Tag Archives: jam

What I Cooked Today – and an Apology

17 Aug

Yes, I know. I havent posted in literally months. I was so excited about the prospect of blogging Ballymaloe Cookery School – and when I got there, I was quite good … but suddenly … I was just immersed. Its not that I didnt have time – it was just that there was so much going on internally and externally, that I needed a moment, every day, to just be.

And unfortunately, that moment that I took for myself on a regular basis, would be the moments when I would have, should have, blogged instead. Apologies. To you, and to myself, for not having documented this extraordinary experience as it was happening. But it was so deep, so life-changing that … to be honest, I didnt have the words.

However, I took loads of photographs … and over the next few days, I will go over them, and share some of my most special Ballymaloe moments with you.

As for now … I am sitting in Provence, in the golden sunshine, at the home of my dear friend… and I am cooking in a brand new way. I learned so many techniques at Ballymaloe which enriched the way I cook, and also the way I see food. Nothing goes to waste… a grapefruit eaten for breakfast gets considered, and the peel gets turned into candied fruit. Stale bread becomes breadcrumbs. And raspberries, which were fresh yesterday, but might not be utterly perfect today, get turned into raspberry jam.

Simple Easy and Gorgeous

And thats what I made today. Raspberry jam – dark, deep, so delicious slathered on a fresh croissant, perfect and bursting with the sunshine and the fruit. And simple beyond words.

To make this jam, you need equal parts fruit and sugar. And thats it. Yes, its really that simple.

I had 125 grams of fresh raspberries, which I washed quickly under the tap. With the water still clinging to them, I put them in a little pot, over a medium high heat. They began to sizzle and disintegrate, and I helped them along a little with a spoon. As soon as they became a glowing red mush (a matter of a few minutes), I added an equal amount (125 grams) of sugar. The sugar melted into the raspberries, and I boiled this mixture for about 4 minutes, or until it had “set.”

You can tell that jam has set if a little of the jam spooned onto a cold plate sets into a wobbly sort of solid consistency. You can draw a line through the jam with your finger, and the line stays.

I poured the jam into a little pot (gorgeous isnt it? It was a yogurt pot from the supermarche!) and set it down to cool. And then I decided to write.

I am glad to be back. If you have a few berries, consider making some jam today. Fresh jam is like nothing else, and it really takes only a few minutes.

Be well!

Hot Fudge + Port Pear Chili Jam

30 Dec

So yes, I am in a saucy mood. I have been cooking a lot recently, but not new recipes. And its been one of those weeks (months?) – first my phone died, and then my hardrive on my laptop got fried. I am lucky in that I have the means to deal with these issues (new phone on the one hand, and my old laptop on the other). But its been a frustrating time, and I havent felt a whole lot of inspiration.

But a stroll through O’Gourmet certainly helped! Mr. Kumar (the manager) was so excited to show me some chili powder from Kashmir – hand carried back to KL. It was like nothing I had ever seen before – rich, deep burnt orange red, and almost wet … with a scent that had so many layers to it I cannot even begin to describe, but I will try. Soft, mellow, with a sharp tinge… hauntingly musky with a long profound beat of heat and sun and spice. Gorgeous. Stunningly sensual. I had to cook with it – and suddenly, inspiration arrived!

I decided to make a chili ice cream (the recipe for which I will post tomorrow). But this was to be not just a singular ice cream, but an ice cream sundae. Hot fudge sauce (with dark bittersweet chocolate and melted Scottish fudge) and a chili jam – with a base of port and pears – at once sweet, hot and boozily beautiful. I felt that these sauces would elevate and intrigue – and would provide the perfect foil for the cold creamy ice cream. AngelKitten suggested we get some caramelised pistachios to top the sundae. What a combination of flavours and tastes! I couldnt wait to get started.

These two sauces would of course be just as magical on their own (the hot fudge sauce is particularly simple to put together) or combined over chocolate or vanilla ice cream. If you can, though, try the whole package. Its quite a few pieces of cooking work – but if you break it all down, and prepare in advance, its actually a doddle!

Hot Fudge Sauce

Makes about 2 cups of hot fudge. This can be served warm, or made in advance and reheated just before serving. Use the best quality chocolate and fudge you can find.

  • 450 – 500 g (1 lb) vanilla fudge
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 250 – 300 g bittersweet (at least 70%) chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Maldon or other sea salt

Grate the fudge into a large saucepan. Add the cream and stir a little.

Add the chopped chocolate, stir, and add the Maldon salt.

Place the saucepan over a low heat, and melt the chocolate into the fudge, stirring all the while. Make sure that the fudge too has been completely melted into the sauce.

Serve warm, or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Reheat before serving.

Port Pear Chili Jam

Makes about 2 cups of jam.

This jam is quite loose. It pours like a sauce, but it also depends on how long you cook it – the less liquid left, the more “jammy” and thick it becomes.  If you do not want to use port or another alcohol, substitute with grape juice.

  • 9 pears (I used 3 each of D’Anjou, Bosc and Conference), peeled, pared and roughly chopped
  • 1 + 1 tbsp pear balsamic vinegar (if you cannot find this, try using pear or apple juice or even some apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 cup port wine (or grape juice)
  • 1 tsp best quality (Kashmir if you can find it) chili
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 – 6 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp best quality (25 year old) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey (I used leatherwood honey)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence

Peel, core and chop the pears. As you work, place the pears in a large saucepan, and toss them with 1 tbsp of the pear vinegar.

Measure out the pour wine and add to it the remaining 1 tbsp pear vinegar, chili, chili flakes, mustard seed, 3 tbsp of brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and balsamic vinegar. Stir well to combine, and pour over the pears.

Place the saucepan over high heat, and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring well.

Once the mixture comes to the boil, lower the heat to medium, and add the honey and the vanilla. Allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered for at least an hour. The jam will thicken and become much darker in colour. Taste and add a little more brown sugar if you feel you need to up the sweetness of the jam.

Give it a stir every so often. Allow to simmer until it is a thickness that you prefer. I like it a little liquid because I am using it as an ice cream topping … but! If you want to make it into a proper jam, just cook it for a little longer.

This can be served warm or at room temperature, and will keep, uncovered in the fridge for up to 2 – 3 weeks.

Apologies for lack of photos – still dealing with loss of hardrive!

Chili Tomato Marmalade

17 Nov

With Cheddar SconesI am completely utterly besotted with my Cheddar Cheese Scones. Who knew that something so quick and easy could taste so very very good. I stored them, wrapped in wax paper, in a ziploc plastic bag, and today they were fresh, moist and tender. I toasted one for breakfast, and started dreaming up things that would be delicious with this gorgeous cheesy rich bread…. and suddenly, Im not sure from where, chili tomato marmalade popped into my head.

Now let me be honest here. Ive never made marmalade before. I have made apple butter and simple jams, so I decided to basically apply those principles – fruit (tomato and lemon), a bit of water, sugar and low low steady heat. I also wanted to scent my marmalade – because as much as I love the scones, their richness was calling out for something tart and sweet and hot and wild to augment and accent them. Chili and ginger and all spice seemed like a good mix… and oh they were!

In jam making, youre supposed to add equal amounts of sugar to fruit. So for example, I had six cups worth of chopped tomatoes, which called for six cups of sugar. But I just couldnt do it. Since I was venturing into uncharted territory, I decided to halve the amount of sugar used (plus a bit for the lemon rind). I made up for it by cooking the mixture long and slow and low … and it worked. With patience, and a little stirring (not much, I promise), I created a stunningly pretty and decadent tasting chili tomato marmalade.

You could use this marmalade in so many ways. It would be sublime in a grilled cheese sandwich, as a condiment in a cheese platter, as a replacement for cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. Its spicy notes are very seasonal and fresh – and its jewel like colour is festive and happy.

Easy to make, in one evening, this marmalade is something you must try for yourself. Its wonderful!

Makes approximately 3 cups marmalade

  • 5 lemons
  • 1/2 cup + 3 cups light brown sugar
  • Approximately 1.4 kg / 3 lb / 6 cups chopped tomatoes – I got a good mix – beef, Holland, Roma, etc.
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed red chili
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

First, prepare the lemons. Wash them well, and cut off the peel – leaving as much of the pith on the lemon as possible. Chop the peel roughly, and place in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Juice 2 of the lemons, and add the juice (should be about 1/2 cup as well) to the mix. Bring to the boil over high heat, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes to soften the peel up.

Skin the remaining lemons of their pith, and chop the flesh up roughly. Set aside.

Put a kettle onto the boil, and prepare the tomatoes for skinning by marking crosses at stem and bottom with a sharp knife. Place all the prepared tomatoes in a large bowl, and when the kettle comes to the boil, cover the tomatoes with boiling water until they are all completely covered. Count to 30, drain the tomatoes, and refresh them under cold water. You should have encouraged a lot of the tomato skin to start to peel off from the flesh. Use a sharp knife to peel the tomatoes (it should be relatively easy), and chop them roughly.

Do not seed the tomatoes – keep the seeds for the marmalade. Tomato seeds have a lot of pectin in them, and will help the marmalade gel.

You should have about 6 cups of chopped tomatoes. Take the lemon peel off the heat, and add the tomatoes directly to the saucepan, along with the chopped lemon that you set aside. Add the all spice, ginger, red chili, mustard seed, salt and balsamic vinegar and stir well to combine. Add the remaining 3 cups of light brown sugar, and place the saucepan back onto the stovetop at medium heat, and bring the entire mixture to the boil, stirring as you do so.

Once the mixture has come to the boil, turn the heat right down to the lowest you can accommodate, and simmer the marmalade, stirring occasionally until thickened to your liking.

I cannot tell you how long it will take for this mixture to morph into marmalade because different tomatoes will gel at different speeds. What I can tell you is this. It took my marmalade about 2 hours, on very low heat, to set up to my liking. The tomatoes will shed a whole load of water, and the entire mixture will seem very loose and thin – like a very light soup. Keep simmering, and watch as the mixture reduces, thickens and darkens in colour. I started out with pale tomatoes, but the cooking process created a ruby red marmalade.

Err on the side of caution. Burnt marmalade is irretrievable, and it does set up and thicken further once taken off the heat. I took mine off when it was thick enough to stand on a spoon, but not thick enough for marmalade. It set up very well as it cooled, and is now very sticky and scrummy and thick. If your marmalade does not set up as you like, put it back onto the heat for half an hour at a time.

Enjoy this morning noon and night, with those you love. Hopefully on a gorgeous Cheddar Scone!


Late Night Snack

11 Oct

11.49 pm

We had a big brunch/lunch today – a frittata with leeks, zucchini (courgettes) and a touch of blue cheese, a plum crisp with vanilla scented yogurt, chocolate croissants. I was totally un-hungry until a few minutes ago. I just realised I am starving….

So creep, creep, creep into the kitchen to prepare one of my all time favourite quick bites…

In South Africa (where my mother is from), if you order muffins or any other breakfast breads, most restaurants and cafes will serve you bread, butter, jam and cheese. Jam and cheese is as ubiquitous in South Africa as peanut butter and jelly is in the US. I love jam and cheese more because these two uniquely complement each other, and raise each individual ingredient into a perfect mouthful.

1 slice of multi-grain or other dark whole wheat bread (though I have prepared this with a biscuit and an english muffin with positive results).

Toasted. So its warm, slightly crisp and will melt the tiny smear of butter/marg I spread on it.

Then… some salty cheese. Not a lot. If its creamy, like tonight’s Fromager d’Affinois, I use just a little bit. Enough so it melds with the butter, and softens in the warmth of the toast’s embrace. I want that stinky cheese hit, and a bit of salty creaminess.

And then… to contrast with the cheese, and bring a bright sparkle, a little jam – or in this case, Membrillo – quince paste. Wonderful honeyed caramel notes, sweetness to contrast with the cheese. Again, just a thin sliver of a slice, placed carefully on the cheese. Magenta against creamy pale.

Sliced in half, and sat down at the kitchen table to eat, because, after all.. this is food, and we must respect and savour it. Not rush, not stuff, but enjoy. Taste the mingling of flavours. Allow tummy and appetite to be satisfied. May be a warm cup of herbal tea alongside.

Perfect for a snack before bed.

I ate it so happily, I didnt think to have time for a picture! Too bad 😉

Sweet dreams!

White Chocolate Semolina Pudding with Damson Jam

4 Aug

White Chocolate Semolina Pudding with Damson Jam and a touch of CreamThis is not your school days semolina pudding. I promise. No lumps or bumps or tasteless paste. This is semolina pudding for sensualists. This pudding is smooth, moist, golden, scented with vanilla, creamy with white chocolate. Sexy and yet comforting at the same time – yes its possible. Just think of the scent and feel of your favourite partner’s worn t-shirt enveloping you, and you will know what I mean… Or not! You might just have to take my word for it!

Its a doddle to make – and I needed something simple, yet decadent, because I came home from an almost six hour shopping spree with ZaZa and my feet hurt! I am expecting people for dessert tonight, and I was thinking of making a cake, or cookies, but this is so much easier. And it can all be made in one pot if you are super lazy (though transferring the cooked semolina into a nice looking baking dish is pretty simple too), and tastes like you slaved over the stove for hours. I love that kind of cooking.

This does not require a huge amount of technical cooking, chopping, slicing, dicing or sauteeing. Its a little bit of waiting (for the vanilla to infuse), a little bit of stirring, some pouring (if you are putting it in a pretty baking pan) and some more waiting while it bakes golden. It does however depend on your sense of taste and balance – how much vanilla? How much white chocolate? How much, if any, sugar, to balance the chocoalte? I have to rein myself in in regards to chocolate, but if you feel like going wild, you have my blessing! Substitute dark or milk if you wish, but I think this pudding is perfect with white chocolate.

Here in Malaysia we call semolina suji or sooji and it is used for cakes, puddings, and a huge variety of Indian dishes. Its also used extensively in Italian and European cooking for pastas and breads, amongst other things. Its used as the base to make couscous, and is basically the coarse pieces of starch or endosperm (what a word!) from milling of durum flour. It is awesome.

And the jam? Well, when you have Duchy Organic damson jam, theres not much point in making your own. Its the best jam ever. Dark purple, and tasting like mystery … superb with this pudding, on a slice of dark brown bread, with a bit of cheese. Its only available in the shops on a seasonal basis (which I like very much), so when I see it, I grab at least 3 or 4 jars and hoard it with pure adoration. Use whatever jam is your personal favourite!

This will fit a large-ish baking dish, serving about 6 – 8 people, depending on greed 😛

  • 4 cups milk (or a mix of milk and cream – or for the lactose intolerant out there, almond or oat milk, or even coconut milk)
  • 1 vanilla pod (or up to 2 tsp vanilla essence, added later)
  • 1 scant cup semolina
  • 1 cup white chocolate, chopped plus addition 1/4 cup optional
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar (or to taste – optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 – 2 tbsp butter
  • Jam and a bit of cream to serve

Pour 4 cups of milk into a medium saucepan. If you are using a vanilla pod, slice it in half lengthways, scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk, and drop in the pod as well. Bring the milk almost to a boil (when you see little plip plops of milk at the surface, take it off), stirring with a whisk all the while, and take off the heat. Leave, covered, for about 15 minutes, to allow the vanilla to infuse the milk. If you are using vanilla essence, leave for a few minutes to cool down, and go on to the next step.

Preheat your oven to 180 C and butter a large-ish baking dish (I use two small pretty white ceramic dishes because thats what I have!).

After 15 minutes, uncover the milk, and slowly whisk in the semolina. Whisking in the semolina off heat, in warm instead of boiling milk, ensures that the finished product is smooth like silk. Put the saucepan over medium heat, and allow the mixture to come to the boil, whisking all the while. As you bring the semolina milk mixture to the boil, it will start to thicken. It will eventually get quite stiff. It is boiling when the semolina starts to bubble at the surface. Make sure you whisk the entire time to ensure that it does not burn, and stays smooth.

Off heat, fish out the vanilla pods, and add the white chocolate. I usually add about 1 cup of white chocolate, and then taste. Chocolate varies so much in quality and sugar levels, that sometimes you may need the addition of a tablespoon (or even two) of light brown sugar. Most of the time, if you are using good chocolate, you dont really need it. I leave it to your (sweet) palate to decide. Remember though, that if you decide to serve it with jam, it will have a very sweet addition, and so needs to be mildly sweet, rather than overly sweet. You can kill this pudding with too much sugar!

If you did not use a vanilla pod, add your vanilla essence now, to taste.

Switch to a spatula, and beat in the eggs, and the butter. These two ingredients act as softeners and thickeners as the pudding bakes.

If you are feeling very decadent, and are a chocolate fiend, feel free to sprinkle extra chocolate over the pudding just before it goes in the oven (that would be me!). It might be nice to have a white chocolate semolina pudding, and sprinkle over with shards of bittersweet chocolate. Though I would then serve a seville orange marmalade with the pudding rather than damson jam. You could also, if your heart so desires, sprinkle some nutmeg or cinnamon over, though for me, these tastes are too much for the delicacy of this pudding.

Baked Pudding Cooling Down with dots of White ChocolateBake in the oven for about 30 – 35 minutes until the top is golden, and the pudding is slightly puffed. Take out of the oven, and allow to cool at least 10 – 15 minutes before serving. You could leave the pudding in a switched off warm oven while having dinner if you like…

Serve with some jam and may be some extra cream on the side for those who want it (and I dont know anyone who wouldnt!)