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Chutney. That’s it.

Few weeks back, we went to a friend’s house in the middle of the beautiful English countryside. In his garden, big apple trees were giving away the sure sign that summer was ending, offering big, green cooking apples.

My little one – who gave his first steps in this same garden – found many apples on the ground and spotted many others hanging from the tree. He went on collecting the windfalls and I picked many from the tree. They were all big and juicy. We had so many! Hence, the only thing that felt right to do was to convert them into chutney. I posted some pictures of the chutney on social media and many people asked for the recipe.

The recipe I got comes from a lady whom I used to travel with on the same bus at the same time for many years. She gave it to me once we met and I was with a bag full of apples and I was not sure what to do…and I did not want to waste them!

Without further ado, here it goes. Enjoy!

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You will need:

Equipment:

Kitchen scale

Jars

Heavy based pan (the biggest one you can find)

Muslin cloth

With regards of the quantities, you can slash the recipe in half. Times may not have to be shortened…you may need to keep an eye and follow your common sense. The first time I did it I had to do it with only half the quantities mainly because I did not have a big enough pan. The result was great…which lead me to make an investment and buy the pan I have now.

Ingredients:

1 kg cooking apples, peeled and cored *900 grams is the weight of the apples once peeled, cored and chopped.

250 gr onions, peeled and chopped *same as the apples, 250 grams of the onions once peeled and chopped.

250 gr raisins

1 teaspoon salt

900 ml white vinegar (distilled malt)

60 gr mixed pickling spice (I used “Barts”)

3 teaspoons ground ginger

500 gr soft brown sugar

 

 

Time:

About 2 hours. You need patience…and if you can rope someone in to help you with the peeling and coring and chopping, the better!

 

Yield:

With this quantities,  I get about 4 / 5 jars. (Kilner jars follow the link to give you an idea)

 

Method:

 

Turn the oven on at 120/140 (fan). Wash with hot soapy water your jars and give them a good rinse. Stick them in the oven and take them out when you are about to pot the chutney.

For the rubber seals and / or lids, wash them in hot soapy water, rinse them and put them in a pan with enough water to cover them completely. Bring to the boil and boil the rubber seals / lids for 10 minutes. Turn the hob off, cover the pan with a lid and leave the rubber seals in the pan until you are ready to use them.

Now that the sterilising is done, prepare the spices. Weight in a kitchen scale 60 grs and put it in a muslin. I think you can buy the bags but if you do not have any, a clean non-coloured (white) piece of muslin will do. Put the spices and tie up the muslin making a bag.

Put in the pan in a medium to high with the chopped apples, onions, raisins, and the salt. Add the vinegar.  Add the spices bag and give it a good stir. Bring it to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer until tender. Remove the spice bag and add the ground ginger.

Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Continue to simmer until the chutney is thick. Stir occasionally so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Once it is done to your liking, take the jars from the oven, and put them on top of a wooden table or marble and pot the chutney. Take the rubber seals / lids and close the pots. Leave them to cool completely. Add a label with the date.

Now. The chutney must mature, so hide them in a dark, cool place for two or three months.

You may ask how long it lasts. That depends a lot on the hygiene procedures of sterilisation. I will say to use your common sense on this one: if you open it and the smell or texture is not right, discard it.

Other wise….Enjoy!!!WP_20170830_005

A, a, ants in my arm…

Some days ago, I was reading an article in a teacher’s magazine about singing and how through singing children can develop their vocabulary and learn phonics naturally.

The funny thing is, nowadays children do not sing in school as often as they should. Many mothers I have spoken to say the same. My son, if you ask him if he sang at school or if he had rhymes, he will tell you “no” but he will tell you about the latest hit in his nursery classroom: phonics.

I found out a few weeks back about them when my son was going about “a, a, ants in my arm”. He was repeating it with no rhythm, no melody. Just repeating the phrase and moving his fingers on his arm, up and down.

Me: “Where did you learn that?”

Him: “Miss told us. We watched it on the biiiiiig screen”

Me: “Ahh, I see. Do you like it?”

Him: “A, a, ants in my arm…”

The following day I took him to nursery and I asked one of the teachers and then she told me about a phonic programme they are using in the class room. She told me the three letters they were working on, and she insisted on not going any further than those letters. “Fair enough” was my answer.

Later that week, a letter came from the school, explaining that children in nursery were being taught phonics to “help them and prepare them for reception” and as a reinforcement they were asked to write their name; that it did not matter if they just made a line; they should write their name upon arrival instead of putting their picture up on a board.

You may think well, considering that 50% of the children in the classroom do not have English as the first language, the “ phonic programme” is a way to introduce them to the mysteries of English phonics so it does not hit them like a ton of bricks when they start reception. About writing their name, I suppose it introduces them to writing and literacy.

But let me focus on this phonics thing.

What is the difference between a youtube clip on phonics and sing? Yes, I know…youtube is there, a few clicks away. Whilst you watch the child(ren) with a corner of one eye you can get on preparing something else for the rest of the afternoon.

Voila’! Job done! Children are entertained and hey presto they learn. And you manage to get on with that something else that needs to be done.

I have worked alongside teachers from different schools who would not sing at all. I have been with teachers who would sing just for the sake of it. And children followed, happily as if it was the most natural thing, even those whose first language was not English. Hence, they were learning the mysteries of English phonics without any awareness of doing so. They were properly, not promptly, learning.

When children sing, they are learning to find the accents, the variations in sound, the tone, the beat. The rhymes and verses nourish their imaginations and help them develop they vocabulary. Not to mention that the repetition of these will give them security and confidence when speaking.

And this goes further: when you add movement to the singing, children start to learn about rhythm, timing, helping them to coordinate gross and fine motor skills which in turn will help them at a later stage in life.

You may say that children’s tv programmes do their fair share of teaching. Yes, in a metallic robotic sound (not to mention the accent), covered with songs and a paraphernalia of colours and flashing images. Where the rhythm and rhyme are accelerated, accentuated, and stripped of any natural timbre. Nothing can beat the human voice. Nothing.

And with the human voice comes one of the most beautiful, unique, most powerful by product: Singing. When you sing with will, with joy – even if you are like me that you cannot sing to save your life – children will follow suit. Because children can tell when you are making an effort, when you are confronted with something that takes you out of your depth, but you are doing it with joy. You are role modelling that nothing is impossible.

When you sing you pour your feelings into it, whether you notice it or not. Your mood changes, the way you do an activity whilst you sing changes. Try to sing when you do not want to. It will just not happen. I can tell you even when you are in a group situation and you do not want to sing, somehow the singing becomes contagious and you end up singing and craving more, with a warm feeling inside you. Singing does have a strong social side, unifies, makes you feel part of something. Just imagine how a child would feel, all warm and fuzzy after singing with his peers. An immense shared joy which sets the base for what a social gathering should, could, would be.

Which takes me back to teachers loading any phonic programme / song and leaving the children to listen and watch. What sort of social value would/could a child feel sharing images and sounds – short of calling them noises -? From my observations, children leave the screen either more agitated or confused; in a sort of “back to what we were doing” kind of look.

Which takes me back to the gesture, to the ever so important role modelling. If a teacher does sing, even when she cannot do so like Adele, at least she is role modelling that she is putting effort into it, to do it, to get it right. She is moving her lips and showing how the vowels, syllables and phonemes are done. Perhaps she will be moving hands, standing up right and smiling.

And children are learning. The gesture, the phonics, the nothing is impossible attitude. Naturally.

 

P.S.: During the last week, we managed to put some rhythm and melody to “A, a, ants in my arm” and sounds great. Even some movement and dynamic to it.

Leasing life…

Yesterday afternoon I spend time with my little one outside on the patio. As the weather forecast was notifying us about rainy days ahead, I decided it was a great idea to make the most of the rainy days approaching and re pot / re plant all the small seedlings from tomatoes, butternut squash and verbenas I had wandering around growing silly in rather tiny pots.

All this “let’s plant seeds” started back in March, when I thought it would be a really good idea to get more flowers, but my purse was extremely light due to the lack of coins inside to purchase ready-to-pot plants.

Also, why not make the most of what I already had? I had seeds left from an old petunia which died during winter leaving me plenty of seeds to experiment with and a packet of flower seeds – verbenas in this case – that came with a magazine quite some time ago.

Tomato seedlings (the cherry variety) and butternut squash seedlings came from…yes, a tomato and a butternut squash bought in the supermarket. Since we were well advanced with our planting frenzy why not plant the seeds left?

The small inconvenience was that there were not enough pots to replant in. Since the verbenas were planted in a plastic eggbox and the butternut squash were growing inside an old plastic container (the tomatoes were the lucky ones planted in individual reasonable sized pots) I was puzzled as to how I was going to do it. I looked around and already most of the pots/containers were taken.

And there came my son, bringing with him an old yogurt pot from his sand box. “Eureka!” I said followed by a “thank you” to my son. I was going to use old yogurt pots. My son got the idea and promptly he came with more empty pots and before I could say anything he started to fill the pots with soil. When we run out of yogurt pots, I went rummaging in the plastic recycling box where I rescued a couple of plastic boxes where fruit such as plums, grapes, and peaches came.

So, with a little help he replanted the seedlings.  And thanks to him we recycled the old yogurt pots and boxes, we leased life to these new seedlings leasing life to these pots and boxes we unleashed life, helping these seedlings to expand and to fulfil their existence so to say.

It felt good.