Rosemary Shrager


This has been the most fantastic autumn for our fruit trees. They have been laden with apples, the pears have been amazing, a brilliant crop of walnuts, cob nuts … even the autumn raspberries have been fantastic! But, even though I wrote about them last month, our plums have not been as good. They say that if the holly bushes are laden with berries that we maybe in for a hard winter, but my gardener says it’s because we have had a good year!

Also this year I have ended up with a quince tree. I ordered a peach tree, but got something else – I did think the leaf was totally different! I have included a recipe for quince jelly at the end of the article.

This month I thought I would tell a bit about my year so far. It has been a massive rollercoaster. At the beginning of the year we were still going through the negotiations with the Hadlow Group, and also trying to carry on in the school. Hadlow have been magnificent – we have now a thriving cookery school, we are taking on apprentices and placing them into some really great places.

The problem I had was I wasn’t experienced enough at the beginning about the apprentice scheme, and I have had a very big learning curve along the way. Now Hadlow is involved we can enjoy their expertise in all areas of education. What a minefield it is!

In the meantime we can do the private dining chefs tables and cookery courses at the weekends, and of course during the week for corporate. Best of all it’s a great Christmas present.

This has also given me time to do the TV. I hope those who have watched Family Showdown enjoyed it. It was great fun to film.
I have had a trip to Thailand and China filming for BBC1. The food surprised me in both countries; when eating the regional food it was very different to what we are used to. You could always find the green and red curries and they were delicious. But I cannot tell you too much as I would be in trouble – believe me I could write pages on the trips.

I have also been to many food festivals, and I love them – I get to meet wonderful people. I am just about to do the Cake and Bake show from November 9 to 12.

This is a fun show full of amazing cakes, equipment, new ideas in baking, so do come and say hello if you read this.
I have come away to one of my favourite hotels in the South East – Alexander House Hotel, and I’m enjoying a two night stay and three days in the Utopia Spa. I am actually writing this from my room…there was champagne on my arrival and the loveliest candle – this is the life! I really recommend it to anyone who needs to de-stress or unwind.

This is the easiest jelly to do. You can actually work this with other fruit. For jellies, the key is the quantity with liquid to sugar.

1. Rinse the quinces well, do not peel

2. Cut into large chunks

3. Put into a large saucepan and just cover with water, bring to the simmer, simmer until it’s pulp, this could take up to an hour. Check after 45 minutes.

4. Put the quince through a muslin bag, I have been known to use a pillow case! It works. Leave hanging for a couple of hours, then help squeeze the rest out. Be careful not to make it cloudy.

5. To every 450ml liquid add 500g granulated sugar, bring to the boil then simmer until it starts to reach setting stage, 107°c. Put into jam jars and store. It’s useful to have a jam thermometer.