Archives for category: Fruits and vegetables

If a vegetable can be a seductress, then that vegetable is beetroot, Beta vulgaris, earthy, of course and at the same time flamboyantly glamorous. It’s a vegetable that when you allow it to be the star of the show is capable of adding either gravitas or sophistication to a meal .
DSCF1402

Some weeks ago we were moored on the Oxford canal in Jericho. Our galley supplies had run low and we needed to do a shop so that we could get moving through rural north Oxfordshire where we knew we wouldn’t come across any shops for quite a few days. Richard and I sat down to sketch out some meals and make a shopping list. It was all perfectly planned. Meals for five days, not too much and not too little. Some old favorites and some new recipes we were going to try out.

I headed off to see what Jericho could offer by way of shopping opportunities. I walked past two Co-Ops. Well I didn’t actually walk past them. I went into them, walked up and down the aisles, surveyed what was on offer. Mainly pre-made sandwiches, it seemed, and a miserable fresh section. I wasn’t exactly thrilled. I couldn’t for one minute imagine why on earth there were two of these very ordinary supermarkets within blocks of each other. They would do, of course, but I decided to walk a little further to see if I could find something just a wee bit more interesting.

I turned a corner heading away from the main road and towards what I thought would be town. If need be I’d walk to the Covered Market. It would be a good walk, some nice exercise.  I could get a few exquisite things and then come back to one of the Co-Ops for the balance of the shopping list.

It seemed to me there were a couple of coffee shops ahead of me. Mmm, maybe I should stop off and while away half an hour, have a cappuccino? Nope. If I was going to the Covered Market, I’d better get moving. I could have a coffee there.

Then, right in front of me I saw a white van, doors flung open, crates of organic produce spilling onto the pavement, people milling around chatting and shopping. It was the Cultivate Veg Van in Jericho for its weekly stop. How lucky was I?

I tossed the shopping list into the nearest bin and picked up a basket and threw caution to the wind.

I did rather a large shop. As I walked back down the towpath to Patience laden with bags of organic produce I thought I’d better come up with a plan. I just knew Richard would say ‘Lovely – but what exactly do you think we’re going to make with this arbitary mountain of vegetables?’

IMG_6735

And because I had been seduced I knew that I had better be very clever in devising a good few meals that were going to center around my crimson temptress .IMG_6741Beetroot Tart Tatin

I normally make this in a cast iron frying pan, but because we don’t have such an item on the boat I made it in a rectangular baking dish – 30 x 23 cm

Ingredients

  • 6 large beetroots, peeled and sliced about 7mm thick
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 75g butter
  • 4 T sherry vinegar
  • 1T sugar
  • ground black pepper and coarse salt
  • 1 sheet ready-made puff pastry

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Celcius.

Toss the beetroot with the olive oil in the baking dish and roast, covered with foil, until tender.

Remove from the baking dish and set aside.

Add the butter, sherry vinegar, sugar salt and pepper to the baking dish and put back into the oven until the mixture is bubbling and syrupy.

Toss the beetroot with the sherry mixture and arrange in overlapping rows in the baking dish.

Top with the sheet of puff pastry, tucking in the edges all round.

Bake until puffed and golden. Remove from oven, loosen the edges and flip out onto a board or platter.

Serve with marscapone topped with a sprinkling of togarashi or goat’s cheese sliced and rolled in togarashi and a green salad made with rocket. Make a simple dressing of olive oil, sherry vinegar and honey. You can use some of the beetroot greens in the salad too. DSCF1434 Beetroot Cured Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1kg piece of salmon – I’ve made it with and without the skin but I think I prefer it without
  • 500g beetroot, grated
  • 175g coarse salt (but I have also used ordinary table salt)
  • 100g sugar
  • 60ml vodka (I’ve also used gin)
  • zest of two lemons
  • a bunch of fresh dill, chopped (or you can used dried)

DSCF7160

Method

Mix all the ingredients (except the salmon) well together.

Layer half of it in a glass dish just large enough to hold the salmon.

Put the salmon on top of the beetroot mixture and cover with the remaining beetroot.

Cover tightly with clingfilm and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove the salmon from the mixture and wipe it dry with paper towels.

Slice thinly.DSCF1352 Serve with crème fraîche, lemon wedges and fried capers,with or without buckwheat blini.

Bonus meal: Beetroot greens and lentil soup

IMG_6811

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 carrots, chopped fine
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped fine
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 200g green lentils
  • water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • beetroot greens from a bunch or two of beetroots, shredded

IMG_6795

Method

Heat the olive oil, add the onions and fry very gently until soft and translucent.

Add the garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaves, and cook gently for about ten minutes.

Add the lentils and stock and continue cooking until the lentils are soft.

Stir in the beetroot greens and sherry vinegar.

Cook for about five to ten minutes.

Season and serve either as is, or with a dollop of marscapone or manchego and/or strips of serrano ham.

It is true that I love a tart and tangy curd. It is also true that I was obsessed with making curds this past week. And it is true that I’m not going to stop here. I might give it a break until a few different varieties of fruit come into season but stop I will not. How I wish I was on our narrowboat, Patience,  harvesting the autumn fruit ripening on  the endless miles of hedgerows that are the companions of the canals. Maybe next year…

Until recently I had only ever made a lemon curd. My mother made apple curd for apple meringue pies because as a child I hated lemon curd. Impossible to believe! Many years ago my older sister made elderberry curd from a plant in her garden and I remember it being delicious. I’ve always wanted to replicate it.  My younger sister recently made apricot curd from the fruit growing on her beautiful property in McGregor in the Western Cape. But until I read the blog post on fruit curds by Neil of British Food: A History, with his comment that curds don’t just come in lemon yellow, I hadn’t really thought that much about making any other curds.

So I started experimenting  and over the past few months made passion fruit and quince curd. Both exquisite  I have to say.  And then, motivated and inspired by my participation in Scarlet Bennett’s creative challenge, last week turned into a celebration of the versatility of the curd.

On Day 23 I produced a naartjie and passion fruit curd; on Day 24, a pink grapefruit curd; and on Day 27, the week’s pièce de résistance  – beetroot,  citrus and thyme curd.

I’m going to have to hold myself back, I feel an urge to get into the kitchen and try a tarragon, black pepper and orange curd but I have a long to-do list that was rather neglected this week because of all the time devoted to the cooking of curds. Luckily we don’t have any oranges and we have run out of eggs, butter and sugar too. Pity.

Beetroot, citrus and thyme curd

  • 600 ml mixed beetroot and citrus juice. I used 5 small beetroot with their stalks but not the leaves, 3 smallish oranges, 4 clementines, and 3 lemons.
  • Grated rind of an organic lemon
  • A couple of sprigs of thyme – don’t be shy
  • 120 g butter
  • 250 ml granulated sugar
  • 6 large free-range  eggs

Put the mixed juices in a heavy bottomed pot and reduce  to 300 ml as per the instructions on 101 Cookbooks along with the zest and thyme.  Add the butter and sugar to the reduced juice and heat  slowly until it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat, strain and cool for a couple of minutes while you beat the eggs until light and fluffy.  Slowly pour the hot juice mixture into the eggs whisking constantly. Pour back into the pot and cook on a low heat and stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit or 82 degrees Celsius.  Pour into sterilised jars and seal or  into a bowl and refrigerate until chilled for more or less immediate consumption.

There is something so satisfying about preserving fruits. Jars, bottles and bowls of jewel coloured delights lined up on the pantry shelf just waiting to add a little something special to a meal.

I have loved my quince obsession and although there were a few ups and downs it resulted in a mountain of membrillo, jars of spiced quinces and bowls of quince curd.  One evening we had a platter of three types of quinces – spiced, curd and membrillo and we served oat cakes and cheese alongside the quince platter.

But my preserving time has not all been devoted to quinces – passion fruits too have been demanding attention.

I am so thrilled with the sprawling passion fruit/granadilla vine that has been bearing fruit continuously since December. Although we are now in mid winter and the plant has been lightly frosted at the top there are  still flowers and buds on the plant as well as between about one and two hundred slowly ripening fruits.  Over the last few weeks I have picked about eighty fruits and have made two batches of passion fruit cordial.

DSCF5657

Passion Fruit Cordial

For every one cup of passion fruit pulp add one cup of water, 3/4 cup of light brown or white sugar and 3 T lemon juice.

Mix together well and bring slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently until slightly syrupy.  Strain – or not – and bottle in sterilised bottles. I like to strain about two thirds and mix that with the remaining unstrained one third.

passion fruit cordial

In my search for quince recipes I came across Ouma Babsie’s preserved quince recipe. I loved the fact that in this recipe the quinces are baked whole in the oven, then peeled and sliced before simmering in syrup and bottling. Since I was slow cooking some lamb in the oven it seemed to me to be the perfect time to make Ouma Babsie’s preserved quinces.

I popped the lamb into the oven and dashed out to run some errands knowing that the lamb would be cooking happily for four hours. I got waylaid in book shops and coffee shops but made it safely back home within my four hour time limit. The quinces, I forgot, had only needed two and a half to three hours – not four hours – in the oven. They were luckily fine if somewhat too soft to slice and simmer for Ouma Babsie’s preserved quinces. Very disappointing.

roast quince

I just happened to have a mountain of other quince recipes waiting to be made so after a quick rifle through the pages I found a couple of solutions. One: quince pancakes  which we had for breakfast the following morning. They were delicious both hot for breakfast, at room temperature later in the day and cold the next day.

And two: quince curd. I made it according the the recipe from the British Food Larder.  I pureed the pulp with an immersion blender and then cooked the curd exactly as per their recipe. Heaven. And a serious contender for a winning place in the ongoing war that wages in our household – second place maybe to passiflora edulis.

The pièce de résistance of all the quince cooking was the preserved spiced quinces. We ate the spiced pink slices with cream for dessert and with cheese. And we ate them straight out of the jar, too. We could not get enough of them.

This is a recipe I need to make again – soon. Very soon. This is a recipe I should be posting here. This is a recipe that came out of my head. This is a recipe for which there are no notes. It is a recipe that seemed so obvious. How could I have not written a thing down? This is what I think I did/what I would do next time:

Spiced quinces

  • Make a syrup with a 3:4 ratio (sugar:water) in a heavy bottomed pot (equal weight sugar and fruit?)
  • Add bay leaves, star anise, cloves and cinnamon to the mix while stirring to dissolve the sugar
  • Peel, core and slice the quinces and immerse them in the syrup
  • Bring to the boil
  • Simmer gently until the quinces are soft, the syrup is thick and both the quinces and syrup are beautifully pink – I cooked mine on the Godin fireplace for I think a few hours
  • Bottle in sterilised jars

I was slightly worried that I had overcooked the quinces and that the syrup was going to turn into toffee. When I eventually allowed myself to open a jar I was delighted to find that in fact I had spiced quinces in a quince jelly.

And stupid as I was not to make any notes,  I did at least take a few photographs.