Green Fig Preserve

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.Fig on Cheese

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.

Fig PreserveThis 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.

Fig Boiling

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.

Green Fig Preserve
 
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Author:
Recipe type: South African
Cuisine: Preserves
Serves: 1kg
Ingredients
  • 1kg unripe figs
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1.250 ml (also 1.25kg!) water
  • Spices (cloves, cinnamon stick or cardamom all work well)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. Drain and leave to cool.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

 

DIY Chilli Salt Edible Gifting

Over the summer our local supermarket was selling off a bunch of live chilli plants, and even though I really don’t like chilli – except in hot chocolate – I love the splashes of red against the deep green leaves and I love the brightness it introduces to my kitchen. The plant itself is one of those that gives more the more you take from it, so we’ve had a healthy harvest of chillies over the last few months, and I’ve been giving them away to anyone who’d have them. I did decide to keep a few though, because I wanted to give one of my chilli-loving friends a little gift of chilli salt.

We use Himalayan pink salt which I tend to bulk buy as it lasts forever, and we use salt for some non-food purposes that make good gifting ideas too, and I can crush it as we need it. I also wasn’t sure how dry the chilli gets itself just by lying on the windowsill, so I popped them in the dehydrator for a few hours till the chillies were properly dry. (They crackle when you snap them.)

I also put the chillies into the Thermomix® (food processor) first so they can be chopped up before I add the salt because I didn’t want the crystals to be broken down too fine.

Just one note here – when you’re blending this up in your food processor, make sure to cover any airholes (in a safe manner). If the air fills up with chilli salt, it’s not a whole lot of fun on your nose or throat or eyes!

I’ve decorated empty herb and spice and other jar lids with washi tape to make it prettier and as these will go into a festive food hamper, I’ve done them in Christmassy colours.

 

DIY Chilli Salt
 
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Serves: 350g
Ingredients
  • 300g Coarse Himalayan Salt
  • 20- 25 small chillies, dried
Instructions
  1. In a food processor chop the dried chillies till they are as fine as you'd like them
  2. (Thermomix®: PUT THE MC IN PLACE, 10 seconds/speed 5)
  3. Add the coarse pink salt and mix again. Don't make it too fine.
  4. (Thermomix®: MC still in, 10 seconds/speed 5)
  5. Use a funnel or similar to pour into dry containers and keep sealed.

 

Home-Made Lavender Sugar Recipe

lavender sugar

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!lavender sugar 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!lavender sugar

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!

Recipe for Lavender Sugar

Lavender Sugar Recipe
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert, Sweet, Condiment
Cuisine: Foraged
Serves: 1kg
Ingredients
  • 2 tsp lavender flowers
  • 1kg white sugar
Instructions
  1. Use a fork or your hands to remove the flowers from the stalk
  2. Add them to the food processor
  3. Add the sugar and blend together - depending on your food processor, adjust your speed to make sure you don't end up with icing sugar.
  4. In the Thermomix®, hit the Turbo button 2 - 3 times quickly.
  5. Decant the sugar into jars, and seal tightly.

PIN FOR LATER: 

lavender sugar

Chia Mocha Recipe

One of the recipes in this month’s Degustabox was a Chia Mocha, to go with the chia seed samples from The Chia Co. Even though I’m not normally a fan of textured liquids – I don’t even like lumps in my soup – I was keen to try this recipe, because I have a whole pot of chia seeds I don’t really know what to do with! I bought them because I know chia seeds are supposed to be very good for you, then couldn’t figure out what to do with them as I’m not overly keen on either chia jam or chia porridge – too lumpy for me! This recipe was quite surprising though, and is perfect for lovers of coffee with chocolate, or chocolate with coffee – whichever you see a mocha as!

If you don’t give this a good whizz in a food processor, the end result is a lumpy sort of drink – like bubble tea, but really really small bubbles. It’s drinkable if you don’t dislike the texture. Chia Mocha

If you do mix it enough to break down the chia, you’ll end up with a thicker, smoother drink. 

This Chia Mocha is easily adaptable. I changed it to coffee for one, since I am drinking it alone. I just halved the original recipe’s ingredients. I also made it in the Thermomix®, but you can use any food processor. I think it would be simple enough to adjust to your tastes. For example if making it again, I’d probably use regular cows milk instead of coconut milk as I prefer a whiter, lighter coffee. If you’re used to black coffee or nut milks, this will be perfectly fine for you!

The chia seeds will cause the drink to thicken up a bit, making a comforting, but invigorating and filling drink.

Here’s the original recipe from Degustabox and below is my adapted to a single serving version.

Chia Mocha

 

 

Chia Mocha Recipe
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 1 cup/250ml/250g prepared coffee (instant or filtered, as you prefer)
  • 80ml/80g coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon cacao powder or cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon honey or other sweetener (I used Natvia)
Instructions
  1. Add the all the ingredients to the Thermomix®
  2. Put the MC in place
  3. Mix 100C/Speed 5/ 4 Minutes
  4. Make sure the MC is still in place, then Speed 7/30 seconds
  5. Pour and enjoy

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Chia Mocha

 

How To Make Fruit Vinegar

Foraging is a fantastic activity, but it’s hard work, so you want to utilise every scrap to best effect in whichever way you can.

Once I’ve made a syrup  from the berries I’ve harvested, I’m loathed to throw them out. Some say you can put them in an ‘adult pie’ or ice cream, but that doesn’t always work – blackberries, for example, are white as snow by the time the flavour’s been sucked out of them, or there’s simply nothing left of them.  Other fruits, however, like rose hips, hawthorns and elderberries, have enough left in them to make something else out of. Like second-use tea bags, they’re not the ultimate flavour, but they may just work out okay.

balsamic vinegar

I have a bundle of 100ml jars specifically for this purpose – when I’ve made a syrup, I pop the pulp into the jar and top it with vinegar – if it doesn’t work out, I’ve lost about 50ml vinegar. If it does work out… I have a delicious new fruit vinegar to enjoy.

Some fruits – like elderberries or fresh blackberries – will pretty immediately change the colour of the vinegar, but I’d still suggest leaving it for a few days – although I have also done it about a year down the line, having forgotten about it! Others – like hawthorn – may take about a day to change the colour of the vinegar, but it’ll come.

To start, you’ll need equal parts fruit to vinegar, so lets say 600g fruit to 600ml apple cider vinegar. Now, I don’t normally set out to make vinegar, but rather use leftover bits of fruit or used pulp to make the vinegar, so you can be flexible with the amounts. I tend to use what I have, cover it with vinegar, and hope for the best!

That makes the next bit a little more tricky – or a good opportunity to practice maths and fractions!

After  at least four days of soaking in the vinegar, strain out the fruit and pour the vinegar into a pot on a medium heat.  For every 600ml liquid you need about 300g sugar – add less or more, depending on how sweet or how thick you want the vinegar. Add the sugar and stir till it is all dissolved. Leave to simmer for 15-25 minutes (adjusting depending on how much you’ve started with – the longer it boils the thicker it will be) without a lid on, which will reduce the liquid into a thick and delicious vinegar for dressings or dipping. If it’s not thick enough, simmer a little longer, but do bear in mind that as the vinegar cools, it’ll thicken too.

True balsamic improves with age. If you’re disciplined and have the space, use 3/4 of your vinegar now, but put aside a small jar of each batch in the back of the cupboard somewhere. I discovered a forgotten blackberry balsamic in the back of a cupboard when we moved house – it was about five years old, thick, sweet and incredible!

How To Make Fruit Vinegar
 
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Author:
Ingredients
  • 600g fruit
  • 600ml white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 300g sugar
Instructions
Instructions
  1. In a glass jar, add fruit and cover with vinegar. Leave for at least four days, shaking whenever you pass by it.
  2. When it's taken on good colour, strain out the fruit and pour the vinegar into a pot on a medium heat.
  3. Add the sugar and stir till it is all dissolved.
  4. Leave to simmer for 20 - 25 minutes without a lid on, which will reduce the liquid into a thick and delicious vinegar for dressings or dipping.
Thermomix® Instructions
  1. In a glass jar, add fruit and cover with vinegar. Leave for four days, shaking whenever you pass by it.
  2. After four days, strain out the fruit and pour the vinegar into the Thermomix®.
  3. Add the sugar 15 mins/ Varoma/speed 1/ NO MC

 

Dandelion Pops

We love dandelions, and this time of year, they are plentiful. We pick them to make Dandelion Pesto and Dandelion Fritters, and I’m currently brewing my first batch of dandelion wine too. But our favourite thing to do with dandelions is to tempura them, or as my children call it ‘Dandelion Popcorn’ – little balls of fried dandelions.

dandelion popsA few things to note about about picking dandelions:

  1. Pick dandelions in full sun, so that they are wide open. In the morning and evening they will be closed.
  2. Cook them as soon as you can. They begin closing up as soon as they are picked, so getting them in batter quickly is preferred.
  3. There are little black bugs that live in dandelions, so make sure you rinse them and leave them a little while to give the bugs chance to escape.Sweet dandelion pops

Some tips on tempura batter:

  1. Different recipes call for different ingredients, obviously, but the important thing is making sure your water is as cold as possible.
  2. I think it works best with sparkling water, but normal water works well too – so long as it’s cold.
  3. Once you start dipping the dandelion heads work quickly. It’s worth having the batter in two bowls so that you can dip a batch, and have the other bowl in the freezer, then swap the bowls over before you start dipping again. The colder the batter, the less oil the dandelion takes on.  washed dandelions

You will need:

  • 85g of plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 200ml icy cold sparkling water

Wash the dandelions and leave set aside to drive so as to keep the fried batter crispy.

Add the flour, salt and sugar to a bowl.

Pour in the sparkling water and mix till just combined. If you over mix you push out all the air bubbles, but you also increase the gluten content, so don’t over mix.

(In the Thermomix®, add all the ingredients and mix 20 seconds speed 4).

Split the batter between two bowls, and leave them in the freezer or fridge.

Heat the oil. Take a bowl from the freezer. Hold the dandelion by the green part, and dip it lightly in the batter, making sure to cover everything. Drop the dandelion into the hot oil and fry for 1 – 2 minutes, till a golden brown.

Remove to a bowl with absorbent towel or draining board and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Alternatively with icing sugar and lemon juice.

Enjoy while still warm and fresh.

DIY Garam Masala

For Garam Masala, I’ve discovered, there are about as many recipes as their are people making it. There isn’t one authentic, or one original recipe, but rather it seems to be a matter of personal choice.DIY Garam Masala Spices

For a long time I would say that I didn’t like curries. I think this was because every curry I ever had from a takeaway was just an overkill of hot and I didn’t find that very pleasant. It was only when a friend served me a curry she made that I realised that there was a world of flavour out there that I knew very little about.  Over the recent years I’ve learned to enjoy curries – but only those I make, so that I manage the heat!DIY Garam Masala Spice Mix

Garam Masala is the foundation for many North Indian and South Asian dishes, but I’ve also learned that it can add amazing flavour to any meat dish without specifically making it a curry. Garam Masala actually means ‘warm spices’ and that’s precisely what these spices do – they add a warm depth of flavour to the meal.DIY Garam Masala

As with all spices, if you’re able to blend it fresh when you need it, the flavours are stronger and richer, but I make a small amount at a time so that I make a fresh batch every month or so. You can freeze this and take it out as you need it, or just store in an airtight container. DIY Garam Masala Gift

DIY Garam Masala
 
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Since I prefer to make this mix up fresh as often as possible, I keep the quantities small, meaning the Thermomix® scales aren't useful here, so this recipe uses a 5ml teaspoon and a 15ml tablespoon.
Author:
Recipe type: Seasoning, Spicemix
Cuisine: Asian, Indian
Serves: 200g
Ingredients
  • 1 Whole nutmeg
  • 10 Whole cloves
  • 1 Cassia Stick (sold as cinnamon sticks in supermarkets)
  • 1 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 2 tbs Coriander seeds
  • 1 tbs Cumin seeds
  • 1 tbs Fennel seeds
  • 1 tbs Cardamom pods (about 6 pods)
  • 1 tsp Cayenne pepper (add more if you prefer a hotter spice, or substitute for dried chillies)
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
Instructions
  1. If you're using a Thermomix®, you can add all the ingredients to the bowl and whizz at speed 10 / 20 seconds. Check inside to confirm, but everything should be a fine powder.
  2. If you're not using a Thermomix® or similar high powered blender, add the first four ingredients, and blend for 30 seconds or until broken into pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend for a further 30 - 60 seconds depending on your blender, until all the spices are crushed.
  3. Store in an airtight container and use within a month for the best flavours.