The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


All Hallows Eve

Posted in Cottage tales | 0 comments

All Hallows Eve

I’m still working down in Saffron Walden at the Murphy’s house. When I arrived today, Clare was planning the Halloween supper for the children. Green spaghetti with an orangey tomato sauce. She came back empty handed from her pumpkin search, Waitrose and Tesco had sold out. Even the veg man in the market wasn’t there today. She had found a set of plastic fangs for their youngest daughter, ‘They’re really soft plastic, so they won’t rub,’ she explained. How lovely to have a Mother that cares enough to...

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Best Chilli Sherry recipe

Posted in Liqueurs | 18 comments

Best Chilli Sherry recipe

I’m not successful when I try and grow chilli plants from seed. Everything starts off well, and I give my surplus plantlets away to friends. A few weeks later, when my plants are beginning to look peaky, I spot the giveaways flourishing in their gardens. It’s maddening. Last year one friend even complained that she had a glut! So I supply the neighbourhood but am forced to cheat with chilli plants at home. By mid July, when it’s clear that all hope is lost, I drive to a good garden centre. If I’m lucky, I’ll find...

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Sweet Chestnut Jam recipe. Storing sweet chestnuts

Posted in Jam Jelly and Preserves | 30 comments

Sweet Chestnut Jam recipe. Storing sweet chestnuts

I always associate sweet chestnuts with late autumn. And darkness. As a child, there were men on street corners selling chestnuts from glowing braziers, piling them into tiny paper bags. I always wanted my mother to buy them for us. And when she did, I didn’t like them. I’d peel one as we walked along, hoping that I’d suddenly find them delicious. But I never did. The floury texture put me off. I think I probably forced one down as it was the ritual that I liked. Watching the man rake the nuts across the grid, the warmth of...

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Guest Spot: The first step – by Jane Greppi

Posted in Fun | 1 comment

Guest Spot: The first step – by Jane Greppi

It was nearly ten years ago that we decided we’d had enough of London. It was dirty and noisy and not, we decided, the place to bring up our children. But my husband Zaz had always lived in town and had three conditions for leaving it. One: we had to be within walking distance of the sea. Two: he had to be able to get a boat as a first priority. Three: we had to live within the free delivery area of a decent Indian takeaway. I was brought up on the Hampshire-Dorset border and we decided we might as well start looking there. Zaz’s...

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Sunday Roast: How To Make Perfect Crispy Roast Potatoes in Goose Fat recipe

Posted in Vegetables and Sides | 38 comments

Sunday Roast: How To Make Perfect Crispy Roast Potatoes in Goose Fat recipe

Good potatoes make decent roast potatoes. Great crispy roast potatoes are cooked in goose fat. We discovered this when we had a surfeit of goose fat knocking about in the fridge. Until a month ago, I used to feel a bit guilty about using goose fat. Even so, I secretly looked forward to the highlight of the Sunday roast – crisp, soft centred, irresistible, golden roast potatoes. Imagine my delight last month when I discovered that goose fat is the healthiest of animal fats. It’s high in healthy mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids...

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Design and print your own labels for jam and jelly

Posted in Basics, Chutney and Pickles | 55 comments

Design and print your own labels for jam and jelly

I’ve wanted to print our own jar labels for ages. Ever since I saw a cupboard full of beautifully labelled preserves in a client’s house. It’s the old problem of finding the time to buy, design and print the labels. A month or so ago I whizzed down to Newmarket to buy some labels for our chutney. I’ve been buying them from one of those shops that sells absolutely everything and consequently good fun to visit. They run out of these labels pretty fast so I was delighted when I spotted them on a rack. But I was horrified...

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Pear and Lemon Jam Recipe

Posted in Jam Jelly and Preserves | 120 comments

Pear and Lemon Jam Recipe

I spent ages trying to find a recipe for pear jam without success. One day moseying in the recipe section of Waitrose, I spotted a copy of the best selling Italian cook book The Silver Spoon. Leafing through the pages I found a recipe for pear jam. It was hard to justify buying yet another cookbook, so I memorised the ingredients. Somewhere between Waitrose and our kitchen I added one more. I made an excellent jam, not too sweet. A lemony taste with tiny explosions of pear. Everyone that tasted it wanted the recipe. It’s our favourite...

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Aloe Vera

Posted in Discoveries, Plants and Bulbs | 1 comment

Aloe Vera

A couple of weeks ago I was admiring Mike Murphy’s giant Aloe Vera plant that he had just brought into the house for the winter. This plant is big enough to justify some Christmas lights, when the time comes. I knew that Aloe Vera is reputed to have great healing properties but was uncertain how to use it straight from the plant. “Just cut off a leaf and rub,” another friend had explained a few months ago. I didn’t fancy rubbing the spiny leaves on a sore place.  ‘It’s the sap,’ she explained. But how...

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