Over the last 3 months I have undertook to restore a walled garden. A garden I found lost derelict and unloved, its a garden that Lewis Carol used in the Book Alice in Wonderland. The first book I read. Also not sure if I have told you but my mum was a brilliant chef and my dad a gardener. So this was a project calling out for me, so without a second thought I took on the challenge to restore and loving bring back this beauty. So I have drafted in the help of a few lovely friends and together our project will and has already, produced some home grown produce, organically and biodynamic for naked jam preserves, local hotels, discerning chefs, and other outlets such as Love to b who use all natural products in their wonderful skin care ranges. The garden will also become a venue in its own right. Although a while off from being perfect, we have already booked a number of events. Alongside the edible plants, we are growing cut flowers for wedding parties and empty vases!
One of the plans for the garden is to link it with a charity project “A cook in your Kitchen” which myself and a few friends set up last year. Brief details listed below.
To help people provide healthy home cooked meals for their families
To help people reduce their weekly food shopping bills
To help households reduce their household food waste.
The project will initially be run as a pilot and fully evaluated to test the viability of setting up a self- supporting social enterprise.To train a team of home cooks to go into customers homes and help families develop their cooking, budgeting and recycling skills .To record via a questionnaire survey the customers cooking , budgeting and recycling skills prior to the visit and after the home training session.
If you would like us to grow anything for you or your like to visit our walled garden please get in touch, I love to show you around and inspire you to grow too. Or indeed help with our charity project please get in touch. Jen X
5 years ago I entered the World Marmalade Awards and won a bronze for my Seville with Cacao it was an epic day it lead me to decided that this is what really makes my world go around. So I thank Dalemain House for giving me the confidence that started me on this epic journey, this road has consisted of late nights and even hospital visits as I have fallen out of a trees. So thank you. (I am giving the world marmalade awards a rest, no other reason than I didn’t post it on time yet again!)
So now I make jam and the very fact you all wanted to buy eat and enjoy it well is nothing more than fabulous. Time has flown by and I moved out of my home kitchen, to one I built, started to keep bees, planted more fruit and vegetables, teamed up with the Chewton Glen to forage sustainably. So far so good.
I’ve lived and loved every minute, every disaster, every high, every low, they have all been fantastic. Although I feel that I may have lost the plot from time to time! But you, my friends, my children and my family have been there always encouraging me, every step of the way believing in me. Which means so much to me it hard to put into words.
So thank you all for supporting me in every way be it small large for helping me forage be it picking crab apples Carol,(Daisy cake company)or for growing them Darren Venables, to believing in my wacky ideas Martyn Nail, Luke Mathews, Leckford Farm, and of course the many bar tenders who have invited me in to help develop products cocktails and use jam in ways that made toast curl !
If I was to say I love what I do, it would underestimate the passion I have and my urgent need to cook everyday. I am always up early and chomping at the bit to get into the kitchen. So as I stop and reflect on the past five years, I shall share with you a few moments below.
Antonio Carluccio at Leckford Farm shop opening
Waitrose Charimans Award 2013
BBC Children in Need Carfest
Lunch Break with the Fabulous Baker Boys
Food & Drinks Award Hampshire
Foraging with nothing but the Bear essentials
Cooking at the Hotel & Catering Show
Cooking with Luke Mathews (my hero)
Talking Foraging with Estate Manger Darren Venables
The Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa ) is found in many hedgerows and across the countryside but most importantly in the many hedgerows on the Chewton Glen Estate and recently Estate Manger Darren Venables tweeted a wonderful picture capturing the moment of this years flowering. It was beautiful. My mind heart skipped a beat. Its such an exciting time when nature starts to let you in to her little secrets and plans. And so the Blackthorn moments of glory is upon us before even his leaves appear giving this shrub a little glamour in the bare hedgerows. A perfectly formed elegant flower as white and as soft as a cloud on a beautiful blue day.
The flower is so delicate its almost a shame to pick the beauty from the bush. But crystallised they are perfect for cake decorations or simply served in a light salad.
When the leaves arrive they too can used, to be infused for making a tea. However most people tend to pick from this wonderful gift of nature when the year is almost over and the frost have given these particular berries a little coating to ensure they are perfect for your making your gin. Yes its the sloe bush, that many people can and do use in lots of recipes. However most people I know only ever make gin from them. (and why not). Yet they make a wonderful inclusion to a hedgerow jelly and a fantastic addition to an ice cream especially if they have been used to make gin first!
But before all of those recipes try this one. They would look great on a chocolate cake. Simple, perfect elegant.
An easy Recipe for crystallising flowers:
Ingredients Edible Flowers
An egg white that has been stired with a folk but not beaten.
Equipment a model paint brush ( the type yo get with an air-fix model)
If you have picked the flowers yourself be sure to check for little flies bugs etc.
Dip your paint brush n the egg white and carry fully paint the petals.
Dust with the caster sugar and leave to dry on parchment paper for a few hours.
As you know I am a fan of this particular farm in Spain their love and passion for growing organic oranges spreads across from Spain to our shores and into our kitchens like rays of the sun. You can buy these beauties from River Ford Organics, or Waitrose and a few independent retailers. This week on BBC radio Solent I talk about the farm marmalade making and here is the recipe the wonderful farmers send with their beautiful orange:
Ingredients: 1 kilo of Ava Marie Seville Oranges.
2.5 kilos of sugar.
Weight the empty pan and note it down (for stage 12)
Wash the oranges and lemon dry.
cut out the pips, saving them in a cup.
Cut the peel of the oranges and lemon into shreds.
Place the fruit into a stainless steel container.
Weight it and or every half of kilo of fruit add 1.5 litres of water.
From this measured water,take out a drop to cover the pips in the cup. If the measured water reaches 3 litres, remove 1/4 of litre.
Leave to soak over night.
The Following morning place the pips and the gelatine in a muslin sack and tie it to the handle of the pot, where you are going to cook the marmalade.
Squeeze the bag thoroughly and make sure it stays in the water with the peels.
Boil everything for approximately one hour until the peels are soft. ( make sure its a soft boil and cover with a lid or make a foil lid so that the liquid does not evaporate too much.)
Remove from the heat and weight the pan. Take away the weight of the pan and for each kilo of fruit add 1 kilo of sugar.
Slowly sir in the sugar until it has dissolved. Once it has dissolved slowly bring it to a rolling boil (stir continuously)
Cook for about half an hour to a maximum of 45 minutes.
take the pan off the heat when you are checking for setting point. To check for setting point you will need to remove a small amount from the pan and place on drop onto your plate that in the fridge. once it has cooled on the plate you can do the wrinkle check, pushing the marmalade with your finger and it will wrinkle.
Once you are satisfied with the set, pour into clean sterilised jars, lid and leave to cool.
Useful information and tips:
To sterilise jars wash and place in an oven for 10 mins. leave in the oven until required.
When cooking marmalade, you will feel it thicken when you stir the marmalade with your wooden spoon, the more you cook marmalade the earlier it will be to recognise the texture change whilst cooking. Just before she sets it starts to shimmer and glow turning silky.
Its that time of year and the sky turning orange as well as my kitchen.
Winter is finally arriving (hopefully !) and I’ve fallen in love with him all over again yes he is round, dimpled skinned, and bitter, the Seville orange or as its is in Spain the naranjas. This beautiful word I believe originates from the Sanskrit language meaning fragrant. If you can visit Spain in the spring, then you must each street is filled with the aroma or azahar, it is intoxicating and you will fall in love with a flower. So if you get chance go and visit such cities as Serville, Cordba and Malaga and experience the magic.
But now I’m in not so sunny England, I am dreaming of oranges and my mind can only think of marmalade making, and as most marmalade makers will tell you its about the process and rituals that make their version the best ever and so they are, each and every jar. Their hand me down recipes, generations old recipes, even new modern recipes, on line recipes and cut of of a magazine recipes, all make their marmalade special and I’m no different my ritual beings on page 50 of Nigel Slater’s Kitchen diaries II, its almost like a poem to me, I’ve read it so often. He is our nation treasure he tells a story that bring the recipes to life that you just have to cook them right there and then.
So I turn to read page 50 and his words fill my head and even without an orange I feel the zest in the air , I see the rose garden of my family home and my mum and while I smile at his misfortune at as the zest hits his rose pruned thumbs, it reminds me it’s time to prune the roses! Then my childhood memories leap onto the page with taste of marmalade right out of the pan, I see my mum in her rose garden. Its all perfect and I am so thankful to page 50, and so it becomes the best page ever written.
I’m a happy cook, contented in my kitchen, feeding the jars to be enjoyed with toast, in cakes in cocktails or even straight out the jar! Thanks to my mum. So be inspired get out to your local Waitrose and buy the best Huerta Ava María Seville oranges (the only supermarket to stock the organic oranges) and cook marmalade, take the time, and let the sunshine in.
A few facts about oranges!
Now where was I? Oranges! did you know that Spain exported around 150 million tonnes of oranges each year! That incredible and out of that an amazing 15,000 tonnes of Seville produced are exported to the United Kingdom for marmalade. No wonder Paddington left Peru to find his new home in London he must have heard about the fruit markets. (source http://www.fao.org/)
“The fruit is a type of berry and sweet oranges belong to the species Citrus sinensis (the bitter Seville oranges are C. aurantium).”
“Oranges are thought to have their origin in a sour fruit growing wild in the region of South West China and North East India as early as 2,500 BC. For thousands of years these bitter oranges were used mainly for their scent, rather than their eating qualities”.
First introduced into Spain more than a thousand years ago by the Moors, No puedo agradecerles lo suficiente!
naranjas sanguinas is the name for blood orange and a firm favourite of mine. Great in cocktails.
Check out my recipe page for recipes and ideas all about oranges this month.