Monday, July 30, 2007

Get out of jail free dessert

Lemon posset with twice poached raspberries.

The lemon posset is an Allegra McEvedy pudding and it is she that describes it as a get out of jail free dessert. It is absolutely delicious, if not for the figure conscious. Incredibly simple, it uses lemon juice to thicken the double cream instead of eggs.

For four

420 ml double cream
150g granulated sugar
Zest of 3 lemons, unwaxed
Juice of 2 lemons (about 5 tbsp)

Put the cream, zest and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly as the sugar dissolves. Boil for three minutes, making sure the cream does not overflow, which it is wont to do. Take off the heat, allow to sit for 10 minutes, then stir in the juice and watch it start to thicken.

Strain to remove zest. Fill ramekins, or one larger dish, allow to cool and then chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Twice poached raspberries
This is my own recipe, an invention born of necessity.

It’s very difficult to get raspberries to stay whole if you poach them. The first lot I tried, poached in sugar syrup, came to pieces. So I sieved them, brought the coulis to the boil and poured it over another batch of raspberries in a jar. Bingo! Intact berries in a satiny coulis.

50g granulated sugar
3 tbsp water
500g raspberries
Another 500g raspberries

Heat the sugar and water slowly until the sugar dissolves. Tip in the first lot of raspberries, put a lid on the pan and poach slowly for about five minutes. Sieve the coulis. Return to the pan and bring slowly up to simmering point. Meanwhile fill a jar with the remaining 500g of raspberries and when the coulis is simmering pour it into the jar to cover the berries. Allow to cool.

The raspberries are quite tart, which goes well with the sharp/sweet lemony posset.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Supper with Mrs Noah

Half the country seems to be flooded. Thousands of people are camped out in church halls contemplating the misery of the destruction. The water rose so fast in most cases that they could save very little. People have lost everything. The RAF has been airlifting stranded citizens to safety and sometimes it has been touch and go – the biggest lifesaving exercise in peacetime Britain.

I know we go on a lot about the weather - being an island we are constantly subject to its whims - but this year has been particularly whimsical. All that stuff in the supermarkets for barbequing is a bit of a joke as the clouds darken and the lightning flashes. I started thinking about the Ark and how Mrs Noah doesn’t get a namecheck. Noah does, as do Ham, Shem and Japheth, but we don’t know the names of their wives. Bet they had to do all the cooking though. So when they were fed up with pulses and the odd giraffeburger I was wondering what they might have had for supper.

Maybe some fat silver sardines hot pickled and flecked with chilli, to cheer up those dreich and streaming days while they waited for the dove to return with the olive branch. This dish from Valencia in Spain which adds a little shelf life to the sardines would be perfect.

Escabeche de Sardinas
Serves 4 as a starter
Preheat the oven to 170ºC/325ºF

900g/2 lbs fresh sardines, filleted
2-3 garlic cloves, skinned and sliced finely
1-2 bay leaves, crumbled
Salt and pepper
150 ml/¼ pint white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
1 dried chilli, de-seeded and torn into small pieces

Layer the sardine fillets in a shallow dish, sprinkling with garlic, salt and pepper and crumbled bay leaf as you go.

Bring the vinegar to the boil with the same volume of water and pour around the fish. Drizzle with the oil, sprinkle over the chilli, cover with lid or foil shiny side down and bake for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the fish. Serve at room temperature with a plain potato salad and some fresh leaves.

This recipe is from a lovely book about Iberian food
The Food of Spain and Portugal: A Regional Celebration By Elisabeth Luard
Kyle Cathie Ltd

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


In between the thunder and the lightning and the torrential downpours I made my way to the Pick Your Own farm to get fruit for jam. Tom Phippen’s wife Jean stopped her little tractor between the rows of blackcurrants for a chat. We have had the wettest June practically since records began and it has been cold too, so the crops are all a couple of weeks late. But worse is the fact that people don’t come out of their cosy houses in this sort of weather. If nobody picks the fruit it will be destroyed, and if that happens the farm will not survive. Chosen Hill Farm is the only Pick Your Own around here, and they don’t sell to retailers, it’s just for folk like me who come and get their own. It would be a tragedy if we lost it.

I was getting fruit for jam, strawberries and blackcurrants. I don’t know why I make strawberry jam – I don’t really like it, I find it very sweet. I think it’s the challenge, because it isn’t that easy to make. If it sets, which doesn’t always happen, it can set like toffee, and then it sits like rubber on your bread. But it’s quite quick to make, because it doesn’t involve a great deal of liquid and boiling. This is my recipe.

1 kg hulled strawberries
Zest and juice of l large unwaxed lemon
1 kg sugar

Try to get just ripe fruit, because it has the most pectin. Small strawberries can stay whole, but big ones will need to be halved or quartered.

You can get jam sugar with added pectin, and I think it’s worth the little extra expense for strawberry jam. Some recipes only use the juice of the lemon, but I put in the zest as well because it cuts the sweetness a bit.

Heat the strawberries and lemon juice gently in the pan, stirring to reduce the volume. Add the sugar, stir till dissolved and boil until setting point is reached. What you absolutely must have is a jam thermometer. It’s amazing how long it takes to creep the last few micrometers to the right temperature, and it saves a lot of testing. When you get up to temperature start to test the jam by dropping a blob on to a chilled saucer. Push the blob with your finger, and if the surface wrinkles you’ve got a set.

Leave the jam undisturbed for about ten minutes, skimming off any scum that has formed. This resting allows the fruit to sink and means that you have more evenly distributed fruit in the finished jam. The idea is to get a jar full of fruit held in a syrupy suspension, not a jar full of red mush.

My absolutely most favourite jam is blackcurrant. This is jam for grown-ups I always think. This is jam for a flaky croissant, with a good cup of coffee, rumpled bedclothes, Sunday newspapers…


1 kg blackcurrants
1 ½ pints water
1 ½ kg sugar

Try to get good plump blackcurrants and pick over to remove stalks.

Stew slowly with the water until the skins are soft, which will take at least half an hour. If you don’t do this properly you will end up with hard ‘boot button’ currants in your jam.

Add the sugar, stirring over a low heat until dissolved and then boil rapidly until setting point is reached.

If you figure out how much it costs you to make your own jam it doesn’t work out particularly cheap. But there is simply no comparison between what you make yourself and the rubbish sold in shops. It’s quite a soothing thing to do, standing in the kitchen listening to the radio. And I love the Waltons moment of putting the gleaming jars into the cupboard with pride!

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