The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Overwhelmed by the flavour of onions

Posted in Cottage tales | 13 comments

Overwhelmed by the flavour of onions

I found a pack of eight chicken legs knocked down to £1.49 in Waitrose on Sunday. My mother peered at the pack. “They look awfully thin and scrawny.” “I don’t care! Slow cooked with loads of vegetables they’ll make a great chicken casserole.” “Well, I’m going to buy these chicken thighs.” She reached for a substantial full priced pack, tempting and plump. Rising to the challenge, I rushed home and madly chopped vegetables.  I filled the slow cooker (crock pot) to the brim and then I pressed in the svelte chicken legs and...

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A guaranteed investment. Attract overwintering ladybirds to tackle aphids in your garden next year.

Posted in General care | 11 comments

A guaranteed investment. Attract overwintering ladybirds to tackle aphids in your garden next year.

Just beside our front door is a small ladybird (ladybug) and lacewing condominium. It’s a simple design that seems to work well. Just a few short lengths of bamboo cane in an old terracotta pot but it does the trick – attracting these aphid eating insects to a warm sheltered spot to hibernate during the chilly winter months. Last year I spotted a selection of rather smart ladybird hotels online. When I saw the price tags I decided to make my own. I had got as far as cutting the bamboo bedrooms and didn’t have time to construct a frame to...

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Sweet, spicy, slow baked beetroot recipe – the perfect accompaniment for roast lamb

Posted in Lamb, Vegetables and Sides | 8 comments

Sweet, spicy, slow baked beetroot recipe – the perfect accompaniment for roast lamb

Danny’s face fell ten years ago when John Coe stepped proudly into the cottage with a carrier bag bursting with home grown beetroot. Later he admitted that he hated beetroot. He imagined that beetroot had to be transmogrified to that vinegary stuff in jars. I made him beetroot soup and he loved it so much that we overdosed. Many beetroot free years have passed since then. To my surprise and delight D returned last week with a small box of “Sweetfire” beetroot from the “condemned food counter” in our local Tesco. This is wonderful...

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How to prepare the best seed bed for winter salad

Posted in Vegetables | 9 comments

How to prepare the best seed bed for winter salad

My mother and stepfather were both talented amateur watercolour artists. They rented a chalet in the Swiss Engadine for a month each summer when we were growing up. They spent their days painting. I used to refurbish Henrietta’s wardrobe. She was my rag doll. Much loved and a great model for my creations. Later I moved on to reading and dreaming. As he set up his easel, my stepfather always announced each painting as “an exercise.” These two words insured against failure. If a painting was a success, then the announcement was forgotten....

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Elephant in a suitcase

Posted in Cottage tales | 8 comments

Elephant in a suitcase

“How is the packing going and when are you actually leaving?” Good friends are leaving tomorrow for three weeks of sun sand and sea. We are going to get intimate with their cat, rabbits, fish and chickens. “I decided not to pack marmalade even though I had a jar kept for our holiday. But we’re taking a large pot of marmite. We’ve cut back on what we are taking but we do need to weigh our suitcases to check that they are within limits.” K’s anticipation and marmalade is wonderful. I’d take both on holiday any time. Meanwhile,...

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Quick no knead white bread rolls to bake from scratch for breakfast

Posted in Bread | 24 comments

Quick no knead white bread rolls to bake from scratch for breakfast

Gradually Danny and I are eating more whole grain bread. It does taste good, is better fuel and doesn’t have one dashing to the car to search for a forgotten bar of chocolate mid morning. But sometimes there’s nothing like a crusty white loaf for breakfast. We woke to an empty bread bin this morning.  I had a longing for fresh white rolls. Small warm puffs of happiness lavished with butter. So I decided to try and make some. With two hours to spare before work, I probably just had enough time to make some no knead bread dough and let it...

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Undiscovered history

Posted in Cottage tales | 13 comments

Undiscovered history

Our cottage was owned by basket weavers until 25 years ago. Mr and Mrs D lived the simple life. They kept pigs and chickens and grew their own vegetables. I am told that they made their own wine and welcomed the village children to visit as they had none of their own. Sometimes I work with a man who has lived in the village all his life. When he mentions Mrs. D his face always softens. The D’s were traditional villager craftsmen. It sounds romantic but I reckon that it was a tough life. In their heyday there was a village shop for groceries,...

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Our best bolognaise sauce recipe

Posted in Rice and Pasta, Sauces Gravy Dressings | 14 comments

Our best bolognaise sauce recipe

I love pasta. Danny was so so for years. When we visit Italy I am keen to sample as many of their sauces and starters as possible – looking for secrets and hints for the ultimate pasta sauce recipe. Danny sticks to steaks and puds. “They’re the same price and I love steak.” Danny is Chief Taster back home so he leaves the R and D to me when we are on holiday. We haven’t eaten spaghetti bolognaise for ages.  So yesterday I thought I’d try and make a sauce with less meat. Cheaper? Yes. But I was aiming to create something that was...

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