Apple and pears are the better known relatives of the quince. The quince is like an antiquated and estranged cousin of this familiar fruit family. A tart cousin at that.
That is until it’s cooked. It’s yellow flesh turns a ruby red that mimics the beetroot ketchup I made, and it’s flavour is a sort of sharp and perfumed one.
The quince I used were as a result of my exploring Peckham and discovering the General Store. Here you’ll find bowls, shelves, crates and baskets of the best kind of proper quality foods. That includes quince, apples and such that locals have traded in with the store. I was pretty glad to stumble upon that place as my Saturday attempt to urban forage fell short when the doors I knocked of apple tree owners were unanswered. The General Store guys also taught me that the soft covering on the quince (that could easily be mistaken for dust) is actually called pubescence and that’s good pub quiz material. I’m not sure of pubescences’ purpose but I am sure it has one- nature is good like that.
For about a kilogram of quince (which made me 2 jars of quince butter) begin by washing off said pubescence before peeling and chopping the fruit and putting it in a blender. Blend the quince till they are finely chopped. Place this mixture in a slow cooker on high and add just shy of a cup of a natural sugar like muscovado or demerara, a tablespoon of cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla essence. Leave this on the go for about 4 hours-ish, stirring if you are home. After that cooker time place the mixture back in the blender and blend till a smooth paste. Chuck it back in the slow cooker for another 4 hours or so and you’ll have a fruit butter with pow.
Fruit butters are a great jam alternative for what is undeniably jam season. I put my quince butter on some toasted rye and sprinkled some coconut on top but they are also good in porridge or stirred in to your muesli.
I might start a campaign to bring back the quince. It’s a good’un.
Beetroot are that veg that, along with parsnips, are always described as earthy.
I think there is some science thing happening there to do with them being root veg and all soil-y and stuff. Whatever the science, that earthy vibe tastes right good.
Here enter a root veg adaptation of, irrefutably, Britain’s best loved condiment: beetroot ketchup.
Get 250g of tomatoes roasting in the oven until they browning, juicy and smell good (4o mins ish). Blend this with 250g of cooked beets and put the combination on the hob on a medium heat. Add 2 cloves of crushed garlic, some grated ginger, some dried chilli flakes, and a good spoonful of cajun spice. To sweeten it up add a couple of teaspoons of honey in too alongside a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar. Let all this good stuff simmer for a while. You know the rule, the longer it simmers- the better. Ours stayed on the hob for around 40 minutes. Once cooled, jar it up and hello. A new take on a classic [warning: you might not go back and this may cause controversy].
There are some tricks to making it taste even better. Firstly, use your mate’s homegrown beets from her London rooftop (thanks Sarah) and secondly, pair it with a batch of [earthy] parsnip chips and Anna Jones ‘The Really Hungry Burger.’ And mates, obviously. Them too.
*Thanks Hannah for taking dinner pics
Elderflowers are out of here. We’re waiting on the berries now to get brewing some syrups and baking some puds. How’s that for a tree that just keeps giving?
[I however just printed a rogue roll of film with a recipe on it from the flowers… so you can just bank this one till next year].
Elderflower fritters. Made from an almost pancake batter, these guys are a cracking way to do something different with elderflowers after you have of course crafted enough infused gin to sink a very merry ship.
First job after giving the stems enough of a trim to leave just the heads is to get rid of any bugs by giving them a shake and maybe a wash. For a basket of heads (say 20-ish) grab 200g of plain flour and sift it in to a bowl before mixing in one beaten egg. Then add in 300ml of sparkling water a bit at a time, mixing as you go. You’ll end up with a smooth paste and it’s at this point you can chuck in a tablespoon of sugar too before putting the mixture in the fridge for a half hour. After a little rest, get some oil on the go- say enough to be an inch or two deep in your frying pan of choice. Make sure it is super hot (you can test by dropping some batter in there and seeing if it quickly turns golden) and then lower your elderflower heads in there by the stem. You could use some tongs if your hands aren’t made of something inflammable. Once they are golden (which shouldn’t be long), pull em’ out and get rid of excess oil by dropping them on to a tea towel. Then eat them quick. We dipped ours into a yoghurt and honey mix but there are rumours out there of vanilla or cinnamon sugars making a happy combo too.
Bicycle rides are a pretty heady affair at the mo. Your nose is affronted with blooming elderflower and with this summer sunshine enhancing the scent, it can make you a bit woozy.
Tell you what else makes you woozy. Gin.
The thing is, it’s just so easy to make (elderflower infused gin that is). Gosh darn it.
I mean for one afternoon of merriment in the park with your nearest and dearest all you need is the leftovers of whatever bottle of gin you have in the cupboard (we had about 300ml), a couple of tablespoons of sugar for that amount and enough elderflower heads (picked in the morning is best) to stuff in to your chosen vessel. Chuck the sugar and gin in together first and give it a shake till the sugar is dissolved. Then add in the elderflower heads, getting them nicely submerged and suitably ginny (best to shake off any bugs from the elderflower heads before you pop them in too). Hide the jar in a dark space for 5 days or so so it can do its infusion thing (giving it a shake every now and then) and that’s pretty much it. You then need to strain the heads and pollen out- you could do this using a muslin cloth, we just used some tea bag filters.
What you’ll be left with is a golden elixir. Truly.
With some tonic, ice and a sprig of mint you are away. Also makes a pretty sweet gift I reckon. I’d certainly be chuffed with some foraged elderflower gin.
Four ingredients plus a jam jar and you’ve got yourself a sweet scrub to exfoliate that temple of yours.
My brilliant friend from over at Sailing Words and I went for a rosemary and lemon infused body scrub because that’s what we found in her wild South African garden when we got together a little while back. It’s literally that simple; you can pop any good smelling thing from the wilds, your garden or kitchen cupboard in to this scrub-a-dub-rub.
Grab a hunk of sugar that matches the amount you want to make (unbleached and fairtrade for the win). Choose your oil – we went for coconut but you could use olive, almond or any other type you have in your cupboard. Add scents that your nose will love, such as rosemary leaves and the zest and juice of a lemon. Mix all these guys together and that’s you done. If you wanted to make it a more abrasive scrub for some serious exfoliation then use less oil, adding more if you are looking for a more soothing, moisturising type scrub.
Lemon and rosemary don’t only work well with your dinner dish- they are natural gems with properties that make them a great addition to homemade and homegrown delights like this scrub. Rosemary is said to be a great soother for muscle pain as well as for skin irritations like eczema. And lemons, well lemons are good for skin ailments like eczema and acne too, as well as being an unparalleled go-to for energising your wary self and getting your mornings off to a fresh start.
To use, just scoop some in to your palm when in the bath or shower and rub it into your skin in a circular motion, washing off when you have given yourself a good scrubbing.
In a nutshell what you have here is a pretty cheap, easy, good for you body scrub that makes a cracking present to yourself ( + all other people). And technically it’s edible too…