Strawberry Jam Recipe and Seal Spotting in Norfolk

Strawberry Jam recipe

Strawberry Jam recipe

I recently went to Norfolk for a weekend escape from London. It was so refreshing! Long walks on the beach, a boat trip to spot seals at Blakeney Point and homemade strawberry jam made for a very good weekend indeed! We stayed in Brancaster which you can drive to in about 2 and a half hours from London. It’s a little village with its own bay and a very good pub, The Ship, which serves local seafood. I made jam the day before for the first time to take on the trip. The reason for finally making jam was that I had bought two punnets of strawberries at Borough Market and they were, sadly, tasteless!

I had always thought that jam making would be a difficult affair with thermometers, pectin, sieves and muslin but it wasn’t! All I did was halve the strawberries and boil them with sugar and water until the mixture was fizzing and almost cascading down the outside of the pan. It was a little looser than bought jarred jam but none the less delicious!

I had been given a book called ‘Let’s Preserve It’ by Beryl Wood (Square Peg) which is full of recipes for jams, jellies and chutneys. It was first published in 1970 and it is full of beautiful little illustrations of the ingredients. It is organised alphabetically by ingredient. The start of the book has several pages explaining the general rules of making jams, jellies and chutneys but the actual recipes have the bare bones of instructions. For example it didn’t say whether to leave the strawberries whole or to cut them. So, I decided to halve them which seemed to be an on the fence compromise! I thought that this would also make them more manageable in the jam if they didn’t reduce much.

What you need:

900g strawberries
600g sugar
A touch of water

Lemon juice (from one lemon) is one of the ingredients but I didn’t have any and the jam was yummy without but do add some if you feel like it. The type of sugar wasn’t specified so I used caster.

What you need to do:

1. Wash and hull the strawberries, then halve them.

2. Put the sugar in a heavy bottomed large pan with a splash of water.

3. Put the pan on the hob and turn the heat to medium. Let the sugar melt and form a syrup with the water.

4. Once the sugar has dissolved and you have a syrup, add the strawberry halves and simmer.

5. Keep simmering. The mixture may boil and fizz which is fine! It did alarm me a little though!

6. When the strawberries have reduced and it is starting to look like a jam scoop a little out on a teaspoon a put it on a plate. If it is quite runny it needs to be cooked more. If it is quite dense and sticky it should be ready. You can tell for sure if it is ready by seeing if the surface of the jam wrinkles as it cools.

7. When it is ready let it cool a bit then pour it into a jar or tupperware.

Enjoy with some delicious bread!

Wells-next-the-Sea

Wells-next-the-Sea

Seals at Blakeney Point

Seal spotting at Blakeney Point.

Seals at Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Seals enjoying the sun.

Cantering in the sea, Norfolk

Riding on the beach – how nice indeed!

Lightning struck tree, Wells

We found this twisted and torched tree in the wood next to the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea and wondered if it had been struck by lightning.

Norfolk Llamas

Llamas being taken for a walk!

Lets Preserve It

‘Let’s Preserve It’ by Beryl Wood full of jam, jelly and chutney recipes.

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Vietnamese Papaya Salad/ Goi Bo Hoi An

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I spent New Year’s Eve enjoying an Asian themed pot luck dinner with a great group of friends. I love pot luck dinners as you get to try many dishes at once thus satisfying that urge when faced with a menu packed with many scrumptious sounding dishes to order it all! We started with a papaya salad that a friend had learnt at a cookery school on a trip to Vietnam last year. It was so delicious that I could have eaten it all night! But of course the other dishes were great too: peanut, chilli and lime thick sauce; chicken and lemongrass curry and chicken, coriander and coconut curry.

In the papaya salad the ingredients are all raw and the combination of flavours and textures is fresh, fruity, juicy, crunchy, sharp and zingy all at once! What could beat that? Answers in the comments section please!

The original recipe from the cookery school my friend went to calls for beef, onions and shallots but she omitted these at New Year and it was scrumptious as is so I have written the school’s recipe here but without the above mentioned ingredients. However she included carrots so I have added these.

Serves 6 // Takes 30 mins

What you need:

For the salad –

150g lettuce

150g green/ yellow papaya (grated)

150g tomatoes – seeds removed and cut into thin strips

150g carrot – cut into thin strips

75g cucumber – seeds removed and cut into thin strips

4 fresh red chillies – finely sliced with seeds removed

For the dressing –

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp fish sauce

3 tsp brown sugar

1 clove of crushed garlic

For the topping –

2 tbsp peanuts – crushed

75g fresh mint leaves

75g fresh coriander leaves

40g Asian basil

What you need to do:

Like most Asian dishes there are a lot of ingredients that need a lot of laborious slicing but it is well worth it.

All you need to do is prepare the salad ingredients as listed above, mix the dressing ingredients, toss the salad in it in a bowl and sprinkle the topping over it.

You can find information on the cookery school here. Thanks for the delicious dish and recipe Isa!

      

      

Find more Asian recipes on Conker and Indigo here and here.

Christmas Treats: Brandy and Ginger Baubles

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Last weekend I had a pre-Christmas cosy pot luck feast with friends. I love pot luck dinners for their element of surprise and to be able to enjoy a range of tasty morcels. We had an enormous roast chicken with herby pork stuffing roasted on a bed of sliced lemons, carrots, potatoes and onions, puréed potatoes and parsnips (funnily enough this felt a bit like bread sauce!), pea and pancetta muffins, brussel sprouts with chopped chestnuts and pancetta, cheddar and herb scones, and a leek and mushroom pie. I hasten to add that there were 10 of us before you think I’m a greedy so and so. For dessert I made a chocolate Christmas cake (the recipe is one by Eric Lanlard which I read whilst relaxing in a bubble bath a few nights before – I highly recommend this relaxing activity of reading recipes in a bubble bath!). I only put marzipan on half the cake as marzipan isn’t adored by everyone. I am one of the adorers! I even mopped up the melted chocolate left over in the bowl from making the cake with a wodge of marzipan! An Italian friend made a Torta della Nonna (Granny’s Cake) which is like a  pastry pie with a custard filling topped with a sprinkle of pine nuts and finally we had Brandy and Ginger Baubles! The star of this post!

These are ludicrously easy to make and they trick you into thinking that you are eating truffles!

Takes 20 mins making and 2 hours chilling// Makes about 20 baubles

What you need:

150g gingernut biscuits

100g walnuts

60g icing sugar and a bit more for rolling the truffles in

2 tablespoons brandy

2 tablespoons cocoa powder and a bit more for rolling the truffles in

2 tablespoons golden syrup

What you need to do:

1. Break the biscuits up into about 6 pieces each.

2. Put the walnuts in a blender and blend until well ground.

3. Add the broken gingernuts and blend again.

4. Now put the remaining ingredients into the blender with the mix of walnuts and gingernuts.

I discovered a great way to avoid leaving a sticky mess of golden syrup on a spoon (and thus wasting a bit unless you lick it off!). I had measured the cocoa powder with the spoon before so it had a silky layer of the powder on it so when I squeezed the golden syrup on top it slid off beautifully! Neat!

6. Blend until you see the mixture come together into a ball.

7. Put the ball in a bowl and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.

8. Take the mixture out, sprinkle some icing sugar on one plate and cocoa powder on another, make small balls of the mixture (about the size of a big marble) in the palms of your hands and roll them in the icing sugar or cocoa powder.

That’s all! They’re ready!

You can substitute ingredients such as the walnuts for pecans, for example, to make them more to your taste and use honey instead of golden syrup if you prefer.

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On the Side: Fennel, Orange, Radish and Chilli Flake Salad

The other day I saw Matthew Bourne’s ‘Play Without Words’ at Sadler’s Wells which was fantastic. Bourne is a choreographer of contemporary dance, I always see his productions and so far none have failed to impress. He is well known for his ‘Swan Lake’ with all male swans. He also did a take on ‘Carmen’ called ‘Carman’ set in a garage with the main character being a mechanic (Carman of course!)  getting hot and bothered with the head of the garage’s wife. Before the show I had lunch in the courtyard cafe at the Lillian Bayliss studio next door. The food there is always great and this time was no exception. I had a frittata with a fennel, lemon juice and chilli flake salad. Cue yummy noises! Here’s my take on the salad with orange and radishes for hits of peppery and sweet flavours and eye pleasing pops of pink and orange.

Takes 5 minutes // Serves 2

What you need:

1 orange

2 small fennels or 1 large one

6 radishes

A sprinkling of dried chilli flakes

What you need to do:

1. Wash all ingredients bar the chilli flakes.

2. Cut the hard base of the fennel and the shoots of the top off. Slice the shoots lengthways and keep the grassy bits.

3. Slice the fennel length ways so you keep the intricate layers together.

4. Slice an inch off the top of the orange and juice it.

5. Slice the rest of the orange, bar an inch at the other end, into slices, cut the rind off each one and juice the other end.

6. Slice the radishes as thinly as possible.

7. Arrange all the ingredients in a bowl, pour the orange juice on top and sprinkle the chilli flakes over it.

Wholewheat Rosemary Crispbread With Broad Bean And Walnut Dip

I have added a new page to my blog with menu ideas. Have a look!

Now for the crispbread. This is a good start to a meal. It doesn’t take long to make and will keep your friends occupied while you finish cooking. Or you can just make it for yourself of course! This recipe is a good base – you can add whatever you like herb wise. Seeds would be good too. I shall make some with fennel seeds soon or maybe even caraway seeds. Mmmm!

What you need (makes 4 large crispbreads):

120g wholewheat flour

A few pinches of salt

Half a tsp baking powder

100ml warm water

A few glugs of olive oil

A few tsp rosemary (fresh or dried)

A few sprinkles of sea salt

For the dip:

150g broad beans

50g walnuts

2 tbsp olive oil

What you need to do:

1. Put the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Pour the warm water on top and bring the ingredients together with your fingers.

2. Once the ingredients are combined tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 3 minutes.

3. Mould the dough into a ball and wrap it in cling film. Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

4. Boil the broad beans for 3 minutes.

5. Drain the beans but retain a touch of the water. Put them in a blender with the walnuts and 2 tbsp olive oil and pulse until they are combined but not too smooth.

6. Heat the oven to 200C/180C (fan).

7. Once the dough has been in the fridge for 30 minutes remove it and pull it into 4 pieces.  Roll each piece out on a floured surface with a rolling pin. Cover the rolling pin in flour so the dough doesn’t stick to it. You can also flatten the dough by passing it through a pasta machine. This makes it extra thin and crispy but using a rolling pin is absolutely fine.

8. Place each crispbread on baking paper on a baking tray. Drizzle each with olive oil and sprinkle rosemary and sea salt on top.

9. Bake them in the oven for 12-14 minutes. They should look browned but not too dark. The baking time will depend on how thin they are.

Enjoy them with the dip!

On The Side: Mashed Jerusalem Artichoke With Grated Courgette

I love artichokes! I love them raw, cooked, hearts in a jar soaked in olive oil, mashed… One of my earliest memories is of pulling the leaves off an artichoke to dip them in olive oil. I seem to have had a sophisticated palette as a four year old! Globe artichoke leaves are eaten raw dipped in olive oil as a starter in Tuscany. They’re quite tough when uncooked but still good. So, I was pleased to see Jerusalem artichokes out and about the other day. I cut them into pieces about 2cm x 2cm, boiled them briefly, drained and mashed them and grated a courgette on top with a slosh of olive oil. It was delicious! I, like Uncle Monty in ‘Withnail and I’, prefer ‘ornamental’ vegetables to roses. I love ornamental cabbages and the artichoke, when left to flower, is beautiful as below.

Summer of Salads: Barley, Beetroot, Avocado, Broad Bean and Fennel Seeds

I went to two picnics at the weekend – one by the Serpentine in Hyde Park at the Nomad Cinema to see Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo” and the other in London Fields. I took this barley salad along to add to the pot-luck picnic. I ate barley (orzo) a lot when I lived in Florence and was so pleased to find it the other day in Waitrose. I love that the salad turns pink with the beetroot juice!

Serves 6.

What you need:

400g barley

5 pre-boiled beetroots

2 avocados

200g broad beans (frozen)

a smattering of fennel seeds

a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil

What you need to do:

1. Wash the barley, drain, place in a pan with ample water covering it and bring to the boil. Then simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender.

2. Boil a small pan of water and put the broad beans in. Boil for 3 minutes.

3. Slice the beetroot and avocadoes.

4. When the barley and broad beans are cooked and drained, allow them to cool, mix them together then scatter in the beetroot and avocado slices, the fennel seeds and a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy with or without a “nomad cinema”!