Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Cranberry Relish with juniper and honey

As soon as we got back from our hols, the guys on the fruit and veg stall run by Stodds of Leicester at Kenilworth Market called me to point out the new season cranberries.  I still had my sea legs and was more in the mood for being outside, but last week, I came home with the supplies....

This year I wanted a very grown up flavour and mused on Christmas flavours which would go with various meats from Turkey, through to Duck or even venison.  You can see that I haven't yet settled on the Christmas menu.

I also like to have memories and links with friends blended into my relishes.  Nicki recently brought me a jar of honey from her husband Mike's hives in Warwick.  Usually I have been delighted to receive little pieces of honeycomb, but this is the first batch of honey extracted from the comb.  I've been enjoying spoonfuls on my breakfast each morning with Sheep's Yogurt fruit and nuts.  Since one jar is to go to Nicki, I thought it would be lovely for them to have their own honey in their Cranberry Relish for Christmas.  I also had half a boiled whole orange in the freezer left over from the gluten free almond cake I made when Janice last visited for tea, and yes another jar has already gone to Janice.  Quite honestly this boiled orange is not really necessary if you are going to replicate this relish

Cranberry Relish 2014

500g Jumbo Cranberries
500g prepared cooking apples, I used Granny Smiths
1 Orange Grated zest and juice
1/2 boiled whole orange pulverised, optional
275 g organic cider vinegar
1 tsp juniper berries well crushed
1 tsp roasted fennel seeds
250g local honey
1/2 tsp salt

Wash a few jars and place them in the oven at gas mark 2 to sterilize whilst the relish is being prepared.  Put the lids in a pot of boiling water and also put these in the oven.  Dry the lids well with clean tissue before using.

In a large pan, put the cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into smallish pieces, and three quarters of the cranberries, together with the orange juice and zest into a pan, and cook gently, stirring to avoid catching on the bottom, until the fruit is very soft.  This takes about 10 minutes.

Add the cider vinegar, blitzed orange, juniper berries and feel seeds, and remaining berries and continue cooking until a thick consistency, stirring from time to time.  I wanted to have some of the berries cooked but suspended in the relish.  About another 10 minutes

 Add the honey and taste for sweetness, heat through.  I decided to keep it quite tart.    Pot up whilst very hot, trying to make sure not to trap any bubbles, and fill to just below the lid.  Put the vinegar proof lids on whilst very hot.

I tried some from the little pot with my Sunday Roast Chicken, yes very good and it will get even better with three weeks of maturation.  This relish is to be kept in the fridge and once opened, I would say use within two weeks or so.  I reckon it would be perfect added to a sauce for pan seared duck breast or venison.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Courgette Chutney Recipe

This is a chutney that livens up a supper or a sandwich, and which I have also used as another ingredient in a salad.  Take some cooked chickpeas, add a few roasted tomatoes or red peppers, add a few tablespoons of chutney, toss et voila a dish for lunch.  Also good with couscous.


1 Kg smallish green courgettes
600 g cooking onions
6 medium cloves of garlic
2 tbs salt
700 g cider vinegar
450 g soft brown sugar


3 tsp light mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp celery seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 small red chilli

1.5 tbsp cornflour


Wash the courgettes well, and wipe with a clean cloth, top and tail, then slice into small pieces.  I like to quarter the courgettes lengthwise, then slice into thinnish pieces.  Put them all into a large bowl, sprinkle on the salt and toss well.

Then chop up the onions into smallish pieces and garlic into very fine slices.

Add the onion and garlic to the courgettes and toss again.  Water is already being drawn out of the courgettes.

Add the mustard, coriander and cumin seeds to your chutney pan, and cook over a medium heat until you can smell the aroma coming up, but making sure not to scorch the spices.

Off the heat add the vinegar and sugar, and back on the heat, mix to dissolve the sugar.  Boil for about five minutes.

Take a ladel full out to a small bowl and blend the remaining spices, and add these to the pan. Continue to simmer for a few minutes.

Meanwhile drain the vegetables, which will have shrunk,  in a colander, rinse quickly under the cold tap, then push down hard to squeeze as much water away without bruising the vegetables.  You could use a salad spinner to do this.

Add the vegetables to the pan with the vinegar, and bring to the boil, then cook everything for about five to seven minutes.   You don't want a mush but a slight bite still to the onions and courgettes.

The liquid should be sufficient to give a good sauce, but well balanced with a good volume of vegetables.  At this stage, add a finely chopped red chilli and  take a little of the sauce and blend with 1 1/2 tbs cornflour, and return to the pan, and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Pack into warm sterilized jars.  Tamper down the chutney with the back of a teaspoon to make sure it is well packed down, and to remove any bubbles of air.  Fill jars to just below the rim, and cover with rustproof lids.

Store for a few weeks if possible,  to mature in a cool dark place.  Once opened keep in the fridge, and use within a month or so.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Beetroot Chutney

Eight jars now stashed in the cupboard.  Hurrah!  Can't believe that I haven't posted about this preserve in previous years...but this is a time of year which is more about making preserves than writing about them.

I've posted the recipe on my other blog, You are welcome to try it yourself, or if you're one of my friends who have continued to help 'support' me in my preserving journey, do come round and pick up a jar.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Fig Conserve

Each year I pander to some inner nostalgic yearning.  I love figs, ever since I was really young.  My Mum used to chase the arrival of tins of figs when a consignment arrived by boat.  There must have been some sort of bush telegraph on the island.  Later when supermarkets arrived on the island: Mauritius, or at least the larger usually Chinese emporiums, you could rely on getting them there, but not always!  The large tin was opened and the jam decanted into a couple jars, which were then kept in the fridge.  One of the snacks my Dad had in the afternoon when coming home from work, was a sliced pain maison, ice cold hard butter, which soon melted in the heat, and green fig jam.   Being daddy's girl, of course, I had to have the same!

Now I eat all types of figs, and when on holiday in warmer climes often buy a small bag full, and eaten on the foot if fresh, or if dried, they are brought back home to poach.  Some sharp goats' or creamy sheeps yogurt topped with a couple of poached figs is my fall back pudding of choice.

I look out for figs in the local fruit and vegetables shops, and splash out on a tray full.  This year for one week only it seems, our Kenilworth Greengrocer had 500g tubs of smaller, but no less beautiful and ripe figs.  I did not hesitate and came home with 3...

In the week, Katherine had given me a few crab apples and having just prepared them, thought of incorporating them into the preserve.  I make this preserve to use in things, rather than to get a 'perfect' set jam.  Its the flavour I am going for.  Figs are all texture and looks, sweetness in abundance, but I feel them are improved with a few extras in a compote.  I once had fig and lime marmalade, which was a great combination.  This time I decided to add orange, and a few spices too.  The figs bought last year in Dubrovnik market had dried bayleaves, so this Fig Conserve has had a few fresh bay leaves added.

Fig Conserve

1200g  prepared figs, chopped to about 1.5 cm pieces
1 Large Orange zest and juice
2 large ladles of crab apple juice
3 Bay Leaves
1 tsp powdered allspice
1tsp powdered cinnamon
900g sugar

Put everything apart from the sugar into a large pan, and then simmer gently till soft, stirring from time to time to make sure nothing sticks.   The consistency is thick.  I think the fruit continues to cook very gently as it cools, you can then add the sugar or leave it a little longer if you have other things to do. Taste the mixture, if you would like something extra such as lemon juice or lime juice, then add it now.  Stirring gently until the sugar is dissolved, its then brought to the boil, and cooked again, till its a thickish consistency.  I cooked it for about 15 minutes.  You need to stir from time to time to avoid the fruit catching on the bottom.

This morning I had some from the little pot on my morning pumpkin brioche, and it was delicious.  I liked the texture too.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Greengage or Reine Claude Jam

 I love the colour green, it goes well with lots of other colours.  We were talking about this, earlier today, we that is a few knitting friends, and could see that it went so well with browns, greys, oranges, some blues etc.....

In preserves I have found it hard to get a good green colour, even my gooseberry jam was not quite the pale interesting green I thought it would be.

I like plums, and look out the little green ones.  Several years ago when my mother was here on a visit, we had to go in search for them.  Believe it or not, with my interest in flavours, I had not yet tasted one of those little green plums.  When I had looked at them, my mouth just puckered, but my mother explained that they were probably the sweetest of the lot.  I'm so pleased that she made me buy them that day.

This year I have been on the look out for them at the market, reminding the stall holder that I was waiting for them to come in.  Maybe there was not an English crop this year, or maybe they came when I was away.  Last week, at our local greengrocers which is really going from strength to strength, I spied some cellophaned packets of small green plums, imported sadly, with the name Reine Claude.  I was intrigued so got a few packs, and brought them home.

Now it is so easy to look things up, you just Google it, and read several entries.  I did this and soon realised that I did indeed have greengages.  Back in 1980's before the internet, research required a visit to the library, and as there were not quite so many cookery books to buy,  I acquired my copy of Jane Grigson's Fruit Book.  I bought her book on vegetables at the same time.  Her entry on plums and greengages is still probably better than anything I have read on the internet.  She writes beautifully, gives information and history of the fruit, and  there are also a wide array of recipes.  Despite only a splattering of line drawings, and yellow edges and some loose pages now, my copy would only be discarded if replaced with another one in better condition!  But I quite like my old book, which is well used and annotated.

Well thanks to a gardener who lost the labels off the plums trees imported from France in 1724, who grew and nurtured them.  By the way our Victoria Plum, named after one of our Queens, has suffered so much from disease, and squirrels this year, than with only 4 plums, it is for the chop.

I sympathise with you Sir William Gage, who lost them?  Please do not blame the gardener.  It is a very easy things to do.  In France the PR people chose one the best names for the tree which came from Italy, naming it after the Wife of the french King Francois I:  Claude.  The plum in England was still green and it was first grown 'maybe' on the estate of Sir William Gage, so it got its name..Greengage.  But maybe there was a political reason not to give them a french queen's name in England? Maybe it was also grown elsewhere, but the name Greengage lives on.

So here is the jam, soft, green but maybe not quite the right green, sweet, maybe too sweet and uncomplicated for my palate.  The preserve may mature and become infused with the bitter notes leaching out of the kernels which I included.  I broke into the stones with my nutcrackers, extracted the kernels and blanched the skins off, and placed them in the pan at the same time as the sugar.  On scones it was delicious but it is somewhat overwhelmed by brown bread.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Blackcurrant Jam

Just how long does it take to make Blackcurrant Jam.  That depends what one measures.  For just a bit of fun, I was thinking about this when I was gardening this morning.  I won't count the planting of the bushes, or the long drive to collect them from the growers...but if I count picking them, then sorting them, washing them, picking off the stems, but not the dried flower ends, this takes about 1 hour for a kilo of berries.  Then there is the boiling, the potting up, and the washing up, washing the kitchen floor etc....another hour and half, but it is all worthwhile I think....

This year the berries are particularly large and juicy, so I added very little water to cook the berries before adding the sugar.  However the crop is not high as the birds and squirrels have been at the bushes, but I did spend a hour or so trying to cover them in their own individual mesh cover one evening a couple of weeks ago.  The hardest part was trying to push the bamboos canes into the ground which was really hard.

Just as I love marmalade on my toast, hubby loves Blackcurrant jam, as well as stirred through yogurt.   Friday I made a few pots to 'lay down' in my preserve cupboard.  I might enter a jar in our Horticultural Club competition.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Keeping up with the jamming

I've made more than I've written about....

How do I know for sure...its when Hubby went to cupboard and found what he was sure was Strawberry Jam, but no labels.

What happens is that I pick up the fruit at the market, and then make the jam on Friday.  Fridays are busy days here.  I like to prepare for the weekend, and have started to have friends over for breakfast.  Really nice with girlfriends who are busy with work, whose hubbies or partners are busy with their hobbies.  A breakfast together, talking about crafts and a tour of the garden, is a lovely way for me to start my weekend too!

I remember the Strawberry Jam well.  I followed a new technique which has given me a very good colour, flavour, and hopefully set.

This Sunday I made Apricot Jam, which is as yet unlabelled, but I did take pictures.  We had been very busy on Saturday, so decided to have a stay at home Sunday.  It was warm, and I had taken the apricots all 2 Kg out of the fridge before breakfast.

A few minutes in a large stainless bowl, and they were ready to cut up.  They were delicious, not too ripe, a little sharp, with rosy skins, perfect for jam.  As I cut the apricots into about eight pieces, they are tossed in the juice of two lemons to stop them from browning.

With all the stones in a plastic bag, I found a hammer, and took the lot onto the patio and started the tricky technique of extracting the kernels without breaking them up too much.  At last everything was in the pan, the apricots cooked gently, without any water, and then the sugar added, and ready for the steady boil.

All potted up, and ready for the labels to be designed, and printed out, and pasted onto the jars.

 There was a small ramekin to spare, and in the evening David had some in his plain yogurt.  He described the fruitiness and the effect of biting on the kernels as a little explosion of amaretto on the tongue!  This would be wonderful as the filling to an almond sandwich cake.

Monday, 2 June 2014


When I was stopped in the street by a friend and asked what preserves I had, and will there be any Piccalilli soon, I knew I had to get cracking.

I bought lovely heavy round cauliflowers and all the other veg needed, and set about chopping and salting.

The following morning, I made up the 'sauce' using all the same ingredients I used last time, following the River Cottage Recipe but sizing it up, and used the wonderful local honey, and organic cider vinegar.

Just as last time, I found the colour rich and golden, and dotted with whole spices: so very different to the pale colour of the shop bought variety.

After the mixing, comes the potting up

and finally several jars and a house that reeks of vinegar!  Best now to wait for a month to allow the flavour to mature and mingle into the still slightly crunchy morsels of vegetables.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Strawberry Jam with Tate & Lyle preserving sugar

For many reasons, I've been less eager to make preserves recently.  I could name a few:  My cupboards were already full, if I made new ones, I would want to start on those, and the older ones linger, I've had other things to do, places to go, etc.  

When I had a look up at the pictures loaded up by my family, I loved this one of my grand daughter playing at making jam in the put me to shame!  But I also had this proud feeling that grand daughter was taking after her Mum, and me too!  I must not forget my son, I remember him picking several pounds of blackcurrants and redcurrants for jam and jelly making when he was less than 10 years old.  I had not even asked him, but I suspect it was a ruse to stay up late, maybe he has different memories of this.  

I planned on making piccalilli, but felt the cauliflowers at the market were not quite up to my standard, but as my dearly beloved was begging for strawberry jam, and the berries looked bright and fresh and not over ripe, that made up my mind.  I also decided to get some of Tate & Lyle's preserving sugar with added apple pectic.  Last time we had strawberry jam at breakfast, and my dear friend Vicki was witness to this, my dearly beloved said that he felt the last lot of jam was NOT quite set enough for him.  Forget the soft set, the compote, the whole fruit, for him...However the customer is always right, and he is the one who eats this jam, and not I.

I followed the recipe on the packet of sugar, but added more fruit, around 10% more!  It has worked very well, the jam is bright and fresh tasting, and nicely set.  I had nearly decided to give up making strawberry jam, but when I read the contents on the shop bought jars, I decided to try again, and now I feel confident to make even more....but there was still all the mess and the washing up...very worth while.  I'll probably make some brioches Sunday morning breakfast to go with this.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Classic Seville Marmalade

What is Classic Seville Marmalade?  There must be so many...and all different, well even when one follows the same recipe different batches can taste different.

What Mr M wanted was a Marmalade, plain and simple: oranges, lemon juice and sugar.  Bless him!  He loves classic flavours.  Don't get me wrong, they are good, I like them, but I also like to take a recipe and add my twist.  I love spices and nuts, and unusual combinations.  I was chatting with my friend Janice last night, and it is the other way round in her household:  her husband likes the variations and she favours the more classic straight forward preserves.

This year I am following the classic route.  My Domestic Science teacher would approve:  I bought the first fruits of the season, always the best and freshest, and highest in pectin.  This year I have decided not to freeze any more fruit for preserves, of course unless this is purely for keeping a glut of fruit for which I have no time to deal with immediately, which I cannot give away, or have not time to deal with immediately.  Sounds like a New Year's Resolution to me.  This means there not be any mid year Seville Marmalade making....but it also means I can make special marmalades mid year, such as Pink grapefruit, and the Lemon, Pear and Cardamom Marmalade which is my favourite special marmalade from last year.

I consulted two of my favourite books: A little Course in Preserving by DK, and River Cottage Handbook. 

Over and above my own previous method(s), I opted for squeezing the juice from the oranges and keeping that in the fridge overnight.  I have a little wooden tool for spooning out olives from the olive oil, and tried this for fishing out the pips from the juice.  Just playing really, as I love my little wooden utensils. I left the shells and seeds soaking in the cooking water.  I covered them with a weighted plate to keep everything submerged.

In the morning the pips were surrounded by a thick jelly like substance.  This is the first time I have noticed this, and wonder whether this is the pectin coming out of the pips.  

Usually I pressure cook with the 10 lb weight, but felt the peel always needed further cooking, so this time I used the 15 lb weight for 8 minutes, and this was perfect. I did not add the lemon peel or pith, and pressure cooked the orange shells and pips with water.  

When I had sliced all the cooked peel, and pushed all the mush through a sieve, until it was too difficult and I had a sieve full of pips, I measured this mush, and all the cooking liquid and squeezed orange juice and weighed this and added a little more water to get 1700 g for each Kg of Oranges I started with.  This is in addition to the chopped skins.  This was following RCH's advice of measuring all the liquid and making sure that there was 1.7 litres to each original Kg of Fruit.  I would change this to 1.5 litres, or 1500g next time, as it took rather longer boiling to achieve the right temperate and set at 105 C.

I then went off to design this year's label, and the following morning, the labels were stuck on and the jars added to my Preserves Stash!