Grandma Battye’s turkey trot

IMG_0644collectin the turkey by wheelbarrow at Firs farm 23-12-2017 10-10-54

I needed a barrow to get three turkeys to the car!

I’VE forgotten how many years we as a family have been getting our Christmas turkeys from Firs Hill Farm, Sheffield, but last year was a bit special. I had to borrow a wheelbarrow to get THREE birds to the car parked on Ringinglow Road: one for us, one for family and the third for a shopkeeping couple who couldn’t spare the time to collect it.

You’ll have seen the farm. It’s the one with all the geese in the field by the side of the road. The turkeys are kept inside in the barn.

I first met  Jim and Angela Battye when I visited their 230 acre farm to write a Christmas story for the Sheffield Star, naturally ordered a turkey and it was so good I kept coming back for more. It has become, as all the best things do, a bit of a tradition.

Sometimes we meet Angela at the local farmers’ market where  she takes orders or, failing that, ring up or do it online. The farm now has its own website and Angela a blog.


Geese in the field at Firs Farm

The family may have been in the turkey business for over 80 years but they have no wish to become modern day Bernard Matthewses. They sell the same number of birds each year: 250 turkeys and 180 geese. This year turkeys will cost £3.60 a lb and the geese £4.70.

“They all sell.” says Angela, who has now a large number of repeat customers. Many of them, like me, are first attracted by the sight of the geese in the field. They arrive as day old goslings in May. The turkeys are different breeds depending on the weight they need to attain.

This all started with Grandma Battye. If she made Yorkshire Puddings is not recorded but Jim’s grandmother Alice began selling geese and turkeys from her farm at Oxspring over 80 years ago. It was a useful sideline. His parents, Albert and Gwen, took over and 30 years ago he and Angela, brought up on a farm at Stannington, moved to Ringinglow.

A Firs Farm Christmas bird ticks all the boxes: locally produced so few food miles are recked up, particularly as much of their feed is grown on 50 acres of the farm given over to beet and cereals.

For Jim and Angela “things start moving after Bonfire Night.” Publicity needs to be set into gear and orders taken. The birds are slaughtered and plucked on site in the middle of December then hung for about a week before being dressed to order. Then they will be put into cold store with the buyers’ names attached.

Collection day this year is Sunday, December 23.  It’s always hectic. Then there will be a constant queue of visitors to the family’s farm shop, where people can also buy potatoes, vegetables, eggs, lamb (the farm has 500 sheep) and tubs of goose fat.

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P1030472 Sue salutes the turkey 25-12-2015 18-25-36

Saluting the turkey




There’s no gin in ginjinha!



IT’S just the thing you need on a chilly night – chilly for Portugal, that is – a little shot of ginjinha from a hole in the wall bar on the Rossio. On a recent trip to Lisbon we did it every night as a pre-prandial before hitting the town.

 Despite the name, it has nothing to do with gin or ginger. It’s a locally made cherry-infused brandy boosted with sugar to take away the rawness and cinnamon because, well, the Portuguese love cinnamon. And for just E1.40 for a thimbleful, with a cherry or two, it’s a bargain.

 In places posher than the A Ginjinha bar on the Largo Sao Domingos (which serves it in tiny plastic cups) you might get it in a chocolate ‘thimble’ which you eat after draining. That will cost more.

 But the tiny bar has history: it’s been there since 1840. The floor and counter can also get very sticky from the spilled drink so make sure you don’t get jostled in the queue.

 It wasn’t until after I’d had a noggin or two that I remembered I have been making something very similar back home in Sheffield but more of that later.

 Ginja, as it is also known, is made from a Portuguese brandy called aguardente (which literally means fire water) in which sour Morello cherries are infused. This is then sweetened with sugar and flavoured further with cinnamon. You can have it with or without the cherries but be warned they have not been stoned. And with these tiny quantities nor will you.

 I’m not going to pretend it’s a fantastic taste but it is pleasant and warming and is enjoyable as a little ritual.

 The bartender serves it from a bottle packed full of cherries which he keeps topped up with alcohol from one of three spigots on the back wall. He first pours the ginja, holding back the cherries with the bottle cap, then with a deft flick of the wrist sends two or three of the tiny cherries into your cup.


IMG_1747 The A Ginjinha bar 25-10-2018 19-14-34 25-10-2018 19-14-34

Taking a tipple at A Ginjinha

I was going to write that you can’t miss the bar but we managed to do it on our first trip to Lisbon!

 Each year when I pick cherries in Attercliffe cemetery I use the smallest for jams and jellies and keep the juiciest and biggest for fruit salads. And I always fill a Kilner jar with pitted cherries immersed in cheap brandy. They liven up puddings and fruit salads in the following months. Then when the cherries have all been eaten, we drink the cherry brandy left. There’s no extra sugar or cinnamon and it doesn’t seem to need it.

 Tonight we had just enough to fill two shot glasses and say cheers to Lisbon! Next year I will be picking extra cherries for a bottle or two of Sheffield-style ginjinha.




Konrad’s last day

P1050841 Konrad Kempka in the shop 21-01-2017 13-28-41 improved pic 21-01-2017 13-28-41

Konrad Kempka and his bacon slicer

IT’S Konrad Kempka’s last day in his Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, butchers shop, and he might be forgiven for looking a little bit sad. But he isn’t.

There has been a steady stream of customers all morning collecting their orders, already bagged up, which have been phoned and texted in that week.

Less than two years ago this blog and local media were celebrating the shop’s 60th anniversary, a business founded by his Polish father Frank who fled the Nazis in World War Two and found sausages and love in Sheffield.

Earlier this year Konrad and his wife Pat reckoned they’d had enough of spending their days in a cold shop and planned semi-retirement. Konrad put himself out to hire as relief butcher and the shop was opened up on Saturday mornings only to regulars and anyone else who walked by and fancied the best bacon you’ll get in Sheffield, sausages, a few chops or a pound of mince.

Now Konrad has an operation looming on his shoulder. “Surgeons also get it,” he says cheerfully, putting it down to all those years swinging his cleaver and sawing through bones.

So I, like lots of other customers, are stocking up. I’m buying several pounds of rind-on bacon, smoked and unsmoked, for the freezer before the shop closes for the last time.

It will be sad not seeing those home smoked hams hanging in the window at Christmas or the dark red kabanos sausages on the counter.

But Konrad is not quite leaving the world of pork loins and tomato sausages, a Sheffield speciality. After the op he will be working for the butchery at Whirlow Hall Farm, there for a couple of days a week, and is thinking of taking the antique bacon slicer with him. After all, it’s older than he is and older than the shop. It couldn’t be scrapped. It’s a museum piece.

Things are a bit hazy at the moment but hopefully he will still be curing his bacon at Whirlow. And making those celebrated pork pies.

P1050676 Hams in the window at Kempka's 22-12-2016 11-58-37

Christmas hams in the window at Kempka’s







Cider with Susie

WELL, that’s the plan. Laurie Lee sipped cider with the lovely Rosie in a haystack. I’m planning to do it with Susie (Sue is really her name) although I just know a haystack is out of the question so will settle for the comfort of our own home. But right now the scrumpy is on hold.

It’s bubbling gently in a plastic carboy in the corner of the kitchen. I can hear it plop as another bubble goes through the airlock. It seems to go to sleep at night but wakes up in the morning when the room warms.

It was hard work making that cider as I don’t have an apple cruncher and nor do I have a cider press. But I now have some pretty fit arm muscles and an awful lot of apples. Buckets full of them.

It all started with Brian next door. He has three apple trees, one of them a fine Bramley, and a crab apple tree. The Bramleys make him a lot of apple puree but the rest goes to waste.

A couple of weeks back I sauntered round to ask if I could have some for my curried apple chutney and came back with a couple of buckets. There are only so many jars of chutney a household needs so I thought about what to do with the rest (there are more apples stored in his garage).

I made apple puree for the freezer. Apples and prune are the main ingredients of my brown sauce recipe so I made some bottles of those. And an apple pie. Then I set about juicing them as an alternative to orange in the morning.

The price of a cider press at the home brew shop was horrendous so I grated some up, squeezed out the juice and put it in my blender, which won’t work unless it has some liquid in, then added chopped apples and whizzed everything up. Then I tipped the contents into a double layer of muslin and squeezed.

What came out was basically pureed apple, a dark brown liquid (the juice oxidizes very quickly) the colour of tea and, to be fair, looks pretty unappetising. But it tastes like apple juice. Adding some of Brian’s crab apples pepped it up.

This has been drunk most mornings for breakfast and is a welcome change from orange juice. Some surplus juice, with the addition of a slug of gin, also made a decent granita.

So we come to the cider. Each time I juice the apples I put the extra in the carboy and now have a gallon on the go. It took an anxious week to start fermenting. I eventually added some cider yeast although I expect it would have started fermenting as the juice stored in the fridge began to fizz!

I am now hoovering up spare apples to keep production going. Today I raided a box of apples put out free to allcomers in a neighbouring street. I nick a few from overhanging branches on the way to the shops. No local crab apple tree is left untroubled.

This has been a great year for apples. The bloke at the home brew shop says next year he will get cider presses for half this year’s price. I’ll be ready. I just hope the apples will.

In a jam? Put gin in it


Elderflower cordial, elderflower and gin granita and gooseberry, elderflower and gin jam

THE fact that gooseberries and elderflowers ripen and blossom at the same time is God’s way of giving us a nudge to use them together: think jams, think granita, think cordials.

But, sticking to the religious theme, there’s another ingredient in your cocktail cabinet which can make this a sort of holy trinity. Gin.

This last couple of days I have been using all three to great effect, taste and, equally to the point, for little expense (I’m assuming you already have the gin).

Gooseberries are a much underrated fruit. They are at their best in a gooseberry fool, which you can read how to make here. I picked a couple of pounds of berries from the bushes on Sheffield’s Ponderosa Park inside half an hour on a lovely sunny day and on my way back to the car stopped at an elderflower bush and snapped off a dozen creamy flower heads the size of saucers.

First I made the cordial. Recipes advise you to pick on a dry day and use within a couple of hours before the perfume fades. But give the blossom a good sniff first as some varieties can smell of cat pee. The best have a vanilla – cream soda aroma.

Recipes also advise you to give the flower heads a good shaking to remove any insects. Now this blog gives it to you straight: you will never get rid of them all. I shook the flowers onto a sheet of white paper and was amazed to see lots of tiny specks. I did it again. More specks. And some of them were moving. Ah well, I could always strain them out.

I boiled up a litre of water, poured it into a pot and stirred in 750g of sugar to dissolve, then dunked in the elderflowers. You also need the juice and pith of three large lemons. If you’re lazy, simply slice them. Stir, cover with a tea towel and leave for 24 hours. Strain well (I did mine through a sieve lined with two layers of muslin). There were a few specks in the cloth but none in the cordial.

Bottle and keep in the fridge. I had some left over so mixed it with a slug of gin (Gordon’s will do), put it in a shallow plastic box to a depth of no more than an inch and freeze. Take it out after about four hours and stir. The alcohol stops it freezing too hard. It makes a lovely snowy white water ice and smells floral.


Close up on the granita

Finally I made the jam. I had previously washed and topped and tailed the berries. It’s a mind numbing but pleasant occupation so put your brain into neutral. My Marguerite Patten recipe stipulates one pound of berries to one pound of sugar and between three tablespoons to half a pint of water, depending how hard they are. These were hard. As I intended on making gooseberry and elderflower jam I used the elderflower cordial, which is why I made that first. Otherwise throw in a few flower heads (but remember those specks!). There’s enough natural pectin but a squeeze of lemon does not go amiss.

I simmered the berries until soft and only then put in the sugar (otherwise the fruit will not soften). I but kept back two ounces of sugar as there was plenty in the cordial.

Then I gave it a hard boil and five minutes later it had gently set. It made enough for three jars totalling about one and a half pounds.

So there you have it: jam, granita and cordial for half an hour’s picking, a bag of sugar and a couple of lemons. Time now, I think, for a glass of that cordial with some ice . . . and a slug of gin. Breakfast will be toast and jam. Gooseberry, naturally.

It tastes great on the radio


Sheffield fishcake – as seen on BBC radio!

WOULD I, asked the BBC chappie down the phone, like to come on air to talk about the Sheffield fishcake? It is a local speciality I have long championed although I have never made one myself. Eaten them, yes.

 There was just one catch. Could I be in the studio by 7.10am? They’d have a fishcake ready. It was one they’d had made earlier.

 Bleary-eyed I was ushered into the studio to greet bequiffed and fresh-as-a-daisy presenter Owain Wyn Evans, usually Look North’s weatherman but standing in for Radio Sheffield’s regular on the morning show, Toby Foster.

 He had the fishcake in his hand. “It’s big,” he said. “No, that’s the breadcake (bun, roll, bap, buttie or stottie to people not from Sheffield), the fishcake is inside,” I said gently.

 Owain is Welsh. You can tell that from his name. I am a quarter Welsh on my mother’s side but we didn’t get time for any yaki da’s. He nibbled it, cold, and liked it. I couldn’t do that on the radio.

 I’d also brought along some oatcakes, my homemade Sheffield Relish and a snappy soundbite. Owain chewed on an oatcake. He liked that, too. Then he sprinkled a little Relish on his palm, licked it and said “That’s lovely!” Really? ”Yes.” I very nearly gave him the bottle but didn’t. But he’d had a free breakfast and he could keep the oatcakes.

 “That was great,” said a BBC chappie as I was ushered out of the studio. They always say you were wonderful but I never got to use my soundbite.

 The next day I got a call from Ailsa, producer of Georgey Spanswick’s evening radio show, broadcast across all the BBC’s local  stations.  She’d heard the bit about fishcakes and of course it sounded wonderful. So could I talk to Georgey over the phone? I realise I am suddenly the go-to man for Sheffield fishcakes. I suppose there are worse things to be known for.

 It goes well. I rabbit on about fishcakes, then Derbyshire oatcakes, tomato dip and polony sausage, slip in a joke or two and a few free plugs and namechecks. Georgey lets me talk and it must be slowly dawning on the nation, or at least that part of it which listens to local radio, that there is more to Sheffield than steel and an insane council cutting down the city’s trees.

That’s right, an insane bloke going “batter, tatter, fish, tatter, batter.”

 “That was great,” said a BBC chappie ringing off. And I forgot the soundbite.










My Sloe food project

SO you’ve strained all the gin off your sloe berries and those bottles look a beautiful colour. But what are you going to do with all those leftover berries? Get the worms drunk?

It’s notoriously difficult to squeeze the last vestiges of gin from hard blackthorn but the alcohol is still in there. And as the watchword of this blog is Waste Not, Want Not, they are crying out to be put to more good use. As it’s Christmas, why not sloe gin truffles?

There is a small problem of getting the pulp off the small hard stones but I used a Mouli and got satisfying amounts of berry pulp through. You only need 75g for this recipe so freeze the rest for when you have time to make a boozy jam, jelly or chutney in the new year.

This recipe makes around 15 good sized truffles.

You will need:

25g butter
75ml double (heavy) cream
200g good quality chocolate, broken
75g sloe berry pulp
2 tbsp sloe gin
cocoa powder

Slowly melt the butter and cream together in a pan, stirring slowly. Let it just come to the boil for a minute then remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, bits at a time, and stir until melted in. You may need to return the pan to the heat from time to time, still stirring. When all the chocolate is melted, thoroughly stir in the pulp and a little bit of your sloe gin.

Pour onto a Swiss roll tin, let it set then put in the fridge to firm up for a couple of hours. Then sprinkle the cocoa onto a plate and on your hands and scrape up spoonfuls of chocolate mixture and roll into balls. Cover with cocoa powder and put into little paper cases. The truffles soften quite quickly so you may have to put the tray back in the fridge halfway through for the mix to firm up.

Keep them in the fridge. They should last for a week if you’re planning ahead. They taste very good with a glass of sloe gin but be warned, they are very rich. It goes without saying you can use any other fruit you have used to infuse your gin or vodka.