Rhubarb again!

Some of you who have been following my blog will know that I am learning to love rhubarb again! This is just as well considering the amount of rhubarb I am harvesting from the allotment.

I was astounded to see the price of rhubarb when shopping the other day – two pounds for 4 or 5 stems. An incredible price when it’s so easy to grow. However, I also spotted a recipe card in the supermarket and thought I’d give it a try for Sunday dinner. It’s variation on rhubarb crumble, using strawberries.

As luck would have it, I had a bag of strawberries lurking in the depths of the freezer which needed to be used up. I had a glut of strawberries from the allotment last year and had experimented with freezing some whole strawberries. Somewhere I had read that by coating the whole fruits in sugar they kept their shape and texture. It was a partial success – and the strawberries were fine to use in this recipe.

The result was a lovely fruity base with a nutty, oaty topping – ‘rather like muesli,’ said The Husband.

Rhubarb and strawberries

Strawberries and rhubarb from the allotment

Rhubarb and strawberry crumble

Straight from the oven – rhubarb and strawberry crumble

Rhubarb and strawberry crumble

 

You can find the recipe here.

 

 

 

 

 

The verdict. The Husband really enjoyed it, even though he’s not particularly keen on crumbles (or muesli) . Unfortunately Son Number 1 wouldn’t try it, I seem to have passed on my feelings about rhubarb to him. My opinion – yes I would definitely use this recipe again. The strawberries just take the edge off the tartness from the rhubarb and I liked the crunchy topping.

One thing that slightly worried me about this recipe card was the caption at the bottom.Midweek pudding

Now, have I been a neglectful mother/wife/cook all these years? Puddings are for when I have time to cook at the weekend or for special occasions. Is there anyone out there who regularly makes midweek puddings?

Rhubarb rhubarb

Look how the rhubarb has grown!  I would like to say it is because of my green fingers but, to be honest, I haven’t touched it, it’s just grown all by itself! So often that’s what seems to happen on the plot, I nurture some particular crop and it doesn’t produce much. Others are left to their own devices and thrive!

Rhubarb on allotment

Rhubarb in February

Rhubarb on allotment

Rhubarb – beginning of April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a chequered relationship with rhubarb which goes back a long way. When I was a child my Dad grew rhubarb in our garden, very successfully. So successfully did he grow it that we used to have rhubarb in some shape or form for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Boy, was I sick of rhubarb. Coupled with that was his growing technique – surrounding the rhubarb crown with horse manure. My Dad used to keep a cardboard box and a shovel in the boot of his car, an Austin A40.  Whenever we went out for a ‘drive’, (which is what people used to do in the sixties when petrol was cheap and before anyone worried about pollution), my Dad would travel along the local country lanes looking for horse riders. On spotting a freshly deposited pile of horse manure in the middle of the road, Dad would stop the car, retrieve the box and shovel, collect the manure and put it in the boot. Off we would go again, looking for the next pile. Oh, the embarrassment!Rhubarb

It is no surprise then that, as an adult, I could never quite face eating any dish containing rhubarb. However, to everyone’s amazement I bought a rhubarb crown a couple of years ago (don’t quite know what came over me!) and have since been trying out various recipes. In actual fact I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve actually enjoyed it! Although I have avoided rhubarb crumble, which we had every Sunday!

One of my favourite recipes is this one for rhubarb and date chutney. It is from the BBC Good Food website:

Rhubarb and date chutney

Ingredients

500g red onions, chopped

Rhubarb and date chutney ingredients

Ingredients for rhubarb and date chutney

500g grated root ginger300ml red wine vinegar

500g eating apples, chopped

200g chopped dates

200g mix of dried cranberries/raisins

1tbsp each of curry powder and mustard seed

400g light muscovado sugar

Last, but not least, 700g rhubarb sliced into 2cm chunks

 

Method

Put the onions and ginger into a large pan with the vinegar. (I used a preserving pan) Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of ingredients (apart from the rhubarb) and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer, uncovered, until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes.Rhubarb and date chutney

Then add the rhubarb. My rhubarb stems were quite thick so I sliced slightly thinner than the recommended 2cm. Cook, uncovered, until the mixture thickens – about 15 to 20 minutes.

Leave for about 15 minutes then spoon into clean jars. It should be left for a month before eating.Rhubarb and date chutney

When I made this last year everyone thought it was yummy so I have just made another batch with the first of this year’s rhubarb. It is great for eating with cold meats or with cheese and of course you can give some jars to your  friends and family.

There’s  still loads of rhubarb to come so if anyone know any other good rhubarb recipes, I’d be delighted to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

Afternoon tea revisited

Afternoon teas are very popular at the moment – as can be seen by the number of venues offering them on their menus. Afternoon tea actually began in 19th century when dinner might have been eaten quite late in the evening, so a light meal, a ‘tea’, was served in the afternoon to keep the ladies and gentleman going until the main meal.

The classic afternoon tea is as follows:

  • sandwiches with a selection of fillings
  • scones, jam and cream
  • large cake and/or fancies (small cakes)

Other options include savoury scones, tea cakes, crumpets, muffins, fruit tarts.

I thought I would like to host an afternoon tea as an alternative to a dinner party and so invited some friends round for Sunday tea.  It gave me the opportunity to do some baking, get out some of my mother’s tea service (which is barely used as it isn’t dishwasher safe) and set the table with a white embroidered  tablecloth. I was aiming for the refined, dainty look!

Best China for afternoon tea

To start off the afternoon tea, I began with a selection of sandwiches. I used a mixture of white and brown bread, crusts cut off, of course! I kept the fillings simple; egg, prawn mayonnaise, smoked salmon, beef and tomato.

Sandwiches for afternoon tea

Hot sausage rolls were also on offer. (I confess that I didn’t actually make these – but I did put them in the oven to warm up!)

Afternoon tea savoury

Hot sausage rolls

Followed by homemade scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam – the jam was also homemade, courtesy of last year’s strawberry crop.

Afternoon tea scones

Scones, clotted cream and jam

Then the cakes! This is a family favourite – chocolate cake.

Cake for afternoon tea

Family favourite

Also a fruit cake.

Fruit cake

Fruit cake

And finally some cakes my friend brought, as well as my own blackcurrant cup cakes, again using some of the blackcurrants still in the freezer from last year’s harvest. I loved using my mum’s cake stand – I’ve no idea how old it is, but so pleased it’s back in fashion.

Afternoon tea fancies

Afternoon tea fancies

There’s the table ready for guests to sit down and enjoy a good old-fashioned afternoon tea! The essential component is missing from the photo – the pot of tea! I made gallons of this!

Table set for afternoon tea

Table set for afternoon tea

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it was a very relaxed tea party. I have to admit that I originally thought that preparing afternoon tea would be easier than cooking for a dinner party, but I’m not so sure that I was correct. However it might not have been less ‘work’ but it did seem less stressful as there was not so much last minute cooking to be done or worrying about timings. Certainly it’s a good way to entertain families as it’s much more informal and even ‘picky’ guests will find something they would like to eat! Plus there’s always left overs to eat up!

Inspired? Have a go at hosting your own afternoon tea, it’s a great opportunity to show off your baking skills and use your best china!

 

 

 

Coffee and biscotti

Treat yourself to a taste of Italy with your morning coffee!

BiscottiIt is an indulgence The Husband and I enjoy at the weekend when we have the time to make a pot of coffee and sit down to chat whilst ‘dunking’ our biscotti. Its name means that it is ‘twice baked’ and as a consequence it is a very dry and hard biscuit. The Italians dunk their biscotti in a glass of sweet wine at the end of a meal but, here in England, it is eaten as an accompaniment to coffee. I will explain how to make a plain almond biscotti, but there are lots of variations, adding lemon or orange zest, varying the nuts included and adding chocolate.

A word of advice if you intend to bake this yourself – don’t leave it in the oven for too long. On one memorable occasion I overcooked the mixture and ended up with such a hard biscuit that we were in danger of having to make an emergency trip to the dentist! Even the dogs were unable to crunch their way through it!

It is simple to make and I use a Delia Smith recipe .

Ingredients

  • 110g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 50g almonds (I use skinned almonds and leave some whole and halve the rest)
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • few drops almond essence

Biscotti ingredients

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (170 degrees).

  • Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl.
  • Then add the other dry ingredients and stir everything together.
  • Next add the egg and vanilla essence.
  • Bring all the ingredients together using a spoon and then your hands. (This needs quite a lot of working with your hands to knead to a dough – don’t worry if it seems a bit dry).
  • Put mixture on floured surface and roll out into a log shape about 28cm long.

Biscotti mixture

  • Now it’s ready to go in the centre of your preheated oven for about 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool down.

Biscotti cooling

  • Preheat oven to Gas Mark 2 (150 degrees).
  • Once the biscotti has completely cooled, cut into diagonal pieces 1cm wide.

Cutting biscotti Baked biscotti

  • Place the slices on baking parchment on a baking tray and pop back into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. (Take care – don’t leave them for too long or they will become very crisp)
  • Leave to cool again and then store in an airtight tin.

 

 

 

 

 

Now you can make a pot of coffee, put you feet up and enjoy! Buon appetito!

imageCoffee and biscotti