Month: September 2013

The Ultimate Raspberry Jam

In our house there aren’t many arguments, some might say that’s because the Blonde knows better than to disagree with “practically perfect” me, but there are a couple of topics that will send us both into mild strops and sulky faces across the kitchen table.  The first is the perennial tea versus milk debate (obviously tea first then the milk) and the second and by far more controversial is the order in which you load the cream and jam onto your scones. 3 Day Raspberry Jam from Castle Farm

Although I adore Cornish and would give my eye-teeth for a just-baked pasty at most times of the day I can’t agree with them when it comes to a cream tea.  On this thorny topic I have my feet firmly in the Devonshire camp with big dollops of clotted cream going on first topped with a  teaspoon full (or two) of jam. The Blonde maintains that the jam provides a grip for the cream but he’s just plain wrong. You’d never put jam on a piece of bread and then put the butter on the top – think about it.

The one thing we don’t disagree on though is the jam.  Forget strawberry, you need to get with the raspberry.  The punchy hit of a good raspberry jam makes strawberry look like it’s poor relation both in terms of taste and looks.

With a garden full of raspberries this year I just had to turn my hand to making our very own Castle Farm variety, something that’s sure to delight the Blonde on his early morning toast (butter on second of course).  In amongst my old recipe books I stumbled upon a version called Three Day Raspberry Jam.   The results were amazing; an incredibly intense flavour and a deep ruby red colour. This recipe comes from Thane Prince.

  • 1.5kg raspberries
  • 1.5kg white granulated sugar
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 4 lemons

(i) In a large non metallic bowl, layer the raspberries with sugar, then sprinkle with the juice. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

(ii) Scrape the contents of the bowl into a preserving pan and bring slowly to the boil – without stirring. Allow the mixture to bubble over a low heat for five minutes.

(iii) Remove from the heat, cover and allow to stand for another 48 hours in the fridge.

(iv) Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture back to the boil. Skim thoroughly, then boil until a setting point is reached. The jam will always be quite soft, so boil it gently until it seems to have the right consistency.

Now, off you go and enjoy this with your cream tea and remember to always specify a china tea with the milk poured second!


An Ode to Tunnock’s Mutton Pies

A little off topic I know but I couldn’t resist this wonderful poem that manages to combine my love of food and flowers.  Tunnock’s are a legend in Scotland for their Caramel Slices and Teacakes but when they first started back in 1890 they were all round bakers of good and yummy things.  I found this advertising gem printed on the back of an old paper-bag from the factory.

“Fair are the flowers of summer, and fair are the sapphire skies.  But dearer to the Epicure are Tunnock’s Mutton Pies.

Sweet is the moon at evening calm, when soft the zephyr sighs, but sweeter to the travellers lone are Tunnock’s Mutton Pies”

If ye would be like Greeks of old in philosophic quest, get Tunnock’s Mutton PIes each day, for they are still the best”


Dahlias – the supermodels of the plant kingdom

115016.Black-Burgundy-Dahlia-Flower-250Back in the day when I worked at London Fashion Week meant partying all night and then struggling to get through the next day on a combination of Marlboro Lights, Haribo and kick arse Codeine tablets.

Now, I have the pleasure of watching most of the collections as they happen via the wonderful internet and my hangovers are epically reduced. I still miss the buzz of watching front row politics unfold and obviously the parties where my chubby thighs would occasionally brush against the hot-dog legs of the models-du-jour, but life is good down here in Somerset.

I will NEVER miss the terror of “what to wear today!” which made mufti days at school look like a walk in the park, these days my leather builder boots are my best friends. While I do occasionally find myself pulling up weeds in Vivienne Westwood I’m generally sensibly attired and “garden ready” much to the horror of the fashionista who still lurks within.

While wandering in the garden yesterday and picking a bunch of Dahlias for my father it suddenly occurred to me that these tall, showy, scentless plants have a certain affinity with the models who stomp the runways at shows across the globe. Long, skinny, glossy limbs topped with arresting and sometimes breathtaking heads, these are the essence of the English show garden. As a model can reinvent her looks at the whim of a designer so have these stunners been reinvented over the years by obsessive enthusiasts. There are now over 57,000 cultivated forms of Dahlia and this number grows every year.
Despite not having a scent the visual impact of this plant has inspired designers and fragrance houses alike with luminaries such Givenchy naming their perfumes after the Dahlia and Tom Ford designing the oversized Dahlia Sunglasses. Lest we forget there’s always the gruesome tale of Elizabeth Short nicknamed “The Black Dahlia”.

The Dahlia is a perennial tuberous plant that you’ll need to dig and store in the winter months. We’ve not been at the house long enough for this task to have come around on the calendar so I’ve had to rely on the advice of others for this post. The ever wonderful Sarah Raven offers her advice here including how to deter the dreaded earwig!

While arranging a tall and flashy display of these blooms for the house, I smiled at the thought that I was bringing a little of the glamour of London Fashion Week to Castle Farm. Now all I need is a direct line to Vivienne so I can plead with her to craft me some gardening gloves!

Marvellous Myrtle

As the days of our first summer here at Castle Farm are coming to an end, I was feeling more than a little sad at the demise of the sweetpeas and the other glories that have filled my garden.  That was until the marvellous myrtles that ring the house started to come into bloom and what a show they’re putting on. Delicate, white, fluffy flowers have emerged like pom-poms lending their delicate scent to the first days of autumn.  Myrtle tree

The myrtles here have been trained to trees and we have lines marking the edge of the main boarders in the cottage garden as well as a couple of stunners either side of the main entrance to the house.    I’m utterly converted to this bushy evergreen and hardy shrub.  Their glossy pointed leaves give off the most amazing rosemary like fragrance when you brush against them and they are just so damn pretty!

They first arrived in Britain from Spain in 1585, imported by Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Carew and the across the years the leaves have most commonly been dried and used for potpourris.  I’ve also read that you can use them to flavour pork and game dishes, as you would bay.

These shrubs need to be protected from very cold weather but other than that are pretty hardy little things.

If you’d like a little more information on how to grow and care for this shrub then please click here.

If you fancy a few of these stunners for yourself you can hop on over to Crocus.