Spicy apple pickle

Hmmm nothing better than biting into a crisp, fresh, apple. And we are smack bang in the middle of apple season here in the UK. I just recently found out that apples were brought over here many centuries ago from the east. So bizarre as for me apples are quintessentially English.

I blagged some free from my friend Livi who has an apple tree growing in her garden. You wouldn’t find these marvellously misshapen beauties in the uniformity-obsessed supermarket! I decided to use the smaller two for  a very quick spiced apple pickle (large one saved for apple crumble). And here is my dirty secret confession…I  don’t make the spice mix from scratch as my 3-year-old demands my attention. So I use Jalpur Achar Masala which is available online or from your friendly local Indian grocery.

A Gujarati meal is not complete without some pickles and chutneys. And unlike restaurants where they are served as an appetiser with papads, pickles in Guju household are eaten with the main meal, as are papads! This one works with crisp, slightly sour apples.

Before we start, I have to make a small point about the oil used. In India, mustard oil is used for pickles. It gives them a special ‘pickle’ flavour. However, it seems that a systematic (corporate, Western) campaign has resulted in this oil being banned for edible use in Europe, Canada and America. And the production of it is banned in India which I just find disgusting as it was a major source of revenue for many small villages and towns.

I’ve done some research and cannot find any real studies to show the issues with mustard oil. So until there is scientific proof that it’s bad for humans (and not rats) then I’ll use it. Luckily it’s available in my local Indian stores.  But hey, it’s not vital and I’m not dogmatic. My dad makes this pickle too and happily uses olive oil… and when I visit him, I greedily eat up his pickle. So it’s up to you – mustard or olive. Or even rapeseed oil. Or if you are willing to go to the expense, there is an Australian company called Yandilla  that sells edible pungent mustard oil. Soooo much choice.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g apples
  • 30 ml mustard oil. Alt extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil.
  • 2 tsp Jalpur Achar Masala mix
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preparation

  • Wash and core the apples. Cut them into small 2 inch pieces. Then squirt some lemon juice over the apples to stop them browning

  • Heat the mustard oil over a gentle heat until it starts to smoke. Then turn off and let cool
  • Put the apple pieces into a bowl and add spice mix and sugar. Stir well. I don’t want the pickle too hot so only use 2. With time and practice, you can decided the right amount for your taste
  • When the oil has completely cooled, pour over apples and again stir well.
  • Put into a sterile jar. When you wants some make sure you use a clean spoon which helps the pickle last for at least a week in the fridge.

Jam Tarts

The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts based on a recipe from the Icons. a portrait of England site.

She got somewhat annoyed the butter in the mix didn’t make the breadcrumb consistency the recipe calls for and that the dough ended up very sticky even though she only used one tablespoon of water. She then ended up annoyed with the dough sticking to the surface while rolling out and the little Queen’s helper who kept eating all the jam or spending ages filling one tart tray. So much for a good way to relax. In frustration, she dumped the tarts in the oven, logged onto her computer and fell rapidly down, down, down into the rabbithole that is the Internet.

The tarts were forgotten for just a while, enough time for them to burn slightly but they tasted very nice nonetheless. I used up my Hartley’s best Strawberry jam which in my opinion is not the best for the toast in the morning.

The bods that be on that site decided that Alice in Wonderland is very English. I jolly well agree what!

Wrap cardigan

I have spent most of the last 2 weeks of evenings knitting this jumper which is by far the most complicated thing I have ever done. I also had to get used to knitting again after months of crochet. My hand and arm muscles were in pain I can tell you.

The yarn of choice was Sirdar’s Double Knitting in a lovely deep red shade and I have to say after months of working with bamboo tape, I found this acrylic very unnatural feeling. The positive side is that it is both washable and tumble dry-able (unlike the bamboo tape which is the former but not the latter).

The pattern is from Sirdar’s Little Sweet Peas booklet, design H

I love the colour. And I am pretty chuffed with the final product but I didn’t follow all the instructions. I abandoned the fiddley edging and decided to crochet a simple shell edge instead which looks very pretty.

The tot doesn’t like it predominately because it’s not pink. However, after I threatened to send it to her cousin, she became very possessive. Maybe one of these days she’ll even wear it and be a pretty little ballerina.

Extremely chocolatey cornflake cakes

OK this is not a new recipe. I’m sure you’ve made a version at school or as a precocious cook. Not much good for my high cholesterol but hey, every now and again, you have to give in to your inner pig. The small addition of dark orangey chocolate makes this version just that extra bit yum.

Ingredients

  • 150g Green and Black’s milk chocolate
  • 50g Green and Black’s maya gold chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 2 tbs golden syrup
  • 75g cornflakes

Cooking (if you can call it that)

  • Melt chocolate and butter in a very large boil over a pan of hot water
  • Stir in the golden syrup and ensure it’s well blended
  • Mix in the cornflakes
  • Spoon out into cupcake cases
  • Stick in the fridge for 20 mins
  • PIG OUT. If you have any left, they should be ok in the fridge for a couple of days.

Fine beans and potato curry

Sometimes it’s not possible to get to an Indian grocer so I have to make do with ingredients from the local supermarket. Today I was pleasantly surprised to see the local Co-op brim full of veggie treasures. I chose some fine green beans as I love to eat my greens! There must be loads of air miles on these as they come from Kenya (where I was born), but they are ever so tasty in a simple curry. The amounts of spice below can be increased if you fancy a hot curry but it really works with a mild amount of spice to let the flavour of the beans shine through. Also I use new potatoes as they hold their shape better but it’s fine to substitute Maris Piper or King Edwards – just cut them into bigger 2 inch cubes.

Ingredients:

  • 340g fine beans – snap each bean into 3
  • 450 g new potatoes – scrub and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tbs ground nut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard/fenugreek seeds (rye methi)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 green chili – chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic – chopped finely
  • 1 inch ginger – grated
  • 1  tsp chili powder (murcha)
  • 1/4  tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1/2  tsp coriander cumin powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tomatoes – chopped very finely
  • 1 squeeze lemon

Cooking

  • In a large pan, heat oil then add mustard and cumin seeds. Let them sizzle and pop
  • Add the garlic, chili and ginger and cook for about 30 seconds (don’t let them get overcooked)
  • Add the potatoes and stir fry for about 5 minutes. The edges of the potatoes should start going translucent
  • Add green beans and stir thoroughly
  • Add all the spices then give it all a good stir
  • Pour in water – it should not be above the level of the veg
  • Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer
  • When you can push a knife through the potatoes, add the tomatoes and lemon juice. Cook for another 5 mins on low heat
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with rice, rotlis or naan

P.S. These green beans go very well with broccoli and peas. My hubby isn’t keen on the latter and doesn’t know what he is missing. In the above, don’t add potatoes – add a head of broccoli (cut into spears) and a cup of frozen peas at the same time as you put in the beans. Cook until the veg are just turning tender which is usually very quick. Omit the tomatoes but add the lemon juice. Absolutely delicious.