Strawberries and rhubarb dessert

FeaturedStrawberries and rhubarb dessert

In the last couple of weeks in Australia (and now in New Zealand) some idiots have been inserting needles into strawberries, causing panic amongst people with small children, and causing the strawberry industry to junk tonnes of strawberries. I never buy my strawberries from a supermarket, but from the Farmers’ Market, where they are needle free,  but nonetheless there is a strong movement to support strawberry farmers, by buying strawberries as well as making sure you cut them in half before you eat them.

So – we’ve been eating heaps of strawberries at our place, and this is one of my favourite ways of having them – especially good when they are not as sweet and ripe as they are at height of the season. And mostly we eat strawberries raw but they are also delicious cooked as here.The astringency of the rhubarb compares nicely with the sweetness of the berries, and the only other ingredient is sugar.

I bunch of rhubarb

I large punnet of strawberries

1/2  cup of sugar ( to taste – depending on the sweetness of the strawberries and the sourness of the rhubarb, you might need more, you might need less)

1/2 cup water ( or orange juice)

Wash and cut up the strawberries and the rhubarb. Put all the ingredients in a pan and cook for about twenty minutes until the rhubarb is cooked and the strawberries are soft. Stir every now and again to ensure the mixture does not burn.

Serve and eat, hot or cold.

 

Advertisements

Hugh’s Seville Orange Marmalade

FeaturedHugh’s  Seville Orange Marmalade

For more years than we care to remember my other half, Hugh has made the best jam and marmalade you have ever tasted. He once gave a jar of his Japonica quince jelly to my London cousin, a chef, who ate it half teaspoon by half teaspoon over a space of some months, and wouldn’t let anyone else share it. I’ll give you that recipe in the Australian Autumn. But now it’s Spring and here’s another secret – Hugh’s recipe for  marmalade. Written by him. Warning: he’s a scientist!

Most people of taste recognise that Seville oranges make the best marmalade because of their balanced combination of sour and bitter flavours.  Botanically, Seville oranges are a separate species of Citrus , C. aurantium L. (meaning named by Linnaeus, no less, the father of modern taxonomy.) They are typically about the size of a small Navel orange, with similar coloured skin, but very distinctly flattened top and bottom.  (Beware if you do a web search for Seville orange you will find many references to a much smaller Citrus fruit with knobbly skin; this is the US Seville orange, which is quite different – botanically a variety of C. aurantium.)

In Australia, Seville oranges have a relatively short season, from mid July to mid September.  You will not normally find them in a supermarket, but will be able to get them at a good specialist fruit and vegetable market or shop

A web search will also throw up all sorts of tediously elaborate recipes, which read as if intended to put off the home maker.  In my opinion, none of this is necessary.  All you need is Seville oranges, sugar and water,  Plus you need to make two decisions about what you like:

  1.  Do you like your marmalade to be a dense mass of fruit, or do you prefer more clear orange jelly with pieces for fruit (mainly rind) embedded in the jelly?
  2. Do you like the fruit to be cut thick or thin?

As you can tell from my choice of language, I prefer more jelly.  I also prefer the fruit cut thin, even though this means more work cutting up the fruit.  So here is how I make this sort of Seville orange marmalade.

  1.  Buy your Seville oranges and note how much they weigh in total.
  2. Take one third of the oranges (the ones with the fewest skin blemishes), cut them in half along the “equator”, and pick out the many pips you will see in each half with the tip of a small, sharp knife.
  3. Thinly slice the fruit.  This is the slow and tedious part.  I use a mandolin on the 0.75 mm thickness setting to do most of the work, and finish the last pieces with a knife, but a large, very sharp knife (and basic knife skills) are just as good.
  4. Put the sliced fruit in a pan, cover with water ( just cover) and boil.
  5. In the meanwhile, juice the other two thirds of the oranges.
  6. Pour the juice into the pan when the fruit has been boiling for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Bring back to the boil and then check a piece of cooked rind for softness.  It may well be soft enough to your taste; if not, keep boiling until it is, which should only be a few more minutes.
  8. Add sugar.  The quantity is also a matter of taste, but I usually find about two thirds of the original weight of the oranges is about right; this will be roughly equal to the weight of fruit and juice you have used, excluding the shells of the juiced oranges.
  9. Stir constantly (to stop sticking on the bottom) while it comes back to the boil.  Lots of jam recipes tell you to pre-heat the sugar in the oven, but I have never found this necessary, provided you keep stirring the bottom of the pan.
  10. When the sugar is completely dissolved, the marmalade should be done, but to make sure, as with any jam, it is a good idea to test for setting.  I use a rather unsophisticated approach: spoon a bit of jam onto a saucer and put in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up cooling.  Tilt it to see if it wrinkles, and does not flow. If it runs off the saucer it’s not ready and you must have put in too much water at the start, but all you need to do is keep gently boiling, while stirring, for a few more minutes.  Note that all citrus naturally contain lots of pectin, so you never need to add pectin to make marmalade, unlike, say, strawberry or apricot jam.
  11. After letting the marmalade cool down for 10 minutes or so, ladle into heated jars.  I usually use a small jug.I normally put the jars in the cold oven while the jam is finishing its cooking, and set the temperature to 80 C, and leave until the jars are heated through. I have been using this setting for decades and have never had a broken jar.
  12. I always use jars with screw down lids, some people use cellophane tops, but as long as your lids are clean they fine, the jam tends to dry out with the cellophane tops as they are permeable to water vapour.
  13. Enjoy your marmalade.

Chocolate Chestnut Cake (GF) – step by step

FeaturedChocolate Chestnut Cake (GF) – step by step

This is a delicious cake, and whats more it’s gluten free, but so good everyone will like it. Some people may find it hard to get hold of chestnut flour – sometimes you can buy it online, or in those shops where they sell everything by the scoop.  Alternatively if you have an Italian deli near you they will probably stock it. I keep mine in the freezer so it doesn’t go stale. If you can’t get it you can make the recipe without flour, just use less milk, or add a bit of cornflour instead.

Ingredients.

200 gms 70% chocolate

200 gms cultured unsalted butter

200 gms chestnut puree (available in cans)

70ml milk

50 gms chestnut flour

3 eggs ( approx 92 gms egg whites, if your eggs are small you may need four)

110 gms caster sugar

Method

In a large steel bowl over a pan of simmering hot water, melt chocolate and butter together. Do not let the water reach the underneath of the bowl.

In a separate pan warm the milk , chestnut puree and chestnut flour together and mix until smooth.The puree I use is very stiff. If it is not as stiff, use less milk.

When the chocolate mix is melted take off heat and add in the chestnut puree mix.

Mix the egg yolks with the caster sugar. Stir this into the chocolate mixture.

Beat the eggwhites until they form stiff peaks. Egg whites beat better in a copper bowl, if you happen to have one. You can clean them using lemon juice.

Line the base of a 20 cm tin with baking paper. Do this by smoothing the baking paper over the base and tucking it through the edge, then pull it tight. Trim off the edges.

Butter the sides of the tin.

Pour the mix into the cake tin.

Bake at 150 C ( fan) for 45 – 50 minutes until a skewer is clean when  you insert it into the cake and pull it out.  Allow to cool on a rack, then remove from the tin.

Decorate with poached pears, strawberries and/or raspberries, and sprinkle with sieved icing sugar.