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Archive for October, 2013

Fava

Fava is a Greek dish made of yellow split peas which when slowly cooked for a period of time break down into a thick creamy mashed potato like consistency.  The velvety purée is then mixed with olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning.  Finally it is adorned with either raw or caramelised thinly sliced red onions and a scattering of capers.  Fava can be served warm or cold,  as a starter or to accompany meat or fish.  In winter it is particularly good with lamb Keftedes.

The crème de la crème of yellow split peas come from the island of Santorini in Greece.  Santorini is what remains of a volcanic crater.  The rich volcanic soil makes for a perfect growing medium for this unique strain of plant.  After over 3,500 years the Santorinians have learnt to perfect the fava pulse, giving us the famous fava with its unique flavour and texture.  Fava is eaten on Santorini as pasta is eaten in Italy.

Many years ago I spent part of my honeymoon on Santorini.   I remember being told two things about Santorini;  first it was like no other Greek island and secondly the prices where as high as the cliffs!  It didn’t disappoint on either point.  The views, exceptional light and the beauty of hundreds of pale blue and white houses perched high up on the cliffs as the ship comes into view of the island are stunning.

It is one of those places you should see just once in your life.   Standing on top of the island, some 300 metres from sea level the vista across to the other remaining islands is really breath taking.  The sunsets are legendary and the most romantic and stunning view is to see it setting from the village of Oia, which clings to the northern tip of the caldera.

Oia, we were told, was not to be missed on any account.  What was omitted from this advice (to me who doesn’t like heights) was the road to get there.  We caught a bus from Fira.  All was fine as I had no idea what was ahead so had sat next to the window.  As the town melted behind us and the road started to get more windy the bus in turn started to build up speed,  only slowing down slightly to swing around the bends.  I could no longer look out of the window as the ground had dropped away beside us and we were skimming along the top of the cliff.   All I could do was close my eyes and hope that the 30 minute journey would soon be over.  I could not wait to arrive in Oia until the thought occurred to me that we would have to return along the same road.   I shall skip over the drama that unfolded when it came time to return.  I can tell you that many buses left Oia without me –  each time it was time to get on I would find some excuse why that bus and that driver were not a safe bet.  Eventually I chose to risk my life with a driver whose impressive collection of religious icons and artifacts were displayed in the windscreen far surpassed the others.  No sooner had we pulled out of Oia did I realise that my intuition was not the wisest choice.  The driver obviously thought he had all angles covered and was untouchable.  The journey back was done in record time.   No doubt the driver went on to to do hundreds if not thousands more – for me as they say, it was the end of the road, never to be repeated.

This recipe can be made with any yellow split peas but Santorini fava is worth trying.  Alternatively, the quantities can also be easily reduced.  The olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings are added to your own taste.

Fava

Fava Santorini Φάβα Σαντορίνης

Ingredients

500 gms yellow split peas

water

salt

30 ml olive oil

2 red onions

1/2 lemon – juice of

Method

Wash yellow split peas well and put into a pot of water that covers them by an inch.  Add to this a peeled onion cut in half.  Bring to the boil, turn the heat down a little and skim off any white froth that rises to the top.

Reduce the heat, adding a little salt.   Place a lid on the pan and leave to gently simmer for about one hour.  Stir Regularly and check that the peas have not dried out.  If they have, add a little more boiling water.

After about an hour the split peas will have lost their shape and resemble porridge.

Remove from the heat and using a stick blender liquidise until smooth.  Put a tea towel over the pan and replace the lid.  Leave to rest.  As the fava cools it will thicken up more.

When ready to serve return to a very low heat for ten minutes and add the oil, lemon juice and any further seasoning.

Transfer onto a dish and add a drizzle of olive oil and either thinly sliced red onion or caramelised red onion and a scattering of capers.

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Quinces are hard not to miss; they resemble giant yellow pears and have the most wonderful delicate scent.  Inside their flesh is crisp almost hard which when cut discolours very quickly.  This and their tart taste can be forgiven as that same tricky flesh turns into the most beautiful pinky red colour when cooked.  This is a fruit so rarely seen in supermarkets and shops yet it has so much going for it.  Full of pectin, these fruits are fabulous in jellies and jams.  On top of which they are very versatile and can be used in sweet and savoury dishes.  Quince is often used with meat dishes.  Unlike other fruit it only takes three quinces to produce something truly delicious.

I was beginning to think that I would not see any qunices this year – if it weren’t for a tip off that some had been seen in the greengrocers in the next village.  Twenty minutes later I was on my way home with a large bag sitting on the passenger seat filled with quinces.  Oh how I long to have a friend who has a large quince tree in their garden with no use for the fruit.

I have a weakness for cheese and love the combination of a slice of cheese with something sweet such as a spoon of chilli crabapple jelly or a slice of the wonderful Dulce de Membrillo.   Anything that adds a sweet kick to the cheese is heaven for me.

Dulce de Membrillo comes from the Spanish for ‘sweet quince’.  The recipe has few ingredients; quinces, sugar and water.  Patience is needed for this simple recipe but it is well worth the effort.  The Membrillo will keep in the fridge for months.

Dulce de Membrillo

Ingredients

Quinces

Sugar

Water

Method

Wash the quinces well and place In a large pan (complete with skin) and fill with water to cover them.  Place a lid on the pan and gently bring up to the boil.  Then simmer for 40-45 minutes.  They are cooked when a knife is easily inserted into the centre.

Drain, discarding the water, and set aside to cool.  Once cool, peel the quinces and core them.  Liquidise the flesh until smooth.

Weigh the quince pulp and whatever the weight add an equal amount of sugar.

Place in a clean pan and return to a gentle heat.  Now the patience starts as the the sugar and pulp need to be stirred otherwise they will catch on the bottom of the pan and burn.  Keep doing this until the mixture becomes thick and you can see the bottom of the pan when you drag the spoon through it.

Beware of spitting because the mixture can become too hot and will spit.  Using a long handled wooden spoon helps to avoid this.

Transfer to a dish lined with greaseproof paper and allow to cool.

When cool remove from dish, wrap with fresh greaseproof paper and store in the fridge.

Note:  I made my Dulce de Membrillo with 3 quinces but I could have added less or more it doesn’t matter.  3 quinces produced for me two slabs measuring 12cm x 16cm.

Instead of putting the quinces in a pan of water they can also be baked in the oven.

 

Footnote

Quinces and quince trees seem to be hard to find and A Taste of Wintergreen posted a link on comments which sums up the problem in a really interesting article found here.

Another Quince fact is that they don’t stop at being a wonderful source of food they were also considered to be an aphrodisiac – probably the reason why seventeenth century London prostitutes were known as marmalade madams.   Ivan Day has written about the history of the quince in England with some wonderful pictures and recipes of quince – here

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When I go out to walk the dog the bushes and trees are heavy with fruit and berries.  One of the prettiest sights is the abundance of rose hips this year.  The rich dark red shiny giant sized pips found on the dog rose bush stand out and look like ruby jewels. They are packed full of vitamin C along with an added helping of A, D and E not to mention the antioxidants.

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Rosehip syrup became very popular during rationing in WWII.  The lack of oranges as a source of vitamin C was a problem for England but this was solved by the introduction of rosehip syrup.  A company called Delrosa based in Wallsend near Newcastle produced the syrup and so highly regarded was it that bottles would be given out at baby clinics and parents across the land would administer a spoonful daily in the fight against coughs and colds.  The taste is hard to describe but it is definitely sweet and has a tropical fruity taste with no nasty after taste.

A nationwide campaign began to encourage children to collect the rosehips in return for money and 3d was paid for every 1lb of rosehips.  3d was not a bad payment considering that at the time petrol cost 4d per litre.  So it was not just children who cashed in, many pensioners and low-income households also joined in.  To encourage the children even more, the incentive of the Rosehip Collectors club was started.  Each child was given a card to record their efforts and would qualify for a badge when they had collected a certain amount.  At the end of the season those that had collected four or more badges could then trade them in for a year badge.  There was even a special award the ‘Merit of Award’ badge that was made for those who collected the highest weight.

The rosehips would be delivered to their local collection points which were either schools, local post offices, or private houses.  This was organised by the Women’s Institute.

The above badges can be seen with others at www.badgecollectorscircle.co.uk who have kindly let me use their pictures.

My aunt remembered collecting and making the rosehip syrup whenever we walked past a bush and always referred to it being a filthy job, which she wouldn’t repeat.  Making rosehip syrup is a time consuming task but all the same a satisfying one.  Easy to pick but watch out for the thorns.  It is said that the best time to pick them is after the first frost.  My experience is if you wait that long you will find that the birds have beaten you to it and cleared the lot.

Rosehip Syrup

Ingredients

2 lbs rosehips

2 lbs sugar

4 pints water

Method

Wash the rosehips and then trim the tops and bottoms.   Cut them in half.

Put the 3 pints of water into a large pan and bring to the boil.  Once boiling drop all the rosehips in.

Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the fruit becomes soft and pulpy.  Set aside to cool.

Strain the liquid and pulp in a jelly bag or a double layer of muslin.

Try to resist the temptation to squeeze the bag as this will make the syrup cloudy.

Once all the liquid has dripped through the jelly bag remove the pulp and replace back into a saucepan adding the remaining 1 pt of water to cover the pulp.

Bring to the boil and set aside.  Repeat the process of straining through the jelly bag adding to the liquid already strained.  This process can be repeated a couple of times more but I prefer to just repeat it once.

Put all the liquid back into a clean saucepan and bring back to the boil adding the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved.   Remove from the heat.

If you feel that the liquid is a little on the weak side before adding the sugar you can boil down the liquid to reduce it.

The rosehip syrup is ready to bottle into sterilised bottles.

To sterilise the bottles

Wash the bottles in soapy water and drain.  Put onto a tray in an oven at Gas mark 3/325F/160C and leave for 10/15 minutes. Carefully take out and use.  The bottles should now sterilised.

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