After all the consuming, revelling, indulging and imbibing, a moment of stillness is needed. We don’t go in much for making resolutions to drink less, eat less or exercise more. We do however like to use this time for cleaning, reorganising and making plans. Less about changing things and more about clearing the way to make things happen. The kitchen is always a good place to start.
Over the years we have amassed a mammoth collection of all sorts of preserves, sauces, pickles, tinned things and dried things, along with endless other exotic store cupboard ingredients. This is wonderful in one way but also definitely a bad habit when often it is more rewarding, economical and delicious to make your own larder essentials.
We haven’t fooled ourselves into thinking we can make everything we need ourselves but it feels good to make a start on some of the basics. You won’t find us trying to brine or smoke any fish, tin our own beans or dry out homemade pasta but there are other larder elements that can be homemade endeavours. Any kind of jam or preserve is definitely a good place to start, as are sauces such as ketchups, mayonnaise and flavoured oils. Preserving and pickling is another exciting way of making some useful store cupboard ingredients.
For our first attempt at our new homemade larder, we are starting with some things that we generally use quite a lot but rarely make ourselves. Marmalade is the obvious go-to for spreading on toast in the morning when you don’t have much time to rustle up anything else. Mushroom ketchup is the original ketchup and is quite similar to brown sauce — delicious for a fry up or with steak and chips.
Lastly, we make a quick version of preserved lemons which is perfect for lazy cooks like us. You can of course pick up all of these things (or something similar) in a shop, but there is something brilliant about making some of these things yourself.
Quick preserved lemons
This recipe is super quick, whereby the lemons are sliced and packed tightly into a jar with lots of sea salt.
4-5 unwaxed lemons
½ tsp of coriander seeds
1 tsp allspice berries
2-4 bay leaves
100g sea salt
Slice the lemons into ¼ inch rounds. Start layering them in a sterilised jar adding a bay leaf every now and then. Drop in the coriander seeds and allspice berries along the way as well as the salt. As you start pressing more and more lemon slices down their juices will start to release out.
When you can’t fit any more lemons or salt in your jar, seal it and give it a good shake. Leave it in the fridge or in a cool place for around 4-7 days, shaking it every day. When you need to use your preserved lemons, fish a slice out and cut away just the peel, discarding the flesh. Chop up the preserved lemon peel to use in whatever dish you are cooking
Bitter oranges are the best ones for making the most delicious marmalade
Cooking Time 2 hours 0 mins
Total Time 2 hours 0 mins
1kg Seville oranges
1kg light brown sugar
1kg granulated white sugar
Place a large sieve over a big preserving pot. Cut the oranges and lemon in half and squeeze them out over the sieve which will catch any pips and pith. Place a large piece of muslin in a bowl and add the pips and pith from the sieve and then scoop out the remaining flesh and pith from oranges and lemon.
You should be left with hollowed-out orange and lemon skins. Chop these skins to whichever thickness you prefer.
Place the chopped up peel in the pan and then gather up the muslin into a ball and place it in the pot. Pour 2.5l of water over this and bring everything to the boil and then turn down to a simmer for 2 hours. After the 2 hours of gentle simmering, remove the muslin containing all the flesh and pith and squeeze it out so it releases all its gloopy juices (you can leave it to cool a little first).
Stir this in and then add both types of sugar. Stir the sugar in until it is all dissolved. Place a small saucer in the freezer at this point.
Turn the heat up and bring the marmalade to the setting point which should read above 104°C. Confirm this by putting a small bit of the marmalade on your frozen saucer, if it crinkles it is done, if not keep checking until it does. Turn off the heat and leave to sit for 15 minutes. Decant into sterilised jars and seal.
This sauce is amazing with steak, breakfast baps, or anything that you would usually have ketchup with.
600g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp sea salt
25g dried porcini mushrooms
100ml sherry vinegar
2 shallots finely diced
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorns
½ tsp allspice berries
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
In a large bowl, mix the mushrooms and the salt together and cover with clingfilm for 24 hours. Every so often, press down the mushrooms and stir with a wooden spoon until they start to release their juices and break up slightly.
Reconstitute the porcini mushrooms in 125ml of boiling water, leaving to soak for an hour or so.
Pour the water through a fine sieve into a jug to remove any grit or particles.
Place the sliced mushrooms along with any liquid they have released into a large pan, add the porcini mushrooms along with the water they were reconstituted with and the nutmeg.
Put the ginger, bay leaf, peppercorns and allspice in a piece of muslin tied with a string and place in the pan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for around an hour and a half uncovered. Stir the mixture regularly until it has started to thicken.
Discard the spices and their bag, and place the rest of the pot’s contents into a food processor and blitz until smooth. You can also use a hand blender for this but make sure you blitz the ingredients enough so that you are left with a very smooth sauce.
Return the smooth sauce to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil, allowing to simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour into sterilised jars and leave for around 1 week before using. It should keep for 3 months, unopened and kept in a cool place.