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Preserved Lemons

This is getting out of hand. I’m frankly becoming a little obsessed with an old copy of a Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook.  I really should be out on the BBQ slow cooking some ribs and deciding if hickory or cherry wood makes it taste better. No, not me. I’m indoors gently roasting an aubergine and wondering if it’s burnt enough for the tahini yet.

The only thing is that a lot of the recipes call for preserved lemons. Now if you’ve ever tried to find a jar of this lemony goodness you’ll know you’ll need small mortgage just to purchase them. Luckily, I received an empty Kilner jar in the post for the Jam J-Art challenge and have been stuck with something to fill it with. Using a few lemons and some store cupboard essentials I found they’re fairly easy to do on your own. The only thing you’ll need to do it wait. It takes a while, but it’s well worth it.

Ingredients (makes 6)
6 unwaxed lemons
6 tbsp coarse sea salt
2 rosemary sprigs
1 large red chilli
juice of 6 lemons
olive oil

Week 1
Salted Lemons

Lemons

Sterilize a large jar by filling it with boiling water and leaving for a few minutes. Drain and leave it to air dry, don’t be tempted to use a tea towel to dry it. Wash the lemons and cut a deep cross about halfway down each lemon. Stuff sea salt into each lemon cross and place the lemons in the jar. Make sure they’re tightly packed together. Seal the jar and then leave for one week.

Week 2
Preserved Lemons

Smashed Lemons

Open the lid and with a wooden spoon squash the lemons down as hard as you can to squeeze out all the lemon juice. Add the rosemary, chilli and squeeze in the juice of six lemons. Then cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Make sure the lemons are covered and if needed just add more lemon juice, but not more olive oil. Seal the jar and leave for at least 4 weeks.

Week 5
Preserved Lemons Recipe

Verdict
I had to make these a couple of times to get them just right. You either need to go with smaller lemons at the start or more lemon juice to cover them in week 2. They almost need to be swimming in lemon juice so they don’t go mouldy, which mine did. Stick with it though as they’re great for giving any recipe a little extra flavour punch.

Ginger Beer Hot Sauce

I’m not going to lie: I’ve barely cooked anything interesting in the last week worthy of a mention. I’ve been having way too much fun watching the Olympics and cheering on Team GB to gold medal glory. I’ve been amazed by these superhero athletes smashing records like it’s a walk in the park. We even managed to see some these superheros in action, okay it was only Table Tennis, but their skills were worthy of superhero status.

 

Everyone has their own foodie superhero. I’m sure when I was younger it was giant bowls of my Mum’s spaghetti, but most recently it’s hot sauce. I just can’t get enough of the stuff and meals are a little mundane without it. I got the inspiration for this recipe from two things. Firstly, I just got a fancy new BBQ, plus I found an awesome looking bottle of ginger beer with a moustache on it. So I decided on a ginger based hot sauce worthy of a superhero.

Ingredients (makes around 750ml)
120g assortment of your favourite chillies, stalks removed and roughly chopped
30g dried chilli flakes, more if you like it super hot
130g brown sugar
500ml white wine vinegar
4 cloves chopped garlic
150ml olive oil
330ml ginger beer
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Half a lemon

In a large saucepan, add the chillies, sugar, lemon and vinegar. Get it up to boiling point, then leave it to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid and keep a couple of tablespoons of the liquid. Toss the lemon in the bin and add the chilli and leftover liquid to the blender. Blitz until you get a thick pulp, if you like it chunkier then just blend slightly less.

 

Bring your saucepan back to the hob and gently heat the olive oil. Add the pulped chilli and gently fry for about thirty seconds, before adding the remaining ingredients. Leave to simmer until it’s thickened to the consistency of a sauce. Once it gets to that stage, take it off the hob and add the chopped mint to infuse. There you have it. Chilli sauce worthy of getting onto a superhero’s dinner table.

Car Boot Fair Review – Brighton Marina

I love a good car boot fair. In fact, I’ve spent many a Sunday morning kicking Chris out of bed early  just so I don’t miss the best bits. Much grumbling is involved, but if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s to get there early for the good stuff. Too many times have I dawdled on a Sunday morning only to discover there’s nothing left but some old VHS tapes and the odd collection of disfigured Action Men.

 

The problem is there are just so many to choose from, especially in the Summer when Britain participates in a mass Spring clean. Some are amazing and filled with all sorts of hidden gems. Others are, well let’s be honest, more of a pound shop and frankly not worth giving your Sunday morning up for. So I thought it only fitting to start reviewing car boot fairs up and down the country to find the best.

First up is a personal favourite at the Brighton Marina, East Sussex. It’s open all-year round so you know you’re only going to see the good stuff. Previously we found an Ercol table which we bargained down to£30, only to have it valued at just over £200 once restored.

 

How much spending money
The good news is that there isn’t an entry fee. The bad news is that these are seasoned stall holders so they know what they’ve got. That’s not to say you won’t find a bargain, you will just need to rummage and negotiate a little bit harder than normal. For example I paid £2 for a hand painted ornate bowl, but an old rug at the stall next door was a whopping £85.

Quality of stalls
It was a rainy day so I wasn’t expecting a big turn out, but overall it was pretty good.  A good mixture of old, new and vintage to choose from with a lovely bohemian atmosphere. There’s a wide range of tastes that truly reflect Brighton and Hove culture and with over 200 stalls at it’s peak you can’t go wrong.

 

Where and when
Every Sunday 7am to 1pm
Brighton Marina,
Brighton, East Sussex,
BN2 5WA

A Floorboard Jewellery Stand

You may have noticed, we’re kind of into making new things out of old bits and pieces. A new lease of life if you will, and right now I’m patting myself on the back. No, not because I ate all the apple pie biscuits from the last story, but because I conquered an impossible challenge. Don’t laugh, but I secretly have no idea how I pulled it off…but that’s not what I’m telling Anna.

It actually started when we were hunting for reclaimed wood to use on a TV stand project. There we were measuring up old timber, big beams of the stuff all lined up like a wooden high rise city. Dramatic I know, but it’s relevant, as I suddenly noticed Anna had gone quiet and had a tiny piece of an old floor board in her hand. There was also the look. I’d seen that look before. I knew a tricky request was coming my way…Could you make this into a jewellery stand? So off I set on my challenge.

There we were, an old floorboard, a confused blogger and mug of tea – in a shed with no idea what to do. Then I remembered a plank chair from a Thomas & Hudson book and decided to use the same approach.

The floorboard was fairly worn and a little dull, but a quick rub down with some wire wool bought it back to life. It had loads of character with some old woodworm markings, so I used just a small amount of teak oil instead of varnish or wax. Next up was to trim off the rotten ends and start working on my groove. I’ve never had much rhythm so don’t get too excited here, I’m talking about making a groove to slot each piece together. Now I imagine if you followed a proper woodworking blog you’d probably be reading about the wonders of chisels. And, how amazing they are at getting perfectly formed grooves in a lovely pieces of timber. Well I’m afraid I had neither. Just an old floorboard and a bright yellow saw.

It turned out alright and I needed just a small amount of wood filler to make it flush. Admittedly a chisel probably would have done a better job. Finally I screwed the two pieces together, hammered in some old tacks and presented my accomplishment to Anna….Tadaa!