Since June I’ve been regularly checking on a tree when I walk the dogs. At first it had tiny green berries and by early July they looked like small green olives. Excitement mounted as they began to colour, just tinges of purple at first, but they didn’t seem to grow any bigger because of the relentless heat we had. Busyness meant I didn’t take that route for a while and then last week I jumped with joy, they were starting to ripen. I had a bag with me intending to pick blackberries but instead I picked windfalls. Have you guessed what they are yet?
Who needs blackberries when there are damsons? Last year there were so few that they weren’t worth picking, but now they are all over the ground under the tree. I don’t think that anyone else picks them, can you believe that? They are in a public place that has a good number of walkers and yet they just fall and go to waste, except for the birds and squirrels. Perhaps because its in a city rather than the country, people don’t know what they are or what to do with them. Doesn’t anyone else like damson jam or blackberry and apple pie? Surely one of the joys of summer is going to pick blackberries? I love to get free food, and spreading damson jelly on my toast through the dark winter helps to make it tolerable.
What do you gather? Or am I the last of a dying breed of hedgerow raiders?
Why not go hunting in your area and see what you can find? If you’re not sure what to pick, ask an old woman like me or of course just do an image search on the internet. Foraging is the perfect way to spend a summer evening.
I told you about runner beans recently, and both Tess and Madhu asked if I would share the recipe. Well as I think it’s delicious, even though I actually can’t stand runner beans then it would be rude not to!
So here goes.
You will need
1lb runner beans
3/4lb sugar – half and half soft brown and demerara is good
3/4 tablespoon ground turmeric
3/4 tablespoon mustard powder
3/4 tablespoon cornflower
3/4 pint malt vinegar
Optional but nice – 1 teaspoon curry or ginger powder
Top, tail and de-string the beans – a mix of young and old will make for a good texture chop them quite small, I made them about a centimeter square , and boil until tender.
Finely chop the onions (cry if you have to) and boil in most of the vinegar until soft.
Mix the rest of the ingredients with the left over vinegar, drain the beans and mix the lot into one pan. Boil this up for about 15 minutes.
Put the chutney into clean, sterilised jars – remembering not to put hot chutney into cold glass.
You’re supposed to leave it for at least a month before eating, but I’ve never done what I’m supposed to do!
Let me know if you try it or if you have a better runner recipe to share.
Oh and the brown stuff in the background is beetroot and apple!
But it never was. Just now, for the umpteenth time recently, I’ve been picking, de-stringing and chopping runner beans. As I stood there I remembered some of the many years I’ve done this, since I was a little girl, perhaps five or six. I always helped my grandparents, I loved it, the bright green of the pod and then inside, the pinky red of the bean. It made me feel grown up to use a sharp veggie knife, as I opened the pod, the fresh scent and juice transferred itself to my little hands.
I doubt many five year olds would slice beans these days, their parents would be worried that they would cut themselves. Even my own children didn’t, there were too many other things to do. Perhaps that’s the problem, too much doing of techy things, TV, computers and games consoles. Making connections, just I am now, with the virtual world, instead of getting hands on and mucky.
Well I’m glad I know how to prepare runner beans. I didn’t like them back then, and I still don’t. I have discovered that they may delicious spicy chutney though, so I’ll keep on chopping.
I never did cut myself either, in fact I’m more likely to now, I’m far more blasé. I didn’t burn myself on a hot pan back then either, but in between writing this post and chopping beans I’ve been making blackcurrant jelly. Not only did I burn myself but I also let it boil all over onto the hob , making a sticky red mess to clear up!
Yesterday I went to the RHS garden, Rosemoor at Great Torrington, North Devon, you may have seen my rose photos. What I didn’t know until I got there, was that they were having a local food festival. There was fish, preserves, cheese, cider, wonderful sausages and ethically produced meat and the strongest chilli chocolate I’ve ever tasted. I wasn’t going to let it beat me, but I bought a milder bar with coffee added. The bread was gorgeous, I chose a densely textured, dark loaf with apple that is perfect on its own or with the tiniest sliver of cheese.
My favourite stand by far was Tom’s Cakes. Tom has a little shop in Combe Martin where he sells heavenly mousses and bavarois, truffles, tarts and loads more indulgent, diet busting, delights. My photos do not do them justice, they are exquisite, but look at these and drool.
They are made with pate sablee pastry, real vanilla and must be the best outside of France. Tom has won Gold awards for his Blueberry Frangipane, and White Chocolate and Rasberry Bavarois in the Taste of the West Awards. There are a couple of wedding cakes on his website, have a peep. http://www.northdevoncakes.co.uk/#/photos/4572073167
the most ridiculous news story goes to . . .
Only in Essex, unless you can tell me otherwise?
I’m sure the ones in the photo above were delicious and very safe, photo by http://100cookbooks.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/dairyfree-vegan-flapjacks/
Mayumi over at http://bonusparts.wordpress.com/ saw that I had made soup for lunch yesterday and asked if I would share the recipe, so this is my style of cooking. I’m lazy, busy and disorganised. Other then traditional cake baking, Victoria Sandwich for instance, where to make it work the 4-4-2 is best, my philosophy is that if I like the flavours then most things will go together.
I often make soup, its quick, tasty and easy. Yesterdays was butternut squash and it goes something like this.
Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and stickly orange stuff, drizzle a tiny bit of oil and roast it until its soft when you burn your fingers squeezing it. If you’re in a rush don’t bother roasting just peel it, chop it up and shove it in a big pan. Add a chopped up carrot or two – or don’t if you don’t have any. A red pepper, deseeded, roasted or not, two if the squash is large. If you have a chilli put in as much as you feel like bearing in mind that this soup is supposed to be sweet rather than hot, unless you prefer hot! You MUST put in an onion or two (that’s obvious isn’t it?), preferably red but if not … you get the picture. An extra special addition for me is African Gold (see https://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/the-african-chef-the-next-big-thing/ )
I had a little sweet potato from last week that needed using so I put it in, but you don’t have to … unless you especially want to. Same applies with tomatoes, fresh or tinned, if you feel like it or have a glut, put them in. Add some water, some stock cubes, salt and pepper and bring to boil, reduce the heat and cook until its cooked. Depending on how much you put in at first you might want to add more water, or not if you like really thick soup. Oh I forgot, grate some fresh ginger in at some point. If you don’t have any, you can use ground instead, I don’t expect anyone will know. This is a smooth soup, so let it cool a bit and then blend it. I use a hand blender and it spirts all over the place but guess what? I’m too lazy to get the food processor out!
This was delicious yesterday and today some will go into a flask for a beach warm up, and it freezes well. It may be a bit odd, but I’m a good cook and I even have cookery books, but if a recipe has more than eight or so ingredients I can’t be bothered with it. It’s much more fun just playing. Of course if somethings turns out spectacular, it can never be reproduced, heyho, I’ll just try something else.