The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Recipe for stunning steak and oxtail casserole

Posted in Beef and Steak and Veal, Featured | 2 comments

Recipe for stunning steak and oxtail casserole

When I have the energy I cook in advance. The kitchen fills with steam for a day. Danny is banished. We end up with a pile of ready or almost ready meals frozen in thin packs. I used to freeze in large cubes and realised that thin, grip sealed bags would be a far better option. In an emergency that can be unfrozen in a frying pan – very, very low heat and savoured relatively quickly. Ideally the food unfreezes at room temperature over a day. This meal wasn’t frozen for later. We ate it joyously, with seconds, for five nights running until...

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What is the setting point for jam and jelly?

Posted in Featured, Jam Jelly and Preserves, Kitchen equipment, Preserving, Reviews | 44 comments

What is the setting point for jam and jelly?

Earlier this summer I decided to use my jam thermometer to help me find the setting point of jam. To my delight I noticed that it was marked ‘JAM’ at 105°c/220°f. “This is going to be so easy.” I thought. “No more trailing back and forth to the fridge waiting for a tardy batch to set.” Danny had bought me a 9 litre Maslin pan and this was the day it was christened. Up until then I had been using a very large non stick saucepan. So I clipped the thermometer to the side of the pan and feeling like a pro started to boil...

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Grow Red Brandy Wine tomatoes for flavour and great returns

Posted in Discoveries, Featured, Vegetables | 13 comments

Grow Red Brandy Wine tomatoes for flavour and great returns

  We’ve grown a wonderful new (to us) tomato this year. Taking Tamar’s advice – she writes the sparky Starving off the Land blog  – I invested in an American variety of tomato seed called Red Brandy Wine. This variety has some resistance to blight. I spotted biodynamic seed in the Lunar Organics online catalogue . Following biodynamic principles, I sowed the seed on a fruit day. Then pricked out and planted on the relevant day. Incidentally I found the Lunar Organics biodynamic calendar much easier to use than Maria Thum’s...

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Quick gnocchi, broccoli and prawn recipe

Posted in Featured, Fish and Seafood, Rice and Pasta | 6 comments

Quick gnocchi, broccoli and prawn recipe

  “The best way to test whether spaghetti is done is to throw it against the TV screen. If it sticks it’s done.” Oliver was rather wild at that point and not finding a TV close to hand tossed a strand of spaghetti against the kitchen window. It stuck momentarily and then peeled off, worm like, dropping to the sill. I can’t remember what the spaghetti tasted like when it was finally served. All I can remember is that creamy worm hunched on the dark window pane. When it comes to gnocchi there’s no need for similar shenanigans. Just...

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Driving with bees

Posted in Bees, Featured | 11 comments

Driving with bees

One of my earliest activities as a novice beekeper was also my scariest few hours. I had been helping out on the Cambridge Bee Keeping Association stall at a country fair. One of my co-helpers suggested that I might like to collect a free new colony from his apiary after the fair. “That’s if you are ready. With all your frames built?” I was both thrilled and terrified. I had completed the long CBKA course, built my hive and bought my bee suit. All I needed were the bees. If I took these I would be one of the first in my class to get my...

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How to make your own tasty home cured bacon without a smoker

Posted in Curing and Smoking, Featured | 40 comments

How to make your own tasty home cured bacon without a smoker

It’s often said that some of the best discoveries are made by mistake. This discovery was made through laziness. We have stuck rigidly to our low salt bacon cure for over a year now. When Tessa of chiminea fame came back from a trip to Cornwall she brought news. “We discovered some home cured molasses bacon in a small family butcher’s shop. The bacon was much darker than ours. It was so delicious that we’re going to add more molasses to our recipe.” So I added two more heaped teaspoons of molasses to our cure. We usually smoke the...

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If you keep livestock you will always have dead stock

Posted in Chickens, Cottage tales, Featured | 18 comments

If you keep livestock you will always have dead stock

S told me this a few months ago. The livestock part is great and the dead stock element is always upsetting. One of the most satisfying things for us is to raise our own stock. The bond between you and the young is much stronger. You have waited impatiently through the gestation period to marvel at their first faltering steps. Each small life becomes part of your life.  We are not commercial producers and our diminutive flock insures that each member is cherished. Dixie Chick seemed to recover well from her bout of chestiness but two days ago...

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Old roses: Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’

Posted in Featured, Flowers | 19 comments

Old roses: Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’

I planted this beautiful rose beside the front door fifteen years ago, following the advice of Saggers nursery in Newport, Essex. Saggers give really good advice. In fact most of the best plants and stunning shrubs in our garden come from them. Being privately owned they are a good bet compared to the more commercial local nursery gardens. This is Rosa Banksiae ‘Lutea’, a rambling rose that does not drop its leaves in winter in this part of the world. It’s also virtually thornless and the clusters of small double petalled...

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