Air Meal from the past – lemon & mustard seed chutney

Last night I was reading Food For Free again, and found a few tantalising recipes to try out. The finest was Alexis Sawyer’s 1857 Universal Devil’s Mixture (“…rub each piece over with the following mixture, having made a deep incision in any article of food that may be subjected to this Mephistophelian process…”) but due to the absence of a number of key ingredients (fresh horseradish, Durham mustard) I decided to first go for this mustard seed chutney. Richard Mabey makes some gentle suggestions that one could be out in the hedgerows picking wild mustard seeds, and while I’m all for foraging in principle I draw the line at feckin’ mustard seeds. The hour’s simmering time drew some complaints from other members of the household but it was well worth a slight tear in the eye to have such a tangy and delicious condiment at the end of the process. Something of the marmalade about it…

Lemon & Mustard Seed Chutney

Peel & slice 4 medium onions. Slice 5 lemons thickly & discard the pips. Mix, sprinkle with salt and leave for 12 hours. Add 1oz mustard seed, 1 tsp allspice, 1lb sugar, 1/4lb raisins and 1pt cider vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour. Makes 3-4 jars.

Incidentally, while looking into Durham mustard for future production of the Universal Devil’s Mixture I found this extremely interesting article about said mustard. I never knew that “keen as mustard” comes from the name of a mustard-making firm, Messrs Keen and Sons. Or that it’s been around these Northerly parts since the 15th Century under the spelling “mwstert”.

Air Meal from last summer…

Puff candy reminds me of primary school trips to Largs and Millport. Everyone would spend all their money in Nardinis and the wee pokey shops on the seafront, buying things like puff candy and sticks of rock and macaroon bars. To this day I would rank the Crunchie very highly in a Top 5 sweetie poll.

Making the stuff feels like alchemy, bubbling it up in a saucepan until the magic golden caramel colour is reached, and then hurling the bicarbonate of soda into the swirling depths and watching the bubbly eruptions it causes. The only drawback is the sneaky colouring of the Golden Syrup which can fool one into thinking the stuff is sufficiently caramelised when this is so not the case. Puff candy Mk. I produced a sad tray of pale, bubbly gum which refused to set even when left overnight. Puff candy Mk. II (made with the aid of the sugar thermometer) was much more satisfactory, a deep orange hue with a central strata of tiny caverns. The full tray in its unbroken state looks quite like the surface of the moon which is very appealing. It would be amazing to portion the mix out into greased ring moulds of biscuit cutters and produce even more accurate moons, definitely one to try out next time!

Puff Candy / Honeycomb

  • 300g sugar (I used 200g caster sugar and 100g light brown sugar due to contents of kitchen cupboards, I would do so again in future as I think the darker sugar gave the finished product a darker, more intense taste)
  • 200g Golden Syrup
  • 100ml water
  • 2 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
Line a brownie pan or baking tray with lightly oiled tinfoil. The size of the tray will dictate the thickness of the puff candy – spread in a thin layer over a large baking tray the mix will produce a slightly different texture than if poured into a small, deep sided pan. Heat all the other ingredients in a deep-sided saucepan ’til the mix turns a dark amber colour and reaches 150 oC. Sieve in the bicarbonate of soda in order to avoid over-working the mix and removing the bubbles. Pour into the lined tin and leave to cool before breaking up. To cut the puff candy into blocks, run an oiled knife over it before it has totally hardened and then break it into blocks along the lines.

1.1 Blinis

Russian Blinis

  • Mix 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon of white sugar and 3 cups of milk. Add 1/3 teaspoon of salt, half a cup of flour and whisk thoroughly. The flour can be sifted to remove lumpy particles.
  • Heat the frying pan. Lightly oil the pan or spray with cooking spray. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter, or as much as desired, into the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter out evenly. When the edges look crisp and the centre appears dry, slide a spatula carefully under the blin and flip it. Cook for about 1 more minute on the other side, or until lightly browned. Gently move the blin onto a place. Place a little butter on top, and continue to stack the blini on top of each other.
  • To serve, spread with desired filling and roll into a tube or fold the blin twice in half to make a triangle. Blini can be served with butter, sour cream, black or red caviar, as well as fillet of sturgeon or salmon.

This recipe arrived a few months ago on a postcard from Russia. I’d made blinis before, with Katherine, small fluffy ones we ate with smoked salmon and gherkins at my parents kitchen table. They were much thicker though, not like this recipe which called for 3 cups of milk to 1/2 a cup of flour..

My decadent Garnethill penthouse is a mere leisurely stroll away from the Maryhill Road Lidl, which meant I got all the blini ingredients and toppings as well as four huge bottles of lager for under ten buck. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Marks & Spencer two dine for a tenner. Unimaginative.

The postcard had some quite good serving suggestions along the lines of sturgeon and caviar; in the absence of these items in Lidl I settled for peppered mackerel, creme fraiche, cornichons and some slightly unnecessary smoked sausage for the savoury course, and a jar of cherry jam for the dessert round of blini.

The recipe itself: probably quite good if you don’t follow my lead and triple the quantity of flour because the batter looked a bit peely-wally. They look like crepes in the picture – I roundly ignored this evidence and thickened the mix up to the detriment of the blinis. They turned out too thick and stodgy, not like those tasty ones you get in the Russian restaurant in the Trongate where they roll them up like enchiladas and bake them..

The card says to butter each one while piling them up – not sure if this is to stop them sticking but even with a thin scraping of butter between each shift of blinis they ended up incredibly buttery and quite decadent-tasting as a result. 

Nicest filling: peppered mackerel & cornichons

Worst filling: Cherry jam (cheap jam + overly buttery pancake was a bit of a sickly combo even for the most sweet-toothed pig of a diner e.g myself).