Lemon Curd

lemon-curd-recipe

If you haven’t had lemon curd before where have you been?

This is the most delicious sweet, sharp, zesty, zingy thing you have ever spread on a piece of bread.  The intensity of the lemon is wonderfully redolent of summer holidays in the Med and it brings that taste of sunshine to cold winter days.

Be aware that, although this is technically a preserve, the inclusion of eggs means that it is a fresh product that will not keep in the same way as a jam might.  You can expect a jar to last, unopened, in the fridge for two to three weeks (shop bought fruit curds contain added preservatives to give them a longer shelf life).  Once you have opened a jar of home-made lemon curd don’t expect it to last more than a few days – but that has genuinely never been a problem in our house.

Lemon curd is delicious spread on a slice of crusty bread and butter, or on a scone or a crumpet.  Try stirring it into Greek yoghurt or use it to make an instant lemon tart (with a blind baked pastry case) or in a lemon cupcake.  The list is only limited by your imagination.

However you use it please take the time to make this lusciousness at least once in your life – I promise you won’t regret it.

lemon-curd

Ingredients

Makes approximately 1 x 500g jar or 2 x 250g jars

4 un-waxed Lemons

200g / 7oz Golden Caster Sugar

100g / 3½oz unsalted Butter

3 large Eggs, plus 1 Egg Yolk

Method

Finely grate the zest from the lemons and then juice them.  Put the zest and juice into a large, heat proof bowl along with the sugar.  Cut the butter into cubes and add to the bowl.

Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water but make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolk and stir them into the lemon mixture. Whisk until all of the ingredients are well combined, then cook, stirring regularly, until the curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.

Once cooled, spoon the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal. It will keep, unopened, in the fridge, for two to three weeks.

NB the simplest way to sterilise jars is to put them through a hot dishwasher cycle before drying in a warm oven.

 

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Piccalilli

piccalilliI’m not sure if this one is a recipe or a spelling test.  Generally speaking my spelling is pretty good but I have to look piccalilli up every time I write it.  Once I have made it though I know exactly what to do with it.

Piccalilli is a bit of an English classic even though it is also called Indian Pickle.  It goes wonderfully well with a Ploughman’s Lunch or on a sandwich with thickly cut ham or generous slices of mature cheddar.  In our house it is a Christmas essential alongside all those left over meats and cheeses.  It’s just so bright and cheerful it always brings a smile to my face.

Some people like their piccalilli really chunky so that they can serve it on the side of the plate – I once bought some which had a piece of cauliflower in it that was so big that it took up over half the jar!

I personally prefer it when the vegetables are cut up much smaller so that the pickle is almost spreadable and can be used in sandwiches.  I like to get a bit of each vegetable in every mouthful rather than eat them all separately.

piccalilli-2

The good thing about making it yourself is that you can have it any way you like – just cook it a little longer if you like it chunky.

There are lots of different recipes for piccalilli; some brine the vegetables, some don’t, some cook the vegetables and others leave them raw.  I like to use the brine phase, it helps to season the pickle but also maintains crispness and retards the growth of bacteria.  Technically, if your vegetables are cut small and soaked in salt water they don’t really need much cooking – just a minute or two or else they lose their crunchiness.  The cooking becomes more important if your vegetables are left in bigger chunks.

Just a word of warning before you start – wear an apron for this one, and old clothes!  You might want to protect your work surfaces too if they are at all porous; turmeric and mustard powder stain like you would not believe.

piccalilli-recipe

Ingredients

225g Sea Salt

500g Cauliflower

1 large or 2 medium Courgettes

200g Carrots

150g Fine Green Beans

225g Shallots

1L Distilled Malt Vinegar

175g Caster Sugar

1 Clove Garlic

50g piece of Root Ginger

4 tbsp Cornflour

2 tbsp English Mustard Powder

2 tbsp Ground Turmeric

½ tsp Ground Ginger

½ tsp Dried Chilli Flakes

1 medium-hot red Chilli

NB: All the weights in this recipe refer to the prepared vegetables (e.g. after peeling and slicing).

Method

Day 1

Put the salt into a large bowl and add 2.5 litres of cold water.  Stir until the salt has dissolved.

Slice the cauliflower into small florettes.

Halve the courgette lengthways.  Large courgettes can be a little seedy in the middle, if yours is scoop out this softer section leaving only the firm flesh.  Dice.

Peel and thinly slice the carrots (or dice if the slices are too large).

Top and tail the green beans and cut into 1-2cm lengths.

Peel the shallots and either slice or quarter, depending on the size.

Add all the vegetables to the salted water and stir.  Cover with a plate to keep them submerged and cover the entire bowl with cling film.  Leave in the fridge or another cool place for 24 hours.

Drain the vegetables and rinse well in 2 or 3 changes of cold water.

Reserve 4 tablespoons of vinegar.

Crush the garlic and grate the ginger and put in a large, stainless steel pan (or a preserving pan) along with the remaining vinegar and the caster sugar.  Bring to the boil.

Add the vegetables and cook for two minutes (longer if your vegetables are very chunky), they should be cooked but still crunchy. Strain the vegetables through a colander but make sure to reserve the vinegar!!  Return the vinegar to the pan and bring back to the boil.

Put the cornflour, English mustard powder, ground turmeric, ground ginger and chilli flakes into a bowl.  Mix to a smooth paste with the reserved 4 tbsp vinegar.  Add a little of the hot vinegar mixture to the paste to loosen it, then stir it all back into the hot vinegar pan and bring to the boil, stirring.

Simmer for a couple of minutes until smooth and thick.

De-seed and finely chop the red chilli.  Add to the sauce along with the vegetables.  Stir well then spoon into warm, sterilised jars.  Cover with waxed discs and seal with vinegar-proof lids.

Leave to cool, then store in a cool dark place. The pickle is ready to eat immediately and will keep, unopened, for around 12 months.

Sterilising Jars

Put the jars and lids through a hot, dishwasher cycle.  Put the clean jars on a baking tray in a low oven to dry and stay hot until you are ready to fill them.

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Cucumber and Vanilla Jam

Cucumber Jam 2

Today I made cucumber jam.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking but don’t run away just yet…

I saw this recipe in an old book of preserves back in the winter and was intrigued but it felt like a summer recipe so I shelved it – literally.  I had never heard of it before but soon it started popping up in my Pinterest feed and, when I Googled it (other search engines do exist etc. etc.), I found that it really is a thing.  Other people have been making it for ages.  Who knew?

So I decided to give it a try.  The original recipe used ordinary sugar, pectin powder and a little lemon juice but I just used jam sugar which already has pectin in it.  It gave quite a soft set but, as you keep it in the fridge, that’s fine.

I flavoured the jam with vanilla but you can experiment – next time I think I will make it with mint.

The beauty of this is that it is so quick.  In Winter I am happy to spend all afternoon by the stove making jams and preserves but in the summer I like something a little more instant.  I put ingredients into a pan, gave them a stir and set them aside while I baked a cake (for a friend) and made dinner.  After dinner I boiled it up and put it in a jar in less time than it took my husband to load the dishwasher.

This morning I had some for breakfast on a slice of brioche which brings me to the question you all want to ask; what is it like?

Well, it is surprisingly delicious; sweet, refreshing, almost like melon really.  It’s kind of like a marriage between the jam butty of my childhood and an elegant cucumber sandwich.  Will you like it?  Well, I guess there is only one way to tell…  you’d better buy some jam sugar!

Cucumber and Vanilla Jam

Ingredients

250g prepared Cucumber (approximately 1 large cucumber)

275g Jam Sugar (with added pectin)

1 Vanilla Pod

Cucumber Jam recipe

Method

Peel and grate the cucumber.  Place in a pan with the sugar.  Remove the seeds from the vanilla pod and place in the pan with the other ingredients.  Stir well and set aside for 2 hours.

Bring to the boil and keep boiling and stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and wait until the boiling has subsided.

Pour into a hot, sterilised jar and top with a wax disc and cover with a lid or cling film.  When cool store it in the fridge.

cucumber jam

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Damson Cheese

 

Damson Cheese

Last week Martin and I went for a wander around the lanes near our house and collected five pounds of lovely blackberries. I came home tired and happy with thoughts of jam making in my mind.  As we got close to home I could see a bright plastic bag hanging on the front door.  My lovely friend Lizzi had clearly been out foraging too and had left me, not only a mass of beautiful ripe damsons, but also a jar of her amazing damson jam.  Yum.  The potential to be creative and instant gratification all in one bag – quite a gift.

I set my blackberries aside and started on a batch of damson cheese.

I don’t really know why fruit cheeses are called “cheese” (answers on a postcard to…).  They are really a kind of thick, sliceable jam made using just fruit and sugar.  They are incredibly simple to make but, like all good things, take a little time.  Once made they taste amazing served in slices with cheese or cooked meats.  You may be familiar with the Spanish membrillo which is a quince paste or “cheese” most usually served with Manchego cheese. This damson cheese works in much the same way but is particularly good with game, or a really mature cheddar or a soft, baked camembert or….

… well, it’s up to you really.  If you can’t find damsons to pick in the wild ask your greengrocer, they should be in the shops just about now.

Oh, and I didn’t forget about the blackberries – watch this space…

Damson Cheese RecipeIngredients

2kg Damsons
Around 750g granulated sugar

Method

Put the damsons in a large pan, I use a preserving pan but if you don’t have one any large, heavy based pan will do.  Add 3 tablespoons of water and bring to a gentle simmer.    Continue to simmer until all the fruit is soft, stir occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick..

Push the cooked damsons through a sieve to remove the skins and stones and capture all the juice and pulp in a large measuring jug.  This may take a little time so put the radio on and enjoy it.

Measure the pulp and for every 500ml, add 350g sugar.  Pour back into the preserving pan. Bring back to a simmer over a low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then cook gently, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick.  The “cheese” will reduce to a thick puree.  You will know that it is ready when you drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and the base stays clearly visible for a second or two. This stage can take up to an hour.

Pour a small amount of oil into a shallow plastic container and wipe it around with kitchen paper so that you leave the barest film on the surface.  Pour in the “cheese” and leave to cool and set.  Cover tightly with a lid and it will keep for a long time in the fridge.

Serve, cut into slices, with cheese or cooked meats.

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Mango Chutney Recipe

Mango Chutney

You can, of course, buy really good mango chutney but if you happen to have some ripe mangoes lying around and you have a little time on your hands then this is well worth making.

It is sweet, fruity and has a little chilli kick too.  Lovely with onion bhajis.

When you slice the mangos give some thought as to how chunky you want your chutney to be.  I wanted a really smooth chutney this time so I used a stick blender to puree the cooked mix before putting into jars.

You will also need some sterilised jars – jam jars are fine.

Ingredients

4 large ripe (but not bruised) Mangos

2 tbsp Table Salt

4 Cloves Garlic

1 lb / 450g Unrefined Golden Caster Sugar

2 large Bramley Apples

1 tbsp Mustard Powder (English)

1 Pint / 450 ml Unspiced White Vinegar (malt or wine are fine)

1 tbsp Cayenne Pepper

1 tbsp Fresh Ginger (grated)

Method

Peel and slice the mangoes, put the slices into a bowl, sprinkle with salt and leave in a cool place overnight.  Next morning rinse the fruit well, drain and set aside.

Put the rest of the ingredients into a into a large pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring to the boil and add the mango slices.

Simmer for half an hour or so until the chutney is thick and syrupy.  Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

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