Cod, basil & tomato with a potato thatch

What is it about fish pie that is so warming? I don’t know the answer, I only know it is! With a green salad, this makes an ideal dish for lunch or a family supper.

Serves 8

You will need:           

  • 1kg/2lb smoked cod
  • 1kg/2lb white cod
  • 600ml/1 pint milk
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • 1 sprig lemon thyme
  • 75g/3oz butter
  • 1 onion peeled and chopped
  • 75g/3oz flour
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil

For the thatch

  • 12 medium sized old potatoes
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 300ml/2 pint milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley 
  1. Place both kinds of fish in a roasting pan with the milk, 1.2 litres/1 pint water and the herbs. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Leave to cool in the liquid for about 20 minutes. Drain the fish, reserving the liquid for use in the sauce. Flake the fish, taking care to remove any skin and bone.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan, add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until tender but not browned. Add the flour, tomato pure and half the basil. Gradually add the reserved fish stock, adding a little more milk if necessary to make a fairly thin sauce. Bring this to the boil, season with salt and pepper and add the remaining basil. Add the fish carefully, and stir gently. Pour into an ovenproof dish.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Boil the potatoes until tender. Add the butter and milk and mash well. Add salt and pepper to taste and cover the fish, forking it up to create a pattern. If you like, you can freeze the pie at this stage.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with chopped parsley.

 

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Just the tonic!

Hair tonics are not something you often see among commercial hair care products. They are a special hair treatment that can be applied as a finishing rinse. These tonics and rinses will help make hair shinier, have more body and generally look healthier. Think of it as an extra dose of help, whether your hair is in good, bad or indifferent condition!

To make up hair tonics, or finishing rinses, simply infuse the herbs for about an hour. To make an infusion, put the herbs in a measuring jug and add the correct amount of boiling water. Leave to infuse and then strain through a sieve and discard the herbs. Then add the essential oil, and any other ingredients included in the recipe, to the cooled infusion.

Use the tonic after you have finished any other treatments on your hair. Stand over a large bowl or hand basin, with the plug in, and pour the mixture over your hair. Recycle as much of the liquid as possible using a cup and pour it over your head again to get as much as possible into your hair. Then gently massage your scalp.

Finally, use a little cool water to lightly rinse off the tonic. Don’t use a power shower to blast all the mixture off as the idea is that the treatment will continue working on your hair until the next time you come to wash it.

Rosemary Herbal Finishing Rinse

For all hair types

  • ·      2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tablespoon of dried)
  • ·      300ml boiling water
  • ·      2 drop rosemary essential oil.

Chamomile and Lemon Tonic

For fair hair

  • ·      2/3 cup of chamomile flowers
  • ·      500ml boiling water
  • ·      Juice from 1 lemon
  • ·      2 drops lemon essential oil
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No need to shell out!

I hate throwing things away, especially natural things, so I’m always interested in ideas for recycling. Egg shells are of course lovely things in their own right, and we’ve talked about blowing and painting them before… but what about the typical broken egg shells that we throw away every day after we’ve used the eggs?

My Hen Pal, Julia Wherrell obviously has lots of eggshells and has some interesting ideas on what to do with them, plus some ideas she’s been told by other hen enthusiasts… see what you make of these…

1. Sprinkle broken up eggshell around your garden to deter pests

Soft-bodied insects like slugs or snails don’t like crawling over sharp pieces of shell, I find it works really well.

2. Give your tomatoes a calcium boost

Blossom-end rot is a common tomato problem and it’s caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant. A very successful veg gardener friend of mine puts eggshells in the bottom of the hole when he plants out his tomatoes to help combat this problem. I’m definitely trying this next year as my tomatoes were rubbish this year!

3. Use them to start seedlings

I think this is a lovely idea, especially if you are short of space. Give your smaller seedlings a start in rinsed-out shells! An egg box fits perfectly on a small windowsill so use this to hold your eggshells. They need to be at least half shell in size, so try and remember that when you’re next cracking some eggs, rinse them clean and then plant up your seedlings as normal but obviously, best to stick to smaller things, like herbs. When you come to plant out, gently crush the shell as you plant it and it will decompose in the soil around your plant.

4. Compost them

Add calcium to your compost by adding shells to your compost bin.

5. Sow directly into the soil

If you don’t have time, energy or inclination to compost, simply dig crushed shells directly into your garden. It’s still better than just chucking them out!

 

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Rustic charm…

Isn’t this a pretty card? This image is from the Jane Shasky CD. I have lost count of how many times I have got this CD out of the case and felt sure there was going to be something that would suit a specific card or project I had in mind. There are so many lovely ideas on there. As you know I am very enthusiastic about herbs and so the images really do inspire me over and over again!

The printing has been done on a cream textured paper this time which adds a nice extra touch to the design. The cream card base is approximately 8” x 8” and the next layers are dark green and then some of the textured cream. Wrap some sage green ribbon around these and tie with a knot (makes a nice change from a bow) and then attach to the card blank with 2mm foam to give a bit of a lift.

The topper is constructed by using three same size toppers. One is the background, a second has the herbs cut out and then decoupaged onto the base. The third has a cream border left around it and the centre removed with a sharp craft knife and ruler. I often find a glass mat helps a craft knife cut more easily.

Layer the base image onto dark green and gold and attach to the card. Then using some string, knot a couple of pieces top right and bottom left across the frame and fix onto the card with foam tape.

This card is so pretty I am sure someone would tuck it away as a keepsake!

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Hot Brie with hazelnuts on a watercress sauce

Have to say, this is one of my favourite recipes. The warm gooey-ness of the rich cheese is very comforting and, as I feel the inevitable arrival of Autumn (after no summer at all) it seems rather timely… sigh….

I love Brie, but you can make this with another cheese if you prefer. Great as a dinner party starter (as per this recipe), or a delicious veggie main meal perhaps made using two different types of cheese, camembert is another good one… it’s up to you.

You will need:

  • 350g (12oz) ground hazelnuts
  • 225g (8oz) granary breadcrumbs
  • 675-900g (1/2-2lb) small whole Brie
  • 50g (2oz) self-raising flour
  • 4 large eggs, beaten

For the Watercress Sauce

  • 1 bunch fresh watercress
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley
  • 30g (2 tbsp) fresh chives
  • 15g (1tbsp) fresh dill
  • 100g (4oz) plain Greek yoghurt
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) mayonnaise
  • 22ml (12 tbsp) lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Sprigs of watercress for decoration 

The Brie

Mix the hazelnuts and breadcrumbs together. Cut the Brie into eight equal pieces. Coat each piece with flour then brush on the egg, or dip the cheese in the egg, and roll in the crumb mixture. Dip the cheese in the egg a second time and roll it in the nuts and breadcrumbs again. Cover a baking sheet with a piece of greaseproof paper and place the pieces of cheese on it until they are needed.

Deep-fry the pieces of cheese for about 1-2 minutes and then place in the oven, pre-heated to 180ºC 9350ºF), Gas mark 4, for another 4-5 minutes. Do not leave the Brie in the fat or the oven for too long or it will run everywhere and look terrible! Serve in a pool of chilled watercress sauce – see below.

Watercress Sauce

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process for 20-30 seconds until well incorporated. If you don’t have a food processor or blender you should mince all the herbs or chop them very finely, and mix well with the other ingredients.

To serve, spoon a puddle of sauce on to the middle of the plate, place a hot Brie portion on top and decorate with a sprig of watercress.

 

 

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