Saturday, 26 July 2014

of plums and chutney

Despite my foreboding a few weeks ago, we have been able to harvest quite a few relatively blemish free plums  .. and very juicy and delicious they are too!

We have enjoyed them lightly cooked, with a dollop of yoghurt and under a crunchy crumble topping.

Meanwhile, lovely daughter no.1 and her husband have a bumper crop of plums on the tree in their garden and brought a big bowlful round to us the other evening.
Wondering what to do with such bounty, I found a recipe for plum chutney in Nigel Slater's wonderful book:  Tender vol 11
Making chutney is a relaxing affair. A bit of chopping and weighing and some occasional stirring, with none of the worry about whether setting point has been reached voila, you have a lovely tangy chutney.
Although, maybe deciding to make it on one of the hottest afternoons of the year was not such a good idea!

Should you want to make Nigel's chutney, which is called hot, sweet plum chutney, the ingredients are as follows:
750g plums
350g onions
125g raisins
250g soft brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried chilli
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
150ml cider vinegar
150ml malt vinegar
a cinnamon stick
Halve the plums and remove the stones. Chop the onions.
Place all the ingredients into a large stainless steel pan, bring to the boil and then simmer until a suitably jammy consistency is reached, which I found took about 1 1/2 hours.
Spoon into spanking clean jars.
Makes about enough to fill two jars.
And there you have it!
Nice for lunch with some ham from our local, friendly butcher.

Friday, 18 July 2014

dan lepard's easy white loaf and some jam.

Making bread and jam are two of my most favourite things to do.
There is immense satisfaction to be gained from slicing into a homemade loaf or lining up a row of jars filled with a lovely preserve,
so after listening to Dan Lepard's inspirational talk the other week at the small bread company I just had to have a go at making his easy white loaf.  Click here for the full recipe.
The loaf was a pleasure to make and, as Dan promised, resting the dough and lightly stretching it at intervals really did produce a silky smooth dough.
I was very pleased with the end result.

A loaf with a good chewy crust and nice open texture.

And so to the jam or to be more precise jelly.
This year the blackcurrants on the allotment were ahead of last year ( unsurprisingly, given the difference in temperature this spring compared with last year's ) and a couple of weeks ago I was able to pick a big bowlful of fruit.
Rather than the usual blackcurrant jam, I decided to make blackcurrant jelly.


A trawl through my various books and the internet did not reveal a recipe for blackcurrant jelly as such, so I used the guidelines from The River Cottage Handbook No. 2 : Preserves which suggested simmering the blackcurrants in 900ml water per kilo of fruit until soft.
The fruit then has to be strained overnight either in a jelly bag or a sieve lined with muslin placed over a bowl.
 Resist the urge to poke and prod the bag, tempting though it may be, or the resulting jelly will be cloudy.

Next day, measure the juice and to every 600ml add 450g sugar.
Heat gently to dissolve the sugar and then boil rapidly until setting point is reached.
The result was a gently quivering jelly with an intense blackcurrant flavour.
Just right for enjoying with some homemade bread!

Friday, 11 July 2014

oundle food festival and meeting Dan Lepard

In another life I would have my own little bakery shop selling beautiful loaves of bread, delicious cakes and pastries.
The shop would be in a little village and housed in a lovely old building, its wooden shelves laden with baskets of tempting baked goods.
In fact, it would be very similar to the small bread company's  wonderful shop in the market town of Oundle.
It was to their shop that I headed last week with lovely daughter no.1.
The shop was teeming with customers, but we made our way upstairs to the recently opened cookery school for a bread making demonstration with Australian baker Dan Lepard.
The demonstration was part of Oundle's annual food festival which sees the little market town bursting with stalls selling all manner of tempting food goodies.

Lovely daughter and I spent an entertaining and very informative hour and a half listening to and watching Dan as he spoke with great enthusiasm and passion about all things baking related.
There was so much to take in but the main thought I came away with was how relaxed he made breadmaking seem.
Dan's recipe for easy white bread which he demonstrated involved none of the hefty kneading and knocking back usually associated with breadmaking but instead, was a gentle routine in which the dough was lightly folded and rested several times.
And if you were distracted whilst the dough was resting and went over the time allotted - so what! It didn't matter!
Or if you ran out of time completely it was ok to put the dough in the fridge overnight to rise and it could then be finished the next day.
 Dan also explained that it was better to let the dough rise until only 50% bigger rather than letting it double in size as baking a 'young' dough gave a lighter and ultimately bigger loaf.
We were shown how to fold and shape the dough for a freeform loaf (top photos) .... 

.....and then how to use the dough to make pizzas.
 Lovely daughter and I came away feeling inspired and I just had to buy Dan's latest book short and sweet which he very kindly signed for me!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

lately on the lottie - mid summer

Incredible as it seems, we are already just over midway through the year.

The plot is bursting with both plant and insect life; some welcome, some not so welcome!


We have just harvested the first of our new potatoes -Charlotte -and they were delicious!
Just like the strawberries, the first potatoes are always eagerly anticipated.

The little Rosette apple tree has 2 apples growing nicely. I am not sure what happened to the other embryo apples that were there a couple of months ago. Maybe as the tree is in its first year it has put all of its energy into fewer fruit and shed the others.

The leeks, garlic and red onions are growing well and the Hinnonmaki red gooseberry bush has some deliciously sweet fruit on it.
But the slugs are making a meal from the climbing French beans and the plums are in a sorry state - see above photo!

The plums seemed fine until a couple of weeks ago when we had a huge hailstorm.
  Hail the size of small marbles came raining down with the force of bullets, so rightly or wrongly I am blaming the damage on the storm.

Meanwhile back at home, I made a chocolate raspberry cake; a single layer of all-in-one chocolate sponge with extra chocolate chips and a handful of raspberries dotted on the top before baking.
It turned out surprisingly well -a cross between a sponge and a brownie and made a nice pudding with extra raspberries on the side.

p.s you will have noticed that I have been tweaking my blog design and layout. I hope you like the new look.