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The frugal kitchen

Food for free – what’s not to love? Foraging is one of life’s great pleasures and now we live in rural France, I’ve been taking full advantage of the numerous hedgerows. When we first arrived in June, there were elderflowers to gather and cordial to make. For the recipe, see here.

elderflower champagne elderflower cordial 2013

elderflower

Throughout the summer, we enjoyed wild mint in salads, raitas and cous cous.

But now autumn is on our doorstep it’s blackberry and rosehip time…

blackberries, rosehips and mint*disclaimer – the flowers are merely a bit of added pretty, I have no idea whether they are in fact suitable for use as a garnish.

Our landlord’s peach tree simply couldn’t bear its own weight any longer. A single crack, the unmistakable sounds of birds in sudden flight and it was all over for the poor tree. I’m typing to the strains of chain saw on peach tree.

peach and thyme jam

Still, something had to be done with the fruit, and I was more than happy to oblige. These sudden gluts remind me of one of my favourite childhood books: Ruth Orbach’s Apple Pigs. We’ve had peaches for breakfast, peaches for lunch and still we have peaches. Time to realise my long held ambition to make jam.

I’m warning you now, this is a non-WI approved recipe. I took the easy route and just bought a pack of jam sugar from the supermarket, ready loaded with pectin and printed with simple instructions that even a novice like me can follow. Plus, I don’t have my sugar thermometer or any fancy equipment out here.

peach jam

So here we go, peach and thyme jam.

Makes three jars

1 kg ripe peaches, peeled, destoned and chopped into small pieces. As a guide, that was equivalent to 27 small whole peaches for me

3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only

One 500g pack jam sugar

Pop the fruit, thyme and sugar into a large saucepan and bring to the boil on a high heat. Let it bubble away for a good five minutes until the fruit is soft – the packet suggested three minutes, but I was unconvinced after three. If you’re unconvinced, take a teaspoonful and leave to cool. If it starts to set, it’s ready to go.

Pour into sterilised jars and screw on the lids. Leave to stand, flipping the jars after three minutes so the fruit sets evenly throughout the jar.

Madeleines apple, honey and lemon

Although as a rule, I am not a baker (too fussy, too precise, too fiddly), I couldn’t resist the allure of a €3 madeleine tray in Auchan, one afternoon – oh yes, we know how to have a good time around here, an afternoon spent in a hypermarket!

It’s funny how one afternoon breeds another. That afternoon, we were on a mission to buy a saddle for my bike. Saddle fitted, we’ve spent many a pleasant afternoon peddling through the Dordogne’s meandering country lanes. That is completely untrue. Sorry, what I mean is, I have puffed myself and bike up the ridiculously steep Perigordine hills before capitulating half way up, muttering several swear words under my breath and kicking said bike before walking it to the top, only to discover yet another hill. Anyway, on one such torture session idyllic adventure, we came across an apple tree. It didn’t seem to belong to anyone, it was just growing on the side of the public footpath, nature’s equivalent of the vending machine. I figured no one would miss a couple of the many, many apples weighing down its bows.

And hey presto, a full cycle of afternoons as those apples made their way into my first ever batch of madeleines. A pleasant afternoon, multiplied as the family piled round to tuck into them the following day.

This recipe is adapted from Rachel Khoo’s recipe

3 medium eggs

130g granulated sugar

200g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp and 1 tsp honey

4 tbsp milk

200g butter, melted and cooled

2 small apples, peeled, cored and diced very finely

Beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and frothy. Mix the milk and honey into the cooled butter, and add to the eggs.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and lemon zest. Gradually add the flour to the batter. Stir in the chopped apple. Refrigerate for a few hours. Rachel says overnight, but I am impatient.

Preheat the oven to 190C, butter and flour your madeleine tin, and spoon in a tbsp of the batter into each shell. If you are using a silicone tray, it’s a good idea to put it on a baking tray before you spoon in your mixture, so the batter doesn’t spill as you put it into the oven (yep, you guessed it, I found that out the hard way!).

Bake the madeleines for 6 minutes (Rachel says 5, but I found them too pale after just 5), then turn off the oven for one minute. Turn the oven to 160C and bake for another 6 minutes. Turn your madeleines out onto a wire tray to cool and repeat until you’ve used up all you batter. I made four and a half batches from the above in a 9-shell tray.

‘Windfall’ – what a wonderful word; unexpected riches. In this case it happened quite literally. An almighty storm, where lightning flashed, thunder crashed, and rain dashed against the windows.

unripe plum and apple chutney The husband and I looked on in glee – oohing and aahing at nature’s fireworks from the shelter of the porch.

The next morning, we woke to calm and a crisp freshness, as if the world had been through the washing machine and was now gently flapping on the line.

A neighbour’s plum tree, its boughs heavy with fruit, had not withstood the battering, and spilled its bounty prematurely all over the road. ‘Chutney,’ thought I, and duly headed out with a colander.

green plums, unripe plums

The two kilos I purloined have barely made an impact on the piles still lining the roadside, but I like to think I have at least saved some of these beauties from going to waste.

Chutney is an exercise in delayed gratification – never my strong point – as you are supposed to leave it to mature for a few months. Hence, I can’t in truth tell you whether this adapted recipe – my first ever chutney – is any good. Roll on the grand unveiling at Christmas.

Spiced green plum and apple chutney

2 kilos unripe plums, stoned and diced

1.2 kilos apples, peeled, cored and diced

150g sultanas

6 small onions, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

A good knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 tsp mustard seeds

A healthy sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg

Ditto black pepper

1.5 tsp salt

1 tsp mixed spice

0.25 tsp ground cloves

3 dried chillies, crushed

1.5 cups cider vinegar

0.5 cup red wine vinegar

3 cups dark brown soft sugar

In a huge pan, soften the onions, ginger and garlic in a teaspoon of water for a couple of minutes, and add the mustard seeds. Once the onions are translucent, pile in the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil.

Simmer, stirring occasionally for a good two hours until the fruit is soft and sticky, thick and gloopy.

In another enormous pan, boil about an inch of water with the lid on, then pop all your jars and lids in to sterilise. Fish them out with tongs, lay them out on a clean teatowel, then fill with chutney, topping with a layer of baking paper before screwing the lids on tight.

Leave to mature in a cool place for three-four months before enjoying with cold meats and cheese.

spring, easter, table, place setting, eggs, primroses

It’s been bitterly cold for what seems like weeks. At first, it was fun; we watched the snow fall from the cosy comfort of the sofa, we took the husband’s godson sledging, we threw snowballs, we watched the snow fall some more and fantasized about transport chaos and snow-days. Then reality set in. No amount of blankets and scarves could keep out the fristy, frosty, freezingness of it all. We cranked up the central heating, we wore dressing gowns over our clothes. We drank industrial amounts of hot chocolate. Still we were cold.

But today, oh today the sun shone. I haven’t seen that yellow orb for months. I emerged from my cocoon, blinking; my eyes unused to daylight and skipped to the high street to buy some spring flowers.

I know we have a long way to go until Easter, but I hope you’ll indulge me in a little fantasy. For I am waving goodbye to winter. Behold the eggs and feast your eyes on the yolk-yellow accessories.

Like everything in the LoveRichCashPoor household, this spring scene costs very little. I picked up the primroses for £1.50 each and my craft cupboard did the rest as it’s still packed to the gunnels with leftover bits from the wedding. The paper the primroses are wrapped in still has the price on, so I know that it cost £1.50 per enormous sheet; I used three small strips. The twine was a Christmas present.Thanks bro.

spring

The eggs are old, bought at a craft fair about five years ago, but they are a cinch to make: just carefully pierce an egg shell with a needle at both ends, blow its innards into a bowl, run some water through to rinse, pat dry, spray paint them in a lovely duck-egg blue and, when dry, flick a paintbrush loaded with brown paint in their general direction. Sit them in raffia nests and ta da! Luckily, I have a huge bunch of raffia – also leftover from the wedding – and I found these cute little chicken and rabbit clips in the cupboard  too, bought in Suffolk a few Easters back.

Roll on spring…

smoked salmon pate

So part two of my Scandinavian series (don’t worry it’s pretty short as seasons go) is one of my all time favourites: smoked salmon pâté.

As regular readers will know, there’s nothing I like more over here on LoveRichCashPoor than a little ‘dodge’ that makes something expensive go that little bit further, yet still feels indulgent and tastes delicious. This is one such recipe.

You could make this with the smoked salmon ‘off cuts’ you can pick up for a song in Sainsbury’s. I didn’t because the real deal was on offer and I needed some for another dish.

Of course, if I was being properly Scandinavian, I would serve this with Rye Bread, but I had a white loaf waiting to be used up and I’m not one for unnecessary purchases.
Serves: 4

2 slices of smoked salmon

Half a tub of crème fraîche

1 squeeze of lemon

2 tsps grated horseradish

Chopped chives

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Pop the salmon, crème fraîche, lemon and horseradish in a blender and whizz until smooth. Garnish this perfectly pink paste with chives and, if you’re as addicted to horseradish as I am, a sprinkling of extra fire.

Serve with bread and pickles or spread on blinis.

danish pastries: apple, blackberry and bay pastry with maple glaze

The Third series of The Killing has started and that can only mean one thing: I am back in the grip of my obsession with all things Scandinavian. I would love to go to Copenhagen, but that is not likely to happen any time soon, so instead I am swooshing my decidedly Scandinavian hair around (seriously I’ve been told on three separate occasions this week that I have Scandinavian hair?!) and eating all things Danish.

First up, Danish pastries. As per my general aversion to baking, these barely qualify as patisserie as I didn’t make my own pastry or my own jam. Jam making is one of those things that I yearn to do and one of the many things spurring me on to complete my saving mission. For where would I store a jam cauldron and half a dozen jam jars in my flat, not to mention the finished product? I already have a strict one in one out policy with tinned tomatoes. Still, if I did make jam, I would make blackberry and bay – for a start blackberries are free; easily plucked from plentiful brambles even in the city and a gentle flavouring of bay leaf cuts through the sharp-sweetness beautifully for extra warmth and depth.

At any rate, this is a deliciously simple recipe that can be knocked up in 20 minutes – perfect for last minute guests as there’s next to no mess involved, so you can whip these up without messing up the kitchen and, as long as you have a couple of apples knocking around, some jam in the cupboard and a roll of pastry in the freezer, you won’t even have to nip to the shops. They also fill the house with the scent of hot jam as they bake. If that’s not a welcome, I don’t know what is.

Serves: 5 (2 each)
One roll of puff pastry (I keep a stash in the freezer. It defrosts at room temperature in less than half an hour)

2 apples

Half a pot blackberry and bay jam

Maple syrup for glazing

Icing sugar for dusting
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Grease a couple of baking trays and set aside. Roll out your pastry and cut into 10 squares. Dollop a globule of jam into the centre of each square, making sure to leave the edges clear.

Fill a large bowl with cold water, then core and finely slice the apples – try to keep the slices as thin as you can get them. Pop each slice into the water as you go to stop them from turning brown (if you have a lemon, squeeze a little juice in the water for good measure).

When you are ready to assemble, scoop up four or five apple slices, dab dry and arrange into a fan, then pop them on top of the jam.

Bake in the oven for approx 15 minutes until the pastry has risen and turned golden brown. With a pastry brush, slap some maple syrup over each pastry so they gleam and glisten in the light. Finally, dust with icing sugar and serve lukewarm.

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