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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.

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…

‘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.

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.

paditos: crispy chorizo buritos - cheap student food on Love Rich Cash Poor

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (thanks and apologies for the inane tweets) will know that I recently live-tweeted a recipe for sausage cannelloni. This recipe was at the behest of my naughty little sister, who is at university and whose cupboard is bare. She has but three herbs and spices: turmeric, basil and chilli flakes and was after a recipe that didn’t require her to invest further. Sausage cannelloni was my solution, and by all accounts it went down well. So well, in fact, that I have pledged to provide further inspiration (god help me), on the basis that lil’ sis buys one new spice or herb per recipe.

Anyone who is either at university or was once upon a time and can still remember the experience in any detail will know that the plethora of ‘student cooking’ articles that flood the newspapers every September are entirely misplaced. All students are flush in September; their loans have just come through and they’ve probably boosted the coffers by working over the summer. No, it’s the start of November when poverty starts to bite and students start to trawl the cities for the one cash point that will still give out a fiver.

I can’t stress enough that the best way to keep costs down is to buy your fruit and veg at a market or greengrocer. You could also make the tortillas given that, as students, time is on your side – failing that, take advantage of a BOGOF offer to get the best deal.

Serves: 4-8

1 chorizo (the fat looped one, not the slices), chopped into thick slices

3 peppers – preferably red, orange and yellow – chopped into chunks

1 red onion, finely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 courgettes, sliced

A handful of mushrooms, sliced

2 cans chopped tomatoes

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp chilli flakes

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp sugar

A splash balsamic vinegar

Half a small bunch fresh coriander, chopped (freeze the other half)

Grated cheese (you need about a tbsp per tortilla)

8 tortillas

Rice, sour cream and guacamole to serve, if you’re feeling flush

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan oven)

In a large saucepan or deep-sided frying pan, fry the onion, garlic and chorizo in a splash of oil for two to five minutes, until the onions are soft and the chorizo browned. Add in the veg and continue to fry for a few more minutes until they start to soften. Pour over the tomatoes, kidney beans, sugar, vinegar and spices and stir well. Then leave to simmer until any excess liquid has evaporated. (about 15-20 minutes). Lastly, scatter over the coriander.

Lie one of the tortillas out flat and spoon the chorizo etc in a line along the centre. Sprinkle over a tbsp grated cheese, then pull the sides up and over the filling and secure with a cocktail stick. Repeat with all the tortillas, then line up on a large, greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the tortillas are crisp and lightly browned.

I usually serve two tortillas per person, but if you cook up some rice and add a dollop of sour cream and guacamole to each plate, you can get away with one each – just be sure that you’ve filled all the tortillas generously (recipe for guacamole is here).

Hungarian goulash, Halloween ghoulash

Yep, I’m still nurturing an unhealthy obsession with Halloween and all-things autumn. In my defence, it is October now and at least I’m not banging on about you-know-what (whisper it, Christmas). If my enthusiasm is starting to grate, I suggest you check back post Oct 31! That is, unless you dislike Bonfire night, in which case, why are you reading this exactly?

Did anyone else read/watch The Worst Witch when they were little? It was my very favourite film for a long time and surely must be responsible for my love of this time of the year. I desperately wanted to be a witch when I grew up (insert your own sarcastic comment here). This was pre-Harry Potter so it was a little more unusual as aspirations go. Unfortunately here I am, 30 years old and still no nearer to flying or transforming people who irritate me into toads but the one thing I can do is stir a huge bubbling cauldron… although, don’t panic, I left the eye of newt out of this potion recipe.

Oh, and I’m sorry I couldn’t resist the pun on goulash.

Serves: 6

2 red onions, chopped

2 red peppers,  stalk and seeds removed and chopped into chunky strips

2 yellow peppers, stalk and seeds removed and chopped into chunky strips

1 orange pepper, stalk and seeds removed and chopped into chunky strips

1 pack of thin-cut pork loin steaks (there were five in my pack, on special offer in Waitrose), cut into bite-size pieces

1 tbsp flour

2 tsp smoked paprika

Half a tsp cumin

1 red chilli, whole

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying

2 tins chopped tomatoes

A small bunch of coriander, chopped

Sour cream, to serve

Fry the onions and peppers in a casserole until the onions are golden brown and the peppers slightly softened, then set aside.

Pop the pork pieces into a freezer bag and pop in the flour, paprika and cumin. Season and shake to coat the pork. Heat some oil in the casserole you used to fry the onions etc and seal the pork. Pop the onions and peppers back into the casserole, then pour over the tomatoes. Prick the chilli with the tip of your knife, then lob it in with the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer then leave to bubble away for a good hour or so, until the peppers are melt-in-your-mouth soft, the pork is tender and all excess liquid has evaporated.

Sprinkle over the coriander then serve with rice and sour cream.

fall table - autumn decorations for harvest festival or halloween

I dearly love, and seize upon, any excuse to celebrate. Especially if it involves decorating. Or eating. Or both.

But it seems positively ages until Halloween. Eons. Too long, in fact, for this impatient soul. But we had eight guests due to join us for the inaugural roast of the year at the weekend and I wanted to get into the autumnal spirit. And so to Clissold Park to gather a satisfyingly crisp pile of dip-dyed fallen leaves, the shiniest of conkers and their spiky shells. A pumpkin and a squash, who have been spared the pot temporarily while I rejoice in my fall fantasy, complete the picture along with two splendid heathers, displaying every graduation of orange from ochre to burnt umber. Like Christmas, autumn deserves a riot of fabulous jewel-rich shades. It is not a time for pretty pastels and cool whites.

But the star of the show has to be the rescued runner. This is my precious chiffon of many colours. The self-same chiffon that was irredeemably paint splattered and ripped during the works and can no longer serve as a net curtain, but is too pretty to throw away.

And how much did it cost for total autumn immersion? £2.50 for the heathers, £3 for a pair of Halloween candle-holders that gripped me with their promise of better days to come while I was feeling in need of good cheer in Waitrose and £2.50 for the pumpkin and squash. £8 in all, which I will justify thus: it is less than a really nice bunch of autumn flowers and will last a lot longer. Plus, I will be eating the pumpkin and squash, the Halloween candle-holders will last forevermore and the heathers will sit nicely in my rather sad and defeated-looking borders. And it has made this rather tired, rather emotional and almost defeated blogger keep the smile on her face for another day. Bring on Halloween!

fall table - autumn decorations for harvest festival or halloween

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