I'll be honest, I have had no inspiration recently. Life got in the way and with that some pretty boring cooking. Don't get me wrong, I made some meals that most people would think are crazy for a mid-week meal, but I was not inspired. Who out there knows what I mean? When work gets in the way and meals at home are a case of just getting things on the table and going with the motions of daily life. I have made a few incredible weekend meals, but then forgotten to photograph them or we were so hungry at the time that the food got flattened before you could say "click." Kyle even made an incredible Sunday night pulled pork shoulder, I couldn't take credit for that, well maybe a little. I like to think I inspire him.
This autumn has not been your typical autumn, until a week ago I was still going to work wearing just a cardigan. It has been mild to say the least and not like autumn at all. I love autumn. Probably my favourite season. I love the changing colours, the light chill in the air and the thrill of exciting things to come. Halloween, pumpkin pie, apple cider, colourful squash, comforting soups. I could go on forever. This year I just didn't get that feeling. Until today! It is cold. Finally. And it smells like autumn. Wood fires burning in the neighbourhood, the smell of candied nuts roasting as I walked down Kensington high street today and the amazing winter spices wafting on the wind. I am thrilled and with that my inspiration returned. So to work.
I love the idea of home made gifts for Christmas. They are so personal and I get to share my love in the only way I really know how, through my food. If you've been keeping up with Chicks and Cheese you've already read my Plum Jam blog, that has been sitting in the cupboard maturing nicely with the Port for Christmas, but what else could I make? I have a lovely recipe book called Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann. It is filled with all manner of delicious recipes and so many things that speak to my soul. I think I was Scandinavian in another life. One of the recipes is for a raspberry vinegar. Sounded delicious and looked such a great colour, so last week I set about making some. Easy as pie. White wine vinegar, caster sugar and raspberries. It is sitting on the window sill maturing.
Today I was wondering what I could make along similar lines that would be as delicious and really be effective as a gift. I dug around the kitchen searching for inspiration. Cherries in the freezer, a bottle of brandy and one kilogram of caster sugar. Eureka! Brandied cherries, there can't be anything more Christmas-sy than that? It is a recipe that must be as old as time and when I did a bit of research the recipe that stood out for me was a classic. Good old Isabella Beeton. Nothing beats Mrs. Beeton for household management. I got to work. I used the recipe below but you can change the quantities to suit you.
500 grams Black Cherries
Good French Brandy
Golden Caster Sugar (to every 450 grams of cherries allow half the quantity of caster sugar)
Have ready some wide-mouthed glass bottles, perfectly clean and dry. Sterilised as per the tip in "Yum, Plum Jam"
Remove the stalks from the cherries.
Put them in the bottles, strewing the sugar between each layer; and when the bottles are nearly full, pour in enough brandy to cover them.
Put corks or bungs in the bottles and store in a dry place. I used Kilner Jars which can be found in most supermarkets. The cherries will be fit to eat in 6 weeks, and will keep well for years.
These are perfect to give away as gifts with ribbons and labels on. They are great to be served over ice cream, drizzled over crepes or just eat them straight out of the jar.
Happy eating, happy autumn and happy giving.
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Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain