Saturday, 24 December 2011

Candied Figs, Sikalaki gliko

above: candied figs with ginger
below: ginger sugar

I have a fig tree that specialises in producing unripe figs. To be fair it has produced some ripe figs too. The figs from the first crop ripen well and are large. Those from the second crop are plentiful, small and don't usually ripen. This year we had an usually warm April and October and the tree has produced a supply of ripe figs from July to November. We ate them fresh from the tree and I made fig chutney and fig jam too.
I picked the last few that hadn't ripened and this year found a recipe on a Greek food blog for candied figs that requires unripe figs. Figs are preserved in this way in Greece and Turkey. My recipe below is based on this one here Mama's Taverna  

I made some additions and I used less sugar. For the first batch I added lemon zest to the vanilla and cloves. For the second batch I added ginger and cloves. I made some ginger sugar by blitzing about 1 oz peeled root ginger with the sugar till the root ginger disappeared. It smelt wonderful.
I used this to make the syrup. Next time I will try it with a bit more ginger.
The recipe has several stages but each one doesn't take too long and the end product is well worth it.

My Version of Candied Figs   update 2014

3lb unripe figs
The syrup
3lb golden granulated sugar (or substitute  1lb with muscovado sugar)
3 cups water
Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
TIP to get more juice out of a lemon I tried Mary Berry's method. Cut the lemon in half widthways and microwave on high for 30 sec then squeeze.
cinnamon 2 sticks, cloves a desert spoonful.
root ginger 3-4 in peeled or unpeeled and chopped into several pieces.
if you don't like spices try vanilla.

1. Using a skewer make a hole in the side of each fig
    The stalks can be removed or left on. I remove them at this stage. Leave to soak in cold water for several hours.

2. Boil the figs in plenty of water for 15 min. (I wouldn't risk using a a non stick pan as the white juice that comes out is latex and very sticky and you may need to use a scourer.)
Throw the water away and replace with cold water. When the figs are cool throw this water away too.
3. Repeat 2    Clean the pan to remove the latex residue. See tip below
4. Make the syrup. If you are using ginger, cut it into pieces and blitz it in a liquidiser with some of the sugar. I don't peel it any more, it just disappears into the sugar. Add this to the rest of the sugar and the 3 cups of water. Stir and bring to the boil. Add the lemon zest, cinnamon and cloves.
5. Add the figs and boil for 15 min. Leave to cool and leave to soak for 12 hours.
6. Remove the figs from the syrup. Add the lemon juice to the syrup and boil till it begins to thicken a little. This could take 20-30 min
7. Put some jars and lids on a baking tray in a low oven to sterilise.
8. Put the figs back into the syrup and boil for another 15-20min The temperature of the syrup should be around 105C, 220F
9. Use a large spoon or ladle to transfer the figs to the hot jars. Pack in as many as you can and divide the syrup between the jars. Seal by tightly screwing on the hot lids as soon as you can.

above  ladling the syrup into the jars of figs

They are ready to eat as soon as you want or if properly sealed keep for ages.
Usually the lids make a pop sound after 10-20 mins as the lid pulls back, then you know they are well sealed.

Try them with ice cream and liqueur of your choice.

TIP The pan you boil the figs in will have a sticky residue left on it. You could use elbow grease and a scourer as long as it's not a non stick pan but much easier is to put some cooking oil on a cloth and wipe the pan out with that and the gunk comes off easier. Thanks Rachel for this tip.

Update 2015
This year I doubled the amount of figs and used a lime as well as a lemon. I didn't double the amount of water to cut down the time reducing the syrup.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Apple Chutney

The photo above shows some of the ingredients. The apples were from my garden. I recently took one to the RHS for identification and they think it is an Allington pippin.

Apple Chutney

500g apples, cored
1 onion quartered
2 cloves garlic
100g muscavado sugar and 100g golden granulated sugar
250ml cider vinegar
2.5cm root ginger
1 heaped tsp powdered mixed spice for pickling
10g salt
1-2 handfuls raisins

This chutney was made in my Thermomix, very easy!
First I put some jars and their lids into the oven on low heat to sterilise.
Everything except the raisins and the vinegar was blitzed. Then the raisins and vinegar were added and the whole lot cooked at 100C until thickened. It was then poured into the jars.

It can be eaten as soon as it is cool if not before. It does keep well too and brings a taste of Autumn sunshine to a grey Winter's day.
Lovely with home made granary bread and aged gouda.

This my my home made apple picker made from a large yogurt pot sellotaped to a pole.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Pear Flan

This year the old pear tree in the garden has produced some pears. It hasn't really fruited for several years though it used to crop well. The pears become sweet and fragrant when cooked. They don't keep for more than a couple of weeks so I have cooked and frozen some.

Pear Flan

for the base
8oz plain flour
4oz unsalted butter
1oz sugar

Blend in a food processor then add 3-4 tsp water, Leave the dough to rest in the fridge for I hour then roll out to fit a 10 in tin. Peel, quarter, core then slice 4 pears.Arrange the pear slices on the base then cook at gas 6 for 35 min.

for the custard
3 eggs
300ml milk
2 oz plain flour
1 oz sugar
vanilla extract (I used 2 tsp natural vanilla extract (or 1 tsp vanilla flavouring)

To make the custard, blitz the ingredients in a food processor and pour the liquid over the partly cooked base, return it to the oven and cook till the custard is set.
Grate some nutmeg over the flan.
It was nice hot but even better cold.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Mango Egg

Last week I went to a street party 'The Art of being British' in Jermyn Street. This street runs behind Fortnum and Mason's and is parallel to Piccadilly.
There are some interesting shops and restaurants there and several of them were taking part.
There was a cookery demonstration by Andrew Turner the chef from the Wilton. I arrived towards the end as he was plating up.

The plate was decorated with some mango puree, next a slice of fried brioche then a small egg. I thought it might be a quail's egg or had it been had by the lesser spotted mango bird? They were available to buy so I placed my order and watched as the chef prepared the next batch.
These eggs had not been laid by any bird and I was intrigued to see how it it was made. The idea was originally hatched up in Spain by Ferran Adria at El Bulli the home of molecular gastronomy and the process of spherifiaction.

This 'egg' had the texture of a poached egg complete with runny yolk. If I hadn't known already what it was made of I think the flavour would have contradicted the appearance and texture, however it made a lovely dessert. Both the yolk and the white were firm on the outside. The brioche was spiced and the egg topped with popping candy.
The recipe and the process of spherifiaction are to be found here

There were also complementary canapes from the Ritz. The ones in the photo below are like mini ice cream cornets though not sweet and topped with a swirl of smoked salmon pate
They also had a dance band and some smartly dressed dance partners available for a twirl.
Have a look on you tube here

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Roast Tomatoes with Aubergine, Mushrooms and Potato

The tomatoes are topped with chopped parsley, thyme, basil and garlic, a slice of halloumi cheese and a Kalamata olive. The herbs were fresh from the garden and most of the other ingredients came from the local Turkish shop recommended by my friend Emine.
The vegetables were drizzled with olive oil and roasted at 400F for one hour.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Baba Ganoush with Flat Bread

Baba ganoush with flat bread and salad

I have been meaning to make this for some time. I first read about it online, I like the name as well as liking aubergines. It is a middle Eastern dip made with aubergines. My version is based on Joanna's recipe on thepassionatecook and Nigel Slaters's version. Both of them emphasised cooking till the skin is blackened to get the smoky flavour.
No problems with the smoke alarm as I chargrilled the two aubergines ( eggplants) on the barbecue in the garden. When cool I removed the skins and chopped the flesh, this was mixed with 2 tsp tahini, 2 cloves of chopped garlic and a couple of squeezes of lemon juice and was left in the fridge overnight for the flavours to blend.

The flat bread started out as a batch of dough made in the bread maker. I gave the dough a quick knead then rolled out pieces till about 1/2 cm thick. One I topped with linseed another with caraway seed, the others left plain. These were placed on an oiled baking dish and left in a warm place for 1/2 hour then baked at 400F till ready.

The one below was cooked in a non stick frying pan and came out more golden.

The salad was tomato, cucumber, onion, garlic and flat leaved parsley. The baba ganoush was garnished with mint and flat leaved parsley.
Overall a good combination of flavours although I would have prefered the baba ganoush a bit less smoky than it turned out.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Purple Podded French Climbing Beans

I got the seeds for these from a seed exchange that is organised every year by the Cottage Garden Society. The flowers are rose pink and the beans purple. When cooked they quickly turn green. They have a very good flavour. I have saved my own seeds from the last two years for planting the next year and passing on to friends.
Details of the seed exchange are here

A Package of Seed

Now seeds are just dimes to the man in the store

And the dimes are the things he needs,

And I've been to buy them in season before

But I've thought of them merely as seeds;

But it flashed through my mind as I took them this time,

"You purchased a miracle for a dime".

by Edgar A. Guest

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Plum Muffin Cake

Victoria plums are in season at the moment. Uncooked ripe Victorias are sweet. When cooked they become sharper with an amazing and intense flavour.
I experimented by making a muffin mix based on this Delia's online recipe. I doubled the basic ingredients and used plums in place of blueberries and pecans.. Please see Delia's recipe for metric measures and mixing instructions.
10oz SR flour
2 eggs
3 oz sugar
4oz butter
I tsp pure vanilla extract
10 oz SR flour
8 fl oz milk
pinch of salt

I had some buffalo milk so used this in place of the cows' milk which gave it a creamy taste. I used 1lb (454g) of stoned plums. Half were chopped and mixed into the muffin mix and the other half arranged around the top. The mixture was put into a 10in dish flan dish and baked for about 50 minutes at gas 6. The plums should be slightly caramelised. I added some flaked almonds and a sprinkle of sugar while still hot. This could be eaten hot as a pudding or cold as a cake. I did both.

A nice cake but the vanilla taste was not very strong so I would use 2 tsp pure vanilla or one of artificial vanilla. I would use 4 oz sugar next time.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Chilli Fiesta, West Dean, West Sussex

This will about my fourth visit to the Chilli Fiesta at West Dean This is where I first discovered chipotle bought from Chillipepperpete Wandering around from stall to stall in the sunshine picking up wafts of delicious cooking smells and the sounds of Latin music playing is a treat though the hardest bit for me was choosing from Moroccan, Carribean, Thai, Indian etc To drink there were locally brewed Ballards ales and apple juice from West Dean's own apples.
There are lots of samples to try such as hot sauces, relishes, chilli chocolate etc.
It is held in the grounds of West Dean College which is set in some lovely landscape and has gardens that are worth visiting in their own right.
At the end of the day lots of people head back to the car park in the fields laden with bags of spices and a big chilli plant tucked under one arm.

Chilli 'Masquerade' heat level 8
Salsa on the lawn

Lunch came from Masala Monkey
Plenty of Latin music to listen to

and advice on how to grow chilies

A giant wire chili with seats insideIn the Victorian greenhouses there are over 200 chilli plants on display.

and more music

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Many herbs look good in a flower border. as well as being useful for cooking. I like to have a generous supply not far from the back door. Above are golden marjoram, variegated sage, and Italian thyme. I add a mix of chopped golden marjoram, thyme chives and mint to salads.
Last year I had some in a hanging basket just outside the door so I could reach then without going out in the rain.
Below is a selection of herbs bought recently including wonderfully aromatic Vietnamese coriander and zingy lemon verbena whose flavour seems more lemony than lemon.
I also got dill, chervil, coriander and winter savoury which is new to me. I was on the look out for it after hearing about it on one of Nigel Slater's TV programmes. These have been potted up and are growing fast.

I buy my herbs from the Foxhollow Nursery (click here for location) It's up a narrow track and feels like the heart of the countryside rather than the edge of the London suburbs. It is one of the smallholdings on the Little Woodcote Estate. These smallholdings were originally offered to returning servicemen after World War One as part of the 'Homes for Heroes' in the 1920s
This one has a large selection of herbs so there are several varieties of, say, rosemary or thyme etc as well as the unusual and more exotic herbs. They also grow and sell Christmas trees.

The thymes are in full bloom

and on the right are some Christmas trees.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Cut Rounds

Cut Rounds

I saw these being made on Edwardian Farm on the BBC. They looked and sounded wonderful and I wanted to taste them so I searched for the recipe online and eventually found it. These were made in Devon in Edwardian times although I don't think they had powdered milk then but milk from their own cows. I found this series delightful and beautifully made.

They are similar to scones that are still served in Devon and Cornwall with clotted cream and jam as a cream tea. Splits are also served in Cornwall. These are raised with yeast.

Clotted cream with golden syrup is known as thunder and lightning

I followed the recipe except I only had self raising flour so I used that and added a teaspoon of baking powder. I can't be sure that the amount of raising agent is the same.

I divided the dough in half so one half of my cut rounds are plain. To the other half I added 60g grated Cheddar and 1 tbs chopped herbs from the garden, thyme, rosemary and lavender flowers as I wanted to experiment with a savoury version.

Both versions taste good. The outer crust crisp and the inside more like cake than scone.

Recipe for Cut Rounds by Richard Hunt, Executive Chef, The Grand Hotel, Torquay

Makes 12 approx

500gm Plain Flour
50gm Milk Powder
35gm Baking Powder
50gm Butter
220ml Buttermilk
70ml Milk
(If you like a sweet version add 30gm Caster Sugar)
Beaten egg to Glaze
1. Preheat the Oven to 180c or Gas 6
2. Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl
3. Rub in the Butter
4. Mix in the Buttermilk, and Normal milk, bring together until a soft dough is reached
5. Please use your hands, not a mixer, as you will over tighten the dough!!
6. Roll into a cylinder shape about 3 inches across
7. Cut into pieces approx 60gm each
8. Slightly press to a nice shape
9. Place on the Baking Tray and Glaze with egg
10. Bake for 14-18 minutes until golden and risen
The dough must be soft not dry, don’t be afraid to add a touch more liquid if you are not happy with the consistency

Happy cooking!