Welcome to my blog all about the things I love to grow and cook. You'll find a collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts, as well as a round up of my gardening throughout the year. I wish you good reading, happy cooking and perfect planting!
Hello again. I hope this post finds you keeping well and enjoying some good weather. It’s been a mixed bag here since my last post. Quite a lot of rain, some strong winds and some sunshine in between. Apart from the wind which no plant likes, the combination of rain and sunshine has been perfect for the ripening of the raspberries in the garden.
This past week, quite randomly, one or two berries have turned red almost overnight. I have been able to harvest a handful so far, which, believe it or not, is more than you need for my recipe this week.
This very simple recipe for fruit-flavoured sugar can be made with strawberries if you have them and makes a pretty sprinkle over fruit desserts or as a cake or cookie decoration. It doesn’t take long to make but if you want to store the sugar for a while, you need to leave the sugar to dry out for a few hours before putting it into a storage container. If the flavour of rose isn’t to your taste, leave it out of the mix altogether, or add some finely grated orange rind or vanilla seeds instead. Here’s what you do……
Approx. 25g fresh raspberries
A few drops rosewater
200g granulated sugar
Wash and pat dry the raspberries. Push through a small sieve to remove the seeds and make a purée – you need 1 tbsp of sieved raspberry purée.
Add a few drops of rosewater to taste.
Put the sugar in a bowl and mix in the raspberry purée until well blended. The sugar can be used immediately but will be too soft and damp for long-term storage.
Spread the sugar evenly on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a board, then cover with another sheet of paper and leave in a dry, warm place for a few hours (or overnight) until dry and crisp.
Transfer the sugar to a clean plastic bag – it will dry in clumps. Twist the bag closed and and crush with a rolling pin to break up the clumps of sugar crystals.
Spoon into clean jam jars and seal well. Store in a cool, dry place, away from the light for up to 6 to 8 weeks.
I am looking forward to a good crop of raspberries this year, the bushes look full of berries. I netted the bushes today – I want to make sure I get to them before the birds do! Until next time, I hope you have a good few days and that you are able to enjoy eating fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables 🙂
Hello everyone. I hope you are well. I can hardly believe that we are halfway through the year already! Where does the time go? This is such a great time of the year for homegrown produce. The strawberries in particular seem particularly good this year. Very fragrant and sweet. To mark midsummer on the calendar, I decided to make some strawberry vinegar this week to capture the flavour of the season.
I have a few wild strawberry plants growing around the garden and I managed to harvest a handful of ripe berries before the birds got to them. The cultivated ones came from a local farm shop. Perfectly formed heart-shaped fruit, sweet and delicious, and perfect for flavouring vinegar.
In the past I have used white balsamic vinegar as a base, but as the fruit is so sweet this year, I used a plain white wine vinegar. A clean screw-top bottle for the wild strawberry vinegar, and a wide-neck screw-top jar for the larger berries. Make sure the lids are non-corrosive and that everything is very clean for perfect results. The method is the same for any berry.
Wash and pat dry the fruit and remove stalks and hulls, etc. Prick larger fruit with a small skewer a few times before putting in the jar to help release the juices. Depending on the time of year you are making fruit vinegar, you may want to warm the vinegar slightly before you pour it over the fruit. The temperature here was quite warm this week, so I just used the vinegar straight from the bottle. Simply cover the fruit with vinegar and seal it up. How much fruit you use is up to you, I like to use a fair bit to start with to give a more intense flavour at the beginning.
Leave the vinegar on a bright windowsill, and give it a light shake each day. You will see the colour change quite quickly. I leave the first lot of berries in the vinegar for 3 or 4 days, then I strain off the vinegar and add a fresh batch of berries. After the second addition, put the vinegar in a cool, dark place and after this time you will end up with a vinegar ready to use in about a month. For longer storage, remove the fruit after a month. rebottle and seal until ready to use.
As I type this last paragraph, it is still very bright here at just after 9.30pm and the sky still has patches of blue here and there. Until next time, I wish you a happy summer solstice and midsummer eve 🙂
Hello everyone. I have two lighthearted recipes for you this week. One for cake and one for cookies, and if you choose to, you can make either or both 🙂
I don’t think there are many people who can resist a gingerbread man cookie. They look so cute for one thing and then there is the sweetness and the mellow spiciness of gingerbread itself. It is a perfect bake for this time of year with its warming and comforting aroma and flavour.
The gingerbread men cookies keep very well in an airtight container for over a week, and also freeze well. The cakes are best eaten within 24 hours, so you may want to ice a few at a time. After 24 hours, I find that the cake dries. The cake batter has a relatively low fat content compared to other cake recipes so the keeping qualities are reduced. No matter, the cakes and the frosting freeze fine too. By the way, the uniced cakes can be served warm as a pudding, just pop in the microwave for a few seconds and voila!
On with the recipes. They are remarkably similar in ingredients and straightforward to make so I hope you enjoy making them 🙂
Gingerbread men cookies
Makes: approx. 25
75g plain gluten-free flour blend (such as Doves’ Farm) + extra for dusting
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground mixed spice
25g dairy-free margarine
40g soft dark brown sugar
25g golden or corn syrup
1 tbsp white icing for decorating (I make mine simply with 2 tbsp icing sugar and a few drops of water)
Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the spices into a bowl and rub in the margarine with your fingertips until well blended. Stir in the sugar.
Make a well in the centre and add the syrup, then mix everything together well to make a softish, smooth dough.
Lightly dust the work surface with a little more flour and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3mm. Use a small gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes, gathering and re-rolling the trimmings as necessary. My cutter is 6cm tall, and I made 25 cookies. Transfer to the baking trays and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5 and bake the cookies for about 10 minutes until firm and lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
When cool, put the icing in a piping bag (no nozzle necessary). Snip off a tiny piece from the end and pipe features on each cookie. Leave for a few minutes to dry before storing in an airtight container.
300g plain gluten-free flour blend
20g gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground mixed spice
190g soft dark brown sugar
2 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped (optional)
75ml vegetable oil
225ml plant-based milk (I used oat milk)
Lightly spiced frosting
100g dairy-free margarine, softened
200g icing sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground mixed spice
1 tbsp ginger wine or the syrup from stem ginger jar if using (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Line 12 muffin or cupcake tins with paper cases. Sieve the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Add the sugar and stem ginger if using. Mix everything together.
Make a well in the centre and add the oil and milk. Gradually work the dry ingredients into the liquid and continue mixing until all the ingredients are well blended and make a smooth, thick batter.
Divide between the cases and bake for about 30 minutes until just firm to the touch – they do sink a little bit so don’t worry. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
For the frosting, put the margarine in a bowl and beat to make it smooth and glossy, then gradually sieve over the icing sugar, in small batches, mixing it in well after each addition, to make a smooth, soft and fluffy icing. Stir in the spices and ginger wine or syrup if using.
Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small closed star nozzle, and pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake. If you don’t fancy piping, simply smooth some frosting on top using a small palette knife.
Just before serving, pop a gingerbread man cookie on top of each cupcake. The cookies will go soft if left on top of the cakes for more than half an hour, so best leave the arranging until the last minute to eat them at their crisp best.
Have a good few days. Until next time, happy baking!
Seville orange marmalade-making comes but once a year, and that time is now. The bitter Spanish oranges are only in the shops between January and mid February. They are the best citrus fruit to achieve a classic tartly-flavoured orange marmalade, the favourite preserve of one Paddington Bear 🙂
There’s no getting away from it, making marmalade is labour-intensive if you make it the traditional way, but I enjoy it, and to me, the reward is greater than the effort involved. I have 2 versions of the same recipe to post this week. The first is the traditional, bright orange, softly set breakfast staple that we’re all familiar with. The second is a dark version which includes dark brown sugar to give a treacly flavour; it is also my personal favourite – delicious over porridge or rice pudding. However, it doesn’t photograph that well in the jar as you may imagine, so I am only posting “selective” images!
How you prepare the peel is up to you. I like chunky (which is easier to prepare!). Get yourself organised and soak the peel overnight as this helps soften it, and make sure you cook it properly before adding the sugar to the pan – once the sugar is added, the peel won’t soften any more.
On with the recipe, and happy marmalade making if you fancy having a go 🙂
Makes: approx. 3kg
750g Seville oranges (approx. 5 large fruit), washed
2.5 litres cold water
2kg granulated sugar
100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
The day before, juice the oranges, keeping all the pips and membrane that remain on the juicer. Cover the juice and refrigerate.
I use a serrated grapefruit spoon to scrape out the fleshy bits that remain inside the orange shells, leaving just the skin and pith of the oranges ready for slicing.
Pile all the pips, membrane and scrapings from inside the orange shells onto a large piece of clean muslin, and tie in a bundle securely with string. Put to one side. Halve the orange shells and slice as thinly and as small as you like.
Place the sliced orange in a large bowl, pour over the water and add the muslin bag. Cover loosely, put in a cool place and leave to soak overnight.
The next day, carefully transfer the contents of the bowl into a large preserving pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the peel gently until very soft. This takes around 45 – 55 minutes depending on how thick you cut the peel.
Carefully remove the muslin bag and place in a sieve over a jug. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can, and pour back into the saucepan. Discard the bag.
Pour the orange juice into the saucepan and stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Mix well and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and let the mixture come to a rapid boil, then cook the marmalade for about 20 minutes until the temperature reaches 105-106°C – spoon a little on to a cold plate from time to time as the temperature rises to check setting point is reached; once it cools, the pool of marmalade should wrinkle when pushed gently with your finger.
Turn off the heat and leave the contents of the pan to stand for about 15 minutes – this enables the mixture to thicken a little and helps keep the citrus peel evenly suspended in the jelly when transferred to the jars.
Stir the marmalade well before spooning into clean jars whilst hot, and seal well. Leave to cool, then label and store in the usual way.
For the dark version, replace 500g of the granulated sugar with dark brown sugar and cook as above. If you use a very dark Muscovado sugar you may find the setting point more difficult to achieve (as I did this year!). I added a 250ml bottle of liquid pectin to the mixture to help things along, and a good set was achieved. I have no idea why this happened, the same recipe worked fine last year, the only change was a darker variety of sugar. One of life’s little mysteries…..Have a good week 🙂
It’s the time of year when you might be thinking about making something edible for giving as a Christmas present so my post this week may be an idea for you. Last week I found large fresh mangoes for sale in the supermarket at a very reasonable price and decided to make mango chutney. This is a favourite preserve in our house; we get through lots of it, but I hardly ever get round to making it.
Choose slightly under-ripe mangoes for chutney so that you end up with some texture in your preserve. Very ripe mango will go very soft and will also increase the sweetness of the final chutney.
You can go one of two ways when you make mango chutney: the spicy route, whilst or the smooth, sweet and jam-like. If you prefer the latter, you don’t need to add the spice bag or the chillis and onion seeds from the recipe below, but I do recommend keeping the ginger, bay and garlic as well as salt and pepper . Blend or mash the mango finely before you start, and for a more vibrant colour, add some paprika.
For a spicy version, I prefer to keep the chutney as clear as possible so I avoid ground spices as these can give a murky result. Instead I opt for making a spice bag. It’s a bit of a faff but worth it to achieve a more “professional” appearance. Toast the cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds first in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes. Cool and then grind them with the cardamom pods. Pile on to a small square of clean muslin and add the ground pepper. Tie up with a strip of muslin or clean cook’s string and you’re ready to go.
If you can bear to part with your preserve, it does make a lovely and impressive gift for any curry or Indian food lover. Make it now and it will be just about ready to eat at Christmas, but perfect for keeping into the new year. I haven’t decided what to do with my 3 jars yet – keep or gift? Probably the former 🙂
Makes: approx. 525g
½ tsp each cumin, coriander and black mustard seeds
4 cardamom pods
½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
2-3 large slightly under-ripe mangoes – see below
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
20g piece root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
150ml cider vinegar
225g granulated sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp black onion seeds
½ tsp salt
First make up the spice bag as described above and put to one side. Next prepare the mango. Slice down either side of the large smooth, flat central stone. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh, then slice off the remaining flesh from around the edge of the stone. You will need 600g prepared fruit for this recipe.
Put the mango flesh in a large saucepan and add the spice bag, garlic, ginger, bay leaves and chilli. Pour over the vinegar, bring to the boil, cover and gently simmer for about 10 minutes until softened.
Stir in the sugar until dissolved, then add the lemon juice. Bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes until thick and jam-like, stirring occasionally as it may start to stick on the bottom of the saucepan. Turn off the heat, stir in the onion seeds and salt, cover and stand for 10 minutes, then discard the bay leaves and spice bag.
Stir the mixture before spooning into hot, sterilised jars and sealing immediately. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dry cupboard for at least a month to mature before serving.
That’s all for this month. I wish you a good few days. I’ll see you again in December on the run up to Christmas 🙂
I’ve had a hectic few days since my last post. I have got a bit behind with my festive preparations, but I’m pleased to report that back on track again now. I’ve been in the kitchen this weekend and here is the first of my 2 festive posts.
I am a huge fan of homemade sweeties, especially fudge, but I have found it difficult to find a recipe that works well as a dairy-free version. I have made the super-easy chocolate-based fudge recipes from time to time, but they do have a different texture to the fudge I remember from childhood.
For this week’s recipe, I have turned to an old recipe book and adapted a traditional recipe which produces the flaky, melt-in-the-mouth texture I really like, and it makes a lovely edible gift too, perfect for the time of year – if you can bare to give it away!
I used peanut butter as the main flavouring, but any nut butter (or tahini) will work just as well. To get the right consistency, you do need to use a butter replacement with a high fat content; I used coconut oil but a solid white vegetable fat like “Trex” would work if you don’t want the extra flavour from using coconut.
As with most traditional sweet making, a sugar thermometer is a vital piece of kit, but if you don’t have one, I’ve included a quick tip which will help determine whether the fudge is ready or not.
Makes: 25 to 36 pieces
450g granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp salt (use less or none if you don’t want the salty flavour)
50g coconut oil or white vegetable fat
150g no added salt or sugar peanut or other nut butter
150ml unsweetened dairy-free milk (I use unsweetened soya milk)
2 tbsp. golden syrup
2 tsp caramel flavour (or vanilla extract to taste if you prefer a different flavour)
Line an ungreased 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment or waxed paper. Put all the ingredients except the flavouring in a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the coconut oil melts.
Bring to the boil and continue boiling for about 5 minutes until a temperature of 116°C is reached on a sugar thermometer. Alternatively, drop a little of the mixture into a cup of cold water. If it forms a soft ball when rolled between your finger and thumb, the cooking is complete. It is important to keep stirring the boiling mixture to prevent it sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan.
Turn off the heat, add the flavouring and stir well. Keep stirring the mixture occasionally as it cools. After about 20 minutes or so, the mixture will begin to thicken and lose its shine, this is the time to mix thoroughly until the texture becomes grainy and stiffer – this is how the perfect texture is achieved.
Transfer to the prepared tin, smooth off the top and leave to cool for about 30 minutes until almost set. Score the top with a sharp knife into 25 or 36 squares, then leave to cool completely for 2 to 3 hours.
Cut through the pieces completely and remove from the tin. Store between sheets of baking parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Have a good few days and good luck with all your festive preparations. I have my second festive post to put up before Christmas, so I will be with you again in a few days time 🙂
A short post this week, but I wanted to publish a recipe to celebrate Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, whose anniversary falls on January 25th each year. These cute, haggis-shaped sweet treats are a version of my Chocolate Haggis for a Burns Night supper (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) recipe from last year. You can mix and match ingredients according to the bits and pieces you have to hand. If you don’t like marzipan, use ivory or cream coloured fondant icing instead.
50g unsalted butter or coconut oil
50g heather honey or golden syrup
75g free-from dark chocolate, broken into pieces
75g free-from oatcakes, finely crushed
40g toasted fine oatmeal
50g toasted flaked almonds, crushed
Icing sugar to dust
400g natural marzipan
Put the butter (coconut oil) and honey (golden syrup) in a saucepan with the chocolate, and heat very gently, stirring, until melted.
Remove from the heat and stir in the crushed oatcakes, oatmeal, currants and almonds. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Leave to cool, then chill for about 30 minutes until firm enough to form into portions.
Divide the mixture into 16 and form each into an oval-shaped sausage. Chill for 30 minutes until firm.
Divide the marzipan into 16 and flatten each into a round – use a little icing sugar if the marzipan is sticky. Wrap a disc of marzipan around each chocolate oat cluster; press the edges to seal and then twist the ends to make a haggis shape.
Store the mini haggis at a cool room temperature until ready to eat. The marzipan will become sticky if refrigerated. Best enjoyed with coffee and a wee dram. Until next week, I raise a glass to you all and say “Slàinte!” – to your good health 🙂
Last weekend, I finally got round to gathering the last of the windfall apples from underneath and around the old apple tree in the garden. There were quite a few; some badly bruised, others almost entirely unscathed. I had picked a good harvest from the tree a couple of weeks previously and have these apples safely stored away in an old fridge for later use. In my kitchen, windfalls are destined for the cooking pot and for making preserves.
I find it very satisfying making chutneys, jams and jellies, although jelly making does take a bit of planning and time, and can not be rushed. However, the finished result is very rewarding and worth the wait. This apple variety (Lord Derby) isn’t particularly flavoursome (it is reminiscent of a very large Granny Smith apple), but it is a great cooking apple as it holds its shape and some texture when baked or stewed. It’s not the juiciest for jam making, but as I had so many to use up this year, I decided to get all the jelly making stuff out of the cupboard and get preserving.
I always keep a good supply of glass jars on stand-by throughout the year, ready for filling as different fruit and veg comes into season. I give them a good rinse with hot soapy water and then sterilise them along with the lids – I gave up boiling jars to sterilise them, I now use a sterilizing fluid followed by a thorough rinse. I haven’t had any problems with any preserves spoiling since I switched to this less time-consuming method.
The jelly strainer is a piece of kit I’ve had for a few years. The whole contraption stands over a bowl or jug to catch the juice. If you don’t have a purpose-made jelly bag, line a large nylon sieve or strainer with some muslin and suspend over a deep bowl. Make sure you thoroughly clean all the equipment that comes into contact with the fruit or vegetable juice to maximise the keeping qualities for your preserves.
I’ve written a couple of savoury variations on a basic apple jelly recipe I made with my windfalls during the week. Both jellies are delicious with cheeses, barbecue food or roast meats and cold cuts. If you want a plain, sweet apple jelly (the best choice if you have a really tasty apple variety), just follow the recipe for the herb jelly below, and leave out the herbs.
Herb apple jelly
1.5kg prepared cooking apples, roughly chopped – this is the overall weight once they have been thoroughly washed and all the bad bits taken out
Approx. 825g granulated sugar
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and sage
Put the chopped apples (unpeeled, pips and stalks attached!) in a large saucepan. Pour over 1l cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally, until tender.
Carefully ladle into a suspended jelly bag and leave to drip into a clean bowl or jug, in a cool place, lightly covered, overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, just let it drip through naturally. Jelly making is an excellent test of the patience!
The next day, remove the juice bowl, and cover and chill it. Scoop the pulp back into a large saucepan and add a further 500ml water. Bring to the boil, then strain again as above, for a few hours – there won’t be so much juice the second time around, so 5-6 hours should be long enough.
Measure both juice yield together and calculate the amount of sugar required as 450g per 600ml juice. My yield was 1.1l which needs 825g sugar, but if you have a juicy apple variety you will capture more juice.
Rinse and pat dry a large sprig of rosemary and sage. Pour the juice into a preserving pan or large saucepan, add the herbs, and heat until steaming. Stir in the sugar until it is dissolved, then raise the heat and boil rapidly until the temperature reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer – this will take several minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the jars by adding a small sprig of washed rosemary and a sage leaf in each. Remove the jelly from the heat and let the bubbles subside. Skim away any surface residue from the top and discard the cooked herbs. This jelly begins to set quite quickly so ladle it into the jars and seal them while the jelly is piping hot. Leave to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months. The jelly is ready for eating right away if you can’t wait! Once opened, store in the fridge for up to a month.
Apple and hot red pepper jelly
1.25g prepared, chopped cooking apples (see above)
500g prepared weight chopped red peppers (capsicum) (approx. 4 medium peppers), seeds and stalks removed
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
60ml cider or white wine vinegar
Approx. 675g granulated sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
Put the chopped apples, peppers and garlic in a large saucepan and pour over 1l cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, mashing occasionally, until tender.
Carefully ladle into a suspended jelly bag and let the mixture drip into a bowl or jug underneath. Leave in a cool place, covered lightly, overnight.
The next day, put the pulp to on side and measure the collected juice. You will need 450g sugar per 600ml juice. Pour the juice into a preserving pan or large saucepan and add the vinegar and bay leaves. Heat until steaming hot and then stir in the sugar until dissolved.
Bring the juice to the boil and boil rapidly until the temperature reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer. While the juice is boiling, pick out 50g of the cooked pepper and garlic, rinse, pat dry and chop finely – discard the rest of the pulp. Divide the chopped vegetables between your prepared jam jars.
Once the jelly has reached the correct temperature, turn off the heat, discard the bay leaves and stir in the salt and smoked paprika. Divide between the jars – for even distribution of the vegetable pieces, wait for about 10 minutes before sealing the jars, then give them a quick stir with a teaspoon to suspend the vegetable pieces throughout the jelly before putting the lids on tightly. Cool, label and store as above. Best left for a month to mature before eating.
I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy heat in my food, so, although I call this “hot”, it’s pretty mild. However, if you can stand the heat, this is a good recipe to add as much chopped red chilli to suit your taste. Just cook the prepared chilli with the apples and peppers at the beginning of the recipe – leave the chilli seeds in as well if you like!
Raspberries love the Scottish climate (lots of rain!). The plump, juicy berries carry on ripening even on the most dreary of summer days. I have been picking my raspberries since the end of last month. Sadly, it looks like the end is nearly nigh; the supply is dwindling, but there are still enough to bag up for the freezer for later in the year, and then I will leave the rest for the blackbirds!
The bushes in the garden are now in their twelfth year, and have given me a good harvest every season. However, I think this autumn, it will be the time to plant some new canes. The variety I chose to grow is Glen Ample; selected for the large-sized fruit, and as the label said at the time, “perfect for cooking and jam-making”. And, they have certainly proven to be.
If you’ve never made jam before, raspberry jam is the easiest to make. It practically sets as soon as the fruit and sugar boils. Frozen raspberries work equally as well for jam-making; whilst other fruit loses pectin (the natural setting agent found in many fruits) after freezing, I have found little difference in setting jam made with the frozen berries.
I have 3 methods for making my raspberry jam, depending on how much fruit I have picked, and how much time is available. The first method, is the traditional saucepan method, great if you have a large amount of fruit and a bit of time. This method works well with frozen berries – just let them thaw out in the saucepan you’re going to use to cook them in so that none of the juices are wasted.
Traditional raspberry jam – use equal amounts of prepared fresh (or frozen) raspberries to granulated sugar. The yield is approximately the same as the weight of the 2 ingredients combined, so 500g raspberries and 500g sugar should give you 1kg of jam.
Heat the fruit by itself in a clean, large saucepan, stirring, until it steams and starts to break down. Mash it a little with a wooden spoon, reduce the heat and stir in the sugar. Heat, gently, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved, then raise the heat, bring the jam to a rapid boil, and stop stirring. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jam settle for about 5 minutes. Stir, and then transfer to clean, sterilised jars whilst still very hot. Seal immediately. Cool and label. In a cool, dark, dry cupboard, this jam will keep unopened for up to 12 months. Store in the fridge once opened, and eat within a month.
Microwave raspberry jam – super-speedy; hassle free; the perfect jam method for smaller amounts of fresh berries (I haven’t tried this with frozen berries but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work). Use finer, caster sugar for this jam as it heats and dissolves more quickly. The jam has a good set, and I find the colour is brighter than the traditional method; the flavour is much the same. My microwave is 900W so you may need to adjust timings accordingly.
Wash and pat dry 250g prepared fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean microwave-proof bowl ( the mixture needs room to boil in the microwave, so choose a good size to prevent the mixture boiling over).
Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 80°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – the mixture will be very sloppy at this stage.
Put back in the microwave, and cook on High for 3 minutes to reach boiling point, then boil for 2 minutes. The jam is now ready to put in jars and seal as above. The jam has the same keeping qualities as with the traditionally made jam above.
My third method for making jam is probably the most delicious and it involves no cooking of the raspberries at all. You do need to select the perfect, unblemished, fresh specimens for best results, and wash the berries well before using. Use caster sugar for speedier heating and dissolving.
This fresh jam has a much softer texture than the other 2. You need to store it in the fridge – I find it keeps well for 4 to 6 weeks. It also freezes so you can keep it for longer and then take out small portions as and when you fancy. If you haven’t got a microwave, you can heat the sugar in a saucepan – just keep the heat very low and keep stirring the sugar so that it doesn’t melt or burn.
Fresh (uncooked) raspberry jam – wash and pat dry 250g prepared, unblemished, very fresh raspberries and mash with a fork in a large, perfectly clean, heat-proof bowl. Sit the bowl on a clean tea-towel.
Put 250g caster sugar in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on Medium for 15 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. The temperature of the sugar should be around 120°C (I use a food probe to check). Carefully pour the hot sugar over the mashed raspberries and stir well – it will hiss and steam. Cover loosely and leave to cool completely, then spoon into clean, sterilised jars or containers. Seal and label, and store in the fridge or freezer.
It is pleasantly fragrant in the garden at the moment, thanks mostly to two highly scented rose bushes. One variety is very old, a Felicia rose, with gnarled, stooped stems. However old it is, the foliage is vibrant green and healthy-looking and the bush produces an abundant supply of pale pink, Turkish Delight-scented flowers from late spring through to late summer. The other, a Gertrude Jekyll, I planted last year. The flowers are larger, deeper pink in colour and the fragrance slightly sweeter and more aromatic. Both roses have lots of petals per head, and are perfect for use in the kitchen.
The preparation for any recipe using rose petals is the same. Choose fragrant roses with undamaged petals; they need to be free from pests and chemical sprays. Rose heads are best picked when almost fully open and still fresh. Cut the stems in the morning before the sun becomes too hot – this helps preserve colour and fragrance. Carefully pull the petals from the head, keeping them as whole as possible, weigh them, and then place in a colander or strainer. Fill a bowl with cold water and dip the colander in the water to submerge the petals. Swirl gently the colander and then lift out. Shake gently to drain and shake further to remove the excess water.
The petals are fine to use damp for rosewater, syrup and any recipe where they are cooked in liquid, but if you want to dry them, spread them out carefully on sheets of absorbent kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and pat them dry with more paper or clean cloth. Leave to dry naturally, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour or until they feel dry to the touch.
Rosewater – makes approx. 250ml
25g fragrant rose petals – approx. 4 full heads of rose petals
250ml boiling water
1 tsp vodka (optional) – this helps preserve the rosewater for slightly longer
Prepare and rinse the rose petals as described above. Place in a sterilised, clean preserving jar or heatproof jug, and pour over the boiling water.
Cover the top with a piece of muslin or kitchen paper and leave to steep until completely cold.
Strain through muslin into a sterilised, clean jug and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible. Mix in the vodka if using.
Decant into a sterilised, screw-top bottle or jam jar. Seal, label and store in the fridge. Use within 4 to 6 weeks.
Note: homemade rosewater is weaker in dilution that the distilled rosewater you can buy ready-made, so you will probably need to use more in your recipes.
Rose petal syrup – makes 350ml
85g fragrant rose petals – approx. 9 full heads of rose petals
450ml cold water
265g caster sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Prepare and rinse rose petals as above, then place in a clean, large stainless steel saucepan. Pour over the cold water.
Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – all the colour will come out of the petals. Strain through muslin into a jug, and then squeeze the muslin to obtain as much liquid as possible.
Return the liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well over a low heat to dissolve the sugar – the liquid should now be, magically, very pink.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until lightly syrupy. Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and seal well. Label and cool. The syrup will keep unopened for 6 months, once opened keep in the fridge for up to a month.
Rose petal syrup is perfect for fruit salads; adding to cocktails; diluting with sparkling water for a refreshing summer cooler; for pouring over pancakes or for drizzling over freshly baked cakes.
Dried rose petals – prepare rose petals as described above and dry thoroughly. Spread out across the layers of a dehydrator, making sure they are well spaced out, keeping them in as much of a single layer as possible. Cover and dry at 40°C for 1 ½ to 2 hours, swapping the trays around every 30 minutes, until the petals are dry and parched. Leave to cool then place in a clear screw-top jar and store in a dark, dry place. Petals will fade after a few months, and are best used within 4 to 6 weeks. Sprinkle over salads, fruit desserts or use as a natural cake decoration.
My next post will be very rosy and will use all 3 rose recipes. See you in a few days!