Apples apples and more apples.

As I mentioned in the last post we haven’t had much luck with the garden this year. Last year our old apple tree yielded around 150 to 200 kg of fruit, much more than we could ever use, but this year we had a total of 6. Not 6 kilos, 6 apples, barely enough for a crumble. So when my friend asked me if I could use ‘a few’ from her garden I was understandably keen. Her definition of ‘a few’ equals slightly more than mine.

APPLES!

So 3 crates of apples and no freezer…. I managed to offload ‘a few’ to my neighbours within minutes of arriving home decreasing the crate count to 2, but that’s still quite a lot of apples to be getting on with. So let’s  do just that shall we?

A quick forage in the cupboards and everything was gathered and ready for a spot of  jamming.

Apple pie jam

300g sultanas
100 ml pumpkin jelly*
100 ml water

Gently heat the water and and jelly until the jelly has dissolved then take off the heat and add the sultanas. Soak the sultanas in the liquid while you are peeling the apples to plump them up nicely. *If you don’t happen to have any pumpkin jelly in your fridge then apricot jelly or jam is perfectly sufficient.

Now pull up a chair, put something interesting on the telly, get yourself a cuppa and settle down for the decidedly boring task of peeling, coring and dicing apples…

2 kg of peeled and diced apples
200g finely chopped crystallised ginger**
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 kg sugar.

** if you do not have crystallised ginger then use finely chopped ginger root and add 100g of sugar to the overall amount.

Usually for jam you would use a kilo of sugar for each kilo of fruit, but because of the extra sugar in the crystallised Ginger and the Pumpkin Jelly used to soak the sultanas, I reduced the amount to 1 kg.
Once the apples are ready, add them to the pan with the sultanas, ginger, cinnamon and sugar and heat gently, stirring until the mixture begins to boil. Simmer the mixture for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

just keep stirring
After 30 minutes of simmering the apple pieces should be soft and spongy and full of flavour, and now is the time to turn up the heat. Boil furiously for 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid is sticky and thick. Take off the heat and pot up into sterilised jars. Screw the lids on tightly and allow to cool for several hours. These quantities will make around 5 standard sized pots of jam, or 6 or 7 pots if you have a collection of higgledy piggledy jars like I do.

higgledy piggledy jars
This is a chunky thick jam with a strong flavour and is fantastic dolloped onto warm scones or freshly buttered toast, it also makes a delicious filling for jam tarts.

Well that’s 1/2 a crate of apples gone, now what to do with the rest?

A Bientôt.

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Parslip* Soup

This year has been a complete disaster in the garden, after a tiny crop of early radishes we have harvested close to nothing from our tiny veg patch. A combination of peculiar seasonal weather and voracious insects have left slim pickings indeed. So when hubby required a leaf or two of parsley to complete the evening meal it was off to the market we had to go. I don’t know if it’s the same in the UK, but here in France it’s almost impossible to buy a small amount of parsley, and the bunch we were left with after the required leaves had been plundered was … rather large.
parsleyNow if you are a regular follower of this blog you will already know that I loathe throwing anything away, but what to do with a big bunch of parsley on a chilly autumnal weekend ? I went through, and rejected, a few ideas involving breads and pestos and plumped for one of my favourite standbys; soup.

 

But parsley on it’s own would be far too strong a flavour and it needed something that would compliment the slight sweetness of the herb, but not overpower it. Tricky.

My musings were put to a decisive end at the supermarket when we all got very excited to see that they had on sale the seldom seen pleasure of ‘Panais Anglais’. Now whilst that may sound rather exotic and strange it is quite simply the humble parsnip.

Parsnips are not a usual feature on the supermarket shelves in this part of France,  (they are traditionally grown as donkey fodder rather than for human consumption!), but as the influx of ex-pats to the region grows ever larger so has the demand for this ‘strange’ delicacy. The suffix of ‘Anglais’ has been added not as point of origin, but as an indication of who will most likely be buying them.

So there was my answer, all I had to do now was make the soup.

ingredients

Parslip* Soup.

3 tbsp olive oil
100g of leek, roughly chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
50g of Parsley,  with stems removed ( reserve a few leaves for garnish)
200g of chopped Parsnip
1 apple, diced
1 l of vegetable stock

Warm the oil in a large pan the add the chopped onion, leek and garlic. Stir well then cover and sweat for a few minutes making sure the vegetables don’t start to brown too much.

Add the parsley and stir until the leaves have wilted, then add the chopped parsnip and apple. Cover and sweat for a few more minutes then add 1 litre of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15- 20 minutes.

When the parsnip has softened, blend the soup till smooth and serve immediately with a swirl of creme fraiche or cream and garnish with the remaining parsley leaves.
Parslip SoupThis is a rich, thick, slightly sweet soup which, ( in my opinion at least), is perfect for a rainy autumnal evening warmer. And its a fabulous colour too 🙂

A Bientôt

*No it’s not a spelling mistake, it’s a clever play on words.

Sweet Somethings

Sugar and spice.  But mostly ……..

Sugar

I’m a relative newcomer to flavoured sugar, it’s only since I arrived in France and discovered small (and outrageously expensive) packets of vanilla sugar for sale. Of course I was curious, and then I was hooked. It took me quite a while to realise that with very little effort and expense I could have a ready supply at my fingertips by making it myself. I said I was curious, I never said I was bright.

So……. in my last recipe I used Lavender sugar and I’ve had quite a few queries about what on earth it is, where you can buy it and can you make it yourself?

Well lavender sugar is exactly what it sounds like, lavender flavoured sugar.
As to where to buy it I have absolutely no idea, which brings me rather neatly on to how you can make it. It’s really easy, and totally delicious too.

All you need is sugar, some lavender grains, a glass jar and a week or two. That’s it.

Fill a jar 1/3 with sugar chuck in a couple of spoonfuls of lavender grains, fill the jar to 2/3 with more sugar and add another spoon or 2 of lavender, close the jar and give it a good shake. Then put it in your cupboard giving it a shake every now and again and in just over a week it’s ready to use. You can tell it ready when you take the lid from jar and have a good sniff!

Now I’m quite a fan of the ‘bits’ in the sugar, but if you don’t actually want to have the grains mixed in then tie the lavender into small muslin sachets and pop them in the jar instead. It takes a little longer and a few more shakes to infuse the flavour, but works just as well. When you have used some of the sugar simply top up the jar and shake well. If you are using the sachets you will have to give the bags a little squeeze every now and again to release more of the scent.

Now I have a bit of a confession to make, I do have a small ‘problem’ with flavoured sugar. The problem is that there isn’t enough room in my cupboard for all the different varieties i have made. Once you get a taste for it ( and if you are me) the possibilities are almost endless. To date I have lavender sugar, vanilla sugar ( split a vanilla pod, bury it in a jar of sugar, shake and  leave for a week ), cinnamon sugar ( bury a couple of cinnamon sticks in a jar of sugar…. you know the rest by now ), clove sugar and chilli sugar ( I haven’t used the chilli yet, but I have an idea for it and will let you know if it works! )

part of my collection
The method for any of the citrus sugar is slightly different; zest your fruit and allow the zest to dry out before adding it to your sugar jars and this will avoid any ‘clumping’ of the sugar crystals.
For ginger sugar you can add a few pieces of crystallized ginger ( handy recipe just here ) or a couple of spoonfuls of dried ginger root powder.

If you don’t want any ‘bits’ in your sugar then simply pop the whole lot into a food processor and give it a whizz for a couple of minutes. Job done.
I’m still working on a satisfactory method for mint – I’ll let you know…

Now you might wonder what on earth you can use all these sugars for, but the possibilities are endless from simply stirring into tea or coffee to sprinkling on French toast or flavouring pastry or just about anything you can imagine.

I’m quite sure my curiosity will lead me on to many more experimental sugars, ( I’ve just discovered how to make coloured/flavoured sugar cubes, but I’ll keep that one for another time ), but if you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know in the comments box.
Its just as well my coffee consumption is sufficient to keep up the supply of large jars that I’m going to need:)

A Bientôt.

Lavender & Lemon loaf lovliness

WOOHOO! The gods of wordpress are smiling and I have managed to retrieve my ‘lost in the ether’ post, which I am very pleased about . So here it is for your delight and delectation. Hopefully you will like it as much as we did 🙂

It was around 2 am when I decided that I was going to make a cake later that day. Despite persistent questioning and speculation from Hubby, I had no idea what said cake would be, but I had a feeling it was going to be something new. You see I love mucking around with food. Once I have found a basic recipe I like and that gets consistent results, I mess with it and start adding different flavours and textures and see what happens.

Of course the more you muck about, the more things you discover, and the more your family think you are slightly deranged. So when I announced that I would be making Lavender & Lemon loaf this afternoon the reaction was neither surprised nor terribly enthusiastic. ( If any of you have seen the Peter Kaye ‘garlic bread’ sketch, well, that.).

I was led to this by a link that a friend had posted on Facebook of a lovely looking lavender cake, but when I read through the recipe I thought it would have been a little too delicate in flavour for the kind of thing I was after, so I had a bit of a tinker and this is what I came up with.

Lavender & Lemon loaf.

150 ml of milk
2 heaped teaspoons of lavender
The zest of 1 lemon

Put the milk in a small pan on a low heat and crush the lavender into the milk.  Add the grated lemon zest and gently warm the milk for a few minutes, but be careful not to let it boil. Then allow to cool.
lavender and lemon zest in milk
100g of unsalted butter
50g of sugar
50g of Lavender sugar*
2 eggs
200g of flour
1 & 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 of a teaspoon of salt
1 lemon

Cream together the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy ( a much easier task since I got my food processor ), beat the eggs in one at a time until a batter consistency is reached.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

Stir in 1/3 of the flour, then add 1/3 of the cooled milk.
Do this 2 more times until all the ingredients are mixed.
This is a very runny cake mixture, so don’t panic if it looks a little wet at this stage. ( I only panicked a little bit, but it worked out fine in the end)

pouring batter
Now chop 1/2 the lemon into tiny pieces and stir into the mixture. (Try and get rid of as much rind and skin as possible as it’s just the flesh of the fruit you really need).

Pour mixture into a pre lined loaf tin and place in a 180degree oven for 50 minutes.
Place a loose sheet of baking paper on the top of your loaf tin for the first 30 minutes of cooking time, then remove for the remainder.

lemon drizzle icing
Remove the loaf tin form the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cooling on a rack.
Combine 100g icing sugar with the juice of up to 1/2 a lemon (depending on the thickness of icing you want) and drizzle over the loaf.
Using every fibre of resistance in your being allow to cool completely before slicing it up and serving with a lovely cuppa.

*If you don’t have lavender sugar just substitute with regular sugar.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, it was so nice I might actually make it again without mucking around with it… maybe…..

Lemony lavender lovliness

A Bientôt

You learn something new every day….

I’ve seen a lot of strange things over the years, so it’s not often I’m surprised when I see something a little peculiar, but today I was surprised.

Browsing the local supermarket produce department I saw these beauties…

20120920-184906.jpg

Purple and orange cauliflowers. Purple. And Orange. Cauliflowers.

I was a little gobsmacked to say the least and automatically assumed that they had been artificially coloured so passed them by. (well that and the fact that neither hubby or small one actually like cauliflower anyway.)

When I got home I decided to do a little research and was astonished to find out that not only are they naturally occurring, but that they are actually better for you than white ones.

Purple color in cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. Varieties include ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Purple Cape’. Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25 times the level of vitamin A of white varieties.

Originally, cauliflower was bred to be white by tying leaves over the edible portion, preventing the formation of chloroplasts and therefore chlorophyll, ( in the same manner that white asparagus is made). Eventually, cauliflower varieties were developed that completely lack the ability to grow chloroplasts even if they are exposed to light. So it’s actually white cauliflower that is artificially coloured and not the other 2.

Who’d a thunk it?

Well now of course I’m gutted that I didn’t buy any, and have to wait and hope that they will be there on my next visit, I think even small person will give purple cauliflower a try.

A Bientôt.

Everything pickle

It all started with an aubergine. You see I absolutely hate throwing anything away, and the leftover aubergine was about a day away from the compost heap and was calling out to me every time I walked in the kitchen. What with that and the plaintive calls of the half parsnip, going to the kitchen was becoming quite a noisy affair. I knew that I would be out with friends for the whole of the next day so there was going to be little opportunity muck about in the kitchen so the moment was seized and I decided to cook.

What I was going to cook was still slightly up in the air so it was time to see what else needed using up. As it turns out there was rather a lot, and when presented together there was really only one answer.

Cheeky Chunky Chili Chutney

1 Aubergine
3 Carrots
2 Onions
1 Fennel
1/2 a large Parsnip
2 Tomatoes
6 Baby corn
2 tsp of chopped fresh Chillies
1 heaped tsp of wholegrain Mustard
300 ml of brown Vinegar
200 ml of white Vinegar
50 ml of cider Vinegar
100 ml of Red Wine
50 ml of ginger syrup
300 g of brown Sugar
Cold Water.

Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients, and in particular the vinegar varieties. As I said I was using up odds and ends of stuff so as long as the volume of vinegar remains the same as the total in the recipe it really doesn’t matter what type you use. And if you need the recipe for ginger syrup you will find it on the chrystallised ginger post 🙂

Anyway….

Roughly chop all the veg, not too small this is a chunky chutney, and place in a large heavy bottomed pan.

Add the chillies and mustard, then pour in all the vinegars, red wine and ginger syrup.

If the liquid doesn’t cover all the ingredients, top up with cold water and stir well.

Turn on the heat and bring to the boil stirring all the time.

Once the chutney is just boiling add the brown sugar and stir till completely dissolved.

Turn down the heat to a good simmer and walk away, put you feet up, watch a bit of Telly.

The chutney needs to sit and simmer for about 2 hours with the occasional stir to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

After a couple of hours the liquid should be a rich glossy dark brown, thick and sticky. Now is the perfect time to pot. Fill washed and sterilised jars to the top and screw the lid on tight.

 

Now you can eat this the following day ( which is just as well as a jar of it ended up at my friends barbecue the following evening ), and it has a really nice taste and a cheeky little bit of spice to it, but I’ve got a feeling that by around Christmas time, it will be sensational. I am trying to ignore the two pots left in my cupboard. It’s really not that easy you know.

A Bientôt

There will be pictures added to this post as soon as a small technical issue* has been rectified.

*The technical issue being that I’ve put them somewhere and I can’t seem to find them….

Where’s it gone?

Aargh! I have written a lovely post all about a Lavender & Lemon loaf that has disappeared into the wordpress ether. I’ll be trying to retrieve it and repost ( before I have to re-write the whole darned thing). Because it really is delicious, and it took me flipping ages. The rest of today is bookmarked for family stuff, but I’ll endeavor to post a substitute recipe this evening for a yummy scrummy chutney, and either get back, or re write, the Lavender loaf post as soon as. It really is worth waiting for 🙂

A Bientôt