Sunday, 26 June 2016

More Recipes for June - Freezing broad beans, Very Simple Strawberry Jam and Broad Bean and strawberry salad

Recipes for late June

It has been a  fairly wet and miserable month with odd days or half days of sunshine thrown in. Growth is slow, except among the weeds of course and the slugs and snails are having a field-day.
Of course, picking asparagus should now hve finished - the ferns need to grow to provide the nutrition for the crowns for next years crop. Although I saw lots of asparagus beetles I have seen few of the larvae - yesterday I found three, I squashed them of course.
Strawberries are growing well but I do thry to not pick them in the wet. Their keeping abilities are not good anyway in the humid, heavy weather but, picking them when wet would make them so much worse.
I did see that many of my redcurrants are ready to pick but, I have them netted so I'm hoping they will sit for a few days.
Blackcurrants, tayberries, gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries and whitecurrants will also be ready to harvest in the next few days - time to get the jam jars and preserving equipment out ofthe cupboards.
Broad beans - autumn sown - are definitely ready for harvesting ans this year I am freezing my excess.
I planted my 1 remaining courgette in my polytunnel as I didn't have space to plant it outside so I have been picking those this week also.

 Freezing Broad Beans

Broad Beans
Pod the beans first. If it is late in the season you may wish to peel the waxy skins from the beans first
Blanch for 2 – 3 minutes
The beans can be packed in freezer bags or lidded freezer containers.

Broad Bean and Strawberry Salad
Early in the season it is not necessary to remove the waxy skins of the broad beans but, as the season progresses the skins become quite tough and while they are edible you might prefer to remove the skins – you can do this before or after blanching the beans.
Strawberries – about the equivalent of a punnet – 400g [12oz – 1lb]
225g [8oz] podded broad beans
1 lettuce – I like Cos as I like the crispness [if you are using little Gem you might need 2] however, use whatever lettuce you are growing on your plot
Small bunch chives – trimmed and cut into lengths 2cm or 1inch
For the Dressing
Juice of 1 lemon
2 – 3 Tblsp. good quality olive oil or rapeseed oil
A good handful each of mint leaves and parsley [ wash and finely chop]
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
*         Hull the strawberries and cut off any dirty or damaged pieces. Cut the strawberries into quarters or slices.
*   Blanch the broad beans – plunge into a saucepan of boiling water to 2 minutes, Remove and dunk into cold water to cool quickly.
*     Make the dressing – mix the ingredients in a small bowl, add seasoning to suit your taste [if you are not fond of the flavour of olive oil you might prefer to use rapeseed oil]
*  Wash the lettuce and cut or break the leaves - arrange them in a bowl or on plates.
*Place the beans and strawberries onto the lettuce and sprinkle the chives over.
*Pour the dressing onto the salad and serve.

  • Very Simple Strawberry Jam
    While you can add several different ingredients to strawberry jam, I am only using 2 –
    ·         Sugar
    ·         Strawberries
    There is not a lot of pectin in strawberries to help the jam to set so, if you like a well set jam you may wish to use a commercial pectin [follow the instructions on the bottle]. However, I do like my strawberry jam quite soft with lots of bits of strawberries in it.
    You can use preserving sugar which does have pectin in it but, it is expensive so I just use granulated sugar
        Don’t wash the fruit – this will add more water to it which you do not want.  Hull the strawberries and cut off any damaged or very dirty pieces. Very large strawberries can be cut into small pieces. 
    *  Weigh the fruit – you will need the same weight of sugar – you can use less sugar but as sugar is the preservative in the jam it will not keep so well. The jam should be able to keep for at least a year but if the amount of sugar is reduced you will need to store it in the fridge.
    *Put the fruit into a large saucepan – preferable with sloping sides [a preserving pan is perfect as the shape and depth of the pan encourage the water to boil off quicker].
    *    Over a very low heat, allow the fruit to cook gently until it is soft. 
  •    Add the sugar and continuing over a low heat stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. 
  •   Bring the jam to the boil and keep on a rolling boil until setting point is reached.
    To judge the setting point you can use a sugar thermometer or the ‘wrinkle method’
    [wrinkle method –when you think the jam is approaching setting point put a spoonful of the jam onto a plate and put in a cool place for several minutes. When it has cooled, push the jam gently with your finger. If it wrinkles up the jam has reached setting point].
    If you are not happy to do this and you intend to make lots of jam it is easiest to invest in a sugar thermometer – they are not very expensive.
    Setting point is 220ºF { I have had my sugar thermometer for a long time so, it is in Fahrenheit however, in case it is not marked on the thermometer is translates to 104.4º Celcius}.
    *  Do keep an eye on the jam as the sugar can start to burn at this point and your batch of jam will be ruined. 
    *The jam should be potted up immediately in clean, sterilised pots, covered and sealed.
    A Few Safety Points
    ·         The jam is very hot – way over water boiling temperature – do keep young children out of the way when you are making jam.
    ·         Don’t be tempted to stick your finger into it or to lick the spoon while you are stirring it.
    ·         When you are potting up the pots should be placed on a surface which does not conduct heat – wood, plastic or fabric are good but, stone, metal, marble, glass are NOT.
    ·         Don’t hold the pots when you are pouring jam into them.
    ·         If you are using pots that you have collected or saved from previous years and other products, make sure they are well cleaned and undamaged. Check the lids to ensure there is no damage, dents or rust – sometimes it is best to buy new ones or use the cellophane covers with elastic bands you can buy for this purpose – they are cheap.
    ·         I usually heat my clean pots in a low oven until I need them and put the clean lids into a bowl of boiling water.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Recipes of the Week - Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake and

It has been a cold wet spring and in spite of the really nice weather we have had for the last week, the year is still very late. My strawberry plants are producing but, not huge crops and certainly the fruit sis not as luscious as it has been in other years. 
However, let us celebrate them while they are here.

Strawberry Cream Sponge-cake
 I am using a fat-free sponge cake although this can be made just as successfully with a Genoese sponge cake mixture. A fat free sponge cake can be a bit dry, especially if overcooked so, having a moist filling is a good idea.
Fat free sponge cake is very easy to make but, it is important to remember that the only raising agent is the air you whisk into the eggs. Take care to ensure you don’t loose any of that air;
·         leaving the mixture at any time during the process
·         stirring the flour in too vigorously or for too long
For the sponge cake
4 large eggs
4 oz [100gm] caster sugar
4 oz [100gm] plain flour
·         Before you begin preset the oven 200ºC  [400ºF or No 6 gas].
·         Grease and line 2 x7” [18cm] round sandwich cake tins.
·         Put the eggs and sugar into a clean bowl and whisk until the mixture is thick and creamy [you should be able to leave a trail of a figure 8 in the mixture which will stay there until it is completed].
·         Sieve the flour over the mixture and using a large metal spoon, fold in the flour as quickly as possible but, avoid leaving any pockets of flour.
·         Divide the mixture between the 2 tins and put into the pre-set oven immediately for about 15-20 minutes. The cake should not indent if you press lightly with your finger.
·         Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes to cool slightly but, remove the cakes from the tins while still hot – leave to cool completely.
For the Filling
2 Tblsp. strawberry jam
1 small tub double cream
1 dsp.cointreau liqueur
Approx. 8oz [225gm] fresh hulled strawberries – more if you want to decorate the cake with them
A little icing sugar
·         Whisk the cream with the cointreau until thick but not buttery.
·         Cut any very large strawberries into halves or quarters.
·         Place one of the cakes up-side down onto the serving plate.
·         Spread with a layer of strawberry jam.
·         Put a layer of cream on top and arrange the strawberries on top of the cream.
·         Place the second cake on top of the filling and sieve a light layer of icing sugar over the top of the cake.
·         Arrange some extra strawberries over the top to decorate if you wish
It is a good idea to eat this cake fairly quickly, preferable the same day as the strawberries and the cream will not keep and the cake will become dry.

Eton Mess
A very traditional English dessert which originated in the famous Eton School. In its early days it was a mixture of whipped cream and strawberries then crushed or broken meringue was added later.
1 punnet fresh strawberries – clean and hulled
1 large tub fresh double cream
4 bought meringues or meringue nests – broken into smallish pieces
[if you are going to make your own meringues  - 2 eggs whites 100g [4oz] caster sugar]. They must be completely dried out in a very low oven overnight.
Keep the best looking half of the strawberries and slice them. Crush the rest. 
Whip the cream until thick and mix the crushed strawberries in well.
Add the broken meringue and the sliced strawberries and fold in gently.
Arrange in glass dishes and serve immediately [the meringue should not be added until just before service or it will melt]

You may replace the strawberries with raspberries or have a mixture of the two fruits
Fold in 2 Tblsp. Cointreau to give the dessert a bit of zing!