Archive for the ‘Fall’ Category

Pear and apple butter

19 February 2021

Or food like therapy.

I like to think I’m an optimist, try to see the upside, focus on the good bits. I hate to wallow or complain, I have little reason to. This year has tested that.

And, the other day, I sank as far to that bottom as I ever will. I felt very sorry for myself. The UK seemed to be drifting away from the world even farther, with travel restrictions tougher, multiple mandatory tests imposed, hotel quarantines looming, all of which put the possibility of just crossing the water to go ‘home’ — always a basic reassuring given — more and more in question.

When, serendipitously, a friend left a bag with three kilos or pears on our doorstep.

It took me a couple of days to decide what to make of it, until the option presented itself as self-evident: pear and apple butter (I always have lots of apples on hand). I had never made it. I’m not sure I had ever had it. In fact, I sort of thought I was making something else: Apelstroop — or thick apple syrup, which I now realise is something different, made just with apple juice rather than purée.

Making apple butter is at once very easy and very time consuming. It is exactly the type of project to undertake at that moment when there is absolutely nothing to do, and no place to go. It is mindless. Meditative. And smells extremely good.

It was a bit of a springboard. Thanks, Claire!

Pear and apple butter barely adapted from Do Preserve by Anja Dunk, Jen Goss, and Mimi Beaven

2kg pears (it is also possible to use only apples, if that’s what you have)
1.6 kg apples
18 cloves
250ml (1 cup) water
60g sugar
120ml (1/2 cup) maple syrup
Juice from 1 lemon

Wash the fruit and chop it all up into medium chunks, peel, core, and all.

Place the chunks of fruit in a large saucepan with 250ml of water and the cloves. Cook until completely soft, about half an hour, stirring occasionally all the way to the bottom of the pan.

Pass through a food mill to obtain a soft purée.

Return the purée to wide pot, add the sugar, maple syrup, and lemon juice, and cook over low heat, stirring nearly continuously, especially as the purée thickens, For.A.Good.Long.While. A few hours probably, for that quantity, until the purée has become a dark brick spreadable ‘butter’.

Store in sterilised jars and keep in the fridge (Or process the jars for long conservation).

Cabbage slaw and a miso ginger mayonnaise dressing staple

7 January 2021

More often than not, in winter, this will be lunch.

I could buy January King cabbage for its looks alone — and yes, in food looks do matter, particularly in the dead of winter! — but it is also the mildest and crunchiest and most delicious of cabbages. I discovered January King since moving to London and it now constantly lives in our fridge in winter (except when it disappears too quickly), and has rescued and will save a thousand meals.

Many of which in this house are compiled from bread and cheese and ham or saucisson, pickled herring and smoked trout. Usually some form of raw vegetable (in summer cucumber and tomatoes, later fennel, carrot, kohlrabi!), soup, or salad — in winter sometimes this endive salad or, more often, cabbage slaw, particularly when January King is in season.

But red or white cabbage will also do, and a jar of the miso mayonnaise dressing lives in the fridge on standby so this can come together in a few minutes, the time it takes to slice the cabbage.

Cabbage slaw with a staple miso ginger dressing

January King is my favourite winter cabbage when it is available, otherwise white or red cabbage, or a combination of both.

I try to always have a jar of this dressing on hand in the fridge; it makes a large jar and can be kept for weeks.

2 Tbsps miso
2 Tbsps mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
A small piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Juice from half a lemon
50ml (scant 1/4 cup) cider vinegar
100ml (scant 1/2 cup) olive oil
Large pinch of salt

In a large jam jar (with a lid), mix together the miso, mayonnaise, mustard, and grated ginger until well combined.

Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil, and salt, close the lid tightly and shake vigorously until the dressing is emulsified and looks homogenous.

Halve the cabbage, remove any wilted outer leaves, cut the half into wedges, then slice each wedge into thin strips.

Toss the cabbage with a few tablespoons of dressing and keep the rest of the in the fridge for future instant lunches.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s tomato chutney

13 October 2020

This is the chutney that entered our life by accident and got stuck. I nearly didn’t make it when I decided to try Ottolenghi’s Tomato and Courgette Loaf published in the Guardian’s weekly food magazine Feast a couple of weeks ago. I often cut corners and simplify recipes, and, regardless of how tempting it was, I wasn’t sure I would have the time, until I realised it was part of the loaf recipe itself. And so the sideshow of Ottolenghi’s recipe became the star at my table.

The loaf was a great success, but the chutney is the recipe I will be making again and again. In fact, the kitchen has barely been without in a fortnight.

Tomato chutney from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi in Feast
The recipe calls for fresh tomatoes but I’m pretty sure I’ll try it with tinned ones in a few weeks when there is no other choice.

Olive oil
6 garlic cloves
45g fresh ginger
A large pinch of chilli flakes (or 2 red chillies)
About 2 Tbsps tomato paste
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsps garam masala
1 Tbsp sugar
750g tomatoes
Teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Smash the garlic with the flat of a knife, peel, and chop roughly. Peel and finely grate the ginger. (Wash and finely chop the chilli if using.) Wash, core, and chop the tomatoes.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic, ginger, and chilli. Cook, stirring regularly, for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Add the tomato paste, spices, and sugar, and cook, stirring, for another minute. Now add the tomatoes, the salt, and a good grind of pepper and mix well, scraping the pan to incorporate all the spices. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked and the chutney has thickened.

Before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over the chutney. It keeps in a closed jar in the fridge for about a week.

Chard gratin

8 October 2020

October 8th. I’ve developed quite a crush on this dish since this August, when our friends brought us a big bunch of chard from their garden. I made a gratin, Louise had SIX helpings, which echoed what everyone was feeling, though we were perhaps not as quick. It has now settled into our regular weeknights.

Chard gratin

750g chard
75g butter
3 Tbsps flour (I usually use spelt though a traditional béchamel would be with wheat, and white or wholemeal depending on my mood)
500ml milk
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 garlic clove
A little olive oil or butter for the pan
Grated cheese, preferably gruyère

Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Trim the rough ends of the stalks and any bits of damaged leaves, chop the chard into roughly 2cm (3/4 inch) strips, wash in cold water, and dry thoroughly ( I use a salad spinner).

To make the béchamel: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the flour and butter lump together and create a mass. Continue cooking briefly, then add the milk, one large splosh at a time, stirring continuously, until all the milk is used up. If the béchamel still looks quite thick, add some water until the consistency is edging towards runny.

Now season the béchamel with a generous pinch of salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Taste and adjust.

Rub an ovenproof dish with the garlic clove and grease the dish with a very little bit of olive oil (or butter). Add all the chard, it should seem as if it’s too much => It will reduce a lot while it cooks. Pour the béchamel over the chard as evenly as possible so everything is covered. Now sprinkle enough grated cheese to cover the whole gratin in a thin layer.

Slide into the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden.

Goes well with good sausages or a sturdy fish such as salmon.

‘Save the plums’ jam

6 October 2020

October 6th. Reliably, like every year in early October, there is a bowl full of old plums in my kitchen. They are already at varying degrees of bruised, shrivelled, and slightly alcoholic. They’ve been there for a week. I don’t think it’s intentional, but always during the last shimmer of plum season I buy lots, and only ever manage to save them in the nick of time, with jam.

I cut up the plums yesterday, mixed them with just under half their weight in sugar, added the juice of one lemon, and let them macerate overnight in the fridge, stirring once or twice as the sugar tends to slide to the bottom.

Now to figure out whether to add anything. I usually turn to ginger or bay leaf with plums, but today I am wondering — cardamom?

Save the plums’ jam

1kg plums
850g light brown sugar
Juice from 1 lemon
Optional: 6 pounded cardamom pods / one or two bay leaves / finely cut ginger

Wash and pit the plums. In a bowl, mix together the plums, sugar, lemon juice, and the spices or herbs if using. Cover and leave to macerate overnight in the fridge. Stir once or twice as the sugar will sink to the bottom.

The next day, transfer the mixture to a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook at a lively simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, in another pan half-filled with water, bring to a boil and sterilize 3 or 4 jars for 5 minutes.

Once the simmer slows down and the jam is ready, scoop the jam into the jars and close the lid immediately.

[ => To check that the jam is setting, place a spoonful in a saucepan in the fridge for a few minutes and check that the liquid is starting to run thick.]

Wait a few weeks, if possible, before using.

Earlier ‘save-the-plums’ jam ventures:

Greengage plum jam with lemon and bay leaf
Damson and Victoria plum jam with lemon and ginger
Plum jam with candied ginger


%d bloggers like this: