Despite the blight, I’m still picking tomatoes from the survivors, as well as from the greenhouse crop which remains in good shape. There are only so many tomato salads and sandwiches we can manage to eat, so every few days I am slow roasting the surplus in olive oil with herbs, garlic and seasoning, to freeze for winter eating. They are spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, put into a moderate oven and roasted until they start to char and caramelise. Then they are left to cool in a bowl before putting them through a mouli mill to remove the skins, seeds and stalks. At this stage I check the flavour and if it is not quite intense enough I will reduce it down a bit before freezing it. Today’s glut is winter’s delight.
Up until now I’ve always mourned the passing of the fresh cherry season because it meant the end of clafoutis, one of my favourite puddings. Courtesy of River Cottage Baking, I’ve discovered that you can use other fruits and I duly celebrated with a blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and mulberry clafoutis with fruit picked from the garden.
Here’s the recipe:
75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
A pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
1 tbsp crème de cassis or kirsch (optional)
350ml whole milk
2 large eggs
40g caster sugar
20g unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing the dish
Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and add the vanilla extract (or seeds), the liqueur (if using) and half the milk. Whisk to a smooth batter. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking quickly as you add. Now whisk in the caster sugar and the rest of the milk until the batter is just smooth. Grease and flour a 25cm diameter dish (I use a cast iron frying pan). Spread fruit evenly across base and then add the batter. Dot with butter. Bake for 25 minutes until puffed and golden. Delicious!
So, to make membrillo first wash, peel and core your quinces – then put them in a pan covered with water, bring to the boil and then simmer gently until tender (about an hour).
Drain the fruit and puree it in a blender.
Add the puree with an equal volume of sugar and cook gently until all the sugar is dissolved and the puree thickens (another hour).
Line a deep baking tray or suitable container with lightly oiled greaseproof paper and spread the paste in an even layer at least 5cm (2”) deep.
Place in a low oven 120C/250F for another hour until colour deepens. Remove and leave to cool. Cover and store in fridge. Cut a slice as needed and serve with Manchego. A generous slice of membrillo wrapped in greaseproof paper and piece of Manchego is a good present when going to a friend for dinner.
I’ve been harvesting my squash and pumpkins and thought it might be useful to pass on a tip if yours are still outdoors. Make sure you cut the stem about 15cm (6”) from the fruit. That way they won’t rot round the neck and suddenly collapse in on themselves. I’ve made my first batch of squash and coconut soup – it’s a favourite autumn and winter lunch. I peel and chop the squash and give it a light coating of olive oil and roast it in a moderate oven with shallots and chilli, adding a few tomatoes for the last half hour. Once everything is tender I add a tin of half-fat coconut milk and the same quantity of stock season it and let it simmer for half an hour. If it is too thick to blend add more stock or hot water.