I understand that cherries are a good source of vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium, vitamin A and folic acid. They are also well known for their antioxidant properties. I think the birds who visit our garden are also aware of this as they seem to know the minute that the cherries are ready to harvest. I have two trees, a Stella and a Sweetheart, however they are both now too tall to net so we agree that I pick the lower fruit and then birds can have the higher up bounty.
Sweetheart is a popular, self-fertile sweet cherry and the large fruit have a good flavour. Beautiful white blossom in spring is followed by large, sweet dark red cherries (darker than Stella). This is a late-cropping variety, so useful for extending the season. The fruits ripen over a few weeks so you don’t get a glut all at once and you can be picking well into September.
Stella is a smaller tree and is also self fertile. It is a heavy cropper having good resistance to late frosts. Stella will thrive in most locations and can be grown in a large container. The sweetly flavoured fruit will be ready to pick from mid July. The lovely blossom which appears from early March will brighten your garden and herald the arrival of spring.
We all like to eat the fruit as it comes but another family favourite is Cherry Pie.
A guestimate of cherries, washed and pitted
1 block of Sainsburys Shortcrust pastry
I normally cook the pitted cherries in a little lemon juice and sugar with a dash of almond essence. Set them on one side and line a pie plate with half of the pastry. Pour in the filling and put the pastry lid on. I brush with milk and sprinkle sugar on top then bake in the middle of the oven at 180 for 20 mins.
How to pit cherries. Place the cherry on top of the mouth of an empty bottle. With a chopstick, apply pressure and push the pit into the bottle.
Little is known about how ginger first came to be cultivated. Historians write that the plant did not exist in its current form, but was bred by humans. These days, most ginger comes from Asia. India produces the largest quantity, followed by China and Indonesia. Zingiber Officinalis is a tropical plant which grows in shaded swamps so in the UK it needs help to get started.
Ginger is easy to propagate using a piece of fresh root ginger, the rhizome of the plant. Choose the freshest piece you can with visible eyes. They are the small yellow tips from which the shoots sprout. The roots are like a hand with fingers of rhizome that can be separated by breaking into pieces. Place each piece in a pot of compost with the eyes just level with the surface and water in well. Enclose the pot in a clear plastic bag and place in a sunny spot indoors at about 20C. In a few weeks you will start to notice green tips. This is best done in the Spring. Kept in a light, warm room your ginger will become a pretty houseplant and start producing harvests after six to eight months.
Ginger plants love light and warmth but they can do just as well in strong sunlight. Avoid cold, wind or drafts at all costs. The growing tips at the end of each finger of the rhizome will sprout quickly. Long, slim leaves will grow from the end and look like sprouting grass. Potting on is essential as within eight to ten months the ginger plant will be fully grown.
Garden care: Plant the rhizomes into pots using a good soil based compost. The rhizome should be placed horizontally just below the surface of the soil with the small reddish coloured buds facing upwards. Water well and then grow on under glass until all risk of frost has passed. Alternatively, store the rhizomes in a cool, frost-free place until they can be planted straight out in the garden. Keep well watered during the summer but dry during winter. The rhizomes should be covered in the Autumn with a deep, dry mulch, or brought inside and kept in a frost free spot until the Spring when they can be planted outside again. (info from Crocus.com)
Ginger is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root or ginger, is widely used as a spice and a folk medicine. It is a herbaceous perennial which grows annual pseudo stems about a meter tall bearing narrow leaf blades. The inflorescences bear pale yellow with purple flowers and arise directly from the rhizome on separate shoots. Ginger is in the family Zingiberaceae to which also belong turmeric, cardamom, and galangal. Ginger originated in the tropical rainforests from the Indian subcontinent to Southern Asia where ginger plants show considerable genetic variation. As one of the first spices exported from the Orient, ginger arrived in Europe during the spice trade, and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans.
Ginger root has been used medicinally in Asian, Indian and Arabic herbal traditions for thousands of years. It is still used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an aid to digestion and to calm upset stomachs. Its warm, spicy aroma has been believed to awaken vitality and in many ancient cultures it was used as an aphrodisiac.
Ginger is the perfect way to spice up your cooking. The intensity of the flavour varies according to when the ginger is harvested. The older the plant, the hotter the root will taste. Young ginger roots are softer and more succulent and have a milder flavour. These young tubers can be eaten fresh or preserved in vinegar, sugary water or sherry. Young ginger is also perfectly suited for making ginger tea. Just add sugar and lemon to taste.
Fresh ginger can be used finely chopped, grated, crushed to give a ginger juice, or simply sliced. In South-East Asia and the Indian subcontinent, fresh ginger is frequently added to curry pastes and it is often cooked with fish dishes in China. In Europe, dried ginger is more frequently used in baking, as in the classic parkin of northern England.
Another wonderful use for ginger is Ginger Beer. I remember my mother often had some of this on the go in out little kitchen. She made it in the traditional way fermenting it with yeast but below is a cheat recipe.
Ginger Beer Cheat Recipe.
2 lemons, juiced and zested
½ tbsp.clear honey
150groot ginger, peeled and grated
1½ litres soda water
In a large jug, mix the juice and grated lemon zest with the honey, grated ginger and caster sugar.
Pour in 150ml soda water and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
Top up with the remaining soda water.
Using a fine sieve or piece of muslin, strain the mixture into another large jug, discarding the zest and ginger pulp.
Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving with ice.
Ginger is used in many forms. Whole fresh roots, Dried roots, powdered, preserved, crystallised and pickled.
Whole fresh roots. These provide the freshest taste.
Powdered ginger. This is ground dried root
Preserved or stem ginger. Fresh young roots are peeled, sliced and cooked in heavy sugar syrup.
Crystallised ginger. This is also cooked in sugar syrup, air dried and rolled in sugar.
Pickled ginger. The root is sliced paper thin and pickled in vinegar.
Ginger tea is good to drink when you feel a cold coming on. It is a diaphoretic, meaning that it will warm you from the inside and promote perspiration. Use it when you just want to warm up. Steep 20-40g of fresh, sliced ginger in a cup of hot water. Add a slice of lemon or a drop of honey if you fancy. This is great for lifting your mood. Packed with antioxidants, it has a whole range of health benefits so is the perfect Winter warmer.
After Christmas I picked up a bargain joint of beef from Lidl and it has been sitting in the freezer until now. It’s Sean’s birthday on Monday and I thought they may just visit on Sunday so I have put the beef to marinate ready to cook a roast.
A marinade is a mixture of acid, oil, herb and spice. It’s designed to impart flavor and tenderise meat. There is an endless list of combinations that can be the difference between dry meat and a succulent meat.
The acid – Vinegar, acidic fruit juices like lemon or wine are the acidic components in the marinade that tenderise meats. They also play an important part in imparting flavor. An example of a high acid wine is Champagne or a zesty white wine. Use low acid marinades when marinating overnight. Go with a low acid wine. Too much time on acid can turn the meat from tender to mushy.
The fat – Apart from extra virgin olive oil and butter, there many other kinds of oils to consider such as sesame oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, etc. Each type of oil has a different flavor and smoke point which is something you’ll want to consider.
Herbs – The herbs and aromatic vegetables will impart the floral, vegetal, earthy and even fruity characteristics into your meat. Zest is the shaved skin of an orange, lemon or lime and an excellent way to add flavours.
The spice – Spices add heat and aromas and enhance flavours. Salt and pepper will always be your base but there are many other choices to throw into the mix. Many components in spices such as capsaicin in pepper and vanilla are more soluble in fat or alcohol than in water. Since meat is up to 75% water using oil and alcohol in your marinades helps to better dissolve the spices and integrate them into the meat.
Acid – 1 cup wine
Fat – ½ cup oil
Herbs – 1 tablespoon
Spice – 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper
Your acid plus your oil should be enough to immerse the meat easily in a sealed container. It depends on how big the meat is but you want the final result to equal about 1 cup with half as much oil as acid. If you are planning on adding vinegar, lemon juice or Worcestershire sauce as well, you will only need ¼ of a cup. With something more pungent like Dijon mustard or overly-sweet like honey, then only 2 tablespoons are required. Whisk the acid, oil, dry herbs and spices in a glass bowl until well integrated and the salt is fully dissolved. Gently add the fresh herbs last. If you need to increase volume to completely submerge your meat add it in the wine. Leave to marinate from 2 hours to overnight depending on the size of the meat.
When ready to roast allow the meat to approach room temperature. Whatever your method of preparation, the meat should now be thoroughly tenderised and well-flavored. I melt a little beef dripping in my meat dish and then add a chopped onion, celery, parsnips and carrot into the tin placing the beef on top. Spread mustard over the meat, I use the cheap Sainsbury’s basic for this job, then cover the whole tin with foil sealing the edges. Cook for and hour per kilogram. Today my joint is 2.5kg so I am cooking at 180 for 90 minutes before getting it out and basting before replacing in the oven to brown.
I shall serve with green vegetables, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes and mash. The gravy is amazing made with the juices from the meat dish.
When I was about ten years old I went to a birthday party with my Sister and my Mother. The little girl whose party it was has long ago disappeared from my memory but I have an unforgettably vivid memory of her birthday cake. It must have been the first time that I had seen or eaten an angel cake. Pure white cake covered in pure white icing. Apart from Mr Kipling’s White Frosted Fancies, a poor substitute, which always appear in the shops in the month before Christmas, I have never eaten this angelic delight since and so set about finding a good recipe. I am determined to have a try with this recipe and cover it with white icing and desiccated coconut.
Angel cake is a white sponge cake made only with stiffly beaten egg whites and no butter. Apparently, the first recipe in a cookbook for a white sponge cake is in Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky Housewife of 1839.
4½oz plain flour
10½oz caster sugar
10 large free-range egg whites
2 large lemon grated zest only
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 180 and arrange an oven shelf in the bottom third of the oven.
Sift the flour and 3½oz of caster sugar together in a bowl and set aside.
Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl on a high speed for one minute until frothy.
Add lemon zest, lemon juice, cream of tartar and salt and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, or until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl.
Increase the speed and add the remaining 7oz of caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time to form firm, but not stiff peaks.
Add a third of the flour mixture and fold gently to combine. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture folding gently to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
Do not be tempted to grease the tin as it will prevent the cake from rising properly
Transfer the batter to a 10in angel cake pan. Gently run a knife through the centre of the batter to remove any pockets of air. Cook for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and immediately turn upside down onto the tin’s cooling legs. Leave to cool for at least one hour.
After all the rich food of Christmas I have made an apple pie for after dinner today. My apple pie could be called boring but I prefer to call it quick, simple and satisfying. Ever since the first time I used Sainsbury’s short crust pastry block I haven’t gone to the trouble of making my own pastry from scratch. It is my opinion that it cant be beaten. I usually buy the pastry when it is selling for £1 and put some in the freezer. Move to the fridge the night before you want to use it then leave at room temperature for a couple of hours.
I always use English Bramley Apples and just at the moment they are plentiful and good. I do have my own tree in the garden and have enjoyed the few apples that I have been able to pick from the garden. I like to soften the apples in a saucepan with lots of sugar and lemon juice. Always taste a little of the filling to be sure that its perfect. I find two large Bramley’s is enough for my pie plate. I cut the pastry block in half and after buttering the plate I roll the pastry out quite thinly and make the base, trimming around the edges. I then put the cooled filling onto the base and brush a little water around the edges to get a good seal when placing the pastry lid on. Decorate as you like either with just a pinched edging and a good sprinkle of sugar or brush with beaten egg to taste. Serve with cream, ice cream or custard.
4 heaped teaspoons of whole or crushed black peppercorns
4 tablespoons of olive oil
300ml of red wine
For best results prepare your steak early and leave to marinate. Coarsely crush the peppercorns with a pestle and mortar. Take a shallow dish large enough to hold your steaks comfortably side by side and pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil mixed with half a clove of crushed garlic into the dish. Coat each steak evenly on both sides with crushed peppercorns, pressing them in firmly. Lay the steaks in the dish and spoon the other tablespoon of oil and the rest of the garlic over them. Cover with Clingfilm and leave them on one side for several hours, turning them over once.
To cook the steaks use a thick based frying pan. Place it over a very high heat and let it preheat the hotter the better. Sear the steaks quickly on both sides for about a minute each side. Then lower the heat and cook them how you want them. 1 minute before the end of the cooking time pour in the wine and let it bubble and reduce down to a syrupy consistency to about one third of its original volume. This whole process will be very quick. Sprinkle with salt and serve the steaks as quickly as possible with the wine sauce poured over. Serve with chipped or sautéed potatoes and green salad, beans or peas.
This recipe used to be a family favourite when the kids were all young. It’s a soft, moist fruit cake that can easily be adapted to become a celebration cake with the addition of treacle, alcohol, cherries etc. Another plus is that it does keep well if wrapped in foil or cling film. I have the inclination to give it a go again.
12oz of dried fruit
4oz margarine or butter
1/4 pint of water
4oz caster, granulated or brown sugar
8oz self raising flour
tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice if you like it
Add the water, sugar, fruit and fat to a saucepan and bring to the boil stirring to keep from sticking. As soon as the mixture reaches boiling point turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. At this point the mixture will be evenly mixed and the fruit plump and juicy. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Stir occasionally to stop skin forming on top or cover with cling film or greaseproof paper. When cool gradually add the beaten eggs, flour and baking powder, folding in and making sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Bake in the centre of the oven for about an hour and a half. It does help to line the cake tin with greaseproof paper or as I do, wipe the tin round with margarine and shake flour so that the inside is coated evenly. At this point you could sprinkle with granulated sugar, decorate with almond slices or put a few candied peel slices on top. This cake also takes well to decorating with icing. All in all, a good all round stand by. My sort of cake.
Well, I’m told that Sainsbury’s are selling off the pumpkins left over from the Halloween mayhem. Laura is hoping to bring us back a bargain for 10p. I shall cut up the flesh and cook in a little water until soft then use my blender to make a puree. Add a chicken stock cube dissolved in boiling water and season to taste, Pumpkin is very bland so any type of flavouring could be added, even curry powder, but I prefer it as it comes with a shake of black pepper on top and plenty of crusty bread. I have added a potato and a stick of celery before when cooking the pumpkin flesh, it just depends on what I have in the fridge at the time. The Delia Soup Collection advocates roasting the chunks of pumpkin in the oven first. I haven’t tried that yet but may do one day.
I large pumpkin deseeded and peeled
Chop up the flesh, rinse and put into a saucepan with a little water
If preferred add a potato, carrot and chopped celery at this point
Add a little salt
Simmer gently until soft
Drain and mash or blend to make a puree
Dissolve a chicken or vegetable stock cube in boiling water
Gently add the liquid to the blended pumpkin stirring until you have a creamy consistency
Serve hot with a chopped chives or parsley garnish
Sprinkle with black pepper and serve with crusty bread
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.
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.