Orange Curd

This week has been a bit of a dead loss when it comes to my kitchen. As I explained in the previous post I’ve had a very poorly small person to look after and food has been WAY down the agenda. Thankfully now she is on the road to recovery and my thoughts turn back to the kitchen.

Despite the fact there are a million and one things to be getting ready for Christmas I needed to relax so I decided to make one of my favourite preserves before even thinking about what I should be doing.

Curd was always something of a mystery to me until a few years ago when I watched a dear friend whip up a batch of lemon and since then there has been no stopping me!

I have ( of course ) experimented with lots of different flavours* and textures, but I always come back to orange as my ‘comfort’ food standby.

*great flavours I have tried include; Kiwi, Raspberry, Passion fruit. There is something about the consistency of curd that, for me, demands a flavour with a bit of a bite to them so I always find that slightly acidic fruits work best. I’ll let you know how Mango turns out once I get round to it!

Another tip when making a different flavour is to always combine your fruit juice or pulp with the juice of 1 lemon as this will greatly improve the set and reduce the overall cooking time.

Orange Curd

100g unsalted butter

200g granulated sugar

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

2 oranges

1 lemon

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Bring to the boil half a a pan of water, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Place a glass bowl on the rim of the pan and ensure that the boiling water is not touching the bottom of the bowl.

Put your butter into the bowl and melt.

While the butter is melting, juice and zest your oranges and lemon and in a separate bowl beat your eggs.

When the butter has just melted pour in the sugar and stir until it has dissolved.

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When the mixture is smooth add the combined juice of the oranges and lemon and stir gently, but well.

When the mixture is well combined slowly pour in the beaten eggs, stirring the mixture at all times.

ImageYou MUST stir this mixture gently (do not beat) for around 5 minutes to ensure that the egg well mixed with the other ingredients. if you do not combine the ingredients corectly at this point you may well end up with ‘strings’ of egg in you finished curd.

After around 5 minutes the mixture should be smooth and pale orange in colour, now is the time to add the zest. Of course this is a matter for personal taste and I know a lot of people prefer their curd to be totally smooth in which case just don’t add it.

Now you have to be patient.

Heat the curd over the water for 25-30 minutes. During this time stir occasionally and make sure there is still enough water in your pan!

After about 20 minutes of simmering you should notice the mixture begin to thicken. Using a metal spoon now, stir the mixture and ensure that you scrape around the sides and the bottom of the glass bowl as the curd will thicken round the edges of the bowl more quickly and you will not get an even consistency.

Dont worry if it takes a little longer for your mixture to thicken as it depends on the type of oranges you use and how big they are. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat, just leave it until it thickens of its own accord.

When it is ‘done’ is also a matter of personal preference. I prefer a slightly runny set for my curd so when the mixture clings to the back of my mixing spoon and coats it without running off this is my perfect potting temperature!

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If you prefer a thicker set then just leave the curd to cook for a few more minutes.

Pot up into sterilised jars and seal immediately.

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These quantities will make enough for around 2 100g jars. Unless you are making this as a gift I wouldn’t advise making much more than this at a time as it only keeps for between 2 and 3 weeks.

Once your jars have cooled store the curd in the fridge and enjoy at your leisure.

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I can thoroughly recommend it on toast!

A Bientôt.

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Catastrophic Carrot Chutney

Let me start by saying that, despite the title, this is one of the nicest chutneys I have made so far. It’s zesty and tangy, has a lovely rich colour and packs a real punch with a mature cheddar.

I’m never making it again.

You see every time I make this something goes horribly wrong. Not with the chutney, it’s one of the few things I will remake to the exact recipe, just with the surrounding circumstances.

For example ; The first time I made this delicious chutney I rather overdid the quantity and even after giving some jars away to my friends/guinea pigs there were still quite a few leftover. So I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to pack up a few jars (along with some excess jam)  and take them as gifts on our imminent visit to the UK. What could possibly go wrong?

As we were traveling by Eurostar suitcase weight was not an issue so I tightly packed in the many jars amongst my belongings and off we trundled. All went well until we reached the Victoria line underground interchange.

At rush hour.

On a Friday.

By this time I had a very tired small person on one hand, her luggage, my handbag, a VERY heavy suitcase and a dead arm. A very kind gentleman offered to take my suitcase onto the tube and found a tiny corner amid the sea of humanity to wedge it in.

With his foot.
Of course his foot connected with one of the jars. The one I squeezed in at the last minute because there was a tiny space left. The one that wasn’t wrapped in a plastic bag.

By the time we left the tube there was a rather pungent aroma emanating from my case and a small orangey brown puddle on the train floor.  We fought our way through Waterloo station leaving a sticky trail behind us and located the train heading out to Richmond. By the end of the half hour journey we, rather unsurprisingly, had the carriage to ourselves.

At my friends flat it was time to assess the damage. Rather wisely I elected to leave the case in the downstairs hall while I picked out the broken glass and sticky pickle from my belongings. Even the clothes that hadn’t come into direct contact with the chutney needed washing due to the smell. When we left a few days later I’m embarrassed to say the hall still carried a heady lingering aroma.

(Almost two years later there is still a vague whiff every time the suitcase gets unzipped – which is not very often as it has been relegated to shed and used for ‘storage’).

Rather ironically when we got back one of my friends here was desperately disappointed when I told her there was none left as her husband had finished the whole jar in the 10 days we had been gone. She has been dropping hints ever since that he would really like some more.

Last week I found myself with a surplus of carrots so thought I’d be kind and make a jar or two for Mr.W.

So what went wrong this time?  (I hear you ask) Read on to find out why this is the last time.

Carrot Chutney

300g brown Sugar

150g Sultanas

1 Orange (zest and juice)

1 Lemon (zest and juice)

3tsp mixed Peppercorns

2tsp wholegrain Mustard

2tsp clear Honey

1tsp mixed Spice

2 cloves of Garlic (minced)

500ml Red wine vinegar

250ml White vinegar

250ml Tarragon vinegar (if you cant get tarragon vinegar then just use 500ml of white vinegar and add 1/2 tsp of tarragon)

600g Carrots

2 Onions

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan combine all the ingredients except the carrots and onions and bring to the biol stirring to ensure the sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

While your vinegar mix is heating, grate the carrots and onions.

When the vinegar mixture is boiling add the vegetables and boil for 5 minutes stirring at all times

Now turn down the heat until you get a gentle simmer and leave it bubbling away for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When the liquid has reduced by around a 1/3 and is sticky on your spoon it’s time to take it off the heat and ladle into sterilised jars .

Top Tip – If you are using jars with metal lids make sure you cover the pickle with a wax disc or some greaseproof paper as the acid in the vinegar can react with the metal and cause it to rust.

This amount of ingredients should give you a enough to fill 4 regular jars or two large ones.

Unless of course you are an idiot.

Don’t worry Mr. W – the only remaining jar has your name on it!

A Bientôt

Avocado and Pistachio nut Loaf

I do like a nice loaf. And (if I do say so myself) this is a rather nice loaf.

I made a version of this a little while ago, but it was lacking  …. something. I had no idea what that something was, so I left it and moved on to sweeter things for a while. When I was shelling some pistachios for a recent recipe it suddenly occurred to me that these could be the very thing my old loaf needed.

The problem with pistachios is that they take so long to shell,  I just couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm for a while. You may notice that in the recipe below I’ve been rather vague about the amount of pistachios used as I got a little bored at around the 30g mark and decided that was enough, but in all honesty a few more wouldn’t have gone a miss.

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Avocado and  pistachio nut loaf

200g Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Salt
100g Sugar
100g Butter
1 medium Egg
1 ripe Avocado
100ml Creme Fraiche
Zest of 1 Lemon
3cm piece of Root Ginger
30-50g shelled Pistachio nuts

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Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
Fold in the flour, baking power and salt and stir well.

In another bowl mash the avocado until smooth, add the zest of one lemon and grate in the piece of ginger. Stir in the creme fraiche and beaten egg.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well until fully combined.

Shell pistachios and place in a plastic bag and roll hard several times with a rolling pin and crush into small pieces.

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Tip the bag of crushed nuts into the batter and combine.

Tip the whole mixture into a greased and lined loaf tip and cover loosely with baking paper. Bake at 180 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the baking paper cover after the first 35 minutes.

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During the last 15 minutes of baking time test the loaf with a wooden skewer, when the skewer comes our clean, then you are ready to take the tin out of the oven and rest it for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes take the loaf out of the tin and allow to cool completely ( if you can ).

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I thought about adding a glaze or crust to this loaf, but in the end I’m really glad I didn’t as it simply doesn’t need any embellishment.

This is a lovely loaf to enjoy the next day when the cake has become more dense (and a lot easier to slice). Either on it’s own or spread with a little butter.
It’s not exactly sweet, but it’s not exactly savoury either, somewhere in-between, but it’s  very good with a feet-up cuppa, and lasts up to a week if stored wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight container.

Enjoy 🙂

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A Bientôt

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.