Red Onion Soup

2015 red onion soup 1As you could see from the post about our bumper onion harvest, we have an awfully large pile of onions to plough our way through. Here’s a simple onion soup recipe that’s perfect to ward off any chill after working outside on a typical English autumnal day in September. Add some crusty Red Leicester bread and it’s pure heaven, in a soup bowl.


Butter or olive oil
1 kg red onions – thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves – chopped
2 tbsp flour
200 ml red wine
1 litre vegetable stock (boiling)
Handful of fresh garden herbs.
grated cheese – a handful for each bowl

Enough for 4 people.


2015 red onion soup 2Melt the butter in a pan, or heat the olive oil.
Add the onions and fry – keep stirring until caramelised.
Add the garlic, cook for a couple of minutes.
Sprinkle on the flour, stir.
Increased the heat – add the wine, hot stock, fresh herbs.
Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.

Into bowls, add a handful of cheese on the top.

Plum Wine Stage 2

2015 Plum Wine 1

Plum juice after adding sugar, lemon juice and yeast

So here we are, four days after first adding our plums to the plastic barrel and adding water to what will become our plum wine. We’ve stirred them twice a day (well  stirred in the morning and given the barrel a good shake in the evening), and today it’s time for these steps:

6. Add the sugar and stir vigorously to dissolve.
7. Add lemon juice and the packet of wine yeast and put the lid on.
8. Store somewhere warm. After a few hours you’ll notice something starting to happen… there’ll be a froth on the surface as the yeast starts to ferment, turning the sugar into alcohol. Stir the contents twice a day.
Yeast close-up

Yeast close-up


Four kilos of demerara sugar went into this barrel, three teaspoons of lemon juice, and the sachet of wine yeast. Firstly I stirred the sugar in like crazy – demerara being a bit chunky. Then the lemon juice and yeast – it says don’t bother stirring these in, but as we have so many lumpy plums still floating on top, I decided to stir gently. The floating lumpy bits are the plums that were still slightly unripe I’m guessing – there weren’t many, but enough to coat the surface in a layer of plum.

Place somewhere warm

Place somewhere warm

Once the lid’s back on tight, the whole thing was lifted on to the work surface above the boiler (somewhere warm) to start its business. It’ll stay there, much to the chagrin of Suz, in the middle of the kitchen, for five days, until it’s ready to siphon off into demijohns.

Plum Wine Recipe – Stage 1

2015 PlumsAnyone would think we drink a lot. The irony is we don’t! Having said that, when nature throws a surplus at you in the form of plums, there is only so much you can humanly eat before you turn to preserving the plumly bounty. Suz has made a few litres of gorgeous plum jam – I know because not all of it made it to the jars 😉 But it’s been such an amazing year that the little Victoria plum tree we planted 7 years ago is so full that some of the branches are reaching the ground! We planted it alongside a Bountiful apple tree, both on dwarfing rootstock so they wouldn’t grow past 9 feet each, as we thought at the time that was all we would have space for and they’d be enough for us. Having seen what they can do, it makes me realise that we need a plan of action for the fruit from the orchard in the near future! At this rate maybe we need to start thinking of applying for a license!

So with the jam jars full, it occured to us to follow the same route as our neighbours and make some plum wine. My only foray into wine-making territory was as  a student, when I attempted rhubarb wine. With a taste and smell akin to dry-on-the-nose vomit, it turned me away from wine-making and towards cheap wine from the local off-license. I’m older now – I’ve overcome my fear and, regardless, we have an awful lot of plums to find a use for. The plum wine recipe I’m going to use is as below, with alterations made to fit our kit. I have ‘borrowed’ it from this site – the chap seems very helpful with his comments and I like the ‘no fuss’ approach. I’m not looking for something quick to drink – I don’t mind waiting, and I’m keen on the less-is-more approach when it comes to additives.

Equipment needed
One 5 gallon plastic fermentation barrel with lid
Something for stirring the contents (we use a long plastic spoon made for the purpose)
Something to sterlise the equipment with (I use Young’s Steriliser & Cleaner powder)
Long clear plastic tubing (available from DIY stores)
3 x 1 gallon demijohns
3 x Demijohn bungs and airlocks (I use rubber and cork, no preference yet)
18 wine bottles (ideally clear glass)
18 corks (we’re using reuseable wax corks)
Ingredients needed
15lbs (6.75 kilos) of healthy plums
9lbs (4 kilos) of sugar
3 gallons of water
3 teaspoons of lemon juice
Wine yeast (1 x 5g pack of dried wine yeast)
1. Sterilise the fermentation barrel and lid using the Sterliser & Cleaner powder (instructions on the tub)
2. Wash the plums, cut in half to check for maggots. I’m using the stones, some remove them.
3. Place in fermentation barrel.
4. Bring water to boil and pour in fermentation barrel.
5. Put the lid on and leave for four days, stirring twice daily.
6. Add the sugar and stir vigorously to dissolve.
7. Add lemon juice and the packet of wine yeast and put the lid on.
8. Store somewhere warm. After a few hours you’ll notice something starting to happen… there’ll be a froth on the surface as the yeast starts to ferment, turning the sugar into alcohol. Stir the contents twice a day.
9. After five days transfer the liquid to the demijohns using the plastic tubing and funnel. Make sure all the equipment has been sterilised.
10. Avoiding disturbing any sediment, place the fermentation barrel at a higher level than a demijohn (e.g. put the barrel on a table and a demijohn on the floor), put one end of the plastic tubing in the barrel, and having placed the funnel in the neck of a demijohn give the other end of the tubing a strong suck to pull some of the wine in the tube up and over the edge of the barrel. Quickly remove your mouth and put the tube end into the funnel. The wine should start to drain.
11. Stop removing liquid when you get close to the bottom so you transfer as little of the sediment as possible. Once all the liquid is in a demijohn top up with water to bring to a gallon if you need to – but don’t try and make a gallon from 3/4 of a gallon of plum juice! Seal with a bung and airlock. Some people add something like Milton to the airlock, but I tend not to incase there’s a reverse pull on the liquid and it taints the wine. I prefer to replace the airlock regularly with a sterlised one.
12. You can now store the wine for months somewhere cool and frost free. At first the fermentation may start up again and you’ll see bubbles going through the airlock. Gradually the wine will clear.
13. Once fully clear repeat the draining process, this time from the demijohn to sterilised wine bottles. Put a stopper in each bottle and store.
14. The wine will be ready to drink after twelve months.

I’m at stage 5,  stirring twice daily, and already thinking about the next batch! I’ve read that if you can leave it for three years then that’s ideal, but I just know that won’t happen, so if you make plenty then some will be bound to remain on a shelf somewhere until then. I think the secret is to make more than you think you need to ensure a glut 🙂
In case it’s helpful, we use two brewing suppliers. Our local shop is very helpful and also has an online presence, at
For our cider kit we use

Lemon Yellow Squash Pie

With an abundance of Tonda Padana winter squash – grown for its amazing taste and storage properties – Suz adapted a squash recipe found elsewhere. It went something like this:


  • 1 cup tonda padana squash
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Splenda (sweetener)
  • 3 teaspoons white flour
  • 2 eggs (kindly donated by Holly and Mistletoe)
  • 1/4 cup baking margerine (Stork, but butter will do)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • pastry for the base (to suit)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350C.
  2. Wash and peel the squash.
  3. Scoop out the seeds and save to bake separately for another dish.
  4. Cut the squash into manageable chunks
  5. Grate the squash with a coarse grater (a typical cheddar cheese grater is good)
  6. Mix all the ingredients (except the pastry!)
  7. Line a pie dish with the pastry – it’s only going to be the base.
  8. Fill the base with the squash mix.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes on the low rack, but in our fan-oven it only took 27 minutes.

That’s it! Suz baked a couple of them – they lasted two days (personally I’m surprised they lasted that long!), and the second was even better as the lemon had time to really soak into the squash.

On the subject of squash – we worked out, given the seed packet cost, how much it costs to make a meal per person. Suz concocted another gorgeous recipe – Baked Squash Soup – roughly speaking the ingredients are baked squash, baked garlic, fried onions, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Oh, and some milk. This soup, with grated cheese on top, a couple of slices of bread and butter, gives you all you need and the soup contingent costs around 10p per person per meal. The squash, onion and garlic are all home-grown. So including the cheese and bread and electricity you’re probably looking at 40p maximum per person per meal. I’m saying this, not for the cost perspective, but for the fact that as a nation we have forgotten how to eat cheaply *and* well. I only wish local councils would help people who want to grow their own by encouraging allotments, teaching people, and we could all have a bash at that smug feeling to be had from chowing down on your own produce. Sometimes our priorities are so messed up. Sure, it takes a lot of time to grow and prepare the food from your own patch, but what else would we be doing? Watching the goggle box? Paying for gym membership, when all the exercise I could possibly wish for was at the end of a fork or spade?