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 ~
Scotch eggs have definitely been on the brain this weekend. In honour of the Joneses being in town I thought I would try out a new recipe on them. So this morning I knocked up some Scotch eggs for lunch.
I have to be honest it didn’t go entirely to plan! Having successfully soft boiled the eggs I then proceeded to ruin 6 of them whilst peeling off the shells. I don’t know if I was being particularly heavy handed or if the eggs weren’t as fresh as normal but whatever it was I ended up with a lot of yolk on my hands and had a minor sense of humour failure. Fortunately for me my housemate came to the rescue and not only picked up some more eggs but ended up peeling the little devils for me.
Today’s Scotch eggs were made using both duck and chicken eggs and they were both equally as good as each other. The only slight plus in favour of the duck eggs they proved to be slightly more robust when it came to peeling and were the only two eggs that I actually managed to peel successfully.
For the meaty shell I used a combination of sausage meat and haggis, which helped the haggis to become more malleable for shaping around the egg whilst retaining its earthy beautifully seasoned flavour! I am pleased to report after the initial egg peeling disaster all of the Scotch eggs once deep fried had retained their runny yolk – WIN!!!
Now then I have to stress that the even though I had what can only be described as an utter fail this morning – this was highly unusual! Please do not let this put you off making these little beauties as it really is very straightforward! Enjoy.
Christmas is well and truly on its way with Christmas parties happening left, right and centre! Lately I have been making a lot of mince pies and whilst I like them I have to admit I am more of a savoury person, so last weekend I decided to try out a new recipe more in line with an open topped pork pie.
I have to give credit to Cockburns of Bedale who are the real inspiration for this recipe – for many years when I visited my eldest brother up in Yorkshire we would go to this butchers early on a Saturday morning to buy their open topped pork pies still warm from the oven for lunch (that is if they lasted that long…). If you are ever on the on the A1 heading through Yorkshire, I highly recommend that you make a little detour via Bedale and visit this butchers to try one of their pies, I promise you will not regret it!
Whilst the pies have similarities to a pork pie they are not made using hot water crust pastry. Instead this pie recipe uses a shortcrust pastry made with beef suet, the pastry case is then filled with spiced pork meat and topped with homemade cranberry sauce – delicious savoury sweet goodness! The pies make great canapes at a drinks party as they are surprisingly light but absolutely moreish.
The recipe below does have a lot of steps, however if time is not on your side and you need a quicker option, then simply follow the cheat options below.
Cheats option / time saver:
Use shop bought pastry.
Replace the pork mixture with some festive flavoured sausages instead and simply remove the meat from the skins.
Use shop bought cranberry sauce preferably containing whole berries.
About a month ago I assisted a local butcher with the butchery of some of our lambs. It was an interesting experience and I am pleased to have learnt some basic butchery skills. The day started fairly early (7am to be precise) – the butcher started with one of the largest lambs and demonstrated how the process is carried out.
The first step was to cut the lamb in half down its spine using a large saw. Then each of the sides were divided up into the following cuts:
shoulder – this is taken off first after cutting around the blade and can quite simply be pulled off.
leg – this is removed from the carcass just in front of the pelvis bone using a saw, then a boning knife was used to remove the pelvis bone so that only the leg bone remained and any excess fat was trimmed off.
rib chops / cutlets – the cartilage at the bottom of the ribs was removed. Then a sharp knife was inserted between each of the ribs as close to the backbone as possible and then run down to the end of the rib. Finally a clever was used to remove cut through the backbone at the point of the initial incision.
loin chops – after the rib chops have been removed, the loin was rolled up into the spine, then the clever was used to chop between each of the vertebrae to produce individual loin chops.
scrag end / neck – this is removed after the shoulder by a saw and is divided into manageable pieces using the clever.
stewing meat – this is made up of any trimmings from the lamb.
This process was carried out on all but one lamb, who had been nicknamed ‘tiny’ ever since he’d arrived, unfortunately this lamb was a triplet and did not grow particularly well over the 5 months he was with us and subsequently when it came to butchering him it was carried out slightly differently:
rack of lamb (the rib section was left whole)
scrag end; and
It was from the butchery of the smallest lamb that I was able to try French trimming a rack of lamb. It was my first attempt and I found it interesting to try. The first thing I have to comment on is the amount of potential waste you have when you French trim a rack of lamb. I retained all of this meat and will be cooking it is a stew later this week. French trimming is a slow process, but it did make the dish look more inviting. I found that by snapping the rib at the very top and then gently pulling the bone downwards I was able to remove a lot of the cartilage and meat from the ribs and then tidied it up using a very sharp knife.
You can’t beat a good curry! If I was getting a takeaway 90% of the time I would go for a curry. When I was younger I used to really enjoy the coconut based curries like Korma, however over the years I have started prefer slightly spicier tomato based curries. The curry I probably order the most is a Rogan Josh closely followed by a Bhuna. It is fairly hard to come by a good curry out in France so I have had to try to make my own. I am not a huge fan of shop bought sauces because quite a few of them leave an aniseed after-taste in your mouth. That being said, they are very useful when you are in a rush and want to have a curry quickly.
By contrast, the type of curry I have been making is a very slow cooked lamb curry, whilst it uses a lot of spices it is very simple to make. The joy of this curry is that once it is cooked the meat falls of the bone and is beautifully tender. The spices I use give the curry a gentle warmth and would probably be best described as a medium spiced curry. For my friends who struggle with its heat I serve a yoghurt dip (a combination of yoghurt, lemon zest and cucumber) and sliced banana which counters all of the spice. Whilst I prefer this curry to be made with lamb I have in the past made it with rabbit and chicken which worked equally as well.
Below is a picture of my spice line up –
A rich tomato based lamb curry
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
10 cardamom pods (shells removed)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
2 onions (sliced)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
3 heap tbsp tomato puree
1 can tinned tomatoes
½ pint stock
750g – 1kg lamb (cut into chunks)
2tbsp vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 160C fan.
Place spices in a pestle and mortar and grind together.
Place the garlic, onions, spices and oil in a large casserole pot (with a lid) and leave to cook on a low heat until the onions are soft.
Add the lamb and leave to brown for roughly 5 minutes.
Then add the rest of the ingredients to the casserole pot, give it a good stir before covering with the lid and placing in the oven for 2 – 2 ½ hours.
I don’t remember when I first came across sweet chilli sauce. However, I know it made a real impression on me when I was back packing around Australia with a friend. One of our staple meals that could be bought just about anywhere was nachos with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. It was great because it was cheap and filling – perfect when you are living on a budget. However, it was not until we went trekking in Lamington National Park and stayed in a guest house that I discovered the wonders of sweet chilli sauce in a dip. Since then I have never looked back.
I started trying to make sweet chilli sauce about a year ago. The first attempt wasn’t a wild success because I didn’t let the liquid reduce enough, subsequently I had a very thin, runny syrup that tasted OK , but wasn’t quite right. My last attempt worked much better as it was more the consistency of runny honey and I played around with the ingredients a bit and the flavour was really good, not too hot and not too sweet.
Last week I used a combination of the sweet chilli sauce, my Chinese plum sauce and soy sauce to form a marinade for a pork stir-fry. When I made goat’s cheese pancakes the other day I tried one of them with a little of the sweet chilli sauce and they went together surprisingly well. But the most common use for the sauce in our house is in dips.
Sweet Chilli Sauce
Ingredients: (makes roughly 750ml)
400ml cider vinegar
4 garlic cloves (minced)
2 hot chillies (finely diced)
1 ½” ginger (peeled and finely grated)
1 tsp salt and pepper
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and place on a high heat.
Bring it up to a rolling boil and leave it to reduce down until you have the consistency that you are looking for – then bottle.
A simple dip
3 heaped tbsp crème fraiche
1-2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
pepper (to season)
3 chive stalks, chopped (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season with pepper, taste and add more sweet chilli sauce if needed.