I love chutney! A rich combination of autumn fruits, dried fruits and vegetables simmered for hours in a mixture of muscovado sugar and cider vinegar, seasoned with spices and root ginger is one of my favourite things to make. It takes far longer than jam, but is much less stressful, none of this pectin testing and no chilled saucers. Continue reading
This is the only shot I have of the bean dish we have been having night after night the last two weeks. We are coming to the end of them now, they were so pretty when they were in flower and we got loads of them this year. We’ve put some more in the ground and are crossing our green fingers that they will give us a late crop in a couple of months time.
I was given a copy of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday as a present by my lovely friend Mandy, and on my first gallop through it, I came to a halt when I saw this bean dish. Because I am too lazy to go downstairs and drag the book back up here I will give you the general gist of it. Because that is what it is, a general gist of a recipe, more a technique than anything, which you can vary as you please with what you like.
Catch your beans, or your carrots, or whatever, cook them lightly with steam so they are cooked but not floppy. If you like garlic, splat and finely chop a clove or two. While the beans are cooking, put a mixture of your favourite seeds and spices in a dry frying pan, throw in some flaked almonds maybe, some pumpkin seeds, coriander, fennel, a pinch of chili, sesame seeds if you are Brian. Get those seeds and little packets out of the cupboard. (Oh yes, I heard you Michael McIntyre! Goulash next week….) Heat them up till the almonds start to colour and go brown and the seeds begin to pop a little.
Turn the heat off and then add a Keith Floyd sort of splosh of olive or walnut oil, and the chopped garlic. Give it all a good shuffle in the pan. Don’t turn the heat on again; there will be enough heat in the pan to lightly cook the garlic. Drain the beans, carrots, whatever veg you are using. Put in a serving bowl, sprinkle with flaky Maldon sea salt, black pepper, and tip the sizzling, toasty, and aromatically charged seedy loveliness all over the beans. So good! Serve with couscous or rice or whatever else is on your table. I suspect that kids won’t eat this with their aversion to bits, but that means all the more for you! Now I want some more all over again!
Normal bread service will be resumed soon.
Lots to do…
The recipe, method and important advice on sterilising bottles all come from Pam Corbin’s wonderful and indispensable book Preserves. There are always different ways to make something like this, but she hasn’t let us down yet.
Unwaxed lemons and oranges are a good idea if you are planning to include zest in anything. If you can’t get them then give the ones you have a really good scrub to remove any coatings. I used organic fruit but if I couldn’t get organic I would still have a go at this. The elder flowers aren’t there all year round after all.
I treated us to some fancy bottles with ceramic tops – though not enough in the end for the quantity of cordial we ended up with – and a jar of citric acid from the Jam Jar website last week, as well as a very important mini funnel. I think if anyone is thinking of producing this stuff on a big scale they would need to really hunt around for a cheaper source of container though and recycle as much as they can, which is what we did for most of the bottles we used. I have to tell you that Brian took over at a certain point in the process, as he loves filtering and bottling and sterilising. Says it reminds him of when he used to make beer!
My first job was to sit and inspect the flowers for insects and caterpillars. I had a little help. We found a few caterpillars and some green bugs I had never seen before but they were surprisingly empty of visible wildlife. I was pleased about that. I then zested eight lemons and a couple of oranges.
The bag of flowers, and the two lots of zest were flung into the beer tub where I admired their transient beauty and grabbed this shot. I squeezed the juice from the fruits separately and stored it in the fridge for the following day.
Then we created a witches brew by boiling numerous kettles of water until we had enough to comfortably cover the flowers and zest. The flowers mostly turned brown and the whole thing smelt faintly of wee and hot green stuff. Quite scary, but one has to believe that Pam Corbin knows what she is doing and it says in the book that this is an old River Cottage recipe so we thought we can blame Hugh FW as well if it all goes wrong! We put the lid on the tub and left the whole lot to brew for twenty-four hours.