Chutneys with windfall Apples

My neighbour presented me with several kilos of small, some unripe, some windfall and some deliberately taken from her apple tree whose roots have become somewhat dislodged in the rain and wind we have had. She picked them from the overladen branches. I still have some chutneys to make but these two worked fine.
Chutneys, I thought plus some unusable apples left in the garden for my new visitor – a Hedgehog. More of that later.

So I have so far made three different chutneys. The first one was a bit too sweet and was mixed with tomatoes and onion. It was okay. It did a lot to teach me about chutney making though. I have been scouring the internet for chutneys that I think I will like – a lot of them use way too much sugar so I have doctored the amount down. They also add raisins, sultanas and date, prunes etc. Not to my taste so out they went.

These two recipes (so far) are fine. The first one has no onions in deference to my husband and the second one has no tomatoes. Apples and onions, spices and some chilli heat! As I tasted it while it was cooking, I found I had to add various spices etc. It tasted better. Spicy Apple and Tomato Chutney

Apple and Tomato spicy Chutney – no onions

  • 300gms ripe tomatoes (or equivalent tinned)
  • 300gms apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper – yellow, green or red
  • 50gms brown sugar
  • ¾ cup vinegar (apple cider or other)
  • ½ cup oil (olive or canola/rapeseed)
  • 15-20gms garlic paste
  • 15-20gms ginger paste
  • 20gms curry powder (Madras or other favourite)
  • ¼tsp gr. cardamom
  • 1tsp Nando Sweet Chilli
  • ½tsp gr. black pepper
  • 1tsp Garam masala
  • 1tsp gr. cumin
  • salt to taste

Chop the tomatoes, apples and pepper or use a food processor. Heat the oil in a big pan. Fry the curry powder for ½ minute and add the chopped tomatoes, peppers and apples. Fry for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients, mix well, cover and let simmer for approx. an hour until most of the liquid has evaporated – remove lid if necessary. Keep stirring at regular intervals to prevent the chutney from getting burnt at the bottom. The consistency should be like that of porridge. Salt to taste. Let cool completely before storing the chutney in sterilized jars. Will keep for months – so I understand!

The second one is more to my taste – it has onions and garlic, both of which I love.

Hot Indian Chutney

300gms cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
190gms onions, finely chopped
50gms light brown soft sugar use maybe 100gms if using green apples. I am not fond of sweet condiments so I have already reduced the amount I found in the original recipe.
¾cup malt vinegar
20gms garlic paste
20gms ginger paste
1 or more tsp salt
15ml crushed mustard seeds
1tsp paprika
1½tsp coriander seeds crushed
2 tbsp oil
I also added a small jar of apple chutney I had in the fridge that hadn’t ever been opened. It was made with some ale. It certainly added to the flavour!!

Place all ingredients in large pan and stir over gentle heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil then simmer gently for about 2 hours until chutney is thick. Pour into warmed jars, cover and store for 2-3 months before serving. It’s not that hot in flavour – next time I may add some fresh, chopped chillies.

Hot Indian Apple Chutney

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Walking in the Woods

For the past two evenings, I have taken a post prandial walk through the woods very close to where I live in the middle of a housing estate. The days have been warmer, dry and sunny with little wind. I am optimistic enough to hope that now, in the first half of April, spring may be upon us.

The first entrance I found

The first entrance I found

The daffodils are flowering both in public spaces, house gardens and in the woods. It is heartening to walk around brilliant yellow bobbing trumpet-like flowers. These are a more muted creamy colour.
Daffodils and mossy rocks

Old rocks in a row.

Old rocks in a row.

Full of children in summer

I love the moss throughout.

I love the moss throughout.

My woods start about 150 yards from my house and the path meanders around fallen trees and shrubs, through dimly lit bush and early on there is a children’s play area brightly coloured with slides and monkey bars. It backs onto another part of the housing estate and is a delightful find.

This is one of several entrances to the wood

This is one of several entrances to the wood

I started picking up, from fallen trees, the remains of birds’ nests to bring back and place strategically in hidden places among my rhododendron in the back garden. It isn’t flowering yet but I have noticed the resident blackbird and his paramour scooting around the back of the rhododendron and thought they may take to a nest in the next couple of years. There is a nest at the front of the house outside my bedroom window and I wake up to their song in the morning. That nest is quite low down in the bushes that grow outside the front door. I want to take those bushes away – very scrappy and not at all attractive – but don’t want to leave the blackbirds without a nest.
Hopefully they will re-locate to the back garden soon.
Coming out from one of the many paths I came across another area of the estate and found this:

Beautiful bloosoms

Beautiful blossoms

Pretty white flowers

Here are some assorted photos from the wood walk and when I arrived back in my street I snapped this wee copse on the roadside

Copse on the corner of my street

Copse on the corner of my street

Dark and mysterious

Dark and mysterious

Chicken Masala Curry Risotto

I have always been one for making my own spice and herb mixes and using a hit and miss approach to overall flavour. There are some tried and true combinations, of course, which we were either taught or have picked up along the way. In the last few years the old herb and spice companies have found a market in our fast and furious world and have come up trumps – some better than others. When I was young, there was Oxo stock cubes and that was about it. Oh – I know there was Bisto and other gravy makers but that was here and I wasn’t – I don’t remember Bisto in Australia.
Oxo has reinvented itself as has Knorr and Schwartz and the innovative improvements are welcome. There are some terrific commercial combinations available at the supermarket as these companies compete for this market. This makes for good news for us the consumers. I still find that I cannot help myself fiddling with the flavours as I cook. I have a vast array of spices in my spice cupboard and a great deal many herbs chopped in season (this is Scotland after all) and frozen in individual containers (thanks again, dear companies, for marketing your wares in individual containers that I can re-use when freezing my herbs).

They have done well!

They have done well!

This recipe is sort of home-grown using a base of the spice mix made by Schwartz. Added spice values are flexible. You have to continually test the dish as it is cooking and adjust the seasonings and spices to suit your particular taste. I do this all the time and wouldn’t make a good wee chef because I don’t replicate exactly from one offering to the next.

I realise that some of you will throw your hands up in horror and scream ‘Not cream and sour cream and oil and finishing butter’. However I have always eaten these foods and have been on the go enough to not have had any problem with weight or cholesterol (when checked at the chemists). So I say go for it and then go for a run, a dig in the garden, a swim or push those biceps.

Ingredients

125gr diced chestnut mushrooms
450gr thickly slivered chicken breast
1 Indian Mild Masala Curry Flavour Shot by Schwartz
1 tbsp hot curry powder – if you like it hot as I do
1½teasp ground paprika
150gr tomato and basil pasta sauce or 400gr chopped tomatoes – a mix of what you have in the pantry
2teasp double tomato concentrate
2 cloves squeezed garlic
1½teasp ground garam masala
½pint or so of milk
¾ cup Aborio or parboiled rice. Basmati isn’t any good for this but other long grains are okay.
Some double cream and some crème fraiche
2teasp chopped parsley
Pepper and salt to season and some butter to finish

Method

Fry the Masala spice first

Fry the Masala spice first

Stir the Flavour Pot and pour into a large (preferably) non-stick frypan. At this point, if you like (love!) onion, use a red onion thinly sliced and cook until softened. Otherwise add the diced mushrooms and cook for 2-3mins. Add the garlic. You may need some more oil. I am using groundnut oil at the moment.

Add the tomato type mixture you have decided on and the milk. Stir and bring to a simmer. Stir in the chicken and cook on high for 3mins then lower heat and

1 lb of sliced chicken breast

1 lb of sliced chicken breast

simmer for 10mins or so. This is a good time to start tasting and adding. Add some tomato concentrate, paprika, garam masala. Start adding pepper and salt to your taste.

Start adding the rice – you will need some water to hand. Here the intensity starts. Stir the rice throughout the dish and add water when it looks as though the rice has soaked up all the liquid. Don’t let it burn. Repeat, adding water, cream and soured cream but don’t let the dish become thin. It should take about 20 mins for the rice to absorb the liquid. If aborio, it will take a bit longer.

At the end add 1teasp butter to finish, ½doz. drops of nam pla (fish sauce) – I am like Nigel Slater and believe that virtually any dish benefits for the addition of nam pla. Add the parsley and enjoy. I serve myself some leeks and either beans or peas in side dishes – for effect and texture variety and I love vegetables anyway!

The Risotto with side dishes

Pea and Haloumi Fritters

This is a great dish. I came across it when I was looking at a facebook page – The breakfast Club diaries. One of the contributors had an early lunch at the Footbridge, Brunswick Heads Northern NSW. Here is the photo she posted.
Pea and Haloumi FrittersTalk about whetting the appetite. I googled Pea and Haloumi Fritters and was amazed by the number of recipes. I clicked on quite a number and constructed my own recipe – ahem! with variations on the theme, of course. One of the things I really like about listing ingredients into the google search box is the multitude of recipes that such a simple search spawns. So here is mine:

Ingredients  Pea and Haloumi fritters 002

300g (2 cups) frozen peas
2 eggs
¾ cup SR Flour
50ml (¼cup) milk
110g haloumi coarsely grated
60ml (¼cup) olive oil or Lemon & Dill flavoured oil if you have it. I have learned to make my own. Yummy stuff!
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill; pinch cumin powder. In winter I didn’t have fresh dill so used dried instead
3 shallots trimmed, thinly sliced – you can leave these out of the batter if preferred
The shallots can be used as a sprinkle to serve or in a side salad with cherry tomatoes, mini cos and Lebanese cucumber with a light lemony dressing
Lemon wedges to serve
Fresh dill sprigs to serve – if you have them!

Method

Cook peas in a large saucepan of boiling water following packet directions. Drain. Process half the peas until coarsely pureed. Set aside to cool.
Lightly whisk the eggs in a bowl. Sift in the flour. Add milk, haloumi, shallot, dill and pea puree. Season with pepper. Add the whole cooked peas. Stir until combined.
Heat 3 teaspoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add large spoonsful of the batter. Flatten slightly if necessary. Cook for 2-3 mins each side or until cooked through. Place on a plate. Repeat, with remaining oil and batter. Serve with lemon and dill. And, for me, the salad.
Pea and Haloumi fritters 003

Mussel Soup with added Frutti di Mare all’olio

 

Seafood selection - ideal for any recipe

Seafood selection – ideal for any recipe

I am fond of seafood – as distinct from fish – which I also like but I do make the distinction. Mussels are delicious – fresh or frozen. Frutti di Mare is a frozen product of various seafood from Lidl. They stock this plus other gorgeous goodies during the festive season.
This is a simple, quick and extremely yummy soup!!

And it’s winter – best time for zuppa!!

Ingredients

150g selected seafood
1 finely chopped onion – I use cibouli
½ leek thinly sliced and chopped
Garlic – I use a garlic cooking paste
2 potatoes cubed
1 cup vegetable stock
½ cup white wine
Lemon juice
Sprig of fresh thyme
Chopped parsley – mine is chopped and frozen in ice cube trays for easy use
Snipped chives – I haven’t frozen these yet. I may well try and see how they work
Salt & Pepper
½ cup double cream
Some cornflour to thicken if necessary
Good handful of torn baby spinach
Some butter to finish

How to make-up
1 tbsp groundnut oil – put in a medium saucepan, add the onion, garlic and leek. Fry gently until soft. Add the cubed potatoes and the stock.

This is the easiest soup really

This is the easiest soup really

Cook gently until the potatoes are nearly soft but not quite. Add the thyme sprig and lemon juice (to taste. Add the wine, parsley and chives. I also add several drops of fish sauce but this is optional.

Start adding salt and pepper and then the seafood. Add the cream and stir to combine all. Taste to ensure the flavours are melding well. When all is hot, add the torn spinach and stir in well. Then add a big knob of butter to finish and give a shine to the soup.

Serve with garlic bread, croutons, snack sized toasted bread or whatever you like. I promise you it is the yummiest soup. Enjoy.

I have a coffee table in my office and often eat there while reading. This was one of those occasions.

I have a coffee table in my office and often eat there while reading. This was one of those occasions.

Dwarf Ornamental Grasses set in slate chips

I always feel better after completing a gardening stint. I think because what happens involves so many parts of me. There’s the obvious physical exertion and movement side and I do love that. There’s the on-the-spot planning that often supersedes the more formal planning that I do before going outside.
The tools – get them all together – you know what you will need (sort of). Don’t forget the gloves, compost, sand, weed container and something to kneel on. There is a type of ritual that goes with a garden session and I enjoy that as well. I always forget something (of course) but the shed, summer house and tool storage box are in close proximity.

Modern looking finish

Modern looking finish

All this preamble preceded yesterday’s little excursion. It has been a dreich week; I had been waiting for some sun and the weather man wasn’t forthcoming soon enough for me. However yesterday dawned – bright, light, clear and sunny. It wasn’t chilly either – about 9ºC – and no wind. The sun, having gone with some geese down south doesn’t shine on the south side of my back garden so everything, being damp from the down-pourings this week or so, doesn’t get to dry out.
The developers, greedy little buggers that they often are, removed all the topsoil and sold it off (ha!) and over the years, although previous owners have added compost, sand and some topsoil, it is still clayey and, in its present damp state, claggy. There were conifers at the bottom of the garden that shaded far too much so I chopped them down. The soil is still pretty mucky with old lateral tree roots spreading out into the lawn – ahem – some grass and moss with weedy stuff – buttercups and daisies (the whole development was once fields), clover and smaller ground covering weeds. So removing the need to mow this ‘grass’ bit by bit has been the best solution.

My mate John and his son Jon have just finished the final construction in the garden for this year. Here is what it looks like – I think it finishes off the decking complex admirably.

Looking to the back fence and crocus bed

Looking to the back fence and crocus bed

The grasses are alternating Pennisetum setaceum Sky Rocket and Pennisetum x advena Fireworks. Poor things – I found them in Homebase as end-of-stock and have kept them watered and in their pots for about 6 weeks.

This is what they will look like in summer - nice!

This is what they will look like in summer – nice!

Mind you, they die back during the colder months anyway and won’t pick up until summer. And now they are in the ground in planting holes that have slate, gravel and sand at the base for drainage with compost to bed them in. I had 6 Senecio cineraria silver (I think). Ragworts are difficult to identify. Anyway I planted three at each end of the slate garden.

Looking east over the decks

Looking east from the Heuchera bed through to the decks

At the bottom of the grass garden and stretching across to the rhododendron is a narrowish strip that has been cleared of old tree roots, grass and dug over. This is the sticky, claggy and clayey bed. There was some sand left over from cementing the pavers in place and added to the clag! Still …
I had already planted all the bulbs at the beginning of September (pat on back!) and now had to fill this bed. I had some 40 mixed crocus and dwarf irises left over and finding bulbs at the end of November wasn’t all that easy. I found 300 crocuses finally at the Garden Centre in Kirkcaldy and spent yesterday dibbing in 340 wee bulbs that are shooting. Covering the holes was difficult because everything was so claggy and damp – took several goes with the backside of the rake.

Long & winding crocus bed - 340 of them

Long & winding crocus bed – 340 of them

The bulb planting in September has started to yield shoots. It has been a lovely summer and a mild autumn so far.

Hence the feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment and weariness. And the joy of sitting down with some wine and Pâté on crackers. Aaah. Very nice too.

Meatballs, Mushrooms & Sun-dried Tomatoes

I have difficulty finding food dishes that will suit this household. However, beef always works so I decided that meatballs cooked with our own cherry tomatoes and a mixture of commercial lasagne sauce and sun-dried tomato, garlic and basil sauce plus some sliced sun-dried tomatoes and some basil-infused oil sounded really tasty.
Side dish of steamed cauliflower and another of steamed baby Brussels sprouts smothered in a cheese sauce and browned under the grill tickled my taste buds.

12 (350g) minced beef meatballs
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 cups chopped red and yellow capsicum
125 chestnut mushrooms medium sliced
4-6 sliced sun-dried tomatoes
5 tbsp commercial tomato lasagne/pasta sauce
3 tbsp tomato, garlic and basil sauce
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 pot Knorr paprika flavour pot
Several large dollops soured cream

Ingredients with my cherry-wood pepper grinder

Ingredients with my cherry-wood pepper grinder

I discovered these Knorr Flavour Pots a while ago and find them easy and very useful. A lot of other people must do as well because Knorr has increased the flavour range over the past months. Now Oxo has started its own range of flavours. Great! The more the merrier. I think what I find so good about them is that it doesn’t matter what I have decided to cook and what sort of sauce I am using, there will be a flavour pot to add a soupçon of flavour to the cooking. Anyway, I had some pots of paprika and added one to this tomato type dish. The caraway seeds are usually associated with a goulash but they worked well with this.  Meatball & tomato, mushroom mix

I used a mixture of basil-infused oil and groundnut oil to gently fry the meatballs. Then added all other ingredients except the cream, plus a knob of butter, seasoned and put the lid on. I came in here to write this up and the dish is cooking very gently for about an hour. When finished, I will need to thicken the sauce with some cornflower and add the soured cream.

Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts & Cheese sauce

The other part of this is the vegetables. I steamed enough cauliflower and Brussels sprouts to fill two smallish dishes; sprouts for me and cauliflower for Himself. The small pot of leek and cibouli, I micro waved for me. I like all manner of onion. Otherwise cook the onions first before adding the meatballs. Use however much onion you like.

I mix leek & cibouli with chilli oil. Cauli & sprouts in their own serving dishes

I mix leek & cibouli with chilli oil. Cauli & sprouts in their own serving dishes

Cheese sauce – what can I say. Home-made with flour, butter seasoning and milk with cheese added. Or packet or supermarket wet sauce pots. Doesn’t matter. Do whatever you like. But do use freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and if you have a bit of blue cheese, add that in as well. Pour the sauce over the cooked vegetables and brown under the grill. Some toasted sesame seeds would be a welcome addition, especially to the sprouts – or breadcrumbs.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

The reason there is no carbohydrate except the thickening is that we are dropping our carbohydrate intake to a maximum of 20g (more or less) a day and increasing our fat (butter and natural fats) intake. This reduces blood sugar levels and drops body weight. All good.