Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sloe going in Sussex

Tis the season when you kick back, mourn the passing of summer and start looking forward to that time when you get to eat nice food, have a few days of, drink a few nice tipples and of course, the obligatory spats with the siblings. You know what I'm talking about - Christmas. And what is a festive period without a sip of sloe gin? Beats me.

I first discovered sloe gin at uni, along with other things like a (now lost) amazing capacity to drink White wine, my intolerance of flavourless food and general love of cooking. Anyway, this year I finally sorted my act out and got down to starting off some sloe gin that, fingers crossed will be ready for Christmas.

Now is the perfect time for a spot of sloe picking - the Blackthorn tree is by no means an unusual one, even in London, so the urban folk can get in on the action. Safe to say, there are plenty where we are. .I have discovered a spot of sloe heaven that I shall not, will not divulge to anyone so there :p

Anyway, we decided to follow the recipe from the WI's book (this has played a large part in our soon to be blogged fruit winemaking odysseys) and so far it is looking hot. Worth what felt like endless pricking and chilly fingers from the still defrosting sloes (bunged in freezer for few days until we had time to pack em up) Check back in December for a further update and our verdict on the final tasting.... We'll be giving them a shake week by week to keep them excited.

1lb sloes
3oz White sugar
1.5 pints gin

Stalk and clean the fruit, prick and pack into jars. Add the sugar and gin, seal and shake every other day for two to three months. Strain, bottle and cork.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Eerie eerie quite contrary

This weekend it was also time for an event I've been looking forward to for months, our village's annual Bonfire Carnival. One of the villages in the Weald that has hung onto the tradition of having a bonfire carnival of it's own, it was, Jon assured me, going to be a sight to behold.

It wasn't a lie.... I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. A procession of village bonfire groups, kitted out in an imaginative array of costumes and uniforms. The muggy night was made even warmer by the hundreds of lit torches wielded by the revellers.

After the procession, floats from various other local societies passed by, each one blaring a chant or in the case of the Scout group, an unintentionally terrifying chorus of children's voices that wouldn't have been out of place in The Omen or some such film.

And then, fireworks that put the ones I've seen at Battersea Park for the last few years to shame. Absolutely brilliant.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cockles, cockles, cockles

It's been a while, so hello to you all. I promise to be a bit better from here on in.

Now, those of you in the UK would have to be pretty dopey not to have noticed that it is October and well over twenty degrees outside - providing ample opportunity for fun times in the sun.

Yesterday we decided to capitalise on said sunshine and head down to Camber Sands. This wasn't any old trip though. We didn't have towels, bikinis or swimmers. What we did have was a kick ass big bucket and spade and an iron will. We were on the hunt, the hunt for cockles.

Camber sands, love it or hate it, it looks pretty damned good first thing in the morning. The sun glittering on the shallow water, the glitter of potential finds to our still sleepy eyes.

Having got up at 7am for low tide on a Saturday morning, it would have been disappointing to come back home empty handed. Luckily that was not the case.

We struck treasure pretty quickly, one errant cockle poking out of the sand led us to another, and another and another. They often live in "nests" meaning that there's a very good chance if you have found one, that you are going to find quite a few in the same area.

And so passed the next hour. We picked and picked, sometimes getting the spade of for extra help but mostly filling our bucket of seawater with our newly found produce.

We set off home with the bucket in the boot and covered from head to toe in sand and silt.

Cockles need to be cleaned before eating to get rid of the sand and grit inside the shells.

Again, the process was pretty simple. We filled a bucket with clean water and cleaned the cockles off. After emptying the bucket, we refilled it with fresh water, this time adding salt and oatmeal and left them for a few hours to clean themselves out.

And that was it. Cooking involved a bastardised version of Rick Steins Moules Mariniere, substituting the mussels with cockles and leaving the bay and parsley free rather than tied into a bouquet garni. And voila, the final product.... Delicious!

Now, does anyone know anywhere good on the Kent / Sussex coast for razor clams??