Paddington and Marmalade Days

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“Every home should have a marmalade day”  Paddington, the movie 2014

It’s taken me a while to fall back in love with Paddington Bear. I adored the books as a child but then, as a teenager, I was a given a toy Paddington as a present by a local farmer/admirer. He’d spotted me in the church choir (social highlight of the weekend in 1970’s rural Worcestershire) and decided to make a move. Although I was rather too old to be excited about a huge, stuffed bear with a duffle coat and red welly boots, I was also appalled to be the subject of someone who seemed twice my age’s attention. My tweeded suitor also presented me with a multiple choice questionnaire with reasons why I would, or would not, like to go out on a dinner date – I couldn’t bring myself to fill it in. The entire episode was a hideous embarrassment, the Family Service was never quite the same, and in my eyes Paddington’s reputation was sullied for decades.

A couple of weeks ago we went to see the film of Paddington – it was an absolute delight, so much so that I’ve dug out my 1960’s paperbacks and managed to put all the teenage angst behind me. I saw some Seville oranges in Reg The Veg up the road and thought that Imi, fired up with Paddington’s enthusiasm for the sticky stuff, would be up for making some marmalade.

I wrote a piece for Borough Market last year, as a “marmalade virgin”. I’d always been put off making any myself by all the mystique that seemed to surround the stuff so I decided to try out the simplest method around, which came from Fiona Beckett. I’ve tinkered with the recipe a little and, although I’m quite sure my marmalade wouldn’t sweep the board at the W.I. show, it tastes wonderful to me and is a great thing to make with kids.

Opinions are divided when it comes to marmalade methods, infact it’s almost better not to ask for advice since everyone will have the “very best” recipe. Purists seem to swear by slicing the fruit and leaving it to soak overnight which apparently gives a more delicate, crystal-clear result than the quicker, boil-the-fruit-whole approach. I went for the latter, it may not be perfect but certainly knocks the socks off anything I’ve bourght in the supermarket.

Experienced jam makers can jump the list of handy hints below, but as a novice I needed to go back to basics, and you may too.

  • Unless you already own a preserving pan, or are planning on opening a B&B I’d just stick to making the marmalade in a heavy stock pot or better still, if you happen to have one, the base of a pressure cooker.
  • You need a piece of muslin in which to tie up the pips and pulp (they are rich in pectin which sets the jam) No muslin, well (and I know that this sounds rather unappetising but it’s very convenient!) a NEW pop sock will do nicely, just give it a rinse before using.
  • A couple of plates in your freezer or fridge will help you when testing “the set” of your marmalade.
  • To sterilise jars you can place them in an oven at 130 °C for 1/2 an hour or wash with cold water and zap, whilst damp, for 40 seconds in the microwave. The jars must be hot when you pour the hot marmalade into them, otherwise they could shatter.
  • If your lids do not fit tightly then use a cellophane cover. A seal is important otherwise your precious marmalade could go mouldy. It’s advisable to cover the surface of the marmalade with a disc of waxed paper too, if you are keeping the marmalade for any length of time.
  • A jam funnel is a blessing, enabling you to ladle in the marmalade quickly and saving on time wiping sticky jars later. Otherwise just use a jug, but go carefully.

 Simple Seville Orange Marmalade

This makes about 6 average-size jars of marmalade, but it’s wise to have a couple of spares at the ready just in case you need them. Smaller, attractively shaped jars make great little gifts too.

I kg Seville oranges
1 unwaxed lemon
1.75 kg granulated sugar (no need for preserving sugar)

Wash the oranges and lemon well and then put them in your pan and cover with water. I weighed down the fruit with a casserole lid to stop it bobbing above the surface. Cover with a lid and then boil for 1-2 hours until the peel feels soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile enjoy the ambrosial citrus scent wafting around your kitchen.

Remove the fruit from the water and allow to cool. Measure the liquid left in your pan, you will need about 1.25 litres. If you have too much you can reduce it by boiling, too little – just add a splash of water.

Now for the fun, it’s time to prepare the fruit. This is the moment to get the kids involved, as many hands do make light work. You will probably end up with a rather coarse -cut result but hey this is the home-spun approach.

Quarter the oranges and lemon. Take a spoon and scrape the pith, flesh and seeds into a large sieve set over a bowl.

Slice the peel into coarse or fine shreds, the choice is yours (it wasn’t mine as a a couple of  impatient 8 year olds will always mean thick slices). Put the peel into the pan with the measured cooking water.

Take a rubber spatula and squash as much juice as you can from the pulp in the sieve and tip this into the marmalade pan. Put the remaining pips and pulp into a muslin square and tie up (or take the pop sock approach) and then dangle this down into your pan too. The pith and pips contain masses of pectin which will set the marmalade later.

Bring the pan up to the boil and then remove your bag, or sock, and give it a squeeze to release as much of the valuable pectin as possible.

Tip in the sugar and place the pot back on a low flame. Once the sugar has dissolved you can up the heat and bring the marmalade to a rolling boil. Watch it carefully you don’t want it bubble over. Give it a stir and skim the froth from the surface from time to time (or you will have cloudy marmalade)

Now you’re on the home straight. Your marmalade will take about 25 – 45 minutes at a fast boil to reach setting consistancy (there are so many variables- the heat, the width of your pan, the amount of pectin, so I can’t be precise). Test the setting consistancy after 25 minutes by spooning some hot marmalade straight onto one of your plates from the freezer, allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. Now push the marmalade with your fingertip, if it’s ready it will form a wrinkly skin as you do so. If not, continue to boil and check at 5 minute intervals.

Once the marmalade’s ready leave to cool for 15 minutes, skim off any last foam and ladle into the hot jars. Cover with waxed disks if using, and seal with lids or cellophane at once.

♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣

It’s win, win all the way. Imi and her friend Eleanor not only loved the marmalade making they also earned a few more points for their all-important Brownie hobby badge and we’ve got a cupboard filled with marmalade which I intend to make ice-cream with aswell as eat on toast.

It’s also always wise to buy a few extra Seville oranges as they make a pretty damn good addition to a Gin and Tonic……talking of which, it is almost 6 o’clock.

Calçots, Romesco and a great start to the New Year

Every year we try to get out to Barcelona to celebrate New Year and the arrival of the Kings on January 6th… it elongates the festive season beautifully and gives us a chance to catch up with my “Barcelona Babies” (I au-paired there a shocking 30 years ago) and their wonderful family. We always  head for the hills too, to spend a few days with our friends Mercè and Jaume at their fabulous old country home El Folló in the Montseny.

Jenny Chandler calcots

I met Mercè years ago when I was researching my first book, The Food of Northern Spain, and was recommended to stay at El Folló and sample some of her fabulous cooking. We had so much in common: a love of travel, of good, honest food without the fiddley-faff and we both really enjoyed teaching. Fifteen years later and we’re very much in touch; Mercè has contributed a recipe to each of my books, brought a group of her students to Bristol and comes over on an English food quest whenever she can, whilst I’ve taken part in the El Folló bread festival, taught in Mercè’s cookery school and still try to visit every year. Above all we’re great friends and both Peter and Imi love to visit just as much as I do.

We sometimes hunt for mushrooms in the mountainous woodland  behind the house but this year a cold snap meant that there were very few to be found, so we popped down to the Saturday market in a local town, La Garriga, instead. All the usual Spanish market suspects were there (sorry for the rather random photographs, I wasn’t really in tourist mode) – the knife grinder, the stalls of slippers, pyjamas and fancy housecoats, the compulsory selection of extraordinary reinforced corsets, the rotisserie chickens and then all the other fabulous food stuff of course.

There were piles of curly endive, the salad leaf of choice at this time of year AND, more importantly, there were calçots. These look like a cross between a spring onion and a leek, but are in fact twice- planted green onions. Calçots have soil pushed up around them as they grow, cutting out the light and encouraging the long, pale and sweet stems. There was no way that we could resist the first of the season.

We rushed back home, cleaned off the worst of the dirt, trimmed the ragged tops and then lined the calçots up in the grill racks ready to go on the fire. Over the winter there’s always a fire alight in the hearth where bread, peppers and aubergines are toasted and roasted. We even collected pine cones to lay by the embers to open up in the heat and release their waxy kernels. The calçots charred and cooked over the flames and then we wrapped them in newspaper to sweat and soften.

Meanwhile we made the romesco. You couldn’t possibly consider eating calçots without romesco sauce and since you’re unlikely to be finding many of these highly prized alliums outside Catalonia you’ll be pleased to hear that this sauce is equally fab’ with asparagus, tender stem broccoli, grilled spring onions, braised leeks, prawns, squid, lamb and so the list goes on.

So here goes for the deliciously nutty sauce. There are so many versions for this sauce but Mercè’s cuts out any frying and seemed wonderfully simple, quick and very, very moreish.

Romesco Sauce (about 10 servings)
5 dried Nyora peppers
1 small dried red chilli pepper
50g blanched almonds
50g hazelnuts, skins removed
3 ripe tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, left in skins
a handful of parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
5-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt

Set the oven to 200ºC

Rip open the dried peppers and soak in warm water for 15 minutes (if you are using nyora pepper flakes as Mercè does, or just dried sweet pimetón then you can jump this stage)

Meanwhile roast the nuts until golden and just beginning to smell wonderful, and also bake the whole tomatoes and garlic cloves for about 5 -10 minutes (you’ll probably want to take the garlic out before the tomatoes – don’t let it burn or it will taste bitter).

Drain off the peppers and remove any stalks and seeds.

Now take a food processor and make a paste of the garlic and the peppers ( or add about 1 tbsp of nyora flakes or 2 heaped tsps of pimetón). Next add the nuts, the tomatoes (skin and all) and  work to a thick paste. Whizz in the parsley at the last minute.

Work in the vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt to taste.

The sauce is eaten at room temperature and it’s absolutely sublime. It will keep happily for a couple of days in a jar, covered with a layer of olive oil.

AND….

Should you find some calçots? Then, once they’ve softened in the newspaper it’s time for you to get your hands dirty. You simply slide the charred outer skin off the onion whist hanging on to the green top. Dip the sweet flesh into the sauce and then dangle the calçot into your mouth and munch. It’s definitely not a top menu choice for a first date…
If you really want to investigate this very Catalan, sweet onion tradition then the last weekend in January is a great time to visit Valls (near Tarragona) for the annual calçotada.

Stilton, Eccles Cakes and New Year’s Resolutions

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions and once again I’ve resolved to give nothing up at all. The short, dark, cold January days can be a bit depressing anyway without depriving myself of chocolate, alcohol or anything else I truly enjoy. No….. I’m resolving to swim more often, which is hardly a chore as the beautiful Clifton Lido is just a ten minute walk away. I’m going to attack my accounts once a week (now that’s a serious challenge). And, most importantly as far as Imi and this blog are concerned, I am going to continue with the Monday Night Cooking Club.

A few weeks ago I decided that I really needed to commit to cooking with Imi on a regular basis. It’s too easy to be in a hurry, to be feeling in need of a little “head time” (I have a daughter who’d sweep the board on “Just a Minute”)  or just not to be in the mood to clean up a bomb site .. so much so that we hardly ever seemed to cook together. Bring on the “Cooking Club” as Imi has christened our Monday evening antics in the kitchen. Each week Imi invites a friend back from school and we make something. There’s really no getting out of it now, even if I wanted to, she already has a register with the next dozen participants lined up.

Last term we made:
-spinach and ricotta ravioli with her friend Avalon (great fun rolling the pasta, stuffing and cutting, and a fabulous way to get the girls eating spinach),
-pumpkin and coconut cake with Bea (plenty of spoon licking),
-meatballs and apple tarts with Lettie (a very good supper)
-and then Eleanor joined us baking Christmas cakes and then icing them a couple of weeks later. I’m loving it as much as they are, yes I have those moments on a Monday at 3pm when I question my sanity but it’s so satisfying.

Today Imi and her little friend Lettie made Eccles cakes for us to take out to Barcelona for New Year’s Eve tomorrow. The combination of Eccles cakes and Stilton was new to me until recently…….Was it a moment of Fergus Henderson magic to marry the two ( as he does at his restaurant St John)? Or, is this a long-held tradition? Perhaps you can tell me? Anyway it’s delicious. So, I’m going to reek of blue cheese at the rather glam’ party we’re going to with all our Catalan friends tomorrow night because I have half a Colston Bassett Stilton secreted in my suitcase (along with a 1/2 a kilo of clotted cream). I’ve used about 10 metres of cling film trying to hermetically seal the thing but it does seem that the waft will out. My hand luggage will be largely made up of tins of Eccles cakes, chocolate ginger thins and shortbread. There is some method in my madness as all this food will disappear very quickly leaving copious room for any small purchases that I might just make in Barcelona (ooh the shoe shops!)

Eccles Cakes with Stilton- Makes 12

40g butter
225 g currants
25g chopped candied peel
75g muscovado / dark drown sugar
1/2 tsp orange/lemon zest or mix
1 tsp mixed spice (or mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger)
pinch of salt

500 g  All-Butter Puff Pastry
1 egg white, beaten
Golden granulated or Demerara sugar

For the Filling
Just melt the butter and then mix in all the other ingredients and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Assembly
Roll out the pastry to under 1/2 cm thick and cut out into squares – you should get about 12. Most recipes ask for circles but it’s more of a faff and you waste pastry. However, if you’re worried about ending up with just slightly square cakes ( and I’m not) then go for the circles.

Pile up a spoonful of filling in the middle of each square and then brush around the edge with some egg white.

Now pull in the edges to cover the filling and press everything together to seal. Turn over and roll gently to flatten and help into a circle-ish shape.

Make about 3 slashes in the top of each cake, brush with the egg whites and sprinkle with sugar. Chill on a baking tray for at least 20 minutes (or bake straight away if you’re an impatient child – slightly flatter pastry!).

Preheat the oven to 220 C and bake the cakes until really gold and and crispy.

Cool and store in a tin.

I’ll warm these a little tomorrow before serving with my amazingly creamy Stilton Cheese or with the clotted cream (that’s assuming that it hasn’t escaped all over the suitcase) .

A sprout is not just for Christmas

Jenny Chandler Sprouts

We bought our Christmas sprouts on the stalk yesterday, ensuring optimum freshness for our big feast tomorrow. The guinea pigs are already munching on some of the sweet leaves from the sprout top and we’ll have the rest for lunch.

I’ve adored sprouts for as long as I can remember, even as a toddler- along with Stilton cheese. I’d always felt quite proud about my developed palate; early signs of a true food lover, I thought. I recently discovered that a love of bitter, strong flavours as a child could betray the fact that I’m short on taste buds; “super-tasters” (those people with the highest concentrations of taste buds) apparently find most brassicas overpoweringly bitter. So, do I miss out on all sorts of delicate nuances as I eat every day? That may be, but at least it allows me to revel in the delicious possibilities of the Brussel sprout.

It seems tragic that most people only eat their sprouts once a year when there are so many tasty possibilities- so here are my …..

5 favourite ways with sprouts

Simply steamed until JUST cooked through and then tossed in a bit of butter before serving. If you’re using small sprouts there’s no need to cut those little crosses in the bottom; if using large sprouts I cut them in half. Any bacon you might have put over a roasting bird can be chopped or broken up and thrown in too

Roasted sprouts are a revelation. Turn your oven up really high  (200°c +). Toss whole sprouts in olive oil, salt and pepper and then roast for about 10 minutes (more if they’re large ones) or until the outer leaves are a bit charred and the centres are tender.

Stir fried sprouts with orange and chestnuts are heaven with a roast. Slice the sprouts as finely as possible. Take a wok or large frying pan and begin by frying a diced onion in olive oil until soft. Throw in a finely sliced clove of garlic and your sprouts and toss around over a high heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Now add about 1/2 tsp of orange zest and a handful of cooked chestnuts. Give everything a good stir before adding the juice of the orange and seasoning with plenty of salt and pepper.
A few lardons fried up with the onion at the beginning of the dish are fantastic here too.

Brussel sprout Bubble and Squeak is the  absolute best- using any left overs from the sprout dishes above or eve shredding some sprouts for the purpose. Make sure that having mixed them in with your potatoes you fry the mixture with plenty of oil and allow it to catch and caramelise on the bottom of your frying ban. The charred, crunchy bits are the key to a sublime dish, along with plenty of Worcestershire Sauce and a poached egg.

– My new favourite, sprout salad, discovered at a fabulous pop-up in Bristol only last week. If you happen to be a local then make sure that you head down to  Bar Buvette (great write up by Fiona Beckett) on Baldwin Street as this bar may only be around for a few weeks and you REALLY DON”T WANT TO MISS IT!
But back to my sprouts – Peter Taylor (formerly of The Riverstation and Bell’s Diner) was serving very simple cheeses, charcuterie, fab’ cheese toasties  and then this very simple (but incredibly delicious salad) when we went down to sample his wines last week. I don’t think I’d ever eaten raw sprouts before….strange when I love all sorts of variations on coleslaw.
(Peter pointed out that you could always ponce things up and go a bit Italian by calling it a Cavolini or Cavoletti salad).

 

Sprout, Pecorino and Hazelnut Salad 
(as starter or side dish for 4)

400 g sprouts, peeled and shredded
100 g pecorino or parmesan, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A good handful of hazelnuts
salt and black pepper

Toss everything together and season to taste. Great eaten on its own or very delicious with a crispy jacket potato and a bit of cold ham too.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS & I do hope you enjoy your sprouts.

 

 

 

Amsterdam, Liquorice and Stem Ginger

I’ve been meaning to write about our long weekend in Amsterdam for over a month now – in fact I have a queue of blog posts lined up and now, after the rush of pre-Christmas cooking classes, I might just get down to a bit of writing.

Jenny Chandler and Family Amsterdam

Soaking up the winter sunshine in Amsterdam

I just can’t believe that I’d never been to Holland before, I suppose that I’ve always felt that it’s right on the doorstep- any how we decided to escape at half term on a hideously early flight, which did mean that we were fit for little more than watching the world go by from a barge for most of the first day. We’d booked a 48 hour, jump-on-and-off boat ticket  on line (with museum entries too) so I felt rather smug and über-organised for once, saving some precious euros as well as a lengthy queue.

The boat was ideal, Imi rather randomly spent most of the time engrossed in a puzzle book about  Ancient Egypt allowing us to soak up the scene. Mile upon mile of skinny canal houses with their glorious gables cutting into the clear blue sky,  bikes everywhere, stalls of tulip bulbs and the odd Gouda cheese emporium. Amsterdam was everything I’d expected – all the clichés in a good way, bar the delights of the red light district which we left to the stag parties (although the crotchless, fishnet body stocking in the shop window by the tram stop did lead to a challenging discussion with an 8 year old).

I didn’t expect to be making many gastronomic discoveries on the trip, we were travelling with Imi after all and there’s only so much time that she’ll put up with poking about in food markets and perusing restaurant menus. We came upon the Saturday organic farmer’s market in the square by the Noorderkerk quite by chance; they were doing a roaring trade in oysters and I snapped up cheese, bread, apples and raspberry tart for a picnic lunch.

We left the fabulous museums until Monday and Tuesday when the crowds had calmed down a bit and were surprised at how relatively quiet they were. There were moments in the Van Gogh Museum when you could find yourself standing quite alone in front of one of those oh-so-familiar masterpieces, it was just a million miles away from the Mona Lisa scrum I experienced a few years ago in Paris. The Rijksmuseum was mind-blowing too, with Imi’s highlight being the 1660, Pieter de Hooch’s Mother’s Duty ( a mother delousing her daughter’s hair)- rather topical after a recent school memo about the latest nit outbreak

Back to the foodie stuff though –

Autumn beer, a dark delicious brew became the holiday refreshment  – particularly the Chouffe Boc 666 (which I’ve since discovered is Belgian!).

My newly found snack of choice was the local ossenworst – a sort of lightly smoked, subtly spiced raw beef sausage, a bit like steak tartare, served with dark bread, pickles and mustard.

We were  determined to eat a traditional Indonesian Rijsttafel (a huge spread of tiny dishes) whilst we were in Amsterdam and our dinner at Sampurna right next to the flower market on the Singel canal was very good indeed.

And then came the Liquorice?- Now I thought that I liked, even loved, liquorice – from the super-commercial Bertie Bassett variety to the soft Kiwi sticks and even the salty Italian pastilles in their tiny designer tins. So, when we found a wall of liquorice in a traditional sweet shop, I went a little wild and bought bags of the stuff: salted, sweet, with honey, with bay and then a good scoop of the Amsterdam “drop”. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for the astoundingly hideous taste of the “drop”- flavoured with ammonium chloride! The rest of my liquorice haul was not much better – so please all you Dutchmen and Scandi’s (yes, you chaps eat it too) explain yourselves.

& finally came the splendid pancakes at Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs. There is a bit of hype surrounding this tiny place (just four tables), especially since Anthony Bourdain visited, so I’d definitely book. Thankfully you do burn off a bit of energy getting up the unbelievably steep stairs, as the pancakes are huge. Star of the show was the cheese pancake with a mound of finely diced stem ginger piled in the centre. It’s a combination I’ll be repeating and did remind me just how much I love stem ginger.

And just incase you were wondering what else you could do with stem ginger?

  • Slice and eat with plenty of salted butter on wholemeal toast for breakfast.
  • Use as a marinade for grilled salmon – Dice finely and mix with orange juice, zest and soy sauce. Pour over the salmon (leave in one piece rather than individual portions), leave for 20 minutes and then grill until caramelised on top and still wonderfully juicy inside.
  • Added in thin slices to a chocolate or pear tart.
  • Combine with rhubarb – in fools, crumbles or my favourite rhubarb and ginger pavlova.

 

Empanada and Jazz in the School Hall

It’s about time that I got back to my blog- I know, weeks of inexcusable silence. Well, it’s been a momentous month: I hit 50, Peter and I got engaged (after just 14 years) and I’ve got a new book on the go. I’ve stored up all sorts of stuff that I really will get down to writing about but thought I’d flash this one off. Here’s the empanada recipe that I cooked, amongst other tasty bits, at the P.T.A fundraiser at our daughter Imi’s  primary school – Hotwells (just a quick hike down, and decidedly buttock-firming climb back up, Granby Hill) in Bristol.

The very enthusiastic Mr Bassett, A.K.A. Peter/Manuel, was my tapas assistant and sidekick – (there was a Fanny and Johnny-esque tone to the demo and now I’m convinced that all the school parents think I’m a bossy old bag -it was all put on of course!) The evening’s entertainment went from the ridiculous to the sublime with another Mum, the super-talented Kate Dimbleby, singing some jazzy numbers including a couple from her latest show and album Beware of Young Girls (Go on have a click and a listen), The Dory Previn Story,  that she just happens to be taking to New York this Christmas.

But now to the empanada which went down a treat – the recipe came from a small restaurant just outside the town of Goian in Galicia. My search for the perfect empanada had been a long one, I felt like I was a million miles from home, gazing across the Minho river at Portugal and then suddenly Fernando the owner/chef started regaling me with tales from his days as a waiter at Thornbury Castle (just a few miles from Bristol) when Fanny Craddock parked her Rolls on the croquet lawn (oh yes we’re back to Fanny again!). It was all quite surreal .. but I must now get to the point and give you that recipe

Empanada
Galician Flat Pie

The Crust
20 g/ ¾ oz fresh yeast or 1 tsp dried
350 g/12 oz strong white flour
125 g/4 ½ oz corn meal, masa harina or finely ground polenta
½ tbsp salt
50 ml/2 fl oz white wine
100 ml/3 ½ fl oz olive oil
50 g/2 oz lard, chopped into 1 cm/ ½ inch dice (you could use vegetable fat instead)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Another egg lightly beaten, to seal and glaze.

Mix the yeast up with about 3 tablespoons of blood temperature water until you have a creamy paste.

Now put the flour, cornmeal, salt, wine, oil, lard, egg and yeast in a large bowl and begin to stir everything together. You can get your hands in pretty quickly and bring the dough together. It should feel soft and quite sticky, if there is any dry flour left in the bowl then add a splash more water. You will have a job to roll the dough out thinly later if it is too dry.

Work the dough, squashing and rolling for a couple of minutes until well combined and smooth. It will feel somewhere between a pasta and a bread dough. Place it back in the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for at least an hour or until it has risen a little.

Meanwhile make your filling
Tuna filling – Relleno de atún

150 ml/ ¼ pint olive oil
4 onions, sliced finely
1 red pepper, sliced finely
1 green pepper, sliced finely
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1x 170 g/5 oz can tuna in olive oil
4 tbsp tomato puree
salt to taste
3 boiled eggs, sliced (optional)

Fry the onion until soft and golden and then add the peppers. You really should take your time on this -the longer and more gently you fry this base the sweeter and more delicious the result.

Sprinkle in the paprika and stir in the tuna and tomato puree, cooking for another couple of minutes. Season with salt to taste. Just remember to slightly over season the filling – you might want a dash of vinegar and even a sprinkle of hot paprika too (the filling will be surrounded by the more neutral crust)

Lay the slices of egg on top of the filling in the empanada before adding the lid.

Now for the Assembly

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C /400°F /Gas mark 6.

Back to the crust. Roll out half the dough to a 5 mm/ ¼ inch thickness to fit your baking sheet or Swiss roll tin. Grease the baking sheet and lay the dough on top.

Now pile on the filling, spreading it evenly, leaving a 2cm/1 inch margin around the edge. Include all the deliciously oily juices too

Brush the edge with a little beaten egg – this is your glue so do beware not to drip it down the sides of the dough or it will be welded to the tin when it comes to serving.

Roll the rest of the dough to the same size and lay it over the filling. Now crimp the edges together, twisting over the dough to form a rope-like edge – like a Cornish pasty.

Brush the entire empanada with beaten egg and, using a fork, pierce the top with dozens of holes ( or you’ll end up with the London dome effect and then a large split).

Leave to rest for 10 minutes and then bake in the hot oven for 20 – 30 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned.

Fillings can vary enormously but just think of the onion, pepper, paprika and tomato as the base and then add cooked chorizo, pork loin, octopus, salt cod and raisins, black pudding with pine kernels or whatever else takes your fancy.

You’ll find recipes for pork and chorizo or octopus empanadas in my book – The Real Taste of Spain- available from the Hotwell’s School office (if you happen to be a parent) or from good bookshops and from Amazon too

Jenny Chandler- The Real Taste of Spain

And just another little picture for you – I visited a bakery in Santiago de Compostela where everyone took their own fillings into the baker who made up the empanadas with his own fabulous dough, initials were marked in the crust and then baked at dawn ready for a simple lunch or snack to be picked up first thing in the morning.

Apple Day Dumplings

I have to admit that Apple Day has always passed me by, but this year I was writing a small piece for Borough Market about heritage apples and the celebrations that they’re holding in the market on Sunday 26th October. There will be 1000 varieties of apple on display, many available to taste, to celebrate the market’s 1000th birthday (there are in fact over 2,300 named apple cultivars).

Suddenly I’ve become more apple-aware and got all hot under the collar (& with good reason too) looking at how many foreign imports are being sold in the supermarkets at the height of our own apple harvest. I went out on an English apple hunt and found a good variety of home-grown fruit in my local green grocers – Reg the Veg. There was an even bigger selection of lesser known apple types at Earthbound, the organic store in Cotham. It was fascinating to taste so many totally different flavours and textures, Imi and her friends joined our panel – here are our tasting results.image

At the top of the pile we LOVED Egremont Russett (nutty), Red Windsor (very crisp and juicy), Braeburn (good sweet /sharp balance) and Charles Ross (wonderfully sweet).

In the second tier came Adam’s Pearmain (aromatic but a bit soft and granular) , Hereford Russett (not quite as sweet and nutty as its Egremont cousin) , Spartan (perhaps a little too sweet), Cox ( good taste – could have been crisper) Kidd’s Orange Red ( a wee bit too sharp for the girls but I enjoyed it) and Gala (bit sweet and bland).

Our only rejects were the tiny Pitmaston Pineapples that just seemed rather wooly and uninteresting.

So, fired up with newly found enthusiasm for heritage apples Peter, Imi and I visited the Horfield Community Organic Orchard  (HOCO) in Bristol for their Apple Day celebrations last weekend. You’d never imagine that there was an orchard and allotment plot tucked away behind the houses on King’s Drive but having found the tiny path we suddenly walked through a gateway into a little haven in the city. The volunteers at the orchard share their knowledge about fruit growing, look after  the ancient heritage varieties they discovered on the site and keep up a wonderful green space;  in short they’re a breath of fresh air in the city.

On Sunday there was a stall of fabulous home-baked cakes (all appley of course), a table of dozens of varieties to taste, apple pressing (giving the most fabulously toffeeish juice), a stand of jams, chutneys and very young trees and then some good old Morris Dancing. The sun shone, it was ridiculously warm for October and the busy Gloucester Road seemed a million miles away.
Maybe every city has a few gems like this tucked away, but I’m always amazed how many little secrets there seem to be around Bristol waiting to be discovered.

One recipe I discovered whilst doing my research for Borough was for apple dumplings. My neighbour, Sacha, says that as a child she used to beg her mother for any leftover pastry when she was baking and wrap up an apple into a dumpling. I have to confess that I’d never even heard of them.  Apple dumplings have now entered my repertoire, they’re a great way of playing around with whatever dried fruit or nuts you might have in the cupboard and just feel a bit more special than a simple baked apple. So, here’s the recipe.

Apple Dumplings (4)

4 delicious dessert or dual-purpose apples – I used Herefordshire Russets (cookers are just too soft and moist)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp of chopped dried fruit – I used figs but apricots, dates or sultanas would be delicious too.
2 tbsp brandy, calvados or rum
1 tbsp roughly chopped nuts – hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios
3 tbsp ground almonds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp muscovado or other brown sugar
250 g puff pastry (I cheated with all – butter bought stuff)
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

Pre-heat the oven to 220 °c

Peel the apples and remove the cores, leaving about 2cm flesh at the bottom. I find it easiest to remove a plug with a knife and then excavate with a melon baller (about the only time I ever use it) to give a decent size cavity for the filling. Roll the apples around in the lemon juice in a bowl to stop them browning.

Now place the dried fruit in a small pan with the alcohol and bring it up to the boil. Switch off and leave the fruit to plump up whilst you prepare the rest of the stuffing.

Mix together everything else and then tip in the fruit and alcohol.

Carefully spoon as much of the filling as possible into the apples, be generous, you can really pile it on top.

Now take a piece of foil to check what size your pastry squares need to be to enclose the apples. Roll out the pastry very thinly and cut into your 4 squares.

Place the apple in the centre of each square and pull up the corners as if you were forming a new stem. Pinch together the sides, chop off the excess pastry and use this to make a few leaves.

Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and stick on the leaves. Bake in the oven on a tray for about 20- 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Eat whilst hot with cream, clotted cream or honeyed yoghurt.

And just another thing – my rather beautiful plates that I’ve served the apples on are, in fact, made of tin. Lindy sells them at her glorious Portobello shop Ceramica Blue or if you’re in Bristol you can find them in the  Bristol Guild . I can’t wait to whip them out on my next camping trip – they range from William Morris designs to replicas of Queen Victoria’s Coronation plates.