Beautiful blackberries

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Post by Luca: As it reaches Autumn millions of blackberries appear as if out of nowhere. However, people just ignore them! Picking blackberries is so fun and is an old-fashioned summer activity.

Here are my tips on picking blackberries

– It is highly remarkable that stinging nettles are always by blackberry bushes! Mind out for the nettles! [If you do get stung, look for doc leaves nearby – large green leaves which help the sting.]

– Only pick squashy black blackberries otherwise they aren’t ripe.

– Don’t pick blackberries below knee height in case dogs have wee’d on them!!!

What you can do with blackberries

– Tarts/ pies/ crumbles – add a bit of apple to liven it up and some sugar.

– Smoothies/ juices – squash the blackberries then add yoghurt for a smoothie/ water for juice.

 Post by Luca’s mum:

We’ve been out and about walking much more since we got a puppy in April and on our walks we started spotting blackberries ready and ripe for picking as early as the end of July. We’ve had bags and bags full and Luca and other children who’ve been on walks with us have had great fun picking out the best ones. We’ve made a gorgeous berry smoothie with Greek yoghurt and milk, compotes and a tart. All very easy ways to use them up and (mostly) quite healthy too.

Where to find blackberries

You don’t have to venture to the countryside to spot them – they can often be found in brambly hedges in urban green spaces too.  As Luca said there are often nettles and prickly twigs around where you pick them so it’s worth wearing thick, long trousers such as jeans if this bothers you!

And don’t forget some secure Tupperware type boxes or food bags to collect and store them in.

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About a sprout

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These little green beauties have a DREADFUL reputation and we think it’s totally unfair. Why not give them a proper try so you know for yourself? They’re not bad at all – in fact we actually like them a lot in our house. Not convinced? You know the rules of Fab Fun Food Club – you have to at least try them, even if you find they genuinely are not for you. You might be surprised and they are very good for you, well apart from the fact they might make some of you FART (they only seem to do that to the dad in our family…yuck!!!)  You have been warned…

What are they?

Brussels sprouts are leafy green, small vegetables that look like mini-cabbages.  This is no coincidence as they are in fact related to cabbages. Think of it like a kind of vegetable family with cabbages being the parents and the sprouts being the kids. They are also related to broccoli and cauliflower – the cousins perhaps.

We’re not 100% sure why they have the Brussels bit in their name (Brussels is a city in Belgium if you didn’t know already) but it could be because they originated there or lots are grown there or they are very popular there.

Sprouts grow on stalks and if you look in a good greengrocer or the veg section in a larger supermarket they might sell them like this, although more often they are taken off the stalks and put into net bags. If you can, get your grown-up to buy the ones on stalks at least once as they will usually be fresher.

Clever people who know a lot about food, called nutritionists, often describe sprouts as a ‘super food’ as they are so good for you. They are absolutely jam-packed with nutrients – things you eat that help your body stay healthy.  Some of these are vitamins and some are minerals such as iron. You might well have read or been told, for example, that oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C. Pah to that though – these little sprout guys would totally win in a fight with oranges about how much vit C they have – boasting levels three times higher.

What are they used for?

They are part of a traditional British Christmas lunch but we think they shouldn’t just be kept for Christmas. Enjoy them all year as a side dish/ veg with whatever else you are eating.

Ready to try them?

The good old-fashioned way:

Now the key here is to cook them properly – or to not over-cook them in fact – as then they don’t taste very good and that is probably why some people don’t like them. Boil your sprouts for about 5 to 10 minutes, no more. It’s a case of sticking a fork’s prongs into them and checking that it will go in but that they are not too soft.

One for sprout-haters:

Slice your sprouts finely and stir-fry or pan fry them in a little olive oil for about ten minutes. You can also add garlic or bacon or both. They are quite different to the ‘good old-fashioned boiled sprout’ this way.

Make a meal of them:

If you fancy something different to just a pile of sprouts, how about this yummy recipe for ‘Roasted Sprout Gratin with Bacon and Cheese‘ on the fabulous BBC Food site? It’s a lovely cheesy sprout bake.

Enjoy those sprouts…

Come on Camembert!

Tricky to say this one. Came-em-bert (as in the name Bert) is not right. Cam-em-ber is probably as good a description of its pronunciation as we’ll manage. The key is, you don’t say the ‘t’ at the end. It might get a bit confusing though if you’re a guy called Bert (saying the ‘t’) eating Camembert (without the ‘t’). Anyway, however you say it, it’s a regular dinner thing in our house – we love it and we hope you will too.

What is it?

Camembert is a French cheese. It’s creamy in the middle with a white outside edge that’s a bit ‘chalky’. It’s sort of goo-ey and soft and just flipping delicious. It was first made in a town called…Camembert in the area of Normandy in Northern France about 200 years ago (so quite a long ago and definitely WAY before the invention of Cheese Strings and Dairylea then).

What’s quite unusual about Camembert is the way it’s wrapped up and sold. Normally most cheeses are put into some sort of plasticky, waxy wrapping whereas Camembert is sold in a little round wooden box. The boxes are quite useful for one of our recipes (see below).

Clearly, it’s going to be in the cheese section. Note to parents: you’re best to stick with a pasteurised milk Camembert given your children are eating it. The main big brands such as President and Le Rustique are pasteurised.

What is it used for?

Well like most cheese, you can eat it on its own with bread or crackers but it’s also sometimes baked or added as an ingredient to recipes…talking of which…here are our recipes!

Ready to try food three? Recipes for Camembert…

THE VERY SIMPLE ONE: Baked Camembert in the Box

This is absolutely fab! It’s so easy that we made the ‘recipe’ up but to be honest, we’re not sure it really counts as a recipe.

Take one Camembert round out of the box but keep the box. Discard any plastic wrapping.

Put the oven on (well get your grown-up to do this depending on how old you are) – about 200degrees C.

Take the Camembert and slice a very fine layer of the white waxy rind off on the top. Put the Camembert back in the bottom half of its box and then put this on a small baking tray with reasonably high sides (not one of those totally flat ones in case of any cheesy overflow!). The chopped off side should be on top like this:

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If you have one of those olive oil sprays, spray a bit of this on the top. If not drizzle about a teaspoon worth from the bottle onto the cheese. Then bake your Camembert for about ten to fifteen minutes.

It will come out looking like this:

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If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you could squish a clove of garlic and some sprigs of thyme in the top before baking it.

Once it’s done, take a little care initially as the melted cheese could be really hot. Serve it with lovely fresh crusty bread which you can all dip inside the cheese. If you’re a bit cheeky, you could tip a spoonful or two of the melty cheese into your soup if you have some. YUM!!!

NOW YOU’VE TRIED THIS CHAMPION OF CHEESES ONCE, HERE’S ANOTHER IDEA…

If you liked it, check this recipe out- it takes mushrooms and a few other bits and pieces and adds camembert slices. It’s not going to be your main dinner of the day on its own but could make a good family lunch or smaller supper.

THE MUSHROOMY ONE:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mushroomsstuffedwith_87956

Note: parents of more cautious kids could leave out the coriander.

Go with the mango!

Have a go with mango…

These fruity beauties are a huge favourite in the FFF household. We have a few friends and relatives who live in India and Dolly used to wonder why on earth they would cart a huge crate of mangoes all the way to the UK using their already struggling luggage allowance for the flight. Then she tried them and it all became clear. Tropical tastiness! Velvety fruitiness!

As a fruit, you’ve guessed it, you’ll find them in the fruit and veg section of the supermarket. Be careful when choosing one because if the mango is hard it won’t be ready to eat immediately which will mean you have to delay trying them and therefore wait for your next FFF points!

Your ideal mango should be very slightly squashy when you press it on the outside.

They are a little messy so make sure that they don’t come into contact with any pale clothes or your mum and dad might not be best pleased…

You will gain another FAB FUN FOOD CLUB point for trying them! (We’ll tell you more about this soon but the more foods you try, the more points you’ll get and this will work towards certificates your parents can print for you).

What are they?

Mangoes are a fairly large fruit that grow on trees. They grew in India originally but over the years, other tropical countries have caught onto their loveliness and started growing them too. They are still the national fruit of India (now there’s a question, does the UK have a national fruit?)

What are they used for?

Mainly an ingredient in puddings, they also make a super snack and sometimes get used in salads and main courses.

OK ready to try them? Here are your ideas and recipes for food 2: mangoes:

YOU’RE NOT A FOOL IF YOU TRY MANGO FOOL

Very, very easy to make. This one might take just a few minutes.

http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/475337/Quick-mango-fool

A MANGOTASTIC DRINK

http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/2732/mango-smoothie.aspx

Remember nothing ventured nothing gained is our motto at FFF. If you don’t like them, you won’t have lost anything.

FOOD ONE! Capers!

Capers

So, capers. Luca loves them, Dolly isn’t so sure. You won’t know whose side to take until you try them. Nothing ventured nothing gained could be our motto at FFF. If you don’t like them, you won’t have lost anything really. If you do think they’re at least okay, well, you’ll be able to look all sophisticated in front of the grown-ups. Whichever, you will gain your first FAB FUN FOOD CLUB points! (We’ll tell you more about this soon but the more foods you try, the more points you’ll get and this will work towards certificates your parents can print for you).

They seem a bit like peas but these little green things are quite different. In the supermarket, you’ll find them in jars, probably near the olives, which in turn are probably near the condiments (fancy pants word for sauces – ketchup, mustard, vinegar and the like).

What are they?

We’ve consulted our enormous foodie encyclopaedia (what old people like your parents used to use to find out about things before Google and the internet were invented) and they are actually ‘immature’ (not very old) flower buds from the caper bush which grows in Mediterranean countries (ones a lot of us like to go on holiday to such as Italy and Spain). The caper buds are picked and then either put into brine (salty water), vinegar or packed with sea salt (that salt that has bigger chunks than the type you’d put on chips).

What are they used for?

Capers are unusual little things taste-wise. They are sort of tangy and work really well to make a creamy sauce more interesting. Probably the most common food they get put with is smoked salmon.

OK ready to try them? Here are your ideas and recipes:

The swanky one: Smoked Salmon and capers.

This is really easy but a bit expensive. If your parents don’t want to buy proper smoked salmon, ‘trimmings’ are cheaper. You could make a sandwich with the smoked salmon, some lovely creamy Philadelphia cheese and a few capers for good luck!

The fishy one: fish in caper butter sauce.

This is a doddle – quick, easy and with only a few ingredients.

What you need:

– one piece of white fish such as cod or tilapia per person (filleted) – the quantities below assume four servings.

–  two tablespoons of butter (ideally slightly salted but if it’s unsalted that’s fine)

– olive oil (about a tablespoon’s worth)

– two tablespoons of capers

– salt and freshly-milled pepper.

What to do:

1. Rub the fish with a quick sprinkling of salt and black pepper. Pour a lug (about a tablespoon’s worth) of olive oil into a baking tray with steep sides or an oven dish. Drag each fish fillet through the olive oil so it gets a light coating.

2. Chop the butter into chunks or smear it fairly evenly onto each fish fillet.

3. Sprinkle the capers fairly evenly onto the fish.

4. Bake in the oven for around 15 to 20 minutes at 180 degrees c.

5. Check the fish is white and opaque rather than clear and you’re good to go.

6. Serve this with some baby new potatoes or rice and veg, drizzling the lovely buttery sauce at the bottom of the tray or dish over the fish and the potatoes/ rice.

What’s great about this recipe is that even if you do find that someone in the family is not keen on the capers, it’s really easy to pick them out. It’s the trying that counts at FFF!

The ‘we all love pasta’ one:

We’re cheating here and going to link to this one for those of you who don’t mind proper chunks of tomato in your sauces:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/5069/cherry-tomato-and-caper-spaghetti

This is one for those of you who prefer your tomatoes squashed and sauced:

http://www.nottapasta.com/index.php?page=recipe&id=90 (note we have no links to this company or any other we just like this recipe).

AND FINALLY

Here is a link to some more recipes if you catch the caper bug!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/capers