Thursday, 25 July 2013

Delia's blackcurrant jam and buttermilk scones

 Whenever I am looking for a good, reliable recipe for something, I turn to Delia.
 So, returning from the allotment with another big bowlful of blackcurrants, I flicked through her Complete cookery course for a recipe for blackcurrant jam.
I found one that was both easy and delicious.
In fact, if you are a jam making novice, blackcurrant jam is a good way to start. The high levels of pectin found in blackcurrants ensure a good set every time.
 The ingredients are very simple:

2lb (900g) blackcurrants
1pint (570ml) water
2 1/2lb (1kg125g) sugar
Simmer the fruit in the water until soft.
Add the sugar and heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved completely.
Then turn up the heat and boil rapidly for 10 mins.
Test for a set by spooning a little onto a cold saucer, if it crinkles when pushed with a finger it is set. If not boil again for 5 mins and test again.

For more detailed jam making tips from Delia click here.

The current heatwave we are having with temperatures inching towards 30c, is not really conducive to leaning over pans of boiling sugar and fruit, so next day I was up at 6 o'clock  to get started early and beat the heat.
By 8am I had 5 jars of jam neatly lined up!
( It helps that I love the early morning. My favourite time of day!)



And to go with the freshly made jam, another Delia recipe -
 This is my favourite recipe for scones. I think the addition of buttermilk really gives a light, fluffy result.
As always with scones, they are best eaten warm from the oven. 
And with home-made jam! 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

nice ... but not naughty

It seems to me that the humble blackcurrant, once a favourite in cottage gardens everywhere, has been overshadowed by the more sophisticated blueberry with its superfood tag.
This is a shame, as the blackcurrant is easy to grow ( blueberries need acid soil, whereas the accommodating blackcurrant is not fussy), has numerous health benefits more than equal to those of the blueberry and has, I think, a cleaner, fresher taste.

This is the second full year for the blackcurrant bush on our allotment and the first proper harvest.
Rummage through the bush to find the little glossy fruits and you will be rewarded not only by a delicious harvest, but also by the unmistakable smell given off by the leaves - a pungent,woody, green smell which means summer has arrived!

 The little berries are mouth puckeringly sour eaten raw and their powerful flavour does need heat, sugar and often dairy to soften them.
 The heat wave we are having at the moment made me think something ice cold and refreshing was what was needed!
And always on the look-out for desserts that are delicious, but not calorie laden, I decided to make blackcurrant frozen yoghurt.
I adapted a recipe that came with my Magimix ice cream maker, but used natural yoghurt instead of cream.

The recipe called for:
500g blackcurrants
150g sugar
600ml whipping or double cream ( or in my case - yoghurt)
Put the washed and trimmed fruit in a saucepan with the sugar and 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.
 Cook over a low heat until soft.
Puree then sieve.

Leave to cool, then add cream or yoghurt.

Don't worry if you don't have an ice cream maker. When I got mine out from the back of the cupboard a few weeks ago, I discovered that the non stick lining was peeling off, so I poured the mixture into a shallow, rectangular plastic box  instead and placed in the freezer, removing it a couple of times when partly frozen to beat with an electric whisk.
It seemed to work just as well.

The result was a cross between ice-cream and sorbet. It was very refreshing - some might say sharp and mr digandweed was in favour of smothering it with cream
but I liked the tart, palate cleansing taste.



Tuesday, 16 July 2013

surveying the scene

Garlic lifted and area dug over,
more Charlotte potatoes harvested
last of  the strawberries picked
a bag of mixed salad leaves collected
weeding done
everything watered

 Phew! Finished.

Time for coffee!


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

never give up

 If there was a prize for the slowest germinating seed,  then this Harlequin squash would surely win!
Planted more than 10 weeks ago, it sat in its pot on the windowsill in the spare bedroom. Its brothers and sisters eventually germinated, but this one showed no sign of growth.
 I left it and watered it from time to time until last week I noticed a little green speck, which eventually unfurled into this.
So the moral of the story is never give up!
Hopefully, it will soon be planted out with the others and I will be looking forward to stripy squash.

And things are looking up in other areas too.

The first of our Charlotte potatoes to be harvested. Not completely blemish free, but hey-ho they were still delicious.
And look, hole-free rocket!
The creepy crawly defence system worked!

And for a quick and easy supper - 
 the potatoes and rocket mixed with tuna and olives in a lemony dressing.

We found this little visitor under a large pot on the allotment.
A little newt and I think, given its size - about 2inches from top to tail - a baby one.
I was going to move the pot to another part of the allotment, but instead put it carefully back.

Friday, 5 July 2013

childhood memories

Re-creating mum's fruit loaf recipe, started me off thinking back to when I was a child and given the battles I've had over the past weeks with slugs and snails, I was reminded in particular of my journey to school each day
When I started secondary school, I began biking the 2 to 3 miles to and from school with my sister. Our journey took us along a footpath near our house. The path had a big 'no cycling' sign at the end, so we would get off our bikes at that point and walk. It was quite a long and narrow path, bordered on both sides by trees and bushes. When it rained, which seemed quite often, this being the west country and not the dry fens, enormous slugs in shades of orange, brown and black would slither into the middle of the path.
Invariably some would end up squashed, their insides oozing out.
 I can still remember my horror trying to dodge the slimy creatures whilst pushing my bike along!
To this day I can't think about slugs without a shudder!
Imagine my dismay therefore, when the other day, I lifted up the edge of the weed suppressing membrane which I had put over the strawberry beds to keep the fruit clean only to find it had become a perfect hiding place for slugs!
However, such was my determination to protect our precious strawberry harvest, that armed with thick gloves, my trowel and iron resolution, I inched my way around the beds, flicking the offending creatures out and lobbing them Wimbledon style across the path and into the perimeter hedge where I hoped they would make a meal for a passing hedgehog!
Fortunately, no-one was on the adjoining allotments to see my grimaces or hear my muffled yelps of disgust and ......
 --- the strawberries are safe!
Summer breakfast. Muesli and yoghurt with strawberries.

Summer tea. Scone and cream with strawberries.
Always read the small print:
Although the strawberries were our own homegrown and I assembled the scones with the fruit and cream, I did not actually bake them! They were  baked by Waitrose !!
And actually, they should really be plain and not fruit scones.