Rhubarb And Redcurrant Jam

Don’t stop reading because you think this jam is going to take too long and be too complicated to make   Read on and you’ll see it takes less than 30 mins to make including chopping.   It really is a doddle to make and tastes so much better than anything you can buy!

I have been flat out in the garden trying to get everything planted so there are lots of veggies to eat in the next few months  we’ll, that is, if things go well   There hasn’t been much to harvest  in this bit of the year known as the hungry gap but things are changing

What there has been though is lots of rhubarb so I’ve been making lots with that   Apart from crumble I’ve previously posted recipes for Rhubarb and Orange Streusel Cake and Rhubarb and Ginger Queen of Puddings so I thought I’d put in some recipes that preserve rhubarb (it does freeze beautifully in chunks too) for when you have to stop picking it at the end of June.  So I am posting this recipe on jam and will add posts for rhubarb gin and rhubarb cordial shortly.

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This jam is quick, easy and the result is a wonderful fruity jam that is one of my favourites.  It uses rhubarb and frozen redcurrants that if you are a gardener you will no doubt still have lurking in your freezer! You can but them too or just wait for the next harvest in June.  You can swap out the redcurrants for black currants if you have those instead.

I love this on toast, croissants, scones and as the filling for a Victoria Sponge.  It’s good drizzled on yoghurt too or churn up a jar with thick Greek or coconut yoghurt for one of the best fro yo you’ve tasted

Tips

Make sure the fruit is soft from the initial simmering as it won’t go any softer once you add the sugar

This is a traditional jam but if you want to use less sugar you can though it won’t keep as long and you may want to keep it in the fridge.

To sterilise jars just put the clean jars and lids in a preheated oven for 5 mins before turning oven off   Leave in there until you are ready to jar

Ingredients (makes 6 jars)

  • 500g rhubarb chopped into 1cm pieces
  • 500g redcurrants, frozen are fine, stems removed
  • 350ml water
  • 1 kg granulated sugar (no need to pay extra for jam sugar)

Method

  1. Place the fruits and the water into large preserving pan and simmer till fruit is soft.  I usually test this by squidging  a currant against the side of the pan and if it pops easily it’s ready
  2. Put a saucer in the freezer
  3. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve
  4. Raise the heat and boil jam for 5-10 mins until setting point is reached.   Test this by putting a dribble of jam on the frozen saucer and seeing if – after 30 secs – it wrinkles if you push it with your finger
  5. Allow jam to cool for 5-10 mins before ladling into sterilised jars (see above) and sealing
  6. Feel very proud of yourself!

Forager’s Soup

This soup is also known in our house as “the gardeners revenge” and, despite certain peoples’ initial reservations, is absolutely delicious.  Honestly it really is.  Give it a go and you will have bragging rights when it comes to your cooking/eco credentials as well as a lovely full tummy!

If you can, and are brave enough to try it, please don a pair of gloves (to avoid stings) and go out and gather the wild greens that are all around us as well as growing unwanted in our gardens. Obviously choose where you pick – beside a busy road or a park used frequently by dogs are not good ideas!  I have chosen leaves that are easy to identify or well known such as nettles and wild garlic, otherwise known as ransoms (follow your nose for these) and every gardeners despair, ground elder. I find it particularly satisfying to pick the nettles and ground elder that grow in my garden (much to my despair) and turn them into something delicious to eat –  apparently I get a determined look in my eye as I venture out with the colander and gloves to pick them.

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Nettle tips, wild garlic, ground elder and spinach from the garden

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My Favourite Easter Recipes

Easter is finally with us and we have a four day bank holiday weekend   Yippee!   It’s a time when amongst all the chocolate there is usually some room left for other food and the recipes in this post are some of my favourites for the Easter weekend. Some are traditional, some aren’t.    But there should be one or two that will appeal to you.  Many can be made in advance and it can be nice to have some time to potter about in the kitchen preparing food to share with family and friends, particularly with the radio on.

Let’s hope for good weather despite the forecasts but we if not there is always the prospect of a lie in and another Easter Egg! Continue reading

Simnel Cake

As a country we seem to love fruit cakes for celebrations.  Christmas cake and wedding cake and then this Simnel Cake for Easter.  There are signs that times are a changing of course with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry choosing a lighter Elderflower and Lemon Cake for their wedding but I do hope we keep the Simnel Cake as part of our Easter traditions just as it has been for centuries.

Simnel cake has a layer of marzipan running through the middle and with yet more marzipan, this time toasted, on top.  It seems to be a particular favourite with everyone I know.  Not as rich as Christmas it is traditionally  nowadays made for Easter with the eleven marzipan balls on top representing the apostles minus Judas.

The marzipan centre makes the cake very moist as it kind of melts into the cake.  The marzipan on the top is toasted with a blow torch which gives the whole cake another dimension.  I can’t resist adding chocolate mini eggs to the centre but they really aren’t necessary. Just cute! Continue reading

Trout with Tomato, Chorizo and Mussels

I don’t know about you but with the weather we’ve been having lately it’s been difficult to know what to expect.  One moment we’ve had snow and shivering temperatures and the next spring sunshine and flowers.  So what do we cook?  I don’t about you but I don’t want a hearty stew if I am enjoying the blue sky and admiring the daffodils,  nor do I want lighter spring-like meals if I an shivering away with snow outside.

A couple of weeks ago I watched the brilliant Spanish cook, Jose Pizarro, cook this dish.  It’s full of colour, big flavour and warmth and seems to perfectly fit whatever weather we have thrown at us: light enough for spring, warm enough for winter.  With my New Year Resolution to try and cook more fish this year it was my perfect answer.

Mussels cooked with white wine

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Rhubarb and Orange Streusel Cake

Soft buttery cake flecked with orange, topped with soft, tart rhubarb and crunchy sweet streusel crumble.  Absolutely delicious, pretty as a picture and can be served as a pudding or a cake.   How much better can things get?

Forced pink rhubarb is a thing of joy particularly When shown off on its bed of golden sponge.  In truth, as long as the rhubarb is young and not stringy,  new season stalks would do just as well though they would like the jewel like bright pink colour of forced rhubarb.  There is something very British about this cake as it brings to mind all the elements of a rhubarb crumble only better.  I love “pudding cakes” – as I call them – they are so versatile, though if you are going to serve this for pudding it’s nicest served warm with lots of sweetened (use the rhubarb syrup that will have been created from macerating the rhubarb) whipped cream.

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Potato and Leek Al Forno

Creamy potatoes and leeks topped with crunchy breadcrumbs and baked in the oven   A fantastic accompaniment to chops or as a less rich alternative to pommes dauphinois

i can guess though what a lot of you are going to think as you cast your eye down the list of ingredients.  Ugh! Anchovies! I’m not going to cook that or, if I do, I am going to leave those out!  Fine, leave them out if you are vegetarian, but if you aren’t give it a go   They add a lovely savoury Unami taste to the finished dish and melt into the sauce so well you won’t be able to indentify them as a specific taste or see them   If you are vegetarian I’d add a couple of teaspoons of nutritional yeast flakes or a teaspoon of marigold vegetable bouillon powder instead of the anchovies.

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Potatoes, leeks and Anchovies

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Chocolate Biscuit Cake

We used to call this dark and luscious chocolate cake Tiffin, others called it Refrigerator Cake.  Ever since Prince William used it as his Groom Cake at his wedding it is now more commonly known as Chocolate Biscuit Cake. Apparently the Princes William and Harry used to have it (and even helped make it) when they were very young.

There are lots of variations to this, the authentic “Royal version” as made by Carolyn Robb so don’t worry if you prefer dried cherries, sultanas or apricots to the figs, or shortbread or rich tea biscuits to the digestives.  You can also use pecans, almonds or macadamia nuts instead of pistachios or if nut allergic just use more biscuit.  Talking of allergies if you are gluten intolerant there are really good gluten free stem ginger cookies that go really well with this – particularly when you use soft dried apricots as the fruit element.  You can also dress this cake up by decorating it with a thin layer of melted dark/milk/white chocolate after the cake has set and then embellish it with maltesers or even chocolate mini eggs! Or do as I have here and crush the mini eggs and lightly roll in.  If you are in the USA and find golden syrup difficult to get you can use corn syrup though this makes the cake slightly softer

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Rich Beef and Onion Stew with Fluffy Parsley Dumplings

On a cold day there can be few things better than a rich beef stew with onions and carrots and served with fluffy parsley dumplings.   Warming and comforting and very, very tasty yet all cooked up in the one pot.  How good is that?

The stars of the show are the dumplings  I have to admit that I’ve only taken to making/eating these recently.  I don’t know why but for some reason I remember dumplings as solid things that’s tasted leaden and fatty.  Hah!  These are nothing of the sort and I now realise why every country seems to have its version of dumplings.  From  Italian gnocchi to Chinese dim sum   They are all delicious and a source of national pride and the British have just as much reason to be proud of parsley dumplings  Yum!

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Espresso Creme Brûlée

Break through the thin caramel layer and dive into the smooth and silky espresso spiked creme custard underneath.  Simple and elegant this is like the best coffee and best pudding you’ve ever had combined and is the perfect end to a meal.

I used to think that you could never beat the classic vanilla Creme Brûlée but I have to put this on an equal standing and believe me I don’t say that lightly!  I like to serve this in small coffee cups as I think it looks great.  Don’t use really fine porcelain ones as they need to be able to go into the oven without cracking, but if you are worried use ramekins instead.  You can make the creme several days in advance (Stage 11) and finish them off by just before serving which makes this an easy entertaining dessert

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