Kiwi Bread

Kiwi Bread

Having found myself with a plethora of kiwi fruit, I decided to give making kiwi bread a bash.

This was about a week ago.

It has taken me until today to actually get around to making said bread and I have to say, as far as taste is concerned, the jury is still out.

It’s ok, but as himself said, it tastes a little like a doner kebab.

Why is this?  You may well ask.  I have absolutely no idea.

However, it may well taste differently tomorrow when it’s had time to settle in to itself.

I’ll keep you posted…

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Leek and Potato Soup

leek & potato soup

The key to a great tasting leek and potato soup is, in my opinion, butter.  As soon as you go down the route of frying the onions in oil, you’ve missed out on that beautiful creamy, indulgent feel to the soup, and quite frankly, no one wants a leek and potato to be too watery, do they?

So what I do is this:

Melt some butter – I don’t want to dictate amounts, but if you’re using 2 leeks and 4 potatoes may I suggest about 30g of butter?

Gently chop into small bits and fry a small to medium sized white onion, until translucent.

Add the washed and sliced leeks, salt and coarse black pepper.  Let them all hang out together for a few minutes.

Now then, the potatoes.  I like to keep the potato skins on, as I think they add a little more texture to the soup, especially if, like me, you whizz the soup up a little.  However, it is personal preference only, and if you cannot abide the thought of  potato skins in your soup, then just peel them.  Honestly, no one is judging you, and quite frankly, it’s your soup.  You are quite entitled to do with your potatoes what you want.

That’s the beauty of making soup.  Everything in recipes are guidelines only, for soup.  I remember having a lightbulb moment a few years ago when I realised that, having tweaked a recipe to my own taste, I could write my changes actually on the book itself.  Until then, for some reason, I had only, inadvertently, splattered the pages with food.  Of course, once I realised I could write in the book, I had to hold myself back from ‘over doodling’.  I must say I did experience an unusually satisfactory sense of freedom.

Back to the soup.

Cut and dice some potatoes, and throw them into the pan.  Stir it all around so that everything is covered in butter.  Just a little tip here.  If you have the heat up too high, you won’t get the natural juices oozing out of the vegetables.  Instead they will start to fry, which is not what you want.  If this happens, take the pan off the heat, turn the heat down, and pop the pan back on when it’s cooled down a little.  It is at this point that you could, if you fancy, add a little more butter, or a splash of water, but don’t do this whilst the pan is still on the heat as it won’t have the desired effect.

After a few minutes, add some boiling water and a vegetable stock cube.  I add enough water to cover the vegetables, and then the same amount again, once again, this is, I believe, a personal thing.  My suggestion is, add less water to start, as you can always add more later.

Let the whole thing simmer for about 20 minutes.

Take off the heat and let it cool for a wee while.  Have a cheekie taste to see if it needs any more salt and pepper.  I like my soups to have quite a peppery taste, but you may not.  It is at this point that you can either serve with some lovely warm bread, or whizz up and serve, with some lovely warm bread.

Just a last little note.  If you let this soup cook for too long, I think it start to lose it’s fresh flavour, therefore don’t be tempted to whip round with the hoover whilst it’s all simmering as, chances are, you may well forget your soup is simmering until it has gone past it’s best.  And there is nothing worse than a soup that tastes of yesterday’s cabbage.

Made With Love

n4P1cioI

One of the most wonderful things about the kindergarten my wee boy attends is the sense of community spirit it evokes.   Not just in me, but I would say in the majority of parents who take their wee ones there.

Obviously it is not for everyone.  But it is definitely for us right now.  There are many reasons for that, but one I especially want to share.

Recently, one of the mums at Kindergarten gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Having had a challenging pregnancy, most of us were aware that our friend was very likely to have her baby early.  And so it was to be.  The beautiful, tiny wee boy was born at 28 weeks and is, up to this point in time, using all his strength and determination to laugh in the face of adversity and just show the world what he is capable of.  It is amazing.  His parents are truly incredible.  His brothers are as gorgeous as ever.

The community within which this has happened, kicked into action with a speed unbeknown to most, so that within hours, alongside many other things, a food rota had been organised, which we all signed up for, in order that the family would have good, hearty, home cooked food as often as possible, without having to think about it.

Food is what sustains us.  Food energises us.  Food has the capability to nurture our inner souls, not in itself, but in the process of sharing.  It is a language akin to music, which is universal.  To be able to do this one small kindness, knowing that it means so much to those you are giving to, is overwhelmingly gratifying.

Also, it does mean you can’t just bob round and cook beans on toast…

So I have decided to make a stew.  Yes, I know, not the most glamorous of dishes, but when it comes to warming the cockles of your heart on a cold winter’s evening, nothing beats it.  Also, it’s a doddle to make and, if there’s any left you can always freeze it for another day.  Alongside that I am making some bread rolls, which can, once again be frozen if they are not needed that day, and are perfect for little hands.

Then that will be my meal for the family cooked, until my turn comes around on the rota again.  It’s not much, but it helps, and collectively it is making a huge difference to our friend’s lives.  Not just in terms of the food, but in terms of the love that accompanies it.  And that is unquantifiable, priceless and what community is all about.

 

 

Marmalade

marmalade#2

I have long been a marmalade lover, but have never, until now, made it.  I have fond memories of it being made in our family kitchen, and have often thought about making it, but the Seville orange season is short, and I am extremely unorganised.

Well, actually, I would say I’m not so much an unorganised, but most definitely a ‘sit in the camp of procrastination’ type of person.  I can talk, at length, about what I would like to do, and explain, in detail, how it will happen.  However, the reality of getting up and actually doing it, so often eludes me.  In fact, my big sister and I have quantified the timescale between talking and doing as approximately two years.

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, as, for example, cleaning.  I talk about, or at least think about cleaning, almost every day.   And almost every day I fail to clean.  Imagine my joy when I eventually get round to doing it though eh?  It always looks so much better.  No surprise there.

And this allows me to sashay, seamlessly, (quiet at the back) onto the subject of marmalade.  As you are probably aware, Seville oranges, used to make marmalade, have a very short appearance in the fruit calendar, and not everywhere stocks them as they are as bitter as can be.  Which is, of course, what makes for great marmalade.

The rule of thumb for marmalade making is double the amount of sugar to fruit.  Basically, that’s it.  Our first attempt was orange and pink grapefruit, but to be honest I think any fruit that has a bitter or citrus edge to it would work well.

Now here’s the thing.  All marmalade makers will tell you, it’s not so much about the ingredients, as the method.  So we followed Nigel Slater’s method for our first batch.

Quarter the skins of the fruit, peeling them, and slicing.  Just a little note of caution here. We sliced them downwards, and then had to use the scissors on them later as we felt the strands were too big.  They also don’t shrink as much as you think they might.

Next, we squeezed the juice, by hand, into the bowl with the peel in it, de-seeded the pulp and put all the seed in a piece of muslin and tied it up. The pulp we chopped with the mezzaluna and added to the bowl of skin strands and juice.

Add 2.5 litres of water, put in the muslin bag of pips and leave in a cold place overnight.  I left the bowl in the outhouse with a plate over it.  As the cats have access to the outhouse, I didn’t want them sticking their inquisitive noses into something that doesn’t concern them.

The next day pour the contents of the bowl into a large pan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer gently until the peel has gone translucent and soft.  Take out the muslin bag and leave to cool.  Add the sugar.  Stir until dissolved and bring the whole thing to the boil.  Squeeze any juices left in the muslin bag, into the pan.

Leave on a rolling boil for approximately fifteen minutes, making sure that any white, fluffy scum is taken off the top.  Take a spoonful of marmalade and put onto a plate, in the fridge.  If it thickens up, your marmalade is done.  If it doesn’t, keep boiling and trying out every ten minutes or so.

Now then, we used old jam jars, sterilised, for our marmalade, which is great, but does have a couple of disadvantages.  Firstly, for some reason, not all the lids fit the jars they were supposed to, and secondly, we actually didn’t have quite enough jars so now have a couple of small glass bowls filled with marmalade.  Mind you, we are so proud of ourselves that I can’t see them being full for long.

We have, obviously, ‘quality controlled’ the marmalade with some bread and butter and a cup of tea, and I can assure you it is absolutely delicious.  And that’s the thing about marmalade, the rules are simple, the ingredients are yours to experiment with, and the results are delicious.

I do, however, have a slight ulterior motive for extolling the virtues of marmalade this weekend.  For those of you with Scottish connections will know that tonight is Burns night.  Haggis, neeps and tatties abound.  Poetry is read, whiskey drunk and all things relating to the Bard are celebrated.

Not everyone will be aware, though, that the first industrial manufacture of marmalade was also founded in Scotland.

James Keiller and his wife Janet ran a small sweet and preserves shop in the Seagate section of Dundee.  In 1797 they opened a factory to produce “Dundee Marmalade”, a preserve distinguished by thick chunks of bitter Seville orange rind.*

There is also a Scottish legend that goes something like this:

The creation of Orange Marmalade in Britain occurred by accident.  A ship full of oranges supposedly broke down in the port of Dundee and the ingenious Scots made marmalade out of them.*

We’re a canny lot y’ken.

*Thank-you Wikipedia

Kiwi Fruit

kiwi fruit

I am attempting to ‘buy local’.  Which takes a little bit more effort than you would imagine as I have become completely sucked in to the supermarket, ‘You can get anything you want right here’, ideology.

So, for the first time in my life, I’ve ordered a fruit box, vegetable box and a couple of other bits, from the local market, which they delivered to my door, at my convenience, the other day.

I cannot tell you how many boxes this has ticked for me in my emotional life.  I do, of course, realise that if I delved a little further, I may not feel so jubilant, and indeed, a few steps further down the line may see me mourning the planet and the worthlessness of everything.  However, unlike the prophet of doom, I try and put things in perspective, being a firm believer in the ‘pebble in a pond’ theory.

Which brings me to my subject of the day.  As part of our fruit box, we received a large amount of kiwi fruit.  We don’t, as a rule, buy kiwi fruit as no-one, except me, eats the things.

However, I am embracing the challenge and have found a couple of rather splendid kiwi bread recipes which I am going to try out.  Meanwhile, I have started introducing them gently and today made a banana and kiwi smoothie with a splash of cranberry juice in it.

I tell you what, it’s absolutely lovely.  And, although the sharp kiwi hit is still there, it doesn’t expose itself until the very end, which I think is very palatable.  More importantly, even the wee boy enjoyed it.  That’s one brownie point right there for me.

And just as a little aside, did you know they used to be called Chinese Gooseberries, as they originate from China, and are, in fact, a berry.  Moreover, they are one of those no nonsense, makes everything more healthier, uber fruits.

So may I suggest you pop off to your nearest local grocer and get yourself some of these gorgeous jade jewels of wonder?  Or perhaps see if you, too, can order local, online.

Meanwhile, here is a little snippet of the type of conversations the wee boy and I are having at the moment.

Wee boy:  Mummy, did you know there are five seasons?

Me:  No, I didn’t.  What are they?

Wee boy:  Summer, autumn, winter, spring…  and disco

*grins from ear to ear*

Pan de Higo

Pan de Higo

Whenever I taste something delicious, I want to know how to make it, and this Spanish Fig Cake is no exception.  Turns out, it is the easiest thing in the world. However, there is a ginormous caveat here.  I have my suspicions that because it is so very simple, there is wild competition out there regarding the type of figs and almonds you use.  Apparently, it makes all the difference in the world to the taste.

Well, it may make all the difference to some people, but I just wanted to give it a go with the figs and almonds I can buy in the shop round the corner.  Which is exactly what I did.

It also seems to me, that once you have the basics – 1lb dried figs, 2/3 cup of almonds, 1 tablespoonful honey, 1 teaspoonful spices 2 tablespoonfuls of fortified wine or brandy – you can play around with the ingredients to suit yourself.

So, for example, I, in my first attempt, used ground cloves and cinnamon as my spices, and a lovely brandy called Lepanto that Shirley very kindly donated to us at Christmas.  Next time, I’m going to try a different combination.

Meanwhile, you are supposed to process the figs in a food processor, and then toast and process the almonds (you could, of course, use sliced almonds, but give them a cheekie quick toast anyway, as the heat brings out their natural oils). However, I don’t have a food processor, so I just used my beautiful mezaluna.  I then went on to read a blog by someone who cursed using a food processor on the figs as it nearly ruined his blades.  Who knows.  What I do know about using a mezaluna is that, through sheer laziness, I don’t think I chopped them enough.

It’s a learning curve.

So, when you’ve chopped, put everything into a bowl and mix together with your hands.  Get a piece of greaseproof paper and line a tin – I used a Victoria sandwich tin, but once again, I think it’s totally up to you.  The main thing is to push it all together, fold over the greaseproof paper, place a plate on the paper and something heavy on top of that.

Leave at room temperature for 2 days.  Yes, 2 days.

*twiddles thumbs*

Eventually you can open up the Pan de Higo, make a cuppa and cut yourself a slice.

I absolutely love it, and am desperate to try another combination of spices though I must remember to put more effort into the chopping this time.

Chilli

veg chilli

I know what you’re thinking, ‘What the bally heck has a leaf and a stick swimming in a sea of orange, got to do with chilli?’

Well, this is the thing, chilli is a funny old foodstuff if you ask me.  It’s one of those meals everyone seems to learn to cook as soon as they fly the family nest to pastures new and independent.  Consequently there are a plethora of recipes out there, not just on paper, but in people’s heads, about how to cook a chilli that will satisfy all on a cold, dark, night.

However, it’s not until you begin to look at other people’s recipes that, in my opinion, you begin to see a pattern emerging. There are certain ingredients that are a given.  And then, every so often, up pops a little surprise and you think,

‘Well I never, I’m going to give that a go’

And so it was for me, with adding a bay leaf and stick of cinnamon to chilli.  Which is what the leaf and stick, are.  I would never in a month of Sunday’s thought that was a good idea, but I tell you what, I recommend it all the time now.

As for the other ingredients, I put in the following:

Onion, garlic, ground cayenne cumin and coriander, meat (or today, meat free soya alternative) tomatoes, tomato puree, stock cube (usually beef), boiling water and thyme.  Salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

Then add the leaf and stick, and simmer.

Just before I wax lyrically about beans, just a little note regarding meat.  I often cook this with minced beef, but occasionally use the soya alternative and sometimes just use vegetables.  Whatever you decide to put into your chilli, what I do recommend is that you let everything sit in itself for a while.  You know the thing, make it, turn it off and leave it, then come back to it later that day or the next, and just reheat.  There is something about a chilli, like so many other one pot dishes, that improves with time.

Onto beans.  For years I religiously tipped a tin of kidney beans into the chilli after twenty minutes or so, and thought nothing of it.  However, recently a lovely friend of ours made us a chilli and put in haricot beans.  The very same beans that are in tins of baked beans.  And do you know, it was lovely.  It was only then that himself admitted that actually, he wasn’t that keen on kidney beans in chilli, so ever since then I have used haricot.

It takes a while getting used to the different colour, but a sprinkling of fresh coriander always helps brighten any dish and compensates for the anticipated deep aubergine flecks.

Meanwhile, we have a new addition to our household.  A thing of utter beauty who sounds as mellow as the maple tree she was made from.  Yes, we have added to our increasing musical instrument collection and now have Bessie the double bass, lounging elegantly in a corner.  I shall, of course, endeavour to keep you updated on progress as the year unfolds, but for now I must return to the chilli…