How to make sun dried tomatoes

Actually it should be ‘oven dried’ but the alternative sounds better. I was encouraged to try to do this by the current glut of tomatoes. Not from our garden, I hasten to add. The only ones we’ve grown have been popped straight into my mouth. All half dozen of them. So I bought two kilos of bright red vine tomatoes from the Market and following a googled recipe set to work. Cut the tomatoes in two and laid then in the tray, cut side uppermost. After 3 hours and at a temperature at 100 degrees the tomatoes looked cooked but not leathery. What degree of ‘wrinkled’ should I have been looking for? I wasn’t sure. The mistake was, I guessed, following a recipe of Anthony Worrall Thompson. There is a reason, apart from criminal activity, that he doesn’t appear much these days. And that’s because his recipes don’t work. So I went back to Google and found a few more. Learning that the tomatoes have to bake at the lowest temperature I left them in for another 8 hours. So 11 hours in total. Opening the oven door I saw that water dripped everywhere. It’s was time for bed and I couldn’t leave them in overnight so that had to be it. I bathed the tomatoes in warm vinegar for 10 minutes, bottled them in olive oil with a few capers added and they look lovely. They taste pretty good too. I am reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver in which she provides a recipe for Tomato pesto so I am going to try that! All in all a successful experiment but not one that will replace my purchases.

Oh my darling clementines…

I love Nigella’s clementine cake. It’s the culinary equivalent of a little black dress. You can dress it up or down and always rely on it to deliver what you want. I’m no Lorraine Pascal when it comes to cakes but I can do this. It’s a good afternoon tea cake with the tea in a china cup when you’ve got visitors. Decorate on top with pomegranate seeds and it makes a good festive treat. Dribble with an orange liqueur and it’s almost regal. Whatever you do you can’t go wrong. It’s great for those on a flour free diet and it keeps moist for ages. Try it. It’s dead easy. Like me you’ll love it. A note from Nigella to say that you can also use lemons and/or oranges. Looking at photos of a newly slimmed down Nigella recently she’s not been eating much of her own cake.

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Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 clementines
  • 6 eggs
  • 225 GM sugar
  • 250 GM ground almonds
  • Heaped teaspoon of baking powder

Instructions

  1. Put whole fruit in pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for two hours
  2. Pulp everything, except pips, in the processor or by hand
  3. Heat oven to 5/190 c and butter a springform tin
  4. Beat eggs. Add sugar, almonds, baking powder
  5. Bake for an hour then leave to cool
  6. If you like, add a glaze or fruit. Not really necessary.

Gorgeous with vanilla ice-cream or Greek yogurt!

 

Christmas preparations: Baking

I like the build-up to Christmas but I’ve often done everything in such a rush that I’ve found myself longing for a quiet life, even before the festivities have started. Not this year. Having more time has been a blessing as I can spend longer on Christmas preparations than in the past. So, to start I decided to make some sweet mincemeat for mince pies. This is a superior recipe because it doesn’t use suet, important if you are entertaining vegetarians. It’s also not as sweet as some commercially made pies because the mixture contains lots of apple. I recommend it. I found it in an old National Trust cookbook belonging to my late mother-in-law. She was a great cook. I’m not but you can’t go wrong with this recipe.

Mincemeat without suet
400ml of dry cider
450gm of soft, dark brown sugar
1.8 kilo of apples
450gm of raisins
450gm of currants
125gm of chopped glace cherries
125gm of chopped almonds
150ml of brandy or rum (I’ve used amaretto also)
Grated rind and juice of a lemon
Teaspoon of mixed spice
Teaspoon of cinnamon

  1. Heat gently cider and sugar in a pan until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Peel, core and chop apples and add to pan. (You may think you have too many but they will mush down).
  3. Stir in rest except alcohol,a half cover with lid and simmer for 30 mins.
  4. Remove from heat and cool right down.
  5. Spoon into clean jars or plastic boxes.

This mixture will make at least 30 pies, more if you make dainty versions – a good idea as they are very filling. I use this to make Delia’s delicious strudel recipe – see her Christmas cookbook. I give them to friends and family but hide them from my husband because he eats them like an unrestrained 3 year old! And it’s only 6 December.

This would make a nice Christmas gift, in a glass jar with ribbon and a tag. Or make the pies and box half a dozen. Oh I better stop, I’m beginning to sound like Kirsty! Watch her tomorrow night as she prepares for Christmas. Or perhaps not as all her ‘makes n bakes’ take far too long. And who wants to win prizes and impress the WI anyway?!

I might have more time but I still have to make things which are quick. Well apart from J’s sweater which I have unpicked four times and still not finished. But that’s another story…

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The easiest ice cream ever

I have so many cook books, it’s embarrassing.  And they are all on show in my kitchen, making me look like a poor woman’s Nigella.  I get a regular monthly food magazine, gift from daughter & family.  But still when entertaining I tend to panic and rely on tried and trusted favourites.  For starters, bruschetta and tomatoes in the Summer, lentil and cumin soup in the Winter.  For main course a roast, with interesting vegetables or salads.  And for dessert the easiest ice cream ever. With or without another dessert.

The easiest ice cream ever
Ingredients: large double or whipping cream; tin of condensed milk; vanilla essence drops

What to do

  1. Whip the cream til stiff
  2. Add condensed milk and mix gently with a metal spoon
  3. Add essence and freeze.

No taking it out every couple of hours, it just freezes perfectly and easily.
The thing about this ice cream is that it always gets compliments and looks lovely.  Add your own extras.  I have added lemon zest and limoncello (why did I buy it?, tastes better in Italy!). Baileys and coffee.  Leftover Christmas pudding.  Meringue bits. Orange curd and zest.  Cassis and black fruits.  Hot espresso poured over. Anything works.  Put in a pretty glass bowl or individual dishes.  Tie a ribbon round.  Add greated chocolate.  Or do you know what, just serve as vanilla ice cream – divine in its own right.

I made this scrummy dessert last Saturday and was about to serve with amaretti biscuits.  But my two diet-conscious friends didn’t eat it.  So we did.  Yes it’s calary-loaded but you don’t eat much.  (Unless you’re my husband and eats bucket-fuls, hence the high cholesterol!)

Bon appetit!