Marrow or Autumn Curd?

Marrow curd

My grandma Young used to do a lot of fruit bottling and jam making; I suppose everyone who had fruit trees did in those days as they didn't have freezers, or a fridge in grandma's case. She used to make a jam which she called Marrow Cream which was very much like lemon curd. I've since learned that it's more commonly called marrow curd.

Poor old Marrow curd, it's a superb lemony concoction that's up there with the best of them, but has nothing really going for it in the name stakes, does it? So for everyone's benefit I've renamed it Autumn Curd. Of course, a good PR man would also double or treble the price to make it even more attractive, but as you'll make your own, this doesn't really apply!

I couldn't find Grandma Young's recipe, but this one seemed very similar. I've amended it slightly to make it more like the jam I remember:

The ingredients:
2½ lb cooked marrow flesh (about 3½lb before cooking)
2 - 2½ lb sugar (depending on how sweet you like things!)
Juice and grated rind of 4 large lemons
6 oz butter

Steam the marrow until soft. Leave it to drain in a sieve or colander squeezing as much of the liquid out as possible. Mash or liquidise it and squeeze again. Place it into a pan with the sugar and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice and grated rind, then the butter. When the butter has melted, bring it all to a rolling simmer, stirring to prevent sticking. Simmer it until thick, 5 - 10 minutes, and then bottle into sterilised jars.

I tasted some of this warn, and it was superb. On cooling, I found it to be very sweet. I'll maybe add more marrow and lemon or less sugar next time. That said, it's still bloomin' good.

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Sloe Gin

Sloe Gin

I have finally got around to straining last years Sloe Gin and 'boy oh boy' how I wish I'd made more of it, it's fantastic.

So here's a timely reminder, get out there now and pick your sloes before the birds have them all. If you're not going to use them immediately, they freeze well and an added advantage is that you shouldn't need to prick them.

Calling All Kettles!

Russel Hobbs Kettle

Photo: Russell Hobbs

By gum, you get some unusual emails in this game! Here's one I got a few days ago from Chris at Russell Hobbs, the kettle people:

Hi Guys,

Apologies for the approach, but I have been reading your blog and have enjoyed reading your cooking adventures. I myself blog about public relations and social media, so don’t tend to cover such foodie delights as salami, gazpacho and bread, but I'm currently working with Russell Hobbs and I thought I'd send this over to you, a nice story about the good old English cup of tea.

Russell Hobbs in the UK have just started a search for a long lost kettle called the K1 which came out in 1955 and was the first kettle in the world to turn itself off once it had boiled - before this people had to be next to their electric kettles to turn them off manually and stop them boiling dry. The K1 solved the problem with a valve switch that turned the power off when the steam from the boiling water passed through it.

They are asking people to tweet their pics of their K1 to @russellhobbsuk, put them on the Russell Hobbs UK Facebook page or upload them to the Russell_hobbs_uk Flickr group. Every picture they receive will win a 10% discount off a Russell Hobbs purchase and Russell Hobbs promises the lucky owner(s) of a K1, the full Russell Hobbs unique Heritage Collection.

Jason Steer, European Marketing Director comments: "Despite all the nice stories we hear about the newer K2 product we sadly haven’t been able to track down a working version of its older brother the K1, and this is why we have decided to launch this competition to find a fully operational version. We would like people everywhere to check in their relatives’ attics and basements – anywhere they think one could be hidden".



Bramley Apple Tart

Apple tart

This recipe shows that Bramley apples don't have to turn to 'mush' when cooked. The apples stay in well defined pieces. It makes a nice change from apple pie and is elegant enough for that 'more refined' occasion! That is, for those of you who have 'more refined' occasions! We had one once; I think it was in 1976!

For the pastry
8 oz plain flour
5 oz butter (or ½ butter, ½ lard)
1 oz - 4 oz sugar (I used 1 oz)
a pinch of salt
1 egg
milk (if needed)

For the Pastry Cream
½ pint milk
½ vanilla pod
2 oz sugar
1 oz plain flour
1 egg
pinch of custard powder (optional)

For the filling
2½ lb Bramley apples
2 oz sugar

To finish
1 Tbsp apricot jam
2 teasp water

Prepare the oven: put the oven on to heat at 190°C and put a heavy baking sheet in it to warm.

Make the pastry: rub the fat into the flour, add the sugar and salt, and then mix in the egg and a little milk (if required) to make a smooth pastry. You can do this easily in a food processor.

Make the Pastry cream: Heat the milk and vanilla pod to just below boiling point. In a bowl, mix the egg, flour, custard powder and sugar together. Pour half the hot liquid into the egg mixture whisking it as you do so. Return this to the pan and gently heat it back up stirring/whisking as you do so to avoid it sticking to the pan as it thickens. When it boils remove it from the heat and pour it into a clean bowl. Whisk to remove any lumps (sieve if necessary) and cover the surface of the cream with a butter paper or cling-film. Place on a rack to cool. It needs air circulation around and under it otherwise it will sour.

Line a pastry case: grease an 8 inch loose bottomed flan tin and line it with pastry. (There will be quite a bit left over for making tarts etc). Prick the bottom all over with a fork.

Prepare the apples: peel and core the apples, halve or quarter and cut into thin slices - if you can't do this quickly, put the sliced pieces into water to which you've added a squeeze of lemon juice.

Assemble the flan: spread about ¾ of the pastry cream into the flan case, mounding it in the middle. Drain and dry the apples and arrange them in overlapping circles on the pastry cream working from the outside, sprinkling the sugar between the layers. Reduce the size of each layer to make a 'pyramid' working towards the middle.

Cook: Put on to the baking sheet in the pre-heated oven and cook for 30 - 40 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and a skewer will go through the apple easily. Remove and place on a baking rack to cool.

Glaze: heat the jam and water and mix together. Brush over the partially cooled tart to glaze and allow to cool fully.

Apple tart

More Hedgerow News

It's always great to hear from Matti at Hedgerow Products . He embodies the spirit of locally produced food. Not for him using supermarket fruit for his jams - yes, some people do; he goes to great lengths to ensure that he uses ingredients sourced as locally as possible. He says:

Hello Phil,

It has been another bumper year in the hedgerow and there are some new product lines available. I have even had to purchase a second freezer to store much of what has been gleaned from the hedgerow and peoples' gardens.

Pear and walnut chutney has made a most popular comeback and the wild cherry jelly is fabulous. Hawthorn is so sought after I am having to put it into smaller jars so that it goes round further.

For those wishing to buy for Christmas see the website that is being updated and made more friendly.

Thank you


Roast Chickpeas

Roast Chickpeas

Here's a quick healthy snack for all you body-conscious guys out there!

Heat the oven to 200°C. Drain, wash & dry a can of chickpeas and mix with a few drops of oil, a couple of pinches of salt and a sprinkling of any spices you fancy. I used paprika, chilli, and cumin with a little garlic powder.

Spread in a single layer on a baking tray and roast in the oven, turning them occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until crisp and brown.

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ProQ Eco-smoker Review

Well the weather finally performed as forecast and I got to test the ProQ™ Eco-smoker sent to me by Ian at Mac's BBQ.

The smoker arrived promptly and safely packaged.

Eco Smoker package

It comprises a cardboard box with a further cardboard liner that strengthens it and forms the shelf supports, 3 metal wire shelves and two metal drip trays - one with handles.

Eco Smoker parts

Assembly is self-explanatory with instructions on the box and a video tutorial online.

ProQ Smoker part assembled

The drip tray prevents nasty surprises!

ProQ Smoker part interior

A test batch of cheese and garlic is put into the box.

Load the cardboard smoker

Fill the smoker with dust ensuring that the dust is not above the internal divides.

Fill the smoker

Light the smoker using a night-light.

light the Eco smoker

After a couple of minutes it will start smoking, remove the night-light and place the smoke generator on the metal tray in the bottom of the box.

Place in in the box

The box has a vent in the top to ensure a steady throughput of smoke.

The vent the box

After 8 hours.

After 8 hours

This type of smoking uses only a trickle of smoke, this ensures that your food isn't bitter. You can just see the smoke in this photo, there's so little your neighbours won't even know you smoking food.

The smoke

After 8 hours the food is taking on some colour.

8 hours in

After 11 hours the smoke generator was still going strong...

After 11 hours

...but it's 2am and time for bed for me! The smoked food was wrapped well and put into the fridge overnight.

The finished product

The next day the colour has darkened slightly. I like to leave cold smoked food a couple of days for the flavours to permeate the food.

After a night in the fridge

So how's it turned out? Well, it's all as I expected really. The cheese is fine, just the right amount of smokiness and a great way to 'add value' to cheap cheese. It's unbelievable, the difference between a rubbery Edam - only fit for erasing spelling mistakes, and it's smoked counterpart. None of this really comes as a surprise as I have been using the generator in my larger smoker for quite a time.

At £30 the generator may look expensive, but considering it's ease of use and the length of time it burns - plus it's economical use of dust - it pays for itself in no time at all. A couple of sides of smoked salmon will not only recoup your outlay but make you a lot of friends in the process! I guess that it's only us guys who've spent hours in the cold and rain tending other methods of producing cold smoke that really appreciate how brilliant this little gizmo is; take it from me it's superb; you don't even want to consider an alternative.

As to the Eco-smoker, well the obvious comment would be: "That's a lot of money for a cardboard box!". However, I know from experience that finding something suitable for use isn't as easy as it seems at face value. There's no doubt that given a suitable undercover space for storage and use, it will last for ages. Yes, undoubtedly you will want something more permanent in the longer term, but this well thought out turnkey solution makes a great alternative in the short to medium term.

It will also be great for the hunting/shooting/fishing fraternity who may wish to have a portable smoking solution or anyone with too little space for a more permanent smoker. In my case, it will allow me to cold smoke food at the same time as I am using my purpose built smoker for hot smoking - an advantage as I make batches of different types of products at once - some for hot smoking and some for cold.

All in all, what a great Christmas present for the foodie in your life.

The Eco-smoker and Cold Smoke Generator are available at various prices from MacsBBQ and their dealer network.

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Pickled Eggs

One of the easiest of all pickles, pickled eggs are a bit like Marmite™ - you either love 'em or hate 'em!

I'm not a great lover of them, but a while back, one night in the pub, a couple of hair-brained ideas came about - like they do! Firstly, for a smoked picked egg and, secondly, a more ambitious Scotch Picked Egg; a pickled egg, possibly smoked, in sausage-meat, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. If I remember correctly, there was also mention of black-pudding in the coating, at some stage of the conversation!

Given that you can't make either without first pickling an egg, here's how it's done.

Firstly hard-boil some eggs; how you do it is up to you. I bring the eggs to a boil in a pan of water, boil them for just 30 seconds, turn the heat off and leave them for 18 minutes in the hot water before putting them into very cold water to cool before peeling. I find that doing it this way, they don't get the grey ring around the yolk that they often do if boiled more vigorously.

Boil your vinegar of choice, malt, spirit or wine with some pickling spices and leave to cool; I used a mix of spirit and malt vinegars with some bought pickling spice with added dried chilli.

When the vinegar is cool, put the eggs into a sterile jar and cover with the vinegar. Leave for a couple of weeks before use.

Picked eggs

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Bread - A Five-Strand Plaited Loaf

There are times when you get a bit fed up making the same things day-in, day-out; so you end up having a bit of a play. Here's the results of Tuesday's play session - a five plait loaf:

Firstly roll your dough into five long pieces and join them at the top. Spread them out with three on one side and two on the other.

Prepare for plaiting

Take the outermost of the three strands and place in in the middle next to the innermost of the two strands.

The first plait

You will now have three stands on the other side. Take the outermost of the these and place in in the middle next to the innermost of the two strands.

The second plait

Repeat the process, always taking the outermost of the three strands and placing it in the middle next to the innermost of the two strands.

The third plait

...and again.

Continuing the plaits

Continue until it is all plaited.

Completing the rest of the plait

The finished loaf.

The finished loaf

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Has anyone got some Gopher wood?

Phew, rain, rain, rain, that's all the weather seems to have done lately. If I could get the wood, I'd build an ark! There again, given the problems that this guy encountered maybe I'll just test my new smoker instead.

Ah, I hear you ask, what new smoker Phil? Well you see, being a bloke who knows just about enough to be dangerous does occasionally have it's perks, one of which is that my new all around best mate Ian McKend - he of Macs BBQ fame - has sent me a ProQ™ Eco Smoker to review. The only problem is that's it's made of cardboard and so, until we get some nice weather, any testing is 'on hold'.

In the meantime, here's a pretty picture of the Virginia Creeper in the garden. It was taken in the evening and the sky was an amazing colour:

Virginia Creeper

It's got absolutely nothing to do with food, but hey ho!

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