applesteamdream


Home Made Christmas

In the kitchen saucepans boil,

Onions chopped my tears recoil,

Marrow chutney stews and brew’s to ready for the jar,

Applesteam Christmas gifts, the chutney guys we are.

But to do this both together, learning traits anew,

Things that can’t be done, we find are very few.

Now the onion is reducing, aromas fill the air,

Creating the perfect flavour takes a lot of care.

No burning on the bottom or sticking to the side,

A mistake however small now impossible to hide.

The marrow reveals a mushy melt of mess,

Juices plump and purify, help the fruit distress.

Almost ready for the jars all clean and sterile, shining bright,

We fill them full and label up, what a scrumptious sight.

Signed and sealed these Christmas gifts for family and friend,

Not only chutney within these jars, also love we send.

Happy Christmas – Richard & Ric x

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Its a Home-Made Christmas at Applesteamdream…
December 12, 2011, 9:22 am
Filed under: baking, Christmas, cooking, sustainable living | Tags: , , , , ,

With the world in recession still, its been lovely to return to a time when gifts were handmade, when preparations for Christmas involved lots of quality family fun in the kitchen. Though preparations started in October, it makes the season all the more special when it draws closer. We’ve found happiness in the day to day things, not in financial gains. The contentment to be found cooking together, whether it is something for a special occasion, or for dinner, is amazing. Sharing tasks makes them more fun, and becomes a way to bond instead of a chore.

Preparations for the coming festive season have been fun, we’re trying old and new recipes for chutneys, cakes and the like, for Christmas presents, but also going forward for our own store cupboard and the forthcoming Applestaemdream cookbook.

Red Onion Marmalade bubbling away.

Red Onion Marmalade took quite a lot of onions, 1kg and makes only a couple of small jars when ready, but it tastes amazing and works out a lot cheaper than the shop bought variety. A great accompaniment for cold meats or cheeses on Boxing Day and beyond.

Marrow Chutney with our labels on

The first chutney we’ve ever made is now in jars to mature over the next few weeks up to Christmas. Chutney is a great way to preserve the excess of fruit and vegetables from the garden, and make sure you have produce throughout the winter season. The vinegar and sugar act as natural preservatives. Why do commercial companies feel the need to add all those colourings and additives when it looks and lasts so well without? All the flavours will infuse nicely and would normally be ready to eat between 2-4 weeks.  Tonight we will be making some apple and cinnamon jam, and some apple chutney.

The Christmas cake is due to be turned over tonight too, the marzipan will be made and added too. The marzipan needs to be on the cake for up to a week before icing, so it should be ready for this coming weekend.

Marzipan Recipe

350g ground almonds

175g castor sugar

175g icing sugar

1 medium egg beaten

juice from 1/2 a lemon.

Method: all dry ingredients into a bowl, mix well, add lemon juice, then enough beaten egg to make a pliable paste. Coat the surface of the cake in apricot jam, roll out marzipan and cover your cake. Don’t worry if you can’t cover it in one go and need to patch it up, it’ll be covered in icing.   As a special treat make another batch of marzipan,  roll into balls and dip in melted chocolate, allow to cool and wrap a few in cellophane with a red ribbon as a Christmas treat.

Next, the home-made sweet mincemeat will be going in the little buttery pastry cases ready for Christmas guests to have a mince-pie with a brandy or whiskey coffee.

Have a lovely Season and enjoy the journey, and don’t get too stressed.

Ric & Richard

xx



Christmas Smile

A deep breath is what it takes,

time to bake the Christmas cakes,

feel the cold of winters flakes,

a deep breath is all it takes.

A bright smile for all to see,

no cost involved as smiles are free,

the warmest gift from you to me,

the way our world shall always be.

A glass of wine to drink your health,

in your eyes I see loves wealth,

our love for each is never stealth.

Richard x



Pantry Plans

We haven’t posted since before the visit we had to Grand Designs Live (GDL). We’ve had lots of things to sort out, and we haven’t had much time to go through all the information we gathered there. One project that has progressed in the planning stage, through discussions around being carbon neutral is our plans to have a vented pantry.

At GDL we noticed a simple pantry cupboard design which utilises some basic principles of food preservation. “In the old days”, they used to have a pantry to keep food in. These were often bare brick walled with shelves attached. In some cases the shelves, or a specific shelf for dairy produce, would be made of stone, slate or granite. These cold stones used to stay even in summer months, reducing the need for refrigeration. Other methods of cold storage have included root cellars, ceramic or terracotta jars. The design we saw utilised two of these principles, it had a slab of granite as the main shelf, and terracotta, lidded jars for further storage of bread and potatoes.

 you can just make out the shelf and the terracotta jars. These jars were set into pull out drawers for ease of access. The design has the added benefit that the granite slab is above the jars; this means that the cool air generated by the granite will sink down, cooling the jars further.

We have done some planning and research and have come across various ideas to increase the efficiency of this idea. Our pantry needs to be on the north side of the house, thus avoiding sun from the south warming the outside wall. We intend to make all the shelves out of stone to create more cold zones and an insulated door. To increase the cooling process we intend to fit the pantry with a chimney in the roof and a vent in the floor. This would be utilizing basic principles to keep the food cool: hot air rises, (through the chimney) as it does this, cool air is drawn in from lower down. All we need to add to this is a filter system to keep mould/fungus out and voila, nice cool pantry.

Ric & Richard

x



Applesteam Dream- Apple Jam and Fresh Bread

First trial of Apple Jam

 I tried a setting on my breadmaker I’ve never used before. I’ve always, in the past used it to make bread from start to finish, but have never been overly impressed with the results. Now I use it to make the dough, but then transfer it to a bread/cake tin to rise a little more, and place it in the oven, much better loaf, and no hole in the bottom because of the mixing paddle.

But today I decided to try the jam setting. I had been given some apples by a friend of my Mum’s, lovely lady that does errands for my parents. So I decided to make some apple jam, with a little cinnamon added at the end. I didn’t realise how easy it was to make, and how few ingredients you need: apples, sugar with pectin (to help it set), lemon juice, a little water, cinnamon.

It filled the flat with the lovely smell of “Applesteam” when it was heating and stirring itself. It has set rather nicely too. We haven’t tried it yet, that’ll be in the morning when Richard comes over to pick me up to go to Grand Designs Live in Birmingham www.granddesignslive.com

We are having toast, made with homemade bread, my Mum’s homemade damson jam and my homemade apple jam…lovely.

xx

Ric



Movement every day….

When we first started discussing the Applesteam dream, it all seemed like a pipedream, set somewhere in the future, in a land far far away…… As time passes, little by little, preparations are being made. The land is now sorted and all the legal stuff is signed off, and we are now in the process of learning about what we intend to build, and how we intend to live.

The Applesteam dream is now taking a turn towards thinking and planning the house, though construction won’t be for some time, the build will be here before we know it, so the next few years we have the luxury of fine tuning our home’s design.

It was my birthday the other week and two very dear friends, also in the process of planning major life changes and a new home, surprised me with some wonderful help towards our sustainable living….two books…..

Patio Produce

A wonderful book on growing things in small places, very surprised at some of the possibilities, can;t wait to get started. The second and most exciting for me is a book on foraging…

food for free

I have been talking about this idea for quite a bit of the summer and both myself and Richard are looking forward to our first free hedgerow lunch. I’ve got a few days away from the office, spending time with my parents this coming week and intend to spend some time digesting some of the information and tips in this book. Nettle soup and mixed weed salad here we come. Mmmm nettle bread…….that might work…

Tonight I am working on setting up a large lever arch file ready for inspiration, clippings and booklets to go in, so our build ideas are all together. By the time we’re ready to employ an architect to draw the official plans, from our own drwings, we’ll have all the relevant information to hand over to him ready to plan the build.
We’ve found lots of inspirational pictures on the internet of construction; design features; architectural detailing and layouts, but these will only be for inspiration as our home will be totally unique, a reflection of both of us. We are even reasearching some straw bale building courses at local colleges. If we manage to attend one before next summer, we may even do our own small workshop on the techniques next summer at a festival we attend.
Well, I must get on with the Applesteam Dream file now.
Ric
xx


Food and the Homemade Kitchen

My home office is in my kitchen so sometimes I end up multi-tasking, working and cooking. My herbs, I grew from seed are on the windowsill beside me, and have been used in several dishes already. Having constant access to fresh herbs is great, it keeps down the cost, tastes nicer and gives you a certain amount of pride to your dish.  I can begin to imagine what it will be like when we are living our new life in Ireland. The thought of eating our home-grown produce, home-made bread, sitting in chairs we’ve made from scratch at a dining table we’ve designed and built from scratch is mind-blowing. I know we’ll be living our dream together.

I love making soups but usually end up sticking to making one or two flavours, Carrot and coriander, cream of cauliflower, mixed veg. Today I thought I’d have a go at broccoli and cream cheese soup.

  • chopped onion
  • little olive oil
  • Plenty of fresh broccoli, chopped into small chunks (the stalks were sliced very thin).
  • A nice chunk of courgette, chopped
  • veg stock
  • ground coriander
  • 2 level tablespoons of low-fat, spreadable cream cheese
  • fresh chopped chives
  • salt % pepper to taste

Method:

  1. sweat the onion in a little oil, till turning transparent, add the ground coriander and stir in.add the broccoli and courgette.
  2. Add the veg stock and stir in, cover and simmer till the veg has softened.
  3. Using a hand-blender, blend the soup adding the cream cheese as you go.
  4. simmer for a few minutes stirring to prevent the cheese splitting.
  5. Finally add salt and pepper as well as chopped chives, stir in and leave to stand, covered for a few minutes before serving

Note: serve with some nice caramelised onion bread/buns and fresh butter.

Eco tips:

  • this can be frozen when cooled, so you can save fuel by making a large batch ahead of time. Also it tastes better the next day or when defrosted.
  • I stored this in the freezer using standard margarine tubs, they hold a nice hearty portion ( be careful though as they can be a little wobbly, so take care when putting them in the freezer).

Enjoy

Ric xx