making feta & turkish pizza

Having experimented with Labneh, Paneer and ricotta, I’m beginning to understand Miss Moffet’s fixation. Curds and whey can become addictive; the fact that all you have to do is heat milk, add lemon juice, whey or rennet to encourage the curds to form and you have a delicious (sometimes!) soft cheese is so satisfying. It’s a great activity to do with children too – quick, easy and you can eat the results.


  Having a tub of ricotta made in December submerged in brine and a few jars of labneh preserved in olive oil is also proving very useful in my January frugal food plan. Noticing the jars of preserves, freezer still full of broad beans and fruit (from our summer gluts), lamb and pork plus leftover turkey, I’m on a mission to eke it all out with the jars of pulses and make good use of what I’ve got rather than shop for more. The root veggies, brassicas and still lush parsley in the garden are coming in handy too.

The feta that I made before Christmas is very salty, softer than bought feta but great to use sparingly to add flavour and texture to lots of meals. This is how I made it:

Feta style cheese


5 ½ litres fresh raw or pasteurised goats milk

1 tablespoon made up cheese starter (see my post on basic cheese-making)

½ teaspoon liquid rennet dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiled, cooled water

Sea Salt

Clean all equipment thoroughly and scald. In a large pot, bring the milk to 32C, add the cheese starter and stir well. Add the dissolved rennet and stir vigorously. Cover the pot with lid or clean cloth and let it stand for 2 hours or until the curd breaks cleanly when you insert a knife.

Scald some muslin and line a colander, ladle the curds in, then draw up all 4 corners of the cloth, tying in a knot and hang over the sink or a bowl so more whey can drain for  24 hours. Untie and cut the cheese into blocks around 2 inches thick and the size of a playing card. Mine were not exactly uniform as you can see.


Sprinkle the cheese generously with salt and leave in a sterilized container with a lid at room temperature for 2 to 3 days to release more whey.


Make a brine by dissolving 3 tablespoons salt in 1.9 litres water and cool. Drain the whey into a clean container, add the brine and arrange cheese blocks in it. Refrigerate and it’s ready to eat in 2 weeks. Kept submerged in the brine it should keep for months in the fridge.

We bought half a lamb from a local smallholder at the beginning of December and I cooked a leg of it for family over the Christmas holiday (rubbed with garlic and rosemary, cooked slowly over slices of potatoes and onions covered in foil). It was delicious but as usual I’ve almost enjoyed the leftovers more.


Slithers tucked into flatbread cooked on the wood-burning stove with labneh, houmous and beetroot, lime & chilli salad were lovely but I also had a little portion of the cooked lamb stashed in the freezer. Little nuggets of flavour and protein ready to be added to garlicky tomato sauce and heaps of healthy parsley from the garden for Turkish style flatbread pizzas. Slithers of onion, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of chilli added flavour too.

I was inspired by the Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza) recipe in one of my favourite books, Casa Moro. Sam & Sam cook their lamb from scratch rather than using leftovers and use fresh tomatoes (would be lovely in season). I added my feta and a sprinkling of cumin too.


Turkish Style pizza

1 quantity of the flatbread dough here.

300g leftover cooked lamb, chopped into tiny nuggets

1/2 small onion, grated

1/4 teaspoon allspice

100ml water

sea-salt & black pepper

1 400g tin of tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, sliced

A handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley

Feta cheese crumbled or the labneh here.

1/2 onion sliced

Chilli flakes

1 or 2 teaspoons cumin

1 lemon, quartered.

Put the grated onion, allspice and water in a saucepan and cook for 10 minutes, then add the lamb and cook on a low heat for a further 5 minutes, adding salt & pepper to taste. To make a tomato sauce, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and as it starts to colour add the tomatoes. Simmer for 1/2 hour or so until you have a thick sauce, adding salt & pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 220C, divide the dough into four little balls (I made some smaller ones too to tempt my daughter) and roll out each piece into a rough oval a few mm thin.

flatbread making

These don’t have to be as thin as Italian pizzas, think flatbread. Place on baking sheets or pizza stones, spread with tomato sauce and sprinkle with lamb. Cook for 10/12 minutes until the bread is cooked.

Chop parsley, put cumin in a little pot and let everyone crumble feta over their pizzas and help themselves to onion slices, lemon, cumin, parsley and chilli.


Would love to include my Turkish pizzas in January’s Cheese Please challenge, hosted by the wonderful Fromage homage. This month’s challenge is Comfort Food and Winter Warmers, should be a great place for cheesey inspiration.






glittery cheese & a happy new year

I’ve obviously been busier using up leftover turkey and beetroot-cured gravlax lately than experimenting with cheese-making. More focused on important tasks such as bashing and melting boiled sweets for the windows of a gingerbread house with Ruby.


Just before Christmas I did have a go at making an easy semi-hard cheese that matures in weeks rather than months though. I rubbed olive oil and coarse sea salt around the little cheeses (very little actually, attempting cheese-making has made me realise quite how much milk goes into producing a tiny amount of cheese and given me even more of an appreciation for bought artisan cheese) and put them in the cold room upstairs in a sealed container with a damp cloth for humidity.  When I say ‘cold room’ don’t misguidedly think I have some room purpose made for hanging hams and letting cheese mature. It’s a very bare, un-plastered room that we’ve been meaning to turn into our bedroom ever since we moved here.

Lack of time and money have meant the bedroom has been a little delayed. As ever, I’m optimistic that this year may be the year we move out of the spare room. In the meantime the unheated bare room is proving very useful. The dark bit behind the door is rapidly becoming pickle corner.

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With a house full of family over Christmas, the fridge was bulging and leftover veggies destined for bubble and squeak were sent up to the cold room. Actually we so enjoyed the Boxing Day leftovers that Guy came up with a suggestion. Next year, we cook Christmas lunch on Christmas Eve, then without eating any of it,  immediately take it up to the cold room ready for leftovers!

Obviously too many days of Bird Bingo, muddy walks across the fields and wondering whether piccalilli or Middle Eastern pickled turnips is the correct pickle for that days’ leftovers has gone to our heads. The festive period has also had a disturbing effect on my cheese. Last time I had a peep at the cheeses ripening in the cold room, I couldn’t spot any mould forming (or much of a rind either) but there was definitely something unique about them. Some artisan cheese-makers may use nettles, even ash to add a distinct look and flavour to their products. I detected something else adorning the rustic exterior of my carefully made cheeses. Something with a definite flavour of my December kitchen. Yes, glitter.

It obviously says a lot about my optimism then that one of my plans for the new year is to have a go at making mozzarella. Yes, I know I’ll end up with strings of cheese everywhere but I’d like to try it. I’m chuffed that the feta has worked out, it’s very salty but good used sparingly, crumbled into flatbreads with leftover lamb – I cooked a leg of lamb slowly over potatoes using a recipe from The Fabulous Baker Brothers book as an easy way of feeding everybody the day after Boxing Day. Will write about how I made the feta soon.

After being inspired by the medieval bread baked at The Hearth in Lewes, would love to experiment more with bread this year too. Using interesting flour, a home-made sourdough and a long prove.

But with the glittery cheese a reminder of the results of my multi-tasking I’m trying to keep my resolutions and plans for the new year simple. While I’m still harvesting parsnips, swede, chard and beetroot from the garden, can’t help but have lots of plans for the new things I want to grow though. And the size of the ewes in the field next to us is reminding me of the delights of Spring already. Lovely to think that it’s not long after Christmas until there are new lambs in the fields and broad beans to be planted. Which makes me look forward to these sort of pleasures…..

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Hope you have lots to look forward to in 2014 too. Happy New Year!

zesty beetroot & red cabbage salad


Amidst all the Christmas baking and festive feast planning, I’ve been craving crunchy, zesty winter salads. Lots of lime juice, a good chilli kick and lots of chopped raw beetroot, carrots, red cabbage and whatever root veg is most plentiful are exactly what I need to offset, or sometimes compliment all that rich food.

A generous bunch of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley adds extra vitamins, and is very pleasing to my eye against all those ruby reds.


My scoffing of veg packed raw salads may have something to do with the many bugs we’re trying to dodge; last year we all succumbed to viruses during the busy last bit of term leading up to Christmas. With 2 school nativity performances to go and 7 sleeps until the big day, I’m so keen that we’re all healthy to enjoy the Christmas holiday that there’s been many a grape popping race and encouragement(well okay, bribes) to eat just one more Satsuma in this house lately.

But packed full of flavour as well as health benefits, this salad is definitely not righteous health-food. With jars rapidly filling with Christmas cookies and bottles ready to be topped up with fig liquer, I’m far from hair-shirt wearing at this time of year. Hardly a recipe, it’s quick and easy to throw together after returning from work/carols/nativity and probably be making an appearance alongside leftover turkey. You can substitute other cabbage and root veg that you have handy as long as there’s a festive red element in there.


Zesty Beetroot & Red Cabbage Salad

1 medium sized beetroot

1 kohl rabi

1/4 red cabbage

2 carrots

1 red chiili

1 handful of flat-leaf parsley

2 limes

1 tablespoon olive oil or rapeseed oil

Maldon sea salt & lots of black pepper

Peel and shred (or chop as fine as you have time and patience for!) the beetroot, red cabbage, carrots and kohl rabi. Deseed and chop the chilli and roughly chop the parsley. Mix everything together, adding the juice of the limes, oil and seasoning to taste. You may even want to add more lime juice if you feel like a real citrus kick – or that may be just me, I’m finding lime and chillis quite addictive at the moment.


Great with flatbread and dips for a lunch or easy supper but also delicious with leftover meat or smoked fish.


Fingers crossed for a healthy and happy Christmas!

Photos of this salad were taken by my lovely friend Chava, who has a great vegan Stollen recipe on her blog, during lunch.


mandarin lip balm & a home-made christmas


Little pots of lip balm, scented with a festive citrus essential oil and maybe including a tincture made from flowers from the garden, are surprisingly easy to make. The first time I made lip balm with Ruby I decided they were such a simple thing for her to get involved in, I must remember to revisit for Christmas gifts.

When I suggested making lip balm a week ago, my daughter was enthusiastic. Partly as she wanted to make some for herself, dismissing the herbal lip balm I keep handing to her for her chapped lips as “smelly.” She also swiftly added that they should be “glittery.” As it is Christmas and I remembered there was some edible gold glitter in the cake decorating drawer, I agreed that some of them could be glittery. Realizing that perhaps not everybody is partial to lips with sticky gold shimmer, I’ve left this out of the recipe below.

mandarin & calendula lip balm

1 teaspoon beeswax

70g cocoa butter

1 teaspoon coconut oil

5 drops calendula tincture (not essential if you don’t have any, I’ve made without this too)

12 drops mandarin essential oil

Melt the beeswax, cocoa butter and coconut oil in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Add the tinctures and then the essential oil. Pour into little pots before the mixture begins to harden. I used pots that I’d saved, but you can buy inexpensive lip balm pots from The Handmade Company: they also sell ingredients such as cocoa butter, dried flower petals and have some lovely home-made aprons for children.

If you don’t have the ingredients for lip balm, I can also recommend bath bombs, which I made here last Christmas as a very easy gift to make with children.



I’m a big fan of adding a homemade touch to Christmas, whether to decorations, handmade gifts or the food and drink that you offer family and friends. Besides, I’d far rather be pottering around in the warmth of the kitchen, baking spiced gingerbread and gathering greenery from the garden than getting hassled in a packed shopping centre.


 I love it that my daughter is as enthusiastic as I am about making home-made gifts. She started young, plopping bits of vegetables into my biggest saucepan for Christmas Chutney when she was a toddler. With a little input from her, I labelled them up as ‘Ruby’s Christmas Chutney’; we often bring out paint, glitter and our Christmas stamps to add Christmas sparkle to frugal luggage labels. We painted a cardboard box together and glued on letters spelling ‘Ruby’s home-made goodies’ and filled it with our preserves. Ruby delved into it on Christmas day, handing out very rustic but home-made/home-grown chutney to her Aunties, Uncles and Grandparents.

The box remains, a little battered, but still in use and Ruby is still keen to get involved in our home-made Christmas. Aged 6, she does have stronger ideas about what she would like to make, however, often featuring modelling clay, you know the stuff that dries and hardens overnight. The sort that is often found lurking under the table/behind chairs in this house. Her ideas are often a tad ambitious; last year it was, “I know, let’s make cups and saucers.”

Little jars of Dukkah, an earthy Egyptian blend of nuts and spices are another favourite home-made gift of mine and I like the way they suggest a Three Kings Eastern exoticsm meets traditional English Christmas (in my mind anyway!). Nuts and spices were rightly celebrated in Elizabethan times as treats worthy of Christmas feasting and as Dukkah stores well, it can be made ahead of the festivities, when hopefully all is still calm in the kitchen.


The pestle and mortar pounding is good fun but straightforward for little helpers and it’s worth saving a jar for yourself to eat with Christmas leftovers; added to olive oil and dried mint if you have it, Dukkah makes a great dip. I also have membrillo centred plans for the last few Quince, still scenting the room with their wonderful aroma. 

Much as the pairing of sweetly fragrant quince jelly and salty Spanish cheese feels like a contemporary food fashion, I think it fits well with a traditional Christmas. After all, quinces, along with fruits, nuts and spices would’ve featured in an Elizabethan Christmas feast. Edible decorations and greenery brought in as garlands would’ve been a key part too of course and, inspired by Anne of Life in Mud Spattered Boots’ lovely rustic wreaths I have weekend plans for transforming hedgerow bounty.

Before I get carried away though, I must remember that I still have work deadlines to meet, a very scruffy house to get ready for family visitors and we’re nearly into the last lovely but very busy week of carols, school nativity and parties. As usual no doubt lots of my plans will be abandoned as I try to enjoy it all rather than race around getting frazzled. But trying a few new home-made things each year along with making the old favourites such as spiced biscuits for the tree, and involving Ruby as much as possible, does feel to me like it’s properly Christmas. Even if we do end up with a very messy, sticky, glittery house along the way! 


quincemeat oatie slices & my december kitchen

in my kitchen…….


……. I’m loving Ruby’s excitement as she jumps out of bed every morning and comes downstairs to look in a pocket of her advent calendar. In the pockets are a mixture of little gifts and notes. On weekend mornings there may be an “Ask Mummy to make Christmas biscuits note” or “Make decorations with lots of glitter.” Maybe a tiny tube of red icing for decorating; on others there’s a little chocolate or a glitzy festive hair-slide. Pegged to the pocket for Christmas Eve is the reindeer food Ruby made. This morning it was a big treat from Daddy that went down particularly well: a note directing her to a gaudy set of lights for the den she’s made with a shelf and a blanket.

What’s really lovely this year is that Ruby decided it wasn’t fair having just one thing in each pocket, so she’s crammed in some gifts (mainly items found around the house or chocolate bars saved from party bags – my daughter’s a hoarder!) for Mummy and Daddy too.


The advent calendar is also reminding me of the mix of  home-made/natural and the outright gaudy that my kitchen inevitably ends up with at this time of year. I make Christmas granola and cranberry breakfast cookies, gather holly and have ideas of home-made gifts and decorations while admiring the simplicity of Scandinavian Christmas style.


My daughter, meanwhile, is craving tinsel and foil-wrapped novelty chocolates and of course would prefer this:


Obviously we end up with a chaotic mixture of the lot.

in my kitchen…..


… it’s starting to smell like Christmas. The quince-meat oatie slices include a mix of booze-soaked dried fruit that can’t help but remind you of the spicy fug of festive baking, whether they’re cooking or being eaten.


There have been quinces simmering slowly for Jelly, the Christmas Cake cooking at a low heat for several hours and the Christmas pudding steaming slowly on top of the wood-burning oven.  As there are storms outside, it all feels very comforting. As I write, a gale is whipping leaves up into a frenzied dance outside the kitchen window and I can see our cat trying to chase them. Not sure who’s more entertained, Mog or me.

But back to the Quince-meat Oatie slices. I used the home-made mince-meat including my quinces here, but you can obviously use any preferred mince-meat, bought or home-made. I was going to use Quince-meat in the Oatie slices I made here with greengage but as my vegan friend Chava was visiting (she took the lovely pics in this post and has a lovely piece here on advents for grown-ups I thought I’d experiment with a Little Leon bar recipe which doesn’t have fat. I substituted the dried fruit and nuts in the original Leon recipe for Quince-meat and it was so quick and easy to make. Even easier than my fruity Oatie slices, these are perfect to rustle up if you’re in the midst of a busy mix of work, Nativity plays, Christmas shopping and school runs.


Quince-Meat Oatie Slices


450g quince-meat or mince-meat


60g wholemeal flour

120g rolled oats

Preheat oven to 190C. Mix mince-meat with oats and flour and a drizzle of honey depending on how sweet your taste/mince-meat is. Smooth the mixture into a 25 X 30cm baking tray lined with baking parchment. Drizzle with a little extra honey. Bake for 20-25 minutes until nicely golden. Allow to cool before cutting into bars/slices.

They will keep for a week in an airtight container. A parcel of these Quince-meat slices could make a simple festive gift, so would love to include them in the Teatime Treats challenge, hosted by Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage.


These are lovely warm as a pudding too with a little cream or thick Greek yoghurt.  We ate some with the wonderful cream I brought back from Woefuldane Dairy and the combination of boozy, nutty, fruit and rich cream reminded us of Christmas pudding with brandy cream.

in my kitchen….


……my Christmas cake and Christmas pudding are based on traditional recipes but with a twist.  Not always intentional. My Christmas pudding does have dried fruit soaked in alcohol but, inspired by Sarah of the Garden Deli, I substituted some of the bought dried fruit for the boozy sloes from my sloe gin. While the Christmas pudding had a generous drizzle of my home-made Quince Ratafia from Diana Henry’s Salt, Sugar, Smoke while it was still warm from the oven. And I have to admit that it’s also heart-shaped. This wasn’t planned, more a result of my shoddiness.

Basically, I’d soaked the fruit in alcohol, taken the butter from the fridge and knew that I had a full school day working at the kitchen table; it was a perfect day to have the cake baking for several hours while I worked. Obviously I’d already mixed the cake before I attempted to line the cake tin and realised I didn’t have greaseproof paper. In a rash mood I decided to use my Ikea heart-shaped silicone mould. Very luckily it didn’t burn. Not sure how I’m going to ice it though!

in my kitchen…..


……some of the home-made booze is ready and offering double treats. As I said, the sloe gin has contributed to the Christmas cake, I’d also like to try the boozy sloes in a cake with almonds and orange. The blackberries from the blackberry whisky are also great with vanilla ice-cream for an extremely easy pud – drizzle over a little of the blackberry whisky too and it’s delicious. I’m still looking for inspiration for the sweetened and brandy soaked quinces from the Quince Ratafia. Any ideas very welcome.

I’m enjoying preparing a little of the food for Christmas feasting ahead – the red cabbage to go with the turkey is in the freezer, Scandinavian pickled beetroot to go with gravlax is in jars and labneh is preserved in oil to do with leftover meat and flatbreads. When it all starts to get busier and I’m more frazzled later in the month, a tipple of my home-made booze may be just the job though!


Would love to join in once again with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s fab In My Kitchen, enjoying a nosy peep at kitchens around the world.





a cotswold dairy & making labneh

My newfound enthusiasm for cheese-making took me to Woefuldane Organic Dairy near Minchinhampton last week. Having experimented with simple soft cheese-making, including paneer, feta and ricotta, I was keen to find out a little about hard cheese-making.

Holmleigh, a small local dairy farm that supplies me with wonderful un-homogenised milk had mentioned that Woefuldane sometimes make delicious cheese for them and that these were the people to talk to locally about artisan cheese-making.


A small family business, Woefuldane farm is run by father Jonathan with the help of daughter Olivia – they’re out in all weathers and for long hours to produce the gorgeous, creamy milk from their Shorthorn cows. Melissa is in charge of the dairy and, with the help of dairy maids Emma and Hannah, bottles the milk and also transforms it into ten different cheeses, butter and the most temptingly thick cream and yoghurt.



Much as I love my own area of the Cotswolds, when I stepped inside the little shop in the main square of Minchinhampton where son Henry sells the dairy produce, I wished I lived nearer. Locals filled their own containers from pails of creamy milk (a beautifully old-fashioned way of cutting packaging waste) and a counter of cheeses including Hampton Blue (a powerful roquefort bite and spectacularly blue), Double and Single Gloucester, smoked Forest Oak and Blue Heaven (a creamy soft blue cheese) tempted me. All of the cheeses are Woefuldane’s own, as is the cream, milk and yoghurt. To complete the simple range of beautifully made staple foods, local eggs and ham are on sale. In a cosy corner a few tables offer the chance to dally over a good coffee and slice of cake or a simple lunch.

Back in the dairy, just across the yard from the farmhouse, it was great to hear about cheese-making from Melissa. Talking to her, it was evident how much of a part the quality of their milk plays in Woefuldane’s cheese. The cows are out in the fields every day, even in winter (although they sleep under cover at night when it’s cold) and Melissa says, “It’s really important for them to get the exercise, it keeps them fit and they like it.” She says that they’re a “very old-fashioned farm”, making hay, not silage: “It makes much better milk for cheese.”

While we talked, Melissa was keeping an eye on a huge vat of milk to check if curds were forming for a Camembert style cheese. The milk had come straight from the cows at body temperature and was then heated to 30C before the starter culture was added; moulded culture is added to encourage a white mould to develop. Melissa recommended that once it’s ripening the cheese ideally needs to be at a temperature of 12/13 degrees C and needs humidity – you can stand bowls of water near to it if this isn’t the case.



All of the cheeses at Woefuldane are made by hand, using time-honoured methods and there seems something beautifully satisfying about doing justice to such good quality milk in this way.

Hearing about the scalding, heating of curds in whey, draining, cutting into blocks, salting, pressing and ripening of hard cheese-making, I was as keen to try making some as I was to eat it.  Especially when I looked at the shelves of ripening cheeses.

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I think I’ll need to be a little more patient though if I’m going to try my hand at hard cheeses. Some of Melissa’s cheddar style cheeses take at least 6 months to mature; not quite like deciding to make paneer for dinner on the same day.

Before tackling this trickier process, I couldn’t resist buying some of Woefuldane’s yoghurt to make Labneh when I got home. The simplest of cheeses, all you have to do to make Labneh is place yoghurt in a sieve lined with muslin. Tie up the four corners of the muslin and suspend over a bowl – I just tie it to my tap which rises quite high over the sink or use brackets of a shelf in my kitchen. If it’s too warm in the kitchen, I’ve suspended it in the fridge, tied to the wine rack. The whey drains away leaving a ball of creamy cheese that’s perfect in Middle Eastern influenced dishes, including lots of lovely Ottolenghi recipes.


I had a suspicion that Woefuldene yoghurt would make wonderful Labneh. I was right, it’s so creamy, with a gorgeous subtle flavour. Once it had drained in muslin for 24 hours, I rolled it into little balls and covered them in olive oil in jars, They should keep in the fridge for at least a month.

Some of the balls I left plain, some I rolled in lemon thyme from the garden and some were rolled in paprika. We scoffed some last night with flatbread made on the wood-burner, little lamb koftas and broad beans(frozen when we had our summer glut) and I just wish I’d bought more yoghurt, they’re delicious and so easy. I think that rolled in the smoky red paprika they’d make great Christmas gifts too. Perhaps alongside a jar of home-made dukkah.



 As for the hard cheese-making, very inspired but it may be a few months before I report more. A few months of strange cultures lurking and unknown moulds forming!