Saturday, 8 August 2009


One of the disadvantages of growing your own vegetables and raising your own meat is that it's easy to become the most dreadful snob about food. Usually this is good - I very rarely buy out of season vegetables now and when I do they are French grown, local if possible; the result is that we eat a much wider variety of vegetables. I am very particular about what meat I buy now. I don't often buy chicken as we eat our own but when I do I only buy "Label Rouge" standard (I think this may be equivalent to the Red Tractor label in the UK but I'm not sure; suffice to say it comes with certain guarantees about living conditions and feed quality). Burgers - well, let's not even go there! I buy the beef and mince my own. Don't get me wrong, in other people's houses I eat what I'm given and it's always delicious. I am only talking about my own personal shopping preferences.

However, one thing I simply don't like/won't eat is shop bought mayonnaise. I'm sure that some makes are better than others but they simply don't compare with homemade. Fortunately I can usually pass on the mayonnaise without causing offence and it's only a subject of conversation if I am at home making it. The reaction is always the same, "I know it's much nicer but I just don't have the time to make mayonnaise and shop bought is just as good." (Yes, there is a contradiction in that sentence but that is the reaction!)

The fact is that mayonnaise is very quick to make and the ingredients are usually in the kitchen already: egg, mustard, sunflower oil (or other oil of your choice), salt/pepper and a teaspoon of curry powder if you want it. I don't use olive oil as I find the taste is too strong - unpleasant even - but other people do and another option would be half and half. For the hardware, a balloon whisk is easier than a fork but either will do the job and a Kenwood mixer is even better although I only use mine for large quantities. The most time consuming part of home made mayonnaise is washing up the bowl and whisk. My 15 year old son makes mayonnaise for me if I don't have the time or if I've forgotten to do it - it really is that easy!

If you've never made mayonnaise before, please give it a go. I may not be able to convince you that it's better but it's got to be worth a try.


1 egg yolk
1 generous teaspoon mustard (I use French Dijon mustard, not the grainy one)
200mls sunflower oil (or other - see above) - add more or less oil according to the quantity required
Salt/Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon curry powder if you want it

Put the egg yolk and the mustard into a bowl and whisk together. Add the oil very slowly, a dribble at a time, whisking all the time. Keep dribbling in the oil and keep whisking until you have the quantity you require, by which time the mayonnaise with be quite thick. Add salt and pepper to taste and the curry powder if you want it.

CURDLING: Personally, I have never had this problem. I don't think this is a reflection of my brilliance in the kitchen; rather I think it's a reflection of how easy mayonnaise is to make. If you are worried about curdling though check out the internet first because there are remedies for curdled mayonnaise involving a second egg yolk and a bit of patience.

Final note: Personally I don't keep mayonnaise overnight. I believe you can keep it in an airtight jar in the fridge but bearing in mind the presence of raw egg I prefer not to do this.

Tomato Ketchup and Friends

I recently had a request from my friend Polly in Ireland for my recipe for Tomato Ketchup. I say friend but needless to say this is a very modern usage as Polly is someone who I have never met apart from "on-line". My children find it extraordinary that I have "on-line friends". They warn me of the dangers of such things although surely they must realise that I am not an obvious candidate to be taken in and duped into running away with someone I've met on a blog about gardening or knitting. Anyway, as far as Polly is concerned I have thought hard about my childrens' warnings and simply can't see anything suspicious about someone who also has a garden requesting a recipe for Tomato Ketchup so here it is:

I am a great fan of Hugh F-W and the following is basically his recipe but I can't always get the spices he suggests so I put in what I have in the cupboard. This year it is as follows:

3kgs of ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 large onions, sliced
1 red pepper, pips removed and then chopped
200mls cider vinegar
100gms brown sugar

Spice bag: 1 star anis, cloves, chopped up chilly pepper (I put in three this morning - I'll let you know if that was a mistake - see below), 1 cinnamon stick, peppercorms,

Put the tomatoes, onions and pepper into a large pan and simmer until really soft. Liquidize and then rub through a sieve. Put the result back in the large pan and add the vinegar, sugar and spice bag. Bring to the boil and then simmer for as long as it takes to reduce to a pulpy mix. Put into warmed sterile pots and store. You can use bottles but be aware that the ketchup thickens as it cools and what pours in might then refuse to come out again!

If you are using homegrown tomatoes you might like to plan a larger tomato area for next year. 3kgs is a huge amount and in our case represents about a week's worth of tomatoes. Luckily this year is a good one for tomatoes (unlike the past two years) and also I planted many more than usual so we can still have a tomato salad for lunch - anyway the cucumbers need eating at the moment!

I think it's safe to say that 3 chilli peppers were too many! It is delicious but VERY hot!