The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Pear and Lemon Jam

This was my first attempt at Pear Jam. Its a cobbled together version of the recipe I do for all my jams. I used two pound of pears which had been peeled, cored and cut up into chunks; I large lemon;  one pound of preserving sugar and some water. I put the pears into a pan with a little water and the juice and zest of the lemon. I cooked the pears until they were soft. Then I added the preserving sugar and brought to the boil until the mixture reached setting point. I am now waiting for the verdict from the family. I think that next time I may add a little powdered ginger when cooking the pears.

 

Plum Jam

This morning I made three jars of jam from some of the fruit collected from my Victoria Plum Tree bought from Lidl. They are really tasty straight from the tree but lovely made into jam so that we can have the taste right through the winter too.

I usually cook large stoned fruit quite well in a little water and lemon juice then when the stones are floating on the top I put the whole lot through a seive and combine it with a little preserving sugar. There is pectin in the stones so no need to add more. Stir the fruit pulp and the sugar until the sugar is melted in then turn on the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Keep stirring until the setting point is reached, not long with plums, and then pour into your jars using a funnel.

Madeira Cake

Today I made one of my favourite cake recipes. Its a variation on a classic Madeira Cake. All it is is one part soft butter, one part sugar and one part self raising flour and the batter can be adapted to the size of your baking tins. I use a smallish loaf tin and the following recipe:-

  • 150gms sugar
  • 150gms soft butter
  • 150gms self raising flour
  • three large eggs
  • level tsp of baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • One medium lemon

Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Blend the salt into the flour. Add one third of the flour and one egg and fold in then beat the mixture. Add the next third of the flour and the second egg and mix in as before. Add the baking powder to the last third of the flour, add it to the mixture along with the third egg, and some of the zest and the juice of the lemon. Beat the mixture until of a soft dropping consistency then pour into your baking tin. I sometimes grate some lemon zest over the mix before putting it in the oven. Cook in the middle of the oven on 180 for about 35-40 mins. If your Cake tin is bigger you may adapt the measurements accordingly. I have also used a clementine for a change and golden syrup on another occassion. It is a very useful and reliable recipe.

Butternut Squash Soup

We have loads of jobs to do in the garden but rain has stopped play today. We have had torrential rain since the early hours of the morning so couldn’t carry on outside. We have come indoors and I am making Butternut Squash Soup.

  • One medium sized Butternut Squash
  • One small onion
  • One potato
  • One/Two chicken stock cube
  • Seasoning to taste

Cut the butternut squash length ways and scoop out the seeds and the stringy flesh. Peel and cube. Cook with a little water until soft and put on one side. Cook the potato and onion until soft. Combine them all and mash to a smooth pulp. Add the stock cube disolved into a pint of water to the butternut, potato and onion. Season to taste and cook on on low heat stirring all the time or even put into a slow cooker on medium heat until you are ready to serve. Serve with crusty bread for a warming treat. I have seen recipes that add carrots, apple, orange or even curry but we like it simple.

Courgette and Mushroom Gratin

 

We had the usual glut of courgettes this year and I have used some of them in this recipe, given to me by Marie, my Yoga teacher.

3 table spoons of olive oil

2 medium Courgettes thickly sliced

3 large flat mushrooms sliced

4 large ripe tomatoes sliced

2 teaspoons of dried Oregano

3oz grated cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 200. Heat the oil in a pan and add the sliced courgettes and mushrooms and cook through for a few minutes until golden. Add the tomatoes and heat through. Arrange the mixture in a baking dish and sprinkle over the oregano and cheese. Season to taste. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Remove the foil and finish off under the grill. I have tried this replacing the cheese with Carbonara sauce. It is lovely. Thanks Marie.

More Jam Than Hartleys

The kitchen window ledge is now full of jars of jam made from the fruit harvested from the allotment. I do still have some picking to do but I am nearly at the end of it. I have kept a few for ourselves which are in the fridge, given some away and have thirty two jars needing new homes. I have Black Currant, Red Currant, Pink Currant, Red Gooseberry and Green Gooseberry.

I used all the Victoria Plums in a pie. Although the tree was covered in blossom in the Spring only fourteen plums survived the very cold spell. The Damson Merryweather is still not ripe and I would imagine I will get another pie out of that. Both the cherry trees did well this year and the fruit was all eaten as it ripened. The pears are showing a few fruit and should be ready soon. All in all for such young trees they haven’t done badly.

Jams and Jellies

It’s that time of year again. Time to pick the fruit and make the jams and jellies. To date I have made four jars of red gooseberry, one of yellow gooseberry and six jars of blackcurrant. I have already used up all my saved jars and freezer boxes and there is still a load to pick. I think I may have to invest in some bought jars but they are so expensive to buy the decision is yet to be made.

http://www.citychickens.co.uk/2009/07/29/currants-black-red-and-pink/

Pumpkin Pie

Made my first ever pumpkin pies this morning using just a quarter of a largish pumpkin. I did a search for a recipe as I had no idea what went into it apart from pumpkin and pastry. I used a block of frozen shortcrust pastry and lined two tart dishes. I pureed the pumpkin and added ginger and brown sugar. When the mixture was cooled I added four small beaten eggs and half a tin of condensed milk and poured the mixture into the pastry case. They took 50 minutes to cook and do look like they should. I will report on taste later. Update – add a lemon or more spices next time as it was quite bland.

Currants – Black, Red and Pink

The currants have done really well this year and I have frozen quite a lot ready to use in the winter months. Last night I made jam with red, black and pink and although the jars are an assortment of previously used ones it all looks very colourful and tastes wonderful. I think I shall make an effort next year and get some nice jars from Wares of Knutsford especially for the job.

currants

This is the first year that I have made red and pink currant jelly and I am very pleased with the taste of both. Last year was the first year of the bushes and we only had enough for mixed fruit and ice cream a couple of times. They are both very pretty bushes and looked beautiful hung with multiple strings of bright jewel like fruit.

 

 

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When the fruit first turns red or white it is not yet fully ripe, so harvest only once it has sweetened. It is simplest to cut the bunches of fruit, called strigs, using scissors. The fruit can be stored in the fridge for a week or two after picking. Alternatively, freeze the fruit or preserve it.

Gooseberry Jam

Last night we went to the plots and while Rob laid a wood chip path in the fruit tunnel I picked the rest of the fruit. The gooseberries are past their best now really. We have already picked and frozen a lot of the red so I decided to pick some green ones and make some jam.

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Put the gooseberries and a little water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently until the skins are soft . They will not soften after the sugar has been added. I always sieve the cooked fruit in the case of berries and currants. This also means that you can leave stems on as they will be left behind in the sieve.  After sieving put the pulp/juice back into the pan and add the sugar. Use fruit and sugar in equal amounts. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved completely. If you boil the jam before the sugar crystals have dissolved you will get crystallisation during storage. Bring the jam to a rapid but steady rolling boil, stirring continually in a figure of eight movement to keep the jam from sticking. Do not leave unattended. It should take about fifteen minutes to reach setting point. Pour the jam into the heat proof jars using a jam funnel. I always stand the jars in the sink just in case of spillage or breakage. Enjoy.