RHUBARB, PEAR & GINGER JAM

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. It seems like the stuff is everywhere you look right now – one of the wonderful things about this time of year. Is it just me or is it one of the most underrated veg (yup – not a fruit!) out there when it comes to comfort food. Think crumbles, pies, cakes, anything that you want to smother with custard (or ice cream if you’re a weird custard hater like me) on a rainy afternoon. Even those delicious rhubarb and custard sweets that I had a mild obsession with as a child, it’s one of those nostalgic flavours, and let’s face it, it’s just bloody tasty stuff.

Homemade rhubarb pear and ginger jam in a jar. Bowl off granola topped with yogurt and cereal.

Recently I drank a bottle of the most delicious Rhubarb and Ginger gin liqueur – YES I DRANK THE WHOLE BOTTLE DON’T JUDGE ME. In fact if you must know, I drank it for breakfast the weekend on my birthday, turning thirty-three is hard ok?!

Anyway… it got me to thinking about this huge rhubarb patch in our garden which I’m ashamed to say has gone neglected for the last few years since we’ve lived here – shocking I know! I suppose it’s one of those things where I’ve always had good intentions of harvesting a batch and whipping up all manner of delicious desserts, but never quite got round to it and next thing you know it’s always become overrun with snails and eventually withered away. Whoops!

Well not this year. Since I’ve spent about ninety-six hours watching cooking shows in the last month alone and and this colourful and easily foraged treat seems to pop up in every other dessert at the moment, I decided not to let it go to waste this time around, I decided to cook some bloody rhubarb!

Hand holding a bunch of fresh rhubarb picked from a garden

Just a bunch of GIGANTIC rhubarb freshly picked from the garden – all snails gently removed…

Make sure you fully remove the leafs as they are actually toxic, and will definitely not make for a yummy pie.

Rhubarb is at it’s peak in April and May, so if you still have any in the garden, get it while it’s still good!

Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves here – I am no Mary Berry, so my first attempt at rhubarb cookery had to be something simple, and you can’t go wrong with a good old fashioned jam…right? Read on for my ‘recipe’ – a term I use very loosely as let’s face it, I don’t actually have a clue what I’m talking about and I can’t be arsed to use proper measurements, so if you do feel like giving this a bash, I’d recommend tightly crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

The Recipe…

Preparation time – 15 mins

Cooking time – 45 mins (ish!)

Ingredients

  • Three large rhubarb stalks ( I told you I don’t measure shit so don’t be asking for grams!)
  • Two small pears
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup water

Method

  • After removing the leaves, wash the stalks thoroughly and chop in to 2cm(ish) chunks. Now at this point if you were following a proper recipe, you’d coat in the sugar and leave for a couple of hours, but since we’re following the patented Becca Walker ‘can’t be arsed’ method, I didn’t bother pissing around with that, so it’s your call if you do or not. If not go ahead and chuck in to a pan!
  • Chop the pears in to large chunks (they’ll take break down much quicker than the rhubarb).
  • Add the sugar, lemon juice and ginger. I used the lazy stuff out of a jar – do you see a theme developing here? Heat until the sugar dissolves and is boiling gently. I should probably mention that you should be using about twice the amount of sugar, and that it should in fact be proper jam sugar which contains pectin (a thickening agent), however in an attempt to make this recipe ‘low sugar’, my logic determined that if I used half the sugar, added water and just cooked it for about three times as long it would turn out just fine. Probably.
  • Add the water and boil gently, stirring often for 30-40 minutes – or until thick and sticky!
  • Ladle in to a jar, allow to cool fully any enjoy!

Moroccan style bowl filled with granola topped with yogurt and homemade rhubarb jam

So there you have it, an idiots version of a half arsed rhubarb, pear and ginger jam, but if there’s one thing I do know it’s that this stuff tastes bloody fantastic! It’s great on pretty much anything, but my particular fave is to top any kind of granola (I used apple and cinnamon) with some natural yogurt and a nice big dollop of jam as a delicious and healthy breakfast.

Maybe I’ll learn to follow proper recipes one day, but until then I’ll just keep winging it, and I sincerely hope that they might work for some of you guys too!

Until next time,

B x

ROSEMARY & SEA SALT FOCACCIA WITH CARAMELISED ONION CHUTNEY

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that home baking has become the new cool thing to do during lockdown, with everyone trying their hand at producing home made delicious treats to stuff our idle faces with to our hearts content, if only to pass the time away; Myself included.

So much so that in the first two weeks of lockdown I had whipped up no less than about six different kinds of breads/cakes/bakes – anything that I could shovel in to my increasingly large belly, or punt off on to Grant as a ‘treat for work’ to make sure that if I was going to get good and plump, I wasn’t going to do it alone.

Baking has become like sickly sweet crack to the masses, we all can’t get enough of this wholesome and gratifying activity – if you can actually find any flour that is, right now there’s more chance of spotting a fucking yeti taking a stroll through the park to get his daily exercise.

Since showing off a few successful recipe attempts on Instagram (because if it didn’t make the grid, did I even really bake it..?), some of you have asked me to share my baking ‘expertise’, and even though I’ve ripped most of them straight from Google, I figured why not. I’ll indulge my smug Delia Smith charade and dish out my recipes like hot cakes. Or bread. Whatever.

While I am far from achieving master baker status (ahem…), I like to think that I know a fair bit about food, stemming from ingesting impressive, if not alarming amounts of the stuff like a pro for many years now, so I suppose it makes sense to take a step from my usual role of reviewing culinary offerings in to proving that I can actually produce something not entirely crap myself.

So here it is, my first recipe blog, for anyone who cares. Starting with a pairing that is delicious, savoury and simple, and one that you’ll find yourself returning to for ‘just one more snack!’ all day long.

NB. I take absolutely no responsibility for the amount of calories that may be ingested subsequent to recreating these recipes. I’ve enough to worry about with the state of my own currently gargantuan arse at the moment, let alone anyone else’s.

ROSEMARY AND SEA SALT FOCCACIA

Preparation time – about 30 minutes if you’re as slow as shit like me.

Cooking time – 1 to 2 hours (plenty of time to have a snack while you wait for it to prove and cook).

Serves – I’ll leave that up to you. There will be no judgement here.

homemade sea salt and rosemary focaccia bread

Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour, aka gold dust, plus extra for dusting. Or gold dusting. (I’ll get my coat…)
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 1 sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 80ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (got to get those calories in)
  • 150-250ml of warm water
  • vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
  • fresh rosemary
  • sea salt

Method

  1. Dust a large flat baking tray with flour.
  2. Chuck the flour into a big old bowl, add the salt and yeast, then add the olive oil, plus enough warm water to make a soft but not sticky dough. If it’s sticking to your hands like treacle then you’re doing it wrong. Go easy on the water, adding a bit at a time. If you pour it in faster than the first post lockdown pint down your gullet, it may appear to be fucked, but you can fix this. Gently kneading by way of scooping up the dough, scraping any sticky bits on the surface and slapping it back down again for a few minutes will see the dough begin to become ‘pillowy’ and more manageable. The more water that can be added (the full 250ml is great) then the lighter the bread will be. But it can take some perseverance. Also resist the temptation to add more flour as it will make the dough too heavy.
  3. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until your puny weak arms feel like they’re going to fall off, on a lightly floured work surface. The dough will feel stretchy when pulled. To test if it is ready, make a ball with the dough then, using a well-floured finger, (pardon me vicar…) give it a good poke (no more than a ¼in). If the indent disappears by way of the dough springing back then it is ready to shape. If the indent stays, knead for a few minutes longer.
  4. Shape the dough into an oval and place it on the prepared baking tray. Flatten it out to about 30cm long and 20cm wide. Cover the dough loosely with oiled clingfilm, making sure it is airtight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
  6. Leave the dough in a warm place for about an hour, or until it has almost doubled in size. Then flour up that index finger again and poke holes in the dough at regular intervals, about 4cm apart, in rows across the dough, pressing right down to the bottom. Shove some sprigs of the rosemary into the holes. Sprinkle some sea salt over the dough and bung in the top of the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the bread is well risen, pale golden-brown and looks tasty as hell.
  7. Remove from the oven, drizzle with the remaining olive oil in a wanky/artistic manner and leave to cool on the baking tray. (DON’T SHOVE IT IN TO YOUR GOB RIGHT AWAY OR YOU’LL BURN YOUR FUCKING MOUTH OFF YOU GREEDY PIGGY).

*Adapted recipe, originally from BBC Good Food.

CARAMELISED ONION CHUTNEY

Preparation time – 5 minutes

Cooking time – 1 hour 30 (ish)

Serves – who the hell cares, it’s chutney FFS. This made a jars worth for me.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp chilli & garlic oil (or olive oil, or butter – whatever you have to be honest).
  • 3 big fat onions, thinly sliced ( I used white, red would work too)
  • 150g brown sugar – or muscovado if you want to be a prick about it.
  • 50 grams granulated sugar
  • salt
  • 150mls white wine vinegar (would probably be better with red but white was all I had so fuck it)
  • A fat glug of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • Sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • Sprinkle of dried rosemary (technical terms…).

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and soften the onions over a medium-low heat for 25-30 mins stirring regularly, until gloriously gooey and awesome. DO NOT LET THEM BROWN/BURN OR IT WILL TASTE LIKE CRAP. They should reduce by about half.
  2. Chuck in half the sugar, crank up the heat a bit , and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are just starting to colour. Lower the heat, then add the remaining sugar, a pinch of salt and all the other ingredients.
  3. Simmer, until bubbling away nicely on a medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the chutney has reduced and thickened to a dark caramel colour, stirring occasionally to check it isn’t stuck to the bottom of the pan and completely buggered. If it’s turned to tar too soon, add a little water and leave to reduce again. To test if the chutney is ready, drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan – it should take a few seconds for the juices to re-cover the bottom of the pan.
  4. Spoon the hot chutney into a jar, let it cool fully then bung in to the fridge.

*Actually my own recipe and not one ripped off of someone else for once.

Slices of home made rosemary and sea salt focaccia with a jar of caramelised onion chutney

So there you have it! Freshly baked delicious crisp focaccia with sweet and sticky chutney. Add a chunk of whatever kind of cheese you fancy (but brie is especially good…) in to the equation and that is one happy little snackcident right there. Also try topping a burger or hotdog with the onion chutney at your next back yard isolation bbq for a bit of a taste sensation. You will not regret it!

Happy home cooking folks, and don’t even think about blaming me if you totally screw any of these up.

See you all on the other side when we’re all ready to apply for the next season of Masterchef.

B x