Recipe: Spiced Salt Beef

This recipe is amazing!  It is very easy to prepare - you may need to plan ahead for fridge space, but it is well worth the wait.  Recipe from the Country Living Magazine, Dec 2014:

Lower Dairy Farm Salt Beef RecipeSPICED SALT BEEF

Preparation: 20 minutes plus marinating. Cooking: ~ 3 hours 20 minutes, plus cooling

2 - 2.5 kg Lower Dairy Farm topside joint 100g light muscovado sugar 175g sea salt 2 tbsp black peppercorns 1 tbsp allspice berries 2 tbsp juniper berries

Choose a casserole dish or container in which the beef fits snugly.  Mix together the sugar and sea salt. Rub this mixture over the beef and place the joint in your chosen dish.  Cover and put in the fridge, or a very cool place such as a garage [clearly these people don't have a curious terrier called Humbug!] for 2 days.

After two days, roughly crush the peppercorns and berries in a pestle and mortar. Rub this spice mix all over the beef and return to the dish. Cover and chill.

Spiced Salt Lower Dairy Farm BeefEvery day for the next ten days, rub the beef all over with the spices and return to the fridge as before. [We recommend you do this daily, but sometimes we forget & it's still awesome.]

Heat the oven to 140oC (120oC fan oven), gas mark 1. Remove the beef from the dish and discard the juices. Quickly rinse away any spices and put in a casserole dish again, just large enough to hold the beef snugly. Add 300ml water, bring to the boil and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook in the oven for 50 minutes per 500g. Remove from the oven and leave in the dish to cool for three hours.

Drain the beef and wrap it in clingfilm. Put in a lipped dish in the fridge and press down with weights overnight.  To serve, slice thinly (even I can achieve deli counter slices!) and enjoy your very own deli-cured beef in sandwiches!

Nice but dim

On Thursday, we retrieved this lovely, but dim calf from a water tank.  After climbing out, he peed on me, demonstrating his Blue Flag-esque clean water credentials, and making me a pollution hazard in the catchment zone of a watercourse.

Which brings me to a request from @FarmerCharles on Twitter this week:  "What was that cake with apostles all over it that I was going to try?"  I had intended to start said cake with apostles all over it, a Simnel Cake, that night but, well, hygiene first.

Simnel Cake - as styled by Marguerite Patten

In the matter of the Taylor-Nicholson Simnel Cake, we use our Christmas cake recipe; a great excuse to eat Christmas cake more than once a year.  Choose your favourite fruit or Dundee cake recipe, and sandwich a layer of marzipan in the middle of the batter.  When cool, brush the top with jam and add a circle of marzipan and twelve balls to represent the apostles, minus Judas.  Brown the marzipan under the grill or using a blowtorch (perhaps not the one that lives on the farm, and no, the dehorner won't do).

The thing to remember, is that twelve balls are insufficient; '70s decorations are compulsory.  If it's good enough for Marguerite, then it's good enough for your Easter table.  And be warned: Don't melt the apostles (grilling in the Aga can be hit and miss)!  Marguerite will know.

Essex, Orange and Proud

Yes, it's nearly Halloween, and El Diablo dog is disguising himself as a pumpkin to avoid the ghosts of past unholy collie-terrier unions. Wise werewolf.

   Here in Essex, those of us who cannot afford a spray tan, take this seasonal opportunity to surround ourselves with as many pumpkins as possible for a reflected TOWIE orange glow. Nothing is more effective at scaring the undead.  And so, to celebrate this joyous pumpkin-filled Hallowe'en, we've delved into Hannah's recipe "book" (a scary task in itself, see right), and as requested, the recipe for a family favourite:

 Pumpkin Bread

1lb pumpkin (peeled and diced) , 2 oz butter/marg, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ginger, large pinch nutmeg, 1lb flour (1/2 white, 1/2 wholemeal is best), 1 tsp. salt (optional), 2 tsps. sugar, 2 tbsps. warm water, 1 egg (beaten)

Peel and dice the pumpkin.  Cover with water and cook for 20 minutes until tender then drain and mash with the butter, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Make sure it is smooth.  Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, mix together the sugar, warm water, egg and yeast.

Once the pumpkin mixture is lukewarm, combine all the ingredients and knead.  The mixture can be quite wet at first.  The best advice I've had is to start mixing and kneading with a spatula and give the flour time to absorb some of the liquid.  If needed, gradually add extra flour a little at a time on your hands or in the bowl and knead in until you have a smooth dough. 

Cover and leave for 10 minutes to prove in a warm place. 

Punch down and divide the dough in two.  Knead each half and place into two greased 1lb loaf tins.  Cover the tins with a tea towel and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

Cook at 200oC for about 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when knocked on the base. (My favourite part of the bread process!)

Enjoy toasted with lashings of butter, Marmite or jam and try not to eat the two loaves before you get a chance to take a photo...ahem.

This year, mini pumpkins (munchkins) are available at Wiston Church, including the adorably named 'Wee Be Little'.  It's worth a walk over to Wiston to enjoy the autumn colours and return home with pockets of pumpkins. They also act as excellent improvised "go fetch" balls if you are uncoordinated enough to drop them near annoyingly fast werewolves with vegetarian tendencies - a socially acceptable werewolf if ever I've met one.

Happy baking and Happy Halloween!

Roll up, roll up!

For the past week the valley has roared with tractors rushing to cultivate, drill and do whatever it takes to keep some moisture in the soil. To celebrate the end of drilling and another week of arrivals (not forgetting my updated list of future calvings in, get this, date order), it's time to feed those tired, hungry farmers!

Today, we're honouring our very own Easter chicks with a family favourite,  Cheesy Yorkshire.

Forget toad-in-the-hole, this is far superior!   And don't worry Marmite-haters, you cannot taste it (trust me), so unless you are allergic to or have a genuine phobia of Marmite, you are not allowed to leave it out.  No excuses!

Cheesy Yorkshire

6oz plain flour, 3 of Lower Dairy Farm's finest eggs*, ~1/4 - 1/2pt milk, 1 onion - diced, 2 tsps chopped sage (mixed herbs if easier), 1/2 tbsp Marmite, cubed cheese - Cheddar is best (British of course)

Dice the onion and brown in a little oil in a cake or roasting pan/ovenproof dish.  Make the batter as for a Yorkshire pudding - combine eggs, flour, milk and beat until the batter "whoops".  Beat in the herbs and Marmite.  Sprinkle cubes of cheddar over the onion and pour over the batter.

Cook at 220oC (G.M.7) until well-risen, cracked and golden.  Don't panic if it doesn't rise or falls flat, some (me) say the denser version is the best!

Delicious hot or cold (excellent picnic food) and particularly good for breakfast - if it lasts that long!

WARNING: Batter may have mesmeric qualities.  People have been found staring at batter - or cooking it with the power of their mind?


* Multiply quantities up or down with 1 egg for every 2oz flour.

Wake up!

It's 6:05 and it's breakfast time!  Why?  Well, a)  because it's Farmhouse Breakfast Week! and b) because without breakfast, life is very grim indeed.

And so to make sure you "shake up your wake up", our shelves are stocked with jams, jellys and marmalades, and the hens are powering through and laying eggs for you in these cold, dark days.  To mark the occasion, I've also expanded my flock with some lovely Columbian Blacktails to make sure you can go to work on an egg.

This week, I'm lucky enough to be in Dorset and I'm shaking up my wake up with fresh unpasteurised milk on my cereal.  My favourite!  I'm the last one up - Stuart is milking and Helen has just arrived at the Stanley's for a routine (vet, not dance - even with breakfast, it's far too early to bust a move), so before I tuck in to breakfast (and drink the bulk tank dry) all that remains is to wish you an equally happy week of breakfasting.

For inspiration, scrumptious recipes and to take the Breakfast Week Challenge with Melinda Messenger, head to the Shake Up Your Wake Up website.

The Last Jar

It's my birthday!  And whilst we enjoy copious quantities of cake, it is time to remember those that are lonely.  The mincemeat languishing at the back of the fridge?  Or slowly fermenting away in the cupboard to be found next year distilled to a fine homebrew?  We plan to end this cruelty (and avoid the homebrew) by giving you the gift of Hannah's recommended recipe.

Belgian Fruit Cake      

                          - from the Cranks Recipe Book ( a kitchen essential)

4 oz (100g) butter or marg, 3oz (75g) Demerara sugar, 2 eggs, 5oz (150g) self-raising flour, 8oz (225g) mincemeat, Water 1tbsp

  Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs. Fold in flour, then mincemeat and water.

 Place the mixture into a greased and base-lined 8" (20cm square cake tin. Level the surface.

Bake at 170.C (325.F/G.M.3) for about 30 minutes, until well risen and golden.

Cool in the tin.

 Trust me.  It's nothing like a mince pie, so no excuses if you ODed over Christmas. Plus, the recipe recommends wholemeal flour, so if you're still on a New Year health kick, go for the fibre.  Happy baking!


Bricklayers Anonymous

   Yesterday, whilst wearing my regulation "it's November, it should be cold" outfit (three fleeces and a waterproof) I was wolf-whistled at by a man towing a cattle trailer.  I was as surprised as you are, but this can only mean one thing...bring on the mince pies!

   And no Verity, you cannot use shop bought pastry.  Save yourself some money and go crazy with some shortcrust.

Shortcrust pastry

8oz flour, pinch of salt, 2oz lard, 2oz marg, cold water to mix (approx 2tbsp), (1oz sugar for sweet pastry)

Mix flour and salt in basin, rub in fat.

Using a knife, to cut and stir, mix with cold water to form a stiff paste.

Turn dough on to a floured board/worktop and roll out.

- from the Be-Ro bible.

   Personally, I think lids are a waste of pastry (I am that cheap), so it's stars or dinosaurs, or whichever shape cutter/mould comes to hand - some still retaining the kryptonic strength of dried-on homemade play dough.  Or if you have that much time on your hands, you can create Edible Boggle (minus the shaking).  Way more rewarding than actual Boggle.

   In other news...progress on the barn restoration.  The brickwork is nearly completed thanks to Dad and Jack, our Master Bricklayer.

   Over the past two years, Mum and Dad have made incredible progress to ensure the barn remains standing for another few hundred years.  Through courses run by Essex Heritage and led by the excellent Richard Green of Green Restoration, we've been able to repair the rotten sole plate in three places and shore up the barn.  After the marathon effort of all the attendees on the last course, we've got a lot to do but it will be worth it!

We'll be adding more information and background to our website, but here is a quick photographic rundown to get you up to speed and show you our most recent progress.  And Richard, I'm not that good with Photoshop, the brickwork is real!

The race is on to get it shipshape before the weather turns...!