Archive for November, 2013

As you already know, I have recently embarked on an “eat seasonally” ideology.  And as greatly moral as this is, it can be harder than it sounds in a place such as Gibraltar where firstly there isn’t any land to cultivate and grow produce – therefore relying on imported produce – and secondly but more specifically, we don’t really have four seasons. 

We go from hot to wet to warm again!

But who’s complaining?! Considering the glorious summers we enjoy in this region that can sometimes start as early as late April and last well into early November; it is not hard to understand why there can be an abundance of colourful fruits and vegetables on sale at our local grocers and markets; especially towards the end of summer and triumphantly ending their season in autumn.

Last to be picked off their trees and vines, and having soaked up every last ounce of summer sun, flesh ripened into sweet nectar; skins full to bursting – it is the purple, deep red to blue-black fruits and vegetables that make their prominence known within these autumn months.

Purple foods have become a hot produce colour of late (cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, to name but a few).  They contain a phytochemical called anthocyanin, which is responsible to help fight free radicals and some cancers but may also protect against heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer.  Purple foods are good at preventing age-related memory loss, keeping the eyes and urinary tract healthy and lowering the risk of gum disease and stomach ulcers.

My Purple Plum Crumble is a remarkably easy dessert to make; my nephew’s favourite, and quintessentially autumnal.  The scents of cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house make this the perfect autumn pudding.

Plum Crumble

plum crumble

Ingredients:

  • 12 fresh plums, cut in half and stone removed
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • A few raspings of fresh nutmeg
  • A splosh of red wine or water
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar

For the Crumble:

  • 100g butter
  • 180-200g plain flour
  • 100g Demerara sugar

Make the crumble first: In a food processor pulse the butter and plain flour (this can be done by hand by fluttering the butter and flour between your fingers and thumb) until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the Demerara sugar to the mixture and place into the fridge.

1st: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

plums

2nd: Sauté the plums for a few minutes in a hot frying pan with the butter and sugar.

3rd:  Add the vanilla, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, golden syrup and red wine (I sometimes substitute the wine for port or a mix of water and wine or just water).  Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 6 – 8mins.

4th: Once the plums have broken down into a thick, syrupy texture, place into an oven dish and cover with the crumble mixture.

(Optional Extra: add flaked almonds to the crumble mix).

5th: Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins or until golden brown.

6th: Allow to cool slightly before serving with double cream or cold vanilla ice-cream or both!

Here are other simple ways to eat purple foods:

  • I have previously extolled the virtues of porridge in Oat to A Good Start – so add a handful of blueberries or blackberries to this superfood to make it a super breakfast
  • Beetroot hummus and pita bread
  • Add aubergine to the meat mixture for Spaghetti Bolognese or Lasagne
  • Use pomegranate when making lamb tagines
  • Make a mixed berry compote to go over pana cotta
  • Blitz Greek style yoghurt with frozen berries and freeze for an easy ice-cream

I apologise if the mantra ‘Eat the Rainbow’ sounds totally naff; almost as if I’m stealing the Skittles motto but if a handful of blueberries in my brekkie are going to help me against all sorts of ailments then bring them on by the punnet-load!

Alternatively, a cheeky glass of red wine a day is also high in antioxidants!

Enjoy.

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Autumn finally decided to creep out from behind the shade of the beach umbrellas and tiptoe into the limelight of falling leaves and cooler, darker evenings.

The duvet finally came out.

Over the past week the temperatures have dropped; especially noticeable at night time and early morning.  Autumn has made a proper appearance and it doesn’t feel as if it’s going anywhere in a rush.

So what does this mean in terms of the kitchen and the food we eat?  If we are trying to eat seasonal it means that there are some great opportunities to be had with game at this time of year.  Venison steaks with blackcurrants and blackberries is absolutely delicious as is the one pot dish of duck magret with cannellini beans.

But I’m not after something that will be a quick flash in the pan; on these cooler, darker evenings nothing calls out to me as much as a hearty venison stew.

The great thing about a stew is that it’s a chance for you to experiment with cheaper cuts of meat that are packed full of flavour that you might not be accustomed to using, however they will generally need longer, slower cooking on the hob or in the oven.  If you’re not pushed for time putting a stew together can be very liberating as there are no measures or rules you must adhere to – it’s go with the flow time.

Venison Stew

This is what I do but is by no means a recipe that you need to follow – most of the ingredients are optional and you can substitute them for those you prefer.

I use diced venison dredged in seasoned flour and coloured in the pan.  Then fry onions in the meaty juices at the bottom of the pan (you may need to add more butter).  Deglaze the pan with red wine or port and then add the diced venison back into the pan.  Add potatoes and top with either or a combination of the three: water/beef stock/tinned tomatoes.  Chop mushrooms into quarters and add to the pot.  Make sure to season well, add oregano and bay leaves and chilli flakes for added warmth.  Chop a couple of carrots lengthways and place into the pot.  Bring to the boil on the hob and then put into a low oven 160˚C for 2 hours.  After two hours fish out the carrots and add green beans.  Let the beans cook in the residual heat of the stew.

Cook’s treat: sprinkle sea-salt and drizzle olive oil over the carrots and have as a sneaky treat before serving everyone else!

But the best thing about a stew is that with whatever is leftover you could always turn it into a pie the following day.

Venison Pie

Either use shop bought pastry or make your own shortcrust pastry.

Line a tart tin and bake blind in the oven.  Remove your baking beads/pulses and egg wash the base – baking for a further few minutes until golden.  The reason for this being that the egg wash will prevent your pie from having a soggy bottom.  No one likes a soggy bottom!

Chop the potatoes into smaller pieces and add as much leftover stew as you dare.  Then top the pie with either a full cover (make sure to leave some vent holes for the steam to escape) or create a simple lattice pattern over the top.  If the idea of having to make a pie is scaring you, a pasty might be easier but I would use ready-rolled, shop bought puff pastry for this.

If however, the thought of having to eat the same again is putting you off giving this a go remember that stews freeze very well.  I would fish out the beans and potatoes before freezing and probably serve this with fresh veg and mash next time!

Perfect for Bonfire’s Night to be eaten outside watching the fireworks…