Busy week this week with Easter orders and stock to make for the shop. Great to see the first of the rhubarb coming in, I always think it heralds the start of the preserving season proper. That's wrong really as I preserve year round, but it is the first of our native fruits - except it's a vegetable, botanically speaking. I know this because I dragged Trev for a visit round a rhubarb farm in Pontefract, one of the best known of the old farms, Olroyd's. It was absolutely fascinating and I now have much greater respect for this rather humble er, fruitable! One of the best times to go is in early February and have a tour of the forcing sheds and a very informative talk afterwards.
I have some raspberries in the freezer so you may have too - why not try making Rhubarb & Raspberry Jam? It is really delicious and both fruits shine through in the taste. I only made one batch last year and regretted it for the rest of the year.
Chilli Jam was also on the list to make as I have been out of stock for a while ( because I don't actually like it! ) I set to though and really it is easy to make and a best seller. The ingredients look so colourful and the hens really love all of the peelings. In fact they thought it was their birthdays and Christmas yesterday there were so many peelings. The hear my car coming down the lane and are all waiting in the compost bin by the time I get to them. Needless to say there isn't much compost! That is more than up for by their obvious pleasure and they would be smacking their lips if they had any!
One of my deli customers had ordered their usual weekend bucket of pesto and while I am making it I always think how useful it is as a standby ingredient. You can have it on pasta dishes of course, in fact, it is so delicious you can just have it stirred through some good pasta for a quick lunch. Use it on tomato based dishes and drizzled over pizza either before or after cooking. I use it on squares of puff pastry, topped with a small piece of Brie, or similar, baked for around 15 mins and then topped with a splodge of pesto - great nibbles to have with drinks. You could have it on a jacket potato with or without cheese, stirred through mashed potato, spread in tomato sandwiches or rolls. With the Easter weekend coming up, why not make a batch and keep in the fridge? It's good for 2-3 weeks and only takes minutes to make. Here's how.
Pick the leaves from a handful of fresh basil ( approx 2 x pre-packs ) and put into the goblet of a liquidiser or the bowl of a processor.
Give a quick whizz to lightly chop the leaves. Add around 75g pine nuts, 2 roughly chopped garlic cloves, salt and freshly ground black pepper and around 100ml olive oil. Whizz again until combined and smooth-ish. Add around 50g grated parmesan cheese and whizz to mix in the cheese. Add a little more oil if needed, or more cheese if too runny.
That's it. Store it in a jar or small bowl in the fridge and be generous when you serve. The flavour is amazing and the colour is fresh and enticing.
These pictures show the amount I was making for my customer - yours will be less!
If I don't get this blog underway it will be a WHOLE MONTH without - where does the time go? To be fair we have had other things on our mind this month - we now have The New Chix on the Block - six rescue hens who have taken a fair bit of attention - rightly so. They were terrified when they arrived - of us, the outside, grass, wind - every eventuality resulted in a lot of agitated clucking but they soon settled down. It is so lovely to see them scratting about and sunbathing now - their natural instincts soon came into play. We had to put them to bed for the first few days as they didn't know what to do or when to do it, but they troop off at dusk now - there is always one who goes early so she can get the best place! They all huddle up together in a big heap with a lot of pushing and shoving until they are settled. I have put up a pic here which is about day 2 - they have a lot more feathers now and their combs are redder instead of pure white when they arrived. We got them from British Hens Rescue Trust - an excellent organisation, very helpful, so if you are thinking of keeping hens please do give them a thought.
Anyway, despite all of that I have been busy with the soft fruit as you can imagine - strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries - I made Gooseberry & Elderflower jam this year which I haven't made for a while. I also mixed equal raspberries and rhubarb for jam and it absolutely delicious. I shall be making some Smooth Gooseberry Chutney tomorrow, also for the first time - if it turns out great I'll be putting the recipe up on my mobile site - don't forget this site is unique. You can scale the recipes by entering the quantity of your main ingredient - clever Trevor!
Don't forget to make a few batches of cordials from the lovely soft fruit - my favourite is blackcurrant - but they aren't ripe yet here in the heart of the country. You can make any mixed berry flavour though, or single variety, and then follow on with the autumn fruits - plum and cinnamon, apple and blackberry - whatever takes your fancy. Recipes on the mobile site as before. Put a few bottles of flavoured vinegars on your To Do List as well . . . . so useful.
Had a lovely day yesterday with Katie and her friends making her wedding favours. It was a bit of a squash in The Old Smithy but they all knew each other and took time out to sit out on the grass and catch up with news and plans for the wedding. We took it in turns to make the jam and also ate quite a bit as they had champagne and pastries with fruit kebabs on arrival, a lovely local lunch of smoked salmon, cheeses, my hot new potato salad with my Lemon, Mustard & Butter Dressing, tomato salad with my home-made pesto, and a green salad. Meringues with strawberries, raspberries glazed with my Raspberry & Mint Jelly, and clotted cream finished off the day for tea. I enjoyed it anyway!
To make the Raspberry & Mint Jelly use equal weight of cooking apples, roughly chopped skins and all, and raspberries, plus a handful of mint sprigs. Place in pan with a small amount of water to prevent sticking, cook down until tender then drip overnight through a jelly bag. Next day measure quantity of juice, add equal sugar and cook to a set as for other jellies. It makes the most pretty pink jelly with a hint of mint. Superb as a glaze on fruit tarts or layer with ice-cream and fruit in sundae glasses. Just so summery.
Have had a meeting with my MP RT Hon Alan Duncan about the new Jam Regulations, and he has promised to do what he can. He said it was now up to Parliament to decide but as it is a European Directive there probably isn't much to be done other than accept it. Anyway, I gave him plenty of real jam to take home which he wrote say he has been enjoying - and why wouldn't he? There will be more news on the jam front soon which I will bring to you as soon as possible.
Have fun in the holidays - get those little ones out fruit picking in the time honoured tradition!