Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Sourdough bread

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

After accidentally discovering natural sodas, I’ve been keen to explore natural fermentation more. Sourdough bread was an obvious development. I already bake most of the bread eaten here and like to have a variety.

Making sourdough bread is a fascinating, rewarding, exasperating and infuriating process, frequently all at once. It’s never the same from one bake to the next, especially when you live most of your life outside and use a wood-fired oven. It takes a lot longer than making bread with fresh or dried yeast, and the way the starter behaves is very dependent on prevailing ambient temperatures, not to mention changes in the natural yeast population, so with the more unpredictable weather this summer, more than once I was caught out by a cooler-than-expected day which threw all my timings. As I learned more and more with every batch, each time I’d start the process thinking “this time I’ll nail it!” and each time I’d be proved wrong.

For a good while I thought this was down to my inexperience with it, but then I learned from the son of an Australian baker and sourdough specialist that it’s always like this and after 30 years he feels he’s only now properly getting to master it. Yet there is a reward in the process, let alone the taste of the final product, that goes beyond the occasional frustration. It is very definitely worth it.

Sourdough bread baked in the cob oven


Wild carrot jelly

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

This summer, the terraces are covered in wild carrot – Daucus carota or Bishop’s Lace, Queen Anne’s Lace. This is the original plant from which our familiar domesticated carrots are descended. Slightly ironic then that it should grow in such profusion here when I’ve yet to harvest a decent crop of carrots, but that’s down to the voles getting in there before me rather than any failure of the plants to grow.

In the process of investigating the properties of wild carrot, I discovered some recipes for a jelly made with it. (I try to learn all I can about the wild plants which appear here – dismissing them as ‘weeds’ just because I didn’t plant them seems little short of wilful disregard of a natural treasury bordering on insanity.) The jelly sounded intriguing. I had to give it a try.

Daucus carota or wild carrot growing on the terraces


Redcurrant recipes

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

The trouble with turning fruit gluts into sweet preserves is that I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth and neither, it seems, do most people who stay here. So the store room shelves are usually very well stocked with jams and jellies that are often 2-3 years old because I made such large batches. Recently I’ve taken to making smaller batches, and increasing the variety in both the number of jams and jellies I make and in what I do with the fruit. This has been a lot more successful in actually getting things eaten. So here are the redcurrant recipes used this year …



Fermented citrus enzyme cleaner

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

A few months ago I was talking to a friend at a local market about making my own washing up liquid and the difficulty in getting the balance just right between cleaning power and general user-friendliness. She mentioned a fermented citrus cleaner she makes and sent me the recipe. It sat in my email inbox for months until I caught a cold in early December and got tore into serious quantities of hot lemon and honey drinks. As the lemon rinds began to pile up in the compost bin, I suddenly remembered the cleaner recipe.

Fermented citrus cleaner in various stages of fermentation

Fermented citrus cleaner in various stages. From left to right, lemon citrus after 6 weeks’ fermentation, orange citrus after one week’s fermentation, and a new bottle being filled with orange peel

The fruit I’ve used is all grown here on the quinta, so is about as natural, organic and fresh as it gets. I made two bottles with the lemon peel from the cold remedies, then after Christmas the oranges started coming ripe so the 5th bottle is now on the go.


Fizz pop

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Quite by accident, I discovered last year how to make fizzy drinks using natural wild yeasts and have been making them since. The bubbles are small and soft, not large and sharp like those in artificially carbonated drinks. The flavours are wonderful and the drinks incredibly thirst quenching on a hot summer’s day. And they’re ridiculously easy to make.

Elderflower champagne in the making


Cob and earthen plaster recipes

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

There are a lot of projects underway simultaneously at the moment, but two of them have involved clay plastering. There is the cob bathroom, now well and truly dry and ready for plastering inside and out. And there is the interior of the upper room of the smallest of the two dry-stone schist animal houses on the quinta, the ‘wee house’.

Sieving clay for earthen plaster

Rather than include the recipes in posts about the buildings, I’m describing them here separately for ease of reference.



Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Grape harvest! And our first real harvest.

When we came here, the vines had been left unpruned for some time and we had to cut them right back to a manageable size, taking away most of the previous year’s new wood (ie. the next year’s fruiting wood) because it was all too far from the main stem. This meant a very meagre harvest in our first year. Last year, the late rains in May did for pretty much the entire valley. The combination of heat and rain are perfect conditions for fungal diseases to flourish and the young fruit rotted as it formed, regardless of whether it had been doused with chemicals or just left, as we did. But being busy with building, it wasn’t so much of a disaster and we still had grape juice left from the previous year.

This year we’ve had a decent amount. There are still many vines in desperate need of some TLC to bring them back into best fruiting condition, but it’s going to have to wait until we’ve completed most of the building and can concentrate on growing full time.

Alvarelhão red wine grapes ready for harvest


Home-made natural wood treatments

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

I made this wax wood treatment from beeswax, raw linseed oil and turpentine, for the final treatment of the timber frame and interior woodwork of the cob bathroom. I like it so much, it’s become part of the treatment regime for exposed woodwork in all the buildings.

A slab of natural beeswax before melting


Strawberry juice

Friday, June 1st, 2012

With the rest of the family being in the UK at the moment, it’s been quite a task keeping up with all the ripening fruit. There’s still sweet cherries needing picked (tomorrow!) but I keep getting distracted by the strawberries. Today there were so many I really had to do something with them other than just eat my breakfast in the strawberry patch or they would start to go rotten.




Friday, May 25th, 2012

Judging by the amount of developing fruit on the quinta’s fruit trees (except apples … not so many of them) this could be a bumper year for fruit. Over the last week, an incredible crop of sweet cherries has been ripening on the big tree that overhangs the smaller building. I harvested a bucketful and, between me and the mens, scoffed the lot. By the second bucketful I was finding that so much fruit acid was making my teeth very sensitive, so continuing to eat so many raw cherries no longer looked like a comfortable option. What to do with all the fruit?

Sweet cherries