Bryony's Blog

HOW I HATE THROWING ANYTHING AWAY...........

(29/09/10)

This morning I did a big clear out of the fridge and fruit basket. I found a perfectly decent mango (over ripe) and two equally fruity pears and decided, rather than chuck them under the sink into the compost bucket, there was still life in the old dogs yet. Chutney sprang to mind. Jimmy had also brought in a wonderful selection of apples, which added to the equation. This is what I did:

2 over ripe pears, peeled and chopped
1 over ripe mango, peeled and chopped
3 medium cooking apples, peeled and chopped
3 medium onions, peeled and chopped
1" of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
a handful of sultanas (or raisins)
heaped teaspoon of salt
350 ml red wine vinegar (or cider or white wine, whatever)
1 pint of demerara sugar - use a measuring jug
scant (under a level) teaspoonful of the following spices: cinammon, cumin, cayenne and coriander
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

Put all the ingredients bar the sugar into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until soft, stirring every now and again to prevent sticking and burning. In the meantime, put four or so jam jars into the oven to warm and to sterilise.

When the fruit is soft, add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook rapidly (with the protection of a splatter thingy if you have one) until it is thick, dark and divides when you draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. This can take half an hour. Pour into the hot jars and seal. Keep in a dark, cool place for a month before enjoying.

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BEE MY HONEY HONEY!

(28/09/10)

At last, after waiting with such anticipation, we have had the first honey from the hives in the bottom field. Our little guests have produced the most delicious thick, creamy, sweet honey and I cannot believe that it was made within eyesight of the kitchen window! The bees have been no bother at all although we see them everywhere in the garden, concentrating on getting the nectar and doing the job they are meant to, even lining up in rows at the edge of the pond in order to drink.

Here is one of the Paynes brothers (to whom the hives and bees belong} checking up on their progress in June. Dig the green overalls!

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And here are the jars of Goldbridge Honey, waiting to be dipped into.

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It is too good to use for cooking, but I might have to learn how to make bread... This is culinary skill which so far has completely flummoxed me: with a pound of flour I seem to end up with a five pound loaf, rock hard and heavy as lead. Maybe I should search out the dough hook attachment to my mixer...

SOME PICTURES TO REMINDS US OF HOW BEAUTIFUL THE SUMMER WAS....

(26/09/10)

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APPLE PIE ORDER

(20/09/10)

Actually, this is a recipe for APPLE TART pinched from a French magazine given to me last week by a friend -

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For the pastry you will need:

250g plain flour
150g soft, slightly salted butter (or unsalted plus a pinch of salt)
1 egg yolk (make meringues with the white)
5 tablespoons of cold water

Sift the flour into a bowl, make a little 'well' in the centre and drop in the egg yolk. Add the butter and rub together very lightly with your fingertips. Children seem to make the lightest pastry because it feels funny and they tend to tickle the ingredients! When more or less mixed, add the cold water and stir it in with a spoon, very lightly and quickly. Don't knead, but gather gently into a rough ball and either wrap in cling film or put into a small plastic bag, then into the fridge to rest for one hour.

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Peel about five or six apples - I used Bramleys because I had pinched some not-too-bruised windfalls from a friend's garden - she is away! You could use something sweeter, even eating apples. Fill a basin with cold water and the juice of half a lemon and drop in the thinly sliced apples until you have finished peeling them - this will prevent them turning brown.

Next, measure the following:

50g ground almonds
50g brown sugar if you use an eating apple - if you use cookers such as Bramleys, increase the sugar to approximately 80g
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Take the pastry from the fridge and roll out thinly to fit a greased flan dish. Taking a fork, prick the bottom but do not go completely through the raw pastry. Sprinkle the base with half the sugar mixture, then arrange you sliced apple on top (starting from the outside).

Melt a good tablespoon of butter and brush the raw apple with it, then sprinkle over the remaining sugar mixture.

Bake in a pre-heated oven set at 200C (or slightly less for a fan oven) until the pastry is thoroughly cooked. This one took about 30 minutes at 170C.

Serve luke warm or room temperature with anything you fancy.

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APPLE PICKING, FINGER LICKIN'!

(19/09/10)

The apple tree has never looked more beautiful - it is as though a scene from Snow White has sprung to life, so very red and shiny are the fruit. Sadly, it doesn't store and some are already turning too soft to use, so it's a rush now against time to secure as many for the freezer and to make into jelly and chutney.

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The grapes in the greenhouse have ripened and because they are low in pectic I cooked them with some of the apples and made a delicious, ruby-coloured jelly.

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DINING WITH THE RAJ

Since Angel in an Apron was published in May I have been very busy researching and writing a new book, Dining with the Raj. When my mother died three years ago I came across my great grandmother's recipes which she used when living in India. There were also loads of photos some dating back maybe at the very end of the 19th century, together with two albums of drawings, watercolours, riddles and poems. The first album was started by my 6 times great grandmother before 1820. Here is a taster of what I have done so far:

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Curried Beef Balls

lb meat (raw or cooked)
lb onions, peeled and chopped
1 unit chopped parsley
2 oz breadcrumbs
2 oz ghee
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoonful salt
pint of buttermilk or milk
1 egg

Prepare meat by removing gristle and stringy parts and pound in a mortar or pass through a mincer two or three times. Season well with pepper and salt, the chopped parsley and a teaspoonful of the chopped onions. Mix with the breadcrumbs and egg to bind it. Divide into twelve balls and dredge them with flour to prevent sticking. Stand in a soup plate with the buttermilk (or milk) and soak for a quarter of an hour or longer.

Heat the ghee and fry the remaining onions till brown, add the curry powder and fry together 3-4 minutes, stirring all the while. Add pint of hot water, stir and let it boil a few minutes without further stirring. Add another pint of hot water, salt and the remainder of the onions and stir. Place the meat balls in the gravy and any of the milk which has not been absorbed. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for 1 hour. The meat balls should remain in one piece.

Any cooked meat can be used up in this manner. EB

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Flora and Grace mention that some memsahibs never ventured into their kitchens, 'for the simple reason that their appetite for breakfast might be marred by seeing the khitmutgar (butler) using his toes as an efficient toast-rack (fact); or their desire for dinner weakened by seeing the soup strained through a greasy pugri (head wrap).'

They add in another chapter, 'even supposing the kitchen is kept in a cleanly state, it by no means follows that the food will be cooked cleanly, and the mistress must always be on her guard against the dirty habits which are ingrained in the native cook. The strictest morning parade will not prevent him stirring the eggs into a rice pudding with his finger.'

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AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

(07/09/10)

This morning's harvest (minus a huge trug load of runner beans now safely tucked up in the freezer...).

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There must be a recipe in there somewhere!!!

SAVOURY TOMATO BAKED CUSTARD

(04/09/10)

This is a very quick and simple but absolutely delicious dish to make either as a light lunch accompanied with a green salad, or instead of carbs to go with a roast chicken, beef or lamb.

You will need:

A flan dish or shallow baking dish.
Enough cherry tomatoes (kept whole) and/or other tomatoes, sliced thickly to coat the bottom of the dish.
4 eggs
1 tablespoon of flour
100g creme fraiche
1 tablespoon of milk
approx. 3 oz of cheese, grated - up to you what sort you use. I mix up odds and sods left over in the fridge
herbs: oregano, basil, thyme
salt and pepper
dried brown breadcrumbs (optional)

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Lay the tomatoes in the bottom of the dish and sprinkle over the herbs.
Beat the eggs into the flour to remove as many lumps as you can, then add the creme fraiche, milk, salt and pepper. Fold in the grated cheese.
Pour the custard over the tomatoes and sprinkle a few extra herb leaves.

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I happened to have baked some left over brown bread to make into crumbs and sprinkled this on top to give a bit of crunch, but it doesn't matter if you don't have any handy.

Bake in a hottish oven, middle shelf, for about 20 minutes or until fluffed up, firm and golden. Allow to cool slightly before eating.

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Harvest time = jelly time!

(03/09/10)

RASPBERRY, APPLE AND PEAR JELLY

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My brother gave me a load of neat little pears, crunchy and tasty, but too many to eat raw. That morning I had already picked a basin full of raspberries and predictably there were dozens of apples which Jimmy had gathered. Why not combine them into a jelly?

I washed the apples and pears, roughly chopped them up including the pips and skin and put them in the preserving pan with the raspberries and enough water to go half way up the fruit. I brought it gently to the boil and then simmered it until the fruit was soft and could be squashed with the potato masher.

I poured it onto my large piece of muslin and strained it over a bowl until cool enough to squeeze out the last juice. It came to just under 2 pints of juice. I poured it into the clean preserving pan and added about 2 1/2 lbs of special preserving sugar, stirring until it dissolved, plus a knob of butter. Once a good rolling was achieved I let it cook for about four minutes and then poured it into clean, hot, sterilised jars. The colour was fabulous: clear and jewel-like and tasted like heaven. A really good substitute for red currant jelly.

THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG - PLUM JAM - YUM JAM!

(03/09/10)

The victoria plum tree in the garden was covered in blossom this spring, but sadly a late, very harsh frost put paid to a bumper crop. However, there are still loads on the tree and this colander-ful is merely the tip of the iceberg. Plum jam it is, then.


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1. Put your jam jars into a warm oven to sterilise while you prepare the fruit.

2. Weigh the fruit, stones in, then wash and cut the plums in half, remove the stones and any little nasty bits. Try to use the slightly less ripe ones rather than the very soft, over-ripe plums - stew these to eat with cream, custard or yoghurt.

3. Put the fruit into a large preserving pan with a little water and add the correct amount of sugar - equal weight of ordinary granular sugar or the amount suggested on the packet of special preserving sugar with added pectin.

4. Bring gently to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and add a knob of butter. Once it has reached a good rolling boil, boil for 15 minutes (as it says on the packet of sugar for PLUMS, MARMALADE, etc.) and then pour carefully into the hot jars and seal.

THE BATTLE OF THE BLIGHT

(03/09/10)

CONCENTRATED ROASTED TOMATOES AND RED PEPPERS

This is the first year for ages that we have actually been harvesting our own outdoor grown tomatoes, having previously suffered from the dreaded blight. We are not getting the glut that usually happens partly because of the rotten weather in August, just a steady flow but more than we can eat between us. The solution is to cook them to turn into a rich, unguent and delicious concentrated puree which can be freezed in small blocks, either to add to pasta or diluted with chicken stock to make a wonderful soup.


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Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half if large, leaving the stalks if they are attached. Throw them into a roasting dish along with a couple of onions, peeled and sliced, a couple of sticks of celery, chopped, two or three cloves of garlic, crushed but skins on, and two red peppers, de-seeded and roughly chopped. If you have some basil, thyme and/or oregano (either fresh or dried) add these as well. Onto this collection of vegetables, sprinkle a good teaspoon of sugar (this counteracts the acidity in the tomatoes), a really good slug of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a reasonably hot oven until there are signs that the tomato skins are beginning to singe. Leave to cool and the pass through a sieve, chucking out the debris left behind every now and then - it will make it easier.

Pour into small dishes and freeze once really cold.

PS If you intend to freeze the puree, don't add the garlic when you cook it - the freezing process can make it taste fusty, so add it afterwards when you thaw it.

The raspberry saga continues...hic! hic! hic!

(03/09/10)

RASPBERRY LIQUEUR

I don't know about you, but over the last few years we have virtually ceased consuming spirits apart from the odd (tiny!) glass of Calvados or port once the nights draw in, or we have friends in for sups. Our wine consumption, however, has increased considerably... This means that we have a load of gin, whisky and so on sitting idly in the cupboard, doing nothing. Time to recycle, we say! This is what I am in the process of doing which in time, hopefully, will be ready for Christmas.

I picked a load of very ripe raspberries yesterday and instead of turning them into jam or using them to flavour vinegar, I thought, why not immerse them in WHISKY! I hardly ever let the Highland spirit pass my lips unless I am 'flu ridden and drink it with hot milk to help me sleep or it's extremely old, delicious single malt, but since we have several bottles of the stuff, unopened, it seemed a good alternative to using perfectly good gin or vodka.

I packed a pretty wine bottle with the fruit, added some caster sugar using a funnel and then filled it up with a dubiously named (Sir Pitterson whisky - where on earth did that come from???) whisky, shook it to dissolve the sugar and left it to macerate for the next couple of months. I hope it works... Time only will tell - watch this space!