Friday, 24 October 2014

The benefits of a warm Autumn

We have had a great Summer here in the UK with just about the right amount of rain and sunshine. This was then augmented by a blissfully warm beginning to the Autumn with the weather only finally cooling off in the last few days. This has resulted in a bumper crop of ripe 'Brown Turkey' figs from the garden.

Most years I have to resort to pickling the unripe figs so the efforts of the tree do not go to waste but this year we have a sudden glut of ripe and sweet figs. As much as we enjoy eating these raw with a little prosciutto ham, thin parmigiana slices and a green salad, the quantities we have this year might be a little much for this simple salad.

With Christmas on the way, I thought a nice warming fig jam might be in order. Perfect on toast or with a good strong cheese. I collected 1.2 Kg of figs from the tree.

These were then chopped and mixed with 1.2 Kg of preserving sugar and 1.5 tbsp of ground ginger.

This was left in a covered non metallic bowl for six hours to draw the moisture out of the figs. The resulting mixture was then transferred to a preserving pan with a peeled and diced cooking apple, 50 grams of chopped preserved ginger (in syrup), 90 ml of white wine vinegar, 280 ml of water and the juice of three lemons (as usual the rind goes into a jar with some vodka to be turned into Limoncello when I have enough rind).

Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved then increase the heat and boil for around 20 minutes until the setting point is reached and the fruit is soft (220C). Leave to cool for a further 20 minutes before bottling in clean dry jars. Seal the jars and place in a dark cupboard for a month or so for the flavours to develop. A perfect reminder of the balmy days of 2014 during the potentially cold winter months.

Now in the jar, this rich brown jam tastes great (should be even better in a month or so). Thank you Summer :)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The first Autumn storm - Something warming needed

After a Summer that felt like it would never end it was only fitting that as November approaches, an Autumn storm crashed the party. After a week of warnings about the remnants of hurricane Gonzalo hitting the UK with high winds and rain it turned out to be a bit of a damp squib in the South East of England. Nevertheless, the temperature fell from its balmy 20C to a much more Autumnal level and thoughts turned to a warming supper.

A trawl through the fridge revealed some chorizo that would  soon reach its best before date. This triggered an idea so I popped up to the shops for some chicken thighs. On my return I put a large cast iron casserole pot on the stove and put the heat up high. I added a little oil and then browned off  the thighs having cut some deep cuts into each to help them soak up the flavours of the dish. Once these were browned I removed them from the pan and finished them with a blowlamp to give them a little char grilled flavour to bring to the party.

I turned the heat down on the pan and added around 400 g of diced chorizo to brown. I then grabbed a bag of shallots from the vegetable rack. The smaller variety as these are
 what I happened to have.

I peeled and very coarsely chopped  8 of these and added them to the pan

Next I added two sticks of chopped cellery, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 5 medium thickly cut carrots,  and 150 g of sliced mushrooms. I then added 350 ml of red wine and a litre of chicken stock along with a bouquet garni. Once this had come to the boil I popped it into the oven for 2.5 hours at 150C. The result was a warm, rich casserole that went perfectly with some butter beans in a light cream sauce. Eager to sample this comforting dish I clean forgot to take a photograph but trust me, it was a perfect meal for a blustery day. Bring on the winter.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Another gluten free baking experiment

After replacing the flour in my last cake with coconut flour and being resonably pleased with the results I decided it was time to try again. The new recipe:

100g of coconut flour
100g of rice flour
1tsp baking powder
175g of coconut oil
175g of caster sugar
6 large eggs
2 or 3 drops of vanilla extract
2 tbsp caraway seeds

Soften the coconut oil and cream with the sugar. Add the eggs one by one until you have a loose batter. Now add the rice flour, vanilla essence and caraway seeds and mix well. Next add the coconut flour and the batter will stiffen to a more usual consistency for a Madeira style loaf cake. I like to sprinkle caster sugar on the top before it goes into the oven to give a crisp, sugary crust.

Put into a greased large loaf tin and place in the oven at 170C for 1.25 to 1.5 hours. Check with a knife and when cooked allow to cool.

The result

A good textured cake. Other than a hint of coconut (thanks to the flour rather than the oil). I was pleased with the results. The rice and coconut flour mix made this a much lighter cake perfect for those with a gluten problem.