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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Bramble Forgaging Fun

Bramble Jelly

The Summer has been beautiful, but sadly it is drawing to a close.
These last few wonderfully warm and sunny days have been a treat, but I must confess, I do enjoy Autumn too.
Those fresh, crisp mornings as we leave the house for work and school.
The newly spun cobwebs that twinkle with the morning dew upon them, and the huge spiders that are trying to sneak into the warmth of indoors,
and of course, the bountiful finds of Autumn fruit too.

I have a small blackberry bush which I planted a couple of years ago and this year has produced quite a decent little crop of fruit.

We also spent a fun afternoon foraging for wild blackberries, and a friend gave me a bag full of some extra brambles and cooking apples.

So, I sat and pondered what I could do with these little black jewels that gleamed at me from the bowl
and jam sprang to mind.

This is such a simple recipe to make and the wonderfully sweet, deep crimson reward is well worth the effort.

You will need :

1.3kg / 3 lb blackberries, washed
2 large cooking apples, washed, cored and diced
450ml / 3/4 pint water
1 lemon, juice only
preserving or granulated sugar
2-3 tbsp creme de cassis
sterilised jam jars and pot covers

1. Prepare a jelly bag or tea towel by boiling in water for 2-3 minutes. Wring well and leave to cool.
Arrange the jelly bag on a stand or an up-turned stool with a large bowl beneath, ready to drip through.

2 Place the blackberries, apple, water and lemon juice into a preserving pan, or large heavy bottomed saucepan.
3. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a low heat for 20-25 minutes, or until the fruit is completely soft.

4. Tip the soft fruit and juice into the jelly bag and leave to drip for around 8 hours or until all the juice has drained.
I tend to leave mine overnight.
 Take care here as the fruit and juice is very hot and will splash.

5. Prepare the jam jars by washing in hot soapy water and leaving to dry in a just warm oven.
I set mine to around 90c for 10-15 minutes.
6. Measure the juice.
For every 100ml you will need 75g of sugar.

Put the wonderfully thick, gloopy purple juice and sugar into the clean preserving pan, heat over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved, and add the creme de casiss.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until setting point is reached.
I look for a rolling boil on the liquid and then start timing the mixture.
This indicates that you have reached the optimum temperature for the setting point to eventually be achieved.

To check for setting point, pop a saucer into the fridge and allow it to cool.
Drop a small blob of the jam mixture onto the cooled plate and wait about 30 seconds.
Next gently push the jam with your fingertip.
If it crinkles up, you can see it has set.
If the  jam is still quite liquid you need to keep boiling, etc.
7. Skim away any scum from the top of the jelly and fill the jam jars up to the brim.
Cover, seal and label.
This is the really fun bit - you can get some amazing fabrics to make covers, pretty ribbons and you can get very creative with the labels.

I found these labels which are free to download.

Store in a cool, dark place, and this will keep for approx. 6 months.

I have made quite a few jars of this black nectar.
I have some of it ear marked as gifts for lovely people, and the rest we shall scoff on scones or toast.

I hope you get the opportunity to try this recipe with your foraging finds
and until next time, enjoy your day.

Friday, 20 September 2013

I'm so 'egg'cited

Egg Custard

It's back!
 The Great British Bake Off has made a very welcome return to our screens, and as I am sure you all are,
we are glued to our screens on Tuesday evening.
Miss B. is even allowed a late night pass (and on a school night too) to sit with us and enjoy watching this years amazing contestants bake their little hearts out.

Inspired by the egg custard in last weeks show, I decided I should give it a whirl.
The somewhat disastrous results for most of the GBBO bakers made me wonder just what was so difficult about the recipe.
I have to confess it wasn't all that bad, but in fairness I was standing with full instructions in front of me,
 in the safety of my own little kitchen,
and Paul and Mary were not present - more's the pity.

I follow original GBBO winner, Edd Kimber's blog - details to the right here, and by an amazing coincidence, he posted his own recipe for egg custard just last week.
What's not to like about the convenience of that?
It's a bit of an 'egg hungry' recipe, but the whites can be frozen until a later date, or like me, I whipped up an orange curd roulade to feed the 'hive'.

I have detailed the recipe below but you can also check out Edd's recipe here if you would like to. His blog is very good and he has included a video of himself making up the recipe too.
(A little bit too high tech for this little Busy Bee .)

 You will need :

 For the Pastry -
225g plain flour
150g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 large egg

For the custard filling -
350ml single cream
100ml whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 large egg yolks
100g caster sugar
1 nutmeg

1. Lightly grease a 9 inch loose bottom tart tin.

2. To make the pastry, I made use of my lovely Magimix food processor but you can make this by hand if you wish to.
Rub the butter and flour together until it resembles bread crumbs, add the sugar and salt and stir to combine.
Make a small well in the centre of the mix and add the egg.
Stir with a knife to bring the mixture together, and then knead by hand until you have a nice smooth mix.
Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for around 30 minutes to firm up.

3. Roll out the pastry to allow a couple of inches overhand around the tart tin,
I recently bought this fantastic rolling pin which is a monstrous 50cm long.
It is made from beechwood and feels a very substantial piece of kit when you are using it.

Gently lift the rolled out pastry into the tart tin and carefully press into the base.
Pop the tin back into the fridge for a further 30 minutes, to help the pastry keep it's shape whilst baking.

4. Pre heat the oven to 180c

5. Remove the tart from the fridge and line with parchment paper, filling it with baking beans.
Bake in the pre heated oven for approx. 20 minutes.
Remove the tart from the oven and carefully remove the parchment and baking beans.
Place the tart back in the oven for about 5 minutes to dry out the base.
Once the tart has baked, this is Edd's brilliant tip to help prevent the base going soggy once filled with the custard.

6. Take an extra egg yolk and using a pastry brush, coat the entire inside of the tart.
Place this back in the oven for 5 minutes to dry out.

7. Turn the oven down to 130c and make the custard.
Place the cream and milk into a heavy bottom saucepan and set over a medium heat .
Add the vanilla extract and bring the cream to a simmer.

8. Place the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk together.

9. Pour the hot cream over the yolks, whisking continuously.
Yes I'm kneeling on the floor to take this picture
10. Leaving the tart in the oven, pour in the custard and very carefully slide back in to bake.
The tart will be completely filled and it's very easy to spill everywhere when trying to lift from the kitchen bench back into the oven.

11. carefully grate the nutmeg over the top of the tart to suit your taste.

12. Bake for around 30-40 minutes or until set around the outside, but still with a little wobble in the middle.

It's all about the wobble.

Allow the tart to cool completely before trimming off the excess pastry and removing from the tin.

I hope you enjoy the rest of GBBO.
I wonder who will win?
Until next time, enjoy your day.