Friday, 23 September 2016

Apple Day

The valley we live in is famous for its apples. Before we had the ability to transport fruit and veg from all over the world, our Tamar Valley apples were much prized by the markets in London and special 'fruit trains' were sent up to the capital each week. The legacy of that era can still be seen (and tasted!) dotted all over the valley are aging fruit orchards and knarled apple trees, every garden seems to have at least one variety and at the moment all heavy with fruit. Our apple trees are not exception and the sound of the occasional falling apple thumping to the ground is a reminder that I must take time to pick some this weekend.

To celebrate all this fruit, a big 'Apple Day' event is held every year in the valley. It takes place at Cotehele Manor House - a large Tudor house situated a few miles from our house and is now owned by the National Trust - many varieties of apples are gathered and locals are encouraged to bring along baskets of their own apples to help feed the giant cider press - if you bring along a basket of apples you can take away bottles of freshly pressed juice to drink there and then or make into cider. It's all great fun and there are usually lots of apple related games and crafts to take part in. As well as the orchards and gardens to walk around. This year I won't be taking basket of fruit, I've decided to make chutneys, jellies, dry some apple rings and fill the freezer to make pies and crumbles throughout the winter.

We don't all have a giant apple press to turn our fruit into juice so here are a few of my favorite apple recipes ........

The classic and best loved autumnal pudding is blackberry and apple crumble which jus has to be served with custard!

If you're looking for something a little more healthier then this spicy fruity coleslaw is just the thing. It's perfect with cold meats especially pork.

In this recipe cider and apples are combined with thyme and onions to make a beautiful cooking sauce for Normandy chicken.

And finally, if you're a more organized person than me, why not start to get ready for Christmas by making your mincemeat. This recipe from my mum uses the lovely big brambley apples.

That's it from me this week, hope you have a great weekend
Love Lizx

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Perfect Tapenade

With autumn just round the corner I'm clinging on to the late summer evenings in the garden, I may well need a sweater but with a few candles flickering, the right wine and a bowl of tapenade I can still imagine warm summer evenings, maybe by the sea ...............

Tapenade is a very simple dip to make. Everyone thinks of it as an olive dip but originally it was capers that formed the main body of the paste. It originated from Provence and tapeno is french for caper bud - hence the name 'Tapenade' - it was originally made with the caper mush left in the bottom of the jars of preserved capers. These days it's olives that are the main ingredients ...... can you tell I've been reading my cookery books before writing this post!!!

When I make up a batch of tapenade, I like to vary the flavours depending of my tastes for that day. Whilst I keep the ratio of capers, olives, oils and lemon juice the same, I will vary the amounts of anchovy, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and herbs.

Whichever way you decide to flavour it, here's my basic recipe and you can adjust it to your tastes - it's a very forgiving dip and is easy to alter.

Recipe - enough for 4 ( a little goes a long way)

200g Spanish couchillo or kalamata olives
3 tablespoons capers
3 anchovies
1 clove garlic
3 sun dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
5 tablespoons olive oil
Juice and zest lemon
Black pepper
Sun dried tomato paste - optional

This has the potential of being a very salty dish so, to reduce this, rinse the capers and anchovies before starting.

Simply place the olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, sun dried tomatoes and lemon zest into the blender and give it all a good whizz.

You want it to be finely chopped but not turned to a paste.

Add your olive oil, half the lemon juice and the thyme. Give it another quick blend, taste, and add more lemon juice if you wish a sharper taste. Now you can squeeze in a little sun dried tomato paste if you want a richer flavour and season with a few grinds of black pepper. Serve straight away or it will keep in the fridge for upto a week.

Serve with bread, savoury biscuits or breadsticks to scoop it up and, of course a good robust red wine.

Have a lovely day
Love Lizx


Monday, 19 September 2016

Peeling Tomatoes

I'm not one for peeling tomatoes. The skins are usually so thin, especially from shop bought ones, that I mostly just leave them on. However, some of our home grown tomato grew to giants this year and whilst they were some of the best I've had for flavour the skins were rather tough - so peeling them was the best way to go.

Now, I haven't peeled tomatoes for ages, so I thought I'd look through a few recipe books for the best way to do it - see if things had changed since I last peeled one!

I was some what surprised by the variety of methods and equipment people seemed to need these day for, what should really be a very simple task. Many called for large bowls of ice sat ready to drop the tomatoes in, others had saucepans of bowling salted water, some called for scoring in a variety of directions on the skins and a few suggested popping them into the microwave.........

I can remember my Grandmother peeling what seemed like mountains of tomatoes and I'm sure it was a much simpler task for her. So I decided to ignore all my books and instead to delved into the depths of my memory and have a go at the method my Granny used.

First off she would cut out the the stem end or 'eye' of the tomato where the stalk was attached and then score a small cross on the base of each tomato.

Now put the kettle on to boil, place all the tomatoes in a large bowl and set the bowl in the sink.

Pour boiling water over the tomatoes so they are completely covered. Now turn on the cold tap and allow it to cool the boiling water until the water in the bowl is tepid. Pour out the water and now you can easily peel the tomatoes.

Just gently easy your fingers across the width of the tomato and the skin should simply pop off - even with the large creased tomatoes I had.

I can honestly say I peeled a big bowl of twenty or so large tomatoes, in about ten minutes, using this method - so as far as I'm concerned, you can forget all the fancy, convoluted methods this simple one of my Grandmother (and probably her Grandmother's) works brilliantly!

Have a great start to your week
Love Lizx