Damson jam

Jars of homemade damson jam

We moved into our little Welsh cottage at the beginning of August in 2019 (just before any of us had ever heard the word ‘Coronavirus’). Less than 2 months later, we discovered that we have a damson tree in the garden that was plentiful with fruit ready to be picked.

Unfortunately, our range cooker was yet to be installed, so we had no way of cooking them; wed were preparing all our meals in a 2nd hand microwave that we brought with us from Yorkshire. We told one of our new neighbours to come over and pick as many as they could take away with them – there were many kilos. We were soon duly rewarded with a few jars of delicious, homemade damson jam – not a bad swap, we thought!

Small trug of damsons picked from trees in our garden

The next three summers saw not a single damson fruit on our tree, we thought it was dying. When September 2023 arrived, we managed to harvest about half a kilo… and discovered another young damson tree in one of our hedges. We picked about ¾ of a kilo in total.

Small trug of damsons picked from trees in our garden

I found a Damson jam recipe on the BBC website; however, looking at the comments, many people that followed it reported that there was way too much sugar stated (which was a weight ratio of 1-1 fruit to granulated sugar).

I left the fruit stones in the jam when I decanted it into the jars – I’m not fussy, and I know to look out for them when putting it on toast and in sandwiches. If you’d prefer to make jam without stones, you can remove them before cooking or by putting the just-cooked jam through a sieve before decanting.

Personally, I don’t mind a few stones in my jam jars. De-stoning the fruit is before cooking is time-consuming (especially if you’re preparing many kilos). Alternatively, sieving it while it’s still piping hot can be dangerous.

Jars of homemade damson jam

Damson jam

Course Condiment
Cuisine British
Servings 4 jars

Ingredients
  

  • 750 g damsons halved, stones left in
  • 500 g granulated sugar

Instructions
 

  • Wash jars & lids in hot, soapy water, rinse, then place on a baking tray and put in a low oven for 10 mins or until completely dry. If you're using rubber/plastic seals, remove the seals and cover in just-boiled water. Ensure you also sterilise any funnels, ladles and spoons that you’ll be using.
  • Put the halved damsons into a jam pan or a large, wide, heavy-based saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to stop any skin sticking to the bottom. Put a couple of saucers into the freezer. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the fruit has softened.
  • Add the sugar and stir over a very low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, up to 10 mins. This step is vital; if you don’t dissolve the sugar, the bottom of the pan may catch and burn and affect the final taste of the jam. Raise the heat, bring to a full rolling boil, then rapidly boil for 10 minutes. Don’t stir until the setting point of 105ºC is reached. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the jam by spooning a little onto a cold saucer (that you've put in the freezer). Wait a few seconds, then push the jam with your fingertip. If it wrinkles, the jam is ready. If not, cook for a few more minutes and test again, with another cold saucer. Once you've reached the 105ºC or setting point, stir the jam thoroughly.
  • Remove from the heat, skim off any excess scum. Leave for about 15 minutes to allow the fruit to settle; if you decant the jam too soon, all the fruit will sink to the bottom. Pour into the sterilised jars, label and seal.
 
I left the fruit stones in the jam when I decanted it into the jars. If you'd prefer to have jam without stones, you can remove them before cooking or by putting the just cooked jam through a sieve before decanting.
Personally, I don't mind a few stones in my jars. De-stoning the fruit is before cooking is time-consuming (especially if you're preparing many kilos). Alternatively, sieving it while still piping hot can be dangerous.
Keyword damsons, jam, preserves

5 delectable summer desserts to delight your guests

5 delectable summer desserts to delight your guests

Summer is a season of vibrant colours, balmy evenings and delightful gatherings. It’s also a busy time. You may be planning a trip, looking for new outdoor furniture or checking out the Frenchie puppies for sale. But you should always make time for guests to come over. When it comes to entertaining guests, serving refreshing and indulgent desserts is a wonderful way to elevate any gathering. From fruity delights to frozen treats, the options are endless. In this post, we’ll explore five of my favourite summer desserts that are sure to impress your guests and leave them craving more.

  1. Tropical fruit tart: There’s nothing quite like the luscious flavours of ripe, juicy fruits to celebrate the summer season. A tropical fruit tart brings together the best of nature’s bounty in a visually stunning and palate-pleasing dessert. Start with a buttery, flaky tart crust as the base, and fill it with a velvety custard or cream cheese filling. Top it off with an array of tropical fruits such as mangoes, kiwis, pineapples, and passion fruit, arranging them in an eye-catching pattern. The combination of sweet, tangy and refreshing flavours will transport your guests to a tropical paradise. Serve chilled and watch as the vibrant colours and tantalising aroma captivate everyone’s senses.
  2. Lemon blueberry trifle: When life gives you lemons and blueberries, make a delightful lemon blueberry trifle! This classic dessert is a perfect balance of zesty and sweet flavours, making it an ideal treat for hot summer days. Layer tangy lemon curd, fluffy whipped cream, and juicy blueberries in a clear glass trifle dish. For an extra touch of indulgence, add crumbled pieces of buttery pound cake or ladyfingers in between the layers. The vibrant yellow of the lemon curd and the deep blue hues of the blueberries create a visually appealing dessert that will have your guests reaching for seconds. Serve chilled and garnish with fresh mint leaves for a pop of colour.
  3. Watermelon granita: Beat the summer heat with a refreshing watermelon granita. This icy treat is incredibly simple to make yet delivers a burst of natural sweetness. Blend fresh watermelon chunks until smooth, then strain to remove any seeds. Add a squeeze of lime juice to enhance the flavours and pour the mixture into a shallow dish. Place it in the freezer and use a fork to scrape the mixture every 30 minutes until it forms icy crystals. The result is a light and slushy dessert that captures the essence of summer. Serve the granita in chilled glasses or hollowed-out watermelon bowls for an extra touch of whimsy.
  4. Coconut mango popsicles: Popsicles are the quintessential summer treat, and this coconut mango version is a tropical delight. Blend ripe mangoes with coconut milk and a touch of honey or sugar until smooth. Pour the mixture into popsicle moulds and insert popsicle sticks. Freeze for a few hours or overnight until fully set. The combination of creamy coconut and sweet, juicy mango creates a harmonious flavour profile that will transport your guests to a sunny beach. These vibrant and refreshing popsicles are a perfect way to beat the heat and make for an Instagram-worthy dessert option.
  5. Grilled peaches with honey and mascarpone: Summer is grilling season, and why limit it to savoury dishes? Grilled peaches with honey and mascarpone is a delightful dessert that combines the smoky flavours of grilling with the natural sweetness of ripe peaches. Halve fresh peaches and brush them with a bit of oil. Grill until slightly caramelised and tender. Serve the warm peaches with a dollop of luscious mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of golden honey. The warmth of the grilled peaches contrasts beautifully with the cool, creamy mascarpone, while the honey adds a touch of sweetness. This dessert is simple yet elegant, offering a delightful combination of flavours and textures that will leave your guests craving more.

This summer, treat your guests to a memorable dining experience with these five delightful desserts. From the vibrant and fruity tropical fruit tart to the refreshing watermelon granita, each dessert offers a unique and satisfying flavour profile that embodies the essence of summer. Whether you prefer the zesty tang of lemon blueberry trifle, the tropical goodness of coconut mango popsicles or the smoky sweetness of grilled peaches with honey and mascarpone, these desserts are sure to impress and leave a lasting impression. So go ahead, indulge your guests with these delectable treats and create unforgettable moments of joy and delight.

disclosure*

Food and drink ideas for a mixture of guests

Food and drink ideas for a mixture of guests

One of the hardest things about hosting a dinner for someone you don’t know well is deciding what to serve. It’s hard because different people might have a range of food allergies, dietary restrictions and taste preferences.

It’s time-consuming to do your research ahead of time when you’re trying to make last-minute dinner arrangements! Plus, it can be awkward if one loves vegetables and another hates them, or one prefers a Non-Alcoholic Rose for their drink and someone else insists on a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s why we’ve put together this post with some food and drink ideas you could serve when you have mixed company over for dinner.

Some of these dishes we’ve listed can be cooked in advance, so if you’re not the best cook, then you can leave it in the hands of your other half to prepare some of the food. If you go down this route, it may pay to have a few things available for people to nibble on while they’re waiting for dinner – crostini with pesto or hummus is perfect for this.

Some of the recipes are for dishes that don’t need to be cooked; but also, feel free to prepare others ahead of time.

1. Roast chicken and vegetables

Roast chicken and vegetables can be made in advance. You can even make them throughout the day, reserving the leftover cooking liquid to use in a soup or stew the following evening. Remove any skin or bones and cut them into pieces before serving. This, paired with a good wine, makes a delicious meal to serve your guests.

2. Garlic bread

This is a simple, easy dish to make for any meal, but it also lends itself well to being prepared in advance. You can put your bread under the grill with some olive oil and garlic cloves, or if you’re feeling super fancy, you can use a special garlic bread recipe!

3. Roasted garlic and herb potatoes

These potatoes are great as a side dish, or you can keep them on hand to pop in the oven and make mashed potatoes. You can also use them as a base for a quick soup! If you don’t want to be bothered with cooking the potatoes, you can buy pre-cooked ‘ready roasted’ ones at most supermarkets.

4. Brown rice and mung bean curry

This dish can be cooked in advance, so if you’re trying to keep things simple and have limited cooking time, this is a good choice. It’s also hearty enough to be served as a main course without being too heavy. You can even prepare it in advance, meaning you don’t have to worry about it while your other half is cooking the main course!

5. Feta and spinach strudel

This is an enjoyable dish to make as you can use different types of pastry. I’ve also seen versions that use filo pastry or tortillas. Make sure you cover it with something to stop the pastry from becoming soggy. I recommend tin foil or parchment paper. You can make this ahead of time, but you may have to reheat it in the oven before serving.

Some of the drinks you can serve with these:

a. Lemonade

Lemonade is an easy drink to make ahead of time, and you can use any fruit you like in it. It’s also an excellent drink for kids to make because it’s easy to prepare and tastes delicious!

b. Minted water

This is a refreshing and healthy drink that’s a nice alternative to plain water! Plus, it’s an easy recipe to make ahead of time, so there’s no need to worry about cooking water or waiting for the kettle.

c. Chai-spiced iced coffee

If you’re a fan of chai tea, this is a simple recipe for making it at home. You just need to make up your chai tea in advance and when you’re ready to serve it, just add the ice cubes!

d. Apple cider

This is another drink that can be prepared in advance. You can buy cider (or apple juice) in bottles or cartons, and once you’ve opened it, you’re good to go. You can also add spices such as cinnamon or vanilla extract to flavour it.

e. Rosewater water

This is a wonderful drink for hot summer days! It’s also lovely served with a slice of pomegranate in the warmer months – the rosewater and fruit go well together.

There are lots of different things you can serve in different combinations for a mixed company dinner. And all you have to do is make sure that your food is sufficiently warmed if you’re serving it as finger food!

[disclosure*]

Home-made elderflower curd

Elderflower curd with cup & pot of tea

My beautiful sambucus nigra is still blooming, so I was on the lookout for another recipe in which I could use the flowers. These days, I find so much inspiration on Instagram; one of my Insta-buddies had just posted a photo of some delicious-looking elderflower curd she’d made, so I thought I’d give that a go.

zesting and juicing lemons Elderflower curd ingredients in a saucepan

She used the wild variety of elderflower which has delicate off white flowers however, the flowers on mine are tinged purple. I wondered how that would affect the colour of the resulting curd. I was worried that it would turn out a sludgy brown, but I needn’t have been apprehensive. It had a slight pinkish blush to the usual yellow colour.

This recipe makes a single, average-sized jar, but you can easily multiply the quantities. If you don’t think that you’ll consume all the curd in a week or two, make sure that you thoroughly sterilise all your post-cooking equipment; jars, lids, jelly bag/sieve, spoon/spatula, funnel etc. Simply boil them up in a large jam pan/saucepan of water.

straining elderflower curd through a jelly bag into a measuring jug Elderflower curd in a glass jar

The taste was gorgeous; rich and fragrant. So far, we’ve had it on fruit scones, but it would be perfect in sandwiches, toast or between the layers of a Victoria sponge. This is definitely an elderflower recipe I’ll be returning to every summer.

Click here or on the image below to save this elderflower curd recipe to Pinterest

Home-made elderflower curd recipe

Elderflower curd with cup & pot of tea

Elderflower curd

Cook Time 1 hour
Course Condiment
Cuisine British

Ingredients
  

  • 3 large or 6 small elderflower heads you can use either white or pink flowers
  • 50 g/1¾oz unsalted butter
  • 200 g/7oz white granulated sugar
  • lemons zest & juice
  • 2 eggs

Instructions
 

  • Sterilise a lidded jam jar, jelly bag or sieve, spatula and measuring jug. Set aside for the end
  • Put all the ingredients except the eggs into a saucepan over a low heat. Stir until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved
  • Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl and allow the contents to cool slightly (about 5 minutes)
  • In the meantime, bring a saucepan of water to a simmer (ensure the heatproof bowl can sit on top of the saucepan without the water coming into contact with the base)
  • Add the eggs to the mixture and put the heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water
  • Stir occasionally until the mixture thickens to the consistency of custard (about 45 minutes)
  • Pour the mixture through the sterilised jelly bag/sieve into the measuring jug. Push the contents through using the spatula, if necessary
  • Transfer the curd into the sterilised jar and cover immediately with the lid. Allow to cool completely before using
Elderflower curd ingredients
Keyword curd, elderflower, forage