Adam runs a small B&B in Herefordshire and is also a craftsman. His craft-related blog, The Craft Bench, can be seen here

Thursday, 15 February 2018


Having made some 300lbs of marmalade last year, I decided to only make 100lbs this year (strangely, I still have some left from 2017...). That was straightforward enough, but a new lodger who turns out to be diabetic inspired me to have a go at making sugar-free marmalade - in the sense of no added sugar.
This where you discover that non-sugars (Xylitol, forinstance) are way more than ten times the price of sugar... One needs pectin and gelatin as well to get the stuff to set. Xylitol has the added 'problem' that in large enough quantities it's poisnous to dogs - in much the same way as chocolate - but who in their right mind would give marmalade to a dog?

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Nutritional nuttiness

For the last few months I have been fretting over the new 'nutritional' labelling that comes into force on 13/12/16. As a small-scale producer of marmalade there is no problem selling the stuff to guests, or even from a table in the local market... but to sell via a local shop - quite a different matter...  Lots of head-scratching but, in the end, I find I am exempt - huge relief.

To celebrate, I made another batch of my much-sought-after Oxford Marmalade - Christmas is coming and No.25 Deli at the bottom of the hill want more stock.

All too soon it will be marmalade-making time again... I made 180lb in the end this year (that's 82-odd kg to you metrically-minded folk). I suppose I shall be making well over 200lb this year <sigh>.

March 2017: As a postscript, I made 300lb marmalade in the end this year. That is a record for me!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Yummy apple pudding

I have just made the most delicious pudding - by entirely unconventional means:

Bought an almost-out-of-date (therefore reduced price) apple pie, of the sort you finish off in the oven.
Mixed up a packet of instant custard (Aunt Bessie's), with warm water tho, so it didn't get too thick. Poured some of the custard into a dish, placed the pie on it and poured-in the rest of the custard. The pie slightly fell apart, but that didn't matter.
Baked it on medium (ca 170C) for an hour and it's come out the most gloriously sticky, almost spongey pudding!
 I shall probably take a precautionary slug of antacid before retiring for bed tho... lol

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Mixed fruit marmalade

A couple of years ago, whilst searching the 'net for marmalade recipes, I came across a guy who simply added all the old fruit from his fruit bowl to his orange marmalade mix. At the time I thought this was a bit odd, but...
I was looking through the jams in my larder and realised that not only were many of them a year or two old, but some were decidedly uninteresting in the first place (carrot and apple is a big NO!). So I tipped it all out into a large saucepan, cooked it all up again with some lemon juice and created 'Adam's decidedly uninspired re-cycled jam' - for personal use of course!
Then I had about a jar-an-a-half's-worth left and added a jar of this year's orange marmalade and Behold! a rather fruity marmalade! Definitely still marmalade, even though it is 3/5ths old fruit jam.
Next year I shall contemplate the fruit bowl with renewed interest!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Baby Cheese Cakes

I was invited to my friend Chris Rowlatt's birthday party earlier this week and made these little cakes to take along. They disappeared very quickly!

They are based on a Swiss Easter cake recipe  (Ă–ster Pfladen - Easter Flan):

500g puff pastry
1 cup sultanas (optional)
300g cream cheese (ie: Philadelphia)
200ml single cream (or double if you are feeling extravagent)
1 Tbsp cornflour
6 Tbsp sugar
Grated rind of one good-size lemon plus, if you like it really lemony, half the juice
2 eggs

Set the oven to hot (200°C).
Put the sultanas in a bowl and soak in hot water until plump.

Grease a half-height muffin tin and line each dip with a circle of puff pastry.
Place the remaining ingredients into a blender and blend well. Tip the mixture out into a bowl.
Drain the sultanas, pat dry on kitchen paper and stir into the mix.
Using a tablespoon, or small cup, ladle dollops of the mix into each pastry cup, making sure there's a few sultanas there too.
Place the tray/s into the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the top is brown - personally, I check after 15 minutes. The filling will rise up, but usually settles back down again once out of the oven.
Allow to cool before serving - and try not to eat too many at once!
Makes about 30...

To make as a flan, grease and line a 9" springform tin with the pastry and pour the mixture in. Bake for about 45 minutes.

They are actually dead easy to make, however I'm supposed to be on a diet at the moment so, just for the hell of it I totted up the calories - BIG MISTAKE !  Have you any idea how high pastry is in calories???
So, next time I shall a) try half quantities and b) try something other than pastry; sliced white bread rolled out flat onto a little sugar perhaps - in which case I'll leave everything to sit for an hour or so before cooking so that the bread absorbs some of the custard. I might also try a little less sugar in the mix...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

SOUP, glorious soup!

Winter is a time for soups, that's for sure!  Whilst I love good thick, creamy concoctions, at the moment I'm making myself lighter, more oriental-inspired soups.

I don't really measure things for this, but I generally start with a couple of finely chopped spring onions (everything about these soups needs to be very finely chopped/diced). Then I add some smoked streaky bacon if I have it or, better still, make tiny weeny meatballs out of a sausage.

For simplicity's sake, take it as read that everything is finely chopped - I'm not going to keep typing it!

Then it's a thumbnail of fresh ginger, a quarter of a carrot, quarter of a baby turnip, a bit of fennel, a teaspoon of a rather nice spice paste called Massaman paste (from Epicure) plus about half a teaspoon of Harissa paste - depending on your heat tolerance - plus a squelch of tomato paste.

Stir it all up in a saucepan over a good heat and add about 200ml boiling water. Bring back to the boil and add one portion of fine Oriental noodles.  Simmer for as long as the noodle packet says (generally 3 or 4 minutes), add some soy sauce, some coconut milk perhaps and salt if you need it.

Serve in the biggest soup bowl you can lay your hands on - the noodles flop about and splash all-over the place.

This lovely bowl is made by a local potter who clearly thought I was bonkers wanting anything quite so big as a soup bowl!


I don't really 'do' Christmas, but this year I'm seeing my brother and his family, so thought it best to make a cake...

I've never been a lover of the traditional 'black' xmas cakes, so my recipe has always been based on a Dundee cake.  However, it's ten years at least since I last made one, so I've decided to zap the recipe into something a bit more interesting. The dried fruits mentioned are simply what was available locally...


Roughly 100g each of:
Dried apricots,  dried peaches,  crystalised pineapple,  dried figs,  glace cherries, chopped dates,  hazel nuts,  walnuts,  raisins and sultanas (1kg in all).

500g softened butter,  500g dark brown sugar,  6 eggs (free-range, naturally!),  2 tsp vanilla extract,  pinch of salt,  300g plain flour,  300g self-raising flour,  100g ground almonds,  grated rind of one lemon and a generous 2 tsp mixed spice.

Day 1:

Mix together the fruits and nuts in a large bowl, chopping into small pieces if need be… Moisten with alcohol and cover tightly.

Day 2:
Add more alcohol to the fruit if you feel it needs/deserves it - stir… and inhale deeply. Remember to cover the bowl again! You can repeat the exercise a number of times if you like...

Day 3:
Turn the oven on to 140°C (gas mark 2?  I don’t have a gas cooker, so this is guessing a bit). Double-line an 8” square or 9” round cake tin and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar and beat in the eggs, followed by the vanilla and the salt.
Stir about ¼ of the flour into the fruit mix along with the ground almonds, lemon peel and spice. Stir the rest into the creamed mix, combining well. Add in the fruit and mix up very thoroughly - now do you see why I said a 'large' bowl?!  If it all seems a bit stiff, add a little milk.

Pour into the prepared cake tin, place that on a sheet of brown paper on a baking tray and bake for 1 hour at 140°C.

Lower the temperature to 130°C (gas 1?), open the oven door very gently and cover the top of the cake with brown paper. Cook for a further 2-2½ hours, until a skewer stuck in the centre comes out clean.

Turn the oven off and leave the door ajar for about 10 minutes, then take the cake out.  Leave it a while longer, till it’s warm rather than hot and souse with alcohol. Leave to cool in the tin.
Finally, remove from the tin, wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and leave it alone for a couple of weeks to mature.

Marzipan and icing I leave up to you…


Here's the cake glazed up with apricot jam (note I've trimmed the crown of the cake off to make a flatter area for decorating)

Here's the same cake covered in marzipan.  I'll leave it for a week or so for the marzipan to dry out a bit.

Then it'll be a matter of rediscovering my plastering skills!

...and here's one I made earlier - twenty years earlier in fact!  The delightful little figures came from the wonderful 'Christmas Shop' in Lechlade, Gloucestershire.