Orange Voddy

Oranges seem to be on 3 for 2 special offer at the moment so I have quite a lot. They are super juicy and tasty. As I like orange liqueur I thought it might be good try an orange voddy.

I’ve just prepared it now and its in the pantry doing its fruit voddy thing.

Here are the steps:

You can find my rules of thumb for fruit vodka making here.

Seville oranges: spicy, savoury style marmalade

Last year when everyone was making marmalade with seville oranges I bought a couple of bags from the supermarket thinking I’d join in the fun.

Then I remembered that the last batch I made had lasted about 10 years as I don’t really eat marmalade that often.

So I wondered if there were any more savoury recipes…I’m a fan of chutney and pickles and started thinking along those lines. I couldn’t find any specific recipes and several people I asked were unsure if it would work.

After a bit of juggling ideas I decided to give it a go and try to make a sort of spicy seville and onion marmalade hybrid.

With no recipes to guide me I struck out and just made it up as I went along. Naturally I also failed to write down what I did.

Possibly more inevitably, almost 12 months later, when I opened the first jar to test it just before Christmas it was amazing. Mellow spices, sweet and orangey but with enough sharp tang and bite.

So here I am staring at the pictures I took hoping I can work out what I did.

I think its fairly simple.

It roughly goes like this:


Seville oranges


Chilli peppers

Dried smokey chillis

Coriander seeds

Fresh ginger


Juice the sevilles and set aside the juice. Slice the peel into strips.

Slice the onions. Cook the onions slowly in butter over a low heat to soften them.

Add the sliced peel, juice, spices and a some cider vinegar.

Simmer until soft and thickening and reduced by about half.

Put in sterilised jars and seal straightaway while warm.

Leave for ages to allow it to mellow.

Eat, with cold cuts or with poppadums…or just however you would normally have spiced chutney.

Festive menu, part 3 (all about chestnuts)

Yesterday I told you about the cheese terrine we had for starters today its all about the chestnuts…mainly so you can make the chestnut stuffing from my festive menu but also so I can share my most recent blog for Francoise Murat Design on Christmassy foods and which also includes a fab chestnut jam and a chocolatey chestnut cake…so here it is….. (first posted 8 December the cakes are actually made now!)

One of the wonderful things about Christmas is the fact that there are lots of chances to cook up delicious meals and food gifts for friends and family. Some people will have started their Christmas preparation months ago baking Christmas cakes which are now slowly being ‘fed’ brandy or whisky to make them extra moist and tasty ahead of being decorated. I’m not quite that organised although I have ear marked some of my chutneys, pickles, fruit vodkas and vinegars as gifts and I’m planning on making lavender shortbreads and perhaps cheese biscuits too. The fruit is now soaking in whisky ready to make the cakes and I think I might try my hand at some home cured gravadlax.

For lots of people the big decision is what meat to have for the Christmas meal, should it be turkey or the supposedly more traditional goose, a classic English roast beef or perhaps a stuffed loin of pork. For me though it’s all about the trimmings and the other meals, the roast is almost irrelevant. I’ve often joked that you could easily serve me a plate piled with all the trimmings and I wouldn’t notice if the roast meat was missing. I just love the extras so much and they are the things that most of us only decide to do for Christmas…..stuffings, bread sauce, fruit jelly, sausages wrapped in bacon, about 5 types of vegetables all with little twists, proper gravy made from real stock, tons of crispy roast potatoes…we might do some of these some of the time but we almost never do so many together and of course that’s just the ‘main’ course…there will be a starter when perhaps normally there wouldn’t, there’ll be dessert and mince pies and cake and then somewhere in all this there’ll be a groaning table of cold cuts, pates, pork pies, cheeses, breads, smoked salmon following by an array of cheesecake, trifle, gooey chocolate cake…and lots of citrus fruit too to balance it all out.

My particular favourites are homemade mince pies with proper crumbly delicate pastry, baked ham, the sausages wrapped in bacon, roasted root vegetables, braised cabbage with lardons and a splash of white wine, chestnuts tossed with Brussels sprouts and butter, super crispy roast potatoes. Give me those over the festive period and I’ll be happy but there is one thing that that I wouldn’t ever go without at Christmas regardless of what else I chose to cook and that’s chestnut stuffing. Even if I’m not having turkey or chicken or pork I still make some in a sort of terrine style and eat it with chutney or pickle or as a sandwich filling. I love it, it’s the stuffing we always had at Christmas when I was growing up, so it’s a Christmas must (the recipe is from my Grandma). Its tasty and moist without being heavy, lots of stuffing’s use pork mince, which makes them very rich. This is simpler and with a little adaptation could easily be made into a fantastic vegetarian version as a terrine.

I really like chestnuts, their sweet mealiness lends itself well to a range of different dishes, savoury and sweet. They are good in wintery stews particularly with game. They are delicious roasted and eaten straight from the skins. And they work in cakes and breads, particularly with chocolate but they also have a long heritage as a flour substitute in southern Europe.  When I was doing a trial batch of the stuffing last week for this blog post I also decided to play around with some other chestnut ideas so as well as a stuffing I think everyone will like, for chestnut fans I’ve a chestnut jam recipe and also a chocolate and chestnut cake. So stop worrying about whether to have turkey, goose or beef, focus on the extras and I’ll bet almost no one notices which roast you serve.

Chestnut Stuffing

The way I like to cook means this recipe is just a starting point, pick your favourite herbs to go in the mix, don’t use bacon if you want a vegetarian version and perhaps add gently softened onions instead (or even as well if you like).

  • 1 tin chestnut puree
  • 8 oz breadcrumbs
  • 3 rashers streaky bacon cut into small pieces
  • zest 1 lemon (and the juice if you like)
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • big handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Break up the chestnut puree with a fork; add all the ingredients except the eggs and mix. Once mixed add the egg and bring together. Use to stuff turkey, chicken or loin of pork. Bake any you can’t fit in the meat in a dish or terrine. You can line this with streaky bacon and fold over the top or simply dot the top with butter. Cook the extra stuffing for at least 40 mins at R6 (200C), you may need to cover the top with foil half way through the cooking time.

Chestnut Jam

  • 2 tins of whole cooked chestnuts (i.e. 400g) or whatever weight you have of cooked peeled chestnuts
  • For each 100g of chestnuts you need 75ml water and 100g of sugar
  • Lemon zest
  • Vanilla pod

Put the chestnuts in a pan and add the water, the lemon zest and the vanilla, simmer gently for 30 mins (covered) to allow the flavours to infuse. Drain but retain the liquid and top back up to the 75ml per 100g weight of chestnuts using either water or brandy. Push the chestnuts through a fine sieve then add back to the liquid. Bring to the boil and simmer until thick and when a drop is put on a cold plate in the fridge for a few minutes it forms a skin and is a jam consistency. Put in warm sterilised jars and seal. It’s great on toast, especially sourdough and can be used with chocolate cake (see below).

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

I was inspired by a whole range of ideas when I came up with this recipe: from Mont Blanc, various brownie recipes, Nesselrode pudding to a store cupboard cake of Nigella’s that uses jam or marmalade with chocolate…..

  • 100g of 100% cacao (grated), I used Willie’s Supreme Cacao Peruvian Black, San Martin
  • 300g of chestnut jam (see previous recipe, you can also buy online)
  • 150g sugar (or 150g more chestnut jam, this is what I used)
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 150g self raising flour
  • round cake tin (20cm) or better still a brownie tray, lined with silicon paper

Melt the butter in a bain-marie then add the cacao and allow this to melt and stir to mix as the cacao melts. Remove from heat and add the chestnut jam, mixing well, then add the sugar (if using) and eggs. When its all well combined add the flour a heaped tablespoonful at a time and mix. Pour into the cake or brownie tin and bake at R4 (180C) for at least 50 mins and a skewer comes out clean. My cake was very deep as it was in an 18cm tin and so it took and hour and half to bake, in a brownie tin it will take much less so start checking from 35 minutes and adjust cooking time accordingly. Leave in the tray/tin for 15 mins to cool and then remove.

I served the cake sliced like a Victoria sponge and filled with more of the chestnut jam and whipped cream, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with crushed meringues. As the cake was so deep this made it rather difficult to eat and it collapsed so I think doing it brownie style and topping with the jam, cream and meringues would be more effective.

Gluts of all types

It’s coming to the end of harvest time but everywhere you look there are gluts of produce to be turned into something delicious. Some to be eaten now, some to be saved for the winter months. Gardens and hedgerows are filled with bounty and will continue to provide opportunities to harvest interesting things until late October. You might have your own fruit trees providing you with an abundance of apples, pears, plums or damsons, too many beans, courgettes or unripe tomatoes. Maybe a neighbour has a surfeit they need to share. There’s sure to be produce by peoples gates either for free or very cheap. And of course you can go foraging in country lanes, in parks and open spaces, on moorland.

Whatever you find there’s plenty of ways to put it to good use: cakes, crumbles, pies and tarts for now, freezing and multiple ways of preserving for later…..compots, jams, chutneys, pickles, curds, vinegars, favoured gins or vodkas, fruit jellies and cheeses, cordials, wines and ales, ketchups and sauces. Almost too may choices.

First of all some rules of foraging:

  1. Be sure you are allowed to forage from the lane/park/open space you choose; land maybe protected or private, foraging isn’t just a free for all.
  2. Don’t strip plants bare, leave fruit for others and for the wildlife.
  3. Make sure you know what you have collected before using it as food.
  4. Only collect from areas where you are happy there won’t be contamination, so right next to a busy road might not be great.
  5. Always be considerate and sensible about where and how you forage.

The are some good books on foraging to help you know what you might find where and when and also for identification. Three that I particularly like are Food for Free by Richard Mabey (it comes is a tiny pocket size so is easy to carry with you); The Foragers Handbook by Miles Irving more a research book for at home, Miles also runs foraging courses (as do others); and the River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook by John Wright.

Most of what you’ll collect over the next two months will be fruits and berries of some description, but there could be end of season vegetables too from the garden. There’s mushrooms to be had of course but that’s a whole other topic. To decide what to do with whatever glut you have think about the following: how ripe is the fruit, how sweet or tart is it, how long is the season (is this the last for this year or might you be able to collect more), how much do you have? All of these things will influence what you might choose to do. If you have a small amount of ripe fruit then if its edible uncooked you’ll probably want to eat it as is with cream or yoghurt or perhaps made into a cake, pudding, tart or crumble. If you’ve a lot of something then you’ll need to preserve some for later use either as a jam, jelly, chutney, pickle or something. I tend to make pickles, chutneys and fruit vodkas because they are what I like but think of what is most likely to get eaten up before next years glut and also what people you know will appreciate as presents. If the fruit is less ripe then pickles and chutneys are a good choice as the sourness is part of the taste and can be balanced by the spices and sugar. Very under ripe fruit can be made into Indian style pickles (a bit like lime pickle), I’ve tried this with plums and green tomatoes and it works well with both.

There really are so many choices it’s hard to single out one recipe (but I’ve included lots of links this month for you). Good resources are River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin and The Jam, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook by Marguerite Patten. Both are excellent on basic techniques with plenty of recipes to try. Do remember that if you are making chutney or pickles then you need a non-reactive pan (i.e. not aluminium) and inevitably the vinegar evaporates so have the extractor on and close the kitchen door, the taste though, is worth it.

One thing I’m determined to try this year is drying fruit. I love the dried berries and apples in granola and muesli so I’m going to make my own. I’ll be following this method from a curious little book called They Can’t Ration These, written during WW2 by Vitcome de Maudit (and republished by Persephone) its fully of quirky ideas for foraging and cooking.

How to Dry Berries

Use only sound, unbruised fruit, wash, clean and drain the berries on wooden or iron sheets and place them in a very moderate oven (110F). Raise the heat gradually to 130F, then when the berries fail to stain the hand when pressed but are not so hard that they will rattle, take them out and store. The length of time for the drying varies with the kind of berries, but it is from 4 to 6 hours.

(Note: The temperatures quoted don’t seem to tally with any conversion charts I can find so I’m assuming that the oven should be on its lowest possible setting. This is part of the joy of old recipes.)

This article was first published as part of the series I write for Francoise Murat & Associates newsletter. If you want to get the article sooner then why not subscribe to the newsletter which also has features on gardening (including kitchen gardens) and interior design.

Spicy sour green pickles

So the tomatoes should have been ripe ages ago but mine still look like this:

Which means I’ll be making batches of green pickles again this year. But that’s okay because I rather like the green pickles. I made them first with under ripe plums that I collected in deepest Suffolk with Vivia of Grethic’s Grethica. She also tracked down some recipes which she posted links to here. Its worth watching the you tube clips because they are a bit bonkers but to make it a bit easier I’ve given the recipe the way I did it here.

You need:

Lots of unripe tomatoes or plums

Sour pickle:

1 quantity (see note) each of fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, red chilli flakes, cumin seeds, coriander seeds

½ quantity of salt

¼ quantity of tumeric

rapeseed oil

Sweet and sour pickle:

8% salt

4% tumeric

50% sugar

rapeseed oil

In both cases the quantities take a bit of guess work. In the second one I assumed it meant use 8% of the weight of fruit you have etc. In the first one it was harder so I just did what looked like a sensible quantity for the fruit I had the get a good level of spiciness.

This is what you do:

Cut the tomatoes (or plums) into quarters. Discard the stones if you have plums. I usually make one batch of each type so I split the total fruit in half then carry on.

Sour pickle:

Mix the spice and salt together in a bowl. Add the fruit and coat with the mix. Cover with cling film and leave somewhere light and warm for 3-4 days. Pack tightly in sterilised jars and cover with rapeseed oil. Leave it to mature for at least a month. This one is quite like lime pickle so is great with curries. I use any leftover spicy oil for cooking curry as well.

Sweet and sour pickle:

Mix the salt and tumeric together and add the fruit. Coat. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a bright warm place for 2-3 days. Add the sugar and leave for a further 3-5 days. Pack into sterilised jars and cover with oil. As this one is sweeter it also works well with cheeses or cold meats.

Here is what you end up with:

In season: blackberries

Last weekend the twitter wires were buzzing with foodies claiming to have found superbly ripe blackberries in and around London. Seemed a little early to me but people were twitpic-ing them and they looked good. I was still doubtful but thought I’d take a chance and see what I could find. 

oops i spilt some!
oops I spilt some!

We found loads and loads and loads and loads of bramble bushes and plenty of smallish under ripe blackberries. No big fat juicy ones as other claimed to have found. I was beginning to think perhaps they were all having me on and had been foraging at their local supermarket…..

I wasn’t prepared to give up – I had empty bags to fill so after a bit more searching we settled on a spot and started to pick the best we could find moving on bit by bit to take the ripest ones and leaves the others for another day. We eventually collected about 1.5lbs – not a lot but I think another week or so and there will be a much better haul. We only saw one other person collecting and the bushes didn’t look like someone else had got there first and baggged all the plumpest ones. We did see plenty of people soaking up the sun, having picnics and larking about on the boating lake but no one was interested in blackberries.

So then I needed to decide what to do with the fruits. I wasn’t sure they were sweetish but a bit small to make a dessert with and it was too warm for crumble. So I rinsed them let them dry off and popped them in the fridge whilst I spooled recipes round in my head. then at breakfast one day when I was enjoyed some of Ginger Gourmand’s Lemon Curd (bought from her UKFBA stall a couple of weeks back) it came to me:


Genius I thought – tart berries and sweet butteriness what a combination. So back to the recipe books to find a recipe – well could I find one, no I could not and I’ve got at least four books on making preserves……it was time to freeform a recipe. A bit of detailed reading and I decided I that adapting a recipe for gooseberry curd would probably work. Here’s what I did:

Goodshoeday’s Blackberry Curd – makes 4 small jars

700g tart blackberries – rinsed and picked over for bugs and leaves
80ml water

Put the blackberries in a pan and add the water, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes until they form a puree. Rub through a  sieve (preferably nylon) so you get as much of the juice and fruit as you can but no pips. Measure the volume of juicy pipless puree you now have. I got 350ml.

For each 200ml of puree you need 1 large egg or 2 yolks, 150g of sugar (caster) and 40g of unsalted butter (plus maybe more see later).

So I used 70g of butter, 2 medium eggs, and 260g of sugar as the nearest sensible equivalents.

Put the puree sugar and butter in a heatproof bowl and warm it over a pan of hot water, stirring until it melts/dissolves. Beat the eggs thoroughly and then add them to the blackberry mix, keep stirring over the hot water until it all thickens and coats the back of a spoon like a good cheese sauce would i.e. still a bit runny as it will thicken as it cools. Mine seemed a bit runny do I added about another 10/15g of butter (I didn’t weigh it I just added small pieces until I got the desired effect).

Then pout into hot stertilsed jars trying to avoid getting it all down the jars and on the work surface like I did (new narrower jam funnel needed for me I think). Lids on jars and leave to cool before storing in the fridge.

Remember to lick the spoon thoroughly and barter hard with anyone who tries to blag a jar because it tastes really good.

Recipe based on Gooseberry Curd by Marguerite Patten in The Basic Basics Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook