Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Sweet Chilli Jam

When we were in Devon for our summer holidays, we visited a Chilli Farm. It was a fascinating place and we decided to buy a little chilli plant ourselves, to bring home. The plant variety was called Little Gem, it looked lovely and was classed as a medium heat chilli.
We have made Sweet Chilli Jam before and find it a lovely spicy accompaniment to almost anything edible. So when enough of our hot little chillies were ripe, we harvested some to make our jam. Having tried a small nibble, I was a little concerned about the heat, but my fear proved unfounded and it was delicious.
Hubble Bubble!
  •          10 Chillies, roughly chopped (include seeds)
  •          Red Peppers, roughly chopped
  •          Garlic 8 Cloves, peeled and chopped
  •          Finger sized stick of fresh Ginger, roughly chopped
  •          Cherry Tomatoes, 400g can
  •          Red Wine Vinegar 250ml
  •          Sugar 750g
  1. Tip the peppers, chillies, garlic and ginger into a food processor and whizz until finely chopped.
  2.  Put into heavy bottomed pan with the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, then bring everything to the boil.
  3. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface, then turn heat down to simmer and cook for 50 mins, stirring occasionally.
  4. Yum!
  5. Once the jam is becoming sticky, continue to cook for a further 10-15 mins, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and burning. It should now look like bubbling lava.
  6. Cool slightly and transfer to sterilised jars, then leave to cool completely.
  7. Keeps for 3 months in a cool dark cupboard
  8. Make some nice labels
  9. Refrigerate once opened.
  10. Makes lovely Xmas gifts (if you have any left).

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Pendulous Pears, Thanks to the Major

I was just thinking that the harvest season had pretty much drawn to a close, when a trip to Woolston, passing Peartree Green en-route, revealed that we had missed a trick.
They do say, Walnuts and Pears you plant for your heirs, and the ancient Pear tree that was planted by the Mrs Cutler OBE Mayor of Southampton in 1951 was absolutely smothered with ripe fruit.
We discovered this lovely tree a few years ago and have been visiting it ever since. The pears are small, firm, round and beautifully sweet. My children call them Snack Pears. Mrs Cutler is no relative of ours, but we figured that she would be delighted to find that the fruit was going to be put to a good use.
My son and I zipped back up to the tree after his Sunday rugby training, there was a fair few Pears on the ground already and the fruit was suitably ripe, so we set about picking a large bag full.
In about 20 minutes we collected about 15 Kgs, which is quite a lot for a fully grown adult to lug back, let alone a 9 year old boy. However, I’m sure that my fruit based strength and conditioning program will eventually benefit his contribution to the Trojans team.
There is still heaps of fruit left on the tree, if anybody else wants to pick some but you would be wise to use a fruit picking pole, as you should not climb old fruit trees as the branches can snap catastrophically without warning.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Spiny Sweet Chestnuts

The Nights are drawing in. The clocks have gone back. It's getting dark as I cycle to and from work. However, even though it is raining more, it is still warm.
There are plenty of apples left in the trees about the city. Personally, I think that it is a bit of a shame to see all this lovely fruit going to waste, but I guess the wildlife will benefit. I'm still going to pick a few more big buckets full to press and add to my juice store.
Sweet Chestnuts seem to be falling early this year and many trees have already shed their spiny bounty. I don't know if this is due to the warm October weather that we have enjoyed or something to do with the hot Summer before it.
We always love this time of year-whatever the weather-the beautiful shades and colours of the leaves as they fall is the wonder before the winter. It always pays to make the most of the end of the harvest season and, in my opinion, there's no better way to do this than roasting chestnuts over a fire.
If you do not have the facility to build an open fire (my favourite), you can always use an oven to roast your chestnuts. I often use an old barbecue and simply build a small fire using dry twigs, it doesn't need to last a long time.
I did hear that even the microwave can be used, and I tried this method at home as an experiment. It works, of course. However, it does not have the same romance as a fire with real flames, flickering through the gloomy dusk.
I much prefer a real fire because it gives a traditional feel for the time of year, supplies comfort as the nights draw in, and also because the flames partially burn the shells, making them easier to remove.
Whatever method you use to cook your nuts... Please... Remember, Remember to slit or cut the shells before putting them to the flames... Otherwise they will explode, just like the exciting fireworks that will soon accompany the bonfires all over this country on Guy Fawkes Night.