sow it, grow it, eat it! by Annette Gibbons


Annette Gibbons OBE is renowned as a champion of real Cumbrian food. She hosts Cumbria’s Fine Dining Club and also enjoys her organic vegetable garden.

In an attempt to use more home-grown apples, I’m making next year’s mincemeat. How’s that for forward planning? Cooking them with spices, raisins, almonds and sugar will preserve them for another year. I don’t use suet, there’s some alcohol in there too which will help. I’m planning slices of apples with black pudding, served with a savoury apple sauce as a starter over the Christmas holiday, there’s also an onion and apple tartlet, apple granola for breakfast with freshly-squeezed apple juice - I’m determined not to waste nature’s bounty. Mice have nibbled some stored apples and our bird population are having windfalls under the trees, so wastage isn’t a problem.

I’m really pleased we’ve had a couple of days of hard frost. Garlic needs this cold to split into cloves as it grows, so I’ll let you know how mine turn out come the summer. Fingers crossed.

If this cold weather continues for too long, the ground will be frozen and pulling leeks will be difficult. In the past I’ve used sheep’s fleece to cover the soil to keep it warm and make harvesting in winter possible but gardening fleece or straw work too.

With some milder, drier weather I’m planning on digging my bean trenches as soon as I’ve finished cleaning the greenhouse, planting hundreds of bulbs, raking leaves and protecting hardy salad crops. It’s probably too late for the latter. I’ll fill a trench with compost from the kitchen, cover it up with soil and let it rot to be ready to plant out peas, sweet peas and beans when the time is right and the plantlets are tough enough to survive.

A couple of hours in the garden over the Christmas holiday could be rewarding - getting out into the fresh air, being active and doing something useful. Sounds perfect to me!

Season’s Greetings to one and all.

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At this time of the year, I have to guess how much Colston Bassett Blue Stilton and Brie de Meaux to buy in, as well as the rest of our Festive Cheeses of course. We sell the Stilton and the Brie by the hundreds of kilos, so it's vital to get the right amount in. Invariably however, I will be left with a little of each, as the worst thing to do would be to run out. So, today I look at a couple of ideas if you are left with a surplus of these wonderful cheeses over the Christmas period - and let's face it, it's a nice problem to have!

Colston Bassett and Herb Paté

This is quick and easy to make, especially if you use a food processor, it tastes delicious and is perfect to use as part of your New Year's Eve celebrations. Beat half a pound of soft cream cheese (Philly is fine) together with a good splash of white wine and a tablespoon of single cream. When this is nicely whipped up, add 6oz of Colston Bassett (take the rind off first), a small stick of finely chopped celery, a teaspoon of shallots, a tablespoon of chopped parsley and a pinch of nutmeg. Add a little black pepper if you like but probably no salt, give it a taste, it should be salty enough from the Stilton. Whizz it up again until smooth, ladle into ramekins and chill until needed. You can spoon some clarified butter on the top and chill to set if you want the paté to keep a little longer.

Brie de Meaux and Mushroom Stuffed Bread Rolls

This is so simple yet incredibly moreish and is a great way of using up any soft cheese you have left over which obviously will not keep as long as harder cheeses. This includes goat's cheese, so don't be afraid to experiment. First, take some of those part-baked bread rolls that you can find in any supermarket and scoop the bread out leaving pretty much just the crust. In a bowl, thickly chop up and mix together 6oz Brie de Meaux, around 10-12 mushrooms (try using exotic mushrooms if you can get hold of them but common or garden work well too), a tablespoon of garlic mayonnaise, a couple of teaspoons of creme fraiche, some picked thyme leaves and again, black pepper to taste. Stuff the hollowed-out rolls with the mixture, bake for around 10-12 minutes and voila! Simple but so very tasty. Sprinkle chopped parsley before serving and they work a treat.

A Very Merry Christmouse to you all!

John Natlacen, Owner

It is hard to believe that it’s December already! Santa will hopefully be paying us a visit and just in case he has had enough mince pies, I though a nice chocolate log might go well with a small glass of sherry!

Christmas Chocolate Log

You will need: 4 large eggs 100g caster sugar 65g self-raising flour 40g cocoa powder

For the filling and decorating the top: 275g dark chocolate 450ml double cream 4 tablespoons of apricot jam Icing sugar to dust Sprig of holly with berries for the top

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Grease and line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.

To make the sponge, crack the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Using an electric whisk, mix until it is a pale colour, light and frothy. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl, carefully fold in to the egg and sugar mixture using a metal spoon. Try not to beat out the air you have in the mixture from whisking. Pour the mixture into your lined tin and spread right into the corners.

Bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 8 - 10 minutes until a golden colour and the sides have

shrunk away from the edges.

Spread another piece of baking parchment on your work surface that is bigger than the swiss roll sponge. Tip carefully onto this and remove the original parchment from the base. Gently roll up from the longer edge using the new parchment - leave the paper inside. Set aside to cool.

To make the icing, melt the chocolate and 300ml of the cream in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. When melted pop in the fridge to thicken. Whip the remaining 150g cream.

Uncurl your cold swiss roll and remove the parchment. Spread a third of the icing over the sponge then spread the whipped cream on top. Re-roll tightly. If you are feeling adventurous, you might want to make a branch by cutting off a quarter from one end on the diagonal?

In a pan melt the apricot jam and spread over the cake. Place the remaining icing in a piping bag. Using a star nozzle, pipe long, thick lines along the whole cake to represent bark - doesn’t matter if you wobble, all adds to the design! Dust with icing sugar and decorate with your sprig of holly and red berries.

Best made on the day of serving, but you can prepare the day before if time is precious.

Most of all have a wonderful Christmas and all the very best for the New Year!

21 DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE 421 PAGE 34

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