A Slight Intermission

kippers

I am as giddy as a kipper.

Really?

Yes.

Why’s that?

Because tomorrow we are going on holiday.  *grins widely*

So there will be a whole week where my little meanderings will be absent from your life.

Meanwhile, if you just cannot wait, perhaps you may like to make some popcorn and peruse past posts?

One last question before I sign off, why are kippers giddy?

Answers on a postcard, please.

Normal service will resume next week – I know, the anticipation is almost unbearable.

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Tomato and Chilli Chutney

Tomato and Chilli Chutney

This is one of my favourite chutneys of all time.  To be fair I haven’t made that many in my lifetime, however, my childhood was full of other peoples homemade pickles, jams and chutneys which were passed around the parents, so it is always with great pleasure and fondness that I have begun indulging in the task myself.

Back to the chutney.  The recipe is one of Delia’s and will be online, but for those of you who would rather just find out what it’s got in it, here is a short synopsis.

1.8kg tomatoes – chopped small

225g sundried tomatoes – soaked in just boiled hot water for 20 minutes, drained and chopped small

225g dark soft brown sugar

4 onion, 4 red chilli, 4 garlic cloves, 2 red peppers – chopped small

1 dessert spoonful of coriander seeds and mustard seeds warmed in a frying pan and coarsely pestle and mortared – although I don’t have one of those so use a bowl and the base of a rolling pin

1 dessertspoonful of salt

750ml cider vinegar

One of the many reasons I love this chutney is because it is so darn easy to make. You literally put everything in a pan and let it simmer for 3 – 3.5 hours. Stirring occasionally.  The only tension comes when it is just about ready.  It is at this point that you pull a wooden spoon along the top of the simmering chutney.  If the juices fill the small trough you have made with the spoon, it isn’t ready.  As soon as the juices stop filling in the trough, it is.

Simple as.

And because the season of good will is almost upon us, I have bought some beautiful Kilner Jars to put the chutney in.  All I have to do now is leave it for 6 – 8 weeks, and Bob’s your Uncle, job done.

I would say however, as a slight down side, it doesn’t ever make as much as I think it’s going to, so if you are considering making this glorious chutney to give as gifts to some very lucky people, it might be best making double the amount.  Unless you only have one friend, then it’s perfect.

Oh, and by the way, we eventually had the roasted figs with goat’s cheese. Absolutely delicious.  Just a small tip, don’t forget the rosemary, it makes all the difference in the world.

Roasted Figs with Goats Cheese part 1

figs and cheese #2

Following on from my first fresh fig experience of the season, I decided to foray further into the fig world and have a go at roasting them.  As a strong supporter of buying local, I popped in to the market we have in the city, to pick up, amongst other things, a handful of figs.

Now this is the thing, every time I go to the market for fruit I forget the golden rule of market fruit.   Which is: all soft fruits bought from the market are to be consumed within a day, otherwise they begin the sorry state of decline so often found in fruit bowls across the country.  I have often been caught out by this market fruit propensity, having got used to buying fruit from a supermarket where they scare each piece into a state of suspended frozen shock, until it’s time to release them into the public domain.

However, I forget all of this and buy myself some gorgeous soft and hard fruits.

Ladened with figs and many other delicious items, I unload and arrange artistically, all the fruit in a bowl keeping the figs separately and, indeed, the plums. To be fair, I think I may have been egging the pudding slightly there.  There isn’t much to putting fruit in a bowl.

Moving on.

This is where I make two fatal mistakes.  Firstly, the figs lounged on a plate for over 24 hours on our kitchen table, and secondly, I balanced a bunch of bananas precariously on the edge of said plate.

‘And what,’ you may ask, ‘is the consequence of said action?’

My beloved figs have gone past the point of no return.  Overnight.  When my back was turned.

So now, having bought the goat’s cheese, I now have to buy more figs.  Could I be caught in an self perpetuating cycle of figs?  Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, apparently what you do is this:

Using a knife, carefully trim any tough portion of the stems from each fig.  Rub each fig all over with extra-virgin olive oil, then slice down through the stem about 2cm.  Make a second cut perpendicular to the first cut, so that you have an X-shaped cut in the top of each fig. (I love the word perpendicular).
Gently pry the edges apart and stuff each fig with about 1 teaspoon of the goat cheese. Place the figs upright on a baking sheet and bake until the figs are plump but have not burst, at gas mark 6 for about 10 minutes.
Drizzle the honey onto the serving plate and place the roasted figs on top of the honey.  Sprinkle with a pinch of the chopped rosemary; drizzle more honey on top if desired.  Serve immediately.*

I shall be endeavouring to rustle up this little number later on today.  I’ll let you know how I get on.

 

*Courtesy of http://www.grouprecipes.com

Chocolate & Nut Cookies

Chocolate & Nut cookies

Now this is the thing.  I know that we are a small global community, which, with the help of NASA and other crazy groups of people, is getting smaller every day.  So it really shouldn’t concern me in the slightest whether something is called a cookie or a biscuit.

But my confession of the day is this.  It is something, like the misspelling of you’re, that I am finding very difficult to get past.  Don’t ask me why, I have no idea. Therefore, I must apologise to all those living in the little village of America, reading this blog, who have taken the word cookie to their hearts.  I’m afraid as hard as I try, I am still not at ease with it’s presence in my vocabulary.

All that said, if I read a recipe that calls itself a cookie, that is what I call it.  I have no intention of cutting my nose off to spite my face.

And so it is, that I have found myself quickly whipping up a batch of someone else’s recipe for cookies.  Well, Jamie Oliver’s to be honest.

The reason for this wee foray into the land of cookies, is that I am taking a couple of things to a parents evening tonight, and thought it may be appropriate to take something dairy free, which this recipe is.  Not only that, but it is also made up of icing sugar, cocoa, vanilla, pecan nuts, hazelnuts and a pinch of salt. That’s it.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Except that the recipe states that I should have vanilla paste, which I don’t, so I have just added vanilla extract.  In my book, if my ingredient has a hint of similarity to the one requested, that’s good enough for me.  I mean, I’m a little busy today and just don’t have the time to even contemplate what a vanilla paste should be.

Onwards and upwards.  Surprisingly, all has gone extremely well, and I have found myself with a perfectly formed batch of dairy free chocolate and nut cookies.

My only concern now is, can I really bring myself to share?

Custard

Bird's Custard Powder

I love custard.  It is probably in my top ten list of foods that make me think of home. However, I am not thinking of egg custard here.  Oh no.  My one true love in the custard stakes is Bird’s Custard Powder custard.  The one where you have to add your own sugar and milk so you can make it as thin or as thick as you like.

That said, it’s not just the taste of the custard that I love.  It’s the package design, that glorious egg yellow, blue and red – primary colours used frequently in the 1930’s. It’s the fact that Alfred Bird created it for his wife because she was allergic to eggs.  It’s the association of cold nights and warm puddings, and in our house, prunes.

We used to play a game whose elements comprised having a bowl of custard and ‘prunes from the tin’ divided between us all.  The idea was to eat the prunes and count how many stones you had thusly:- tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, richman, poorman, beggarman, thief.  Depending how many stones you had left in your dish would dictate the profession of who you would eventually marry.

It all seemed a very normal part of childhood.  I never once questioned whether the stones were ‘rigged’, the ethics of the game, or indeed why on earth it would be so exciting to play.  But it was for almost all of us around the table.  My grandfather, who lived with us at the time, was probably the one who instigated the game, but I recall usually completely discounting him as not really eligible to play, despite him having various ladies regularly call on the telephone.

Sometimes it was Olive, other times, Alice.  Impressively though, if he didn’t want to speak to them he would declare he could no longer hear what they were saying and place the handset onto the receiver without giving whoever it was on the other end, a chance to speak up.  A personality trait I adored.  It still makes me smile to this day.

So you see custard is not just about the taste, the texture, the accompanying crumble, pie, tart or trifle elements.  Custard, for me, is a warm cosy feeling of togetherness.

Which is exactly what you need on a cold autumn day.

Flakey Pastry

flakey pastry

I rather enjoy the fact that a certain type of pastry is called ‘flakey’.  Aside from the obvious reasons, I do like to think that it may also carry an alternative set of characteristics.  That of ‘conspicuously or grossly unconventional or unusual’, as The Free Dictionary describes the word.  Perhaps, at one point in it’s history, it was indeed a ‘flakey’ pastry.

Similarly, I wonder if short crust pastry was so called because it was a little terse?

The wonderful thing about pastry these days is that you don’t have to make it yourself.  It is so much better when purchased from a supermarket or other outlet, where they bus it in by the caseload.  Anyway, I think you probably need quite a large surface area to make a flakey, and my kitchen is too covered in other essentials.  Like small bits of Lego, unopened letters, Connect4 counters and conkers.

The other beautiful thing about shop bought flakey, is that it tastes as crisp as an autumn day when it comes out of the oven.  Even when it comes out of my oven, which is saying something as most of the time one side is cooked more than the other, but in this case it does seem to add to the authenticity of the dish.

So, next time you’re stuck for something to impress, buy yourself a roll of flakey, roll it out, put stuff on top and pop in the oven.  Alternatively, just put it on top of some ingredients that are lounging in a dish – that always works well.  And if you’re feeling very fancy, wrap a bit of meat or fish in it, with a slither of something in between the meat/fish and the flakey.  You’ll have yourself a winner right there.

Let me know how you get on.

Lentil Dhal

lentils #2

The wonderful thing about lentils is that they are easy to add to anything in order to give it a bit of bulk, but actually are pretty good as a main ingredient too.  I make a lovely cheese and lentil loaf where the lentils, although not full of flavour, add a wonderful texture to the loaf.  Similarly, lentils make a lovely dhal.

Now then, I follow a recipe given to me by my friends which works every time and allows you to temper the spiciness of the dhal, depending on what your palette can cope with.  I am always taken aback when people start reaching for the water, tea or yoghurt for something that I think is mild.  So often I misjudge the chilli scenario. These meals I put in the ‘learning curve’ pile.

So, this dhal.  Well, it’s as simple as you like.  Warm a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan – you can use Ghee if you like but it is humongously bad for your arteries and heart, apparently.  Just so you know.  Back to the oil.

Chop two cloves of garlic and 2 – 4 green chilli.  My advice on the amount of chilli to add is, if you are not that fond of heat, start with two, you can always add some fresh chilli later.  If you quite like a kick, chop up three, if you enjoy a runny nose, four.  I buy the long thin ones.  Obviously if you go for the larger chilli you will need more as they are milder.  The reverse of this may be adhered to also.

Add the garlic and chilli to the oil then add half a teaspoon of cayenne, and half of turmeric.  Let them get acquainted then add 185g red lentils, 750ml water and a teaspoon of salt.  Bring to the boil and simmer for twenty minutes or so, until the lentils are cooked.

Now then, if you fancy eating a dhal that will make you wake in the morning wanting to make more, add 3 – 4 tablespoonfuls of chopped, fresh mint.

Trust me when I say, this is scrumptious.

p.s. Today’s post is dedicated to my gorgeous niece, Madeleine.