Homemade Marmalade – my first attempt

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will have heard me speak about my lovely neighbour – you know the one who brought over some quinces before Christmas. Well last week she came over with a bag of Seville oranges asking if I would like them. Obviously I said yes, then set about reading as many marmalade recipes as I could lay my hands on. It looked quite time consuming, but it didn’t put me off.

There are so many recipes and no two are the same, so I decided that I would free-wheel and try my own method. I thought it would be helpful if I showed you how I went about it. They turned out pretty well for a first effort. I think I could have probably boiled the dissolved sugar and orange nectar for a little longer to reach a firmer setting point, as my marmalade is on the thinner side – not like honey, but just a shade thinner than regular marmalade. It doesn’t bother me and I have been enjoying it on hot buttered toast ever since.

Another point to mention is that I am not a huge fan of orange peel so I have purposely only added a little into my marmalade pots to appease the peel lovers who might also eat it too. My marmalade is mainly peel free, just how I like it. Am also not too sure why the peel I added just stayed around the top and not more submerged within the marmalade jelly. Any ideas?

So for those of you who are interested this is my version of Marmalade. I think I’ll make a few tweaks next year, but I’ll tell you what I would change in my recipe below.

Homemade Marmalade

Made around 9 pots of varying sizes

1.5kg Seville oranges, scrubbed clean

3 litres water

3kg granulated sugar

sterilised jam jars (to sterilise wash with warm soapy water and rinse clean then place in a hot oven for 10 minutes)

Most recipes I read said you need to double the sugar to oranges.

 

  1. Cut the oranges in two and squeeze out the juice into a stainless steep pan. I find my yellow lemon squeezer works well for this (see photo two above).
  2. Place the pulp and pips into a muslin cloth and securely tie.
  3. Place the orange skins into the pan, uncut (you can at this stage finely, or thickly, slice the orange peel, however I did after so I could decide how many I actually wanted in my marmalade. Most recipes require you to finely slice at this stage)
  4. Add the cold water to the pan and then place the secure muslin cloth into the liquid. Cover and leave to rest for two days (most recipes state 1 day, but I was too busy so let it rest for a further day). By leaving it to rest the pectin will be able to be extracted fully.
  5. Remove the muslin bag and carefully give a good squeeze so that the pectin from the fruit pulp is released.
  6. Discard the contents of the muslin bag.
  7. If you haven’t already done so thinly slice some of the orange peel and discard the rest if not using.
  8. Place a couple of small plates in your freezer and then heat up the pan with the juice and water.
  9. Add the granulated sugar and when it is completely dissolved bring up the heat so that it begins to boil gently. Scum will form and you can remove this with a spoon.
  10. It is helpful to have a preserving thermometer, but that said my marmalade could have been a touch firmer, so I guess I didn’t nail it completely! The liquid will boil so turn it down if it rises too close to the top of your pan and then increase the heat again. Boiling point is 104-105 degrees centigrade. If you feel you are close (it takes around 10-12 minutes), spoon a little liquid and place on one of your small plates that you placed in the freezer. Return it to the freezer for a minute or two, then check to see if it wrinkles. If it does it is done. If it still moves around the plate easily continue to boil and then repeat after a couple of minutes.
  11. Pour the marmalade mixture into a jug before pouring into sterilised jars. So as not to spill on the sides of the jar I purchased a funnel a while ago – similar to this, which I find very helpful.
  12. Place wax seals onto the top of the jars and when cool cover with a lid or cellophane.

They last for ages – easily a year if stored and sealed correctly.

 

 

 


Indian Spiced Okra

Have you tried okra before? As am sure you know, they are also called ‘ladies fingers’. Less well known is the vegetable called ‘gentleman’s toes’ – I kid you not! They are also known as ‘tindora’ or ‘ivy gourds’ – check out my recipe here if you interested – it’s actually super tasty. Anyway back to okra. I’ve been eating them a fair amount on my recent travels so thought I would continue to include them in our diet now that we are back home in London.

Thankfully I live near loads of Asian grocers so sourcing them is very easy. I had a lot of positive feedback on instagram about sharing the recipe with you when I put it onto my instastories.

 

My friend, Harriet aka @thenutritionalbean who is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Nutritionist and Health Coach, based in Bruton, kindly shared some nutritional facts on okra with me that I thought you would benefit from reading too.

“Overall, okra appears to be a nutritional powerhouse and particularly useful for diabetics and those with digestive complaints. It delivers carotene (vitamin A), folate, vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, C, E and K needed for our immune system, energy production and cardiovascular health, plus amino acids for growth and repair. Okra is packed with minerals and antioxidant-rich phytochemicals (the plant’s natural defence system that also help keep our cells protected from damage). Not only nutritionally replete, okra is used for its wide-ranging medicinal qualities. As you may know, once cooked, these ladies’ fingers become mucilaginous and for this reason are used, like marshmallow, for soothing an inflamed and irritated digestive tract. Okra may also stop Helicobacter Pylori, a wide-ranging and often nasty bacteria that can lead to ulcers, from adhering to the stomach lining. The specific fibre content is shown to help keep our blood sugar levels stable, keep inflammation in check and improve triglyceride and lipid profiles. Studies on Type 2 Diabetic rats are finding that their condition improves after eating okra.”

Makes you want to start including it in your diet fairly regularly right?

Some people are put off with the texture, but I find if you dry the okra properly after washing then the gooeyness is minimal. I have another similar recipe for okra here which uses less ingredients and has a slightly different taste. If you want to make the dish more Middle Eastern then try this one, which includes tomatoes and butterbeans.

 

Indian Spiced Okra

500g okra

2 tbsp vegetable oil

10 fresh curry leaves

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (optional)

2 small green chillies, sliced lengthways

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tsp salt

  1. First wash the okra and then lay them out on a tea towel and cover with kitchen roll so that they become dry completely.
  2. Slice off the end of the okra and discard and then slice them, width ways, to one inch pieces, or you can slice on the diagonal, about three times per okra.
  3. In a deep frying pan or wok, add the oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds and curry leaves for 20 seconds before adding the onion. Keep on a medium heat and move the onion around the pan for about 5 minutes, so that the onion begins to colour.
  4. Stir in the spices and then add the garlic, chilli, followed by the okra.
  5. Add the salt and gently fry for 10-15 minutes, moving the okra around the pan until it softens.
  6. This is a dry dish so do not expect there to be much of a sauce. The spices will coat the okra.

 

 


Baigan Bharta – Spiced Smokey Aubergine/Eggplant 

How’s everyone getting on? Not having the January blues I hope. It’s a bit cold and dreary back here in London and snow is  forecast, but I hope that this post will lift your heart and spirits and that you’ll see the world in colour once again. I thought you would be intrigued to see beautiful Jodhpur below. We recently spent a few days in this magnificent city, wandering the streets and soaking up the electric atmosphere.

I’ve been trying out some of the lovely recipes that I sampled in India in the comfort of my warm cosy kitchen this week. I’ll be sharing lots of them with you here on the blog over the coming weeks. Today I wanted to show you a wonderful aubergine dish – or eggplant as it is known to my US followers. It is similar to my baba ganoush, but with an Indian twist due to the spices.

Before I show you the recipe however, I wanted a moment to talk about chillies. I often get asked which chillies I use in my Indian cooking. When it comes to fresh green chillies I opt for the ones that are small and thin – but not the Thai birds eye, which are far hotter. The chillies I buy are slightly largely and longer, but still thin compared to the more bulbous ones.

In Kolkata I visited so many wonderful markets but the one above – Bow Bazaar – which is more of a wholesale fresh produce market, had a magnificent array of fresh produce. These chillies are similar to the ones I buy here in the UK.

So back to the recipe for this week. Please do give it a go and share the results on your social media outlets with the #chilliandmint and link me @chilliandmint.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

 

Baigan Bharta – Spiced Smokey Aubergine/Eggplant 

serves 4-6 (served with some other dishes)

2 large aubergines

2 tbsp oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced or chopped

1-2 fresh green chilli, finely sliced

1 tsp salt, to taste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp coriander powder

4 medium sized tomatoes, cubed

 

  1. First you need to place the aubergines over a flame. If you have a gas hob then this works really well. If you do not you can place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the flesh softens, although it won’t have the same smokiness as over an open flame. If you are smoking it over a flame/gas hob it will take around 8 minutes, but you need to use tongs to turn it over so that it is ‘burnt’. Once it is soft and the sides have shrivelled remove from the plan and place on a plate to cool.
  2. Remove the charred skin from the aubergine and run under water to remove any excess skin. Place in a bowl and mash using a fork or potato masher.
  3. In a non-stick pan add the oil on a medium/low heat and add the cumin seeds. Allow them to fizzle in the pan for 15 seconds or so before adding the red onion, fresh chilli, garlic and ginger. Move around the pan to soften for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the spice powders and salt and move around the pan.
  5. Add the tomatoes and aubergine and move around the pan for a further 3-5 minutes.
  6. Serve warm – you can add some fresh coriander on top or eat it as is.

You can serve this at room temperature, but personally I love it hot with a paratha or chapati.

 


Snap Shot of India and a delicious Indian breakfast recipe – Pongal

Happy New Year to you all. I have just returned from three glorious weeks in colourful, warm-spirited India (hence my lack of blog posts). I have seen and experienced so much that it feels that I have been away for far longer. I feel uplifted and invigorated and have returned to cold chilly London with a positive outlook and excitement for the year ahead.

If you’ve never been to India then I urge you to go. It’s incredible and, like Africa, seeps into your soul and never leaves you. It’s frenetic, chaotic and providing you leave your Western ways and customs at home, you can acclimatise to the way of life there pretty quickly. It’s crowded, intoxicating and full on, but remember to breath and relax and you will begin to enjoy everything about this magical country. I was pretty active on Instagram so if you are keen to see some of the Indian street life, food and people, then please follow me over there as well. Here are few snaps to whet your appetite.

We spent 9 days in beautiful Kolkata, visiting family and generally relaxing and seeing more of the city. Followed by a two week tour of Rajasthan. I have lots of tips and suggestions on the food front, but I am presently writing an article that I hope to get into one of the magazines or newspapers – so watch this space. The photo of ‘papri chat’ below gives you an idea of how epic the street food is in Kolkata. It is commonly thought of as the street food capital of India.

The best way to get under the skin of any city is to pound the pavements on foot and see everything up close. It’s an overload of the senses and truly engaging. In Kolkata one day, we walked 10km along the Hooghly River – a distributary of the Ganges River – and saw everything from the Mullick Ghat Flower Market, people bathing in the river, a wedding couple, the cremation ghats (I particularly wanted to show my children this, as death is dealt with in very different way in India and it is nothing to be afraid of), the district of Kumortuli Pally – Kolkata’s Potter’s community, to the Marble Palace.

Rajasthan was the second part of our trip and whilst, on paper, the trip sounded rather exhausting, it was in fact not the case. We combined culture and sights with relaxing in beautiful surroundings and meeting the local people. Staying in the Aravalli Hills, in a stunning heritage hotel in a small rural village, was a highlight. It you are planning a trip to Rajasthan, make sure you book a night or two at Rawla Narlai – where you will get to meet this fine gentleman, who I think without doubt has the best attire of any hotel staff I have ever met.

Without overloading you on my first blog post back, let me introduce the recipe that I wanted to show you today. To give you a brief back story, I was poorly for a few days with Delhi belly (not from street food but from a ‘smart’ hotel dinner). After eating next to nothing for a few days I wanted to eat comforting food that would ease me back. At our hotel in Delhi ‘pongal’ was on the breakfast menu. It’s actually a south Indian breakfast originating, I believe from Tamil Nadu. It is often referred to as ven/ghee/kara or milagu pongal but the one in the hotel simple said pongal, so I will go with that. It is made with rice and a small yellow lentil called moong dal – which you can order online from Asian Dukan in the UK. It didn’t look dreadfully appetising, but my goodness it tasted wonderful. A cross between a savoury porridge and dal – not dissimilar to Chinese congee, but in my mind – better.

I have a couple of other tasty Indian breakfast recipes on this blog – Upma  and Hoppers or Appam so thought this might be a good one to add to the list. You can make it the night before then leave it in the fridge until morning. Simply add a little boiling water to bring it back to life, and hey presto you have a deliciously subtle and tasty Indian breakfast. It’s also perfectly tasty to eat for lunch too so you can make a batch and eat it as you want over a couple of days.

 

Pongal

serves 4-6

120g basmati rice

120g yellow moong dal

900ml cold water

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)

10 approx cashew nuts

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp roughly broken up black peppercorns

1 tsp grated/chopped fresh ginger

1 stem of fresh curry leaves (Sainsburys now sell them)

1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped, optional

pinch of asafoetida/hing

pinch of turmeric powder, optional

1tsp salt, to taste

handful of freshly chopped coriander, leaves and stems

  1. This first part is optional, but it gives the dish a slightly more smokey flavour. Dry roast the dal until it begins to bronze slightly. It will take a couple of minutes, but use a wooden spoon to move it around the pan so that it does not burn. You can omit this part and simply go to 2. should you wish.
  2. Add the rice and place some water in the pan. Move the spoon around the pan then discard the water by gently pouring it out – you don’t need to use a sieve. Repeat twice and then add 900ml cold water.
  3. Leave to simmer for around 20-25 minutes, by which time the rice and dal will be soft and the water soaked up. If it becomes too dry simply add in a little more water.
  4. Using a potato masher, mash the rice and dal so that it gets broken up and more ‘mash’ like in appearance. Place to one side whilst you do the next steps.
  5. Using a frying pan, add the ghee. Once it has melted add the cashew nuts and gently move around the pan for 30 seconds before adding the cumin and mustard seeds, black pepper. They will begin to pop, so make sure that your heat is on low.
  6. Now add the fresh ginger, turmeric (optional), asafoetida, curry leaves and green chilli (optional). Move around the pan for 20 seconds or so and then add the contents of the pan into the rice and dal mixture.
  7. Move around the pan and add salt to taste. Add more water if necessary. Check to taste and heat up again if necessary. Add some freshly chopped coriander and serve.

With these cold, dark mornings we are having in the UK, what better way to start the day than with some delicate spices in a comforting bowl of Indian pongal.

More exciting Indian recipes and photos next week. Have a good weekend in the meantime.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chiang Mai Noodle Broth – An alternative Boxing Day recipe

Before we know it Christmas is upon us, so I thought I would get this recipe out early for you so that you can menu plan in advance. Whilst it is a Thai dish, it’s origin is actually from Burma and is very similar to the Malaysian laksa. I have cooked it for many years and whilst I tend to use boneless chicken thighs, I was thinking it would also work equally well with leftover turkey too. So if you are feeling the urge for some zing and heat on Boxing Day this recipe may just tick many boxes. You can make your own red curry paste (see at the bottom of this post for the recipe), should you want to make it completely from scratch or you can use a bought paste, which will speed up the process and make it pretty hassle free. I find this brand works well. The garnishes are important as they add texture, colour, flavour and taste so don’t hold back when plating up.

 

Chiang Mai Noodle Broth

serves 4

500ml coconut milk

2 tbsp red curry paste *

500g boneless chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces OR turkey leftovers

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

3 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

salt to taste

1 lime, juice only

600ml chicken stock

250g egg noodles (dry or fresh)

 

Garnish

1 shallot, finely sliced

2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal

fresh red chilli, optional

fresh mint, 1 handful

fresh coriander 1 handful

crispy fried onions – I buy these from this website

 

  1. In an non-stick pan add one third of the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Move it around the pan, with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes by which time the milk will separate and little bubbles will form on the surface.
  2. Now you add the red curry paste and mix together until smooth with the coconut milk.
  3. Add the chicken and coat completely in the sauce. Move around the pan for a  few minutes, before adding the rest of the coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, chicken stock. Simmer gently for 12 minutes. Taste test and add a little salt and/or sugar as necessary. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice.
  4. Meanwhile boil water in another pan and add the egg noodles, and cook according to the pack. Normally only takes a few minutes.
  5. Strain the noodles and then plate up in the following order. Make sure you have deep bowls – or pasta bowls will work well.
  6. Place the noodles in the bottom of the bowl. Next add some chicken/turkey. Next carefully ladle the liquid into the bowl and then scatter the garnishes on top – or place on the table for people to serve themselves.

 

 

To make your own red curry paste

You will need:

3 red bird’s eye chillies

2 shallots, peeled

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tbsp galangal or ginger, peeled and chopped

1 tbsp coriander stems, chopped

1 tbsp kaffir lime zest or 2 lime leaves, finely chopped

1 tbsp shrimp paste

1 tbsp lemongrass, chopped

  1. Blend all the ingredients together in a mini blender or pestle and mortar to form a paste. You won’t need to add any water as the juice from the galangal/ginger should provide this.

 


Indian Scotch Eggs

On my first trip to Kolkata – 13 years ago – I was introduced to my new extended Indian family, going from home to home, meeting a bevy of smiles and warmth behind each door. Every household we visited offered food in great abundance – either a full meal or some delicious snacks. I struggled a little with the sweet treats, not having a sweet tooth, but the savoury snacks were something else.

As we normally saw three or four different families on average each day I had to be diplomatic when it came to eating. Not eating would be disrespectful, so I had to pace myself. One of life’s more pleasing conundrums. One snack that really stood out was Indian Scotch eggs, which were just so heavenly. Unlike your traditional Scotch egg which has sausage meat covering the egg, this one has spiced potato and has half a boiled egg per ball.

I have been trying to replicate the recipe ever since and I think I am pretty close so I wanted to share it with you all today.

 

Indian Scotch Eggs

makes 6 

5 medium potatoes, peel and boiled then mashed

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic-ginger paste

1 tsp salt, to taste

2 small fresh green chillies, finely chopped

handful of fresh curry leaves, finely chopped – optional

4 eggs

breadcrumbs – either freshly made, panko or bought

4 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil for frying

 

  1. First peel and boil the potatoes until they are soft. This usually take around 10-12 minutes. Drain and then mash until smooth. Do not add any butter or milk. They must not be too wet.
  2. Meanwhile boil 3 of the eggs by placing them in a pan of cold water and then once it is simmering, turn it down and leave to cook for a further 8 minutes so that they are completely hard. Once cooked drain and immediately put in a bowl with ice and cold water – this will allow you to peel the egg really easily. Leave the eggs to sit for a few minutes before peeling them and leaving them to rest on a plate
  3. Add the spices, garlic-ginger paste, chillies, fresh curry leaves if using, salt and mix in thoroughly. Allow to cool before handling the potato.
  4. In a shallow bowl add the remaining egg and whisk.
  5. In a separate bowl add some breadcrumbs.
  6. Halve the eggs, lengthwise. Take a small amount of spiced mashed potato into your hand and place the egg, yolk side down, onto the mashed potato. Gently cover the whole egg with the potato to create a ball. Place to one side whilst you do the same to the remaining eggs.
  7. Now take one potato ball at a time and gently roll it in the whisked egg followed by the breadcrumbs then place on a plate. Complete the rest.
  8. Heat the oil and when it is hot gently fry each potato ball, a couple at a time, turning at intervals so that the breadcrumb coat bronzes nicely. Place to one side, whilst you complete the rest.
  9. They are wonderful eaten hot, but equally you can serve them at room temperature – perhaps perfect for a train journey.

I like to eat them with a chutney. My tamarind and date chutney works really well.

 

 

 


Homemade Gravlax with a Dill, Mustard and Lemon Dressing and Pickled Cucumbers

With Christmas fast approaching I thought a homemade gravlax recipe might come in rather useful. Smoked salmon always makes an appearance on Christmas day, but I think a homemade gravlax might make a welcome change. This Nordic dish is very simple to prepare as ultimately you are simply curing the salmon in salt, sugar, fresh dill and gin (or vodka/schnapps).

I tend to use the container that the salmon comes in to cure it, which makes it all very straight forward and fuss free. If you want to add a pink hue to the gravlax, simply add a small grated beetroot when you add the fresh dill to begin with. Sometimes I also like to add juniper berries, which I crush and add to the curing ingredients (no more than 2 tsp). I like to cure the salmon for 48 hours, by which time it has hardened and taken on the wonderful flavours it has been curing in.

The end result can be made into canapés, of presented as a starter in the middle of the table. I like to make a lemony, mustard and dill dressing and for some crunch pickled cucumbers works a treat.

Above gives you an idea on how it would look as a table centre piece for a starter and below as a canapé, or in my case, lunch with a mug of miso soup.

 

Homemade Gravlax

Serves 4-6 as canapés or starter

500g salmon fillet, skin on (bones removed) this one is perfect

100g fresh dill, finely chopped, leaves and stalks

2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

2 tbsp gin (or vodka or schnapps)

70g flakey sea salt

80g caster sugar

2 tsp freshly ground juniper berries, optional

1 small beetroot, peeled and grated, optional

  1. Using a hand blender (or by hand) other than the salmon, mix all the ingredients together to form a green sugary salty rub.
  2. Using the container that the salmon has come in, or a container that the salmon comfortably fits, add half the rub. Place the salmon on top – flesh side down – and then cover with the remaining rub. Make sure the salmon is completely covered. Cover with a lid or cling film and place back in the fridge for 48 hours, turning a couple of times throughout this period.
  3. Before serving, remove most of the rub by gently running it under some cold water. Pat dry with kitchen paper. You want some of the dill to remain on the salmon.

 

**********

 

Thirty minutes before serving you need to make the pickled cucumbers.

Pickled Cucumbers

1 whole cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced (a mandolin is great for this)

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp flakey sea salt

1 tbsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp coriander seeds, optional

 

  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  2. Squeeze out the excess moisture (there will be quite a lot), and then place in a serving bowl or on the serving platter.

**********

 

Whilst the cucumber is pickling, clean out an old jam jar with a lid.

Mustard and Lemon Dressing

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 small lemon, juice only (I like it quite lemony, so perhaps add 1/2 juice of a lemon first and add more once it is all mixed together)

1 tbsp caster sugar

pinch of flakey sea salt

50g finely freshly chopped dill

2 tbsp sunflower/olive oil

 

  1. Place all the ingredients in your jar, secure the lid and mix thoroughly. Taste test and add more salt/sugar/lemon to taste.
  2. Place in a bowl ready to accompany the gravlax and pickled cucumber.
  3. Store in the fridge if made ahead of time. It will last for well over a week in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

 


Membrillo – A Labour of Love

Ok, I am going to come straight out with it. THIS IS A LABOUR OF LOVE. It’s my first time making membrillo – Spanish quince paste – you know the one often found on a cheese board that tastes delicious with a slice of manchego cheese. They are found in great abundance in the autumn/fall. My lovely neighbour had a huge glut of quinces from her tree so said would I like a bag. Naturally I said ‘yes’ and after showing me all the glorious creations that she was making in her kitchen – membrillo, as well as quince jelly, I was truly inspired. Her passing words to me was that it was a labour of love, which I didn’t quite fully register.

Look I don’t want to put you off, just to simply say there are a few steps and therefore involves effort to seek a reward. The children’s book about the hen who made bread and asked for help from the other farmyard animals, came to mind when I spent a considerable amount of time sieving the quince through a sieve.

So a few things of importance to note. Quince are not like apples or pears, other than in appearance. Their bitter flesh means they are almost exclusively for cooking instead of eaten raw. To core them is super hard, even with a sharp knife and after grazing my finger I thought that the best way to deal with them was to simply peel them and quarter or half them and then put them in water to boil – along with the lemon rind and vanilla pod. After 45 minutes I turned off the heat and in fact left them overnight to rest until morning. If you do this earlier in the day then you can simply removed the vanilla pod and then blend them, pips and all. What comes out of the sieve – with a bit of hard work with the back of a spoon –  is a very smooth paste, that resembles baby puree. At this stage the colour is a mellow yellow.

Then you need to weigh the amount of pureed quince and then whatever the amount is, you place the same amount of granulated sugar in a large pan. Keeping on a low heat you stir at intervals for an 1h 15 mins. The quince changes from yellow to more of a red hue. Then the final stage is to put it into an ovenproof dish, which you line with parchment paper, greased with a very little coating of butter. Pour the contents of the pan into the dish and place into a low oven 125 degrees F for a further hour, by this time it will be a deep blood red colour.  Leave to cool completely before removing the greaseproof paper and the now hard membrillo from the dish. Cut it up into the sizes you wish to portion up. I cut mine into 9 large cubes, which I wrapped in foil and placed in the fridge. According to my neighbour, they can last for a year in the fridge. If any mould appears in time, it’s simply a case of removing the top layer and continuing to eat. Waste not want not springs to mind. I will give these out as some of my edible Christmas gifts, maybe accompanied with some Manchego cheese.

 

Membrillo – Spanish Quince Paste

best eaten with a hard cheese such as Manchego, or game or pate.

1 bag of quince (mine weighed in at this stage to 2.5kg)

1 vanilla pod, sliced in two

juice of one lemon

2 strips of lemon peel (yellow part only)

granulated sugar (the same amount exactly as your pureed quince – mine came to 1.254kg)

 

  1. Peel the quince and cut them in half or quarters if you can. Place in a large pan and cover with water and add the vanilla pod and lemon peel. Boil away gently for 45 minutes, or until they are soft.
  2. Strain the water, remove the vanilla pod and discard, but keep the lemon peel with the quince and then blitz in batches in your blender.
  3. Take the blended quince and put into a sieve and using the back of a spoon sieve through the contents. The pips and cores will remain, but what comes through the sieve is a really smooth paste, similar to baby puree. This part takes effort to do persist and don’t give up.
  4. Once it has all being sieved (congratulations the hard bit is over), weigh it out and then place in a large sauce pan. Place the same amount of granulated sugar as quince puree into the pan along with the juice of a whole lemon. Simmer, stirring at intervals, for the next 1h 15 mins, by which time the quince puree will have gone a reddish colour – but not the colour of the final membrillo, that only comes when it goes in the oven.
  5. Using an ovenproof dish – I used a large square baking dish 25cmx25cm – line it with greaseproof parchment paper and coat with a little butter. Place the quince paste into the dish and then place in a low oven at 125 degrees F for a further 1 hour.
  6. Remove from the oven to cool completely before removing from the tin and sectioning up into large squares or rectangles. Cover individually with foil and place in the fridge.
  7. Perfect as gifts and eaten with some delicious hard cheese such as Manchego.

 

 

 

 

 


Toasted sourdough with goats cheese, broad beans, watercress and radish and a simple leek and potato soup

Here in the UK we’ve been enjoying blissfully balmy weather this October. To date, I have yet to don my winter coat, which would have been unheard of in past years. As such we’ve not been craving heavier stews and curries, but instead continuing to enjoy lighter food that we would eat in the summer months. So when my friend Vritti, the founder of Binge Magazine (have you bought your copy yet? I took a couple of the photos, including the front cover and one of the articles – you can buy your copy here), made a whirlwind visit to London from Dublin, I wanted to cook something fuss free, light and delicious for lunch.

I adore sourdough bread, so opted to make toasted sour dough with goats cheese, radish, watercress, lemon zest and pink peppercorns with a honey, lemon dressing. Lots of colours, textures and flavours each complementing one another.

On the side I cooked a simple leek and potato soup that was both light and flavoursome.  I garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche and fresh chives adding another layer of flavours. Both dish are relatively quick to rustle up and can be made a little in advance as the toasted sourdough is best eaten at room temperature and the soup can be heated upon the arrival of your guests.

 

Toasted sourdough with goats cheese, broad beans, watercress and radish

serves 4

150g broad beans (frozen or fresh), boiled and skins removed

6 large pieces of fresh sour dough

2 cloves of garlic

150g smooth goats cheese

3 handfuls of fresh watercress (you could also use rocket)

4 pink radishes, finely sliced (I find a mandolin great for doing this, but be careful about your fingers!)

1 tsp pink peppercorns, roughly ground

1 lemon, zest only

salt (optional – I find you don’t need any due to the goats cheese)

 

dressing

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp running honey or agave

juice from 1 small lemon

  1. First boil the broad beans for 4 minutes and when cool de-pod them and place to one side.
  2. Next make the dressing, taste to test the balance is right for you. If it is too acidic then add a little more honey.
  3. Place the sour dough under a grill and when it is delicately bronzed turn over and repeat. Be warned it burns easily so really monitor this process.
  4. Remove the toasted sour dough from the oven and rub the garlic cloves over each piece so that a hint of garlic lingers on each piece.
  5. Spread a generous amount of goats cheese on each piece of toasted sourdough. Layer up all the other ingredients: broad beans, watercress, radishes. Sprinkle with lemon zest, pink peppercorns and salt if using.
  6. Finally sprinkle, using a teaspoon, the dressing over all the pieces. Cut each piece of sour dough in half and plate up.

 


Leek and Potato Soup

50g butter

3 leeks, sliced

1 onion, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

2 large potatoes, diced

1 vegetable stock cube

water to cover the vegetables

100ml milk

pepper and salt to taste

to serve

creme fraiche and finely chopped fresh chives to serve

 

  1. In a large deep pan heat the butter and once melted add the leeks, onion, potato and bay leaves.
  2. Move around the pan for 5 minutes before adding the stock cube, water and milk to cover the ingredients. I have purposely not given a precise amount of water to be added as I find some people prefer a thicker soup than others. I tend to opt more for the slightly thinner soup.
  3. Leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes, by which time the potato will be soft. Remove the bay leaves and then blend, using a hand blender, until smooth. Add more water if you want to thin out the soup.
  4. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and add a dollop of creme fraiche and some finely chopped chives.

A great combination that looks colourful and healthy and is packed with lots of fresh flavours.

 

 

 


Shakshuka and Visiting the Dead Sea area of Israel

Our final leg of our Israel trip was to visit the Dead Sea. You can do a day trip from Jerusalem, but we felt it deserved more than a passing glance, besides there was quite a lot to see in the area.

We stayed on the Ein Gedi Kibbutz, which is located on the western shore of the Dead Sea, at the edge of the Judean desert. It was founded in 1953 with its primary focus on agriculture and tourism. The kibbutz is all lush and green owing to a natural water source that runs under it, but the neighbouring area is barren and desolate. There is a hotel within the kibbutz – but we stayed in an apartment at the top of Zahava’s house, who has lived on the kibbutz, with her husband, for over 30 years.

We booked through Airbnb, so it’s easy to find if you fancy going. She and her husband were wonderful hosts, who made us feel right at home. As it was an B&B, Zahava would arrive each morning with a huge tray of delicious food that set us up for the day. We ate on the veranda before the weather got too hot, overlooking the dead sea and Masada in the distance.

As we were based on the Kibbutz we also had all the facilities available to us – pools, tennis courts, running track, supermarket, as well as a restaurant in the hotel. (Its important to note that the Ein Gedi spa by the edge of the Dead Sea – is not located in the Ein Gedi Kibbutz or hotel, but nearby) One evening we also ate in the kibbutz part of the complex, which you would not be able to do if you were simply staying in the hotel. The calm rhythm of the kibbutz dictated out days. In the morning we would head out and explore and then come back and relax in the afternoon before a late afternoon hike in a wadi. The kibbutz is within the En Gedi Nature Reserve, where there are some truly phenomenal hikes.

It’s super hot here as it is the lowest part of the earth, so as well as carrying a lot of water, I also carry an umbrella and wear a swimming costume so that I can soak in every waterfall and pool we pass. Walking in 40 degrees, requires soaking in cold water as often as possible.

The wildlife is also pretty special here. There are a some venomous snakes – I only saw one at night on the perimeter of the Kibbutz, so it’s advisable to wear covered shoes when you are on the hikes.

We also saw lots of Nubian ibex – desert dwelling goats – clambering around precariously upon the slopes of the wadi. You need to be aware of sudden rock fall if they are climbing above you.

Historically the area is fascinating with huge swaths of tourists visiting spectacular Masada. Herod the Great built a large fortress on the plateau as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. He erected two palaces there between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Jewish Roman historian – Josephus, the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, ended in the mass suicide of 960 people (the Sicarii rebels and their families) hiding there.

The fortress is huge and had impressive ways of redirecting and saving fresh water at the fort, along with swimming pools, cold pools and spas. The mosaics found by archeologist are beautifully intact.

To reach this city you can either take the snake path before sunrise or else use the cable car. It’s one of Israel’s most popular sights but as we were in one of the first cable cars of the morning we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

The other great magnet of the area is the Dead Sea itself due to its medicinal qualities. Sadly the sea has dramatically shrunk in recent years causing great concern. You can read more about this here.

When you go to the Ein Gedi spa you now have to get on a little train pulled by a tractor from the spa to the waters edge. In the 1980’s the water was right up by the spa itself.  Despite the notion that it is impossible to drown in the dead sea, this is a myth and there have been cases of people drowning. You need to keep on your back, not your front, and don’t attempt to swim.

Due to the high salinity, the water feels very heavy, kind of like bathing in salty olive oil,  so if you are on your front you can find it hard to turn on your back. It feels oily and you want to make sure you don’t get any water in your eyes or mouths. Thankfully the showers are in on the edge of the sea so that you can immediately wash the salty water off you as you get out. The medical qualities of the dead sea mud are also well known so make sure you slather yourself in mud (this is back at the spa itself) and then wait for it to dry before showering if off. Your skin will be glowing and you will be feeling pretty radiant.

The other must-see in the area is over in the West Bank – The Dead Sea Scrolls or the Qumran Cave Scrolls. It’s about 30 minutes from Ein Gedi Reserve and a good place to stop on your way back to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. There is an interesting museum there and you can hike all over the area, although those we saw hiking here had ropes and proper equipment so perhaps only for serious climbers.  The scrolls, which are ancient religious writings, were found by a shepherd in the 1940’s in 11 caves near the site of Qumram. You can see some of the caves in the photograph above.

 

I am going to leave you with a classic Israeli dish that is found throughout the Levant. Shakshuka is a delicious breakfast dish – although of course you can eat it at any time of day. It is basically poached eggs in a spiced tomato sauce with crumbled feta and parsley or coriander sprinkled on top. Everyone has their version but this is mine. It’s a big hit in my house and is super straight forward and easy to execute. Perfect for a filling breakfast before school/work as it takes 15 minutes to make from start to finish.

Shakshuka

serves 4-5

2 tbsp oil

1 white onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 sweet red pepper (these are the long ones, but bell peppers are also good), sliced lengthways and then finely sliced crossways

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp smoked paprika powder

1 tsp salt

1x 400g tin of plum tomatoes, chopped in the pan

3 large fresh tomatoes, finely diced

50ml water

4 eggs (or 5/6 depending on how many you are feeding)

To serve

1 handful of crumbles feta

1 handful of fresh coriander

 

  1. Heat a deep frying pan and add the oil.
  2. When hot, add the onions followed by the garlic and gently heat. After a couple of minutes, add the pepper, salt and spices. Move around the pan to soften for a further couple of minutes.
  3. Add both the tinned and fresh tomatoes and stir in well.
  4. Add the water and simmer to allow all the ingredients to soften and infuse. Leave for 8 minutes so that it thickens.
  5. Make a hole in the mixture and break an egg into this hole. Repeat, leaving a good gap between each egg.
  6. Place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer on a moderate-low heat for 3-5 minutes, by which time the eggs should be cooked but still soft. Leave for longer and increase the heat if they have not cooked sufficiently.
  7. Just before serving, scatter the feta cheese and fresh coriander. Spoon onto plates with some flatbread or sourdough to mop.

 

 

 

 

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