Monday, 15 August 2011

Don't panic if your rocket bolts........

Rocket bolts end of.  I have read that it happens if there is a dry spell, a wet one, no sun, too much sun and a were wolf howling at the moon.  I pulled all mine up last week and then slowly and painfully salvaged all the younger more tender leaves and made rocket pesto.

Last year the price of pine nuts went through the roof (apparently they were being traded as a commodity)? So I decided to try another substitute that would not break the bank.  I used unsalted cashew nuts and you would not be able to tell the difference.  So make your pesto in the normal way with a handful of rocket in a blender and add to taste, a handful of cashews, a small clove of garlic, salt and pepper, some fresh Parmesan and enough olive oil to make it the consistency you desire.  I am sorry not to give you grams and ounces, but I don't cook like that.  Be brave; try it and you can always adjust the balance by adding more of one ingredient.  The key is to keep tasting. 

A good serving suggestion instead of predictably stirring into pasta, is to sautee some fresh veg from your garden such as courgettes, green and yellow, peas, spring onions and garlic.  Season and add a knob of your rocket pesto at the end.  A really delicious vegetable side dish which goes well with meat or fish and even kids will eat it!

Pesto also freezes beautifully and a good tip is to freeze in ice cube trays and then just pop them out when frozen and store in zip lock bags.

Note - you can use any herb really for pesto. I have made it in the traditional way with basil but also with parsley and with rocket as above.  Try adding different nuts like walnuts in place of cashews or pine nuts.

Rocket   Pesto  Pine Nuts  Pasta Recipes  Food

Take the pain out of making jam.

I spent years making jam without ever having a jam thermometer.  I managed and my jam set.  But since I have got one the difference it has made to my stress levels has been immense.  Don't get the idea that I am a stressed out cook but having gone to the trouble of getting the fruit (climbing through hedges, getting stung by nettles, almost run over by cars or dragging my dogs out of the path of cars - you get the picture)? I did not want to have to dump my effort and start again, even it that was possible.  Now I can make jam and stick the thermometer in and wait and wait (after a certain point the temperature seems to rise very slowly).  This is to do with the water, sugar, pectin ratio and when you get the correct ratio then a gel can form.  The is what is known as the "setting point".  For a marmalade this can take anything up to half an hour.  For other fruits probably about 15 minutes.  I made apricot jam yesterday with about 8 fresh apricots that had got a bit overripe.  I stoned them, weighed them and added the same weight in sugar and a little bit of water just to loosen up.  I brought the mix to a slow boil, stuck the thermometer in and waited, giving an occasional stir.  Within minutes I had a jar of delicious, tangy, orange-coloured apricot jam.  A tip if you are making small quantities of jam for sterilising jars is to put the jars into a microwave a third full of water for 3 minutes.  Just drain and fill with your delicious low stress home mad jam...........

Jam   Jam Thermometer  Setting Point Apricot Jam