August 29, 2011
So, the latest venue for the Bare Cupboard Tour Of South London 2011 is Penge. Another friend on holiday, another chance to spread myself out in a lovely house.
And this one has an equally lovely garden attached to it – one that is, at the moment, an abundance of tomato plants. From crimson-dark pop-in-your-mouth cherry tomatoes to great big knobbly orange ones, never has the word ‘glut’ been more appropriate. (Don’t ask me what varieties they are – I’m an eater not a grower!)
One of the prerequisites of my staying in the Munyama home while they were away was to use up said tomatoes, and, if I could be bothered, to make something nice with them that the family could enjoy when they get back.
The original idea was to make a green tomato chutney, as both Nicky (the tomato-fingered home-owner) and I thought there’d be plenty of unripe ones to use up. However, when I got round to weighing the two heaving bowlfuls of ripe tomatoes I’d picked, I found I already had nearly three kilos!
I did my usual thing of trawling recipes – online and in print form – and came up with a general idea of how I wanted my chutney to taste. I ignored the many recipes that had raisins in the ingredient list, but sensing that something fruity is a necessity in a chutney like this, I went for some apple. And, instead of using white wine vinegar, which seems to be the most popular, I thought I’d use cider vinegar to complement the apple.
The spices I kept simple – white mustard seeds, ground ginger and coriander, with a couple of green chillies thrown in for a little bit of a kick.
The other essential ingredients for a chutney – some roughly chopped onion, brown sugar and salt – were added to the pot, and I set it to boil for about an hour.
I’d worked out the proportions based on a recipe that had used about one and a half kilos of tomatoes, adding extra vinegar and sugar in what I hoped were the right amounts.
In terms of flavour, it was perfect – warm and spicy, with a delicious fresh sweetness – but I was left with rather a lot of liquid. I would definitely use less vinegar next time, adding less sugar too, so the balance of sweet and sour is right.
Even after draining off the excess liquid, I still had enough chutney to fill four half litre jars – and, having read somewhere that a spoonful of chutney in a stew is a rather tasty addition, I bottled the remaining tomato juices and will keep them for such an event.
Now, my jars of spiced tomato and apple chutney are sitting in a cool, dark place awaiting their moment of truth. I – and the soon-to-return Munyama family – will keep you posted.
May 6, 2010
I have a feeling that today’s general election is going to leave something of a bitter taste in my mouth – I don’t think I’ve ever entered a polling booth feeling quite so pessimistic.
So, last night I thought I’d attempt to relieve that bitterness with a little sweet treat – something that not only used some of my cupboard stocks, but also has a vaguely political edge to it.
Parlies – or Scottish parliament cakes – are, in fact, biscuits originating from Edinburgh about 300 years ago. Made with black treacle and ginger, they curiously became extremely popular with members of the then Scottish parliament – hence the name Parlies. I have no idea why these particular biscuits should gain such an odd following, but such is life…
The recipe I have is from one of those dinky little regional cookbooks that you can buy in souvenir shops in chocolate-box villages everywhere from the West Highlands to Cornwall.
The list of the ingredients suggested using black treacle or golden syrup, but, as I have an amount of both that needed to be finished (plus, if I’m honest, black treacle is not one of my favourite things), I put a spoonful of both in.
All the ingredients are combined into a fairly firm biscuit dough, then spooned into roughly shaped blobs on a baking tray. Into the oven for about 20 minutes, and out come some toffee-coloured, fairly soft biscuits.
Me being me, I couldn’t resist trying one straight from the oven, and although it was nice enough, I wasn’t entirely sure what James VI and his comrades were so enthusiastic about.
However, once I’d left the Parlies to cool, they turned into the most delicious crunchy, spiced, treacly biscuits.
Well, I’ve cast my vote, and now we just have to wait for the results. So, in the meantime, I shall settle down with a cup of coffee and a couple of Parlies…
March 26, 2010
My work colleague Zoe recently gave me some lovely fresh lemongrass, which her dad had brought back from Thailand. Instead of using it in the usual Thai curries, I thought I’d see if I could find a sweet recipe.
I found a number of cakes that had this delicate herb in the list of ingredients, but nothing really grabbed me. Until I spotted this recipe for lemongrass, ginger and sesame biscuits.
Perfect, I thought. Especially as I had a jar of sesame seeds in my cupboard that I wanted to use up. (Don’t you just love it when something crops up like this that conveniently takes care of the dregs of your cupboard?)
Apart from some arm-aching grinding of spices, it was very simple to put these biscuits together, and they really are a taste sensation. Thin, crispy and nice’n’spicy, I’d highly recommend trying them.