A Craft in the Life: Coconut and Courgette Soup

Over the last few weeks me and my mum have brought back several varieties of courgettes from volunteering at Cogges Manor Farm in Witney. The walled garden is currently packed full of courgette and marrow plants, covering the plots with their large green leaves, bright orange flowers with green and yellow courgettes hanging off twisted vines. In order to use up all the courgettes we now have in the fridge, I decided to make a large batch of Coconut and Courgette Soup. This soup is one my family’s favourites, as the combination of soft courgette and sweet coconut milk gives a refreshing and very moreish flavour 🙂

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Coconut and Courgette Soup

You will need:

2.2lb /1kg Courgettes (Around 8) or Marrows

Salt

1 Large Onion, Chopped (Either white or Red)

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tsp Grated Fresh Ginger

2 Garlic Cloves, Crushed

2 Tbsps Chopped Basil and Mint

1L /35 fl oz Vegetable Stock

250ml /8½ fl oz Coconut Milk

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Let’s get started!

  • Peel, de seed and chop the courgettes/marrows into 2cm chunks.
  • Put them into a colander, sprinkle with salt and let them drain for 30 minutes to get rid of the excess water, then pat them dry with a tea towel/kitchen paper.

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  • In a large stock/soup pot, fry the onion gently in oil until softened.
  • Add the ginger and garlic, along with the salted courgettes, basil and mint.
  • Pour over half the stock and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

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  • Once the courgettes are soft, remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Blend in a food processor and return to the pot with the rest of the stock and coconut milk, then simmer for 5 minutes.

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  • Season to taste then serve topped with extra chopped basil/mint.
  • You are all done 🙂

This Coconut and Courgette Soup definitely works well as a summer soup, due to it’s light, refreshing flavour and bright green colour. The recipe makes a large batch of soup which you can store in the fridge for 2-3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Make sure to test the soup before you add any final seasoning, as salting the courgettes before cooking can be enough salt. I love the addition of the coconut milk in this soup, as it gives a delicious creamy taste which is really complemented by the mint and basil. Definitely try it out 🙂

A Craft in the Life…

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A Day in the Life: Cogges Manor Farm Beer and Cider Festival, Witney, Oxfordshire, UK

Cogges Manor Farm Beer & Cider Festival

Last week I was lucky enough to be part of the Cogges Manor Farm annual Beer & Cider festival, which helps to fundraise for the Cogges heritage trust. As I haven’t been to one before I was really excited to get the chance to help out alongside other volunteers and full time members of the team. Cogges have been holding their beer and cider festival around this time of year in the wheat barn for the last three years. This year the festival took place over two days, Friday 1st August and Saturday 2nd August, an over 18’s only event from 6.30pm to 11pm both evenings and a family fun day from 1pm to 5pm during the day on Saturday. Me and my mum signed up to volunteer on Friday night and Saturday daytime, so we could experience both the adult’s only evening event and the family day event.

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Friday 1st August

Our Friday evening started off with a pre festival meeting in the cafe before heading over to the wheat barn, which was separated into two main sections: The beer and cider stands on the left, a summer bar in the middle and the live music stage on the right. The barn was decorated modestly with fresh flowers and vegetables from the walled garden, along with vintage style bunting which really left the focus on how beautiful the barn is inside. The cobbled stone floor, large exposed beams and sound of doves cooing created a casual, relaxed atmosphere that I think worked really well for the event.

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A ticket for the festival cost £8 advance/£10 on the night, which included a Cogges glass etched half pint tankard, beer/cider guide programme, free first half pint and admittance for the night. Guests could then purchase a drinks voucher for £6 which was valid for four half pints, and meant we didn’t have to deal with any money throughout the night. One of the volunteers told me that last year the tankards had an image of the manor etched into them, while this year it was the Cogges ducks! As volunteers we were given a free tankard to take home, which was really nice and it meant we could test out a few of the beers and ciders ourselves 🙂

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All together there were 30 speciality beers and 15 ciders (with a range of seasonal and one off editions!) from a range of local breweries, within 30 miles of Cogges to try out. Along with the beers and ciders there was also fruity blackberry and elderflower pimms (Completely delicious) and wine available from the summer bar. We were stationed on one of the four ciders tables and ended up with five fruity ciders to help serve, including: Rabbit Foot Spasm Original and Muscle Mary Raspberry Blush from the Cotswold cider company, Apples and Pears, Blackberry Blush and Strawberry Cider from Millwhites.

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The most popular ciders from our table were Apples and Pears (My personal favourite!), Strawberry cider and The Rabbit Foot Spasm Original. The Rabbit Foot Spasm Original is a special adaptation of the No Brainer cider made especially for one of the bands playing – The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm band! They are an Oxfordshire based big band, known for their jump, blues and vintage jazz music. The cider proved very popular with fans of the band as well as the lead singer who told me he worked alongside the Cotswold cider company to help produce it. Fortunately our selection of fruit ciders were very popular throughout the night and we were kept busy pouring half pints while listening to the live music. As well as The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm band, The April Maze – an Australian/British troubadour duo and Wes Finch – an American folk/indie performer also kept the barn full of toe tapping, head turning music 🙂

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Outside the main barn there were also a selection of games, including Aunt sally, lawn croquet, giant chess and superhero wrestling, as well as a stand selling American style BBQ pulled pork or beef baps served with tangy coleslaw (Which definitely required a taste test… Safe to say they were delicious!!). Throughout the night I got to try out most of the ciders and a few of the beers, which was definitely useful when people asked for a recommendation. My favourite ciders were Millwhites Apples and Pears, Premium Run Cask and Muscle Mary Raspberry Blush as well as Thatchers Cheddar Valley. There was also a big selection of beers from several breweries, including: Hook Norton, Ramsbury and Wychwood. A bit later in the evening my dad decided to come along to try some beers and enjoy the live music with us. He is definitely more of a beer fan, so I got to help choose him some beers and try a little bit of them myself. Of the few beers I tried I really enjoyed Ramsbury Brewery’s Sunsplash and Sticky Wicket!

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Saturday 2nd August

Today started at 12.30pm, in preparation for opening at 1pm, again with a quick prep meeting. Afterwards we headed back over to the wheat barn, which was set up in a similar way to Friday, but with a bouncy castle replacing the stage on the right. We decided to go back to the cider stand, however as a few boxes of cider were empty from last night we moved the remaining boxes onto two tables. Unlike Friday night the atmosphere was a lot quieter, however we did manage to sell quite a few half pints of the ciders we had left, as well as some of the Cogges tankards. Along with the bouncy castle there was also story telling, superhero wrestling, giant chess and lawn croquet to enjoy. As well as all the normal weekend activities at Cogges there were also spinning and weaving demonstrations, candle holder making for WWI lights out and an Imperial War Museum print display in the manor house.

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I really enjoyed volunteering at the festival! It was great to try out the beers & ciders, listen to the live music while chatting to the other volunteers and visitors. As the weekend went on I learnt a lot more about the different breweries and ciders we were lucky enough to have, and being able to recommend ciders to visitors and them enjoy my recommendations was good fun! If you haven’t been to a beer & cider festival or Cogges Manor Farm before I would definitely recommend it. Hopefully I will be able to help out again next year 🙂

A Day in the Life…

A Craft in the Life: Apple and Cucumber Chutney

Along with bringing home a rather excessive number of very large courgettes last week from Cogges Manor Farm, another vegetable we had quite a lot of was cucumbers! I really liked the look of this apple and cucumber chutney, as the combination of sweet apple, cool refreshing cucumber and a hint of chili sounded delicious. Most chutneys are made in a similar way to the Spiced Courgette Chutney I made alongside this one, however this recipe varied slightly in order to ensure the sugar was properly dissolved in the white wine vinegar.

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Apple and Cucumber Chutney 

You will need:

1lb 4 oz/650g Onions, chopped (Around 3/4 large white or red onions should be enough)

2lb 2 oz/1kg Cucumbers, cut lengthways, seeds removed and chopped

2lb 2 oz/1kg Cooking apples, chopped (Granny Smith work very well!)

15 ½ fl oz/450ml White Wine Vinegar

1lb 7 oz/500g Brown Sugar

1 tsp Salt

1 Red Chili, chopped (This will depend on how spicy you like your chutney, and the strength of your chili!)

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Let’s get started!

  • Add the chopped apples, onions, cucumber and white wine vinegar to a large stock pan and place on a medium heat.
  • Stirring regularly to prevent sticking, bring to the boil then simmer until softened.
  • Add the sugar, chili and salt, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.

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  • Continue to simmer uncovered for around 2 hours until dark and thickened (Make sure to check on the chutney every 15/20 minutes and give it a good stir to prevent sticking!).
  • Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 1/140ºC/275ºF. Carefully wash and dry your jars (You can use large curry/pasta sauce jars or smaller jam/condiment jars depending on what you have! You can of course buy new glass jars, Steamer Trading Company sell 6 400ml jars with lids for £6. Lakeland also sell 6 110ml jars for £5.29, however you often are required to buy the lids separately).
  • Place the jars and lids separately in your preheated oven and allow to sterilise for around 30 minutes.

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  • Carefully remove the jars and lids from the oven. Spoon the chutney into the jars while it is still hot, before topping with a wax disc and replacing the lids.

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  • Label with it’s name and the date before leaving in a cool, dark place for at least 4-6 weeks before opening.

Our cupboards are certainly well and truly stocked full of chutney now! This recipe was easy and simple to make, resulting in a tasty looking chutney flecked with red chili and pieces of green cucumber. I’m a massive fan of cheese and crackers, and this chutney works very well with both 🙂 I would definitely recommend giving this recipe a go if you are looking for a sweet and spicy chutney.

A Craft in the Life…

A Craft in the Life: Spiced Courgette Chutney

Now I am back home in Oxfordshire I have been able to return to volunteering at Cogges Manor Farm in Witney. I started volunteering last year, alongside my mum who has been helping out there for almost 4 years! This week we headed up on Friday to help out with weeding, harvesting and watering in the beautiful walled garden beside the manor house. We arrived just after 9am in order to avoid the very hot weather we have been enjoying this week, as it gets incredibly hot in the walled garden especially when you are working hard! After a catch up with the other volunteers we got the fun job of harvesting the vegetables that were ready to be eaten 🙂 One of the best parts of volunteering in the walled garden is getting to bring home some of this fresh produce, which this week included – courgettes, cucumbers, carrots, beetroot and lettuce! In order to use up all this delicious produce we decided to make some chutney!

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Spiced Courgette Chutney 

You will need:

7 oz/200g Onions, chopped (Around 2 large white or red onions should be enough)

1lb 10 oz/500g Tomatoes, chopped

1lb 10 oz/500g Courgettes, chopped

8 ½ fl oz/250ml White Wine Vinegar

14 oz/400g Cooking apples, chopped (Granny Smith work very well!)

9 oz/250g Brown Sugar

2 tsp Mixed Spice

1 tbsp Mustard Seeds

Thumb sized piece of root ginger, grated

4 Cloves of garlic, crushed

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Let’s get started!

  • Add all chopped vegetables, sugar, white wine vinegar and spices into a large stock pan and place on a low/medium heat.

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  • Stirring regularly to prevent sticking, bring gently to a simmer.
  • Continue to simmer uncovered for around 2 hours until dark and thickened.

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  • Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 1/140ºC/275ºF. Carefully wash and dry your jars (I used a collection of 6 re used jars that were a variety of sizes. You can use large curry/pasta sauce jars or smaller jam/condiment jars depending on what you have! You can of course buy new glass jars, Steamer Trading Company sell 6 400ml jars with lids for £6. Lakeland also sell 6 110ml jars for £5.29, however you often are required to buy the lids separately).
  • Place the jars and lids separately in your preheated oven and allow to sterilise for around 30 minutes.

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  • Carefully remove the jars and lids from the oven. Spoon the chutney into the jars while it is still hot, before topping with a wax disc and replacing the lids.

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  • Label with it’s name and the date before leaving in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks before opening.

Although my mum has made quite a lot of different jams, jellies and chutneys, this is actually the first time I have ever made some myself! This recipe was really easy to follow, and the only thing that takes time is all the careful chopping of the vegetables, as you need to prepare them the size you want them in the final cooked chutney. Once it’s on the hob all it needs is a gently stir every 15/20 minutes and a few hours good cooking so that it ends up being that thick delicious chutney texture.

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As the chutney takes 3 weeks to mature we haven’t tried out the batch made here, however I have tasted this particular chutney before once it’s finished and I think it has a good taste and texture. The addition of the mustard seeds gives the final chutney a really interesting look and the combination of spice and vegetables (Especially the courgette!) works well together. If you haven’t made a chutney before I would definitely recommend this as a good beginner’s recipe. It is also a great way to use up any fresh vegetables you have from the garden/allotment or weekly shop!

A Craft in the Life…