Tag Archives: sugar

Sweet, Spicy Watermelon Pickle

11 Jul

This is what I made with the watermelon rinds I had leftover from making the Watermelon Agua Fresca in my last post.

It’s a sweet spicy pickle perfect to serve as a relish on burgers, at barbeques or as part of a picnic lunch. It’s great with mature sharp cheeses like goat’s cheese, Manchego, Cheddar or Feta or with salty cured hams like Serrano and Parma, you could even serve it with a whole roast ham or gammon steak. It would also be a very welcome addition to any Indian meal.

It’s really simple to make but you do it over three days. Don’t let that put you off, you’re not working on it for three whole days or anything silly. You leave it covered in its syrup overnight in the fridge then take it out in the morning, drain it into a saucepan, bring the syrup to a boil and then pour it back over the watermelon. Then put it back in the fridge until the next morning and repeat the process once more.

The original recipe didn’t have any chilli in it but my chilli pepper plant has just started to produce some little green babies so I added a few whole ones to the pot with the whole spices. You’ve got to have a little heat in a pickle or what’s the point?

Watermelon Pickle Recipe

Makes 1 big jar, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Epicurious

  • 2kg (4 pound) watermelon, quartered & sliced into 1 inch thick wedges/triangles
  • 1.75 litres (8 cups) water
  • 2 tbsp sea salt plus 2 tsp
  • 450 g (2 cups) sugar
  • 275 ml (1+1/4 cups) apple cider vinegar
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1 tsp grated/minced ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 3 whole green (or red) chillies

Cut the watermelon flesh from the rind leaving a thin layer of pink on the rind. Use the flesh to make agua fresca or watermelon feta & mint salad.  Cut off the dark green part of the rind and discard it. Then cut the rind into 1 inch pieces.

Bring the water and 2 tbsp salt to a boil in a large saucepan then add the rind pieces and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer them to a metal bowl with the whole chillies.

Add the 2 tsp salt, sugar and the rest of the ingredients to a large saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Pour this over the watermelon rinds and chillies in the bowl then place a plate on top to keep the rinds under the syrup. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

The next day strain the syrup from the rinds into a saucepan, bring the syrup to the boil and pour it back over the rinds in the bowl. Cover with the plate again and the cling film and leave again overnight.

Repeat straining, boiling and pouring over rinds one more time and leave again, covered in fridge overnight. Then spoon the rinds and spices into a sterilised jar, pour over the syrup so it covers the top of the rinds and seal. Store in the fridge.

I really enjoyed making something so delicious out of something that would normally just get thrown away. Means more money to spend on shoes…..!

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Mint Julep Peaches via Iran

5 Jul

I’ve been saving this recipe for a long time, waiting for when peaches came into season here. There’s quite a complicated reason why I wanted to try it so much, that I will explain. But first, here are the beautiful peaches. I was so happy to see them.

  I read a book called Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Set in Iran in the late 90’s, it is a true account of a teacher and her former students, seven young women, meeting every Thursday to discuss forbidden works of Western literature.

The books discussed are Pride & Prejudice, Lolita and The Great Gatsby. Their personal stories are intertwined with those they are reading, creating a rare glimpse into women’s lives in revolutionary Iran.

Reading about these classics made me want to discover them for myself. I am particularly interested in The Great Gatsby but still have not got around to purchasing a copy, mainly because most of my time is now spent cooking, photographing and blogging about food. That leaves little time for anything else.

 Which brings me back to the peaches. I was watching an episode of Nigella’s Forever Summer when she started talking about The Great Gatsby too, this is what she said:

There’s something about mint juleps that I associate with the deep heat of midsummer. I have to say this association is an entirely literary one: I’ve never sat in the wilting sun drinking a mint julep in my life; the most I can muster is a few in cold college rooms in my cocktail-drinking student years (which certainly dates me). But there is, I always remember, I hope not erroneously, from The Great Gatsby, that pivotal scene, when they’re all sitting around in the airless heat, deranged, before everything happens, drinking mint juleps. Anyway, there is something intensely summery – leafy, fresh, spicily aromatic – about these peaches, poached in sugar-syrup and bourbon and sprinkled with mint”.

That was it, I was hooked. I had no choice but to make them. I don’t have time to read the book but I can make the Mint Julep Peaches. It’s a definite case of food over fiction at this moment in time.

In case you are interested, this is how you make  a Mint Julep:

 From drinksmixer.com

4 fresh mint sprigs
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water
Muddle mint leaves, powdered sugar, and water in a collins glass. Fill the glass with shaved or crushed ice and add bourbon. Top with more ice and garnish with a mint sprig. Serve with a straw.
 
Mint Julep Peaches Recipe
 
Serves 2 – 3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer
  • 350 ml water
  • 350 gr caster sugar
  • 125 ml bourbon
  • 4 peaches, white flesh with pink skins if possible
  • fresh mint leaves & sprigs to garnish

Put the water, sugar and 100 ml of the bourbon in a large frying pan, swirl it about to start dissolving the sugar, then put it over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Let it boil away for about 2 minutes then turn it down and let it simmer.

Meanwhile, cut the peaches in half and remove the stones if possible (you can remove them later when cooked if not). Put the peaches, cut side down, into the gently bubbling syrup and poach for a couple of minutes before turning them over and poaching for another 2 or 3 minutes cut side up.

It depends on the ripeness of your peaches as to how long they need.  You can test the cut side with a fork to see if they are tender but not too soft. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate and continue until all the peaches are cooked.

Pour any of the pink syrup on the plate back into the poaching liquid. Then measure 100 ml of the liquid into a small saucepan with the remaining 25 ml bourbon (or maybe a bit more), put on the heat and boil until reduced by a third. Don’t reduce it too much or you will get a toffee- like syrup that won’t pour out of the jug and hardens on contact with the plate (like I did)! Luckily I still had the rest of the poaching liquid to use.

Meanwhile, carefully peel off the skins of the peaches, they should come away easily. You can leave them, cut side down, on a plate covered with cling-film until you are ready to serve them.

Pour the reduced syrup into a jug and leave to cool. You can freeze the rest of the poaching liquid to use next time, just add a bit more water and bourbon and reheat.

To serve place 2 or 3 peach halves cut side down on a plate and pour over the thick pink syrup. Sprinkle over some chopped mint and garnish with a few sprigs.

Retire to a shady spot, sit back and enjoy……

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