Friday, 26 August 2011

Recipe Roundup

Needless to say, after my last post I've been busy in the kitchen trying to wrangle a few gluts.

First up were the courgettes, the best use for them so far must surely be the Courgette Brownie recipe I picked up from Mumsnet. I used 100% courgettes instead of half courgettes and half carrots and chocolate chips instead of nuts (This is a bit like Theseus' paradox, if you change the ingredients is it still the same recipe?). There was a cloak and dagger element to the preparation as I couldn't let the children know there were (gasp!) vegetables in them. My deception paid off and the girls adored the dark, moist, indulgent tasting brownies and I could polish my good mum halo as they chomped down the courgettes.

Next were my bounteous crop of tomatoes. My whole reason for growing lots of toms this year was to repeat the Ketchup I made last year. Incidentally, I was out attempting to pick some wild apples for the recipe and, to my horror, discovered many local trees completely bare. Is anyone else finding the same? I'm wondering if the dry spring had something to do with it. I may even be driven to the extremes of paying for cooking apples for goodness sake.

Finally, I used my plums to make Plum and Lavender jam after being inspired to try the maceration technique by drroothair's comment on my Yellow Bullace Jam post. It took ages to stone the fruit but once that drudgery was out of the way it's a lovely way to make jam although I have to admit I went for the 'just boil it all up' method rather than fiddling about removing bits and then re-adding them. I couldn't taste the lavender in the final product at all but luckily, it didn't set first time so I re-boiled it and added some mixed spice which produced a lovely, tangy jam I was very pleased with. Hmmm, Theseus raises his head again, if you change the spices and the technique .....

Now, breakfast time, I'm off to pick some tomatoes for fresh tomatoes on toast - it's a hard life!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Glorious Gluts

I'm starting to panic a bit if I'm honest, I think I've got to admit defeat with the patty pan mountain (maybe one more batch of piccalililili though) the tomatoes are coming on stream so I need to start making ketchup and the wild fruit is just ripening up too. Damsons looking readyish, the pear tree is groaning, we visited our old chum the wild plum tree yesterday and came home with 5kilos of plums, oh yes, and we still have about 5 kilos of Mirabelle plums in the freezer waiting to be processed.

I have a soft spot for this tree as it was one of our first big foraging finds, back in the day when we were still amazed at all the free fruit hanging around being ignored by the general populace. I don't know what sort of plum it is, it's not a damson because the fruit is sweeter and not so dark purple, they're smaller than Victoria plums but a similar colour.

Each year it's a battle to outwit the grubs (wasps?) as when the plums are fully ripe it can be virtually guaranteed that a small wiggly worm is in there, pooing for all it's worth, leaving a tell tale droplet of crystalised plum juice sitting on the softly bloomed surface. My solution is two-fold, early in the season I pick the plums slightly under-ripe (I'm so well acquainted with this tree by now I can tell the exact ripeness by the colour of the skin) The plums which are still green now will ripen later in the season and will usually escape the attentions of the wasps who have done whatever it is that wasps do in the winter (sleep/die/emigrate - who knows) by the time they're ripe, although whether they have escaped the attention of other foragers is another thing, there was already the familiar trampled ring of disappointment around the tree yesterday.

So what to do with them? Jam maybe, for the increased pectin in the under-ripe plums, or a plum cheese, nice and sharp or maybe bottled with red wine and spices. Whatever I end up doing I'd better get on with it quick as there's more fruit coming down the conveyor belt!

By the way - Many apologies for the blog silence over the past week, I've had my Mum to stay and we've been busy either taking the children out on day trips or Adam and I have been making the most of having a babysitter in the house and having a social life for once. All back to normal now though.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


I never know when to stop with Piccalilli, it's a bit like banananana.

I remember being a funky 18 year old (yes I was one once!) and visiting an older relative in the middle of her making Piccalilli. I was aghast, make Piccililli? I mean make it? Why? Is that even possible? And if it is why would you bother?

I think at that point if you'd told me that not only would I made my own Piccalilli one day but that I'd be photographing it as I went along to show the world what I'd done I think I would have thrown myself under the nearest bus.

Hooray for not being 18 any more, that's what I say.

I've finally got a few bona fide gluts from our allotments. Last year I was rather disappointed that our only true gluts came from the wild larder. Although we had plenty from the allotment I was never in danger of being overwhelmed. This year, however, is shaping up to be different!

Yesterday I could only bring home the fruits from 2 of our 5 Patty Pan squash plants because my flexi bucket was full and I was staggering under the weight of it so I currently have 16 patty pans at home with probably another 24 still on the allotment.

I'm wrangling this particular glut by pickling like mad, including today's Piccalilli. (That's why you bother, my 18 year old self, to use up the sodding summer squash!) I used Pam Corbin's recipe from the River Cottage Preserve book. My version had patty pan squash, courgettes, onion, carrots and broccoli. I wasn't sure if the broccoli was a bit bonkers or not but Pam says green crunchy veg is the secret to a good Piccalilli so hopefully it'll work. It needs a few weeks to mature but I nibbled some while I was potting it up and it was lovely if a tad vinegary but that's what maturation is for.

So, 1 patty pan down, 31 to go .....

Monday, 8 August 2011

Sunshine Pickle

Just a short post to record this morning's irony. I made a batch of courgette pickle using yellow courgettes and orange peppers which I thought would make a lovely sunshiney pickle redolent of summer. The very moment I got the preserve pan out of the cupboard the heavens cracked and rain commenced bouncing down in stair-rods together with a mighty wind that rattled the fences in a manner which made me fear for the rotting fence posts.

I have to admit it gave me pause, just in case it was a divine opinion on my pickle vision or something. Hopefully, the almighty is a bit too busy to take an interest in the minutiae of my preserve recipes and I haven't damaged my immortal soul by pressing on and making it anyway.

It's very pretty by the way.

(and yes, we did have a good time on holiday. Thanks for asking)