in my kitchen october

In my kitchen…..

DSC05924…..I’m loving the abundance of great ingredients at this time of year. There’s still plums, apples, and lots of veggies from the garden, including beetroot, swede, rainbow chard and squash. We’ve been enjoying the last few greengages from the farm-shop, while the hedgerows and fields keep tempting me to cook and eat far too much; blackberries, elderberries, sloes, walnuts, mushrooms seem to be everywhere I turn. Or at least everywhere I walk.

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We have our first fig glut too which I’m thoroughly enjoying. Our fig tree grows up against the south facing side of our house and does seem to flourish against the sunny wall, but until this year we’d only ever had a couple of ripe figs a day to pick. Partly because the birds seemed to get to them long before they ripened. A brutal pruning (it was growing across a window) two years ago and the arrival of Tiger and Mog may have had something to do with the plentiful supply at the moment.

 I’m loving figs on granola for breakfast, have made the fig liquer here and I roast them with honey to scoff with yoghurt. When a friend gave us a  large bag of cobnuts from their garden, I tried an Italian recipe too for figs with mascarpone and hazelnuts. I shelled and roasted the hazelnuts first (about 10 minutes in a medium oven) then chopped them, mixed with mascarpone and honey. Having made a cross in each fig and placed them on a baking tray, they were given a spoon of the mascarpone mixture and roasted for 10/15mins.

In my kitchen….

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…..there are some very prettty labels. It was my birthday in September and Ruby bought these for me – apparently she totally chose them herself. They touched me almost as much as the squashed tomatoes and stew card that she’d written beautifully. I’m obviously always pleased with any presents off Ruby, including the home-made ones and the novelty items she’s been adamant that I really need. But this is the first birthday that my daughter has given me something tasteful that I’ll actually use.

On reflection this gave me uneasy feelings. Was my 6 year old growing up so fast and getting all sophisticated? I could even read everything she’d written easily on the card for goodness sake, what was happening? How reassured I was when she told me tearfully that she couldn’t remember where the other present was, the special conkers that were all wrapped up in a bit of paper and THREE elastic bands.

In my kitchen…..

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…. there are field mushrooms. We’ve had quite a few warm but damp days and there seems to be a plentiful supply of mushrooms in the fields below us. They’re so tasty, even just used for mushrooms on toast.

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They’ve been going on homemade pizzas along with our courgettes and tomatoes, and I recommend this lovely roast mushroom version from Louisa of Eat Your Veg.

There’s also lots of pickling and preserving going on. Elderberries have lured me into making more cordial (runnier this time, the last batch is being used as a sauce for ice cream) and I’m trying elderberry wine for the first time; a demijohn is bubbling away under the stairs.

A jar of blackberry whisky is sitting in the sun on the windowsill (we obviously won’t go thirsty this winter) and I’ve made a few jars of piccalilli. Cauliflower,courgettes, onions and runner beans from the garden were the main ingredients for this while Autumn chutney used lots of plums, apples, figs and  marrow. Those labels will obviously be needed.

We took Ruby to London on the train at the weekend, she hasn’t been for ages and just seeing her marvel at the gradual change from little country toy-town stations to bustling cities with huge buildings and lots of trains was brilliant. She loved the dinosaurs and seeing a real Ruby jewel in the Natural History Museum, whiile we were all wowed by the London skyline from Embankment after stepping out of the tube station. But I did feel a bit of a chutney making country mum when my daughter asked, a few tube stops after Paddington, if we were getting off at PICCALILLI circus.

Would love to link this once again with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s  In My Kitchen, where we get to enjoy peeping into kitchens around the world.

 

 

blackberry whisky and elderberry gin

I can’t resist the free fruits of our hedgerows at this time of year and blackberries have been made into sauce for ice-cream, added to Granny’s apples for crumbles and pies and used to add a dose of vitamin C to yoghurts and pancakes. But warming myself by the woodburner in the evening I remembered coming in from a winter walk to a tot of blackberry whisky.

So the latest blackberries have been added to a kilner jar along with whisky and sugar. The dark purple liquor is sitting on the kitchen windowsill, reminding me to give it a shake daily to dissolve the sugar. It’s also reminding me what a great pudding the boozy berries will make, added to good vanilla ice-cream when I decant it in a few months time.

I normally make damson or sloe gin but my low-sugar damson jam is going down so well this year, that I think the damsons in the freezer will be needed for more jam. Happily the hedgerows have given me another idea for my cheap supermarket gin.

Wherever I turn in the lanes near me at the moment I see hedges dripping with tempting elderberries. They keep reminding me how shoddy I am.

Last year, faced with the abundance of elderberries it seemed crazy not to make use of them and I determined to look out for a demi-john in charity shops so that I could make elderberry wine. Now it’s elderberry time again and I still haven’t got round to buying one. But I found a recipe for elderberry liquer made with vodka on www.honest-food.net and decided to try it with my gin.

It’s sitting in a dark cupboard, awaiting decanting in a few months. Already I’m imagining it will be a rich, port-like drink and dreaming up the cosy evenings it will suit and the local cheeses it will suit. Apparently it gets better the longer you leave it so just hope I can resist tasting it too early.

blackberry whisky

1.8kg blackberries

225g sugar

bottle of whisky

Place the fruit, sugar and whisky in a large jar (I used a Le parfait, kilner style jar). Stand the bottle on a sunny windowsill and shake every 3 or 4 days, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Place in a dark cupboard for 3 months or so, until the whisky has turned a dark purple colour. Strain and bottle in sterilised bottles. Keep it secret for up to a year is possible – it improves with age. So far I haven’t been able to hang on this long.

 

elderberry gin

800 ml elderberries

750ml gin

50g sugar

rind of half a lemon

Put elderberries in a jar and pour over gin. Add lemon rind, shake jar and put in a drak cupboard for 3 months. Strain liquor through muslin, add to clean jar with sugar, shake vigorously and return to cupboard for 2 months, shaking every week or so. You can decant into a bottle and drink after this but it will improve with age. Elderberries are full of antioxidants and high in vitamin C so I’m looking forward to drinking gin feeling virtuous.

 

 

 

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