Ray McVinnie's late summer preserves
Though not the necessity it was in former times, preserving produce when it is cheap and at its best is fun and satisfying
A pantry with a shelf of your own jewel-like preserves is something that will give you great pleasure and a sense of achievement. Any preserves or pickles take time, but the following are easy, interesting to make, great to eat and — apart from the jam (which I reckon is better than bought, can be whipped up quickly and makes a great gift) — are not things that can be bought easily.
As with any preserving, hygiene is important so, hands, jars and equipment need to be sterilised, otherwise your carefully preserved produce could turn into a toxic science project, not food. When preserving under oil as in the following eggplant recipe, it is important that the produce is either peeled or carefully cleaned of any soil particles which may contain harmful bacteria. The salting of the eggplant is also important because it removes the water from the eggplant. Any remaining water can lead to deterioration.
You will see the term “non-reactive” with reference to the bowls used to salt the vegetables. This is a bowl made of glass, china or stainless steel that won’t produce a reaction if salt and vinegar is included in the process — which also means plastic and aluminium are out.
Ten minute berry jam & jam tarts
Ten minute berry jam
This is one of those recipes that a friend gave us years ago. She thinks it was an Aunt Daisy recipe. It works, but time it carefully. Jam making is all about getting the jam mix up to 105C, which is the setting temperature, so make sure it comes to a good boil before timing.
Makes about 1.5 litres
1 kg berries of your choice (I used thawed frozen boysenberries)
1 kg caster sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Put the berries and 170g of the sugar into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Once boiling and the sugar is dissolved, boil over moderate heat for 5 minutes (time it).
Add the remaining sugar, stir to dissolve, bring to the boil, boil another 5 minutes then remove from the heat and pour into sterilised jars and seal.
Make some tart cases in muffin tins using sweet short pastry (I used Paneton Made with Butter Pastry). Do this by carefully lining a muffin tin with pastry rounds, covering with foil or baking paper, filling with baking beans and baking them blind at 200C for about 8 minutes or until browning around the edges.
Remove from the oven and cool completely. Carefully remove from the tins. If you’re in a hurry you could just buy some tart cases and freshen them up by placing them side by side on an oven tray and placing in a 200C oven for a few minutes. Be careful not to burn them.
To serve, put a dollop of jam in each tart case and top with a spoonful of whipped cream. Make plenty.
Chicken with Moroccan salad pickles
This is my take on traditional Moroccan salad pickles, based on a recipe from Ghillie Basan’s excellent book, Flavours of Morocco. This will last for two weeks covered in the fridge, but serve at room temperature and add the coriander just before serving. It is great as starter with bread and olives, as an accompaniment to fish or chicken or stuffed into a crusty roll with feta and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. This salad is also good using barbecued squid instead of chicken.
Moroccan salad pickles
Makes about 5 cups
2 pink radishes, thinly sliced
½ cucumber, peeled, split in half lengthways, deseeded, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, cut into thin matchsticks
100g green beans, stalk ends cut off, beans thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 red capsicum, cored, deseeded, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted in a dry pan until fragrant and just darkening in colour
1 tsp green peppercorns
Pinch saffron threads
1 cinnamon stick
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
Small handful coriander, coarsely chopped
Put the vegetables into a non-reactive bowl and add the salt. Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes so the salt draws the water from the vegetables.
Rinse in cold water and squeeze dry in handfuls. Place the “pickled” vegetables in a clean bowl.
Put the cumin seeds, peppercorns, saffron, cinnamon stick, juice, vinegar and sugar in another bowl and mix well until the sugar dissolves. Pour this mixture over the vegetables. Mix well, taste and season with salt if necessary.
Stir in the coriander just before serving.
Chicken pickle salad
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 free range, skinned boned chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, squashed
1 handful baby cos lettuce leaves
1 handful rocket leaves
1 cup green olives
2 cups Moroccan salad pickles, coriander stirred in before serving
Put two tablespoons of the oil, the chicken and garlic into a bowl, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well. Set aside for half an hour then grill or fry over moderate heat for about 8 minutes each side or until cooked through. Remove from the heat and slice.
Meanwhile put the cos, rocket and olives on to a serving platter, Place the chicken and pickles on top and drizzle the remaining oil over everything.
Seared tuna with melanzane sott'olio (preserved eggplant) and tomatoes
Makes 3 x 300ml jars
1 kg eggplant, peeled with a sharp knife and sliced
½ cm thick
1½ Tbsp salt
100ml white wine vinegar
1 red chilli, thinly sliced, well washed
4 cloves garlic, peeled carefully, thinly sliced, well rinsed and dried
Handful basil leaves, washed and dried on paper towels
300ml extra virgin olive oil
Put the eggplant into a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle the salt over it. Mix well with your hands, separating the eggplant slices.
Place a dinner plate on top and set aside 24 hours for the salt to draw water out of the eggplant and soften it.
Rinse in cold water and squeeze dry in handfuls, but straighten out the slices after squeezing. Place back into the cleaned non-reactive bowl and sprinkle the vinegar all over the eggplant slices. Reserve for 4 hours.
Pack the eggplant slices into the sterilised jars putting the chilli, garlic and basil in between the layers. Pour the oil over the top until it completely covers the eggplant. Make sure you remove any air bubbles that may be trapped. Use a chopstick to encourage air bubbles to rise to the top. Check that the oil is covering the eggplant then screw on the lids.
After an hour or so, check the oil level again then reseal.
Seared tuna with melanzane sott'olio and tomatoes
4 Tbsp of the oil from the melanzane, above
4 x 150g pieces line caught tuna, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 cup melanzane sott’olio, drained
250g multicoloured cherry tomatoes, halved
Basil leaves and lemon wedges for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over high heat in a frying pan (be careful as the oil from jar may have some vinegar in it and it may spit) and add the tuna.
Fry for about 30 seconds on each side, or more, depending how rare you like it. Remove from the pan and place on plates.
Serve with some of the tomatoes and melanzane on the side, the remaining oil drizzled over the top, a sprinkling of basil leaves and lemon wedges on the side