I am busy making a soup of Beetroot, Lemon and Chive for a friend who is coming over tomorrow. I am slightly bothered by the fact that I have chosen to make something which I am very uncertain as to whether I will like or not. The fact is that I don't really like the taste of cooked Beetroot. But then again I don't like carrots either, but I try and push the boundaries of my own taste buds by making myself try things all over again. With carrots I only succeed by making ancillary recipes - like carrot and ginger soup or carrot cake.I am slightly daunted by the prospect of lunch tomorrow but I know that coming out of your comfort zone and trying something new is the only way to move on. In every walk of life, food included.
You've got your teeth into a bit of cake, sitting in the shade of the Robinia tree, 'a full afternoon's work'. This is because you are thwarted in your desire to raid your profuse vegetable patch by the constraints of waiting for the photographer to come and take his pictures: 'As a gardener, I'm proud; as a cook, frustrated.' So you go to work on the produce of the old damson tree which hides behind the compost heap and, as such, is unlikely to feature in any shots. It is one of your favourites, I fancy.
'You could measure my life, or at least my autumns, in the fruit of the damson tree. Flicking back through my books, there have been crumbles and crisps, fools and compotes...a soft-crumbed sponge..a glossy-topped cheesecake.' It is that 'mouth-puckering smack of fruit and acidity that remains intense even when they have been cooked with sugar.' So into a wonderfully dark brownie recipe they go, making something a little 'dark, sumptuous, intense, faintly reminiscent of the best sort of Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte but without the cream.'
This I will have to try. The recipe is for 'Chocolate damson cake' (page 338), and, looking at it I'm wondering whether you would allow it to be eaten gently warmed with a dollop of vanilla ice cream? (I think the autumn weather is settling in to my stomach early...the carbohydrates are calling me.) Perhaps we'll try it both ways - as a cake and as a pudding and see which comes out tops. How does a Cookery book writer feel about people meddling with their recipes, I wonder? After all, if you've spent good sweat and tears over perfecting something, it's a bit like someone putting tomato ketchup over everything in a posh restaurant, isn't it? Or maybe that is for the chefs that like to impress and you are a little more laid back as to people's idiosyncrasies.
You are wondering how you became the sort of guy that makes his own chutney. I find my chutney making goes in fits and starts. Either there are shelf upon shelf of beautifully labelled jars - too many to eat oneself, destined as presents to friends and relations - or a desert. At the moment we are in a desert position. The cause of this is invariably the former i.e. shelf upon shelf of the same chutney which ends up being waded through until your bread and cheese cries out to be alone for a change. Your habits came 'not out of the need to preserve a glut or to make ribbon-decked gifts for my friends but from a desire to have a spoonful or two of home-made relish to go with a piece of cheese and a wodge of bread.'
Lately my chutney habit has been in almost single jars - which is plenty for the use to which is intended - and on the lines of experimenting with different caramelised onion recipes. Your pot of chutney looks intriguing. It is 'a dark and sticky fruit chutney' ( page 342) made with ripe figs, which are at their best at the moment, if the ones I picked up the other day so beautifully displayed in a local shop are anything to go by. And, gratefully enough, it makes only a couple of jars. My copper preserving pan sits doing a sterling job on top of the cupboard collecting envelopes and stuff for recycling; its alter ego.