Crab Apple Jelly

Crab apple jelly is a staple foraging recipe and really easy to make too. If you don’t have a jelly bag, a coffee filter or a muslin square in a sieve over a bowl will do the job.

Crab apples are ready from late August onwards, depending on what type you can find. If you are unsure whether they are ripe or not, cut one open – if the seeds are dark brown, then they are ripe.

If you don’t have a crab apple tree in your garden, then you can find them growing in the woods and parks or I’ve heard that you can sometimes find them at a farmers market or farm shop, although I’ve never seen them for sale.

Crab apple jelly can be made in small quantities and there is already lots of pectin in them, so you don’t need to go out and buy special jam sugar. However, if you are nervous about it setting, then you can always slice in a lemon (with the pips) which will help.

The final colour of your jelly will depend on what colour your apples are, but as long as you don’t squeeze or prod the bag, it should be crystal clear.

Ingredients:
Crab apples
One lemon
White granulated sugar

I picked up a couple of varieties here, the larger oval ones are always ready in August, but the smaller ones are usually later. I think everything has ripened quicker in the recent heatwave

Method:
Wash the crab apples and remove any spent blossoms (beards) and stems. However, if your apples are really tiny, you can leave them whole, but its best to cut off any bruises and if you are worried about any creatures lurking inside then cut them in half.

Place them in a saucepan, or a preserving pan if making a larger quantity, along with the sliced lemon and add enough water to almost cover the apples.

Bring the pan up to the boil and then simmer gently for around 40 minutes, or until the apples are soft and broken down, you can give them a gentle mash with a potato masher to help this along.

These little jars make great gifts, especially if you dress them up with a fabric cover

When ready, carefully fill your waiting jelly bag or prepared sieve and muslin with the fruit and leave to drain preferably overnight until every last drop has strained through. Just remember not to squeeze or ‘help’ the liquid come through, or your final jelly will be cloudy.

When you are ready to make the jelly, place a few plates into the freezer so that you can test if the jelly is ready to set.

Weigh the liquid and then weigh out three quarters of sugar to the liquid (I do admit to asking Alexa to help me with the sums!)

Place the liquid into a saucepan, add the sugar and stir over a medium heat until you are sure all the sugar has dissolved.

Turn the heat up until boiling and skim off any foam that rises to the surface. This will help your final jelly be as clear as possible.

Boil for around 8-10 minutes before testing to see if its ready to set. You can also use a candy thermometer. When it reaches 105°C/220°F, it should be at setting point, but the wrinkle test will work just as well.

Take a teaspoon of the jelly and drop it onto a cold plate and push with the back of a spoon. If it wrinkles, then it’s ready to pot.

Using a ladle and preferably a funnel, pot into sterilised jars and put the lids on right away.

Keep in a cool dark place until you are ready to use.

The little jars are great to take along on a picnic, but they also make nice gifts or part of a hamper

I served the jelly on a big, craggy fruit scone, just the thing for a late summer afternoon in the garden

The jelly can be served as an accompaniment to roasted or grilled meat, or served on toast, muffins or scones.

Roasted Acorn Squash Quiche with Chestnuts, Bacon and Stilton

There are so many lovely pumpkins and squashes around at the moment and I love trying as many as possible.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche

I think my favourite way of cooking squash is to roast it in the oven. Either simply with olive oil, salt and pepper, or adding spices and chilli.

These quiches contain roasted Acorn squash and I have left the skins on as they are fairly thin and roast up really nicely. Sometimes the older and bigger squashes have very thick skins and I tend to peel those.

Along with the squash, these quiches have crispy, smoked bacon, chestnuts and plenty of Stilton cheese, so lots of big flavours going on. I don’t add any salt to the eggs and cream as I think the bacon and Stilton add enough salt of their own, but this is my preference.

This recipe makes four individual quiches. I used 12.5cm, deep fill tartlet tins with removable bases, but you can easily make one large one.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche2

Crust:
400g all-purpose flour
1 pinch of salt
230g very cold butter cut into cubes and chilled again
95ml iced water

Ingredients:
2 Acorn squashes, topped, tailed, halved and seeds removed
5 extra-large eggs
¾ pint double/heavy cream
300g Blue Stilton cheese broken in to large crumbles
320g Good quality smoked streaky bacon
180g pack of prepared sweet chestnuts, roughly broken up
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs olive oil

Method:
Add the flour, salt and butter to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until the butter is the size of small peas, or rough breadcrumbs. Add the iced water a little a time while pulsing the food processor, just until the dough just comes together. You might not need all of the water.

Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic. Leave to chill for 30 minutes.

On a floured board, roll out the pastry and then, taking care not to stretch the dough, line the tins with the pastry, re-rolling until all the tins are done. Place the pastry cases in the fridge and chill for another 30 minutes.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche3

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Line the pastry cases with parchment paper or foil, fill with baking beans and place in the oven to blind bake for 15-20 minutes. Take the pastry shells out of the oven, remove the paper and beans and then return to the oven for further 5 minutes or until the pastry feels dry. Leave to cool before adding the filling.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche1

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/430°F

Cut the halved squashes into slices, just over 1cm thick and rub them all over in 1tbs olive oil with 1tsp of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Roast them in the oven until the squash is tender and catching on the edges. This will take around 20-25 minutes, depending on how thick the slices are.

While the squash is roasting, fry the bacon until the fat renders out and it is crisp, set aside on kitchen paper to cool before chopping into small, bite-sized pieces.

Lower the oven to 180°C/360°F

Place the blind baked pastry shells on a baking tray to make transporting to the oven easier.

Place a couple of slices of squash in the bases of each quiche, then layer over the bacon, chestnuts and chunks of Stilton cheese. Divide the filling between the 4 cases and top each one with another couple of slices of the squash.

Whisk the eggs, cream together with more freshly ground black pepper and pour over the quiches until each one is full.

Taking care not to spill, place the tray with the quiches in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes or until just set in the middle. The quiche will be nicely puffed and golden brown and will smell very good indeed.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche slice

This quiche is really good hot or cold and half of one of these makes for a really nice lunch with a little salad.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche plate1

The big autumnal flavours of the quiche make it perfect for an autumn party, picnic, Thanksgiving or Christmas and just the thing for a lunchbox.

Autumn Spiced Pumpkin Friands

These seasonal little tea cakes are made with pumpkin, spice and topped with a crunchy oatmeal streusel and a little maple glaze. They are full of autumn spices and the perfect addition to an autumn picnic, afternoon tea, or an after school snack. I also like to pop them into lunchboxes.

Pumpkin friands

Friands are so easy to make and there are so many variations to try and I think I will add a few raisins to these next time.

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites
250g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
100g plain flour
Zest of half an orange
1tbs pumpkin pie spice
160g melted butter, plus a little extra for brushing the friand tin
½ cup unsweetened pumpkin puree

Streusel:
1tbsp butter
2tbsp plain flour
tbsp rolled oats
1tbsp soft brown sugar
½tsp cinnamon

Maple Glaze:
½ cup sieved icing sugar
2-3tbs maple syrup – enough to thin

Pumpkin Friand1

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180°C/approx 350°F and brush the friand tin with a little melted butter.

I make my friands in a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, but they can be made just as easily by hand or using a hand mixer.

Briefly whisk the egg whites, breaking them up until they are frothy.

Add the ground almonds, pumpkin puree, zest, butter, icing sugar and then fold in the flour until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, leaving a little room for the streusel.

Pumpkin Friand

Scatter a little of the streusel over each one and bake for 25-30 minutes, until they have risen, turned golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Pumpkin Friand slice

Leave to rest for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack. Leave to cool completely before adding a little glaze.