Monday, 30 December 2013

Cranberry-Orange Relish

Although it was a staple of our holiday table, when I was a child, I didn't much care for Cranberry-Orange Relish, preferring partridgeberry jelly (aka low-bush cranberry, lingonsylt, preiselbeeren). 

As an adult though, I've come to love the tart contrast with roast turkey and game. It was always a production to make - my mother would get out our old-fashioned food-grinder that was screwed on to the table top, and the whole family would join in the hard work.  

Just after I moved to the UK, Delia introduced cranberries over here, but everyone seemed to make jelly, which I find bland. Luckily, with cranberries now available in the shops, I was able to reinvent the family relish, despite not having the food-grinder. 

It turns out that any sort of food-processor works just fine. For years, we used our immersion blender, but we now have a mini food-processor.  The recipe is very simple - one bag cranberries (fresh or frozen) - pick over and take out any that are brown or very wrinkled. The proportions are rough, so don't worry too much about the size of bag.  One average sized orange, washed and roughly chopped (peel, pith and all).  In small batches, blend the cranberries and orange together until well chopped, but not pureed.  

Then add 1 cup (200 gr) granulated or caster sugar (in volume terms, this is about 1 part sugar to two parts cranberries).  Mix well, and let sit to macerate, then refrigerate. 

Ideally, this is made a few days before it it needed to let the flavours blend, but at a pinch, even just a couple of hours will do. 

Sour Cherry Stollen

Another Dan Lepard classic here. I've not changed much, except that I soak the cherries in aquavit or sacred gin (which is flavoured with botanicals, not juniper), and then use that to libate the loaf when it comes out of the oven. 
100g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of an orange
½ tsp each ground cardamom, cinnamon and cloves
½ tsp salt
1 medium egg
150g quark cheese
325g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
150g sour cherries
200g marzipan
Rum (or other booze), melted butter and icing sugar

Beat the butter, sugar, zest, spices and salt until smooth, then beat in the egg and quark. Add the flour, baking powder, almonds and cherries, and mix to a soft, even dough. On a floured worktop, pat out to an oval roughly 20cm long x 15cm deep. Roll the marzipan 18cm long, and lay in the centre of the dough. Fold the dough in half and seal with water. Place on a tray lined with nonstick baking paper, and bake at 190C (170C fan-assisted)/375F/gas mark 5 for 40 minutes, until just golden and baked when a skewer is poked in. As soon as it's out, brush first with rum and then lots of melted butter. Once cold, brush with more butter, and dredge heavily with icing sugar. Wrap well and leave to mature for a week

Christmas pudding

This is my version of a Dan Lepard recipe that appeared in the newspaper the week after my daughter was born - Stir up Sunday as it is called in England. We'd never made a christmas pudding before, but it has now become family tradition.  It's ideally suited to being at home with a baby because you just add all the ingredients gradually to a big bowl, then steam for ages - as long as you don't need to go out, you're fine.  Nowadays I usually steam it in a slow cooker overnight, but above is a picture of last year's pudding on the stove top.

200g raisins
150g candied fruit peel 
50 g dried or candied cherries
75g beef suet
200g dark brown muscovado sugar
100g treacle
125g brown bread crumbs
50g plain white flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp grated nutmeg 
2 eggs, beaten
50g grated carrot (about one medium carrot) 
Zest and juice of an orange
125ml dark ale

After mixing all the ingredients together, simply spoon into a buttered pudding basin, cover with parchment and foil, tie string around (or just use a plastic basin with lid), and steam for 4 hours, or over night in a slow cooker. The original recipe called for the wrong size bowl, and we've never figure out what size it is supposed to be.  We usually make either two large puddings or 3 small ones. 

Never having made a pudding before, the whole pudding basin, foil and string thing is definitely the worst bit for me - and worrying that I've done something wring and it will go mouldy. But every year it turns out just fine.  A very forgiving cooking style.

Dad's Oat Pancakes

My Dad took up baking after he retired. This is probably his best recipe - no idea where he found it. But we make it a lot (and can never find the recipe, which is why I'm posting it here).

It can be halved (use 2 eggs), or freeze leftover pancakes between small sheets of grease proof paper / baking parchment, and toast to reheat.  The oats gives them more substance than most recipes and keeps them moist for re-heating.

This is the recipe pretty much as he gave it to me (caps and all). One of these days I'll try to get the ingredients translated into weights for the UK cooks. Update! The ever-amazing Alli Coyle suggests the following weights/metric volume for you to try (slightly adjusted by me).  Thanks Alli!


1 1/2 CUPS porridge OATS 150g
2 CUPS MILK 500ml
1/4 CUP OIL 60ml
Mix oats and milk in a small bowl; set aside for about 5 minutes.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Blend well.
Add eggs and oil to oats. Beat well.
Combine all and beat well,
Pour by 1/4 cupfuls on to heated griddle, cook and turn after bubbles have formed. (Make sure griddle is hot before starting.)
Makes about 18 pancakes. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

And now for something completely different...

The third of our family birthdays last week was graced with a cake that I've only been making for only a little over a year.  It's a classic from our adopted home - Victoria Sponge. I use Delia's recipe, which is very simple, and always seems to work well.  The layers seem thin before they're baked, but once put together they're lavish.

This time, I poked holes in one of the layers with a wooden skewer, before slathering it with most of a jar of (runny) home-made strawberry jam, and then a layer of plain whipped cream, and topped with just a light dusting of icing sugar..

It's even better in the summer with fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream.  In this version, I'll add a spoonful of sugar and a few drops of vanilla to the cream.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Birthday cake - a family recipe

Sometimes the simplest things are the still the best.  This is the cake that we always had for birthdays as children, and now I make it too.  I'm pretty sure the recipe is from my great-grandmother, so that makes 5 generations of our family that have enjoyed it.

It's a very basic cocoa-based cake.   It probably could be made into layers, but we always baked it in a square time and iced it still in the tin.  

Chocolate Cake
8"x8" pan
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup butter or shortening  (80g)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar (200g)
1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt or sour milk
1 cup flour (120g)
1 rounded tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
Put cocoa, butter, water in saucepan and bring to boil. Cook until it thickens.
Pour chocolate mixture into bowl.  Stir in remaining ingredients in order listed. Beat hard for 2-3 minutes.  Pour into greased and floured pan. Bake in 350 deg. oven for 35-40 minutes

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Retro-pepper jelly

I've been craving pepper jelly for a while and when I noticed a recipe for it in the new Joy of Cooking, I thought I'd give it a go. 

Only I hadn't noticed that the Joy recipe sieved the peppers out, which is why the recipe called for 1/3 less sugar than other recipes. And I didn't have liquid pectin.  

But, crucially, all the chopping could be done in the food processor - which given that I still can't use my right hand, seemed essential.
So I improvised quite a lot to get just what I was looking for - roughly one part chopped peppers to 1 part vinegar and two parts sugar with a sachet of pectin added before-hand.  

Like the rhubarb chutney, pepper jelly was something the  neighbours used to give us.   I remembered  it being mostly clear, with little flecks of different coloured peppers in it, so I didn't want to strain it as the Joy advocated, nor add food colouring like most of the on-line recipes.

Amazingly, it turned out just like I remembered - a warm zingy heat, but mellowed by the addition of bell peppers along with hot peppers from the farmer's market. It's not something you eat everyday, but it's very nice on an oatcake with cream cheese, or with cornbread. 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Experimental Rhubarb-Gooseberry Chutney

We ended up with surplus sterilised jars this afternoon, which, coinciding with a freezer clear-out, led to some unplanned chutney making.   

Rhubarb chutney is the first chutney I remember making, and also the first I made after moving to the UK and discovering I craved foods from home.  Our next door neighbour used to make it, and give us a jar, and I always loved it with caribou steaks or burgers, but unfortunately, these years caribou is hard to come by (which makes me rue the years in which I complained about having caribou 'again'!), although seriously good venison makes an adequate substitute.

Anyway, when Mrs Noel grew too frail to make it, I starting making it, following her recipe. Sadly, the original got lost, and in recent years I've been using this recipe from a classic cookbook - The Treasury of Newfoundland dishes.  I don't think this is quite the same - I might be tempted to add some ground ginger. But it's not bad.  

My copy of the cookbook is the 8th edition from 1976, but its been recently reprinted and is still available. It was sponsored by Cream of the West flour, but collated recipes from various contributors, whose names and addresses are listed at the back. Despite the corny bits of dialect and jokes, there are some real gems of recipes.

Anyway, today's chutney is experimental because although I had enough rhubarb to make my usual half-batch, in the interests of freezer-space, I decided to add an equal amount of gooseberries.  I'm not sure Mrs Noel (nor the worthies of the Treasury) would approve. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Sacred jam

Jam making season has arrived in Polwarth.  Despite not enjoying our trip to Craigie's as much as we had expected to, we plunged into preserving.   First up the blackcurrants.  A couple of year's ago we'd bought some very nice blackcurrant and sloe gin jam at the village shop in Kirkmichael.  It was - until yesterday - the best blackcurrant jam we'd tried. 

We've not got any sloes, but last week I succumbed to temptation and bought a bottle of Sacred Gin from the wonderful Provenance Wines  (@Provenance_Edin).  And the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced this was the way to go.  This is not a hit-you-over-the-head with juniper gin (although I quite like that too), but an aromatic gin.  I googled for recipes, and while I found several adverts for artisanal jams with sloe gin, no recipes popped up.  So, I decided to follow my usual blackcurrant recipe, and then chucked in 50ml of gin after I took it off the heat. It bubbled up delectably. 

The jam smelled good while cooking - always a good sign - and even better while I ladled it into bottles. We still need to label it, but I'm already wondering where I can get some more currants. 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Refrigerator cookie renaissance?

When I was little, I'd look through my mother's cookbooks and see these old-fashioned recipes for 'icebox cookies'.  

But we almost never made them - baking was something you did in the afternoon, not something you started the night before.  

Then, this year, I was given a new cookbook by my friend Jacky - one of those classic, everything you might want to bake books.  So, faced with the need to prepare something for the Christian Aid Coffee morning at church, I thought I'd try some shortbread. Only to discover that the dough needs to sit in the fridge over night - argh!  

But, you know what, I think ice-box cookies might suit our generation even better than that of our grandmothers. I mixed up the dough last night after work, and sliced it this morning for baking before the sale.  Brilliant. I do most of my baking at night after the kids are in bed, so I can even see a scenario where I make the dough one night, and bake the next.  Spreads out the dirty dishes too. 

However, I must confess. I baked one batch last night, when the dough had only chilled for a couple of hours.  Not only did it work fine, but the family loved them.  Best shortbread we've ever made (translation: they scarfed the lot). 

Do check out the cookbook, but here's the recipe if you're curious:  

110g butter
50g light brown sugar (we used light muscovado)
160g spelt flour
plus demerara sugar for rolling

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor (I was just able to jam all the ingredients in my little food processor that attaches the handy blender), until it forms a soft dough.  Then roll into a short cylinder and roll in demerara sugar.  wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours (or longer).  Slice into 12-14 rounds - not too thin, and bake on greased cookie sheets for about 30 minutes at 160C.  

Remove carefully from the sheets and cool.  

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Strawberry and rhubarb jam

2012's jam of the year was definitely strawberry-rhubarb.

It's quite popular in North America, but here in Scotland, every time I say to people 'I just made some fab strawberry-rhubarb jam', they look disapprovingly at me and say 'oh, *we* make rhubarb-ginger'.

We also tried strawberry-gooseberry, but it wasn't terribly successful. We'd picked a lot of gooseberries, but they didn't have much flavour, and jamming didn't help much. It looks nice though.

What will we discover in 2013?

Pick your own season coming up soon...

Picking 'strawbies' at Craigie's
Our jam making started three summers ago, when we first acquired a bike-trailer. In fact, this was just a trial run, when the trailer was on loan from the previous owners. We brought back the trailer full of strawberries and made lots and lots of jam. They were pretty squashed when they got home (stopping at friends' for a BBQ en route), so the jamming was pretty apocalyptic, but it all tasted good in the end. 

It also convinced us of the great value of a bike trailer, but it was quite a ride with some big hills - albeit also great views at the inch.

The next year, we cycled to Craigie's instead. It's flatter, and there's an off-road cycle path most of the way. It always seems to rain, but somehow we have fun nonetheless. 

We've picked strawberries, gooseberries and currants there.  
Currants at Craigies.

The fruit seems to arrive home in better shape too, but you'll have to wait for pictures of that in the next post.

Right now I'm just looking forward to our next picking expedition (and hoping it doesn't rain).

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Yogurt with mangoes and peaches

We somehow ended up with South African peaches (marked down for quick sale) and Mexican honey mangoes in the fruit bowl today.  They provided a divine excuse to taste test our yogurt experiment.

My mom always made yogurt when I was a kid, but we're spoiled by good yogurt in the shops and have never quite got around to making our own.  This week, however, we were down to our last few spoonfuls, and, inspired by a Nigel Slater account, decided to have a go at replenishing our supplies, rather than popping across the road to Scotmid.

Our first go used a couple of tablespoons of Yeo Valley as starter.  It was okay, but a bit bland.  So then we tried Pakeeza, which turned out a little sour, but not much flavour.  Best of all so far was a little tub of 'Loch Arthur' which we bought specially for starter.  So, no money saved there. But it was really nice and made for yogurt that was just about right in terms of flavour and texture.

The preferred method so far is 500 ml whole fat milk, warmed for about 2 min in the microwave, until it reaches 46C.  Then stir in 3 tablespoons milk powder, and 2 generous tablespoons of starter.  Then, I sit it on a hot mat, and under a tea-cosy, in a warmed up (but turned off) oven.  Next morning, Voila! pop the yogurt in the fridge, and slice the mangoes.

Mangoes have started to appear...

Mango is without doubt our most popular chutney, if you measure popularity in terms of requests for the recipe (not to mention how quickly we run out).  It's actually a tremendously simple recipe from Delia, which we have hardly tweaked at all as it turns out so well.  

We usually make it in June when all the halaal shops have big boxes of Pakistani honey mangoes  but have had surprisingly good results with mangoes from Peru in February.  But this year, we've found honey mangoes from Mexico in the shops in May!

We always use a very dark muscovado sugar, in place of the light brown sugar that Delia recommends, which may be why some of our testers refuse to believe that we've not added tamarind. It's all those requests for the recipe that made me start the blog - as a place to share and reflect on our favourite recipes. 

This is shaping up to be a fabulous mango season - enjoy!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Marmalade...where it all began

Our preserving jihad really got started when we first tasted home-made marmalade courtesy our neighbours and friends in Polwarth.  Hence, 'Polwarth Preserves' as seen on some of our jam jar labels....

The first year we made marmalade, we watched a friend make it, and then had a go ourselves.  The first batch didn't set at all.  So we had marmalade sauce on duck a lot that year....*  But we bought a cookbook and tried again, and again.  We've had consistently good luck with the recipe in the River Cottage Preserves book.  Nothing fancy, or obscure, but it always turns out well.  Last year we added some Poit Dhubh whisky to one batch right at the end, which seemed to give the flavour a little more depth.

This year, I decided to try the alternative 'whole fruit' method, also from the River cottage book.  To the left you can see the two batches, and below, the whole fruit batch cooking.

I haven't tested either of them yet, but the whole fruit version didn't set very well, so I anticipate lots more duck a l' orange in our future, which no one will complain about.

* Put duck quarters in slow cooker. Splodge on half a jar of marmalade, a sliced orange, or some orange juice, a dash of soy sauce and cook for 4-6 hours. Voila!