Its been quite a long time since i made chutney. A bare chutney cupboard in my life is a sure sign of general busy-ness. I then discovered that Malcolm, en route to work, had been purchasing shop bought chutney for weekday lunches. Oh, the shame! The ignominy! So i got to work with the help of Hugh F-W and his excellent book.
I decided to start the season with a simple tomato, chill and apple recipe. I would generally caution people not to lift any old recipe off the internet, i have had some bad luck myself and now only go for reputable sources. One key thing to look out for is the sugar/vinegar ratio. They need to be fairly close in quantity (mls and grms) otherwise i doubt the chutney would turn out well rounded. You can substitute stated fruit/vegetables for anything really as long as the ratio to sweet and spice stays the same.
Here’s my lovely batch simmering away. I used to use an aluminium pan but i upgraded to stainless steel and haven’t regretted it, as i noticed the old one started to taint the flavour of my preserves. I was listening to Woman’s Hour at the time so it all felt very feminine and worthy.
I also would recommend a jam funnel. I used to think these things were all gimmicks but it makes a big difference to bottling/jarring. Everything needs to be well sterilised too, i have made that mistake before and produced a batch of mouldy onion marmalade. Never again!
So here’s the first gleaming and wonderful 6 of the season. That should last Malkie about 6 weeks in total….
I tried very hard to lose my christmas humbug this year, and I must admit a massive drive at organisation and a 2 year old have definatley helped. However its truly the run in now, and I cant say I’m totally organised, it’s more a matter of just giving up! Have adopted the granny method of a wee cash spot for the remainder of my ungotten presentations.
Meanwhile, the sparkles and bobbles have all but blocked my blog outlet, so here are a few Salvage sis christmas blobble tips.. bit late for some of them, but I’m sure all of you havent finished wrapping just yet!
Decorations.. I used the necessary prunings to our christmas tree to provide a free surround on the mantle, or fir place!
Any greenery looks great in the house at christmas, as long as you do it decadently as Lucy mentioned in her previous post.
Anyone will be impressed with a present you have rustled up yourself, too late now of course but log it for next year. If your lucky you might be the recipient of one of my home made potions. Nigella’s Christmas Chutney, and Honeyed Fig Vinegar, both from her Nigella’s christmas book, which i must say would knock the humbug out of anyone!
Of course saving up your jars is key, and decorate them with any remaining scraps of wrapping paper, material, gift tags.
Lastly wrapping, a very savvy friend of ours gave us wedding presents wrapped in the financial times and adorned with decadent ribbon. They looked fabulous and I’ve always meant to copy her!
I thought with our current financial tornado, and the ever escalating corporate take on christmas this makes a nice little piece of statement wrapping! Plus the dusky pink pages against the dark ribbon look gorgeous! AND they’re all ready in perfect sized rectangles so no cutting out the wrong size and consequent swearing, helping to keep the joy!
I love the vintage take on christmas, clashing bright colours of old. Hence the decision to return to coloured lights and tinsel on the tree this year. If anything has got to be kitsch its the tree. Here is an example of some festive neons for you, and again cutting out the agony with pre large pieces of tissue which you just scrunch at the ends, no awkward corners here! boom, done!
Wishing our readers a very merry, kitsch and cosy christmas. We really are delighted when anyone stops by here, so thank you and a spicy hug.. you are all angels!
PS Of course Christmas is one of the pinnacles of my faith, and I celebrate it with joy, I just find the exhaustive to do list and earnest intention to make it something extraordinary so strange, when really good food, family and fun is all thats important! End of qualifer.
Here we have another esteemed guest blogger joining us with her inspiration and salvage secrets – our auntie Gladys (mum to Brona, also a guest poster of old), who has been busy this autumn in the Rostrevor thicket….
I am excited about having the time and intent to use whatever is available and full of potential so I’ve had a go at using the quince on the neighbours’ bush that they barely knew existed beyond being ornamental. The irony is that one little apple tree has sprouted on our side of their fence right at the quince so the young tree is loaded with bigger apples than any in the old orchard – only a little birdie could have done such a thing…!
With a bit of support from my daughter Alix I harvested about 4lb of quince, wondering if I could make what is called a “spread” with the apples without using sugar as in jam. Finally recipes appeared in search of something I had not seen or experienced before….Membrillo! Now I wondered what it was with no pictures as yet forthcoming so I was blindly crawling before I could walk. After spending time eyeing my basket full of little wizened yellow fruit that bore some resemblance to crab apples for about two weeks, I was still uncertain what to do. Eventually I plucked up enough verve to halve them and remove rotting brown bits or black spots on the skins. I’m blessed to have the use of an old sixty year old Esse stove that still works if properly maintained and I have discovered that the coolest part on top will bring hard fruit towards a luscious pulp by evening with a minimum of added water. The lemon golden pulp when cooled to hand heat was placed in a sieve draped with a small muslim cloth and allowed to drip overnight.
I wondered what to I do next….use this lovely juice only and dispose of all the coarse pulp? Yet again a friend helped unfreeze my mind to shift from the mental mud. I have a sieve acquired from I don’t know where that has a hinged lid enabling contents to be pushed through and transformed into the finest and lightest of consistency. The coarse quince went through to produce a fine pulp which I then blended into a beautiful cream. I knew by this stage that I was getting somewhere but where? Was I going to risk making a spread without sugar that was going to grow a beard by christmas or was the sugar the best solution. I weighed the pulp and added its equivalent in cane sugar into the warmed juice and thanked Gaia for yet another wonder plant to preserve my efforts. I stirred the pot continuously and slowly a clear red golden glaze emerged that brought a smile to my culinary efforts.
Along came another friend at a critical moment to keep me brave for the next decision when this hot pot of gorgeous gold was ready. We poured it onto flat tins lined with oiled greaseproof and placed it for a few hours in the bottom oven where I imagine meringues would crisp without going brown. Later that evening a panicky moment emerged when the top and bottom of the four trays were darkening and losing that wonderful transparent red gold glaze. It was time to rescue them and transfer to the hotpress. I found a way to stack them alongside the stacked towels and there they remained for three to four days slowly drying into what reminded me of turkish delight though in much thinner sheets. It was only then I discovered a site online that sold the spanish membrillo wrapped like the soft galtee cheese triangles that kids love.
Online I found the spanish cheese recommended to go with this in Sainsburys – Manchengo! Brona had just arrived with Mark who has been christened Tomo or Mr T to differentiate him from son Mark and we had Membrillo straight out of the hotpress with this hard cheese for dessert and a bottle of Reisling. It was a wonderful treat by candlelight and I began to recall stories of Brona as a babe, a physically non stoppable child and bossy adolescent so she bore it all serenely knowing love was in the air!
I’m proud of our wee country for being able to produce it’s very own fruit! That’s why I feel compelled to do things with it. Right now the contents of my kitchen table are all locally grown NI fruits given to me by lovely organic comrades.
We all know there is only so long you can virtuously pluck a fresh piece from the tree or your harvest stash, enjoying the knowledge of knowing where it grew, and how it wasnt sprayed or flown many miles to your clutches, until they start dropping off the tree or grow vinegary hair in your fruit bowl! So we have to find other things to do with it to preserve the joy. My mother in law has a Victoria Plum tree out back. She tells me she does absolutely nothing to it, so the unbelievable harvest this year must be to do with the elements. I’ve heard all the berries are hanging heavy, so keep your eyes peeled and get picking this autumn!
I would say these little boys are slightly lacking on the flavour side, so our tree must have struggled to nurture them all to perfect sweetness, but that delicate flavour is still heaven!
The main problem with cooking with stone fruit.. is the stones. Those things take about as much time to get out as it took to get them in there! But dont let that put you off, its worth the digging and ‘hoking’ as they say round here. I think people get this vision when you right enthusiastically about food, that you live in a blissful bubble of joy, merrily humming and joyously popping your treats in the oven. Actually I curse, spill flower everywhere, huff and puff and then sit down when its all cooked and think, it was bliss too, cause its worth it!!
I decided to make crumble as its easy. But good old HFW will guide you on making Roast Plum sorbet, Plum Salsa and Plum chutney here. I literally guessed the amounts and sprinkled over sugar and cinammon, and I always use star anise now because Jamie Oliver taught me to. I think everybody has their own little twist on crumble so I wont elaborate on how to make it.
I’m eating it now. It’s bitter. And the crumble is too floury. I shouldn’t have guessed! But the house smells good, and I still feel virtuous! Call in for some if you’re closeby! x
This has very little to do with salvaging but i just wanted to rave a little about my saturday lunch experience at Jamie’s new restaurant in Glasgow, a coalescing of my two loves – interiors and food. Albeit with a fairly corporate edge to the whole operation, i still would struggle to think of anywhere with a better combination of menu choice and careful style. Often i find you get one or the other when dining out. Firstly, the place is huge, meaning more room to display the vast collection of Le Marais and Bentwood bistro chairs. The antique pine shelves and sideboards are positively heaving with italian delicacies and voluptuous vegetables, whilst cured meats dangle invitingly from the ceiling. Napkins are (faux) vintage personalised linen. Food is served in a wide array of receptacles, from little cardboard boxes stuffed with fresh bread, copper bowls delicately lined with illustrated paper, beautiful rustic pottery pasta dishes, mini-wooden platters, cast iron teapots….
We struggled to choose from the well-composed menu, featuring many of Jamie’s signature ingredients (lemon, mint, chilli, cinnamon, anchovies). Ingredients are sourced both locally and from Italy – smoked mozzarella, tuscan fennel salami, sicilian cracked wheat, burrata…..not your average supermarket fare. Pasta is made fresh every day, and you can really tell. We went for the rice balls stuffed with mozarella and porcini, polenta chips and stuffed courgette flowers to start, followed by prawn linguine and the most intensely lemony ravioli…oooh it was good!
Now all i need is a valid excuse to go back very soon.
Shopping for cookbooks in second hand shops can be quite unsatisfying. Rows of 1980′s m&s freebies, rubbish cupcake booklets and the odd obligatory delia smith classic. Purchasing cookbooks is something i would suggest requires considerable selectivity and deliberation, given the vast array of options on the market. Which means buying second hand becomes even more of a challenge. In general, i tend to only buy books written by specific favoured chefs, ones who have actually written the book and thus tried and tested all the recipes themselves. I can heartily recommend the following 4 books, all lovingly discovered in my local charity shops.
This completes my set of much loved covent garden soup books, the above one containing more pulse and beans recipes in addition to yummy soups and other liquid glory.
Sam and Sam Clark wrote this one some years after the original Moro cookbook, both of which are based on mediterranean/middle eastern cuisine. Before opening their london restaurant, they drove from spain to the sahara in search of recipes and ingredients. This latest one is based on using ingredients grown in their london allotment, together with sumptuous spices and sweet flavours from the med.
I can’t recommend highly enough Allegra McEvedy, she is my favourite food writer having discovered her a few years ago via the guardian food supplement. Her Leon books (1 & 2) include all the recipes from the london-based fast food restaurant, plus a ton of other family heirloom kitchen secrets, plus fabulous styling to boot. This latest book was recently a bbc 1 series of the same clever name. The ‘economy’ is not based on buying cheap food, but buying something exciting (eg a massive leg of lamb) and then using it in various ways over 3 meals. These books need no introduction! I recently toyed with buying them on amazon at a hefty cost (for, realistically, a set of book that i will never use, but feel the need to own having enjoyed the film a lot). So i was pleased as punch to pick these up last week for £1 each. Who knows – maybe one day i’ll try my hand at Quenelles de poisson, or Rognons de veau en casserole…
Early spring is the time to pick your nettles I’ve heard,apparently they get tough after that.
It seems just as your getting into spring, its already speeding past, so I marched myself out on sunday, dentist latex gloves to hand, and went nettle hunting. Harder to remember where you last saw a lucious big clump of them than you might think!
I’m told you can pick nettles bare handed if you know how, always run your fingers upwards along the stem and your golden. I didn’t risk it, and was bemused to find my double layer of latex gloves still allowed the sting to cost me for my harvest!
I was surprised to find a Nettle soup recipe in ‘Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking’ book and this is what inspired my mission.
It turned out rather unnattractively, not the ideal ingredient for a soup I’d day, it doesnt merge itself into the rich bright velvet texture of perfect soup. Was it tasty? Yes, but the texture was off putting!
I served it up with some smoked haddock pate and bread so a hedgerow lunch was still achieved!
I recently was bestowed with these two pleasant pheasants via our secretary at work. This is one of the clear advantages of a career in the countryside – the fruit of the land. A pair is traditionally known as a brace, one male and one female. They need to be hung for 1-2 weeks to allow the meat to tenderise; i am told they are quite inedible prior to this.
My plan was to bravely pluck, eviscerate and prepare the birds myself, despite having no experience to bring to the task, other than a youtube video (what more does one need in this day and age?) However i quickly realised the error of my ways when faced with the aromas, time-scale and general gory-ness of the process, so i opted for the simpler route of skinning the breast and legs, and doing a casserole. Here i am preparing for action…
The task proved to be only mildly nauseating, but my symptoms were suitably eased by the smug feeling that comes with being this intimate with your food, from source to plate, minus food miles and corporate mark-up prices. I was shocked to hear that the fella that shoots these birds receives a mere 75p per bird from the butcher.
I elected to spare you the photographic details of the intervening process, but here are the fruits of my labour. the quantities were a little underwhelming, but more than enough for a nice pheasant stew last sunday. The recipe came from Darina Allen’s wonderful book Forgotten Skills of Cooking. The gist was – fry up chopped onions and carrots til soft. Seal the pheasant in a hot frying pan, then de-glaze the pan with some white wine and chicken stock and add all to a casserole dish. Add in some nice herbs (bay, thyme etc), and cook slowly, covered, in the oven at around 160 – maybe 2 hours. I was relieved to find it wasn’t too tough in the eating, and some happy table mates made all the effort worthwhile!
And to finish, here’s a merry little folk song, apparently ‘not to be sung by the faint-hearted…’
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s son
I’m only plucking pheasants ’till the pheasant plucker comes.
Me husband is a keeper, he’s a very busy man
I try to understand him and I help him all I can,
But sometimes in an evening I feel a trifle dim
All alone, I’m plucking pheasants, when I’d rather pluck with him.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s mate
I’m only plucking pheasants ‘cos the pheasant plucker’s late !
I’m not good at plucking pheasants, at pheasant plucking I get stuck
Though some pheasants find it pleasant I’d rather pluck a duck.
Oh plucking geese is gorgeous, I can pluck a goose with ease
But pheasant plucking’s torture because they haven’t any grease.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, he has gone out on the tiles
He only plucked one pheasant and I’m sitting here with piles !
You have to pluck them fresh, if it’s fresh they’re not unpleasant,
I knew a man in Dunstable who could pluck a frozen pheasant.
They say the village constable had pheasant plucking sessions
With the vicar on a Sunday ‘tween the first and second lessons.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s mum
I’m only plucking pheasants ’till the pheasant plucker’s come.
My good friend Godfrey is most adept, he’s really got the knack
He likes to have a pheasant plucked before he hits the sack.
I like to give a helping hand, I gather up the feathers,
It’s really all our pheasant plucking keeps us pair together.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s friend
I’m only plucking pheasants as a means unto an end !
My husband’s in the forest always banging with his gun
If he could hear me half the time I’m sure that he would run,
For there’s fluff in all my crannies, there’s feathers up my nose
And I’m itching in the kitchen from my head down to my toes.
I’m not a pheasant plucker, I’m a pheasant plucker’s wife
And when we pluck together it’s a pheasant plucking life !
Come January and preservers everywhere are pulling out their pans as Seville oranges hit the shops for a brief window of opportunity. Last year was my first attempt to make marmalade from scratch, having never done so before due to my belief that i didn’t like marmalade. I now realise that i didn’t like mass-produced, shop bought marmalade. The real deal is a different story indeed – spread some a-top home-made toasted bread (if you’re lucky enough to live with 2 artisan bread-makers) and melting butter….a moment of solace every morning.
I use Darina Allen’s recipe from her excellent book ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’. The advantage of her method is that you don’t have to spend several tedious hours chopping up the hard, waxy peel, before soaking it overnight. She calls it the ‘whole orange’ method – namely, boil the fruit for several hours to soften, making the chopping a breeze, especially if you use the slicer function on the Magimix (which all self-respecting kitchens should have..)
So, start with 2.25kg of seville oranges in a large preserving pan, add 9 pints of water, and boil for around 2 hours. Place a plate/smaller lid on the oranges to keep them submerged. Leave to sit overnight, then drain, reserving the water.
Cut the oranges in half and scoop out the soft centre. Put the pips in a muslin bag. Finely slice the peel (manually if you dare…)
Put everything back in the pan, bring to the boil and reduce by half-two thirds.
Add 4kg of warmed, granulated sugar. (If you pour in cold sugar, it takes longer to return to the boil, which is supposed to affect the fresh flavour.) Boil hard until you reach setting point. If you have a thermometer, that’s 104*C. Otherwise, put a spot on a plate and refrigerate. After a few minutes, if it forms a wrinkly skin when touched, its ready. (Note: i have never actually managed to achieve firm, well set marmalade, no matter how long i have boiled it. I guess you could sneak in a bit of jam sugar, but i quite like it a bit runny.)
Pot in sterlised jars and cover immediately. If you don’t have a jam funnel, buy one. Its worth it! And voila – a year’s supply of golden nectar, including a give-away allowance for lucky acquaintances and nice people in your life.
Do you ever find, the most inspiring characters come from back home?! I couldn’t possibly qualify myself to describe Jonny Harty of ‘Hartyculture’ in words. You’ll have to meet him. His entrepreneurial credence, led this Jockey and equestrian expert at heart, to launch a new enterprise in raised beds recently. He’ll install beautiful wood surround beds, and sow in the crops of your request leaving you to water, weed and talk to them!
I had the pleasure of attending a 30th birthday dinner party lately where he was the nominated chef. It was a a feast like none other I have ever partaken of. A throroughly organic, locally reared, grown and reaped menu, thrown together with the candour and abandon that only the gardener who knows each ingredient intimately, could evoke. No recipes or painstaking processes here.
Home reared Roast Knuckle of Pork with herb Jus, served with Home grown apple and blueberry sauce, Cabbage, and Nastertian flower and Chive mash.
Home grown organic Birthday Carrot and Pecan cake.
Home pressed and brewed Mulled Cider
It’s the first time that I have eaten meat, that I had met! Indeed had seen the owners son riding around on its back. He had a free range, family reared, organic existence and was slaughtered in a low stress responsible manner. All other ingredients were from Jonny’s poly-tunnel, raised beds and local peat bog Blueberry patch. Farewell to the Tesco scrum, scrambling around for your credit card, and fuel emissions to boot, sounds good to me!
The cake was made by busy Mum Marianne, with one carrot, more of a carnip, whose girth was ample for the job, which she had grown in her own raised beds.
My brother had laid claim to a batch of last years locally pressed cider, by turning up at a pertinent time to stand around whilst local apple farmer Gregory McNeice made it!! We find mulling it gives it that sweetener kick it needs, and amply disguises it’s potency!
Happy Birthday Cousin Fi and Thank you for a great evening.. you were looking great.. see above! x