Sunday, 28 September 2008

Reaping the Reward

Our garden is festooned with hundreds of cobwebs each morning, which show up beautifully on a damp and misty autumn morning. I hate it if I walk into one, although I admire them greatly, I'm not overly keen on spiders, especially the monster sort you get in the garden at this time of the year.

It’s been rather an odd year, produce-wise. Our onion crop was virtually non existent but the leeks have done as well as ever. The autumn raspberries are still fruiting, but there are only about 10 red cabbages. In August the butternut squashes decided that the growing season was over, shed their leaves and hardened up. Many of them are oval rather than the traditional shape, and they have a more dense texture than usual. In spite of that the celeriac has not done too badly at all, a bit small, but I always thought that they needed a long growing season. Plenty of carrots, but no parsnips, gardening always seems rather a lottery to me, and more so because we grow on an allotment, so don’t see it daily.

One of our favourite Autumn and Winter meals is Vegetable Crumble which we begin to eat as the new root vegetables are harvested. I’ve never thought of it as a budget meal as we love it so much, but I suppose it would fit into that category. The original idea came from Cranks Restaurant at Dartington, long since gone.

For the crumble topping
Butter or margarine 4oz (100g)
100% flour 6oz (175 g)
Cheddar cheese, grated 4oz (100g)
Mixed nuts, chopped 3oz (75g)

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles
fine crumbs. Add the cheese and nuts

Mixed root vegetables (parsnip
swede, potato, carrot, etc.) 1½ lb (675g)
Large onion or a mixture of onion and leek
Butter or margarine 2.oz (50g)
Flour or cornflour to thicken
Tomatoes 8oz (225g) fresh or well drained from a can
Vegetable stock ½pt (300 ml) (Knorr or Kallo Vegetable stock cubes)
Milk ¼ pt (142 ml)
Parsley, chopped 3tbsp (45ml)
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop the vegetables, then melt the butter in a large
saucepan and saute the onion until transparent. Add the
prepared vegetables and cook over gentle heat, stirring
occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the flour, then add
the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, reduce heat,
cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the
vegetables are just tender. Transfer to an ovenproof dish.

Press the crumble topping over the vegetables and bake
in the oven at 190°C (375°F/Mark 5) for about ¾ hour,
until golden.

Serves 4

This really is a meal in itself but we usually have a green vegetable with it, and I have been known to serve it to accompany steak.
I think it is important to have enough liquid in the mixture before you bake it, as it can become a little dry.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Quince and Lemon Chutney

I recently posted an item about the quince tree in our garden, and mentioned a recipe for a chutney I had found in an old WI cookbook. I made it this morning.

Here is the original recipe:-


(Taken from The Times some years ago, from an article

on quinces)

1½ Ibs. quinces.

½ lemon.

1 shallot.

1 clove garlic.

4 ozs. raisins.

2 ozs. chopped stem ginger.

½ teaspoonful each of ground cinnamon.


black pepper.


¼teaspoonful ground cloves.

1 Ib. sugar (½ granulated,½Barbados).

½ pint white vinegar.

Peel and core the quinces.
Chop them with the shallots and lemon (pips removed).
Put all into a heavy pan with the raisins, ginger, spices and sugar.
Add the vinegar and bring the mixture to the boil.
Simmer slowly, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is thick and looks like chutney.
It takes about ¾ hour. Pot immediately.

The only changes I made were that I used one whole, thin skinned lemon, of medium size, crystallised ginger, rather than stem, because I always have the crystallised sort in the larder, and one small to medium white onion instead of the shallot. These three items, with the garlic, I chopped in the food processor, before adding to the pan. Because the quince doesn’t collapse readily like apple it must be chopped into smallish pieces.

I’m really pleased with the result, it tastes fantastic, and will be set on a dark shelf for a while to mature. I'm lucky enough to have a large walk-in larder, and love to see the ranks of home made preserves I've put by. This made 3 jars.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Old Cookery Books and Budget Recipes

I've been doing some extremely belated 'Spring' cleaning, and decided it's time for some things to go.

I have collected recipe books since the 1960's, and because lots of them have come from second hand shops some of them are quite old. I don't think any of them are of particular value, but I have loved reading them and using them over the years.

This beautiful illustration is one of several in an early copy of Mrs Beeton's Everyday Cookery

However, it is items like the one above that I treasure most. Found inside a book I bought about 30 years ago it is a handwritten cake recipe dated Yarner, Jan 7th 1913. It is written on both sides of the paper, folded in half to make four pages. It is one of three handwritten items I found in the book. Although I know that this Yarner is a farm in North Devon, I have never visited it, but I still feel a connection with it because of my possession of this recipe. The other two items, one a recipe and the other a poem entitled 'Forget me not' are not dated, nor do they have an address, but I presume they came from the same household.

Among such treasures there is also a huge number of old and well thumbed paperbacks, which I bought as they were published, and it is these items which are getting a severe pruning, along with more modern offerings, whose bright colours and many promises seduced me at the time.

Before they can be discarded, however, they have to be re-read, or at least re-examined to see whether I want to hang on to them for a few more years, whether their condition is good enough for the charity shop, or must they go straight to the re-cycling bin.

I've found some on the subject of frugality, very apt in the present economic climate. Jocasta Innes' ' A Pauper's Cookbook', Delia Smith's 'Frugal Food' Mary Norwak's ' Money-Saving Cookbook', and I know there are more yet to be discovered on the shelves.

I thought I might begin to put some of the ideas to the test, and the first one I have tried is from 'Farmhouse Fare' 'recipes from country housewives collected by Farmers Weekly' the seventh edition, revised after decimalisation.

So here it is Cheese Batter Pudding

    6oz flour ........ 1 pint milk

    2 eggs .............. 1/2 lb cheese

Make a batter of the milk, eggs and flour. Leave to stand for one hour. Grate the cheese and add half of it to the batter. Bake until risen and lightly browned.
Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese over. Return to the oven until the cheese is crisply browned. If you are short of cheese, omit it from the batter and just sprinkle an ounce of cheese on the top. From Mrs C.P Rowan, Cornwall

Because I made it for just the two of us I used :-
1 large egg, enough milk to make it up to half a pint (275ml), 100g grated cheese and 100g plain flour. I put two thirds of the cheese in the batter mixture, and cooked it in a hot oven for about 30 mins when it was very puffed up, and rather browner than a usual Yorkshire pudding. I sprinkled the rest of the cheese over the top, but didn't leave it go crispy or brown, because I'm sure the lot would have been burned. The pudding went rather flatter, having been taken out and dressed with the cheese. However, it tasted delicious, and when I repeat it I shall try cooking it at a slightly lower temperature, maybe 200c, and put all the cheese in the batter.
I served it with creamed cabbage, whichwent very well. Finely sliced cabbage cooked in as little water as possible until only just tender. Every bit of water drained out of it, you can wait until its cool and wring it out in your hands. Chop it up in a food processor but don't go so far as puree-ing it, season and add double cream to re-heat. Equally good, I'm sure, would be leeks, finely sliced and cooked slowly in only a knob of butter and any water still on the leeks after rinsing. A heavy based pan, with a well fitting lid is best utensil to use for this.

Cheese Batter Pudding

Monday, 15 September 2008

Ouma's Recipe

Louise, my older daughter-in-law’s mother is South African, from a Lebanese background, and when she was last in the UK, a few years ago now, she made a delicious dish of stuffed courgettes. I’m pretty sure that she had brought with her a gadget which looked like a large apple corer, with which she made the cavities in the courgettes.

Always one to look for a shortcut I found a ‘meat filling for vegetables’ in Claudia Roden’s ‘Middle Eastern Food’ and instead of even attempting to stuff it into a vegetable I slice courgettes very thinly lengthways, steam them gently until they are just tender and layer them up with the mince mixture. The whole lot is then covered in foil and baked in the oven. About 15 or 20 minutes would do it if all your components have just been cooked and are piping hot to start with. An hour if you have cold ingredients. It is important to have it good and hot all the way through if you are re-heating, and anything containing rice should be treated with care, not left lying around in a warm kitchen.

Louise and our mutual granddaughter loves this combination, although not a natural vegetable eater, the fact that it was ‘Ouma’s recipe’ (Ouma is the Afrikaans word for Grandma) was the inducement to try it!

Here is the recipe that I use:-

450/500g (1lb) minced lamb ..... 180g (6oz) short grain rice
A good ½ teaspoon ground allspice ..... 2 medium onions
Lamb stock to cover meat and rice while cooking (I use a Knorr Lamb Stock Cube)
Salt and pepper as required.

Tip the minced lamb into a very hot pan and stir it around until the fat starts to run. Pour it into a sieve to drain off surplus fat. If you have very lean mince, add it to the pan after you have cooked the onions.
Cook the chopped onions in the residual fat in the pan, or add a little oil to the pan if you need to. When they are cooked and golden coloured add the meat back in, let the meat change colour if you haven’t done it first, then stir in the rice, ground allspice, salt and pepper.
Use enough lamb stock to just cover the ingredients, and cook gently until the rice is soft, 15-20 minutes. You want the liquid to be absorbed into the rice, moist but not wet.

While the meat mixture is cooking thinly slice courgettes lengthways. You will need more than you think. Here is a chance to use up the ones that have made a bid for marrow status while you turned your back! And actually many of the courgettes I see for sale are much bigger than the ones I choose to pick from the allotment. Steam them for about 5 minutes. If your steamer is rather small, they will take a bit longer and you will have to turn them a bit so that they all cook equally.

Layer up the meat and courgettes as though you are making a lasagne. If I am not going to cook it straight away I do not assemble it, but put the meat onto a large cold plate to cool rapidly and leave the courgette slices to drain.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Our Quince Tree

This beautiful little drawing came from a copy of a magazine called 'The Countryman', a then quarterly publication, it had a lot of line art. My husband still subscribes, it's become monthly I believe, and much more photographic. I don't think I have ever seen quinces for sale, but have been given the odd jar of quince jelly in the past and read a good deal about them so we decided to plant a tree in our garden, I'm guessing about 8 years ago.

The blossom is very delicate looking with a faint perfume and as it flowers early we wondered if it would survive on the tree long enough to produce fruit. In fact after the first couple of years it has gone on to produce more and more fruit annually, and is looking rather dominant in our small walled garden! Until this year, when it's crop of quinces is decidedly sad, and most of the leaves from one side of the tree started to drop in August. There are still about a dozen good sized fruits but a lot dropped off before they got very big. As it's been such a wet and cold summer we are hoping that that is all it is.

The first time I saw a quince in the flesh was about 25 years ago, and it looked like an oversized pear. They have a layer of fluff on them straight from the tree, which means they have to be thoroughly scrubbed before using if you are going to leave their skins on when cooking.

Quince and Lemon Marmalade (Marmelo)

450g/1 lb lemons
1.35kg/3 lbs ripe quinces
1.5 litres/2.5 pints water
1.35kg/3 lb sugar

Using a zester remove rind from lemons, otherwise peel and shred rind. (Yellow rind only, no pith). Squeeze out the juice. Put on one side. Put pulp, pith and pips from lemons in a large pan.

Peel and core the quinces. Put parings and cores with lemon piths, add half the water, bring to boil and simmer for about 20minutes. In the meantime cut up quinces into neat small dice, cover with half lemon juice as you are doing it, add rest of water and lemon zest, gently cook until tender in a large enough pan in which to rapidly boil the finished preserve.

When the quince is tender, but not collapsed, add the sugar, remainder of the lemon juice, and the strained extract of the pan with the peelings in. You can then throw the peelings, pips etc on the compost heap!

Over a low heat stir the quince mixture until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Cool slightly, then stir to make sure the quinces pieces won’t all rise to the top of the jars.

Makes about 5lbs.

Quince Paste/Cheese

900g/ 2lb quinces, weight when peeled and cored

450ml/¾pint water

3¾tablespoons lemon juice per pint puree (60 mls)

sugar, 450g/ 1lb per pint puree.

Chop up peeled and cored quinces, simmer in water until very soft, sieve or mash until very smooth. Measure puree, adding sugar and lemon juice as above.
Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved, then boil until very thick. Watch very, very carefully. When you can draw a wooden spoon through the mixture and see the bottom of the pan for a second or so you are there.

You could boil the puree down before you add the sugar.

The first recipe I followed instructed to put cut up, unpeeled uncored quinces in pan with water, and sieve the whole lot when the fruit was very soft, but it is fairly hard work.

My preferred method, which works for me is to peel and core the quinces, after thoroughly washing, boil the peelings and cores for a while, strain off the extract and cook the quince flesh in that liquid, then adding the sugar and lemon as before. Don’t use more water than you need, you only have to boil it all off at the end.
Makes sense to double or triple the recipe, as you are going to be standing over the stove for a while.

This recipe should make a preserve that will turn out for slicing.

Each 1 lb sugar gives about 1½ lb preserve.

In this old recipe book, the first one, it says inside, published by Devon WI, is a chutney made from lemon and quince. With my meagre crop this year I am going to have a go at that. The original recipe it says was 'taken from the Times some years ago, from an article on quinces'. I would think that the WI cookbook is probably 1950's, and has hints and tips as well as recipes. A cure for mumps submits Miss Mold of Chawleigh WI is to 'Rub the afflicted part with a live snail'

A favourite way of cooking quinces is to lay peeled and cored thick slices in a layer, drizzle some honey over them and bake in a hottish oven. They turn a beautiful pinkish gold colour. They can be frozen like this as well, perking up apple pies and mincemeat slices later in the year.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Muffin Cases

Sharon brought these silicone muffin cases back with her after her visit to the USA
I just love these little muffin cases, they wash up perfectly in the dishwasher and the muffins slide out perfectly, thank you, Sharon.
Here is Mary Berry's recipe for Blueberry Muffins:-

9 oz (250 g) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 oz (50 g) soft margarine

3 oz (75 g) caster sugar

6 oz (175 g) fresh blueberries

grated rind of 1 lemon

2 size 2 eggs

8 fl oz (250 ml) milk

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

Measure the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Rub in the margarine with the fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, blueberries and grated lemon rind
Mix together the eggs and milk' then pour the mixture all in one go
into the dry ingredients. Mix quickly to blend.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes until well risen, golden and firm.

I made 12 muffins in these cases with this mixture, using raspberries instead of the blueberries and lemon rind. I put the raspberries in at the end, because they are more fragile than blueberries.
I did make 12 muffins, we had already eaten the ones from the empty cases!