Peachy!

Before I was born my parents planted a peach tree in the garden of our flat; my dad would have sought advice from his father and his old friends who were very particular about the varieties of fruit (and other produce) which were grown. Ours was a white peach tree, but I have no idea of its variety. It rarely cropped well, and suffered from peach leaf curl, but when we were lucky the peaches were heavenly… my sister and I were spoiled! Too often these days, peaches in shops have been chilled or stored and even if they do ripen don’t seem to have much flavour. However, over the past couple of weeks I have been buying those funny, flattened peaches called doughnut peaches – they are white and absolutely delicious!!

I was reading up about peaches, and came across this recipe in a 1930’s newspaper:

Sauté of Peaches
  • Fix this textpeach ,
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼  cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoonful cloves
  • ¼ teaspoonful allspice
  • ¼r teaspoonful salt
  1. peel and halve peaches
  2. dip in flour to cover each side
  3. sauté in frying pan with butter,sprinkling with half the sugar mixed with the spices
  4. cook very slowly, and when brown turn over carefully and sprinkle with the remainder of sugar and spices
  5. when brown on both sides,  serve hot as an accompaniment to meats

Did that surprise you, to serve the sweet fruit with meat? It surprised me! I’m guessing it’s cold meat so it would be like a chutney… maybe it would be nice using quince which would have a lovely acidity… with that thought, as I don’t have a picture of a peach, I’m sharing a picture of a quince as my featured image.

February fill-dyke

Richard Sudell wrote a chapter in his ‘Practical Gardening and Food Production’ book all about monthly jobs for the garden; as well as advice in general sections on food plots, fruit garden, flower patch, general maintenance and under glass, he starts with a little description of the weather to be expected. He uses the phrase ‘February fill-dyke’ and I tried to find out if there were more of the same type of sayings listing what to expect in the different months… and I haven’t been very successful.

I found ‘February fill-dyke, be it black or be it white’, which was a short version of ‘February fill the dyke, be it black or be it white; but if it be white,it’s the better to like,’ meaning I guess that there would be a lot of precipitation either as rain or snow. I also found ‘February fill-dyke, March muck it out’. There was also a famous painting with the same name by Benjamin Williams Leader, first exhibited without much success in 1881.

Here is what Mr Sudell has to say about the weather:

February fill-dyke! Black or white, the month is likely to be wet. gardeners must beware of trying to work very wet soil, but every opportunity must be seized to get up to date with outdoor work. Pruning, manuring, and all construction work are jobs to be completed in spite of the weather.’

One thing he advises which would not be practical or possible for most people is using soot; when Mr Sudell was writing, every house would have a chimney, every chimney would have to be swept, there would be soot in abundance! ‘Keep soot swept from domestic chimneys; it darkens and so warms the soil; it destroys pests; it possess a little food value’. Other advice he offers would also not be taken today; to discourage field-mice from ‘playing havoc’ with early peas, it’s recommended that they should be immersed in paraffin and then rolled in red lead… hmmm, I think not!

It’s interesting to note that among the vegetables to be sown at this time of year are aubergines; this is another thing which destroys the myth that British cooking was boring and ‘exotic’ Mediterranean fruit and vegetables were unknown! In the previous chatter on January gardening, fruit trees listed included were peaches, cherries and apricots.

Here is an interesting article about February:

http://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/local-collared-doves-getting-amorous/story-11954880-detail/story.html

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Peach and blueberry custard pie

Last week I shared the story of how my dear friend carol Ann and i got to know each other, and showed pictures of the peach and blueberry custard pie I made following the recipe she gave me. It was really delicious, and unfortunately I don’t have a photo of it because we ate it all!

She has very kindly allowed me to share her recipe, and here it is:

  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • 3 cups of sliced peaches, sliced
  • 1-1½ cups blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tblsp quick tapioca
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pastry for 2 crust pie
  • 2 tblsp butter

custard:

  • 4 eggs beaten slightly
  •  5 tblsp milk
  •  5 heaped tblsp flour
  1. put the fruit in a large bowl and sprinkle over the lemon juice
  2. mix sugar,  tapioca and salt and add to fruit, let stand 15 minutes.
  3. to make the custard Meanwhile make custard – stir all the ingredients together and mix thoroughly
  4. line a buttered pie dish with pastry, reserving some for the top
  5. drain the fruit then add a little of the custard mixture
  6. put fruit into the pastry case and add as much of the custard mix as you want/need, leaving a little for the topping
  7. dot with butter
  8. top with pastry, as a whole round or as a lattice, brush on the remains of the custard and sprinkle with sugar to glaze
  9. sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar and bake 45-50 minutes at 425°F, 200º, gas mark 6
  10. (useful to put on a baking sheet or tray in case it spills) check as it comes up to time as the topping can catch
  11. I put my pie on a cookie sheet in case of spillage. Watch carefully after 45 min.
  12. Enjoy!!!!

I have to confess I slightly adjusted the recipe, I did not add the sugar, salt or butter, and I had no tapioca so that was left out. Also I made instant custard with Bird’s custard powder, about half a pint; I think I should have made more, and I forgot to use the custard to glaze the top. I used a sweet crust pastry, three parts plain flour to one part icing sugar, 2:1 added butter (i.e. 2 oz butter to 4 flour/icing sugar), plus 1 egg yolk for each six oz dry pastry ingredients – if it seems too dry, add another egg yolk, or a little cold water.

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Carol Ann’s peach and blueberry custard pie

People have such strange ideas about social networking – people who don’t do it and probably know nothing about it. When I say to some people that I’m on Facebook they almost make a sign of a cross or some other gesture to repudiate evil. I’ve made some really good ‘friends’ on Facebook – and some of my closest friends in my off-line life are people I met through various on-line sites, mainly music.

One of my good Facebook friends is Carol Ann, we have a love of music in common but also cooking and she is a great cook… how do I know? She’s shared her recipes with me and everyone’s a winner!

The other day she posted a picture of a pie she had made which looked magnificent, mouth-watering! She very kindly shared the recipe and it was a sort of pie I had never heard of, a peach and blueberry custard pie.

As a child we had a peach tree in our garden, and they are one of my favourite fruits. In the days before the availability of everything all the year round regardless of season, the only way to have peaches apart from summer time was to have them tinned. Those tinned peaches must have been cooked or processed in some way, but I had never had home cooked peaches… it just wasn’t something we ever had, so the idea of them in a pie sounded intriguing and delicious.

Blueberries are a fruit which I don’t think many British people had come across until the last ten or so years, now they are everywhere and people grow them in their gardens too… we tried but our bush died… So the combination of blueberries and peaches was something again which I had never tried.

In Britain custard pies are just that, a tart with a baked custard in it, and a baked custard is somehow different from custard sauce which you pour over puddings… so to use the word intriguing again, the idea of having cooked peaches, with blueberries, and custard, inside a pie was intriguing.

We had cousins come to stay so making the pie was a great idea. I made a sweet pastry, and I admit I used custard powder to make the custard, Bird’s of course, but into the oven it went…

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It was actually all shiny and sparkly with glaze and sugar by the time it was cooked

It was a brilliant success! We all loved it, and I would post a picture of t except we greedily ate it all – we had it with clotted cream as well as the custard inside, just to add an English twist. The cousins loved it so much they put in a request I should make one for the next Christmas party!