Tag Archives: recipes

Tales from Westwick Episode 1

I’m experimenting with the form and trying out a few you tube videos – little diaries of what we are up to.



I’d love to know what you think so please check it out and if you feel like it then like and subscribe.

This is episode 1 and episode 2 is going up shortly!

Show Notes:

Book I mention…The Radical Homemaker by Shannon Hayes
Dinosaur jumper pattern – by Linda’s Knitwear Designs
Yarn – Cascade 220
Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn (I got the company name wrong in the video, sorry!): Awesome Aran in the Suffragette colour way

Violet Cream Cake – Recipe

I’ve had the idea for this cake for a very long time.
Violet Creams are my Mum’s favourite chocolates.  They have a violet flavoured, fondant, soft centre and have a dark chocolate coating.  They usually come in a box with rose creams and are delicious – they are also very old fashioned, hard to find and expensive.
I have made my own for Mum in the past and one day I must post that recipe too.
But this is about a cake…
For her last birthday I finally got round to inventing this cake and I figure the internet is the best place to keep it.
First make a chocolate cake.  Although dark chocolate is used in the traditional violet cream I didn’t want that much flavour overpowering the cake.  I went with a very moist chocolate cake which uses cocoa powder and was adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake in her Nigella Bites Book.
The cake is then sandwiched together and topped with a decadent purple, violet flavoured, cream cheese frosting and decorated with violet sugar sprinkles and chopped dark chocolate pralines.
This is not an everyday cake, this is a cake for serious celebrations.
For the cake:
400g plain flour
250g caster sugar
100g dark muscovado sugar
50g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
140 ml of plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
175g melted butter
125ml flavourless oil (e.g. groundnut)
300ml chilled water
For the icing:
5-20 drops violet flavouring/essence
Purple food colouring
50g butter (at room temp)
300g sifted icing sugar
125g cream cheese (fridge cold)
1 tablespoon of violet flavoured sugar sprinkles
1 tablespoon of chopped dark chocolate pralines
To make the cake.
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4
Grease and line two 20cm round sandwich tins.
Mix the dry cake ingredients (flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt) in a large bowl. In a measuring jug mix the eggs, yoghurt and vanilla. In another bowl beat together the melted butter, oil and chilled water. Add the oil mixture to the dry ingredients and start to beat them together, then add the egg mixture and beat until all is blended. Pour the batter into the 2 cake tins in equal amounts.
Bake both tins for 50-55 mins (I use a skewer to test if the cake is ready – put the skewer into the cake and if it comes out clean then the cake is properly cooked.)
Put the cakes (still in their tins) on a cooling rack for 15 mins.  Then turn the cakes out of the tins onto the rack to cool completely.
Make the icing…
[Note: How strong the violet flavour is will be down to your personal preferences.  The flavouring can quickly overpower the icing so add a little at a time and test it as you go.  Please note that after standing overnight the violet flavour will develop and taste more strongly – so go slow on the flavouring!]
Beat the icing sugar and the butter together until well incorporated.  Then add the cream cheese, the purple food dye (according to packet instructions) and 5 drops of the violet flavouring. Beat until incorporated, test the flavour and then add 5 more drops.  Keep tasting and testing until you like the flavour.
Once the cake is cooled assemble like this:
Spread 1/2 the frosting on top of the first cake layer.  Put the second cake layer on top and put the rest of the frosting on top of the second layer. Sprinkle the violet sprinkles and chopped chocolate on top.
Open your mouth very wide and fall face forward on to the cake.

The sausage is a cunning bird with feathers long and wavy

I picked up our half-pig pack on Friday. The pack included almost 2kg of sausage meat, but I had half-expected we would have to freeze it, as our sausage-making machine hadn’t yet arrived at that point. Luckily, it turned up later that morning. As a result I (and my glamorous assistants, Becky’s parents Mark and Jenny) have spent much of the weekend making sausages!

It isn't just you - it does look like K9. Coke can included for scale.

It isn’t just you – it does look like K9. Coke can included for scale.

Hugh recommends that you make sausage meat from a 50/50 mix of lean meat from e.g. the shoulder and fattier meat from the belly. I cannot say if that is what we got – per our instructions, the butcher pre-minced ours. We asked for it to be done on a coarse setting, so the sausage meat is, not quite chunky, but definitely not pate-like in consistency.

In a way I needn’t have bothered, as the sausage making machine is essentially a mincer with a special attachment for feeding the minced meat into the sausage skins. This at least saved me the vexed decision of which cuts of meat to give up for sausages. But I think next time I’ll give myself the whole experience and ask the butcher to leave us the choice. Incidentally, we bought our sausage maker from Coopers of Stortford. Although I was slightly alarmed to receive a message saying it would be with us “within 14 days”, in practice it arrived within the week.

A variety of delicious flavours.

A variety of delicious flavours.

I had been looking forward to the opportunity to mix my own sausage meat. I wanted to try lots of different flavourings, and concluded that four 500g portions would be about right. The mixes I chose were:

  • Wine, garlic and herb. (2 tbsp red wine, 2 garlic cloves, a small bunch each of thyme, chives, sage and oregano, plus 25g breadcrumbs and 1 tsp each of salt and black pepper.)
  • Mustard, nutmeg and cayenne. (1/2 tsp mustard, a load of fresh-grated nutmeg, a pinch of cayenne, plus 25g breadcrumbs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.)
  • Apple, cider and sage. (1 apple from our orchard, cut into very small cubes, 10 sage leaves, 2 tbsp cider, plus 50g breadcrumbs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.)
  • Gluten-free apple, cider and sage. (Same as previous, less the breadcrumbs.)

I based my proportions on a number of recipes I had lying around, though only the mustard/nutmeg/cayenne sausages are following a recipe to the letter – the rest have a good deal of improvisation to them. You’ll notice the wine/garlic/herb sausages were a bit saltier than the rest, while the apple/cider/sage sausages were a bit breadier. This was down to errors by me; I don’t expect it to cause problems but I certainly have my fingers crossed! In addition, I inadvertantly used double quantities of herbs in the herby sausages – to be honest, I’m a bit worried about the effect this will have on the flavour. We’ll see.

I tried really hard to find a picture that didn't look obscene. In the end I gave up.

I tried really hard to find a picture that didn’t look obscene. In the end I gave up.

The next step was to feed the sausage mix into skins. Our butcher would normally provide sausages as part of a half-pig pack, but we asked them instead to just give us the meat and the skins. I foolishly failed to ask what preparation was required for the skins, but t’internet suggested we should soak them in water for an hour and then rinse (to get rid of the brine they come in), which is what I’ve done. (Incidentally, although the butcher didn’t say, I’m fairly sure the sausage casings are in fact the traditional intestine.)

Assembling the sausages was surprisingly easy. The skins are fed onto the spout, rucked up, so that the entire (quite long) skin is sat on the spout. Then you feed the meat into the top, with the engine running, which in turn pushes the meat through and out the other end. We did this as a three person job – one person feeding the meat in, one person slowly letting the casing off the spout as the meat came out, and a third as emergency “off” switch operator.

The meat came out in fits and starts, which I think was more a function of the rate at which it was pushed through at the top than the machine’s speed. As a result we got variable thicknesses of sausage. This also occasionally led to air getting in, which we tried to push back out again afterwards with some difficulty. Some was certainly left in, which may mean our sausages end up as bangers!

Once the meat is fed in you have one long sausage with a bit of skin hanging off at one end. You then push a bit more skin off the spout, and snip, so now you have a bit of skin hanging off at both ends – one of which you tie in a knot. Then you gently squeeze the meat aside wherever you want to separate two sausages, and twist the skin several times. Repeat and then tie off at the other end, and voila! You have a string of sausages.

We didn’t immediately appreciate that quite a bit of meat gets left in the machine (mostly in the spout). This is only problematic if you don’t want one flavour of sausage contaminated by another, in which case it’s easy enough to remove the spout and push the rest of the meat through manually before you cut your string of sausages off. Or, if the two flavours are sufficiently visually distinctive, you can just create one giant sausage string with multiple flavours in it, and make sure you create a twist between the flavours. Anyway, as a result of not realising this, our first batch (the gluten-free ones) were fewer in number than subsequent batches, though presumably an unknown number of the next batch are actually gluten-free.

Hmmmm, sausages.

Hmmmm, sausages.

At the end of the process we had 34 sausages of highly variable sizes, but all looking very jolly and very much suitable for a butcher’s window. And they all have such lovely smells of mustard, or garlic, or apple, that I really can’t wait to taste them.

Apples, apples everywhere…

We have a mini-orchard here at Westwick.  In fact it is one of the reasons we moved here.  There are two eating apple trees, two cooking apple trees and a crabapple.  I haven’t been as on top of the harvest as I would have liked in this first year mostly because I have a small baby (and now a bad back).

We reckon we have over 300lbs of apples this year (not including the crab apples). I have managed to store just 30lbs so far on cardboard sheets in the cold back bedroom. It took a while to sort through them (whilst baby wrangling) putting the perfect ones in a small layer of newspaper and then lining them up in order of perfection, with the least good ones nearest the door to be used first.

I used a couple of websites to help me with storing my apples over winter.  Looks like the key is – don’t let them touch each other and only long term store perfect apples.  Even the tiniest bruise on an apple can ruin the lot.



Then I have been cooking up as much as I can.

Simple pureed apple for the baby in the freezer (in case he doesn’t take to baby-led weaning in a couple of months)

Apple Crumble

Apple Pie

And our family favourite: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Apple and Almond Pudding.

But I am also trying some new recipes…

Apple Pudding (from the Romany Cookbook)


Apples peeled, cored and sliced (I used 4 Bramleys)

Large tablespoon of Honey

Cinnamon and Nutmeg

4oz Self Raising Flour

2oz Vegetarian Suet


Brown Sugar

I cooked the sliced apple in a little water, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg in a shallow frying pan (one without a handle which we keep for this very purpose).  Then I made a suet dough with the flour, suet and water and rolled it out to fit over the apples in the pan.  Then I sprinkled the top with sugar.  Put a lid on the pan and put it in the oven on 180 for 20 mins.  At the end I took the lid off to crisp up the top of the pastry for 5 mins.

Serve with cream.