buttermilk & fermented pickles – february in my kitchen

in my kitchen…….


……buttermilk, ripening cheese and a tub of home-made ricotta are proof of my recent fixation with dairy products. As you may know, thanks to the lovely unhomogenized Jersey milk from a local dairy farmer and the creamy Buffalo milk I was given recently, I’ve been experimenting with labneh, mozzarella and paneer. The arrival in my kitchen of a beautiful book, The Creamery Kitchen, has fired my enthusiasm further.


I’ll write a full review of ‘the creamery kitchen’ very soon, once I’ve tried cooking the delicious looking buttermilk parmesan scones and buttermilk fried chicken, maybe the mascarpone too. It’s full of lovely, traditional recipes, the sort that would’ve once been passed down from generation to generation in an era when most people made some butter, maybe cheese in their own kitchen. Some are exotic (saffron and cardamom labneh or lamb skewers with za’atar labneh), a few are a little more complicated; others are reassuringly simple, such as buttermilk. If I’d known that all that you have to do is add white wine vinegar or lemon juice to whole milk  and set aside to thicken and sour for 15 minutes, I’d have made buttermilk to add to American style pancakes, cornbread and Irish soda bread ages ago.

I’m reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, one of my childhood favourites, to Ruby at the moment and buttermilk seems an entirely appropriate thing to have in the kitchen while I’m transported to a time and place where Aunties deliberate over calico or gingham for dressmaking and Rebecca’s mother singlehandedly makes butter, cream and cheese back at the farm while bringing up seven children (making me feel very inadequate the more I think about it!). Loving the very strong/slightly eccentric girl characters in books like Rebecca and Roald Dahl’s Matilda at the moment. Surely better role models than all those Princesses in towers? Although after listening to the 6 year old chatter in my car this morning on the school run (“Shall we dress in camouflage as teachers?”) I fear these strong characters may be having an immediate influence.

in my kitchen……


…….a few other things are fermenting. Inspired by the great Whey to go post at Fromage Homage’s blog, I’ve had a go at lacto-fermentation to make use of all that leftover whey from my cheese experiments. I’ve tried it with beetroot – partly as it’s still plentiful in the garden. Also, it has to sit on the kitchen windowsill for 4 days. I think I imagined a jewel coloured kilner jar like the gorgeous ones in Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smoke. Instead I seem to have a cloudy jar of suspect may smell rancid. Reassured by the Fromage Homage notes that the cloudy stage passes, I’ll remain optimistic as usual.

I’m also having a go at semi-hard cheese. Inspired by the recipe here. The plan is to avoid glitter and coat it merely with sea salt and olive oil (unlike the lard in the recipe) although I have to say that the glittery cheese was tasty once I’d scraped the sheen off. Not sure the glitter added anything though!

My cheese is currently at the stage where I’m meant to leave it for 2 days unwrapped for the rind to dry out. With two resident cats, leaving a cheese that is rapidly developing stinky tendencies uncovered on the kitchen work-top isn’t ideal. So I’ve covered it with a colander hoping that the air can still circulate and dry the rind.


In my kitchen we’re very lucky to have a good supply of free and pretty wild protein at the moment. Thanks to Pete the fish-catcher we have lots of lovely trout, currently being cooked simply in foil to be eaten with roast root veg – leftovers mixed with a little home-made soft cheese, lemon juice and horseradish for a simple pate. The blustery February days are giving me a craving for warming spices and the trout is also going into Thai curries along with our Mother Hubbard squash and chard from the garden. I fancy trying it in a tandoori salmon recipe soon too – interested if anyone knows if this works with trout?

Pheasant is our other plentiful free food at the moment, thanks to farmer friends. It horrifies me when I hear of big, corporate pheasant shoots where 200 pheasants are shot and nobody is bothered about eating them. When they’re shot for the table though or from a small scale farmer’s shoot, I reason that, if you’re going to eat farmed foods, these have a pretty wild, free-range life. And are delicious roasted with bacon and prunes or substituted for guinea fowl in pies like this. I also made pheasant curry, inspired by this recipe in Mad Dog’s TV dinners.

I’ve been spicing up veggies from the garden and local eggs in dishes like gypsy eggs and chickpea cauliflower too. Both lovely with my favourite flat-bread.


in my kitchen……


….I’ve also been noticing what a great helper I have these days. It doesn’t seem a minute since there was flour everywhere and licking out the bowl from cake-making was Ruby’s main kitchen activity. Cleaning out the cake bowl is of course still very popular but it recently dawned on me quite how capable she’s getting. One of those realizations that has mixed emotions as I don’t want the time when she’s happy to cuddle up with me and read Matilda to pass too quickly. Still, useful when it comes to baking….

Linking in once again with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s fab In my kitchen where we get to have a lovely peep at other kitchens around the world.

trout ceviche


Tea and Toast in bed was very lovely yesterday morning. As was going for a swim with Ruby and coming home starving to bacon sandwiches. I thought Mother’s Day couldn’t get much better. Then twelve trout turned up.

Perhaps spending an afternoon gutting and fileting fish may not be everyone’s idea of a Mother’s Day treat, but I was thrilled with my beautiful fish and full of ideas for how to make best use of them.


Our trout were incredibly fresh, caught yesterday morning by Pete the Fish catcher, who truly lived up to his name. And left, while we were swimming, at the very cosy Ebrington Arms pub. The landlord kindly kept them in the fridge until we turned up, resisting the urge to add them to his menu.

I’d been wanting to try trout gravadlax as soon as I had access to freshly caught fish, so this was the first thing I tackled. Will report on this later in week when it’s ready. But while I trimmed the fish filets for beetroot gravadlax, another idea came to mind. I spent a great day a couple of years ago on a River Cottage Fish course (a fantastic 40th birthday present from my family) and we used the trimmings from sea bass filets for ceviche.

I turned to the recipe in The River Cottage Fish Book by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Nick Fisher for black bream/sea bass ceviche and adapted it to suit my trout. Well, to suit what I had to hand too, to be honest. It was very quick and easy to mix together, delicious to eat a few hours later. And the trimmings of the trimmings were very much enjoyed by Mog and Tiger. Nothing wasted!

Ruby was quite fascinated by the whole process too, bringing a chair over to watch. For a short while, anyway.


Trout Ceviche

250g very fresh trout fillets

Juice of 3 limes

1 small red onion, sliced thinly

1/2 green chilli, sliced

1/4 teaspoon soft brown sugar

pinch salt

(In River Cottage Fish, paprika, cayenne and chopped coriander are added and lemons and orange substituted for some of the limes. I’ve tried this and it’s great, but this time simple lime and chilli flavours seemed right with the trout)

The fish needs to be skinned and cut across the grain into 0.5 – 1cm thick pieces. Mine were cut from filet trimmings.

Combine the lime juice with onion, chilli, sugar and salt in a non-metalic container. Add the fish and mix gently, making sure it’s completely submerged in the liquid. Put in the fridge to marinate for between an hour and 12 hours. We ate ours after 3 hours and it was perfect. The flesh becomes opaque as the juice ‘cooks’ it.

As I’d found a bottle of tequila in the back of the pantry for the gravadlax, we had a little shot with the ceviche. It went very well – and it was Mother’s day!


And Pete, if you’re reading, huge thanks for such lovely fresh fish. Chorizo and gravadlax heading your way.