Often scarce on the supermarket shelves (except at Christmas), Chestnuts can leave us a little perplexed with just what to do with them. But chestnuts have populated the British Isles since Roman times – and positively flourish in the South of England. We may associate them with Christmas, but chestnut season is here, and these delicious fruits deserve to be enjoyed!
A true seasonal delight, chestnuts are sweet, complex and richly flavoured. Their comforting starchy texture is wonderfully versatile for cooking. Whether sweet or savoury, chestnuts can be as wholesome or as decadent as you like. Mmm, it’s time to reintroduce the chestnut back into our culinary know-how…
How to cook
Chestnuts need cooking to become palatable. If you’ve cooked chestnuts before, then you can certainly attest to the rich, aromatic flavour cooking brings out. You can boil (approx. 30 minutes), microwave (approx. 3-4 minutes) or roast (approx. 30 minutes) – just be sure to score an X or line into the bottom of the shell to allow for peeling and to stop them from ‘exploding’! Cooking them in an open flame winter fire is, perhaps, one of the most loved ways to eat chestnuts in this country.
No matter how you’re cooking them, be sure to peel chestnuts when they’re still warm. When they’ve cooled, this can feel like the impossible task!
How to eat
There are a myriad of possibilities when it comes to enjoying chestnuts. Blitz in a food processor to make chestnut flour – a healthy, gluten-free alternative with a slightly nutty flavour. Puree to fill a dessert such as the renowned French Buche de Noel (chocolate log filled with chestnut puree – yum!) or as a mashed potato alternative. Throw into roasts for texture and taste, or, add to rustic soups and stews to infinitely enhance with an earthy, sweet flavour.
Decadent Chocolate-Chestnut Torte
We may associate chestnuts with Christmas and open fires, but chocolate and chestnut might just be the most heavenly combination. Haven’t tried it yet? Well, we’ve got a recipe that’ll make your mouth water…
Gluten-free, deeply chocolatey and enhanced with the flavour of pureed chestnuts and enticing walnut liqueur, this cake won’t fail to please.
Preheat the oven to 180C. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm (but not quite meringue texture). Melt the dark chocolate over a bowl of boiling water.
In a food processor, combine the butter, sugar and chestnut puree. Add in the egg yolks, liqueur and dark chocolate and combine.
In a mixing bowl, gradually fold through the whisked egg whites. Pour into a baking tin and cook for approx 40 minutes in the oven. Allow to cool before enjoying with whipped cream and chocolate shavings (and possibly an extra shot of walnut liqueur)!
Pumpkin season is finally here! This delicious and colourful season only comes about once a year – so don’t miss out. There are a million delicious pumpkin recipes to play with, but we love this Spanish inspired chorizo-pumpkin stew for it’s punchy flavours. Oregano, chilli, chorizo and sweet pumpkin combine for a meal that won’t fail to please family and friends. Hearty, bright and warming, this seasonal stew is the perfect thing to ease you into this grey and stormy October…
Slivered almonds Parsley
Fresh crusty bread
In a large pan, saute the onions, garlic, spices and chorizo in the olive oil until the onions are translucent and the spices fragrant. Add the pumpkin, oregano, fresh tomatoes and stock and simmer until the pumpkin is tender and flavours have melded. Towards the end of cooking, add in the beans and kale, continuing to cook for 3-4 minutes until the kale soft, but not overcooked. Finally, add in the tomato puree to thicken.
Garnish with a swirl of olive oil, seasoning, slivered almonds and fresh parsley. Enjoy with friends and family, and good crusty bread!
Using the whole pumpkin
Don’t forget that the seeds and the skin are edible – and, more importantly, delicious! Scoop out the seeds and rinse, and toss with the pumpkin skin in some olive oil, salt and spices. Bake in the oven at 180c for 20-30 minutes (Keeping an eye on the pumpkin skin to make sure it doesn’t burn!). These make for a tasty, healthy and zero food waste snack!
Recipe inspired by GourmetGents.Blogspot.Co.Uk/ Image 1: Pumpkin by Michael Brown/Flickr (CC)/ Image 2: Cuddle in a Casserole by Manipa Mandal/Flickr (CC)
Once adored by the Victorians, Medlars were loved as a sweet treat for their caramel-apple flavours. Every Sussex resident would have known what to do with them! But today, Medlars have fallen from our culinary know-how as a result of some pretty unflattering names (cul-de-chien anyone?) and a lengthy ripening process.
But why miss out on this delicious, historic and locally grown fruit? With a flavour somewhere between applesauce and dates, medlars can be enjoyed raw or used in any number of recipes. Our medlars come from Ringden Farm on the Kent/Sussex border, so are definitely an #EatSussex discovery. How to ripen
You can’t eat medlars when they’re firm and green – they need to blet ( i.e. go ‘beyond’ ripening.) This process is necessary for other fruit, such as quince or persimmon to undergo before they’re edible. Store them in a cool, dark place until they are soft, dark brown and slightly wrinkled. This should take about two weeks.
How to eat
With a flavour somewhere between apple-sauce and dates, medlars can be enjoyed raw or used in any number of recipes. Mash and enjoy with creamy, local yoghurt for a caramely breakfast treat, make into jelly to eat with cheese. Or, how about baking in a cake?
Autumn-spiced medlar cake
This dark, sticky and aromatic cake has a wonderful texture and caramel depth of flavour. We recommend enjoying with thick local cream or served warm with heavenly cool vanilla icecream.
Preheat the en to 180°C. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy, adding in the eggs until well combined. Stir in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate and spices until well mixed. Stir in the medlars and walnuts.
Spoon into a buttered baking tray and cook for 30 minutes. Allow to cool, and enjoy!
Have you tried medlars? How do you like to enjoy them? Let us know in the comments or tag us on social media! (@finandfarm).
Recipe inspired by Bucksedwood.org.uk
Image: Ripe Medlar by Filip Maljkovic/ Flickr (cc)
August and September have been plentiful, busy months. The weather this summer has been kind to us (despite what many cynics may say) and this has reflected in the quality and the abundance of produce. Trying to make the most of every seasonal miracle is near enough impossible for this very reason: there’s too much of it and too many varieties to try and squeeze onto the menu! By the time we find space, it can already be too late and you have to wait until next year – but that’s all part of the fun!
We said at the beginning of the #EatSussex campaign that the real challenge would be using all of the available produce, not struggling with what to cook. So we gave it our best shot, and here are some of our favourites…
One of our earliest and fondest dishes. So simple but only excels when the highest produce is used. There is little to hide behind.
Slice the tomatoes as you wish. Coeur de boeuf tomatoes a better sliced but the mixed varieties are best chopped randomly. Season lightly with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Arrange in layers slices of mozzarella, basil leaves and tomato onto on a base of homemade pesto. Garnish with crushed nuts, more olive oil and smaller tips of basil leaves.
Arundel Basil Pesto
This pesto is a staple at the café. It varies slightly every time depending on the time or who is making it so is always unique.
· Large bunch of Arundel basil leaves
· 2 cloves garlic
· Extra virgin olive oil 50ml
· 50g Nuts (Hazel, walnut or pine depending on season)
· Pinch of salt
· 5 drips of lemon
In pestle and mortar, start by crushing the garlic with the salt. Followed by crushing in the basil and nuts, and gradually pouring in the olive oil to create your desired pesto texture. Season to taste.
If you have ever been to Greece you will be familiar with these ingenious lunchtime staples. Batch cooked and kept warm, they sell out fast as a wholesome, delicious and seasonal lunch. They’re also dead simple to cook. We made pork stuffed tomatoes using our recipe below. However, we’ve also made veggie ones using pearl barley and cranberry risotto with Grana Padano – but I have no measurements or quantities for that one. We made it up as we went along!
Carefully slice off to tops of the tomatoes with the stalks on, about an 8th of the way down. They will be lids. Using a spoon and a small knife if necessary, scoop out the inner membrane and seeds of the tomatoes doing your best to retain the structure of the tomato. Cook the innards of the tomatoes with 50ml of olive out and a clove of garlic, nice and slowly. Meanwhile we can mix the pork mince with the remaining oil, garlic and oregano, a good pinch of salt and pepper then roll it into six 150g balls to stuff into the tomatoes. Place the lids back on and bake for 1 hour at 180 degrees Celsius.
To serve, blitz the tomato innards in a food processor to form a rich sauce and sit the baked tomato on top, serve warm, not hot.
Tibbs Farm Raspberry Ripple Yoghurt & Granola.
I didn’t know the real taste of a raspberry until the punnets arrived with Nick, just picked from Tibbs farm that day. We had to immediately reorder them. Such was my excitement about these dark, blood red, sweet, juicy flavour-bombs, that I shared them out to every customer and member of staff we had. Do yourself a favour: eat raspberries that are LOCAL and IN SEASON and NOTHING ELSE! The kind you buy in the supermarket are not even from the same planet as far as I’m concerned…
Granola is great, you can keep it in the dry store to be sprinkled on all sorts.
· 500g jumbo oats
· 150g South Downs honey
· 70g soft dark brown sugar
· 250g mixed Sussex nuts (cobnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, sweet chestnuts)
· 50ml Mesto olive oil
· 1 tbsp cinamon
· 1 tbsp sea salt
· Dried fruit (optional depending on season)
Making the granola is simple. Combine all of the above granola ingredients thoroughly in a bowl and, when combined, spread onto a large baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 150 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes. After 30 minutes crudely break up the granola to form large nuggets. Leave out to dry out, turning every 5 minutes or so. If it’s still a bit moist afterwards either bake it again for another 5 minutes or leave in a warm dry place such as the airing cupboard!
The raspberry ripple component is make by a simple maceration process. In a mixing bowl place your fruit with the sugar and a few drops of lemon. Toss gently just using the bowl and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will intensify the flavour and create a wonderful natural syrup.
To put the dish together, combine a spoonful of the macerated raspberries with a portion of yoghurt and loosely marble. Top with as much granola as you like, some fresh raspberries and extra honey if you wish. (We also love sprinkling on some bee pollen!)
Butterhead Lettuce & Smoked Chicken Salad.
We love butterhead lettuce. Big leafy multi-textured ears of crunchiness, bitterness and sweetness. It’s also beautiful to look at. We tend to keep them whole, retaining the natural structure and contours. They’re so perfect.
As for smoked chicken, it’s a wonderful ready-to-go ingredient with so many uses and is an interesting alternative to regular chicken. Ensure it’s a naturally smoked free-range bird. We buy ours from Springs Smokery, Edburton. You can put all sorts with salad – so go wild!
For the dressing, combine the oil, mustard, vinegar, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper using a whisk or in a food processor and taste. Using a minute splash of boiling water will help to emulsify the mixture. Add more acidity, salt or sweetness depending on personal taste. Throw in an inch or so of finely chopped chive stems from your bunch.
The rest is self explanitory really! Tear the chicken, half the butterhead (washing and drying gently), thinly sliced radishes the remaining chives and scooped teaspoonfuls of the avocado all together and dress with the dressing.
Thinly slice the shallots and caramelise in a pan without busting them up too much. Toast the walnuts. Add to the salad with any spare chives.
Making you hungry? Check out the award winning cafe on Holland Road for delicious and seasonal eating. Visit their website, instagram and facebook for more mouth-watering and inspiring seasonal dishes.
Fancy contributing to our blog? Let us know! And don’t forget to use the hashtag #EatSussex in your seasonal, locally sourced and delicious creations this autumn…
Of course, we always recommend our Bramley apples from Ringden Farm over near Etchingham – BUT on this occasion we urge you to try the early Howgate Wonders. When they are picked early they are mild and citrussy but their flavour mellows over time. They are a different kettle of fish to the Bramley so ring the changes with a traditional Edwardian cooking apple.
This recipe waxes lyrical about eating outside on a summer’s day – but since apples and rhubarb are at their sweetest and best, we will have to sit by the radiator and pretend.
A note about the recipe….we wouldn’t bother with the demerara sugar, sticking as we do to a good local honey…especially a borage honey if you can find it, for the fragrant rosy flavour and aroma.
We also sell delicious creamy yoghurt but the large tubs are generally to special order, as most people prefer low fat, these days.
To overcome this and keep variety in our fridge, we often have a pot of Northiam Creme Fraiche and mix with low fat yoghurt (if we mix it – it’s so rich and creamy, it’s tempting to leave as is)…it gives another layer of tart depth to the flavour which works well with the malic acid in the apples.
Baked Howgate Wonder apple and rhubarb with vanilla-honey yoghurt
150g of rhubarb, finely chopped
2 tbsp of muscovado sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
15g of butter
1 tbsp of Demerara sugar, to sprinkle
200g of Greek yoghurt
40ml of honey
1 vanilla pod
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
2 Score each apple horizontally to slightly pierce the skin – this allows the flesh to expand while cooking.
3 Core the apples by pushing an apple corer down through the apple until it pierces the bottom, discard the core. Repeat for all apples.
4 Mix the rhubarb, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Stand the apples up side by side in a baking dish.
5 Use your fingers to push the rhubarb mixture into each apple, dividing the mix evenly.
6 Add a blob of butter to the top of each and sprinkle over the Demerara sugar.
7 Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the apples are cooked through – you can check this by piercing the apples with a skewer.
8 Meanwhile, split the vanilla pod in half with a small knife. Scrape out the seeds and add to a bowl with the yoghurt and honey, whisk to combine.
9 Remove the apples from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve on plates with the yoghurt. Drizzle over the juices from the baking tray.
The other day, Nick took this picture of these Bramley apples from the farm at Ringdens. Just so different from those monstrous waxy green supermarket specimens…. local fruit picked from orchards are blushed and rosy with an almost lime-coloured flecked white flesh, these have a wholesome apple flavour. They are just slightly too tart to eat raw, but not massively. Continue reading “Proper Sussex Bramley Apples”→
Turn back the clock to the beginning of the 20th century and any Sussex resident would know and cook with medlars and be a mine of information about bletting and the suchlike.
But, the fact that this fruit looks so disgusting and we are not accustomed to eating anything, bluntly, half rotten, then this has fallen out of favour. But it’s really unfair, as it’s an exciting and delicious fruit that deserves it’s place at the table.
It’s not easy to come by now, as farmers weren’t able to sell crops, so sadly chopped down trees to make way for other more lucrative ways of selling fruit. So this has become something of a delicacy and a bit more unusual – and therefore more expensive.
But the taste is a real sensation and most people, when you read articles, are amazed at the depth and sweetness of this peculiar fruit.
You can’t get away from this term – you have to ‘blet’ your medlars. This basically means letting them go brown and wrinkly. When they look like they should be composted they are ready to eat. More about bletting here.
For the tart, line a deep 23cm/9in tart tin with the sweet shortcrust pastry. Place a sheet of baking paper or foil over the pastry and weigh down with baking beans or rice.
Place the tart tin onto a baking sheet, transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the paper or foil and baking beans from the tart tin, then return to the oven for a further ten minutes until the pastry is lightly golden-brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Place the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.
Crack in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
Add the ground walnuts and breadcrumbs and fold together until well combined.
Spread two thirds of the damson jam over the base of the pastry case. Cover with the walnut filling mixture and smooth the top using a wet palette knife. Place the walnut halves around the edge of the filling.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Fold in the remaining damson jam.Watch technique0:48 mins
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
For the roasted medlars, heat the butter in an ovenproof frying pan and fry the medlars for 1-2 minutes.
Add the sugar and cinnamon stick, then transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until the medlars are soft and the skins have split.
To serve, cut the tart into slices and place onto serving plates with a spoonful of damson cream and some roasted medlars.