Category Archives: Recipes

In a jam…

My view on jam is this: why bother making plain jam in flavours you can get at the grocery store?  This week, I’ve made two variation on strawberry jam, and it’s a real quandary which I like better.

Option 1: Strawberry-ginger:  This is a combination that I love.   The main point in making strawberry cordial is so that I can add some to my ginger beer.   This has all that concentrated summer delight in a single jar.

Option 2: Orange-infused Strawberry vanilla jam.   This was an experiment.   But seems to be Des’s favourite at the moment.

In both cases the basic recipe is the same:

4 parts strawberries

3 parts sugar

Clean and hull the strawberries then quarter them. [Tip:  If you want to make cordial, mash up the strawberries with 1/4 of the sugar and allow to sit overnight.   You can then strain them and the liquid is the cordial that you can add to drinks, etc.  Use the strawberries as normal.]

In a large-bottomed pot, combine remaining sugar (or all of it if you skipped the cordial bit] and the juice of a lemon if you are making the ginger version, or the juices of a lemon and an orange if you are making the vanilla version.

For the ginger version add a generous amount of finely minced ginger (use fresh ginger that you mince yourself.   The pre-minced version might have preservatives etc. that will react in unpredictable ways with the jam).   I used a piece that was about the length of my hand!  Before adding the fruit, run the syrup through a sieve and reserve the collected ginger while returning the syrup to the heat.    You can gradually reincorporate this at the end so that you can exactly incorporate it to your taste.  If you want very spicy jam, you could add a chili at this point.   I didn’t.

For the vanilla version, add finely chopped orange zest.   I used about 1 tablespoon of fresh zest for 1 kg of fruit.

If you want to add a thickening agent add it now. I used agar rather than gelatine because one jar is ear-marked for a vegetarian friend.    If you don’t want to use a thickening agent, then use equal weights of sugar and fruit.

Bring to a boil stirring often.  Remove the fruit, leaving the syrup and allow that to boil down by three quarters.    Return the fruit and heat through. Add the vanilla or minced ginger.

Pour into sterilised jam jars.   I can’t be bothered with wax rings etc.   I just fill the jars right to the top and seal them while they are hot, creating a vacuum.

Allow to cool then label.



Sneaky Veg Mince

If you want to reduce the amount of fat in a recipe that calls for minced meat without reducing the volume – or if you want to sneak more vegetables into a picky eater’s diet, here’s an easy alternative:

  • 1 zucchini (courgette)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or 1 tsp dark soya sauce.

Put the courgette in the food processor and chop until it’s fairly small, but still irregular pieces (you want it to look “mince” like).   Mix in the Worcestershire sauce or dark soya sauce.

Bake in a warm (not hot)  in the oven until dried out and brown.

This works best as a partial substitute for the meat.   I’ve been able to substitute as much as 1/2 without anyone noticing the difference but 2/3 usually gives the game away.

Homemade yoghurt

When I was a kid, my mom used to make yogurt at home.   I hated the stuff and always wished she would just buy “normal” yogurt.

Fast-forward a few years and I’ve learnt a few things.    First among them, mom used UHT (long conservation) milk to make the yogurts.   A drop of the stuff in a cup of coffee is enough to play havoc with my tummy.   Second, I like a nice firm yogurt.   So here is my recipe (requires a yogurt maker)

  • 1 litre of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup dried skim milk (this makes the yogurts firm.   The more you use, the firmer your yogurts will be.  You can omit at will).
  • 1 individual sized bio-active yogurt.
  1. Bring the whole milk and skim milk powder to a boil then cover and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Mix in the yogurt.
  3. Pour through a sieve and then divide the liquid into your jars. If desired, you can add a tablespoon of jam at this point.
  4. I use a 15-hour fermentation cycle on my machine.   Once it’s done, I allow the yogurts to cool and refrigerate.

Basic vinaigrette dressing

There isn’t much else that evokes childhood summers spent with my French grandmother than a simple salad with a proper, homemade vinaigrette.    There’s really no reason to buy dressing for your salads when it’s so easy to make and so lovely to adapt to a particular mood.

The most basic vinaigrette is simply an acidic base (vinegar or lemon juice, typically) and oil.    I like mine with a bit more kick so this is the recipe I usually use:

To a splash of red wine vinegar, add a pinch of salt.  Then add a dash of mustard (I only ever use Maille!), a clove of crushed garlic, and any additional seasonings you want (chopped herbs for instance).

If using shallots or onions, finely chop and add next.

Finally add the oil and whisk to mix.

Set aside for ten minutes or so.

The important thing here is to always add the oil last.    If you don’t, it will coat the other ingredients and the flavors will not blend so well.

Also, never add the vinaigrette to the salad until you are ready to serve.  (It’s fine to prepare it at the bottom of the salad bowl then toss it at the last minute.)   Otherwise, the acid will cause the leaves to wilt and may make any tomatoes mushy.



Saffron risotto with prawns and scallops

(For the bouillon, I used an infusion of a bouquet garni for fish – which has some fennel in it.   You could use fish or vegetable stock as well).

Heat a pan and add:

a knob of butter,

the juice of a 1/2  lemon

a generous pinch of saffron

Once the butter is melted, add the scallops (and prawns if using raw) and cook until slightly under done.  Set aside.

Add the rice to the pan and stir until translucent.

Add some dried tomatoes and a single red chili.

Gradually add the bouillon, 1/4 cup at a time, adding only as it is absorbed.

With the last 1/4 cup of bouillon, add a generous tablespoon of creme fraiche and a large portion of chopped fresh baby spinach.

Mix the scallops and prawns back in, stir and allow everything to warm through.

You can also grate a bit of Parmesan in at this point (I didn’t have any handy but used a lovely Pecorino Tartufo which worked a treat!)

Add freshly cracked black pepper.

Serve immediately.

“Sun-dried” tomatoes

The first thing I’ve done is take out a big roasting dish.

Tomatoes - prep for drying

Tomatoes ready for drying

I quartered enough tomatoes to cover the bottom.

Then I added a bit of salt to really pull out the water.

They’ve gone into the oven at the lowest setting (50C)  at a low setting (100c) for for an hour or an hour and half.   I’ll check on them later and take them out when they look right.

Once they’ve cooled, I’ll chop up some herbs from the garden (I have loads of lovely looking thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary but use your favourites.) and add some of the garlic I roasted at the same time as the tomatoes.  The cheat here is to use dried herbs (like an Italian herb mix) and powdered garlic.

I’ve packed it all in a single jar and then topped up with some good olive oil.

If I have too many for the jar I’ve picked, I’ll just make tomato pesto with what’s left over.   I might still make some pesto… but I only got this one small jar out of the tray.  (except for maybe 4 pieces that went into last night’s scallop and prawn risotto)

By the way, that olive oil will be gorgeous once the tomatoes and herbs have flavoured it.   Don’t just throw it away once you’ve used the tomatoes, if you don’t add it to dishes.    It’ll make a great addition to a vinaigrette dressing.

Foundation recipes

There are some basic recipes that I consider foundational.    These are the versatile recipes that form the basis for a multitude of other dishes.    I generally like to have at least one or two ready to go.   Some, like roast chicken, can be the starting point for a week’s menu.    Others, like roasted tomatoes, can  be the starting point for an intense pasta dish or risotto.

I’ll make sure all those recipes are tagged as foundation recipes so you can find them easily.