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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.

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Peaches on a market stall in Thiviers, France

Well bonjour mes amis! It’s been a long time. But I am delighted to report that this little blogger reached her target in May – £6,000 banked.

And a blogger with a penchant for markets is certainly not staying at home with £6K burning a hole in her pocket. There have been huge changes in the LoveRichCashPoor household in the last few months; we put the flat on the market, we took sabbaticals from work and we’ve temporarily set up home in France while we hunt for the dream house. Last week – oh joy – the sale finally completed and we’re all set to go wee, wee, wee, wee, wee and find our new home, wherever it may be.

Now we’re this side of the Channel (and the only money coming in is a small freelance wage I earn by typing my little socks off), the budget has become more important than ever. So stay tuned for cheap eats and free fun…

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.

daube

The clocks have gone back, last night’s wind has blown the last of the leaves off the trees and sent them skidding and skating across the pavements, so I make it officially casserole time. There’s nothing quite like the soft comfort of a stew to banish the winter blues. My big sister hates them – it’s her worst nightmare. But for me, a stew is food heaven: add some mash and broccoli and I’m on cloud nine.

This baby is a recipe I associate with Belgium, but it’s just as popular in north-east France. This is a dish designed to bubble away all day in a marmite over the fire while madame tends to her chores (and that’s exactly what I did). A bowl of this will warm the cockles all right.

1 twirl of dried orange peel – simply dry on a baking tray in the oven at a low heat until hard and completely dry

500g stewing steak

2 carrots, sliced

A handful chopped celery

2 onions, chopped

A pack of lardons

1 large bottled of dark ale (Belgian of course)

500ml beef stock

A sprig of thyme

Oil for frying

Season the beef and brown on all sides in a large casserole, then set aside. In the same pan, fry the onions and lardons, then pop the beef back in, pour over the stock and the wine and throw in the carrots, celery, dried orange peel and thyme.

Leave to simmer for two-three hours or pop in the oven at 160C for the same amount of time. That sounds like a lot of expensive electricity (or gas) but I usually double or even triple up on oven time, cooking several dishes at once, then re-heat during the week on the hob or in the microwave.

Serve with mash and a lousy beer as you watch the rain batter against the windows.

Top tip: if you have any orange peel left, pop it in a bottle of olive oil and hey presto, you have orange oil! Great for gifting if you have a nice enough bottle to hand.

lamb stifado

I wanted to try something a little different for Bonfire Night this year; usually I make a chilli con carne—but it’s time for a change. Still, there are some fundamental rules when it comes to a winter party dish: it should always be something hot, of course—that’s a given—but it also needs to be able to look after itself, quietly simmering away as you greet your guests and furnish them with drinks. You can then dole it out as and when required, safe in the knowledge that it won’t spoil and latecomers won’t have to make do with a chilled, slightly congealed supper.

This is all conjecture – I had the flu this year, so no party for me, much less standing in the freezing cold watching fireworks, however much I may have wanted to. Instead, I am celebrating Diwali, that joyous festival that lights up our life as the days grow shorter.

A curry would be the obvious choice for a Hindu celebration, but instead I chose this warming stew, inspired by a dish I once tried in a Greek restaurant in Primrose Hill. Sadly, the place no longer exists. Luckily, the flavour is still fresh in my mind: rich, velvety sauce spiked with warm spices with an aniseedy tang. Traditionally, of course, a stifado is made with beef, but somehow lamb feels more ‘Greek’ to me – plus the butcher was doing a special: I got a kilo of stewing lamb for just £6. I know, quel surprise!

Serves: 6

500g stewing lamb (ask your butcher what would be best)

12 shallots, peeled

A handful chopped celery

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 stick cinnamon

Half a bottle red wine

1 star anise

2 cloves

1 tsp oregano

A sprig rosemary

Half a tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

200ml stock (I used lamb, but use whatever you have)

2 tbsp tomato purée

In a large casserole, brown the lamb on all sides and set aside. Then brown the shallots and celery. Pop the lamb back in and quickly add all the remaining ingredients. Stir well, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down low and leave to simmer for at least two hours, stirring occasionally. Simples!

Top tip: to peel the shallots, drop them into a bowl of boiling water, cover and leave for five minutes – drain and rinse in cold water and the skin should just slide off.

potato, pumpkin and celeriac croquettes: the magic of breadcrumbs

The husband had a hankering for croquettes this week. We were debating the merits of various dishes on the M&S Dine in for £10 menu at the time. (For those of you who aren’t UK-based, Marks & Spencer – M&S or Marks and Sparks for short – is a UK institution best described as an upmarket supermarket in this case, currently offering a main, side and pudding for two, plus a bottle of wine for £10). In the event, the rosti won the day but it got me to thinking: why have I never made my own croquettes? What an oversight.

Even better, the freezer was brimful of odds and sods of bread and I had a bag of potatoes threatening to sprout any minute. I make no claim that this is in any way an authentic recipe. I haven’t researched it and, after tasting these babies, don’t intend to. This was the product of a wonderful Sunday afternoon pottering in the kitchen and they taste great to boot, even if I say so myself.

Makes: 12-16

6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

A knob of butter

Three eggs

A splash of milk

Plenty of salt and pepper

A selection of odds and sods of bread (I pop unwanted crusts, ends and stale rolls in the freezer for whenever I need breadcrumbs) Brown, white, seeded, it doesn’t matter. You’ll need the equivalent of about four slices

Five sage leaves

2 cloves of garlic

Flavours:

I made four varieties of croquette; flavour yours with a handful of any of the below – or whatever floats your boat – a croquette laced with manchego and those gorgeous chargrilled peppers you get in jars would be delicious.

Roasted squash or pumpkin

Mashed celeriac

Crispy bacon bits

Cheddar cheese

Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft enough to mash (15-20 minutes).

Meanwhile, pop your bread, sage leaves and garlic in a blender with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and whizz into crumbs. Whisk two eggs in a bowl and spread your crumbs ready on a large dinner plate.

Mash with a knob of butter and a splash of milk, then crack in an egg and mash some more until you have smooth, golden mash. Prepare your flavour, whatever it may be – e.g. if cheese, chop into tiny chunks.

Once the mash is cool enough to handle, Stir in your chosen flavour. Pick up a small handful and form into a small lozenge shape by hand.

Dip your lozenge into the egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Then repeat to ensure you get a lovely thick, even coating of breadcrumbs. Set aside on a greased baking tray and get rolling the next one!

Once all your croquettes are lined up on the tray, pop it in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, turning every 10, until golden and crisp on all sides.

Serve with quiche and salad, tapas or this.

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