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"to obtain information, knowledge, etc., sometimes with difficulty and often from various different places" Oxford Learner's Dictionaries

Well gleaners, gleaning are historically anyway the people who come in when the harvest has been done to collect the bits that have been missed. A concept that the late and wonderful Agnès Varda made into a film about making use of what was discarded, about the poor scraping around looking and collecting the leavings of others, and about food waste. It was heartfelt, and quirky and warm. Slow-moving but entertaining while sort of preaching without hectoring. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that this is a bits and pieces kind of post. "Various different places'"- yes, although, I confess, mostly from The Guardian. "Sometimes with difficulty" - well sort of.

A Nigel Slater quote and recipe

I seem to have been ignoring Nigel of late for some reason, so when I saw this quote in a recent Guardian newsletter I thought I would share it - together with my thoughts on it - and this recipe for Grilled pork chops with chilli plum jam - well summer plums are not that far away now. But first here's the quote itself.

"There was no sign of dessert. (I’m going back a bit now.) We looked anxiously at one another, wondering if our hosts had forgotten, or were about to bring out a plate of cheese. Suddenly our host stood up, slipped out into the garden and returned with a tree branch that he flopped, almost matter-of-factly on the dining table. Hidden among the leaves were plums, each one barely bigger than a blackbird’s egg, gold, freckled with rust and as sweet as honey. I cannot remember a more appealing pudding. I couldn’t bear to ask if the branch was a bit of unseasonal pruning or a spur of the moment thing. Whatever, it was a moment of genius." Nigel Slater

I had to smile quietly to myself at this. So very pretentious and yet at the same time so endearing in a strange sort of way. So out-of-left-field. Not that I shall be doing the same.

However, the recipe sounded mildly interesting. I think it would work very well - a bit like Ottolenghi's Sticky sweet-and-sour plums and sausages which we have tried and which was utterly delicious. He didn't have the bonus of a savoury jam recipe though. I have been quite intrigued by various chutneys and savoury jams that I have tasted of late. Not just for their taste alone, but for all of the wonderful things that you can use them for, from an accompaniment for cheese and charcuterie, to something to hype up a sandwich, or to enhance all manner of meat - and fish - vegetable come to that - dishes.

Cleaning out the fridge

As I have mentioned we are hopefully off to Port Douglas on Saturday for ten days. Which means I have three dinners and four breakfasts to go before we leave. Which means I have to do something with all the things in my fridge that will go off. At the top of this list are cream, milk and eggs. So for starters we had that omelette last night - loaded with various vegetable stalks, a couple of mushrooms, the last of the tiny peppers and one lone potato. Oh and some strips of ham. Tonight it's quiche again with the rest of the smoked trout, the rest of the kale and the remaining silver beet stalks I think. Plus mustard and fennel, just to make it slightly different from the one we had the other day. But I will still have eggs, and cream and that milk left over. Maybe I should have a go at making ricotta or cottage cheese. Although that doesn't keep that well either does it? All of this will require further thought. I am hoping that by Friday it will indeed be gleanings - slightly hidden treasures that should not go to waste. Still that lovely still life does make me think that perhaps we shall make it to Port Douglas after all.

Two reasons for featuring this recipe. It looks and sounds gorgeous - texturally speaking it looks just how I like sweet tarts to be sometimes. The second reason is because the creator is Jeremy Lee who is apparently the head chef at Quo Vadis in London. There have been a long line of chefs there, including Curtis Stone, but I am always interested because this is where David and I dined on the night of our wedding. We had been plied with drink at his brother's flat where the reception for our tiny wedding party was held - just immediate family. Tiny group, tiny flat filled with roses. I have the petals still. Anyway David and I went off for our very posh pre-booked meal at Quo Vadis already a bit tiddly - old-fashioned word but it explains exactly the state we were in. So we thought we would sober up with a sherry before the meal! This was the swinging sixties remember and we drank sherry back then. Plus wine with the dinner. I have no idea what we ate, but it was a memorable occasion. We were not well that evening. But I remember it with such fondness, even joy. The beginning of our thrifty life together - no honeymoon, no engagement ring - we could afford neither - but extreme happiness and some enduring memories. So here's to Quo Vadis and perhaps I will make the tart some time soon in memoriam as it were.

I have been happily using capers much more than I used to of late. In times gone by I have just forgotten about them, but I am beginning to be more accustomed to using them these days and hopefully before long, they will just be one of the flavour boosters that I think of when I'm doing a fridge raid kind of meal. Perhaps in that quiche tonight for example.

So I was intrigued to find Rachel Roddy talking about a pesto that featured them in her Guardian column. The recipe comes from the tiny Italian island of Pantelleria which is off Sicily but much nearer to Tunisia than Italy. A bit like the Channel Islands which, although British are just a few miles off the coast of France. Capers apparently grow abundantly in the wild on the island and so local dishes tend to feature them. Including this one. She describes its origins/evolution thus:

"basil from India via Africa, acclimatised in Europe, was pounded to pesto in Genova. Sailors took the idea to Trapani, where it was made with local almonds instead of pine nuts, and when tomatoes arrived from America, they included those, too. Meanwhile, on Pantelleria, part of the province of Trapani, they added capers to the pesto as well."

I have to say that there is not much evidence of the tomatoes in Rachel Roddy's picture, but other websites that feature this recipe seem much more tomatoey, and at least one added chilli too. The one pictured here is from a website called La Vitta, so it's obviously one of those dishes that varies according to who is cooking it, although the almonds and the capers seem to be constants. Another flavour booster to add to your store.

Fermented tomatoes

This is another Guardian snippet. I was intrigued. I mean fermentation is all the thing but I had never heard of fermenting tomatoes. There was no picture in the article, just this very brief recipe from Alissa Timoshkina:

"Roughly chop ripe tomatoes or blitz them to a chunky paste. “Add a tablespoon of salt per kilo [of tomatoes], then flavour with anything you like – a tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of chilli, grated garlic, ginger, or horseradish … Seal in a sterilised jar and leave at room temperature and out of direct sunlight to ferment for 10 days. Once it reaches the right fermentation level for your tastes, put the jar in the fridge and it’ll keep for the winter – or at least until you’ve polished off the lot in soups and stews, or mixed them with mayo to spread on sandwiches.”

So when I went searching for pictures of fermented tomatoes they almost all looked like the one on the right - whole tomatoes shining in a jar. What Alissa Timoshkina describes seems to me to be more like the fermented tomato salsa on the left. And, come to that probably more versatile. Maybe this is the next big thing. They seem to be an Eastern European/Russian kind of thing.

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