Seasonal smells and simmering spiced fruits…..

making-mincemeat

Last year I wrote a lengthy old post about marvellous mincemeat and how I like to use it in the kitchen and also included one of my various recipes for it but a few weeks ago I found up this recipe which I used to use all the time, it’s a little bit different in that it uses vegetable suet and doesn’t use cider which, at the time I was using this recipe didn’t use to drink…well even now, I’m not like a real cider quoffing Worzel but am just happy to have a small glass (anymore then that and I’m sound asleep on the sofa)…. generally  when it comes to making mincemeat you’re just mixing some chopped fruit with something sweet to preserve it so there is a lot of scope for having a tinker with it….It’s really easy to make as it’s just a big pan stir of chopped apples and fruits, plenty of spice and a few generous glogs of something warming to add festive spirit and Yuletide cheer….

I always think this makes for a really nice and fairly easy on the pocket gift if you have friends who like homemade jams and chutneys, it makes a change from those and apart from using it to fill little pastry tarts it also comes in handy with other Wintery bakes…..a generous dollop or so in an apple crumble or plum crumble right lifts those up and I’ll often add a couple of heaped spoonfuls to a bread sponge for a spicy loaf (so good for toasting when it’s chilly out) and have used it to make mini panettone style breads…

I say Wintery bakes but even in Summer I can smear this over puff pastry and quickly make pain aux raisins for breakfast.

homemade mincepies

This will make a generous amount of jars (it depends how large they are but you should get at least 6 x 450g/ 1 Ib jars)…the ingredients list does look rather colossal so you might want to buy them over a couple of days if you have to carry them home…and if you make this in the Autumn (something to try and remember to do next year) then it is a very good recipe for using up windfalls or wildlings that are foraged……

In my last house I used to make a big pan of this, while it was gently simmering and filling the house with it’s spicy aroma, I’d sit on the kitchen step (I had steps leading down to it…no room in there for a chair so a cushion on a step sufficed) and would start making my Christmas present/Christmas card list…..it’s a nice way to ease into the festive season…..admittedly I’ve left it a bit late this year but just taking a few minutes away from a long list of things that need doing to make this always helps me catch my breath and feel calmer…..

cinnamon and fruit sourdough loaf

Ingredients….

2  1/2 to 3 lbs of sharp apples (cooking or wildlings or windfalls) peeled, cored  and chopped into tiny cubes

12 oz currants

12 oz raisins

12 0z sultanas

6 oz almonds, blanched and finely chopped (note you might need to check no-one who eats these has a nut allergy…though you could just leave out the almonds if you want)

3 oz mixed peel

3 oz glace cherries

14 oz dark muscovado sugar

6 oz vegetarian suet

grated zest of a large un-waxed orange

grated zest and juice of a large un-waxed lemon (or 2 small ones)

1 heaped tablespoon of mixed spice

4 or 5 tablespoons of a good dark rum (I like Lamb’s Navy Rum)

4 fl oz Brandy

Method

In a very large pan, throw in the chopped apples and cover them in the sugar, spices and a splash of brandy to stop them from sticking….on a gentle heat gently warm through and allow the apples to simmer…add all the dry fruit, suet and nuts (if you are using them) also add the zest and lemon juice and simmer for about half an hour …

The fruit becomes rather mushy….allow to cool and add the alcohol, I like to use Lamb’s Navy Rum as that is what my dad liked at Christmas, me and my sisters would always have a sip and shudder and go “ugh”…so a few sploshes of that go into remember Dad…..the resulting mincemeat is burnished and beautiful, all in a sticky and spicy dark syrup….

Spoon into sterilized jars and cover…store in a cool and dark cupboard..if you can remember to turn the jars over every few days then so much the better, it will allow the liquidy mixture to permeate better.

If you don’t use the vegetable suet then I would suggest using about 9 fl oz of a medium dry cider……the fruit needs a little lubrication and the suet melts into the sugar to form the dark sticky syrup….

This stores well for a year, however once the jar is opened it needs to be kept in the fridge and used within 4 weeks.

A fruity semi-freddo…….

wild cherriesThere’s been a big improvement in the weather this week and it finally feels warm enough for an ice-creamy type pudding…..one of the easiest chilled puddings we like to eat in the Summer is a semi-fredo, especially when we flavour it with fruit from the garden….sadly it’s still a bit early for our raspberries but  a poke about in the back of our freezer has found a little tub of a cherry compote that I made last year with some foraged cherries…..

In the past I’ve used the cherry compote to make a very grown up tasting cherry ripple ice-cream (served with a trickle of dark chocolate sauce…. but I think crisp buttery biscuits would have been nice as well.

fragrant elderflower blossomsAlong with the cherry compote I also found a little tub with a gooseberry and elderflower compote inside and I’m wondering whether to try that in more of a possety pudding for mid-week.

The elderflowers have been a bit slow here this year but I noticed quite a lot of cloudy white billows out yesterday so I guess the week of sun-shine has helped them come on…..fingers crossed if it’s nice tomorrow we’ll head out with a basket and walking stick (helps me reach some of those higher up blossom heads)….

Semi Freddo is really easy to make, however this recipe does use raw eggs so it’s not suitable for children or anyone pregnant..

We buy all our eggs from Folland’s Organics on Norwich market, the eggs there are amazing and well worth the money, if you keep chickens or ducks yourself then your pudding is going to taste out of this world….I’ve wrote my recipe on here before, but this is a scaled down version if you don’t have a whole lot of freezer room.

unwaxed lemonsSemi-Freddo (enough for 4 pudding loving people, or 6 if you just like a taste)

Ingredients….

2 large organic eggs (separate the whites from the yolks)

350ml double cream

25 grammes of vanilla sugar

vanilla pod/fruit compote/lemon curd……

2 small loaf tins

Method….

Line the two loaf tins with clingfilm.

Beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until they become airy and pale in colour.

Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks.

Whisk the cream until it just forms a soft cloud.

Carefully add half the whipped egg whites and whipped cream into the egg yolks and sugar….and once that has only just come together, gently mix in the remaining half along with the flavouring…( I prefer to put in my flavouring now whether it’s a fruit compote, a couple of big spoons of very sharp lemon curd, a dollop of caramel syrup…….adding it now means the semi-freddo is lovely and rippled)…..sometimes I just use a vanilla bean if I’m serving the semi-freddo with fruit, and then I’ll scrape the tiny seeds out and add them to the egg yolks as I beat them with the sugar.

Gently spoon out the mixture and divide it between the loaf tins, tuck all the clingfilm over the mixture and allow it a few hours to freeze.  I tend to make it in the morning so it has all day in there.

You can take it out of the freezer about 15 minutes before you want to eat it, just leave it out on the side, but I prefer to take it out an hour before hand and then leave it on a shelf in the fridge….turn the loaf tins upside down and it should slide out fine….cut and serve with a drizzle of any remaining compote and some crisp biscuits or fruit.

(you can also freeze it in little silicion loaf tins which work very well too.)

 

 

 

Easy peasy lemon squeezy posset

unwaxed lemons

It’s been absolutely glorious here the past few days, sunshiney and warm without a cloud in the sky….windows and kitchen door are wide open til gone 8…I’d say it feels more like Summer than Spring but suddenly there’s a chill in the air and the evening temperature drops quickly….most nights we have a pudding of sorts, sometimes it’s just yoghurt or a piece of fruit, the boyfriend tends to prefer something chocolately.  But weekends I try to make a bit of an effort and then it’s creme brulees, crumbles and custard, meringues…..come the warm weather though and I start to crave homemade icecreams using fruit from the garden or what I find growing in the hedgerow.

But it’s not quite warm enough for ice-cream in my book yet so this easy peasy “lemon squeezy” posset fits in nicely to the time of year…..it’s lemony flavour is nice and refreshing  but the custardy smoothness of it doesn’t chill like an ice-cream would……

Ingredients (enough for 4)

500 ml double cream

juice of a fat lemon

100 g of castor sugar (vanilla is nice to use but not the end of theworld if you don’t have any)

4 ramekins

method

In a heavy bottomed pan gently heat the cream and caster sugar, stir all the while with a wooden spoon and bring it to a boil.  Allow it to boil for about 3 minutes.

Remove it from the heat and pour in the lemon juice, stir with the wooden spoon or a wooden whisk.  Sieve into a large jug or bowl before spooning into the 4 ramekins.

Allow to cool a little before putting in to the fridge for at least 6 hours before eating……(make sure there isn’t anything aromatic like a stinky cheese in there as this will absorb into the posset…if so, you’ll need to cover the possets with greaseproof paper held in place with an elastic band.

They will keep til the next day but will develop a more tangy lemon flavour.  These ae nice served with cats tongue biscuits or almond ricciarelli biscuits….you could also make up some crumble mix and gently bake that in a warm oven until it turns golden and sprinkle it on top of the posset.

A hand clappingly lovely trinity cream…..

I’ve always thought custards were rather icky, probably bad associations with powder based sauces that were served up along side crumbles and steamed puddings when I was at primary school (for the most part the meals were lovely and we had proper dinner ladies who cooked everything daily but where I would happily eat second helpings of the vegetables the puddings were never much to my liking…rice pudding, semolina and jam, gypsy tart….horrible,horrible,horrible though I would eat chocolate custard as that was served with chocolate pudding and also  because, hello, chocolate…lemon love cake was my absolute favourite school pudding and as far as I can remember it was a shortcake base, a thick lemon curd centre and then a crumbly top…I may be wrong as it’s nearly 35 years since I last tasted it but I know it used to make me so happy to see it written up on the lunch time board.)…anyway off subject a bit there…even at home custard tended to be made with a couple of heaped spoonfuls of a pinky yellow powder from a fat bright primary colours striped cardboard “tin” so I’d often skip puddings and have something from one of the cake tins that my mum would keep in the pantry.

Even once I was all grown up I’d just assumed custards and sauce anglises tasted like I remembered from when I was small so as far as I was concerned custard was just a yellow fright.  My boyfriend however loves them and so I happily make custard for him, served alongside crumbles and fruit pies, or if he’s feeling a bit poorly I’ll make him bannana custard (shudder…I hate banana flavoured things) …whisking up egg yolks and scolding cream, slowly stirring the two together, it’s lovely and relaxing to do….but I’ve never thought to actually taste them because you know, custard is yeuch.

trinity cream

But then last Summer when I was on a bit of an ice-cream making fit, a little light sort of came on in my mind…the ice-creams I was making were all for the most part custard based and I very much liked eating them, so I had a taste of the custard I was making..and then another little taste…and another…how stupid was I.  For years I’d been missing out on something so delicious……most puddings that are served with a hot custard I don’t care for but turn that custard into a creme brulee and I’m putty in your hands.

I’ve been tinkering about with creme brulee/trinity cream recipes for the past 6 months or so and this seems to be my best one.  It sounds a lot harder than it actually is to make, and my boyfriend’s mum declared it the best creme brulee she’d ever had (it’s one of her favourite puddings).

trinity cream with demerara sugar

Creme Brulee (enough for 4 people who like to properly taste a pudding)

Ingredients

300 ml of Jersey cream (not an extra super thick one as they often have a thickener added to them and that cooks up a bit odd) just a regular Jersey cream

200 ml of double cream

2 dessert spoons of castor sugar (it can be golden or vanilla if you like)

1 fat vanilla pod (yes good quality ones are a bit expensive but no more than a latte)

4 large organic egg yolks (freeze the whites, you can use those for meringues)

4 single sized ramikans

demerara sugar

Method

Put the ramikins into the freezer so they are nicely chilled before you go to use them.

Using a heavy bottomed pan, pour in the jersey cream and the double cream.  Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and with the blade of a knife squish out the vanilla seeds and put seeds and pod into the cream.  Gently scold the cream and then allow to cool (this helps the vanilla to infuse)

Put the egg yolks and castor sugar in to a bowl and beat together until the mixture becomes quite pale.  It should thicken up and feel quite foamy.

Strain the cooled cream into a clean bowl through a sieve and wash up the heavy bottomed pan. (I also wash and pat dry the used  vanilla pod and then keep it in a mason jar of bourbon to make my own vanilla extract.)

Add the egg/sugar mix in to the clean pan and stir in the strained, cooled milk. Stir well together.

On a low heat and using a wooden spoon stir the mixture for between 10-15 minutes until it thickens.  You may like to use a wooden whisk for the last 5 minutes or so.  Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat as it might catch, just take it slowly, have the radio on, listen to a podcast…..just keep stirring.

Once the mixture has begun to thicken, turn off the heat and pour into a measuring jug and use this to now pour the mixture into the chilled ramikins.

Pop the ramikins into the fridge and now leave them there for at least 7 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle the top with some of the demerara sugar and place them carefully under a hot grill, just keep an eye so that the sugar doesn’t burn.  When the sugar is bubbled and ready, turn off the heat and carefully allow to cool for a few minutes before putting them back into the fridge for half an hour…. then serve to a round of ooohs and ahhhs, hand claps and you clever old thing-ing!

 

On birthdays and grey hairs, wrinkles and knitting, baking bread and getting covered in cow lick.

the blanket inspector strikes again

So another year older, not so sure I’m any the wiser…though maybe learning to knit new stitches should count.  It was my birthday on Sunday and where I’d planned an extra long laze in bed, what with the clocks changing and all, I ended up waking really early, crept down the stairs and made a pot of tea and spent a few quiet hours on the sofa knitting…at some point Bernard jumped up along side me and cuddled right up with his paws and head on my knee (he loves the sheepy smell of the Jamieson and Smith wool, and to be fair so do I).  As it was a bit chilly I’d got a shawl wrapped round me that I bought from a nice boutique in Norwich about 11 years ago (it’s a Noa Noa one and it’s so soft and drapey and lovely…I should wash it but it smells so familiar and comforting, fancy bottled scens and woodsmoke, incense and me I guess….anyway, Bernard managed to tunnel himself under it as he cuddled along side nudging me right into the corner…I don’t know which of us looked more like a little old granny…him or me.

Auld Gold and Scotch Broom

After a couple of hours I remembered about the clock change, and where I thought I’d got up at 6, I’d in fact got up while the lark was still sleeping….but I really enjoyed those quiet hours while the house was still sleeping, just the soft tinkle of stitch markers on my needles, the slow swooosh (like the quietest corduroy thigh rub) of the wool being pulled out of the ball, the warmness of Bernard half in my lap all purrs and deep rumbles while he sleeps, together mixed in with the scent of the wool.  The sheepy scent is so warm and drowsy feeling (not really making me lose my count like the Shetland Heather….though I know that’s just me blaming the wool for my inability to concentrate…)…my knitting is soft and is such a pleasure to keep touching…..when I lift it up to admire my work so far, I can’t help but think of Tom Tit Tot (you may know him as Rumplestiltskin)….it’s like the wool is slowly turning into gold.  It helps that my wool is lichen coloured, all mustardy and auld gold, but it’s not hard to see where that story comes from (especially if you’ve ever seen flax whipped and beaten and then spun…if you haven’t then it’s in one of the excellent Ruth Goodman Farm documentaries….I think it’s in the Tudor one…)

natural leaven and yeast bread

I had such a nice birthday, very leisurely and where once I would have wanted to go out, party, be a bit wild, I was more than content to dawdle and potter about at home, do a little knitting, make the sponge for bread, put meringues in the oven (oh my goodness, I’ve been making the nicest meringues…when I was making the ice-cream in the Summer I put the left over egg whites in little bags and popped them into the freezer. Then when I want meringues*, which is a lot of the time as it’s one of the few puddings I can really eat anymore, I just take a bag out of the freezer the night before, that way the whites de-frost and also come to room temp, then it’s just whizz whizz whizz so the whites are fluffed up, add some sugar and cream of tartar, a splash of cider vinegar and then into a cool oven….open the door and you’re greeted by billowy clouds of beautiful meringues, crisp and golden on the outside, all gooey deliciousness inside)…..

october o

The weather was perfect, a little bit nippy but after a wet old Saturday, Sunday was sunshiney and bright, so we went for a good walk over the marshes and common, the cows were out in two different fields which made me happy as I’m a cow cuddler, I love cows (and always say I should have married a farmer…) and happily rub noses and scritch behind ears, pat necks and tell them how beautiful they are…there was a couple of younger cows who stuck their tongues out, hesitantly licking my fingers and then nudging me when I had stopped skritching…one russety flamed coloured fellow (I could have taken him home he was such a darling) was so friendly, he had the palest pink nose with a tongue to match and after he’d licked my fingers and hands, started on my tights so at that point I thought it time to go wander back home as I was getting a bit covered with his runny old nose…..While I’m there fussing and coasing them, the boy stands a good distance away….he’s very wary of farm animals where I love being around them having grown up in the the countryside, not on a farm but I was used to them being in fields near our house….though to be fair if it was a field of geese I’d avoid them like the plague….I don’t really care for them as they properly give me the willies. (I was chased by geese as a little girl until my dad came to the rescue, swinging me way up, high above his head, then sitting me safely down onto his shoulders…my hero.)

crocheted cosy

Then home for lunch and an afternoon of pots of fancy tea, Miss Marple films (the Margaret Rutherford ones…she’s my Miss Marple of preference…I know she’s very different from how Miss Marple is in the books, but I love her so much, she’s one of my favourite actresses)…knitting and a small box of geranium, lavender and rose cream chocolates within easy reach by my side…..although I’ve not had a tasting for chocolate for ages I still love these delicate floral fondants…there is a lovely Chocolate ship in the Royal Arcade in Norwich, called Digby’s Fine Chocolates…..the ladies there are lovely especially Anne and Jean. A couple of years ago one of my birthday presents was to go there and chose my own chocolates….picking them out one by one…all my favourites and a few chosen for the boy who oddly isn’t a fan of the floral creams….then having them to eat while I spent the weekend sprawled on the sofa, crochet or sewing in hand watching Cagney and Lacey……heaven…..the smell of bread baking in the kitchen and wafts of sheepyness from my knitting mixing together for warm homey happiness.

grannies paperweigh scarf

So a few more wrinkles, certainly there’s a few more grey hairs…at some point I reached the age where dyeing my hair was no longer about colouring my what I look back and think was actually perfectly lovely chestnutty brown hair but at the time I thought the very height of “bor-ing” into exciting blacks and henah reds (I was 15 and couldn’t be told any different)…..but now has become about holding back the grey for another year or so….I don’t really mind them but colouring the grey makes me happy, I don’t do it for anyone else…..and wrinkles….well I don’t think I look like my mum in the slightest, (she’s very petite and I’m more like an old cart horse, tall with what I’m told are “good child bearing hips)….I take after my dad, I’ve got his eyes, his whole colouring really, and I share the same lower face, chin, jaw-line and mouth as one of my younger sisters….which when I looked at an old family photograph, is something we’ve both inherited from my dad’s mum’s mum….we never knew her, she died years before I was born….I wonder if it’s something my Nanny ever thought about when she saw us growing up “well that’s mother’s face….” we also have the same forehead, the same frowns and expression when we’re concentrating….but I have my mum’s wrinkles…just under my cheeks, just up from my mouth…they lay like a soft mist, a veil of cobwebs just past the corners of my mouth, when I smile or laugh I know they’re there, I see them when I look in the mirror and pull faces as I apply make-up or face creams…it’s been odd to see those lines appear a little more pronounced over this Summer…everything else about us is quite different..but wrinkles are a common bond, like a map of footpaths and ley lines showing where and who  I’m from…

*I like the Sarah Raven recipe from her Garden Cookbook…perfection everytime.

Mirabelles and an oeuf lah lah pudding………

mirabelle plums

The combination of what felt like a week of heavy rain followed by days of scorchy sunshine have resulted in a bumper forage of plump and ripe mirabelle plums.

Most of the wild fruit trees I’ve been keeping watch on seem to be doing really well, branches full and laden of fat fruit…I’m told it’s because we had a mild autumn last year so the trees and hedgerows were able to produce plenty of new growth….then when the blossoms were forming in the Spring the weather was lovely and sunny, even though we’ve had a lot of rain since it seems to have been once the blossoms were pollinated…thank you bees.

All the apple trees seem to have produced plenty of fruit (though I tend to call them all crab apples I think more are wildings…I’m thinking to make a supply of apple jellies as a base for some winter gravies…the blackberries are getting huge and if the day gets out nice I’ll wander out and see if any are ready to pick yet…(this time last year I’d already gathered loads but they seem a bit behind this year, though all the ones I’ve seen do look an most impressive size.)

As delicious as the ripe mirabelles taste with just a rinse under a cold tap you do need to be a bit careful, like all wild fruit they seem to be full of extra fruity goodness which is often a bit harsh on the digestive system so if you don’t want a gippy tummy (I’m talking the same effect as syrup of figs here) a little moderation is called for.

I’ve got a couple of new things planned for the mirabelles, I picked a fair few while still leaving the tree pretty laden so I’m a bit spoilt for choice with what to make.  First choice will always be a jam, though this isn’t always the first jam grabbed from the pantry for toast, it is very nice especially on a fruited spicy loaf on those cold mornings, however I think it really comes into it’s own when it’s used in jam tarts. Less sweet than raspberry and with much more depth of flavour than strawberry, mirabelle tarts are just mmmmm and I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like to find a couple along side a cup of tea at elevenises

Mirabelle plum jam.

As I’ve got plenty of mirabelles I thought I’d have a play with a couple of other newer recipes,

It seems a bit daft giving a bread and butter pudding as there’s very little to it, but also because it’s a bit warm for a hot dessert, however we’ve got some bread that’s now a bit too dry for sandwiches and I know Mister Tummy Tumpkins will still be appreciative of a pudding whatever the weather.

Mirabelle  oeuf lah lah* bread and butter pudding 

(I’ve given this a bit of a French sounding name as mirabelles are really a French plum, mostly in England we get myrobalan or cherry plums…they’re really similar to the French mirabelle and you won’t find any of them in the shops…)

*also I have a lovely French friend who when she says “ohh lah lah” it sounds like she is saying “oeuf”

Ingredients

A handful of mirabelle plums, washed and halved

caster sugar*

A couple of slices of slightly stale homemade bread

softened butter

about 300 ml milk (full fat but I often use semi skimmed..and you may need a little more if your bread is thirsty)

2 medium eggs

an ovenproof dish

Method

Pop the plums in a heavy bottomed pan, sprinkle over some caster sugar and on a low heat allow to simmer so the fruit becomes tender and the juices begin to run.  Keep a watch on them so the plums don’t stick, as long as they’re still wet from a wash then they should be okay.

Once the plums are ready, remove the stones (you can remove them before you cook them but I find it easier once they’re cooked)

Butter your dish.

Trim the crusts off your bread and butter.  Cut each slice into 4.

Start placing the buttered bread slices into the oven proof dish, squidge in a spoonful or so of cooked plums between the slices.

Don’t cram your dish or it will all spill out.

Sprinkle over a couple of dessert spoons of caster sugar.

Beat the egg and 300ml of milk together and pour over the bread and plums.  Allow to soak in for 15/20 minutes.  If the bread seems particularly thirsty pour a little more.

Allow a full half hour for the eggy milk custard to soak through the bread before putting into an oven.

Bake in a medium oven (gas 5) for about 30/35 minutes.

Serve pretty quick while it’s still wobbly. Good as is but even nicer with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Enough for 2 greedy pudding liking people.

I figure if you’re going to have a pudding then you want to know you’ve had one so my pudding portions tend to be on the generous size.

*I tend to have a jar filled with sugar with a couple of vanilla pods tucked in, everytime some is used, the jar is topped up and given a good shake

Foraging for fruit and a Cherry Ripple Ice Cream……

cherry harvest

Not far from where we live, just round the corner really, there’s half a dozen or so wild cherry trees and over the past few weeks when I’ve walked back from popping down to the shops I’ve stopped and picked a handful or so to eat.  There’s never been that many all ripe at once, or if there have been they’ve been too high up and only reachable if you are a bird or a squirrel.

But the week before last I noticed a whole load of dark coloured cherries all squished on the ground, and when I looked up I saw one tree that I’d have thought would have been picked clean was absolutely laden and the cherries were all ripe.  I quickly nipped home and returned with a couple of big plastic tubs and picked as many as I could reach, which wasn’t all that easy as the tree is on a bit of a slope so every time I stretched up I kept running back down the hill, no doubt I provided plenty of entertainment to anyone watching and i had a couple of dog walkers ask me what I was doing and what was I planning to make.  I’ve only ever seen one other couple pick the cherries near here so i guess people don’t realize what they are or that they’re edible…..the wild cherries aren’t as fat and plump as the ones we’ve been buying from the fruit stall on the market, but they were so good to eat, slightly tarter and very juicy.

This Summer I’ve been playing around trying out various ice cream recipes and although I don’t need to ask my boyfriend his favourite flavour (chocolate every time) I prefer a really fruity ice, but the older I get the more fussy I’ve become, even some of the posh ice creams in the shops are full of ingredients I wasn’t expecting to find so I don’t begrudge the time spent making a custard* for the ice cream base as I know I’m going to have a delicious pudding come evening.

Possibly the recipe I’ve had the best results with so far involves making a custard with full fat milk and egg yokes and adding some whipped cream.  Chocolate or a fruit puree can be added after the dessert has begun to set.  I don’t think home made ice cream keeps particularly well, so I only make enough to last us a couple of nights but I’ve made up lots of little pots of fruit puree and have those crammed in the freezer all ready to use for pudding nights.

The foraged cherries were made into a very grown up tasting Cherry Ripple ice cream, some puree was put in the freezer and some I ate with yoghurt for a rather indulgent breakfast the next day though I think it would have been very nice on warm brioche or croissants.

Cherry Ripple Ice cream

Ice-cream

500ml full fat milk

4 egg yolks

150 g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

300 ml double cream

Puree

Cherries

caster sugar

(I used 750g or so cherries and to that used 150g sugar but it depends on how sweet or tart your fruit is and also on your own preference)

To make

Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan and add about half the sugar.  Stir all the while with a wooden spoon and scald the milk.

Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining half of the sugar until the yolks become pale and creamy.

While the egg mixture is being whisked pour in a little of the hot milk.  Keep whisking a nd slowly add a little more and so on until all the milk is added.

Wash the pan and then add the eggy milk back in and on a very low heat make the custard.

Stir all the while with a wooden spoon until the milk begins to coat the back of the spoon.  Once the custard has began to form, turn off the heat and then keep stirring until the custard thickens up a bit more.  (you can do this with the bowl set in a sink with cold water if you’re worried about the custard curdling)

Place in a metal bowl and set to one side.

Now whisk the cream until it’s soft and billowy.  Add to the custard in spoonfuls and stir through.  Cover with clingfilm and place in the freezer.

Rinse the cherries and tumble them in to a large saucepan, add a little water and cover with some sugar.  Bring to a gentle simmer and allow them to soften and cook for about 10 minutes or so.  Once the cherries are all soft and falling away from their stones, place them in a large sieve and press them though so you get a lovely fruity puree.

(You may find it a bit easier to sieve a couple of desert spoons full at a time as it is a bit hard going, but I’m sure this does wonders for wobbly under arms)

After an hour, take the metal bowl out of the freezer, and give the custard a good mix with either a fork or a whisk.  Cover and put back for another hour.  Repeat a couple more times until the mixture has began to firm up some.

When the custard seems like it’s a good way on the way to becoming ice cream, scoop out deep groves through the dessert and fill them with the fruity puree.  Ripple it though the rest of the ice with a spoon but don’t over do it.

Cover with fresh cling film and leave to set for another 3 hours or so.

When it’s properly set, place it in the fridge about 20/30 minutes before you want to serve, this will mean the ice cream is easy to scoop out and is a nice texture for eating.

*probably the easiest ice cream I’ve ever made used a tub of ready made custard (it was a proper posh one so really had very little other than eggs, milk and vanilla in it) and a tub of cream.  I just emptied the custard in to a bowl, whipped the cream and slowly stirred it in and then put it in the freezer, taking it out every hour or so for the first few hours.  Then I made some deep groves through the semi set dessert and filled them with a home made lemon curd, slowly rippled it through and then popped it back in the freezer.  I took it out of the freezer and placed it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before eating….eye closingly delicious and too easy for words.

Blackberry jam, a junket for two and brandy sozzled berries…..

berries in the pan

For Christmas the Arpette bought me a French copper preserving pan, it’s possibly the best present I’ve ever had, it’s huge (I’m pretty sure if we had a baby we could bathe them in it) incredibly heavy and is just the most beautiful colour.  I love how the blackberries look when they tumble into it…when they start to bubble up in a sugary syrup then the colour combination of deep purple berry and glistening copper are stunning….but most importantly I’m finding my jam making has improved no end by using it.

So far this summer I’ve made blackberry jam, mirabelle jam, blackberry and licorice jam (which is the most deepest darkest jam I’ve ever made…I liken it to a passionate embrace on the moors with Heathcliffe but without the thick ear), various blackberry treacles, an incredibly red raspberry jam with the raspberries from the garden and a raspberry and peach jam that looked so beautiful as the syrup was bubbling (all salmon pink, coral and apricot while it was bubbling up).

blackberry jam

This is the blackberry jam recipe I use, it’s my favourite jam in the whole wide world, and I think it’s best eaten in the Autumn…especially on toasted spiced breads and bagels, it’s also good spread between layers of chocolate cake, and lovely stirred into yoghurt.

Blackberry jam

Ingredients

1 kilo of blackbrries

800 g of granulated sugar

juice of one lemon

Method

Pick over the blackberries, and give them a very quick rinse in cold water.

Tip the berries into your preserving pan, cover with sugar and the lemon juice.

Bring to a steady simmer then transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl.  Cover with baking parchment, allow to cool before leaving overnight in the fridge.

Next day pour the fruit and syrup into the preserving pan (you may want to be wearing a pinny as it is a bit splashy) and bring to a rolling boil.

Cook for between 5 and 10 minutes, checking for a set on a cold saucer (I tend to keep a couple in the freezer while I’m making jam so that each time I check the set the saucer is really cold)

When the jam makes a good set (it will wrinkle when you push your finger into it, and it’s also tacky between finger and thumb), pour into sterilised jars, and seal the tops with little waxed circles.

blackberry and licorice treacle

A couple of years ago we were both rather addicted to the very delicious Giu desserts, they came in sweet little glass jars and I saved umpteen of them for using for jams and marmalade…they’re a really good size for the blackberry treacle  (I’ve used them for a lot of the other jams too) as their size allows you to store lots of small quantities in the cupboard.  Once you open a jar of the treacle it needs to be kept in the fridge but it tends to thicken up (you can add a little boiled water to a couple of spoonfuls of the treacle in a separate bowl before using if it thickens up too much…it’s a bit of a pfaff but gives a good result if you are using the treacle poured into yoghurt or over ice cream.)

Because of the glut of blackberries this year I’ve been trying out different recipes and ways to use them, as it’s been a bit on the pippy side in the evenings we’ve already been eating blackberries crumbles but for a warm evening one of my favourite recipes  is the humble but divine tasting Blackberry Junket…surely one of the easiest blackberry recipes and one of the tastiest.

Blackberry Junket

Ingredients

Really ripe freshly picked blackberries (best picked on a nice warm day so the berries feel warm from the sun)

Method

Pick the blackberries over.  Put them into a large bowl and give them a good mash with a potato masher (an apron is pretty much essential to wear as it’s a bit messy so you don’t get covered in juice).

Once you have a good pile of what looks like blackberry mush, strain it through a fine sieve (or lay a couple of squares of muslin in a not so fine sieve.) over a clean bowl.

Allow the liquid to collect, then cover with a tea towel and place to one side in a warmish spot for a few hours.  Don’t put it in the fridge.

After 3 or so hours it sets to become a delicious fruity jelly*

Have with freshly baked scones and clotted cream, or on delicate boudoir biscuits served topped with whipped cream as a sort of trifle.  Or if you are feeling all healthy then it’s just as delicious with yoghurt or creme fraiche.

*if it doesn’t set, don’t fret, just add a few desert spoons of sugar to the juice and bring to a steady boil…allow to cook for about 5 minutes then pour into a bowl (or a couple of smaller shallow bowls), leave to cool….it’s not really now a junket, but is still a very nice blackberry syrup which is nice over ice-cream or yoghurt.

Blackberry Brandy

We’ve also made some blackberry brandy which we hope to start drinking in a few months….it’s really simple to make and the best bit is you can eat the brandy sozzled berries as a dessert.

Ingredients

500 g blackberries (picked over)

175 g castor sugar

1 litre of brandy

sterilised mason jar

Method

Put the blackberries in to the mason jar.  Cover with the sugar.

Pour over the brandy and seal the jar.  Store away form direct light.

Shake the jar a little every day.

After 2 months, strain the brandy.  Reserve the berries.  Pour the brandy into a bottle.

The berries can be used in a pudding, they are incredibly nice on pudding biscuits (allow them to soak in for an hour or so) with mascarpone cream on top or used as a boozy cheesecake topping.

Two patchwork blocks for dear ethel and a blackberry crumble for my pudding…

amish shoofly

Two new patchwork blocks for my “dear ethel” quilt…I’m starting to feel a bit sad that I’ve  only got about  25 more blocks to piece…I’m still pfaffing about how I’m going to join them together, I know I’ll use sashing but I’m a bit un-sure exactly which colours I’ll use.  Anyway that is still a little way off.

In the meantime, in case you’d like to know, this block is called Amish Shoofly, the red fabric was some from my sister’s stash, and the pink lamby fabric (one of my favourite fabrics) is a Lecien print.

capital T

This patchwork block is called Capital T.  I really like using orange and red together, it’s fantastically bright and colour clashing, and reminds me so much of sticky sweet rocket lollies from the seventies.  I had to un-pick some of the pieces as I’d managed to sew some upside down and on the side (I’d carefully fussy cut the fabric so the pattern all ran in one direction and then wasn’t concentrating while I was sewing it)

It actually makes my eyes go a bit funny when I stare at it.

I’m very aware the light in the evening is changing….it’s getting tricksier and tricksier sewing in the evening (I seem to wind up sitting on the other end of the sofa to where the light actually falls….) and am in the process of sorting out un-finished woolly projects from last year (hmmm thinking about it most of them seem to come from the year before that), thinking to see if I can finish them so they’ll be all ready for when it becomes properly chilly (though there was such a definite nip in the air this morning when I was out in the garden picking caterpillars off our sprouting broccoli, so am thinking it won’t be long and I’ll be wrapping my self up in scarves and shawls…..

We had blackberry crumble for pudding last night, I’d picked blackberries in the morning and had some left over from making jam……it seems a bit strange eating a crumble in the summer (to me it’s very much an autumn or winter pudding, to be eaten after a hearty casserole or something with lots of mushrooms and fat vegetarian sausages) but it was so chilly I really needed something warm.  I just put the fruit into a shallow baking dish, sprinkling them with brown sugar and then covering them with crumble mix from the freezer…25 minutes later the fruit was bubbling up through a crisp and crumbly topping…..perfect.

Blackberry Crumble

blackberries (allow a good handful per person…more if you are like me and are a bit greedy for puddings)

soft brown sugar, a desert spoon per person

crumble topping

Crumble Topping

8 oz of plain flour

4 oz unslated butter

2 oz castor sugar

Tip the flour into a large bowl.  Cut the butter into small cubes and using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat and flour together until the mixture becomes dry and sandy breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and mix in well.

This is enough for several crumbles.  Store in a sealed bag in the freezer and just sprinkle over fruit when you want a delicious and hot fruity pudding.

(you can also add a desert spoon or so of chopped hazelnuts and of rolled oats before using the crumble topping in the oven)

Method

Turn the oven on to gas 6

If you like you can use a small knob of butter to lightly grease the baking dish first, I do this for fruit I have frozen, but not if I am using fruit I’ve picked that day.

Pick the blackberries over and give them the quickest of rinses in a bowl of cold water.

Put the berries into a shallow ceramic baking dish, sprinkle over the sugar and toss together.

Scatter over as much of the crumble topping as you like…the berries needs to be well covered so try to hide all the fruit.

Bake in the top third of the oven for about 25 minutes, the crumble topping turns a lovely golden brown.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.  Very good with cold thick cream, creme fraiche or vanilla custard.

For some crumbles I add a little cinnamon to the topping, this is just gilding the lily for a blackberry crumble, as far as I’m concerned, the simpler the better…though it is very nice with the hazelnuts and rolled oats mixed into the crumble top.

If I have made a big fruit crumble and there is some left for the next day, when I re-heat it, I’ll put some of the crumble mix from the freezer on to a lined baking tray and let that toast for a few minutes so that there is still a  crumbly topping.