Post Halloween Pumpkin Feasts

However you spent halloween, at a fancy dress party, shepherding little ghosts and ghouls round on the trick or treat circuit or staying up to scare yourself to death on fright films, now that it is over let’s get down to the serious stuff – cooking with pumpkins.

I did a quick run through the books on my shelves and pumpkin recipes on line and came to the conclusion that there is no excuse for not using the flesh from the pumpkins used to decorate the porch for the ghostly evening. I try not to get on my high horse in these blogs but the waste of food in the form of pumpkins really upsets me.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1.91 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. in 2014 were only used for lanterns before being trashed and in the UK we are no better. The UK buys over one million pumpkins during October – around 90% of annual pumpkin sales. Once carved, the majority are thrown away with around 18,000 tonnes ending up in landfill according to the North London Waste Authority (NLWA).

Don’t give me the stories about nobody in the house liking pumpkin – would they be able to identify it in a lovely vegetable stew? or not knowing what to do? – I found 20 pages of recipes from all over the world in my Ecosia search. Let’s aim to reduce the figure of pumpkin waste by next halloween.

So how about it?  Send me your favourite pumpkin recipes. The three best will win a copy of Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen and I’ll publish them in future blogs.

For more information on what you can do with scooped out pumpkins this Halloween, a selection of handy recipes can be found on the Love Food Hate Waste website 

One of my favourites is Pumpkin Bread from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister

Ingredients

700g pumpkin or winter squash, 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (don’t be tempted to reduce this), 2 teaspoons of golden caster sugar, 15g fresh yeast*, 350g strong white bread flour, extra flour for dusting, 1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze.

* or use 7g sachet of dried yeast, mix with the flour before adding the pumpkin puree.

Method

Peel, remove seeds and dice the pumpkin into 1cm cubes, you need 400g. Cook this without water, either roast or steam. Put in a processor with the oil and puree until smooth. Then allow to cool until just luke warm add the salt and sugar.

If you are using freash yeast mix in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of warm water. Mix the paste into the puree.

Measure the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Spoon in the puree then mix in the flour to make a soft dough. Turn our onto a floured work surface and knead thoroughly for 5 – 10 mins (or 5mins in a mixer on a dough hook.

Shape into a round loaf and put on a baking sheet covered to rise until doubled – about 1 1/2 hours.

Press your thumb into the middle to make small hollow and brush with the egg glaze. Score into segments with a sharp knife then bake in a preheated oven at 200c, 400F or gas 6 for 30 mins, until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack if you can without eating it before it cools (very difficult). It makes a lovely bright orange loaf that looks and taste great.

The Comfort that is a Bowl of Soup

There really is nothing like a bowl of soup to make you feel human again after a hard day, to warm you coming in from the cold, to comfort you when you are tired or down, to make a great satisfying lunch in the middle of a busy day.

And what could be simpler? Of course my all time favourite is What’s Left in the Vegetable Basket Soup. So although, to my mind, a good vegetable soup has to have a basis of onions, carrots and celery, the variations on this mean that no two soups are alike. Some have the hit of the last wrinkled chilli  and quite often something from the store of vegetables frozen from the glut in the summer but then there are the odd ingredients like the the last few tomatoes and half of a left-over courgette. Sometimes made chunky and sometimes whizzed to a creamy liquid. Every one a winner!

The spring soup I always look forward to is Asparagus and Sorrel Soup

Asparagus and Sorrel Soup

This recipe comes from Eat Your Greens by Sophie Grigson, published in 1993. While the asparagus and the sorrel are still in season, this is a delight.  You can use asparagus trimmings for this recipe. This lovely light fresh soup and can be served hot or cold.

Ingredients Serves 2 – 3

175 g (6oz) chopped asparagus or asparagus trimmings, 40g (1 1/2oz) butter, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1 large handful of shredded sorrel, 1 tablespoon plain flour, 600ml (1 pint) water from cooking the asparagus or stock, salt and pepper, 50ml (2 fl oz) double cream, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chervil or chives.

Method

Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the onions and garlic without browning. Add the sorrel and stir until it collapses to a mush. Sprinkle over the flour and stir for a few seconds then a little ata time add the asparagus water or stock. Add the asparagus and season. Simmer for 20 mins.

Process or puree until smooth and if you want, sieve to remove any stringy fibres. Just before serving stir in the cream and chervil or chives.

And a brilliant and tasty soup for the summer – or anytime!

Soup au Pistou

Pistou, the Provençal cousin of pesto, is stirred into this summer vegetable soup just before serving. Pistou, made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. The basics are the potato, courgettes and beans but this is one of those soups that can vary as much as you like in terms of the vegetables used. Broken spaghetti, rice or bread is sometimes added as well. Try it out and then make it your own.

This version was from an anonymous hand-written recipe and translated in Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen

Soup

1.5 litre water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 150g potatoes, 150g onions, 150g courgettes, 150g aubergines, 200g white haricot beans (a tin would be fine), 100g green beans, Salt & pepper

Pistou

4 crushed cloves garlic, 4 cups packed basil, 1 cup grated parmesan, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 plum tomato, cored

Method

Make the pistou: Process basil, parmesan, olive oil, salt, garlic, and tomato in a food processor until finely ground or in a pestle if you are feeling energetic. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Prepare the vegetables – chop the potatoes, courgettes, aubergine into cubes, roughly chop the onions and chop the green beans into 1 cm pieces. Fry the onions in the oil then add the rest of the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes. Add the water, all the fresh vegetables then season well. Cook for around 15 – 20 minutes. Add the white haricot beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the pistou sauce and stir gently then taste and season again.

Guess what I’ve got for lunch?

Why I never get any work done!

A recent buy at a book auction was box of two VERY tatty cookery books, a few reasonable cookery books and, of course my favourite, three handwritten cookery books. I pored over these great books, written between 1920 and 1962 including the war years and found some new recipes. I’ll be adding a few to these blog pages over the next month or so as I work through them.

However the real gem were wads of recipes cut out of newspapers of the time, stuffed in the pages, again running from the 1920s through to the 1960s. Sadly it wasn’t always easy to find the dates as the cuttings themselves didn’t include the dateline, but  there was a whole new world on the rear of some of them either with the date or pointing to it. Following both the important and frivolous background to the food.

These news items were in themselves worth the money I spent. Included here were royal weddings, a call up advertisement for the war, political and social articles, births, deaths and marriages, military appointments, divorce proceedings, new plays on in London, commentary on the war and fashion tips.

A bit of a tease were those articles that were only partially there as the recipes was cut out including a tantalising snippet from a court hearing where ‘the women in the court broke down crying’…

One sad article from The Observer Review November 1962 was Titled ‘Tragic Lag on Powered Limbs’ and rated against the sad failure of the Ministry of Health to provide limbs quickly enough for those children who were victims of thalidomide. A very sad period in our history.

A Food Facts section of the Radio Time from 1948 (I couldn’t find the actual date) called for empty jams jars to be sent to jam manufacturers for the new seasons jam.

 

A complaint on the letters page (I think of The Times 1950s) that sponsored advertisement were creeping into exam papers made me smile …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and best of all this little snippet, a small note about a reward from the railway company.

No wonder I never get anything done!

A Refreshing Drink for a Hot Day

Elderberry shrub / ketchup an odd recipe which can be made as a savoury vinegar ‘ketchup’ or a sweet ‘shrub’ cordial.

Elderberry Ketchup (or Shrub) (G. Watson)

Although this is called ketchup it is not like the sauce we know and love but a spicy vinegar. Remove the shallots and it is a lovely drink called shrub.  Vinegar as a drink? Try it, it is really refreshing, the vinegar mellows with the sugar and sparkling water.

500ml elderberries

500ml cider vinegar

25g shallots (finely chopped or minced)

A blade of mace

A 1cm cube ginger

1 teaspoonful cloves

1 teaspoonful black peppercorns

Sugar – see method for quantities

Method

Strip the berries from the stalks and rinse in water. Put them in a large jar with the vinegar and leave for 24 hours. Strain off the liquid without crushing the berries.

For shrub - Transfer the elderberry vinegar liquid to a pan DO NOT ADD SHALLOT . Add the spices and boil gently for 5 minutes. Add the sugar, for each 500ml of liquid use 500g sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then pour through a sieve to remove the whole spices. When cold bottle and label.

For the ketchup - Transfer the elderberry vinegar liquid to a pan and add the shallots and spices and boil gently for 5 minutes. Add the sugar, for each 500ml of liquid use 200g sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then pour through a sieve to remove the whole spices. When cold bottle and label.

To serve, mix with sparking water. Start with 1 part shrub to 6 parts sparkling water and adjust to taste. The syrup may also be mixed with still water or used in cocktails.

Try it – you will be pleasantly surprised

British Pie Week Day 5 – A British Classic Bacon & Egg Pie

For the final pie in British Pie Week I give you a classic. This is a real memoryjerker. Bacon and egg pie turned up quite frequently on our menu as a child in the 50s and 60s. With my mum’s light hand with the pastry and a variety of vegetables from the garden this was a staple.  

The English version of Quiche? There is some discussion about where this originated, we Brits think it was a Victorian breakfast pie but in New Zealand it is a common household dish and it is common to come across it in menus of popular restaurants. So many people there claim that the pie probably originated in New Zealand. The jury is out on that one. A very popular, cheap and filling meal, hot or cold.

This version was written by G. R. Moore and is from the 1950s section of Recipes from an Unknown kitchen but everyone had there own take on this classic. 

Ingredients

500g of shortcrust pastry

300g bacon

1 medium onion (chopped)

5 eggs

30ml milk

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

100g peas

Salt and pepper

Method

Pre heat the oven to 200oC/400of/gas 6

Cut the bacon into smallish pieces. Put the onion and bacon in a frying pan and cook on a medium heat until the onion is transparent, the bacon crisp and no liquid is left. Roll 2/3 of the pastry and line a loose bottomed flan tin. inches diameter (20cm) about 2inches (5cm) deep, then roll the remaining 1/3 into a round to make the lid.

Lightly beat  2 of the eggs with 30ml milk and season, light on the salt but heavy on the pepper. Hard boil the remaining 3 eggs and chop roughly.

Place the bacon and onion mix in the pie, add a layer of chopped hard-boiled egg and the parsley then? pour on the egg mix. Add the layer of peas and season again then put on the pastry lid. Glaze with beaten egg.

Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 180oC/350of/gas 4 and bake for another 30 minutes.

Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen

Scarborough Fair Pancakes

Looking for a savoury pancake to celebrate Pancake day? I love these so much I make them every year and sometimes when it is not even pancake day!.

Scarborough Fair Pancakes makes 8 large pancakes or 16 small

This recipe comes from The Artful Cook, Secrets of a Shoestring Gourmet by Richard Cawley published in 1988.Reflecting the spirit of the age when chefs were realising that food could be beautiful as well as tasty. This book has some excellent recipes.

8oz plain flour, 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder, salt & pepper, 9 fl oz milk, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon each chopped fresh, parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme. Oil for frying

Mix together pancake ingredients. Stir in chopped herbs. Drop tablespoons of the batter into a lightly oiled frying pan and cook over medium heat for 3-4mins turn over once until golden on each side.

Strangely these can be eaten sweet or savoury. For a sweet option serve with yoghurt,  soured cream or maple syrup. For a savoury option serve with goats cheese and salad they also make a good alternative to breakfast pancakes. I also tried them filled with steamed asparagus (of course with a little butter and ground pepper)

Gorgeous Greek Fish

It’s a while ago now since I published my book Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen so I don’t run through the pages that often. And strangely I find I use it just like any other recipe book on my shelf. I find myself looking for a good recipe when friends are coming round and look for inspiration from the shelf only to find one from my book that I had loved enough to write about but had forgotten. I think that’s the problem of having a) a LOT of cookery books and b) not being able to make a decision. 

This came from a hand-written recipe book from the 1990s I don’t know the name of the author sadly, but she did often add the names of the people who gave her the recipes, there are quite a few recipes from Dick, Mary and Hilary. The book came with an envelope stuffed with newspaper cuttings and lots of notes on pieces of paper where he/she had jotted down recipes on the first piece of paper which came to hand.

Anyway with Norma and Mike coming round I needed a nice fish dish and found the perfect answer in my book. I’m not sure why I don’t eat this every week because I love it so much and it is so easy to make. 

Mary’s Greek Fish

1 large tin of peeled tomatoes

Bream, haddock or cod for 4

Large handful of fresh parsley and oregano

2 large onions

1 clove of chopped garlic

½ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oc/35of/gas 4

Place filleted fish in a flat oven dish with a lid. Fry the chopped onions in olive oil very gently until transparent add the garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, then when mushy add the chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the fish and bake in the oven for around 3/4 hour.

This doesn’t need anything with it apart from some crusty bread to soak up the last juices.

Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen

Zero waste for a 100 years

As I rambled about in my last blog, I have been working on a project about food and food availability locally during WW1. As part of the research we looked through lots of cookery books and magazines of the time, just the job for me I loved it.

At the outset of the war the main issue was reducing waste and being frugal. Although they never expected the war to last for over four years they did expect a tight winter. Books, government posters and magazines promoted the reduction of waste and came up with some canny ideas. As the war continued these recipes became part of everyday life.

Once again Sam Bilton who runs the Repast Supper Club came to our rescue and translated some of these old recipes in a cooking demonstration. Here is one which will stand up to the needs of  Zero Waste Week. I make this all the time now.

Stock Made from Vegetable Trimmings

Mrs C. S. Peel The Daily Mail Cookery Book (1918)

Ingredients: The well washed peelings of potatoes, carrots, turnips; the green tops and outside leaves of celery, cauliflowers, cabbage, lettuces (if not decayed), apple or pear peelings and cores; parsley stalks.

Method: Add water, or the water in which macaroni, rice, haricots, potatoes etc have been boiled. Bring all to the boil then simmer for 30-40 mins. Strain and use as a base for thick soups, sauces etc.

Cooks Comments: This is a very economical way to make what is actually a tasty stock. I kept a largish bowl in the fridge in which I put various vegetable peelings and onion skins as described above over a few days until I had accumulated around 500g or so of trimmings (although an exact weight is not really an issue). When I was ready to make the stock I also saved the water I had used to cook some potatoes and topped it up to around 2.5 litres. If you decide to include onion skins they will give the stock a brown hue, which is something to consider if you are planning to use the stock in a white sauce or summery soup 

A Taste of the Home Front

I have been missing from the shop for much of the summer, partly due to a natural need to get out in the sunshine in the garden or on the allotment but also  working on the last part of the Taste of the Home Front project that I have been working on with Arundel Museum.

With a team of eight volunteers we researched the availability of food locally during the wartime and how that impacted on the townspeople, farmers and shopkeepers of Arundel, how the town and castle answered the call for food and coped during shortages. We searched through local records, including the archives of Arundel Castle and local newspaper archives, and the stories we found showed how the town came together to win the war on the Home Front, from gardeners and allotment holders to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, farmers, fishermen, shopkeepers and housewives.

I had a whale of a time and found some fascinating stories which have drawn a picture of how the people of Arundel fed themselves during the conflict. With the help of Sam Bilton who runs the Repast Supper Club we reproduced some of the recipes from the time. Sam ran a day of cooking demonstrations and produced some great recipes translated for modern day use.

We are now putting these and the stories into a booklet, so here is a taster.

Potato Pastry   Mrs C. S. Peel The Daily Mail Cookery Book (1918) Ingredients 

  • 225g cold mashed potatoes
  • 110g plain flour (you could use wholemeal flour to be truly authentic)
  • 45g dripping or margarine (if using the former make sure it is at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp baking powder 

Method

  1. Following Mrs Peel’s method to make the pastry, mix the flour, salt and baking powder; rub in the dripping. Add the potatoes and mix well and lightly. Make a stiff paste with cold water. Flour a board and roll out to ¼ inch thick.
  2. She doesn’t instruct the cook to leave the pastry to rest but you could make it in advance and leave it in the fridge until it is required.
  3. The pastry has a different consistency to regular short crust but is quite pleasant. It also has a naturally sweet flavour to it.

Cook’s Comments: This pastry is as useful for sweet pies as savoury, especially a nice apple pie – Sam

 From the outset of the war people were encouraged to eat alternatives to wheat flour and potatoes were popular as they were a good source of carbohydrates and easy to grow.  Potatoes were used to bulk out so many recipes – from bread through to pastry, (see above) and they even found their way into puddings and cakes.

Rose petal sorbet – again!

l summer is definitely here. The roses in my garden are coming into their own, the scent is outrageous and I need to make that edible treat that is Rose Petal Sorbet. Back by popular demand this heavenly recipe comes from 100 Great Desserts, Sweet Indulgence… by Mandy Wagstaff. This book stays firmly on my kitchen shelf. The book recommends roses with a sweet scent and a vibrant colour, I made this with the petals from Gertrude Jekyll roses from Terry’s garden, which are not so deep pink but are so perfumed it is heady. If you prefer your sorbet to have a lighter texture add the egg whites, otherwise just use the syrup.

Rose Petal Sorbet with Summer Fruits in Rose Syrup

110g (4oz) fragrant rose petals

570ml (1 pint) water

200g (7oz) granulated sugar

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 egg white (optional)

225g (8oz) mixed summer fruit

Method

Trim and discard the white tips of the petals. Place the water and sugar in a pan and bring slowly to the boil, dissolving the sugar before the boiling point is reached. Boil for 2 minutes then remove from the heat and add the rose petals along with the lemon zest and juice. Stir well and leave to cool. Refridgerate overnight.

The following day, pour the syrup through a sieve lined with muslin. Reserve 6 dessert spoons of the syrup and set aside. Transfer the remainder to the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn until frozen. If using the egg white, whisk to a firm peak then add to the syrup when semi frozen. When frozen spoon into a chilled container and freeze until needed.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker put the syrup into a plastic container and into the freezer, then stir briskly with a fork every hour or so until it is frozen.

Prepare the fruit according to their type. divide them into six glasses, add a spoonful of syrup to each glass then add a scoop of sorbet.

This truly is food of the gods. Thank you Mandy.

want to see the book? click here