Buttermilk pancakes and berries

Buttermilk pancakes with berries, maple syrup and yoghurt

Buttermilk pancakes with berries, maple syrup and yoghurt

 

Shrove Tuesday means that Spring is a whisper away; there are snowdrops in the lane, tulips for sale in the shops and surprisingly the odd clump of primroses peeping through in the garden.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

 

A sunny day like today has already lifted my spirits and this buttermilk pancake recipe by Liberty London Girl, Sasha Wilkins, from her book, Friends, Food Family raised them still further. I managed to make eighteen from the recipe, and we ate them, as in the book, with Greek yoghurt, maple syrup and fresh berries for a taste of the summer to come.

I used full fat milk and lemon juice to make them instead of buttermilk and they worked beautifully. They are ready to flip when the edges turn a pale yellow and bubbles appear in the mixture

Pancakes ready to turn

Pancakes ready to turn

Then a minute later, they are ready to stack up with whatever you fancy.

Pancakes ready

Pancakes ready

And it’s still warm and cosy inside the cottage,

Valentines Day tulips on the kitchen table

Valentines Day tulips on the kitchen table

before a walk to admire the sunset from the Quay.

Orford Quay dusk

Orford Quay dusk

Shepherd and Dog, Forward Green, Stowmarket

A lunch at the Shepherd and Dog at Forward Green near Stowmarket is the first of my posts venturing further afield.  Appearances are deceptive as the square brick building doesn’t look so exciting from the outside but inside it’s comfortable and welcoming. There’s a bar area with scrubbed wooden tables, a more formal restaurant called the ‘eaterie’ but we chose to sit in the lounge area where food is also served. It’s a relaxing room, soft grey walls and a darker gunmetal grey painted bar, with mustard and pink soft chairs, and grey and maroon herringbone cushions dotted around.

The grazing menu is full of tempting dishes with the food coming on small plates as soon as it is made. It came in a sensible order, thank goodness, and we could have just eaten our own plates of food. But this time, we just fancied tasting everything; so we did.  First up were some tender pork ribs with a sticky tangy Aspall glaze,

Sticky ribs at Shepherd and Dog

Sticky ribs at Shepherd and Dog

followed by smoked mackerel pâté, crème fraîche, lemon and chives, with home made malted toasted bread.

Smoked mackerel pate with creme fraiche

Smoked mackerel pate and toasted malted bread

Then we had a cheeseboard, which is helpfully divided on the menu into blue, hard and soft so we chose one of each, Miss Temple Binham Blue, made with pasteurised cow’s milk,  Shipcord,  a Cheddar style cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk at nearby Needham Market and Wensum White from Norfolk, a goat’s cheese. They were served with crackers and little dishes of home made rhubarb and date chutney and  fresh honeycomb on the top tier of the slate platter which made it feel special and original. It was good to know we were eating carefully sourced East Anglian produce, served in exactly the right stage of ripeness.

Shepherd and Dog cheese plate

Shepherd and Dog cheese plate

For pudding, we could have had a full size portion of dessert but chose  instead  ‘mini sweet treats’ sample sized versions of the à la carte desserts.

Chestnut and polenta cake with ice-cream and pear

Chestnut and polenta cake with ice-cream and pear

It was so relaxed and comfortable that we could have sat there all afternoon and we will definitely be back, not least for some full sized portions of pudding.

Opening Times:Tuesday – Sunday, 12:00 – 21:00 (Monday closed)

Forward Green, Stowmarket
Suffolk IP14 5HN  Just on the A1120, the main road as you pass through the village

Tel 01449 711685

info@theshepherdanddog.com

 

 

Christmas cake

It may be cold outside

Boats from Orford Quay

Boats from Orford Quay

 

but it has been warm and cosy and Christmassy inside the cottage.

Christmas tree and fire

Christmas tree and fire

 

Thanks to a post on Twitter by “foodjournalist’, my Christmas cake this year was decreed my best ever by family and friends.

Finished Christmas cake

Finished Christmas cake

 

He recommended this recipe by James Martin in Good Food magazine for a ‘make and mature Christmas cake’. It was so easy. No soaking the fruit overnight, just measure it all out,

Ingredients ready to bake

Ingredients ready to cook

 

boil up half the ingredients in a pan and then leave for half an hour. I used a mixture of sultanas, raisins, apricots, peel and just a few currants.

Melted ingredients cooling

Melted ingredients cooling

Add the dry ingredients,

Everything mixed together

Everything mixed together

put in a tin lined inside with layers of parchment paper and insulated outside with newspaper and bake.

Cake ready to cook

Cake ready to cook

It only took two hours ten minutes and so there’s not that thing of not being able to go to bed because you don’t think the cake is done yet, and then you keep on opening the oven door to check which means the oven temperature drops and then it takes even longer.

The cake cooked

The cake cooked

Eagle eyed readers may note the pictures are of a circular cake, while the finished fruit cake is square. It was so good, we ate the first one and  had to make another one for Christmas. The second time, I used a packet of ‘tropical fruit’, glace cherries, no currants and golden caster sugar instead of brown sugar for a lighter cake.

 

 

 

 

 

RSPB Havergate Island Photography Day

Eighteen months ago, I went on a Photography Day to Havergate island and I was delighted to find out that these special days are going to be repeated again in 2015 .

Monika Koch, is offering the events in a brand new cooperation with the RSPB under her own flag of ‘Wild Adventures under Suffolk’s Skies’. Kevin Sawford, Jeremy Hennell James and Celia Bartlett are joining her for the new venture. They will start in March and after a breeding season gap, offer events from July right through the year up to December.

I remember the day well, both for the island’s tranquil beauty and  the helpful and friendly photography tuition. It was a bit of a stretch getting up at 5.30am to be on Orford Quay for 6am but it meant we were on the river in the golden hour to see the sun rise over the water. We were lucky as it was a clear and sunny day.

DSC_0072

The only sea birds I can identify with certainty are Puffins, after reading Puffin books as a child and I knew we wouldn’t be seeing any of those. So I packed my camera, another lens, spare battery, clean re-formatted memory card, tripod, remote switch, camera wipes, manual, bottle of water, some emergency sweets and chocolate, my Kumfie sit mat, spare thin fleece, waterproof trousers, hat, fingerless gloves, another pair of gloves, notebook, pen, scarf and last but not least, my Observer book of birds from when I was a child. In the morning, Jeremy  taught a session on landscape photography and I learned more about moving close and moving back to find the right angle to take the pictures.

Havergate Island

Havergate Island

The beauty of the Photography Day is that there is hardly anyone else there so you can wander off and concentrate and simply absorb the island’s haunting beauty. I wanted to try and capture some pictures of Orford from a completely different perspective.

Orford from Havergate Island

Orford from Havergate Island

In the afternoon, I had a session on macro photography with Celia and looking closely at bark and lichen. The rapt concentration needed clears the mind of all extraneous worries.

I also had time to wander around to the different hides and the  more expert bird watchers identified the birds for me.

Entrance to bird hide on Havergate Island

Entrance to bird hide on Havergate Island

 

I looked at details and liked the grain in the wood and the lines on the door of the bird hide.

Bird hide on Havergate Island

Bird hide on Havergate Island

Mackerel sky on Havergate island

Mackerel sky on Havergate island

 

I’m not a confident photographer as I didnt even own a camera until a few years ago and I know there is a lot of scope for improvement. I am easily intimidated by other people with their huge cameras and lenses but everyone was so friendly and welcoming that I surprised myself and had a really good day. Not only can I shut my eyes to remember those unique Suffolk skies, I now have some photographs to remind me as well.

Details on the  days and dates in 2015 and how to book are available here.

Smoked trout and celeriac, apple and fennel salad.

It’s October 12 and we had our lunch in the garden today. Long may this Indian summer continue. It’s apple season and it’s tempting to just fill the blog with recipes using apples from the apple trees in the garden.  I am trying to use apples in savoury ways and this crunchy celeriac, fennel and apple salad goes really well with smoked trout from Pinneys . I went shopping in a T shirt this morning and the shadows in the picture are from the sun shining on the table.

Smoked trout and celeriac, apple and fennel salad

Smoked trout and celeriac, apple and fennel salad

I’ve also made blackberry and apple jam and apple chutney and we’ve have had  blackberry and apple crumbles,  baked apples, an almond and apple cake  and an apple and honey cake. I am freezing stewed apple like crazy for quick puddings and to go with pork and pancakes.

Laden with apples

Tree laden with apples

As ‘The Great British Bake Off’ has been delighting us on TV, I tried one of  Mary Berry’s apple cake recipes which got a big thumbs up as the apple layer in the middle meant it wasn’t dry. The recipe makes enough to fill a Swiss roll sized tin  so it’s great for packed lunches as it lasted all week.

Mary Berry Dorset apple cake

 

Celeriac, apple and fennel salad

I only made enough for two as I like it when everything is crunchy and fresh but it’s easy to scale up the amounts if cooking for more.  Sometimes when I’ve made this, I’ve put in some chopped dill as well but I didn’t happen to have any today.

100g celeriac, peeled and cut into matchsticks

100g fennel, cut into matchsticks

100g apple, cut into matchsticks

Tbsp yoghurt

Tbsp mayonnaise

Zest and juice of half a lemon

Half tsp mustard powder (optional)

Mix everything together in a  bowl and season to taste,

Blackberry sorbet

After a successful summer’s lettings, it felt wonderful to be back in the cottage for just one night before more lettings through September.

View from Orford Quay

View from Orford Quay

The apple trees are laden with fruit and we picked blackberries from the garden.

Garden view from the kitchen window

Garden view from the kitchen window

Everything had grown a lot but we had time to weed and deadhead and pick apples before the next guests arrived.

Apple tree

Tree laden with apples

There are so many blackberries around this year and they are earlier than ever. Maybe it’s global warming or simply the effect of a mild winter and warm summer. Blackberry sorbet is fresh and low fat and doesn’t actually have that much sugar in it for each portion or scoop so it is a relatively low carb pudding as well. I made the puree using a mouli legumes or you could use more elbow grease and push it through a sieve. I didn’t use an ice cream machine to churn the fruit although of course you could if you had one. I just made the sorbet one evening and then set the alarm on the oven to remind myself to take it out the freezer each hour where I whizzed it with a stick blender.

Brambles

Blackberry sorbet

INGREDIENTS

110g granulated sugar

100 ml water

450g blackberries

2 tbsp lemon juice


2 tbsp creme de mure (optional)

METHOD

1. Dissolve the sugar gently in the water and then boil for two minutes. Pour into a jug and leave to cool.

2. Whizz the blackberries in a blender, food processor or with a stick blender to make a puree and then pass through a sieve or mouli legumes to get rid of the seeds.

3. When the sugar syrup is cool, add to the puree with the lemon juice,  (and creme de mure) if using. Stir together and then use an ice cream machine to churn and then freeze. Alternatively pour the mixture into a plastic box and put in the freezer. After an hour and half, scrape the frozen sides away from the edge of the box and whizz everything together with a stick blender or mixer to break up any ice crystals that may be forming. Repeat every hour or so until the mixture is frozen but smooth.

4. Take it out the freezer half an hour before serving so that it softens up enough to scoop easily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I did with my gooseberries. Part 2

For the sake of completeness, I did promise I would say what I did with the rest of my gooseberries. I made this brilliant Nigel Slater recipe of pork with gooseberries which made a change from pork chops with apple sauce.

Nigel Slater pork with gooseberrie

Nigel Slater pork with gooseberries

Then I stewed the last few in the microwave and put them on top of my Bircher muesli with some orange slices and a few chopped walnuts to make yet a different variation for my breakfast one day.

Bircher Muesli with gooseberries and orange

Bircher Muesli with gooseberries and orange

 

What I did with my gooseberries. Part 1

I heard that High House Fruit Farm didn’t have many gooseberries left so I rushed over and bought a huge bag of them. There was no PYO this year as the bushes were netted to stop pigeons eating the fruit.

High House Fruit Farm shop

High House Farm shop

There’s always anticipation about what to make but first on my list was Diana Henry’s gooseberry and spelt cake which was quite delicious, the tang of the gooseberries giving a welcome sharpness and the organic wholemeal spelt flour from Maple Farm, a nuttiness which made it feel quite wholesome.

Diana Henry gooseberry and spelt cake

Diana Henry gooseberry and spelt cake

We ate the cake in the garden, where the flower bed was in full bloom.

Orford cottage garden

Orford cottage garden

My husband wanted pie so I  followed Simon Hopkinson’s recipe here with a packet of Jus-Rol  butter puff pastry, in a golden wrapper I think it’s fine using it as long as you check that the one you buy is made with butter.  Lots of them are not and just don’t taste the same. I used the whole 500g packet in a 23cm tin as if you are going to make a pie, then you might as well make a big one and I just added more gooseberries until they were heaped up pleasingly in the tin.

Simon Hopkinson gooseberry pie

Simon Hopkinson gooseberry pie

The third thing I did was make gooseberry and elderflower curd, following a recipe in Mark Diacono’s book,  ‘A Year at Otter Cottage’ and using the very last of the elderflowers which are infused in the curd.

Mark Diacono gooseberry and elderflower curd

Mark Diacono gooseberry and elderflower curd

I then used some of the curd to make a strawberry and  gooseberry and elderflower curd Eton mess, also from ”A Year at Otter Farm’, although I have to confess I used bought crushed meringue nests.

Mark Diacono strawberry and elderflower Eton Mess

Mark Diacono strawberry and elderflower Eton Mess

PS Part 2 of what I did with my gooseberries  coming next and although High House Fruit farm may not have any more, they are still for sale in the shops. ( and a proper review of ‘ A Year at Otter Farm.’)

PPS We didn’t eat all of these at once or else we would be the size of barrels but gooseberries do freeze very well, so do catch the last of them in the shops.

 

 

Walk around Orford, Part 2

 

This walk links up with the one I posted here to make one big loop around Orford. You can do either half or do them both together. These pictures were all taken on a hot, bright and sunny Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago but I imagine that this weekend, the weather is going to be the same. The second half of this walk starts in the Market Square from where you can spin around and see St Bartholomew’s Church and the 13th century Kings Head pub,

King's Head and St Bartholomew's Church, Orfor

King’s Head and St Bartholomew’s Church, Orford

the Butley Orford Oysterage, famous for its locally caught and smoked fish

Butley Orford Oysterage

Butley Orford Oysterage

the Pump Street Bakery, renowned for its bread, pastries and now chocolate

Pump Street Bakery

Pump Street Bakery

and over on the opposite side, the Crown and Castle,  a hotel with a really good restaurant, the Trinity.

Crown and Castle

Crown and Castle

Carry on past the hotel and you will come to Orford Castle, which is now run by English Heritage.

Orford Castle

Orford Castle

Follow the road round to the left into Castle Lane, and past a pretty row of cottages.

Castle Lane, Orford

Castle Lane, Orford

At the bottom of the lane, turn left and then follow the public footpath sign to the right of this house through the holiday barns to reach open fields. If you wanted to, you could carry straight along Broad Street and back to Quay Street.

Orford house

Orford house

This footpath leads down to the River and you can see the sails of a boat in the middle of the picture as it sails along the River Alde.

Footpath to river

Footpath to river

If you look back across the fields, you can see the back of Quay Street.

Back of Quay Street

Back of Quay Street

There is a well marked path climbing up onto the flood defences and then you turn back left along to the Quay.

Orford Quay

Orford Quay

Turn left into Quay St and back to the Market Square past the Jolly Sailor, another great Orford pub.

Jolly Sailor, Orford

Jolly Sailor, Orford

Strawberry and elderflower cordial

There’s an elderflower bush or tree at the end of the garden which encroaches onto the lawn and could probably do with a bit of a prune but at this time of year, it’s brilliant for cutting elderflowers as no dog has been near it, it’s not near a road and it’s totally organic. They are a bit later than other blossoms because the bush is not sheltered and prone to the power of the East winds.

Elderflower at the end of the garden

Elderflower at the end of the garden

The flowers are a creamy white, smell of muscat in the warmth and are brilliant for cordials and cakes.   Last year I had great fun making elderflower fritters and elderflower vinegar.  This year ,I rang the changes with a batch of elderflower cordial by adding macerated strawberries, following the recipe from the British Larder blog which gives me constant inspiration. Their buttermilk and spelt soda bread recipe  and the carrot cake  which I made here are two of my absolute favourites. Their restaurant is magnificent and there’s a copy of their cookery book in the cottage because I found another one in a charity shop. ( More fool the donor.)

Elderflower blossom

Elderflower blossom

I followed the recipe exactly and put the cordial in little zip lock bags in the freezer. Then I can bring them out, top up with soda water and serve with ice when we want. It’s refreshing and just a little bit different. When the next bag comes out the freezer, I am going to experiment with a cocktail… or maybe two. Watch this space.

Strawberry and elderflower cordial

British Larder strawberry and elderflower cordial