Cook's Tales, Preserving, Vegan on a Shoestring, Vegan Treats

Fruit Jellies – Food for Free – an old-fashioned way…with lots of promise

Just like my nanna used to make.

redcurrant, elderberry and rosehip+apple jelly

Because I run an allotment, and because I enjoy making things, and because I think homemade produce made with a little care and attention –  and, of course, a great deal of compassion – invariably tastes better than any shop-bought counterpart, I always have jars of homemade pickles, jams and chutneys in the cupboard.

Somehow, the jewels in the crown of these, are the jellies.

This year I went mad on jellies.  I had fruit from the allotment, and also we collected fruits for free during country walks  this autumn.

rosehips

Elderberries, rosehips, apples, gooseberries and redcurrants.

I also made quince jelly, and quince butter, but I shall devote another blogpost to that wonderful fruit (and also to the delights of gooseberry jelly) , as I also made a quince cheese, also known as Dulce de Membrillo in Spain, which is sitting quietly wrapped up in the refrigerator, and which I won’t be unwrapping ’til Christmas.

There are aspects of making jellies that are a faff, and aspects that can be actually easier than jams.

Jellies are great because they bridge a gap between sweet and savoury.  They can go either way.

redcurrant jelly with vegan cheese, apple, olives and crackers

A fab. combination is fruit jelly and nut butter on toast …..swoon…… and jellies will also bring a zing to savoury dishes such as nut roast, vegan savoury pies or a platter of vegan cheese and crackers.

vegan cheese platter with redcurrant jelly

Continue reading “Fruit Jellies – Food for Free – an old-fashioned way…with lots of promise”

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Preserving, Vegan Treats

Like everything, hazelnut butter is for sharing….

At the beginning of the autumn, on a beautiful sunshiny day, we went for a long walk in the woods.  Beautiful ancient woods at the top of a valley.  The autumn colours were just beginning to turn.  It was just lovely.

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walk in the woods

Where we stopped for our picnic there was a hazelnut grove.   We collected as many nuts as we could.

From the hedgerows we also collected blackberries and rosehips, but that’s for another blog.

The hazelnuts were a pale shade of beige, so we left them in a bowl for a few weeks to dry out.

Then the chief nutcracker set about cracking them. It took him a while.

I then got to do the fun bit: make the hazelnut butter.   Continue reading “Like everything, hazelnut butter is for sharing….”

Growing things, Vegan Ingredients

A little onion magic

Not much to offer you – 

just a lotus flower floating

In a small jar of water.  

Ryokan   18thC Zen Poet.

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Yesterday I planted onions.

They are undemanding. They want only a well-dug bed, and to be planted the right way up, with the little stalk protruding minutely above the ground.

They will accept whatever winter brings: the frost, the rain, the snow.

Next June and July they will be ready for harvest.

I love onions.  I use them every day.  However bad the day has been, I am revived by the fragrance of frying onions.

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Vegan, Vegan Cheese, Vegan Snacks

Tomato Skins…lol… #wastenot

What to do with tomato skins and a simple recipe for tomato and peppercorn cashew cream cheese.

This is a slightly odd one so I’ll keep it short!  Ideally you need a dehydrator and a decent spice grinder, but you can try it on the lowest possible oven setting, and grind with a pestle and mortar.  You also need enough tomato skins to make it worth the faff!

I grow tomatoes.  If you want to grow one thing, make it tomatoes.  You don’t need much space, they will grow very happily in pots and hanging baskets on a sunny patio, and while they need reasonable and consistent attention, it isn’t rocket science.

You won’t regret growing tomatoes because they always taste so much better than any you buy in the supermarkets.  Always.

To grow them, you need to do two things, google ‘grow tomatoes’, and investigate varieties for taste and size. I’m still exploring varieties, this year I grew Marmande Beef Tomatoes, and Black Cherry tomatoes.  My salad tomatoes got the blight.  However, I have had baskets of tomatoes on the kitchen table for over three months, and everyone tends to pop the cherry tomatoes in their mouths like candy.

I make passata to freeze, which is where this blog post comes in.

I personally don’t happen to like tomato skins in my passata and asian tomato sauces, so to make Mediterranean style sauces I either roast the tomatoes in a big roasting pan covered in foil, and remove the skins when they’re soft, before whizzing the pulp in the blender, or I blanche them in boiling water for ten minutes, and skin them before chopping and freezing for Asian dishes.  I’ve probably got about a dozen packs of tomato based sauces in the freezer now that autumn’s here….

So.  Call me mad, but I collected the tomato skins all summer long, and added  them to a bag and froze them.

Now the tomatoes are all gone, (and dearly missed they are too), I have retrieved my collection of tomato skins, defrosted them, laid them out on a parchment sheet on a baking tray and put them in the oven on the lowest setting for an hour.  Once they were less soggy, I transferred them to my dehydrator, again on parchment-lined trays, and set the dehydrator temperature at 40C.

If you dry vegetables at too high a temperature, they are liable to lose flavour.

When the skins were completely dry, (36-48 hours), I ground them into a powder which will keep for a couple of months in an airtight storage jar.
Tip: Once ground, if the powder is still even a little bit moist, put it back in the dehydrator (spread out on the parchment-lined trays) and give it another
blast for a few hours at 40C.

The powder can be added to anything that requires a tomato hit: sauces, soups, veggie stock powder, vegan cashew cream cheese, pizza……or anything else you can think of.

And that’s what you can do with tomato skins! #wastenot

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A recipe for dreamy cashew cream cheese coated in tomato powder.   Continue reading “Tomato Skins…lol… #wastenot”

All About Beans, Growing things, Vegan Ingredients, Vegan Snacks

A Celebration of The Humble Bean.

Tips on cooking beans, with a simple recipe for bean pate.

You’ve just got to love beans!

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It’s autumn here in the UK.  I am lucky enough to have an allotment, and I love it at this time of year, its decked in autumn colour, bathed in hazy sunshine or shrouded in fine mist (or is that rain…?), and still abounding in fruitfulness.  A few days ago, I stripped all the bean pods from the vines.  The pods are slightly damp and bedraggled, and coloured musty shades of brown and yellow.  I brought home a huge bin bag full of them, three different kinds: moonlight runner, scarlet emperor runner and borlotti. They look distinctly unpromising, which is why I am always struck by what I find inside. The pods split open easily, and inside, nestling in a smooth, silky, papery, white sheath, are lines of immaculate, shining, pristine beans.

It seems so improbable.

The task of the next few days is to shuck them into bowls, then leave them in a warmish dry room (but not too near the heat otherwise they will split).  Every time anyone passes, they perform a little ritual, which basically involves shuffling the beans around in the bowls.  It’s quite musical and very therapeutic actually!  To begin with, they sound dull and muffled. As the days go by, the rattle of the beans starts to change, until eventually it sounds like marbles rattling in a glass bowl.  The sound, after a few weeks, becomes absolutely clear and bell-like.

They really are like magic. It’s no wonder that they’re the stuff of fairytales and runes.   Continue reading “A Celebration of The Humble Bean.”