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A Recipe For Plum & Star Anise Jam

Plum Jam Recipe

Growing up we had two trees at the bottom of our garden: an apple tree that brought us small, bitter fruit and a plum tree that delivered nothing short of a tonne of plums every single year. Each year my mum would take the plums, stew them and turn them into a simple crumble. There was a lot of fruit and not so much crumble, not the kind of ratio I enjoy. Stewed fruit isn’t for me at the best of times, let alone when it’s the only desert available for the foreseeable future. Our freezer would be piled high every September. Up until last month I hadn’t touched a plum since, now there’s jars and jars of plum jam stacked on my shelves.

Whilst reading the Observer Food Monthly I came across a recipe for a plum and star anise frangipani from Gill Meller’s latest book. It seemed like the perfect thing to use up the plums that arrived with my latest Abel & Cole box; an originally unwelcome result of having not selected plums on my ‘never send’ list. It changed my opinion on the plums, so props to Gill. The combination of the plums with the aniseed-like flavour of the star anise (again not a flavour I would have enjoyed previously) works so well. You can find the recipe for the tart here.

 

Gill Meller Plum & Star Anise Tart

 

Warm and comforting, the deep purple plums are completely brought alive by the Star Anise.. I decided to combine both flavours into a plum jam, spiking it with a hint of ginger along the way to really deliver the most comforting of winter jams. Spread liberally on crumpets or freshly toasted sourdough, or better yet, swirl through a cosy bowl of porridge on a lazy winter morning.

I’ve made this plum jam twice now and both times it yielded four large jars. I always like to ensure I’ve got six sterilised and ready to go however. You never know. The hexagonal jars used here are from Wilko and are always my jam jar of choice!

 

Plum Jam Recipe

 

A note on sterilising jars.

Nigella says she considered jars fresh from the dishwasher as sterilised and ready to use, so I’m inclined to agree. She knows her stuff. If you don’t have a dishwasher however, wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water and leave to dry fully. Pop your oven on to a medium heat (150 C or so) and place the dried jars onto a baking tray and pop in the oven for ten minutes or so. For the final few minutes add in a second baking tray with the lids spread out on also. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly. This will keep the jars warm until you’re ready to fill them with your jam.

 

Plum Jam Recipe

Ingredients 

1kg of de-stoned and quartered firm plums
850g caster sugar
3 star anise
1sp ground ginger
120ml fresh lemon juice (around 3 medium lemons)

Method

Pop a side plate into the fridge to chill.

To a large heavy bottomed pan add the plums, sugar, ground ginger, lemon juice and 100ml of water.

Place the star anise (use just 2 if you’d like the flavour to be a little more subtle) into a pestle and motor and grind to a powder. You can also pop them into a sandwich bag and thoroughly bash with a rolling pin.

Before adding the ground star anise to the pan with the other ingredients tip them into a sieve to remove any of the larger chunks. You can grind these down again and repeat.

Bring everything to a boil before turning the heat down to maintain a slow simmer. Stir regularly until the sugar is fully dissolved and then intermittently for 40-50 minutes to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pan. The fruit should break down but not become entirely liquid, as well reducing quite significantly in volume to be thick and treacle-like.

At the 40 minute mark take your plate from the fridge and grab a teaspoon of the jam and pour the plum jam onto the plate. Leave to set for a minute or so. Push your finger through the jam, if it wrinkles and moves away from your finger, it’s ready. If sliding your finger through the jam doesn’t meet any resistance and it remains still very much a liquid, keep it on the heat for a little while longer, clean the plate and return to the fridge, trying the process again in a few minutes.

When you’re happy tip the jam into a jug, remove the jars from the oven and distribute the mixture evenly between the jars, filling them up to just below the neck. Don’t fill them right up the top, there needs to be a gap. Pop the lids on immediately and tightly close.

The jam should keep for quite some time, so if you’re making it now, feel free to stash it away for impromptu Christmas gifts!

 

Plum Jam Recipe

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Ate, Cook, Recipe

A Recipe For Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, With Jewelled Quinoa & Tahini Dressing.

Vegan Butternut Squash Salad

 

One of my many mottos in life is to never arrive empty handed. Whether it be flowers, wine or some kind of baked treat, I like to arrive places having made an effort. A psychologist would probably say it had something to do with a desire to be liked, but I can tell you quite definitely that isn’t high on my list of essentials. I just really like to cook.

This weekend over on Instagram I posted an image of my addition to a ‘low-key’ BBQ. The first thing you should know about me is that ‘low-key’ doesn’t really wash with me. The story resulted in so many messages asking for the recipe I decided to apply some quantities to it and write it up here. The recipe is a great vegan or vegetarian option for a BBQ and can be made ahead, making things much easier. Enjoy.

Ingredients

For the quinoa
300g quinoa (soaked in cold water overnight)
Vegetable stockpot or cube

For the dressing
4 tablespoons tahini 
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Salt & pepper
Juice of half a lemon

For the salad
1 butternut squash
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Pomegranate seeds
1 small tin of sweetcorn
80g kale – tough stalks removed

 

Cooking the perfect quinoa:

Soak your quinoa (in a jug to make it easy to pour into a sieve later) in cold water overnight.

Before using it, pour out the water and rinse it thoroughly under the cold tap. In a small pan mix freshly boiled water with a vegetable stock cube/pot, add the quinoa with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for around 10-12 minutes. Soaking the quinoa reduces the cooking time needed so keep checking on it, it should be unravelling into spirals but still have some bite when you taste it, it shouldn’t be mushy.

When it’s done, tip out of the water and then leave in the pan, with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper draped over the top before placing the lid on. Pop to one side to cool.

For the salad:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (175 fan).

Slice your butternut squash into 1cm rounds, removing the seeds as you get to the bulbous part. Slice each in half to make half moons, leaving the skin on. When the rounds are thin this easily cooks and adds some texture.

In a bowl toss them with olive oil and seasoning before spreading out on a baking tray. Spread them out as much as possible to allow them to roast. Pop in the Center of the oven and roast for twenty minutes. In the bowl you used to toss the squash add the kale and do exactly the same, lightly coating the kale in any remaining olive oil and seasoning, strewn about the roasting tray with the squash and return to the oven for five minutes.

Watch carefully as the kale can so easily burn, you want it crispy, almost like a crisp or seaweed. When it’s ready remove and leave to cool.

Tip the drained tin of sweetcorn into a preheated griddle pan. You shouldn’t need any oil. You want the corn to begin to blacken and Char at the edges, so keep shuffling around in the pan before leaving to one side when done.

For the dressing:

Add the tahini, crushed garlic, seasoning, oil, juice of a lemon and water to a bowl and mix together. Add more water and mix thoroughly until your dressing is pourable. If it looks like it’s curdled just add more water and keep mixing.

To serve fork through the quinoa and pile onto your serving plate, strew with squash, kale, and charred sweetcorn before drizzling the dressing over liberally. Finally add the pomegranate seeds and dig in.

 

Vegan Butternut Squash Salad

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Ate, Cook, Food, Recipe

A simple recipe for banana & oat bread.

Simple banana bread recipe

 

It’s come to my attention over the years that folk are rather peculiar when it comes to bananas. The single hint of brown upon their skin and half the population is repulsed and couldn’t possibly consider touching them. Package those browning bananas in the form of a cake however and they’ll happily gulp it down. This banana bread recipe never fails to find a happy audience.

 

Simple banana bread recipe

Simple banana bread recipe

 

Over the years I’ve tried and tested many, many banana bread recipes. As is the way with most recipes, this one has evolved over time to include bits and pieces of others, hints and tips lifted from everywhere from Martha Stewart to BBC Good Food. Along the way I decided to add in the oats and cinnamon although neither are required if you’re averse to either. I’ve also used everything from buckwheat flour to brown rice flour to produce the loaf, all with great success. The only flour I wouldn’t recommend using is coconut due to its habit of draining just about every last drop of moisture out of anything it comes into contact with.

After the loaf is baked and the flat smells of beautifully sweet bananas and cinnamon I tend to slice it straight away, sending all but three slices to the freezer in a zip lock bag. Three always seems like the appropriate amount to leave for yourself. Saturday, Sunday and the Monday pick me up. The loaf freezes perfectly and can just be defrosted slice by slice as you need it.

 

Simple banana bread recipe

 

Whilst it may seem a very odd thing to do, I recommend serving it toasted and slathered in peanut butter. I know, toasted banana bread may sound a little obscure, but I promise you it’s heavenly. Drizzle with honey, stew some fruit in a pan with some maple syrup to make a simple compote, or lightly toast and butter it. It’s up to you.

 

Banana & Oat Bread

4 Ripe Bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 tbsp coconut oil – melted and left to cool slightly
110g coconut sugar
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
180ml almond milk, unsweetened
130g ground almonds
110g oats
200g spelt flour
3 tsp baking powder

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (160 degrees fan) and line a standard 9×5 inch loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

The bananas should be as ripe as possible, brown speckled and soft. Break them into a bowl and mash them with a fork. Add in the honey, vanilla, egg, coconut oil, coconut sugar, salt, cinnamon and almond milk and combine until you’ve got a lovely banana-scented glop.

Add in the oats, spelt flour, ground almonds and baking powder and mix until combined. The mixture won’t be your usual smooth cake batter due to the oats and lumps of banana, so don’t worry. Tip into the loaf tin and pop into the centre of the oven for an hour. It may need a little longer but keep checking from the hour mark. The cake should be golden brown on top but still nice and moist (awful word and rather repulsed to be using it here, but I am all the same) inside.

If you want to check slide in a skewer or knife, it should come out relatively clean, although not perfectly clean as it might for your regular sponge cake. Transfer, in the tin, to a cooling tray and leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and leaving to cool completely.

 

Simple banana bread recipe

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Ate, Cook, Made

A Sunday In September.

Nigel Slater's Sticky Fig Chutney

If I were to take December and its connotations of Christmas out of the equation, September would be unequivocally my favourite month of the year. I’ve always had more of an affinity with the colder months, I put it down to the fact I was born in a snowstorm. September is the month that bridges the gap between the final days of summer and the undoubtedly soggy October that lies ahead. There’s a fresh nip to the mornings but a blazing sunlight to the afternoons. The light manages to hold on until the early evening as the mornings slowly but very surely get that little bit darker with each passing day. We all know it’s coming, but September breaks it to us gently.

Ultimately autumn is about comfort. Spending entire days in doors, hiding out from the showers and keeping warm. Catching up on all those little things you’ve been meaning to do all summer but haven’t quite got round to yet. Those books you never got round to reading, or the film you keep saying you’ll watch but never seem to be able to settle enough to put it on. The term ‘hygge’ seems to be a little too commonly used of late, but nonetheless belongs in these time of the year. Find something to do, take it slowly and most importantly, enjoy it.

Nigel Slater's Sticky Fig Chutney

And so to chutney. September is fig season, potentially the best of all the fruit seasons. For those of you who have more important issues than to spend a Sunday contemplating your favourite fruit harvest, I can assure you it’s a good one. Figs find their way to my toast and onto my granola, grilled with honey and almonds and served with coconut yoghurt, caramelised with balsamic vinegar and tossed into a salad; in short, I can find a home for them just about anywhere. Nothing is quite as satisfying as making a warm sticky fig chutney however.

There’s something so peaceful about chopping onions I find. My eyes have become so accustomed to it now I don’t even emit a sniffle, let alone a tear. Chopping the onions and layering them beneath mounds of sliced figs, dolling out lashings of all spice and gently smashing peppercorns to pieces for the final flourish before dousing the whole thing in vinegar – it’s a Sunday well spent.

Sticky Fig Chutney

As a child my Grandma had to hide the bottle of vinegar in the highest of cupboards, I was known to try and drink it. Yes, I’m aware it’s quite bizarre, but even now as a pool of balsamic vinegar sits at the bottom of my salad bowl, I know I could drink up every last drop if I wanted to. That sweet, spicy smell of the vinegar mingles with the all spice and juicy sultanas to result in the most comforting of September feelings. It’s not quite the baking of the Christmas cake, but it’s a very close second.

I always turn to a Nigel Slater recipe for my fig chutney, taken from potentially my favourite cookbook of all, The Kitchen Diaries II. Whilst several blogs have chosen to write up the Sticky Fig Chutney recipe, I can’t help but feel that isn’t right? If you’d like to make it the recipe is easily Google-able; my only amendment to the genius of the original recipe is to throw in some bay leaves. If you don’t have the book – I whole heatedly recommend it.

Sticky Fig ChutneyAutumn Fig Chutney

The jars are now neatly lined up on my the shelves awaiting some kind of minimalist labelling technique that I’ve yet to fathom. I recommend sloshing it on crusty sourdough, topped with goat’s cheese.

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Ate, Cook, Food, Recipe

Zatar Roasted Carrot & Garlic Hummus.

There was a time when a tub of hummus and a stack of toasted pita breads constituted an evening meal for me. I’m rather glad to say those days are gone and I have moved on to a much more balanced diet, however, that being said… I could absolutely still do exactly that. I love hummus. In almost all of its guises, I love it. Most days it serves as a prelude to my desk lunch, with a pile of carrots serving as the vehicle for it’s salty, lemony tang.

In my quest of the perfect hummus recipe – something I have absolutely yet to find I might add – I’ve explored the world of alternative versions, with varying success. There’s thus far been everything from puy lentil editions to creamy butterbean variants. This roasted carrot version is one I shall certainly be returning to although I might add, it’s absolutely never going to replace the chickpea variety.

Roasting the carrots with the zatar spiked oil really brings out their sweet nature whilst adding a spark of flavour to the proceedings. I find also roasted the garlic in the same way produces a much more mellow tasting hummus, adding it in raw can leave a rather acrid taste in my experience, so I tend to always roast the garlic first. Serve it with some toasted pita chips (gluten free pitas will do just as well, don’t worry) and some fresh crudités like celery or chicory.

 

Ingredients

  • 8 carrots, cleaned and sliced in half
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, with more to serve
  • 2 garlic cloves, pealed
  • 1 tsp zatar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp of tahini

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Start by scrubbing the carrots thoroughly, you don’t need to peel them, just make sure they’re well and truly clean before slicing them in half.  

Add the carrots to a mixing bowl along with the two pealed cloves of garlic and drizzle over 2 tablespoons of your olive oil.

Next sprinkle over a pinch of salt and your teaspoon of zatar and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, give it all a good toss to make sure every piece of carrot is nicely coated and then arrange on your baking tray in a pleasantly hazard manor.

Remove the two cloves of garlic and keep to one side for now, they aren’t going to need as long to roast as the carrots. If any of the oil mix remains in the bowl, just pour this onto the carrots. 

Pop into the oven and leave to roast for around 15 minutes, at this point check on them and add the garlic to your baking tray. Pop back in the over for a further 10-15 minutes until everything looks caramelized and delectable before removing from the oven. Leave to one side to cool.

Once the carrots and garlic have cooled add them to your food processor with your lemon juice, tahini and remaining olive oil. Give it all a whizz until nice and blended, you might at this point need to add in some more olive oil if you feel the hummus is too thick. Give it a taste and season accordingly. If it’s a little sweet for you simply try adding a few further drops of lemon juice.

To serve, spoon into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil before adding a final sprinkling of zatar.

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Ate, Cook

Bitter Sweet Orange.

I like to cook dinner for people, it just makes me inexplicably happy. I enjoy a culinary challenge even more. For a number of years now my mum hasn’t been able to wheat; not a welcome ailment for someone with a sweet tooth. When she visits I like to try and cook something she won’t have had before, or at least something she won’t have had in quite some time.

This weekend my head was filled with the promise of spring, a curious thing amidst the snow and biting cold. Perhaps its simply optimism that spring is on the way or maybe it’s just because I bought myself some tulips for the dining table, but either way my head was firmly in the next season. For dessert I wanted to serve something fresh and citrusy, maybe even a little sharp. Over the Christmas period we seem to spend so long eating rich, complex flavours I felt I wanted the total opposite of for this week’s Sunday lunch.

Step forward bitter Seville orange tart. With a few adjustments to a recipe I’d bookmarked with a receipt sometime ago in Simply Nigella, the tart was made wholly appropriate for a celiac with a fondness for dessert. In lieu of a pastry crust there’s a ginger spiced biscuit crust, extra thick for a bit of texture against the creamy curd of the filling. There’s little denying that this is not one the healthier options I’ve cooked. Butter, sugar and a large quantity of eggs feature even if wheat and gluten are entirely missing. I’m not going to claim to have bettered Nigella’s recipe but I definitely don’t feel she’d scoff at the altered rendition. Short, sharp and filled with the promise of a warm spring day, the tart was swiftly demolished by all involved.

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Ate, Cook, Food

Clementines & Ginger.

The real reason I decided to play around with the idea of a ginger and clementine cake came from the fact I stumbled across some miniature bundt tins whilst wandering around a store last week.

As soon I saw them I knew something festive would evolve from their presence in my kitchen.

The cake itself has a darkly spiced flavour due to a blend of ginger, cinnamon and the all together not too healthy addition of Golden Syrup. The drizzle icing and candied peal on top deliver a sharper kick of clementine. Again, the sugar doesn’t exactly render this all that healthy however I’m convinced a more virtuous iteration of it can be discovered.

Bear with me. I’m working on it.

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