It's the perfect time of year to crystallise spring flowers. I love making these beautiful and natural decorations to add a splash of colour to a special Mother's Day cake. Primroses, wood violets and viola's are at their best right now but apple blossom, borage flowers, rose petals and nasturtiums all work well too. You'll see I've also crystallised a few sprigs of mint. Make sure the flowers haven't been sprayed with chemicals and pick leaving a long stem to hold on to. Don't wash them, they must be bone dry.
You will need. One egg white thinned and lightly fork whisked with a teaspoon of vodka. Caster sugar. A small paint brush.
- Take a clean, dry flower. Hold it by the stalk (use tweezers if there is no stalk) then carefully paint all surfaces of the petals with egg white.
- Now gently sprinkle the flower with caster sugar ensuring top and bottom surfaces of the petals all catch some sugar.
- Place on baking parchment and leave to air dry for 24/36hrs. Remove stalks once the flowers have dried.
- The flowers will dry in the shape and position that you place them on the baking parchment so consider this when you set them aside to dry.
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- whisk egg white with a teaspoon of vodka
- paint petals carefully with the egg white, not too much!
- and decorate ...
- sprinkle with sugar making sure all areas are covered
- lay on baking parchment to dry
The first of the blackberries and it's beginning to feel like autumn. I created this recipe for an article I wrote for the Herb Society. Tarragon usually survives in my garden until the first winter frosts and it lends a warming aniseed flavour if used generously in a Coq au Vin. It is excellent in egg dishes and with vegetables such as Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms and marrow. Its warm flavour makes it a perfect contrast to pulses and it is delicious with flageolet beans and nearly always better in cooked dishes than served raw. It is an essential ingredient of fines herbes and béarnaise sauce. However with its liquorice like flavour, fresh tarragon marries particularly well (and interestingly) in fresh cream desserts and served with blackberries or poached plums has to be the ultimate autumn dessert.
Tarragon Cream (makes 6)
600 ml double cream
150 ml milk
4 large sprigs tarragon
3 sheets leaf gelatine
140g caster sugar
Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl and cover with cold water
Put the cream, milk, sugar and tarragon in a heavy based saucepan and bring slowly to the boil.
Or place together in a jug and microwave.
Remove from the heat and add the softened gelatine, squeezing out any excess water out first.
Stir well and then strain through a sieve into a jug.
Divide the mixture between six ramekins or glasses.
Place in the fridge until set.
(Can be turned out like a jelly if preferred)
Go eat doughnuts! It's #NationalDoughnutWeek raising money for The Children's Trust. Here we have (starting at the back) a traditional jam, a lemon meringue, a dulce de leche and a sprinkle covered cherry doughnut, all from The Ice Cook School at Rougham. £1 each. They're mine, so go and get your own; they are available everyday this week. PS...they have gluten free ring doughnuts too!
It will soon be time to think about jam making with summer fruit. My tips are from my 'Food for Keeps' course and will help you make perfect jam every time. Try making this delicious Fresh Apricot Jam.
- Never make more than 10lb (10 standard jars) at any time. The less time spent in cooking the jam, the better the final colour and flavour.
- Choose firmly ripe, fresh fruit, picked dry. Wet fruit will affect the set and flavour of the jam.
- Prepare the fruit removing any stalks and bruised flesh, only wash if necessary.
- Use a large, heavy based saucepan. The pan should never be more than half full.
- Add water only of the recipe says so.
- Bring fruit to the boil, then simmer gently to break down any skin and to extract the pectin.
- Pectin is a substance in fruit that reacts with acid when heated, creating the setting agent. Fruits vary in their pectin and acid content.
- Jam sugar has added pectin and is ideal for fruits that are low in pectin helping jam to set.
- Do not cover the pan as water evaporation is essential.
- Underboiling causes jam to be too runny and overboiling makes it sticky.
- Test the set by dropping a spoonful of jam onto a refrigerated saucer and seeing if the top crinkles when you run your finger or a spoon across it.
- Warming the sugar in a low oven (110C) will shorten the cooking time. Preserving sugar consists of large crystals of sugar which dissolve evenly producing less froth when boiling.
- Remove any scum with a slotted spoon once the jam is ready to pot. A nut sized piece of butter at the end of the cooking will help reduce the scum.
- Cool the jam for 5 to 10 mins before potting, then stir again to help evenly distribute the fruit and stop it from rising to the top of the jars.
- Always warm jars in a low oven to sterilise and prevent cracking from the hot jam.
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- choose firm, ripe fruit
- preserving sugar has bigger crystals which dissolve more evenly
- test for set by seeing if a skin forms when dropping some jam onto a chilled saucer
- always warm the jars in the oven
When your oldest daughter wants a pair of Hunter wellies and a proper home-made afternoon tea for her birthday ...
- mini Easter coffee cakes
- salted caramel and banoffee eclairs
- herb cheese and quail egg tartlets
- roasted hazelnut Genoise with dark chocolate ganache
- mini lemon posset with brandy snaps
We had a big family celebration party at the weekend and ended up with a fridge full of leftovers, including a load of butter and selection of fresh herbs. So we made herb butter. This is how ... Snap off any thick stalks, wash and dry the herbs in a salad spinner to remove excess water. Break large pieces of room temperature butter into smaller pieces and drop evenly into the blender. Whizz for a few minutes and if needed gently poke the butter down into the herbs with a plastic spoon. You will need to do this if the butter is too cold and hard. The butter should mix evenly with the herbs. Spoon the mixture onto grease proof paper and roll into a sausage shape. Twist the ends of the paper to seal. If you want to store the herb butter in smaller quantities cut into discs once the butter has hardened in the fridge. Repack in grease proof paper and store in a plastic tub in the deep freeze until required. Remember to label the packages.Parsley gives a wonderful green tint to the mixture. The butter can be smeared on meat before barbequeing, or on grilled fish and steak. Mint is slightly less verdant than parsley but the butter is delicious added to omlettes or mixed into peas. Dill butter goes wonderfully well with salmon - and is also a great accompaniment to gently scrambled eggs. Add zest of lemon to your dill butter for extra flavour. If you don't have any pesto add basil butter to pasta dishes. Your favourite herb butter can be used to add flavour to jacket potatoes or spread onto warm bread.
- parsley and butter goes into the mixer
- spread the butter on paper and roll
- slice the chilled butter into discs
So did you know that Justin Sharp from Pea Porridge enjoys chips and bearnaise sauce for his midnight feast, Lee Bye (Tuddenham Mill) enjoys a bowl of muesli and Lola Demille (Darsham Nurseries) goes for a cheap supermarket creme caramel? Just some of the fun facts in Suffolk Feast, a serious food lovers guide and celebration of great Suffolk produce. From field to fork, the book features twenty of the best chefs in the county and their recipes. (They work. I tried them.) Inspiring writing by co-authors Tessa Allingham and Glyn Williams and superb photography, the book includes a directory of farm shops and markets, food and drink producers, places to eat and stay, some of the county’s food festivals and cookery workshops. Buy your copy from one of the featured restaurants or check out the Suffolk Feast website for more details. Coming next is Norfolk Table. I'm so excited!
Landing on my door mat this week was a copy of the recently published Suffolk Cook Book. Featuring over forty five recipes, all submitted by some of the many Suffolk businesses and personalities working within the local food scene. Recipes are diverse, with varying levels of cooking competence required. From a very simple, very do-able and delicious Suffolk Gold rarebit with caramelised red onions (Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses) to a ... drum roll ...Confit pork belly and pan fried mackerel fillet with carrot buttercream, candied bacon almonds, gin spiked blue berries, marzipan and pork jus, which is more challenging. (Executive Head Chef Alan Paton at Stoke by Nayland Hotel). Tempting my own taste buds and with an inspirational story and a recipe as far away from Suffolk as you could imagine is a Prawn, Pork and Cucumber Salad (Red Chilli Kitchen). The book showcases the fine Suffolk produce and ingredients that are available on our doorstep. I set my 19 yr old niece the challenge to cook anything that she would fancy from the book and she chose the Elveden Gluten-free sticky toffee pudding (Elveden Courtyard Restaurant) which was absolutely delicious. The Suffolk Cook Book is £14.95 and is available from the businesses featured in the book, from Waterstones and online at www.amazon.co.uk.
I'm just not sure about last nights show Nigel; it's a bit like roast lamb with Yorkshire puddings, they're not meant to be together, even if it has got apple in it.
Pork pies are much easier to make than you might imagine. Just a little time needed to prepare the filling and the pastry and some patience required with the crimping and sealing of the pies.
750g of very good sausage meat
750g of pork shoulder (finely diced or quickly chopped in a food processor)
100g smoked streaky bacon (finely diced)
a handful of chopped fresh herbs. I used sage, parsely and oregano
two large pinches salt and a very generous few grinds of black pepper
Mix all this together very well in a mixing bowl and set aside.
1kg plain flour
1 tsp salt
4 medium eggs
1 beaten egg for glazing and sealing the pies.
Heat the water in a saucepan with the lard and butter until melted, gently, it needn't boil. Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. I used my Kenwood mixer with dough hook and making a well in the middle add the beaten eggs. Start mixing and slowly add the water and fat mixture until you have a smooth and soft dough. Add more flour or warm water to get smooth soft dough. Cover and chill for about 1 hr.
Using a deep muffin tray grease well and line with rolled out pastry with some good overlap which you will need to crimp with. Fill with the pork and make a lid and crimp shut, using the egg wash to stick together. I had to lift the pie out of the tin to crimp and then set back into the tin. Make a hole in the middle to let the steam escape.
Bake in the oven 170C/Gas 4 for 1 hour, until golden brown.
Jelly or not? It does keep the meat moist and soaks in so you won't get a huge amount of jelly unless you keep adding more stock which is time consuming. I used 1 pint of pork stock with the equivalent amount of gelatine to set and poured it into the warm pies, no jelly layer but succulent meat.
As the glut of homegrown fruit and vegetables reaches its' peak, here is a good way to preserve fresh basil leaves in the fridge for a week or two. Pick the fresh basil leaves and layer in an empty jam jar, with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt between the leaves and some very good olive or rapeseed oil to cover. The basil will retain a vibrant green colour and the oil a lovely flavour, both can be used in pesto or salads.
Back to sunny-sun after lots of sunny-sun in the Caribbean. Just in time for Inspector X's fab birthday party - afternoon tea, treasure hunt, four-course supper - and she still had the energy to make scrambled eggs for everyone who stayed the night!