Archive for September, 2017

mixed spice


It seems that Autumn happened all of a sudden, snapping quickly from summer to the next season, instead of the usual fight, days on and off.  We are getting lovely sunny days, but they feel like lovely sunny Autumnal days.  I have started to light the fire in the evenings, and it wont be long before the veg glut dwindles… saying that I still picked a heap of beans and ten courgettes today.  A good problem to have. The apples were ready very early this year, and to add to the Autumnal feel, I am doing my usual apple processing in the kitchen – Devon apple cake has been baked, and the mincemeat has been mixed, brandied and awaiting festivities in a few months time.

It was only as I was assembling the ingredients that I realised we are low on mixed spice, as the mincemeat needs a lot. I headed out to the village shops to get some – but there was none available.  It is a gripe of mine that ingredients that I feel are essential, are no longer available and instead the baking section of local supermarkets contain such must-haves as ‘ready made frosting’ and various sprinkles and sugary cartoon stickers.


*climbs down off soap box*

Anyway, I wasn’t going to drive to another town to track it down.  Thinking about it, I was reminded that when I posted the mincemeat recipe, I had been questioned by someone from another European country about what ‘mixed spice’ actually was.  You grow up using something you don’t question it really – but I guess is makes as much sense as ‘pumpkin spice’ means to me..  something we are not familiar with in the U.K.

I decided to make my own, as it turns out I keep all the separate spices in anyway.  In fact it makes total sense to make my own, to give a sort of turnover of some of the less used spices, keeping them fresh and tasty.   Any anyway, the shops didn’t have any.

mixed spice

3 tsp ground allspice

3 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground mace

1 tsp ground ginger.

And mix.  Even better if you ground the spices yourself, probably, but using ready ground spices works.

The mixture was loads more scented and flavoursome than the ready mixed stuff, not making sense, as it was only assembling ready prepared spices – but I suspect many packet versions have cheap fillers – coriander and the like.

I used what I needed for the mincemeat, and stored the rest in an air-tight jar. And the kitchen smelt delicious.. the mincemeat tasted delicious.  No going back for me now.



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runner bean soup Runner bean soup doesn’t sound that good does it?  It sounds healthy and earnest .Turns out it makes a very nice soup.  I was talking about it to friends and they said ‘how do you get rid of the taste of runner beans?  Which left me a bit lost for words.. because I like the taste! That’s why I grow them.

So after sparrowagedon whereby the sparrows ate all the flowers.. then I netted the beans – which stopped the sparrows, until the flowers grew through the nets.. then the beans and nets got very tangled and under pressure until I cut the nets… fortunately they were just old torn nets left over from the hen runs, but I wont be doing that again.

The beans kept on flowering and the sparrows got bored – or perhaps they had raised their young and didn’t need the extra food?  And I am now completely overwhelmed with beans.  I have come to the conclusion that I am glad sparrows are no longer in such short supply and we can share and I will accept that in future I will get my beans later on in the summer.

runner beans

yes, I pick this much every day


Now it is September and feeling autumnal, but the beans are still coming in in heaps – Every meal comes with beans, and we are still enjoying them, and freezing the surplus, and making pickle, but still they pile up.  Which is why I experimented with the soup. And it is a winner – really quite tasty.   I am sure this would work well with frozen beans too.


runner bean soup

500g runner beans – prepared as you would normally – I disgarded really stringy ones.

2 onions, diced

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons of flour

1 litre of stock – I used 2 teaspoons of Swiss marigold veg bullion and water

1 clove of garlic, peeled.

I melted the butter and cooked the onions until soft, while I prepared the beans.  Then in went the beans, a quick stir around, then the flour ( which looks like a bad idea, but it works), stir around , and then the stock.  I threw  in the garlic,  covered and simmered for 20 mins or so, until the beans were soft and the garlic clove squishable.  In with my trusty stick blender and then a taste for seasoning – but between the butter and the stock, no more salt was needed.

Ideal for the forthcoming colder weather.

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