As stout soups go, this one takes on all comers. I make it often and always double the quantity of beans and pasta (I use orzo instead of spaghetti). The parmesan crisps are fine if you're being fancy, but today we had it with Hugh's soda bread: nothing more needed.
Balsamic onion soda bread from Flora Shedden's Gatherings. I'd put it in the oven before I realised that the recipe does not include salt, so I whipped it out and in a 'better than nothing' gesture sprinkled some of Maldon's finest on the top.
The inclusion of yogurt in the dough and the flavours of the balsamic vinegar-enhanced shallots meant that it wasn't as lacking in taste as I'd feared, but bear in mind the omission, should you make it, as I found on my second go that a little seasoning does help it along.
The bread has gone down well here, partnering variously chestnut soup, the baked eggs with chard (or in our case, kale, as there was no chard to be had) which also comes from Gatherings and which we've now had several times, so quick and good is it, and finally as part of a 'deconstructed' bruschetta type of thing with avocado, tomato, mozzarella, salami, and rocket.
If the pictures suggest it's a small loaf, it's not - the end bit was all that was left to photograph, and even it disappeared sharpish.
Flora Shedden was the youngest ever contestant when she took part in the 2015 Great British Bake Off. She comes from my parents' neck-of-the-woods in Perthshire, so as the local girl we were cheering her on. She reached the semi-final in fine style and impressed everyone with her skill, creativity, and flair under pressure.
Flora's first book, Gatherings, is out today, but I was able to pick up a copy in Topping & Co., St. Andrews at the weekend so I've had a good look at it already and it's excellent - full of delicious-looking, easily-made food. Thus far we've made the Slow Roast Pork Belly with Mustard Mash and Onions, and the Greens, Quinoa and Black Onion Seed Salad, both dishes worth repeating soon.
The book is subtitled 'Recipes for Feasts Great and Small', and described as "a mixture of modern dishes, staple snacks, salads and sides, interesting bakes, and puddings perfect to end a feast with. Nothing overly fussy or complicated, just tasty, pretty plates of food." Visually it's a delight, but it's a work of substance as well as style, a book I'm keen to cook more from.
Well done to Flora for her debut, and good luck to her for the forthcoming opening of her shop in Dunkeld - I'm looking forward to being a customer.
In the greenhouse the tomatoes are coming on, and the Marmande* shown above will be the first to be ready. As I pinch out side shoots and tie in new growth, so that unmistakable tomato leaf smell is released. If you want a perfume that recreates that fragrance - and makes it more complex - try La Feuille by Miller Harris.
*Grown from the seed of a supermarket tomato we ate. The plant sat on the kitchen windowsill for a couple of years during which it flowered but didn't fruit. I moved it out to the greenhouse a few weeks ago, repotted it, and waited to see what it would do - 'vigorous' is the best description now!
Over on Instagram I asked a question about the correct spelling of this variety. Daniel's Run Heirloom Tomatoes kindly answered me and said that the full name is Rouge de Marmande, and it dates from 1925, though I read that there is also a more recent introduction called 'Marmonde' which is what my Waitrose ones were labelled as. Whatever its origin, it's a good tomato.
The marmalade is going down a treat, and not just in the conventional manner on toast. Sarah Randell's book gives suggestions for savoury uses, as I mentioned, and so far I can recommend the marmalade-glazed chipolatas. This evening we tried Lindsey Bareham's sausage pasta with marmalade tomato sauce (click here for the recipe if you're a Times subscriber), and it was superb: so rich and flavourful and perfect for a wintery evening. Improvise by browning the sausages, adding onion, red wine, stock, and a tin of tomatoes, and let it all reduce in a shallow pan before putting in a couple of dessertspoonfuls of good marmalade (that's for 2 people). It would be even better with mashed potato, but the pasta version makes it a quick and easy dish to which the marmalade adds a slight sweetness and tang rather than an overpowering note of the breakfast table. Even Paddington would approve, I feel.
My marmalade is done, and it is certainly the best batch I've ever made - the set perfect, the distribution of peel even, the taste well balanced - so all credit to Sarah Randell's recipe. As to yield, 1kg of oranges has given me enough to fill 3 of the 1/2 litre Le Parfait jars you see above, 2 smaller ones, and 2 standard jam jars.
I like a recipe which begins "Turn on the radio," and that's where you start with the Classic Seville Orange Marmalade from Sarah Randell's excellent book for which I did all the preparation today. The book doesn't just tell you how to make marmalade, though its instructions are detailed and clear, it also includes a great selection of recipes for both savoury and sweet dishes in which marmalade is an ingredient, so if you find you struggle to get through your annual batch on toast, this 'bittersweet cookbook' could help you make the most of it.
I made it with almonds and I'm very pleased with the result (it yielded about 300g., by the way). It's much stiffer than Nutella, more grainy, more chocolate-y, and less sweet - wholesome, darker and richer, I'd say.You must keep it in the fridge and use it within a week, but I doubt that will be hard. Very much worth a try.
Kay of the Bakery Bears podcast made it in her last episode, and that was what prompted me to give it a try. Kay uses ground allspice instead of the whole berries the recipe specifies; we had the whole spice, but can the quantity given - 3oz/75g - be correct? I used the contents of a 30g. jar tied in muslin, and that seems to have imparted sufficient flavour to the mixture, and Delia's damson chutney uses only 1oz/25g to a larger quantity of fruit, so go carefully if you're making it.
"Even now, simple things take me by surprise. Langoustines, split in half and grilled, their shells glistening, their juices mixed with nothing more than butter and the chopped needles of a few sprigs of rosemary, did that today. Eaten outside, at the garden table, a little feast of shells to crack and suck, snowy flesh to chew, buttery, salty fingers to lick and the smoky, resinous scent of warm rosemary."