Spring has gently opened her doors and has let in the warmth of a new season’s breeze. It brushes my face with a softness of rose petals. With a promising brighter sun, she entices me to step outside and discover snowdrops and early daffodils. A sight so familiar, yet each spring she delivers these gifts and it’s like the first time it’s ever arrived. As if it’s appeared there just for me to discover. Each flower, each blossom reflexing the open sky and the morning sun. As each ray magically lights up the emerging blossoms, of the hedgerows, teasing and requesting each and every blossom to open into full flower.
It’s at this moment I fall in love with this new season as if it is a first kiss. The ground is still cold but the expectation of new fruit starts to excite my taste buds, as I witness the first crop of rhubarb, pushing her pinks stalks out of the tops of upturned pots used to force these gorgeous delights on. I could dance it’s spring, these pink beauties once picked give me such enthusiasm for the next new season, knowing it is safely underway. I feel she is giving me a glimpse of the bounty yet to come.
Kitchen Garden at the Chewton Glen
So after the marmalade it’s rhubarb time. These pink stalks appear in the garden and my taste buds tingle. It really doesn’t feel like twelve months since I picked the first crop of the year, but it is and it’s back, my favorite rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb…a word that always makes me laugh so I say it again Rhubarb! If you would like to know about this little beauty (you can find facts about it from last year’s blog) but this year I would like to give you a little recipe that is tasty, fun, easy and full of the joys of spring!
A quick Rhubarb & Orange Jam Bread and Butter Pudding.
1 pot of Rhubarb & Orange Jam
400g of sliced bread this need to be about a day old if not two.
2 large eggs and 3 large egg yolks.
A pot of 500ml double cream
250 ml of milk
1 vanilla pod. (you only need the seeds hers so keep the pod and pop it into some sugar)
2 tbsp. of demerara sugar.
The zest of 1 large orange.
Make sandwiches with the bread & Jam and cut into triangles. and place in an ovenproof dish.
Put the milk cream, eggs into a bowl and whisk. Pour over the bread and let it sit over night.( or at least for 1 hour)
Sprinkle over the orange & Sugar and Place in a warmed oven about 180c for about 45 mins.
Serve with Mascarpone cream, or vanilla ice cream.
It’s here the marmalade season and what a wonderful time of year! It’s a t time when the Seville’s arrive. Bright skinned and bushy tailed! Here to warm up our dull days with a little bit of Spanish sunshine, it’s the perfect time to put the pan on.
At this very moment my time is being taken up with moving, so in between batches I find myself moving heavy kitchen equipment and units to a little place along the road in Hordle.
I’m so excited I could dance in my kitchen!
So a new adventure begins… to date I have taken down a wall, stripped the plasterboard away from the walls, ripped the floor up and demolished a built in cupboard.I have also taken out a large work bench and some old kitchen units. My word, its hard work being “Bob the builder”, but its been fun
I have also leveled my first floor! Oh yes me! I did it!
Serious building work is the next step to be taken … Bob help!!! Walls need to be built, plaster boards replaced etc.etc. so its time to call in the professionals, and believe me its not easy being a project manger. My mind wonders …… mm wait a minute; I was once a Stage Manager! so time to manage! As any good Stage Manager would say…. “30 minute call”
In between all of that I am still cooking “Seville’s” from Ava Maria Farm, https://twitter.com/farmavemaria these beauties arriving for a very short time over this dull British winter. Thank goodness its time to stop playing “Bob” and start playing “Paddington”.
Ava Maria Farm
Many marmalade makers the world over take this very seriously, and armed with special “recipe rituals” passed down from generation to generation with the secrets kept locked inside a generation of cooks and marmalade jars, take to the pan with wooden spoon in hand, aim to make a better marmalade than they have every made year in year out they set themselves goals! .This unique marmalade passion has created a wonderful world of “marmalade culture”. So if you have not made marmalade before…. be careful as once you have made a jar…your be addicted! and soon you will be joining, entering and competing at the Marmalade Festival which is held each year in Cumbria at Dalemain House. Where everyone is welcome. http://www.dalemainmarmaladeawards.co.uk
Now my favorite recipes change, depending on the fruit. But I always rely on my Moms recipe it is almost always right but to be honest its not that different to Nigel Slaters, which won me a Silver at the said marmalade awards! Although I’m not one for believing in magic, BUT!!!! if you have never made marmalade or even if you have and you would like to try some marmalade magic! then this is little find is for you .READ the The kitchen diaries II, page 50 something I always read before I start with the marmalade cooking. I would even go so far as to say… don’t make marmalade without reading it first, its contains magic and every jar will set.
Nigel’s words are like fragments of a day I once had with my Mom, it brings back marmalade memories of her, her kitchen and how much she loved the garden. My next batch is for you Mom… and yes, I will sing “bring me sunshine” even if it is blowing a wild one as it is today. ( and I promise to save my sister a jar or two, although no jar will ever be as good as yours X).
Christmas would not be the same without gifts, no matter what it may be. A little something goes a long way. I do find it so easy giving it makes me feel wonderful, knowing that the receiver recognizes how I do appreciate the moments when a kind word was said a little time given or a meal was shared.
However I would not like to overlook one of the most important aspects of my life the seasons, and nature. I feel they this too needs a token of Christmas thanks. So not wanting to leave anyone thing out, at this time of year I pop out to the Forest to thank you to nature for providing me with berries and delights throughout the seasons. So myself and my children will gather together some fruit & vegetables and take then onto the forest. (this is known in our house as the Forest fairy hunt).
We pop into the Forest and go in search of grazing deer, guided by the bird song, when we do find them, we gently whisper our home address to let them know where to stop on the 24th December. Once they have heard we scattering some bird food as a thank you for letting us talk to the animals. Our journey continues into the Forest where we search for the magical christmas. tree, a wonderful decorated tree shining in a bare leafless wood. We marvel at the tree and the magic of woodland fairies . Its a perfect place to offer our gifts so we replace the baulbes with the fruit & vegetables, and thank the Forest for its joy and gifts throughout the year. Be it either wonderful walks, hedgerow fruit or simply,enjoying the forest floor as a picnic table.
Each year our story for Christmas changes, but as our story changes our gratitude towards the seasons and nature grows stronger, as we continue to discover something new about our surrounding. As a forager we can only be thankful for this miracle, it is truly a Christmas gift I treasure each day. So thank you trees, thank you hedgerows and thank you wildlife for letting me gather some of your bounty. May the winter be kind and the berries grow. Merry Christmas to you. Xx
It’s been raining hard down here on the south coast and today at last we were lucky enough to see the big yellow thing in the sky! Sunshine! So without further due I was out with basket in hand gathering the rosehips. My favorite jewels of the fruit forages crown the beautiful romantic rosehips. What a word go on whisper it, listen to her name “rosehips” as it leaves your lips. (it feels like a kiss does it not?)
Rose plants are native to Asia but many originate from Europe, North America, and northwest Africa. These beautiful plants delight us in the summer with their fragrant flowers that in turn return as jewels of the forest, in the form of the hips. I do enjoy this plant it looks as good as it tastes the petals make a wonderful jam , and she returns to feed us once more in the winter months with a hip, which is beautiful and tastes unique.
This beauty has been around for a while and was first documented in history in the first century AD by Pithany the Elder who wrote many books one of them “Book 24 :Drugs obtained from the Forest Tress” which mentions the health benefits and cures from rosehips. The plant gets another brief outing in history again during the Middle-Ages, being labelled as a sacred gift. It was grown in church yards and the Catholics would use the hips to make their rosary. (The Rosary!). It appears in the history books again in full battle dress to help out during the war as these little gems of the forest are not only wonderful to taste, but are high in vitamin C, it is perhaps one of the richest plant sources of this vitamin. I am lead to believe it rivals the orange! But did you know that it also contains the vitamins E, A and D, alongside antioxidant flavonoids so get picking.
Which is just want I did today I popped over to the Chewton Glen where I forage their fruit and hedgerows to make jam for the hotel. And today I made rosehip syrup.
And here is the recipe.
1 kg of rosehips
5 litres of water
350g of sugar
Top and tail the rose hips and pop them into a food process for a short wiz to chop them up. (if not use gloves and chop the hips up to as small as you can manage)
Place hips into your jam pan (or large saucepan and add 1.5 litres of water bring to the boil and simmer for 15 -20 minutes or so. Strain the pulp through a jelly bag and let it drip, for at least 20 minutes once cold enough squeeze as much liquid as possible through the bag.
Once you have completed this return the hips to the pan and repeat the process, using the rest of the water. And again drip through your bag.
Take all your collected juice and place into a large wide pan and simmer until you have 1 litre of hip juice left add the sugar and stir don’t boil the syrup until all the sugar has been dissolved. Bring to the boil and skim of any scum.
Finally pour into sterilized bottles or jars, lid and keep in cool place. This should keep up to 3 months.