Ginger Beer Plant

Ginger Beer Plant

This is for Patrick. Thursday Mary used to tend our Ginger Beer Plant, kept in the cupboard in the corner of the kitchen, with the fuse box. I recall it was a particularly tangy beer, nice and sparky.

Patrick – I hope you can follow this recipe. Can you let us know how your propagation goes? And I hope there’s not a sticky explosion, as per the Elderflower Cordial incident.

If anyone has any tips on how to start and maintain a ginger beer plant, please comment below. Especially, if you have troubleshooting tips and a recipe using fresh ginger.


UPDATE: 11 December 2016

Thanks to the callout via Facebook, Di Ingelse recommended the CWA (Country Women’s Association) recipe via Burke’s Backyard. This looks like a goer to me. I recommend reading some of the comments, and as my sister-in-law says, “Take cover” when you store and bottle this – it can be quite explosive!
Let me know how it works (or not) for you.


Colin’s pudding

Colin’s pudding

Lynne Lowrie from Blegbie in Humbie has sent through this recipe for a quick pudding option.

Quite often Pamela and Ross would team up for casual dinner with neighbours Colin and Lynne. There were always plenty of cooking apples from the small garden orchard to be used up and Pamela liked to indulge Colin’s penchant for puddings. A hard working farmer can certainly be allowed to partake in as much cake and pudding as he likes!

The derivation of this recipe is a bit iffy, but our guess is that it is another Ida Wilkie / Pamela Flockhart ‘throw it altogether and bung it in the oven’ type of affair.

Apple and Almond Cake
Serves 4

12oz apples, peeled and chopped
6oz sugar
5oz butter or marg
2 eggs
½ tsp almond essence
8oz S.R flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
Milk for consistency (Lynne to confirm?)
Sprinkling of flaked almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon

Turn on the oven and heat to 325°F or 160°C. Grease a 9 inch tin.

You pretty much mix everything together, but I find this sequence the most efficient unless of course you have a super dooper food mixer.

  1. Cream the sugar and butter (or margarine).
  2. Beat in the eggs and the almond essence.
  3. Add the dry ingredients (flour and BP) spoon by spoon and mix,
  4. Add some milk until the mixture is a heavy batter. (Is that right, Lynne? Other
    wise the mixture is very thick.)

Place half the mixture in a 9 inch tin or baking dish, cover with apples and top with remaining mixture. Sprinkle with the almond, cinnamon and sugar topping.

Bake for 1 ½ hours at 325°F or 160°C. Serve with ice-cream or natural Greek yoghurt.

To make this recipe for 6 people just use one and a half times the ingredients.

My photos aren’t the best but hopefully you get the giste.

[Health warning: many of the recipes on this site contain flour & sugar. I always recommend organic, single origin ingredients, preferably unbleached, and will endeavour to offer alternatives. As we so very painfully know, cancer cells love sugar – so please moderate your sweet treats.]

Quick Apple and Almond Cake in a bowl

Colin’s Pudding


The Lowrie Family

Thank you Lynne!

Pam Flockhart’s Carrot Cake

It was great to hear from the Bolton family this week (both here in Perth and in Humbie).

Nicola has sent through one of Mum’s recipes which she says is, “Fantastic! A firm favourite with our family.” Indeed, it could be the recipe that was used for our wedding cake!

I haven’t had a chance to bake it yet in order to take photos for this post. If you do – please send me your photos.

It’s traditional to top a carrot cake with sweet lemony cheese topping, however we usually eat it without. If you are making this for guests, the local fete or school fundraiser, it’s probably nicer to add the topping. (Make sure you label the cake with the ingredients, so folks with food allergies are forewarned – you could leave out the nuts and add sultanas instead).

The method looks super easy – all the best!

Prep: Heat oven to 350 F (180 C) and line 2 x 8” square or  2 x 9” round or 2 x 2lb loaf tins with greaseproof baking paper.

Method: Cream sugar and oil. Beat in eggs. Add dry ingredients, then carrots and nuts. Bake 350 F (180 C) for about 50 mins.

12 oz (350g) soft brown sugar
12 oz (400 mls) corn oil
4 eggs
1 lb (454g) sifted plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
12 oz (350g) grated carrots
8 oz (227g) chopped walnuts or pecans or mixed nuts.

8 oz (227g) cream cheese ( e.g. Light Philly)
4 oz (115g) unsalted butter
1 lb (454g) sifted icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon juice.

Method: Cream together cream cheese and butter.  Beat in sugar. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Spread over cooled cake.

I’d love to hear if you have made this and how it worked out for you. Please use the comments box below.

Rose Hip Jelly

Longwood Crab Apples Dear Linda,

It’s great to hear that the Longwood garden is producing abundantly this autumn and that the crab apples are plentiful. Please send some photos.

At the thought of it, I can almost taste the lovely jelly that Mum used to make to go with Sunday roasts, in particular game, but really with any roast meat. Crab apple was the usual, but also small jars of jelly made from hedgerow booty.

However, I have not yet found the Crab Apple Jelly Recipe but here is one for Rose Hip. (Have you found the jelly bag yet? It’s looks a bit like an upside down Gandalf felt hat – but a yellowy brown colour.)

All the best – let us know if the jams and preserves are a hit at the Humbie Hub. Carola x


(BTW folks, when I say/write ‘jelly’ I am not referring to ‘jello’ or the dessert type of jelly, it’s a clear jam-like condiment – similar to cranberry sauce that complements baked ham at Christmas.)


Read more about the Healing Power of Rose Hips.

2lbs rose hips
2lbs apples
2 pints (5 cups) water
Juice of 1 lemon
White sugar

Wash hips and apples and chop roughly. Place fruit in separate pans & add half of the water to each.  Add lemon juice to the hips. Bring both pans to the boil and simmer till fruit is soft. Place juice and pulp together in the jelly bag and hang over a large pot or clean container. Do not squeeze. Measure juice and allow 1lb (2 cups) sugar to each pint of juice (2 and 1/2 cups). Bring to boil and boil rapidly when sugar is dissolved. Skim and bottle in clear small jars. (Jellies can develop a bit of a furry surface mould – which is harmless – but that’s why I recommend small jars – because they are eaten up faster!)


Quick Marmalade

I found this recipe in my Mum’s recipe book but, as with the majority of them, I know not where it originated, so apologies for the lack of acknowledgement. If you know from whence it came, please let me know.

2015-Sep-Grapefruit001Some people cut up the fruit first and soak it overnight in the water, but it is much easier to cut after it is cooked.
1.5lbs (700g) Seville oranges (well washed)
4 pints (1.8 litres) water, plus half pint for pips
1 lemon
3 lbs (1.4kg) sugar

Bring the whole oranges and the lemon to the boil in the 4 pints of water. Simmer in a closely covered pan, until very tender (approx 1 hour or more.)

Remove from cooker. When cool enough to handle, take out the fruit and chop it up, remove the pips, and return fruit to the pan. Boil the pips for 10 minutes in half a pint of water and then strain onto the fruit and water in the big pan. [The pips contain natural pectin, which helps the marmalade to set.]

2015-Sep-Grapefruit002Boil rapidly for 10-15 minutes. Add the 3lbs of sugar and continue to boil rapidly until the sugar is dissolved and the marmalade is at setting point (about 20-25 minutes).

To test for ‘setting’, place a couple of saucers in the freezer for about 5 minutes until chilled. Pour a teaspoon of the marmalade onto the cold saucer and return to freezer for a minute. The marmalade is ready to set if when you push it with your finger it wrinkles. (The 2nd saucer is there, if you need another go!)

Bottle in clean, sterilised, screw top jars.

P.S. Judy adds some beer instead of part of the water. She also uses brown sugar to make a very dark marmalade.

Carola’s variations:
Well, typical me, when attempting this recipe for the first time I didn’t follow it verbatim. I had a basket of grapefruits not oranges (thank you Juliette at Media on Mars for the fruit). Also, I don’t like super sweet preserves, so I cut the sugar by 30% and used organic raw sugar. Additionally, I experimented with some spices – by adding chilli flakes, cardamon, star anise, cinnamon and cloves.

2015-Sep-Grapefruit003This approach meant a few challenges, as the mystery behind rich and well set marmalade making is the scientific and perfect balance of the acid, pectin and sugar, boiled at the right temperature for the right amount of time. Not to be put off – I went ahead anyway – and I can probably say that the results are an ‘acquired taste’! We like it, but you may not!

Le me know how you get on – comments welcome.



Cumquat Gin

This is so easy to make but the hard part is waiting for it to be ready – anywhere from 6 months to 16 years!

2015-Sep-Preserves021Wash cumquats. Prick with a fork and place in a Kilner jar or jam them into a clean gin or whisky bottle. Fill almost to top. Add sugar (raw organic) to fill approx one third of the container. Top up with gin. Secure lid. Shake rattle and roll to dissolve the sugar and set aside.

For the first couple of weeks, give the jar or bottle a roll to mix things up each day. (I’ve heard that some people put them in the boot of their car to roll about! Wouldn’t want them to break tho’!). After that, put away in a dark cupboard and forget about them for at least 6 months.


It may be possible to hasten the process by boiling the cumquats in sugar and water for about 15 minutes, cool and then add the gin. I haven’t tried this yet but I will when the next batch of windfalls arrive at my door.

Also, I’ve read that some people prefer to peel the rind from the cumquats, being careful to avoid the bitter pith as this makes a better, richer flavour. If you have the patience, give it a go. I prefer ‘quick and easy’.

I haven’t made sloe gin but I think similar approach probably works – prick with a cocktail stick, add sugar and gin. Mum also used to intoxicate plums in brandy.

As always let me know how you get on and if you have any other recipes and tips.




Forage and Preserve

Pamela loved to forage in hedgerows and to make use of seasonal ‘free’ produce. And, if there’s a glut, you preserve. That could mean jams, marmalades, chutneys, pickles and liqueurs (also the famous exploding elderflower cordial). Here, in Australia, it’s spring and there’s plenty of citrus about. In Scotland, I suspect there are late summer fruits and maybe brambles and sloes, ready for the picking in the hedgerows.


Cumquat’s from Annie’s garden.

I’ve been on an amateur adventure into the land of marmalades, pickles and liqueurs lately – channeling Mum, as I can’t bear to see lawn-fuls of fruit going to waste. Although I don’t have ample citrus trees, many of my friends do and I have always liked the idea of homemade goodies to give away at Christmas or to donate to a charity fundraising stall. So…


16 year old gin-soaked cumquats! (These will be going in this year’s Christmas Cake.)

On discovering a quick marmalade recipe in Pamela’s recipe book, I put a call out for fruit and I searched for jars to prepare. I came across two Kilner jars of fruit in the back of a cupboard. Mum had preserved cumquats in gin and plums in brandy about 16 years ago, when we lived in Greenwich, Sydney – and these were the very same jars with the same said fruit! Although the majority of the liquid had long been consumed, some gin still remained – and wow, it’s good stuff!

Perfect neat or mixed as a cocktail with a squeeze of lime and a slice or two of fresh cumquat. Cheers to Mum & Dad.

Recipes coming along in the next couple of posts for Quick Marmalade, Lime Pickle and Cumquat Gin.


Pamela and Ross, circa 1950. Cumquat gin, circa 1999 – served 2015.


Cumquat gin, with tonic, squeeze of fresh lime, slices of fresh cumquat.

Grandma’s Fish Pie

This recipe takes a bit of coordination but it’s very easy. Prepare all the elements and then put it all together. The sink may fill with dishes in the process but the saving grace is that once the pie is constructed you can wash all the pans and there will be little to do after dinner!
[Please send me your tips, memories and heritage recipes too.]FishPiePrep01 FishPiePrep04FishPiePrep05

INGREDIENTS (serves 4-6) – (I’ve included some variations at the bottom of the page.)

  • SEAFOOD (all skinless, choose what’s best value at the monger, chop each into cubes)
    1 salmon or ocean trout fillet
    1 fillet of smoked cod or haddock
    3 medium fillets firm white fish (I’ve used Basa)
    Can also include a handful of peeled prawns, scallops, calamari
    1 onion, chopped
    2 eggs, boiled
    fresh corn, cut off the cob
    frozen peas
    Can also use celery, leek, runner beans (I like veggies that add a bit of crunch)
    40g butter
    1/3 cup plain flour
    500ml milk, with some extra if needed
    salt & pepper to taste
    5 medium potatoes, washed, chopped into quarters & boiled
    knob of butter
    dash of milk
    salt & pepper to taste
  1. Put the potatoes and eggs on to boil, in separate pans, until cooked. Drain. Peel eggs, cut into quarters lengthways and put aside.
  2. In a large skillet or frying pan, saute onion in a splash of olive oil. When silky, mix in the chopped seafood,and cook for only a minute.
  3. Prepare your veggies – cut corn off cob, wash and chop celery, douse frozen peas with hot water in a bowl & drain – put all aside.
  4. Turn on your oven to 180 degrees.
  5. Make your white sauce by melting butter in a small saucepan, add flour and stir to combine, allowing to cook a little. Add milk or stock little by little, stirring all the time with a small whisk to knock out any bumps and until the sauce is smooth (it will keep thickening until it starts to bubble). Add salt & pepper to taste. Let sauce bubble for about a minute and then take off heat. The sauce should thickly coat the back of a spoon but be pourable.
  6. Either mash potatoes in the pan with butter, milk, parsley, salt & pepper OR whizz til chunky or smooth mash (your preference) in your food processor.
  7. Now you are ready to assemble the pie!
    Mix the veggies and sauce into the seafood mix and then pour into a baking dish (I’ve used a 11×8 inch oblong Ikea dish), place in your egg quarters and then spread the mashed potato on top. Either fork or use your spatula to create wavelets across the potato surface – these will catch heat and brown nicely in the oven.
  8. Place in oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes. (if the top hasn’t browned – pop it under a hot grill just for a minute.)
  9. Serve with a crispy green salad or your favourite steamed green veggies.

LOWER CALORIES: use no fat or low fat milk, a butter substitute such as Nuttelex or sunflower oil or don’t use any sauce at all! Use stock instead of milk in sauce (it won’t be as white but it’s ok for the lactose intolerant.)
SAUCE: add in a tsp of curry powder or dijon mustard for added flavour.
SEAFOOD: use a marinara mix, but if its frozen make sure your sauce is thick, as water from the fish will dilute it somewhat when cooking and you’ll end up with soggy pie. Same goes if you are using any frozen fish and veg straight into the mix.
TOPPING: Use puff pastry instead.
INDIVIDUAL ONES: make small ones in ramekins or little pie dishes. Kids love these and they’re also handy to put in the freezer for when you are home alone or stuck for a kids dinner when you are leaving to go out.

That trifle thing!

That trifle thing!

In our household Zoe is the arch dessert maker. She takes after her grandmother (Pamela) and is an intuitive ‘throw it in’ type of cook. Last Christmas Zoe made Nigella’s Italian Christmas Pudding/Cake and it really was galumptious but this Christmas Zoe decided to go free-style with a trifle thing, taking inspiration from Nigella’s gallous ideas and Grandma’s diversions with tiramisu. Because of this – there is no real recipe and what I am about to write is an estimate only. All I can say is – experiment for yourselves and adjust the levels according to your own tastes and your tolerance for rich ingredients. Whatever it looks like it’s bound to be delicious because you cannot combine cream, cake, fruit, alcohol and nuts and it not be truly indulgently yummy! [The leftovers are really great for late night snack and even breakfast!]

Here goes…

Stage One – preparing the main components

  1. Select a beautiful glass bowl – so you can see the beautiful layers.
  2. Carve a large Panettone into about 1.5-2cm slices.
  3. Whisk two eggs with about a tablespoon of caster sugar until frothy.
  4. Whip together cream (approx 300ml) and marscapone (approx 300g tub) and add a dash of either Marsala or Tuaca (if you have a really sweet tooth add a dessert spoon of caster sugar).
  5. Fold together the creamy and eggy mixtures.
  6. Prepare fresh fruit – Zoe used a mixture of chopped fresh mango, nectarine, and passion fruit pulp and assorted berries
  7. Toast some pistachios and or slivered almonds – then crush/chop them a little.
  8. Knock out seeds from one pomegranate.
  9. Mix together a mug of cold black instant coffee with a good dowsing of Marsala and pour into a shallow bowl.

Stage Two – compilation

  1. Dip the panettone slices in the coffee mixture and place in bottom of bowl to make a single layer
  2. Spoon in the fruit salad (about a third) – at this point you could also sprinkle over a few nuts and maybe even some dark chocolate drops.
  3. Spoon in a layer of the cream mixture (about a third)
  4. Repeat the previous three steps twice.
  5. For the topping – sprinkle the nuts and pomegranate seeds over the cream.
  6. Place in the fridge til ready to devour. (Make sure to have a small main course if you want to have room for this!)

Enjoy! Then plan your fitness regime to start very soon.DSC_1034

In loving memory of Pamela and Ross

Longwood logo-02Sadly my Dad, Ross, recently passed away, so I am now dedicating this blog to both my parents. They were an incredible team.

Mum’s wholesome home-cooking was the complement to Dad’s perspicacious dining table discussions.

Dad also assisted in the bakery – rising at the crack of dawn to knead dough before putting on his suit to go to work in Edinburgh as Director of SCVO.