Sharon

Sharon

If you took a look at this piece of fruit, would you say it looked like a Sharon?  No, me neither.  Not that I particularly have an idea in my head about what a Sharon should look like, but still, it’s not the most immediate name for this glorious fruit.  That said, I absolutely love the fact that this wonderful orange sphere has, as one of it’s many moniker’s, the name Sharon.  It makes me smile every time.  Anyway…

I don’t know about you, but for some reason I find it more challenging to eat my quota of fruit when it’s cold.   To be honest, I naturally veer towards cake at any time of year, as it compliments tea so well, which is wonderful all year round. So often, autumnal fruit needs working on before you can eat it, which can be off putting when it’s dark – hmmm, not too sure I can truly justify that explanation, but let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that it is perfectly logical…

As it becomes more of a chore, mentally, to chose fruit over cake, I have found that you need to put in place a couple of tricks to make it all look more inviting.  And this is where Sharon, or Persimmon to some, comes to the fore.   You have to be patient with Sharon fruit, so buy a few and let them sit in a bowl, ripening for a few days. As they sit there, they will gradually cajole your mind into thinking that they look rather inviting as a snack.  Unlike the pear which will suddenly go off and become inedible when you nip out to the shops, Sharon will continue to glow a deeper orange, gradually.  Like a well lit fire.

Even when they are squidgy to touch, Sharon never tastes over ripe, in fact the sweetness is glorious.   I have even read somewhere that Sharon can help stave off heart problems, which is interesting, as normally, fruit which naturally sugars when it ripens, such as bananas and grapes, are seen as the devil incarnate to health.

For those of you who may have seen Sharon, but not yet tasted the fruit, I highly recommend you pop down to the grocers and get yourself a couple.  They are in abundant supply at the moment which usually means they have not been force grown and are therefore in much more of their natural state.  I have to say, I eat the skins as well, just like an apple.   However, similarly, just like an apple, the skin can often be a little tough and bruised, and so, in this instance, it is best to peel them.

However you chose to devour your Sharon fruit, the wonderful thing about them is their soft fruitiness which accompanies perfectly, their beautiful colour.   So evocative of summer.  So complimentary to autumn.

Why not give them a try and let me know how you get on?

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Hot Buttered Crumpets

crumpet

The wee boy and I have had one of those days where, although there has been quite a bit to do, we have taken it all at a very leisurely pace.  There is something about a misty autumnal day that lends itself to slowness.

Similarly, what with the shortness of sunlight occurring at the moment, our snacks have become more comforting.

There is nothing quite like sitting down late afternoon, when the darkness is beginning to set in, and indulging in a hot buttered crumpet.  They really do reach the spot.

What is wonderful about crumpets though, is their versatility.  They can be eaten at any time of day or night without feeling in the slightest bit unusual.

I have a mental test to decide how comfortable I am with what I am about to have for a meal.  What you need to do is say, out loud,

‘What’s for …… (put food time name here)?’

‘Toasted crumpets with …. (add topping of you choice here)’

What you begin to realise is that, if, for example, you added ‘stew’ it may not give you that warm, snuggly feeling inside for every mealtime, whereas ‘crumpets’ works with everything.

There are quite a few foods that fit every meal.  Fruit, for example, is a versatile foodstuff, as, I find, is cake.

And just on another note, some people call crumpets, pikelets.

For your information, should you be in the slightest bit interested, they are both made from the same yeast based mixture, and both griddled, but crumpets are usually thicker due to them being cooked in a circular mould, whereas the pikelet mixture is normally spooned straight on to the griddle and therefore is thinner.

So there you go, a little Friday fact for you to enjoy.

Golden Syrup

golden syrup

 

I love golden syrup.  I love the colour, I love the texture, especially when it’s plopped into something warm and it turns from gloopy to runny, but my favourite thing about golden syrup is the unabashed, all encompassing sweetness.

As autumn has officially made it’s presence felt we have taken to having porridge for breakfast.  Now I know there are porridge stalwarts out there who indulge in the porridge experience all through the seasons, but I’m afraid I am not one of them. And the main reason for this is not that I feel it is uncomplimentary to all seasons, indeed I feel with the right topping and temperature, porridge is a very versatile foodstuff.  No, the reason I cannot bring myself to be an all season porridge eater is pure and simply because I find cleaning the pan almost unbearable.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter how low the heat is underneath the pan, or how slowly you allow the porridge to cook, it always takes on it’s alternative persona which is that of industrial adhesive.   So for at least six months of the year I refuse to engage with porridge and divert all requests in another direction.

But as soon as that autumnal chill sets in I feel duty bound to cast aside all pan cleaning despair, take the bull by the horns and come to terms with all that must be done, pan wise, because the satisfaction of eating porridge on a cold morning with either mashed banana mixed into it, or golden syrup splodged on top, overrides any pan cleaning aversion, and is absolutely worth every pan scrape needed.

Moreover, it’s a doddle to make.  I always make it with milk and a pinch of salt, but you can do it with water, apple juice, half and half, whatever you fancy. There is just one rule.  Twice as much liquid as oats.  That’s it.  Oh, and once gently bubbling let it continue for a couple of minutes.  Pedants amongst you will deduce that, if we’re being correct, that is actually two rules.

Either way, it’s so little effort for so much delight I’m hoping you will forgive my lackadaisical numeracy skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Rice

plain rice #2

Today has been the most glorious of days, a no nonsense autumnal piece of perfection.

Coincidentally we had arranged a stroll and afternoon tea date with some lovely people and so it was, with a spring in our step, that we pottered off to our agreed destination.

Having just got into our stride of balancing good conversation with an ambling walking pace, the wee boy enquires whether we can go back yet.  I explain to him that as we are not yet there, we can’t possibly start to go back.  It’s one of those interesting conversations small people instigate.  We eventually compromised by us all sitting right in the middle of a set of steps, so as to cause as much obstruction as possible, for a small breather, before continuing.

Inevitably, further along on our stroll, we find ourselves on the way back heading towards the cafe, and after some light ice cream van negotiation, land at destination ‘afternoon tea’.

The wee boy decided that he would like a bowl of rice, and so with considered aplomb, I approach the small crowd of waiting staff huddled together as though planning the Great Escape, to enquire whether I may order a small bowl of rice for the wee boy.

A look of incredulity passed across the group, like a Mexican wave.  Anybody watching may have suspected that I’d asked for the plans for said Great Escape. The question was passed from one person to another, and although one of the group pointed to a large bowl of rice amongst the chilled counter, huddled in-between other salad type affairs, there seemed to be some confusion and befuddlement as to how a bowl of rice could be served.

‘You can have the rice as part of a salmon salad’

‘I’d just like a bowl of rice, please’

‘You could have it as part of any combination of salads’

‘I’d just like a bowl of rice please’

More discussion ensued and then I was shown an eggcup.

‘Would you like this much rice?’

‘Do you have anything bigger?’ (my wee boy is 4)

I was then shown a ramekin dish

It was at this point, that with some desperation, I signalled to the Great Escape group, a bowl shape with my hands.

‘Do you have anything this size?’ knowing full well they did as they are a fully functioning, busy, on the lakeside, CAFE

And at last, the penny dropped and a bowl of rice was produced.

Now I don’t want to come across as a grumpy old mare, but please, if you’re going to work in a cafe, have the nous to understand that any combination of food available, is possible.  It is too much to ask?

Of course this didn’t ruin our afternoon, it only provided metaphorical food to dine out on.  And as a short N.B. the rice was actually delicious.

Roasted Root Vegetables

photo (93)

One of the many beautiful things about Autumn is the crisp air that descends in the late afternoon.  This, for me, allows the pleasure of having ‘warming’ food without feeling any guilt whatsoever.  Which also allows me the pleasure of roasting root vegetables.

Now I know that roast vegetables are almost de rigueur in a lot of households. They are simple to do and always, without exception, taste fabulous, even when burnt. Which is a great plus for someone with an oven like mine.  Many a day I have not looked for a little too long, as the last time I did all the vegetables were nowhere near roasted, only to find out when I did look that they had suddenly changed their minds and were roasted to billy-o.

Moving on.

I would like to share a little secret with you.  Did you know that root vegetables, because of their natural sweetness, become an explosion of root veg heaven if they have a little salt and sweetness added to them?

There are many chefs who add maple syrup, or ordinary syrup to parsnips, but I have taken to chopping parsnips and carrots together, soaking them in Agave and salt and then, once in the roasting dish, adding beetroot and letting it all hang out together.  Trust me, it is delicious.

But wait, what is the Agave nonsense?  I hear you say.

Well, this is the best bit.  It’s sweetness that isn’t bad for you.  Come closer and let me reveal all…

It says, and I quote directly from the front of the bottle ‘low GI organic sweetener, from the finest blue webber agave plant’

*leaves a moment for you to take it all in and consider why this isn’t headline news*

There are two versions, light which is akin to golden syrup, and rich and dark which is akin to maple syrup.  I use the rich and dark one for roast vegetables, and also as a little aside, when we have American Pancakes, I add the rich and dark version, coupled with some lovely crisp bacon.  The light one is delicious in porridge.

So, next time you think, hmmm roast vegetables are exactly what will satisfy me on this autumnal evening, buy yourself some Agave and let the explosion sensation begin.

Oh, and just in case you’re thinking this is way too exotic for my supermarket, they all have it on their shelves, often in the baking section, but if they don’t you can ask the supermarket to buy some in, and they are obliged to do so.

Let me know how you get on.