Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Isolation Marrons Glacé (Candied Chestnuts)

In times like this we can’t predict the future, but it’s best to conserve as much nutrition as possible. I’m continuing to  rummage around, making sure I use all my perishable ingredients and not let anything go to waste. I purchased a large amount of organic chestnuts at Christmas and due to family circumstances didn’t use all of them. I washed them in their shells and placed them in bags in the fridge, hoping I would find time to do something with them later.

A few days ago I decided to try them in salad and possibly attempt to candy them. Chestnuts must be soaked for at least a few hours before roasting so they stay moist when cooking, 24 hours for good measure. After soaking I washed and wiped off the mold that had grown on the shell, then cut a cross into the flat side to stop them exploding in the oven and make them easier to peel. Roasting only takes about 10 mins. I used my convection toaster oven. Once roasted I shelled and tasted them, apart from a few black areas, which I cut off, they were delicious.

I tried them in salad, but the chestnut flavor didn't come through well. Then I used the recipe below to make the rest into Marrons GlacĂ©, the famous candy that Queen Victoria loved. It’s simple but takes a minimum of two days as they soak up the syrup, so be patient.


The first resting period, best in a covered dish at room temperature

Friday, 27 March 2020

The CoVid Victory Garden - Learning from history

It’s a little early in our parts, but due to isolation my thoughts have been turning to making a victory garden. Victory over CoVid that is.


I am completely isolating due to my weak immune system and lungs and my survivalist stash will come in very handy. I always have plenty of vitamins, minerals, rice and protein powder on hand. However, there is no substitute for the delight of fresh greens. I live in a condo, so no garden; although there is a fresh herb garden maintained by the complex, which I would be putting myself in touch and droplet jeopardy to use. So I’ve been eyeing up my balcony and planters. I usually plant geraniums, but perhaps I will follow the lead of my forebears and plant a victory garden this year.

The idea of the victory garden was invented in WWI Britain to nourish a starving population. By-laws were relaxed allowing people to create veggie gardens in public spaces and even keep a few livestock if they shared the meat and eggs.

CABBAGE by Sea Dean

I remember my paternal grandmother had a large allotment where her four strapping boys would dig, plant and weed like a multi handed machine. There was even an evil minded goat for milk called Olive and you didn’t want to turn your back on her. One day she got loose during milking and chased my maternal grandmother all the way down the main road. Nana Dot grew berries in her back yard and made jam and pickles for the whole family which were fairly distributed amongst those who did the work. Every weekend the boys would show up with their families to weed, water and pick, the kids would play in the dirt and the women make tea and exchange gossip. It was part of the cement that made family so important to me.

My balcony is quite large, but shaded, so I’m probably just going to plant herbs, arugula and lettuce. It will be fun to bring life and growth back into this sad world. I’m thinking I may drop some seeds off at my Mums care home so they can plant their own and give the residents something to occupy themselves with. (Of course I will wear gloves, wipe off all the packets with alcohol and seal in a plastic bag to keep the residents and staff safe).

I would love to hear if you have any plans for your own victory garden.

Stay Home - Stay Safe

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Isolation Chocolates


Mmmmmm hmmm. (finger lick), I invented a recipe. I feel like I just found out how to spin straw into gold. Yum!

I’m a goal setter and I have a goal to stay healthy and not let that pesky virus get anywhere near me. I hope you have the same goal, not just to protect yourself, but to protect. your friends, family and even strangers you may accidentally infect.

In order to reach my goal I am in total isolation. I always have plenty of dry and canned goods around because I was raised in post war scarcity, followed by the cold war. I know how to survive on the smell of an oily rag so to speak. If services start to shut down I even have a nice mountain stream nearby and plenty of blankets. I have no reason to come into contact with anybody. I’m lucky. Or maybe it’s just well planned.

So my goal within a goal is to use all my stored supplies even if I don't like them. Today I used two things I really dislike, white sugar and bitter cocoa powder. I was driven by the fact that I’m a huge chocolate lover and for some time now I’ve been limiting my intake. Now I’m out of supply and can’t go to the shops, I’m pacing. Then I remembered the delicious truffles a friend gave me last Christmas. Long gone of course, but I recall the taste. I looked in the cupboards for any kind of chocolate. Hot Chocolate mix, too sweet, no cookies, no cereal, no pudding cups. However, at the back of my baking cupboard there was some icing sugar left over from Mum and some Blooker Dutch Cocoa Powder, also given to me by a friend. I surmised that if I mixed the two and added something to bind them together I may have something resembling a truffle.

Heres what I did

1 cup icing sugar
1 cup Blooker dutch cocoa powder
Small amount whipping cream to bind

1. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly
2. Slowly add un-whipped cream a few drops at a time, keep mixing by hand with a metal spoon until it barely holds together. Keep pushing the ingredients together, but don't add more cream. It must be a stiff paste. If too wet add more icing sugar and cocoa. (If you’ve used fat to bind you may even be able to roll it out on a dusting of cocoa powder.)
3. Place a few spoons of cocoa powder or icing sugar in a small bowl
4. Holding a small teaspoons in each hand, scoop a candy sized portion with one and scrape it off with the other so it falls into the powdery bowl.
5. Depending on the size of the bowl you can coat a few at a time, but don't let them touch.
6. Coat fully by picking up the bowl and swirling till the blobs are coated.
7. Place a sheet of wax, bakers or brown paper on a small plate or baking pan
8. Pick each blob up and roll in your palms until you have a small ball coated in powder. 1/2” to 3/4”
9. Place balls on the paper. Make sure they don't touch.
10. Place plate or pan with balls into the fridge and chill for an hour or more till harder.
11. Sprinkle an airtight container with the same powder you used on the balls and store them in the fridge. If you make a large batch you may need to sprinkle powder between layers like Turkish Delight.

Although there is fresh cream in the recipe, sugar is a preservative, so they will last a long time in the fridge if you keep your fingers out of the container. Ingredients can be substituted for other types of sugar, dairy, non dairy fluid and chocolate powder, just bear in mind you need to bind it, so a few drops of oil, butter, or whipped egg white may be required if you are using coarser or more liquid ingredients. You can even add fine coconut, nuts, oatmeal etc. and each will give a slightly different flavor. You can even form the paste around a glace cherry or roasted chestnut. Let your creative juices run wild.


The recipe made 34 delicious ISOLATION CHOCOLATES and I am rationing myself to one a day.

Do you have a fab, back of the cupboard/end of the month recipe? Please share.