Tag Archives: christmas

Time to snap up reduced Christmas produce and prep ahead for busy work night cooking

It was a bit of a surprise to pop into the local supermarket this morning for some essentials, only to discover trolley-loads of reduced Christmas fare. Everything from 10p red cabbage to half-price free range turkey was going cheap after the Christmas rush.

Feeling inspired, I thought it would be good to spend a bit of time getting ahead for when we’re all back to school and work in the New Year.

Thursdays are a particularly busy time at Willow Cottage; in between the commute to work and what feels like half a dozen clubs, there’s need to make sure everyone has had dinner, whatever time they are around. We tend to make great use of the slow cooker on Thursdays, so whether it’s chilli, curry or casserole – there’s benefits to getting ahead with a bit of sneaky prep work for our own version of ready meal.

That’s where the half-priced turkey came in. As well as the roast for tonight and some risotto tomorrow, I’ve lined up another four evening meals for busy January evenings. I simply carved off the breast meat from the bird…

Turkey butcher

Turkey butchery in progress, butchers look away now!

Then added the meat to four freezer bags filled with a variety of flavourings and pastes. These bags live in the freezer until needed, and I can just pop them in the slow cooker with a jar of passata or a tin of tomatoes. I add a little note to the label so I don’t forget what to do.

Ready meals

Our own ready meals for the slow cooker

With some rice cooked in the microwave they make for a tasty ad speedy meal on busy evenings.
Her x


From frosty leeks to hearty winter leek and potato soup

Post-Christmas we often turn to soup as a way of getting over the inevitable feeling of over-indulgence. For a home-grown homemade ingredient, this time of year is all about leeks for us in the Willow Cottage Garden. So rather inevitably soup du month is leek and potato.

This morning was one of those beautiful winter frosty mornings. Fantastic for walking the dog, but not so great for harvesting a couple of rows of leeks. I always find prepping leeks a bit of a faff to be honest, so prefer to do more han I need when I’ve got the time to do it. The frosty leaks were frozen through. They haven’t been looking so great this year either, but we had plenty for what I needed today.

Frost leeks

Frosty leeks

I use the spade to do some of the rough trimming of the roots and leaves which saves bringing any of the mud (and lumps of clay) into the house.

Leek trimmings

Leek trimmings, for the compost when I warm up

My hands were so frozen I’ve decided to leave these for when I’ve warmed up a bit and can pop them onto the compost heap.

Next up is cleaning the leeks up for cooking. I usually do this in the sink, and drop the trimmings straight into a bucket. 

Prepping leeks

Prepping the leeks

One thing I’ll never understand is how bits of mud work their way right into the leaves of the leek. It’s impo rant to get the mud out or you’ll end up with gritty soup!

Cleaning leeks

How does the mud get in here?

Onto cooking…
Ingredients (for serving 4-6)

Butter for softening onions and leeks

1 onion, diced

225g/8oz potatoes, cubed

2 medium leeks,sliced

1.2 litres/2 pints vegetable stock

150ml/5fl oz double cream, crème fraîche or a pinch of greated cheddar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Homegrown leeks and onions

Homegrown leeks and onions


1. Soften the leeks and onions in a pan. Add the potatoes and cook for three to four minutes.

Softening leeks

Softening leeks. I do this in a frying pan then add to the soup pot.

2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Add seasoning and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

3. Blend the indregients together. Reheat and add the cream, crème fraîche or cheese to serve.

Leek and potato soup

Leek and potato soup, with cheddar cheese

Yum, and now I’ve warmed up, back to the garden!


Homemade birthday party thank you biscuits

We have just celebrated a 10th birthday in our house. It was fab and the Big Girl absolutely loved it. She particularly loved getting involved in the preparation for the party. I thought I would share some of our ideas.

These are chocolate chip biscuits with a cut out of ready roll white icing stuck on with apricot jam.  They are decorated with some fantastic food colouring pens.  My daughter enjoyed making these all herself!

These are the food colouring felt tip pens. I am not a big fan of food colouring usually but as it’s a party, I thought a little couldn’t hurt!

After decorating they were packaged in little cellophane bags ready to give out to the guests at home-time.

Even the rest of the family wanted to have a go…

In fact you could use this idea to make biscuits for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter or just as gifts.

Happy making!

Her x