I love vinegar. From the literal mouth-watering crunch of a cheese and pickled onion sandwich, splashed neat over hot chips, through tangy salad dressings to salt and vinegar favoured crisps.
It’s also an amazing anti-bacterial cleaning liquid and does wonders to make windows sparkle.
But I digress.
Pickling is a great way of preserving the plenty of summer to enjoy in winter. Usually this involves allowing the pickles to mature for a while, so that the harshness of the vinegar can mellow. But not always. Here are a couple of recipes that, whilst they CAN be kept to enjoy in the cooler months, you can also enjoy straight away.
The first is a courgette relish. Wonderful on barbecued meats such as burgers and sausages and for using up a glut of produce. I have always found the relish you buy in the shops too gloopy, bordering on a jelly-like consistency and always much, much too sweet. This is a version made to my own, personal tastes; less sugar, more sharpness, bit of heat and the vegetables still crunchy.
Fair warning: it involves a LOT of chopping, because I feel the end result is much more pleasing to behold. You could just put everything through a mincer, but it tends to become a bit of a homogenous mush. Chopping everything by hand means the resulting relish is fine enough to spread and the separate ingredients retain their identity both visually and in terms of flavour. Make yourself comfortable, switch on the radio and before you know it, it will be done.
This makes about 4 x 500ml jars of relish. The amount will, of course, depend on the sizes of the vegetables you start with.
6 large courgettes
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 red chillies
2 green chillies
450g light brown sugar
400ml white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons celery seed
1.5 tsp turmeric powder
- Cut the courgettes lengthways and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the soft, spongy centre and seeds. Discard.
- Chop the courgettes into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces.
- Peel the onions and chop into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces.
- De-seed and chop the peppers and the chillies and chop into 5mm x 2mm-sized pieces. Add the chilli seeds if you like your relish hot.
- Put all of the vegetables into a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Set aside to drain for 1-2 hours.
- Strain the liquid from the vegetables. Rinse the bowl and return the vegetables to it.
- Fill the bowl with water and swish the vegetables around. Drain.
- Rinse and drain the vegetables again. Thoroughly. Then once more for good measure. It is tempting to skip this thorough rinsing, but if you do, the result will be an excessively salty relish. Do you really want to chop another mound of vegetables quite so soon?
- Rinse your jars with hot water and place in the oven, with their lids. Turn the temperature to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
- Put the remaining ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Taste the sugar/vinegar mixture and decide if it needs adjusting either with a little more sugar or a little more vinegar. You can also add more after the vegetables have cooked, but better to get it close to what you like beforehand.
- When you are happy with the flavour, add the drained, rinsed vegetables and simmer gently until the courgettes become translucent.
- Taste again and adjust sugar/vinegar levels as necessary.
- Spoon into hot jars and seal.
- Can be enjoyed immediately
This recipe comes from the manuscript receipt book of Lady Ann Fanshawe at The Wellcome Library -page 292 by Lady Ann’s numbering. It is very quick and straightforward and not that different to the other pickled cherry recipes around, except for the seasonings.
Lady Ann favours mace and dill which were unusual enough to tempt me to try. The recipe also calls for the very best heart cherries, which are cherries that have a soft and rounded heart shape. A bit of research into old varieties reveals that heart cherries could be both dark or pale. I’ve gone with dark, and used a little red wine in place of the original water, in order to help preserve the colour of the fruit. If you can get pale dessert cherries, then swap the red wine for white.
The original recipe contained no sugar, which was a bit much even for a vinegar-lover like myself, so I have tweaked the recipe and added a little brown sugar to soften the flavour.
2kg dark purple cherries
540ml light fruit vinegar – I used home-made gooseberry, but you could use whatever you like, as long as it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the fruit. A white balsamic, for example
180ml red wine
6tbs dark muscovado sugar
3 blades of mace
1 tbs dried dill
½ tsp salt
- Stone the cherries and arrange them neatly in concentric circles in the bottom of a preserving pan. There should be enough to make a full single layer covering the bottom of the pan.
- Add the sugar, mace, dill and salt.
- Gently pour in the vinegar and red wine. This should just cover the cherries. If you need more liquid add it in the proportion of 3 parts vinegar, 1 part wine.
- Put the pan on medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Cook for 10 minutes, until the cherries are just tender but still holding their shape.
- Gently spoon the cherries into sterilised jars and seal.
- Can be enjoyed immediately with ham and terrines, as well as fatty meats such as roast lamb, duck and pork.
I love a good cheesecake. I don’t, however, love ALL cheesecakes.
*pauses dramatically for the compulsory gasps of horror*
No, to my mind, if you’re going to elaborate on the indulgent simplicity of flavours such as vanilla or maple syrup, cheesecake needs something sharp to act as a contrast to the richness of the filling.
So I say “Away, foul fiend!” to a whole slew of flavours that, to my mind, shouldn’t be paired with cheesecake, mostly in the chocolate, toffee, Banoffi, caramel, praline range, and “Come to Mama!” to all the tart and sharp fruity flavours. Lemon cheesecake was a long-term favourite, but anything that has a sharpness to it is delicious.
There are two main styles of cheesecake: baked and no-bake. I’ve got several recipes on the blog for various baked cheesecakes but haven’t done a no-bake cheesecake, so here we are.
After a little experimentation, I’ve come up with something that will work for any fruit puree you might have to hand. I’ve used gooseberries, but you could also use this recipe for poached rhubarb, plums, damsons as well as raw fruit purees such as strawberries, raspberries, cherries etc.
Another way you can customise this recipe is by swapping in ingredients that will give a texture that you like. A baked cheesecake is usually rich and dense, whereas no-bake cheesecakes tend to have a lighter texture as they rely on gelatine to hold their shape once set.
The filling for the cheesecake in the photo has been made with equal parts of mascarpone, creme fraiche and double cream mixed with the fruit puree, which makes for a creamy but still light texture. If you prefer a denser consistency, you can substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone or creme fraiche or even both. Quark is a fat-free dairy product, but might take the texture towards a mousse rather than a cheesecake. Nothing wrong with that at all, of course, as long as it’s what you were wanting.
A word or two about gelatine. At the risk of stating the obvious, gelatine renders your dessert off-limits to vegetarians. Whilst this might be your dastardly plan, you can still make this dessert so all can enjoy. Vegetarian gelatine is generally available, but not in the sheet form used in this recipe. You should follow the vege-gel guidelines for blooming and using it in your dessert.
The other thing to bear in mind, whichever form of gelatine you use, is that it’s not very fond of acidity. Using the quantity stated on the pack to set a very sharp, acidic liquid is not going to be as firm as if the liquid is neutral in flavour. You might like the texture, but as a general rule, I would advise using extra gelatine to ensure your dish sets as expected.
For example, the recipe below generated 300ml of gooseberry puree. Normally, 2 sheets of gelatine will set 300ml just fine. I used 4 sheets of gelatine a) because of the sharpness and b) because of the volume of filling into which it was to be mixed. The mixture of creams and cheese is quite stiff when whisked together, but adding the puree slackens the mixture off considerably. Having the extra gelatine in the puree meant that all of the filling set, once it had been folded through.
In contrast, for the gel on the top of the cheesecake, I only used a little extra gelatine, which resulted in a much softer final set.
For leaf gelatine, 1 leaf will set 150ml of liquid. Powdered gelatine and Vege-gel are sold in packets that usually set 1 pint (570ml) of liquid. Weigh the granules and divide by four for an equivalent guideline amount.
Last topic before we get on with the recipe – the biscuit base. You can make this from a range of commercially produced biscuits or make your own. Traditionally the biscuit has been Digestives, but other (British) types include HobNobs, Ginger Nuts, Butter Crinkles, Rich Tea – anything crisp. I’ve even used Doriano crackers (similar to Saltines), which give a deliciously unexpected saltiness as well as crunch.
For this recipe I have chosen to use a crumb of Spekulaas, the traditional Dutch Christmas biscuits. They are definitely crunchy and add a nicely spiced note which complements the gooseberries. Any favourite crisp biscuit can be used, merely bake the dough in its breadcrumb-like state and blitz in a food processor when cooled.
No-Bake Gooseberry Cheesecake
You can use either green or dessert gooseberries for this recipe. Green gooseberries (see photo at the bottom of this post) ripen earliest, and pair very well with elderflowers. You can substitute half the poaching water with elderflower cordial if liked. Dessert gooseberries are sweeter and with a rosy blush which makes for the beautifully coloured topping in the top photo. These quantities makes a large cheesecake, so if that doesn’t suit your needs, consider halving the recipe.
For the base
200g self-raising flour
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 tbs speculaas spice mix – or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, as liked.
1 pinch salt
150g cold unsalted butter
50g unsalted butter – melted.
- Heat oven to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment. A sheet with a lip will help keep the crumbs contained.
- Put all the ingredients except the melted butter into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
- Tip the crumbs onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Stir the crumb, breaking up any large pieces and then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
- Set aside until cold.
- Pour the cooked crumb into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is of an even and uniform crumb.
- Tip the crumb into a bowl and pour over the melted butter.
- Mix thoroughly until the crumb resembles damp sand.
- Press firmly into your chosen tin. I used my rectangular springform tin (28cm x 10 cm) and pressed the crumb up the sides a little to give a little extra support to the filling, but if you’re confident in your gelatine levels, this isn’t necessary (see photo at the bottom of this post). You might like to line your tin with foil or parchment to help remove once set.
- Chill in the fridge until needed.
For the filling
600g fresh or frozen gooseberries, or other sharp fruit
250g mascarpone cheese
250g creme fraiche
250ml double cream
5-6 tbs icing sugar
4 leaves gelatine
- Put the gooseberries and the water into a pan over a very low heat.
- Cover and allow to gently simmer until the fruit is soft. Stir gently from time to time to prevent the fruit from burning (10-15 minutes).
- Pour the fruit mixture through a sieve. Leave to drain. Keep both the liquid and fruit pulp.
- Bloom the gelatine in cold water.
- Sieve the drained fruit to remove the seeds. You will get about 300ml of puree. If you have extra, set it aside and serve as sauce with the cheesecake.
- Put the puree and bloomed gelatine into a saucepan and warm gently until the gelatine is melted. Taste and stir through just enough icing sugar to make it slightly sweet.
- Set aside to cool.
- Put the mascarpone, creme fraiche and double cream into a bowl. Add 3 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar and whip until the mixture is firm. Taste and add more sugar if necessary, but it should only be slightly sweet.
- When the fruit puree has cooled, but is still liquid, fold it into the whipped cheese/cream mixture.
- Taste the mixture to check the sweetness levels and adjust as needed.
- Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared tin. I lined the edges of the tin with acetate which allowed the filling to come up higher than the level of the crust, but this isn’t compulsory.
- Cover lightly with cling film and allow to set in the fridge (2-3 hours).
For the jelly topping
retained juice from cooking the fruit
- Measure the retained juice from cooking the fruit and calculate how much gelatine is required to set it. I set 400ml of sharply-flavoured juice with 3 leaves of sheet gelatine. I like the soft set, but you might prefer something a bit firmer in which case add another gelatine leaf. Stir in enough sugar to sweeten slightly. I prefer to keep the topping quite sharp as it provides a great contrast with the sweet biscuit base and the creamy filling.
- Bloom the required quantity of leaf gelatine in cold water.
- When the cheesecake filling has firmed up, add the gelatine to the juice and warm until the gelatine has melted. Cool slightly, then gently spoon over the cheesecake. Be careful not to pour from a great hight, as you might disturb the surface of the cheese filling and this would make for a cloudy jelly layer.
- Return to the fridge and chill until set, preferably overnight.
A great little recipe from that classic baking institution: Be-Ro.
Thomas Bell founded his grocery company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1875. Amongst other items, he manufactured and sold baking powder and the world’s first self-raising flour under the brand name Bell’s Royal.
After the death of King Edward VII the use of the word ‘Royal’ in business was prohibited, so Thomas shortened each word to just two letters, and the Be-Ro brand was born.
To encourage the use of self-raising flour, the company staged exhibitions where visitors could taste freshly-baked scones, pastries and cakes. This proved so popular, and requests for the recipes so numerous, the Be-Ro Home Recipes book was created. Now in it’s 40th edition, the company claims that, at over 38 million copies, its recipe booklet “is arguably one of the best-selling cookery books ever.”
I’m not sure which edition my Be-Ro booklet is, as it’s undated, but from the appearance of the smiling lady on the front it definitely has a 1930s feeling; it’s pictured on the Be-Ro website, with a deep red cover.
These little tarts are a beautiful example of how the simplest ingredients can be given a subtle twist and appeal by both their appearance and the ease with which they are whipped up. In essence, these are a Bakewell Tart with cream, but a little tweak turns them into sweet ‘oysters’.
I’m not a fan of almond flavouring, so I’ve used lemon zest to brighten the almond sponge and used a seedless blackcurrant jam inside. Adding the jam after baking (unlike the method for Bakewell Tarts) circumvents cooking the jam for a second time, and so it retains its brightness of flavour as well as colour. The pastry is crisp and dry and a perfect contrast against the moist filling. I’ve opted for an unsweetened pastry, but feel free to use a sweetened one if you prefer.
You could customise these tarts by swapping the ground almonds for almost any other nut, and matching the jam accordingly. Here are a few that occurred to me.
- Almond with orange zest, and orange curd as the filling.
- Coconut and lime curd, with a little lime zest in the filling.
- Hazelnuts or pecans, with a praline paste or Nutella in the filling.
- Walnut and a little coffee icing
Have fun with them!
225g plain flour
70g unsalted butter, softened
70g caster sugar
1 large egg
zest of 1 small lemon
85g ground almonds
200g cream cheese
200ml whipping cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1-2tbs icing sugar, plus more to sprinkle
120g sharp jam
- Put all the pastry ingredients except for the water into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
- Knead smooth, then roll out thinly. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge to relax.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
- Beat the butter and sugar for the filling until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes to get as much air into the mix as possible.
- Add the egg and whisk in thoroughly.
- Fold in the lemon zest and ground almonds.
- Grease a 12-hole shallow tart tin.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut out 12 circles. Line the prepared tin with the pastry.Add about a tablespoon of filling to each tart. I use a small ice-cream scoop but 2 spoons will also work.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the tin around after 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.
- Transfer the cooked tarts onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
- Whisk the cream cheese, vanilla and cream together until firm. Gently stir through a little icing sugar to slightly sweeten.
- When the tarts have cooled, slice off the top of the filling with a sharp knife and set aside.
- Add a teaspoon of jam and either spoon or pipe a little of the cream mixture into each tart.
- Set the ‘lids’ back on the tarts at a jaunty angle, so as to appear like a half-opened oyster.
- Dust with icing sugar and serve.
I received an email from a friend this week, being very complimentary about this rice pudding recipe I’d given her. She wrote “This is so yummy on a chilly winter day in Melbourne!” I made a mental note to put it on the blog in the autumn, but then I got up this morning and looked out the window at the clouds and the cold and the rain and decided that you all needed this recipe today.
Adapted from May Byron’s wartime Pudding Book (1917) it is an absolute delight in a number of ways. It’s a variation of the traditional, some would say nursery, pudding, but these variations elevate it much higher than its list of ingredients might at first imply. For a start, the method is markedly different from the traditional, first boiling the rice in water followed by a slow simmer on the stove top, then just a brief 20 minutes in the oven. Cooking time is practically halved, compared to the traditional method requiring 2 hours baking and the result is astonishingly soft and creamy. The best part of this recipe, however, is the flavourings. Against just a suspicion of vanilla, the mandarin peel imparts a light and fragrant note, which is in turn enhanced by the aromatic honey and flakes of coconut. The whole dish is lifted out of the nursery and into something altogether more elegant and refined, whilst still retaining it’s simplicity.
Very definitely a grown-up treat for a gloomy, rainy Sunday in June.
Nectar Rice Pudding
120g pudding rice
580ml whole milk
75g granulated sugar
1 large or 2 medium mandarin oranges
½ tsp vanilla extract
280ml double cream
4 large yolks
70ml aromatic honey – acacia, orange blossom, heather, etc
2tbs unsweetened dessicated coconut
- Bring some water to the boil and add the rice.
- Cook for five minutes, then drain well in a sieve.
- Put the rice, milk, and sugar in a thick-bottomed, lidded pan.
- Peel the mandarins.
- Eat the mandarins.
- Put the peel into the pan with the rice.
- Add the vanilla.
- Cover the pan and put over the lowest heat available.
- Simmer softly for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
- Mix the cream, yolks and honey together.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C Fan.
- After the 40 minutes is up, remove the mandarin peel and discard.
- Pour in the cream and honey mixture. Stir briskly whilst pouring to ensure the eggs don’t cook immediately and curdle.
- Stir the mixture over the heat until the mixture almost simmers, then pour into a deep oven-proof bowl. To achieve the perfect consistency after baking, the mixture should be about 5cm deep in the dish.
- Sprinkle the coconut over the surface.
- Bake for 20 minutes until just wobbling in the middle, and golden brown and bubbling on top.
- Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Serve warm.
If you’ve been lucky enough, as I have been, to go out and about in the great British countryside of late, you’ll have noticed the froth of elderflowers in the hedgerows. It is one of the earliest signs of summer and an excellent reminder that gooseberry season is imminent.
Gooseberries and elderflower are such a classic and delicious pairing, it can surely be no coincidence that they are both available at the same time. If you have the opportunity, I can thoroughly recommend making your own heady elderflower cordial, but commercially produced varieties are also readily available.
There’s a 200-year-old tradition in Oldbury-on-Severn of making shallow gooseberry pies with a sweetened hot water crust pastry as part of the Whitsun celebrations. Jane Grigson mentions them in several of her writings on English food. Due to the age of the recipe, it was a challenge to find any further details on their appearance and so for a long time I had to rely on my imagination. Eventually I found descriptions of the pies as being around 15cm in diameter, extremely shallow (just one gooseberry deep) and hand raised. The use of a hot water crust for a fruit pie is unusual, and can be a little troublesome to work with. Some recipes even recommend that once the tart shell has been formed, the pastry is chilled overnight in order to make a firm casing for the gooseberries, but this then makes it difficult to attach the lid firmly once the paste is cold.
My searching turned up two details that were consistent wherever the pies were mentioned: everyone seemed to like these tarts, even if they didn’t like gooseberries, and that they were extremely juicy when bitten into. This adaptation is slightly more consumer-friendly, producing a raised pie whose shape is more in the tradition of a game pie, with the juice set into a jelly, delicately flavoured with elderflower. This classic dessert pie will hold its shape when sliced, making it ideal to enjoy on picnics as well as relaxed summer lunches. The contrast between the sweet, flowery jelly and the sharp gooseberries is very refreshing. I prefer the tartness of green gooseberries, but if you have a sweet tooth you might prefer the delicately blushed dessert gooseberries. To make everything much easier, it is baked in a loaf tin.
Gooseberry and Elderflower Raised Pie
Sweet Hot Water Crust
600g plain white flour
60g caster sugar
- Put the fats, sugar and water into a pan and warm over a low heat just until the fat has melted.
- Put the flour into a bowl and pour on the warmed liquid. Stir well.
- The paste will be very soft when it comes together, and you can roll it out if you like, but it can also just be flattened and pressed into the tin by hand.
For the filling
1kg fresh gooseberries
1kg caster sugar
2-3 tablespoons of elderflower cordial
beaten egg to glaze.
3-4 sheets of leaf gelatine
- Use a sharp knife to top and tail the gooseberries, removing the stalk and the calyx.
- Generously grease a large loaf tin. You can, of course, make this in any shaped tin, but a rectangular loaf tin does produce pretty and regular slices. In order to decide what size of tin to use just tip in your prepared gooseberries. The best fit will be from the tin the gooseberries only just fill.
- If liked, line the tin with baking parchment in order to help with the removal of the pie once it has cooled.
- Make the pastry and divide into two. Roll out one piece and cut a lid for your pie to size. Use the empty tin to mark out it’s shape, then cut the pastry 3cm larger all the way round. Set aside.
- Gather the trimmings and the rest of the pastry together and roll out to about 1cm. Line your greased loaf tin and allow the excess pastry to drape over the sides for now. Make sure any cracks are well patched, so that the juice stays inside the pie.
- Layer the gooseberries in the pastry-lined tin alternately with the sugar.
- Moisten the edges of the pastry with water and place the pastry lid on top of the pie. Press the edges together and trim the excess. Crimp the edges in a decorative manner.
- Cut three circular vent holes in the lid at least 2cm in diameter.
- Use the pastry trimmings to make additional decorations if liked.
- Cover lightly with cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
- Brush the lid of the pie with beaten egg and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is crisp and golden and the sides are well baked. It is better to cook the pie a little longer than for the pie to be under-baked, so if the top is becoming too dark, cover with some foil.
- When you’re happy with the done-ness of the pastry, remove the pie from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Tricky Part: You need to drain the juice from the pie in order to mix in the elderflower cordial and the gelatine that will make it set. After much experimentation, I recommend the following method:
- Put your pie onto a wire cooling rack.
- Put a second rack upside-down on top of your pie.
- Place a large bowl on your work surface. If you think it necessary, place a damp teatowel underneath to prevent slippage.
- With your thumbs uppermost, pick up your pie tin, sandwiched between the wire racks.
- Holding the pie tin over the bowl, flip it towards you in one swift movement and let all of the juice drain out of the pie through the vent holes and into the bowl.
- Once the juice has topped dripping, turn your pie the right way up and set aside.
- Taste the syrup and add sufficient elderflower cordial to flavour. Since the pie will be eaten cold, you can make the flavouring slightly stronger than usual, as the flavours will be somewhat muted when served.
- When you’re happy with the taste, measure the volume of syrup. For every 150ml of syrup, you need to bloom (soak in water) 1 leaf (sheet) of gelatine. Once bloomed, add the gelatine to the syrup and warm gently until melted.
- Carefully pour the gelatine/syrup mixture back into the pie through the vents. It might be easier to use a jug for this. You want enough syrup in the pie to make the cooked gooseberries float. Peeping through the vent holes you will be able to note when this occurs.
- Leave your pie to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the fridge.
- Allow to come to room temperature before removing form the tin and cutting in slices to serve. Serve with chilled double cream if liked.