Thursday, 3 December 2015

Weekend in Manchester

Stunning views of the city from Cloud 23
I spent a recent weekend in Manchester. Probably not the best time of year to visit any city but my daughter lives there and I hadn't been over since she graduated two years ago. I have never rated Manchester very highly. In fact I actively disliked it. After this visit, I changed my mind somewhat.

Despite the dire exchange rate, it is eye-wateringly expensive. A coffee in a somewhat upmarket cafe (not a Starbucks or a Costa Coffee) was £2.70. That in today's money is €3.74. And we moan about paying €2.50. If it was blow the socks off you coffee I wouldn't mind but it wasn't.

My daughter lives right in the centre of the city and we stayed in The Park Inn which was a 10 minute walk from almost everywhere we went. At least I was told it was a 10 minute walk.......

The first night we had booked into Mr. Cooper's House and Garden, a restaurant owned and run by Simon Rogan in the Midland Hotel. We got a "deal" here. An early bird meal, 3 courses for £22. The deal was we were booked in to eat at 6.30pm. Not a big deal as we had travelled over that morning and we had only had a light but very delicious lunch in my daughter's apartment. We arrived 7 minutes late. The city centre was jammed with traffic and despite the four of us travelling in two separate taxis and leaving half an hour to make the journey (normally 10 minutes max), we were all late (by 7 minutes). Actually we arrived in the hotel foyer at 6.33 but were directed to the wrong end of the hotel; and I was on crutches. How a hotel can direct customers to a restaurant in their own building wrongly I can only hazard a guess but anyway they did.

Jay Rayner had reviewed the restaurant and slated the decor but raved about the food. I thought the decor was pretty inoffensive and the food completely bland. And yes I know we had the "cheapie" menu but as far as I am concerned any chef worth his salt does not put out poor food on any menu. 

For starters they refused us the menu we had booked because we were late (by 7 minutes). They didn't reckon on our two daughters who argued the toss and eventually after an onslaught times two probably decided it was the lesser evil to give it to us. Now I do not do restaurant reviews on this blog as a rule. I prefer to go out and enjoy the moment. But......

My starter was three meatballs on an apricot puree with I can't for the life of me remember what the green stuff was (see why I don't do reviews). Having said that if it was good I would remember every last mouthful. I asked the others what they thought the puree was and I got apple. I certainly would not have guessed apricot. The meatballs were nicely rare though if under seasoned.

My main, salmon. Cooked correctly as in slightly rare with fennel. A tiny portion but not bad. We ordered red cabbage and cauliflower cheese as sides. The red cabbage was spicy and tasty but the cauliflower had obviously been zapped in the microwave and was hotter than hades. I couldn't taste much cheese but maybe that was because it was molten. It was topped with unidentifiable brown crumbly stuff. 

My dessert caramel tart. A tiny slice. Unremarkable and also lacking in flavour but thankfully no soggy bottom. 

The irony of these menu deals is you end up spending as much as you would normally when you factor in wine and coffees. 

We had eaten the night before we left in a newly opened restaurant (Farmhill Cafe) and I had joked that it would probably be the best meal of the weekend. I wasn't too far out.

We hopped in a taxi to The Hilton and Cloud 23 for cocktails and the most amazing views over 

Christmas Market stalls all in cute wooden huts

Next day after a potter about the Christmas Markets and a light lunch we ended up in to
a Greek restaurant we had gone to after my daughter's graduation. We had originally booked a Spanish restaurant for two. I had found it in the top 10 restaurants in Manchester. Before I booked this I had booked Aidan Byrne's Manchester House but they only do a tasting menu on a Saturday night and both of us decided us we weren't keen on tasting menus. It turned out that there was going to be 5 of us to eat on Saturday so my daughter rang the Spanish restaurant to let them know. They told us they couldn't accommodate us. 

The Greek restaurant called Rozafa had been really good when we were there a couple of years ago. Her graduation had dragged on and on and on and it was 5pm. We hadn't had lunch and were starving. We were due in the airport for a flight at 8pm. There was a Weatherspoon's pub on the corner of the street opposite the Town Hall but I said "over my dead body".....and then we saw it. Between service and empty but they told us come on in and served us great food with such charm. 

When we arrived last Saturday we were a couple of minutes late again (the traffic in Manchester is worse than Dublin) but there was no mention of it. Instead a lovely Greek waiter linked me down the stairs to my table. There was live music and plate throwing he told me from 8pm and inwardly I groaned. But it was a great success. The music was fantastic with waiters getting up to dance and then customers. The food, simple but so so tasty and reasonably priced. The house wine served in carafes, Greek but very drinkable. It was such an enjoyable evening. And the service was just faultless. 

Meat meze selection

Vegetarian meze selection

Melt in the mouth lamb shoulder and rice

On Sunday after breakfast we went for a short visit to Manchester art gallery and a quick tour of Spinningfields. Spinningfields has all the high end designer shops and trendy restaurants to keep the footballers'  wives in style and lettuce leaf lunches. If it hadn't been blowing a gale and really cold I would have been tempted to stay longer but we had lunch booked in an Italian restaurant before our taxi back to the airport. 

Manchester is an interesting city to visit. It's centre is small and easy to navigate. It has all the high end designer shops. The people are very friendly. The restaurants, well they aren't bad but they aren't great either. It's only when you travel you realise how much we have come on in Ireland. And I am never going to moan about the prices again.......well........

Hopefully my daughter will move to London. 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Pumpkin Lunch at Virginia Park Lodge

Facing Lough Ramor 
Virginia Park Lodge originally the shooting, hunting, fishing lodge of the Marquis of Headfort and in previous incarnations an hotel, a cookery school and now owned by well known chef Richard Corrigan.

The Border Bites crew booked in advance to have lunch here at the start of the Pumpkin Festival which is held every year in Virginia, Co. Cavan. After several weeks of an Indian Summer the autumn colour in the estate is spectacular and the renovations superb. The last time I was here years ago was when it was The Park Hotel. A faded, slightly shabby grand old lady with stiff linen and hotel food typical of that era in Ireland.

Impressive pumpkin table display in the entrance hall

Huge fire place in the entrance hall
The lawn sloping down to the lake
The lunch was held in a very luxurious and attractive marquee that fits well into the site, situated beside the lodge and looking out over Lough Ramor.

The marquee

Lovely bright airy marquee with views over lake

Pumpkin themed table centre piece
But to the food. We had a chesnut and ricotta raviolo with a pumpkin soup to start. Up to this I have never been a huge fan of chesnut but I really loved this. A big bowl of autumn.

Raviolo and pumpkin soup

Pork two ways, pumpkin, celeriac
Red and green cabbage
I have serious misgivings about eating pork. In fact I make a point of avoiding it if I can, but it did say free range even if free range is a very loose term. I wasn't overly enamoured with the belly, it was a bit rubbery but the slow cooked shoulder was melt in the mouth and had a very good flavour, The red cabbage was the star though. It had been smoked and braised in red wine. We were all convinced we could taste apple but when we asked they said no. A big bowl of creamy butter mash had everyone groaning with pleasure. All the vegetables tasted home grown and freshly pulled from the gardens here on the estate.

Steamed pumpkin pudding with rum caramel ice cream
A steamed pudding to finish. Sometimes the simple done well is sublime. This was. Light, fluffy sponge that was moist and speckled with pumpkin. I could have licked the plate.

Petit fours with a pumpkin filling
It is some achievement to base a meal around one ingredient and not have diners groaning enough but the chef managed it. The quality of the ingredients shine, the cooking is simple but skillful.

I had been looking forward to trying out the food here. I left impressed. We so badly need more of this in rural areas of Ireland instead of same old, same old menus appealing to the masses.

Monday, 5 October 2015

World Animal Week

This week from the 4th to the 10th of October is World Animal Week. Last week I shared several posts from an animal sanctuary based in Kildare who were trying to rescue battery hens who were about to be destroyed. Battery hens are only productive from an economic point of view for a year or so. After this they begin to lay less frequently and so are destroyed. This means that every battery farm and this includes "free range" as in open the side of a shed of thousands of chickens who may or may not go out - are destroyed after a year of life.

A healthy hen is one who has a full body of shiny and fluffy feathers and an erect bright red comb. The comb is the on top of their head. These hens had bare bodies and floppy pale combs. How such unhealthy looking animals can lay healthy eggs is beyond me. How anyone would want to eat eggs from birds like these mystifies me. And yes I know they are cheap and so many are on a budget..... yada, yada, yada, yawn!

Photo from LittleHill Animal Sanctuary

As with everything in life, it's a question of priorities.

Then we come to the next animal reared in similar circumstances. The pig. Almost daily, pig transport lorries drive past my house and the stench lingers for ages afterwards. The pig is an incredibly clean animal. In a field it has a toilet area, a wallow area, a feeding area and each and every pig keeps a large circular area in front of their house undamaged. They don't root here, they don't use it as a toilet, they don't lie in it. I am convinced they do this in order to keep an area clean and dry as contrary to popular opinion they hate having wet dirty feet. I have seen piglets walk along under an electric fence rather than through a mucky patch.

Intensively reared pigs are forced to live in circumstances they would never live in by choice. So if these pigs are smeared in their own excrement in a transport lorry how can meat from these animals be healthy? The meat is infused with bacteria that you really do not want or need to eat. But you are advised to cook it well. Like all protein, overcooking makes it tough, dry and indigestible.

Treating meat animals badly is one thing. But even if you don't care about their welfare, surely you care about your own?

Most people if they thought about where the meat and the eggs they casually throw into their shopping trolley would be appalled. The vast majority probably consider themselves animal lovers and have pets at home. So why have double standards?

What you can do.

Ask in your local supermarket how free range that chicken is (free range by definition and by law is a very loose term open to exploitation). The more people who ask, the more the retailer will think. Customers have massive power. If only they realised it.

Ask why supermarkets don't sell free range pork and bacon. Ask this in your butchers as well. And if they try to pass off flabby, pale pork chops as free range tell them you know that genuinely free range pork is not pale in colour.

Ask in restaurants. After all they will be able to tell you what field your lump of steak came from.

Ask in cafes.

For this week alone just ask.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Honky Needs a Job

entente cordiale with the dogs
Honky Tonk is a 5 week old piglet who was rejected by her mother at birth. She then developed scour and had to be nursed back to health for the first 3 weeks of her life. She had to re-learn how to walk. She had been immobile for so long she seemed paralysed and at first I thought she had had a stroke due to dehydration. But slowly she recovered beginning to push herself up into a sitting position for her bottle. Then she began to stand on all four very wobbly legs, usually with temper when I washed her. Then she staggered a few paces towards her bottle.

Sitting up for her bottle

Outside completely helpless

Her first steps towards her bottle
She learned that the ping of the microwave means food
She soon rejected her piglet bed in my sun porch deciding she was more comfortable stretched in front of the stove in one of the dog's beds. Gradually I got her moved out into the kitchen with the dogs and then out into the downstairs bathroom. Mopping up the inevitable every morning was becoming very wearing. I tried to put her out in the makeshift run with her siblings during the day but they bullied her unmercilessly. Then I allowed them outside their run with some electric fencing but she just darted under the fence to get away from them.

Loubie Lou not impressed at her taking her bed
Last night as her siblings had been moved, she slept outside in their house in their run alone but with her dog bed and blankets on a big bed of straw. I went out to check her and she was warm and snug. Success but then when I opened the run she was straight up to the patio doors demanding to be let in, honking loudly. When she comes in she greets the weird cat and each dog individually with a quacking noise that we have come to realise is her "happy" sound. She tries out each of their beds individually, evicting them as she decides which bed she will settle in. Then she sleeps off her morning bottle for a couple of hours.

Honking to be let in with a mucky snout
An expert at making herself cosy
Now here is the thing. Honky needs a job. Honky will not become rashers and sausages. I couldn't bear to sell her or slaughter her. I could breed from her but our boar is her daddy and I have no intentions of feeding another boar. She needs to earn her keep.

Honky is used to dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, children and adults. She thinks she is one of the dogs. She robs their nuts out of their bowl when she thinks I'm not looking. She robs the chicken food. She knows her name and comes when she is called. If you lock her out one door she goes to the other.

Robbing chicken food as chickens look on

So come on anyone? A job for Honky? Film, TV, advertising, education.........

Can a piglet join Equity?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Ten and Honky Tonk

The Kells 12 are one month old today. The 12 are now sadly 11. Well 10 and Honky Tonk. (When my mother was a child her uncle when asked how many children he had always answered 9 and *Frankeen.)

I lost one little boy to the scourge that is scour. He literally melted in front of my eyes as he dehydrated and lost so much weight. I did my best to save him but despite rallying initially he just gave up. I was so sad because I have fed all of them from the day they were born and can tell them all apart and know their personalities.

I started them on solid food at two weeks old mixing organic chick starter with their milk. I couldn't get organic creep feed from my supplier despite them making loads of calls looking for it. The chick starter is 21% protein and it was what I used for the last litter. Initially they fell over it, walked in it, basically did everything but try to eat it. But then lo and behold on the second day the penny dropped. I am still giving them a bottle first thing in the morning and last thing at night because losing one so suddenly worried me. He had obviously not been eating although he had been having his milk in a bottle. I figured the last lot were with their mother eight weeks so it is no harm to keep it up. It actually doesn't take long as they all gulp down a bottle in jig time almost sucking the bottle inside out. Now a few of them have got really heavy for lifting and holding I'm not sure how much longer I can keep it up.

The sick boy and Honky Tonk

Lady Hope aka Honky Tonk
Lady Hope now known as Honky Tonk because of her continual honking and also because when we commented on it one night, The Rolling Stones song of the same name just happened to come on the radio. She has recovered completely from scour and is back walking and running and generally terrorising every animal species in the place. I tried to put her back in with the others but they bullied her. She refuses to eat solid food and has a melt down if she doesn't get her food in a bottle. I reckon she's about 2 weeks behind the others so for now I am humouring her. Needless to say this is one little piggy who won't be going to market!

After feeding time they love to climb all over us
Oly loves to sit with me when I'm feeding them

The first born and biggest male

The one who lost her tail 
Honky Tonk makes herself cosy in the dog's bed
Long ago sows were put in farrowing crates in the belief that they lay on their piglets and squashed them to death. I'm sure this happened and also that plenty of sows rejected their piglets, but I hate the idea of pinning any animal into a crate. However, next time I intend to put her into the stable a couple of weeks before her litter is due. And if she rejects them, I will use a crate for a couple of weeks just to get them started. It's no joke trying to feed 12 piglets and cow's milk is for calves not piglets.

*Frankeen is the diminutive of Frank from Irish.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

What They Say

Courtesy of Marie McKenna
They said it couldn't be done.

When I was a child my mother met my teacher in the local supermarket. She told my mother I was an average student, I would never get more than 50% . I was in primary school. My mother came home and told me. I got thick. I got mad. I decided to prove her wrong.

I got oodles of advice about rejected piglets. I listened to it all. I did what I usually do and made my own mind up. To date this has served me well. I have 12 piglets alive and kicking but I'm not counting my piglets...... just yet.

The things I have learned.

1). If you suspect the sow is rejecting her piglets, she probably is.
2). Remove them and keep them warm.
3). Go get colostrum. Sheep, cow anything is better than nothing.
4). Cow's milk is lower in fat than pig's. I added a glug of cream initially.
5). Feed on demand for first week.
6). Don't listen to people who know about Landrace pigs (pig breed raised intensively).
7). Listen to old people who raised pigs long ago.
8.) Vets know little about pigs.
9.) Rare breed pigs can survive outdoors without a heat source. They just need shelter.
10.) Go with your gut feeling always.

For the first week you need to feed at night. After this feed as late as possible and they will go through the night. As they get older they reduce the number of feeds but they take more at each feed. They will get *scour (very watery diarrhoea). Watch out for it. Be ready to intervene if they show any signs of listnessless or sleeping while the others are jumping around. Remove affected piglet and make up a solution of 1 pint of warm water and add a teaspoon of sugar and salt. Syringe drops into piglet every half an hour. Have a sachet of Sulpha 2 from the vet on hand to dose just in case. Use the tip of a teaspoon and add to 100ml of water. Give 20 ml per 250ml bottle twice a day.

(*Scour can either be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It can also just be caused because you are feeding them milk meant for a calf and they need time to adapt to it. The bacterial/viral one tends to be foul smelling. Don't panic. I did initially and when I saw them with it, I dosed the lot. I calmed down and just noted which one had it and watched them. Generally the next day they were back to normal. As long as they are drinking and active it won't do them any harm).

You will get very good at noticing piglet pooh!

Get them out onto soil as quickly as possible. They need to root and nudge in soil and they will even eat it. This prevents iron and B12 deficiency and helps combat scour. It also balances their intestinal flora. Try to keep their bedding area clean and dry.

If you have rejected piglets and you need advice feel free to contact me. I know from experience you are on your own. And don't listen to people who tell you it can't be done. It can, it just takes patience, and a lot of stubborness. And I am writing this from my own observations. I am not saying they are right. I am sure loads of intensive pig farmers will disagree with it. However, rare breed pigs are a very different type of pig. They are hardy and used to being outside and they have a thick coat of hair to keep them warm.

I am hoping to start weaning this week. I have ordered chick starter as I couldn't get any organic creep feed. I used this for the last lot and they thrived.

I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Pig Tales

Trying to squish into a dog bed in my sitting room

This day last week all hell broke loose. I had three pigs booked in to my local abattoir. I had arranged everything to run smoothly (so I thought). The trailer had been put in the field so they would get used to it. They were to be fed in it every day for a few days so they would not get stressed when the time came to load them up. Stressed pigs like all animals produce bad quality meat.

The first day the trailer was reversed in, I decided to walk up the ramp shaking a bucket to see what would happen. I was almost knocked over as the three of them scattered up the ramp. Job done. If I wanted them to load that fast they would have avoided it like the plague. Having said that, these pigs were bred here; they were used to people, machinery, noise, activity. So maybe it wasn't surprising. 

Well anyway, I went out that Monday morning, called them as usual. The three muskateers were already waiting as was their daddy, Laertes the boar. No sign of their mother, Lady Lavinia. I fed them and called the sow. I saw her come trundling into the field. She had a few mouthfuls and then allowed Laertes to bully her and take the rest. I watched her turn and waddle off. She was due on Wednesday, two days later. Something made me grab a bale of straw and follow her. When you are with animals all day long every day you develop an instinct. She went over to the hedge not towards her house. I walked slowly over, I could hear squeaking. She had given birth to two piglets in a nest she had made in the field. The day before it had rained incessantly and the grass walls she had built were sodden. The two little mites had managed to scramble over the edge and were tumbling around in the cold, confused and crying. I picked them up to move them over to their house thinking she would follow me. She did not. I stuffed a load of fresh straw into the house and put them in the middle so they would be warm and went back to the sow. I was all in a tiz, should I leave them in the house alone or move them back to her in the nest. I decided to move them back to the nest and I backed away.

She walked over to her nest and lay down. I left her alone as one started to suckle. A while later my son went out to check and came back to say she was over the other side of the field (luckily he wasn't working that day). I thought nothing of it as having been in labour myself knew it was easier to keep moving. He insisted she was rejecting her babies. From that on we were in and out as she moved between the house and her nest dropping piglets and moving on. Finally he came in distraught. She must have stood on a piglet and had almost dislocated it's tail at the base and it was hanging on by skin. The sharpest scissors in the house was a lethal little nail scissors which had to be used to remove the rest of the tail.

At this stage we decided to take the piglets in and keep them warm to give her space, get her head sorted and finish delivering. And we got loads and loads and loads of bloody advice. Do this. Do that. We were told lock her in the house with the piglets and she will calm down. We did this and hovered with baited breath thinking no squeals were good news. Then we heard monumental screaming. We ran out. She had bust out of the house leaving the piglets behind. The one who had had her tail dislocated had obviously been stood on and now had a deep slash across her shoulder. Cue a mad dash to the vet for stitching. That piece of advice cost me €60!

She delivered 12 in total. I was beside her as number 10 delivered. She did nothing. I had to grab the piglet and pull the amniotic fluid from her airways and rub her with grass to get her breathing, I even did the Call the Midwife thing of turning her upside down and gave her a tap on the back. Thank God for James Herriot, Countryfile and all the other programmes I have watched over the years.

Finally after trying to get her to sniff her babies and having her almost take my hand off we resigned ourselves to the fact that she had very firmly rejected them. Previous to this I had caught her trying to bite some of them in the nest and had to dive in and grab them. A big angry sow with big yellow teeth snapping at you is not for the faint hearted!

We got an old chest of drawers, cut the legs off it and stuffed it with straw. I dashed over to a my feed suppliers who rang their rep and asked what colostrum most resembled pig. At this point I realised I was on my own. Reps, feed suppliers, vets, farmers know NOTHING about pigs. Pigs are disposable. If you lose one you throw it in the skip and move on. They are cheap to produce, cheap to raise and they provide you the consumer with very, very cheap protein.

I bought sheep colostrum. I mixed up organic cows' milk with goats' milk and cream as none of the other mammals milk comes close in fat content to a sow's. I then realised to keep this up I would be broke. Organic cows' milk retails at 99 cent a litre, goats' at €2.75 a litre, I don't even know what cream is......

I just could not justify this financially so I went and asked a neighbouring dairy farmer could I buy milk from him. I am buying 9 litres a day, so buying it direct made way more sense.

I then had one little mite go down with scour. I had fed them all at lunch time and when I went in to check less than two hours later I saw her asleep and all the others trampling on her as they looked for food. I took her out and put her in a polystyrene box on a hot water bottle. She released a load of watery yellow diarrhoea on me and was frothing at the mouth. I cleaned her up and started syringing water with salt and sugar every 30 minutes drop by drop. This saved her. We dashed into the vet again and got antibiotic powder and did the crazy calculations for dosage by body weight. She was 754g. I gave up and got a teaspoon and picked up the powder on the tip of the spoon, diluted it and syringed it into her.

She recovered, is demanding food but is not able to get onto her feet. I asked the vet. I asked family members who are vets. None of them knew anything. I got told widely varying explanations and resorted to Google. Apparently pigs are very susceptible to dehydration and it can affect them very quickly. I think she was just starting to dehydrate and her electrolyte balance was off so she possibly had a seisure. Whatever happened has affected her balance.

In another discussion with my vet he told me to expect 6-8 to survive. To date and fingers crossed I have 12.

In all the chaos I managed to find out bits and pieces of information about hand raising pigs. The most important is to get colostrum into them. There wasn't a chance of getting it from the sow as she was not in the mood to even let me rub her head. She is normally a really friendly, placid sow so something happened that day. The other thing is to get the piglets out onto soil as quickly as possible. I was amazed when I carried them out, barely a day old when they actually started to nudge and eat the soil. This prevents iron and B12 deficiency. Also at that tender age they already tried their best to get out of their bed to pee. They are now trained to go on newspaper and have several favourite spots. If only it was as easy to train a puppy!

The little mite with scour

Pig transporter out to the veg patch

A big tree pot for shelter in veg patch

Looking for a feed

Passed out in the sun
Basking in a ray of sunlight

More anon. For pictures follow @foodborn on Twitter. Also MMG on Vine  and on Instagram as foodbornofficial. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Blackcurrant Recipe Ideas - Dealing with a Glut

Chocolate and blackcurrant torte
Coping with a summer glut? I hear people complaining that they have loads of fruit or vegetables and don't know how they will use them. When you look up ideas for fruit recipes, most involve baking. I saw on Twitter the other day that a bakery in Dublin, Firehouse will barter baked goods for fruit. I thought this was a great idea. However if you have a freezer it's a bit easier to deal with.

This year has been a brilliant year for fruit. So much so that I have to look for another freezer. Most berries will freeze really well and can be picked straight off the bush into bags. I never bother to wash fruit unless the branches have been trailing on the ground. When berries are frozen they are much easier to top and tail as often a good rub will get the bits off.

I used give away my blackcurrants but not any more. I discovered that they are absolutely amazing cooked in porridge. In the middle of winter a handful into the pot gives a lovely acidic kick. They are also full of vitamin C and have 6 times the antioxidants of blueberries. When I gave them away and then ran out at some point after Christmas I was reduced to buying blueberries. They are so bland in comparison.

You can also cook them down to make puree. This can then be frozen in small quantities for using as a natural food colouring. I don't add any sugar so you do need to freeze it. All it takes is a good heavy bottomed pan and a bit of patience until the berries cook down. Then push it through a sieve.


I add either fresh or frozen berries to the porridge as it's cooking. For the picture above I also added some of the puree to give the colour. Serve with some honey and either milk or yoghurt.

To make this blackcurrant cake. I used 200g butter, sugar and flour and 3 large eggs (or 4 supermarket size large). My hen/duck eggs would fall into an XL category. Add 2 tablespoons of blackcurrant puree. If you want a stronger colour you will need to reduce the amount of egg and increase the flour or the mix will be too wet. Bake at 170C fan for about 30 minutes

To make the buttercream use a tablespoon of puree and add a big knob of softened butter and icing sugar and milk until you get the right consistency. It's much easier to start with the wet ingredients and add dry rather than vice versa.

The frozen puree can also be used to make ice cream, sweetened to serve as a coulis or as an addition to a sauce for game later in the year.

Frozen blackcurrants can also be used to make creme de cassis or cordial when there is a dearth of fresh fruit that is not imported from the other side of the globe.

For the chocolate and blackcurrant torte recipe pictured above.

175g butter
175g sugar
3 large eggs
75g good quality cocoa powder or 150g dark chocolate (I used cocoa powder for cake above)
100g ground almonds
50g self raising flour
blackcurrants (a good handfull)

Melt butter and chocolate or cocoa powder. Separate eggs. Beat yolks and sugar. Whisk whites. Combine all folding in the egg white last. Stir in the ground almonds, fold in sieved flour and add blackcurrants. Bake in a spring form tin at 160C fan for 40 mins.

So don't waste any glut. And if you can't be bothered with all of the above at least take up Firehouse Bakery's offer and trade your glut for cakes or bread.