Neutriceuticals

I recently gave a talk at the RGBE for the current herbology class. I loved that course when I was on it, what 3 years ago now, 4?

The current crop of students are dedicated and enthusiastic and it was a pleasure being with them. I say ‘talk’ but I never even got around to introducing myself properly, never mind giving my presentation! It was all about the chocolate🙂

During the herbology course one of the many projects is to write up the health benefits of 3 foods; hence the term ‘neutriceutical’, as you are looking into the potential pharmaceutical effects of nutritious foods. I did my neutriceutical project on cider vinegar, chilli pepper and chocolate.

The course leader is keen for all projects to have a practical element to them, so I decided to make herbal chocolate with pepper in them for one of my practical elements to this – a 2fer, as it combined 2 of my projects. And that, as they say,was that. So my herbology neutriceutical talk is what gave birth to Hedgetables! So, needless to say I’m keen to impart some of my own enthusiasm to the subject.

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As soon I got into the class and starting unpacking my somewhat large number of supplies the students were rummaging and ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’, all very satisfying😉

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Last year I started with the talk and then we made various chocolates, with the idea of combining ‘superfoods’ with chocolate. We sadly never managed to fit in a herb infused cream to make a ganache that could then be used to make truffles. I wanted to remedy that this time around, so without an introduction to the theme we started making an infused cream.

One wee group made rose and lavender infused cream. They infused the herbs with the cream directly over a low heat for about 20 mins, then strained out the herbal material. The cream was then scalded before pouring over double the amount of chocolate. Once all the chocolate was incorporated this had to be left to cool and harden up in the fridge.

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The other group had a person in it with a bad dairy intolerance so another truffle mix was made using the raw chocolate truffle theme, they used dates and pecans blitzed in a blender, with some added coconut water and coconut flour,  maca powder, raw cacao powder and a generous dollop of ground cardamom. Very tasty.

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Both mixes were then shaped into balls and chilled before being either dipped in various outer coatings or, of course, chocolate. We were using raw cacao powder, or dried, ground orange powder, or rosehip or roe petal powder, or ground spices,  or ground up crystallised herbs such as mint, as our external coatings. This is a good way to incorporate some more herbal goodness to the finished product and gives a finished look.

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This took us to about lunch time so just before we broke for lunch I snuck in a very informal talk about chocolate, mentioning the benefits of it, the difference between varieties, chemotypes, the process of making it etc. All of which was illustrated with a taste sample where possible. I think they were beginning to OD on chocolate🙂

After lunch we cheated with tempering, though it was discussed, as I’d brought in a tempering machine, so we had more time to concentrate on incorporating the superfoods and less time having to fret about making enough to do all the planned things. We made barks and decorated them with all mannner of things, dehydrated berries; strawberries, raspberries, cherries, goldenberries aka physallis, smoked chipotle pepper (I liked the South American theme of chocolate, goldenberries and chilli), nuts, seeds and all manner of goodies were used here.

The group dipped fruits and nuts in the chocolate, mango and brazil nuts being favourites. They also learned the potentially very messy art of dipping, losing, and re-finding their truffles🙂 Some were dipped, dropped,and repeat several times, so much so that by the time they emerged from the final saving of them that we had gobstoppers of truffles!🙂

So, all in all they used herbs, powders, superfoods and fruits in, infused, on and covering the chocolates, and, lest I forget, they used tincture and syrups that they’d already made, added directly to the chocolate to make an easy truffle too. Whew! A busy day, with much learning (I hope!) and fun to be had. I’m still unpacking, I think the only thing I don’t bring is the kitchen sink!

Although I had brought my camera I had a ‘Doh!’ moment as I hadn’t checked that it had enough battery power so I only have a few piccies of the day.

Here’s a  recipe we used as a base, taken from my notes to the class:

Raw Date and Cardamom truffles

We’ll work with raw cacao first as no melting or tempering is needed, but time for chilling often is.

Pit and chop 10 dates, put in blender and whizz.

Add a handful of Pecans, or other nuts/ seeds of your choice, and 2T cacao powder

Add a T of coconut flour, a T of coconut water, and 2t, or to taste of ground cardamom. Whizz in blender until a thick paste is achieved. Too runny? – add some more cacoa and or flour, too thick? – add a drop or 2 of the c. water.

Once reached a thick paste, roll into small balls and coat in a powder of your choice.

The finishing powder can make quite a difference to your end taste so feel free to experiment again here – how about more cacao powder – extra chocolatey goodness, but can be bitter, so try mixing and matching/ replacing with other powders? Dried fruit powders – orange pulp powder would be nice, rosehip powder, maca powder for extra superfood punch? You can try dipping these in melted/ tempered normal chocolate for a wonderful treat with the knowledge that you are also having a refined sugar free, healthy snack that is good for you!

Searching for the perfect gluten free chocolate brownie version 1.0

There’s been a lot on my plate this last year – probably why I’ve been putting on weight! That and comfort eating. Anyway, not going there. Suffice it to say that I’m needing more comfort food again, with my brother in and out of hospital, and in… and the kitchen and heating not working well, and roof leaks, you get the idea.

Well, not being able to temper chocolate as I need it at the moment it has given me the chance to try out brownie recipes (and I want to have a go at fudge ones too). I’ll just deal with one at a time. I try to find a silver lining in most things.

This one is a moot point as to whether it should be on here – you see, shh- I’m cheating. After all don’t we all try a packet mix from time to time..? Well I haven’t, so I thought I’d give it a go and look at what is in it and compare, contrast and tweak in future. It would give me an acceptable comparison.

So I started with Udi’s gluten free brownie mix which I got at Tesco.

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Hmm, so it’s basically sugar (and I can modify the sweetener in a variety of ways for future attempts), chocolate chips (which I can certainly use better quality ones than are being used here), cocoa powder (I can swap in cacao powder, although raw may be affected with the heating there are probably still more benefits to be had), and the rest is basically flours and thickener. Rice, potato and maize are over treated and over used, how about trying some different ones… coconut, almond, chestnut etc.

I bodged the recipe a bit as due to HH health issues we have gone low fat so he uses the lightest Lurpak, which is pretty naff, in the interests of a ‘normal’ recipe I thought I’d give it a go – cut with some coconut oil. What they tell you to do is…

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So off I go a mixing. I love my mixing bowl – it comes from a potter between Keswick and Penrith. I came across her at Potfest – which always sound dubious to me!🙂 Wonderful things – if there’s one in your area, please make time to go. They have everything from 50p ceramic buttons to £5,ooo garden sculptures and everything in between. Here’s Jan’s site , well worth a look, we’ve got quite a few pieces from her over the years. I love the nestled mixing bowls – which I believe is a complete pig to make.

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I used these nuts -they either came from Lidl or Aldi, both these shops sell good quality nuts at a good price.

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I used my new measures that a friend gave me for Christmas, as I felt the need for hugs🙂

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Off the mixture popped into the oven to give the following transformation…

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Now it is cooling before cutting I’ll pop up another picture later -in version 1.1, of it on a plate with a topping or what it goes with. I thought coffee salt sounded nice, or a fudge sauce, or warmed with ice cream. Better stop it there, I’m only encouraging small dog and his salivating🙂 Not helping HH with his low fat diet either!

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Windfall Scarf workshop with India Flint

I’ve just spent a lovely weekend rummaging around in hedges, picking up plants and leaves, but not for my usual food foraging, but for plant dyeing.  The weekend course was run at my usual textile haunt up in Newburgh. Alison did her wonderful lunches catering to a variety of dietary needs, including a locally made gluten free bread, which is actually proper bread, and tasty! I really should take a picture of the lunches sometime, a wonderful buffet banquet🙂 India provides a mix of words, teaching and practical work. We start by centering ourselves and making mixed poems with words and sentences we’ve all shared as a group.

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We made a Tsunobukuro  bag out of silk to hold our finished scarf in. The circles stitched on it are a mix of merino and silk knit and were cut out of the wool/silk knit tube that we were given. The bag is roughly translated as ‘horned bag’ because of the ‘ears’ or ‘horns’ that form the handles. There’s some lovely antique ones here .

IMG_5923 The lovely kit we were given; loose weave silk (which made the bag), silk and merino blend knit tube and a mix of different threads, little silk squares (to sew onto our bag) and silk threads, to embroider lines, words, or whatever came to us from our walks.

IMG_5936 India leading her ducklings to the park on a foraging mission. IMG_5938 Our embroidered silks decorating the local park

Once we’d collected some leaves we went down to the river where we daubed and decorated the would- be bags with oozing, thick, silky river mud. It took me some time to realise why all the bags smelt of brine – duh! that would be the estuarine river mud…

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when we came back we folded the silk in half lengthwise and then folding from the middle outwards, we folded into either squares or triangles. Plant material was sandwiched between the folds and the top and bottom ‘clamped’ with aluminium squares and wrapped up in string or twine. India was great and gave us each a pair of the metal square to take away with us. The bundles were put in a a dye bath with windfall leaves, tea bags, onion skins and a mix of whatever we hadn’t used up.

IMG_5955Bundle ready to go in to dye bath

IMG_5957 just put in

The bundles were left to boil for 20 mins and then simmered gently before being turned off. It’s important not to lift the lid and let the steam out as it’s doing the work.

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The bundles were left to drain and cool before being tentatively opened. It’s like unwrapping a present, never sure what will work. In general the rose family gave good prints – Rose, Raspberry leaves, Bramble leaves, Rowan, Meadowsweet, Whitebeam, though I didn’t have too much luck with my Potentilla. The dark headed grass, and Buddleia gave very good results – not ones I had chosen, that’s what’s great about sharing experiences in a class or group, I get to learn from all the others too.

IMG_5973 IMG_5974 Rowan leaving an imprint

IMG_6013 Yellow from Buddleia

IMG_5926   IMG_6005  Nice colour from the reeds.

IMG_6012     Holey scarves hanging out to dry

I made the holes that we cut in the actual tube scarf too large and plan to sew most of them up again but I can see that it gives a good effect. They can also be used as armholes to create vests/ tank tops! No pics of those as mine looked very strange – I’ll see how it looks after some more stitching before I post a picture of it😉

We also experimented dyeing threads and using water from different sources, in different pots and vats (one aluminium, the other a nice wee ‘jeely pan’, brass jelly pan for those not familiar with the term ‘jeely pan’.) This was very useful for me as I’ve got several different pans to cook up my dye baths in, but I’d forgotten how crucial the water component can be. Rain water, stream, or loch  water is good – try not to use tap water, the water there had a surprisingly  high pH (10!) and smelt chloriney. This will definitely affect the colours coming through as we want it to be fairly acidic for the animal fibres to open up their scales and take up the dye.

IMG_5959 Berberis berries (black ones) in brass jelly pan, threads wrapped round paper and left to steep.

IMG_5980 Threads drying, blue from Berberis in aluminium pan and different water. IMG_5988 Paper from threads, unwrapped and drying. Stronger colour was thought to be from higher Kaolin content in that paper.

Miscellaneous other pictures below – took about 100 in just 2 days! You’ll be relieved to hear this is just a sample of them🙂 IMG_5975 unmade bags drying

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IMG_6007St John’s Wort leaving small red dots, almost like stitches, the cluster of red is where the flower head was

IMG_6020 Maiden hair(?) Fern – you could even see where the spores were! IMG_6023IMG_5953IMG_5949IMG_5935 IMG_5963 IMG_5970

Molds and how to look after them – Polycarbonate

I have quite a selection of different types of molds and thought it might be interesting to look at each type.

I’ll do several posts to cover them all but today I’m going to look at my favourite, and the one I work most with – my polycarbonate molds. While I have different shapes in these the ones that I use most frequently are my 100 g bar molds.

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The ones I use are from Keylink and you get 3 of the shapes in the one mold. They have proven sturdy and long lasting – which is good as they’re not cheap, particularly when you’re looking at the 3D molds for Easter eggs and the like. If you take good care of them they should last a lefteime.

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In the above picture you can see some of mine stacked and ready to go.

When I’ve been to other chocolate venues where you see the chocolatiers at work you’ll see the molds left unwashed and left with chocolate all round them and looking really unclean. There’s a reason for this; the chocolate lifts cleanly from the mold and leaves the mold clean (as least it is if it’s properly tempered, it can stick and leave residue if not tempered properly) and any left will prevent the next lot sticking to it, a bit like a wok building up a good working layer.

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The issue I have is that :

(1) I don’t have a huge quantity of molds to work from, and you’d need to keep each colour of chocolate being used consistent with your molds (as you scrape off the sides of the mold to clean it up before letting the chocolate in it to cool.) If you didn’t you could end up having white in with dark – thus making dark chocolate have dairy in it when you might not want to due to allergy reasons, unless you have a policy to only use one type of chocolate in a set of molds.

(2) I work with strange flavours, so even keeping like with like in regards to type of chocolate being consistent, I’d have to extend this to flavour of chocolate being used having to be consistent; I’d end up needing an extra room to store all my molds!

This just isn’t practical for me, so I wash my molds between batches. This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds – there’s a knack to this. If you put molds in the dishwasher they come out blotchy – this stops the chocolate looking smooth, shiny and professional when it comes out of the mold.

I tend to hand wash mine, in approved detergent, then rinse well, then dry. I only wash 2 at a time because you have to dry them quickly – or they get blotchy looking. So wash, rinse dry, 2 at a time, 2 by 2, much like the animals in the Ark, or for those with a sci- fi bent of mind, like River in Firefly (“Hands of blue, two by two”).

Even the cloth to dry them makes a difference to a good finish, I find that the toweling ones are great for drying into all the corners and give a good polish and shine to the mold.

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The linen ones work well for a couple then tend to smear I find, don’t know why, but they do. You don’t want to scratch your molds as any scratches will show up in your finished bars, that’s why polycarbonate is good as it is resilient. If you’ve used a dishwasher you can always polish up the molds with kitchen roll. I tend to use couch roll as I already have it due to the massage side of my life!

When making the bars, the mold is tapped at its’s sides or underneath, with your scraper to release air bubbles, so you want a strong mold that won’t scratch or shatter.

You know when the chocolate is ready to come out of its mold as it contracts as it cools, leaving a slight line like a crack between the chocolate and the mold, you might see it in the picture below…?

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Simply up end the mold, tap it out gently and the chocolate should release easily and fall out.

Simples🙂

I found this great YouTube demo with Jacques Torres of filling the mold and discussion of the molds at the start, it also show the tapping to release bubbles, have a look here and here  (the latter links shows Chef Derrick Tu Tan Pho demonstrating chocolate molding technique at the eGullet Candy and Confectionery Conference 2011.)

 

 

Easter experiments

This last week I had one of my goddaughters over.Brianna is a bright , creative person with a strong sense of identity.

I had planned ganaches, truffles, perhaps experimenting with new molds, but this girl had other ideas!🙂

Last time she came for a short stay we made lollipops and bars and decorated them with, well, everything! Fruit, nuts, crystallised fruit, everything in the cupboard, not even sure the kitchen sink wasn’t on there🙂 It went down so well, we made a few this time too

IMG_4918    A butterfly in dried and crystallised fruit

IMG_4919 Mango dipped in yummy, fruit flavoured chocolate

While I had grandiose plans, Brianna wanted to experiment with flavours.

She spent time smelling them, asking about them, and pairing them together to smell in batches. I think she has a possible perfumier future if nothing else works out for her! A natural at it.

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She came up with 4 groups of flavours that she wanted to work with, I think we only had the time to do 3 of them. She decided on Mango and Violet for one flavour group,  Plum, Rhubarb and Orange flavour for another, and both of theses were done in milk chocolate, and we also made Mango and Raspberry in white chocolate. She spent time thinking it all out. The mango and Raspberry would tie flavour with the red colour of blood for the brains mold ! Chocolatier and biologist, a girl after my own heart.

We tried various new and old molds ( a post going into molds to follow soon, possibly even a couple of them….)

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and decorated them according to whom they were being given to

IMG_4911 each bar decorated differently

Experimenting with different decoration was fun, and the metallic shimmers went down well. They look so good on everything they decorate – even lips!

 

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Brianna tried her hand at dipping truffle shells that we had filled up with fruit and flavoured chocolate, or home made jams, or coconut cream, and fun was had decorating them afterwards.     IMG_4932   A picture of concentration while dipping the truffles       IMG_4930    demonstrating her piping skills.

We got experimental with my new ‘Power Flowers’ ( another post to follow on those and colourings), which are concentrated pockets of colour that you add to lighter chocolate or cocoa butter. We used the colours to decorate a small Easter egg, and, not forgetting, the BRAINS! I can hear the maniacal laughter ringing in my head🙂

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Back in the groove!

I’ve had a block about getting down to writing – anything!.

I have been doing, but not commenting on the doing, whether that be chocolates, herbal related things, making, dyeing…etc.

I think I’ve been overdoing things – just a tad🙂

I discovered FutureLearn, a free online course programme that gives you tasters of multitudes of different courses – so far I’ve done a course on Orion, which covered the birth and death of stars, a course on moons of our solar system, I’m on 2 currently – one on medical humanities, another on the anatomy of the human abdomen. See their courses they have on offer;  https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/categories

This is addition to (still) moving kitchens, doing an online art course (Lifebook 2015), Emmett technique course,  and beginners beekeeping.

I’ve textile courses (for the workshops and classes check them out – Big cat textiles http://textilecentre.co.uk/?page_id=4253) in the offing, a dissection 3 day course, another Futurelearn one on Hadrian’s wall, reflexology workshops I’m taking part in, and the teaching that I do for Scottish massage schools. And the clients, and the animals,….

So, okay, I’ve not been doing much facebook until recently, and I’ve not been blogging, but I think I’m keeping the balls in the air pretty well overall considering, well, considering I’m obviously a bit insane at the best of times!😉

So on that note, I better get back to talking about things. I have a list ( when do I not – I live off of lists!) of things I want to mention and talk about, but I’m going to start small as I’m out of practice and some things I want to really look into (cocoa beans, herbs, additives etc).

Today’s ramble is about music. I’ve discovered, or rather, re discovered something weird about myself.  Someone once told me that they thought I have auditory dyslexia. Basically, this is another label to describe what I thought was normal, but not quite so much…. I have trouble hearing things – not on a decibel or frequency thing, but words get jumbled in my head, and as a result I constantly mishear things. Also called ‘Clumsy dyslexia’, and oh boy, do I tick that box – I’m an accident waiting to happen most of the time!

It physically and mentally tires me out when I have to listen to words. I cannot abide one noise over another – it almost puts me in a frenzy, almost a panic. What this means in practice is that when I’m making in the kitchen, I do like music, but no words.  Perhaps this is one reason I’m drawn to classical music these days.

The other thing  I like listening to is music in a language I don’t know, as I know I don’t understand the words, so there’s no point trying to make the effort. I can switch that part of my brain off and focus on the making. I listen to the same piece over and over. Every time I make anything in the kitchen, I play it, as it helps put me ‘in the zone’.

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I reckon it’s cross between an active meditation, and a Pavlovian response.🙂

I’m not going to give this up, or Bach, or Spanish guitar, or cello pieces, but I think I’d like some more foreign, or world, or classical music.

By the way, bit of a NB here; I don’t do downloads as I’m not very tech savvy, and bizarre as it sounds, I know when to top up temperers, and how long to do things by where I am on a CD. I don’t want to fiddle with electronics with hands covered in chocolate. I like my CD player. I don’t like wearing headphones or ear pieces as I want to hear the tones and sounds of the machines and what I’m doing. I know if things are working right by their sounds, and the surrounding noises while I’m working put me in context.  I’m real, I exist in the real world. I want to be part of that, not shut off from it. So  the music I play should be CD-able, and not exist just in download format – either that or I need a teenage intern to make up play lists for me!🙂

Have you any thoughts?

What works for you that you like, preferably instrumental or foreign language please… All suggestions welcome.

Plum and Cherry relish

I’m a huge fan of plums and have been gathering plum recipes for a bit, especially as the Plum fairs in Newburgh are in full swing. http://www.newburghorchards.org.uk/

A client brought a bag of plums around the other day and I had foolishly neglected them, so I used what I could and looked around my many plum recipes for one that would suit ripe plums. I found Plum and Cherry relish in one of my favourite books. It was a book that I found in Bargain books many years ago , but the writing is clear and concise, the pictures are great and it gives a wide variety of preserving recipes and offers variations on a theme.

IMG_4360 ISBN 1-84477-016-8

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What more could you want? Other than the ingredients they ask for…. bodge meister comes to the fore again.

I scaled up the recipes a bit – it does work for small batches great, as I had more plums than they suggested.

So 580 gm of plums, halved, stoned and roughly chopped

and an equal amount of cherries (first bodge – no fresh cherries so I used dried sour cherries that I use with the chocolates ) and as they were dried I used a bit less = 500gm.  I didn’t chop the cherries as I wanted them whole and the relish to end up chunky (which it did), but if you like a smoother relish, then chop them up if you’re using the dried fruit .Set aside the fruit.

IMG_4356 they are indeed tart, and they are apparently Montmorency cherries

3 shallots are meant to be used but I didn’t have them either – so used I red onion and 1 small white onion, chopped and fried until lightly softened. ( 5mins or so)

I didn’t use the olive oil suggested for cooking, that would be normal! Instead I used 1 tbs solid coconut oil, which comes over slightly in the finished relish. I couldn’t help think of bakewell tarts – as you do when making a pickle- and thought that coconut and cherry would go well together.

The recipe called for 3 tbs of sherry – which of course, I didn’t have – so I bodged with 3 tbs of elderberry gin that I had left over from last years foraging and making things – complete with boozy elderberries still sitting in the gin! Too good a bodge to resist. Add the Elderberry gin ( and some boozy elderberries) in to the softened onions, along with 6 tbs of red wine vinegar.

The recipe also wanted balsamic vinegar – which, surprise, surprise, I didn’t have, so I used one that I’d bought – a Raspberry, mint and chilli vinegar – 1 1/2 tbs of that added in.

Add the fruit to the onion and vinegar mix.  Add the sugar – I used raw demerara sugar 120gm. Add a bay leaf in too, though that’s optional, and as I was going for a sweeter relish I missed it out.

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Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then keep the heat on strong and keep boiling until the amount of liquid has reduced and the relish is quite thick – the book says 15 mins but I found it took nearly 25, and that’s with the dried cherries that will be soaking up the liquids and thickening up things quicker. It may take you longer again if you’re going with fresh fruit.

If you added a bay leaf, don’t forget to remove it – without burning yourself!

Spoon the thick hot (be careful, it may not be jam but still has a high sugar content so it will be very hot if spilled on yourself) relish into appropriate sterilised jars.

I made 5 good sized jars from this and it tastes so scrummy I’ve found myself almost using it like a jam. It starts out with cheese on oatcakes then ends up on the oatcake on its own!

The jars I used are Ikea’s spice jars, 4 in a pack, which may give you an idea re size.

Enjoy plum season and any recipes you think I’d like, feel free to share😉