Pickletastic

Where’s the time gone? Our last get-together was July and now KABOOM it’s October. Lovely autumny October and our thoughts turn to pickle…

We were very lucky to be offered some local apple and beetroot gluts and snapped them up immediately to pickle and chutnify. La Culinari and pickle go together like beans and toast or fish and chips. When our children were little and at Potters Gate Primary School in Farnham there was an old apple tree that every year shed apples onto the school field which got used as mouldy footballs (when the lunch time supervisors weren’t looking). We thought it was such a shame to waste the apples so began an epic, annual, hysterical apple collection at the beginning of every Autumn term involving ladders and many a Chuckle Brothers moment. We turned the apples into Potters Pickle and sold it at the Xmas Fair to raise money for the school. Sadly, the tree is being lost to the school’s new building project but Potters Pickle lives on!

Potters Pickle

2-3kg apples, any sort – we used a mixture of eaters and cookers for a good “mushy but with chunks” texturechopping apples
4 onions
2 chillies
500g demerara sugar
5 tsp allspice
5 tsp ground cloves
5 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
black pepper
a big thumb of ginger, grated
500 ml cider vinegar

Just peel and chop the apples, onion and chillies and bung in a big pan with everything else and cook for about an hour til the fruit is soft. Taste and see if it needs more spices or chillies when it’s about half way through cooking. Spoon into clean, warm jars and according to Hugh F-W via Mandy you should invert the jars and leave to cool upside down which seals them. I’ve never heard this before and have just spent tooooo long googling this and cannot find out the definitive answer, any ideas anyone?

We had been given loads of home grown beetroot so the second chutney we made was a vivid pink and spicy beetroot and ginger one, christened Brooty Toot. Here’s the recipe:

Brooty Toot Chutney

3kg beetrootchutney pans
1 kg apples
4 onions
2 chillies
a big thumb of ginger, grated
half a jar of stem ginger in syrup
500g demerara sugar
5 tsp allspice
2 tsp salt
black pepper
500 ml red wine vinegar

As before, just chop peel and chop the onions, beetroot, chillies and apples. Chop the stem ginger. Put everything in a big pan and simmer away til the beetroot is soft and tender. Spoon into warm jars and seal. The best thing about this chutney (apart from the earthy, sweet and sour taste) is the zingy bright pink colour.

Both chutneys had a fair chilli kick which we liked. The chillies we used were hot ones from a mixed box from the South Devon Chilli Farm – an ace birthday present from my brother @hippyjon We also got to christen another present from my other sibling @fabiapol – my jam funnel, sounds rude but it’s NOT. Very practical and much less messy jar filling guarenteed.

All in all the above made about 12 jars of Potters Pickle and 15 of Brooty Toot, plenty enough to share between the four of us and to give some to Helen and Sue who generously provided us with the apples and beetroot. THANK YOU, YOU TWO.

We were starving after a good couple of hours of chop n chat so we ate some still-hot chutney with home made smoked mackerel pate (the easiest thing in the world to make – smoked mackerel, cream cheese, lemon juice, pepper) and some shop bought pate with prunes in (very nice) and some boring cheese, baguette and oat cakes. DELICIOUS SUPPER and a massive sense of achievement looking at our stack of chutney filled jars. Not bad for a Monday!

chutney jars

We drank… well it was almost Mandy’s birthday so we had to have a fizzy and Gilly treated us to a bottle from a local vineyard, Greyfriars on the Hogs Back. The vineyard changed hands in 2010 and our bottle was from the previous owners time, very good, but the new owners are promising improvements so we’ll keep an eye out. Always nice to support local producers.

We talked about… Christmas (sorry), Nigel Slater, Mandy’s upcoming party, apple shortages, English sparkling wines, gardening woe, Milton Jones, kitchen refurbs.

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Breadfest

Our July meet up was all about bread. We had a go at four different sorts and we liked them all. We liked them even more with some ace local butter and cheese on the top. Why don’t we make bread more often? Easy peasy, quick and so delicious.

So what did we make? First we made a loaf called Auntie Mary’s Super Soda Bread which claims to be a foolproof recipe needing no kneading (ha ha), no proving, no skill and no time – so right up our street. It was quicker than quick to make, just mix everything in a bowl and then stick in the oven. We used a spelt flour which none of us knew much about but if you’re interested there’s a lot of info on the Sharpham Park website. It’s a healthy alternative to wheat flour dubbed by the Romans as “the marching grain” due to it’s high energy content.

Here’s the recipe:

2 x 284 ml pots buttermilkGilly making Aunty Mary's Super Soda Bread
420g flour (we used Sharpham Park Organic Spelt)
4 tblsp sunflower seeds
2 tblsp linseeds
150g oats
1 tsp muscavado sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Put one carton of buttermilk in a bowl, add one third of the flour and all the seeds. Add the second pot of buttermilk, the remaining flour, oats, sugar, salt and bicarb. Mix well. Grease a round baking tin and tip in the bread mixture. Smooth the top and give the tin a bash to make the mixture settle. Bake for an hour at 190C/375F.

While that was cooking we started on the others – Easy Soda Bread, Lemon Pepper Bread and Focaccia. The second soda bread was exciting as it used fizzy soda water and again very healthily, included lots and lots of seeds. Incidentally when Gilly was confusedly stood staring at the all the flours available in the shop she asked a bread-making lady (how did she know?…) what she would recommend and she was told Canadian flour is best for bread. Not sure why but not good for our LOCAL support.

3 cups wholewheat flourGilly's soda bread
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsps flax seeds
3 tbsps sesame seeds
2 cups soda water

Combine all dry ingredients thoroughly. Make a well in the middle and add the soda water – it will fizz up immediately inducing squeals and shrieks (or is that just us?) Combine everything and tip into a loaf tin. Sprinkle with more seeds and bake at 200C for 45 to 50 mins, a skewer should come out clean when it’s done. Kaboom…done.

Lemon Pepper Bread was next. Not a soda bread this time so required some kneading but no proving so still a quick recipe. The smell of the lemons and pepper was heavenly.

250g self raising flourGilly's soda bread and Mandy's in bowl
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsps black pepper
45g butter
1 tblsp chopped chives
90g cheese – we used Sussex Charmer
2 tsp white wine vinegar
185 ml milk

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the lemon and pepper then rub in the butter to like you are making pastry. Stir in cheese and chives. Mix the milk and vinegar together and don’t worry if it looks curdled then add to the flour mixture and mix to a soft dough. Knead until smooth. Divide into two, place on a buttered baking tray and press each out into a circle about an inch thick. Score into wedges and dust with flour. Bake for 20 to 25 mins. It will be deep golden when ready and make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom (as I do. Actually,… depends who’s doing the tapping).

Last up was Mama Slooo’s Focaccia

500g strong white flourSue kneading
1 x 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
1tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tblsps olive oil
300ml warm water

and for the topping – sea salt, black pepper, fresh rosemary leaves and sprigs

Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Mix the oil and water then pour onto the flour. Stir with a spoon then bring together with your hands to make a ball. Knead for 5 mins then put in an oiled bowl and leave to prove for an hour while you have a drink. Knock it back and push out to a rough rectangle on an oiled tray. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove for 30 mins. Have another drink while the oven preheats to 220C/425F. After 30 mins, use your finger to make dimples in the dough then drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with the salt and black pepper and chopped rosemary. Stick some little sprigs in too. Bake for 15 to 20 mins until golden brown.

LOOK AT OUR LOVELY BREAD….

Aunty Mary's Super Soda Bread    Soda and Lemon Pepper Bread  Focaccia  Bread Board 2

The smells in the kitchen were making us VERY HUNGRY and as we staggered the baking we had to resist from eating too much of the first cooked loaves so we had room to try all four. Resistance is not one of our strong points but we tried. We ate the bread with a selection of local butter and cheese which we bought from Mill Farm Shop just off the A31 on the way to Alton – really worth a visit for local produce and their own organic meat.

Cheesewise, we had two delicious ones from award- winning Loosehanger Farmhouse Cheeses near Salisbury – a creamy, mild, blue Old Sarum and a soft, mold-ripened White Hart. We also had the rest of the tasty Sussex Charmer left over from the Lemon Pepper Bread and South Downs butter made by the same producer – Bookhams in West Sussex. The butter was a revelation, absolutely lucious and very different to bland supermarket stuff. Oh and we had some ace Chilli & Apple Jelly made from Mill Farm apples – we liked that a lot too.

Cheeses

We drank… pink Prosecco with strawberries

We talked about…  pinnys, Blissfields, holidays, poledancing, guitar playing, Grayson Perry on the telly, Mandy’s ear, spelt, Higgs Bosun

Oh and we didn’t eat ALL the bread that evening…we each had a proper bread basket to take home to our families and we are happy to report that all the breads were still delicious the next day – the soda breads are great for toasting. YUM.

Perfect Pasta

So… we began our cooking collaboration with pasta. We really want to support small producers, local where possible so we used Chapel Farm eggs which had the most beautiful, brightest yellow yolks and Wessex Mill Pasta and Pizza Flour.  The flour has a Good Taste Award and is the colour of a really smart off-white heritage paint and totally unlike that schreechingly bright white supermarket stuff.

Making the pasta was easy-peasy, like Jamie says ” just chuck the eggs and flour together, no big deal”. Rolling it out was fun as we were by now on our second bottle of celebratory fizz.

So to stuffing… we wanted to make RAVIOLI and we were super hungry. We had local asparagus, potatoes, peas, goats’ cheese and lovely mint from Mandy’s garden so we did two sorts of ravioli…here’s the recipes, bit vague but that’s how we roll..

LA CULINARI RAVIOLI NUMBER UNO (this was our favourite)

We cooked some peas (from pods, real peas…you know?) then added some frozen ones too for their zingy green and sweetness…drained them then crumbled in some goats’ cheese and chopped mint, some olive oil and loads of black pepper.

LA CULINARI RAVIOLI NUMBER DUE

We lightly cooked the asparagus stalks and added them to crushed cooked potatoes, and then softened with garlic, parmesan, nutmeg and pepper (we like pepper).

We had loads of pasta left so we rolled whole sage leaves into squares of it which looked super pretty and we made lots and lots and lots of linguine.

Things were getting proper messy now and we had covered most of the room with pasta so we cooked some of everything to try. We cooked the asparagus tips in with the pasta (which takes no time at all) and served with Loseley butter, extra parmesan, pepper and sage leaves.

It was ALL GOOD.

We drank… Freixenet Cava and Cuvée Royale Brut NV Crémant de Limoux

We talked about…  pinnys, our childrens’ exams and work experience, Blockbusters, Jubilympics, hosepipe bans, rumoured coffee shop openings and closings in Farnham and the Frensham Farm Shop