Along the Grapevine


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Turkish Delight

 

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There is frost predicted in this region within the next day, so I am in some hurry to rescue as much from the garden as I can. And as I do that, I thank all of you who  have posted timely recipes on squash, kale, and the like – many of which we have enjoyed! It being Friday, I know that Angie’s guests will be bringing more treats from the garden – and elsewhere – to her 40th Fiesta Friday.

Among the plants I have harvested is my copious rose geranium and some feral apples, so Turkish delight seemed an obvious choice. I know this is not usually made with apples, but any fruit will do, and many recipes just call for flavouring, sugar and cornstarch, so this had to be better. The apples, being from an abandoned orchard, are not treated with chemicals, and although a little irregular looking, are perfect for cooking, even with the skin on. Once again, I decided to use honey to avoid excess of sugar, but I will admit that it overpowers the rose flavour somewhat. Another time, I would either use half honey and half sugar, or add more geranium leaves to the mixture.

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Wild apple

 

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Rose scented geranium plant

You could easily make this recipe with any fruit and flavouring, as well as chopped nuts. It is the cornstarch which gels it, so the pectin in the apples helps but is not essential. You could also use flavours like lemon, rosewater, pomegranate etc. instead of the geranium leaves.

How to Make Rose Scented Apple Honey Turkish Delight

Step 1. Cut the apples into large pieces and cover with water in a pan. I had enough to fill a large pot.  Add a handful of rose scented geranium leaves and simmer until the fruit is very soft. Strain and measure the liquid. I had 4 cups.

Step 2. Add by volume one half the amount of honey, or 2 cups for this amount.

Step 2. Boil this syrup down until it reaches the hard ball stage or 260 degrees F (125 C)

Step 3. While this is boiling, measure 1/2 cup of cornstarch, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar and blend it with 1 cup of water. Mix well.

Step 4. When the syrup is boiled down and the right temperature, add the cornstarch mixture and stir over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. It will get very thick and dark.

Step 5. Pour into a pan lined with slightly oiled parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap while it cools to prevent a crust forming. Allow to cool for 3-4 hours.

Step 6. Cut into squares and coat each square with a ratio of 1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar to 2 Tbsp cornstarch.

This makes approximately 25 pieces.

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I will definitely be making some version of this recipe again, depending on the season and ingredients available.


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Sponge Cakes with Crabapple and Sea-buckthorn Jelly

Someone who knew I wouldn’t let them go to waste gave me a few crabapples from her garden – small yellow ones about the size of cherries. There are so many ways I could have used them, but given the rich flavour and high pectin content of these mini fruits, I decided to make another jelly with them. Crabapple jelly is not worth writing about in itself, and it combines so well with other fruits and berries, I knew I could come up with an original recipe. I had been wanting to make sea-buckthorn jam or jelly too, and by using little crabapples I could do this without having to add any commercial pectin – or even make my own. If you are unfamiliar with this particular berry, please refer to this post. I also wanted to make a jelly with honey, since my Japanese quince honey paste was so successful.

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For Angie’s Fiesta Friday #39, I wanted to showcase this gorgeous jelly in a way that would get her guests’ attention, but with a recipe that would fit into our household’s diet. We don’t consume much cake, but if it is something I can put part of in the freezer for an emergency, it takes away the guilt of either over-eating or over-wasting. So I decided to make a very plain Victorian sponge and jazz it up by filling it with my jelly. No rich icing, no butter or oil, just a light fluffy casing for the best jelly ever!

To make the jelly, I used 2 parts by volume of crabapples and 1 part sea-buckthorn. If you are curious as to what sea-buckthorn is, refer to this post.

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No need to peel, core or even remove the stems from the apples. I simmered the apples keeping them well covered with water at all times. Once they were really soft, I added the berries and simmered just a couple of minutes longer. Other berries could be used with this same method.

I strained the mixture through a clean tea towel and let sit overnight. Do not press any of the pulp through. I measured the liquid and added an equal amount of honey. At this point, you should taste it for sweetness, and the amount of honey you need will vary depending on the sweetness of the fruit and berries. Don’t get carried away though, because too much sweetening tends to detract from the taste of the main ingredients.

Allow the mixture to simmer until it is jelled. To check, I put a small amount in a chilled saucer (or in my case egg cup) and let it sit a couple of minutes. When it has reached the right consistency, set to cool.

Instead of a murky orange mixture which I was expecting, it turned out deep red and very clear. You can taste all three ingredients, and they meld very well together. It has a stronger flavour than most fruit jellies I have tried, but no hint of bitterness at all.

You can use any sponge cake recipe, but I used gluten-free cornflour. To make this cake, you will need 3 whole eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 cup of cornflour, 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. I also added a couple of cardamom seeds (optional), which I ground with the sugar for a super fine consistency.

Beat the eggs a lot, until they are really fluffy. Add the ground sugar gradually while still beating, making sure the sugar dissolves after each addition. Sift and fold in the dry ingredients. Fill 12  individual cake liners about three quarters full.  Drop a spoonful of jelly on top of each cake. The jelly will sink, so no need to cover them. Bake at 350 F for half an hour until crisp and golden on top.

Dust with a little icing sugar if you like just to make them a little prettier. If you want an entire cake, you could bake it in a cake tin, slice in two when cool and spread the jelly in the middle in a sandwich form. This would be a better way to preserve the integrity of the jelly, which when baked got partially absorbed into the spongy batter.

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Japanese Quince Paste

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Japanese quinces of varying colours, sizes and shapes, all from one plant

I posted two recipes last year using Japanese quince (chaenomeles) – for jelly and chutney. Both were delicious, and I hoped to find more of this wonderful, seldom-used fruit to continue experimenting with it.

Japanese  Quince Paste on Punk Domestics

The more traditional quince (cydonia oblonga) is not commonly used here, so it is no surprise that this Asian variety is even less popular. It is grown for its beautiful flowers early in the spring, and the fruit are usually left to fall and rot on the ground. If you have one of these shrubs, you could not be blamed for considering the hard, irregularly shaped fruit was inedible. But once cooked, its lemony flavour is apparent, and it can be used in any recipe calling for quince. Even raw, it has a wonderful scent.

If you don’t have one of these shrubs, you will have difficulty finding the fruits since they are not sold in markets, but it is not impossible. You may know someone who has the plant and will spare you a few fruits, especially if they don’t know how good they really are. They are such hardy little shrubs, they are sometimes left standing in what once was a garden and now abandoned. I am still in the position of having to collect them from other people’s gardens, but I did successfully germinate some seeds from last year’s bunch, and if they survive this winter outside (their first), I may have my own fruit producing bushes soon. And just in case, I am going to repeat the process again this year with some carefully preserved seeds.

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Young quince shrubs in a pot

I decided this time to make a quince paste – a popular dish of Spanish and Portuguese origin, usually made with the actual quince. Based on the success of the jelly I made, I found the level of pectin is very high, like in quinces, and just sugar, fruit and water are required for a well-set jelly. I decided to use honey instead of sugar, because with all the preserving and jelly making I’m doing, I’m using too much sugar. As I was not sure if this would work, I decided to make a small amount first, so used just half a vanilla pod.  Now that first batch has been such a success, I might vary the recipe a little and try adding some other flavours, but meanwhile here is my recipe. Note, you do not have to peel or core them, just chop them in large bite-sized pieces.

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Cooked Japanese quinces in a food mill

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Strained quinces

Japanese Quince Paste


Ingredients

Japanese quinces, chopped  in quarters (I used about 4 cups)

Water

Vanilla pod

honey or sugar

Method

Put the chopped quinces in a saucepan with a piece of vanilla pod and cover with water. Heat to boiling and then simmer until they are all fully cooked and soft, about 1/2 hour. Put them through a food mill. If using sugar, measure 1 cup of sugar for each cup of pulp. If using honey, use only 3/4 that amount because it is sweeter. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring often to avoid sticking. The mixture will thicken and get darker. After about 1/2 an hour to 45 min., the bubbles will become audible, and look sort of like lava in a volcano erupting.

At this point, pour it into a shallow pan lined with lightly buttered parchment paper and allow to cool.

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Quince paste cooling

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Quince paste with cheddar cheese

Usually served with cheese (manchego in Spain), this sweet goes well with most cheeses. Or try it simply with toast for breakfast.

It can be kept for several weeks covered in the fridge, or wrap it and freeze it for longer to enjoy all winter long.


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Lavender Honey Babas

”Fiesta

F0r Angie’s First Fiesta Friday challenge calling for a recipe using yeast and a herb, I have made one of my favourite desserts with some modifications. The cake is a recipe I have used many times for baba au rhum, but decided a spring version was called for, using the flavour of lavender, sweetened with honey and made pretty with wild flowers of the season.  The lavender is from my garden, and the foraged flowers are from my lawn/fields. For the lavender infused sugar, simply mix dried lavender with sugar and allow to stand at least a week. If you have lavender infused honey, that would work too.

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Babas are easy  to make – really just a cake with yeast which gives it a spongy texture, perfect for soaking up any syrup you choose to use, although you will be hard pressed to find a recipe calling for anything other than the rum syrup traditionally used. There is no kneading involved, and the rest times are short – around 20 minutes. The syrup can be made in advance, but should be heated before drizzling over the hot babas. The batter filled 6 individual moulds and one small bundt pan, but you can also do all in one big pan or about 12 individual ones.

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Lavender Honey Babas

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Babas

4 tsp yeast

2 cups bread flour

2 tsp sugar

1 stick or 1/2 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup milk

1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together. You will have a cake-like batter. Let it rest, covered with a tea towel for twenty minutes (more or less depending on the temperature of your kitchen). The batter should look spongey when you stir it. Stir it thoroughly to get rid of all the bubbles. Fill the mould/s about half full, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for another 20 min. They will have doubled in size by this time.

Bake in a 350 F. oven for fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the size of the moulds, and 30 min. if using one bundt pan. They should be golden in colour and feel cooked to the touch.

Remove them from the pans and pour syrup over them, slowly, allowing the syrup to soak into the cakes. Scoop up any that runs off and reapply it to get as much syrup into it as possible. When cooled, sprinkle with more lavender sugar, garnish with whipped cream to which lavender sugar has been added and, if you like, wild edible flowers as available or preserved flowers.

Lavender Honey Syrup

1 cup liquid honey

1 cup sugar syrup (made by 2 parts sugar to 1 part water)

3 tsp finely ground lavender-infused sugar

Just before the babas are baked, heat the honey, syrup and sugar.

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Fiesta Friday Badge Button I was featured


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Snow Treats

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Snow in a Bowl

It’s the end of the week and that means another Fiesta Friday with The Novice Gardener and her guests. Can’t wait to see what they post this week. My guess is that some will mention snow, or cold. Another event today is the opening of the Olympic Games. And this is my blog’s 50th post – so 3 good reasons to celebrate!

Instead of offering something to keep you warm and fight off the winter chills, I have decided to take you out into the snow and have some fun with it. This winter, after all, we are making memories of “that winter with all the snow”. Especially for people too young to have experienced a real winter, this will be talked about for years to come. So let’s enjoy it.

I do remember some very snowy past winters of my childhood, when eating snow was just what we did. ‘Safety’ meant looking both ways before you crossed the road – and that was it. When looking up eating snow recipes, I read several which said simply “Do not eat”. Apparently, flakes form around dust particles and goodness knows what else in the atmosphere. However, I did read one which said if it snows a lot, the atmosphere gets cleaned up, and the surface of the fallen snow is relatively clean. I also read quite a few posts where people did add snow to some rather fun recipes, and didn’t worry too much about its safety. After all, who hasn’t tasted snow, or dust for that matter? So, now I have that out of the way, I present some very simple, easy-to-make ‘snow ice cream’ recipes.

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Some Ingredients for Snow Treats

This can be a great activity for children. It involves mixing one base ingredient (whipped cream, pudding, milk, yogourt, sour cream), some sweetener, and any combination of flavours such as fruit, seeds, nuts, sweets, chocolate, etc. I enjoyed combining ingredients in a way I hadn’t thought of before, and after this exercise I will take some of these ideas and put them to use in real cooking. I was not able to do all the combinations I thought of, as I found my hands getting too cold since I had to assemble everything myself and take pictures. I recommend, if you can do this with others, place all the ingredients on a work surface outside and assemble it there. If you can’t eat it right away, just cover the dishes and stick them in the freezer.

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Some More Ingredients for Snow Treats

My first ‘recipe’ was made with 1 cup of whipped cream, 1 heaping Tbsp thick honey and a teaspoon of lavender infused sugar. It was heavy on the lavender (I made it with the flowers from my garden in the fall), and I feared it would be too strong, but I loved it. Add about 1 cup of snow and mix well. I sprinkled a few lavender petals on top.

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Lavender and Honey Snow Cream

The next one I made was with chili chocolate made from a powdered drink mix I found in my cupboard. Also 1 cup of cream, chili chocolate to taste and another spoonful of honey. The same amount of snow, and voila!

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Chocolate Snow Cream

I wanted to make dulce de leche with the evaporated milk, but ended up just using the latter. I simply mixed it with snow, and layered it with sliced banana. By this time, my hands were frozen, so I kept it simple.

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Snowy Banana Pudding

The next one is a savoury ice cream, inspired by a dessert I had at St. Anselm in New York a while ago. Although it was delicious, I thought the presentation a little sloppy, so I improved on my own by chopping the bacon.

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Blue Cheese Ice Cream at St. Anselm

It was a blue cheese ice cream with candied bacon and reduced balsamic vinegar. My version consisted of real yogourt (not 2% or fat-free) or you could use sour cream, mixed with a generous chunk of blue cheese. Mix that with the same volume of snow, and sprinkle candied bacon and dribble some reduced balsamic on top. This is fancy dinner party good. To sweeten the bacon I just sprinkled some sugar during the last few seconds of frying.

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And the final one, also savoury, I could say is in honour of Sochi as a Russian inspired recipe, but really I just had some red caviar to use up, and thought it a pretty colour for a festive dish. This consisted only of yogourt and caviar. I think a small shot of vodka on the side would go well, but not necessary.

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I did not manage to use any of my coconut milk or several other items I had lined up. But I hope you get the idea. I’m thinking maybe I should put some snow in a plastic bag and keep it in the freezer to make a snow treat on a hot day in July.