a food stylist's blog

Cooking courses and food tours in SW France

Finally I have gotten around to making crab apple jelly! One of my earliest culinary memories is of my mum stirring a bubbling volcano of sweet juiciness, which miraculously ended up on my toast. I thought jelly went with ice cream (well of course this one could I guess?) but I was just as happy with my teatime treat. I am not totally convinced that at that young age, I truly appreciated the wonderful flavour of crab apples, but I certainly do now. So I wanted to share my weekends work in the kitchen and take you through the process from tree to table.

In spring our tree is covered in the most stunning, vibrant pink and white blossoms and then as we come to harvesting, the fruit has transformed into red and yellow, cherry-sized crab apples, hanging in jewel-like clusters on the laden branches. Here we can see the different shades of the apples from red and orange through to a soft yellow colour.

Literally pick as many as you want, discard any that have started to rot and don’t be tempted to pick from the ground, as it is likely that these will have begun to deteriorate. So far I have picked over 8 kilos. I think it will be jelly and crab apple cheese this year. Once picked, discard leaves, stalks and any spoiled fruit. Rinse really well and transfer to a large saucepan.

Add enough cold water to just cover the fruit. Bring to a fast simmer and cook for about 50 minutes, or until the fruit is pulpy. Pour the fruit and all the liquid through a sieve, lined with a double layer of muslin (or large jelly bag) into a large bowl or bowls. Very carefully tie up the muslin to make a bag and find a good place to hang them overnight, over the bowls, to catch all the juices.

Remove the muslin bags and discard the fruit (the muslin can be washed out and re-used). Be very careful as you do this and do not press on the pulp as the liquid will be too cloudy. It should be a delicate, slightly milky pink, which will clear as it is boiled up with the sugar. Because the crab apples do not contain quite enough pectin (the agent that helps set the jelly) I am adding lemon juice, to help the process along. Pour the liquid into a large, clean saucepan, adding the sugar and lemon juice. * At this stage it is really important to sterilise the jars you are going to use. Wash them in hot, soapy water and place in a preheated oven 100c. and leave them there to dry until you are ready to use them – the jars should be hot when filled.

Stir the liquid over a high heat until it reaches a rolling boil. At this point pop a tablespoon into the freezer to get really cold. Continue to boil the liquid, skimming off the scum that rises to the top, for at least 30 minutes. Remove your chilled spoon and pour a tiny amount of the jelly onto the frozen spoon. Leave for a few seconds and then test with your finger – the jelly is ready if it starts to wrinkle and set. Cook for longer if it is not yet ready.

Very carefully pour or ladle the jelly into the hot, sterilised jam jars, taking them straight from the oven. Wear oven gloves as they will be hot, as will the jelly. As soon as you have used up your jelly and filled your jars, top each one with a clear plastic disc making sure it covers the surface of the jelly and then seal the jars.

Leave the jelly to cool before adding a label – if you try to do this now, the label will not stick to the hot jar. Store the jam in a cool, dark cupboard until required. It will last for several years, but if you do get any mould appear on the top of the jelly, discard it.

And now for the recipe.

Crab Apple Jelly

Makes: 6-7 x 500ml jars

4kg crab apples

1.5-2kg granulated sugar

juice 11/2 lemons

Wash the crab apples, discarding stalks, any leaves and any rotten or damaged fruit. Place in a large saucepan (or 2 smaller ones) and add just enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to the boil and simmer over a medium heat for 45-50 minutes, or until the fruit is pulpy.

Cool slightly and then carefully transfer to 2 large sieves lined with a double layer of muslin, or jelly bags, over 2 large bowls. Tie up securely to enclose the fruit. Hang the bags up over the bowls and leave to drain overnight.

The next day very carefully remove the bags, making sure you don’t squeeze at all, or the resulting jelly will be cloudy. Measure the apple liquid and transfer to a large saucepan, adding 7 parts sugar to 10 parts liquid (1 had 2.75 litres of liquid and added 1.75kg sugar) Add the lemon juice, and heat gently, stirring over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Bring the liquid to a rolling bowl and cook for about 30 minutes, carefully removing the scum on the surface as it appears. Meanwhile, place a tablespoon into the freezer to chill. After 30 minutes test the jelly to see if it ha reached the setting stage. Pour a drizzle of the syrup onto the chilled tablespoon and leave for a few seconds. Using a finger push the jelly, which will wrinkle and separate if set.

Using a ladle, spoon the hot jelly into the sterilised jars, top with a clear plastic jelly disc and sell with the lids. Allow to cool before adding the labels.

 

 

 

Barley, roasted vegetable and caramelized garlic risotto

Risotto

Serves: 4
Pearl barley makes a great alternative to arborio rice in risottos as it doesn’t require constant stirring and gives a lovely nutty texture to the dish. Here it is combined with oven roasted vegetables and caramelised garlic.

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions

8 large garlic cloves

250 g carrots, roughly chopped

250 g baby beetroot, cut into wedges

250 g peeled pumpkin, diced

2 sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary

350 g pearl barley

100 ml dry white wine

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

25 g freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus a few leaves

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 c/fan forced 180c and line a roasting tin with baking paper. Cut 1 onion into thin wedges and place in the prepared tin with the garlic, carrots, beetroot, pumpkin, herbs and salt and pepper. Add half the oil, stir well and roast for 45-50 minutes, stirring half way through until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, after the vegetables have been cooking for 15 minutes, finely chop the remaining onion. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion with a little salt and pepper for 5 minutes until softened. Add the barely and stir for 1 minute until all the grains are glossy. Add the wine and boil until evaporated, then add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered for 30 minutes until the barley is al dente and the liquid absorbed.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and stir into the barley with the cheese and herbs. Season to taste and serve with extra cheese and basil leaves.

 

 

Sticky Ginger Cake with Figs and Caramel Sauce

sticky gingercake

Serves 12

This is a dark, sticky and totally delicious cake, topped with grilled figs and dulce de leche sauce.

250g unsalted butter, softened

225g caster sugar

125g soft brown sugar

3 eggs

75ml (110g) golden syrup

300g plain flour

11/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp ground ginger

150ml hot water

4 figs

150g dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 160c/325f/gas mark 3 and line a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper. Using a food mixer, beat the butter, caster sugar and 100g of the soft brown sugar together until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat the eggs in one a time until smooth and then beat in the golden syrup.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a large spoon fold in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and hot water until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to the prepared tin, smooth the surface and bake for 11/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cover the top of the cake with foil if it starts to burn.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, turning upside down and leave to cool.

Just before serving, cut the figs in quarters and sprinkle with the remaining  soft brown sugar. Place cut side up under a hot grill for about 1 minute until they start to blister. Warm the dulce de leche in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water until it softens and is pourable.

Serve the cake in wedges topped with the figs and drizzle over the caramel sauce.

 

© Food & Travel magazine. First published November 2016. Recipe Louise Pickford. Photo Ian Wallace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chimichurri steak sandwich with aioli and glazed onions

Chimichurri is piquant green herb sauce from Argentina and is commonly served with a variety of grilled meats. Here it adds a touch of class to a classic Sunday brunch pub sarni.

Steak Sandwich with chimicchuri

Serves: 4

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tbs redcurrant jelly

4 x 150 g rib eye steaks

50 g baby spinach leaves

2 French sticks, split

1-2 tbs aioli

chimichurri sauce

1 bunch flat leaf parsley

1/2 bunch fresh coriander

125 ml extra virgin olive oil

3 tbs red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

a pinch dried chilli flakes

salt and pepper

beer, to serve

Start by cooking the onions. Heat the oil in a frying and add the onion, thyme and some salt and pepper and fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes until softened and lightly golden. Stir in the redcurrant jelly and cook for a further 5 minutes until jam like. Set aside.

Meanwhile, whiz all the ingredients for the chimichurri sauce in a food processor or blender until fairly smooth and adjust seasonings to taste.

Brush the steaks with a little oil and season lightly. Cook on a preheated ridged grill pan for 30 seconds to 1 minute each side until cooked to your liking. Rest briefly.

Cut the French sticks into 4 fill with the steaks, spinach leaves, chimichurri sauce, onions and some aioli. Serve at once.

 

 

 

 

It is a great time of year for shellfish and here clams and crab combine with chorizo and potato in a warming seafood chowder.

Crab and clam chowder with chorizo

Clam and chorizo chowder

Serves: 4

1 kg clams, scrubbed

100 ml dry white wine

600 ml chicken or fish stock

25 g butter

150 g chorizo, sliced

1 onion chopped finely

1 stick celery, sliced

250 g potatoes, peeled and diced

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

600 ml milk

250 g cooked crabmeat

2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

single cream, to serve (optional)

Rinse the clams, shake well and then place in a saucepan with the wine. Bring to the boil, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 5 minutes until all the shells have opened. Strain the liquid into jug and add the stock (discard any clams that remain closed).

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the chorizo and stir-fry over a medium heat for 5minutes until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onion, celery and potato to the pan and fry gently for 5 minutes until softened. Add the stock, thyme, bay leaf and a little salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

Stir in the milk, crabmeat, clams and the chorizo and heat through for 5 minutes without boiling until everything is heated through. Serve in bowls with chopped parsley and the cream, if wished.

 

Baked eggs and Prosciutto with sage butter

A perfect way to begin the day. Spoil yourself this coming weekend (or weekday if you’re lucky enough) to a one pot dish of eggs baked in the oven with prosciutto and crispy sage leaves. It is a simple but quite delicious way to cook and serve eggs – an ideal brunch dish for 2.

Baked Eggs and Ham 2

25 g butter

12 large sage leaves

4 eggs

4 large slices prosciutto

1 tbs chopped fresh parsley, optional

a pinch smoked paprika

2 slices toasted sourdough

Preheat the oven to 200c/fan forced 180c. Melt the butter in a 20 cm ovenproof frying pan and gently fry the sage leaves over a medium heat for abut 1 minute until crisp and golden. Remove the sage leaves with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Place the ham slices in the ham and crack in the eggs so they all fit in a single layer. Transfer to the oven and bake for 3-4 minutes until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

Scatter over the sage leaves, parsley and a little smoked paprika and serve with toasted sourdough.

Tip: Although a heavy oven-proof frying pan is ideal for this dish, if you don’t have one then use a baking dish and fry the sage butter in a small frying pan first.

The best of the summer is over and I am now starting to look to the more hardy of vegetables in the garden. Beetroot has long been one of my favourite veggies, not only for it’s deep earthy flavour, but also it’s rich maroon colour. You can use pre-cooked beetroot in natural juices for a quick supper or better still, roast baby beetroot in the oven at 200c/180c fan-forced for up 45-50 minutes until charred and tender, adding an extra depth of flavour to this colourful dish.

Autumn pasta with beetroot, goat cheese and toasted pecans

Serves: 4

4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

500 g pre-cooked beetroot

400 g fusilli or other dried pasta

200 g goat feta or goat cheese, crumbled

60 g pecan nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

a handful rocket leaves, to serve

grated Pecorino, to serve

Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onions and garlic for 10 minutes until golden but not browned. Add the beetroot and cook gently for 3 minutes until heated through. Season to taste.

Meanwhile, plunge the pasta into a large bowl of lightly salted boiling water, return to the boil and cook for 10-12 minutes until al dente. Drain pasta and add 4 tablespoons of the cooking liquid to the beetroot.

Spoon the pasta into bowls and serve topped with the beetroot, goat cheese, pecans and parsley. Drizzle over a little more oil and serve with grated Pecornio.

Tip: You should be able to find ready cooked beetroot in natural juices in your local green grocer or supermarket. Alternatively buy raw beetroot and roast in the oven for about 45 mins. Peel and dice.

 

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