Monday 30 October 2017

Video - how to make homity pie

Homity pie is made from ingredients largely grown on allotments and it was popular during the 2nd World War in Britain, especially with the land girls. That meant it was ideal for us to try in our world of self-sufficiency. I will post up the recipe later this week.

Freezing the peppers and chillis

chillis Oct 17

Recently we rescued a large number of chillis and peppers (all in good condition) from the Whinnies Community Garden compost bin. As we had so many, we decided to freeze some of them. I will be using some soon in chutneys (hot marrow) and sauces. It's quite shocking how much good quality food is thrown away.

chillis and peppers Oct 17

Supersize cabbage

cabbage supersize Oct 17

This enormous cabbage was grown by my friend Steve who donated it to the Whinnies Community Garden to sell in the garden shop to raise funds. It was however too big to sell so I bought it (it cost me a jar of chutney which itself can be sold for money). We have used half of the cabbage so far to make sauerkraut (more about that on another day). We have not yet decided what to do with the rest of it but it will have to be used up soon. Watch this space!

Saturday 28 October 2017

Cheese pudding

Cheese pudding Oct 17

This was dinner recently - cheese pudding with tomato sauce, home grown potatoes roasted and home grown cabbage. The cheese pudding was a useful way to use up surplus eggs and breadcrumbs. My confession is that the cheese was mass produced and bought from a supermarket. Hopefully our cheese production will pick up next year.

Tomato sauce

tomato sauce Oct 17

We have used some of the ripe tomatoes rescued from the Whinnies compost bin for soup but we have also made tomato sauce. Some of this has already been used but most has been frozen for use later in the year. That means that all of this year's tomatoes have now been used or frozen (including the green ones).

Friday 27 October 2017

Tomato soup

tomato soup Oct 17

The best use for slightly over-ripe tomatoes is to make them into soup, as I did a couple of days ago. I added a few potatoes and onions and well as the water in which some potatoes had been boiled the day before. Vegetable water can contain lots of nutrients that most people throw away. Don't waste them! Use them to make soup!

Anyway, the tomato soup was a success. Sadly, it was my last meal before I left Sunniside to come down to London for a few days. I'm having to rediscover the art of buying food from supermarkets.

Reusing egg boxes

egg boxes Oct 17

People give us lots of things that they don't need any more, from jam jars to unused hay, from old margarine tubs to broken paving stones. We find a use for them all. We often receive egg boxes. We can't sell eggs in someone else's branded egg boxes but they have a rather useful alternative use as mini plant pots. Cardboard ones can be planted directly into the ground or into bigger pots once seeds have germinated and grown sufficiently. Plastic ones have a small drainage hole punched in the bottom but have to be thrown away after one use. But at least we do get an extra use out of them rather than having them going straight into the waste stream.

Lamb chops

lamb chops Oct 17

We ate a bit more of our lamb a few days ago. Grilled lamb chops with lots of home grown vegetables. The bones weren't wasted. They went into the freezer and will be joined by more lamb bones in the future which will then be made into stock (and then bonemeal.)

Saturday 21 October 2017

Video - how to make stuffed peppers

A good crop of peppers and some ricotta cheese made from our goats' milk brought together to make stuffed peppers. The goats also have a starring role in this video.

Friday 20 October 2017

Clearing out the greenhouse - helped by the goats

greenhouse Oct 17

We have harvested all that we can from our greenhouse so today I stripped out the pepper and chilly plants. The goats decided to help themselves to them from the wheelbarrow. What was left went into the compost bin.

goats Oct 17 2

Rescued from the compost bin

compost bin Oct 17

Someone in the Whinnies Community Garden had stripped out a greenhouse recently and put all the plants in the compost bin. However, they had left on them all the tomatoes, peppers and chillies. They were in perfectly good shape. In what must be the strangest scavenging session I've carried out, I sifted through the plants and recovered a few kilo of produce. I think someone must have forgotten the golden rule of growing your own - you are meant to eat it, not throw it out!

tomatoes peppers chillies Oct 17

Self-Sufficient omelette

omelette Oct 17

Everything in this omelette was produced by us: eggs, tomatoes, onions and the potatoes for the chips. Who needs supermarkets!?

Thursday 19 October 2017

Apple and green tomato chutney

Apple and green tomato chutney Oct 17 (1)

This was meant to be another batch of green tomato chutney but I made the mistake of making it from memory. Only after I had added in an equal quantity of apple to green tomatoes that I realised I had overdone the apples. In the end it came out fine but I felt obliged to add "apple" into the name of the preserve!

Apple and green tomato chutney Oct 17 (2)

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Drying off the potatoes

potatoes Oct 17

We are still bringing in our potato crop and we've also traded for potatoes as well (see photo above). Potatoes are a key crop for us and an important source of carbohydrates. So we need to have enough to last us until spring. That means drying them off to get rid of the soil on them before putting them into paper sacks (which are reused sacks for our poultry feed). The spare room comes into its own at this point. The potatoes are spread out on the bed. At least the room is earning its keep!

Quail egg mountain

quail eggs Oct 17

Quail eggs keep a surprisingly long time but we still have a large amount to use up. All the ones laid from April to June were put into the above box and shipped over to the feed shed on the allotment. They will be gradually added to the hens' mash. The remaining quail eggs are gradually being used to make salads. Sadly, if I see another such salad, I will probably scream!

Ricotta loaf

ricotta loaf Oct 17

We had lots of ricotta stuffing left over from making the stuffed peppers so I put it into a baking tin and roasted it for an hour at 160C. It went well as a side dish.

Stuffed peppers

peppers Oct 17 1

We picked our crop of peppers recently and decided to have some of them stuffed and roasted. The stuffing was made from ricotta cheese made from our goat's milk,  bread crumbs, onions and tomatoes. The peppers were then stuffed and roasted in the oven for 45 minutes at 160C.

peppers Oct 17 2

ricotta stuffing for peppers  Oct 17

stuffed peppers Oct 17

Sunday 15 October 2017

Harvesting the chillies

chillies Oct 17 (1)

We have had a good crop of chillies this year and we have also got extra chillies in food swaps as well. So while we work out what to do with them all, we have preserved some in cooking oil and the rest have gone into bags and have now gone into the freezer.

chillies Oct 17 (2)

It has just occurred to me, though it is too late now, that I could have dried some of the chillies. I will try that next year instead.

Friday 13 October 2017

Video - chick update

We had a broody hen in September so we gave her some eggs to hatch. We also put some eggs in an incubator. The result was 9 chicks, all now adopted by the mother hen.

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Corn off the cobb

corn off the cobb Oct 17

We were given a sack of corn on the cobb recently so we sliced the corn off today. We now have three bags in the freezer. My first thought was to turn it into relish but I decided we will just used it as a vegetable or ingredient in meals. We now have a vegetarian living with us so having a stock of something that is both non-meat and high in protein is useful.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Duck soup

duck soup Oct 17

The leftover pot roasted ducks were stripped and the bones were made into stock. Meat and stock, along with some small cabbages which needed to be used up, were made into soup. We had it for dinner tonight (the non-vegetarians that is).

The bones will now be dried and made into bonemeal. No waste.

fish cakes

fish cake Oct 17

The leftover trout from last night's meal was made into fish cakes today. We used our rooster potatoes but found they were not the best texture for mashing. Fortunately we have some maris pier and King Edwards waiting to be harvested which will be much better for boiling and mashing. Nevertheless, the fish cakes went down well with our veggie friend who is staying with us.


rooster potatoes Oct 17

We have had a good crop of rooster potatoes which we have just harvested. They are red skinned and are good for both baking and roasting. We've had some already - with the pot roast duck and the grilled trout.

Monday 9 October 2017

Grilled trout

trout dinner Oct 17

We have a friend staying with us who is a vegetarian fish eater. Clearly roast duck was not a possibility for him last night so we gave him grilled trout. The fish was acquired in a food swap last year.

Pot roasted duck

pot roasted duck Oct 17 (1)

Our dinner last night was a couple of pot roasted ducks. Everything on the plate was either produced by us or swapped with us for our produce. That's how we got the ducks. We bartered for them in January last year and they've been in the freezer since then.

pot roasted duck Oct 17 (2)

pot roasted duck Oct 17 (3)

Sunday 8 October 2017

How to make sweet cucumber, courgette and pumpkin relish

sweet cucumber courgette and pumpkin relish Oct 17 2

This recipe is a small adaptation of a sweet cucumber and courgette relish I have previously made. The addition is the pumpkin - we were given a small one so I decided simply to add it to this recipe.

Cut open the courgettes, pumpkin and cucumbers and remove the fleshy core where the seeds are, then chop into small pieces. Peel and chop some onions. The weight of each ingredient is not fixed. It simply depends on what you have available. Put the chopped ingredients in a large bowl and sprinkle with a good quantity of salt. Mix up and leave to stand overnight.

The next day, put the mix into a sieve and run cold water through it to remove the salt.

sweet cucumber courgette and pumpkin relish Oct 17 1

To make the sweet pickling vinegar you will need:

  • 300g sugar
  • 1 litre cider vinegar
  • 50g mustard seeds
  • 1 heaped tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 8 cloves
  • 10 star anice
sweet cucumber courgette and pumpkin relish Oct 17 3

Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes. Then add the chopped ingredients, bring back to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Avoid overcooking them. The aim is have them retain their crispy texture.

sweet cucumber courgette and pumpkin relish Oct 17 4

Then add to hot sterilised jars.

Fennel vodka

fennell vodka Oct 17

Last year I made fennel vodka. It was a bit of an experiment but we left it standing in a jar until last night when I decided to sample it. It was surprisingly pleasant.

Saturday 7 October 2017

Making red champagne

elderberries Oct 17

The appearance of elderberries in hedgerows is a sure sign that autumn in definitely here. In the past I've picked them to make fruit liqueurs, hedgerow jelly and red wine. This time I'm going to make something I've never made before - red champagne. In the past I've made elderflower champagne so generally speaking, I intend making this in a similar way, using the natural yeast to ferment it in champagne bottles. That's all coming up - I haven't yet started off the process. I've simply picked a sack of berries. Mashing them up is a job for tomorrow.

Using up the fish stock

fish soup Oct 17

I used the fish stock left over from making a fish pie to make fish soup. Sadly, not all the ingredients were self-sufficient. We popped down to Lidl for prawns and mussels. Nevertheless, I was happy with the results. We had enough to last 3 days. We finish it tonight.

Taking down the polytunnel

polytunnel dismantled Oct 17

It's that time of year when the polytunnel is dismantled and put away for the autumn and winter. We picked the last of the tomatoes and cucumbers and emptied the sacks in which they were growing. This is the first time we have put a polytunnel in the back garden. Previously we had put them on one of the allotments but then the chickens got in and cleared everything in sight. We learnt our lesson!

back garden Oct 17

Video: Self-Sufficient in Suburbia summer edition

This is the latest edition of Self-Sufficient in Suburbia, covering the summer months. It includes the arrival of our new bees, lots of recipes (pigeon burgers, fish pie, quail egg salads etc), surplus produce swaps, a visit to the Glendale Show and lambs to slaughter, plus lots more.

Thursday 5 October 2017

Cropping the bamboo

goats eating bamboo Oct 17

From the spring to the early autumn, we feed the goats hawthorn and willowherb plus any other branches and suitable garden waste. We are now at the point where the willowherb is so far past its best that it is unusable. We then switch to the winter diet of bamboo, ivy, privet, hay and apples. At the moment we are still feeding them hawthorn but within the next two weeks, we expect that to come off the menu of the goats' cafe. We have however already started cutting the bamboo and feeding it to them. We have two significant clumps of bamboo on the edge of our Farside allotment and if we left them to their own devices, they would spread rapidly. So cutting them back can therefore serve two purposes.

That didn't go to plan

goat eating hay Oct 17

The meadow next to the Whinnies was cut last week. The hay is not collected by the trust that owns the meadow. Instead, the aim is simply to stop the weeds taking over and to shake down the seeds of the meadow plants into the soil. The hay is then left to rot, unless of course I can get my hands on it. The problem with cutting it in October is that there is never a long enough period of dry weather for the hay to dry. I did manage to collect a couple of sacks last week and I tested it out with the goats. They liked it as bedding. They weren't interested in eating it. That wasn't the plan! As it turns out, we can't collect any more of the hay because of the damp.

Fortunately, someone gave us more spare hay yesterday. We now have enough in store to get us through the winter.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

How to make marrow chutney

marrow chutney Oct 17

We have a number of marrows to use up so yesterday I used one to make into chutney:

  • 1kg chopped marrow
  • 1kg chopped apples
  • 700g chopped onions
  • 600g sultanas
  • 1 tbs ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tbs ground black peppercorns
  • 1 tbs mustard seeds
  • sprinkling of ground cinnamon
  • sprinkling of mixed spice
  • 600g soft brown sugar
  • 600ml cider vinegar
Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan, apply heat, bring to the boil then turn heat down and simmer until the volume has been reduced by 50% and it has the consistency of a thick sauce.

Video - Bowes Show

I'm a bit behind with my video editing so this one of the Bowes Show was filmed three weeks ago. Anyway here it is - we took lots of entries for the competitions but only won prizes in three (and none were firsts or seconds).

Sunday 1 October 2017

How to make green tomato chutney

Green tomato chutney Sept 17 (1)

It's that time of year - the summer has gone but there are tomatoes on vines that are not going to ripen. It's time to make green tomato chutney.

Green tomato chutney Sept 17 (3)


  • 2kg green tomatoes (add in any red ones as well if you need to use them up)
  • 900g apples (weight after removing skins and cores)
  • 900g onions
  • 100g raisins
  • 450g soft brown sugar
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 600ml cider vinegar
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 1tsp ground cloves
  • 2tsp ground ginger
Green tomato chutney Sept 17 (4)

Chop the apples, tomatoes and onions. Add all ingredients to the preserving pan.

Green tomato chutney Sept 17 (5)

Apply heat and then simmer for a couple of hours, until the ingredients are fully cooked through and the volume has reduced by half. When ready it should have the consistency of a thick sauce.

Green tomato chutney Sept 17 (6)

Then pour into hot, sterilised jars and leave to stand for at least a couple of weeks before using.