Monday, March 28, 2016

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 5

There have been some exciting things happen here in Christchurch in the wake of the February 2011 earthquake.  Many interesting activities that have popped up around the city as a result of the Gap Filler project, quirky cafes and bars have taken up residence on demolition sites, and many of the city's broken buildings have become the canvas for unique artworks, all of which have given the city a real vibrance that it didn't have pre-earthquake.

But one thing that is very sobering is the number of whole suburbs that have disappeared, and have now become what we know as the Residential Red Zone.  In these areas the land became highly unstable and the Crown determined that it was uneconomic to repair or stabilise the land.  As a result the Crown acquired all the land from the home owners and all the houses were demolished.  What you see today is large areas of land now devoid of houses and people, but the gardens still remain, like a spectre of the neighbourhoods lost.  Walking around the red zone has an almost eerie feeling to it.  But to every cloud there is a silver lining, and these well established but abandoned gardens are a forager's paradise.

My home is less than 100 metres from the beginning of the red zone, and this week I have been gathering pears and several buckets of Black Boy peaches.  I also have my eye on feijoas, walnuts, figs, more pears, and olives - all yet to ripen.

Some of you may have never come across Black Boy peaches.  They are an old heritage variety, with a dark almost purple skin and pink flesh.  You generally won't come across them in supermarkets;  instead you are most likely to acquire some only if you know someone who grows them, or you might stumble across some at a farmers market if you're lucky.  Unlike other peaches, they are in my opinion better suited to stewing or poaching than eaten fresh, and they are also beautiful made into jams and chutneys.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 1

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Potluck Week, giving us the opportunity to cook with any one of our IHCC stable of guest chefs.  With the bounty of all the late summer produce around at the moment, preserving is high priority for me right now, and I've been spending a lot of time lately splattering the pages of Diana Henry's "Salt Sugar Smoke" with all manner of delicious sauces and jams.  I love Diana's approach to preserving and, seeking some inspiration for dealing with one of those buckets of peaches, this seemed like the ideal place to look.  I had been thinking along the lines of chutney actually, but then I stumbled across her recipe for White Peach & Raspberry Jam.  Since I had a stash of frozen raspberries to use up as well, I could go no further.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 2

I made a few tiny tweaks to the recipe - firstly using these glorious pink fleshed peaches instead of white;  I included the zest from the lemons along with the juice, because why not:  and I added the grated flesh of one apple instead of the box of commercial pectin asked for in the original recipe.  Also once the jam has been made and bottled, Diana then puts the bottles through a canning process.  Personally, this is something I have never bothered doing with jam, and I've had no problem with them keeping for up to 12 months, but feel free to do so if you have concerns about keeping your jams for long periods of time.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 3

The resulting jam, as you can see, has the most spectacular colour.  It's not overly sweet, has a softish set to it and incredible fragrance, giving this jam an almost seductive quality.  A dollop of this on top of some sourdough rye and carraway bread I picked up at the farmers market made the perfect start to the day for a Sunday morning breakfast.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam 4

If you're lucky enough to get your hands on some Black Boy peaches, I urge you to give this a try.

Black Boy Peach & Raspberry Jam Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Diana Henry
from Salt Sugar Smoke
Makes 4 large jars
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1.2kg Black Boy peaches (or whatever peaches you can get)
5 cups raspberries
grated zest of one lemon
juice of 2 lemons
1x apple, flesh grated
5 cups sugar

Place clean jars and lids into a low oven to sterilise them.

Meanwhile remove the skins from the peaches by plunging them briefly into a pot of boiling water.  Remove and plunge into a bowl of cold water.  The skins should then slide off easily.  Halve the peaches, remove and discard the stones, and cut the flesh into slices or chunks.

Put all of the peach flesh into a large, deep saucepan, along with the raspberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, and grated apple.  Crush slightly to start the fruit juices running, then set pan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Add the sugar, bring back to the boil, and continue boiling until setting point is reached (100 degrees C/220 degrees F on a sugar thermometer).

Allow jam to stand for 10 minutes to cool slightly, and then ladle into the hot jars.  Leave to cool before sealing with lids.

If you would like to get to know Diana Henry or any of our other IHCC chefs a little better, and to see all the wonderful Potluck dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts 1

We've had a spectacular summer in my part of the world, but literally like a switch going off autumn screamed in right on the 1st of March, bringing with it cool, nippy mornings, gloomy days and chillier evenings.  After a couple of weeks of decidedly autumnal weather, however, summer returned this weekend (hopefully for a few weeks to come) with clear blue skies and loads of sunshine.

Since recently moving back to Christchurch, I have of late been enjoying reacquainting myself with the local farmers market, and yesterday was the kind of day that makes it a real joy to venture out - the sun was shining, music played, all the stalls were flat out busy, and plenty of market goers were taking the opportunity to grab something to eat and enjoy "brunch" sitting in the sunshine on the river bank.

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're going green and healthy, celebrating the spirit of St Patricks Day with our current IHCC guest chef, Ellie Krieger.  I had picked up some brussels sprouts at the supermarket earlier in the week, and was thinking that Ellie's recipe for Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Hazelnuts and Dried Apricots from "Weeknight Wonders" seemed like a good jumping off point.  The original recipe combines thinly shaved brussels sprouts with hazelnuts and dried apricots (probably obviously enough);  however, I was really feeling the autumnal vibe and was thinking that fresh figs would be a great complement to the brussels sprouts.  I had great hopes of finding fresh figs at the farmers market, but it seems I was a bit premature - no figs around yet.

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts 2

I still liked the idea of incorporating figs though, so used some nice plump dried figs that I found, and actually I liked the slightly more "chewy" quality of the dried fruit with the shaved sprouts.  Other changes I made were including a large handful of flat leaf parsley leaves ( I love to use the leaves whole like another salad green, rather than chopping them up), and because I wanted to turn this into a substantial meal for myself I also included some blue goats cheese and some beautiful big, fat, green Sicilian olives that I picked up at the farmers market.  Rock melon too have been abundant of late, and with plenty of melon on hand to be used up I thought this too would work perfectly with the sprouts and figs, and would deliver the juicy succulence that I had been hoping for in fresh figs. I also tweaked the dressing a bit really just to suit ingredients that I had on hand.

Here is my version of Ellie's salad, given its "autumn makeover".  Actually this was the first time I'd ever eaten brussels sprouts raw - won't be the last!  This salad packed plenty of great flavours, and lots of interesting textures - certainly delivers enough on both fronts to potentially get this one past even those who claim to hate sprouts.  I was very happy to make a meal out of this and would certainly make it again.  The other great thing about this salad, unlike a lettuce salad, is that it's not going to go all "wilty" on you, making this perfect to pack up and take outdoors for a picnic or barbeque.

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts 3

Shaved Sprout Salad with Figs & Hazelnuts Recipe
Inspired by recipe by Ellie Krieger
from Weeknight Wonders
Serves 1 as a substantial meal or
Serves 2 as a light meal or side dish
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

large handful of hazelnuts
8x brussels sprouts, washed and outer leaves removed
large handful flat leaf parsley leaves
3x plump dried figs, cut into thin strips
1/4 of a rock melon, skin and seeds removed and cut into cubes
large handful of Sicilian olives
approx 75g (2.5 oz) blue cheese, crumbled

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Place hazelnuts in a small dry frying pan, set over medium heat and toast, tosssing from time to time, until the nuts are golden brown.  Remove pan from the heat, tip the nuts out onto a clean tea towel, wrap them up and rub vigorously to loosen the skins.  Set nuts aside to cool.

Meanwhile, cut the sprouts in half lengthwise, remove the hard "core", and then with a very sharp knife cut them crosswise very thinly.  Place the shave sprouts in a bowl along with the parley leaves, dried figs, cubed rock melon, crumbled blue cheese, green olives, and roughly chopped hazelnuts.

To make the dressing, place all ingredients into a small jug or bowl and whisk until well combined.  Pour over salad ingredients and toss until everything is just coated with the dressing.

Serve and enjoy.

Note:  As with so many of my recipes you don't need to be too fussy about quantities here, or even use all of these ingredients - just follow your instincts and your taste buds to come up with your own creation
For example try using:
broccoli instead of brussels sprouts
feta instead of blue cheese
cranberries instead of dried figs
orange or pink grapefruit instead of rock melon
almonds instead of hazelnuts
The possibilities are limitless - just use your imagination

If you would like to get to know Ellie Krieger a little better, and to see all the wonderful "Green Eating" dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.

I'll also be sharing this post this week at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, and at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Souper Sundays Badge    Weekend Cooking Badge