The Best Fig Chutney in the World……ever!


We have approximately 15 fig trees of various types, white, black, yellow, bright green ( even when fully ripe) and one that has green and yellow stripes. This year they have been prolific. I’ve processed over 30 kgs so far, mostly drying them halved or whole. I’ve made fig and orange jam, which is so-so (and definitely not as good as the cherry or apricot jams I’ve made this year, or the marmalade). I made figs in balsamic vinegar (lovely) and took that a step further by making figs in homemade blackberry vinegar (heavenly) and then came across this recipe from A Mother in France blog site. Not only is this the best fig chutney ever, it’s about as close to Branston Pickle as you could get!

For any Brits living overseas who crave Branston but can’t find it this is the recipe to try – and believe me, I’ve tried every Branston copy cat recipe on the internet, none have come close.

 

Source: The Best Fig Chutney in the World……ever!

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Oranges are not the only fruit!

Another fruit that is abundant at this time of year in Portugal is the lemon. We don’t have any trees producing fruit yet but our neighbour, Augusto, has 2 huge trees and he stops by once a week with a bag of lemons for us. Last week the bag weighed at least 5 kilos, and we still had loads left from the previous week.
So today I zested and juiced half of them. The zest is in the freezer, to be used in cakes and desserts when needed. The juice has been made into a simple lemon sorbet, really easy to make, 1.5 cups of water, 2 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoon of zest, 2 cups of lemon juice. Boil the sugar, water and zest until the sugar has dissolved (takes a couple of minutes). Wait for that to cool and pour in the lemon juice.

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If you have an ice-cream maker, pour the mixture into that and follow the makers instructions, if not, put it into a large plastic or metal container that has a lid and put it in the freezer. Stir the mixture every 30 minutes till it’s completely frozen, or if you’re away from the house, Wait for it to freeze and then whizz it up in the food processor for a couple of minutes and put it back in the freezer until you want to eat it, simple!

I also sliced a few lemons to freeze for popping into drinks, just freeze on an open tray and store in a ziplock bag

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Tomorrow, lemon curd!

More on Oranges

I’m glad to say that the oranges are still going strong. The tangerines were the first to ripen back in December, and the navel oranges in the part of the garden that gets sun all day long, even in winter, were also ready to eat in December. We have a particularly bountiful tree that smells like chocolate when the leaves are brushed against, it’s wonderful.

We have orange trees growing in small clusters around each of our 4 wells, our farm was once 5 individual pieces of land, and each owner had obviously planted enough for their own family’s use. One piece of the land is shaded from the winter sun for most of the day by the tall rocks in the middle of our farm, and the oranges have only just started to ripen. They are lovely and juicy whereas the ones on all the other trees, whilst still edible, are dry in comparison ( similar to the ones you buy in the shops in the uk.  🙂 )

So I shall be picking and eating fresh oranges for 6 months of the year – yum!

 

Quinta update 2

Having been at the quinta now for a few months it transpires that we have many more trees than we first thought.

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Antonio, our vendor, told us that we have 260 olive trees. That’s a lot of trees, but unfortunately we didn’t get any oil this year. The olive harvest was bad all over our region, and our local press didn’t even bother to open. By the time we arrived on 28th November, all the trees were bare, and the olives on the ground. Hey ho – I’m sure next year we’ll have a bumper crop.

We have 4 mulberry trees, double what we originally thought, which is very good news, mulberries are nutritious and delicious, and chickens, ducks and pigs love them. I’ll make mulberry jam and the animals can eat the rest.

We have 15 fig trees, both white and purple varieties, 20 orange trees, mostly navel type, and they have no pips, which is great, and a few bright yellow ones ( no, they’re not lemons!). Additionally we have 12 tangerine type trees, mandarins, clementines, tangerines etc, not sure how to tell the difference. Some are really sweet and some are horrendously sour. 32 orange trees is probably double what we need as they are all heavily cropping, as you can see in the photo, so the plan is to chop down any that don’t taste good or keep well, and replant with other fruit.

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We also have one peach tree and one apple tree that fruited last year, and 3 fairly immature trees that appear to be cherry, and probably have grown from seeds dropped by birds, as they are in improbable harvesting positions. We’ll move those to the orchard when we know whether they are worth keeping.

Additionally, we’ve also planted some trees in December – 2 lemons, a lime, another peach, an apricot, 2 nectarines, 2 red plums and 2 dark/damson type plums. We intend to plant cherry, persimmon, pear, apple, avocado, elder, hazel, sweet chestnut, almond, kiwi and soft fruit bushes next autumn.

We have about 50 grape vines, and this years prunings have been stuck in the ground to create about 100 new plants. They will take about 3 years to started producing in useful quantities.

My wonderful nephew, Chris, bought me moringa seeds and ash seeds for Xmas, and I’ve sown some in cloches. The moringa for food and medicine, the ash to be coppiced for firewood.

I’ve counted around 5 hawthorn trees in the hedgerow, so will take cuttings of those. Hawthorn is good for hedging and the prunings make excellent firewood. The Haws are a great source of food for wild birds over winter, and apparently makes good jam. I hope it doesn’t taste like the Chinese haw sweets my girls loved when they were younger, they taste like putty

We have at least 30 oak trees at different ages and sizes, and a small coppice of mimosa, which I expected to be a problem, it’s incredibly invasive, but actually is great for firewood, one large mimosa log will burn all night, so they can stay and we’ll harvest the larger trunks for firewood and the smaller saplings for pea and bean supports.

Summer Fruits

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Pomelo, mangoes, star fruit and guavas – all picked this morning, unfortunately not from our garden but a gift from a neighbour.

I’m amazed at the types of fruit and veg that grow in this extreme summer heat, it’s still in the 40’s during the day. Our papayas and sweet limes are still going strong, as are the sweet potatoes.

Quinta da Bem Paz (or the Farm of Wellness and Peace)

So we’ve finally found and bought our smallholding in Portugal!

After several visits and dozens of viewings we came across the most charming small farm, with an outstanding view. The land is just perfect, it has everything we need (almost). Gently sloping, south facing, walled in granite all round, and although it needs repairing in places, is basically in very good condition. Lot’s of fresh water from 3 wells, strategically placed around the land, and best of all, a fresh water spring situated at the top of the land so that we can gravity feed fresh water to the house. A large pond, also at the top of the land, for rain-water catchment, which we may convert to a natural swimming pool in future, or maybe use to feed a series of smaller ponds and rice paddy down hill.

There are approximately 220 olive trees, so we’ll have a LOT of olive oil (guess what everyone’s getting for Xmas!), lots of grape vines, about 20 orange trees (why anyone would want that many oranges is beyond me) 3 fig trees, a couple of peach trees and best of all, 2 mulberry trees, one black, one white.

Wild blackberries are growing all around the perimeter wall, some of which we’ll keep, and some of which we’ll set the goats to clear. I spotted at least 2 hawthorn trees, and there are several cork oaks at various stages of maturity.

The house is very old and made from local granite stone, and whilst it’s basically habitable ( well one room is) it needs a lot of work. We intend to renovate in natural materials, and are very fortunate that there are 3 tumble-down animal houses on the land built from the same granite as the house, so we have some of the materials already to hand.

Here is a photo taken from the top of the land looking down towards the house

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We intend to plant more fruit trees this autumn – cherries, plums, nectarines, pomegranate, apples, pears, lemons and limes; kiwi fruit vines; almond and hazelnut trees; raspberry, blueberry, gooseberry and currant bushes. Apart from olive prunings, there’s no firewood on the land, so a priority this year will be to plant a woodland of ash to coppice to provide firewood in the future (about 7 years in the future). The lovely people we’ve bought the farm from are leaving us all their firewood, about 3 cords, so that will see us through this winter, and as most of the farms around us are abandoned, we may be able to ‘scrump’ some fallen trees in the spring.

So very excited to be starting yet another adventure! Tom will move to Portugal with the dogs in November, and I’ll continue living and working in Abu Dhabi for some time ( or until the building work is finished :))

Sweet Lime Marmalade

The sweet limes are finally ripening, and I picked a few kilos last weekend
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I first discovered sweet limes when we lived in India. They have a sweet/sour flavour, almost a cross between a lime and an orange, and the juice is sweet enough to drink without the addition of sugar. They also make fantastic marmalade and pickle.

So for my sweet lime marmalade I followed the standard marmalade making procedure, but only used half as much sugar as usual. The end result is a murky olive green, nothing like the day-glo lime green of the commercially made product, but it tastes so much better! It’s surprisingly tart (considering the fresh fruit isn’t) and actually tastes of real limes – I love it.

Off to pick some more now to make a hot pickle to go with curry.