Author: brownhandbag

Butter making – Masterclass

Food prices are creeping up all the time. I try to make sure we eat well at the lowest possible cost, so with that in mind here is my guide on how to make your own butter at home. It is so easy and you get a better product for less money. Please have a go yourselves.

How to make butter:

Basically you take double cream and shake/agitate/beat the bejesus out of it. To see this working on a small scale, grab a clean jam jar and half fill with double cream, then shake it for a very long time. Eventually the lump of butter will form and the buttermilk will separate out. This is great for kids to do and also a free arm workout! Bye bye bingo wings!

I make mine in the food mixer like this:

Using the beater, pour double cream at room temp into the mixing bowl. (It doesn’t matter if it is still chilled but it will take longer to split)


Beat fast until you get to thick cream stage the lower the speed as you go past this. Most home cooks will have had the experience of over whipping cream, where it starts to separate. We need to go past that for butter.


Keep going! Use a clean tea towel to cover the mixing bowl. This is a messy job, I always make a mess so don’t panic.

When the butter is ready it will stick to the beater like this.


Then you get your hands in a gather up the butter and use a clean tea towel or muslin cloth to wrap the solid butter in and squeeze out as much milk as you can.


Sprinkle in some salt if you want to and the squidge it around a bit before forming the butter into blocks.

Wrap in greaseproof paper and store in the fridge. It won’t have the same shelf life (2 – 3 weeks) as the mass produced stuff so don’t make too much. This is because you probably won’t be able to get out as much butter milk as a factory machine can.

The Cost:

Today (17/10/2017) I bought the double cream on reduced price/short date at £2.40 for 1500 ml. You should get around half the weight of butter to the volume of cream used, so a large 600 ml pot will make approx 300 g of butter.


I made 800 g of butter. Which works out at 75p per 250 g.


English butter 250 g today costs £1.45 Tesco, £1.40 Ocado, £1.45 Asda, £1.60 Sainsbury’s, £1.60 Morrisons, £1.63 Waitrose. Anchor butter in all the supermarkets is £1.75 – £1.80, but is on multibuy at £1.50.

And remember this is not a like for like comparison on the final product. Home made, artisan, small batch, additive free butter? Yes please!

What Can Go Wrong

using the wrong cream… you need to use double cream, but extra thick works too.

making a mess… do not take your eyes off the mixer, it turns to butter very suddenly!

people will think you are much more domesticated than you really are… I won’t tell them



Why I am proud to be a Comper!

I have been planning on writing a post on why I enter competitions for a long time. I believe that people are not just lucky (or unlucky), you make your own luck. I have always entered a few competitions but about 11 years ago I started to take things a little more seriously and since 2013 I have been comping avidly. We have our own business and that brings in enough funds for us to live comfortably, but the extras from winning give us our days and nights out, holidays and luxuries. It is my hobby but also makes a big contribution to funding our lifestyle.

The fact is that most people will not bother to enter. Those of us that do will have as much chance as the next person of being picked as a winner. There are no set rules to how you go about it, you do what suits you. I spend about 2 hours a day entering comps and win between 12 and 24 prizes each month.  There is a great online community of compers and if you are lucky there may even be a real life group in your area. This year I have joined The Bristol Compers Club who meet every month to talk wins, competitions and motivate each other.

There is lots of info on winning competitions online which I don’t want to duplicate here. I highly recommend Superlucky Di as a place to start.

The main sites I use are MSE Forums Competition Time and Competition database .

Here are a few of my best wins:

£4320 cash Dickensons Real Deal

Leith’s Cookery Course (1 week) plus travel and accommodation

Cooking with Jamie Oliver

Holiday to Iceland/New York (£1000 Groupon travel voucher)

Weekend in Dublin and VIP tour of Guinness Storehouse

ipad Air and ipad Air 2

Kitchenaid foodmixer

Front door and back door

25 kg of cheese!

Harvey’s furniture voucher for new sofa

£500 lulu guinness spend plus lots of benefit goodies and makeover

£500 Karen Millen voucher

2 nights in Sloane Club apartment London plus show tickets

1 night in Ampersand Hotel London

1 night in Bovey Castle Hotel Devon

1 night in Oakley Court Hotel Windsor

Port Elliot Festival tickets

Bridget Jones Baby world premiere tickets

Lots of my wins are tickets for events and meals out. I never have to spend money on make-up or perfume, Christmas or birthday pressies and I am able to really treat my friends and family. In just over 4 years my prize fund has totalled over 50k.

It is such a buzz when you get a win. Entering competitions is now a way of life for me.

Be lucky xxx





I paint like a 4 year old?

Well that is what I would have told you yesterday! I am quite good with crafting and can confidently sew, knit and decorate. I am happy painting walls or wood but “proper art” has always scared me. My art lessons at school consisted of 2 years age 11 -13 with Mr Hodgkinson. We drew pencil sketches of a bowl of fruit for what seemed like weeks on end and if the weather was good we went out into the playing fields to draw trees. I remember we had to work in complete silence or risk the blackboard eraser being thrown at our heads and Jonathan Kirby being tied to a stool with electrical wire because he wouldn’t sit still. British education in the early 1980’s did not really fill me with enthusiasm for the subject. Fast forward 30 years and I found The Paint Republic  They started 2 years ago following the trend for “paint and sip” parties which has become very popular in the U.S. and Canada. I was lucky to be invited to their launch party in Bath and even better it was being held in a pub! Hall & Woodhouse

We were met by the team at 6.45 pm with a glass of prosecco, given an apron and the scary blank canvas. img_1306

Our tutor was miked up and took us through each stage of the picture, one colour at a time while blasting out party music and telling some bad jokes. We were just in the back of the pub so regular customers wandering past were as amazed as we were by what we were doing. If you wanted to you could stuff food from the bar or sup on a pint while you worked. I did think it too risky for me as I would have ended up washing my paint brush out in a g & t. The first hour whizzed past and we then had a quick canvas drying session (waving the painting up and down to Erasure) and a 10 min break.

The second hour we worked on the details, mainly in black and before I knew it we had finished. Our tutor was so enthusiastic, running around our work stations, telling us how brilliant we all were and encouraging us to freestyle. The evening was incredibly good fun and I still can’t quite believe I created this.img_1321img_1325

The next public event in Bath is February 15th 2017 Events and costs £25 to book a place. Factor in you don’t need to provide any materials and I think this is really good value. They also run private events for groups of 15 -80 people so if you need something new for your club or group do give them a shout.

( or t 07861 295124 / 07920 013062.)


Growing our own Christmas Turkey

This year we successfully raised our own turkeys for Christmas. Although I grew up on a farm where we kept around 100 turkeys, this much smaller scale and free ranging was a new experience. Back at Easter we popped 4 turkey eggs (bought for £1.00) under one of our broodie hens. Four weeks later we had 4 little turkeys chicks!

4 turks 2a.jpg

Turkey eggs need a week longer than chicken eggs to brood so you can not mix eggs under the hen or she will get off too early. We prefer to use the hens to hatch eggs as they look after the chicks so well and we don’t have too. As soon as they hatch the chicks need a small drinker (to stop them falling in) and turkey chick crumb. The turkey feed is specially medicated as the birds are prone to different illnesses than chickens. As you can see the turkey chicks looks just hen chicks but with longer legs. Locally we found day old chicks advertised at £5.00 each so our little brood had done us proud on our £1.00 investment.

The chicks stayed in the small run for about 6 weeks, then moving into a bigger one before finally being put in our biggest pen, at about 12 weeks old. Although we would love to have then out and about with all our other birds they will by nature bully the smaller birds and also fly higher than you may imagine. They really are not as bright as the chickens and could not be trusted to keep out of the road. So we have a large pen which we can move about the field to keep the grass under their toes. They are now eating turkey growers pellets along with a breakfast bowl of bread/cake and chopped apples. We were feeding ad-lib, which means as much as they wanted. This did vary depending on the weather or just how hungry they were. It is really important that they don’t run out of food because they are getting much more exercise than a factory farmed bird.


The turkeys also had lots of visitors. It was really good to show some of our younger friends what a turkey actually looks and sounds like. At 3 months old we knew we had 2 stags and 2 hens and they were starting to find their voices. With building work going on both in the Shepherd’s Hut and at the Bungalow, every bang, saw, thud was met with a gobble.

Fast forward to December and the birds have doubled in size. They moved onto turkey finisher pellets along with the extra treats. The two stags were now showing (like a peacock does) at every opportunity and had developed a deep booming drum noise along with the gobble.


Now we could have killed and plucked these at home, which is blooming hard work. Luckily for us we have a fabulous poultry farm about 3 miles away which has a modern slaughter house and processing unit. In exchange for £9.50 a bird they did the lot for us which I think was an absolute bargain. We had to fill in a keepers form and the birds were checked by a vet when they arrived, before being dispatched, plucked and dressed. They were also hung for 10 days in chillers which meant we could just collect then a couple of days before Christmas, oven ready.


We really didn’t have a clue what weights we would get so were really pleased with the results. In kilos 10.115, 7.32, 6.505 and 4.915 in old money approx 22,16,14 and 11 lbs dressed weight. I could see some fat on the birds but was still worried they could be too muscly so I cooked our Christmas bird with a half pound of butter, but I really shouldn’t have stressed as the meat was moist, soft and melted in the mouth. We had the largest bird for dinner and it is the biggest turkey I have ever cooked, and yes we are still eating it!


I know not everyone will be comfortable with reading this post. It is not always nice for carnivores to think about the reality of what we eat. My view is that if you are going to eat meat then do think about the welfare, give it a happy life and treat it with respect.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas and wish you a wonderful 2017! Be happy xxx


Now the end is in sight! All the tin is on and it has had one coat of bitumen paint. I will do a second coat once we have finished everything else. Windows and door are in and have been painted with Sandtex grey undercoat and pillerbox red gloss. I needed to do 2 coats of gloss to get the colour right and the door inside and side window still need coat number 2. Working outside in an English summer has given me limited opportunities to get out there with my brush. This is what it looks like now.

We used the spare window section with the bottle glass in the top of the door. The main of the door was made from buying a new door and cutting it down. I didn’t want a 50/50 stable door as I wanted guests to be able to peg open the top section and still sit inside out of any wind. Very pleased with the result! Just need to fit the hook to hold the door open once the scaffold had been moved. The green tin has only just been fixed under the door so it has not been painted yet.




Inside we have finished all the wood panels and fixed fireboard around the corner where the burner will be. Collecting this tomorrow, so very excited! We are using the Typhon from Glastonbury Burners and it has a really cool oven set over the fire.


We have some very old, heavy and thick patio slabs here, reclaimed from a villager which will make the base for the fire to sit on. They will need a clean up with some brick acid but should be durable enough for any heavy handed guests. The new fire will sit to the left of the door.


The drop down table under the side window is almost finished. It is made from some old dining table spare sections and will be painted a pebble colour. I am also making some open shelving for the opposite wall from some old Hamlet pine dresser tops which will have the same paint finish. The mattress came today but for now it is being stored in the house to stop me being tempted to have a lie down. All the wall and roof wood now needs to be coated with a clear matt varnish.

Next update should show the bed built and fire fitted so for now let me leave you with the beautiful stained glass window on a wet August day in Somerset.




Just a quick update. We have achieved quite a bit in the last two weeks.

All tin is now on! My next job is to get the paint on, when we get a dry and breeze free day.

hut all tin on.jpg

We insulated the roof and sides with 4 rolls we had left over from other jobs. Here is the photo, before it gets covered up.

hut insulation 2

By spreading the word I had a tip off that some floorboards had been dumped for burning. I got permission to salvage them and spent 2 hours on a bonfire site dragging out the best ones and knocking out all the old nails. To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure they would be any good as they had been ripped out quite brutally and it could have been an afternoon tidying up firewood! I filled our car with the planks, thanks to the Freelander rear window, and crossed my fingers we would have enough. This is the result and I am so pleased. They now need a sand and varnish.

After the floor, work started on lining the ceiling with tongue and groove. We are buying this new and to give you an idea of amounts, 100 meters did approx 3/4 of the ceiling! Now the ceiling is finished the walls will get the same treatment.

hut ceiling 2

My original plan was to paint this but now seeing it I am considering leaving it as the wood is so beautiful and light.

I have revamped two old cider half barrels and planted them with dwarf bamboo. These will be sited with the hut and once the plants spread out more they shouldn’t need much attention.

The windows and door will be next and I am off shopping for the woodburner, my kinda shopping xxx




Mr M gets angry!

Well the EU referendum is stirring things up here in Somerset. We have yet to receive our letter from the Government, but a couple of days ago we had a missive in the post from Will Straw aka Britain Stronger in Europe. This part of the campaign seems to be aimed at business owners. Lots of economic guesstimations being put forward as facts.

For those who are interested, Mr M channelled his inner Ed Reardon and this is the reply we have sent back to Mr Straw.

Will Straw-1

Will Straw-2

Yes we know in the scheme of things it will have little if no effect, but boy does it make us feel better!

Building our Shepherd’s Hut Part 1

This is one of our current projects. We talked about it for ages and looked at lots of options. Should we by a kit? or buy one second hand? Prices vary so much and we had a good idea of what we wanted. So we have done our own thing!

The first thing we were sure about was getting the wheels/chassis right. Lots of huts have metal wheels way to small for the job. We also wanted to utilise the skills we have so as my Dad is very handy with large, farming type mechanics…. anything with wheels and lots of metal…. we sourced a Dyson trailer hiding in a barn. We think our trailer is circa 1930’s. Lots of these were built for the MOD, then used by farmers for hay and straw haulage.  This is what it looked like when we dragged it out! You can see the tide-marks on the tyres where it was sunken into the ground.dyson trailer

My Dad was a total star with this and spent around 2 months, replacing and repairing the trailer. Some new metal work, red oxide paint,two replacement tyres and lots of wood.

So now with a wooden base fitted we brought it over to our house and waited for our local builder Phil who is fabulous with wood. I went to a local hut builder and bought all their spare tin sheets, the seconds that they can’t use. We also sourced some wooden windows from Somerset Reclamation Yard at Ston Easton. These were surprisingly hard to get as most people have upvc now. I had to send Andy in head first under some stairs to reach them. Worth it as we have one pane with a bottle glass swirl. We also have an old stained glass window, left over from an auction lot a few years ago which we are using over the bed end of the build.

The frame work went up over Easter and then the roof timbers were added. Now we can see the space we have to work with and it all becomes very real!

A waterproof membrane has been added and we now have just finished the tin on the two long sides and the roof! We have decided to go with wrapping the tin around the corners, rather than using edging strips. As soon as the wind dies down I will be painting it all black too. The wood work will be painted red to match the wheels centres.

Although we are calling this a Shepherd’s Hut it really is more like a Showman’s Wagon. We intend to build a storage locker underneath, between the two axles. What we have learned is that there really is no right or wrong way to build. All huts would have been made using whatever the farmer had access to or just lying around. Our build will be a mix of new and old, using up our and other peoples left overs where we can.

Next to source are floorboards and an old chest of drawers/sideboard. I need some deep drawers to build in under the double bed.

The plan is this hut will be one of two, this being the double and the second we build will have two adult bunks. Both will be fitted with a wood burning stove.

Any ideas for naming the hut? Please let me know.


The one where I won £10,000 (part2)

Dave Johnston - Author

In Part 1 here, I described the breakdown of the £10,000 prize that I won.  Here, I’m going to tell you how we spent it all! ….

On the dawn of my 33rd birthday, Helen and I boarded a train from Sheffield to London.  We should have been excited, but to be honest we were a bit nervous.  (a) We weren’t used to being wined and dined in luxury; (b) We felt a bit embarrassed about the idea; (c) We still kinda thought it was a wind-up.

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The one where I won £10,000 (part1)

Fab post in 2 parts enjoy 🙂

Dave Johnston - Author


“Yes hello, is now a good time for you?”

“Ermmmm ….”

“It’s just that, you may have won a prize.  Do you remember entering a Campbell Grey competition?”

“Ermmmm ….”

“Ah, maybe I’ve got the wrong number, it’s a hotel chain?”

“I once stayed at One Aldwych in London, are you something to do with that?”

“Yes!  That’s the one.  Well, I’m pleased to inform you that out of 15,000 applicants, yours was the lucky name drawn out of the hat.”

“Oh, OK, that’s pretty cool.”

“Now, do you remember what the prize was?”

“I’m sorry, I genuinely can’t.  Was it a voucher?”

“Well, slightly better than that.  I mean, the prize’s value is £10,000 ……..”

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