Archive | December, 2010

2010 delights

31 Dec

It’s Hogmanay, and no doubt later on I’ll be making something delish to toast the old year out and the new year in.  But as yet I’m not decided what I’ll cook up.  Something featuring meat from our awesome butcher I imagine.

But for the moment, it seems right to include some of the triumphs of 2010, so they’re not lost forever.

First up, Plumbrillo. We have a couple of damson trees on the edge of our garden.  Well, slightly down our lane and next to the farmer’s field (which now has sheep in it again, which is a sign that there’ll be lambs again before we know it).

So, this year there was a bumper crop of damsons. And being only a part-time country girl, I needed to find things to do with damsons quickly, before I hot-footed it back to the city for the working week. Some inevitably went into a jar with brandy, some made apple and plum jam. Some made the liquor for plum jelly, but was abandoned in the fridge for too long before it was used to make jelly, so had to be chucked.

But the absolute favourite plummy condiment was Plumbrillo, a membrillo like concoction to have with cheese.  It’s easy to make, and I’m not sure I ever want to live without a jar of this stuff in my cupboard – it also makes perfect Christmas gifts, with or without a chunk of cheese.

The recipe is originally from BBC Good Food magazine, October 2008.  The magazine was a present from Aunt Joyce, in a bundle of cooking and gardening mags she had finished.  I must ask if she ever made the Plumbrillo.


Makes about 7 x 100ml pots.

2kg / 4lb 8oz black or red plums (or damsons)

1kg bag jam sugar (with added pectin)

  1. Stone and quarter the plums (if you can, I found it really tiresome to do this, so ended up leaving half of them with stones in). Put into a preserving pan and add 500ml cold water.  Bring to boil.
  2. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until completely cooked down, pulpy and dark, dark reddish plummy purple.
  3. Sieve the fruit and juice through a nylon sieve back into the pan – make sure you get every bit of the pulp out of the mix that you can, this is what makes the plumbrillo.
  4. Stir in the sugar, then stir over a low heat until dissolved.  Now turn up the heat and bubble for about 25 mins or until you have a thick, dark and fruity puree. Keep stirring so that the bottom doesn’t catch. It’s ready when the spoon leaves a trail along the bottom of the pan for a split second before the paste floods back into the gap.
  5. Pot the mix into small jars (use a funnel so you make minimal mess), seal, then leave to set.

Will keep for up to 6 months. My guess is that it might keep a year, otherwise what will I do without it during those summer picnicking months?

I’ll put up my Beetroot and Goats Cheese Tart later.  And perhaps even my Chicken Lasagne.  But for now, it’s back to the home furnishings – curtains and cushion covers to make before the year is out.

Radio radio

30 Dec

There seems to have been a lot of foodie stuff going on on the radio in the last few days.

Let me explain. I don’t usually listen to Radio Scotland, but on the way down to Galloway on Boxing Day to see my parents, it was G’s channel of choice. Now, I’m a fan of baking, but I would never have thought to make a radio programme out of the search to make the perfect cake. It turns out that the perfect cake of choice was a Victoria sponge, which felt like a bit of a cop out to me – it is after all one of the simpler cakes to make, and most people’s first real cake they baked as a child (after the obligatory chocolate crispies).

It turns out that you have to have your ingredients at room temperature, you need to beat the butter and sugar together till really fluffy and you should cook it in an oven at the correct temperature (170ºC for the cook on the radio).  Who’d have known? These are things I’ve done all my life, but it was interesting to hear some of the science behind the recipe.  And to know that if I do it differently, it really won’t be as good.

The second radio programme I caught a bit of, was describing how to make the perfect cup of coffee, presumably to go with the perfect cake.  I may have to see if it’s available on listen again, which only goes to show quite how sad I am.

In other news, I’ve been finding new ways to use smoked salmon. You need to get creative when you’re given over 1kg of smoked salmon for Christmas and there are only two of you.  So far we’ve had smoked salmon and cream cheese in croissants for a snacky lunch; smoked salmon scrambled eggs; and my favourite, smoked salmon fishcakes.  Recipes will follow.

Off to the local Italian restaurant tonight.  I’m in the mood for their fish stew.

Lentil soup

30 Dec

Today is a lentil soup day. It will also be an eating out day, so all the more reason to have a nice warming, hale and hearty lentil soup for lunch.

I’d bought a couple of ham ribs before Christmas, and they’ve been languishing in the fridge, waiting to be used. I thought I had lots of carrots, but in the end, only one, large, but going soft at the end.

So, the soup had 3 small onions, chopped small, one carrot, a chunk of turnip and 3 parsnips in chunks, all sweated in a smear of olive oil.

A cup or so of lentils were added, along with 2 bay leaves, and the last of a jar of curry powder (Steenbergs organic, and not very strong to start with, so considerably weaker now at the end of the jar). Then I chucked in the ham ribs.

I filled up with water, from the kettle, and let it bubble away for an hour or so.

Now it’s smelling pretty good, but I think will need more flavour, so I may need to add a stock cube, and some more herbs/spices.

We have a loaf of wholemeal, made in the new bread machine overnight. The new machine seems to need more liquid in a loaf than the recipes suggest – the first few loaves came out loking very rustic, but clearly too dry a dough, so I’m experimenting, adding a wee bit more with each loaf and we’ll get there.

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