summer

Summer Bounty

By | summer | 2 Comments

With August you are just beginning to realise how wonderful summer is. I had bounty of gooseberries, a good crop of raspberries and not so many red currants that have all come to an end. Gooseberries went into pie, were gently poached to serve with lots of cream and there so many I’ve also tucked them into the freezer to cheer up mid-winter evenings.  Most of my raspberries along with the red currants became summer pudding. I’m on my third one and I’ve also have one in the freezer.

This year, for the first time I made raspberry jam, just four jar because my friend Ilze had so many they were dropping to the ground faster than she could pick them. The recipe I followed Christine Ferber’s recipe, and it’s so delicious I’m going to have trouble keeping it until winter.

There is one fruit in my garden that is still going strong and will continue into the autumn, my wild strawberries or fraises de bois. I love these intensely flavoured fruit that are all the more precious because I can never gather more than a small handful at a time. Enough to top an individual tart but I don’t bother, I simply eat them warm and juicy from the sun.

Where is spring?

By | Australia, summer | No Comments

I’ve been back from Australia, less than a week and my body clock is still playing up. I’m tired when I don’t expect and hungry at the oddest times. I knew it wouldn’t be warm when I returned, but I’d hoped for some respite from the long winter. It seems it’s not to be. Not only is it cold, but bitterly cold with the wind chill plunging the temperature to -14C. That feels even colder after the warmth of the Antipodes. I’ve dragged out my winter coat however, I refuse to wear my boots, after weeks in light summer sandals I can’t deal with their weight.

At least I’ve had 3 weeks of paradise and memories of coffee on the deck, walking along the beach and swimming are keeping me warm. As the sun streams into my office and all I can see is blue sky, I flip through my photos and am instantly transported back, it’s good to know my friends are warm and drinking gin and homemade tonic water. It will warm up here, eventually but I’m not sure how long I can wait.

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Gin & Gooseberries

By | Gin, Gooseberries, summer | 5 Comments
It’s an exceptional summer in Toronto. The heat began early and by the time I returned mid-June it was very hot and humid. I love the heat, but the humidity can drain all your energy, so that by the afternoon all you want to do is snooze in a chair. The upside of all this heat is that it’s perfect weather for gin and tonic, my preference is Hendricks gin with sliced cucumber.
The heat has also made all the fruit in my urban garden ripen more quickly than usual. I managed to harvest some green gooseberries, the green ones have good acidity, which makes them a perfect foil for oily fish.
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Most of my gooseberries changed colour before I could harvest them. This means my gooseberries are sweeter and softer than I like them but they can be eaten without cooking and make good desserts.
Instead of making ice cream, I prefer ice cream when it’s cold, yes it’s a quirk, that I can’t explain, but I do like ices and sorbets when it’s hot. I’ve been tinkering with this recipe since I first made it. Just gently cook 450 g / 1 pound gooseberries with 125 g / 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring from time to time until soft and tender. Let everything cool slightly and then pass it through the fine grill of a food mill. Chill overnight before churning it in an ice cream machine.
You can make this recipe with green gooseberries, just check the sweetness and it will turn a paler shade of pink.

Red Currants + Raspberries

By | Step-by-step, summer, Summer cooking | No Comments
This is the time to make summer pudding, as both red currants and raspberries are in the markets or ripening in your backyard, if your lucky. Many people throw any combination of berries into summer pudding, but it is best when made with only raspberries and red currants in a 3 to 1 ratio. It requires little heat, so perfect for a hot summer day. Make it a couple of days before you want to serve it. It keeps for several days in the refrigerator and also freezers well, but remember to line the bowl with plastic wrap first if the pudding is destined for the freezer.
You’ll need bread, I like egg bread or challah, but any quality white bread will do, not too fresh, I always check the day old bin at my local bakery. A bowl, my ceramic pudding basin is perfect and holds my mixture of 600g raspberries, 200g red currants off the stem, rinsed, and 200g sugar. Place the damp berries and sugar in a frying pan over low heat and stir from time to time until the berries soften and the sugar is dissolves. Meanwhile, cut the crusts off the bread, and line the bowl with bread and set the bowl in a pie dish to catch any drips.
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Fill the bowl with the fruit mixture, reserving any left over syrup. Top the pudding with more bread.
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Pour over the remaining syrup allowing it to soak into the bread. Cover with plastic wrap, top with a plate, weight down (yet another use for my homemade sauerkraut) and refrigerate at least 24 hours. Remove the weight and plate.

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When ready to serve, turn out onto a plate and carefully cut into servings with a bread knife. It’s good with whipped cream but doesn’t really need it. Once cut the pudding looses its structural integrity and will start to sag, Putting the bowl back over it will help hold it together if you have any leftovers.

Why is it called summer pudding? Because of its resemblance to a steamed pudding.

And while we are on names why is making an irreverent sound with your tongue and lips called a raspberry?  In the nineteenth century English rhyming slang “raspberry tart” is rhyming slang for a fart.

Here and gone?

By | Australia, Melbourne, Oddbits, summer, Vegetarian, Winter | One Comment

A photo of what I’ve been eating. No I haven’ turned vegetarian it’s just the salads look prettier than the grilled sausages.

This is hello and goodbye. The manuscript for my next book  ODDBITS went to the publisher this week and I leave for Australia on Saturday. I hope to post from down under and describe what I discover and even make use of my twitter account so watch this space. And anyone complaining about this hot humid summer remember that winter is just around the corner. Enjoy sweating while you can I’m off with my winter coat, long underwear and gloves to wintery Melbourne.
Au revoir et bientôt.