Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Let's Preserve It by Beryl Wood: a book review

I've not done a book review before and I need to start by saying I haven't been asked for or paid for this review.

This was first published under a different front cover just as I left school and headed for Teacher Training College.  Mum was given a copy at some point early in its career and used it so much that it ended up being held together with a rubber band.  Each time I phoned saying 'Do you have a recipe for this jam or that chutney?', out would come the book, off would come the rubber band and there would almost inevitably be just what I was looking for.  I was impressed.

Mum searched for another copy.  She asked in book shops, she wrote to places that sold out of print books, she asked her friends but it seemed that everyone was looking for the same thing and no-one was getting rid of their precious copy.

And then, on a visit to a National Trust property, something caught her eye.  She rubbed her eyes and looked more closely.  Different cover, same title.  Could it be?  She looked inside and yes, it was a newly published versionof her well used and battered copy.
Bless her, she not only bought a copy for herself, she also bought one for me too.  I have it beside me now and I treasure it.

It's a lovely book containing so many recipes.  It doesn't have any pretty, arty  photos, just page after page of recipes for preserves of all kinds.  There's well known recipes with easily found ingredients and there's more unusual ones such as medlar cheese or mushroom powder.

As well as recipes, there are a few very useful sections at the beginning, one on equipment and preparation and another on 'points to remember'.  Sound common sense is the bottom line here.  There are no frills and fancies in this book; it just contains all you need to know.

There is also no index because it doesn't need one.  It is alphabetically organised so all the apple recipes are together, all the plum recipes are together and so on.  Occasionally there is reference to another page (e.g. apple and plum jelly is under 'apple' but in the plum pages there is a reference to it and a page number).  It is the easiest recipe book in the world to negotiate and, if I had no other preserving book but this, I would have all I needed.

A splendid book that has paid for itself time and time again.  If you already preserve and pickle you probably already have it but if you don't - it is well worth getting hold of.

And you don't need to visit a National Trust property to get hold of one!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Plum Chutney

This is for Victoria but it is worth sharing, so I am!

Ingredients (amounts look odd as they have been converted from metric.  In reality there's some leeway)
910g plums
225g apples (I used bramleys)
113g brown sugar
225g onions
225g sultanas (I used raisins, mixed fruit and cranberries because I had odds and ends in the cupbord).
425 mls vinegar
14g salt, half tsp each of allspice, cinnamon and ground ginger
Cayenne pepper to taste

Stone and quarter or chop the plums, cutting off any bad bits, peel and chop the onions and apples.

Place the plums, apples and onions in the pan.  Add half the vinegar.  Bring to a boil and simmer gently until the fruit and veg is tender.

Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Simmer very gently until thickened (it takes quite a while and needs stirring now and again)

Tip into warmed and very clean jam jars and seal immediately.  Label when cold.

Leave for about six months until matured.  The longer you leave it, the better it gets.  It lasts for ages!

Taken from Let's Preserve It - and I shall do a review of the book because it is simply the best.

Savoury mince update

Thanks to a few comments (many thanks), I have more to add.

1.  Top it in some way - crumble topping, mashed potato, mashed root veg, etc.

2.  Use it to fill a pie

3.  Use it as a bolognaise mixture with spaghetti or pasta.

4.  Add some chilli and some kidney beans to make a con carne.

5.  Use a bit of my bread dough and make a (sort of) calzone.

6.  Top a pizza base and sprinkle cheese over the top before baking.

7.  Add a curry sauce or paste (and more veg).

8.  It might make a ravioli filling, especially if I reduce it down a bit more

9.  Lasagne!  I have to use my new small lasagne dish.  They are so hard to find - most little dishes don't have high enough sides.

10.  Cannelloni.

11.  Jacket potato filling.

12.  Sloppy Joe - which I had to look up.  It's using the mince to fill a burger bun.

13.  Slacken it with passata or stock, add more veg and make a soup.

14.  Fill a wrap or pitta.

15:  Tosted sarnie filling.

I'm sure there are more ideas - keep them coming!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Ways to use savoury mince

Last week I made a big batch of savoury mince and I have been thinking of different ways to use it.
It was pork and turkey minces (I had both in the freezer) cooked with chopped tomatoes, oats, lentils, assorted veg and various seasonings for a long time until rich and 'unctious'.

Here's what I have thought of so far.  More veg could (and probably will) be added.

1.  Top it in some way - crumble topping, mashed potato, mashed root veg, etc.

2.  Use it to fill a pie

3.  Use it as a bolognaise mixture with spaghetti or pasta.

4.  Add some chili and some kidney beans to make a con carne.

5.  Use a bit of my bread dough and make a (sort of) calzone.

6.  Top a pizza base and sprinkle cheese over the top before baking.

7.  Add a curry sauce or paste (and more veg).

8.  It might make a ravioli filling, especially if I reduce it down a bit more

9.  Lasagne!  I have to use my new small lasagne dish.  They are so hard to find - most little dishes don't have high enough sides.

10.  Cannelloni.

11.  Jacket potato filling.

12.  Over to you.  Any more ideas, please?  Do add them to Comments.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Recipe: summer chicken

With thanks to my blog friend, Diane of Good Morning Early Readers, who gave me the idea.

one chicken joint - I used a leg joint
two cloves of garlic
about ten mini tomatoes or four ordinary ones
one medium onion
half a red pepper
six mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms)
some olive oil
zest of half a lemon
salt, pepper, sugar
a sprig of thyme and of oregano (or use dried herbs)
some olives

Halve or quarter the tomatoes.
Deseed and chunk the pepper.
Wipe and halve the mushrooms - I used the stalks as well, just cut off the very bottom bit.
Peel the onion and cut into wedges
Peel the garlic

Place all these in a bowl.  Add the lemon zest, the herbs and a glug of olive oil.  Mix it well, cover with cling film and leave to infuse.

Heat the oven to around 170C

Tip the vegetable mixture into a roasting dish.  Sprinkle over some salt, pepper and a bit of sugar.  Top with the chicken joint.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven for three quarters of an hour.

Remove from the oven, take off the foil, add some olives and stir them in, then it put back in the oven for 15 mins to finish off by which time the chicken skin should be nice and brown.

Serve immediately.

I just had it on its own but it would be nice with rice.

Frugal: lemonade and lime

This isn't a recipe, it's way too simple, but it is very nice so I'm posting it.

All you need is some chilled lemonade (I use Aldi's basics diet lemonade, curretly at 17p a bottle) and some lime juice (I have Morrison's lime juice, 79p a bottle).  Some ice is also nice but not essential, ditto for slices of lime.  You could use lemon juice instead.

Just pour out the lemonade, shake the bottle of lime juice well and add about 10 mls to the lemonade, mix well, add any garnishes and Bob's your uncle!

It's very refreshing.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Lemon squash

And on the same theme, another drink recipe that I have used many times.  It lasts longer than ten days.

Lemon Squash

3 lemons (or use other citrus – grapefruit, orange, etc - a mix of orange and lemon is great!)
1 kg sugar (you can use less but it doesn't keep as long)
50 g citric acid
1.5 litres water

Place the sugar, acid, and the lemon juice, pith, pips and thinly removed peel in a large bowl. Bring the water to the boil (in a kettle is easiest), and pour over the other ingredients. Stir until dissolved. When cool enough, place in bottles and keep in the refrigerator until used.
Dilute to taste. This amount fits very comfortably into a 4-pint plastic milk bottle from the supermarket!
I find it keeps a great deal better if you strain it before bottling, as it is the lemon peel that is apt to go mouldy first! But it doesn't last much more than 3 weeks, so give it a 3-week "use-by" date.

Edited to add that it is partucularly nice if you dilute it with chilled sparkling water.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Home made fruit liqueur

I'm posting this for Emma and, as with the jam, it makes sense to share it here with a wider readership.  It came from my dad and, basically, it is exactly as I got it from him.  I have no idea where he got it from.  You can basically use any soft fruit - strawberries are lovely in this.

Recipe for raspberry gin:
300g of raspberries                                       (200g)
330g of white granulated sugar                          (160g)
1.5 litres (or more) of medium quality gin or vodka                (75cl)
Sterilised 2 litre Le Parfait jar or 2 or 3 (70 cl) washed and sterilised gin/vodka bottles
Wash raspberries and discard any bruised fruit. Place raspberries in either a large 2 litre Kilner/Le Parfait jar or divide the raspberries between 2 or 3 (70 cl) saved bottles.
Using a funnel, add the sugar (divide the amounts if using several bottles) and top up with gin/vodka to the rim.
Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then store in a cool, dark place until you can resist it no longer (leave for at least three months, I usually let it mature for a year).

If you are making blackberry gin/vodka remove the fruit after 3 months (pour through muslin) to stop the woody taste developing and mature for up to a year or longer.

Note from dad:

Attached is the standard recipe for almost any fruit and vodka or gin combination.  In the first three lines, in brackets, I’ve indicated the amounts I used for a normal single bottle – you’ll see that I went a bit heavier on the fruit as it was strawberries I was doing but it needs varying depending on the strength of the flavour of the fruit – a bit less for raspberries and blackcurrants for example.  But it is not crucial.  The only thing I’d keep to is the ratio of liquor to sugar.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Recipe: Apricot jam

I'm posting this for Karen, who asked for the recipe.  It seems daft to write it out for someone but not to share it in here, so here it is!

Apricots are low in pectin so I would advise using jam sugar and maybe also some lemon juice as a belt and braces approach.  I also simmered the fruit in apple juice because apples are high in pectin.  I don't know if it adds much, but I read it somewhere and thought it not a bad idea!

The amounts are variable and I use the tried and trusted pound per pint approach for how much sugar to use.

some ripe and sound apricots
apple juice
jam sugar
lemon juice

Also clean, hot, sterilised jam jars and the lids to match

Prepare the apricots by cutting in half, removing the stone, trimming any 'bits' off and then slicing each half into three or four longways.
Place the prepared apricots in a maslin or other suitable pan with some apple juice - not a lot, just enough to stop the fruit from sticking as it warms up.  Bring to a gentle boil and simmer until the fruit is soft and has released its juices.

Take the pan off the heat and let the fruit cool slightly.  Then pour it into a measuring jug (not plastic) and for every pint of fruit use one pound of sugar.  For example, my fruit came to 15 fluid ounces so I used 12 oz of sugar.  Then tip the fruit back into the pan and add the lemon juice.  How much depends on how much fruit but I guess for my amount I used about 1 tbsp.

Add the sugar and stir well.  Leave it to stand for 15 mins or so and then stir again.  All the sugar should have dissolved.  While you are waiting you can get the jars into a cool oven and two saucers into the fridge (if you test for set that way).

Heat the jam to a rolling boil, stirring well to prevent sticking.  After about ten minutes (or, if you are an experienced jammer, when it looks as if setting point has arrived), take the pan off the heat and apply the wrinkle test (info below) using one of the saucers in the fridge.  It it hasn't reached that point, boil for another five minutes and repeat the test.

When setting point has been reached, skim off any scum (there wasn't any when I made it) and leave to stand for five minutes or so, so that the fruit will be evenly distributed in the jam.  Then carefully pour into the hot jam jars and seal.  I use a funnel and rarely have messy drips down the side of the jars.

Leave to cool, label and store in a cool, dark place.

This is a very useful page for testing for set.  I use the wrinkle test but use whichever suits you best.  My mum always used a thermometer when we were little (she still has it now, I think).

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Recipe: wholemeal granary bread

Really gorgeous bread so I thought it worth a posting.

For each 200g of flour (which consists of 100g strong wholemeal and 100g granary flour) use:
half a tsp instant yeast (the kind for breadmakers)
half tsp salt
half tsp sugar
1 tsp dried milk powder
a knob of butter (probably around 10g)
and 140 mls warm water

Mix together and knead for around ten minutes or so until you have a lovely, stretchy, soft dough (it does make a gorgeous dough) or do the hard work in a mixer.
Place in a buttered bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

Tip out and knock back.
Shape into a loaf.
Place in a loaf tin or on a prepared baking sheet, cover, and prove - this takes around half an hour but you have to go with the dough.
Bake in an oven that has been heated as hot as it will go and turned down to 180C as the bread is put in.
Bake for about half an hour.  Cool on a wire rack.

This amount makes a 1 lb sized loaf, six little rolls or four bigger rolls.

I tend to work with 600g flour at a time - just times everything by 3.

I will try it with just one rising to see if that works OK too.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Recipe: greengage jam

Greengages are a variety of plum, small, sweet and - er - green!  They make wonderful jam.

Greengage plums
Maybe a splash of lemon juice

Put two saucers in the fridge for testing for setting point.  Place clean jam jars on an oven tray and pot into a just turned on oven, lowest heat.

Wash the gages.  Prepare them by removing the stone and cutting off any bad bits.  Pop them in a pan with a splash of water and simmer them gently until they are soft and have released their juices.

Remove from the heat and measure in a jug.  For every pint of fruit, add 1 lb jam - so one and a half pints of fruit will need one and a half pounds of sugar.  I had a bit of jam sugar left over so used that and topped up with ordinary sugar.  Add the lemon juice if using

Mix it all in a bowl, stir well and leave.  The hot fruit will help the sugar to dissolve completely.  I am convinced that it also helps the set.  No idea why but when I do that it takes just minutes of cooking to reach setting point.

When the sugar is completely dissolved, pour the jam mixture into a maslin (or other kind of) pan and bring to a steady boil.  Stir to prevent burning/sticking.  After a few minutes, remove from the heat and test for set.  If it has not reached setting point, boil for a little while longer and try again.

When setting point is reached, remove the pan from the heat and skim off any scum (I didn't have any scum at all).  Pour the jam into the hot jars, seal and label.

How to test for setting point?  This explains it well.  I use the wrinkle test.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Recipe: Plum Jam

I reckon plum jam, basic plum jam, is just about the easiest jam to make.  It's quick, doesn't require any clever fiddle-faddles and tastes scrumptious.  I love it on still warm, freshly baked bread or on toast.

It can be a very frugal recipe when there's a glut of plums in the shops and the punnets are reduced.  Not as cheap as value jam but there's just no comparison in flavour and in texture.  Give me home made any day.  if you have a kindly neighbour or friend who shares with you the produce of their fruit tree, then it's the most frugal thing in the world, even after handing some little pots of jam back as a thank you!

Some good plums (by that I mean not too many bad bits as they have to be cut off)
Sugar.  I use jam sugar if I have it but ordinary is fine because plums are high in pectin and the jam will set.
A bit of water
A squirt of lemon juice.  This helps the set and it's not really necessary with plum jam but belt and braces!!
A knob of butter

You also need some clean,. hot jam jars with lids or some of those cellophane tops.

Put the clean jam jars on an oven tray and pop into a warm oven.  Not too hot or the jars might crack.
Put two saucers in the fridge to cool (if you use that method to test for set)

Prepare the plums by cutting round the stone one way and then the other so that when you twist the plum open it is in quarters.  Discard the stone and any bad bits.  Weigh the prepared fruit - that's how much sugar you will need.
Place in a large pan, add a splash or two of water and simmer until the fruit is soft.

Take the pan off the heat, add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved.  Stir in the lemon juice if using
Place the pan back on the heat, bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, skimming off any scum.  I find plum jam sets quickly so I do my first test after five minutes and it is almost always ready.

When it has reached setting point, remove the pan from the heat, skim off any large amounts of scum and stir in a knob of butter to disperse the rest.

Pour the (very hot so be careful) jam into the hot jam jars.  Screw the lids on firmly.  Leave to cool and label when cold.

I used golden yellow plums this time (love that colour) but greengages make a wonderful jam and those dark purple plums work well too.  Use what you have.  Just before Christmas I add a star anise to the simmering mixture which imparts a wonderful spiciness which goes well with pork, ham or turkey in a sarnie or on the plate.

If you want a smoother jam, just push the soft fruit through a sieve or a mouli before adding the sugar.  You will need to reweigh to determine how much sugar you need.