Use blackcurrants, redcurrants and an assortment of other summer fruits to make this summer favourite. Serve with fresh cream or crème fraiche.
Line the base and sides of a 1 litre bowl.
Gently simmer the fruit with the sugar –until the sugar has completely dissolved and then a few further minutes so juice starts to run from the fruit mixture.
Reserve 1-2 table spoons of the juice. Poor the fruit and juice mixture into the lined bowl and make a lid out of the bread slices so that the pudding fills the bowl to just below its top. Cover with cling film, place a saucer on the top and put a weight on top so that the lid is slowly and gently squashed into the fruit mixture. Place in the fridge and leave overnight.
Turn the pudding out and pour the remaining juice over the top.
Broad Bean Hummus
Perfect with crackers, pitta bread or toasted sour dough bread.
Boil the shelled beans in salt water for five minutes, cool under running water, and remove from their skins.
Bake the seeds gently in a medium oven. Grind to powder in a mortar and pestle with the salt while still warm.
Place the beans, spice mix, garlic, olive oil, and a small amount of water in a blender and blend to a smooth puree. Add more water if the mixture is too thick, and more salt if needed.
Sprinkle with a small garnish of chopped parsley or coriander.
Crumble Mixture for Fruit
The key to good crumble mix is the ratio of flour to sugar/butter. This recipe will provide four generous portions, but just adjust the amounts in the same ratio for more people (or bigger portions!)
Use your hands to rub the flour and butter together until they form a 'breadcrumb' like mixture. Combine with sugar (and chopped walnuts/cinnamon if used)
Spread over the fruit mixture - some sweetened rhubarb with crystallised ginger is perfect at this time of year but, in summer, can be replaced by sweetened damsons or plums with mixed spice then, in autumn, apples or pears with dates.
Bake in a heated oven at 200degC for about an hour, but check at five minute intervals after around forty minutes - the top should be golden brown and the fruit syrup should bubble up around the edge of the dish.
Spinach and Bacon Salad
Fresh greens complemented by salty bacon and crunchy bread A meal for two or side dish for four to six...
Wash and dry the spinach leaves.and put in a large bowl.
Cut the bacon into small strips and gently cook with a little olive oil in a frying pan until the white fat turns golden. Remove the bacon and allow to cool.
Meanwhile cut the bread int o cubes and fry in bacon fat/olive oil (add more olive oil if the bread absorbs it and the pan goes dry) until they turn golden brown Turn off the pan.
Dress the spinach leaves with the vinegar and seasoning. Stir in the bacon slices and sprinkle the bread cubes/croutons over the top.
A quick and easy way to preserve any surplus rhubarb. Delicious on its own or mixed with lemonade or a sparkling wine.
Ingredients (the exact proportions don't matter, so you can add adjust the relative amount of fruit and sugar to suit your own taste):
Simply soak all of the ingredients and store in a cool dark place. I use 2 litre kilner jars, but any air-tight container will do. Initially the liquid will need inverting or gentle stirring every day or two to stop the sugar from setting. It is ready to bottle (or drink!) after 3-4 weeks - when the liquid turns a pale shade of pink and the rhubarb turns a pale brown/green colour.
You can leave it for much longer (up to a year) and the rhubarb taste becomes more pronounced.
For a special treat add two or three vanilla pods.
Kale and (Wild) Garlic
This side dish can be prepared with garlic but has a more subtle flavour if you use wild garlic leaves which are at their best in early April just as the plants start to flower.
Ingredients (per person)
Blanch the kale in salt water and drain. If you are using 'ordinary' garlic, crush the garlic and gently fry in olive oil before adding the kale. If you are using wild garlic, add raw to the drained kale and gently coo in the olive oil until wilted.
Squeeze the lemon over the mixture and serve while hot.
Rhubarb and Custard Tart
Makes one 300mm (12”) diameter tart (8-12 portions).
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (425°F) and Line a circular tin with the pastry and bake blind for 10-15 minutes.
Warm the milk and cream gently but do not boil. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add to the milk/cream. Add the sugar, egg yolks and flour and whisk together, allow to cool slightly and pour into the pastry base.
Arrange the rhubarb pieces on top of the custard and bake for 25 minutes. Serve warm or cold.
Spring Greens with Lemon Dressing
Nutritious greens with strong lemon flavours for a healthy (and tasty) side dish.
Make the dressing by mixing the garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil and some seasoning together.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then add the broccoli and greens, and cook for about 5 mins until tender. Drain well, then toss through the dressing and serve.
Sprouting Broccoli with Chilli and Anchovies
An unusual accompaniment to simply grilled meat or chicken. Enough for 4-6 portions.
Trim the broccoli, blanch in salted water until tender and drain.
Roughly chop the garlic and fry gently in the olive until soft. Add the chilli flakes and anchovies and cook until the anchovies have broken down and thickened the olive oil. Add the broccoli and warm through.
A simple and economical meal using seasonal leeks. The following makes four servings for a light supper or lunch.
Mix the mashed potato, leeks, butter milk and seasoning in a bowl. Divide the mixture into four and spoon into individual oven dishes to approximately 1cm (½”) below the top of each dish.
Form a hollow in the mixture in each bowl and crack an egg in the hole. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top of each dish and bake in a hot oven the eggs are cooked and the cheese has browned.
Brussells Sprouts Salad
Raw fresh Brussells Sprouts are surprisingly good raw in salads – give them a go in this variation of a Waldorf!
Pre-heat oven to 180°C and toast the nuts for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and chop or slice thinly.
Peel the sprouts and slice thinly. Put them in a small bowl and toss with the dressing and seasoning. Slice the apple and stir in with the sprouts.
Crumble the cheese and loosely toss with the sprouts/apple. Sprinkle with the nuts and serve.
Chinese Style Chard
An accompaniment to an oriental meal or quick and easy snack on its own.
150-250g (6-8oz) of chard
1 tbspn sesame or sunflower oil
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbspn dark soy sauce
Chilli seeds (optional)
Blanche the chard in salted water for 2-3 minutes and drain. Heat the oil in a hot frying pan or wok, add the chard and garlic (and chilli seeds if you like additional spice). Stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes. Add the soy sauce and stir for a further 2-3 minutes.
Serve with additional soy sauce to taste.
Tuscany Black Kale (Cavolo Nero) Salad
An unusual accompaniment to grilled meat, fish or chicken. Serves 4.
Remove the kale leaves from the rib, chop into 50mm (2”) lengths and blanch in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly and allow to cool.
Makes 6-8 jars
Roast the pickling spice with the salt for 15 minutes, then crush in a mortar and pestle.
Chop the pumpkin, tomatoes and onions, and cook in a pan with the vinegar sugar, raisins/sultanas, chopped garlic and chopped chilli. Bring to the boil and add the ground spices and salt. Simmer until the mixture thickens and then pot in sterilised jars. Allow to ferment for at least two weeks before use.
The squash chunks should retain some of their firmness and provide a ‘nutty’ texture. - perfect with a strong cheddar or to accompany a curry.
Serves four – delicious with turkey, gammon and roast pork.
Boil, peel and trim the parsnips and boil until soft (10-15 minutes). Drain and reserve the water. Blend the cooked parsnips with the butter and cream. Add the reserved water until it has the consistency of a sauce.
Return to the pan and season to taste.
This American favourite is even better when it’s made with home-grown pumpkins or squashes – delicious (hot or cold) with whipped cream.
Boil the squash/pumpkin in salted water for 15-20 minutes. Drain thoroughly and allow to cool. Blend all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth. Pour into the pastry base and cook for 40-45 minutes at 200°C - although the timing will depend on the moisture content of the pumpkin. Check at 30 minutes and then every five minutes, and reduce the oven temperature to 150°C if the pastry or topping are showing any signs of excessive ‘darkening’ (burning!).
Preserving Vegetables and Fruit
Preserving is a simple way of using fruit and vegetables, and it’s homely and satisfying to have jars of jams, chutneys, pickles and relishes in our cupboards. It is the perfect way of using surplus produce when there is a glut. And, by making them ourselves, we have control over their ingredients and can avoid the use of unnecessary colourings, flavourings and preservatives. They also make ideal gifts.
The nutritional value of all food deteriorates after it is picked. Preserving fruit and vegetables this is further reduced by washing, cooking, leaching and degradation. Many of these are unavoidable but can be limited by, preserving in oil rather than a sweet sauce, by pickling large chunks rather than grated vegetables, and by storing in cool dark spaces. And, although there is some loss of nutrients, preserved vegetables have historically helped to combat starvation and prevent scurvy throughout northern European winters. But the main reason for preserving fruit is to extend the shelf life of our produce, and, perhaps far more importantly, the taste!
Preserving doesn’t need any specialist equipment (although items such as preserving pans, jam funnels, and sugar thermometers are an advantage) and they require ingredients that are commonly available in any supermarket.
Even after giving away some of your produce to friends you may still be left with more than you can use - what a lovely problem to have!
Preservation is all about reducing the rate at which our crops decay.
Freezing is the simplest, quickest and most convenient means of preserving, and it is easy to store crops in small batches as they ripen. Most vegetables can be blanched then drained and frozen. Tomatoes, peppers and courgettes can be used in pasta sauces and ratatouille that can be frozen. Soft fruits can be open frozen straight after picking or cooked as syrups or purees and then bagged in small or large quantities.
Making jam is probably the most common/popular method for preserving fruit and soft fruits produce some delightful jams/conserves. Add sugar (similar weight to that of the fruit) and a lemon per kg (2 lb) of fruit and heat the mixture until a drop creases when dropped o a chilled saucer. Pour into sterilised jars when hot and seal the lids (these will produce a satisfying ‘pop’ as the contents cool). Try adding crystallised or powdered ginger to apple or gooseberry (or other tart fruits) to strawberry jam.
Pickling – preserving in vinegar or a vinegar-based sauce – can provide a delightful range of colours and flavours from simple pickled onions and other vegetables through ploughman’s pickles to mango chutneys and classics such as piccalilli. They should generally be left for at least one month before use to allow the flavours to combine and mature. Fruits – particularly apples, plums, pears and gooseberries - can also be cooked with sugar and vinegar to produce chutneys and pickles that are delicious with cheese and cold meats (mix 500g plums with 500g sugar and 250ml of white vinegar for a delicious cheese ccompaniment!).
Bottling is less common but not difficult – simply pack fruit or vegetables into bottling jars and cover with syrup, water or brine, then cook and seal them at high temperature to ensure that there are no bacteria present.