I’m always really excited when I find a fig tree – like something in me forgets that I live in England now, and I’ve yet to pick a ripe fig from a tree – even here in the very South of England.
Fortunately a South African friend of mine invited me round to her house last year, and out of her cupboard she brought a jar of green fig preserve, reminding me how, back home, we used to deal with the figs before the birds could get to them.
This is one of many recipes – in reading up on it, I realise that it’s also something the Turkish do, so who knows how it made it’s way into the South African diet – to me it’s definitely a South African staple, so here’s the recipe, should you too have access to a big fig tree that never bears fruit. You’ll never look back.
Two things: it’s a bit fiddly to get the figs to the point of ready, but well worth the effort. Also, I don’t tend to add the spices in the boil. I add them to jars when they’re ready to be bottled up – this means I might have a fig and cardamom, a fig and cinnamon or a fig and clove, slightly different flavours, which keeps it fun and exciting.
Sometimes the figs we find are really big – too big to fit into gifting or ‘single portion’ (aka, enough for one meal) jars. If that’s the case, halve or quarter the figs before adding them to the sugar syrup. It doesn’t look as pretty in the jar, but in reality, when you pull them out to eat on your crackers you would rarely eat a whole one on a single cracker anyway.
Spices (cloves, cinnamon stick or cardamom all work well)
Juice of 1 lemon
Bring a pot of water to boil - just enough to cover the figs. Add the figs and boil for ten minutes. Empty out and refill the pot, bringing the figs to boil and boiling for another ten minutes. This is important, as it's what makes them lose the bitter/unripe taste.
Drain and leave to cool.
Once cool enough to touch, squeeze the figs - there may may be some white liquid that drains out. If there's still a lot of white juice, boil again for ten more minutes, then squeeze again. It seems fiddly, but is well worth it!
In a clean pot, bring the 1.250ml water to boil and add sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the squeezed figs. They will resume their original shape during this process, unless of course, you've cut them.
Add the spices of choice* and boil figs in the sugar syrup for about 25 minutes. Add the lemon juice and boil 5 minutes more.
Pour into sterilised jars, making sure the syrup covers the figs. *I tend to leave out the spices in the previous step and add different spices into the jars at this point so that I have different spice varieties. Close while hot to create a vacuum seal.
Keep in a cool dark place, and transfer to the fridge once opened as it's actually best cold, served with goats cheese and parma ham - or just goats cheese if you're veggie.
Lavender Sugar is one of those things I’ve always looked at and loved the idea of, but never really known what to do with. I’ve always liked crystallised lavender – it’s both pretty and tasty – but aside from medicinal or household use, I’ve never really known how to actually use lavender in food. Partly due to its strong flavour and partly due to its very floral flavour, it’s something you have to use with care, but should definitely use! Making lavender sugar couldn’t really be simpler – the two ingredients are in the name, after all. If you don’t have a food processor you can just mix the two and stir, but I like making the sugar just a little finer, so it’s not so crunchy. Be careful though – I don’t like making it icing sugar either! Just a finely granulated sugar is perfect.
Leave the lavender for a week or so, allowing the flavours to infuse thoroughly into the sugar. You can make Lavender Sugar ahead as a hostess gift, Christmas gifts, wedding favours and other gifting opportunities, and even include a recipe card or two with the jar. It’s a cheap and beautiful gift to make!
Make the Lavender Sugar two weeks before you’re going to gift it, and make sure to leave instructions to use withing 9 -12 months, so aside from drying out, I can’t image the lavender would go bad!
I’ve been enjoying the summer weather lately, and been loving the entertainment opportunities that presents too. When I have guests though, I like having pre-prepared, or quick to prepare meals as I don’t like spending ages in the kitchen! That’s just one of the reasons I really enjoy this Calamari, Tomato & Basil Pasta: it’s easy to prepare before hand, leaving just 10 minutes cooking time required.
I prefer to use fresh pasta when pasta is the main part of the meal, so I’ve used fresh pasta in this recipe. Dry pasta works, but needs to be cooked for longer. It can also be served in a salad, or with quinoa or other starch of your choice.
Use a good quality squid for this recipe too – nothing worse than leathery calamari!
Now, if you want to prepare this meal for later cooking, chop the garlic cloves, wash and dry the cherry tomatoes – halve them if they are the larger variety – wash the squid, clean it and cut it into rings, and chop the basil leaves roughly. Store all the items in the fridge till about 20 minutes before you’re going to cook them, leaving it to warm to room temperature a little.
If your calamari loses a lot of liquid in the cooking, you can pour it out about before adding the cherry tomatoes.
Serve immediately – and if you’re having wine, Calamari, Tomato & Basil Pasta pairs really well with a dry white wine, like a Pinot Grigio – a wine I don’t normally like, but it works fantastically with this. Another alternative is Riesling.
There's a lot of flexibility in this recipe, with room for adaptations to make it your favourite. You may not like anchovies, but don't miss them out as they really add to the flavour of this dish.
Author: Keeper of the Kitchen
Pasta for four people
2tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves
4 anchovy fillets
250g cherry tomatoes, washed and dried
450g squid, cleaned and cut into rings
bunch cut basil leaves
salt and pepper
Prepare the pasta as per brand instructions. Set aside. (I bring 1000g water to boil in the Thermomix® - Varoma/8 mins/ speed 4 - then add the pasta in the internal steamer for 3 - 4 minutes / Varoma/speed 4)
To a heated pan, add the oil, garlic and anchovy to a frying pan and heat till the anchovy sort of 'melts'.
Add the squid and fry for 1 - 2 minutes, tossing them as you do.
Next, add the cherry tomatoes and fry them for 3 - 4 minutes, till they begin to soften and leak juice - I prefer the cherry tomatoes to still have some bite to them, but it's personal choice, really!
Test the squid to make sure it's nice and tender, then add the basil, salt and pepper.
Serve with the pasta, or as a salad with green leaves.
For many of us, spring has thoroughly lept out of it’s winter hiding spot with a loud bang. As I sit here, my nose is red and sore from the day spent out on the allotment in the sun. As the weather has been simply beautiful the last few days, more and more people are venturing back onto the allotments, or out into the garden and one of the biggest food related questions on my time lines at the moment is this: Aside from crumble what can I make with rhubarb?.
I spent a bit of time perusing the wonderful world of Pinterest, and came up with these 30 recipes, giving everyone at least something you should have the skill, ability or taste buds for.
The weather is hot hot hot and there’s more of it to come – and there’s just a little bit of rhubarb season left, so still enough time to make this quick and very refreshing drink. It was from a
Rhubarb Iced Tea recipe, but since I don’t have much affinity for tea, I changed it to a Rhubarb Lemonade, with bought lemonade to top it up.
I normally use these Ikea Korken Bottles (pictured) but you can use any cordial bottles which I half fill with cordial and freeze (normally on it’s side) then it freezes diagonally and looks quite pretty!
Taken out of the freezer I top it with fizzy lemonade and leave it to defrost, it’s perfect on a hot and sweltering day.
To serve: I like to freeze half a bottle on it's side so that I can take it out and add lemonade. The lemonade is cooled by the iced drink and once defrosted you have a bubbly refreshing drink. You can drink it as is too, but I like it with the lemonade.