Nasturtium ‘capers’

Nasturtium capers

Nasturtium ‘capers’

Nasturtiums are great plants. Easy to grow, good looking, and most importantly – you can eat them – flowers, seed pods, the whole shebang.

The flowers look great on a salad, they’ve got a really peppery taste – but I often just eat them straight off the plant (after a quick bug check!)

Nasturtiums plants

There are 3 nasturtiums plants in this basket

Flower and seed pod

Flower and seed pod

Pick the seed pods when they’re young (before they start to turn a reddish colour)

Seed pods and flowers

Seed pods and flowers

Give them a good rinse and split the larger pod trios into separate pods. Make a brine with 50g sea salt and a litre of water and soak them overnight, then wash them well and dry them.

Put them in a sterilised jar with a couple of bay leaves, cover them in white wine or cider vinegar, and that’s it. You could add whatever you like to the jar – rosemary, peppercorns or thyme. It’s up to you.

Leave them somewhere cool for a couple of weeks or so before using. They will last almost indefinitely, and they’re great in potato salad, or with fish dishes.

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Home made pastrami

Pastrami

Just look at it

Pastrami is just brined and smoked corned beef. It’s easy to make and it just takes a few days from start to finish.

The version is from Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie book.

Here’s what you need.

  • A good quality piece of brisket (or beef plate if you can get that) – about 2kg
  • Coriander seeds
  • Black pepper

For the brine:

  • 4L water
  • 350g sea salt – or other salt without caking agents.
  • 225g sugar
  • 90g Muscovado sugar – or other soft brown sugar
  • 42g curing salt #1 (pink salt)
  • 8 grams pickling spice – you made a load up last time I hope? Just grab the jar off the shelf. If you didn’t – mix black peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, ground ginger, blade mace and chilli flakes in a pestle and mortar. Or just buy some ready made pickling spice.
  • 60ml honey
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed.

Prepare the meat for brining:

  • Trim off all the surface fat from the meat. It’s worth taking your time over this. The final product can be a bit chewy in places if you leave it on. I didn’t take enough off the one in the main picture, so I’ve learned a lesson.

Then make the brine.

  • Put all the brine ingredients into a large saucepan.
  • Bring the brine to a boil, and then simmer until everything’s dissolved.
  • Let it cool, then put it in the fridge to chill.
  • Once it’s chilled, put your brisket into the brine. You can use another container if you can’t get the pot in the fridge. Weigh it down with something (a plate?) so that the meat is totally submerged. This is important.
  • Refrigerate it for 3 days
  • Take the beef out of the brine and throw the brine away. It’s done its job.
Brisket after brining

Brisket after brining

  • Dry the beef with kitchen paper. Make sure it doesn’t stick to the meat.
  • Blitz equal amounts of coriander seeds and black pepper in a coffee or herb grinder, or use a pestle and mortar if you want to make a mess and waste an hour. You need enough to cover the meat evenly.
  • Coat the meat with the coriander and pepper mixture
Brisket before smoking

Brisket before smoking

Now you’ve got options:

If you have a hot smoker, smoke that badboy until it’s 150F in the middle, as slowly as you can so it gets loads of smoke on it.

or if you don’t (I don’t, yet) you can cold smoke it, and then finish it off in the oven until it hits 150F in the middle. I tend to put it on a rack above an inch of water when it’s in the oven.

Once it’s cooked, wait until it cools, then slice it thinly. Serve it on good bread, with mustard, sauerkraut and gherkins. Or just stand there and keep shoving slices into your face. It’s bloody amazing.

Beetroot pickled eggs

Beetroot pickled eggs

Beetroot pickled eggs

I like pickled eggs anyway but these were a bit of a revelation. Sweet and delicious.

They don’t taste anything like those sad looking pickled eggs you see on the chip shop shelf, drowned in pure acetic acid. I wish I had a shot of these sliced up. They’re pink all the way through apart from the middle of the yolk. I was too busy mmm’ing to take a picture at that point I think.

Anyway here’s how you make them. You need:

  • Half a dozen or so free range eggs
  • A fresh beetroot or two
  • A couple of shallots, sliced
  • Cider vinegar – about 125ml
  • White wine vinegar  – about 125ml
  • Castor sugar – about 50 grams
  • A teaspoon of sea salt
  • A sterilised Kilner jar (or other vinegar safe jam jar)

Sterilise the jar (wash it well in hot soapy water, rinse, and pop into the oven to dry out at about 180C, OR put them through the dishwasher, then dry in a low oven) If you’re using a Kilner jar, don’t put the rubber seal in the oven 🙂

  • Hard boil the eggs. If you’re anything like me, you’ll ruin a few trying to peel them. Boil a few extra, and eat the ones you don’t like the look of, while you’re getting on with the rest of it.
  • Peel and dice the beetroot, then boil in a little water until tender. Save the water.
  • Put the eggs, beetroot chunks, and shallots into the jar (or jars).
  • Put the vinegars, sugar and salt in with the saved beetroot water and bring to a simmer, stirring, until the sugar and salt have dissolved. A couple of minutes or so.
  • Pour the vinegar solution over the eggs, beetroot and shallots in the jar, allow it to cool to room temperature and seal it.

Pop the jar into the fridge for a week before eating (if you can last that long!)

That’s it!

You could add other things to the brine if you like. Garlic, mustard seeds, whatever. Up to you, but I like them just like this.