Sunday, 26 June 2016

A Spot of Cookery: Rose Petal Jelly

When we moved into this house the garden was a disaster. Just chock full of horrible shrubs that didn't even try to flower. I suppose the previous owners wanted a low maintenance garden, but it didn't even look pretty. So after a great deal of effort - I would like to say we ripped the shrubs out - but in fact we struggled them out very slowly; at times it felt as though we were digging to Australia. But eventually we planted some fabulous old roses, mostly dark red or white, chosen especially for their fragrance. Honestly, there is no point in having roses if they don't smell wonderful.
Well, our roses do smell fabulous but this summer we are battling with torrential rain and thunderstorms and the poor old roses are not having a happy time. So I thought I'd grab the blooms before they got totally sodden and make rose petal jelly.
The last time I tried this was over 20 years ago and I have lost the recipe, but I know I used hybrid tea roses which have larger flowers with bigger petals than the old roses we have in the garden now, so I looked online and read 10 or more recipes to see what everyone recommends. I read US recipes in cups, UK recipes in imperial measurements and any old recipes in metric. And they were surprisingly different. So I kind of made up my own. After much research this is what I did.... sort of...

One pint of rose petals
I found recipes that ask for 2 pints of petals which is a vast amount unless you have a huge garden (or don't mind taking all the flowers from your garden at once), or perhaps 200g which is fine but the petals have to be dry when you weigh them or the measurement is skewed. One recipe told me that 15 roses would be 2 pints. I found that 15 of my roses made about 1 pint. So see what you get from your garden.
I don't remember anything about the recipe I used before except that it made a really big deal about removing the white bit where the petal attaches to the central stalk. I seem to remember it's supposed to be bitter. Not one of the recipes I looked at mentioned this, but I snipped off the white bits anyway because I remembered doing it before. If it isn't necessary it is at least a good way of picking over the petals and removing any that are damaged, and searching out any insects.
Wash the rose petals
250g sugar
½ pint water
Put the sugar and the water into a pan with a lid. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved and then take off the heat. Add the rose petals, cover the pan and leave for 3 hours. With my lovely old roses this infusion smells wonderful.
Sterilise some jam jars by washing in hot water and then drying them in the oven. I found that 1 pint of roses makes only about a jar and a half. I know, that sounds vague, but I've made this recipe twice now and the measurements are not precise. So have more jars ready in case you need them.

Strain the liquid and add about 4 tablespoons of lemon juice. This will brighten the colour.
Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Skim off anything you don't like the look of.
Remove from the heat and add 50ml liquid pectin.
At this stage one of the recipes I looked at suggested that you could add a few of the discarded rose petals. I thought not. My 25 years ago recipe left the petals in but I found that the jelly + petal mixture squeaked. Call me weird but I don't like food that squeaks, and a scone with clotted cream and rose petal jelly should be a great delicacy... and I don't want it to squeak. So I left the petals out. Besides, by this stage they had taken on an unpleasant dull mauve colour so I didn't fancy adding them back into the mix.
Put the pan back on the heat and boil for 10 minutes.
Your jelly should be ready to set. Take a little bit out with a teaspoon and drop it on to a cold plate. It should show signs of setting almost at once. If not, boil for a little longer, or maybe add a bit more pectin and try again. Basically, see how you go.
Rest for a couple of minutes and then pour into the sterilised jars.
The roses that I used are dark red or deep pink. If yours are a lighter colour you may feel the need to add some food colouring. Or not. The first rose petal jelly I saw was pale pink.

Friday, 10 June 2016

A Little Bit of Chocolate Does You Good: Montezuma's Sea Dog Dark Chocolate with Lime & Sea Salt

This dark chocolate must be manufactured by the West Sussex branch of the Montezuma family.

"This bar was yet another experiment that was tested to great aplomb at a festival we attended" says co-founder Simon Pattison. Hmmnn, call me picky but I'm not sure that's exactly what he means.

Anyhow, this is very nice dark chocolate but I'm not sure I am mad about the lime. I like chocolate with salt, it's a great combination. But I don't like food that tastes blue. And I think lime taste blue.

But I like the packaging. I like the pre-Columbian style design. It looks like a jaguar are something perhaps? I'd like to be able to pin it down by saying Aztec or Maya or Toltec or something. But the internet is none too specific about these things and it seems whichever pre-Columbian civilisation you look up, you get pretty much the same result.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Wednesday, 1 June 2016