It really has been the most glorious summer and one thing will stick in my mind as the colder mornings are with us; the glut of fruit in the garden and greenhouse. Our fruit trees and bushes have groaned under the weight of their harvest. I started off making strawberry jam, froze raspberries, gooseberries and red and black currants. By the end of August I just could not keep up with picking plums. The sleepy, sophorific wasps were very busy with the plums so it was a challenge to get there in time. I made the most delicious plum and almond tart which will be the subject of a future post.

Back in the greenhouse, today is all about tomatoes. I don’t grow my own plants as I prefer to experiment with different varieties. In late March I stop anywhere on the road where there is a sign for tomato plants. In this way you have a lovely mix of beefsteak, yellow, cherry varieties and many of the old heirloom types that are making a come back. It all makes for a much more interesting tomato salad.

I love a home made tomato sauce which you can bring out of the freezer in the depths of winter. It forms the basis of a great and easy supper with pasta (preferably fresh) and some grated Parmesan. As you slowly re-heat the sauce, the kitchen will be full of that wonderful tomato, basil and garlic smell. Four minutes after cooking your fresh pasta, supper is ready. If you don’t have a ready supply of tomatoes to cook up now, buy them in bulk from the supermarket.

Ingredients –
4lbs fresh tomatoes
Olive Oil
Basil leaves
4 garlic cloves, crushed

Method –
Wash the tomatoes and then cut in half and place cut side up in a large roasting tin. If they are cherry tomatoes, I don’t even cut them in half. You will probably need more than one roasting tin. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and then scatter with the crushed garlic and torn basil leaves. Season with salt and black pepper.

roast tomatoes

Roast at 180 degrees (Aga – roasting oven) for 30 mins. The outside edges of the tomatoes should be crunchy. Remove from the oven and let them cool. Liquidize in a Magimix or with a hand blender and pour into tupperware boxes or freezer bags. Freeze when completely cold or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

You could also add chopped chillies to give some of the sauce an extra ommph. This sauce also makes a great base for a vegetarian lasagne with courgettes and aubergine.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.





If you have marmalade fans in your family, you simply must make Seville orange marmalade. The flavour, chunkiness of peel and ‘bite’ of the homemade stuff is
just so much better than even the smart brands you can buy in the shops. You will also be a very popular guest if you can bear to give away some of your fabulous marmalade as a hostess present!
Seville is a lovely city to visit and I was lucky enough to have a mini-break there last January. The whole city is full of orange trees groaning under the weight of this strange, knobbly fruit. They are definitely not ‘eaters’ but for a short 2-4 weeks you will find them in Waitrose. Sadly, my local Tesco in Lincoln does not stock them.

Like baking, preserving calls for you to be quite scientific, so use the correct equipment and weigh out the ingredients accurately. It’s very straightforward – for every 2lb of Seville oranges you use, add 1 lemon and 4lb of granulated sugar.

You will need four bits of kit. A preserving pan, squares of muslin, string and a few saucers. Stay with me on this. It’s necessary but easy. In Lincoln, I return to Bigger of Bailgate for the muslin. Contact details below. You can also get this type of kitchen equipment from Lakeland. It’s lovely to use those smart preserving jars but any sterilised, old jam jars will do.

A word on hygiene: you will be making (or giving away) your precious marmalade and expecting it to keep for a year. Therefore, it’s very important to sterilise the jars properly. I put them and the lids through a dish washing cycle and then leave them to cool.

Seville Orange Marmalade

Ingredients to make 6 x 1lb jars –
2 lb Seville oranges
1 lemon
4lb granulated sugar

Method –
Put 4 pints of cold water into the preserving pan. Cut the oranges and lemon in half and squeeze out all of the juice. Add the juice to the water and place the pips and any bits of pith in the centre of a muslin square. The pith and pips contain pectin which is the important ‘setting’ agent.
Cut the orange peel into quarters and then using a very sharp knife, cut the quarters into shreds. This is a very personal thing and all I can say is that if you have particular family requests for ‘shred thickness’, recruit helpers ! If your family love marmalade as much as mine do, you could have batches of thick and thin shreds. Add the orange shreds to the water.
Tie up your muslin square containing the pips and pith with the string to make a little bag. Make a handle with the string so the bag is immersed in the water. Bring the pan slowly up to the boil for about 2 hours until the shreds are completely soft. Now put the saucers in the freezer.
Remove the muslin bag from the pan and set aside. Pour the sugar into the pan and over a low heat, slowly dissolve the crystals. Do not proceed with the next step until the sugar is totally dissolved. Turn up the heat under the pan. Squeeze the muslin bag over the pan with your hands or a spoon against the side so that the sticky, pectin oozes out. Stir into the mixture.
Your pan will now be boiling and as soon as it does, start timing. After 15 minutes, bring out a frozen saucer and put a teaspoon full of mixture on it and place in fridge. When it’s cooled, push the mixture gently with your finger. If it’s set, it will crinkle. If not, continue to boil for another 7-8 minutes and then try again.
When you are happy with the ‘setting’, remove the pan from the heat – there might be a little scum on top of the mixture. You can add a teaspoon of butter to disperse it or carefully skim it off. Then let the mixture settle for 20 minutes.
I now put my clean jars in a moderate oven for 5 minutes to finish off the sterilisation.
Use a ladle or funnel to fill the jars being very careful not to burn yourself. Seal the jars whilst still hot and label when they are cold. Store in a cold and dark place if possible.

At this stage it’s impossible not to feel smug as you admire your beautiful, filled jars. Making marmalade got me into preserving and now I make chutney and jam as well.

Contact details – Bigger of Bailgate, 48 Bailgate, Lincoln LN1 3AP. Tel – 01522 525 536

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.