Category Archives: Summer

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.



Cucumber & Mint Salad

Last week, a coworker explained to me that he really needs super simple recipes for supper.    With the great weather we’re having here in Glasgow, what immediately came to mind is a simple cucumber and mint salad. And when I say simple…

  • 1 cucumber cut up into chunks
  • 1 plain greek yogurt
  • 1 generous handful of fresh mint leaves (finely chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
In a bowl, thoroughly mix everything except the cucumber.
Then add the cucumber.
Serve cold.

Tarte aux framboises et chocolat blanc

I was going to serve just berries as dessert.
I’ve decided that I want something more romantic/special for tonight.


I’ve upgraded fresh raspberries into a white chocolate and raspberry tart.

This took less than 10 minutes to prepare – because I always have cake cases in stock. If you live in Scotland, you can get them for two quid at your local farm shop (the one I go to is Dobbies at Braehead).

In a double boiler, I melted some white chocolate with the juice of half an orange and some finely chopped orange zest. I spread this on the cake base and then arranged the fresh berries. Et voilà. 🙂

Strawberry & Balsamic mocktail

It’s a gorgeous day in Glasgow and I’ve just come back from my first jog (ever).

I’ve come back parched!    So I’ve made an alcohol-free version of one of my favourite cocktails.

I cut up 5 massive strawberries, crushed a handful of ice-cubes, added a splash of Blood Orange Syrup (Ronin 1803), a few sprigs of fresh mint and gave it a good shake.   Then I poured the lot in a glass and topped off with some fiery ginger beer.

If I was going to make this with alcohol, I’d add some rum.

“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.


Tomatoes are in season.

Even though there’s just the two of us, I went out and (not for the first time this summer!) bought a 6 kg box of tomatoes.

I have big plans for them:

“Sun dried” tomatoes

– Tomato sauce

– Tomato pesto

– Stuffed tomatoes

Of course, I’ll reserve a few for a simple classic tomato salad.