Parsnip Fritters

We’ve got a lot of large parsnips at the moment and although I love roast parsnips, we don’t often light the wood-fired oven and cook a roast dinner. I’ve therefore been looking for new ways of cooking them. This recipe is similar to a bhaji and uses oregano instead of spices. You could substitute parsnips with butternut squash or sweet potato. This recipe with no eggs but with potatoes is very similar to a potato rosti. 

PARSNIP FRITTERS

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g coarsely grated parsnip
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • sprinkle oregano
  • 2 small eggs
  • splash extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

  1. Mix all of the ingredients well in a bowl.
  2. Heat some sunflower oil in a large frying pan.
  3. Put spoonfuls of the mix into the frying pan and fry on a medium heat for 6 minutes, covering the pan with a large saucepan lid.
  4. Turn and fry for a further 6 minutes, covering the pan.
  5. Remove the lid and fry for another minute or so until the fritters are golden and crispy.

The recipe makes about 8 fritters.

Bhindi Bhaji – Okra Curry

Okra or “ladies fingers” as it is also known is commonly used in Indian, Asian and African cooking. Although okra is typically grown in tropical or warmer climates, we are able to grow it here in the summer at 1,300 metres above sea level. By picking the pods when they are tender and not cooking it for too long, it is possible to avoid the slimy texture that many people associate with okra and find off-putting.

 

Bhindi Bhaji


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 bowl of okra, cut into 5cm pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • a splash of water

METHOD

  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and then add the chopped tomatoes.
  2. Fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the spices and heat for another minute or so.
  4. Add the okra and coat well in the spice mixture.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook for 10.15 minutes on a low heat, adding a splash of water as necessary to prevent the mixture drying out.

Blackberry Mousse

blackberry mousse

The year 2020 was THE year for blackberries. We cut the buses back at the beginning of the year and once they started producing, they didn’t stop. The challenge now was what to do with them so we started experimenting with everything from dried blackberries for the muesli, to blackberry jam and blackberry cordial to mix with gaseosa (the Spanish version of a slightly sweetened soda water or not-so-sweet lemonade) as a non-alcoholic summer drink, but possibly my favourite was blackberry mousse. John told me about the mousse his mum used to make with jelly and evaporated milk so by trial and error I worked out the quantities for this delicious mousse recipe.

I prefer to make the mousse by blitzing the berries first with a stick blender and then passing the liquid through a Moulinex food mill to remove the pips but it is entirely up to you whether you blitz or not. At the moment, I am experimenting with heating the fruit liquid before making the mousse to see if there is any difference.

The quantities of gelatine and sugar will vary according to the amount of juice you get from the berries. The quantities shown below are based on 500g blackberry juice (without the pips).

 

BLACKBERRY MOUSSEblackberry mousse

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium bowl of blackberries
  • 10g powdered gelatine
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 225ml evaporated milk

 

METHOD

  1. Blitz the blackberries with a stick blender and then put through the food mill to remove the pips.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the water, gelatine and sugar.
  3. Heat gently until the mixture has dissolved and remove from the heat.
  4. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then pour into the berry juice, stirring all the time.
  5. Whisk the evaporated milk until soft peaks are formed.
  6.  Spoon some of the berry juice into the evaporated milk and continue to whisk.
  7. Gently incorporate the rest of the berry juice and continue to whisk until the mousse is thoroughly mixed.
  8. Leave to cool in the fridge overnight.

Picking and Cooking Sweetcorn

A corncob

Success with growing Sweetcorn
2020 has been a very good year for sweetcorn. It is now mid September and we have been eating fresh sweetcorn regularly since the start of July and we should be eating fresh sweetcorn until at least mid October.

How to grow sweetcorn.
It is now possible to buy super sweet varieties of Sweetcorn seeds at any seed shop. I plant my seeds in a big flower pot or just any container which has soil at least 10cm deep. I put the seeds about 1cm down and about 5 centimeters apart.  I plant them out when the little plants are  about 12 cm high. Sweetcorn does not like the cold so it is best if the average temperature is over 14C when they are planted out. I doubt if they would survive a frost.

This year I made extra effort to fertilize them well using only organic fertilizer. Under each plant I have put a 3 double hand fulls of cow manure and one double handful of chicken manure. I prepared the ground using a small fork. Once they started growing well I put a thick mulch of leaves to suppress the weeds. Sweetcorn grows best in a group of plants rather than a line  so I have planted rectangular groups of about 20 plants.

To be able to harvest sweetcorn over a long periods of time I grow 3 or 4 patches. When one clump of sweetcorn gets well established I plant some more seeds. This year, eating sweetcorn every couple of days for months on end has been heavenly.

When to pick sweetcorn.
Each sweetcorn plant grows 2 or 3 corncobs.  People say that you should  open up a corncob and push your thumbnail into into a kernel. If you see a milky liquid it means they are ready. What happens if they are not ready? You have just ruined a corncob. The best indicator of being ready is when the beards go brown. Each corncob has a lot of strands coming out of the end they eventually turn brown. When almost all of the beard is brown they are ready.

How to cook sweetcorn.
The big problem with sweetcorn is that the fibrous kernels get stuck in your teeth. This problem gets worse as you get older because as you get older there are more gaps in between your teeth. This year we seem to have solved this problem. Either after cooking or before we cut the corncobs into bite sized pieces. The incisors at the front of your mouth cut the kernels of  the corncob without getting stuck in your teeth.

To cook sweetcorn put it in cold water, bring to the boil, simmer for between 10 and 15 minutes. Leave in a water for 5 minutes. We are at 1300 metres high here so water boils at 95C, your cooking time might be less. 

How to store sweetcorn.
If you don’t manage to eat all your sweetcorn fresh then you can leave it to go dry. Just pick the corncobs, take off the outer coverings and put them in a dry airy place. The best way to use dried corn kernels is to make sweetcorn fritters or maize fritters. There are loads of recipes on internet. The other way to store them is by canning/bottling them and the result is the same as canned sweetcorn that you buy in the supermarket. You will need a pressure cooker to get the temperature very high because sweetcorn does not have much natural acid. There are lots of instructional videos on internet.

Sweetcorn cut into pieces

Here is a video of one of our sweetcorn patches.

Soap Making

The aim of this blogpost is to chart, document and record my attempts at soap making.

There are hundreds of videos online but I found Everyday Elly’s ones (for sourdough and soap) particularly helpful for general information about soapmaking, and how to calculate quantities, store and cure soap, etc. Here is a link to her YouTube channel: Elly’s Everyday.

Soap made from pure olive oil is called Jab√≥n de Castilla or Castile Soap. Years ago, when we lived in the Sacromonte area of Granada, Consuelo our neighbour would sit in the street outside her house stirring a large vat of leftover oil mixed with caustic soda. Any oil would do she told me and it would make a pure soap that you could use on your skin or clothes. 

The second time, I made soap I used the proportions suggested in Elly’s Everyday for Castile Soap:

600g olive oil
109g water
79g caustic soda

The important thing is to add the LYE to the water and wear safety goggles, mask and gloves while making the soap. 

The total weight of the soap made was 788g and this was enough for 7.8 bars of soap made in the silicone moulds.

The percentages for each ingredient are:
76.14% olive oil
13.83% water
10.03% caustic soda

I have calculated that each mould holds 105g so the quantities for one bar would be:
80g olive oil
14.5g water
10.5g caustic soda

The quantities for 4 bars would be:
320g olive oil
58g water
42g caustic soda

The first time I made soap with this method, I placed boards below and on top of the mould and wrapped it all up in a large towel. This supposedly helps the saponification process and ensures that the bars saponify evenly.

I took the bars out of the moulds on the morning of the third day after I had made it. They were all OK except for one so in the future, I will remove them from their moulds after 3 days.