Kentish Cobnut cake with apple compote - a marriage made in autumn

It seems like in a weeks time the days have started to get more chilly and shorter. The trees are starting to shake off their leaves and we are greeted by cobnuts, apples and plums. Autumn is definitely upon us.

Last week I walked in a sunny meadow in Kent wearing a summer dress and red dancing shoes, today I'm packing a warm cardigan for London where I will stay with friends for a few days to attend this years food blogger conference. This time away from the hectic magazine deadlines and the company of like-minded food lovers from all over the globe will warm me with a fire of creativity.

In Kent, my mission was to find the 'Kentish cob' which is a type of hazelnut that has been grown in England since Tudor times and perhaps even earlier. The Victorians considered the Kentish cobnuts to be a delicacy and therefore are responsible for planting 7000 acres of cobnut orchard or 'plats'.
Like the cherry orchards, after first world war the amount of cobnut plats in Kent was
drastically decreased to no more than 730 acres with a further decline to 250 acres today.
Unlike most hazelnuts, cobnuts are sold fresh and not dried. They are in season from the end of august through october.
At the beginning of the season the husks are green and the kernels very juicy, further into the season when the nuts have ripened the husks and shells are brown and the flavour has developed further to the hazelnut taste that we are used too.

This cake has a wonderful nutty flavour, together with the apple compote the flavours are a marriage made in autumn. Just glorious cake.

Kentish cobnut cake
traditional Kentish recipe adapted from English Teatime Recipes

Raspberry Vinegar - Summer in a bottle

As the end of summer is approaching I feel the urge to start preserving things for the winter months to come.
I made Cherry brandy to enjoy at the christmas holidays and next week the damsons are going into the copper kettle to become a gooey jam to use in pies.
This is how I hang on to those months when we had plenty of light and warmth from the sun, colorful delicate fruits at the market and fresh strawberries on our bread.
Summer in a bottle or a jar.
When autumn has deprived us of the last of the warm days, I will make a salad with perhaps some quail and walnuts, this raspberry vinegar will be used to drizzle the green leaves with a radiant red color. Like blood it will be dripping on my plate and I will remember the summers day when I bought the raspberries at a farmshop in Kent and the lunch we had after we strolled trough the little village by the sea. The Cider vinegar came from a road trip to the Cheddar gorge on my parents 35th anniversary and is the tastiest I've ever found. Memories are stored in this bottle if you like, if you are as romantic about it as me. 

This recipe for Raspberry vinegar is fuss free and takes minutes to make, you only need to let the vinegar rest for 4-6 days before you strain and bottle it.
I used Isabella Beeton's 1860's recipe as a guide and amended where needed. As she uses a lot of sugar in hers, I didn't in mine and I find the vinegar doesn't need it.

Raspberries are a rich source of vitamin C, B, iron and magnesium. Up to 20 percent of their total weight is made up of fiber and they are also high in antioxidants. The leaves of the raspberry plant have been used for medicinal purposes for generations.

Raspberry and Strawberry Fool - A treat enjoyed by the Elizabethans?

I started my second year in Culinary school this week. It's going to be tough again combining this with my day job as a graphic designer. It always seems that the one day I can't seem to get away from the office in time is the evening I have Culinary school to rush over to. I love the experience, the knowledge passed on to us by the chefs. I'm the student with the questions, the never ending enthusiasm, with the jokes and the loud giggles. Lessons always end with dinner, bottles of wine are opened and if we're lucky a fellow student Jean, otherwise known as 'the butcher' has brought some of his home made port. We have a good time, have a laugh, a taste and a discussion about food. Our class is always the last to remain in the building and we leave the school grounds with rosy cheeks and a little bit pie-eyed.

The weekend has started and it's time to enjoy the last of the summer weather. I found some fleshy raspberries and strawberries at a carboot sale in Kent and I decided to prepare a 'Fool'. When researching this dish I wanted to find out about the origin of the term 'Fool'. 
A fool, is a dessert made by blending pureed tarty fruits - most commonly Gooseberries - with sweetened cream but it seems the exact origin of the name of this dish is lost in time.

A lot of modern recipes for Fruit Fools state the dish dates back as far as the 16th century. There is a recipe for Trifle in 'The Good Huswifes Jewel' by Thomas Dawson written in 1596. The recipe goes as follows:

Take a pint of thick cream, and season it with sugar and ginger, and rose water. So stir it as you would then have it make it luke warm in a dish on a chafing dish and coals. And after put it into a silver piece or a bowl, and so serve it to the board.