Pickles grace season's fare

Last updated 08:44 04/12/2012

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Here are a couple of our favourite pickles, both are easy to prepare and perfect for summer. They are great to serve as part of a platter with ham or other cold meats, cheeses etc, or, they make great homemade Christmas gifts.

The Sweetcorn Pickle is an amazing colour and is particularly easy as it used canned corn so most of the hard work has been done, while the Christmas Pickle, a perennial favourite, looks particularly festive. Both recipes will make 3-4 cups of pickle.

SWEETCORN PICKLE

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 tsp each celery seed* and turmeric

1 1/2 cups wine vinegar

4 cups canned corn kernels

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp cornflour

2 tsp each mustard powder and salt

Measure the first seven ingredients into a large saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes then add the corn. Bring back to the boil.

Mix the sugar, cornflour, mustard and salt to a thin cream with more vinegar, stir in and bring back to the boil again. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, then bottle. Top with metal lids or preserving seals.

CHRISTMAS PICKLE

8 cups (2 litres) diced telegraph cucumber

1/4 cup plain salt

4 onions, diced

2-3 red peppers, diced

3 cups sugar

1 tsp each celery and mustard seed

2 cups wine vinegar

2-3 Tbsp cornflour

Halve cucumbers lengthwise then scoop out the central seedy part, using a teaspoon. Without removing the peel, cut cucumber flesh into small, evenly shaped cubes.

Measure cucumber into a glass, plastic or stainless steel container. Sprinkle with salt and leave to stand for 30 minutes, stirring several times. Drain and rinse, discarding the liquid.

Cut the onions and peppers into cubes the same size as the cucumber. Put prepared cucumber, onion, peppers, sugar, celery and mustard seeds and vinegar into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil stirring constantly. Mix cornflour with a little extra vinegar and stir into the cucumber mixture.

Pour into hot jars that have been cleaned and heated in the oven. If jars have plastic screw lids or lacquered metal lids, pour boiling water over them and leave to stand for a few minutes, then screw them on to the hot jars of pickle. Pickles which are stored in the refrigerator do not need to be sealed.

*Celery seed seems to have disappeared from supermarket shelves, but can be found in speciality stores.

EASY STRAWBERRY TART

'Greater than the sum of the parts' is the phrase that springs to mind when we make this tart! It looks impressive, and while there are several steps involved, it really is very simple to make. The only actual cooking involved is blind baking the pastry - which can hardly be called complicated.

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We think it actually looks its best if you use smaller fruit, which may mean you have to be a little selective when choosing your punnets.

For one 25cm tart

1 sheet sweet short pastry

1 packet lemon jelly

1/2 cup boiling water

1 cup (250g) cream cheese

1 packet strawberry jelly*

1 cup hot water

2 punnets strawberries

Preheat the oven to 180'C. Roll the pastry out and ease it into a 23cm flan tin. Prick the bottom at 3cm intervals with a fork, then line the pastry shell with a sheet of baking paper and fill it with about 1cm dry rice or beans (we keep the same rice in a jar in the pantry and use it over and over again). Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges are golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Tip the lemon jelly crystals into a medium sized jug or bowl, add the boiling water and stir until the jelly crystals dissolve, then stand the bowl in a sink of cold water until cooled to about room temperature. Add the cream cheese to the bowl and beat until smooth.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the pastry shell and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until set.

Dissolve the strawberry jelly in one cup of hot water, then stand the bowl in cold water like you did the lemon jelly. You will need to keep an eye on the jelly, and stir it occasionally, but when it starts to thicken (10-20 minutes) it is ready to use.

Hull and halve the strawberries. When the jelly thickens, tip in the prepared strawberries. Stir them gently to coat with jelly, then arrange them in rings over the surface of the tart. Pour on enough of the jelly to cover any 'gaps', then refrigerate until set. Serve with lightly whipped cream or icecream.

- Taranaki Daily News

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