In My Kitchen


Sunday, 20 July 2014

In my kitchen this week.

~ Monday supper.
 Leftover roast chicken to use up. This was a very simple cheat's version of coronation chicken. I cooked some onion in butter with a mild curry powder. When it was cool I mixed it with mayonnaise from a jar, some cream and mango chutney and stirred it into chopped chicken. I toasted some flaked almonds and sprinkled them on top of the chicken.

~ Tuesday
Getting ready to make apricot jam. We've already eaten one jar by the way.

~ Tuesday supper.
Easy sausage bolognese. This is one of my favourite easy suppers. it's a great way to make a pound of sausages feed five big people. Make your usual bolognese sauce but substitute skinned sausages for the mince beef. You need to break them up with your spoon in the pan as they cook. I like to add fennel seeds, oregano and red pepper flakes for a sort-of-Italian-sausage flavour.

~ Thursday cake
Not everything goes according to plan. Banana and chocolate chip cake made without lining the tin. Tasted good though.

~ Thursday supper.
Beef braised in beer. Slow cooking is probably not what most people like to do on a hot summer's day but this delicious locally produced beef was such a bargain and although the oven was on for a long time the hands-on cooking time was minimal and the result was glorious. I served it with boiled potatoes and the first local green beans.

~ Sunday lunch.
Make your own BLT

~ Sunday supper
Salmon with salsa verde, this time heavy on the basil as my mint is growing coarse and ragged.

~Weekend treats.
 Burnt cream and meringues.
Both meringues and burnt cream (crème brulée) are easy to make and between them require only three simple ingredients; cream, eggs and sugar. The burnt creams use up the egg yolks and the meringues use up the whites. Most of a pot of cream went into the burnt creams and the rest sandwiched the meringues together. Perfect.

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Thursday, 17 July 2014

This year's currant crop has been poor. This is it.

There were loads last year. The bushes got a bit out of hand so I consulted a large and authoritative gardening tome and pruned them. Wish I hadn't.

To make the most of my meagre currant crop I decided to have a go at something I've been meaning to make ever since I first read about it in Jenny Baker's wonderful book on English food Kettle Broth to Gooseberry Fool  in 1999. Hodgkin is, she says, a Kentish version of  the German rumtopf or the French confiture des vieux garçons (bachelor's jam). In all three a variety of summer fruits are mixed with sugar, covered with spirits and left until Christmas by which time you will have glorious alcoholic fruit to eat with ice cream or in a trifle and a beautiful fruity tipple to keep the cold out.

Jenny Baker's book is the only source I have found for Hodgkin. There are very few references on the internet and those I did find I don't provide any more information about it than she does. I'd love to know if it really is something people make or made in Kent.

Whatever you call it, from wherever is comes the principle is the same. You pick soft  fruits throughout the summer and layer them in a large preserving jar mixing them with half their weight of sugar and covering with brandy in the case of hodgkin and confiture des vieux garçons and rum in the case of rumtopf. Suitable fruits are; currants, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, plums, greengages, apricots, peaches and nectarines. The last three need to be halved or sliced but the others can be left whole. Citrus fruit are to be avoided.

I have begun my hodgkin with my handful of currants and some of the excellent local cherries we have at the moment. I will not add strawberries as I have a feeling they will take on an unpleasant texture after a few months soaking in brandy. Raspberries and apricots will go in my jar though and maybe some blackberries later in the summer. Meanwhile I await the Ocado man who will be bringing me a new bottle of brandy any minute. There wasn't quite enough to cover the cherries.

For more homemade fruit spirits look here and here.

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Apricot Jam


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

'What can I eat?'
'Bread and jam!'

I wasn't going to make any jam this year. Last year's blackcurrant has hardly been touched, there are still two jars of raspberry, a jar of quince jelly and several of damson and crab apple (the crab apple was made in 2011) not to mention all the damn marmalade. In an effort to get it all eaten I have stopped baking cakes and biscuits and increased the bread output.

So you see I have no reason to add to my jam collection. But apricots are so beautiful, like miniature babies' bottoms, and I've never made apricot jam before.  As a rule I like to make jam with homegrown fruit for economy's sake, free from my garden or picked at a farm. Apricot jam has always seemed a little exotic and expensive.

Apricots, I discovered, are not expensive if you buy them from the right place. I didn't do a particularly thorough price comparison suffice to say; Ocado -£9.98 a kg, Tesco £6.25 a kg and my lovely farmshop, Broomfield's of Holt Heath, Worcestershire £1.95 a kg or 89p a lb.

£3.60 for 4lb of apricots
£1.39 for 4lb of granulated sugar
30p for a lemon
I got seven 450g/1lb jars out of that at a cost of 75p each. The result is every bit as good as Bonne Maman's apricot conserve which costs £2.29 for a 370g jar.

It's a doddle to make, really it is. Just cut 4lbs apricots in half or smaller pieces if you like, remove the stones (they come out easily). It's all to the good if your apricots are a little under-ripe, they will have more pectin.

Throw the apricots in a preserving pan or very large saucepan with the juice of one lemon and 15 fl oz of water. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 15 minutes until all soft and pulpy.

Add 4lbs of sugar, stir to dissolve then bring to a rolling boil and boil steadily for 15 minutes. Pot into sterilised jars (sterilise them by washing them and drying them out in a 100°c oven while you are boiling the jam). Jam done.

I think homemade apricot jam is special enough without fancying it up with lavender or vanilla and suchlike. The same goes for any homemade jam. I note there is a current fashion for roasting strawberries before making them into jam, or indeed anything else. Strawberry jam is already delicious without added complications. Resist the urge to gild the lily.

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In My Kitchen


Sunday, 13 July 2014

In my kitchen this week.

~ Monday's farm shop haul: nectarines, plums, apricots, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, mushrooms, radishes, spinach, lettuce, spring onions, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, leeks, red onions, bacon and eggs. Carrots, potatoes, white onion, peppers and cucumber not pictured.

~ A tray of toasted sesame and soy sunflower and pumpkin seeds , and a tray of toasted rosemary cashews with sea salt and black pepper.

~ Glowing tomatoes

~ Coffee ice cubes in a tall glass of milk.

~ Leek, ham and Brie tart

~ Saturday lunch - bacon and gruyère baguettes

~ Saturday night was burger night.

~ Sunday night was roast chicken night. I roasted two small birds and now I have one whole cold roast chicken to play with next week.

~ Dauphinoise potatoes to go with the chicken.

~ Strawberry ice cream to finish.

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