups of the liquid, one cup of wine vinegar and thirteen cups of sugar. Allow the sugar to dissolve and boil for three minutes. Allow to cool and then bottle.

We keep some in the fridge and freeze the rest for use later in the year.
Dilute to taste with either ordinary or sparkling water. Cheers!

>Westmeath Tasting Plate

>We are members of the Westmeath Slow Food Convivium, and on Friday last at the Hilltown New Music Festival we put put together a Westmeath Tasting Plate to showcase some of the local produce and producers in the County.

Beef from Joe Brady of Lough Owel Organic Farm
Smoked Mackerel from John Rogan of Rogan’s Real Smoked Fish. Tel: 043 76264
Gouda from Mary & Gerry Kelly of Moonshine Organic Cheese
Salad from Kevin Harmon (Castlepollard on Fridays, and Mullingar Farmers Market)
Breads from ‘Just Baked’ 29 Pearse St. Mullingar
All served with a delicious glass of Prosecco from Wines Direct in Mullingar
The Tasting Plates looked really well going out and we served over 70 music goers!
We were very fortunate with the weather, and everyone was able to sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere.
The music got underway later in the evening.
The courtyard or castle keep to the rear of Hilltown House made a fantastic venue for the whole event.

>Gooseberries

>Sticking with the elderflower theme of earlier this month, I decided to make gooseberry and elderflower jam.

First you have to find your gooseberries…

We must have been stuck for somewhere to plant our gooseberry bushes, they are all at the back of flower beds.
It is worth the search, but the fruit is not easily given up by the bushes.

Having picked a few pounds of fruit, and some elderflower heads it is time to head for the kitchen.
The recipe is three and a half pounds of gooseberries, five elderflower heads, one pint of water and three and a half pounds of sugar.
Top and tail the gooseberries put in your pan with a pint of water and the elderflower heads (tied in a piece of muslin).
Simmer until liquid is reduced by approximately one third.
Remove the flowers, add the sugar, bring to the boil.
Test for set and pot.

Et Voila! Gooseberry and Elderflower jam! The kitchen is positively fragrant after this.

>Redcurrant Jelly

>The weather is still very unsettled, in fact so much so that I didn’t have time to take pictures of the fruit bushes in all their glory before the rain started.

However I did pick enough to start on the redcurrant jelly.

After removing the currants from their stalks add two pounds of redcurrants and two pounds of sugar to a saucepan. Stir continuously until it comes to the boil.
Boil for eight minutes. Strain the fruit off and then pot. Couldn’t be easier!
Enjoy with roast lamb, or on a slice of toast.

>Elderflowers

>As part of Westmeath Slow Food we hosted an elderflower workshop on Saturday. Luck was with us and the weather held for the day.

The flowers are truly beautiful when looked at closely.
We walked down the fields and picked some of the high growing elderflowers from a ladder. Helen wanted to save the bushes nearer the house so that we can pick the elderberries in the autumn to make Elderberry Jelly.
A trug full of blossom.
It was nice to be able to take time to enjoy the view after picking some flowers.
Returning to the house we decided to make an elderflower syrup. I think this is the easiest of the many recipes we looked at. 
700 g granulated sugar
18 elderflowers
1 lemon
Measure the sugar and grate the lemon zest into a saucepan. Add 600 ml cold water. Heat slowly until the sugar melts and bring to the boil. Add the elderblossoms to the pan. Push the florets down into the liquid and bring back to the boil. Cover and set aside until the contents are cold. Squeeze the lemon juice and stir into the syrup. Strain through a sieve and bottle. Store in a fridge. This will keep for eleven months and can be used as  the base for elderflower cordial and to flavour batters, milk puddings, mousses, custards, creams and ice creams.
Elderflower vinegar was also made by bringing cider vinegar to the boil and pouring over the elderflowers. This was set aside to mature for a fortnight.
Another elderflower vinegar recipe just asked for the vinegar to be warmed gently with 2 or 3 elderblossoms in the vinegar and then removed and bottled when cold. Both will be a delicious addition to a summer salad dressing.
More information on the event can be found at the links below:
With the Elder still in flower and inspired by Ella’s McSweeney’s blog we are off to pick some more to make Elderflower Champagne!

>Chickens & Eggs

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 During the winter we have enough eggs for ourselves, but as the days begin to lengthen and spring approaches the hens start to lay again in numbers. 
We use them in all their forms, boiled, poached, scrambled and fried. Transformed into omelettes and pancakes. We make lemon curd and bake; for ourselves, our friends and our guests.
We have about thirty hens of mixed breeds.
We also have alot of foxes, so our hens live in a large fenced off area, and have a house to go into at night.

 One of the hens will go ‘broody’ as the season progresses and she will sit on about a dozen eggs which will in due course hatch and join the flock.
The eggs range in colour from off white, through to brown, speckeldy and even green depending on who laid them.
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