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Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits

December is here and I’m busy thinking about sweet treats for the festive season.

Chocolate tiffin is pretty easy to pull together but the finished result is delicious and I find slightly addictive. Cut into squares it is easy to bring out at Christmas gatherings or to wrap attractively to give as a gift.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comBelieved to originate from Scotland tiffin is just another variation on what would be known as a fridge or icebox cake in other parts of the world as it doesn’t need baking, just chilling. At its most basic it consists of crushed biscuits and raisins mixed with melted chocolate and allowed to set. British chocolate company Cadbury’s make a “Tiffin” bar which is essentially raisins and biscuits in milk chocolate. It was reintroduced last year after being off the shelves for more than a dozen years.

The joy of making your own tiffin is that it gives you endless license to customise it to your own tastes, choosing the type of chocolate, what type of biscuit and what other additions to use.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.com

Cadbury’s “Tiffin”. Good, but not as good as homemade

After a good deal of experimentation I’ve landed on the basic technique from this recipe from the brilliant chocolate maker Paul.A.Young but have then taken it in my own direction. I love his  suggestion of a blend of dark and milk chocolates which makes for a well balanced chocolate layer. Like him I use digestive biscuits for crunch (usually McVities) and raisins, but for this version I soaked the raisins overnight in brandy to make things a little more christmassy. If you want to skip the alcohol, plain unadulterated raisins will work fine. From his recipe I skip the glace cherries (not a big fan) and hazelnuts (allergic) but I do add a couple of other ingredients from the world of British confectionery. Maltesers add both texture as well as nuggets of malty flavour, whilst Crunchie bars add little pockets of honeycomb sweetness.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comThe boozy raisins, crunchy biscuits, and the little flavour bombs of Malteser and Crunchie all combine beautifully to create an incredibly moreish chocolate treat.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits

4oz raisins

1 tbs brandy

2 Crunchie bars (40g / 1.4oz each)

3 bags of Maltesers (37g / 1.3oz each)

8oz Digestive Biscuits

4oz butter

6oz light agave syrup

0.5 tsp salt

6oz milk chocolate, chopped

6oz dark chocolate, chopped

The evening before you want to make the tiffin, mix the raisins with the brandy and leave to soak overnight.

The following day, start by placing both Crunchie bars in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin to crush. The aim is small chunks, not too big, and be careful not to produce a pile of Crunchie powder.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comCrush two of the three bags of Maltesers in a similar fashion. The other bag of Maltesers will be left whole.

Crumble the digestive biscuits. Once again aim for small chunks rather than fine crumbs.

Line an 8×8″ baking pan with parchment paper.

Place the butter, agave syrup and salt in a medium pan and melt together over low heat, stirring frequently.

Add the milk and dark chocolate to the pan and stir continuously until smooth.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comAdd the Crunchie pieces, bashed and whole Maltesers, raisins and crushed biscuits to the chocolate mix and stir well to ensure that everything is coated.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comSpoon the mixture into the lined baking tray and carefully spread it until level.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting into generous chunks and enjoying.

 

Curtido: Fermented Cabbage Relish

I’m no stranger to the art of fermentation, having been making beer and wine for over 30 years, but my adventures in fermenting food have been a little more limited.

My efforts have been largely limited to simple cabbage based ferments such as sauerkraut or kimchi, occasionally experimenting with other vegetables such as collard greens and tomatoes.

curtido - fermented cabbage relish from britinthesouth.comThe theme for the November Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was fermentation and although I went with a cabbage based recipe it included quite a few other goodies and was something completely new to me: curtido, a cabbage relish from El Salvador that typically also features onions and carrots and is seasoned with oregano and lime juice.

It was a good opportunity to use some of the glut of napa cabbage from my CSA box as well as some of the fragrant oregano I had dried from my own garden.

curtido - fermented cabbage relish from britinthesouth.comGoogle “curtido” and you’ll find wealth of recipes, all very similar with slight variations. I followed this one with a few tweaks.

The result was a tangy and tasty, like a fermented coleslaw and it makes an excellent side dish or is great on a burger.

Curtido: Fermented Cabbage Relish

1lb chopped napa cabbage

1 tbs pickling salt

5oz carrots, sliced thinly on a mandolin

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

1 green apple, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tbs dried oregano

Juice of a lime

Put the cabbage and salt in glass or metal bowl, massage the salt into cabbage then leave for a couple of hours. The leaves should start to soften and yield some moisture.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to combine. Spoon the mixture into a quart jar and press down well.

curtido - fermented cabbage relish from britinthesouth.comI used a fermentation kit from masonjarlifestyle.com which provides everything you need to start playing about with fermentation in wide mouth mason jars. It comes with a silicon fermenting lid, and airlock and a glass weight which fits neatly in the jar to press down the vegetables below the brine.

If you don’t have any of that gear just put some cloth or paper towel on top secured with an rubber band and place on a plate to catch any liquid that might overflow.

Keep the jar out on a counter top for 2-3 days, checking occasionally that the liquid is bubbling and the mix has a tangy smell and flavour.

After that you can transfer the jar to your fridge and enjoy within 3-4 weeks.

Dried Tomatoes: Feta and Tomato Dip

We invested in a dehydrator many years ago and have found it a very useful way to help deal with gluts from our garden and CSA box.

The most common items we dry are apples for snacking and cabbage to add to soups and stews in the winter. We have also found it great for drying herbs from the garden when they start growing out of control.

Dried Tomatoes: Feta and Tomato Dip from britinthesouth.comOurs is a 4 tray Excalibur brand dehydrator which are easy to find online. It is easy to use and has proved very reliable over many years of use.

One of the options for the Food in Jars mastery challenge for October was dehydrating so I thought I’d have a go at something I haven’t tried drying before: tomatoes. We preserve loads of tomatoes at the height of summer but most of them are turned into sauce, paste or jam.

Even though the end of October beckons there are still a few late season tomatoes around in my part of Georgia. Last week’s CSA box included some grape tomatoes which made ideal candidates for the dehydrator.

Prepping them was easy: I just washed them and halved them, before loading them onto the dehydrator trays. Some folks season them at this stage or marinate them before drying but I just left them as they were, preferring to season when I come to use them in the future.

Dried Tomatoes: Feta and Tomato Dip from britinthesouth.comHaving loaded the tomatoes into the dehydrator I set the temperature to 135 degrees F and turned it on. They took around 9 hours in total. Larger tomatoes would take a bit longer. The trick is to regularly check them to see if they have achieved the desired result where they are dry and slightly leathery.

Dried Tomatoes: Feta and Tomato Dip from britinthesouth.comOnce they have cooled store them in an airtight jar. I look forward to using them to get a burst of summer flavour in some of my winter cooking but I couldn’t resist putting some of them to use sooner than that. I softened some in oilve oil before whipping together with feta and yogurt to make a tangy and tasty dip.

Feta and Tomato Dip

0.25 cup dried grape tomatoes

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

0.5 cup plain yogurt (I used fat free)

2oz crumbled feta cheese (I used an excellent goats cheese feta from a local farm)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dried Tomatoes: Feta and Tomato Dip from britinthesouth.comPut the dried tomatoes and the olive oil in a bowl and leave for 30-40 minutes for the tomatoes to soften a little.

Put both the oil and tomatoes in a food processor and blitz for a few seconds to start chopping the tomatoes.

Add the yogurt and feta and process until blended into a pink hued chunky dip.

Season to taste with salt and black pepper. As feta tends to be salty you may only need the black pepper.

Enjoy with crudites or on crackers.

 

Fava Bean Bruschetta with Pecan Dukkah

I have written before about my love for dukkah, the Egyptian spice mix of nuts, herbs and spices. I always have a jar on hand in the kitchen and find it a remarkably versatile ingredient, adding a burst of flavour and texture to so many things. I sprinkle it on roasted vegetables, enjoy it with bread and olive oil and have even added it to chocolate.

My go to recipe for dukkah is based on pistachios but recently I picked up a big bag of Georgia pecans from a farm shop and simply had to try a batch of pecan dukkah. I was delighted with the result.

Fava Bean Bruschetta with Pecan Dukkah from britinthesouth.comAs luck would have it, this coincided with having a batch of broad beans, or fava beans as they are known on this side of the Atlantic, on hand. One of my favourite vegetables, fresh ones are pretty hard to find in my neck of the woods so I invariably grab some whenever I find some. Extracting the beans from their velvet lined pods is a particularly enjoyable thing to do.

Fava Bean Bruschetta with Pecan Dukkah from britinthesouth.comI lightly boiled the beans until tender whilst toasting some slices of whole wheat bread. I then spread a generous layer of fresh goats cheese on the bread and then liberally sprinkled it with some of the dukkah before adding some of the cooked beans and adding more dukkah on top.

It made for a simple yet deeply satisfying lunch dish.

Fava Bean Bruschetta with Pecan Dukkah from britinthesouth.com

Pecan Dukkah

4oz shelled pecans

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tsp chili flakes

1 tsp sea salt

Lightly toast the pecans over medium heat in a small pan until they are aromatic, about 4-5 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as they can burn easily. Remove from the heat, allow them to cool a little, then roughly chop them.

In the same pan, gently toast the cumin and coriander seeds over medium heat until they are aromatic, about 4-5 minutes. Place in a pestle and mortar and lightly crush.

Gently toast the sesame seeds in the same way and then add to the pestle and mortar along with the chopped pecans. Bash them until the nuts are broken into small pieces, then add the chili flakes and salt and stir well to combine. Transfer to a jar where the mix will keep for a few weeks.

 

 

Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes

Summer in this part of the world has finally finished. The temperatures have dipped slightly and the stifling humidity of a few weeks ago has dissipated, making this one of my favourite times of year weather wise.

Spicy pickled green tomatoes from britinthesouth.comThe corn, cucumbers and peaches have disappeared from our CSA box, to be replaced by squashes, sweet potatoes and apples.

I am trying to make the most of the last remnants of this year’s tomato harvest before they too disappear until next summer. This weekend I oven roasted a big batch of cherry tomatoes with garlic and thyme and then passed it through a food mill to make a batch of deeply savoury sauce to freeze for the winter.

Both in the garden and at the market there is a sudden glut of green tomatoes as the hours of sunlight in the day begin to wane.

As a kid in England I remember my Mum struggling to come up with a use for the green tomatoes left in our garden at the end of summer. I recall that green tomato chutney seemed to be the only option anyone could think of and no one had much enthusiasm for either making or consuming it.

Here in the South, green tomatoes are much more of a staple, and I have come to love the classic Southern fried green tomatoes.

Spicy pickled green tomatoes from britinthesouth.comWhen faced with a small glut of green tomatoes I opted for pickling them. I used this recipe from Food In Jars for inspiration but tweaked the end result in a different direction by changing out the seasonings for something a bit spicier.

The result is great: a sharp, tart, spicy pickle that goes particularly well paired with a creamy goats cheese or a brie or camembert.

Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes

1lb green tomatoes

1 cup water

1 cup white vinegar

1 tbs pickling salt

1 tsp black peppercorns

4 garlic cloves

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Combine the water, vinegar and salt and bring to a boil.

Put the following into each sterilised 8oz jar:-

0.25 tsp black peppercorns

1 garlic clove

0.25 tsp mustard seeds

0.25 tsp red pepper flakes

Cut the tomatoes into wedges and pack as tightly as you can into the jars.

Pour the brine into the jars, leaving a headspace of half an inch. Use a chopstick to remove any air bubbles and top up with brine if necessary. Apply lids and then process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. If you need to know more about water bath canning there is a good introductory guide on the Ball canning website.

Yield: 4x 8oz jars

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Muscadine Butter

Muscadines are native to the southern US and are a common sight in local farmers markets. Although tasty, the skins are thick and the seeds bitter so they are often more popular turned into wine or preserves than eaten raw.

Muscadine Butter from britinthesouth.comI recently was the lucky recipient of a batch when the remnants of hurricane Irma swept through Georgia as a tropical storm and a neighbor preemptively picked what he had left on his vines before the 60 mph winds came through.

Once the power came back on my thoughts turned to what to do with them and as luck would have it the theme for the September Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was fruit butters. When it comes to fruit butters I have never ventured beyond the standard apple butter so trying it with muscadines would definitely be a new departure for me.

Muscadine Butter from britinthesouth.comI have seen recipes for spiced muscadine jams and spreads but decided that experimentation could wait until next time and opted for a simple approach adding just sugar and lemon juice.

The result is just the right balance of sweet, tart and fruity, and I’m looking forward to spreading it on my toast, spooning it onto pancakes, adding to oatmeal, mixing it into yogurt……….

Muscadine Butter

2lb muscadines

1.5 cups sugar

8 tbs lemon juice

Place the ingredients in a pan and slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, lightly crushing them with the back of a wooden spoon, or a potato masher, as they warm up.

Gently boil for 15 minutes until the muscadines are soft and tender and have released their juice.

Remove from the heat and either pass through a sieve or a food mill to remove the seeds and skins.

Muscadine Butter from britinthesouth.comPut the resulting juice in a heavy bottomed pan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until it achieves a thick, spreadable consistency (80-90 minutes).

Pour the thickened fruit into sterilised jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace and then process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. If you need to know more about water bath canning there is a good introductory guide on the Ball canning website.

Yield: 3x 4oz jars

 

 

 

 

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Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits

In recent years the market for biscuits in Britain has declined a little as people try to eat more healthily, but the nation still munches its way through around £2 billion worth a year.

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits from britinthesouth.comFor many Brits it is almost unthinkable to have a cup of tea or coffee without a Digestive or a Hob Nob to accompany it, sometimes on the side but often dunked. If the biscuit is chocolate coated, so much the better.

This British habit must have been on my mind the last time I was playing around with ideas for homemade chocolate bark, as the light bulb flickered on and I thought, why not put the coffee and biscuits in the chocolate?

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits from britinthesouth.comAfter a few experiments to get the coffee and biscuit ratio right this treat was born.

 

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits

6oz dark chocolate

5.5 tsp finely ground coffee

4 digestive biscuits, crumbled

 

Line an 8×8″ baking tray with parchment paper.

Gently melt the chocolate over medium heat in a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pan of water. Once it is melted, stir 4.5 tsp of the coffee and 2 crumbled biscuits into the chocolate and stir to combine.

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits from britinthesouth.comPour this mixture into the parchment lined baking tray and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining coffee and crumbled biscuit on top before the chocolate starts to set.

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits from britinthesouth.comAllow the chocolate to cool a little and then place in the refrigerator until the mixture is firm (about an hour).

Break the chocolate bark into bite sized pieces to enjoy.

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“99”

In the middle of summer I often find my mind drifting to memories of back home.

At this time of year I particularly miss the English seaside, even though most of my childhood memories revolve around spots along the East coast where the breezes can be strong, the beaches pebbly and the murky North Sea rather cold.

"99" soft serve ice cream and Cadbury's Flake from britinthesouth.comNo seaside trip was complete without an ice cream, usually a “99”. For the uninitiated, a “99” is a cone of soft ice cream with a Cadbury’s Flake sticking out of it. A little research shows that no one really knows exactly where or when the “99” was invented or where the distinctive name came from, but pretty much everyone in Britain knows exactly what it is.

"99" soft serve ice cream and Cadbury's Flake from britinthesouth.comAn authentic “99” relies on soft serve ice cream so it is almost impossible to recreate at home. You really need to get it from a kiosk or an ice cream van serving a famous British ice cream brand like Mr.Whippy. That is why most people think of it as a treat, associating it with days out and special occasions.

Luckily, I found a way to replicate this iconic summertime treat in the heart of Georgia.

First I tracked down a couple of local sources for Cadbury’s Flakes, and stocked up.

"99" soft serve ice cream and Cadbury's Flake from britinthesouth.comSecondly, I had made a note of a video published a couple of years ago by Saveur magazine on making your own soft serve ice cream at home, using a stand mixer and dry ice.

The mix for soft serve is much lower in fat than regular ice cream and needs to be frozen much more quickly than a regular home ice cream machine will manage. You achieve this by putting the mixture in a stand mixer, churning it with the paddle attachment and slowly adding adding spoonfuls of dry ice which rapidly freeze it, whilst also bubbling like crazy and sending clouds of dry ice smoke around the kitchen, which is a lot of fun.

"99" soft serve ice cream and Cadbury's Flake from britinthesouth.comJust a few minutes later you’ll have ice cream with the taste and texture of soft serve. Just add a Cadbury’s Flake to give yourself a taste of an English childhood.

The full recipe and details for the ice cream are here: https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/soft-serve-ice-cream

 

 

Blackberry Chutney

When we venture out to our favourite pick-your-own farm we often go crazy and pick a bucket or two more than we intended. They never go to waste; we always find some way to preserve them.

Blackberry Chutney from britinthesouth.comA number of years ago we had a mountain of blackberries on our hands. We had already made jam, shrub and liqueur, as well as selling a bucket to a local chef.

Blackberry Chutney from britinthesouth.comFor the remaining berries I looked to Marisa McClellan’s “Food In Jars” for inspiration and it was a strawberry chutney recipe that caught my eye. I followed it pretty closely apart from swapping out strawberries for blackberries and was very pleased with the results. We now make a big batch every year, inevitably giving some of it away to friends that rave about it. Over the years I have reduced the amount of star anise used from the original recipe, and find I need a longer cooking time to get the consistency I like but have otherwise been pretty faithful to it.

It seemed the perfect candidate for this month’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge from Marisa for which the topic is hot pack preserving.

It is a delicious sweet and sour blend of fruit, vinegar and spices that goes well with cold meats but is particularly good with cheeses like mature cheddar or a strong blue.

Blackberry Chutney

4 pounds blackberries

1 large red onion, finely chopped

2 cups light brown sugar

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1.5 cups golden raisins

1 lemon, seeded and chopped

3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

1 tbs salt

2 tsp red pepper flakes

1-2 small pieces of star anise (broken from a whole star anise)

 

Place the blackberries in a large pot and lightly crush (I use a potato masher).

Blackberry Chutney from britinthesouth.comAdd all the other ingredients to the pot. Stir to mix and then bring to a boil over medium high heat.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook until most of the juice has evaporated and the mixture has reduced to a thick and syrupy consistency. This can take 90-120 minutes. Stir regularly and keep an eye on it as it can easily stick to the pan if you neglect it and/or have the heat too high.

Blackberry Chutney from britinthesouth.comOnce it has achieved your desired thickness remove it from the heat.

Pour the chutney into sterilised jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace and then process in a boiling water bath canner for 20 minutes. If you need to know more about water bath canning there is a good introductory guide on the Ball canning website.

Yield: 4 pint jars

Cream Tea Truffles with Scones, Strawberries and Clotted Cream

Summer has definitely arrived. Here in the South the days are long and both the temperature and the humidity levels are firmly in the 90s.

Cream Tea Truffles with Scones, Strawberries and Clotted Cream from britinthesouth.comAcross the pond the last couple of weeks have seen the tennis at Wimbledon when my thoughts automatically  turn to the vast amount of strawberries and cream that would have been consumed during the two weeks of the Championships, washed down with copious amounts of champagne and Pimm’s.

Strawberry season is long gone in the South but I can still temporarily transport myself back to the English summertime with a traditional cream tea of scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

Like many English food traditions the exact origins of the cream tea are lost in time and the south western counties of Devon and Cornwall both argue that their versions are true and original. They even disagree on whether the jam or the cream should go on the scone first (cream first in Devon, jam first in Cornwall).

For the uninitiated, clotted cream is another creation of south west England, a delicious spreadable cream, rich in fat, made by gently heating full fat cow’s milk and then skimming off the thick creamy crust that forms on top as it cools. It is commercially available in the UK but can be hard to find in the USA. Luckily you can make at home with a little patience.

Scones, strawberry jam, clotted cream. A wonderful trinity of delicious ingredients and when thinking about cream teas I couldn’t resist the thought of transforming them into a bite sized treat. The English summer in a single truffle.

First you need to assemble your ingredients. For scones, my go-to recipe is this one from River Cottage. River Cottage is also the recipe source for the jam I make every strawberry season, from their excellent book, “The River Cottage Preserves Handbook”.

Cream Tea Truffles with Scones, Strawberries and Clotted Cream from britinthesouth.comYou can make your own clotted cream by gently heating cream and scraping off the thick crust that forms on top as it cools. The key is gently heating it without boiling it, so it can be done in a low oven, a slow cooker or on a stove top in a double boiler. I went the double boiler route, using this recipe for guidance.

It is then simply a case of combining the scones, strawberries and clotted cream with chocolate to give you a delicious taste of summer.

Cream Tea Truffles with Scones, Strawberries and Clotted Cream

3oz scone

2oz clotted cream

2oz strawberry jam

3oz white chocolate

6oz milk chocolate (to coat)

Crumble the scone into a bowl. Add the strawberry jam and clotted cream and stir to combine.

Cream Tea Truffles with Scones, Strawberries and Clotted Cream from britinthesouth.comGently melt the white chocolate over medium heat in a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pan of water. Once melted add it to the scone / jam / cream mixture and stir together. When cool, place in the refrigerator until the mixture is firm.

Taking a teaspoon full of the mixture at a time, roll into balls to form the centres of the truffles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then return to the fridge to firm up again.

Cream Tea Truffles with Scones, Strawberries and Clotted Cream from britinthesouth.comMelt the milk chocolate for the coating in a double boiler. Dip the truffle centres in the melted chocolate to coat and place on baking parchment to set before enjoying.

Yield: 18 truffles