Tag Archives: Graduation

A June adventure at the St Andrews Farmers’ Market

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’ve neglected my blog somewhat over the past couple of weeks, mostly on account of Graduation and my laptop’s general unhelpfulness.  However, I intend to get my blogging back on track and post more regularly once again.  Before I launch into today’s post though, I have some related and exciting news to share.  I was asked a while ago by Visit St Andrews to write a guest post about the St Andrews Farmers’ Market, and after some serious disorganisation on my part and a distinct lack of cooperation on the part of my laptop, I finally sorted that out and it was published on Friday!  Do forgive me for being slightly over-enthusiastic about this, but it’s my first ever guest post!!

When I was at the Farmers’ Market a few weeks ago, one of the stalls had some wonderful-looking duck breasts.  Now, I love duck, so I was seriously tempted, though I had no special occasion coming up that would justify buying duck and I was going down to Edinburgh for a couple of days anyway, so there wasn’t much point in buying lots of meat.  And then I realised that I could freeze them until an occasion presented itself.  I’m awfully good at justifying purchases if I really want them.  It’s a bit of an issue in my life.  Anyway, Craig crashed my sofa for a few days at the start of Grad Week, and that seemed as good a reason as any to defrost the duck (well, that and the fact that I have to clear out my freezer since I’m moving out in less than a week).  Once they’d defrosted, I realised that I’ve never actually cooked duck before.  Oh dear.

After a quick trawl through all my recipe books and an online search, we decided on a basic cherry and port sauce to go with the duck, with some green beans on the side.  Simple but delicious.  In theory.  Just before dinner time, we ended up stopping off in the Russell Hotel bar on the corner of my street because it happens to be halfway between home and wherever we’d just been and it was pouring with rain (I told you I was good at justifying things).  We stole the idea of adding kirsch from their Graduation menu, and decided that a gratin dauphinois would be a wonderful addition to the meal.  Which it was, but it also takes forever to cook, so I think we didn’t end up eating until around 20h30 or something silly like that.  Woops.  The duck also turned out to have been plucked slightly oddly so that the ends of some of the quills were still stuck in the skin and we couldn’t get them out, so we had to cut the skin off before eating (hardly the end of the world, but frustrating nonetheless).  We also got so distracted by the port and the duck that we may or may not have completely forgotten about the green beans.  Woops.  I also accidentally over-cooked the duck so it was a bit on the dry side (sorry Craig!!).  Major woops.  The sauce however, was delicious, and in my opinion, well worth the wait.  So even though I ruined the duck a bit, it wasn’t all bad, thankfully!

Seared duck breasts with a cherry & port sauce

Serves 2
Adapted from The Times Online

I’ve slightly reduced the cooking times for the duck since mine turned out slightly dry, but this also depends on your preferences for how you like your meat cooked.  I’d suggest using these as guidelines more than times set in stone.  The sauce can be prepared beforehand, except for the final stage of adding the butter.  I served this with a gratin dauphinois, which was utterly delicious.

Ingredients

2 x 225g duck breasts
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:
300ml port
50ml kirsch
Large sprig of rosemary
150g fresh cherries
10g cold butter, cubed

Directions

1.  Place the port, kirsch and rosemary sprig in a medium saucepan, and bring to the boil.  Allow to bubble for 10-15 mins (depending on how much you’d like to reduce your sauce).  Meanwhile, stone and halve all the cherries.  Set aside.

2.  Whilst the sauce is starting to cook, score the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife and rub well with seasoning.  Heat a frying pan over low heat (do not add any butter or oil) and once hot, add the duck breasts skin-side down.  Leave for 8-10 mins until the skin is golden brown and crisp and the fat has nearly all been extracted.  Increase the heat slightly and turn the duck breasts over and cook for a further 2-3 mins (apparently the meat should feel springy when pressed if you want it cooked to medium).  Remove to a warm plate and allow to rest for 5 mins.

3.  Once the sauce has been bubbling for 10-15 mins, remove the sprig of rosemary and add the halve cherries, allowing to simmer for a further 5-10 mins (stop here if preparing the sauce in advance, then when required, gently re-heat before adding the butter).  Turn the heat down and whisk in the butter a cube at a time until the sauce is smooth and glossy.  Season to taste.

4.  Slice the duck breasts, fan out onto a serving plate (or individual plates), pour the cherry and port sauce over the top and serve.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Savoury Foods

Strawberry & Pimm’s jam

Last week was Graduation Week here in St Andrews (I graduated on Wednesday, which means that, for now at least, I’m suddenly no longer a student – my gosh, how did this happen?!), so things over the last two weeks have been rather on the hectic side.  There’s been a lot of running around, various half-hearted attempts at packing, meeting up with people for one last coffee/game of pool/drink/lunch, etc., a lot of celebrating and many goodbyes.  On top of all of that, my laptop is very rapidly nearing the end of its lifespan, resulting in a lot of frustration whenever I try and write anything up (if you’re familiar with the Blue Screen of Death or the Black Screen of Incomprehensible Scrolling Text, then you’ll know what I mean).  So my rather rambly point is that I’m afraid I’ve neglected my poor blog somewhat, resulting in a slight back-log of recipes, including this lovely jam that I made just over two weeks ago.

Now, I love home-made jam (who doesn’t?!) and it always reminds me of making jam during summer holidays at my French grand-parents house when I was younger using the fruit from their garden.  My French grandma had an ancient (to me) pair of kitchen scales that you had to balance out using weights and so on, and I thought that they were great fun to play with.  So actually, what really happened was that I played with the scales and generally got in the way and probably ate a fair proportion of the fruit, my mum did all the hard work of actually making the jam (stirring, pressing, etc.), my grandma sat at the table and probably told me off for getting in the way and mucking around and occasionally helping my mum, and my grandpa went off gallivanting in the garden.  The end product was jam though, and gosh was it good jam!  Unfortunately, we haven’t made jam since I was about 15 or 16, because my French grandparent’s house has been sold now, and we don’t have a garden in Edinburgh, nor do I have one in St Andrews.  Sad times.

My mum suggested that we make strawberry jam last summer, but I’m not really a huge fan of strawberry jam – I often find it a little too sweet and I’m not too keen on the big lumpy bits that you often get (picky?  Me?), so that didn’t end up happening.  However, we’ve had a lot of really tasty strawberries this year, and when I saw a recipe for strawberry & Pimm’s jam in BBC Good Food, I absolutely had to try it.  Now, I don’t know about you, but in my world (and most of St Andrews) it’s pretty much always Pimm’s o’clock.  Never mind that the recipe was still for strawberry jam, strawberry and Pimm’s is a fabulous combination, and it sounded delicious.  I’m also submitting this recipe to this month’s Simple and in Season blog event, even though I already used strawberries for the same event last month.  But they’re so delicious and still seasonal, so I’m not too bothered!

I won’t lie to you, I was a little bit nervous about making jam by myself – I’ve only ever been involved in making jam when there have been other people around who actually know what they’re doing.  But the recipe looked straightforward and detailed enough, there was no straining fruit through muslin or anything, and I even have a sugar/jam thermometer, so I took advantage of Tesco’s apparent failure to estimate the quantities of strawberries they would sell and snapped up a lot of very tasty strawberries at super-reduced prices.  Win!  The jam turned out to be really quite easy.  Yes, you do have to watch the temperature a bit, and I did think the jam was going to bubble over the top of the pot at one point (it didn’t), but there was nothing especially difficult to do.  Jam-making is as much fun and smells as wonderful as I remember!  And the jam turned out to be rather delicious – the Pimm’s comes as more of a subtle after-taste and also means that the jam isn’t too sweet at all, and I made sure to mash it up a bit at the end to avoid the lumpy bits that I don’t like.  If you’re not keen on having alcohol at breakfast time, this jam would go wonderfully on scones for afternoon tea.  Or served with Pimm’s.  Yummy…

Strawberry & Pimm’s jam

Makes just under 6 x 350g jars
Adapted from BBC Good Food (June 2011)

This is a soft-set jam, presumably mostly as a result of the added Pimm’s and gin.  It is wonderful for breakfast, but would also be delicious on scones with afternoon tea or served with a pitcher of Pimm’s.  To sterilise the jars, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water before placing on a baking tray and placing in an oven on low heat until fully dried (about 10 mins or so).  Apparently choosing just-ripe strawberries will help the jam set, though the ones I used were quite ripe and the jam worked absolutely fine.

Ingredients

1.5 kg strawberries
1 kg jam sugar
2 lemons
1 orange
4 tbsp Pimm’s No. 1 cup
1 tbsp gin

Directions

1.  Place a few saucers in the freezer to be used later (I ended up using 4 or 5).

2.  Hull and halve or quarter the strawberries, depending on how large they are.  Place them in a preserving pan or large pot (the jam will increase in volume when bubbling away, so make sure the strawberries only come half-way up the side of the pot or so).  Using a potato masher, give the strawberries a good mashing until quite juicy (if you like lumpy jam then don’t mash too much).  Stir in the sugar and place the pan over a low flame, stirring occasionally, and taking care that the jam does not boil.

3.  Once all the sugar has dissolved, stir in the juice from the lemons and orange and turn up the heat.  Once a fast boil – 105°C on a preserving thermometer – has been reached, time the jam for 10 mins.  After 10 mins, place 1 tsp of jam onto one of the frozen saucers and place in the fridge (allow the jam to continue on fast boil).  After 1 min in the fridge, push your finger through the jam on the saucer.  If the jam wrinkles (this may sound strange, but you’ll be able to tell exactly what I mean when it happens), then it is ready.  If not, allow the jam to continue on fast boil for a further 2 mins before testing again.  As soon as the jam is ready, remove the pan from the heat.

4.  Allow to cool for 30 mins, then skim away any scum from the top of the jam.  Mash the jam slightly more if necessary (this depends on your taste), before stirring in the Pimm’s and gin.  Ladle the jam into sterilised jars (a jam funnel helps considerably).

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Student Life, Sweet Foods