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September 2005

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Tuesday, 20 September 2005
Marmalade
Topic: Recipes and Food
I've been busy making some marmalade, my husband's favourite breakfast spread. Yesterday, it was tangy Ginger Marmalade - his absolute favourite! And today, some tangy Lemon Marmalade. It's not such a big job as people imagine because I cheat! Oh, yes, not for me slicing the rind thinly and boiling for a couple of hours or more! No, I buy a tin of ready prepared pulp called Mamade - just add sugar and water. Oh, and I always add the zest and juice of a least one lemon. Make sure that you include the juice in the total amount of water.

Even for the lemon marmalade? Oh, yes, especially for the lemon marmalade - I like it tangy, you see. Also, adding lemon brings out the flavour of the ginger marmalade and counteracts the sweetness from the sugar syrup in the jar of stem ginger. The ginger marmalade takes the longest to prepare because I add the entire contents of a 350 gram jar of stem ginger in sugar syrup; I chop the ginger up finely the old fashioned way.

Throw it all in the preserving pan and stir until it boils. Reduce the heat and keep boiling for about 15 minutes. This is when I keep an eye on my sugar thermometer; as soon as it reaches the jam mark, I know the marmalade is ready. Leave to cool for about five minutes and then ladle into hot, sterilised jam jars using a jam funnel, a very useful tool which makes the job less messy. (I sterilise my jars in the oven at 220 degrees centigrade.)

Pop a wax circle on top of the marmalade and seal with a good unmarked lid or, preferably, a brand new one - I get mine from a local shop called 'Lakeland Limited'. They sell packs of 12 twist off lids in white or in mixed packs with a red and blue 'gingham' design. A point worth knowing, if you want to make marmalade for the local church bazaar, you must use brand new lids to comply with the regulations on selling food.

Sometimes, I add gin to my lemon marmalade. An easy guide is about one dessertspoonful (10 ml) to a 1lb jam jar. Stir the contents with a knife and leave that jar to mature for 2-3 months before opening.

Must buy some fruity lemon pancakes - they are 'scrummmmptiously deeelicious' with my lemon marmalade! Sorry, Mr Robertson, your Silver Shred 'lemon' marmalade hardly deserves the name!

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:36 BST Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink

Thursday, 23 June 2005
A Sweet for a Special Occasion
Topic: Recipes and Food
This recipe was given to me by a professional cook in a local restaurant where I worked for a while when we first moved to Chichester. I can guarantee that it is absolutely delicious. However, I must confess that I have never made it myself. The reason is that I am completely at sea with USA measurements and I have never had the courage to experiment!  At home, I always use scales to weigh all cooking ingredients - preferably in ounces, although I am getting used to metric - that way I know that what I am making will always turn out the same. I believe an American Cup is equivalent to 8 liquid ounces. Fine, but not all ingredients have the same volume. How much is a tablespoon or a teaspoon? A quick search on the Internet gave me some U.S. volume equivalents but I am still confused! Perhaps you will be more at ease with the measurements than I am.

Strawberry Delight

Ingredients
4 tablespoons butter
1½ cups very fine sugar
4 eggs, separated
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons light cream or milk
1/8 teaspoon salt (pinch of salt!)
2 tablespoons flaked unblanched almonds (flake from flat side with peeler or knife)
1 quart strawberries (plus sugar to sweeten)
1½ cups heavy cream, whipped, sweetened to taste

Method
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Cream butter and ½ cup of sugar until very light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks very well, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla.

Sift flour together with the baking powder. Add half to creamed mixture along with the milk or cream, fold in gently. Fold in remaining flour mixture. Divide into two well-greased layer pans and spread into an even layer.

Beat the egg whites together with the salt until stiff but not dry. Beat in remaining sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until the meringue is dull and very stiff and no longer feels grainy when rubbed between the fingers.

Divide the meringue between the two pans and spread over the cake mixture carefully with a spatula. Leave the surface rough. Sprinkle the almonds over the meringue in only one of the pans.

Bake about 45 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned, puffed and crisp. Cool on a rack.

Slice the strawberries, reserving eight whole for decorating, and sprinkle with sugar to taste. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

Fold sweetened sliced strawberries into the whipped cream and use as a filling between the cake layers. The almond layer should be on top.

Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours before serving. Decorated with reserved whole strawberries.
[Makes 10-12 servings]


Posted by Noviomagus at 11:55 BST Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 11 June 2005
Food for Thought
Topic: Recipes and Food
Have you ever tried tapioca pudding? My mother used to prepare lots of rice puddings and tapioca puddings when I was small but I haven't eaten one for years. Recently, I read how tapioca is made. It actually comes from the tuberous root of Cassava or Manioc, a shrubby plant originating in South America and now one of the world's most important food crops. Manioc was probably first cultivated by the Maya Indians but it has a serious disadvantage - the starchy root actually contains a poisonous compound called linamarin which can produce cyanide if eaten raw. So the root has to be washed and peeled, shredded or grated and then soaked for several days to allow the plant's natural enzymes to convert the toxic linamarin to sugar and cyanide gas - the gas then dispersing harmlessly. When the shredded root is soaked in clean water and left, starch settles. The water is then poured off and the process is repeated four or five times. Finally, the starch is collected and cooked and stirred until little balls or pearls of tapioca are formed.

The South American Indians used to squeeze the manioc pulp in a special basket called a 'tipiti' to remove any toxic juice before washing and then they roasted the remains. The result was a coarse meal or flour known as 'farinha de mandioca'. Starch settling out from the extracted juice was then heated on a flat surface, causing individual starch grains to pop open and clump together into small, round granules (tapioca). The remaining juice was boiled down to destroy any poison and used as a sauce called 'tucupi'. Now all that is really quite amazing. How did anyone ever discover that a poisonous tuberous root could be shredded and pummelled and washed and cooked to make it edible?

The evolution of cooking (if that is the right term!) is extremely intriguing. Today, human beings cultivate and eat a huge variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and seeds but, in the distant past, those food sources were far from abundant and difficult to find. Also, many plants, such as grains, were spindly prototypes of today's plump cultivated varieties. So, how did our hunter gatherer ancestors learn what they could eat and how to prepare it? Some mammals can eat plants which are poisonous to human beings so how many early humans died through experimenting with alternative food sources they had observed other creatures eating? For that matter, how many died from eating unprocessed manioc? Hunger must have been a very powerful driving force to make people experiment with ways of preparing something they knew could make them very ill or even kill them.

Homo Erectus and other early hominids would have hunted for meat but they would also have eaten every seed they could find. Anything bean-like or pea-like would have been stripped off the bushes, together with wild berries or nuts and the stems or roots of starchy plants. But how did early man ever think of grinding millet or other grains into flour and then mixing it with water to make a dough? Perhaps they started by grinding nuts and seeds when their teeth began to wear down! Certainly, many nuts and seeds are more nutritious when broken down by grinding as that releases more of the protein. (One good reason to chew food well). So, was it an accidental soaking of ground up seeds that forced them to try to 'dry' it over a fire?

Actually, it is easy to understand how early man thought of roasting nuts or burning off seed husks or roasting meat - it would have just needed a forest fire to flash through their hunting grounds for the concept of cooking to take hold. Although many foods, including fish and meat, can be eaten raw, they are undoubtedly less of a strain on the digestive system, and probably more tasty as well, if they are eaten cooked. One reason is that many seeds contain substances like tannins which are destroyed or greatly reduced by cooking, thereby making them more nutritious and much easier to digest and people would have been quick to notice the advantages and to learn how to harness the power of fire.

It seems that everywhere that early humans went, they found some new foodstuff to eat. I think that we owe a great deal to the resourcefulness of so called 'primitive man' who was actually very clever and extremely knowledgeable about his environment. They knew what to eat and how to prepare it and they also knew what plants and herbs could cure various ailments - something which today's scientists are still learning about from old 'folk medicine'.

Today, human beings worldwide eat and enjoy a huge variety of foodstuffs. We, in the Western World, are particularly fortunate when it comes to food. We just take a trip to the supermarket and load up our trolleys with whatever we fancy or can afford. Yorkshire puddings, meat pies, rhubarb crumble, Indian curry, Chinese sweet and sour pork - you name it, it's in a cabinet somewhere. Everything is prepared for us from lamb chops to fish fingers. We can enjoy any vegetable out of season from the frozen food cabinet or buy exotic fruit flown in from all over the world. We can buy packets of 'freshly prepared' vegetables all sliced up and ready to cook, even peeled potatoes ready for boiling! So much so that some young people, (like the girl who served me once in Marks and Spencers), have no idea what peas, broad beans or runner beans look like before podding or slicing. Our great grand-parents, who had to bottle and preserve, would be utterly amazed.

Posted by Noviomagus at 16:02 BST Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Saturday, 11 December 2004
Proof In The Pudding - Another Alternative for Christmas
Topic: Recipes and Food
Brandy PuddingThis recipe for Brandy Pudding is absolutely delicious! It has to be cooked ahead of serving time, which makes it an ideal pudding when you have visitors. You can prepare it in the morning or even a day in advance.

My recipe says it will give 12 portions but don't count on it! When I first tried it out, I thought I would halve the mixture for six people. Well, I went wrong somewhere and ended up making the full amount. I needn't have worried. Everyone came back for large second helpings and I was left with two very small portions for another day.

Cook it in a five-pint, 2-3 inches deep earthenware or Pyrex dish, which has to be slightly greased with butter. If you only have a smaller, deeper dish the cooking time will have to be extended. Left-overs reheat beautifully in the microwave.

Brandy Pudding
8oz (225g) stoneless dates, minced (or chopped)
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
½pt (300ml) boiling water
4oz (115g) soft butter
8oz (225g) soft brown sugar
2 medium-size fresh free-range eggs, beaten
5oz (140g) self-raising flour
4oz (115g) pecan nuts or walnuts, finely chopped
4oz (115g) glacé cherries or glaceé fruits, finely chopped

For the Soaking Sauce:
8oz (22g) soft brown sugar
¼pt (150ml) cold water
¼pt (150ml) cooking brandy

Pre-heat oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4). Place the prepared dates in a jug and add the bicarbonate of soda and the boiling water. Cream the butter and sugar and, little by little, add the beaten eggs. Fold in the self-raising flour, nuts and cherries. Stir in the sloppy dates. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes but, before removing from the oven, test that it is cooked through - a small sharp knife gently pushed through the middle should come out clean and dry. In a saucepan over low heat, bring together the sauce ingredients. When the pudding comes out of the oven, pour the sauce over it and leave, covered, until cold. Before serving, warm the dish through for 15 minutes at 180C (350F, gas mark 4). Serve with whipped double cream to which some caster sugar and a touch of ground nutmeg have been added or with my favourite, Cornish ice cream.

Posted by Noviomagus at 16:39 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 5 December 2004
An Alternative to Christmas Pudding
Topic: Recipes and Food
Old-fashioned Christmas Pudding

Does your family find conventional Christmas pudding too rich? Well, mine did. So, years ago, I tried this recipe. The first time, I actually cooked it on Christmas morning but you can easily do it a couple of days in advance and steam it again when required. The second steaming does make it a little bit darker and ever so slightly richer - probably better. Well, the pudding was such a success that I had to make another one a couple of days later - and every year since - and everyone I have served it to absolutely adores it! I used to make the breadcrumbs the old fashioned way with a grater until my children clubbed together one Christmas and gave me a Braun Multipractic Plus electronic mixer!


New England Plum Pudding

4 ounces butter (or margarine, if you prefer)
8 ounces sugar (I always use dark brown soft sugar)
1 egg, unbeaten (medium to large)
4 ounces sifted flour (plain plus tiny pinch of salt)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
? teaspoon ground cloves
1? teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 ounces sifted breadcrumbs (fresh - not dried and brown bread makes a darker pudding)
4 ounces broken walnuts
7? ounces raisins
6 fluid ounces hot water

Cream butter; add sugar gradually, creaming continually. Beat in egg. Sift dry ingredients over breadcrumbs, walnuts and raisins; mix well. (N.B. if you are using an electric mixer, add the nuts at the last moment and whizz briefly and just fold in the raisins). Add to first mixture alternatively with hot water. Turn (or pour, the mixture will be quite runny) into a greased 3? pint pudding basin and cover tightly.

My recipe says to put on rack in a very slow oven (250?F 120?C Mark ? and oven steam for 2? to 3 hours) but, I have always used a conventional steamer on the top of the oven.

Serve with anything you like. Cream, brandy butter, brandy sauce, custard or ice cream.



Posted by Noviomagus at 12:40 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

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