Monday, 28 November 2011

Igloo and Penguin Cake for a Child's Birthday Party


I have written before about my rather amateurish attempts at making children's birthday cakes, e.g. the bizarre looking hedgehog cake that I had to make for years for both my children.  So, my 12 year old daughter threw me a curve ball when she asked for an 'Igloo and Penguin' cake.  In Tavistock Rockin' Beads (brilliant place with tuition and some amazing beads for sale, currently running drop in Mince Pie Monday workshops) we found these penguin beads and the deal was done.
I made a chocolate sponge mixture and put them in a greased pudding basin and a ramekin.  Not looking very igloo-like yet...
 I wanted snow-white icing, but thought regular water and icing sugar would be too runny, royal icing would be too thick and heavy, so I created a cream cheese frosting and slathered it on.  Uh-oh, it felt like it might turn into a hedgehog again.

 It wasn't quite as bright white as I had intended, but I had committed to it and there was no turning back.  I marked on some rather messy brickwork on the igloo, added white chocolate drops for a pathway, made a small pond out of blue 'ready roll' icing that I found in the back of the cupboard and sprinkled it with edible blue glitter.  A couple of handfuls of icing sugar later, I decided to add a Playmobil tree (nope, no trees in the Antarctic, but then again, penguins don't really live in igloos either!)...and da-daaaah:
 I broke the cardinal (and somewhat weird) rule of novelty cakes where everything on the plate is supposed to be edible.  Doh! one plastic tree and Doh! two china penguins.

And the girls went mad with some Baking Mad products I received through the post and decorated six cupcakes each and had a great, messy, sugary time.  We loved the Gold Lustre edible paint and the Giant Snowies.  The strawberry flavour chocolate buttons were pretty good too. 




Monday, 21 November 2011

Review: Complicite - The Master and Margarita, Plymouth Theatre Royal



The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov has been one of my favourite books since I read it as as student 20 years ago.  It is devilishly zany; it has a very cool Satan character, Woland; it satirises the Soviet system and bureaucracy; it's clever, knowing, self-referential, ahead of its time: all about the artist vs the state, an artist in love, the nature of compassion, and it throws in quite a few bits of delicious knockabout black comedy (oh, and there's a bit about religion too.)


The Theatre Royal, Plymouth were showing a brand new dramatised version of the novel last week performed by the acclaimed theatre company, Complicite. I booked the tickets months ago, eager to see how such an 'out there' book could be brought to the stage.



The director, Simon McBurney, was the first on stage and half-introduced and half-apologised for the show.  I felt that he was being self-deprecating when he said that he really found the book puzzling and almost pulled out of the project a few weeks, ahem, months (he corrected himself) ago.  We hoped his negativity was pre-show nerves and luvvy language for 'what a lovely show I've created' however, as we left the theatre we hadn't decided if it was a triumph or not.

There was a lot to commend it.  The first half got me involved hugely and after nearly two hours, I actually didn't want the interval to take place as I felt it broke down my involvement in the Moscow scenes.

Pontious Pilate forgot a lot of his words in his intial scene and had to be prompted.  It wouldn't have been so noticeable but the lighting and sound effects are a major part of this production and a camera was beaming his super-sized visage onto the whole of the back of the stage.  I suppose he was torn in his compassion versus anger with Yeshua, and I felt similarly towards Pilate - learn your words, sir, I've paid good dosh for this seat! Ah poor man, he's doing his best, the other part of me thought.

Yeshua was a stark, skinny and very naked man for most of his appearance.  I felt this worked well.  He was a persecuted prisoner - and we no longer have the need for skimpy torn half-covered nether regions.  His vulnerability to us, yet his own ease with (or the irrelevance of) his nakedness was an interesting situation.

Later on, Margarita spent a long time naked on stage and I felt totally different about this.  I felt so sorry for her  - it seemed to be overly-extended.  Considering this was a long (3.5 hour) performance, the naked Margarita scenes at the Moscow Ball and flying over the city were a bit out of balance with the rest of the play.  Yes, it was a date with the devil and it had to seem to be dark and threatening, but it was over long and ended up being a bit tedious.

Woland was a terrific devil.  His shining teeth, German accent and dark glasses were spot on.  It was a bit of a shame that the same actor also played The Master - I wanted to see them both together and didn't want them to be a Jekyll and Hyde type character who had to keep disrobing.  The baseball capped sidekick Koroviev was truly menacing, the stuff of nightmares.  The cat.....oh, the cat! Where to begin?  A wonderfully hip thrusting, mangy skeletal puppet....but a white cat with a green face!  It had to be a black cat.  Why change that fundamental symbol?  And they played the Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter and not Sympathy for the Devil (too obvious?  It was inspired by the book, The Master and Margarita).

The staging was great in places - I loved the visual effect of the brick wall falling down at the end.  The projections on the back wall worked well and were quite breathtaking at times.  The microphone special effects worked well in places but were used too frequently and became irritating.  And too frequent use of chairs as weapons and symbols of intimidation (irritation?)

There were moments of brilliance, grotesqueness and hilarity, but I was not entirely won over.  I am disgruntled because these three performances were regarded as a 'run through' prior to the European tour and fortnight at The Barbican.  There were no programmes on sale.  McBurney even referred to the Saturday night performance as being their 'first night, Friday was the dress rehearsal.' Well, I didn't know that when I bought a ticket!!  Is this a case of 'Don't worry it's just Devon'?  I'm sure theatre performances do progress and mutate as they go on tour, however I didn't really want to be witness to such an unfinished spectacle when I had paid full price for the privilege.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Review: Hotel Chocolat Advent Calendar 'Truffles to Share'




This advent calendar was gratefully received courtesy of Hotel Chocolat and it felt really naughty to eat the whole thing by 14 November!  However, I had a review to do, so I had the perfect excuse.    I'm guessing this is aimed at Double Income No Kids Yet couples (can anyone else afford £24 for an advent calendar?) who want to share a high end product. The (rather seductive) gimmick is that there are two chocolates behind each window.   I do have children and they were very excited about it, but they only liked one or two of the truffle flavours.  In fact rather than bickering over who would have the chocolates we were all saying 'No, go on, you have the mulled wine truffle.'



 I loved the Salted Soft Caramel and quite liked the gingerbread truffle, the plain and milk truffles, but the mulled wine flavour was rejected by all of us and only one of us, my 10 year old son, liked the cinnamon praline. All the chocs were the same nipple shape.  It would have been more fun with some variation e.g. Stars, trees, snowmen etc



On the plus side, two chocs per advent window is a great idea.  Right sized chocolates, three quarter sized = a nice mouthful.  

Negatives: high price and dubious flavours. The packaging design was half right: I liked the sparkly icicle and tree pattern but there was an ugly strip of white cardboard down the middle on the hinge of the calendar. 
It would have been nice if the website had listed the truffle flavours contained within this calendar.  There are some very tiny icon symbols to show they contain e.g. alcohol, nuts, milk etc ( hey, hotel choc, can you make those symbols a bit larger?  They're very difficult to interpret in such a small size) but no list of flavours.
Overall our verdict was that it is a good concept, a little overpriced with not particularly yummy chocolate.
There are four other advent calendars in the range.  I think the others have festive shaped chocs inside and are priced at £12-17
 Rather interesting that their website is also advertising a 'Cheese and Chocolate Tasting Experience.'  As a youngster I discovered the taste sensation of pairing mature cheddar cheese with Kit Kats, a guilty pleasure, but I've always been a fan of sweet-savoury combos.  They even use chocolate as a 'cracker' for cheese and serve sweet relishes instead of Branston.  Whooh.  Brave, but I'm liking it.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Avocet Cafe, Topsham


The Avocet Cafe is a dear little place on the high street in Topsham.  It has one tiny two seater table squeezed onto the pavement and a further seven or eight on the inside.  They do good value, homemade produce focusing on local products.  Previously I've had their savoury cream tea which was a homemade scone with creme fraiche and South Devon Chilli Farm jam.



This time after a beautiful meander along the nearby Goat Walk next to the River Exe, we had tea and homemade teacakes.  Apparently when the council were trying to decide what to name the new estuarine promenade in 1908 a local man proclaimed 'It's nowt but a bloody goat walk!' and the name stuck.  When we walk along there with the children we totally embarrass them by making like goats.  But today we had no kids to embarrass, therefore no billy goats gruff antics.

The Avocet was recently recommended in the Guardian's Top 10 Best Budget Eats for Exeter.


 On the way to the Ladies (through the kitchen and out in the back garden) I was very envious of the plucked pumpkins.

 Another place that does homemade teacakes (and bless them for going to the trouble of a yeasty bun) is the excellent Dartmoor Tea Rooms.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Seville's Top Three Tapas Bars - How to Munch through the Credit Crunch


To celebrate my 40th birthday, I have just been treated to an amazing week of feasting on tapas and Rioja in Seville in the South of Spain.  We took the children despite our 14 year old preachy guidebook telling us that 'although Spaniards are very welcoming to children, you may want to consider whether Seville would be a more relaxing and romantic experience if you left the children behind.'  Made me laugh, and I was tempted for a while, but we brought the sprogs along regardless.


Eating in Seville is 90% tapas bars.  There are a couple of linen tablecloth-ed restaurants, but they look so starchy (and expensive) in comparison to the vibrancy of the bars.  Dining out in Seville proved to be surprisingly cheap.  Coffees were about 1.4 Euros and a glass of decent red wine about 2.5 Euros.  I was expecting the anchovies, tortilla, red peppers, patatas bravas, slices of ham and deep-fried croquettes of 14 years ago, and indeed there were plenty of these to be had in places like the wonderful Dos de Mayo.  

This is the 'racion' (medium sized) portion of the alternative Spanish Omelette , this one contained red, green peppers and ham.



Marinaded chargrilled peppers


Marinaded slices of tender calves liver with spring onion



After a few days we discovered the joys of 'modern tapas' at Eslava and Lumbreras e.g. a barely set egg yolk quivering on top of a 'mushroom cake' or a meltingly tender solomillo fillet steak atop a smear of fresh mushroom cream - these were exquisite high-end restaurant standard dishes - and no photos as they were snaffled so quickly.  The fillet steak was the most expensive dish we had at 6 Euros, oh yes, and a huge dish of garlic butter clams for 8 Euros, but for the most part, they came in at 2-3 Euros a plateful.  As a family of four, we lived like kings and ate and drank to our hearts' content, and the bill was often a remarkable 25 - 35 Euros.

Here's a picture of the wonderful Dos de Mayo tapas bar, just behind the main Il Corte Ingles department store on the Plaza de Duque de Victoria.  It was a frenetic den of activity - I have no idea how the barmen kept track of everyone's pint-size tapas orders.  They did call me 'Casey' which we found amusing.



This was the children's favourite, churros with hot chocolate at a corner breakfast cafe.  Cheap, calorific, filling and delicious.  NB, there is a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in the top right hand corner in a vain attempt to make the meal have a nutritional value.



Our favourite tapas bars in Seville were:

Eslava (lots more photos of their food on this website)
Lumbreras (they don't have their own website - so this is a link to Tripadvisor)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Teas Me - Sweet Chai of Mine - Review


I received these sample packs of tea in the post.  I was actually expecting them to be from local Devon tea blender, Tea's Me (I have long been a fan of their wonderful lavender-scented Tottea that claims to 'restore your inner angel'), but these turned out  to be from Squeeze Me, based in Northamptonshire, under the brand name Teas Me (with no apostrophe).  Confused?  I was a bit.


I'm a big fan of 'Chai' teas so I was very keen to try this one as my local supply of Dragonfly Cape Malay Chai Roibos has dried up (anyone know why?).  The see-through pouch was very snazzy - lovely to see all the colourful components of the tea and have a resealable pouch too.  Sometimes my tea gets stashed away in some tin at the back of the cupboard and I only find it months later.  The brew is exactly as described 'warm and comforting' with a big cinnamon kick.  I really liked it.
I tried the Earl Grey flavour today in my brand new ForLife kermit green teapot that A and D bought me.  It wasn't as 'in your face' and powerfully bergamoty or floral as some Earl Greys, but that's no bad thing.  Liked the fact it was blended with bright yellow sunflower petals. Oh, and loved my new teapot.

The Tea sachets cost £3.99 each for 100g loose leaf tea.  I almost forgot the pun! Guns 'n' Roses, I never thought I'd reference you on my food blog, you are so far off my radar but I just can't help it...Oh-ohhhh, sweet chai-aii of miii-iiine....

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Guardian: Exeter and Topsham's 10 Best Budget Eats


Well this saved me a lot of hard work - this is a fantastic guide to budget eats in the Exeter area, published today in The Guardian.

I agree wholeheartedly with what the article says about Boston Tea Party, The Real Food Store, The Georgian Tea Rooms and Avocet Cafe (I love their 'savoury' cream tea with South Devon chilli jam).  All the other places look like great places to try - thanks for bringing the Exploding Bakery to my attention 'stellar baking at bargain prices'. And I really like the sound of Petit Mange in Magdalen Rd (hopefully avoiding the knife -wielder that was running amok this week)

Thanks to the Guardian for doing such a well-researched piece on my home turf!

And what's even better is that they've produced an interactive map for budget eats for the whole of the UK.  Very kind.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Penge Punch, First of the Month

It's true: I rarely leave Devon and Cornwall.  But for the hottest day of the year, with everyone heading for a bonus day on the beach, I ended up travelling to South London. Craziness.  What a good time I had .  A superb party held to celebrate my dear friends, J and L's 40ths.  J had invented two new cocktails, Penge Punch (in honour of the venue) which was lethal - a stronger version of Long Island Iced Tea (including laminated instruction sheets for novices on how to concoct the tipple - he is so anal organised).

There was also a totally delicious Southern Sangria (Spanish red, lemonade, a healthy dash of fresh lemon and lime juice and tons of ice and fruit).



Needless to say, a good time was had by all.  Hawaiian shirts, fairy lights, paper flowers, cocktail dresses, posh kebab canapes.  I spent a manic hour in the kitchen assisting these two strapping lads and generally dropping things on the floor.


A really great idea.  Wraps containing pre-bbqed meat, veges and condiments had been prepped the day before and our job was to bake them for 15 minutes and then slice them into 2cm slices and serve on trays as kebab canapes.  They were hungrily snapped up.


Later we moved on to genuine live opera singing (M and L were astonishing), a put-together-at-last-minute-band and then dancing, Shisha pipes with apple tobacco and fire baskets in the garden.

And after just a couple of hours sleep (there were about eight kids in the house) we were up and at 'em again.  I'd bought long some fab bacon from Borough Market (my first time at BM - WOW, what a change from Devon farmers' markets) from Sillfield Farm and we cooked up bagels,bacon and more pitchers of Southern Sangria in the sun.  




Finished off with some perfect hangover food made by the resident starlet, H, chocolate dipped peppermint creams.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Penge Punch Yeehah


Like a cross between long island iced tea and mojito.  Kicks a fair punch


Quanitity makes a large pitcher

300 ml  cointreau
300ml vodka, 
300ml tequila
300ml dark rum and 
300ml white rum
125ml sugar syrup infused with mint
1 litre of Coca Cola
125ml freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice
Loads of ice

TASTE AND ADJUST TIL YUMMY!








Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Last of the Blackberries - A Simple Jamie Oliver Recipe for Blackberry Tart

I reckon the blackberries are almost over in Devon.  There were still plenty on the bushes in Lustleigh today, but plenty of them were turning to mush in our purple-stained fingers.  There were a shameful amount of unpicked mouldy ones too.   Why doesn't everyone go brambling?  Maybe the walkers and residents in Lustleigh have had their fill.

In folklore, it is deemed unlucky to pick blackberries after September 29th, otherwise the devil has spat on them, so I guess we made a lucky escape today.

I made this:



 It's from Jamie Oliver's Italy and its Italian name is Torta di More and the full recipe is on his website here.

I cheated and used a pre-made all butter pastry case from Sainsbury's.  I'm totally useless with 'neat and tidy' pastry, so these cases are a godsend and magically keep for ages in your larder without any preservatives. Must be huge quantities of salt and sugar in them, or just Sainsbury pixie dust.

Then basically, you just whisk together in one go:

500g mascarpone,
3-4 tablespoonfuls of caster sugar,
the inside seeds of a vanilla pod,
100ml cream (supposed to be single, I used double)
a couple of tbsp of vino santo, grappa or other sweet liqueur.

Place that creamy mixture in the pastry case, sprinkle on some blackberries and then dob a few droplets of melted blackberry jam onto the fruit to make them sweet and sparkly.



My son said that there was far too much cream and he picked off all the berries (not much of a success for him then) but the rest of the family tucked in.  Delicious, and seasonal (just).

By the way, if you're ever near Lustleigh, try the Primrose Tea Rooms, a wonderful friendly place run by a mother and daughter team where I had a slice of fresh, light lemon drizzle cake for 80p.

This blog post has been entered in the Simple and in Season Blogging Event: http://www.renbehan.com/2011/09/simple-and-in-season-september-blogging-event.html

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Book Reviews: The Gentle Art of Cookery and Simple French Cooking for English Homes


These books look amazing.  If you like to own books, feel them, sniff them, display them on your shelves and slightly drool over the quality of the paper and feel a bit pleased when there is a little satin bookmark.....these are just the books you are looking for.  They are from a new series called Classic Voices in Food.  They are re-published 19th-mid 20th century forgotten classic cookery tomes.

The binding of The Gentle Art of Cookery is beautiful: a deep green cover embossed with a silver dandelion and contrasting scarlet edged thick pages.  I'm won over already.  Originally published in 1925, one of the authors, Mrs C F Leyel, was a bit ahead of her time in the use of herbs and spices and includes quite a few Arabic dishes that would have been seen as very modern at the time.  I particularly love The Alchemist's Cupboard section at the end of the book where she tells you all the best London shops where you should buy your Mushroom Ketchup, Parisian Essence (qu'est-ce que c'est?) and Cream of Hominy (dried maize kernels).

There's a hilarious recipe, The Ostrich Egg, that had me creased up.  It is suggested that children will be enchanted if you get a pig's bladder and via a convoluted method, cook 12 eggs inside it so that you end up with one enormous giant boiled egg.  My children would certainly be surprised if I made this and might think their mother had gone bananas.

The recipes are simple, a couple of lines long and don't specify quantities of ingredients.  It's all far more free form than our modern recipe books.  I love the old-fashioned-ness of recipes such as Prune Soup, Devilled Lobster, Green Foie Gras Sandwich (foie gras, slices of chicken and lettuce dipped in French dressing in between bread).  In common with other historic cookery books, there are way too many egg recipes.

It's all very homely and you get the feeling that Mrs Leyel and Miss Hartley, the authors, were jolly nice womenfolk, and passionate about their subject.

The second book, Simple French Cookery for English Homes by X. Marcel Boulestin has a bit more of a haughty 'Zee Ingleesh! Zey cannot call zemselves real chefs!' attitude.  Again, it's a beautifully presented book and I loved every minute of his faintly patronising tone.   He was a pre-cursor of Jamie Oliver, in fact, he was the first TV chef, appearing in 1937 and he does seem to be truly keen to make simple, good honest cookery available to everyone.

Monsieur Boulestin offers advice on a post-party meal and advises Cabbage Soup, Mixed Cold Meats, Salad and Dessert Coffee.  (Beats a kebab, I guess.)  He says:

'This is more suitable for Chelsea than for Bayswater - unless the inhabitants of this "highly desirable district" happen to feel, for once, "delightfully bohemian."'

Again, lots and lots of egg recipes.

It's easy to be flippant about these books, and their descriptions of how to cook a steak, or how to dress a salad, but this book was hugely influential in bringing the French style of cooking to the English speaking world, so as a historic (and ironic) document, I love it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Retro Trailers from Cornwall - Stylish Alternative to Caravans

About a month ago we were at Ruan Minor Vintage Rally and spotted two of these silver teardrop shaped handmade trailers on display:


I chatted to the maker, an innovative and personable chap, based in West Cornwall.  He custom makes each trailer to customers’ specifications.  They are roughly £4000 for the smaller one and £6000 for the larger one.  If it wasn’t for my two kids, lack of funds and no driveway to store the thing, I would definitely be a punter.



There was something incredibly appealing about these mini caravans.  The whole of the inside of the main compartment is taken up by a snug double bed with storage space and somewhere for a stereo, but no standing room.  Romping room only.



The back opened outwards in the style of an Italian street coffee cart, and inside was a diminutive kitchen, done up in a lovely black and white checks with red accessories; space for a cool box and a gas burner.  As the lady from Retro Trailers told me, it’s really a fair weather kitchen, but if the sun was shining, what fun.







They look so dinky when being towed (what?! could I consider a towbar? Yes, if I had an E Type, I damn well could.)

http://retrotrailers.info/




Monday, 5 September 2011

Two 11 Year Olds Play with the Hummingbird Cafe Cookbook

My 11 year old daughter and her friend wanted to make something from the Hummingbird Cafe Cookbook.  We had all the ingredients for the raspberry cheesecake brownies.  Including wonderful local, Devon raspberries from our local farm, Shute Fruit.  I was getting our house ready for some guests who were coming to stay, so just let them get on with it in the kitchen.  I was rather impressed when two hours later (including a bit of refrigeration time), they presented me with the finished product:


The recipe is fairly simple, but does involve three layers so I was impressed.  The chocolate brownie and vanilla cheesecake layers are baked together in the oven and then when cool, smothered with pink creamy muck muck.


I made it again today as a treat for my daughter as she started Secondary School today.  It's simple and very fattening, but delicious.  I recommend halving the quantities if you just want to feed 4-6 people.  The original version is enormous and serves 12.  Also, where the recipe says to beat the cream, sugar and raspberries together for the wonderful pink shaving foam topping, it's best to whip the cream lightly, then add the sugar and raspberries, otherwise the mixture won't thicken.

I've never been lucky enough to visit the actual Hummingbird Cafe in London, but we've made a couple of things from the cookbook - other notable favourites are: the vanilla cupcakes, and the double chocolate chip cookies

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ashridge Cider - Devon Blush - Worth £15 a Pop?


I recently attended a really interesting Tasting Panel, hosted by the great magazine that is devoted purely to food and drink from Devon, Taste Buds.  We tried all sorts of Devon produce (ice creams, chutneys and ciders) but for me the stand-out product was the Ashridge Devon Blush Cider.  

It contains a dash of blackberry liqueur - it's presented as a Champagne bottle and is such a summery drink.  The perfect balance of fruitiness and apple and blackberry flavours without being cloying.  I have previously tried Polgoon, a sparkling rose Cornish cider, another premium product, but I definitely preferred the Devon Blush Cider.


 Priced at £30.24 for a double box including delivery - so it's not exactly a cheap alternative to a pint of Strongbow.  But for posh summer drinking (weddings?) it's a beautiful tipple.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Perfect Summer Loaf: Fougasse Made with a Bread Maker


...and I was pretty happy with the results. Delicious served alongside a Tapas-y lunch of olives, ripe summer tomatoes, Serrano ham and some rocket and salty cheese.  This is a traditional 'focaccia' type loaf originally from Provence in the South of France.  I like it's salty soft texture that is rich with olive oil.

I used dried 'Herbes de Provence' from a cloth bag.  They included some delicious sprinkles of fennel and lavender.

Ingredients

475g strong white flour
1.5 teasp salt
3 tbsp fresh chopped herbs / 1.5 teasp dried mixed herbs
1.25 teasp fast-action yeast
4 tablespoons olive oil
250 ml water

Place in breadmaker.  Set to basic dough (This takes 2 hours in a Panasonic).
Form into two flat shapes and slit with knife.
Leave to rise for 30 mins.
Bake at 220 degrees Celsius or 8-10 mins.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on sea salt.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Making Strawberry Jam is Easy with the River Cottage Preserves Book by Pam Corbin



We picked a couple of kilos of strawberries at Netherton on the banks of the River Teign in Devon.  Their soft fruit season has been early this year and due to financial pressures, they're closing their Pick Your Own at the end of the season, which could be within a fortnight -so hurry to get your strawberries, tayberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants.



It took four of us about half an hour to pick this lot - I think it was roughly 2kg strawbs and 1kg raspberries and it came to just under £20.

I used my regular River Cottage Preserves book by Pam Corbin (£8.99 from Amazon).  A simple to follow recipe, with a few tried and tested tips e.g. plenty of lemon juice added to the strawberry jam and use of jam sugar (with added pectin to help it set).

I was tired, it was sunny and I wasn't really in the mood for a long-winded jam making session but Pam insisted that fresh fruit are essential.  So I started at 9pm when it got a bit cooler in my sun-baked kitchen.  By 10:30pm I had finished a whole batch of strawberry jam - about 10 jars and a more modest 3 jars of raspberry jam.

Stage 1: just in the pan



Stage 2: bringing to the boil



Stage 3: almost on the boil, starting to break up


Stage 4: Scary hot sugar rolling boil that unexpectedly rises up the pan at an alarming rate - help!




This batch should see us through the year to go with our breakfast scones and toast. I thoroughly recommend 'Pam the Jam's' no-nonsense approach to preserving.  She got me hooked into it (even when over-tired, hot and bothered and not really in the mood.)

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