Smokin Gravy Powder

Smoking Gravy Powder, sounds like something a college student would attempt after a heavy night out.  I remember when I was at college my friend George tried drying Banana skins under the grill in an effort to create a legal high, setting fire to the cooker , and resulting with a very difficult conversation with a Fireman and the Provost at 3 am who had come in answer to the smoke alarm, but even he, trendsetter that he was didn’t go as far as smoking  Gravy Powder. here I suspect I am treading a new path.

Let me start again and you can see where I am going with this. Several members of my family have food allergies, which means there are very few off the shelf products we can buy. When this first raised its head 20 years ago, a number of things disappeared from my plate, but the one I missed the most was gravy. Due to the additives in commercial gravy powder we cant have it, and so that set me off on that great food journey to where we are today. Over the years I have developed various sauces and ingredients which I can make to replace the commercial products denied me. Several of these are so good you feel disappointed when I do get to have the commercial version again. Bread is a classic example. We make it fresh every day. However sometimes when I am working away I try a supermarket sandwich, and it doesn’t come close.

Anyway we digress. after a few years we did manage to find a commercial gravy liquid we could have, but now the manufacturers have changed the recipe, which now includes ingredients we cant have. So the hunt is now on for a Tom Green Substitute.

Luckily last summer I developed my combined smoker / Dehydrator

From which then came the surprise of the summer Smoked Tomato powder which we  now couldn’t live without, it finds it way into all manner of meals. Since then I have tried smoking and dehydrating several vegetables. Smoked Pepper powder was a critical success, Home grown and smoked paprika whilst great it turned out too hot for my palette, as it turned out I grew what for me would be a very hot pepper ( 5000+ scoville), so this year I am growing a milder paprika pepper. However we haven’t tried a smoked vegetable mix.

So today we have dried tomato, mushroom, and red onion, smoked with maple wood, and then powdered. The resultant powder is then mixed with some corn flour act as a thickener, and hey presto you have additive free, allergy friendly , meat free, salt free gravy powder with extra flavour.

As always this is just one more step along the way, we can improve on this first attempt. Its pretty good, but as all my old school reports frequently  said – he can do better he just needs to try. I am back on stage at the Forty Hall food festival this summer so I might just have found what I am doing.



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What do I do Now?


For 35 years I have had the same job, running an Entertainment Technology Company in London. I started the company in 1983 with a shoe string budget, working from my parents garage, and gradually over the years we grew, gained some colleagues, more equipment, proper premises, and diversified into new markets.

At its height we employed 12 people, at which point as the boss you then spend your whole time worrying about cash flow as every month that’s one hell of a wage bill to pay. So I wasn’t sad to shrink back as the next recession came, – I went through a few. Most of my competitors from the old days have long gone, but then we diversified.

Finally yesterday it all came to an end when someone wrote a cheque, and today for as long as I can remember I had nothing that needed to be done. That feels really strange but very nice.

So what now. All the projects I have been working on part time for years, can now be full time projects. There are lots of plans for new books, new workshops, new videos. I have a backlog of projects, and finally I can open my wheelwrights shop in Norfolk.

I want a wooden bath, more hot tubs, the Horse Powered Ice Cream Machine needs to get finished, and I have slowly been acquiring the bits to cast metal. I am booked to appear at a Food Fair in August so I need a new food project by then. I have been invited to submit designs for a lighting sculpture to be used at a festival in January.

Wish me luck  as they say the best is yet to come.


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Which shape skittles?

Most of my work is one off pieces, working for clients who have an idea but not a set of plans so part of my job is the design, and drawings necessary to complete the finish project.

Next weeks project is the construction of a pair of outdoor Ten Pin Bowling Alleys which are to be installed in a Central London Office Development . Street games for office workers. I have an idea for the lanes, and the ever so important ball return, what I am stuck on is the Pins or skittles.

I owe it to my customer to be efficient with my time, after all they are paying for it so I went online to see if it was cheaper to buy skittles ready made rather than make them. I had sold them the concept on the basis of themed skittles shaped like a well known building, however having commissioned the work they then asked for Traditional skittles. That’s when the problem started. It would appear there as many shapes of traditional skittles as there are types of tea.

Which shape to I make? do you prefer 1, 2, or 3.  Let me know and remember to press subscribe to find out how I got on


Posted in art, craft, design, Diy, games, Garden, heritage craft, home, humour, leisure, London, sport, street games, tradition, Uncategorized, wood, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to make a Hot Tub

Its 3 years since I posted the How to build a Hot tub video and its proved to be my most popular video with close to 400,000 views to date. The video is linked to a set of plans, my first book and its just been reprinted available exclusively from   if you watch and then read the book you have all the information you need to build the tub and the heater. Just add water

I have had my tub for 3 years now and the first dip of the year is keenly anticipated, as its made such a difference to our life although I do have to say as I get older the temperature we go in at gets higher. In the photo the first time we had ever used the tub it was a chilly 22 degrees, how we suffer for our art. Now its more likely to be at 34 degrees and on one memorable day we soaked under a starlight sky at an incredible 37. Really too hot but Ooh so good on a cold night.

Over the years I have been asked all manner of things, cost is the most popular and the answer its cheaper than buying a commercial one. I have been asked having used it for a time would I change anything, and the answer is not really, I am still happy with the design,


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Now For Something Completely Different


Today is the start of a new project for me and I need your help.

As part of my normal working life I have been employing and interacting  with young people for many years and have slowly come to the conclusion that whilst there formal education is better than its ever been, sharply focused to pass exams, its at the expense of their general education.

As an example I once employed 3 young people on a video project, all recent graduates with decent degrees. Not one could tell you what the local council actually did, convinced as they were its to do with mental Health. None of my recent crop could tell you where the Battle of Hastings was fought, I think I would have even forgiven the answer Hastings, again all well educated young people.

I once convinced a group of young technicians that television has always been in colour its just coloured paint wasn’t invented until the 1960s.

I spoke to a friend who runs a youth training project. on the first payday for each new group he can guarantee he will have an angry trainee brandishing his payslip accusing him of fiddling his wages. He had be promised X and now he has been given much less. Tax it would appear has never been discussed. I could go on

So its time for the Old Blokes Guide to life for which I need your help. Have a look at and join in. The plan is to compile a book, a compendium of things you need to know to navigate life, mistakes you can avoid, pieces of wisdom you wish someone had told you when you were young. So join the conversation go to and click like, leave a comment, or just follow.


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A Pigs not just for Christmas


A couple of month’s ago I acquired this vintage Leather sewing machine and I have been waiting for an opportunity to try it out. From my research I think it dates back to the early 1900s so like so many of the tools in my workshop its over 100 years old, and now I have managed to track down a workshop manual and adjusted a few bits its in perfect working order. I suspect none of my modern tools will last that long.

Much to my dearly beloveds despair when stuck indoors on cold winter nights my guilty pleasure is those terrible programs where some expert rifles through someone’s  shed or attic and declares the pile of worthless junk is actually worth thousands of pounds when sold to a trendy shop or restaurant. Putting aside my disbelief at the prices they quote, something I have seen a couple of times which they get quite excited about when they are rooting through some stately home loft  are Leather Pigs. Subsequently I have discovered they all come from a company based in England that’s has been making these for many years, along with many other designs, ranging from Fish to Lions, even buffalo and Giraffes, all made from leather and sold in the most upmarket shops all over the world for prices I can only dream of. I find myself inexplicably drawn to the pig, and as I like working with leather….

So this year for my Christmas project its been the Year of the Pig, and a chance to use my new to me sewing machine. To make life simple I changed from my usual saddle leather to a much softer flexible leather, albeit at a scary price, but then it comes in much larger pieces. Its been an interesting project, starting with creating the pattern, to cutting and then sewing the leather pieces to get to the finished Pig. Inside the leather cover there is a wooden frame so it can withstand someone sitting on it, and its stuffed with wood wool, another material I have never worked with before. It all took much longer than anticipated but that’s down to the sewing machine, but now I have conquered the adjustments the next one will be much faster. Which is just as well as my dearly beloved has decreed if you make a family heirloom, and you have two daughters then you need to make two. I wonder if I one of them would like a lion?


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Fun with Fire


“Fun with fire” or “The Old Blokes Kitchen rides again”.

February is becoming one of my favourite months, nothing is growing in the garden, so when I do get some time off, I have time to play and experiment which this weekend I am doing in abundance.

One of my big projects for this year is to write my next book provisionally entitled “Fun with Fire” although I do like “The Old Blokes Kitchen Rides again” which will be all about building a smoker, and smoking some food along with some recipe’s., and that’s what we doing this weekend.

By way of an experiment I am smoking a variety of vegetables to see how we get on. Some I have tried before and some I haven’t.  Mushrooms are a returning favourite but this time they have been joined by sliced potato destined for dinner as a potato and mushroom gratin with a white sauce. My mouth is watering at the thought of it.

I purchased from my local supermarket what they call wonky onions, ones that didn’t make it too the shelves for cosmetic reasons. Perfectly good onions and I am looking forward to the Smoked Onion Chutney I am planning with them.

The squash is tomorrows lunch, smoked squash soup with perhaps some smoked carrot for even more flavour.

Finally whilst that’s been smoking I have been making Pork Sausages with my smoked Tomato powder which has become a staple of our cooking, Sausage and tomato are a classic combination so why not in the same sausage, we will find out, and once the veg is out the remaining sausages will go into the smoker overnight.

Can you overdose on smoke? I hope not.

If that gets your juices flowing remember to press the follow button and keep up.  I Have just been listening to an episode of @the kitchen cabinet and they mention smoked Milk Ice Cream. Now that we do really have to try



Posted in bake, baking, barbecue, bbq, books, Cooking, craft, Diy, food, heritage craft, heritagecraft, home, Ice Cream, old blokes kitchen, smoker, Uncategorized, wood, work, youtube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment