My favourite Autumn dish!

As the leaves turn golden brown, the cooler nights draw in and thoughts of Halloween & Bonfire Night spring to mind so does Toffee Apples, Hot Chocolate and Duck with Blackberry Sauce!

An odd combination I know but definitely one of my favourites and it’s delicious! Game season begins in September so you can replace the duck with Venison or Guinea Fowl and it works just as well. Why not swap blackberries and red wine for cherries and port at Christmas for a festive alternative to Turkey!

Ingredients – Serves 2

2 duck breasts

150g blackberries

1 tbsp caster sugar

½ shallot, finely chopped

100ml red wine

100ml chicken stock

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C, gas mark 4. Score the skin of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern and season. Place them skin-side down in a cold frying pan and set over a medium heat. Cook for 20 minutes, tipping excess fat out of the pan as it cooks. Meanwhile, put the blackberries in a small saucepan with the sugar and simmer for 5 minutes, crushing the berries with the back of a fork; set aside.

2. When the skin is golden and crisp, turn the breasts over and cook the flesh side for 2 minutes, then transfer to a roasting tray and place in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, wrap loosely in foil and rest for 5 minutes.

3. While the duck breasts are in the oven, spoon all but 1 tbsp fat from the pan. Set the pan over a medium-low heat and cook the shallot for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add the wine and stock to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes over a high heat, until reduced and syrupy. Stir in the blackberries and any resting juices from the duck and simmer until warmed through. Slice the duck and serve with the sauce, plus some steamed Autumn green vegetables.

Enjoy x

Tips for Autumn Gardening

autumn gardening

Autumn has arrived! The evenings are cooler, the mornings are crisper and there’s a freshness in the air, but now is not the time to take it easy and rest on your laurels.  Autumn is one of the busiest times in the garden, it’s a time for clearing and preparing for the big freeze. Follow my top tips to get your garden ready for hibernation.

  • Tidying the greenhouse is one of those jobs that is put off until tomorrow, unfortunately tomorrow has arrived! Remove plants, sweep out any debris and disinfect.  (This will keep pests and diseases from growing throughout the winter months). I usually use hot water and Jeyes Fluid for cleaning and disinfecting and whilst you have the solution to hand clean out any pots or seed trays that you will be re-using in the Spring. Make sure you ventilate your greenhouse for a couple of days to ensure everything is thoroughly dry.
  • Once you have mastered the inside of your greenhouse it’s time to move on to the outside! Remove any shading you have used over the hotter months, clean out debris and leaves from the gutters and clean the glass thoroughly to make the most of the sunshine throughout the cooler seasons.
  • Tidy your borders! It’s time to say goodbye to the annuals and add them to the compost heap. Perennials will need to be cut back to around 5cm above ground level and the borders can then be covered with a thick layer of compost or bark chips.
  • If you have a pond or water feature make sure you are prepared for falling leaves. Decomposing leaves can turn water foul and block filters, make sure you cover with a fine mesh to avoid this.
  • Fallen leaves are perfect for making leafmould. This will add structure and organic matter to your soil and is the perfect solution for garden waste. Simply fill plastic bin bags with leaves, punch holes through the sides and sprinkle with water. Fasten the bags with string and leave for a couple of years to breakdown into a crumbly texture that can be added to your borders.
  • Now you have cleared up the leaves it’s time to have a look at the lawn. Most lawns will need moss removing, aerating and feeding. If you have any patches it’s a great time to lay new turf or sow seeds.
  • Before you take it easy and get ready to put your feet up make sure your tools are given the final once over. Sharpen secateurs and shears, wash spades and forks and treat any wooden handles with linseed oil for protection. This will ensure your tools will be ready for action in the Spring, which will be here before you know it!

Get Ready for Harvest!

Apple Picket - Wicker wooden fruit boxFresh Apples Buckets

Well summer is drawing to a close and with autumn just around the corner it will soon be time to pick and store your apples before the first frost. We have some fantastic products to help you with the Tom & Barbara way of life (that’s growing your own and being self sufficient to the younger generation!).

For those out of reach apples at the top of the tree we have a Wicker Apple Picker, simply raise your picker, wiggle and allow the apple to drop and be caught in the waiting basket.

To store your apples we recommend a flat wooden surface with a good deal of ventilation, sort and grade your apples first, any bruised or damaged apples keep to one side for baking. (For the best apple and blackberry pie ever click here http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fruit-recipes/blackberry-apple-pie)

All others can be wrapped in paper (ideally waxed paper) and placed gently on a slatted tray (our vegetable store is perfect).  Make sure the apples have a little room around them just in case any of them decide to turn bad and they won’t take the neighbours with them!

Make sure your trays are stored in a cool place, ideally an old fashioned parlour would be best but most of us aren’t fortunate enough to have one these days so an outbuilding works just as well, so long as the humidity is low and the temperature stays around 45 degree centigrade.

Most apples will keep for a few months, to be honest it is a bit of an art, but have fun trying and enjoy eating your apples well into the winter!