South Leigh Seasonal Recipes

The beginning of autumn is always a busy time with lots of garden and orchard produce to cook and preserve. This pear chutney is my sister's recipe and I always try to make it when we catch the pears before the wasps do! Using fig leaves in cooking was a revelation to me! They impart a wonderful, heady and fragrant aroma of vanilla, or is it coconut? It's hard to say, but so delicious.

Happy Cooking. EL

Pear, Cinnamon and Red Onion Chutney

1.5kg very firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
450g red onions, peeled and chopped
450g green or firm red tomatoes, cores removed and flesh chopped
100g stoned dates, chopped
200g raisins
200g celery, sliced
400g granulated sugar
400g muscovado sugar
600ml cider vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in two if large
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds
15g salt
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
5 small dried chillies
8 allspice berries
8 cardamom pods, husks discarded and seeds lightly crushed
5 cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds

Gather together a good quantity of clean jam jars before you begin - small or pretty jars of preserves make great gifts! Place the jars in a very low oven to warm.

Prepare all the fruit and vegetables and place in a large preserving pan. Mix the sugars and vinegar in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar has dissolved, then pour over the fruit and vegetables. Add the cinnamon sticks, ground ginger, mustard seeds and salt. Tie up the remaining spices in a piece of muslin or place them in a bought bouquet garni, or infuser, bag (available from Amazon and kitchen shops) and add to the chutney.

Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and allow the chutney to bubble away gently, stirring frequently, until there is very little free liquid. Remove and discard the spice bag together with the cinnamon sticks, then ladle the cooked chutney into the clean, warm jars. Cover with waxed discs, seal the jars and don't forget to label them. Eat now or store for a later date.


Roasted Figs and Plums ~ Serves 6

fig leaves, rinsed
6 ripe figs
6 ripe plums, halved and stones removed
a small glass of rosé or white wine
a generous slug of elderflower cordial
caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200ºC / Fan 180ºC / Gas 6.
Cut the tough stems off several fresh fig leaves and use to line an ovenproof dish. Top and tail the figs and cut in half. Place both the figs and the plums skin side down on top of the fig leaves. Splosh over the wine and elderflower cordial and sprinkle fairly liberally with sugar (about 2 tablespoons).

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the fruit is softened but still holding its shape. You can pop the dish under a hot grill to get a nice caramelised finish but be careful not to burn the fig leaves too much. Lift the fruit off the fig leaves and serve, warm or cold, drizzled with the beautiful pink juices that have collected in the dish. Serve with Fig Leaf Custard, cream or vanilla ice cream.

Fig Leaf Custard ~ makes approx. 500ml

The jury is out as to whether to *toast the fig leaves, or not. I have made this custard without toasting the leaves first and the result is also good. I think toasting the leaves just slightly intensifies the flavour.

6 fresh fig leaves, rinsed and stems removed
500ml single cream, or half full fat milk and half cream
5 egg yolks
40g caster sugar

* See note above - Preheat the grill and lay the fig leaves out on the grill pan (it doesn't matter if they overlap). Toast for a few minutes or until the leaves begin to curl up and the edges are pale caramel colour. Remove from the heat and set aside. Half fill the sink with cold water.

Pour the cream into a medium-sized saucepan and heat gently until it is just beginning to bubble. Add the fig leaves to the cream and set aside to infuse for 20-30 minutes. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar then strain in the infused cream, whisking well.

Rinse the pan then return the custard to the pan and cook over a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring all the time! When cooked, the custard should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. To stop the custard cooking further, sit the pan in the sink of cold water and continue stirring for a minute or two.

Serve warm, cold, or reheated over a pan of simmering water until gently steaming.