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Crunchy Breakfast Cereal

22 May

My friend Diana gave me a jar of carob molasses to see if i could find a use for it. I love trying out new ingredients and seeing what can be made with them and the runny carob molasses made a most delicious crunchy breakfast cereal or granola. This is a super healthy start to the day; packed with vitamin and mineral rich seeds, nuts and dried fruit as well as slow burn carbs so keeps you going right through till lunch.

  • 500g organic jumbo rolled oats
  • 1.5 – 2 cups of seeds such as sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, linseed and sesame seed
  • 1 cup of nuts almonds, brazil or hazelnuts
  • 4 tbsp runny carob molasses or honey
  • 1 cup dried fruit such as apricots, figs and dates
Mix the oats, seeds and nuts in a large bowl. Drizzle in the molasses or honey and mix well until all the dry ingredients have been coated in the sweet stuff. Spread out on a baking tray (2 trays for this quantity) and bake in a low oven 150c for 20-30 minutes. Take it out at the half way point and give a good stir to make sure the cereal is cooking evenly. Towards the end of cooking keep an eye on it as you don’t want the oats or nuts to burn, which will give it a horrible taste. While it is cooking chop the dried fruit into bite sized bits. Remove from the oven, give it another good stir and leave to cool for a few minutes then stir in the chopped fruit. As the cereal cools the toasted oats and nuts will crisp up. When completely cool and crisp decant into an airtight tin or jar. The granola keeps well for several months.
Variations for an exotic version add dried pineapple, cashews and ribbons of coconut. The next batch I make I will try using rolled barley flakes.

Note 1 cup = 8 tbsp. This quantity makes about 30 portions. Cooking times may vary according to your oven.

Sour Grape Juice

3 Aug

Verjuice (English), Verjus (French), Agresto ( Italian), Gur (Persian), Hisrim (Arabic) is the juice made from unripe grapes (sometimes with the addition of other sour ingredients such as sour apples or acidic herbs) which was used throughout Europe, Persia and the Arabic world during the Middle Ages. It was used as a souring agent as you would use citrus juice or vinegar. 

To make verjuice simply take a bunch of unripe grapes and squeeze the juice out of them with your hands. Strain and its ready to use. The juice was traditionally preserved by adding salt, nowadays it is easy to preserve, by freezing in an ice cube tray to make usable portions of, this delicious condiment.

Use verjus to season fried courgettes Italian style see Fried Courgette Salad

Giacomo’s Fried Courgette Salad

24 Jun

Italian writer, Giacomo Castelvetro, set out to encourage the English to cook and appreciate vegetables in his book, A Brief Account of the Fruit, Herbs and Vegetables of Italy written in 1614. In it he describes all the produce of his beloved Italy as it comes into season and how best to prepare it. Almost 400 years on, his words are still an inspiration. For courgettes he recommends that young courgettes should be dipped in flour then fried in oil and served sprinkled with salt , pepper and agresto or verjus (the sour juice of unripe grapes) or lemon juice.
As we have an abundant and seemingly never ending crop of courgettes all through the summer and an  overcrowded grape vine it seems churlish not to take his advice. The result is delicious and works equally well with lemon, or lime juice which is easier to come by than unripe grapes.

  • 3-4 young courgettes
  • 25g white flour
  • crushed sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Verjuice or lemon juice

Slice the courgettes into thin rounds and drop into a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper then flour and toss to coat evenly. Shake off excess flour. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add a single layer of courgettes. Turn when the first side is browned and cook until the second side is brown. Drain on paper towels and continue in batches until all the courgettes are cooked. Arrange the courgettes in a serving bowl season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with verjuice or lemon and serve immediately.

Cook’s TIP If the courgettes are too dry the flour won’t stick to them. My dad used to make fried courgettes from the garden when i was a kid, by first dipping the slices in milk before flouring. This version has more of a light batter and is very delicious too.


Variation
Our grapes are not nearly big enough to make verjuice yet so i am using lemon juice which is a good alternative until the grapes are big enough. This year i’ll freeze the verjuice in ice cube trays for winter use.

Preserved Lemons

12 Jan

This is one of those ingredients that can transform a dish. Indispensable in North African cooking salt pickled lemons are easy to make and last for ages.

Heres how I make them.

  • 6 lemons
  • Juice of 3-4 lemons
  • 1 tsp salt for each lemon+1 tbsp salt
  • boiled water

Choose small perfect lemons wash each lemon in hot water and leave to dry fully before using. Meanwhile sterilize a large jar that will hold 6 whole lemons, I find kilner jars are perfect for this pickle. Put a tbsp of salt in the bottom of the jar along with the lemon juice and give it a good shake. Now prepare the lemons; remove the tip of the branch end and with a sharp knife cut a slit vertically through the lemon, but not all the way through, then make a second slit vertically to make a cross keeping the bottom end intact. Put a spoon of salt into the centre of each cut lemon and place in the jar, push the lemons down as you go until the jar is full. Add more lemons if there is room. Cover with boiled water that has been left to cool, close the lid and give the jar a good shake then set aside to mature for 4 weeks. Give the jar a shake every day.

Baked Quince

14 Oct

Quinces have such a wonderful aroma, strong enough to perfume an entire room that you want to try and capture that aroma by baking them in parcels. It is such a majestic fruit, it deserves to be treated simply and appreciated for itself. Treated simply like this the real flavour of the quince comes through.
Serves 2 Prep 3mins Cook 1 hour

  • 1 large quince
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar or to taste

Preheat oven 200c gas 6
Wash the quince, cut it in half from top to tail and remove the core and seeds. Put each half, cut side up, on a large square of foil put a spoonful of butter on each half and cover with 1-2 tbsp sugar, depending on how sweet you like it. Fold the sides of the foil over and make a sealed parcel. Bake for 1 hour until very tender. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and quality of the fruit. Serve hot or cold topped with cream, yogurt or ice cream.

Cooks Note A Quince tree is a real thing of beauty. It is, by far, my favourite fruit tree, hailing spring with its mass of pale pink briar rose like blossoms. As the great pendulous fruit develop i can’t help wishing for autumn when the soft down starts to disappear and you know the great yellow fruit are ready to harvest
31/10/2006:

Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

1 Oct

It is October, the quince trees are laden and it is time to make Membrillo, the famous Spanish sweet meat. A thick paste of sieved quince and sugar boiled down, poured into moulds and set in blocks. A favourite treat for winter pantry, delicious served with cheese such as Manchego and cured hams.

Makes about 1.5Kg (4lb)
*1Kg (2lb) ripe quinces
*juice of half a lemon
*a little water
*600-800g sugar (approx)

Wash and chop the quinces.  Place in a large pan with the lemon juice and just enough water to cover the fruit, simmer uncovered until the fruit is very soft. Push the quince through a metal sieve or vegetable mouli to get a smooth pulp. Weigh the pulp and put it back into a clean pan with the sugar. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cook gently until the paste is thick. You will need to keep a constant eye on it and stir regularly to prevent catching on the bottom. The paste is ready to pour into moulds when it is thick. My test for being ready, for all cheeses, is when a spoon is drawn through the mixture and it takes a few seconds for the paste to fall back into the cleared line of the spoon – a parting of the seas moment you could say. Pour into lightly oiled moulds that are still warm from being sterilized, cover the top lightly with a piece of grease proof paper, and leave overnight to set. Once set wrap or cover tightly with a lid or cling film/tin foil. You are supposed to store membrillo for 3 months before using but I have never found this necessary. Turn the cheese out and serve in slices with sweet or savoury dishes. Membrillo will keep 2 years or more in the fridge in a covered container.

Note most membrillo recipes call for an equal weight of sugar to fruit pulp but I find that too sweet and prefer to add less sugar. At a ratio of 60% sugar non of the preserving qualities are lost.
Variation for a more pronounced citrus flavour simmer the quince with lemon or orange peel before sieving.
TIP Quince are very dense so I use a food processor to whizz them into small pieces because it saves on cooking time.

Originally posted onmas du diable  31/10/2007

Apricot Sorbet

29 Sep
  • 500g apricots (about 10 fruit)
  • 400ml (about 2 cups) water
  • 1/2 cup vanilla sugar or more to taste

Half the apricots, remove the stones and crack each one to get at the apricot nuts. The shells are quite tough and you’ll need a hammer or heavy pestle and mortar but don’t worry if the nuts get smashed you just want them for their flavour. Put the apricot halves and their nuts into a large non-corrosive pan with the water and bring to a boil, Scim off any scum that forms, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the apricots are mushy about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar and leave to cool. When cool press the pulp through a sieve to get a smooth puree and pour into an ice-cream maker with the motor running. Process for 35 minutes and freeze for another hour before serving. If serving at a later date remove from the freezer for 30 minutes to soften a little before serving.

Tips on making ice-cream

1. Prepapre the ice cream mixture and cool in a jug in the fridge before using.
2. Make sure the machine is running before pouring in the mixture
3. The ice cream takes about 30-45 minutes to churn but watch the consistency toward the end as you can see the colour and consistency change indicating the ice-cream is ready.
4. Freeze to ‘cure’ for 1 hour before serving.

Fig & Tamarind Chutney

23 Sep


This is a soft smooth chutney inspired by the classic Indian tamarind chutney, perfect to serve with papadums or as a side relish for curries or grilled food. It was an experiment that worked, I like it even better than the classic tamarind chutney.

  • 8 rip figs
  • 3/4 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp tamarind concentrate
  • 1 tart apple peeled and grated
  • pinch salt
  • pinch of chilli powder to taste
  • 100-200ml water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, roasted then ground
  • 3 tbsp sugar

Wash and roughly chop the figs, put into a pan with all the other ingredients and gently simmer until you have a soft jam like consistency. Add more water if it is too thick and check the taste add more chilli to taste and adjust salt level if necessary. Using an electric liquidiser, I have a little hand held one that is very useful for this kind of job, whizz until smooth or use a fork or something to hand and beat it to a smoothish paste. Use immediately or bottle into sterilised jars. I have no idea how long it will keep and I doubt I will get the chance to find out. So I’ll have to make another batch and see how long it will actually last.

Provençal Fig Ice Cream

7 Sep

Figs make delicious icecream and in this recipe I have used single cream in order to make a soft, luscious, creamy backdrop for the big flavours of these Provençal Figs. This recipe does require an icecream maker.

  • 500g fresh ripe figs
  • 120g vanilla sugar
  • 225ml single cream

Wash and chop the figs roughly and put into a food processor with the other ingredients wizz to combine to a rough cream and pour into an icecream churner. Churn to fozen and spoon out into a carton and freeze for half an hour before serving.
7/9/2007

Provençal Fig Jam

27 Aug

It is fig season here in France, everywhere we go there are figs on market stalls and hanging in trees. We can normally eat our way through the small number of figs we grow on our own land but this year we got a lovely batch of figs from Rachel’s parents garden in Provence, hence the name for this jam. These figs are delicious, large green and purple skins with pale pink insides, very juicy and quite sweet so I have added a little citrus to give it a zing and help with setting.

 Prep 5 min Cook 25-35 min*500g ripe figs*200g preserving sugar*rind of half a lemon or lime*juice of one whole lemon or limeWash and chop the figs and put into a roomy pan with the citrus and cook over a low heat until soft about 10 minutes then add the sugar and cook on a high heat stirring occasionally to prevent sticking until setting point is reached this took about 15 minutes but it can vary according to the fruit and sugar. Meanwhile wash and sterilise the jam jars as described in How to Make Jam. Pour into warm jars and seal immediately.

Originally posted onmas du diable  27/8/2007 See how to make jam for tips on testing for set.