Here at Oysters and Champagne HQ, things have changed for a while. I am a bit incapacitated having had both knees operated upon last week, and so it falls to himself to be in charge, be chief cook and bottle washer and the whole kit and caboodle. And boy has he stepped up to the plate. Rather stupidly I had ordered through Crowd Farming, Kumquats, Tangerines, Avocados and olive oil, the first three duly arrived during my stay in hospital, with me getting urgent messages from himself, What do I do with these !

Never Fear, He is now the master of Marmalade. It had been said that Mary Queen of Scots was unwell, in France. To try and make her better, servants brought her some Marmalade, but all she heard was (” Ma’am est Malade “) Madam is ill but apart from anything else, it means we can always remember how to spell Marmalade correctly. The story although cute is probably incorrect as Marmalade came to the UK via Portugal, and as a quince paste. It is only in the UK that Citrus fruit Jams are called Marmalade, elsewhere they tend to be a generic JAM or Jelly in the USA. In fact my friend in Texas asked, What did he make it with !

So, my first day I at home I sat in the kitchen giving instruction. Basically equal amounts of Fruit, sugar and water, a good strong large pan, a large wooden spoon for stirring, and a jam thermometer and don’t forget you also need jars for the finished product.

Trying to make things very easy for him, the fruit had the small stem bit removed, washed and then shredded on a food processor with a grater attachment. Our oranges were in fact Tangerines, with no-pips. The fruit, sugar and water were put in the pan, stirred and brought to the boil. Jam thermometers are not expensive and make life much easier, rather than testing for setting, sometimes putting in jars, leaving to cool overnight only to find it is not set! It is imperative that the jam mixture rises to a temperature of 105/6 Centigrade. And surprisingly, it seems to take an age from reaching boiling to reaching 105 C. The best advice is, take it slowly, a long slow boil is far better than turning up the heat to a rapid boil. If for nothing else a rapid boil could and most probably would result in the jam boiling over and making an unbelievable very hot mess AND burning on the bottom of the pan ! Neither of which is desirable.

In making jams with citrus fruit, especially Marmalade and especially when cheating by shredding, it is not necessary to use Preserving sugar as citrus fruits are rich in pectin and do not need any extra help, whereas fruits like strawberries, need all the help they can get by adding pectin in the form of Lemon Juice and preserving sugar. However, making Marmalade, extra water is needed for a longer boiling period to soften the relatively tough skin.

Jars need to be sterilised, and in the past I have used the microwave but as we now have a shiny new boiling water tap ( see he was very busy whilst I was hospitalised ) it became very easy. Remember, after filling the jars with boiling water, to drain them on a clean cloth. When the marmalade has reached the correct temperature, dry the jars with kitchen paper and place on a wooden rack or thick towel ( if boiling liquid is put into jars which are on a stone or granite work service they will crack). Seal the jars with the sterilised lids and leave to cool !

Chickpea Fries or Panisses

Chickpeas have not really been on my radar, apart from them being one of the main constituents of Hummus, and how we all like Hummus. And there again, Hummus is not something I eat on a daily basis, or even that often but good for snacks ( when little ones are visiting) good for picnics, but I have to admit that it is something I usually buy.

However, we ventured out for dinner the other night , we seem to have become hermits, but out we went and we have a plethora of restaurants all within walking distance. We chose JIKONI which is basically an alternative Indian restaurant. Will we rush back, probably not, the menu was extremely limited ( just me being fussy as I don’t like huge menus either), but we were a party of four and there were just four items listed as starters and four as main courses. One of our starters was Chickpea fries which have completely changed my mind about chickpeas!

Panisses ( Fr), Panizzie( It), have been around for thousands of years but originally from Liguria, and then wandered across to the south of France particularly in Marseilles and Nice.

They are made with Chickpea flour, which of course not flour in the traditional sense. Indians use chickpea flour which is called Gram Flour. It is gluten free and used to make flatbreads, pakoras, BHAJI and in curry. Plain chickpea fries are a bit bland but can be spiced up by adding spices of your choice.

  • 250 grms chickpea flour ( gram flour)
  • 750 mls water
  • Good pinch garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Tsp caraway seeds or cumin seeds
  • And other ingredients according to taste :-
  • Harissa powder, English mustard, Garam Masala
  • Beat together in a large saucepan all of the ingredients and beat until smooth.
  • Put on the stove top and bring to the boil, stirring, once boiling turn the heat down, stir until the mixture comes away from the edge of the pan.
  • Remove from the heat and tip into large greased baking trays, smooth out, so that the mixture is about 2cm thick.
  • Leave to cool
  • Once cool and cut into chunky chips.
  • Heat some oil and either deep fry or shallow fry the chips and when golden brown, place onto scrunched up kitchen paper to drain.
  • Use at once maybe with some peri-peri mayonnaise or sriracha.
  • They can be reheated ( if you have leftovers!) in the oven.

More on Avocados and how often do you cook?

How often do you cook? I believe that the average Britain cooks far more often than their American counterparts, but I could be wrong!

How many recipes does the average person know?

A new survey found that the average person only knows how to cook five meals or less without a recipe. One in three say they only try a new recipe about once a year. And despite the proliferation of cooking shows on TV this hasn’t actually translated into people cooking more. However it has translated into supermarkets offering many many more ready meals and since the pandemic companies offering ‘ Cook your gourmet meal at home’ have really taken off. I saw only yesterday that Michel Roux Jr , two Michelin Stars at Le Gavroche has joined the throng of home deliveries, and for £79 you can get a meal for two! During the Pandemic and Lockdowns even CORE ( Clare Smyth) the three Michelin starred restaurant was offering such a meal. Hers came complete with video, instructions , food and a pair of mini tongs to pick up and arrange the garnishes. However at £175 pp ( minimum order 2) it meant a lot of pfaff ,no one to serve it and certainly no one to do the dishes !

It is reckoned that the average person only churns out the same meals week after week. It reminds me of the movie Shirley Valentine, where the husband demands his Egg and Chips because it is Tuesday. Once when we had a live in Au Pair, she declared that in her house, Mondays was left overs, Tuesday shepherds pie, Wednesday ? Etc, week after week! And my question is, has this changed over the years. My mother when she came to stay complained that she never knew what we were going to eat as I really do not follow any plan. I open the refrigerator/ freezer and ponder and then decide what to cook ! Himself also has no idea what I am concocting !( but likewise, when himself decides to cook, I never know what is up his sleeve)

I love trying new ideas and one which I gleaned from our trip to Abu Dhabi was something to try with Avocados. I have been buying avocados in bulk from Spain, I ripen a few and then refrigerate the rest and they ripen slowly. Avocados are picked when they are hard and ripen off the tree. Almost, always eaten raw, used in salads, guacamole but also for ice cream and milk shakes. In Abu Dhabi, they were served in Dijon mustard and honey, which I ate for breakfast almost daily but have only just tried them at home.

So what do we know about Avocados. Well, they are high in monounsaturated fats ( lowers the cholesterol). They contain vitamin B 6 and C, magnesium and iron (folate, niacin, riboflavin, Thiamine, vitamin A, AND ounce for ounce contain more potassium than bananas ( all those tennis players should start eating them on court). However, they are high in fat and hence calories. Avocado oil is a light delicate flavoured oil, good for salad dressings but NOT for cooking !

So there isn’t really a recipe for this version of eating Avocados, just add a dollop of Dijon mustard, a liberal sprinkle of lemon juice, fresh or bottled, a teaspoon of honey according to taste and a sprinkle of Sumac to serve. Eat with toasted sourdough bread.