Brown chicken stock


A few days ago we had some chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks), but had decided to take the meat off the bones to stir fry – so we were left with the bones and various scraps plus the skin. I’m trying to be a bit more conscientious about not wasting food, so decided I should make something with these scraps. I found a recipe for brown chicken stock in delicious magazine and decided I’d do a variation on that. To be honest I didn’t follow the recipe that closely – it more just inspired me …

We’d be blanching some broccoli and green beans to freeze, so I reserved the water from that to use to make the stock.

I put the chicken scraps in a roasting pan and cooked them on 180-200C for about half an hour.

Chicken scraps

While that was happening, I chopped some carrot and onion, and softened that in some oil for 20 minutes or so.

Once the vegetables were soft and the chicken brown I added the chicken to the veg, and deglazed the roasting pan with some sherry and put that in as well. I then added the broccoli cooking water and a little more cold water (probably about 2 litres altogether, but that’s a bit of a guess), a bay leaf and a little bit of rosemary that I had going dry and then brought it all up to a simmer and left it to reduce for several hours – at least 3, possibly 4 hours.

Stock reducing

It reduced by about two thirds it’s original volume – it produced around 600ml stock after I’d strained it.

I strained the stock through a sieve and then through the sieve with a little bit of muslin in the bottom (which I’d rescued from a supermarket bought bouquet garni which I’d used to make soup previously.)

The final result was a cloudy brown stock that doesn’t look that great but definitely has the right flavour. I’ll be using it to make something later in the week …

Finished stock

Kiwi and grapefruit (gin) jam


We get a fruit and veg box delivered each week, and generally if there is an option that we don’t like or don’t use that much we can set a delivery preference to say we don’t want it. However, kiwi fruit is one of those things which I never take off the list of options because … well actually I’m not sure why – I suspect I feel that we *should* be eating it – but so often we end up putting soft kiwis in the compost bin.

So a couple of weeks ago I decided enough was enough – and I really should do something with the kiwis. One recipe I’ve used before is Jamie Oliver’s kiwi salsa (part of his fish taco recipe) which I recommend, but I was looking for something different – so I decided to try making kiwi jam.

I started with a recipe I found in the Guardian which is great because its so simple:

  • Kiwi fruits – as many as you want
  • 1 tbsp sugar per kiwi
  • 1 tsp lemon juice per kiwi

I used to be a real stickler for following recipes to the letter, but years of living with D and reading food writers like Nigel Slater, plus some confidence in my ability to cook, has meant I’m more ready to experiment and deviate from the recipe.

The recipe says to leave the skin on the kiwis, but I knew D wouldn’t like that, so I just scooped out the insides with a teaspoon instead. I’d mixed up the kiwi and sugar and was adding the lemon when I realised I was a little short on lemon – so I was wondering what I could add that was ‘citrusy’ and remembered a bottle of grapefruit gin I had in the cupboard (a Christmas present) – so I added a few splashes of that as well (it was total guess work – I was adding a bit more than I would have of lemon juice to try to get the flavour through – but still measured in teaspoons I’d say).

Grapefruit gin

Having mixed this all up, I put everything in a small pan (I only had 8 kiwis so I wasn’t making huge amounts) and cooked it until it went “jammy”. I thought I’d overdone it as it was quite thick and sticky even when hot – but I think it actually turned out pretty well.

I poured boiling water into a couple of jam jars, let them sit for a few minutes, then poured it out, and put the jam in. Making in small quantities meant I wasn’t really worried about the jars being completely sterile (which, to be honest, is the thing that I struggle with most when making jam!).

The end product was delicious – quite sweet, with the gooseberry qualities of the kiwi fruit coming through and the grapefruit gin just very faintly at the back of it.

I tried another batch this week but substituted the lemon juice with grapefruit juice (as we had a grapefruit in our delivery box) and left out the gin – the result was more “tart” than the original jam, and I missed the herbally/gin note that my first attempt had – so I think I’d definitely add the gin again next time – perhaps tweaking the amount of lemon.

If you haven’t tried kiwi jam I’d highly recommend – it’s really good!

Kiwi jam on homemade bread

Living in isolation: Week 1


On Sunday 15th March 2020, B (12) developed a persistent cough. By Monday evening the UK government had advised that any household where one person had either a persistent cough or a temperature (symptoms of COVID-19 infection) should isolate for 14 days. It’s now the end of the first week of our isolation as a family and it struck me (as I’m sure it has struck many others) that I should record what it’s like for us living through this – an event with a more extreme impact on our daily lives than anything I can remember.

In the house are:

  • Owen (me), dad & husband
  • D, wife, mum and amazing
  • B (12), son
  • F (almost 9), daughter

F is probably the member of the family who has struggled the most with the situation. She says when we told her about this she realised that she probably couldn’t do anything she wanted:

  • going outside
  • going to school
  • seeing her friends
  • having her birthday party
  • going on a birthday theatre trip to see “Magic goes wrong”
  • family Easter holiday to Wales

That’s a lot of disappointment for a 9 year old to take in. She understands it’s for safety but it’s still really upsetting. Finding a routine for F has been challenging this week. She generally is happy to do some Maths and English in the morning, and is quite happy until about lunch, but then things start to get more difficult.

In many ways my life is the least affected out of the whole family – I already worked at home, and I spend a lot of time in virtual meetings already. Obviously having everyone else at home has made working harder and lots of people I work with are also impacted by the situation – so it hasn’t quite been “business as usual”. My main social activity is singing in a choir and of course all face-to-face rehearsals have been cancelled for the foreseeable future – so we’ve been trying online sessions (I’ll try to do a separate post on what we’ve been doing in case it’s useful to others) – and that’s meant I’ve spent more time online this week.

D misses the luxury of being able to do what we want, and I think has found the first week quite stressful.

B was the person who got ill, and has been ill all week – not seriously, but enough for him to be tired easily (although he keeps insisting he’s “feeling better today”). He’s very self-motivated and loves doing school work and study, and creating projects for himself – so apart from the illness he isn’t unhappy. If he was at home with just me I think we’d both just work happily all day, but with four of us in the house, especially with F around as well, this is more distracting and difficult for him. But he’s very adaptable and thoughtful – yesterday he created a worksheet for him and F to do about animals, and he has plans for more worksheets for next week, including one based around “Miraculous: Tales Of Ladybug & Cat Noir” a favourite TV series with them currently.

We’re lucky we’ve got enough computers in the house, and good broadband, so us all being online and working at the same time hasn’t been a huge problem (one of the computers is a bit crappy, but definitely usable).

To try and help with the feelings of frustration and to keep a routine I put up a whiteboard (which has been sitting unused and waiting for me to put it up for months!) and made space for a “wishlist” of things we all want to do while we are stuck at home, and a “daily timetable”. Realising that one of the things that had affected F most was the lack of control over things we suggested the kids create “I choose” cards that they can play each day which allows them to override whatever we are asking them to do at the time and lets them doing the thing they want. They get four “I choose” cards a day and they are things like “I choose to watch TV for 30 minutes”. I’m not sure these have been quite as successful as I hoped, but they have at least given some degree of choice to F.

“Had a band and we tried real hard”

Because we’ve been confined to the house & garden, we really haven’t been able to get out at all – so food has been a bit of a worry. Overall we have a freezer full of stuff and lots of non-perishable food in the pantry – but we’ve never been great at meal planning, and have often relied on the fact its easy to pop to the shop. Luckily we’ve got friends and relatives locally who have done some shopping for us – huge thanks to my cousin (J) and P & M at Warwick Books who have done shopping runs for us!

We already have a weekly delivery of fruit, veg, meat and fish from Abel and Cole and this week that came as usual – we are hoping this keeps going (although uncertainty about this is one of the stressful things – in terms of food planning – what can we count on for next week?). We were also lucky enough to be able to register with Milk & More so as long as they have stock we’ll have regular supplies of milk, yoghurt, juice and other basic perishables.

Door step delivery

One positive I’m taking from this situation is how much we already support small and local businesses – partly, sadly, because we are only too aware of what impact this situation is going to have on people we know locally. But there is more we can do – for example I now feel we should have signed up to Milk & More ages ago (what could be better than milk delivered to the door?) and we could have been doing more to shop locally – I’m determined that we’ll make more of an effort with this from now on.

The food situation has also made me much more aware of things we have been wasting (throwing out unused food) and start making sure we reduce our waste. I’ve been baking bread (although bread flour has been in short supply) – thanks to a course at Haddie and Trilby I’d just re-started baking bread so I was well prepared! I’ve started making jam with kiwi fruit we often get in our Abel and Cole box (and so many kiwi fruit have gone into our compost its embarrassing). Yesterday I even made brown chicken stock from left over bones & scraps (I’m planning to post recipes on this blog separately so won’t detail here). So overall we are eating well (perhaps better than usual in some respects).

Homemade bread with kiwi and grapefruit jam

Now the weekend is here I’ve had time to relax a bit (juggling work around everything else has been quite a challenge) and yesterday spent time in the garden doing some well overdue tasks (digging out the compost, mowing the lawn), and today I’m planning to do some more work (more mowing) and F has been putting together some ideas for setting up a “play area” in the garden (nothing too ambitious – chalk marks on the paving slabs for games etc.)

Where I’ve been able to make the space and time to do so, I’ve actually enjoyed being more of a ‘home maker’ – but one of the things I’ve realised this weekend is that we spend a lot of our weekend going out and maybe we should do more at home (F said “this would be a great weekend except we don’t have a choice about it”)

While there have been ups, there have also been downs – by Wednesday morning D and I were informed at high volume that we were “the worst people ever and I can’t believe I have to spend two weeks stuck here with you”. I find it hard not to just give in to demands to watch TV just so that I can get on with my work. Both D and I have tried getting up early to do work before kids are around – which sort of works, but then leaves me exhausted later in the day. So it can be tough – but I’m definitely staying positive at the moment and feel we are doing pretty well all things considered

Next week we’ll have more challenges no doubt – the kids will do their first online Art lesson from Jess at Art Group Studios and we are hoping that some online kung fu lessons can be set up for F. B is hoping to be well enough to get on with the work the school is starting to send home.

I’m hoping I’ll do some more regular updates in this diary rather than just once a week – but I know my good intentions often remain just that – we’ll see!