Preserved Courgettes

So far we’ve got three different kinds of preserved courgettes.

Courgette and Pineapple Jam – yellow courgettes, seeded, peeled and cut up small. Set aside overnight dredged with sugar. It makes a syrup, and next day you boil it up with added tinned pineapple and a bit of lemon juice to help the set. It was very very sweet, I’ve added some lime juice. The fruit is almost crystallised and the jam is very clear. I’m wondering if putting in more glace-type fruit and citrus peel, and adding mustard might make something interesting in the cremona line.

Marrow Mangoes – we did the giant courgette soaked in vinegar and stuffed with spices for 10 days, straining and boiling every day. Now they’re sliced, and bottled with some of the vinegar boiled up with sugar. They’re supposed to sit now for three months.

Courgette Chutney – there was some vinegar left over from the “mangoes”. It went in a pan with some white and some brown sugar, 3 large yellow courgettes, one red and one white onion, two large cored cooking apples, and a handful of sultanas. Fruit and veg chopped fairly small, courgettes and apple unpeeled. The vinegar was sharp rather than warmly spiced – it had sat with fresh ginger, onion and horseradish in it – so I didn’t add spice, but did put in some peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (a fat piece about 3 inches long) and a good sprinkle of salt. It took a few hours to cook down – I started with a small amount of sugar and added more as we went along until it was the right sweetness and thickening well. It’s got a right punch, which I suspect will only increase as it matures. It’ll make great cheese sandwiches.

Red Cabbage

I usually make French-style red cabbage, with red wine and bay leaves. But tonight I wanted something a bit sweeter, thicker, warmer. More in keeping with a British November night.

In an oven-proof casserole, fry some lardons (or the fat end of a piece of ham, which is what I had), an onion and a leek until it’s all nicely sizzling and browning off. Add shredded red cabbage, and a Bramley apple chopped up (cored but not peeled). Stir around and add ground cloves, salty chicken stock, a couple of glugs of Starbuck’s Gingerbread syrup (or crumbled ginger biscuits, or gingerbread) and a glug of Apple Balsamic Vinegar.

Cook in a low oven, Gas Mark 3-ish. An hour will cook it, but you can keep it going for longer if you like it softer.

We had it with crispy pork belly. Taste before you serve, and balance the sweet/sour/salt. You could add chestnuts, but adjust the seasoning as they can leach the salt out of the sauce.

Chutney Weather

This week is damp and chill, especially after the last month of sun. Time to huddle in the kitchen with some overblown opera and make chutneys.

Peach Chutney

I made a lovely one earlier in the year and lost the notes, boo. Peach chutney for me should be like the Sharwoods one used to be, thick and dark and ultra-sweet. But with a bit of a kick. Which means a standard chutney, made with dark sugar and a heavier vinegar, and cooked that little bit longer. So in today’s pot there are:

  • 8 medium size peaches, slightly past their eating best, cut in half and stones removed
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 huge teaspoons garlic puree
  • 2 huge teaspoons ginger puree
  • 1 fresh red chilli, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 200 mls cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt

Cooked down to a thick consistency, peaches cut up a bit with a spoon, with a few spoonfuls of liquid left to stop it drying out in the pot. Yeech, that’s hot. Put up in a sealed jar and leave for a few weeks to really settle in. Chutneys like this are good in cheddar cheese sandwiches, with cold ham salad, or as part of an Indian pickle tray.

Rhubarb / Apple Chutney

I have 2 sticks of rhubarb left to play with, and a couple of baking apples left over from a dinner last week. I’m aiming for a light wet chutney, where the bulk of the fruit has turned to a puree with some tiny onion pieces for texture.

  • 2 sticks rhubarb, cut in half lengthways then into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Bramley cooking apples, cored and cut into pieces a similar size to the rhubarb, not peeled
  • 1 small white onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 tsp each pureed garlic / ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 oz white sugar
  • 200 mls white wine vinegar, split into 150/50 ml portions

Put the bigger amount of vinegar in the pot, add rhubarb, sugar, onion, garlic, ginger, salt. Stir about a bit. and bring to simmer. Add apple pieces, sprinkle with the remaining vinegar (so raw apple doesn’t brown). Put the lid on the pot and leave it for about half an hour. Stir it up briskly, raise the heat, and cook it until it is a thick sauce, and all the big pieces of fruit have turned to mush. It’s like a super-tart apple sauce with threads of greeny-pink rhubarb running through it.

Again, I’m going to pot up in a sealed jar, but I’m tempted to keep it in the fridge in case it doesn’t have enough preservative in it. It’ll be brill cold with roast pork, blue cheese, even a good old fried breakfast with black pudding and thick bacon.

Bloody Volcano

The skies have been wonderfully clear, brilliant blue air – and it’s getting colder again. Even lit a fire again tonight. So although my kitchen is full of fresh veg, I want something dark and warming. Result?

Braising steak cut up bitesize and cooked long and slow with wedges of carrot, massive slices of ginger, crushed pineapple, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Served with long strips of crunchy veggies stir fried with black beans and wild garlic.

There are Daleks visiting Sheffield railway station tomorrow, we shall go and investigate. A friend has good news, we may celebrate with cake from Fancie in the Winter Gardens.

Ginger Wasabi Cured Salmon

In the past we’ve made this, which is wonderful, but I’ve had in the back of my mind a more oriental version that would go well with sushi-type things rather than the traditional blinis and cream. So, today I have taken:

  • 2 fillets lovely dark pink wild alaska salmon, the same size and shape and weighing about 500 gms total
  • 3 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 heaped tablespoons coarse crystal salt
  • 1 teaspoon wasabi powder (freshly opened)
  • 1 big hand fresh ginger, very coarsely grated but not peeled.

I put one piece of salmon skin-side down on some clingfilm, mixed up the cure ingredients, and spread them on top. Whacked the other bit of salmon on to complete the sandwich (skin-side up), wrapped the package up tightly. I’ve put it in a deep oval dish in the fridge, with a plate and the Christmas gammon on top to weight it. Today’s the 21st, I shall turn it and look after it every day, with a view to serving it for supper on Christmas Eve. I’ll wipe the cure off and cut it in slices, like a thick cut smoked salmon.

Purist Japanese foodies can look away now, but I’m going to do a variety of beginner dishes from Just Hungry, with what I can easily get locally, and have a munchie buffet.

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Chinese Braised Oxtail

We liked the lamb shank braise, and I was reading Nigel Slater the other day, and he suggested oxtail. And I remembered I'd seen some excellent fresh oxtail in Waitrose, so I went and bought some. Stupidly cheap, half the price of braising steak and not that much bone. Nigel had a recipe variation on the standard red wine braise, which had a Chinese theme, with ginger and star anise. I like star anise with carrots, Dad does them like that for special dinners. I was most of the way through preparing this when I realised it's also a variant on the beef stew with clementine and ginger that we had before Christmas. I didn't follow the Nigel recipe, which involved flouring the oxtail and included onions. I just assembled in a casserole dish:

4 pieces of oxtail (weighed about 1.3 kgs)
3 capfuls Winter Pimms (the orange brandy one)
10 slices of peeled ginger, each about the size of a 10p / quarter
3 cloves garlic, chopped in half
4 medium carrots, in wedges, cut on the diagonal
3 sticks trimmed celery, ditto
3 tablespoons low salt soy sauce
2 whole star anise
A few grindings of black pepper

I brought it up to hot but not necessarily boiling, covered and bunged it in the oven at Gas Mark 3, it's had three hours so far and will get about another one. Every so often, I took it out, turned the oxtail over, and submerged the veggies more in the juices. Smells lovely. John has some work to do this evening, as soon as he's ready I'm going to zap some Thai noodles and dish up, probably in time for Coronation Street.

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Beef Stew with Clementine Juice and Ginger Wine

I saw this recipe in a recent Waitrose magazine, and adapted it for our tea today.

800 gm pack diced braising steak
1 oz plain flour, seasoned
4 banana shallots
2 tbsps oil
1 piece star anise
Half bottle (250ml) fresh clementine juice
250 ml reserve (red top) ginger wine
75 ml beef stock

Heat oven to Gas Mark 2. Toss the meat in the flour, fry in batches in half the oil. Put aside. Chop and fry the shallots in the rest of the oil. Stir in the anise and the liquids, tip the meat back in and boil. Put a lid on it and bung it in the oven for an hour. Take the lid off and give it a stir, and another hour. If you're not ready to eat it, chill it and reheat, or keep on very low for another hour or so.

It was nicely orangey, and a tart orange rather than a sickly one. The ginger smelled good initially, but faded and you could only just taste it. Maybe a bit more fresh or powdered ginger towards the end? It smelled of a good Chinese restaurant while it was cooking, they recommended mash and green veg with it (which is what we had), but I'm thinking boiled rice and a crisp veg stir fry. There was lots of gravy, it was a bit pale and pasty, like flour-based stews often are. Perhaps keep the flour out, just cook in less liquid initially and then thicken at the end with some cornflour and more ginger wine. That was quite a hit of sugar, though. That quantity gave us two large portions each and there's a good portion left.

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