Autumn winds are making the delicious plums fall from my tree and I’m picking them up as fast as possible as they rain down on my head. Apart from being delicious, I love the idea of ‘free’ food and, even better, free food from my own garden. For me, Victoria plums have the best flavour and are perfect for this Fruity Plum Crumble
Plum crumble has to be the ultimate comfort food and certainly a dish to illicit some guaranteed ‘ooohs and aaahs’ when it is brought to the table. Perhaps this is because the fruit season is short and serving this once or twice a year pudding, signals the changing of the year. Actually, mine isn’t a once a year treat as my freezer is now full of all the plums I couldn’t use -even after making spicy plum chutney & gifting some to friends etc there are lots left! I have either put the prepared plums (stone and halved) straight into freezer bags or cooked and pureed into boxes. My plan is to use the puree to make into a Christmas ice cream possibly with a little brandy or port and crumbled amaretto biscuits.
If you have a tree or know someone who has one, you will need to get a wriggle on and get them picked. Even better you could consider planting your own tree to guarantee your supply for years to come. They are trouble free and have pretty blossom in the spring.
I absolutely adore rice puddings & consider it the food of the gods -it’s not for nothing that babies here are often weaned on rice! I have eaten it around the world (of course there are many versions as it is such a cheap, staple ingredient) and have loved many of them. My favourites include the slow baked, creamy, nutmeg flavoured pudding of my childhood served hot on a cold day (with the skin of course) and the very rich, sweet Spanish Arroz con Leche served cold on a hot day. Both France & Italy have sweet, custardy versions with vanilla and many Asian countries cook it with coconut milk and serve with fruit such as lychees…I could go on. To be fair I’m very happy with tinned or carton rice puddings and yes, I did snaffle the kids’ baby rice.
When I read this recipe for a Persian style rice pudding in Sabrina Ghayour’s book ‘PERSIANA’ -Recipes from the Middle East & beyond, I knew that I had to try it…I loved the idea of rice delicately flavoured with rose with zesty lime & gentle spices. Sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts & edible rose petals it looked as beautiful as it tastes.
I don’t often cook from recipe books but I love ‘Persiana’ with a passion, at first glance it seems so exotic but in actual fact, once you have accepted the long list of ingredients, this is a cuisine that is simple is simple to make and made to share-my kind of food. I could eat every page. I have only made some tiny changes, marked by asterisks, the most important being to take great care with the rose flavouring-perhaps it is a western thing, although I love it it’s very easy to over do it and end up with a soapy taste -you have been warned.
(Most of the ingredients are available in good supermarkets (even in Cumbria) or on line.)
I used to think that these little pots of chocolate were the height of sophistication. To be fair I was only about 5 years old and they were a ‘left over’ treat from my parent’s dinner parties. My mum made these a lot and this is her recipe. They are still a treat, dark, very chocolaty, rich and easy to make. Just take care to melt the chocolate slowly and to combine the ingredients gently. With such a simple recipe it is easy to make more and they can be made ahead of time and frozen-all my boxes are ticked.
If you can the flavour is even better if you make them the day before so a little restraint is needed-(you can always like out the bowl to keep you going!)
NB please note that the recipe contains uncooked eggs.
Let’s be honest a traditional Christmas pudding is not every one’s cup of tea and…………………….you are a tad late if you want to make one so here is a spectacular alternative. It is every bit as special (some would say more), much lighter and filled with brandy soaked fruit, juicy cranberries and ginger biscuits. In bid to show off (tick) I have decorated mine with shards of white chocolate, crystallised berries and a fair bit of edible sparkle. It looks gorgeous and there will definitely be a Tah ..da..moment when you carry it to the Christmas table.
Don’t be tempted to …….flame this pud…you have been warned..
LUSCIOUS CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM PUDDING WITH SPARKLY WHITE CHOCOLATE SHARDS AND CRANBERRIES
Today I spied these wonderful, glistening redcurrants and I knew it was time to make…..Summer Pudding. Aptly named as it is made with lots of summer fruits that are at their best now.
This pudding is the quintessential taste of summer and all the more special for being made just once a year. Serve it in small slices, as the flavour is quite strong and lots of double cream. Don’t be tempted to go for a healthier option such as Crème Fraiche-this pudding needs cream and after all it is a once a year treat!
You can make one large pudding with this recipe or approx. 6 small ones. The small ones look lovely but are a bit of a fiddle to make.
Now who can resist this beautifully pink delicate rhubarb with its chartreuse frilly hat…not me..I couldn’t walk past my local green grocers without buying this precious delight. It has a very short season, blink and you have missed it. It also comes from Yorkshire so what more could a Yorkshire girl want. It is mysteriously grown in the dark and cut by candlelight-the lack of light ‘forcing’ it to produce the slim, pink wands. A special ingredient needs delicate handling and a special recipe. So here is my rhubarb and almond tart just for you. It was inspired by a similar tart I had at a very special hotel the AltnaHarrie Inn (now closed) near Ullapool in Wester Ross, Scotland. When you arrived on the quay side you had to telephone (from the red telephone box of course-younger readers -that is how we used to make phone calls) and they would send a small boat to pick you up. Very romantic. I made some scribbles on a napkin and from these wrote this recipe 20 years later.
It is all very well Nigella swanning around her Christmas kitchen looking gorgeous and sparkly and I do dream that this could be me….one year but to be honest it rarely (I’ve had my moments….) works out this way.
I love to make delicious food for all my family and friends and not spend all my time in the kitchen (who wants to anyway?). There is only one solution -PLANNING and help from the best Christmas helper of all -THE FREEZER.
Squirrel away some lovely dishes now for Christmas and then you really can put on your sparkly dress, have a glass of champagne, relax and enjoy some delicious meals. I am starting off (as I mean to go on) with a favourite pud-Zabaglione Trifle slice. A trifle is a Christmas must have and this one is based on the Italian zabaglione pudding. It is easy to make and freeze and makes a great alternative to Christmas pudding for those that don’t care for it. Have a go, pop this in your freezer and relax that’s one ticked off the list-spend the extra time shopping for something sparkly to wear.
I’m writing this in the nearest thing that we get to a heatwave here in West Cumbria…better make the most of it then. Heatwaves (or even just a few tiny rays) in summertime and my thoughts turn to homemade, dairy ice cream. Not just the synthetic, overly sweet commercial ice cream but proper, homemade, dairy ice cream, made with double cream. You can’t make proper ice cream without cream it’s as simple as that….sorry to the healthy eating brigade but I will concede that you shouldn’t eat too much in any one sitting. If it doesn’t say ‘dairy’ on the box it is not ‘dairy ice cream…just a synthetic concoction of skimmed milk products and lots of other stuff.
I am basically lazy and it is too much effort to get out that ice-cream maker that has been languishing in a kitchen cupboard for…..probably years and too I’m too impatient to leave the bowl to freeze first anyway! If you want to make the effort and you have an ice cream maker lying around it does give a creamy result but I think this method makes pretty creamy ice cream too.
Everything goes in together and then pour it into a plastic box and pop into the freezer. Once it starts to freeze around the edges you take it out and beat vigourously, this help to break down the ice crystals you can repeat this again if you are feeling energetic but it’s not really necessaryl. As a summer bonus for you I have made three different ice creams; Fresh RaspberrySwirl,Velvety Madagascan vanilla ice cream (cleverly sugar free) and a family favourite Crunchy Malteser ice cream.
We were picking brambles at the week end-a favourite Autumnal day out-and windfall Bramley apples………………….a lovely combination to use for a traditional pie. None of this continental malarkey with sweet pastry and a custard base. No this is a very plain and simple pie using a shortcrust pastry made with margarine and lard. Yes, I can hear you say, it does have to be lard.
Where I come from, Yorkshire, pies have a top and a bottom if you please, tarts only have bottoms. I only added a little sugar to the fruit so that you can taste the fruit but you could always pass the sugar bowl around when you are serving for those that like a sweeter taste. I like to rebel and haven’t precooked the filling- wild I know but it is more usual to precook the apple. It really doesn’t need it and it is much better this way because Bramley apples quickly ‘fall’ when cooked ie they loose their shape and go mushy which then makes for a mushy pie-so I have avoided this by putting the apple in raw, just slice them thinly after coring and peeling. Use a traditional enamel metal plate to get a crisp bottom and no sogginess.
To get back to the brambles,it is tempting to pick too many, especially as this is a’ free’ food, but you don’t need many for this recipe as they are quite strong to taste. However you can also turn them in to jams and jellies if you are so inclined. Or what about turning them into Blackberry gin for Christmas-just pack into a large glass jar, add sugar and pour gin over the top. Put the lid on, give it a shake and then store it somewhere cool for about 6 weeks. Give it the odd shake when you remember and then sieve before using. I also like to make Christmassy gin from damsons and also from sloe berries but these are not so easy to come by. Damsons work well and give a more fruity twist to your gin and tonics. If you want more of a liqueur then add more sugar and less gin.
This is quite a luscious pudding..creamy, fruity and some crumbly sweet meringue pieces. I have used my own meringues which are SO much better than bought (why are they so much sweeter than homemade ones when meringues are nearly 100% sugar anyway?) but if you are pushed you could use bought ones. I used frozen raspberries but later in the season you could use fresh ones and if you have home grown ones this would be heaven in a glass. Other soft fruits would work too, strawberries, blackcurrants or redcurrants. Take care with the currants they need more sugar to sweeten them