The year is drawing to a close, but, at Gordon Castle the garden is still a hive of activity. Ed the head Gardener and his staff are busy with the autumnal clear up and harvesting the last crops of the year. Leeks, parsnips and ‘Brussels sprouts’ for the eating while bright everlasting flowers and red berried holly are destined for colourful Christmas wreaths which will be on sale during December.

The garden’s themselves are filled with the last of autumn colour. Below ground Mother Nature is busily preparing for next year as are the gardeners as they plan and plant ahead. The festive café and shop offer a warm welcome with special Christmas fare and a selection of gifts to choose from.

With such wonderful fresh garden produce there are simple ways to make your meal special!

Try a different ‘mash’ this year!

Heaven and Earth
A popular German dish of apple (heaven) and potato (earth). It is delicious. Serve separate bowls of hot mashed potato and smooth nutmeg spiced stewed apples so that each diner can mix to their own taste. Some recipes cook the potatoes and apples in one pot, drain and mash together with butter, cream and a pinch of nutmeg.

Potato and Pear Puree
Serves 4
450g (1lb) potatoes – peeled and cut into pieces
450g (1lb) pears – peeled, cored and chopped
Simmer in boiling salted water till tender. Drain and mash with butter till smooth. Season with grated root ginger or ground ginger and serve hot.

Parsnip and Potato Mash
Simmer equal quantities of potatoes and parsnip in boiling salted water till tender. Drain. Mash smooth with butter, milk and a little nutmeg to season. Serve hot.

The Ultimate Crisp Roast Potatoes
Roast potatoes that remain crisp to the last mouthful.

Choose a starchy dry potato like King Edward, Maris Piper or Rooster. Peel, cut to even size, cover with cold salted water, boil then simmer 4 to 5 minutes. Drain well. Shake to fluff the outside, important for crispness. Choose an oil or fat with a high smoking point. Heat about 2cm ( ¾ in) oil in a deep roasting tin. Add the drained potatoes and turn to coat. Roast at 180C,(160C fan) 350F, Gas 4, till golden turning occasionally. Drain on kitchen towel and keep crisp in the warm oven before serving.

What can I do with the vegetables?


Brussels sprouts and Almonds
Melt a little butter in a pan, add flaked almonds and a handful of breadcrumbs, stir till golden, season with nutmeg if liked, sprinkle over the hot sprouts and serve
Equally good with cauliflower or broccoli.

Toasted Salt and Pepper Oats
Melt a little butter in a pan and add a few handfuls of porridge oats and stir to toasted and crisp, season with salt and pepper and use as a topping for carrots, sprouts or baked leeks.

Luscious leeks
Remove the root and coarse outer leaves. Split in two lengthways and wash thoroughly. Cut into 10cm (4in) lengths. Tie into bundles to keep in tact. Cook in boiling salted water for 10 minutes till tender. Drain well remove the string and serve in a heated dish with a little melted butter and topped with toasted salt and pepper oats.

Parmesan parsnips
Peel parsnips and cut into quarters lengthwise. Cut larger ones in half so you have equal sized chunks. Cook in boiling salted water for about 6 minutes till just tender. Drain well. Mix 45g (1 ½ oz) grated hard cheese such as parmesan with 85g (3oz) plain flour, season with salt and a little nutmeg or ground black pepper. Toss the drained parsnips in this mix to coat evenly. Use a thick roasting tin. Pour in enough oil to cover the base and add a knob of butter. Heat in the oven at 200C (180C fan) 400F, Gas 6. Add the parsnips and baste well. Roast 15 minutes, turn and roast a further 15 minutes or till crisp. Drain well on kitchen towel and serve hot. The parsnips can be prepared the day before and kept chilled in the fridge.

Easy roasting!

Roasting the ‘Bird’!!
Stuffing helps to keep the flesh moist, however, it makes life easier to keep stuffing separate and serve a selection to suit different tastes.
To avoid a dry ‘bird’ pop an onion, pear and or apple and perhaps a sprig of thyme or rosemary into the body cavity. Lay a turkey crown on a bed of the chopped leek or onion, carrot, apples or pears. Rub the breast well with oil or soft butter and lay rashers of streaky bacon over to add flavour and keep in moisture, splash with wine, stock or water before roasting on low trivet, in a deep roasting tin surrounded by a ‘foil tent’. Calculate the cooking time by the weight of the bird – generally 20 minutes per kg (2.2 lbs) plus 90 minutes. The meat is cooked when the juices run clear when probed with sharp knife or skewer or a meat thermometer indicates 74C. Remove from the oven and carefully drain the juices into a pan. Cover the tented ‘bird’ with a thick towel to keep the heat and allow the flesh to rest before carving. Allow the bird to rest at least 30 minutes.

The juices will make good gravy. Allow to simmer and reduce slowly, season to taste with salt and pepper and add a generous spoon of Gordon Castle Cranberry and Redcurrant sauce and or a glug of Gordon Castle Plum Gin. Serve hot with the main course. Thicken with a little slaked potato starch if needed.

Sticky Cranberry and Redcurrant Sausages

Great way to serve all those extra sausages! A great nibble with some mulled wine at a party.

Serves 4 people
450g (1lb) sausages
2 tablespoons Gordon Castle Cranberry sauce with Redcurrants
1 tablespoon Gordon Castle Marmalade with Elderflower
1 dessertspoon Gordon Castle runny honey
Salt and pepper
Grated zest of 1 orange

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan), 350F, Gas 4. Line a roasting tin with foil and oil well. Prick the sausages, lay in the tin and cook for 10 minutes in the oven. Mix the cranberry sauce with the marmalade, honey, salt and pepper and orange zest. Remove the sausages from the oven and coat well with the cranberry mix. Roast a further 10 to 15 minutes (turning as required) till tender and caramelised. Serve hot or cold.

Most of the garden’s plum the crop is used to make Plum Gin. Gordon Castle Plum Gin is a winner in the kitchen, great to add a splash of luxury to duck breasts, roasts or grilled steaks, a dash in gravy does not go amiss! A generous tot in jellies and jams just before potting adds that certain edge. Christmas cake is transformed with this lovely mellow warming gin.

Crab Apple and Plum Gin Jelly

Delicious taste with hot roasts or with the cheese board.

550g (1 ¼ lb) crab apples
550g (1 ¼ lb) apples make sure some have a red skin – washed and quartered
Cover with water and simmer for at least 1 hour till the juices flow and the fruit is soft and mushy. Strain through a jelly bag or a sieve lined with muslin.

To each 600mls (1pint) of juice
300g (10oz) granulated sugar
Add 1 tablespoon Gordon Castle Plum Gin to finish – see below

Pour the juice into a deep sauce pan, stir in the sugar on a very low heat till dissolved. Simmer, stirring occasionally, till the jelly begins to thicken (approx 20 minutes). Test by dropping a small spoonful onto a cold plate, if it wrinkles to the touch when cool the jelly is ready. Do not boil further. Cool in the pan a little and before pouring stir in 1 tablespoon of Gordon Castle Plum Gin for each batch as above. Pour into sterilised jars and seal. Label and store in a cool place.
Serve with cheeses, game and smoked fish and meats. Some like it spread on a warm oven scone.


1.35kg (3lb) cooking apples – peeled cored and sliced
85g (3oz) root ginger – peeled and grated
The juice of 2 lemons
1 teacup of water
450g (1lb) granulated sugar
1 level teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)

Wash and sterilise up to 10 jars 250 ml capacity. Put the sliced apples, ginger, lemon juice and water into a deep pan bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the sugar and stir continuously till the mix boils, reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add chilli if liked. I jar some without chilli and some with to cater for all tastes. Serve with roasts, fish and a tangy cheese. Store in a cool place and use within 2 months. To extend the ‘shelf life’ add 1 teaspoon of citric acid before bottling.


There is nothing like the welcoming aroma of a slowly baking fruit cake!

225G (oz) currants
225g (8oz) raisins
225g (8oz) sultanas
115g (4oz) cherries- washed and dried
115g (4oz) mixed peel
175g (6oz) chopped ready to eat apricots
350g (12oz) plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
225g (8oz) butter
175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
60g (2oz) honey
The grated rind and juice of 1 orange
5 eggs – beaten
2 tablespoons Gordon Castle plum gin
To soak:-
Gordon Castle plum gin

Put the currants, raisins and sultanas into a bowl barely cover with warm water and soak overnight. Oil and line a cake tin 23cm (9in) square or 25cm (10in) round tin.
The following day, heat the oven at 160C (140C fan) 325F Gas 3. Add the cherries, mixed peel and apricots to the bowl of soaked fruits. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Cream the butter, sugar and honey till light then beat in the orange rind and juice followed by the eggs alternately with a spoon of flour to prevent curdling. Fold in the remaining flour along with the gin. Fold in the fruits and two tablespoons of the soaking juices. Gently spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and lightly tap the base of the tin on the work surface to even the mix. Wet a clean hand in warm water and use the palm or back of the knuckles to flatten and smooth the surface, particularly in the middle to help prevent the cake rising to a peak while baking. Bake 60 minutes then reduce the oven heat to 150C (130C fan) 300F, Gas 1 for a further 30 minutes. Test the middle of the cake by inserting a skewer or point of a sharp knife. If it comes out cleanly and the cake feels firm and springy to gentle pressure, the cake is ready. If not bake a further 5 to 10 minutes and repeat the test. Cool in the tin. Pour over 1 tablespoon of plum gin while warm and repeat twice as the cake cools. Leave 24 hours to set in the tin. Remove, wrap in foil and store in a cool place. Bake the cake at least 1 week in advance to allow flavours to mature. Marzipan and ice as required.