Sunday, 18 October 2015

Apple Tasitng Notes 2015

 Part 1 - July/August

These are notes from apples acquired early in the season, July/August, so mostly from windfall apples that weren't quite ready yet, apart from the George Cave apples.

George Cave:  Bright red skin.

Lady Henniker:  Very waxy skin.

Maldon Wonder:

Duchess of Oldenburg:  Slightly tart.

Emneth Early:

Pronounced ridges. Waxy skin.  Soft, dense flesh.  Slightly juicy.  Slightly sour, but I think it's supposed to be a cooker. Emneth is in Cambridgeshire.

Part 2 - October

James Grieve:

Bright red and yellow skin, red stripes on yellow background. Skin is quite waxy. Flesh is cream to white with yellow-green veins. Flesh is soft, very juicy, tastes a bit bitter, overall taste is just like apple juice. Perhaps these were riper than ones we've tasted in previous years, I seem to remember them being rather more tart. Skin is thin, a bit chewy. Bought at a farmer's market. These are early apples and so don't keep for very long.

Princess Russet:

Yellow to pinkish-beige colour under the brown russetting. Yellow flesh. Quite sweet.

Crisp, crunchy, dense flesh, not very juicy. Some herbal notes - maybe like fennel - in the rough skin.

Herefordshire Russet:

Skin is yellow-green with a flush of orange under the russetting.  Rough skin, due to the russetting.  Creamy to yellow flesh. Very sweet. Soft, moderately dense flesh,  moderately juicy. Mellow apple juice flavour. Very nice. Really like this one. I am beginning to really appreciate russet apples.

The second one we tasted had some spicy, herbal notes.

Ashmead's Kernel:

Skin is green with pale red flush and red stripes under the russetting. Not quite ripe yet, probably better later in the season. Skin is rougher than Herefordshire Russet, lots of russetting, flesh is white to creamy, and more juicy. A bit sharp, probably because it's not ready yet, but also sweet. When we tasted some properly ripe ones last year, they had a lovely balance of flavours.

Pitmaston Pineapple:

Yellow skin. Skin is a bit rough and chewy. The apples we got this year are very small. Yellow flesh, crisp, coarse textured, quite juicy, mellow flavour with a hint of pineapple.

Part 3 - November

John Standish:

Small apples with bright red skin. Thin skin. White flesh with red veins. The first one we tasted had a rather dry mealy texture. May be past its best. Tastes like it might have a nice balance of flavours though, a little bit sweet, a little bit acid.

Newton Wonder:

Waxy skin. Hard, dense flesh. Moderately juicy. A little bit tart. I think these are supposed to be dual purpose dessert/cookers.

Adam's Pearmain:

Very pronounced pear shape.  Hard, moderately juicy flesh, slightly sweet,  nice flavour.

Our previous tastings led to quite different conclusions. The year before last we tasted them for the first time, perhaps they were past their best, we didn't think much of the flavour, so we thought maybe it was the distinctive shape that made them interesting.

But then the ones we tasted last year, we thought, that's quite a nice apple.

Saturday, 17 October 2015


It's October, which means it's time for Apple Festivals, and also Chocolate Week.

Chocolate Week is this week in the UK, 12 - 18 October, 2015, and it's not too late to catch The Chocolate Show at Olympia, whch runs from 16 - 18 October, 2015.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Five Recipes from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

I haven't called this post Five Favourite Recipes as I've only recently started cooking from this book, so I've only tried about five recipes so far.

What I loved about the book when I first got it out from the public library was that it uses ingredients which I have bought and stockpiled in my pantry, and then never got around to using because I didn't have that many recipes that used them. Ingredients like dried Iranian limes, freekeh (Egyptian smoked green wheat), soba noodles, large Israeli couscous/Sardinian fregola, and pomegranate molasses.

There are a few recipes using quinoa, an ingredient that hasn't yet made it into my already overstocked pantry, and barley. While I had previously bookmarked a few recipes for barlotto ('risotto' made with barley) from various sources, I have yet to cook any of them.

I also noticed a recipe that uses verjuice, and a bean recipe that uses lovage, a herb that I have been growing in my garden for several years, but have only used the occasional few leaves (the taste is quite strong) for pea and lovage soup, a River Cottage recipe.

Many of the recipes include at least a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

So here are 5 of the recipes I have tried so far.

1. Soba Noodles with Aubergine and Mango.
soba noodles, aubergine, mango, lime, rice vinegar, fresh herbs.

Seems like an unusual combination, but it was really good, the only thing was that it seemed very acid, perhaps next time I would reduce the amount of vinegar.

The price sticker on my packet of soba noodles said 89p, the price when I looked recently in a Korean/Japanese food shop was more like £4.89, an indication of how long the noodles had been in my pantry (and of high inflation - I can't remember when I had bought the noodles, but probably not longer ago than 2010).

2. Itamar's Bulghar Pilaf.
bulgur, onions, red peppers, currants, spices.

Very colorful and tasty, the only problem with this was that the whole coriander seeds were a bit of a nuisance  when trying to eat it, I think next time I will substitute them with ground coriander.

3. Freekeh Pilaf.
 freekeh, onions, stock, spices, fresh herbs, pine nuts, yogurt.

This tasted lovely, similar to a mushroom risotto. The wheat grains had a slightly chewy texture. I made it with some chicken stock that I happened to have in the fridge. This was the first time that I had cooked or eaten  freekeh.

4. Burnt Aubergine with Tahini.
 aubergines, tahini, pomegranate molasses, lemon, garlic, parsley, pomegranate.

I love aubergines, and this will be one more recipe to add to my repertoire of aubergine dips.

I skipped the tomatoes and cucumbers, and didn' t have any pomegranate seeds on hand to scatter over the top as decoration.

In the photo in the book, this dish looks very white, as if it had yogurt on top, as well as the pomegranate seeds, but no yogurt is called for in the recipe. My version turned out looking more dark grey, like mud, but was very delicious nevertheless.

5. Black Pepper Tofu.
tofu, chilies, garlic, black pepper, spring onions, soy sauce.

I had bookmarked a very similar recipe from Spice Trip, by Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette, but for some reason we opted to make the Ottolenghi version. Not sure if we used the full amount of black peppercorns.