Sunday, 13 October 2013

Pear, Lemon & Cardamom Marmalade

I love marmalade....toast and marmalade, home made bread toasted with melted butter and marmalade for breakfast.....delicious!  With fresh coffee and then the newspapers afterwards...all wrapped up in my lovely woolly dressing gown from Melin Tregwynt.  That's how we have spent this morning, with the rain dripping onto the conservatory roof. I look out at the damp garden and make up my mind to bring in my succulents.  Autumn is truly here, but what a glorious summer we have had!

Back to this most recent of marmalades....I love cardamom, in savoury dishes, but since I discovered the Hairy Biker's coffee cake, in sweet things too. 

I have pears to preserve/conserve, so looking through my books, I found this recipe in Seasonal Preserves by Joanna Farrow.  I bought a kilo of fresh plump lemons during the day, and planned for my next batch of preserves.

Hubby was going off for dinner with his college  friends,  I had all the evening to myself,  an evening of chopping and boiling...

My hand is still a little sore and as I tried the following:

'Halve and squeeze the lemons. Cut the squeezed lemons in half.  Using a sharp knife, flatten the peel down on the surface and cut a thick horizontal slice to remove the pith from the peel'...

I had thoughts of serious knife cuts and no one to come to the rescue.  Luckily I had only cut through the first lemon and tried this when I thought of a better way for me.  With a sharp potato peeler off came the zest,

then with the famous rocking action of sharp knife through the peel I was left with a bowl of fine pieces.  I was in the zone with great music in the background.

I then peeled and chopped through a huge pile of pears...well you need quite a few small pears to end up with 1.4 Kg prepared fruit.  All this whilst the lemon peel and pith was boiling time I shall reduce the liquid to 1 litre and cook with a lid on.  My reasoning being that if the air smelt so wonderful, then I would prefer this aroma to stay in the liquid, and despite my extractor going full pelt, the walls were beginning to drip with condensation.  Even better, I shall use my pressure cooker, since I do this each time I make Seville Marmalade to reduce the cooking time dramatically.

Then the stirring fruit, sugar and spices starts: the smell was magical, but quite strong.  Before potting up I went fishing for most of the pods, that way to avoid having to pick them out when eating the conserve and I thought leaving them in would lead to too much cardamom flavour.  That evening I felt a little deflated.  So much work chopping and cooking, and maybe I would not like the preserve....I quietly tidied up, washed up, and lined up my jars to set overnight, and said a prayer to the Preserving Gods.

In the morning, I tried the little bit I had put by in a ramekin dish on my morning toast,  the smell was sharp and spicy, the taste far more subtle: tangy and mellow.  How can one have such opposite tastes in one mouthful?  Its the wonderful juxtaposition of lemon and pear...

A couple of weeks later the preserve has mellowed further, and is the marmalade of choice for the present. 

Interesting marmalades so far: Grapefruit Marmalade, Lime Marmalade, Grapefruit and Lemon Marmalade, Apricot and Orange Marmalade, Kumquat marmalade spiced with cardamom, and now this one.  All of them well worth the effort.  Of course for my son and husband, I will always make the classic Seville at the right time of the year: January, unless I have put some down for future use in the freezer.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Chunky Pear & Walnut Chutney

What can I say about my hero, my husband,   one of the things he dislikes is the smell of vinegar...and what has our home been smelling of some days? .... and he brings me pears from a colleague which I turn into chutney....and he loves that I am enjoying my chutney festival....

One of my favourite, once again.  Ingredients:  Pears, Apples, Organic Cider Vinegar, organic sultanas, sugar, walnuts, oranges, cinnamon, salt.

With the dried fruit soaking in orange juice,

I busy myself with all the chopping of Pears and Apples....

Roasting the walnuts,  boiling and stirring the chutney,

And then an hour or two later....and then there is all the washing up and clearing up.......

Plum Cheese

Just how much fruit can one pack into a preserve?  With all the plums this year, I felt I could do justice to the abundance from my tree....but next year it may need a good rest. 

I picked plums right from the time they first set, at first small plums with the petals still attached, then again when the fruit was no larger than my thumb nail, then as the weeks went by larger and larger plums were sacrificed to the reclycle bin just so that the branches of the tree did not snap, and allowing room for the remaining fruit to swell and mature. 

I chopped up nearly 3 Kg fruit, and put them stones and all, with 4 star anise into a large roaster and cooked them down slowly in the oven, with no water.  When well reduced and cool, I took all the stones and star anise out.  I was going to sieve the fruit, started to, but with my sore hand could not continue.  Having made sure that there were so stones left, I got out my hand blender, and pulped down the fruit to a thick pure. 

It now weighed 1.9 Kg, to which I added 80g goats butter, and 1.4 Kg sugar.  I took these proportions from Basic Basics by Marguerite Patten. 

With careful cooking, I ended up with a glorious rich 'cheese'. 

Some small straight sided jars were filled, but the balance had to go into my normal jars.  This will be wonderful with crackers, or bread and cheese....

Moroccan Spiced Plum Chutney

This batch of chutney was made from a recipe which I adapted.  Seasonal Preserves by Joanna Farrow.  Ingredients include Victoria Plums from my garden,

onions, fresh ginger, dates,

cinnamon, turmeric, cumin seeds,

organic cider vinegar, sugar, pine nuts,

and Ras el Hanout.  I loved the idea that Barts add Rose Petals to this spice mixture. I can truly say that this is the second preserve this year to include rose petals...

I look forward to some tagines during the winter months with a little of this chutney, or flatbreads with slow roasted lamb and vegetables.  Or with bread, hummus and roasted red peppers.  It would also work well as a marinade for lamb prior to cooking....but I must wait another month or so for it to mature and for the flavours to develop.........

Plum and Red Onion Confit with Port

My little Plum Tree nothing would it bear last year, but this year....sufficient for different preserves.

I love a pickle or chutney on the side, with salad, cold meats, beans, with cheese on toast.....and this one will be great with bangers and mash!

Juggling various recipes, substituting red onions for white, cider vinegar for red wine, adding some extras, I came up with this one.

All items weighed after preparation:

750g red onions
4 tbsps. organic rapeseed oil
1250g plums
450 ml organic cider vinegar
250 g soft brown sugar
1 tbls pepper corns roughly crushed
1 tsp sea salt
5 tblsps port

Gently cook the onions in the oil, do not 'fry', just enough to 'sweat gently'.  Next time I shall do this for only a short time as the onions continue to cook, and I would like to have seen more whole pieces in the finished confit.

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the sugar, salt and port, and simmer uncovered until the plums are soft.

Over a low heat, add the sugar, and simmer gently until thick.  Add the port, and stir through, add about 1 tsps. salt.  Cool a little on a plate, taste, and add more salt if you wish. Pot into heated jars, and store for about 2 months to mature.  Once opened use within two months.

This one should keep unopened in a cool dark cupboard and continue improving for a year.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Fig Conserve with honey and port

This Summer has been busy....and I've had little time  to write about the preserves I've been making.  Delving into my book, where I write all my recipes, with lists of preserves made, and checking on the pictures still in my camera, here is one of my favourite ones.

Since my luscious rose petal, rhubarb and apple conserve, I've made a few jars each of the following:  Blackcurrant jam, strawberry jam, Seville Marmalade, and Apricot.  All fairly standard.

Each year I look out for figs.  Early September on the Saturday of Leamington's food festival, I found this wonderful tray of figs at the greengrocers in Leamington.  Here if you ask for Vanilla, they unscrew a large glass jar, and put the plump vanilla pods in a paper bag.  Carrying this on top of the box of figs to the car on a warm sunny day got me thinking of my father...wish he was still around for me to talk food with....he used to call me his little 'gourmet gourmande'.
Here is my recipe:
1 Kg Fresh figs, weighed after trimming
650g sugar and 100g honey
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lemon zest and juice
3 tbsp. rum, Mauritian Vanilla Rum if possible, added just before potting, or you could use something like Port with a vanilla pod during the macerating.
Chop up the figs into pieces, and add the other ingredients, except for the rum, and macerate, covered with film for a few hours or overnight.  In the sunshine on my stone table in the conservatory, I watched the juices develop, and could not resist a little stir from time to time.
Stir over a low heat, then bring to the boil,
and continue until thick.  Stir from time to time to avoid any sticking, especially towards the end.  Because of the low sugar ratio, and the high fruit content, its no use using the temperature test just cook gently till you have the consistency you like.  I like mine quite thick, I got 1.2 Kg net weight from this lot. 
I love this fig conserve stirred through yogurt, at the bottom of on in a steamed pudding, or in a bakewell type tart.  Lovely too on fresh scones.
This is one of my favourite preserves.