Tag Archives: recipe

Sweet and salty nut brittle

18 Jan

Is salted caramel still on trend? A couple of years ago it seemed to be everywhere. And I was happy. I love that combination of sweetness and saltiness. I adore peanut butter, adore it even more on hot buttered toast with marmite. Or incorporated into a sweet with chocolate and a biscuit base.

So, a simple salty, nutty caramel brittle is pretty much the perfect sweet to make. And it turns out it was pretty much the perfect home-made Christmas present to give to nephews too! (Although obviously not for you, if your nephews have nut allergies).

Salty nut brittle 

  • 340g mixed nuts, preferably not salted. The type of nuts doesn’t really matter, but why not buy a bag of peanuts, of brazil nuts and pecans. Or hazelnuts, and macadamia and almonds. Whatever you prefer.
  • 400g sugar. Ordinary granulated sugar is fine, or you could use caster, or golden caster
  • 120mls water
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Maldon sea salt (there are other brands, but please use a good quality salt in flakes, not ordinary table salt)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F / 180C / GM 4
  2. Spread the nuts onto a big baking tray, as big as you’ve got – you’re aiming to get them into a single layer, if possible
  3. Roast the nuts in the oven for about 8 minutes, give or take. You’re looking for a golden browniness, not burnt.. and there’s a relatively short window of opportunity between the two. To make it easier in a minute or two, pour the nuts onto a large sheet of greaseproof paper or kitchen foil, or a bowl (this is so that you can QUICKLY pour them from whatever receptacle they are in, into a pan of hot hot hot caramel later on). While you’re at it, get another sheet of greaseproof paper, and line the baking tray with it, and leave to one side. You’ll need it soon.
  4. Now put the sugar, water, butter and golden syrup into a heavy based saucepan, and gently heat, stirring till the butter is melted and the sugar has all dissolved.
  5. Pop a sugar thermometer into the pan, and leave it in there while the mixture heats up to the boil. Keep it boiling, and stir occasionally if you can’t stop yourself
  6. Keep an eye on that sugar thermometer, and as soon as it reaches 150C (which incidentally is between ‘soft crack’ and ‘crack’ on my thermometer) take it off the heat, and quickly stir in the bicarbonate of soda.
  7. It should all swoosh up a wee bit which is exactly what you want it to do. Work quickly – pour in the nuts and stir them in. And then pour the whole lot out onto a baking sheet, with a piece of greaseproof paper on it
  8. Use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture nice and thinly … but not TOO thin
  9. Sprinkle generously with sea salt flakes
  10. And now walk away for a while. Leave it be. Come back when it’s cool
  11. Break it up with your hands and store in an airtight container. Then hide it somewhere you can’t reach, just to save yourself from eating more than you really should

I popped great big shards of this into kilner jars as Christmas present this year, and they went down a treat. If the shards had been smaller, I might have considered dipping them in chocolate to add to the sugar-salt-nut treatiness. It wasn’t required, but just imagine it enrobed with lush dark chocolate. Mmm.

For more recipes, go to my index here.

 

Desert Island Bites

3 Jan

I love Radio 4. I can’t remember what age I was when I first realised that it was what I wanted as the soundtrack to my life, but now it’s on whenever I’m cooking. And I cook a lot.

Weekends nearly always include Desert Island Discs, while I’m baking or making soup, or stew or something that’s caught my eye in a cookbook. I’ve never quite worked out what my eight discs would be, but it would probably include more 80s hits than I’d like to admit. And maybe some early Genesis. Years ago I decided my luxury would be a pack of cards, and my book would be a compendium of games of solitaire. But I think I’ve grown up since then, and doubt that I would want to while away my hours (days? weeks? months?) on my desert island perfecting game after game of solitaire. Or not. Because how many of the games would actually be all about chance and not about my skill level? How frustrating would that be?

Anyway, I’m no longer sure what my luxury would be – perhaps some endless supplies of glorious perfumes, so I could make my own hand and body lotions, with whatever I can forage (I’m imagining coconuts here) and then I could perfume them as I wished. Or I could just spritz myself with something delicious in times of need. One of my claims is that all situations can be improved with a spritz of perfume, and an application of lipstick. Many’s the time I’ve been seen to do this ‘double’ at my desk.

There’s a chocolate bar in the UK called a Bounty Bar. It’s a lovely soft coconutty thing, smothered in chocolate, either dark or milk. In the 80s the Bounty advert was set on a desert island, with beautiful people in cropped tops (it was the 80s remember) having a hedonistic time and eating Bounty bars. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

So, here is my recipe for my version of a Bounty Bar. It’s not really the same, but it is delicious. And very easy to make. And your friends will be very impressed when you give them a wee bag of your home made desert island bites.

Desert Island Bites

  • 3 cups desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • a very large bar of good quality chocolate – milk or dark, whatever you prefer
  1. Mix coconut and icing sugar in a large bowl
  2. Add in the condensed milk and melted coconut oil
  3. Mix well together (using your hands is the easiest way to do this, perhaps the stickiest as well)
  4. Take about a teaspoon sized bit of the mixture and roll it in the palms of your hand to create a wee ball
  5. Place the ball of coconut truffle on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper
  6. Do this again and again and again until all the mixture is used up
  7. Pop the balls in the fridge or freezer for about half an hour
  8. Meanwhile, melt your chocolate in a double boiler
  9. Now comes the messy bit. Drop the balls, one by one, into the melted chocolate and then rescue them out again with a couple of forks. They might need a sort of a shoogle to shake of excess chocolate.
  10. Pop the chocolate coated truffles onto another baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and when you’ve done them all, pop them in the fridge. Unless your kitchen is as cold as mine ,in which case you won’t need to.

Serve with an espresso after you’ve had a lovely relaxing supper. Or put them in a nice wee box with some tissue paper, to make them look a bit chi-chi, and give them to a friend who needs a wee treat. Or head off to your desert island and be a hedonist.

For more recipes, go to my index here.

The best cranberry sauce

30 Dec

Cranberry sauce. It’s one of those things that just happens at Christmas. With turkey. And stuffing and all those other bits. It pretty much gets lost in amongst all that other stuff, doesn’t it? And if you bought the sauce from a jar, then that might be just as well. In fact, why did you bother? Was it overly sweet and not terribly tasty? Well, make a decision now that next year you’ll make your own. It really couldn’t be simpler. This sauce recipe is unashamedly inspired by a delicious recipe for Cranberry and Orange Preserve from Thane Prince. I’d made the preserve a week or so before Christmas, and then prettied up all the jars and given them away as presents (except for one, so I’ll have the tastiest yoghurt for breakfast). The Best Cranberry Sauce

  • A bag of fresh cranberries (or go to the freezer and find that bag you froze you last year)… probably around 300g, or thereabouts. Don’t be too precious about exact weights or quantities in this recipe
  • A large orange (or hey, a couple of small ones)
  • Crabbie’s Green Ginger Wine (other makes are available)… if you don’t have any sitting forlornly at the back of your drinks cupboard, then what is wrong with you? Have you never been out for a long cold walk in the winter and been revitalised by a whisky mac on your return? OK, if you have none, buy some soon and you’ll have it for next year, and substitute with some syrup from a jar of crystallised ginger. Have none of that either? Just leave it out, it’ll be fine.
  • Some sugar
  1. Put the cranberries in a heavy-based pan, with a wee slosh of water. And start to warm them on a gentle heat
  2. Pare the skin from the orange with a vegetable peeler and pop in the pan with the cranberries
  3. Juice the orange, and add it to the pan too
  4. Slosh in a splash or two of Crabbie’s Green Ginger
  5. Bring to a gentle boil, adding more water if it seems too dry
  6. After 5-10 minutes (depending how gentle your boil is) the fruit will all have softened a bit. Now add the sugar, probably a tablespoon or two, depending how sweet you like your sauce
  7. Stir the sugar in so it dissolves – you’ll see the sauce change texture to a lovely glossy consistency as the sugar all dissolves into the liquid.
  8. Keep warm till you need it

This was delicious with the traditional Christmas roast, and all the trimmings, and would be equally tasty with almost any roast meat. Its tanginess will cut through any excess of fat that there might be, with roasted potatoes, and roasted veg and all that meat. And any leftovers will be perfect stirred into yoghurt, or made into a festive Eton Mess with meringue and cream. Or warmed on a plain sponge pudding. Or as the jam in a Victoria Sponge, with a sweetened mascarpone cream as well. I’d give you pictures of the sauce in its lovely Christmas-Day-Only silver sauceboats, but I was having too much fun cooking and eating to take any pictures on Christmas Day – sorry.

If you want to see other recipes you’ll find them all listed here. There’s even one for Cranberry Muffins, if you’ve still got some cranberries lurking in the bottom of your fridge. Or if, like me, you can’t resist buying them when they’re in season.

Traybake-tastic

15 Nov

I do love a traybake. You may have noticed that I have more recipes for chocolate brownies on this blog than perhaps is strictly necessary. But I haven’t really indulged my love of a traybake with other recipes. That is about to change. You can look forward to such joys as the Malteser Traybake, various variations on a flapjack and a frangipane bakewell style thing. But for today you have the utter delight that is Sue Lawrence’s Lemony Fridge Cake. Checking her book I see that she calls it Lemon Fudge Cake. Whatever you call it, its a great and super easy recipe; and the perfect go-to recipe if you have a spare packet of digestives and a can of condensed milk in the cupboard, and a lemon or two to use up.

For those who don’t know Sue Lawrence, do yourself a favour and seek her out, or at least her writing. Her books are very readable – both well researched and well-written. And I’ve tried many of her recipes over the years and not one has ever failed. That’s some good cookery writing. This recipe is taken from her Book of Baking (although for some reason I’ve re-written the instructions).

If you’re looking for instant results, this isn’t the recipe for you – but it needs no actual baking, and is simplicity itself.

Lemony Fudge Cake

  • 150g / 5 1/2 oz / 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 200g / 7 oz condensed milk (half a regular can)
  • 400g / 14 oz digestive biscuits
  • 100g / 3 1/2 oz / 2/3 cup desiccated coconut
  • 300g / 10 1/2 oz / 2 1/3 cups icing sugar
  • juice of 1 large juicy lemon
  1. Line a 23cm x 33cm / 9 x 13in Swiss roll tin
  2. If you have a microwave, put the butter in a large bowl and melt it in the microwave. If you don’t do it in a large pan over a gentle heat
  3. While the butter is melting, smash the digestives till they are mostly breadcrumb-like. A few larger lumps are fine. I do this by putting the biscuits into a high-sided bowl and bashing it with the rounded end of a basic rolling pin.
  4. Pour the condensed milk in with the melted butter and mix them together.
  5. Add the crushed biscuits and coconut and mix well together
  6. Pour into the prepared tin and press down. Chill in a fridge for a couple of hours
  7. Mix the sifted icing sugar with the lemon juice and carefully spread this over the biscuit base. Use a palette knife to spread it so it covers the whole base. Chill again.
  8. Cut into bars. You should be able to get 24 bars in total.

If you want to see other recipes you’ll find them all listed here.

 

 

 

Apple chutney

5 Nov

Several years ago a friend off-loaded bags of apples on me. I put them in everything, but the favourite by far was the Apple Chutney from Judith Wills’ brilliant New Home Larder. It’s now my go-to chutney recipe and I think I’ve made it every year since. It’s a long long time since I had Branston Pickle, but I think this chutney might be similar to it, with a deep, dark colour and prefect balance of sharp and sweet.

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Apple Chutney

  • 1.5kg apples
  • 750g onions
  • 1l malt vinegar
  • 500g sultanas
  • 1kg soft brown sugar
  • 1 dsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  •  1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp dry English mustard
  1. Pour the vinegar into a large heavy based pan
  2. Peel and core the apples, cut them into chunks and pop them into the pan with the vinegar.
  3. Peel and chop the onions and add them into the pan too.
  4. Bring the apple, onion, vinegar mix to the boil and simmer for an hour.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar – it will go runny and glossy.
  6. Bring back to the boil and simmer again for around 30 mins, stirring from time to time to prevent it burning and sticking tot he bottom of the pan.
  7. Pour into sterilised jars and cover with wax discs, then the lids when cool.
  8. Store in a cool, dark place. Eat with cheese. Or cold meat.

You can adapt this recipe by adding some fresh or crystallised ginger, using different spices, or adding some chilli, but I think it’s pretty near perfect and doesn’t need any messing about.

Edited to add…. It’s now early January 2020, and although we’re technically still in the darkest days of winter, those days are getting longer and it’s unseasonally warm in Scotland this year. Mum gave me a couple of apple trees several years ago: a Cambusnethan Pippin and a Galloway Pippin and this last autumn we had the biggest crop ever from the two wee over laden trees. I made jar upon jar of this chutney, but also LOTS of the crazily good spiced apple jelly. Many jars have been gifted as Christmas presents and many jars have already been consumed in cheese sandwiches, or under the cheese in toasted cheese on toast. Perfect.

If you want to see more of my recipes you’ll find them all listed here.

 

 

More delicious things to do with blackcurrants

14 Aug

Blackcurrants.

When you have a glut of them you REALLY have a glut of them.

I have a couple of wee blackcurrant bushes which are ignored for most of the year and this year were surrounded by chest high grass, nettles and dock leaves. I was sure there would be nothing to harvest. But of course I was wrong. Deliciously wrong.

I cropped the whole branches, placed them in my wicker trug and carried them upstairs to our terrace one evening, and spent a gentle hour picking the fruit, topping and tailing it ready for cooking. The swallows were swooping and swooshing around our heads, sometimes below us, sometimes so close we could feel the rush of air as they changed course just before their wings brushed our faces. It’s a glorious way to spend a summer evening, and the memory of it keeps me warm through the winter.

The blackcurrants this year were destined to be drinks, one alcoholic and one not.

My Mum has made blackcurrant cordial for years and I feel that in my late 40s perhaps it is time for me to give it a go. I have no children to turn their noses up at it, as it isn’t their usual brand (I always wished we had REAL Ribena when I was a child, not this wannabe pretender. Little did I know how lucky I was).

So, I searched for the perfect blackcurrant cordial recipe and settled for one by Henry Dimbleby, who started the Leon chain of fabulous eateries. I have four Leon books, but of course found this recipe online on the Guardian website. You can read the original here if you want to.  The recipe is pretty simple, but does include the addition of citric acid, which is a natural preservative, but also adds a zesty acidic zing to the juice. Citric acid is a natural compound, found in citrus fruit (of course!) but these days it is mass-produced as a chemical compound, and is more commonly known as E330 on food labels.

Blackcurrant cordial

  • 500g blackcurrants, topped and tailed
  • 275g sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
  1. Put the blackcurrants, sugar and water into a heavy-based pan, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes
  2. Get your potato masher out and bash the fruity smoosh, breaking up as much of the fruit as you can
  3. Add the citric acid and boil for another 2 minutes
  4. Place a muslin cloth in a sieve (preferably a plastic one) and pour the fruity mixture into the sieve and leave to drip through .Don’t bother squishing it with a spoon or anything. Just leave it. Go pour yourself a gin and tonic, you probably deserve one
  5. Once it’s stopped dripping (I left mine overnight) throw out the detritus in the muslin cloth; keep the muslin and wash it, ready for another day.
  6. Decant the thick silky juice into a clean bottle and label it up, so you know this is the BC cordial and not the hooch. You don’t want to get that wrong, trust me!
  7. Dilute with water or sparkling water fora  refreshing summery drink. Or with prosecco if it’s cocktail hour already, which it must be somewhere.

But I also wanted to make a blackcurrant liqueur. And wouldn’t you know, there was a handy recipe in this month’s Good Food magazine.  Well, the recipe was for a Bramble liqueur, but it can be adapted for blackcurrants when I have a glut of blackcurrants and the brambles aren’t ripe yet.

So here you go:

Blackcurrant hooch (or boozy ‘bena)

  • 600g blackcurrants, topped and tailed (you could use frozen if that is all you can get hold of)
  • a bottle of good red wine
  • 500g sugar
  • some vodka or gin (the original recipe I now notice only asked for a large glass of vodka/gin but I poured in ahem a whole bottle)
  1. Put the currants into a large plastic or glass bowl and pour over the wine. Get that trusty potato masher out again and crush the fruit as much as you can. Cover the bowl with a tea towel (this keeps it dark-ish and keeps out all the flies we are plagued with this summer) and leave for a few days. Give it another smoosh with the potato masher every 24 hours or so.
  2. Pour the mixture through a plastic sieve lined with a piece of muslin.
  3. Tip the juice into a heavy-based pan and add the sugar. Actually it probably doesn’t really matter if your pan isn’t a heavy-based one – don’t avoid making this hooch just for the sake of an expensive pan.
  4. Heat up slowly, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved bring toa boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool and then pour in the vodka or gin. As much as you think is appropriate. I suspect my version with the large volume of vodka is not entirely appropriate, but we’ll see.
  6. Use a small jug, or a funnel and pour into clean dry bottles.
  7. Seal and label.
  8. It’s ready for drinking straight away, or you can put a ribbon round it and feel proud that you’ve made some Christmas presents already.

My blackcurrant ripple ice-cream recipe is here if this isn’t what tickles your sweet fancy today.

Delicious and easy marmalade-y sausages

20 Jul

I like sausages. And I now like marmalade. For most of my life only one of those sentences has been true. I’m glad that they both are now.

So, since I like marmalade, it seems sensible to start using it in recipes. And I’ve started easy peasy. What could be easier than sausages?

My local butcher is worth visiting. He is a good old-fashioned Scottish butcher, with lots of bacon and steak pies and haggis and black pudding. And all other lovely meaty things. I’d intended to make Scotch Eggs this weekend with our glut of lovely fresh eggs from my ladies. But somehow that didn’t happen. So, this evening there were sausages to be eaten. We dug up some potatoes from the veg bed, to go with the sausages.

Marmalade sausages

Oven: Gas Mark 6

  • half a dozen small-ish pork sausages (or a couple of big ones)
  • 2 big spoonfuls of marmalade
  • 1 spoonful of tomato ketchup
  • 1 spoonful, or a big slug, of sunflower oil, or rapeseed, or vegetable oil, whatever you have to hand
  1. Mix together all the ingredients, apart from the sausages.
  2. Roll the sausages in the marmaladey mixture to entirely cover them up
  3. Pop each smothered sausage onto an oven tray, preferably one of those ones which has a ‘well’ for all the juices to run into
  4. Put them in the pre-heated oven, and leave for about 25 mins

Serve with new potatoes, savoy cabbage and onion gravy. There, how easy was that?

Oh, and if you feel like making your own marmalade too, try this: Tasty orange ginger marmalade.

Perfect salad for when you have the best tomatoes

28 May

You already know that I love buying and cooking and eating local food. So when Clyde Valley Tomatoes were back at my local farmer’s market earlier this month, I knew we’d be eating tomatoes all week!

I wanted to make a salad which would showcase the varieties of tomatoes.

Spring haul from farmer's market

Spring haul from farmer’s market

On the drive home I thought of a salad I used to make many years ago: fattoush. And then another tomato and stale bread salad: panzanella. I hadn’t made either for years, and started hankering for that melding of flavours and textures. Yes, these tomatoes were destined to become one big dish of delicious salad. Served with cold meats for lunch.

Panzanella

  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced and left in a bowl of ice cold salted water for an hour
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • a punnet or two of ripe tomatoes from Clyde Valley Tomatoes. Or perhaps about 8 medium tomatoes – if you’re using wee ones, feel free to double the quantities
  • 200g stale(ish) sourdough bread
  • 4 TBsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 TBsp capers
  • 2 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 6 TBsp extra virgin olive oil
  • small bunch of fresh basil
  1. Cut the peppers into big flattish pieces and pop them under a grill skin side up so the skin blackens. Alternatively use a toasting fork (who has such a thing these days?) and burn the skin over a gas hob, or chuck them in a hot oven. Or use a blow torch. You’ll know how you like to do it. Once the skin is black, put the pieces of pepper into a bowl and cover with cling film for 20 minutes or so.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks and place in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle some salt over them and leave to drain while you prepare everything else
  3. Cut (or tear) the bread into chunks, about the same size as your tomato chunks and put them into a salad bowl and drizzle with vinegar
  4. Drain the onion and add it to the salad bowl
  5. Add the capers
  6. By now your peppers might be ready for peeling, so peel off the black skin, or as much of it as you can and cut the pieces of naked pepper into strips. Put them in the bowl
  7. Press down on the tomatoes and squeeze out lots of juice, then put the tomato flesh into the salad bowl
  8. Add the chopped anchovies and olive oil to the tomato juice and whisk
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste
  10. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Pick off some basil leaves and tear them onto the salad
  11. Leave for 15 minutes or so at room temperature – or outside in the sunshine
  12. Serve as one of those lunches where the table is covered with bowls and plates and ashets of this and that tasty treats.

Of course you could skimp some of the steps or tweak the recipe as you go:

  • If you don’t soak the onion right at the beginning, it will taste too harsh (for my taste buds). You might prefer to use red onion, or spring onions
  • Don’t bother pouring the vinegar over the bread. I think you’ll regret missing out that step though!
  • Add garlic. In fact most recipes include garlic. I just forgot to add is when I made it and enjoyed the garlic-free breath, and how the other flavours all sung out at me
  • Add cucumber, celery, chilli, crisp lettuce
  • Omit the anchovies if you’re feeding vegetarians. Obviously!

Basically make this your own panzanella – so long as you have the very best tomatoes and some good quality bread, you’ll make something delicious.

No pictures though, we ate it too quickly!

 

Rhubarb marmalade

30 Apr

Rhubarb marmalade

Rhubarb marmalade

I love my local farm shop. Let me give it a shout out.. it’s at Overton Farm in the Clyde Valley. Given the choice between spending a wee bit more per item at the farm shop, or spending a whole lot more in total (because I go off-list and end up buying things I don’t really need at the supermarket) I now always choose the farm shop. This means I more regularly run out of stuff like dry cat food, or domestos, but that’s ok. We have a car, and most things can wait till the weekend.

The farmshop isn’t exclusively local, so year round it’s possible to get those things that were seasonal treats in my childhood – peppers, mangoes, and even pears. But I like seasonal, and I have an urge to put things in jars when they are in season. Some time soon I am going to write a list of all the things I have in jars, so that I’m more likely to use them… they live in a drawer in a filing cabinet in a cupboard under the stairs. Yup, not really in an obvious place so I see a jar of, say spiced damsons, and think ‘that will go perfectly with the smoked mackerel I’ve just bought impulsively at the supermarket because we needed dishwasher tabs’. In fact I might just do that later this afternoon – I have the day off, and had planned to garden, but it’s grizzly grey weather and I’m something of a fairweather gardener, shaming though it is to admit that.

Anyway, back to seasonal and local and all that jazz. My seasonal treat at the farmshop on Saturday was a big bunch of rhubarb. I LOVE rhubarb; it’s that tart sharpness that just zings for me.

Thane Prince is one of my go to writers for any sort of a preserve. She currently can be seen in the BBC’s Great Allotment Challenge programme, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend that as your first experience of her. Watching someone, anyone, spooning out 10 globs of chutney from a jar and then tasting it, and diluting ten lots of cordial in water and sipping it is not my idea of good TV, no matter how lovely she may be, or how erudite her comments and criticisms are. Please BBC, try harder.

But of course she has a lovely recipe for Rhubarb Marmalade, with or without ginger. And that is what I settled on. Fortuitously I had just the right quantities of everything: rhubarb, sugar, oranges, pectin. And ginger. Why would I make it without ginger?

Rhubarb marmalade

From Thane Prince’s Jellies, Jams and Chutneys.

  • 1kg rhubarb, washed and cut into even 1cm wee chunks
  • 800g sugar
  • 2 large oranges
  • 125g liquid pectin
  • about 3cm fresh root ginger, grated. You do have a ginger grater don’t you?
  1. Get prepared. Put a large plate into the fridge, so you can check for a set when the time comes
  2. Clean your jars in hot water, and pop them in a low oven to sterilise them
  3. Zest your oranges, and then juice them
  4. Put the rhubarb, sugar, orange zest and juice into a heavy non-reactive pot. Bring the mixture slowly to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for 5-8 minutes. The rhubarb should be soft and the sugar dissolved.
  5. Turn off the heat for a minute. Add the pectin. Stir gently so it’s all mixed in and then turn the heat back up. Bring to a good boil and cook for a further 2 minutes before testing if it’s set. At this stage my marmalade was still incredibly runny and it took a further 25 minutes before it started looking properly jammy and was anything near a set. And then of course it went just too far and my marmalade is just slightly more solid than I would like – I like it still squelchy.
  6. Once the marmalade has reached setting point, ladle it into the hot sterilised jars, seal and label.

You do know how to test for a set don’t you? I wouldn’t recommend using a sugar thermometer for this recipe – when my marmalade had reached setting point it was still far off the ‘jam’ stage on my thermometer, which is no doubt to do with the levels of pectin in the mix. Anyway, I test for a set by dropping a wee gob of the hot marmalade onto a cold plate (yes, that one you put in the fridge right at the beginning); leave it a wee second or two, and then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles it’s ready (or even over-ready); if it is just liquid and runs back into a puddle it needs more boiling.

So, why would anyone spend their Sunday afternoon making Rhubarb Marmalade? Easy… just try it, still warm on hot buttered toast. You will forget that anything else exists, and you’ll wish that you could do this every afternoon, and if you’re feeling special match it with a wee glass of fizz. My accompaniment was a perfect cup of Earl Grey tea, out of a fine china tea cup. Deliciousness.

 

Better than Patatas Bravas

20 Oct

Potatoes. So versatile. What’s not to like about them? Well, apart from the fact that they are full of carbs and it’s oh so easy to fall into the trap of mashing them with lots of butter and/or cream or frying them oil or roasting them in goose fat. Yeah none of them will help reduce the waistline.

In Scotland we call them tatties. And this last week has been the tattie-howking holidays, although everyone I mentioned that to looked back at me blankly. I realise that we no longer put children to work in the holidays (and in fact in my childhood we were never put to work either) but still, surely kids should know that they traditionally get the week off at this time of year to help with the harvest, rather than just to give the teachers a much-needed break not two months after they’ve come back from their extended summer break.

So, in case I’ve lost you, tattie-howking means ‘digging up potatoes’.

What else can I tell you about tatties, before I move on to the recipe? Given that you’re about to get a Spanish recipe I could  do a neat wee segue-way with some Spanish related history of the potato. It seems likely that the English word derives from the Spanish patata. It was the Spaniards who brought the potato to Europe, in the second half of the 16th century after conquering the Incas. Initially European farmers were sceptical about the crop, but by the mid 19th century it had become a staple food crop. However, very few varieties had been introduced to Europe and this lack of genetic diversity meant that in 1845 the fungus-like disease of blight could spread wipe out vast crops and cause the Irish Famine.

So, a diversity of species is important, not just for flavours and fun, but because it could prevent further famines caused by crops being wiped out. Put that in your GM pipe and smoke it.

We had the day off on Monday, and went into Glasgow to see the Vettriano exhibition which I loved. And I’m not ashamed to say I love his work – there were images we’ve all seen in countless reproductions. But the originals have more depth and the colours in some really zing out, while in others there is such a dark broody moodiness you can almost feel the sexual tension in the air. And then there were many many images I had never seen before: his lady in a black hat as a nod to Cadell; his self portrait taken from a photograph of himself when he was in a dark black place; his paintings of Campbell and the Bluebird about to attempt the world speed record: a series of nautical paintings, commissioned for some anniversary of some place in Monte Carlo or Monaco or some other such place dripping with money.

Afterwards I was hungry, and the cafe at the museum was full so we ended up at a (rather mediocre) tapas bar and ordered some plates to share. The Patatas Bravas was the stand out dish, full of flavour and punch with melt in the mouth potatoes and a strong tomatoey sauce.

I was inspired to make a tapas style meal the next day, and it had to include a Patatas Bravas element (and many many scallops after I found a bag of them reduced in my local supermarket, oh how I wish I had a decent fishmonger!). But I came across a recipe for Patatas a la Extremena which looked tasty and included nothing but ingredients I happened to have already in the fridge or cupboards. So that is what I made. They come from the Extramedura region of Spain and are flavoured with lots of smoky paprika (or pimenton). I added a good dose of ancho chilli too, because I love the layers of flavour you can get when playing with various spices.

I could tell you lots about paprika, but we’ll save that for another day. All you need to know for now is that it probably originated in South America, like those potatoes.

Patatas a la Extremena (which in my head I always call Extreme Potatoes)

Based on a recipe from Sophie Grigson in her wonderful book, Spices.

  • About 4oz / 250g chorizo sausage (the whole sausage kind, not slices), cut into wee chunks
  • 3 or 4 large potatoes (or more medium ones, obviously), cut into about 1.5″ chunks
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into long strips
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped into long strips
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely, or smooshed up
  • 1 TBsp smoky paprika
  • 1-2  tsp ancho chilli flakes – get them from the Cool Chile Co
  • 1 bay leaf
  • seasoning
  1. Get your biggest heavy bottomed, high-sided frying pan you have. There must be a name for them, but I don’t know it. If you don’t have such a thing, then I’d suggest either using the largest frying pan you have combined with a roasting dish, or a large saucepan. Or reduce the quantities so everything will fit into the frying pan you have.
  2. Over a medium heat, fry off the chorizo until it’s lightly browned. Lots of fat will melt out of the chorizo, but if you feel you need to add olive oil, then do.
  3. Reduce the heat, and add all the other ingredients
  4. Stir around for a minute or two with a wooden spoon – try not to break up the veg, so use a sort of scooping motion, picking the veg from the bottom of the pan, and then folding it over onto the top of the pan. then moving around the pan and doing it again
  5. Pour in enough water to cover the veg, bring to the boil and simmer nice and gently. Now, if you’re using the smaller pan and the roasting tin, you should have tipped your veg into the roasting tin before adding the water on top, and then popped it all into a pre-heated oven.
  6. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, but being careful not to break up the potatoes too much.
  7. Test that the potatoes are cooked, and make sure your sauce has reduced down enough so that it is thick enough. If it hasn’t, boil it down some more
  8. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if it needs it. I pretty much never add salt, but like to add a good screw or two of black pepper.

Mop up the juices with sourdough bread, if you have any. Eat with other tapas type dishes: prawns, scallops, calamares, anchovies, tortilla, meatballs, cheese and ham. Or just have a plate of this on its own as a light lunch or supper.

 

 

 

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