Runner Bean

So things have been very quiet on the blog for a few months, there has been a lot going on for me in the real world, Joel and I have bought and moved into our own house, we got married on a gorgeous sunny day surrounded by all our friends and family, Joel had a nasty bicycle vs car accident, which thankfully he has now recovered from.

We are spending time working on the house, making it ours and I have so many plans for the garden. Although with everything going on this summer the furthest I got with growing veggies was popping in the runner beans Joel’s parents gave us, and my usual salad leaves and herbs. Considering I literally stuck the small runner bean plants in the ground and stretched some string across the fence for support the runner bean plants did amazingly well, we have had a more beans than we could eat since the start of July. They are now coming to an end, the big chunky ones I have left on the plant till they dry out and I can harvest the beans to plant next year, the rest of them I have turned into chutney.

Our family friends Jenny and Peter make this chutney every year and it is always delicious – just the right balance of sweet and tangy so of course I had to get the recipe from them to make with my last batch of beans from the garden. The recipe came from the queen of reliable recipes – Delia, I should have known.

Spiced Pickled Runner Beans

Adapted from Delia’s recipe

  • 900g of Runner Beans – trimmed and sliced
  • 700g Onions – finely chopped
  • 850ml Malt Vinegar
  • 40g Cornflour
  • 1 tbsp Mustard Powder
  • 1 tbsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 675g Demerara Sugar

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Add the chopped onions and 300mls of the vinegar to a large pan and simmer until softened – around 20 mins.

Boil the sliced beans in a separate pan – Delia suggests 5 mins but I cooked mine for 10 due to now being a little tough, drain and add to the onion and vinegar mixture.

Mix the spices and corn flour with a little of the remaining vinegar to make a paste then add to the onion mix along with the rest of the vinegar.

Simmer for 10 mins, then add the sugar and simmer for a further 15 mins.

Pot the pickle into warm sterilized jars and leave to mature for at least a month.

Also here is a few pictures of our adventures over the past few months I’ve been away from the blog.

 

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Chinese Cabbage

With everything going on at the moment I’m glad to say we have still had time to cook although we are relying on tried and trusted favourites rather than anything particularly creative but there is definitely something to be said for healthy meals you can shop for and cook when you are shattered, have lost your list and wouldn’t be able to remember which cookbook the recipe was from anyway.

When we came back to Manchester I re-signed up to our local veg box scheme that I used to get as a student which is great, every Tuesday evening we get a surprise mix of local and organic vegetables and I get very over excited like a weekly veg equivalent of Christmas morning. Currently we are getting a lot of brassicas – Broccoli, Romonesco, Sprouts and a new variety of cabbage every week – so we can at least feel like we are getting our greens. A couple of weeks ago we received a Chinese cabbage and I thought I’d try something different to my go to shred it and fry in in butter (don’t get me wrong that is still delicious!).

I thought given the name I may as well try an oriental themed dish – I cant promise this would be the most authentic of recipe but the flavours were great and it was surprisingly quick to cook . I’ve never really tried cooking with cabbage leaves as a wrapping and I was a little skeptical that they would hold together rather than collapsing into a pile of mush, but low and behold my off the cuff technique worked really well.

Cabbage Rolls

  • 1 Chinese cabbage
  • 400g pork mince
  • 4 spring onions – finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic – crushed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

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Add all the cabbage roll ingredients other than the cabbage to a bowl and combine to make a meatball like consistency.

Carefully separate the leaves of the cabbage and wipe each one clean. Layer the leaves up in a steaming pan and steam for 3 minutes until the leaves are soft but still maintain their structure.

To assemble to rolls take a cabbage leaf, add a rounded tablespoons worth of meatball mixture to the innermost side and roll up towards the green end carefully tucking the sides in so that the cabbage covers all of the meat mixture, repeat until you run out of cabbage leaves or meatball mixture.

Arrange the rolls in a steamer and steam over boiling water for 20 minutes.

Serve with noodles or a crunchy stir fry or both!

Marmalade

I never saw the appeal of marmalade; I found it a bitter imitation of jam, however a few weeks ago I braved some a family friend had made on toast with a big mug of tea and found it irresistible, the balance of acidity, bitterness and sweetness is just perfect. I think the bitter flavours are something you develop into so I’m classing my graduation from jam to marmalade as a sign that I am a grown up and therefore should be getting married and buying a house.

The crucial ingredient in marmalade is the bitter Seville orange, which are only available for a short window from the end of December to the start of March, not exactly local for me (as the name may suggest) however the bright citrusy flavours on a cold Febuary day are hard to resist and the scent in my kitchen was amazing. I had a few Seville oranges left and I’m finding more uses for them – a squeeze of the juice into an Old fashioned gives it a lovely bitter orange edge (and is turned into a real treat when you use chocolate bitters – Chocolate orange in a glass). I am also enjoying having a slice in my morning hot water rather than lemon.

Like any convert I am getting a little evangelical in my new obsession. I’m hoping to go to The Dalemain marmalade awards, held in mid March in the Lake District to buy some excellent new jars and to get ideas for my next years production. Whilst waiting for the award winners I thought I would try a recipe from my favorite preserving book “Salt, Sugar, Smoke” by Diana Henry.

Diana’s recipe calls for blood oranges however as my greengrocer didn’t have any so I used another variety nicknamed “pink oranges” so the finished marmalade still has a pinkish hue rather than the deeper red of the true recipe. My greengrocer also suggested adding a bit of lime juice for a sharp edge – I can’t honestly say I can taste the lime but the marmalade is fab and maybe without it it would be missing something – we wont know until I make it again without.

Note – you need to start the recipe the day before in order to leave the skins to soak.

Breakfast Marmalade

  • 1 pink or red grapefruit
  • 4 pink oranges
  • 3 Seville oranges
  • 150 ml lemon juice
  • 1 lime Juice
  • 2 kg of granulated sugar

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Day 1

Wash all the fruit, peel the grapefruit and cut the skin into fine shreds. Juice all of the oranges (retaining the skins) Measure how much juice you have and top it up with water to 2.5 ltrs in a large mixing bowl.

Scoop the flesh out of the grapefruit and tie into a muslin bag, add to the bowl of juice. Shred the orange skins as finely as possible and add to the bowl.

Leave everything to soak overnight.

Day 2

Add all the contents of the bowl to a preserving pan (or large saucepan) and cook over a medium heat until the skin is completely soft it took mine about 1 hour 45 mins. Strain through a sieve, retaining the shreds but discarding the grapefruit muslin bag. Measure the liquid and top up with water or reduce to 1.5 ltrs, Return to the pan.

Add the lemon juice, lime juice and sugar to the pan ad gently heat to dissolve. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum. Add the shreds and return to the boil.

Continue to boil until it reaches the setting point, either on a sugar thermometer or use the wrinkle test (see below).

Skim off any scrum then allow to cool for 10 minutes before spooning into dry sterilized jars.

The Wrinkle Test

A sugar thermometer is great but if you don’t have one or like me its boxed up at your parents house with most of your other kitchen equipment whilst you wait to move house. When making preserves the wrinkle test is a great way of checking if your jam or marmalade will set without the need for a thermometer.

Before you start making your jam pop a couple of saucers or small plates in the freezer (I use one of my enamel ones as they cool quicker). When you think your preserve is almost set drop a teaspoon of the mixture onto the cold saucer and leave for 60 seconds, push your finger through the middle of the mixture. If the mixture wrinkles as you push through – great you have reached setting point, take it off the heat. If not then cook for another 5 minutes and then perform the test again.

 

Chicken Soup

Busy job, house hunting and marriage preparations are apparently taking it out of me, my first week off from work and my body decides it has had enough and just needs a rest. Well that is how I’m interpreting me getting ill.

It turns out a day in bed watching Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries and a couple of big bowls of chicken soup were exactly what was required.

Now I know everyone will have a view of what the perfect “feel better” chicken soup will consist of, probably based on what they were given as a child – I like sweet corn in mine as it reminds me of my mums chicken pasta bake and I much prefer (on this one occasion) to have dumplings rather than noodles or rice to make it more filling. My brother on the other hand would always insist on chicken noodle cup a soup when ill rather than the real deal.

Stock is the basis to a good chicken soup and homemade really does make it better, whenever I roast a chicken I make sure I make and freeze a load of stock, however when you are feeling unwell you want your hit of soupy goodness as soon as possible and I do use a good quality bought stock if I’m out of homemade, as I was this week.

I use brown meat as I think it gives a much better flavour to the soup and a more interesting texture in this case I used thighs but a mixture of thighs and drumsticks would work just as well. If you do have some left over roast chicken just skip the first step and make sure you use whichever meat you have whether brown or white.

My soup does have some light spice in it – no where near enough to be spicy, just to add that touch of warmth that makes it feel so nourishing when your not feeling your best – it you were bunged up I would up the chilli and ginger a bit as I find the kick really helps.

Feel Better Chicken Soup

For the Soup

  • 400-500g of boneless free-range chicken thighs.
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 2 white onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 400ml of good quality chicken stock
  • ½ a red chili
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • Small bunch of thyme
  • Small bunch of basil (I used thai basil as I had it)
  • 200g fresh or frozen sweetcorn

For the Dumplings

  • 100g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • ½ tsp of baking powder
  • ½ tsp of dried thyme

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First roast the chicken for 30 mins in a medium oven with a little olive or rapeseed oil drizzled over it and the herbs de provence.

Whilst the chicken is cooking dice the carrots, onions, garlic, chili and grate the ginger. Sauté all these in a casserole dish in a little olive or rapeseed oil with a pinch of salt and pepper for around 10 minutes; they should be becoming a little soft. Add the chopped herbs and bay leaves to the pan and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock to the pan along with 200-400ml of water (enough to cover all the vegetables plus 2cm of liquid) allow to cook for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the dumplings and shred the cooked chicken.

For the dumplings simply rub the butter into the flour and baking powder with a pinch of salt and pepper and the thyme until it forms a wet sand like consistency, add just enough water to form into a workable dough then roll into walnut sizes balls.

Add the cooked chicken and sweet corn to the pan and drop in the dumplings, cover the pan with the lid and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes by which time the dumplings will have floated to the top (meaning they are cooked) and the soup delicious.

If I fancy a little extra texture to the soup I put the whole casserole dish without lid under a hot grill for a few minutes just so the top of the dumplings crisp up.

 

The chicken soup and rest clearly did its job as I’m feeling much better and ready to tackle work again tomorrow.

 

 

 

Bilberry

A month ago Joel and I left London to start our next adventure back up north in Manchester, well Stalybridge to be more exact. We have moved into a nice little flat and have both started new jobs so things have been a little hectic to say the least. It is very exciting though, particularly the new roof terrace that I have already planted up with rosemary, Basil, 4 types of mint, salad leaves and some radishes – pretty much anything I could squeeze in before winter arrives.

I was lucky enough to arrange my new role so I had a couple of weeks off in between finishing my London job and starting my new one. I somehow also managed to land it so one of the weeks was glorious sunshine which gave me some time to explore the glorious countryside around where the now live.

One of the main factors for moving up here was that we would be able to spend more time outdoors, walking, climbing, breathing fresh air (we were severely lacking this in London). We timed moving here perfectly to see the moors when they are at their best, covered in a blanket of pink heather and with a clear view over the hills to the glistening reservoirs. In August and September the moors of the North West have another treat to offer, Bilberries by the tubful.

The Bilberry, also known as Winberry or Wortleberry is a cousin of the North American blueberry, but far superior in both taste and texture, although admittedly rather small in comparison. Unlike the blueberry the inside of the berry is dark purple and full of flavour and they hold up very well when cooked (unlike the horrible mush blueberries can make if your not careful).

I have to thank our friends Jenny and Peter and their excellent collection of books on wild food and foraging for sending me some recipe ideas for Bilberries because as excited as I was to find a huge haul of the berries other than making flavoured gin (which we also made) I was at a bit of a loss as to what to make with them. The below in an adaptation of a recipe they sent me from The Hedgerow Cookbook by Caro Wilson and Ginny Knox which I will defiantly be asking to borrow next time I see them.

Whilst Bilberries are small we found that after an hours good picking with 2 people we had enough for the below recipe plus 2 bottles of Bilberry Gin that will be ready for Christmas – not a bad afternoon.

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The lovely Beth busy picking in this beautiful scenery 

Bilberry and Lemon Tart

I used a 30cmx15cm rectangular baking pan for this as my tart cases are still in boxes!

For the Pastry;

  • 100 g of soft butter
  • 100 g sugar
  • 200 g plain wholemeal flour

For the filling;

  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp plain wholemeal flour
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 350-400 g bilberries
  • 250 ml crème fraiche
  • 4 egg yolks
  • The zest of 2 lemons

To make the pastry beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then rub in the flour until you have a wet sand like texture then add 1tbsp of water and combine, if more water is needed to form a roll able dough add 1 tsp at a time (I needed 2 tbsp of water). Roll into a ball and refrigerate for at least 30 mins. (You can always do this step the day before).

When you are ready to make your tart preheat the oven to 200C, roll out your pastry as thin as your can and then lay into your tart case, patching up the pastry where you need to – you want this pastry to be thin so it will be nice and crispy against the creaminess of the tart. Prick the pastry all over with a fork then back blind for 15 mins or until lightly golden. I didn’t bother with baking beans for this recipe. When you take out the pastry reduce the oven to 180 C.

Spread the bilberries over the tart and put back in the oven for 10 mins to allow the bilberries to soften.

Whilst the Bilberries are softening make your filling; mix together the almonds, flour, sugar, lemon zest crème fresh and egg yolks, once these are combined quickly whisk in the lemon juice.

Pour the filling over the bilberries at bake for 15-20 mins until the mixture has only the slightest of wobbles when you shake the tin.

Leave to cool then enjoy.

Looking forward to the Bilberry Gin in December!

 

Asparagus

That time when I came up with a cool recipe, cooked it, took photos and wrote a blog post but then our somewhat hectic lives got in the way and its been sat in the ether for about 8 weeks…. Asparagus season is now pretty much over but if you can get some of the last spears or save this recipe for next year, I swear its delicious.

A true sign that summer is on its way is when British Asparagus raises its spears out of the mounds of soil and into the shops of Britain in all its green and purple glory. My mum laughed at me when I called her a few weeks ago just before a visit home, when she asked me what I wanted to do for the weekend visit I had two requests – spend some in the garden in the sun and cook some Asparagus using her cask iron griddle pan. Both seem like perfectly reasonable requests to me for a girl trapped in a London flat with no garden and no space in her tiny kitchen for such specialist (not to mention heavy) equipment.

I love Jane Grigson, and I love her Fruit and Vegetable books – as you may have gathered but I have to say I do disagree with her on the best way to cook asparagus, she favours the boiling/steaming in an asparagus pan method. I could not disagree more, I feel like adding water to asparagus destroys all its delicate flavours – an exception could be made for the white thick spears that are preferred in most of Europe. I tend to fry my asparagus or even better if I have the equipment I cook it on a grille pan – all the flavour locked in with the delicious addition of charred lines along the outside.

Other than that I like to keep my asparagus simple, I do think it needs some fat with it to show it at its best – doused in herby butter, dipped in a soft boiled egg or maybe dressed with a nice vinaigrette as below.

You of course don’t need a griddle pan for the below recipe – it would work great on a bbq or if like me you are stuck in your flat a frying pan would work well too.

Asparagus with preserved lemon vinaigrette

  • A bunch of Asparagus
  • 1 small preserved lemon
  • 2 ½ tbsp. of rapeseed oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp. of white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp of suagr
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat the griddle pan over a high heat until it’s smoking hot. Whilst the pan is heating up finely dice the preserved lemon, whisk into the oil, vinegar and sugar.

Use 1 tbsp of the oil to lightly coat the asparagus then lay them into the pan perpendicular to the griddles. After 3 mins turn over the spears, after another 3 mins the asparagus should be beautifully charred on each side and still with a little bite.

Take the spears straight out the pan and into a bowl with the vinaigrette so the warm asparagus really takes in the flavours.

Serve simply either on its own with some nice crusty bread or as a side so something that needs a little sharpness – perhaps some lamb.

Sprouting Broccoli

We are in the “hungry month” at the moment, traditionally the month where there were very few fruit and vegetables around to eat, the winter roots are running out and the peas and leaves of spring were yet to emerge. Of course now we can get almost any food at any time to year you might think this a little redundant but for the first time I’m feeling it, not in the true sense of being hungry but as I am trying to eat much more seasonably I’m really feeling that lack of seasonal options at the moment. The flip side of this is that I am so excited for the British asparagus, peas and broad beans that are coming my way, I’m defiantly looking forward to them much more having not had them since last summer.

One of the few green vegetables still around is sprouting broccoli – I say sprouting broccoli rather than purple sprouting because I can get different kinds at the farmers market, as well as purple, white and all green some leafy some less so – I like getting a mixture. My favourite way of eating sprouted broccoli is briefly steamed or lightly pan fired with a little lemon, or maybe a tahini-soy dressing unfortunately not much of a recipe for a blog post.

As anyone who follows me on instagram will know I’m a little obsessed with the waffle maker Joel got me for my birthday, I’ve been making every imaginable waffle variation on Saturday mornings, some worked very well, others less so… As much as I love covering waffles in caramel apples or maple syrup sometimes I feel I should have something more savory and a green eggs benedict waffle seemed the ticket.

If you don’t have a waffle maker the mixture would work well as thick “American style” pancakes, or of course you could have the toppings on an English muffin.

Green Eggs Benedict Waffle

Serves 2 hungry people (2 waffles) or 4 less greedy people

Green Waffles

  • 200g of whole meal flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 egg
  • 250 ml milk
  • ½ a courgette – grated
  • 1 large handful of spinach – shredded
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsely

The toppings

  • 4 eggs – poached
  • 20 stalks of sprouted broccoli
  • ½ a leek – very thinly sliced

Avocado hollandaise

  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • pinch of salt and pepper

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Heat up your waffle maker. Mix all of the waffle ingredients together into a thick batter and pour into the maker – how long to cook will depend on your machine on mine I cooked on a medium heat for 6 mins – slightly longer than a standard sweet waffle.

Whilst your waffle is cooking poach your eggs. Add the hollandaise ingredients to a blender and mix until smooth, add a tablespoon of the poaching water at a time to the blender until it is a thick but pourable consistency. At the last minute pop your broccoli in the poaching water for a minute until slightly soft.

All that’s left to do is layer up your waffles. Waffle, broccoli, egg, avocado hollandaise, then a sprinkle of the raw leeks.

Enjoy for breakfast lunch or dinner.

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P.S I enjoyed holding my broccoli like a lovely bunch of flowers because I’m cool like that.