Tuesday, 28 August 2012

We're partial to a plum...

…which is just as well!

A couple of years ago when we were still trying to get the garden under control we planted a Victoria plum tree; it was only little, not as tall as me, and it gave us the grand total of two plums in its first year. Last year we had about a dozen fruits, all of which had had the middle eaten out by plum moth; we didn’t manage to salvage a single one.

But this year…bingo! Our tree is now about 50cms taller than me and is absolutely weighed down with perfect fruit – we’ve had to tie up its spindly branches to stop them snapping under the strain! I’ve put a kilo in the freezer to make some more chutney and I’ve mixed a kilo with sugar to macerate for jam-making tomorrow. The ones in the picture are less than a quarter of the total on our little tree; there are still plenty left that aren’t quite ripe yet. It’s really done us proud!

Certain parts of the fruit and veg plot have been a disappointment this year, yes…tomatoes and peppers, I’m talking about you, but the successes have more than made up for the failures.

I love this time of year – so many jams and chutneys just waiting to be made before the veg plot gets put to bed until spring. I’ll let you know how the jam-making goes tomorrow; now all I have to do is find a way of using up the rest of my little beauties!  

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Moist Fruity Tea Bread

While Mr Simply Veg was trying to beat my new laptop (which I still don’t like!) into submission last week I had a poke around in some of my old handwritten notebooks; they’re full of recipes that I’ve picked up over the years from various sources. Some of them are from magazines and some from friends and family that I’ve scribbled down on a piece of paper and then transferred to my notebooks at a later date. I have to confess I’ve never actually made most of the recipes, but they made good reading.

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend here and raining, unsurprisingly, so it seemed like a good time to bake a little something and resurrect one of the old recipes. This is one that I used to regularly make years ago (when I say ‘years ago’, I mean about 25; blimey, I’m getting old!) but it obviously fell by the wayside for some reason. It would be nice if I could credit the person this recipe came from, but that seems to have been lost in the mists of time and the crevices of my memory.

In my notebook it says serve this tea bread thickly sliced and buttered; I feel butter is a bit over the top, it’s nice and moist from the tea-soaked fruit, but it’s up to you.

By the way, if you’ve got odd bits and pieces of dried fruit in the pantry this is the recipe to use them up. I used just over 300gm of mixed fruit and made it up to 450gm with half a tub of mixed peel and the remains of a bag of dried cranberries. As I’ve said before…waste not, want not.
450gm mixed dried fruit
250ml hot tea (without milk!)
100g unsalted very soft butter
1 tbsp marmalade
2 eggs, beaten
175g light brown sugar
450g self-raising flour
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Put the fruit in a large bowl and pour over the hot tea, mix well, cover and leave to steep overnight.

Next day, put the butter, marmalade, sugar and eggs into a large bowl and mix well together with a wooden spoon; add the flour and spices plus the fruit and any tea that hasn’t been absorbed. Mix well, and turn into a 2lb loaf tin lined with baking parchment.

Bake at 160C for 1¼ - 1½ hours and cool on a wire rack.   

Sunday, 19 August 2012

New Laptop

You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet lately; my old laptop has died, having succumbed to a horde of marauding Trojans, and I’m manfully (should that be womanfully?) trying to get to grips with the new one. It's all-singing, all-dancing and I absolutely hate it!

Yes, I realise that technology changes and things can’t stay the same forever but why can’t they make the bloody thing a bit more user-friendly? We’re not all 15-year-old techno whizz-kids, picking up every nuance at the drop of a hat, nor do we all have the time and energy to sit around working things out and playing with all the very clever gizmos and gadgets which are no use to me whatsoever.

The worst thing about it is the keyboard – it’s hopeless, I feel like I’m typing with gloves on; it just doesn’t have the same touch sensitivity as my old one. The new ‘improved’ keyboard looks good but I don't think it was meant for anyone to actually use - I'm sure it was very cheap to manufacture; conversely, it was not very cheap to buy. How strange.... Oh, and I liked Windows Vista – although I seem to be the only person in the world who did; Windows 7….pah!

So, bear with me while I get my head around this damn thing and I'll get back to cooking as soon as I can. My next post might be a recipe for 'Boiled Laptop'...!

Can you tell I'm a little stressed...?

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Chilli Plum Chutney

Before I take up my favourite seat in front of the TV to watch the Olympic closing ceremony I thought I'd get this post on; I wrote it up a couple of days ago but I've been so taken up with sporting action I haven't had a minute to myself... (Incidentally, hasn't it been fabulous? I've loved every minute and have cried buckets whenever we've won gold, daft old bat that I am! Special mention to Andy Murray - I have at long last seen a Brit win a final at Wimbledon...!)

I’d been thinking recently about making some chilli tomato jam, but when I was in the market last week there were some lovely looking plums on the veg stall which set my mind wandering; would plum chutney with a chilli twist work? Well, I’d never know if I didn’t give it a go…so here it is.

It’s a gorgeous deep red from the plums and the red wine vinegar, but I must tell you the plums I bought, although a lovely colour, were absolutely the worst ones I have ever tried to stone; the stones seemed to have been embedded in the plums with the aid of superglue! As my fingers turned red, the air turned blue – I’m not ashamed to confess I said more than a few unladylike words…

However, recalcitrant plums aside, this was very easy and well worth doing if you happen to have a plum tree that has enjoyed our summer; well, when I say summer, what I actually mean is the few warm days that have constituted the British summer this year! The chilli I added gave just the right amount of oomph for us but if you like things a bit more spicy you can ramp it up as much as you like.

750g plums, stoned and chopped roughly
1 large Bramley apple, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
450g light muscovado sugar
350ml red wine vinegar
2 pieces of stem ginger in syrup, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
½ tsp chilli flakes

Put the stem ginger, garlic, cumin and salt into a blender with a couple of tablespoons of the measured vinegar and blitz until slushy.

Put the plums, apple, onions and sugar into a large wide pan, add the garlic and ginger mix followed by the vinegar and chilli flakes; give everything a good stir and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer steadily for about an hour or so, giving it a stir from time to time, until thickened and almost no liquid remains when a channel is drawn across the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Pot up into hot sterilised jars whilst the chutney is still hot and allow to mature for at least 4-6 weeks before eating.

Makes 5 190g jars.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Roast Vegetable Quesadillas

It’s not been a great couple of weeks for cooking for two reasons: firstly, we’ve had a guy in doing some decorating in the sitting room and the kitchen (the entire contents of the pantry were spread across the worktops at one point; it was as much as I could do to make a sandwich for lunch!) and, secondly, I’ve been busy watching the Olympics…..well, there won’t be another Olympics in the UK in my lifetime so I thought I’d better make the most of it!

The kitchen is now back up and running again so yesterday I made some rather tasty Chilli Plum Chutney (recipe to follow) and today for lunch we had these quesadillas; nice and easy finger food to eat whilst we watched Jess Ennis and others giving their all in the quest for a gold medal.

I’ve made quesadillas before using up leftover chilli sans carne but, in the absence of any chilli, I roasted some peppers and a couple of courgettes and red onions from the garden. I find roast veg are absolutely addictive; it’s surprising any of them made it into our lunch because I was picking at them immediately they came out of the oven…! This will make more veg than you need for the quesadillas but the leftovers are brilliant with some herby couscous.

3 mixed peppers
1 large red onion
2 small courgettes
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp cayenne
100g grated mature cheddar
4 soft flour tortillas
4 tbsp soured cream
2 tbsp chopped chives
few grinds black pepper
sprinkle of cayenne

Turn the oven on at 200C

Deseed the peppers and chop them into chunky pieces, cut the courgettes into thick slices on the diagonal, peel the onion and cut it into eighths through the root. Toss the veg together with the olive oil and the cayenne then put them in a shallow baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes.

Mix the sour cream with the chives and plenty of black pepper, put into a small ramekin and sprinkle with cayenne.

Use the grated cheese, some of the roast veg and the tortillas to make two 'sandwiches'. Place each tortilla sandwich in a dry non-stick frying pan and cook over a medium heat for two or three minutes until the cheese starts to melt then flip over to cook the other side.

Cut into quarters and serve with the sour cream dip.

**You’ve probably already noticed that I’m a massive tennis fan; Andy Murray is in the singles final tomorrow against some Swiss bloke called Federer (!) Well, whilst I've been typing this Andy and Laura Robson have just booked a place in the mixed doubles - also tomorrow!! I’m so excited I can barely think straight…!**