Making Strawberry Jam

This Monday, I made strawberry jam for the first time.  It is always exciting to try new things – though I had made jam several times before, I had never tried making strawberry jam before.  I decided that I would chronicle the event with my camera (and have a little bit of photography practice at the same time :smile: ); here are some of the photos I took!

Juicy red strawberries – hulled, washed and ready to be made into jam.  We don’t actually have room to grow loads of strawberries, so these were bought from a local greengrocer.

My little ‘helper’ :-)  He was most sweet, saying things like “It’s got sugar in it” and “I can drop it very carefully.”  (The second referring to the lemon squeezer, though I gathered he meant ‘carry’ rather than ‘drop’!)  He tired of jam-making after a while and left me to go and play.

(Did I mention he was sweet?)

Jam in the making.  This jam was rather troublesome – it was determined to boil over.  As I didn’t let it boil over, it eventually burnt instead.  Oh well…

Despite it burning, the jam was delicious, but rather runny.  I was aware that getting the jam to set was likely to be tricky because of the low pectin content in the strawberries.  Perhaps next time I will try adding pectin, or even try making my own pectin extract from under-ripe apples to add to the jam (see this site for instructions on how to do this).  Not that anyone in my family seemed to mind the jam being a little runny.  The jar we opened certainly disappeared quickly enough!

Apricot and Almond Granola

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I have been meaning to post about this granola recipe for a while now.  It has become one of my favourite granola recipes – I find that the use of just oats (as opposed to a mixture of grains) makes a lighter granola than my other recipe, and it isn’t too nutty or seedy (like another recipe I have tried).  It makes a delicious breakfast, especially with yogurt.  So, because good things are for sharing, here is the recipe…

Apricot and Almond Granola

(roughly based on a recipe found here)

Ingredients:
8 cups oats
1 cup apricots, roughly chopped
1 – 1 1/2 cup almonds (or other nuts of choice)
1 cup mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, linseed, etc.)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup apple juice
1 cup dried fruit of choice (raisins, sultanas, or cranberries are all good)

To Make:
Mix the oats, chopped apricots, almonds, and seeds in a large baking tray and add the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Warm the oil, honey and apple juice in a small pan over a medium heat until just boiling.  Tip the oil and honey mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well to coat all the dry ingredients.  Bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes at 150°C/300°F until just beginning to brown.  Allow to cool before adding the dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container.

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Chocolate Mayonnaise Brownies

This is a recipe we tried a while ago, and really enjoyed! If you have never heard of mayonnaise in brownies before, you may think ‘yuk’ (unless you are like us and think, ‘how interesting; we’ll have to try them’!), but you can’t actually taste the mayonnaise when they are cooked. We have even fed them to guests, and the whole tray disappeared… and not a single question about the ingredients!

Chocolate Mayonnaise Brownies

Ingredients

  • 40g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 140g plain chocolate
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 110g mayonnaise
  • 55g walnuts, finely chopped (My sister says this isn’t enough walnuts, so you may want to increase the amount. You can also replace the walnuts with white chocolate chunks or nuts of your choice.)

To Make:

Lightly grease a 23cm square cake tine and line with baking paper. Sift the flour with the baking powder and cocoa.

Put the chocolate into a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of hot water and leave until melted (alternatively, microwave on medium power, stirring occasionally, until just melted).

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until slightly thickened. Whisk in the chocolate mixture.

Fold in the flour mixture, mayonnaise and walnuts. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven at 160°C for about 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

Recipes for Pumpkin Soup

Soup is delicious on cold wintry evenings; I especially enjoy thick smooth soups. These are two new recipes I have made recently… both have pumpkin in – courtesy of a massive pumpkin my mother purchased a few weeks ago! I was typing them up for my recipe collection (which is still very much in the making) and decided to share them here too. (Actually, I think it was more the other way round; I was typing them up for my blog, and thought I may as well add them to my recipe collection at the same time!)

Pumpkin Soup*

Ingredients

4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 kg pumpkin or squash
700 ml vegetable or chicken stock
142ml pot double cream (cream not being something we keep as a store cupboard ingredient, I substituted evaporated milk)

Heat half the olive oil in a large saucepan, then gently cook the onions for 5 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the pumpkin to the pan, then carry on cooking for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until it starts to soften and turn golden.

Pour the stock into the pan, then season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes until the squash is very soft. Pour the cream in to the pan, bring back to the boil, then puree with a hand blender. For an extra-velvety consistency you can now push the soup through a fine sieve into another pan. (I just blended the soup in batches in the food processor!)

Reheat before serving.  I also added cayenne pepper and a clove of garlic.

~~~

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup*

Ingredients

3 red peppers, deseeded and chopped (I only had one red pepper, so that’s how many went in!)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp sundried tomato puree
(I improvised here and used ordinary tomato puree and some sundried tomatoes.)
400g pumpkin, cubed
400g sweet potato, cubed
1 litre vegetable stock
(I used water, as I had no stock on hand.)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the sundried tomato puree, pumpkin, sweet potato and peppers. Cook for ten minutes, until just beginning to colour.

Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Pour the soup into a food processor and blend until smooth – you may have to do this in batches. Reheat before serving.

~~~

I served both soups with wholemeal croutons. They were delicious, and I didn’t notice the lack of milk in the second; it was deliciously smooth and creamy without!

*original recipe here
*original recipe from Sainsbury’s “Fresh Ideas” magazine

Making Fudge

Chocolate fudge, no less! This is one (rare) example of sweet-making success in our house. making fudge 1

Place butter, milk, chocolate, and sugar in a pan.

making fudge 2
Stirring the mixture. It always helps to have willing helpers!

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Attach the sugar thermometer…

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Beating the mixture; another willing helper is pictured here!

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Pour into the tin; leave to set.

the finished result!

The finished result!

We made the fudge on Tuesday. It was all gone long ago!