Blog : holidays

Pucker Up, Summer’s Here!

Pucker Up, Summer’s Here!

Summer in America is very different to summer in Northern Ireland, where I now live. You have lovely spring days that lead gradually into ever-increasing warmer days that bloom into those hazy days of summer that are so blissful and relaxing. Here, we get a week or so in May, then a week or two in September of good weather, maybe a high of 23c/75f degrees. Then, our days are pelted with rain, chilly, blustery winds, and the occasional hail shower. Summers are not known for being a great sunny season, hence the abundance of pale skin here in Northern Ireland!

But not all of life is so sour. Or at least it is, but should be celebrated not mourned! The long stretches of sunlight in May caught in between the rain showers are the perfect growing conditions for rhubarb. These jewel-toned stalks bloom within these intense bouts of rain then sun… then more rain. Although you might be tempted to think that rhubarb is only good for stewing and tarts, I invite you to take a closer look at this jewel of the garden and get creative in incorporating it into your dinners, desserts, and snacks this summer! And whatever you do, don’t forget to invite someone round to share in this tantalising, sour fruit!

 

Rhubarb & Strawberry Curd

Curds are surprisingly easy to make, yet complex and decadent to eat. Enjoy this curd as the filling for a meringue pie or as a topping for Irish scones… Or straight from the jar for a cheeky tart snack!

 

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces of strawberries
  • 2 ½ cups juiced raw rhubarb
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (not hot)

 

Method

  1. Chop rhubarb into thumb-sized pieces and place into a blender. You will need enough juice to produce 2 ½ cups, which is roughly 6 large stalks. Blend the rhubarb for about one minute.
  2. Place a sieve over a glass bowl. Pour the juice and pulp from the blender into a sieve and press the pulp against the sieve until mostly dry. Discard the pulp.
  3. Ensure you have enough juice. If you’re just under measurement, add a drop of water to make up the rest.
  4. Blend the strawberries and sieve them as well.
  5. Combine the juices with the sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan, ensuring the cornstarch is incorporated fully.
  6. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to the boil and then remove from heat. The mixture should be thickened and glossy.
  7. In a separate dish, beat the egg yolks. Slowly add a portion of the juice to the yolks, whisking the yolks constantly to prevent scrambling the eggs.
  8. Once the yolk mixture has been combined, slowly add the mixture into the saucepan, along with the warm melted butter. Return to medium heat and stir constantly until the curd has thickened considerably.
  9. Sieve the curd and refrigerate for a few hours until set. It will keep for about a week in an airtight container, refrigerated.

 

Additional Notes|Substitutions

  • I used my curd as a summery substitute for lemon curd in my meringue pie. The inspiration for this came from the house we just moved into! The house is a lovely cottage on the edge of town, with beautiful trees and plants, including a thriving patch of rhubarb. Andrena, my neighbour who owns the house, gave me the inspiration and history of this pie: Ruth lived in the house we moved into. She made a simple tart by slicing rhubarb into a pie shell and dropping strawberry flavoured gelatine in between the rhubarb. After baking, it was sweet, tart, and gooey! But she didn’t stop there. The real showstopper was a tower of sky-high meringue that floated like a sugary cloud atop the tart. It was Ruth’s father who built the house back in 1927. Ruth was a phenomenal baker, baking regularly until 2 years before she died at 97 years old! It was only fitting to allow her legacy to inspire this recipe.

 

Stuck for Stuffing?

Stuck for Stuffing?

I know we’re late in the game on this one, but what’s Christmas without a little bit of chaos, right? Don’t panic if you’ve already got your stuffing or dressing sorted. Stuffing is not merely a side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but a delicious addition to the stick-to-your-ribs dinners that the cold, short winter days invite. This is such an easy dish to make, and this recipe will add a special warmth to any dinner you pair with it. Whether made into a loaf or as loose stuffing, I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do!

Sweet & Savoury Stuffing
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Rapeseed Oil, or any other oil for cooking, plus a few pats of butter
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
  • 2 cooked beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 persimmons, cut into medium slices, and then halved
  • 8 ounces cooked and peeled chestnuts, halved (or find a pack of pre-cooked, vacuum packed chestnuts)
  • 1 pound pork sausage meat
  • 8 – 10 ounces dry bread crumbs or cubes
  • ¼ – ½ dried cranberries, depending on your preference
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 ounce fresh sage, chopped finely
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 375f/190c/gas mark 5.
  2. In a large roasting tray, coat the beets and persimmons in oil, seasoning lightly with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan. You will use this pan to eventually combine most of the ingredients, so ensure it has a high enough wall to hold it all. Brown the sausage meat, being careful to break up the meat well.
  4. Once browned, add the onions and saute until becoming translucent. Tip in the carrots and celery and saute for another 5-6 minutes.
  5. Stir in the chestnuts, sage, nutmeg, orange zest, butter, and cranberries. After mixing well, fold in the breadcrumbs. For a moister stuffing, or to make a stuffing loaf or balls, many people add a pint of stock to the stuffing at this stage.
  6. Once combined, add the stuffing mixture to the roasted beets and persimmons and stir gently until combined. Taste the stuffing mixture to ensure the seasoning is to your liking and then place the tray back into the oven, finishing off for another 25-30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are just toasted nicely. If roasting as a loaf, bake in a loaf pan for 45 minutes or until heated thoroughly and crisped on top. Stuffing balls should take 30 minutes.