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Carpet in flooded houses

Carpet in flooded houses

So the rain came down and the floods went up! And the carpets were sodden. The underlay, being plastic backed, trapped water underneath and it seemed like it would take a good long time to dry out.

After about 2 hours the carpet started to smell. Overnight the smell grew worse. It is not uncommon for the carpet to grow fungi within 24 hours, and to dangerous levels. Even with a good heater on it, there would have been no chance to dry the carpet within at least a fortnight, probably a lot longer.

Breathing in all those fungal spores does your health no good at all, and consequently there is only one thing to do. GET RID OF THE CARPET!

It’s the only answer really, otherwise the house, the woodwork, your lungs and goodness knows what else will be simply overrun with fungi.

We had to get like for like, and this carpet was a wool twist, so it was expensive, but better that than being ill.

Chelsea Buns

Chelsea Buns
Lovely glazed fruit loaf that is cut into small pieces.
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  1. 450g strong flour
  2. 1 level tsp salt
  3. 1 X 7g sachet fast action yeast 50g butter
  4. 280ml warm milk
  5. 1 medium egg
For the filling
  1. 30g butter, very soft
  2. 80g soft brown sugar
  3. 2 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
  4. Grated zest of either 1 lemon or an orange 250g dried fruit of your choice
To glaze
  1. 2 tbsp clear honey
  2. 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  3. Or
  4. 25g icing sugar
  5. 2-3 tsp orange or lemon juice, whichever zest you have used
  6. Or
  7. 2 tbsp Marmalade
  8. 1 dessert spoon boiling water
  1. Grease a large baking sheet
  2. Sieve the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl and stir in the yeast.
  3. Melt the butter in the warm milk.
  4. Beat the egg.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and egg.
  6. Stir well and bring to a workable dough.
  7. Knead on a lightly floured or oiled work surface for 10 minutes.
  8. Put back in the bowl and cover. Allow to prove for 30-40 minutes.
  9. Roll the dough into a large rectangle about 38cm by 30cm.
  10. Spread the butter over the surface of the dough, I find this easiest to do with my fingers.
  11. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the butter.
  12. Do the same with zest and fruit.
  13. Roll up the dough from the longest edge to make a sausage.
  14. Using sharp knife cut into 12 equal sized pieces and place on the baking sheet.
  15. Cover and leave to rise for 30-40 minutes.
  16. Heat the oven to 190C/ gas 5 and bake for 20 mins .
  17. Cool for 15 mins before transferring to a rack.
  18. Mix together the two ingredients of your chosen glaze and brush the tops of the buns.
City Cottage

Ginger beer

Ginger beer
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  1. 20 g root ginger, grated
  2. 1 unwaxed lemon, juiced and zested
  3. 400 g sugar
  4. 4 litres water
  5. 20 g cream of tartar
  6. 20 g brewing yeast
  1. Sterilize all your equipment
  2. Put the sugar, ginger, cream of tartar and lemon zest into a brewing bucket
  3. Boil the water
  4. Pour over the ginger mixture and add the lemon juice, stir well
  5. Leave to cool and take a little of the liquid and cream the yeast into it
  6. Leave for 24 hours in a warm room and then remove any froth without disturbing the sediment
  7. Carefully siphon the beer into strong glass beer bottles, use corks if you can to seal
  8. The drink will be ready in 2 - 3 days
City Cottage
Ginger beer is one of those drinks you either love or hate. This is a great recipe that works really well.

Summer Fruit Punch

Summer Fruit Punch
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  1. 200 g strawberries, hulled and quartered
  2. 100 g raspberries, hulled
  3. 50 g stoned cherries
  4. Juice of 3 oranges
  5. 100 g sugar
  6. 1 litre water
  7. 1 litre white grape juice
  1. Put the water and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil
  2. Place the fruit into a bowl and pour the hot syrup over it
  3. Leave to cool
  4. Add the orange juice and the grape juice
  5. Add lots of ice to the jug
  1. You can add wine or brandy to the punch if you feel so inclined
City Cottage
This is a lovely Summer Fruit Punch to have in a summer evening garden party.

Why you shouldn’t make your own insecticide and herbicide

Why you shouldn’t make your own insecticide and herbicide.

There is a great movement these days, amongst those growing their own food, to be organic in their production, and all strength to them too! But at the same time time many go a step further and make insecticides and herbicides too. But I firmly believe you shouldn’t do it, and here are just some of the reasons why.

Let me say right from the start that I disagree personally with any weedkiller or herbicide. Don’t see the point of growing my own food and spreading dangerous chemicals all over the place. Which leads me to my first point:

Making my own herbicide is simply an extension of modern quick fix gardening methods. Pulling weeds and distracting insects from my precious crops is hard work.Sure, spraying the lot with some substance, homemade or otherwise, is convenient, but in doing so I am not really learning about the garden, the weeds the ways of the insects. I am using a very blunt instrument and I feel there is something to be said for getting down and actually learning about the garden, pulling the weeds, covering the crops and understanding the garden.

It’s illegal
According to EU law it is illegal to make your own substances for use in the garden – pesticides and herbicides. Some say this is because big companies want a monopoly and the whole idea is a con of big business.
Not so! The reason for the law is to stop people harming themselves. Even the simplest combination of chemicals can create substances which, when taken individually are quite safe, but combined can create some dangerous concoctions.

Contact dermatitis
You can create, when mixing detergent, vinegar and salt under certain circumstances, substances that will irritate your skin. Certainly drying and countering the natural oils in the skin, but ofttimes worse – particularly if you are already prone to eczema or psoriasis.

But you can go a lot further. For example, I have heard of people mixing Jeyes fluid with vinegar – you just do not know what chemicals you are creating in this mixture.

But then you can go a lot further. Adding bleach to almost any chemical will release chlorine gas, so you had better watch your lungs. You might think this an idiotic thing to do – boiling a mixture of eyes fluid and bleach to fumigate a greenhouse – yes, it has been done. Such a combination can create phosgene gas, the famous WW1 poison. Don’t believe me? There are numerous examples of this kind of thing! Any substance containing tetrachloroethane can decompose to phosgene in acid or on the application of heat. Hundreds of people have had this problem welding breaks on cars!

It is indiscriminate
Have you ever put bleach in a bucket of water to clean the path, and ten minutes later there are dozens of writhing worms? You have no way to assess the impact your chemicals have on the environment. It’s one thing saying, but it’s just a combination of this or that – they’re quite safe. But wildlife did not evolve to be impervious to our creations. And if truth be told, neither did we.

Cheese and onion pie

Cheese and onion pie


Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 17.55.59Never be without a meal, this pie cost around £1.75 to make and will feed 4

This is a really simple pie to make, usually I make it when I have some pastry left over from making other pies, sometimes it is hot water crust, sometimes short crust.

The cheese is more or less ay cheese you have, you can mix cheeses if you like, if I have some halloumi left I give it a wash and add it in small chunks to the grated cheese – which is usually cheddar.

The other thing about this pie is you needn’t worry too much about measures. So long as you have enough to fill the pie, the cheese does the job.

I usually bake this on a deep aluminium plate.


Around 250 g pastry (See here for our hot water crust Recipe)

Around 200 g cheese of your choice

1 finely chopped onion

1/2 tsp white pepper

1 egg

Mix the ingredients in a bowl.

Grease an aluminium plate and roll out the base and the lid, adding the base to the plate.

Add the filling and secure the lid.

Bake at 180 C for around 30 minutes.

Cooking pulses

Cooking Pulses

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 12.36.01Pulses include all beans, peas and lentils. All of these ingredients can be purchased dried or canned and are excellent store cupboard standbys.
Most lentils don’t have to be soaked and can be used straightaway in whatever dish you are making. Beans and peas usually have to be soaked. Some beans, like red kidney beans must also be boiled for at least 20 minutes after soaking before you use them because they contain a toxic ingredient which is destroyed during cooking. Read the instructions on the packets if you are unsure.

Lentil and Bacon Soup

This makes a substantial starter soup or a lunchtime treat served with crusty bread.

Serves 4
5 tbsp lentils
4 rashers back bacon
2 rashers streaky bacon
1 medium-sized onion, chopped finely
2 carrots, chopped
½ tsp celery salt
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
1 clove garlic, chopped
1.5 litres vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1 Fry the bacon in the oil until cooked and add the onion, garlic and carrot. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.
2 Stir in the tomato purée and celery salt.
3 Gradually add the stock and then stir in the lentils.
4 Bring to the boil, stirring continuously as the lentils can rest on the bottom of the pan and stick.
5 Turn down the heat to simmering and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6 Test for seasoning, black pepper really enhances the flavour of this soup.

Serve immediately or store in the fridge for 2–3 days. This freezes for up to two months.

Pea and Bacon Soup

This recipe was originally called ‘London Particular’ and was linked to the pea-souper dense fogs that lingered over London during the winter months. But as horrific as the fog could be, the soup was heartening and wholesome.

It would originally have been made with cured hock of pork or pig’s trotters. This is an easier, but just as tasty, recipe.

Remember, when you plan to make this soup, soak your dried peas the night before in cold water. This does give the best results when using dried peas or beans as they cook more evenly and in less time.

Serves 6
200g dried green peas
200g dried split yellow peas
6 large rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 litres stock (ham, chicken or vegetable)
½ level tsp celery salt
Salt and pepper to taste

1 Fry the bacon in the oil for 3 minutes then add the onion, cook over a medium heat until the bacon is cooked and the onions are soft. This will take about 10 minutes.
2 Add the carrot, and sprinkle over the celery salt.
3 Drain the soaking peas and add them to the bacon and vegetables.
4 Pour in the stock and stir. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until the peas are tender.
5 This may be partially blended until smooth.

Serve topped with some crispy bacon pieces.

Butter-bean Pâté

This is a quick and easy pâté for lunch, or as a starter it is particularly good for vegetarians.

Serves 4
1 x 425g can of butter-beans, drained
Juice of ½ lemon
1 clove garlic, grated
1 rounded tsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

1 Put the beans and lemon juice in a food processor and blend for about 10 seconds then add the other ingredients and continue to blend until a smooth paste is formed. You can do this with a masher and a fork, but it won’t be as smooth.
2 Put the pâté into small ramekin dishes and serve with bread or Melba toast.

Pork with Beans

This is a very satisfying meal to eat on a cold day. It can be cooked and reheated easily enough when you wish to eat it. Make sure it is piping hot before you serve it.

Serves 6
450g dried haricot beans, soaked in plenty of cold water overnight
2 tbsp sunflower oil
500g pork steak, cut into cubes
2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 x 400g can plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ level tsp dried oregano
½ level tsp dried thyme
1 level dessertspoon brown sugar
500ml stock, beef or vegetable
Salt and pepper to taste

1 Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F, Gas 3).
2 Drain the beans of the steeping water and boil in fresh water for 10 minutes.
3 Fry the pork and bacon in the oil until it changes colour, and place in a lidded casserole.
4 When the beans are ready, drain them and stir into the pork mixture.
5 Heat the stock in the frying pan and add the garlic, herbs, sugar and can of tomatoes. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces as they heat in the stock or do this separately before adding to the pan. Bring everything to the boil then pour it over the meat and bean mixture, and season to taste.
6 Cover the casserole and cook in the oven for 3 hours. Stir and cook for another 40–50 minutes.

This is good served with baked potatoes or boiled rice.

Turkey Chilli

This is not only a tasty dish it is also very economical.

Serves 4–6
500g minced turkey
1 large onion, chopped
1 courgette, diced
1 stick celery, chopped
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 x 400g can tomatoes or 1 x 500ml carton passata
120ml red wine
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 x 400g can red kidney beans
50g red lentils
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste

1 Fry the onions in the oil for a few minutes then add the celery and courgette.
2 Stir in the tomato purée and add the meat. Cook gently until the meat has changed colour. If your pan isn’t large enough to continue cooking the chilli then transfer it to a saucepan.
3 Add the chilli flakes, red wine and garlic, then stir in the tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to simmering and stir in the red lentils. Season with salt to taste.
4 Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Stir in the drained kidney beans and cook for 10 more minutes.
5 After the cooking, leave to settle for a few minutes before serving. If you can, allow the chilli to cool for 2 hours before heating back up to piping hot and serving with boiled rice, baked potatoes or crusty bread. This allows all the flavours of the chilli to develop and it tastes much better.

Pulses make excellent salad and dips, and can be made very quickly and easily, here are two of my favourites.

Mexican Salad

This has a real kick to it and is great served with chicken or burgers.

150g whole wheat pasta
½ chopped red pepper
½ chopped green pepper
4 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
Small can red kidney beans, drained well
Crème fraiche to serve

1 Cook the pasta as before and combine with all the ingredients.
2 Transfer to a serving dish and serve with crème fraiche.

This is really good as an accompaniment to prawn fishcakes or egg and ham pie.

You can hot it up with a few slivers of a hotter chilli, if you dare.


This is a quick and easy dip, and tastes much better when it is home-made.

175g chickpeas soaked in cold water overnight
2 chopped garlic cloves
75ml or 5 tbsp tahini paste
40–50ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed if possible
60ml mild olive oil
Salt to taste

1 After soaking, pour enough boiling water to cover and simmer for 2–2 ½ hours.
2 Drain well and purée along with the chopped garlic, either in a food processor or mashing and pushing together.
3 Add the tahini paste and lemon juice, and mix well.
4 Add the olive oil gradually whilst mixing well.

Serve with fingers of pitta bread and olives.

Cooking with pulsesSome people love them but pigeons eat twice their own weight of food each day and there’s not a lot you can do about it.Cooking with pulses

Mild kebab sauce

This mild kebab sauce is just like the stuff you get from the kebab shop and is perfect with shawarma kebabs and other meats too.

It is so easy to create, and essentially you make it from taste, building it up, flavour by flavour, so the final result is up to you.


You need:

A large pinch of dried mint from the garden
4 chopped garlic cloves
1/3 cup tomato ketchup
1/3 cup of white vinegar (white wine or any will do)
1 hot chilli, though you can add more or less, it’s up to you
2/3 teaspoon salt
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 small chopped onion

Put the onion, garlic, mint and chilli in the food processor and whizz.
Add the ketchup and vinegar and make a paste
Add the tomatoes and pulse to make a liquid

Taste test – if it is too sharp, add a dessert spoon of brown sugar

And that’s it! It will last a few days in the fridge.

Pickled Chillies

These pickled chillies are wonderful, made from sweet cayenne chillies, all of the flavour, none of the heat.


I grew one plant of sweet cayenne pepper, as an experiment, and it was completely wonderful. They are amazingly productive, and the fruits can be taken at any time, green or red. I chose to pick them green for a number of reasons.
I like green.
It’s been so cold I worried about waiting for them to redden.
I couldn’t wait any longer – impatient!

Make a brine of:
2.5 cups of white vinegar
Half a cup of water
A few black pepper corns
1 oz (25 g) non iodized salt)
1 oz (25 g) sugar

Preserving books and equipment

Bring the brine to the boil.

Pack your jar with chillies and pour the hot brine over them.

If eating within a month, let them cool and put them in the fridge. For longer keeping, put into a pan of boiling water and boil for 15 mins. Then cool and refrigerate.

Enjoy – they are gorgeous!


Slow roasted lemon stuffed belly pork

Slow roasted lemon stuffed belly pork is really gorgeous! A meal you won’t forget.
Belly is not as cheap as it should be because people don’t buy it so often, but this recipe might just change your mind.

For the stuffing

200g breadcrumbs
Big handful of parsley
1 Chopped onion
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
Couple of garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook the pork for a minimum of 4 hours at 140 C, 280 F, GAS 1
If the crackling is not crispy, increase the temperature to 180C until it is completely hard.

Test the centre of the meat with a thermometer, it should be 75 C