Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quince paste v. 2.0

I don't know about you, but it always surprises me that Autumn is so busy in the kitchen. I guess I feel like bottling and making jam is so summery, so the bags of stuff that turn up in my kitchen in Autumn almost catch me out. I was given a big bucket of fresh figs, two boxes of quinces, a bucket of pears, and two big shopping bags full of apples; one sort the nice eating kind, the other sort sour cookers.
Dealing with the figs first, I made some Fig and Ginger Chutney following this recipe here, only I didn't use the dried figs, substituting 1 cup of raisins instead. It's very delicious. This recipe is a keeper.
Next, fig and lemon jam (500 g fresh fig flesh, rind and juice of two lemons, and one sour apple, peeled and grated. Simmer all ingredients together for about 20 min until soft, then add 2 c sugar. Boil until you reach a set). This jam is quite nice, it's very sweet though and personally I like a little more tang to my jam. (I wish I could work that into conversation more often...I like a little more tang to my jam).
And then the quinces....I had seen a slowcooker recipe for making quince paste and the idea of that had me so excited I just can't even describe it. I charged ahead and put my cored unpeeled quince quarters in the slowcooker with some water and lemon juice, and cooked it on low over night. Next morning, I sieved the pulp, added an equal weight of sugar, and cooked it on high all day. And....it didn't set. Don't get me wrong, it was delicious and dark and fruity, but nonetheless, unset. Just like quince paste, only sludgey.
Hmmmm. I thought about it long and hard, and after much deliberation I decided that the slowcooker was perhaps not the best way to do the first phase. My special booklet about jams and jellies has it that 40 min max. is best for the first cooking phase, because otherwise you destroy the pectin. Now I know it's true.
When in need of something that really works, look no further than Alison Holst, that's what I always say. Her recipe for quince paste is here. I threw out the failed quince paste and started again. I let it set in oiled friand tins and here it is. There, that's what I was after. I store mine individually wrapped in the freezer.
Num num num num. My favourite way to eat it is with cheese and crackers or on toast with butter.
We took it with us when we went down to the wild and windy west coast to visit the Pancake Rocks. If you visit, you really must go at high tide, because look what happens.
I love Nature.
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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lars and Guy

Lars and Guy: two civil servant robots. These chaps are very special gift for a very special person whose birthday was last week.

In keeping with his civil servant role, Lars wears brown scratchy walkshorts held up with a no-nonsense leather belt. He is programmed to fill in forms. Lars, may we see a close up of your walkshorts please?  
Guy, being more a senior robot around the office, wears a neck tie. It's important to keep up the professional image after all. Guy manages other robots that are programmed to fill in forms. It is a very important role. You can tell by his stern expression and the rather demanding stare from his square mother of pearl eyes. 
I don't make robots very often these days- no need to really when I have so many already. But I do so love it when someone I know wants one (or two) because then I have an excuse to get very, very silly and raid my collection of haberdashery and dream up ridiculous accessories. It's the most fun you can have with a box of buttons and ricrac.
It's good to remind myself of the fun you can have making stuff. Lately I've been feeling like I have No Time, the day feels like its too full of work and school and chores, and after the small ones are in bed I feel like I have nothing left. I haven't felt like that for a long time and it's a sign to me that some things have to drop off my list. Also a sign that the end of the term is only one week away and then I will have two weeks to pull myself together before we launch into it all again. 
Until then, 
Over and out. Beep beep. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Small-town NZ and man-craft

With all the silence in this blogspace you might think I haven't been up to much. Well, in fact I've been as busy as a one-legged bloke in an arse-kicking competition. One of the things that has filled up weekends of late is going to a mountain bike race. Not for me, of course, but my husband likes to do these things now and again, and it's a great excuse for the rest of us to have a weekend away and a dose of small-town New Zealand. I love small-town New Zealand. I love the one main street with the tea rooms, the pub, and the hardware shop that sell everything. Usually I stop and buy something so that the shopkeeper can tell the regulars that there are loopies about.

Main St, Murchison
I know I'm normally rabbitting on about cooking or sewing or some such, but lately I've forced myself to do the most boring sewing of all, mending things and taking up jeans. See? I took up my jeans. Yes it's a thrill a minute around here! I always use jeans thread so that they look like they came from the sweat-shop like that.
And my good husband, the one who likes biking and reading the paper and watching sport but certainly not DIY or anything remotely related to it, spent a good few days on restoring an old cabinet to rehouse the vinyl collection and the *new* stereo. We have an expensive stereo now, which I think means that are finally grown-ups. He sanded, varnished, ordered glass inserts, fitted them, and didn't he make a nice job? I really like it. 
I liked it so much that I bought him a gift at the junk shop. Who could resist a lady covered in whipped cream, against a background of Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brassband? Have you ever seen something so suggestive coupled with something so wholesome? It made me laugh and laugh. Best 20 cents I've spent in a long time. 
Well that's all from me. Have a great weekend everyone.