Pomegranate Iced Tea Lollies

Pomegranate Iced Tea Lollies

Iced tea is not a big thing in the UK which baffles me considering we are a nation of avid tea drinkers. I, on the other hand, am a staunch advocate of iced tea and I shall hereby declare it an imperative part of my British summertime.

Last year a cold jug of iced tea stashed in the fridge became my lifeline during the June heat wave, which I can recall so precisely as it coincided with both the first week of Wimbledon and the first week the care of my two week old son was solely entrusted to me when Luke had the gall to return to work. It was a scary scorching time. I got through the stifling temperatures by holing Cole and I up in our breezy bedroom, windows open, multiple desk fans blazing and guzzling my ice cold tea to the gentle sounds of tennis balls popping back and forth via my laptop at the end of the bed.

Pomegranate Iced Tea Lollies

This year though I have absolutely nailed the iciest tea around by sticking it in the freezer in lolly form. I couldn’t have chosen a better time either as the temperature shot up yesterday in London quite unannounced. I bought my ice lolly mould at the beginning of summer last year but after bunging it on top of the fridge and forgetting about it whilst I sorted out having a baby I have only just begun to experiment with it. I bought one on a nostalgic whim remembering when I was young how we would pour fresh orange juice into the moulds on sultry evenings ready for as soon as the summer sun rose the next day. Such an amazing treat as a child and since Cole has just begun to steal ice cubes whenever I open the freezer door in his presence I think I need to think about more baby friendly ice lollies to play around with.

I would say though that these pomegranate iced tea lollies appeal more to an adult sensibility. They contain caffeine for a start which I understand isn’t the best thing to give your one year old but they are also not too sweet, as this recipe eschews any sort of refined sugar. Instead I have plumped for the sour sweetness of pomegranate molasses rounded out with a touch of honey. These flavours are completely in my zone. I bought my pomegranate molasses back when it became trendy a few years ago and dashed a bit in this and that, not entirely convinced. Now, though I am going through bottles of the stuff every month as I drizzle it over salads, include it in any of my current marinades and use it to flavour buttercreams. It’s sweet but not sweet and that is definitely my favourite kind of sweet.

Pomegranate Iced Tea Lollies

These pomegranate iced tea lollies are the perfect antidote to the summer heat and definitely take iced tea to the extreme.

Pomegranate Iced Tea Lollies

makes 10 lollies

1 tablespoon tea leaves (I used orange pekoe)
1 litre freshly boiled water
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon honey
handful of pomegranate seeds

  1. Place the tea leaves in a large jug and pour over the freshly boiled water. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Strain the tea into another large jug, discarding the leaves and stir in the pomegranate molasses and honey until completely dissolved.
  3. Place the jug in the fridge and leave for a few hours until the tea has completely chilled.
  4. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds evenly into the bottom of your ice lolly moulds then pour the tea over the top. Put the wooden lolly sticks into your moulds and put the top on then place in the freezer for at least 24 hours for the lollies to completely freeze before removing from the moulds.
Pomegranate Iced Tea Lollies

Meatopia 2014

Meatopia 2014
This past weekend we cast aside the shackles of fruit and vegetables and abandoned all notions of sanctimoniously counting our 5-a-days. There was only one vitamin on offer that day and it was meat. There was only one smoothie on offer that day and it had rum and lemonade in it. Actually that’s not totally true, there was also a rum and ginger beer version to choose from. So vegetarians and vegans had better look away now as we embraced the roar of our carnivorous ancestors, and hunted down all the major food groups – beef, chicken, pork, lamb and goat.

Meatopia 2014

Now the day didn’t start off as joyously as I had intended as I made the stupid decision of skipping breakfast. Anyone who knows me will wholeheartedly agree that this sacrifice was in vain and also at the expense of anyone who might have the misfortune to interact with me whilst my fasting was taking place. I seem to forget, but those around me will never fail to, that without eating I just can’t function as a calm, placid happy go lucky human being, which of course I am at all other times. So I was not a pleasure to be around as we were going in. The sun felt too hot, the relatively short line felt like eternity and the slightest comment awry about the weather, the amount of people, last night’s X-Factor may have set me off hulk style and I may have been abandoned.

Meatopia 2014

No fear, as when we got in I made a beeline for the stall with the shortest queue. So don’t worry, you are in safe hands with me, each dish was selected to make sure we got the most out of the day, each stall and meat carefully considered for an all rounded and even handed experience. Don’t care, need food, was never a comment which fell from this blogger’s lips.

So after that first dish I could start thinking clearly. And that’s when we headed for the rum stall.

Meatopia 2014

The way Meatopia works is that there is a bunch of stalls, heralded by BBQers extrordinaire, lording it over logs, mile high grills and smoking chambers, shifting meat about their chosen cooking apparatus like demi-gods. All wearing black t-shirts, bandanas and serving it up in mini baby brioche buns like they were the manliest burgers in the world. It’s wasn’t just burgers though. You like ribs? Great. You like pulled meat? Fab. Wings? Duh. Every animal was fair game, as long as it could be cooked over coals.

Meatopia 2014

Chefs, were flown in from around the globe – South Carolina, Cleveland, New York, Texas, Korea, Brazil, Singapore and…Bristol to cater to us hungry Londoners, all gathered together under the roof of Tobacco Dock in the East End. That was almost the most ingenious part of Meatopia; Tobacco Dock is stunning. A brick building built in the early 19th century as a store for imported tobacco, it boasts huge brick arches and exposed ironwork and was just as important a protagonist as the meat, smoke, fire and music on offer.

Meatopia 2014

Plus any location which has a big statue of a tiger at the entrance is alright by me. I love a tiger and especially liked the story which went with the statue which told the tale of this plucky beast who tried to escape from its captivity from a wild animal trader on the docks. This magnificent feline’s bid for freedom was heinously hindered by a precocious little boy who stood in its path and tried to pet our revered Bengal as if it were some mere housecat. Our fearsome hero growled, not today my friend, and picked up the wretch, carrying it off with nary a thought of its own danger. The impudent child was eventually wrested from the jaws of this tremendous beast without a scratch on him, so not only was this tiger fierce, but also fair. Now that was the end of the tale as far as the placard was concerned but I fear the end of this saga was missing. The boy was fine, yeah yeah, but what of the tiger? We will never know, although I’m sure he found his way back to Madagascar and lived with Chris Rock and David Schwimmer happily ever after singing We Like To Move It Move It to the end of his days.

Now, the demi-god chefs were way too important to handle mortal money so we civilians had to trade in our coins for Meatbucks. Hmm. These were worth £5, and each dish quite coincidentally cost 1 Meatbuck. We were told on arrival to look out for the MeatBuckaneers to make our trade. This was a good idea, if the name a little too cute, as it did mean less queuing time and also worked better than Taste of London where everything costs a different amount of ‘crowns’ and you practically have to learn a new currency to get by.

Meatopia 2014

My husband asked how many meatbucks (shudder) we should get – two each, he pitched at first, before being ensnared by my most withering gaze. Now, you understand, this was just not me being my usual greedy self. Those portions on offer were damnably small. Luckily I was not the only one who thought so as I overheard someone standing by who was advocating to her partner that they should purchase more meatbucks since the dishes were so diddly. I did, honest. Now this is not a problem in and of itself. I am happy for small portions as that means we can taste more of the food on offer. However, when each dish costs £5 that’s some spenso spending going on right there.

Meatbucks sorted, rum cocktails in hand. We were now ready to begin the day’s feasting.

Meatopia 2014

Korean BBQ Pork Belly
Judy Joo | New York

Like the rest of any self-respecting food blogger I am hot on the heels of the current love of all Korean flavours. My favourite street food stall at the moment is Kimchinary, the Korean Burrito trader at Kerb, Kings Cross. But I found the taste of this pork belly a little restrained. It was the first dish I had though so it was practically inhaled and came with salad which was not a trend followed by any of the other dishes we had on offer.

Meatopia 2014

Grilled Picanha with espresso BBQ sauce & grilled farofa
Andre De Luca | BOS BBQ | Brazil

Picanha is the most prized cut of beef in brazil, coming from the very top of the rump, lying above the sirloin and rump areas, with a thick layer of fat running over the top. Yup, I’m sold. The espresso bbq sauce served with it was a lovely idea – I’ve included coffee with bacon jam recipes I’ve made before which always adds a deep toasted warmth. The farofa it came with is toasted manioc flour. It was dry and crisp and added a good texture to the silky beef and the deep sauce, although once we’d finished the beef there didn’t seem much point to eat the rest of it.

Meatopia 2014

BBQ Whole slow cooked Goat tacos
Neil Rankin | Smokehouse | London

We tried very hard not to go for restaurants we have been to before, but we simply could not resist a. tacos and b. goat. Smokehouse is in Islington and not only have we now been there several times but I have even written about it here on this blog. The goat wasn’t ready when we first got there so we got to watch all the preparation in action and had the privilege of being one of the first to sample this amazing meat. This won the dish of the day hands down. The simple coriander salsa it was served with really picked up the intense goat flavour and shook it up and down with big cheery flavours.

Meatopia 2014

Whole Beef Rump Hearts on a log grill
Jon Finch | Grillstock | Bristol

These were good. They did what they said on the tin. They were beef and they were heartily delicious, ho ho ho.

Meatopia 2014

Smoked Pigs Cheeks with foie gras butter
Lee Bull | Q Grill | London

We ate this one by accident, we were accidently impatient, as the queue at the next door stand was magnificent and there was no one waiting at Q Grill. Really what are two hungry people supposed to do but to pop to the next door stall and grab their humble offering whilst waiting in line. It turned out to be a good move as it was runner up to dish of the day.

Meatopia 2014

Burger with comte cheese, pulled Beef Ribs, Baconnaise & smoked chillis
Siggi Gunnlaugsson | Tommi’s Burgers | London

This is the stand we were queuing up at and just goes to show that the burger still knows how to pull in its crowds. It was also a pretty well described burger meant that this one was always going to be on the hit list from the second we saw the menu. A little disappointing in taste though as it didn’t quite live up to all the ingredients it included. Still, it was a good burger, and it’s hard in this day and age to truly eat a crap burger.

Meatopia 2014

Whole Spatch-Cocked Chickens roasted on the grill
Brad MacDonald | Lockhart | London

Huge fan of chicken, so underrated and not as easy to cook as everyone assumes but spatch-cocked on the bbq always comes up trumps. That’s as long as it’s not drowning in French’s Mustard which basically this was. They spread it underneath the bird and ladled it on top. Now, I don’t mind a bit of French’s mustard in its own tangy way. On a burger or as part of a bbq sauce recipe a little goes a long way, but this poor chicken was drowning in it. I ate this near the end of our afternoon and I have to say I couldn’t finish it. After I thrust it onto my husband though he was more than happy to chow it down.

Meatopia advertises itself as Meat, Drink, Fire, Music. The meat was easy – there was a lot of it and everywhere. The drink also a cinch as we can pretty much nail down a beer or cocktail aiming with spears at a 100 mile distance. There was also fire which the meat was cooked on, so fine I guess that counts, but there were more coals than fire. So the only thing left is music. There were a few bits and pieces going on like The Gents, a band of two guys singing pop songs in a cockney-type style which was fun especially when they sang Take on Meat which couldn’t fail but tickle me. We were captivated later on by the New York Brass Band on the bandstand which caught me at a certain point in the day when I claimed that if I were to get married again they would play at my wedding, so entranced was I by their trumpety renditions of Get Lucky and Happy. I was an easy girl to please on the back of my rum cocktails.

Meatopia 2014

Now, we could have stayed there all day as we were having a great time but we had to get home for the puppy. There was a huge amount of music we didn’t have time to listen to, bars we didn’t visit and food we didn’t try. Hell, we didn’t even make it to The Cutting Room which since I only read the program on the way home turned out to be their demonstration area. And although the goat tacos were pretty special the only real way of knowing what the dish of the day was would have been to try them all. Despite our best efforts, our emptiest tummies and our wodge of tokens that was a feat just too great for two lowly humans to manage. What I can say is that we had the greatest day, full of meat, rum and live music. We can’t really complain as that’s what we paid for. Bring on Meatopia 2015.

Raspberry and Oreo Ice Cream

Raspberry Oreo Ice Cream
I am more than happy to admit my failures and my faults – I have many and I embrace them all. This ice cream is like the opposite of that.

When I make something I am really proud of it reminds me why I started blogging in the first place. It would be simply criminal not to share this ice cream with the world. My favourite of all my recipes is always the one I last blogged about which is why I’m probably always touting my latest effort as the best I have ever done. So feel free to take it with a pinch of salt when I say that this ice cream is the best ice cream in the world ever hands down. That includes the insane rosemary honey gelato I had a couple of weeks ago at Broadway Market which led to some horrible attempts to recreate it in my own kitchen immediately when I got home. I’m sure I’ll get there with my gelato recipes one day but I know for certain I can make ice cream and this one seals the deal.

Raspberry Oreo Ice Cream  |  Stroud Green Larder

I thoroughly enjoy making ice cream, not just the process of it which can be immensely relaxing as I have written about before but I love the fact that you can store it in the freezer. There is no immediacy with the finished product; like when I’m trying to palm off half a cake to the UPS delivery man before it goes stale or handing out hot scones that I will never get round to eating to unsuspecting neighbourhood kids who just want to know if I would like my car washed. Although there was that one time when we had to emergency defrost the freezer and we were passing out half eaten tubs of homemade lemon and chocolate brownie ice cream down our street. However, I made this raspberry and Oreo ice cream this week and the urgency of eating it suddenly became clear. If I did not eat it, someone else would and that would be really uncool.

Raspberry Oreo Ice Cream  |  Stroud Green Larder

If you read my recipes carefully then you will see the base of this recipe is very similar to my Blackberries and Cream ice cream, it has become my favourite method of ice cream recently. The set is soft and the sharp berry flavour is intensified without the addition of an egg based custard. It’s so fresh tasting and contrasts beautifully with the homeliness of the Oreos.

Raspberry Oreo Ice Cream
Makes about 2 pints

500g raspberries
50g icing sugar
1 tbsp liquid glucose
250g caster sugar
4 egg whites
300ml double cream
154g packet of Oreos

  1. Pour the raspberries into a medium sized pan and heat gently with a splash of water to aid the breaking down of the berries. Once the berries have completely softened then remove them from the heat and pour into a sieve. Push the berries through, the best aid for this I think is a silicone spatula, so that all the seeds are extracted from the fruit pulp. Discard the seeds (or save to make a fruit alcohol infusion as explained above) and return the pureed raspberries back into the pan.
  2. Add the icing sugar and liquid glucose to the raspberry puree and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat then leave to cool before covering and refrigerating overnight.
  3. Meanwhile pour the sugar into another medium sized saucepan and add 300ml of water. Heat gently so that the sugar completely dissolves into the water. Then bring to the boil and carrying on boiling until it reaches a very thick and syrupy consistency, it should reach 112°C on a sugar thermometer and can take about 20 minutes. You must keep your eye on the saucepan at all times so that it doesn’t bubble over.
  4. In a large mixing bowl whisk up the egg whites until stiff, then drizzle in the sugar syrup in a slow steady steam whilst continuing whisking. The egg whites will turn beautifully glossy.
  5. In a separate bowl lightly whip the double cream then fold into the egg whites until they are fully incorporated. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge overnight.
  6. The next day pour the egg white and cream mixture into your ice cream machine and start churning. Pour in the raspberry puree immediately whilst the machine is churning and then the puree will mix in evenly.
  7. Meanwhile reserve 4 Oreos for decorating the top but place the rest of the biscuits in a food processor and whizz until they have become breadcrumbs. Chop the reserved 4 Oreos roughly.
  8. Once the ice cream has reached a thick milkshake consistency and is pretty much ready then pour in the crumbed Oreos and churn for a couple of minutes until they have been evenly distributed through the ice cream.
  9. Decant the ice cream into tubs, tucking in the roughly chopped 4 Oreos on the top and then freeze overnight to reach the correct set.

Courgette Relish

Courgette Relish
Certain recipes come into your life in different ways, and this one was begged and pleaded for after we fell in love with a jar of this courgette relish. Our friend who had bestowed this precious gift on us couldn’t quite remember where she got the original recipe from; she thought maybe The Times, but when it was passed along the quantities were in cups so perhaps it originated across the pond. I wish I could thank whomever came up with it as it really is one of the staples of our larder and this time of year I make it in bulk when the courgettes are proudly in bloom. A large quantity is a must as one of the worst things to befall our kitchen is when the last jar is finished in March and we have to wait months for the next glut of courgettes.

Courgette Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

The beauty of the relish is that although its natural season to be brought to the table is summer when the barbecues hit, its amiability knows no bounds. The obvious use for this courgette relish is on a burger and really you can get no better topping. The flavour is sweet and piquant with the gentle pop of mustard seeds. However, it can also accompany the sausages that are grilled on bonfire night to great effect and a laden Christmas buffet replete with roast ham and turkey pies.

Courgette Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

Courgette Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

Courgette Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

Courgette Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

Courgette Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

During the rest of the year it’s included in lunch staples such as toasted sandwiches or brought along to spring picnics. The courgette relish pairs naturally with cheese and I got into a bit of a habit earlier this year of stirring it into a cheddar and tuna salad along with a bit of olive oil for dressing.

If you come round to my house it’s more or less guaranteed you will leave with a jar of something homemade, and the wise visitor will make a request for the courgette relish, after all that’s how it came to us in the first place.

Courgette Relish  |  Stroud Green Larder

Courgette Relish

1.5kg courgettes (about 12), julienned
1kg spanish onions (about 4), grated
2 red peppers, sliced very thinly, then quartered lengthways
3 tbsp salt
1.5 kg granulated sugar
925 ml white wine vinegar
1.5 tbsp turmeric
1.5 tbsp white mustard seeds
3 tsp celery seeds
3 tsp nutmeg
¾ tsp ground white pepper

  1. Place the courgettes, onions, peppers and salt in a large preserving pan, cover with water and leave to stand overnight.
  2. The next day drain and rinse and well.
  3. Return the courgette mix to the preserving pan and add the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Decant into sterilised jars. It is ready to eat straightaway or you can store in a cool dark place until needed. If unopened, the relish will keep for about a year.

Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam

Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam
I used to have a bit of a problem with jam. The sugar. I was never one for jam tarts or jammy toast, that was my sister. I would pucker up my nose and screw up my face as if it were poisoning me. Suffice to say I no longer do that. I know I’m not the only one who is getting a sweeter and sweeter tooth with age if my Nan’s shopping basket was anything to go by in her later years. It was just cake and sweets, Mum used to have to surreptitiously hide a packet of frozen peas amongst the bags of coconut mushrooms and custard tarts to ensure she at least had the option of health when she got home. However, despite the increasing dominance of sugar in my life, jam has still been a bit of a stumbling block for me.

Strawberries  |  Stroud Green Larder

redcurrants |  Stroud Green Larder

I enjoy making jam. There is something extremely prudent about conserving the fruits of the season to have later on in the year. I am soothed by the preparation of the produce; washing, peeling and removing stalks and excited by the first boil as the produce slowly starts to break down to achieve intensity. I get an absurd amount of pleasure from pouring in a whole kilo of sugar, the hubble and bubble of the pot and then my fastidious side loves the careful decanting so the sticky jam doesn’t run riot all over the kitchen. I screw the top, test for set the next day, create labels, admire my industrious stack, then offload the whole lot come Christmas time. But I never really ate it myself.

Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam  |  Stroud Green Larder So it was my mission to reduce the sugar content of my jams. Although I achieved some success with the kind of conserves you can eat straight from the jar, my vanilla peach bourbon jam and my blackberry and lime jam (which I still haven’t posted the recipe for, aargh to-do list!), I was dismally failing when it came to the classic strawberry or raspberry jam. I have been canning the final jams which means you require less sugar, I have been cutting the sugar and adding lemons, limes, herbs, anything to counteract the sweetness. However, all these efforts have led to the same result, boiling and boiling and boiling away my jam as it refused to reach setting point. The end product would eventually work but I seemed to be losing too much fruit.

Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam  |  Stroud Green Larder

After a very disappointing time with some strawberry and lemon verbena jam, I was ready to give up jams earlier this summer. Then I had a piece of Victoria Sponge on our WI cake stall a few weeks ago. The intense sweetness was pleasurably sandwiched between two thick buttery vanilla doorstops and for me jam finally had a purpose again. Of course, you are not supposed to eat it by itself with a spoon. The jam needs to be sweet but then used in moderation to bring the best out of the other ingredients it is paired with. I certainly don’t begrudge those whom like to lather it on a crumpet or wodge it in an English muffin but for me, suddenly realising that I could have been using my jam in cakes and desserts has been a revelation. I never bothered using it before as I presumed I didn’t like it, but in the right context and without using the commercially produced stuff jam can be the key ingredient. It is supposed to be sweet, just go with it. Ever since then I’ve been able to see the joy in jam. It has been fully embraced into my life and my baking and my jams have never tasted better.

This has been my favourite strawberry jam adventure yet. These strawberries were just £4 for 2kg from the market and when I brought them home I remembered the redcurrants I had picked up a few weeks earlier which were now lounging around in my freezer drawer for a rainy day. These guys pair together beautifully, the sweet hit of the strawberry is tempered by the tart redcurrants and the ruby beauty as it smudges into the buttercream of the Victoria Sponge is terribly appealing.

Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam  |  Stroud Green Larder

Now, when I made this jam I figured I wanted something quick and lovely so I boiled the two fruits together from the off, fully rejecting my rule of de-seeding all jams. The strawberry seeds I don’t have a problem with but the redcurrants may have a little too much bite. I have since read recipes that recommend boiling up the redcurrants first and then sieving them which I think I would do next time. It would be more useful for me to research these recipes before I make 20 jars of the stuff, but ho hum I will not be told.

This recipe makes masses as I had an absolute glut of strawberries, so if you are making the jam just for yourself I would recommend halving the recipe, unless you like giving jam as presents which then makes us samies.

Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam  |  Stroud Green Larder

Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam
makes about 20x 200ml jars

2kg Strawberries
1 kg Redcurrants, stalks removed
2.7kg jam sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Remove the stalks from the redcurrants and then place them in a large preserving pan along with the strawberries and heat gently, bringing to a light boil.
  2. When the fruit is boiling then stir in the sugar.
  3. Once the sugar has dissolved then add the lemon juice.
  4. Bring to a rolling boil, making sure to stir the bottom of the pan frequently so the fruit doesn’t stick.
  5. Once the jam reaches 104°C or passes the saucer wrinkle test* then decant into sterilised jars.

*The saucer wrinkle test basically requires you to put about 5 saucers in your freezer when you begin making your jam. Once you think the jam might be ready then you can double check by removing a saucer from the freezer, dropping a teaspoon of jam on it then placing the saucer in the fridge. After about 30 seconds remove the saucer and push the jam with your finger. If it wrinkles up it’s ready, if it just pools back into the space your finger has left then it needs more bubbling time. Boil it a bit longer, then test again with another saucer.

Blackberries and Cream Ice Cream

Blackberries and Cream Ice Cream
Fruit ice creams in August are such a treat. I have been breaking all my rules about mid afternoon snacking by taking an indulgent break about 4pm to sit out in my sunny garden with a crisp buttery cone stuffed with blackberries and cream ice cream. I have lived in Stroud Green for a couple of years and this has been the first year that I have been able to make full use of my garden. Usually we have been washed inside by calamitous storms and miserable rain. However, this summer I have loved taking advantage of everything that a British summer has to offer and that includes the ever so traditional berries and cream.

I have a small confession though, this isn’t my recipe at all, I have totally cribbed it from my father’s old collection of 1980s Taste Magazines. The recipe was completely perfect as it was, all I’ve tweaked is a bit of the method and the name. Taste referred to it as Frosted Blackberry and Caramel Marble ice cream. Now, the recipe was indeed made with a caramel but that isn’t what gives the deliciously soft, smooth ice cream its flavour, it is instead made bountiful with the sweet, plump juicy blackberries and generous clouds of cream and I think that is what needs to be celebrated about this absolutely amazing ice cream which has swiftly become one of my favourites.

One of the main things I adapted about the recipe was the preparation of the blackberries as I have a bit of an issue with seeds I’ve realised. It came from an off hand comment my mother-in-law once made about the difficulty in buying seedless jams from the farmers’ markets, so last year when I made some jams that I intended to give her I made sure I sieved out the seeds in the process. This has now become second nature to me and now I really notice and am bothered by the inclusion of seeds in jams and ice creams. I bought a homemade raspberry ice lolly from the market a couple of weeks ago and the seeds were so overwhelming that it completely ruined the treat for me. I was picking them out of my teeth for the rest of the afternoon and complaining about it to anyone unlucky enough to be in my company that day. Removing the seeds is a bit of an extra step when dealing with berries but it changes the consistency to be so much smoother that it is definitely worth it. The other upside to always removing the seeds is that you will often have a large amount of fruity gubbins leftover from the sieving process which is absolutely perfect for making infused gins and vodkas which I will be posting more about in the future since I have made a lot of them over the summer.

Blackberries and Cream Ice Cream  |  Stroud Green Larder

This recipe was a bit of a revelation for me in terms of ice cream making. I love homemade ice cream but sometimes I can’t be bothered with the hard-set stuff, the kind that you have to take it out from the freezer for 20 minutes so that you don’t snap your spoon in half desperately trying to dig at it. These 20 minutes are always an endless time of frustration for me. This blackberries and cream ice cream though is proudly soft scoop. If you fancy a teaspoon of ice cream whilst you are waiting for the toast to pop up then this is ideal. Luscious and creamy direct from the freezer. It achieves the soft set by adding liquid glucose to pureed blackberries which helps the crystallisation of the sugar and also protects the fruit, as without the sugar the blackberries would freeze solid. The ice cream base is made by whisking egg whites and drizzling in a sugar syrup to form a fluffy meringue which is what gives the ice cream its texture. Billows of double cream are then folded through, giving the ice cream richness. The recipe asks that you ripple the blackberry puree through at the end but I was a bit heavy handed and I ended up pretty much mixing it all in. In hindsight this wasn’t a mistake as it was lovely to get a pure fruity hit in each cold creamy lick.

Blackberries and Cream Ice Cream
Adapted from Taste, August 1987

500g blackberries
50g icing sugar
1 tbsp liquid glucose
250g light soft brown sugar
4 egg whites
300ml double cream

  1. Pour the blackberries into a medium sized pan and heat gently with a splash of water to aid the breaking down of the berries. Once the berries have completely softened then remove them from the heat and pour into a sieve. Push the berries through, the best aid for this I think is a silicone spatula, so that all the seeds are extracted from the fruit pulp. Discard the seeds (or save to make a fruit alcohol infusion as explained above) and return the pureed blackberries back into the pan.
  2. Add the icing sugar and liquid glucose to the blackberry puree and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat then leave to cool before covering and refrigerating overnight.
  3. Meanwhile pour the brown sugar into another medium sized saucepan and add 300ml of water. Heat gently so that the sugar completely dissolves into the water. Then bring to the boil and carrying on boiling until it reaches a very thick and syrupy consistency, it should reach 112°C on a sugar thermometer and can take about 20 minutes. You must keep your eye on the saucepan at all times so that it doesn’t bubble over.
  4. In a large mixing bowl whisk up the egg whites until stiff, then drizzle in the sugar syrup in a slow steady steam whilst continuing whisking. The egg whites will turn beautifully glossy.
  5. In a separate bowl lightly whip the double cream then fold into the egg whites until they are fully incorporated. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge overnight.
  6. The next day pour the egg white and cream mixture into your ice cream machine and churn. For the last five minutes of churning drizzle in the blackberry puree. Once the ice cream has reached a thick milkshake consistency then decant the ice cream into tubs and freeze overnight to reach the correct set.

Blackberry, Soplica and Chocolate Pie

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie
This recipe pretty much sums up everything we have been eating this past week, mainly blackberries coupled with ice cold shots of Soplica direct from the freezer. Soplica is a Polish vodka that has been around since 1891, although in our freezer it’s only been around for a week and already we are draining the dregs from it. It was a present from someone who obviously knows us too well. You can get it in a number of different flavours but the one we have is hazelnut. The flavour is so pure, smooth and intense with nuttiness that we swooned at the first sip but it is quite different from Frangelico, the Italian hazelnut liqueur which is heavier. The Soplica just feels a little more summery. Although you could happily substitute Frangelico in this recipe without feeling the loss.

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

Every year we are inundated with blackberries, there are bushes and bushes bursting with shiny blackberries all over Parkland Walk and throughout Stroud Green and I can’t walk past a glorious hedgerow plump with fruit without pulling out a bag from my pocket and filling it up there and then. My husband is the same and it seems whenever we take the puppy for a walk, together or individually, then inevitably we will return with a bag overflowing with the precious bramble treat. The past two weeks I have been churning through blackberry recipes like a demon, I have made jams, jellies, chutneys, vodkas, gins and a few favourite ones which I am going to share this week. That’s right, this week is Blackberry Week on Stroud Green Larder. Like Shark Week but less toothy and more sugary.

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

I have been craving pie for some weeks and I love to fill a pie with beautiful colours which is why the blackberries jumped right in. Lattice topped pies work well in the summer months as the pastry doesn’t overwhelm plus it’s always tempting to see the glossy filling straining at the seams. Although I have come to realise that I am simply rubbish at lattice tops. It doesn’t matter how many I have done in the past or how often I watch Paul Hollywood for tips on the best way to construct it, I manage to bugger it up every time. I must have spent about half an hour carefully plaiting this little number; over and under, over and under and yes it did look a little skewiff but it was better than usual. Or so I thought until I was cutting myself a nice big slab after the bake and I noticed that I had repeated the pattern right in the middle of the pie. How had I not noticed this? I am resolving to practice my lattice work. The Great British Bake Off is starting this week and I know my plaiting would definitely not make the grade.

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

 

Still, is it really that important when the pie tastes so damn good? Blackberries don’t get nearly as much credit as the other berries on offer in the summer but I think they are much more versatile that the raspberry or the strawberry. The fruit you pick is often a mixture of sweet and tart and that lends such a complex level of flavour in your recipe. I didn’t include a vast amount of sugar here as the cinnamon adds sweetness and the Soplica is also very sweet but it all comes together to allow the blackberries to shine. The chocolate in the recipe comes from the pastry which is flavoured with cocoa. I always follow Richard Bertinet’s methods for pastry but here I felt I needed to add a little more sugar than he suggests to compliment the cocoa. The pie is delicious, hot, warm or cold but I do recommend eating it with a healthy dollop of clotted cream on the side and of course a little more Soplica to aid digestion.

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

 

Blackberry, Soplica and Chocolate Pie

350g plain flour
20g cocoa
Good pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter, cold
135g caster sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
425g blackberries
75g sugar
60ml Soplica
¼ tsp cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
3 tbsp tapioca pearls
1 tbsp milk + 1 egg yolk for pastry wash

  1. First prepare the pastry by placing the flour, cocoa and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Remove the butter from the fridge and slice thinly. Add to the mixing bowl and rub it into the flour and cocoa with your fingertips until it has formed rough breadcrumbs.
  3. Tip in the caster sugar and mix in, then add the eggs and yolk and bring it all together into a dough, tipping out onto your work surface to finish the job.
  4. Weigh out 2/3 of the dough, pat into a circle then wrap in cling film. Wrap the other 1/3 in separate cling film and place both dough circles into the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
  5. Roll out the larger piece of dough into a large enough round to fit a 24cm round pie plate. Lay the pastry onto the plate and trim the edges. Place back in the fridge. Remove the smaller piece of dough from the fridge and roll out to about the thickness of a pound coin. Slice the dough into even strips, then arrange them in a lattice onto a plate. Place the plate in the fridge to chill.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  7. Now you can make the filling. Place all of the blackberries into a saucepan with a splash of water, the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat gently until the blackberries have completely softened and turned into a puree.
  8. Remove from the heat then add the Soplica and tapioca pearls. Stir in until the tapioca pearls have begun to absorb the liquid from the blackberries and the Soplica has mixed in.
  9. Remove the pastry case and the lattice from the fridge. Pour the blackberry filling into the pastry case and then tip the lattice on top of the pie. Press down the edges of the pastry together.
  10. Mix together the milk and egg yolk then brush over the top of the lattice evenly.
  11. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes when the pastry will be crisp and the blackberries bubbling up from within.
  12. Serve warm with cold clotted cream.

Plum, Brown Butter and Almond Cake

Plum Brown Butter and Almond Cake
I have just reorganised my kitchen, not that my husband knows about it. It will be a lovely surprise when he comes home this evening to discover everything is not where it should be. He is a creature of habit so I’m sure there will be lots of heavy sighs as he reaches for a bowl and discovers a kilner jar of sultanas in its place or wants to make a cup of coffee and has to fight past the peanut butter and cocoa powder. I don’t drink coffee you see, so it now goes at the back, I’m thoughtful like that. When the clocks change his life is turned upside down, I can only imagine what the new state of affairs in the kitchen will do to him so I might make myself a bit scarce later on.

The kitchen turnabout had to come as unfortunately for my crockery, the amount of dried fruit, nuts, different gluten-free flours and the plethora of different types of paprika I harbour has actually pushed them out of the cupboards and relegated them to a lowly position of the shelf underneath our butcher’s block. I cook and bake several times a day so you would think that the food volume in my cupboards would be decreasing, not going up. I blame my self-indulgence. I like to have choice with my dinner, whether it’s to cook my curry with coconut oil, olive oil, walnut oil or ghee or whether I feel like serving it with basmati or jasmine or long grain rice, so I must have all of them on offer. This would be acceptable if I wasn’t living in a matchbox railway cottage wedged into North London, and so unfortunately now the plates are having to suffer.

Wesley and the PlumsThe available space in the kitchen hasn’t been helped that it has been swamped these past few weeks with every manner of fresh fruit that summer has brought. My freezer is also fit to burst as I can’t keep up with all the foraging I’m doing around Parkland Walk and Stroud Green, and what I can’t find in the hedgerows the farmers’ market has been tempting me with at the weekends. To cope with the influx I have been making several variations of this cake these past few weeks. I don’t need any excuse to make a cake but every time a new fruit has come into season lately then it has seemed only fitting to herald their arrival by building sheet cakes around them. Cherries, blackberries and now plums have been pampered with this sugary treatment.

Plum Brown Butter and Almond Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

It’s a lovely way to make the most of the fresh produce, a wonderful treat which is right at home with a cup of tea for company. The batter includes not only sour cream for its moistness but brown butter, which the French call beurre noisette, literally meaning hazelnut butter. It’s just butter though, taken slightly past the melting point so that the flavour intensifies into a lovely toasty nuttiness. You must keep your eye on it however as it’s a very fine line between brown butter and burnt butter and two very different flavours.

The juicy plums are halved and popped on top of the batter and then sprinkled with almonds and a dazzle of runny honey. During the bake the fruit will sink into little pockets of jam at the base of this cake but not so much as they compromise the structure. It’s still easy to slice and even easier to eat, or at least it would be if I could remember where I put the plates.

Plum Brown Butter and Almond Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Plum, Brown Butter and Almond Cake

150g ground almonds
200g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
150ml sour cream
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g unsalted butter
8 plums, halved and stones removed
30g flaked almonds
2 tsp runny honey

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line and grease a 13” x 9” baking tin.
  2. Whisk together the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the sugars until fully mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract then place to one side.
  4. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat over a medium flame. The butter will melt. Listen carefully and the butter will start hissing and cracking and forming little brown bit at the bottom of the pan. You want to wait until the noises start to subside, the butter smells toasty and is turning a darker colour. Remove from the heat as soon as it’s ready so it doesn’t begin to burn.
  5. our the brown butter in a slow and steady stream into the sour cream and egg mixture, whisking in all the while so that it doesn’t start to cook the eggs.
  6. Once all the butter is incorporated, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix in together.
  7. Pour the batter into the cake tin, then arrange the plums on top, cut side up. Drizzle over the honey and scatter the almond flakes over evenly.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the top is lovely and golden.

Watermelon and Mint Snow

Watermelon and Mint Snow
This is not so much a recipe but an idea on how to keep cool during these times when your house has turned into a hotbox and the outside air is muggy and unrelenting. I have never been one for the summer months, they stretch out endlessly with little respite between May and September. Days when you are free to enjoy the sun are interrupted by magnificent thunderstorms and although I am not commuting into central London at the moment I am only too familiar with the unpleasant experience of sweltering temperatures, no air conditioning and thousands of fellow passengers jammed up against you on the Piccadilly line.

Watermelon and Mint Snow  |  Stroud Green Larder

Watermelon and Mint Snow  |  Stroud Green Larder

In our humid house the nights have been terribly uncomfortable lately and sleep has been infrequent with the electric fan constantly jarring any slumber. During the day I have become accustomed to lugging said fan with me from room to room and kitchen prep has been made challenging with its overbearing gustiness spraying caster sugar sandstorms across the floor.

So, suffice to say I never champion these heat waves as much as I’m supposed to. At the moment I am desperate to find ways to chill out, I am not so easily sated as the puppy is by dancing in the stream of the garden hose; but that is where this watermelon and mint snow comes in. There is something so refreshing about sweet luscious watermelons anyway, then when it is jazzed up with a bit of garden mint the flavour sparkles.

Watermelon and Mint Snow  |  Stroud Green Larder

There is no more effort to this than simply blitzing the fruit and mint in the blender, then popping the juice in the freezer, although for such a casual recipe you do need to hang about the freezer for a couple of hours, giving it nudge every so often to break up the icy crystals during the freeze. It’s incredibly worthwhile though as the results instantly temper any inner heat and it’s sweetly moreish to boot.   If you don’t want to eat it straightaway then once it’s reached the right consistency you can just keep it in the freezer, but it will need to stand for about 20 minutes out of the freezer to become loose enough to portion out, unless you have an ice pick knocking around to help you out.

Watermelon and Mint Snow  |  Stroud Green Larder

I have to say though, the one thing I do appreciate about the summertime is the amount of daylight we have. The ability to lounge in the garden all evening long seems so luxurious and when this time of day comes I add a slug of rum to transform my snow into a grown up slush puppy; a perfect way to usher in the hot and hazy nights.

Watermelon and Mint Snow

1.5kg watermelon
Small handful of fresh mint leaves

  1. Remove the seeds from the watermelon and then blitz the flesh in a blender.
  2. Add the mint leaves and blend again.
  3. Pour the juice into a deep baking tray.
  4. Place into the freezer for 40 minutes, then remove it and with a fork break up all the ice crystals.
  5. Place back into the freezer for 30 minutes and once again, remove and break up the ice crystals with a fork.
  6. Repeat this a further 3-4 times until the watermelon has formed easy to move sweet icy snow.

Roasted Peppers Preserved with Garlic and Chilli

Roasted Peppers preserved with Garlic and Chilli
Now that we have had a couple of days of sunshine in a row it is tempting to start thinking about summer flavours. If you haven’t already had a barbecue then I’m sure you’ll find one will be on the horizon shortly. We’ll have to clean the rust off our garden furniture and brush up on our salad dressing skills to lead the charge into the warmer months of our temperamental British summertime.

Spending all day in the kitchen when the weather outside is so inviting requires dedication so it helps to have a few storecupboard ingredients on hand to speed up everyday cooking. I have my usual armoury of bacon salt always within reach but at the moment I am using these roasted peppers preserved with garlic and chilli to add an alternative background note to most things I am sending out of my kitchen.

peppers

Peppers

Grilled Peppers

I always find peppers from the supermarket more expensive than you expect, but I am so lucky that I live near Green Lanes with its abundance of Turkish grocers where magnificent shiny peppers are ten a penny. All that is required is a few lazy bank holiday hours grilling, peeling and canning these slippery little fellows and you will reap the benefit for weeks afterwards. I have been using them either as a main salad ingredient but also chopped up very fine and used as a base for a dressing with a dash of lemon and olive oil. You can whizz a couple up in the blender and streak gloriously though a dull houmous or use as a condiment, adding a shimmering tablespoon to pep up tomato sauces.

You can eat these straightaway but they will have a sharpness due to the vinegar. I rather like this effect as in small amounts it will happily balance out a salad. However, over a few weeks the vinegar will mellow slightly meaning that as you finish off one jar after another the flavour will evolve and so will your uses for this staple summer ingredient.

Roasted Peppers preserved with Garlic and Chilli  |  Stroud Green Larder

Roasted Peppers Preserved with Garlic and Chilli
Makes about 3 jars of 500g
Adapted from Liana Krissoff’s Canning For A New Generation

2 kg mixed yellow and red peppers, about 10
250ml lemon juice, about 6-7
500ml white wine vinegar
250ml extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ red chilli, sliced into rings
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp paprika

  1. Quarter the peppers lengthways and remove the seeds. Place on a grill under a high heat and grill in batches, skin side up, until the skin has completely blackened.
  2. Remove the peppers from the grill and immediately place in a plastic food bag or a bowl covered with cling film. After about 10 minutes the peppers will have cooled and the skin softened so the skin is easy to peel off. Peel off the skin, do not wash the peppers. Place the peppers in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Pour the lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil into a large saucepan along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring until just under a boil, then remove from the heat.
  4. Prepare a hot waterbath by placing a trivet on the bottom of a large preserving pan. Fill the pan with water and bring to a heavy rolling boil. The water needs to be enough to cover the jars you are using by 1 inch. Once the water reaches 80°C it is ready. Place the preserving jars you are using in the waterbath for 5-10 minutes to sterilise. You can sterilise the lids by putting them in a smaller saucepan with some of the water siphoned off from the waterbath.
  5. Remove the jars from the waterbath with a jar lifter.
  6. Stuff the peppers into the hot jars and then top up with the hot lemon, vinegar and oil mixture leaving ½ inch headroom at the top. Make sure each jar has plenty of garlic and chilli. De-bubble the jars by jostling the contents with a chopstick. Screw the lids on, then unscrew by a smidge so there is room for the air to escape.
  7. Carefully place the jars in the waterbath, making sure the water still covers the jars by 1 inch. Place the lid on the bubbling waterbath and leave for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove the jars carefully from the waterbath and leave to cool overnight without disturbing.
  9. The next day check that the jars have sealed correctly by making sure the lids haven’t popped up, or if using jars with rubber seals make sure the rubber seal doesn’t slide around. If any of the jars haven’t sealed correctly then put in the fridge and eat within 3 days.
  10. If the jars have sealed then leave in a cool place for storage, then open and eat at your leisure.

Roasted Peppers Preserved With Garlic and Chilli  |  Stroud Green Larder