9th January 2016

I look out of the windows and the skies are still dark from the night, the clouds are racing in from the west, broken one looks like a pearl diver, searching into the bright patches of blue from the east. But the grey is catching up, and as I watch the sunrise quickens highlighting the horizon, the blue is now engulfed by the grey, the warming colours of the sun shines behind each shade giving edge lines as if I had drawn them with a charole pencil.  Will the east wins over the west? and blue and pink sky fill the day? but the wind is stronger and the blue is slowly dismissed as the clouds take advantage of the head wind.

I stare and listen to the wind I can hear the seagulls I look into the deeping sky and marvole at its beautify, gulls  litter the skyline standing out like cut out silhouettes, they coast on the thermals as they take advantage of the wind.

The sycamore at the end of the garden towers and I watch crows perch and shout out their ownership of the tree. I scan my garden and the children’s climbing and swing frames are like skeletons that are rarely played with now, but  I hold on them, so to recall last summers moments as if its an insurance, that if frames stay I will not forgot the days. Each swing, bars fills my heart with their young giggles, but soon the frames will have to be re-homed as time moves and the very fact my lovelies are too big for them to play on them.

The whole garden looks cold, wind swept and lonely, or perhaps its my guilt of not really doing much with her  this winter using the excuse that its too wet to walk on the grass. Its to wet to mess with her for fear of doing  her damage. When really its my lack of time that has kept me away from the her. 

I turn and the cherry tree is in need of a pruning and so are the other fruit tress, but dare not, as I see buds! This mild winter, has confused nature as it has confused me, what to do? I wait, and I watch I’m sure nature will let me know the right time.  I pop out into the green house, I tidy and plan, I dream and image of what delights of the spring. 

The day is here and I am now on my second coffee pot, and while I watch the world awake on the social internet marvelling at attention to nature and photos of morning everywhere and just how we the love of the Earth.  I return to my cooking books looking for inspired post Christmas treats, it is Saturday after all, and as I read into one, my attention is held by “a Summers day biscuit” recipe with rose and almond two of my favourite things. I return to prune the roses, but with within minutes I am back in the kitchen.  Its started to rain! 

I need some comfort today and I don’t mean a Casserole, although an cassoulet would be nice for lunch. I dive into my cupboard bring out the rose infused sugar I made last summer so now I am going to make these biscuits and enjoy then when the children finally rise out of bed!  Bring moments back of last summer into today. 

 

The Book Nigel Slaters a year of good eating: 

Find the recipe look no further than on pg 206 of Nigel Slaters a year of good eating. I will substitute the caster sugar in the almond filling for rose sugar and for the decoration.

I post the photos of the delight later on naked jam facebook page.

 

 

naranjas

seville

Seville Marmalade Oranges

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, and I can’t thank them enough!

naranjas sanguinas is the name for blood orange and a firm favourite of mine.

Check out my recipe page for recipes and ideas all about oranges this month. 

 

 

In 2015, I Built this!

Its been a rather busy year and I just wanted to show you what I built:

20151028_144806

In January I moved out of my old unit in search of something a little more me, I look high and low and nothing suited, until I come across, a place that at the time was not resemble anything like a kitchen, it was a furniture shop!

I worried, I questioned and even argued with myself and I did just wonder if it was the right move. I spoke to the very nice man(landlord) Mr Stuart Bailey who said it could be anything you want, if  your like it then go a head and change whatever you want to make it yours.

I looked and looked and walked around this little place, then I noticed the garden, a place for me to grown my own fruit, a greenhouse, and even a place for my next project bee keeping.   So I signed on the dotted line and armed with a plan, a sledge hammer, and lots of  hours learning DIY on YouTube. I set off to turn it into a commercial kitchen that I could cook in.

So here is  the story in pictures .   

 

Before, The wall is covered in wallpaper

unit2

Stage 1 rip out every thing!

unit5

Wall paper off! Plaster board off the walls.

unit11

Wall built

unit12 floor

Screed floor

unit14 floor

Damp proofing

unitbighole

hole for the fan

unit view from big hole

View from the hole

unit 16

Flooring down

rhubarb grown and picked

Rhubarb

bee expanding

The Bee Team

 

A Foragers Christmas Tree

tree 99

 

A Foragers Christmas Tree

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 that 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

Chestnuts

 

Chestnuts

chestnuts nuts2 chestnuts

I’ve always had an instinct and natural urge for foraging, that has continued to push me outside.

As no matter where you are, no matter the time of year there always something to find to eat!. Foraging has always played a big part in my life but now it’s also instrumental to my work. Apart from the free food  there are other benefits too. Exercise and this time of year leaf kicking is a great way to feel young! I am sure that I did once hear on radio 4 that there is something fundamental and beneficial about the bacteria on the leafs. That it is good for us to breathe in when kicking up the leaves during autumn, unfortunately I can’t remember all the details!

So on a bright  afternoon, after the fog had cleared, I was off to forage for jam in the ground of the Chewton Glen, I take my usual route through the cut, across the road and then into the small woodland. I just can’t help but kick up the leaves, it’s then I notice them, little furry green husks, spiky balls and they are holding their very own crown jewels beautiful little brown chestnuts!

I’ve found treasure! wow o wow,  I had almost forgotten about these little beauties I’ve been so busy with hedgerow fruits recently, just how could I forget about the season’s best tasting nut! So without a thought for rose hips I was down on damp ground picking through the leaves and gathering chestnuts.

walkthe nuts

So while my jeans were gathering mud as I rustled in the leaves,  the moment begins to rekindles memories, and as always my memories always seem to start in the our family kitchen with my mum.  I would watch her put together some wonderful recipes and I wish now I take a pen to paper and written them all down. But the smell of these chestnuts takes me to her kitchen, while after foraging for  those angry spiky furry balls, we would pick out the nuts, and that distinct aromas of burnt ambers, almost earthy yes the chestnuts were roasting. Or we store the beauties for use later in the Christmas stuffing.

But what else did she do apart from the stuffing ? I hold still, kneeing on the wet ground trying hard to bring back “Christmas past”,  I laugh! All I think of is the exploding chestnuts in the rayburn ( I haven’t forgotten to pierce the chestnuts since!)

 I giggle and while I’m thinking, I get a message from Darren Venables, the wonderful head gardener from the Chewton Glen, he suggests a roast chestnut party just,  what I was thinking! but hey what about a Jam? There is plenty here. 

It’s not that we won’t have a party, however being a little obsessed  with jam, I just can’t help but think about making a jam,  it’s in my bones.

I dig deep and finally remember this recipe something that I made some many moons ago. So without rambling on! here’s the recipe:

 

Chestnut (Jam)

 

– 1 kg of chestnuts

– 650g of vanilla sugar (can use granulated sugar if you wish)

– one vanilla pod (optional depends how much your sugar tastes of vanilla )

– Juice of a lemon

(check last blogs for sterilising jars etc)

 

  • Chestnuts have two skins so first your need to peel the outer skin it’s a little difficult and your need a sharp knife and insert it at the top of the nut and carefully peel away the first layer.
  • Then pop them into a large pan of boiled water and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, then remove the chestnuts a little at a time and peel the second layer of skin.
  • Once you have skinned all the nuts it can take some time. (I promise if I find a faster way or a tool to do this with I’ll let you know)
  • Now the messy bit press the chestnuts though a sieve to remove the husky bits. (this is the non technical bit and other jam makers hate this bit. if you add equal amounts of sugar to the nuts as you would in jam then your get a rather sweet jam nothing wrong with it).
  • However I like more of a chestnut taste so asto be more versatile so like to use less sugar.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 20-30mins and bring to a rolling boil check for the set (softer than fruit jams) and pot in sterilised jars.

 

This is great in a chestnut bellini and of course on pancakes it’s heaven

Its pairs very well with whiskey so great for a cake! (or even in a whiskey)

 

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Jennifer Williams

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