Saturday, 31 December 2011


With a flurry of markets, an extremely hectic week at work, and working Christmas Eve for the first time, Christmas arrived with both a bang and a whimper. Not that it was bad in anyway, far from it, just that is appeared very suddenly, with a wave of exhaustion and the sudden realisation that lots of things just hadn't been done.

Nevertheless, it arrived, and when it did it was perhaps the best yet. No obligations, not stress, no pretensions. Just the two of us, and the crazy kittehs, in the house, drinking cranberry and fizz cocktails, making a mess and trying to catch up with ourselves.

Here's a small snapshot of what we've been up to over the past week. I will be back tomorrow with news of an exciting month to come.

The tree was decked, with lots of nice things placed underneath.

I indulged in a very small amount of Christmas baking, certainly not as much as I would like.

Christmas Eve rolled around, I dragged myself up the hill for a festive day at work while N dutifully opened the last advent present.

Finally, after a nice long sleep the big day rolled around...

...and was spent mostly enjoying new books and purry dozing company

We went to the Boxing Day match...on the 27th...
...while the kittehs hung out together (somewhat reluctantly).

And then rounded off the week with a very slow, dictionary filled game of scrabble in Italian. We're getting there, slowly.

p.s. I looked back at my resolutions from last year, and was pleased that I definitely fulfilled the first three. As for the fourth, I feel that it should be an ongoing one, because you can never remind the people around you how thankful you are.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Mulled apple juice; or, something to fix the lurgy.

After a weekend of standing outside, trying to be both festive and warm, it seems I have contracted the lurgy. I thought I was fine. It didn't feel that cold on Saturday, I had a great time on the market, did well and even got a glass of port to keep me going.
What could go wrong I ask you?!

Then I woke up on Sunday and felt bleargh. That's the only word for it really. I spent the entire day lying on the sofa being pathetic and complaining about it. (I should warn you, I'm not very good at being ill, it's a bit like watching someone go through the seven stages of grief, accept I never get much beyond denial and whinging).

I gaily got up for work on Monday feeling better and determined not to let it get to me. But by the time I had finished my shift, and come home and done a mammoth session in the jam kitchen, I had to accept that I was feeling more tired that I should be. I woke up this morning and the lurgy was back with a vengeance. I don't like it. I don't like letting people down and not being able to go to work, I don't like being stuck at home knowing there are a million things I should be doing and no being able to summon up the energy for as little as making toast.

Now, where is all this whinging going, you've probably started asking yourself? Well, it's heading towards my favourite discovery of this year's festive season. Mulled apple juice.
No, really. It's amazing. It's such a simple thing, and yet it immediately makes you feel warm and festive inside. Plus, it's a completely alcohol and guilt free drink that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike any time of the day. (Although my gut instinct says that a dash of some brandy in there would be a super addition). I know it doesn't look like much, but the transformation when you put the three ingredients together and heat them is something very special indeed.

It's so simple, it can be multiplied almost infinitely, so you can slake the thirst of any size crowd, or just indulge yourself. I give you, the genius that is, mulled apple juice:

1 mug cloudy, best quality you can afford, apple juice, per person. (I use some from a local farm which is every so slightly tart, which works well as it stops the end product being too sweet).
1 skant tsp honey per person
1/2 tsp mixed spice, per person.

Place all of the above ingredients into a pan and warm together gently as the honey dissolves. You want it hot, but don't let it boil.

Pour back into a mug. Drink.

See! It's that easy, and if you use the best quality ingredients you can it's utterly delicious. Go, make it now...and if you do, could I have a mug please?

Friday, 2 December 2011

Time out, and dates for your diary

I met up with a group of friends tonight for an early festive tipple. As I arrived and was saying hello one of the greeted me with "it was so exciting to see you mentioned in London's Time Out this week." Which I responded to with a "wahh?!", a dazed look and stunned silence. I thought she was joking. But after a couple of drinks and on the way back to the tube station I was marched into a shop, where she picked up the magazine and read proudly that this year's Christmas Food Market in Covent Garden Piazza will include: "guest appearance from some of the hottest food bloggers...baker and jam-maker Rebecca shares the wit of her At Number 98 Blog"
Seriously. I nearly fell over! I mean. Wow! I need to up my game in this little space clearly. If they are going to say such darn nice things about me (and two other very talented people, Niamh Shields - Eat Like a Girl and Chris Dreyfus - Silver and Claret) I really ought to start bringing you a bit more wit and certainly some more recipes.
So I bring you a promise, that I will try and be present more often in this little space, not matter what the pace of the jam world!

But before I begin hassling you with recipes and wit (?!) I shall first bombard you with some dates for your diary.
Calling all those in London and the South East: No. 98 Limited will be rocking the following Christmas markets with Good Cheer and Good Preserves. If you're in the area come and say hello, and have a taste!

Dec. 3rd 2pm-6pm Reigate High Street, Surrey

Dec 9th and 11th 10.30am - 8pm COVENT GARDEN PIAZZA! It's a long cold day, please come and say hello!

Dec 17th 10am-4pm Reigate Community Centre, Surrey.

The official website will also be updated shortly to include a full product list. I will be offering a limited mail order service, if you'd like to buy online. However, please note that postage on jars is a lot, so will be costly, especially as I will only be using Royal Mail Recorded Delivery to ensure tracking. If you'd like to enquire about pricing you can email info (at) no98 (dot)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Where I've been...and where I'm going

Hi. I'm still here, honest. I've spent the day sorting. The kind of day that tidies the mind as well as the house. In the midst of it all I popped in here only to discover it's been well over a month since my last post. Oops!

I'm afraid it couldn't really be helped as it's been a ridiculously busy month, and the next is going to be soo much worse! All in a good way though. I've been busy at work, busy at play, but mostly busy frantically getting business stuff ready for the upcoming festivities. I have six Christmas markets on the agenda in the next month, and have already done two. I had no idea things would take off this quickly, so it's been all hands on deck, or rather, on stove, to make sure it's all ready. It's stressful, and exhilarating all at the same time.

I will be posting all the details of the markets I'll be on in the next few days, just in case any of you are able to make it. In the meantime, here's a quick photo round-up of what's been going on.
Probably the biggest news is that I got published. I'm finally in print, and raving about jam and it's uses as a tool for social networking; the way that re-connecting with artisan food making can connect us with a whole host of other people and communites all around the world who are doing the same thing. It's part of a great Cultural Cookbook, which, if you're so inclined, can be purchased over here.
After that I did a few early Christmas markets,

squeezed in a spot of knitting (with no help from the cats) and got busy in the jam kitchen and produced utter chaos in my office trying to get pre-orders packed and ready.
I also got busy in the kitchen at working making some lovely cakes to order. Oh how I wish I got to take this one home. We're not having a Christmas cake this year...perhaps we can have a Christmas cheesecake instead?
Then last week it was the BBC Food and Farming Awards, which I was lucky enough to get a ticket for. I really want to write a longer post about it, as it was an incredibly inspiring event. (and I did a bit of whooping when Locatelli and Huge F-W gave their awards, much to the embarrassment of N and the annoyance of the lady unfortunate to sit next to me!)
The other highlight of the last month? Rediscovering the nice glasses...
...and the delicious cocktails you can make to put in them! No harm in getting festive a little bit early! (above, whiskey and ginger liqour, below, the classic G&T).
Today marks the end of the "free" weekends before the madness begins. I have to say that with the house tidy, and a dash of gin in my system I'm rather looking forward to the craziness that is coming my way. I just hope that I can make it here a bit more often to share it with you.

(p.s. although I haven't been here I have been lurking on the interwebs reading up on what everyone else is doing...I may not comment lots, but I'm loving reading about it all)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Instant Gratification

Things are moving so fast here, I'm in a new work routine (working Monday's for the first time in what seems like forever!), frantically trying to get ideas and products ready for the Christmas markets, and looking beyond that to our long term plans.
Sometimes in the midst of all the pace and the looking ahead, planning and waiting you need a smidgen of instant gratification.

So, with six fat quarters and a Sunday afternoon in the house alone I decided it was time to dust off the sewing machine and throw together a new quilt for the living room. I did the top and cut the backing in no time at all, then waited until this afternoon to hunt out the wadding. I literally had just enough, by millimetres. It was clearly meant to be.
And so now, as I plot projections and think about exciting new ventures that I have to wait until the new year for, I will snuggle up under my quick quilt and enjoy the autumnal light in the afternoon.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Happy New Year!

Confused? Well, for us September has always felt like the new beginning. It's partly the ingrained academic year feeling, where you have the indisputable and desperate urge to go out and buy new stationary, and partly because at this time each year we try and get away on holiday, if only for a few days, to clear our heads, recharge our batteries and reflect on things.
The last couple of years it's been a hectic three day dash to our favouritist place in the whole wide world. This year things were hanging heavy on us. It's felt like a long hard tough year for us in many ways, and we couldn't do it anymore. So out came the credit cards and sod it we were going to have a "proper" holiday. No family, no dashing to and fro. Two weeks of relaxing and remembering what it's like to be ourselves.
I remember now, and it's lovely. We've come back refreshed and energised, with new year's resolutions and PLANS. Yes, capital letters and all. All of which was helped along by large expanses of sea, sky, and a healthy amount of Prosecco!
I think it's going to be a very exciting year indeed...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Life on the market

I spent the last two Thursdays standing up for ten hours remembering what it used to be like being a market trader.
My first job when in London was working on Borough Market. It was cold (or hot, but mostly you remember the cold), early mornings, hard graft, and huge amounts of fun. I stopped because I wanted to focus on studying and needed my weekends back for play, but I have a huge fondness for it, and have been told that when I talk about those days I light up.

So when I was offered a guest pitch on the Covent Garden Real Food market for two weeks this summer I jumped at the chance, just as I did two years ago. I couldn't believe that someone would be kind enough to offer me my very own little pitch, and trust me to fill it with my preserves.
It was hard. Schlepping everything on the train took two of us, a bit of help from bemused businessmen ("what an earth is in this?" "jam" "..."), some apologetic looks at the commuters who wondered why on earth their train was suddenly full of suitcases, a trolley and bags, and the use of some muscles I didn't even think I had. But we got it all there, and after an emergency coffee and pastries run, set up the stall. Week one was really wet to start out, and involved some quick thinking as to how to lay out the stall. I fortunately had my wonderful Mum on had to help out. Week two I was on my own to set up and it was warm but windy. Fortunately I had the Jacob's Ladder people on the stall behind me to help me with coffee and moral support and Lady J arriving to give my afternoon a well needed boost.

Once I was fuelled up with coffee and had the stall set up it was just a case of waiting to see what the day would bring. No matter what, a day on the market will always feel long. You stand the whole time and must somehow keep up your morale and smile and try not to punch people who make stupid comments about your produce (these people are rare, but somehow always manage to appear at the point that for some reason - rain, cold feet, hunger etc - you are at your lowest ebb). 

It made me realise just how much I love markets. I left each evening tired, achey, thoroughly confused about the Great British Public and yet very satisfied. For all you have to be thick-skinned, and prepared to stand in the cold, and lift heavy things, it's also some of the most rewarding work I've ever done. There is nothing like that moment when a passerby becomes a customer after tasting something you've spent days, weeks, months, even years working on. Two examples of this really stand out. The first was when a girl paused and before she bent to try my strawberry cocktail jam said "I don't really like jam, but Mum's a fan, maybe she's like this" at this point she tasted the jam and made a whole barrage of "oooh, ahhh, mmmm...." noises, dashed off and returned with her whole family and promptly bought three jars! The second was a bloke who said, "yeah, well, Dad makes his own chutney" then prompted by his girlfriend tried the taster "oh wow, that's amazing, maybe we should buy some and take it to Dad and tell him that's how it's done" Harsh to his Dad, but lovely for me!
It's rare that you get that genuine and spontaneous a response to something you've done. Of course you have to take the good with the bad, and accept that not everyone will like what you produce, but for those moments when someone does and chooses to buy something you have produced it is worth all the hard work, cold feet, and midnight labelling sessions.

I love the markets, long may I get the opportunity to sell on them. Thank you so much to Covent Garden Real Food, I hope I did you proud and that one day you might invite me again.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

If you see me, say hello!

Phew. What a week it's been already! How can it only be Tuesday? (but oh, thank goodness it is).
This week is the start of two weeks where I will be spending Thursdays at Covent Garden Real Food market! I will be there from 10am-6pm hoping it doesn't rain, that people want to buy my preserves, and maybe even squeezing in a bit of knitting and nattering with my Mum, who is amazingly dashing down from the North tomorrow night to help out. (Isn't she wonderful...slave labour at it's best!).
As a result I have spent the last two days not only processing huge bags of generously donated fruit and making the first of the autumn jam and chutney, but also desperately trying to get everything ready for Thursday. Today I have spent six hours standing over a stove, and at every moment that I haven't needed to be stirring, checking and stirring again I have been labelling and organising and making lists and wondering what I've forgotten.
Now I am going to stop. I'm not finished, I just can't stand up much more today. So I made cookies, and am about to pour a glass of cider. Not a traditional cookie accompaniment, but today it just feels right.
If you're in the Covent Garden area on Thursday, pop by and say hello. I'll be in the corner of the piazza nearest the London Transport Museum, being excited about jam!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

St John.

On Tuesday I found myself with time to kill in London. It's been a long time since this has been the case. Despite the fact that I travel up to London for work twice a week, I never have time to just wander about, it's always a dash to work and then a dash home again.

So upon realisation that I had almost three hours to myself before meeting a friend for lunch, I felt both excited and at a loss. I didn't really know what to do or where to go (and having a ridiculously large rucksack on my back full of posh dresses and toiletries meant I didn't really want to be walking around the whole time.)I struck upon the idea of pottering through Spitalfield's and then onto Brick Lane. Then I got distracted, because on the way I stumbled across St John Bread and Wine. How had I missed this on the countless other occasions I've been to this area of London? Seriously, sometimes I amaze myself with my complete lack of awareness!

Now, I know it might seem odd to be so excited about a place famous for it's offal, given that I'm a vegetarian, but the whole reason for the St John Spitalfield's location is to show off their baking. I went in with the notion that I was just going to have a coffee, but the sourdough smell filled my nose and of course toast was inevitable.

So I sat, for an hour, peacefully sipping my coffee, munching my toast, reading my book, and very much enjoying the chefs sitting down to a brunch before the second round of hard graft began.
It was the perfect start to a very perfect day; first breakfast with a friend, second breakfast in a newly discovered place, lunch with another friend and then a chance encounter with my parents on their way back up north after a holiday in the States.

I only wish I hadn't been carrying so much as I would have bought bread. If you get a chance, go. Have coffee and the toast with honey. It shows off the sourdough, and the griddle lines on the bread are beautiful.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Farmer's Market Exchange.

At the beginning of the summer I signed up to Siri's annual Farmer's Market exchange. It's always been great fun, and I love not only trawling my own farm shops, markets and deli's for inspiration, but also seeing what is on offer across the world when it arrives on my doorstep.

This year Siri couldn't have picked a better exchange partner for me, our similarities are just uncanny. A preserver, knitter, and all-round lover of local food and produce. What could be better? And in a really selfish way I knew this would mean a wonderful box of goodies, particularly in the jam department, and we all know that I'm nuts about jam!

Alas, I don't have any photos of my box before I sent it, but you can head on over the The Redhead's blog Handcrafted with Altitude and see what I sent. To my complete embarrassment, two of my jars had rather a rough trip and didn't arrive intact. But don't worry! Replacements have been sent, and hopefully they will have a better time of it.

As for my parcel. Well, I don't really know where to begin, it was packed to the brim with the most perfect (and utterly delicious) things. What's more, it arrived on the day we got back from holiday and was waiting on the porch. How perfect!
The homemade preserves got devoured first. A delicious Peach, ginger and vanilla was slathered on toast twice it was so tasty. I was supposed to save the blueberry, peach and Grand Marnier for the weekend to share with N, but I couldn't resist and had it as an afternoon snack on some crumpets. Both have been tucked into almost every day, carefully rationed, since the parcel arrived. They flavour combinations were totally new to me, and I've really enjoyed how they work together. Yum! However, the real delight for me was the Peach and Habanero sauce. Words cannot do justice to this amazing preserve. It's the perfect combination of clear sweet peach flavour, followed by the most wonderful warmth. I'm secretly hoping if I'm nice enough I might get another batch of this next year, as one small jar is not going to keep me sated!
Again, to show just how similar we are, we both put yarn in our packages, despite it being a little out of the requirements. I sent some special squishy British yarn, and when I opened my package the first thing I saw were four hanks of handspun (and award-winning, I now know!) yarn. How impressive is that?! Laceweight alpaca, heavy laceweight silk and some wonderful novelty black and white, which is screaming out to be my winter hat. Exactly what I needed to drag me away from obsessive sock knitting. I just hope I can do it justice.
Today I finally opened the other jar in the parcel. Honey from a friend with an organic farm. I love how much honey differs from area to area, and this has a lovely clear floral flavour and you can really taste the influence of the mountains and clear air of Colorado. I think this will be used pure on toast or in yoghurt. It's too special to mix with anything.
Perhaps the most unusual thing I received was some dark chocolate balsamic vinegar. Not something I've ever come across. I was intrigued, and I have to admit slightly sceptical, but over the weekend we had it straight out of the bottle drizzled over some home grown strawberries and it was divine. I can see this being a wonderful addition to late summer Eton Mess or over ice cream. Yum!

One thing that doesn't appear in any of the pictures is the mint and rosemary soap. I'm afraid it smelt so good that I opened it and used it in my shower before I could get a chance to take a picture. I don't know how the Redhead knew that I have a real weakness for rosemary, but this soap really hits the mark. It has a slight exfoliating element too, which is perfect for gently removing the dirt after being in the garden.

Hmmm...what have I missed? Oh yes, I got flowers and salad! Not literally, but little packets of seeds so I can grow my own. Isn't that a wonderful idea? I'm totally going to steal it. And I got granola (save that for when we have yoghurt so I can try it with the honey), plus a whole host of inspiring local magazines, and a farmer's market bag to put it all in, which has already had a outing into London!

I cannot thank the Redhead enough for her lovely and incredibly generous package. I hope that my second lot of jams makes it's way safely so that she finally gets to enjoy them.

And a huge thank you to Siri for matching us up so well, and hopefully providing me with another new blog friend.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

He's just such a willing subject...

...that I can't resist an afternoon in the garden with Gatto!
I'm back, and slowly wading through emails and trying to motivate myself after a weekend in sunshine and humidity. Having failed to take a single photo the entire time I was away (the camera didn't even make it out of my bag, which is pretty shocking was just too hot and I felt lazy), I thought a few snaps of Gatto might keep you going. He and his big brother (not such a willing subject, alas) have had a lovely weekend being pampered by Lady K, and seemed distinctly disappointed upon our return yesterday. Although not so much as to refuse food or strokes, but they wanted to let us know it was accepted begrudgingly.
In my next post I'll tell you all about the amazing box of goodies that was waiting for me upon our return. Yep! The Farmer's Market Exchange parcel arrived, and I'm one very luck blogger indeed!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

You have to make these

I wasn't intending to post again before we go away, but then something happened in the kitchen and I just had to tell you about it.
It's been a while since I posted a recipe. Mostly because the only thing happening in my kitchen at the moment are mountains of jam, and partly because everything I've made recently that hasn't been jam hasn't really been post-worthy. We've been eating pretty simply, with bread and cheese with tomatoes being our usual evening meal. Occasionally with the odd addition of couscous salad or potatoes instead of bread.

But with one day left in my kitchen before heading off I wanted to make something a bit special. I wanted something to keep us going through car journeys, airport check-in, train rides, bus rides, and lugging suitcases around. Because much as I enjoy going away, there is all the hassle before you actually get anywhere of note, and I knew we'd need sustenance somewhere in the midst of the chaos.
I initially thought I would make my usual cinnamon rolls, but then I remembered a bag of amazing new flour from Wessex Mill that I picked up last week. It's apple and cinnamon bread flour. Oh yes! The smell alone is enough to make you swoon. Although it's designed for bread it's great mixed with plain flour to add depth to cakes, and so I decided to go ahead and use it for my cinnamon rolls.

Then, when it came to rolling out and filling the dough I had another brain wave. Why fill something already apply and cinnamony with more cinnamon...why not fill it with maple syrup and butter and pecans.
And thus the maple and pecan apple cinnamon roll was born! I cannot even begin to describe how amazing the kitchen smelt while I was baking these. I also must admit to immediately having to try one fresh from the oven. All I can say is...You. Have. To. Make. These.

Don't worry if you can't get the flour, just add a healthy dash of cinnamon and some chunks of dried apple to your flour mix. About a tablespoon of cinnamon and a 1/4 cup of apple should do it. Go know these will taste amazing on Sunday morning. You can knock them out on Saturday, leave them to rest in the fridge overnight and then bake in the morning while you make the coffee. Perfect.
Maple and Pecan Apple Cinnamon Rolls - Makes around 8

1/8 oz Active yeast
1/2 cup of warm milk (just warm to the touch)
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1 tbsp melted butter
1 egg
2 cups of flour (either apple and cinnamon if you can get it, or just add 1 tbsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup dried apple pieces)

2tbsp butter,
2tbsp maple syrup
1/4 soft brown sugar
large handful of pecans.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and leave to bloom for five minutes. In the meantime melt the butter, and add the sugar and egg, beating in together. Then add this to the yeast mixture. Add all of this to the flour and either knead with a dough hook in a mixture for ten minutes, or by hand until the dough is still a little sticky, but glossy. Cover, and leave to rise for a hour.

Melt together the butter and maple syrup. Combine the pecans and sugar either by pestle and mortar or in a food processor.

Knock back the dough and roll out on a floured surface to aprox. 1/4 inch thick. Brush the dough with the maple/butter mixture, making sure to cover the surface, but leaving some for glazing. Then sprinkle over the pecans and sugar. Gently roll the dough like a Swiss roll and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths. Transfer to a baking tray, upending them and slightly squishing them down to hold them together. Leave to rise until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Glaze the risen rolls with the leftover maple/butter mix and then bake for 10 minutes, or until golden.

Remove from the oven and try and resist eating them until they are at least a little bit cooler!

p.s. I think the only way these might be better is with a smudge of cream cheese icing...

Monday, 25 July 2011

It's out there...

We're off to mainland Europe this week for a mixture of some family celebrations, and some very well deserved RnR after a ridiculous month of having a house of smelling of vinegar and vanilla and filled with hot jars and bottles of varying things
But before we head off, I wanted to give a huge thank you for all your lovely and supportive comments about the business. I really appreciate it, as it's all still a bit overwhelming, and there are various things I am still very much getting to grips with.
But, the product it out there! I can finally share with you some pictures of my preserves on the shelves. It's been rather weird selling things to regular customers, and being able to say "actually, that's my company, I make that." I'm always a mixture of proud and scared! So far it seems to be selling well, long may it last.