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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

I’ve scaled back the chutney making this year and just made one – a Plum and Cranberry chutney that I found in Sainsbury’s magazine several years ago. It’s an excellent recipe, and I’m going to share it with you because I can’t find it online and I can’t remember who wrote it. You can’t beat it with a slice of ham and some crusty bread.

Unlike other chutney’s you can make this now because it only keeps for a couple of months (although I’ve eaten it after six months and it hasn’t made me ill!). In face you can’t really make it much earlier anyway as you need fresh cranberries and you won’t find those in the shops earlier in the year.

Plum and Cranberry Chutney

225ml cider or wine vinegar
250g caster sugar
2 2.5cm cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
900g red plums (halved and stoned)
450g fresh cranberries

Put vinegar and sugar in a large pan with cinnamon and star anise. Heat gently and stir until sugar dissolves. Add plums, simmer gently for 15 minutes, add cranberries and simmer for a further 10 minutes until fruit is tender (some of the cranberries will pop – that’s OK!) and the liquid is syrupy. Remove cinnamon and star anise and pour chutney into jars.


Such as simple recipe. Sometimes it ends up being a little runny but honestly it doesn’t matter that much. If you don’t want to buy 900g of red plums you can substitute some apples in – they contain lots of pectin so they help it set a little more so be careful not to overcook it.

I love the way this chutney looks in jars – it’s really Christmasy. You can leave the star anise in if you like (just tell people not to eat it), it looks lovely if you get one to lie right next to the edge of the jar.

Also worth noting that the yield on this chutney is low. You’ll probably get just over three jars from the recipe above (370g jars) – which aint a lot. As I didn’t want loads of chutney (not a lot of point when it only lasts two months and there are only two of you) I decided to just make half the amount above – this means you’ll only need one punnet of cranberries which are quite expensive. In the past I’ve subbed dried cranberries for some of the fresh ones and just whacked them in with the plums.

I’m not going to tell you how to pot this up becuase there are a million things on the internet about how to do this – make sure you sterilise the jars, if you don’t your chutney will go mouldy and you’ll have wasted loads of effort.

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Membrillo (quince paste)

It seems that very seasonal veg and fruit goes for a song in Nyon. They were selling quince for 3CHF a kilo, which compares well to the prices I’ve paid for quince in the past (particularly given that these were organic).

I was inspired by Sue over at the Quince Tree (this is a brilliant blog, check it out if you haven’t already) to try making Membrillo.

I used the recipe on the BBC website, but it’s so simple you can barely call it a recipe.


Take some quinces, peel, core and chop. Put in a pan and cover with water, add a split vanilla pod, simmer for about 30 minutes until the quince is really soft.

Drain, and weigh the quinces (make a note of the weight), then remove the vanilla pods and puree in a food processor (although I resorted to using a stick blender as I couldn’t get it completely smooth).

Then you put the puree back in your original pan and add the same amount of caster sugar as there were quinces (if that doesn’t make sense please leave a comment and let me know!). Then simmer until the quinces are thicker and darker.

I’ve chosen to make mine in little, lightly oiled, moulds becuase I think they’ll be easier to store and they look cute (another idea I got from the Quince Tree blog). I then put them in an oven that had been preheated to 50 degrees centigrade for around an hour.
The finished membrillo
I’ve had a little nibble and it tastes great, it’s not particularly traditional but it goes pretty well with Grueyere.

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Thursday was my last day at work…and a very lovely day it was too. Everyone was incredibly lovely and gave me lots of lovely presents and kind words. We even had an english themed lunch complete with red, white and blue bunting and an oversupply of various pork products (my favourite).

On Friday we had a couple of friends around for dinner and as it was my first day off house wifedom I really pulled out the stops. We had Citrus Lamb Shanks from HFW’s Meat…which is a brilliant book and has not had a single dud recipe so far. I did cavolo nero from the River Cafe book, and butter beans from some random recipe I found on the internet…which pretty much just involved boiling them for an hour after soaking them and putting some butter through. Stupidly I did not take a picture of this so you’ll just have to imagine how wonderfully delicious it was.

Dessert was these lovely Moten Chocolate Babycakes from Nigella Lawson…you don’t even have to buy the recipe you can just find it on her website. The middle was runny and the outside perfectly cooked. Not for dieters and very rich, I’d serve with creme fraiche next time, which was my intention this time but I forgot to buy it at Sainsburys. Sorry this picture is rubbish…I really wanted to eat my pud…also the light was terrible so I had to use the flash I’m afraid.
Molten Chocolate Babycakes
Then, just because I had the whole day off work, we had a cheese course complete with homemade oatcakes, also courtesy of Nigella. I didn’t make the bread in this picture, and the nicely octaganal biscuits are from the deli. I’m still pretty damn impressed with myself.
Oatcakes
If I were to make the oatcakes again I’d be happy to add more hot water than the recipe indicates…Nigella says up to 200ml for porridge oats (rather than oatmeal) but I think I was nearer 250ml by the time I got half way through. If you make a wetter dough it seems easier to roll. These oat cakes contain lard which I don’t have a problem with but you can replace with butter if lard freaks you out.

I leave you with one of my favourite things about this time of year…large spiders in large webs. They’re so clever, and where are those massive spiders for the rest of the year. Recently we’ve been having lots of rain so I really need to try and take a droplety one but I just can’t face getting wet while taking the picture.
Spider

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Lovely greengages

Lovely greengages


Believe it or not I’ve never made jam. Chutney – yes, jam – no. I think I’ve always been a little bit scared that I’d be unable to get the setting point right and end up with a pot of runny liquid that’s no use for anything or a stiff jam that needed to be sliced rather than spread.

While we were in France Kimberly and I had a go at jam making (she’s made jam before so I thought I’d be able to piggy back on her previous successes).

We made two types of jam – Apricot, and Greengage and Orange. Kimberly is going to tell you about the apricot so that leaves me with the less glamorous sounding, but just as tasty, greengage and orange.

The greengages cost us about 3 euros for 2 kilos because they’re in season, so I really think this was incredibly economical kitchen craft.

We used a recipe that’s found in the National Trust ‘Good Old Fashioned Jams, Cutney’s and Preserves’ by Sara Paston-Williams. This book was great so if anyone wants to buy it me as a present please feel free! The instructions were simple and easy to follow and the resulting jam was delicious (way nicer than I had anticipated).

Sadly as Kimberly and I split the jams between us there’s very little for sharing so if a jar of this does come your way you should feel incredibly privileged. The thing I liked most about this jam was the fact that it’s exactly the sort of thing that you can’t buy in the shops but that takes advantage of the abundance of seasonal produce.

Greengage jam before simmering

Greengage jam before simmering


The jars were from a French supermarket – aren’t they lovely! Imagine if you went to Tesco and asked if you could buy empty jam jars they’d think you were insane.
Greengage jam on top, apricot jam on the bottom

Greengage jam on top, apricot jam on the bottom

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Just got back from a week in France with Kimberly. We had lots of fun and the baking and crafting output was prolific.

The weather was a little mixed while we were away so on one of the not so sunny days I made a French onion soup. Proper French onion soup is delicious and well worth making, it’s much nicer than the dried packet mixes you can buy and I’m sure it’s cheaper than buying those fresh tetrapak ones from the chiller cabinet.

This recipe came from Rick Stein’s French Odyssey which I thoroughly recommend. Next week I’ll show you another delicious dish from this book.

Basically it involves slicing a load of onions, caramelizing them in butter and a little sugar. Then you add wine, reduce, and then add beef stock. It’s really simple. Delia Smith has a similar looking recipe although hers has cognac in it, which seems a little extravagant to me! She also uses oil rather than butter…I’m pretty sure the French would use butter.

Sliced onions before caramelisation has taken place

Sliced onions before caramelisation has taken place

Caramelisation taking place

Caramelisation taking place

Once the wine has been added

Once the wine has been added

Stock and bouquet garni

Stock and bouquet garni

I cheated on the croutons as everyone wanted to eat so I just grilled some sliced French bread with gruyere cheese on…which seemed to work fine.

Gruyere cheese on toast

Gruyere cheese on toast

Delicious bowl of French Onion Soup

Delicious bowl of French Onion Soup

A deliciously warming lunch!

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