Category Archives: Spices

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

Pickled Garlic

The topic for the May Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was cold pack canning, which as the name suggests, involves putting the food in the jar cold and uncooked before adding liquid and processing. It is a quick and straightforward method but some vegetables and fruits are more suited to this treatment than others.

pickled garlic from britinthesouth.comI found this month’s subject more challenging than previous months purely because of finding something suitable to preserve. I prefer to use seasonal produce from the farmer’s market when I can and many of the best candidates for cold pack canning simply weren’t in season yet.

Luckily, as the clock ticked away towards the end of the month, my friends at Riverview Farms came to the rescue, bringing bundles of freshly picked garlic to the farmer’s market. This wasn’t the dried old stuff with papery skins that you find in the supermarket but plump and juicy garlic cloves not long out of the ground. They are easy to peel and large cloves means it is a quick and easy exercise to fill the jars and before you know it you have some good looking jars of pickled garlic stashed away.

pickled garlic from britinthesouth.com

I followed Marisa McClellan’s recipe for “Pickled Garlic Cloves” from “Preserving by the Pint”, using homemade pickling spice. Her recipe made 3 half pint jars but I only managed 2, probably because of the large garlic cloves I had.

Pickled Garlic

1 pound fresh garlic, peeled

2 cups red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon pickling salt

2 teaspoons pickling spice (see recipe below)

Put the vinegar in a nonreactive pan, add the pickling salt, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt.

Put a teaspoon of the pickling spice mix into each of the two half pint jars, then pack the garlic cloves as tightly as you can into the jar. Pour the hot brine over, leaving half an inch of headspace. Tap the jars to eliminate any air bubbles, wipe the rims, apply the lid and ring and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Yield: 2 half pint jars

Pickling Spice

3 tbs yellow mustard seeds

1 tbs coriander seeds

1 tbs whole allspice berries

1.5 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp ground ginger

2 inch cinnamon stick

4 cloves

2 bay leaves

Make the pickling spice mix, Lightly crush the mustard seeds, coriander seeds, allspice berries and cloves using a pestle and mortar. Break the cinnamon into small pieces and rip up the bay leaves. Add to the mix along with the red pepper flakes and ground ginger. Mix well to combine.

pickling spice from britinthesouth.com

 

Black Bean / Red Rice Veggie Burgers

Black Bean / Red Rice Veggie Burgers from britinthesouth.comMy wife and I often have crazy work schedules with long hours and late finishes. We usually do a pretty good job of meal planning and prepping food ahead of time to make sure we have something tasty and nutritious to enjoy when we eventually get home but like everyone, there are occasions when we resort to takeout or something quick and easy from the grocery store.

One of our staples on these occasions are spicy black bean burgers from the supermarket freezer. They may be convenient, and they have significantly less fat and zero cholesterol compared to a burger made from beef but a quick glance at the ingredient list reveals such delights as disodium inosinate and thiamin hydrochloride as well as unspecified artificial flavors.

I therefore set out to create my own spicy black bean burger, with ingredients I recognise and a customised spice blend to suit our palates.

Black Bean / Red Rice Veggie Burgers from britinthesouth.comAs well as black beans I included red rice to help bind the burger together. I’m a big fan of red rice, which is available quite cheaply in big bags from our local Asian supermarkets. It’s nutty flavour not only works well in this recipe but I find it makes a great base for salads. You could cook dried black beans for this recipe but I opted for a can. I used low sodium beans to give me more control over the seasoning

Black Bean / Red Rice Burgers

15oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
4oz cooked red rice
0.5 medium red onion, chopped
1oz breadcrumbs
1 large garlic clove
0.5 tsp sweet paprika
0.5 tsp smoked paprika
0.5 tsp crushed red pepper
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 tsp black pepper
0.5 tsp ground cumin
0.5 tsp ground coriander seed

 

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until the mixture is combined but still relatively coarse in texture.

By hand, form the mixture into four patties, each about half an inch thick.

Black Bean / Red Rice Veggie Burgers from britinthesouth.comIn a skillet or frying pan, warm about a quarter of an inch of olive oil over medium high heat. Let the burger form a good brown crust on one side before flipping. Cook the burgers for about 5 minutes on each side until crisp on the outside and heated through.

Serve them in a burger bun with the toppings of your choice.

Black Bean / Red Rice Veggie Burgers from britinthesouth.com

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Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.comIt was in a bar in the deep south that I had my first encounter with fried pickles. Down here it is easy to strike up a relaxed conversation with the complete strangers sitting next to you, especially when you throw in the added novelty of an English accent.

When their bar snacks arrived they urged us to share and that is how I came to first experience the wonder of fried pickles. On the surface of it, slices of pickled cucumber, breaded and then deep fried and served with a side of ranch dressing do not sound like a culinary masterpiece, but these were just the perfect combination of crispy, crunchy, oily, spicy and salty to make the ideal accompaniment to a cold beer. I was hooked.

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.comThis summer I have been experiencing a glut of cucumbers and have been happily preserving the surplus into pickles and relishes for future enjoyment. I made a batch of garlic dill pickles using this recipe from the excellent foodinjars.com blog. The garlic and pepper gave them a nice kick and I thought they would be the perfect candidate for transforming into spicy fried pickles. I added a little smoked paprika to the cornmeal mix to add to the taste sensation and made a cooling blue cheese and yogurt dipping sauce to partner them. The end result is a tasty and quite addictive snack.

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

8oz dill pickles, drained (I made mine using this recipe, or you can use shop bought pickles)

2 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

0.5 cup cornmeal

0.5 teaspoon salt

0.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

0.5 teaspoon smoked paprika

Vegetable oil

For the dipping sauce

1 cup blue cheese crumbles

0.5 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.com

To make the sauce, place the blue cheese, yogurt, vinegar and black pepper in a food processor and blitz until combined but still slightly chunky. Check for seasoning.

Drain your dill pickles.

Beat the two eggs and place in a bowl.

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and paprika in a shallow bowl or plate.

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.comHeat a 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet over medium high heat.

Dip the pickle slices in the beaten egg, then dip them in the flour mix until well coated and then carefully place them in the pan. Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Drain on paper towel before enjoying, ideally with a cold beer.

Spicy Pan Fried Dill Pickles with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce from britinthesouth.com

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A Southern Classic with an Italian Twist: pan fried okra with fennel and Parmigiano Reggiano

Back in Britain I would occasionally encounter okra, usually on the menu of Indian restaurants, but it certainly wasn’t as popular as it is here in the American South.

Pan fried okra with fennel and Parmigiano Reggiano from britinthesouth.comIt crops up with great regularity in our CSA box so I have learned to love it over the years and discovered it is a versatile vegetable, working well when roasted, baked or steamed.

Pan fried okra with fennel and Parmigiano Reggiano from britinthesouth.comThe classic southern preparation is fried, with little nuggets of okra encased in a crisp cornmeal shell. This is a great recipe for experimentation: by tweaking the seasoning in your cornmeal mix you can turn up the spice or add interesting layers of flavour.

Pan fried okra with fennel and Parmigiano Reggiano from britinthesouth.comOn this occasion I went in an Italian direction, throwing crushed fennel seeds and grated Parmigiano Reggiano into the mix.

Pan Fried Okra with Fennel and Parmigiano Reggiano

0.5 lb Okra

0.5 cup cornmeal

0.5 tsp salt

0.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper

0.5 tsp freshly crushed fennel seed

1 tsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano

4 tbs olive oil

Pan Fried Okra with Fennel and Parmigiano Reggiano from britinthesouth.comWash the okra and slice it into half inch pieces.

Mix together the cornmeal, salt, pepper, crushed fennel seeds and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Give the okra a quick rinse in a colander. I find this helps to get rid of some of the gloop and also helps the cornmeal mix stick. After draining the okra add it to the cornmeal mix and make sure it is well coated.

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat and then add the okra pieces. Fry, stirring regularly, until it is gold and crispy, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, place briefly on paper towel to soak up any excess oil and then enjoy while hot.

 

 

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Field Pea and Tomato Curry (with homemade curry spice blend)

I wouldn’t exactly say that I grew up eating Indian food, but it has been an integral part of the British culinary landscape for at least 200 years. Every British town of any reasonable size will have a curry house or two and I lived for many years in both Birmingham and London, which boast many Indian dining spots, ranging from the cheap and cheerful to expensive fine dining.

Predominantly operated by Bangladeshis most of them offer a pretty similar set of dishes, many of them created for or heavily tweaked to suit the British palate and unrecognizable from dishes that would actually be found in India, which boasts a rich and varied tapestry of regional cuisine. Luckily, in recent years many new restaurants have emerged that tap into this regional treasure trove as well as taking inspiration from Indian street food.

When I first moved to the American South it was hard to track down Indian food but as the Indian immigrant community has steadily grown so has the choice of restaurants and grocery stores to find great Indian dishes and ingredients.

I make no claims of authenticity when it comes to playing with Indian ingredients in my own kitchen but I do enjoy experimenting with interesting and sometimes obscure spices, or snacking on street food like panipuri and chaat.

Field Pea and Tomato Curry (with homemade curry spice blend) from britinthesouth.com

I just love a grocery store that also sells cricket bats

Hence my recent expedition to stock up on ingredients, including an array of spices from which to blend my own curry mix. Grinding and blending your own curry spice mix is not only fun, but you get to control the heat levels and flavor profile, accentuating the things you like and avoiding the fillers you can find in supermarket curry powders. It just takes a bit of experimentation to come up with a blend you’ll love. It also makes your kitchen smell great.

I particularly like the aniseed notes of fennel seeds, as well as the distinctive aroma of fenugreek so these feature strongly in my mix.

Curry Spice Blend

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1.5 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon yellow mustard powder

0.5 teaspoon red pepper flakes

0.5 teaspoon cayenne

Put the coriander seeds, cumin and fennel seeds in a pan and toast over medium heat, stirring regularly, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on the pan to make sure the spices don’t burn.

Field Pea and Tomato Curry (with homemade curry spice blend) from britinthesouth.com

Add the toasted spices to all the other ingredients and grind to a powder. An old coffee grinder will do a good job or if you have the stamina you can use a pestle and mortar.

Homemade curry spice blend from britinthesouth.comField Pea and Tomato Curry (with homemade curry spice blend) from britinthesouth.com

Store the blend in a jar or airtight container.

This is a versatile blend that can be used in any recipes featuring curry powder. I used it to create a quick midweek dinner featuring two local products currently in abundant supply: field peas and tomatoes.

Field peas were a new phenomenon to me when I first moved here. Where I come from peas are small and green, but I soon discovered the delights of crowder peas and pinkeyes.

Field Pea and Tomato Curry (with homemade curry spice blend) from britinthesouth.com

Field Pea and Tomato Curry

1 medium onion, diced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons curry powder

3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped

0.5 cup vegetable stock

2 cups cooked field peas

Heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and curry powder. Cook until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and stock and simmer for 15 minutes until the tomatoes soften and the sauce thickens. Add the field peas and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Field Pea and Tomato Curry (with homemade curry spice blend) from britinthesouth.comServe over rice.