The rowan berries are ripe, the bright pink and red bunches weighing their branches down. Its a good year for them. Not for everything, though. The pyracanthus, a real dazzler last year - hardly a thing. Nor the giant pear tree in front of the house. Last year, the pavement was a serious danger with fallen and rotting pears. This year, no such luck. We saw a woman stop her car and load the little beggars that were lying under the tree into her car, and I had to smile. I know what they're like: truly vile.
So off to forage in the early autumn evening for rowan berries. They are so beautiful, and some trees so laden, that it becomes a bit compulsive. I have promised myself some rowan jelly for years now, but it's quite difficult to get hold of them. It feels mean to deny the birds. But this year, the birds can SHARE. The only advice I could find on how to tell if rowans are ripe was when they are are "bitter, but not too bitter". Thanks. Also, apparently, they are best after the first frost, so into the freezer for an hour or so. Please work. I just threw out six little jars of damson jelly. I found the damsons at the farmer's market, but I over-boiled them, and the jelly became dark toffee. The hardest part of the whole job was trying to get the gloop out of the jars again.
So it's a gentle boil this time, and the jelly turns out just perfectly soft enough, and the colour is perfectly jewel-like and divine. But remember the "bitter but not TOO bitter...."? Yup. Too bitter.
Well that was a lot of work for nothing, so for dinner, I decided to go simple. We'd bought a very nice-looking coiled Italian sausage at the market, so I jolly well put it in a dish, chucked a tin of rinsed cannellini beans into it, then (you can tell I was feeling a bit fed up) just threw in some tomato sauce I had in the freezer, then baked it uncovered for 30 minutes or so.It was one of the best dishes we've ever had! How rustic does that look? The sausage comes from March House Farm, and it is very good. The sauce is one I made when I had too many tomatoes a month ago. I had a couple of different varieties, and the so, so simple recipe goes like this: Fry lots of chopped onions in a little oil, when very soft, add about four whole garlic cloves, tomato puree, a teaspoon of sugar, as many chopped tomatoes as you can, and a giant handful of chopped basil, stalks and all. Salt and pepper. Cover, and allow to bubble gently for ages. You want everything very soft Then: the bit that elevates this sauce into something memorable. Push the whole lot through a sieve. Hard work by hand, but keep going. Every last bit. The sauce transforms into a velvety, biting and unctuous sauce that you can keep in the freezer, then just throw onto the simplest thing - and boom! That's sweet.