Recipes, tips and ideas!

Since we’ve been living this new life, I have come across and used different recipes and ideas, so I thought I’d share them all in one place!

There’s recipes for the kitchen and the cleaning cupboard, as well as some tips for the garden. I’ll add more items to this page as I test and try out new things!

Paella de Finca del Cielo

This is my own take on the classic Spanish dish – don’t ever be frightened of playing with a classic to make it perfect for you!

I start by adding some olive oil to a large frying pan, and adding 2 cloves of finely diced garlic, a diced onion, chopped green and red peppers, chopped carrot (or any other veg you want to add!). Cook on a medium heat for 1-2 minutes and then add in 1 teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika and a few strands of saffron. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring and moving everything around so the veg is coated in the spices. Add a chopped tomato and cook for another couple of minutes. Add water so the veg is covered and bring to the boil. Add paella rice and chopped green beans and bring back to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook for 20-30 minutes. I like to add some chopped spinach at the end once I have turned the heat off, and just leave the paella to rest for 5 minutes to allow the spinach to wilt before serving. We like to eat this with fresh crusty bread.

You can adapt this recipe to suit whatever vegetables you have or you like – the onion and garlic are a must, but you can alter the amount of garlic to taste.

It’s become a staple in our diet as it’s so quick and easy to make, and tastes delicious!

Vegetable Stew with Beans and Dumplings

I use a deep frying pan with a lid or a chefs pan to make this, as I like to fry off the herbs and veg before adding the water. You can use any veg you want – I like to add cauliflower, chunky carrots, summer squash, courgette, some chopped onions and peppers, leeks – anything will work really!

Make the dumplings – to make 4 decent dumplings I use 6 ounces of self raising flour and 3 ounces of vegetable suet and put into a bowl. Add water gradually and mix to a soft dough. Be really careful not to overmix as you’ll end up with bullets! Divide the mixture into 4 balls.

Put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan, and some cumin seeds (about 6) and 2 bay leaves. On a medium heat get the oil to a sizzle and stir the herbs, and then add in your veg. Season. Cook for a couple of minutes and then crumble in a veg stock cube, and mix well until the veg is coated.

Add enough water to just cover the veg, bring to a boil and turn down to simmer – add the dumplings. Cook for about 20 minutes. Add your choice of beans – I like butter beans, but you could use chickpeas or whatever is your favourite. Stir. Cook for 5 more minutes. Thicken the stew using a cornflour and water mix or thickening granules and cook for 1 more minute. Serve with big chunks of crusty bread.

Citrus Cleaner

When you’ve eaten or used that lemon, mandarin or orange, don’t blthrow the peel away! Fill a jar with the peel and fill up with white vinegar. Leave for two weeks and you have a natural cleaning solution that smells fab!

Homemade furniture polish for wood

4 parts olive oil

1 part white vinegar

2-3 drops essential oil

Mix together and store in a small jar. Apply with a cloth. Remove dust and debris from the wood before applying the polish.

Soapnut Liquid

24 soapnuts

12 cups water

Jars for storage

Soapnut liquid will keep in the fridge for week, so you can adjust the recipe amount above to suit your needs. This makes enough liquid to do all of my weekly washing. You can also use this as a shampoo or general cleaner around the house! To use as shampoo simply apply to dry hair and massage in. Wait for 5-10 minutes before rinsing off.

You can add a couple of drops of essential oil once it is cool, or add some fresh herbs in with the soapnuts when you boil them for a nicer smelling  soapnut liquid! If you’re planning to use this as shampoo I would recommend using fresh herbs (rosemary is fab for hair growth) over essential oils.

Place the soapnuts with 9 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil for 10 minutes. Add the remaining water and boil for a further 10 minutes. Leave in the saucepan with a lid on to cool completely before straining into jars. Store in the fridge.

Insect Repellent

If, like me, you really don’t want to spray yourself with deet, which is found in most insect repellents, here’s a great alternative:

2 tbsp vodka or distilled witch hazel

2 tbsp almond oil or neem oil

100-110 drops of essential oil –

55 lemon eucalyptus

15 cedar wood

15 lavender

15 rosemary

Apply using a spray bottle, and re-apply every 1-2 hours for maximum protection.

French Apricot Jam

This recipe is so easy to make and absolutely foolproof. It has a slightly softer texture with lovely big pieces of apricot – just a warning though, it’ very addictive!

3lb apricots

600g granulated sugar

Sterilised jars

Pit and quarter the apricots and put in a non reactive bowl with the sugar, stir, cover and leave to moderate for 12 hours

Transfer into a saucepan, bring to the boil and let it boil merrily for 10 minutes on a medium heat, stirring occasionally

Pour into sterilised jars leaving 1/4 inch headroom

Pressure Cooker Marmalade

I’m a big fan of modern pressure cookers, and using this method I can make marmalade in an hour start to finish! You can replace the oranges with mandarins or lemons and limes – I have made all 3 alternatives and they all worked great.

2lbs oranges

2 pints water

4lbs granulated sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

Wash and put the whole fruit in the water in the pressure cooker. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, natural release.

Remove the fruit, leaving the water in the pressure cooker. Cut the fruit in half and scoop out all the flesh and place back in the pressure cooker together with any juice. Set the peel to one side

Cook the fruit flesh in the water on high pressure for 5 minutes, natural release.

Cut the peel into thin strips.

In a large pan, put the sugar, lemon juice, cooked flesh with the liquid and the cut peel.

Pop a side plate in the freezer.

Bring to a rolling boil, stirring to ensure the sugar doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan until all the sugar is dissolved.

Once you achieve a rolling boil, it will take 10-20 minutes to reach setting point (105 degrees). Test by dropping a small amount on the plate from the freezer – put the plate back in the freezer for 1 minute, after which you should be able to ‘push’ the marmalade if setting point has been reached. If you’re struggling to achieve setting point, add a bit more lemon juice – this should help.

Turn off the heat and stir in a knob of butter (gives the marmalade a lovely clear finish) and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before pouring into sterilised jars.

If you put the marmalade straight into jars when it’s still hot, the peel will all float to the top – it doesn’t affect the taste but doesn’t look as professional!

Crumbly Vanilla Fudge

This fudge went down a storm when we gave it out as Christmas presents!

100g salted butter

350g white granulated sugar

300ml full fat milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the butter, sugar and milk in a heavy pan. Melt on a low heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil.  Boil for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a sugar thermometer, take off the heat when it reaches 115 degrees

Add the vanilla extract and beat vigorously for 5 minutes with a wooden spoon, or until the gloss decreases and the consistency changes. Pour into a 10cm (ish!) square dish lined with baking parchment. As it cools mark the squares out to make it easier to cut into pieces when completely cool.

Easy Tomato Chutney

Replace shop bought tomato sauce with this easy chutney!

This recipe makes approx 4 jars:

4lbs tomatoes

1 chopped onion

1 garlic bulb, chopped finely

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 tbsp salt

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp black pepper

Chop and core the tomatoes and put all of the ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until thickened. Pour into sterilised jam jars. Store for 1 month before eating to allow it to mature.

Homemade Baked Beans

One thing we have missed about old blighty is baked beans. I found several recipes online which I have tweaked to our liking! So simple to make. I use jars of white beans but you could buy dried beans and prepare them yourself.  You can use any white bean / haircut etc.

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large garlic clove

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

215 g carton / jar of passata (or homemade passata!)

60 ml chicken or veg stock

540g beans

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and let it sizzle for a few seconds before adding the smoked paprika. Stir briefly and add the stock and passata. Stir, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened. Add the beans and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Any uneaten beans can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days.

You won’t mistake these for Heinz by the way – they are different, but still very recognizable as baked beans (we actually prefer these homemade ones!). They’re a healthy option too as there’s no added salt or sugar!

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