Friday, 1 July 2011

Mud, mud glorious mud!

After empty promises that June was going to be the hottest month since records began (déjà vu anyone?), it’s proved to be unsurprisingly cold and wet.  The last two weeks have seen me (in a hungover mess but that’s another story), frantically checking any number of weather forecasts gauging just how wet the Glastonbury weekend was going to be.  After my brother’s numerous horror stories about “the year the toilets flooded”, I found myself (as usual) trying to ensure fine weather by sheer force of will.

Unfortunately, although my positive mental attitude kept the thunder clouds at bay for most of the weekend, Friday was dire.  Followed by a dryish Saturday and a mini-heatwave on Sunday the whole festival ground to a sticky halt as the already viscous mud dried to the consistency of super glue.  Abandoned wellies littered the area like a welly graveyard.  Brown rivers of sludgy mud meandering their way around campsites, flowing down into a sea of gummy muck around the main stage areas. 

This was my fourth trip to this musical Mecca and as ever the food was a large part of the experience for me.  Glastonbury is full of an amazing array of food stalls from fry-ups and burger vans to my personal favourites: curry goat; sausage and mash; and British-made chorizo in a bun (of course I want the full monty... what's in it?).  My favourite new discovery was a North African stall, situated next to my much-loved Goan fish curry booth.  I’ve never managed to drag myself the four extra paces through the intoxicating curry aroma to try it before - the venture was well worth it!

This year, worried about my phone’s battery life, I decided to go old school and get a watch. Bearing in mind it was Glastonbury, a cheapo £5 one was the way to go.  What value for money!  Not content only telling the time it also had the obligatory alarm (which didn’t seem to correspond to any tangible time pattern, and I still can’t figure out how to turn off), a light, and a stopwatch too (simple things...simple minds?). 

The stopwatch led to hours of entertainment in the form of "ten-minute timeouts".  Between the main acts, we partook in organised fun.  Ten minutes in a tent learning to Bangra dance (screw in those light bulbs!), salsa lessons, improvised group limbo outside a light-up Stone Henge, and somehow (don’t ask me how we stumbled into this one!) a transvestite strip club.

In previous years, four days of surviving on excessive amounts of warm Strongbow (which I believe has limited nutritional value) meant I left the festival feeling in need of a health overhaul.  I decided this time to add a much needed health kick and take some form of treat with me.  Last year I took homemade fudge... in the middle of the hottest Glastonbury ever with no way of keeping anything cool it was a massive error!

Initially I struck upon the idea of making hedgerow fruit pastels, but as I was short on time I couldn’t quite manage to fit them in.  Then I remembered reading a Jamie Oliver recipe for dried fruit gums, and decided to try them out instead. 

Usually fruit leather/fruit gum/fruit pastel recipes start life as a thick puree.  This is then blended and dried slowly in a low-temperature oven.  Depending on the fruit you can either use a little sugar in the mix or oftentimes the addition of apple is enough to sweeten it sufficiently.  In this case, the recipe uses dried fruit which already has concentrated sugar levels so I left it without any additions.

First, measure out and mix any combination of dried fruit.  I made three vaieties: apricot, berry cherry and prune.

Blend the dried fruit on a high speed until it comes together into a sticky ball.

Next scrape the puree out into an ovenproof dish which has been lined with oiled baking parchment.  And flatten it until it reaches a uniform thickness of approximately 1/4 inch.

Bake in the oven on the lowest temperature for several hours or overnight.  I couldn’t lower the temperature enough on my oven to leave them overnight so tried to cook them at a higher temperature for less time (constantly juggling them around the oven).  It was very difficult to keep an eye on the berry and prune gums as they were black and so hard to spot if they were discolouring.  The apricot gums definitely came out better as they were easier to gauge. 

The gums are finished when still soft but firm.  Peel the paper backing off, and cut into bite sized pieces.  I chose to have squares but Jamie also suggests using cookie cutters.

Roll each piece in golden caster sugar until coated.

Store in an airtight container.

I ended up eating most of them on the drive down.  Disappointingly, I discovered the infamous one-speed oven had burnt the edges, ruining the taste of a large percentage of them.  But the ones which remained unscathed were great. 

Now that I'm home, I have finally waded my way through all the work emails from my time off... wading through mud was much more fun!  Sadly next year there won’t be a festival so I won't need a new oven until 2013 when I will be trying these again.  Next time I think I’ll try Waitrose’s fruit leather recipe.

Fruit Ratios:
100% Apricot
25% Sour Cherry, 25% Blueberry, 50% Cranberry
100% Prune with a sprinkling of cinnamon


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