Sep 18 2007

Fig Conserve with Lemon and Walnuts

Fig Conserve with Lemon and Walnuts.
Take about sixteen figs or 1 kilo, 2 lemons, 750 grams sugar and 125 grams shelled walnuts, fresh if possible.
Take the zest from the lemons either with a lemon zester or potato peeler. If you use the latter slice the peel into tiny julienne strips. Remove and discard the lemon pith and cut the flesh into slices retaining all the juice. Save pips and put into a little piece of muslin.
Halve the figs removing the tough stem tip.
Make a syrup with the sugar and 300ml water. When the sugar has dissolved add figs, lemon rind and slices and muslin bag of pips (this aids setting)
Cook gently till setting point is reached. Test for this by putting a teaspoonful of liquid on a saucer; put the saucer in the freezer or fridge till cool. If it wrinkles as you touch it the jam is ready. Add the walnuts and stir in thoroughly.
Pot the conserve into small sterilised jars while still hot. Cover and seal. I prefer to use small kilner jars for this recipe. Store the jam in the fridge after opening.

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Sep 16 2007

Sunshine and Sashimi


The relentless summer rain has given way to golden autumn sunshine. A chocolate box blue sky is decorated with perfect puffy flat bottomed little clouds gliding majestically across the valley. Sloes, fat and shiny fill the hedgerows with plump black wild plums and glistening blackberries. Orchards are heavy with fruit. Golden stubble fields striped green are evidence of a meagre harvest gathered at last after the  summer floods that devastated livestock and crops alike. Feed and hay prices are rising, vegetables will be in short supply this winter.  Even my own little harvest is the worst I’ve ever had. Potato blight destroyed my vegetable garden this year, caused, I suppose by wet, water logged soil. It swept through potatoes, beans, tomatoes. And then the badgers had a midnight feast, disco in fact, in my little patch of sweet corn. They trashed the plants and munched on every cob leaving their debris for me to clear up. Maddening as it is I rather wish I’d seen them having such fun!

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Sep 10 2007

Galantine of Chicken

Large free range fresh chicken

Sharp filleting knife

2 large shallot or I onion

500gms minced pork

6/8 juniper berries

2 large cloves of garlic

1 generous tablespoon mixed fresh herbs

Zest and juice of a lemon

A glass of red wine

200grams (approx) chicken livers

2 handfuls blanched spinach leaves

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Chop the onion or shallots, crush the juniper berries in a pestle and mortar and crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Strip the zest from the lemon with a lemon zester or a potato peeler and squeeze the juice. Stir all together into the minced pork with the mixed herbs, a good slurp of red wine, salt and pepper.

Turn the chicken upside down i.e. breast bone underneath and m, making a long cut through the skin, carefully bone the chicken with a very sharp knife. I prefer a filleting knife with a flexible blade that i can slide against the bones. I leave the wing bones in to give a little structure. Be very careful not to puncture the skin.

When the carcass and the thigh bones are removed open the meat out flat and season well. Press half the pork mixture into the chicken followed by half the blanched spinach. Arrange the chicken livers on the spinach then complete with remaining spinach and pork.

Carefully close the chicken and sew up using fine string and a larding needle. Press the chicken roughly back into a chicken shape. Wrap in tin foil and place in a close fitting dish. Stand the dish in a Bain Marie and cook at 180c for one and a half hours.

Test with a skewer; if the juices run clear it is cooked through. If the juices are pink continue cooking for a further few minutes and test again.

Take the chicken out of the oven and carefully remove from the Bain Marie. Tip out the water and return to the pan. Press a heavy weight on top of the chicken. When it is quite cold put in the refrigerater.

Serve sliced on a large plate decorated with fresh sliced lemons and salad leaves.

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