Archive for category Food gifts
For years my only experience of pumpkins was carving faces into them at Halloween, my sister and I used to get one each and were left (at a surprisingly young age!) to carve them ourselves, after such fun we would roast the pumpkin seeds but that was all we ate of the pumpkin. I was all grown up before I would taste pumpkin pie and if I’m honest it’s not my favourite thing although there is something about it that has me craving it and trying again each autumn. I’ve decided that it’s the flavour of the spices that keeps me coming back. You can buy pumpkin pie spice although its only available here at inflated import prices so I thought Id try to make my own.
If you bake you are likely to already have the spices you need for this, it will take mere moments to make. You will the then have the perfect spice for your autumn baking regardless of whether pumpkin is involved!
tip: Saving an old spice jar is perfect for this if you don’t already have a little tin or jar. While you are at it why not make extra to give as a little gift?
Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1.5 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- a pinch of cloves
- Measure all of the spices into a small bowl, stir to combine.
- Keep in a small tin or jar.
One recent Sunday saw my husband using a wheelbarrow as a step up to reach for branches to bend towards me to pick lots of cherries! What a find, a tree full of tiny cherries! When I first noticed the cherries they were tiny and bright red and there were so many of them that I assumed they must not be edible, Id heard somewhere that if the birds aren’t eating them they are poison. I don’t know if that tale is true but it makes sense to me so we ignored the cherries. Well those cherries got darker as they ripened and one day I popped one into my mouth “just to see” it was fine so we picked them! I think the birds couldn’t really see them and judging by pits all over the place the birds had found and eaten those cherries, there were just so many of them there were still enough for us!
As I mentioned those cherries were tiny, more pit than fruit so I decided that pitting them would be to awful of a job. I have a friend that has spent many a summer in Italy and she told me of tiny wild cherries in Italy that are made into liqueur so I used some for that, more of that another time. I used the rest for jelly rather than jam so I could avoid pitting! There are not many recipes for cherry jelly so I applied the general rule of adding a pound of sugar per pint of juice for jelly making.
I did not get very much juice from my cherries considering the amount of cherries I used, and it was a little stubborn about setting. Maybe this is why there aren’t many cherry jelly recipes! However if you come across some cheap cherries or as I did some free ones and don’t mind a small batch of jelly this is well worth making, it tastes wonderful!
The amounts will vary according to how many cherries you have. I had 4 lbs when making this jelly which in the end only resulted in 1 and a half jars of delicious cherry jelly.
The general rule for jelly making is to measure the juice obtained from your fruit, in this case cherries. For every 550 mls/20 oz of juice you get you will need to use 1 pound of sugar
- cherries, rinsed and removed from stalks (I had 4 lbs)
- water (6 oz/175 mls)
- sugar (the amount will vary according to how much juice is obtained from the fruit)
- lemon juice (the amount will vary, I used the juice from a small lemon)
- Put the cherries in a large saucepan and add the water. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the cherries are soft, some may have even escaped from their pits. Using a potato masher crush all the cherries to release as much juice as possible.
- Carefully pour the cherries and all the liquid into a jelly strainer which has been set up in a bowl or pan to catch all the juice. Leave for a few hours or overnight to let all the juice drip from the cherries.
- When the jelly bag is no longer dripping measure the juice.
- Add 1 lb/450 grams of sugar for each pint of juice obtained. I got exactly 550 mls of juice so used 1 lb of sugar.
- Put the juice and sugar into your jam pan.
- Add the lemon juice (again this will vary, I added the juice of 1 small lemon to my 550 mls of juice). Stir well until the sugar has dissolved then bring up to a full boil.
- Boil rapidly for 5 minutes and check for the setting point,my jelly took around 15 minutes boiling before it would set. See here for setting tips
- Pour into your prepared sterilised jars.
I did not process my jelly in a water bath as I had such a small amount and its so good it wont be around for very long!
It’s that time of the year again, the sun is shining and the courgettes/zucchini just keep on coming! This relish has become one of my yearly summer recipes to
get rid of use up a few of the many courgettes that come my way! I’ve tried various recipes over the last few summers and this is a combination of those.
It makes a sweet relish that goes well in any sandwich containing meat or cheese, it would be perfect with hotdogs if you eat them. These days I don’t eat hotdogs but loved them growing up in America and even more so I loved the (bright green!) relish that we had with them. I believe we used to have Heinz sweet relish, something I’ve only found once in the UK. My label reading habit would now have me leaving it on the shelf if I did find it again and anyhow this version of relish is just as sweet but a whole lot more natural! When the last jar gets finished, usually at the beginning of Spring I find myself feeling a little sad and believe it or not I momentarily begin to look forward to the courgette glut again just to make more of this relish!
- 3 lb grated courgettes
- 1.5 lbs peeled and finely chopped onion
- 3 oz salt
- 2 red peppers (or 1 red, 1 green)
- 590 mls white vinegar
- 2.5 lbs sugar (I use unrefined)
- 1.5 tsp celery seed
- 1 tsp mustard seed
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Grate the courgettes and finely chop the onions ( I use a food processor for this, much easier if you have one). Put both the courgettes and the onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt, mix the salt evenly throughout, its easiest to just use your hands here! Cover and leave for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight in the fridge although beware of leaving it in the fridge as the onions smell very strongly.
- Drain the courgettes and onion in a colander, rinse well with cold water then squeeze out the excess water, again hands are best for this!
- Put the chopped peppers, vinegar,sugar and spices into a large pan, stir well.
- Add the drained courgettes and onion. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Carefully fill your sterilised jars with the relish. Screw on the lids and process for 10 minutes in a water bath. If unsure of canning procedures see here
You will get 5-7 jars of relish depending on your jar size.
This time last year I stumbled upon a challenge that really appealed to me. It was called the Urban Farm Challenge, a monthly blog challenge encouraging a simpler lifestyle relying more on local, organic (if possible) foods and making and growing your own food, even for city dwellers. It was to be a year of learning useful house-holding skills. I have always lived in cities but love the idea of country life and over the years have dabbled in growing my own vegetables and canning my own jams and chutneys, often from that home-grown produce! This challenge was just a step further, there was cheese making, foraging, making herbal teas and tinctures. I just loved the idea and got the book for my birthday, I love this book! Its co written by Anette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols, two of the most inspiring people! Both have families and are trying to live without supermarkets and the book is full of tips for gardening, composting, growing, preserving, city farming. There is advice on sourcing your own food suppliers, grinding your own grains. I loved this challenge and took part in most of the challenges although I must admit I was a bit of a fair weather partaker and did less of the winter challenges. Here is my round-up of my Urban Farm Challenge over the last year.
February: The challenge was soil improvement. I was late to the challenge but quickly ordered a composting bin with hope of making my own compost. Unfortunately the bin that arrived was huge, to big for my city garden so I donated it to a friend with an allotment and looked to the next challenge!
March: The challenge was home dairy, this was the challenge that I was most looking forward to! The idea of making my own cheese was completely new to me but I dove in and made lemon cheese, ricotta and mozzarella. I have made my own cheese several more times throughout the year and am inspired to try more, I’ve found this to be an area that I really want to explore!
April: The challenge was gardening and sowing your own seeds. Easy for me as I grow some type of vegetable each year. My Mother in law has an allotment and takes care of the plants for me, it’s an unbelievably lucky outcome for me and I’m so grateful to her for this! Among the regular vegetables I grow I also tried some different things as part of one of the challenges. I managed to seek out collard greens, not successful at all in the cool, wet summer we had,the snails got to the only tiny plant that survived! I also planted endive (chicory) another fail! The black futsu and Naples long pumpkins were much more successful as were the yellow courgettes (zucchini).
May: The challenge for May was foraging, not as easy as I thought! I’m too scared to try to find mushrooms on my own but I did make a dandelion salad foraged from my garden, I will admit that dandelion leaves are not the best thing I ever tasted but I am glad I tried!
June: This month the challenge was botanicals and all about making your own tinctures, balms and herbal infusions. I made chive blossom vinegar which I look forward to making again. I really wanted to try to make my own lotions but am a little ashamed to admit that I still have not tried this, maybe that will be one of this years “to try’s”.
July: Seed saving and looking forward to winter was the challenge this month, I did not take part as nothing was in flower yet. Due to the awful weather we had last summer everything was behind.
August: It was preserving this month, something I do each summer anyway. Small batch canning, cold storage, fermentation were all available to try using summers bounty. I always make jams, jellies and chutneys and last year was no different. Here is a selection of what I made pickled courgettes, peach pie preserves (so good!) and I tried fermentation with cucumber kimchi.
September: It was all about bartering this month, and swapping ones goods for those of another. One of the possible challenges was to hold a food swap, I love the idea of this and maybe one day I will try to arrange one, I just need to find enough fellow canners and growers! I don’t mean to go on about the awful summer we had last year but due to this I found I didn’t have an abundance of anything! I did manage one swap with a friend that had a bucket of plums for which I swapped some very large squash.
October: Protein was the theme this month, and we were free to choose our own challenges from hunting to growing your own beans. Time escaped me this month and I didn’t get around to taking part.
November: The challenge this month was about grains, using whole grains and even brewing with grain mash! This was a crazy month and despite my best intentions once again I missed this one, although using whole grains is something I try to do anyway.
December: This month handcrafted holidays was our task. With the recession this is something I have been seeing more and more of and I love the idea of this. I made my own vanilla and lemon salt to give as gifts. One of the gifts I had most fun with was to make up a basket and fill it with jam, chutney, lemon salt and vanilla I had made. This was a very successful, my friend loved her gift!
January: This was the wrap up month, but it was extended to February which is why I’m doing it now.
I had a great time with this challenge, I loved reading the book and trying new things. One day I hope to have a house with a little land where I can fulfill my Little House on The Prairie lifestyle dream! For now I will carry on enjoying some of the skills this challenge has taught me and hopefully pick up some more. Many thanks to Annette for organizing this and all the hard work she put into it, I had a blast!
Yes my title reads Meyer lemon! I have lamented for years that we can’t get Meyer lemons here in the UK. Id heard so much about Meyer lemons and constantly read about them on twitter and through others blogs. One of my good blog friends Liz the Chef is the Meyer lemon Queen! She even has her own Meyer lemon tree in her garden, alas she is all the way over in California so I lived vicariously through Liz’ and many others recipes using these elusive lemons.
Well last weekend thanks to the wonderful thing that is twitter a conversation about fruit led to my discovering that Tesco are now selling Meyer lemons! I was so excited, could it be true and if it was would the branch of Tesco near me have them? Such was my excitement my husband drove me there and then to the store see if I could get my hands on some. The citrus section was strangely busy and it seemed ages before I was able to look properly but there they were, Meyer lemons flown here from California! Truly you have never seen anyone swoop on a pack of lemons so fast or get so excited about a lemon! In an age where the trend is turning towards eating more locally grown food sometimes it is still truly amazing that we are able to try so many different things from around the world so please forgive the air miles my Meyer lemons used!
Once I had my lovely lemons I had to decide what to make with them! There are so many things one can do with a Meyer lemon! I decided on lemon curd first as I wanted the lemons to be the star of the recipe so I could fully appreciate their flavour.
This recipe uses 3 lemons and makes just one jar of lemon curd, So the verdict of my first Meyer lemon curd? It is very fruity and sweeter than curd made with regular lemons, its delicious! Made on a sunny day following a bitterly cold couple of weeks the taste of this lovely curd made from lemons ripened in the California sunshine sang Spring to me.
Meyer Lemon Curd (adapted from this recipe by Rachel Allen)
- Zest and juice from 3 Meyer Lemons
- 75 grams ( 3 oz) butter
- 100 grams (3.5 oz) caster sugar (I used unrefined sugar)
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- Put the lemon zest,juice, butter and sugar into a saucepan, heat gently until the butter has melted.
- Whisk together the eggs and egg yolk.
- Pour the egg mix into the lemon and butter, whisking quickly. Keep whisking until the mixture has thickened, this took 3 minutes for me. Keep the heat low or the eggs will scramble. No matter how careful you are, in my experience little flecks of cooked egg white will still appear which is why I follow with the next step.
- Remove from the heat and push through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon into a bowl to remove any cooked egg.
- Pour into a sterilised jar.
- Once cool keep in the fridge.
Id never tried bergamot oranges before, to be honest I hadn’t ever seen them for sale. I do enjoy a new discovery, so when I saw them I had to get some! Its marmalade time so that was what my bergamot oranges were destined for. Once Id tasted one, however, it was apparent that was all I could use them for! They look pretty unremarkable, like unripe oranges, although any similarity to oranges ends there, I was taken aback at how bitter they are! I can be found nibbling at the lemon in my drink but the bitterness of bergamots was something else! They have a just shy of harsh floral smell, apparently bergamots are what gives Earl Grey tea its distinctive aroma.
Coincidentally the day I bought my oranges someone tweeted this video about making marmalade by Jane Hassell-McCosh, the founder of the Worlds Original Marmalade awards. (Don’t you just love twitter!) It’s a lovely video, shot in Jane’s kitchen where she talks you through making marmalade in a way that I hadn’t tried before. I have never found a recipe for marmalade that I’ve stuck with. Unlike making jam, marmalade requires a bit more preparation, some recipes have you starting 2-3 days before! Well that doesn’t suit my impatient nature! Jane’s method was quicker and avoided using muslin to tie up pips and pith. Her easy guidance persuaded me to try making marmalade her way.
In the video Jane uses a mix of oranges, lemons and grapefruit. She has an easy method of measuring the cooked fruit to sugar at a rate of 1 pint of fruit to 1 lb of sugar. This suited me as I was making a very small batch. Making marmalade this way was really easy and very successful! It set really easily, always a worry when making marmalade! That sour, bitter flavour accompanied by the heavy floral fragrance made me worry what the marmalade would taste like so at the last moment I threw a regular orange in with it! I also added some extra sugar. I was glad I added that orange in with my bergamots, it added a familiar taste to an otherwise very different tasting marmalade. When trying this marmalade the first taste is just like marmalade made with Seville oranges then you bite into a piece of bergamot peel and you get a flowery, almost soapy hit (but not in a horrible way!) my description may sound unfavourable but that is not the case, the combination of sweet, sour, and floral all work well together to make a very different marmalade. I really like it and wish Id been brave enough to make a larger batch. I got a jar and a half with my small batch, this recipe could easily be doubled.
Bergamot Orange Marmalade (adapted from Jane’s marmalade recipe)
- 2 bergamot oranges
- 1 medium-sized orange
- Approx 1/2 lb 225 grams granulated cane sugar (I used unrefined sugar) plus another 2 oz/50 grams sugar
The sugar needed may vary according to how much fruit pulp you measure.
- Cut each orange in half and place in a large pan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours, keep checking and add more water if necessary to avoid boiling dry.
- Remove the oranges from the water and when cool enough to handle remove all the pips. Reserve 100 mls/3 oz of the boiling liquid for later.
- Chop the softened peel to the thickness you prefer, as the peel is so strongly flavoured I would recommend thin cut. Put all of the peel, juice and fruit into a measuring jug. For each 1 pint of fruit you have measure out the same amount of sugar. So for each 1 pint of fruit you need 1 lb of sugar. The 3 oranges in my recipe gave me 1/2 pint of fruit so I needed 1/2 lb of sugar
- Put the sugar into an oven tray and warm in the oven for 10 minutes at 170 c, 325 f. gas 3. (You can add your clean jars to the oven at the same time to sterilise.)
- Tip the fruit, warmed sugar and 100 ml/ 3 oz reserved boiling liquid into your jam pan, stir well and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes test for setting. See here for setting tips if unsure. My marmalade was ready at this stage.
- If set pour the marmalade into your prepared sterilised jars and seal.
As I messed with the sugar ratio and the recipe resulted in such a small amount I do not recommend this for canning.
Christmas is almost upon us! I had such good intentions of writing some Christmas blog posts, however I’ve found that time is fast disappearing and all I do seem to be writing are lists! I’ve yet to even finish writing my Christmas cards! I did want to share this speedy gift idea though.
Although I love the idea of giving homemade gifts, sometimes food gifts can be tricky. The can have a short shelf life, don’t travel well and sometimes less foodie friends just don’t know what to do with them! This gift however has none of these issues!
Flavoured salt is what I’m talking about. It’s easy to use, just a little sprinkle onto food before serving can really add a little lift to the dish. At this time of the year flavoured salts are often sold as a gift idea in stores at inflated prices, It really is so easy and much cheaper to make your own. Just sea salt, the flavour of your choice, a little jar and you are all set.
I’ve chosen to make lemon salt as the person I have this in mind for cooks a lot with lemons (and I want the leftovers!). This took less than 10 minutes to make. It makes a pretty and thoughtful little gift that lasts a long time and travels well. You can use any sea salt, I used Maldon. Do use organic, unwaxed lemons as you will be using te zest.
- 75 grams (2/3 cup)
- zest of 1 medium-sized lemon
- Pre heat the oven to 180 c, 350 f, Gas 4.
- Mix the sea salt and the lemon zest together. It takes a minute or so to get the zest evenly throughout the salt, turning it a lovely shade of yellow.
- Sprinkle onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and put into the oven for 5 minutes, until the zest looks dry.
- When the salt has cooled put into a jar of your choice.
Vanessa Kimbell recently organised another of her spectacular Christmas gift swaps where everyone takes along a homemade food gift and swaps it for a goodie someone else had made. Although I was unfortunately unable to attend. I thought Id share here what Id intended to take along. The theme was chocolate so I’m sure you can appreciate how long it took me to decide what to make. I finally decided Id make chocolate bark, which isn’t commonly seen here. I’m sure people will soon catch on, it’s incredibly easy to make and there are so many options, it is simply melted chocolate topped with your choice of fruit, nuts, biscuits or sweets and makes a lovely treat or gift.
Choosing the topping for my chocolate bark was easy. Id recently seen the most beautiful sugared cranberries in this post by my twitter friend, Barb of Creative Culinary. They are so incredibly festive. Id known as soon as I saw then that I would soon be making them! I thought they would make a lovely sparkly topping to some chocolate bark. I chose pistachios as another topping as I wanted a nut and thought the green of the pistachio would add a further festive touch to my bark!
As the chocolate is the main ingredient use the best quality chocolate you can, it really is worth the extra money, no point if it looks nice but doesn’t taste it! Barb’s recipe calls for sanding sugar, I’ve not come across that here but demerara sugar worked fine for me. This recipe isn’t for a huge amount but if you wanted more it could be doubled.
Vanessa is also accepting virtual entries to her gift swap so I am linking this up with her Lets make Christmas 2012
Sugared Cranberry and Pistachio Chocolate Bark
- 100 grams best quality milk chocolate
- 100 grams best quality dark chocolate
- 75 grams shelled pistachios
For the Sugared Cranberries (I made half of this recipe from Creative Culinary)
- 125 ml water
- 150 grams fresh cranberries
- 100 grams granulated sugar
- 75 grams demerara sugar
- 75 grams granulated sugar
To make the sugared cranberries see here. You could use dried cranberries instead but the sweet/tart burst from the sugared cranberries is so good.
- If you are making the sugared cranberries do this first so they have time to harden.
- Roast the pistachios on a baking sheet for around 10 minutes on 200 c, 400 f, gas 6. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Once the toppings are ready begin by cutting a piece of baking paper to the size of a baking sheet. Set the paper aside and put the baking sheet in the freezer, it doesn’t have to be for long if you pop it in before you start it will be cool enough by the time the chocolate is melted.
- Melt both chocolates together. I used a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until completely melted
- Get the baking sheet from the freezer, put the ready cut baking paper onto the sheet and pour the melted chocolate straight onto the paper, spread the chocolate out into an even layer.
- Scatter the cranberries and pistachio nuts evenly over the chocolate layer.Put in the fridge to cool and harden which will take around 30 minutes.
- When the chocolate is hard break into pieces. I like uneven shards of bark so just snapped it randomly. If you prefer a more orderly appearance to your bark slice with a knife.
- Generally chocolate bark is stored in the fridge but the sugar on the sugared cranberries will melt if kept in the fridge so this bark really needs to be enjoyed fairly quickly after making, which is no problem as its so good!