The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


The disappointment of the asparagus peas

Posted in Vegetables | 44 comments

The disappointment of the asparagus peas

Initially it was the picture on the pack of the pretty pods that attracted me and when I read about flavour of these peas I was seduced. They took ages to germinate and flower but finally three pods appeared. I rushed back to the kitchen to steam the delicacy. The pods were of varying sizes, from an inch down to half an inch. They were vile and tasteless with a nasty scratchy texture. Danny refused to even sample one. “Why are you trying to force me if they are so unpleasant?” He had a point, I...

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Another deluxe cheese on toast recipe

Posted in Snacks Breakfast Lunch | 8 comments

Another deluxe cheese on toast recipe

Last night Danny went out for a meal with his brother Mike. “You can have your cheese on toast thing.” Danny thinks of this as a snack but it was a staple supper with me for years. Last night I supplemented the cucumber with thinly sliced raw courgette and used a mild goat’s cheddar. The result was a superb combination of flavours. The trick to this delicious light dish is to grill the layered toast very gently for about 20 minutes until the cheese layer is just melting. Its perfect partner is an ice cold beer. Deluxe cheese on toast...

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Update on the guinea fowl

Posted in Guinea Fowl | 2 comments

Update on the guinea fowl

Having finally caught the “don’t you dare touch me” pair and imprisoned them in the laundry basket, I rang my friend E and left her a message on her answer phone. When she returned home the new guineas would be in her chicken house. Chicken house does not really describe this palatial realm. It’s the size of a double loose horse box. The hens lay their eggs in wooden vintage wine boxes that are hung on the walls. We opened the wire screen door and stepped into their kingdom. We were greeted by several plump hens, a small...

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Orange vinegar

Posted in Discoveries, Sauces Gravy Dressings | 2 comments

Orange vinegar

I’ve been warbling on for months about the virtues of lemon vinegar in salad dressing. Last night our lemon vinegar finally ran out and I decided to make some more. It originally came in a dinky quarter carafe with a sturdy cork. I shook out the pieces of fruit, the equivalent of two chunky slices cut lengthwise into eight pieces. Then I removed the pretty label to check the ingredients. I discovered that it was orange white wine vinegar or rather Condimento all’ Arancio, as it was made by Raffaelli in Tuscany, Italy. No wonder it was so...

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The mouse farmer

Posted in Fun | 15 comments

The mouse farmer

As a child I loved the idea of farming and on my ninth birthday received a deluxe farm set. This had two fields, six stables, a barn with a loft and a farmhouse. The roof of each building lifted off. My favourites were the barn and the farmhouse. A family of felt mice lived in the latter. The hard farm work was carried out by the small group of Britain’s human farm workers that came with the set. The mouse family spent most of their time riding around in the gig – pulled by a white carthorse, as the boundaries of the farm went way beyond...

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How to cook the perfect baby squid recipe

Posted in Fish and Seafood | 5 comments

How to cook the perfect baby squid recipe

Buying squid in the UK usually means pointing to a pile of tentacles, each with a baby squid inside. As these arrive frozen they are often sold off very cheap at the end of the day. Danny has always been squid master at the cottage. To be quite frank cooking squid seemed to be a bit of a palaver. Grilled (broiled) or fried they needed 20/20 attention. So if I was cooking, I always avoided a squid bargain. A few weeks ago I was shipping with my mum in Waitrose, Cambridge on a Saturday. It was like shopping on a Sunday in Newmarket. Loads of...

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Spot the difference: Guinea Fowl 1 – 2 Humans

Posted in Guinea Fowl | 7 comments

Spot the difference: Guinea Fowl 1 – 2 Humans

After much thought, I decided to use a nine foot bamboo cane to close the door to the Emerald Castle. This would put me at a distance and I might not seem so threatening to the birds. Deluxe bird food almost tempted the guineas inside. Thunder let his wife feed in the castle grounds whilst he just stood at the door, his head revolving between the end of the rod resting on the door and the squat human wearing pyjamas and wellingtons on the other side of the wire. If I retreated he would step inside with legs primed like giant springs ready to...

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2009 save money challenge update. July.

Posted in Save Money | 17 comments

2009 save money challenge update. July.

I was going to post about our “save 50% in 2009″ challenge. We are achieving it and are not weeping by the checkout in any local supermarket with the horror of it all. That’s why you haven’t had a smug monthly update. If we had to halve what we are spending now it would be a totally different story. I’m pretty sure that we couldn’t achieve that challenge. Our spending is around £50 a week for everything (from loo rolls to matches). It means that we focus on the condemned food counter and slashed priced offers. A freezer is...

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