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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


Salted Radish Preserves

15 Oct

Salted radishes are commonly found in East Asian cuisine and would normally be made with mooli, the long tapering white root also called chinese radish, but it can also be made with French breakfast radishes, white turnip, black winter radish or regular red radishes. Serve as a side pickle, as an appetiser or use as an ingredient in soups or noodle dishes such as Pad Thai


Quick Salted Pickle
Simply wash (peel if necessary) and remove the top leaves. Slice the roots thinly put into a bowl and sprinkle with salt, toss with your hands to coat and leave to mature for an hour or two for a quick salted radish or 1 – 4 days for more robust flavour. It will keep well for a couple of weeks in the fridge. I haven’t experimented yet with preserving for longer as we tend to eat the salted radishes too quickly but the process would be the same as for other lactic preserves.

Lactic Fermented
Prepare the radishes as above and on the 4th day, once the initial salting is over, pack into sterilised jars, cover with a brine solution (1 tbsp of salt per litre of spring water brought to the boil and left to cool) and seal. Store in a cool dark place and will be ready to eat in about 1 month.

Lactic Fermentation II 
Wash the radishes and slice lengthwise into chunks. Pack into a sterilised jar, weight down with a clean stone and cover with brine (2 tbsp of salt to 1 litre of spring water brought to the boil then cooled). Seal the jar and keep in a cool dark place for 1 month when it will be ready to start eating. Remove small amounts from the jar and top up with brine if necessary to keep the radishes covered.

Variations If serving as an appetiser with drinks, sprinkle with a little rice vinegar or other sour agent such as lemon or lime juice, verjus, or cider vinegar before serving on the end of a cocktail stick.

Green Coriander Seeds

13 Oct

Green coriander seeds are one of my favourite spices in the kitchen. While still green they taste quite different to the dried seeds and along with the leaves are very useful and highly prized in my kitchen.

For cooking green, harvest the seed heads as you need them and pull off the seeds, use whole or bashed to release their flavour in dishes such as Aloo Paratha, Prawn & Tomato Curry, Aubergines with Coriander. If you keep the seeds for even a few days in the kitchen they will start to dry out, change colour and flavour. The dried seeds are the same as the ones you can buy from an Asian grocer, very useful but really not the same as the green ones for taste.

If you want to harvest dried seeds for the kitchen or for seed production; leave the seeds on the plant until they start to turn brown then harvest.

I harvest and sow the seed almost monthly to keep an ongoing supply of leaf and green seed. For more on growing coriander see Asian Herbs for the Kitchen.

Chilli & Paprika Powders

5 Oct

Make your own chilli powder so you can blend it to get just the right amount of heat and flavour to suit your taste. It tastes so much better and fresher than the shop bought stuff and it is so easy just dry some chillies then grind them to a powder.

Drying Chillis
Collect mature chillies on a dry day. Spread out on a large metal surface (the heat of the metal speeds drying in the sun) or basket where air can circulate. If you’ve no sun stack on top of a radiator to dry. Once the chillis are dry store in an airtight container until ready to use.

I make small batches of powders from the dried chillies as I need it because once it is ground it will start to lose its flavour. The dried chilli I use the most for grinding is a Cayenne, it is hot and can be made hotter still if you grind the whole pepper, seeds and all.

Mild Cayenne
Slit the dried peppers and remove everything but the red outer shell. Grind to a fine to medium powder in a coffee grinder. Nice medium to hot heat and good flavour.

Hot Cayenne
Remove the stalks from the peppers break into pieces and put everything into a coffee grinder, including the pith and seeds, grind to a fine to medium texture. The resulting powder will be more orange than red and VERY hot.

Chilli Flakes or Kirmizi Biber
Kirmizi Biber is the kind of chilli flakes you would find in a Turkish food store and is one of the most useful spices in the kitchen mild enough to go in salad dressings but with plenty of flavour. The flakes are rubbed with olive oil to help preserve both the colour and flavour. Use a medium heat but flavoursome variety of chilli such as Acri Sivri or milder to suit your taste. Use a mixture to get a more complex flavour. Slit the dried peppers and remove everything but the red outer shell. Grind to a course powder or flakes in a coffee grinder and add a tiny drop of oil on the last wizz to coat the flakes. Pour into a bowl and rub adding a little more oil if necessary to coat the flakes pour into clean glass jars and store.

Once ground store chillis powders in airtight glass jars, away from light, to preserve its colour and flavour.

This recipe was originally posted on  

Passata (Tomato Paste)

28 Sep

Of all my kitchen garden preserves passata, or sieved tomatoes, is one of the most useful. I grow large numbers of tomatoes just so that I can bottle them for use all through the year. There are two ways to make passata and I thought I’d write about them here.

There are 3 Steps to making passata 

1. Clean and prepare tomatoes

2. Cook

3. Sieve or pass through a passata machine


Wash the tomatoes, cut off any bruises or bad bits and cut in half or into rough chunks.

Boiling  Simply put tomatoes into a large pan with 1 tsp of salt per 500g and bring to the boil, simmer until the tomatoes are soft, about 15-30mins.

Baking Baking the tomatoes adds a deeper, sweeter flavour and reduces the liquid which makes a thicker stronger tasting passata. This is the best method for poorer flavoured tomatoes or those that are a little too watery. Cut the tomatoes in half and spread out on a large baking tray season generously well with sea salt and bake in a low oven for 1 hour.


There is a special machine for processing tomatoes to remove the skins and seeds called a passata machine.  I got myself one last year from Seeds of Italy and it really does make the job easier, particularly if you are processing large quantities.

Other wise you can use a sieve, a spoon and some elbow grease. Spoon batches of cooked tomatoes into the sieve, stir and press with the back of a spoon to push the pulp through the sieve, leaving the skin and seeds behind.


The passata is now ready to use or preserve. My prefered method is to bottle while hot and heat process.

See How to Preserve by Heat Processing

If you don’t want to heat process you can also freeze the sieved paste in cartons or bags instead. I don’t do much of this anymore after an accident with our electricity supply and our freezer and I lost the entire years harvest. The old method of bottling and heat processing just seems more reliable to me.

See How to Preserve Tomatoes for other ways of preserving tomatoes. 

Salted Parsley Preserve

28 Sep

Salting parsley makes a great long-keeping preserve that remains remarkably fresh tasting and keeps its deep rich colour well. I collect and preserve parsley in late spring and early autumn.

*300g parsley, washed and dried
*1 bulb green garlic, peeled (optional)
*5 heaped tsp rock salt

Grind the ingredients together, empty into a clean bowl cover with a plate and leave for 24 hours. Next day stir the mixture well and spoon into sterilised jars, loosely cover and leave for 2 days. After 2 days seal tightly and store. Use this preserve as a seasoning ingredient for soups, salad dressings and pasta sauces. Use it by the spoonful straight from the jar, but do beware of adding any other salt to dishes if you are using this preserve as it is very salty. This method of preservation works remarkably well and will keep for at least a year, that I know of, in jars in the fridge.

Garden Note
In May, before last years parsley starts to go to seed and in October before the first frost we have a plentiful supply of parsley leaves to preserve. I make this or freeze it. I use the Italian flat leaf parsley.

Collecting the parsley 
The parsley must be very dry with no moisture clinging to the leaves of the condiment will spoil. It is best gathered when dry after a light rain or first washed and dried fully before using.

This recipe was originally posted on  06/05/2008

Walnut & Parsley Pesto

28 Sep
In late September the walnuts start to drop and can be gathered throughout October. This is one of the sauces I make with our walnuts.

*1 part shelled nuts
*1-2 parts parsley (to taste)
*Orange or lemon zest
*1 part garlic Salt
*Olive oil
Pound the pesto ingredients together very finely and add enough oil to make a smooth paste. Use fresh on pasta and in soups.

Walnut & Parsley Pesto Preserve

This recipe comes from the excellent book on old world techniques of preserving garden produce Keeping Food Fresh by Terre Vivante. Use it as you would pesto for seasoning pastas and soups.
*1 part shelled nuts
*1-2 parts parsley (to taste)
*1 part garlic & onion (mix to taste)
*a little vinegar
*A few anchovies (optional)
*Olive oil

Grind all the non liquid ingredients together very finely. Add the vinegar, put the mixture in jars and seal with oil before capping.

Turkish Red Pepper Paste

28 Sep

Red pepper paste is a Turkish speciality one of the most useful ingredients in my pantry, great for adding a dash of colour and flavour to any dish. I make plenty of it and usually several versions in the autumn ready for the dark days of winter. Traditionally the peppers are pounded with only salt and laid out in the sun to dry to form a thick paste. But as we can’t always rely on a hot dry sun in autumn which is our rainy season I usually make this paste on top of a stove or slowly roasted in the oven.

Mild Sweet

This recipe makes a sweet pepper paste with only a hint of heat but you can easily make a hotter version by adding more chilli.

*2.5 kg Sweet red peppers
*2 fresh cayenne chilli peppers
*3 tbsp sea salt

Spicy Paprika

This is a mildly hot and spicy version made using paprika peppers, sweet peppers and chillis.

*2.5 kg red paprika and sweet peppers
*3-6 red chilli peppers
*3 tbsp sea salt
*1 tbsp cumin seeds, freshly ground
*1 tbsp coriander seeds, freshly ground
*4 tsp black peppercorns, freshly ground
*olive oil

Wash and dry the peppers, remove the core and seeds and roughly chop. Put into a food processor and mince along with the seasonings.

Cooking Method 1
Tip the whole lot into a large preserving pan and bring to the boil lower the heat and cook slowly for 35-45 mins if the peppers are quite dry. It can take up to 2 hours depending on how juicy the peppers are. The paste is ready when you have a paste consistency with no thin liquid surfacing.
Cooking Method 2
Alternatively pour the paste into a wide oven dish, stir in a dash of olive oil and bake slowly at 150c for 40-60 minutes or until the paste darkens and becomes thick. Spoon the hot paste into warm sterilised jars, cover with 1cm of olive oil to form an inner seal then screw on the lids. This paste will keep for several years that I know of.

My x-partners mum used to make huge batches of pepper paste each summer and the stuff was like gold when she sent it over from Turkey, hers was quite hot and had a complex flavour which included cumin and mint.
Gardener’s Tip
If you grow a variety of peppers you can make all kinds of pastes with varying intensities.
This recipe was originally posted on  10/10/2007 revised to include new versions

Tomato Sauce

22 Aug

This classic sauce of tomatoes is made all over the south where tomatoes grow in abundance. The juicy pulp of fresh garden tomatoes is cooked down in a generous amount of olive oil and garlic to make a thick sauce than can be used immediately or bottled and preserved. It is one of the traditional ways to preserve the summer and autumn tomato harvest for winter. I make several different types of tomato sauce but this is the basis for most of them. In France this would be called tomato coulis and in Italy it is sometimes called sugo or salsa.

  • 2 kg of tomato pulp , skinned, deseeded and roughly chopped.
  • 1 tsp crushed or chopped garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • cracked black pepper to taste

Prepare the tomatoes by peeling and roughly chopping the flesh and discarding the stalks. Put a large pan on the stove and pour a generous layer of olive oil over the bottom. Throw in the garlic and fry until the arma rises then add the salt, pepper and then tomatoes. Cook for 30 minutes or so until the sauce is rich and thick.


Keeping the sauce simple like this gives it greater flexibility but I do like to make a few batches with added herbs and other flavourings to make a variety of pasta ready sauces. For a mediterranean sauce add a herb bundle of:1 sprig rosemary, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 Bay leaves tied together with the tomatoes and remove before bottling. For a tomato and basil sauce stir in chopped fresh basil 1 minute before the end of cooking.

This sauce will keep well in the fridge for a week or it can be preserved by pouring into sterilised bottles and heat processing for 15-20 minutes or it can be frozen in bags or tubs. It is a very useful pantry preserve to have on hand to knock out a quick plate of pasta or for use in Italian, Greek, Spanish, Turkish or French dishes requiring a tomato sauce.
See How ro preserve by Heat Processing.

Pesto Sauce

3 Jul

Pesto sauce is easy to make and is unforgettable eaten fresh, it bears no resemblance to the bottled stuff, and it is really worth making it yourself. It can be used on pasta or rice added to sandwiches, soups or used as a dressing for grilled or raw vegetables and makes a delicious dip.

*3 peeled garlic cloves
*3-4 bunches of freshly picked basil
*1 tbsp Pine Nuts
*3 tbsp fresh Peccorino cheese, grated
*3 tbsp fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
*6 tbsp Olive Oil

Put the 3 garlic cloves, basil and a heaped tablespoon of pine nuts in a mortar and crush, add 1 tablespoon each of good quality olive oil, grated pecorino and grated parmesan, keep adding grinding as you go until 3 spoons of each have been added. When you have reached a thick, paste, empty it into a bowl and dilute with more olive oil, mixing well.  Or to make life easier just whizz the whole lot up in a food processor then add the remaining oil.

Cooks Tip

When using the pesto for pasta sauce, dilute it with 1-2 tablespoons of water before using. The sauce should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks with a layer of oil to keep the air out.

This recipe was originally posted on  3/07/2006 revised and to be re photographed