My crimes against cooking: Allegations of Bad taste

Woke up in a bit of a grump this morning. The Toddler came into our room at an early hour demanding company and then started accusing me of waking him up ! So to cheer myself up on the journey into work I started remembering past times in the kitchen – but got distracted by memories of culinary experiments, some of which were quite funny, which at least made me giggle and got me into a better mood.

As mentioned I do have Form for slightly eccentric cooking. Show me a recipe with unusual ingredients and I find it hard to resist the temptation to try it.

The charge sheet

Minty Pea Pops (from The Toddler Cafe) – these are meant to be ice lollies made of cream cheese, chocolate drops, pureed peas and peppermint essence. These were not a success, the Teenager now, after having experienced these, asks me everytime I offer him cake or something he hasn’t tried before asks “It hasn’t got peas in it has it ?”. Toddler was not impressed either, and he loves peas. I tell myself that his rejection was based on his dislike of mint (insists on strawberry or banana toothpaste, boy will he have problems cleaning his teeth when he’s older)

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow from Feast (Nigella Lawson) This is just cooked sweet potato, with some lime juice baked with a layer of mini marshmallow across the top which gets kinda baked and caramalised and slightly toasted. Having thought that this was the sort of thing that both Toddlers and Teenagers couldn’t get enough of it turned out that neither of them would touch it.

Creamy Carrots –(Apples for Jam – Tessa Kiros) sounds innocent enough but it was not appreciated in this house. My fault, I didn’t have any parsley so I used tarragon. But to be quite honest I think carrots are nice enough without adding cream, you just need butter and black pepper.

Beetroot Cake This one worked, as long as I didn’t tell anyone what was it it before they tried it. I guess it’s the same principle as carrot cake, but because in the UK beetroot is usually eaten soaked in vinegar, its difficult to overcome people’s fears and get them to try it. It came from Nigel Slater’s Observer column and I carried the newscutting around for several months before I did it, fresh beetroot is not something it is easy to find in the shops out of season (because there’s no demand for it), so I guess this cake wins on the food miles stakes too. It was too tempting to resist as it also had orange blossom essence in it, so how could I not make it ? The thing that I don’t like about it is the linseeds, but that’s just me. I don’t like the sensation of small hard seeds in my teeth so no dried figs in my christmas pud ! If I did it again I’d just up the amount of sunflower and pumpkin and leave out the linseed.

There are no doubt many many more crimes and I’m sure that if the Toddler could read, or I pointed the Teenager at this site they would remind me of many more eccentric mixtures I’ve tried out on them. But these are the ones that I can remember over the past 2 years, and besides sometimes the journey to work is only 15 minutes long.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Have you ever looked at an illustration in a recipe book and thought, that looks easy, that looks yummy I’ll give that a go? Have you ever been seduced by the name of a recipe. If so, then may I introduce you to Tessa Kiros Rosehip jam…If you go down this road then please learn from my mistakes.

One of the joys of this time of year is the potential for foraging. If you are that way inclined then there are all sorts of ingredients hiding in hedgerows waiting to be used.

I have been desperate to do something with rosehips for over 12 months now, since reading in our village’s monthly news letter some reminiscences about life in the early 20th century when village children would get paid for collecting rosehips from the hedges.

I was not brought up on rosehip syrup but I love the images it conjures up. Sweet smelling and decadent, memories of Turkish delight and syrup drenched baklava. I couldn’t think of a use for rosehip syrup in our house but Jam, well that’s a different matter. The Toddler would live on jam sandwiches given the choice.

The illustration of the Rosehip Jam in “Apples for Jam” is delightfully old fashioned and the jam itself shines out from the page like rubies (if they’d been crushed and marinaded in twice their weight in sugar). The recipe is straightforward enough rosehips, water, lemon juice and sugar. Pick 200g of rosehips, freeze them if you are not going to use them immediately. When you are ready, cut the rosehips in half and scoop out the seeds…simple

If you try and cut a frozen rosehip the knife has a tendency to slide off the hip cutting a sliver of rosehip off, alternatively either the knife bounces off completely or the hip pings away from the knife and to the otherside of the kitchen. If you leave the hip to defrost then ease of cutting is sacrificed to loosing some of the rosehip pulp whilst extracting the seeds. Whichever method you choose, removing the seeds is a very sticky experience and you end up with itchy seeds everywhere. Best result was obtained from freshly picked rosehips, prepared as soon as you get them home.

Before I was halfway through I’d had enough. You are talking some 40-50 hips total, it gets quite tedious all that scooping. So I simply smashed the rosehips (well it works for Hugh Fearlesslyeatsitall !) and left them to soak in the pan. If you opt for this method then you need to put your cooked pulp through a jelly bag, otherwise you end up with teeny tiny bits of seed hair in your jam…something I didn’t find out until much much later.

The smell in the pan however almost makes up for the hassle, it has a lovely general fruity smell, similar to rhubarb cooked with sugar. The resulting jam is very very sweet and as yet I haven’t been able to persuade anyone else to try it. Toddler is suspicious of things that don’t come from the supermarket and admittedly he does have reason to be suspicious as Mummy has form for weird combinations aka the minty cream cheese pea pop…(from The Toddler Cafe).