Grapefruit curd

You know how lemon curd is always so painstaking to make, with all that double-boiler anxiety and fretful stirring? It doesn’t have to be that way.
I had an epiphany in the weekend after coming across Stephanie Alexander’s revolutionary method. As so often happens with The Cook’s Companion, I was looking up something else when I stumbled across her lemon curd recipe. In it, she dismisses the received wisdom that it needs gentle heat and patience and instead gives some short-cut instructions.

I was a bit nervous – it’s a bit like setting out on a half-marathon to have some geezer pop out from behind a bush and say, ‘look love, here’s a short-cut that will get you there in half the time’ – but I can confidently report that it works a treat. I’ll possibly never remember what I was looking for to start with, but with this kind of knowledge now under my belt I’m not too bothered.

Easy Way To Make Grapefruit Curd

Grapefruit Curd
Did you know that if you Google ‘grapefruit’ most links are for the ‘Grapefruit Diet’. I find this profoundly depressing. Instead, I’m prescribing a course of the Grapefruit Curd Diet. Try some of this on your toast and see if you don’t feel better about life. Don’t worry about the butter and eggs, think of the vitamin C! The recipe is adapted from the one mentioned above in The Cook’s Companion, one of my most used, most loved books.

4 free-range egg yolks
2/3 cup caster sugar
100ml freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (one or two grapefruits should do it)
finely grated zest of two grapefruits
60g butter, diced

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a small pot and beat together until well blended. Add the grapefruit juice and zest, and the butter. Put the pot over medium-high heat and stir constantly until it comes to simmering point. As soon as the bubbles appear, remove from the heat. Keep stirring for another minute or so, then pour into sterilised jars. Makes about 450ml. Refrigerate when cold.

Now, I know you’re thinking, ‘but what will I do with four egg whites’? I have the perfect answer for you, but you’ll have to wait until Friday. Put them in a plastic lidded container and freeze them while you await further instructions.

Happy Waitangi Day to fellow New Zealanders everywhere. Hope you are celebrating with some appropriate feasting, whether it’s pipis and paua, asparagus rolls and whitebait fritters, roast lamb or a hangi. Cheers!

Treat me: DIY Speculoos spread

When I was a proper journalist (the sort that actually went out of the office and talked to real people) I’d often stumble upon fantastic charity shops in the middle of nowhere. If time allowed I’d sneak off to them after the interviews were done – while the old ladies who staff these shops are great sources of local knowledge it’s hard to concentrate on finding treasure when you’ve got an interview looming.

These days, stuck at my desk, I’m reduced to finding fun things on the internet in the course of my research. It’s not quite as good, but you can unearth lots of gems all the same. Take speculoos spread, for example. I started reading about it while researching recipe formats last week. It was totally new to me, but it’s apparently ‘Europe’s alternative to peanut butter’ and caused much excitement when Waitrose started selling it in the UK late last year.
The real thing is made from ground-up Speculoos cookies – with a few other ingredients – and is said to be as addictive as Nutella. My DIY version is much simpler, you can make it from everyday ingredients and it’s just as habit-forming.

Speculoos Spread And Crumpets

Speculoos spread
I have no idea what ‘real’ speculoos spread tastes like but this is absolutely delicious – like eating raw gingerbread but without the attendant stomach ache. I’ve been eating it on hot crumpets, but it would transform even the most basic slice of bread. Or you could put it in a toasted sandwich with sliced banana. Or you could just eat it with a spoon…

100g soft unsalted butter
4 Tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp Chinese five-spice
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in a small bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy. Eat immediately, or store in the fridge, covered.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

All Good Banana Jam

Buoyed by my success at sandwich making (did I tell you, my Black Forest Sandwich won the People’s Choice Award at the Urban Harvest sandwich contest?), I am now turning my hand to jam. While my sandwich making prowess has been honed over decades, my jam making skills are rudimentary to say the least. However, they welcome allcomers at the Welly Jamoff on March 25 and I figure you’ve got to be in it to win it – or something like that.

Actually, I’m just happy to be in it, especially because I reckon all the other ‘jampetitors’ will be crafting their preserves from carefully cultivated fruit and mine came from the supermarket. That said, I have been pretty selective. I haven’t just chosen any bananas for my entry, but bananas with a social conscience. All Good Bananas are all about “changing the world, one banana at a time” – their Fairtrade fruit comes from Ecuador and it might be my bleeding heart imagination but I’m sure they taste better. I’d rather pay a little bit more for bananas for my family if it means the family that grew them gets some kind of payback along the way.

Whether that means my jam will make the cut on Sunday remains to be seen – but in the meantime, here’s the recipe. It’s really good spread on homemade bagels, dolloped on Greek yoghurt, used to sandwich a sponge or even stirred into porridge.

Easy Banana Jam Recipe

All Good Banana Jam
I’ve had this recipe since 2005, when I asked a web forum if anyone could tell me how to make banana jam without using artificial colours and flavourings. A helpful woman called Kerry sent me a version of this recipe, saying it was the one she used when she lived in Lagos, where the bananas have red skins. I’ve upped the cinnamon a bit and added walnuts, but you could leave them out.

6 ripe but not mushy Fairtrade bananas (choose ones with a gentle amount of freckling on the skin)
3 cups Fairtrade white sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons) – from our neighbours’ tree
1 1/2 tsp Fairtrade cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts (fresh local ones, if you can manage it)

Mash the bananas with a fork, then arrange layers of mashed banana and sugar in a heavy-based pot. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and salt, then pour over the lemon juice. Cover and let sit for an hour, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture looks syrupy.
Heat gently and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until thick, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Stir in the walnuts, then pour into sterilised jars and seal. Makes 4-5 jars. Store in the fridge once opened.

And if you’re wondering what to do with those banana skins (apart from putting them on the pavement for comedy potential) this cake puts them to use. I can’t quite stomach the thought of it myself, but let me know if you’ve tried it.

Anyway, are you a jamtastic type? What’s your favourite to make or eat?

Lucy’s Christmas Chutney

There are many pre-Christmas things I have failed to do this year. If you’re going to the letterbox every day in the hope that I’ve remembered to send you a Christmas card, let me save you the trip. It’s December 20 and my Christmas cards are sitting on my desk, half-written. At least, I think they’re here somewhere. A box unpacked itself on the desk over the weekend and it’s a miracle I can find the keyboard.
The only thing that’s stopping me feeling like a complete failure is that I had the presence of mind to a) make the Christmas cake and b) make my famous Christmas chutney before we moved house. Yes, the 2.25g cake and a polybin full of jars added to the load, but it was worth it. I’ve been dispensing jars hither and yon all week and it’s done wonders for my festive spirit. I’m just sorry I can’t post them.

Lucy’s Christmas Chutney
I’ve been making this since 1997, when the internet was just a baby and I was just a slip of a girl (ish). It’s great with ham, cold turkey, cheese and bread, especially if all of these things are consumed while reclining on a deckchair/sofa and reading something you got for Christmas. This year I added walnuts (about a cupful) for a bit of crunch, but it’s great just as is.

450g tart green apples (about 3), peeled, cored and cut into 1cm chunks.
225g onions (1 large), peeled and chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup dates, roughly chopped
1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup prunes, roughly chopped
2/3 cup crystallised ginger, roughly chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder
2 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups white vinegar
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Reduce the heat and simmer very gently uncovered for about 45 minutes until the mixture is thick and the fruit is soft. You should be able to squish the apple with the back of a wooden spoon and the raisins will look swollen and plump. Don’t wander off and forget about the mixture, it will need regular stirring to prevent it from sticking. If it becomes too thick, add more vinegar.
Spoon the chutney into sterilised jars and seal with cellophane or tight-fitting lids. Makes about four 350ml jars.

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter

I spent ages trying to think of a fancy title for this post, then I realised it didn’t need one. I mean, ‘salted chocolate peanut butter’ drew you in fast enough, didn’t it?

Salted chocolate peanut butter
This started out as ordinary peanut butter. We’d run out, I had a bag of peanuts, I threw them in the oven to roast them, then into the processor. Then I was thinking about a friend of mine with whom I share an abiding love for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and I threw in a handful of 50 per cent cocoa chocolate that was in the pantry. And a pinch of salt for luck. A few moments later I realised it was going to take a lot of willpower (or another bag of peanuts) if she was going to get any of it in her Christmas stocking. Here’s how you do it.

200g raw peanuts
100g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
flaky sea salt, to taste (about 1/2 – 1tsp)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Tip the peanuts into a roasting dish, then put it in the hot oven for 10-15 minutes. Shake the dish occasionally and keep an eye on the peanuts – you want them golden brown and nutty smelling, not incinerated. Remove from the oven and let cool for five minutes, then tip them into the processor. Blitz until they form a grainy paste. They will make a hell of a racket and you’ll think nothing is going to happen, but it will. Have faith. When it’s looking more like a paste, tip in the chocolate and 1/2 tsp salt and whizz again. Taste and add more salt/whizz until it suits your palate. Scrape into a pretty (and clean) jar. Tie a ribbon around the top and attach a small spoon. The recipient will know exactly what it’s for.

How are your Christmas preps going? Stay tuned for more last-minute ideas in the next week or so.