Category Archives: fruit

Marmalade (Makes: 3/4 jars – Preparation time: +4hrs)

Seville oranges are in season right now so it is time to roll up your sleeves and make Marmalade!  I learnt a couple of things last week, firstly that Seville oranges have a short season from the end of December to mid-February, and secondly that there is a high concentration of pectin (natural gelling agent) in the pith and seeds of citrus fruits.  What this means is that to make marmalade you only need 3 ingredients and decent amount of time on your hands.

Now I confess before I embarked on making Marmalade last weekend I gave Mummy Mortimer a ring to see if she had any top tips. Her advice was to cut the oranges in half and to cook them first in a shallow pan with a little water to soften the rind.  It was a great shout and meant that I could make the marmalade in two stages and the rind was incredibly easy to cut into slivers.

My tip is to put at least 4 side plates in the freezer for testing when the jam has reached setting point.  When you think the jam is ready to test – spoon a small amount onto one of the plates and place back in the freezer for 1 minute and then push the marmalade gently with your fingers to see if the jam wrinkles.  If it does then you will know that it is ready, if not keep boiling.

The beauty of making your own marmalade is that you can adjust the balance of sugar in the recipe to suit your own palate.  I personally prefer a sharp marmalade so I work on the following ratio 750g sugar to 1 litre of liquid and then add more sugar as needed.

The process of making marmalade whilst lengthy is very easy and I recommend you giving it a go if you can get it your hands on some Seville oranges.  At the end of the process you’ll have at least 3 jars which you and either keep and enjoy over the next few months or give to friends and family as gifts.  Enjoy!

“A wise bear always keeps a marmalade sandwich in his hat in case of an emergency”
~ A Bear Called Paddington ~

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Pork belly with cranberry glaze (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 2-2.5hrs)

I am going through a phase of trying to use up leftovers and empty my freezer which is no mean feat.  As a family we are notorious for hunting down a bargain and raiding the reduced aisle for tasty goodies. In fact there have been several occasions of late where certain members of the family have  bragged about stocking up their freezer with organic meat that has been reduced to quite frankly a silly price.

So why pork belly and cranberry I hear you ask, well quite simply a month or so ago I picked up a decent piece of belly pork that had been reduced and it has been sitting in the freezer waiting to be used along with half a bag of frozen cranberries that I bought for Christmas.  In the interests of trying to be somewhat more frugal this month I decided to knock to together Sunday lunch using up these ‘scraps’ and I have to say that I was very pleased with the outcome!  A beautifully tender piece of pork, crackling, topped with a sticky sharp cranberry sauce – YUM!

Now, whilst I made my cranberry sauce, if you are looking to cheat then just use shop bought cranberry sauce.  In all seriousness there isn’t much to this recipe so do give it try, if you don’t make the cranberry sauce then there are really only two steps – how much more simple can you get?! Enjoy.

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Baked apples (Serves: 3 – Preparation time: 45 mins)

Happy New Year!

I have decided to share a recipe that helps to use up one ingredient that has a tendency to be leftover after Christmas – mincemeat. The recipe below is super easy and can be eaten either hot for pudding with a little cream, or is great served cold as a topping for porridge in the morning for breakfast.

The inspiration for this dish came after a visit to East Sussex to see some of my friends who swear by a bowl porridge for breakfast, topped with fresh apple, yogurt, seeds, nuts and honey before a days hunting, shooting or fishing.  Not being one for porridge normally, I am well and truly converted and the recipe below is my take on their porridge toppings.

The simplicity of this recipe makes it an absolute gem, it takes a matter of minutes to prepare, the key really to this recipe is about how well you core the apple as you want to create a cavity that is large enough to pack all of the mincemeat in.  As the apple cooks it becomes beautifully soft and infuses with the spices and flavours of the mincemeat.

This is definitely a recipe to try and is absolutely fantastic on these chilly winter days.  Enjoy!

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Mince pies using sweet shortcrust pastry (Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

I was chatting to my housemate about making pastry the other day and she was telling me of a Hawksmoor pie recipe that used both eggs and suet in the recipe and it dawned on me that this would be a great way to make sweet shortcrust.  By making the pastry with suet it made the pastry beautifully light and more flaky than crumbly.

The concept of using two types of fat to make the pastry is not a new one, growing up the Delia Smith recipe that I used to follow for mince pies used equal amounts of butter and to make the recipe.  However I have found the in using suet you get a far better distribution of fat throughout the pastry which gives it a marbled look when rolled out and it helps to turn the pies a beautiful golden brown colour during cooking.

Now to the mincemeat aspect of this pie – there is absolutely nothing wrong with using shop bought mincemeat!  This is exactly what I do however I like to ‘pimp’ it up a bit by adding chopped walnuts, cranberries, glace cherries, plump sultanas and brandy.  So if you have some dried fruit or nuts in you cupboard that you would work chuck it in, not only will it add to the flavour it will add to the texture of your pies.  Enjoy!

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Apple breakfast pancakes (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 30 minutes)

If you are having friends over for brunch, or if you are looking for something simple to cook with your kids for breakfast that is simple and tasty then this is a great little recipe!  Cooking pancakes should be straightforward and fun – if a little messy…

These pancakes are very similar to drop scones, they should be relatively small, about 10 cm in diameter making them very quick to cook.  I would highly recommend using a non-stick frying pan that has been lightly oiled when making this recipe.  If you use too much oil the pancakes will simply absorb the oil as they cook.  My tip for oiling the pan is to pour a little vegetable oil onto a piece of kitchen towel and then grease the pan all over, rather than pouring the oil directly into the pan.  Also it is always worth doing a small tester pancake to make sure that you pan is hot enough before starting to cooking the pancakes in batches.

The ‘filling’ of the pancakes is a classic combination of apple and cinnamon.  As they cook your kitchen will be filled with the a lovely fragrance that I always associate with autumn and crumbles.  The syrup adds a sweet and sharp element to the dish that makes the pancakes particularly moreish as they soak up the juices.  These pancakes are best served straight from the pan – if left too long they will start to dry out.

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Banana and date cupcakes (sugar-free and dairy-free). Preparation time: 30/40 minutes

My sister-in-law set me a challenge to develop a cake that is suitable for my nephew, Leo.  Leo is 8 months old and a truly happy baby who I am pleased to say seems to love his food!  My brother and sister-in-law are in the process of weaning Leo at the moment and are following the ‘baby led weaning‘ method.  Baby led weaning is a fairly new concept to me, but strikes me as a sensible way of introducing a baby to food.  Put simply baby led weaning is the where you give food to a baby and they feed themselves.  So far as I can tell one of the major advantages is that they eat what you eat (within reason) and subject to a couple of basic principles to ensure that your baby’s diet has a very limited amount of salt and sugar.

Now then back to the challenge, to develop a cake suitable for baby led weaning.  My sister-in-law asked me to create a cake that did not contain refined sugar.  My first thought was what about using honey, however after a bit of research it became clear that this would not be a suitable substitute on this occasion as the general consensus is not to introduce honey to a baby’s diet until they are a year old.  Not being a fan of sweeteners I set my mind to what I could use as an alternative.  My solution – dates and banana pureed in a little boiling water.  Using that as a sugar substitute I tired a couple of different recipes.  The first attempt resulted in a dense but very moist sponge more like a muffin.  The second attempt is the one I am going to share here as it produced a much lighter fluffier sponge that rose beautifully.  What I should point out it that I made cupcakes instead of a cake as it was a better portion size for a baby.  The other benefit of cooking them this is it means that you can freeze them individually and use them gradually rather than worry about them going stale.

I suspect that you are wondering what it tasted like – unsurprisingly it is nowhere near as sweet as a typical cake but as mentioned it has a lovely light texture.  I asked my family for their thoughts on the cupcake and the comments were as follows “Where’s the jam?” and “Any chance of some cream with this?”  I think these responses boil down partly to the fact that instinctively they expected something much sweeter and secondly that it is unlike me to serve a cake without icing.  So if you are making this for both adults and babies perhaps treat it a little like a scone for the adults and serve with a little jam and cream on the side so those of your family with a sweeter tooth can satisfy their cravings.  Enjoy!

Tip:  if you have bananas that are going black and you are thinking about throwing them away don’t!  Peel and freeze them as they will be perfect for this recipe as it works best with ripe bananas.

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Moroccan spiced shoulder of lamb with apricots (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

One-pot cooking is incredibly convenient for washing up purposes but also in terms of ease.  The idea with this style of cooking is that you can throw everything into a casserole dish, cover and leave to bubble away in the oven without needing to think about it until it is time to serve.    The added bonus with this particular dish is longer you leave it the more succulent and tender the lamb becomes.

As this dish cooks, the juices from both the apricots and lamb seep into the sweet potato mixture turning it into a stuffing that is infused with all the flavours of the dish.  I would recommend serving this meal with simple accompaniments for example fluffy couscous and steamed green vegetables so that you can relish the taste of the lamb.  This recipe would be a good alternative to a traditional Sunday roast, or would make a great centrepiece for a dinner party. Enjoy!

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