Monday, 10 November 2014

Spicey is Nicey!

Autumn is such a richly sensory time; there is a panoply of sights, sounds, scents, textures and tastes that make the season. When we lived in the fens we had the ethereal mists, Ely Cathedral rising from a whitewashed landscape. Now we live by the sea we have sea fog and wet wind.

The boys and I met up with my parents at Hinton Ampner this weekend for a stomp, although it absolutely chucked it down and we ended up spending most of our time having a picnic and a cuppa under their giant umbrellas.

Their kitchen garden was a visual feast, and a testament to many hours, nay years of hard work.

At this time of year a hot drink can be a special experience. It highlights the contrast between warmth and the cold and wet outside. I have two favourite autumnal drinks to share with you: pumpkin spiced syrup; and mulled apple juice.

Above is a batch of cheat's mulled apple juice: a carton of apple juice heated with one of those mulled wine spice sachets, like a teabag. Obviously you can also make this by heating your apple juice with a cinnamon stick, a star anise, and a few cloves, maybe a teaspoon of mixed spice. This is one of Sausages' favourite treats, and, following the example of the forest school we used to attend before our move, we often take a flaskfull out and about with us. When you have adventurous children it always pays to have ways to warm them up when it's cold, especially if puddles or the sea might be involved.

I love the pumpkin spiced lattes you find at high street coffee shops at this time of year, but I haven't bought one since I made my first batch of this syrup last year. The recipe comes from Hannah at The Knit, and is delicious in coffee, hot milk, on pancakes etc.

2 (UK) cups of water
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp mixed spice
3 tbsp pumpkin puree

Reserving the sugar, mix everything else in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer to infuse for about 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a clean pan and stir in the sugar. When it is entirely dissolved return it to a low heat and reduce to form a thin syrup. Pour into sterilised bottles and seal.

In my chaotic style I couldn't find a sieve (I suspect it may have disappeared into the attic with the homebirth kit, despite not being used), so I wrapped a clean muslin around the pan and used that instead. When I had finished there was so much sediment in the cloth that I decided to make a second batch. Unfortunately I am still waiting on my new cooker and cooking on a camping stove in the interim, so inevitably the gas ran out while I was making the second batch. It was perfectly syrupy, so I bottled it up, but you can see in the picture above where one jar contains half thick syrup from the first batch, and half thin syrup from the second. Are other people's lives as haphazard as mine? Husband says not. Please tell me things like these happen to you too?!?

Chaos notwithstanding, it was lovely to spend a little time in the kitchen making up these drinks this week. Without an oven and proper hob so much of what we are eating at the moment is a lot more processed than we are used to. Thank goodness for the slow cookers, which are doing tremendous service! I have to share with you a comment passed by a friend of mine this week, that she joined a facebook group for slow cooker recipes, and the first post she saw was of a vibrator in a slow cooker. I think this can be understood as a commentary on contemporary domestic glamorous cooking shows and gluttony are our pornography? Perhaps the person in question was too busy for either cooking or a sex life, hence their being in storage together? Perhaps they were just using it as a steriliser...whichever way, the juxtaposition is certainly unusual! I hope you have something more conventional and autumnal in your slow cooker this week. Can I recommend a squash or pumpkin curry? Delicious!


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