Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Preserved plums

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

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washed plums in an aluminium colander

Justin’s parents’ neighbours have a few different fruit trees in their garden. In the past couple of years, we’ve had some of the harvest. Last year we made spiced apple chutney, the year before apple cheese. This year, we picked almost 5 kilos of plums – the sweetest, ripest plums we’d ever tasted!

spiced plum chutney ingredients

We both ate half a dozen each in a couple of days but we would never be able to work our way through many before before they began to get over-ripe. I’d already made jars upon jars of fruit jam & jelly this year, so I turned half into spiced plum chutney and half into plum jam.

bottled spiced plum chutney

I used recipes from the good old Cordon Bleu Preserving recipe book for both.

stoning plums

The job of stoning was a monotonous, boring job but the resulting preserves were well worth the toil!

plums with spice mixture

When the chutney was cooking the house was filled with the most delicious smell – I wish I could bottle that alone!

Here’s the spiced plum chutney recipe:

1⅓kg/3lb plums
1tbs ground ginger
1tbs ground allspice
2tbs ground mustard seeds
2tbs dried chilli flakes
10 cloves
30g/1oz salt
425ml/¾pt white malt or white wine vinegar
450g/1lb soft brown sugar

  1. Wash & stone the plums and put them in a pan with the ginger, allspice, mustard seeds and chilli flakes
  2. Tie the cloves in a muslin bag and add to the pan
  3. Add the salt and 300ml/½pt of the vinegar
  4. Simmer gently until the plums are soft (about 3 hours)
  5. Put the sugar into a large measuring jug/basin with the remaining vinegar and leave to dissolve. Add to the plums when cooked
  6. Bring to the boil and allow to boil gently until thick (about another 2 hours)
  7. Pour into warm, sterilised jars and screw down immediately
  8. Leave for 4-5 weeks before using

softened plums in a saucepan

And here’s the jam recipe

2.75kg/6lb plums
300ml/½pt water
3kg/6½lb granulated or preserving sugar

  1. Wash the plums, cut them in half and remove the stones
  2. Tie half the stones in muslin
  3. Place the fruit in a preserving pan with the water and cook gently until tender
  4. Add the sugar and heat gently until dissolved
  5. Add the bag of stones
  6. Boil rapidly for about 25 minutes or until the jam sets when tested
  7. Remove the bag of stones and pour the jam into warm, dry sterilised jars. Cover and tie down

plum jam boiling in a saucepan

It’s a deliciously sweet accompaniment to morning croissants.

croissant with plum jam

Cakes & Bakes: Skillet cornbread

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

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sliced skillet cornbread

When I was researching skillet cornbread recipes online, I learned that there are some strong beliefs about what is and isn’t ‘proper’ skillet cornbread. There are lots of heated debates going on on some food blogs!

Some people are purists, saying that it’s made with just cornmeal, buttermilk and egg in a smoking skillet with bacon grease; no wheat flour and no ‘extras’! Others see nothing wrong with adding sugar, corn kernels, jalapeños, avocado, bacon, cheese, honey…

Maybe it’s because I’m not an American from the Deep South, I’m not averse to adding a few extras. I also like slicing it horizontally while it’s still warm and slathering it with butter. Is that wrong or do they do that in Louisiana too?

Cakes & Bakes: Skillet cornbread

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: Serves 6-8

Cakes & Bakes: Skillet cornbread


  • 1 fresh jalapeño chilli
  • 2tbs vegetable oil
  • 225g/8oz fine cornmeal (polenta)
  • 50g/2oz plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 corn cob
  • 1 egg
  • 250g/9oz buttermilk


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/
  2. Finely slice the chilli - do not remove the seeds
  3. In the skillet, using 1 tbs of the vegetable oil, fry the chopped chilli over a low heat until softened. Remove from the skillet and set aside
  4. Sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl
  5. Slice the kernels from the cob and add to the dry mixture
  6. Add the cooked chilli
  7. Gently whisk the egg with the buttermilk before adding it to the mixture
  8. Stir the mixture until well combined
  9. Heat the skillet with the remaining 1tbs vegetable oil on the stove-top over a high heat
  10. Add the mixture, using a spatula to spread it evenly in the skillet
  11. Put the skillet into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the top begins to lightly brown
  12. Allow to cool slightly before slicing & serving

Etsy List: Get your bake on!

Monday, August 18th, 2014

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'Get your bake on!' Etsy List by H is for HomeAnother year, another series of Great British Bake Off. We never get fed up of following it – we’re hooked! We’ve already got a favourite baker and decided on the one we think will win.

Mel & Sue are a great double act and there’s such a chemistry between Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

We think the people who enter the competition are very brave. The heat, the pressure and the high standards and withering looks of the judges – no thank you!

Get your bake on!
Curated by H is for Home

Canned blackcurrants

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

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Colander of blackcurrants

I’ve preserved all our other allotment and foraged fruit in one way or another – raspberry jelly, redcurrant relish, rose hip syrup. I thought this time I’d give canned blackcurrants a go. Home canning (in glass jars that is!) is much more popular in the US than it is here in the UK, but I’ve always fancied giving it a go.

Canning, according to Wikipedia, “Is a method of preserving food in which the food contents are processed and sealed in an airtight container. Canning provides a shelf life typically ranging from one to five years, although under specific circumstances it can be much longer.”

Some websites I’ve visited say you need special equipment; a big stove-top canner – much like a pressure cooker – for starters. A jar rack, jar lifter, funnel… In practice, the only foodstuffs that need to be canned in a high pressure canner are meat, seafood, dairy and most vegetables (sweet tasting ones such as carrots, beetroot, sweetcorn, peas and beans). Fruit (which is what I’ll mainly be canning) and acidic vegetables can be done using the water bath method in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. It’s not absolutely necessary for them to reach the 116-130ºC temperature necessary for the first group of foods.

I used utensils I already had to hand. Aforementioned heavy bottomed pan. A jam thermometer to be perfectly sure the water bath got to the optimum temperature. A funnel to make sure the little berries didn’t bounce all over the floor and under the kitchen cabinets as I tried to pour them into the jars. A wire cooling rack to keep the jars from rattling against the bottom of the saucepan during boiling. A pair of tongs to lift the jars out of the hot water. Some vintage Mason-type jars with new rubber seals. It is important that jars are in perfect condition with no chips or ill-fitting lids. If they aren’t they won’t be air-tight and contents will spoil and may prove a health risk!

Here’s the method…

Canned blackcurrants

Canned blackcurrants


  • At least 500g freshly picked blackcurrants. Use only perfect fruit - no bruised, over-ripe berries need apply!
  • For the sugar syrup
  • 1 part sugar to 2.5 parts water (e.g. 200g granulated sugar to 500ml water)


  1. Sterilise the jars & lids - you can do this by putting them into a large saucepan and covering them with water and bringing it to the boil. Once it boils, turn off the heat and leave them in the hot water until you're ready to use them
  2. Top & tail and rinse the fruit well in a colander
  3. Decant the fruit into the sterilised jars (using a funnel if you have one). Leave a space of about 2.5cm/1inch from the rim of the jar
  4. Put your sugar and water into a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat
  5. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat
  6. Carefully pour the hot sugar syrup over the fruit - enough to completely cover the fruit but leaving a gap of 1.25cm/½inch to the rim of the jar
  7. Remove any air bubbles using a plastic or wooden knife (like the ones you get from a take-away)
  8. Screw the lids onto the jars firmly, but not too tightly
  9. Put a wire cooling rack into the base of a large heavy-bottomed saucepan (if you don't have one or the one you have doesn't fit - use a folded tea towel)
  10. Put the jars into the saucepan and fill the saucepan with enough hot water to completely cover the jars by at least 2.5cm/1inch. Make sure there's at least 5cm/2inches gap to the top of the saucepan; if there isn't you'll need a larger pan
  11. Put a lid on the saucepan
  12. Bring the water to a low, rolling boil. Once it gets to this point, boil at this level for a further 15 minutes
  13. Turn off the heat and carefully remove the jars using a jar lifter or metal tongs
  14. Put the jars on a thick tea towel or wire rack to cool. The lids on the jars should be concave and should not move when pressed down with your finger. If one of your jars has not formed a vacuum - just refrigerate and use it's contents within a week
  15. Label, date and store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place. The fruit will store for at least next year when you can do it all over again! :-)


This recipe will work for any kind of similar fruit - redcurrants, white currants, bilberries, blueberries etc.

Cakes & Bakes: Lemon refrigerator cookies

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

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stack of lemon refrigerator cookies

We needed a lemon last week for a gnocci dish. We didn’t have any in the house so I popped over to the supermarket quickly to get one. All they had were those string bags containing 4 lemons – they’d run out of the loose ones.

A week later, our fruit bowl still contained 3 lemons – just sitting there – what to do with them? I had a flick through some lemon recipes and saw one for lemon refrigerator cookies. The great thing about refrigerator cookies is that you can bake off just what you need. Say goodbye to stale teatime snacks!

If you fancy them again a few days later, just cut some more slices from the roll – fresh, warm cookies in 15 minutes flat!

Cakes & Bakes: Lemon refrigerator cookies

Yield: Make approximately 72 cookies

Cakes & Bakes: Lemon refrigerator cookies


  • 450g/1lb plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 225g/8oz butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
  • 350g/12oz caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • finely grated rind of 2 lemons


  1. Sift the flour & baking powder into a large bowl
  2. Add the butter and rub it with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
  3. Stir the sugar and lemon zest into the mixture, add the eggs and combine to form a soft dough
  4. Turn the mixture out on to a lightly floured work surface and divide the dough in half
  5. Shape each piece of dough into a log shape about 3cm/1¼inches in diameter
  6. Wrap each log in baking paper and then in foil and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or until required (I put one of the logs in the freezer to use at a later date)
  7. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 5
  8. Grease a large baking sheet (or a few if you're making a big batch)
  9. Slice the dough into as many 8mm/⅜-inch slices as required
  10. Place the slices on the baking sheet, spaced well apart
  11. Return any remaining dough to the fridge for up to a week
  12. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown
  13. Leave on the baking sheet to cool slightly for 2-3 minutes before transferring to cool completely