PREPARATION TIME: 20 minutes, plus 1–2 hours salting
COOKING TIME: about 15 minutes, plus 10 minutes heat-processing
STORAGE: 6–12 months
MAKES: about 6 x 375 ml (13 fl oz/11⁄2 cup) jars
These are our signature pickles, the first ones we ever made, and now our bestsellers. They're a great way to start your pickling adventures. Small cucumbers are best for pickling, as their water content is lower: look out for bargain boxes of 'seconds' at farmers’ markets - often the only difference is that they're not straight! Feel free to experiment with spices. These are classic pickle spices, but you could use whole chillies, garlic cloves, bay leaves, turmeric and strips of lemon zest.
2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) Lebanese (short) cucumbers - the smaller, the better
2 tablespoons salt
1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) white wine vinegar
220 g (73⁄4 oz/1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
2 small brown onions, thinly sliced
3 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons chilli flakes - optional
12–18 black peppercorns
Slice the cucumbers into rounds about the thickness of a coin. Put into a bowl and sprinkle with the salt, then leave to sit for an hour or two (or overnight). This is to draw out any excess liquid; the bigger the cucumbers, the longer it will take. Transfer to a large colander and leave to drain thoroughly.
Meanwhile, sterilise your jars.
Make a brine by putting the vinegar, sugar, turmeric and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water into a medium non-reactive saucepan over low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then increase the heat and bring to the boil. Let it bubble for 5 minutes.
Transfer the cucumbers to a large bowl. Add the onions, along with the mustard, fennel and dill seeds, and the chilli flakes, if using. Use your hands to mix everything together well.
When the jars are cool enough to handle, use small tongs or clean hands to carefully pack the cucumbers into the jars, adding 2 or 3 peppercorns to each jar. The jars should be full but not over-packed – the brine needs to cover every slice of cucumber, and if they are packed too tightly the brine won't be able to get into every nook and cranny.
Carefully fill the jars with the hot brine until the cucumbers are completely covered. Remove any air bubbles by gently tapping each jar on the work surface and sliding a butter knife or chopstick around the inside to release any hidden air pockets. You may need to add more brine or cucumbers after doing this (the liquid should reach about 1 cm/1⁄2 in from the top of the jar). Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth or paper towel and seal. Heat-process (see page 255) for 10 minutes, then store in a cool, dark place. Although these pickles will keep for up to 12 months, they start to lose their crunch after about 6 months.
PREPARATION TIME: 10 minutes, plus overnight freezing
MAKES: 12 ice blocks
This is an easy recipe for the warmer months. We made these a lot for our kids when they were little, and now they make them on their own. You can do this with any kind of fruit compote, such as apricot and cardamom.
500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) mulberry compote
520 g (1 lb 21⁄2 oz/2 cups) natural yoghurt
honey, to taste - optional
Stir the mulberry compote into the yoghurt. Taste and add honey if you think it needs it - the mulberry compote already has honey in it, remember. Pour into ice-block moulds, then add paddle-pop sticks and freeze overnight.
PREPARATION TIME:20 minutes
STORAGE: several years
MAKES:2 x 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cup) jars
Every home cook should know how to make preserved lemons or limes - they're the most straightforward and cheapest of all the preserves. All you need is lemons or limes and salt!
Once you have a jar of these on the go, you'll wonder how you lived without them: use to pep up a white bean mash (see page 223), chard and wild greens pie (see page 204) or lamb tagine (see page 228), stir through aioli (see page 97), or smash into avocado and serve on toast.
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) lemons or limes - if using limes, you may need a few extra if they aren't particularly juicy
100-150 g (31⁄2-51⁄2 oz) salt
FOR EACH JAR OF PRESERVED LEMONS (OPTIONAL):
1 bay leaf or 1 cinnamon stick and 2 cloves
1 allspice berry
5 black peppercorns
FOR EACH JAR OF PRESERVED LIMES (OPTIONAL):
1 red chilli
1⁄2 teaspoon coriander seeds
5 black peppercorns
First sterilise your jars, then leave to cool completely.
Cut the lemons or limes into quarters, or halves if very small. Place a tablespoon of salt into the bottom of each jar. Put a few layers of lemon or lime quarters into the jar, pressing down as you go to release the fruit's juices.
Slide your chosen spices down the side of each jar. Sprinkle over another layer of salt, then add another layer of lemon or lime quarters and repeat these layers until the jar is full. Remember to keep pushing down as you go. The fruit needs to be completely covered in salty juice - if your fruit hasn't released enough of its own juices, squeeze a few extra and pour in this juice to cover.
Leave 1 cm (1⁄2 in) of space between the top of the fruit and the lid of the jar - you don't want the salty fruit touching the lid or it will corrode the metal. Seal the jars and let them sit in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks.
You know your lemons or limes are preserved when the salt has completely dissolved into a gel-like liquid. Preserved lemons and limes will keep for years, but opened jars are best stored in the fridge (if the top layer of fruit looks discoloured, just discard it and the rest should be fine to use).
PREPARATION TIME: 15 minutes
COOKING TIME:10 minutes
Farro is a spelt-like grain with a nutty flavour and chewy texture. Using it in a salad like this one makes for a great vegetarian summertime meal. Make sure you get the pearled sort: this has been de-hulled and undergone a process that makes it easier to cook and digest - it doesn't need soaking, you just boil it for 8-10 minutes. We like to cook grains al dente, so they retain their shape and nutrients. If you can't find farro, pearled barley is a good substitute.
While we love this as a main, it is also a great accompaniment to meats and fish. If you don't have hazelnuts on hand, almonds or toasted seeds will work just as well.
200 g (7 oz/1 cup) farro (pearled spelt), rinsed and drained
2 zucchini (courgettes), thinly sliced lengthways using a mandoline or very sharp knife
1⁄2 red onion, thinly sliced
6 prunes, pitted and finely chopped
50 ml (13⁄4 fl oz) apple balsamic vinegar, regular balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon dijon mustard
60 ml (2 fl oz/1⁄4 cup) vegetable oil
60 ml (2 fl oz/1⁄4 cup) olive oil
large handful (3⁄4 cup) mixed herb sprigs, such as mint, parsley and dill
50 g (13⁄4 oz/¹⁄³ cup) toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Put the farro into a large saucepan of salted boiling water. When the water comes back to the boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 8–10 minutes, or until the farro is cooked but still has a bite to it. Drain.
Meanwhile, combine the zucchini, onion and prunes in a bowl and add a pinch of salt to soften the raw zucchini.
To make a dressing for the salad, combine the vinegar, mustard and both the oils in a screw-top jar and season with salt and pepper. Put the lid on and shake well to emulsify.
Add the cooked farro to the zucchini, onion and prunes. Tear the herbs into smaller pieces, then add them to the salad along with the dressing, and toss gently to combine. Place the salad in a serving bowl or on plates and scatter over the hazelnuts.