Sunday, 9 January 2011


Charles Ross

I have had a good crop of apples from the garden starting last September with a variety that I think is Charles Ross. We inherited the tree so to try and identify it I checked with Brogdale. They are in Kent and have the national collection of fruit trees and a farm shop. These apples can be used as cookers or eaters. In September they are fairly sharp as eaters but cook well together with blackberries. I start with the windfalls or pick as we need them. The flavour mellows and they are at their best by the end of October as the birds soon discover. I pick the rest just before that point and they keep till about Christmas. The flavour is superb, sweetish with a touch of pear.
Charles Ross is a hybrid of Cox’s Orange Pippin and Peasgood Nonsuch.

I planted the other tree, for me it is a must have, it is a Bramley, in my opinion a superb English apple. I picked these during October and November and they usually keep for months, a welcome taste of summer and autumn in the depths of winter.

The first Bramley tree was grown in Southwell in Nottinghamshire from an apple pip planted by a young girl. The original tree is still bearing fruit two centuries later and even survived being blown down in a storm. When I was a school girl I used to pass the house on the bus on my way to school. There is a stained glass window in Southwell Minster portraying the town's links with this apple.

Bramleys have a characteristic shape being flatter at the poles than most apples. This is useful to know when buying as I suspect that some of the apples passed off as Bramleys are inferior green cooking apples. Raymond Blanc is no fan of these apples describing them as cooking to an acidic green fizz. Sadly many of the supermarket offerings can be like that. Maybe they were picked before they were ripe; they do improve if you keep them in the kitchen for 2 or 3 weeks. But they don’t often have the colour, scent and wonderful flavour of a home grown one.
It holds the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Merit.
In the 1990 s samples were taken from the original tree and clones were propagated at Nottingham University using biotechnology techniques. (This is not the same as genetic engineering.) Apples from these trees were found to be superior to Bramleys from trees produced after generations of grafting. so maybe that explains in part the variations found when buying apples.

Charles Ross and Bramley

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Cape Malay Chicken Curry

Cape Malay Chicken Curry

Makes 4-6 portions

2 medium or large onions chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
I kg chicken portions
4 carrots chopped
400ml stock
2 tbs tomato puree
2 handfuls raisins
2 tbs Cape Malay spice mix from Spice Mountain

2 bay leaves
3-4 in ginger grated (I used ready prepared frozen ginger)
3 tbs cider vinegar
2 tbs apricot jam
2 tbs natural yoghurt

I used a large Le Creuset so the frying and oven cooking can be done in the same pot.

Fry the chopped onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes.
Add the spices, bay leaves and chicken and brown for a few more minutes.
Add the stock, tomato puree, cider vinegar, ginger, raisins and carrots.
Put the lid on and cook at gas 5 for I 1/4 hours.
Before serving, mix in the apricot jam and yoghurt.
I served this with rice and broccoli.

I based my recipe on the one on the Spice Mountain website adjusting it to use what I had available.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Lunch at La Barbe

La Barbe is a French restaurant in Reigate. We went there just before Christmas for their December menu. Outside was snowy and cold and the restaurant filled up as people seemed to be taking the opportunity to come out having been snowed in for a few days. It was nice to come in out of the cold to a friendly welcome and sit down to a meal cooked by someone else.

Terrine de Confit de Canard à l’Andouillette Duck confit and andouillette terrine
Andouillette is a type of sausage and not as I imagined a kind of bird!

Coussin de Saumon Fumé aux Baies Roses et Aneth
Smoked salmon filled with roasted salmon, cream cheese and dill mousse with pink peppercorns.
This was very good.

Bourguignon de Venaison aux Champignons et Lardons
Venison and mushroom casserole with lardons and boiled potatoes

Suprême de Canard aux Poires Sauce Bigarade
Roasted duck breast served with caramelized pears and orange sauce
No vegetables came with this dish so some had to be ordered extra. I had spinach and plenty of french bread. The bread was excellent, light and with a crisp crust.

Bûche de Noël au Praliné
Praline flavoured Christmas log
Bûche de Noël is a traditional French dessert served near Christmas. It is a sweet roulade that is usually decorated to look like a log with chocolate buttercream icing. I chose it because of the praline flavouring and it looked stunning. I would have prefered the cake and the buttercream to be lighter.
Overall it was a lovely meal beautifully presented.