Posts Tagged ‘eat seasonal’

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.

Whilst stocking up the fridge after my weekly shop I realised I had a few plums and pears at the back of the fridge that had been there for quite a while.  There was also half a punnet of blackberries that were on the turn and needed using up.

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I didn’t want to waste any of them and throw them away, but there is only so much fruit I can buy without it turning.

After giving it some thought the best and most effective way to use these up was by putting them into a cake.

I went to task, peeling, coring and slicing the pears; washing the plums, removing their stone and picking out the blackberries that had the merest hint of mould on them.  The cake batter was a simple sponge mixture but slightly tweaked to incorporate ground cinnamon and using plain flour instead of self raising flour.  

A standard sponge recipe calls for 2 eggs and some milk but as I can be quite clumsy when it comes to adding milk, I used 3 eggs instead.

Pear, Plum and Blackberry Sponge Cake

Ingredients:

20131006-115529.jpg150g Plain Flour

150g Butter

150g Soft Brown Sugar

3 Eggs

1 1/2 tspns Baking Powder

Vanilla Extract / Almond Essence

1 tspn Cinnamon

Flaked almonds and demerara sugar optional

For the Cake:

1st: Cream the sugar and butter together.

2nd: Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.

3rd: Add a splosh of vanilla extract/almond essence or a dash of both!

4th: Sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder.  Mix.

5th: Pour into a greased and lined baking tin.  Assemble the fruit as you wish.

6th: Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25-30mins.

7th: Sprinkle the cake with flaked almonds and demerara sugar and put back into the oven for 10mins.

8th: Allow to cool before serving.

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Delicious as a tea-time cake or equally rewarding with vanilla ice cream as a decadent dessert!

Give this cake a go.  A simple fruit sponge cake with added extras.  Experiment with different fruits.  If you buy out of season fruits the best way to bring out their natural sweetness is to bake them, so why not bake them in a cake?  Members of the plum family are best at taking on spice.  This cake would work with ground ginger, nutmeg, clove but if you want to keep it simple; cinnamon is the direction to go.

Considering they were destined for the bin, the outcome was certainly a resounding success.

Be it the bleakest winter or the height of summer, there are always tomatoes.

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I’m not trying to be cloyingly obvious with the statement but surely if it’s in the sunnier months where the vegetable (or should I say fruit?) has had months of intense heat and sunshine to help it ripen and fill it with the goodness of the fertile soil and summer sun, it follows that this is when a tomato is at its best.

Each fruit or vegetable has a prime time when it’s at its seasonal best. That means extra flavour, extra crunch, extra juiciness.

So why is it that walk into any supermarket, grocers, corner shop, in the middle of winter, you will always find a tray, box or pack of plump, red tomatoes?

They have been engineered for efficiency and convenience.

They have probably been cultivated in a polytunnel/greenhouse.  This artificial environment grows tomatoes that may look the part but do they actually taste like a tomato should if they haven’t been exposed to sunshine?  Simple: No. These tomatoes will be firmer (able to withstand transportation bruising), full of water and tasteless!

Take for example my simple yet delicious summery, tomato salad.  It’s not so much a recipe as a couple of ingredients and seasonings in a bowl:

Tomato Salad

Chop tomatoes into different sizes depending on their variety, chop a couple of cloves of garlic, season, and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.  Tear basil leaves and mix everything around so that the flavours get to know eachother.  Do not serve cold. 

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Admittedly, in summer is when you are going to get different variety of tomatoes in supermarkets and there are so many varieties around that each time you make the salad it will be slightly different.

Serve this salad in winter and firstly it won’t be that appealing but mainly you will have a tasteless, watery salad.  However, in summer the flavour will be much sweeter, juicier and the colours of the different varieties will make your salad come alive!

So why eat seasonal?

If taste alone is not convincing you that eating seasonally is best then here are a few other reasons:

1) Cost Effective: as the produce is in abundance, prices are lowered to shift the volume that has been grown – any not sold get thrown out!

2) Nutritious: as grown in respective conditions, the product exhibits all its natural nutrients as the phytochemicals that give the fruit/vegetable its colour and give it its antioxidant properties are developed to their most effective.

3) Environmentally Friendly: seasonal fruit and veg don’t have to travel as far as when off season therefore reducing the amount of fuel needed to transport them.  Chemical washes and wax coatings (used to protect the produce on long journeys) can be dispensed with.

4) Supporting the Community: Normally local producers are responsible for selling seasonal produce – its the large supermarkets that import from all over the world and charge an excessive price for tasteless fruit and veg.

5) Break the habit: Try to get into the habit of buying your fruit and veg from the public market or independent shops in town rather than from supermarkets.

In Gibraltar we may not have areas for people to grow enough fruit and veg to sell but there are several people who try to grow their own produce.  I know of a couple who purchase an organic veg box from a local gentleman who will supply them with a variety of his produce at a very reasonable price.  Opening the box is like Christmas-come-early in anticipation of what you’ve got to cook with!

calendarseason copyFollowing the seasons can be difficult if you are already in a cooking pattern.  But with a little imagination you might find that you rediscover something you always enjoyed eating but have stopped cooking.  This not only applies to fruit and veg but to meat and fish too.

I was once told by a fisherman to only eat sardines in a month without an R, namely May-August.  The main reason being that April is spawning season hence we shouldn’t fish sardines before then for fear of depleting stocks and making it an unsustainable food source.  Lamb becomes a desired menu item in Spring. Cheaper cuts can be served all year round but a joint of lamb is at its most flavoursome in Springtime.

Eating seasonally leads us into a more sustainable eating system.

Our main difficulty in Gibraltar is that most of our food is imported from the Uk or Spain by supermarkets.  Buying organic is not necessarily buying seasonal.  The fact that nothing sold is grown/reared here means that very little food we get is local.  Our nearest sources of food come from Morocco and Spain.  There is very little space to make ourselves available of allotments and ground share initiatives to grow our own.

To find out what foods are in season at the moment click on the following link: www.eattheseasons.co.uk   It’s a great site that not only gives you foods which are in season at the moment but also which wines are best during these months. 

With summer being the season of abundance now might be the time to give this a go.

You might find, as I am sure I will, that you never eat a wintry tomato again.