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.
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.
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:
– 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)
So season’s sprung early, the pan went on and the next time I look up, it’s September ! So for a very, very quick catch up on the last few months, here goes:
Spring started with a hop and a skip into the Marmalade Awards and I was very lucky to win a Silver Award for my Organic Marmalade at this wonderful festival. This world class award is not only open to working marmalade makers, it’s open to everyone so please take a look and support it by entering it’s great fun so go on and give it a go http://www.dalemainmarmaladeawards.co.uk/
Sad times were then to follow, the world’s greatest cook, my inspiration, my mom passed away in my arms. A difficult, and very heart breaking time. It all happened around the time I was filmed for Home Comforts with James Martin, sadly she missed it by just two days! She loved watching James Martin and I am only hoping that she got to see it from above! If you haven’t seen it check it out here /www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8Qar-zphvc. I sat and watched it when it was aired on TV drinking champagne from jam jars with friends
I filled the rest of the days making Jam and fitted in a few other activities which included a jam cocktail master class at The White Buck in Burley along with Conker Gin and Belinda Clarke marshmallows. I also spent a delightful afternoon at Sparsholt food festival giving a jam workshop and managed to fit in the New Forest Show and Carfest as well. To Round off nicely, I was lucky enough to be invited on a fascinating garden tour of the Chewton Glen with Darren and Anne-some of the best gardener’s I know www.chewtonglen.com
So, what’s next? Lunch on the 12th September with the wonderful Dining Divas at the Captains Club Hotel all in aid of a very special charity Oakhaven Hospice www.oakhavenhospice.co.uk