Dig for Victory at Beamish Museum 2017

Food growing on the Home Front, Aug 31-Sept 3

Dig for Victory
Meet the land girls at Dig for Victory. Picture; Beamish Museum

Beamish Museum’s Great North Festival of Agriculture begins today with Dig for Victory, set in and around The 1940s Farm, and tells the story of life on the Home Front during the Second World War.

The farm will show how important the countryside was during the war, with land girls, lumberjills, 1940s beauty tips and hands-on activities to try.

You can take part in Home Guard drills, meet soldiers and farm workers and have a photograph taken in The Continue reading “Dig for Victory at Beamish Museum 2017”

WI centenary celebrations at Beamish

It’s not all jam and Jerusalem in Co. Durham, August 19-20

Beamish Museum
Proudly displaying the Beamish WI banner. Picture; Beamish Museum

Women’s Institute members from County Durham will celebrate 100 years of the regional organisation at Beamish Museum this weekend.

Durham County Federation of Women’s Institutes, with hundreds of members, will be carrying banners and wearing sashes in a grand parade at 2.30pm each day from The Town to The Pit Village, accompanied by vintage vehicles and the Off Key Big Band.

The women will then take part in singing the WI anthem, Jerusalem, in The Colliery Yard.

The museum has its own WI branch and you can watch a 1917 WI meeting, hear Suffragette songs and stories, make flags to wave in the parade, have a go at flower arranging, learn about the WI through the Continue reading “WI centenary celebrations at Beamish”

Win The Jam Maker’s Garden book

new gardening cookbook review and competition

The Jam Maker's Garden
The Jam Maker’s Garden by Holly Farrell

Ever grown a crop of fruit or veg and it’s done so well you end up with a glut and haven’t got a clue how to use or preserve it?

Well, this new book, The Jam Maker’s Garden – Grow Your Own Seasonal Preserves could be the answer – and you can win one in this week’s competition.

Written by Holly Farrell with pictures by Jason Ingram and published by Frances Lincoln, this is NOT a book to keep on the shelf – you’ll need it to hand in the kitchen when you bring your crops indoors and decide what to do with them.

As well as a useful beginners’ section on what equipment you’ll need to make jams, jellies, chutneys, ketchup, curds, etc, the Continue reading “Win The Jam Maker’s Garden book”

raspberry blackcurrant

Blackcurrants & red berries

Grown-up cake and Ribena

More uses for blackcurrants and berries. One of them certainly isn’t Ribena. In fact, they all go surprisingly well with vodka.

Blackcurrant liqueur

Making blackcurrant liqueur with vodka

“A waste of good vodka,” my other half said. He doesn’t even drink it!

I don’t think so.

Take a half-full bottle of vodka (or brandy) and add blackcurrants until the bottle is full.

Leave for at least six months.

I opened mine after eight months and it is stunning – the smell and taste of blackcurrants are unbelievably good.

Blackcurrant and gooseberry compote

A much higher proportion of gooseberries in this batch…

This gorgeous combination of tart berries is the perfect partner to vanilla yoghurt, ice cream and rice pudding. It even makes ultra-healthy breakfast cereals that taste like cardboard palatable.

As you can see, the colour varies according to the proportions of fruit – the top picture (new batch) is much paler than the original, as it has lots of gooseberries.

… this one has far more blackcurrants

It’s a doddle to make (basically an unset jam). Take a mix of blackcurrants and gooseberries, place them in a non-stick pan with sugar to taste.

Heat slowly, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and the fruit is cooked. Pot up into sterilised jars (wash thoroughly, then put in a cool oven for 10 minutes. Keep in the fridge.

Red berry compote

Red berry compote

Unopened jars will keep for a year or more. You can make it with tayberries, loganberries, hybrid berries or raspberries (or any combination). You can use blackberries if you don’t mind the bigger pips.

It’s not as firm a set as a jam, which makes it more versatile and it will keep longer than the above recipe, which has much less sugar.

My favourites? Stirred into home-made rice pudding or mix it with a tot of vodka over vanilla ice-cream.

Proportions: 2lb of fruit to 2lb of sugar, plus 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per lb

1 packet of pectin powder

Put the sugar and lemon juice in a preserving pan and stir over a very low heat until it becomes a syrup, then slowly bring to the boil. Pour the hot syrup over the fruit and leave to stand for a few hours.

Put the fruit and sugar mixture back into the preserving pan, add the pectin and heat very slowly until boiling (don’t worry if you have “toffee-like” bits – they will dissolve).

Bring to a rolling boil for 4-5 minutes, then test for a set (put a drop on a cold saucer, push it with your finger – if it wrinkles, it’s done, if not, give it another minute). Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then skim off any scum. Pour into clean jars, sterilised on a very low heat in the oven for 10 minutes.

Add a disc of waxed paper to the top of each jar, seal and allow to cool thoroughly. Store in a cool, dark place unopened, then in the fridge once opened.

Crusty-topped blackcurrant and vanilla cake

Crusty-topped blackcurrant and vanilla cake
  • 6oz/150g soft butter
  • 6oz/150g golden caster sugar
  • 9oz/225g SR flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence


  • 6oz/150g blackcurrants (or redcurrants/whitecurrants, etc)
  • 5oz/125g ordinary sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, gas mark 4. Grease a round 8″/20cm cake tin with a loose bottom and line the base with baking parchment.

In a mixer, put the butter, caster sugar, flour (sieved), eggs and vanilla into the bowl and beat for about 5 minutes, until pale and creamy.

Spread one-third of cake mixture into the tin and sprinkle with one-third of berries.

Add another third of the cake mixture and do the same with the berries. Finish off with the remaining mixture and place cake in the centre of the oven for about an hour (check after 50 minutes). The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean.

Put the rest of the currants in a bowl with the sugar, add lemon juice and mash with a fork.

With a skewer, poke holes all over the top of the cake (don’t go mad or it will fall apart. Remember what the probation officer said). Spoon fruit mixture over the hot cake evenly and leave to cool completely before removing from tin – the top should be crisp.

NB – if you’re freezing this cake, don’t put the topping on – only do this after it has been defrosted.

Clear-out crumble

A very mixed filling…

A crumble is a fine way to dispose of odds and ends of fruit and jam. This one ended up with red gooseberries, Granny Smith apples and the end of a jar of hybrid berry compote, plus Fairtrade coconut shavings in it.


  • Apples (cooking or dessert) – approx half a pound
  • Any suitable mixture of soft fruit/compote, equal to the quantity of apples
  • Sugar to taste


  • 3oz butter or marg
  • 4oz sugar (I used demerara)
  • 9oz flour
  • 1oz oatmeal
  • 1oz coconut

    … and the top on before baking

Poach the fruit until soft with the sugar, then put it in an ovenproof bowl.

For the topping, sieve flour into a bowl, rub in butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar, oatmeal and coconut.

Spoon on top of the fruit and bake at 200 degrees C, Gas mark 6, for 45 minutes.

Serve with custard, vanilla ice-cream or double cream.