Tag Archives: cooking

Strawberry Jam Recipe

We went fruit picking again on Monday and picked, amongst other things, over 2kg of strawberries! We have eaten some and today I used the remaining berries to make strawberry jam.

Makes approx 6 x 454g jars of jam:

Ingredients

1.8kg strawberries
approx 8 tsp lemon juice
1.8kg sugar

Wash the strawberries if necessary and drain well. Hull and remove any soft spots, bruises and blemishes,

Place in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with the lemon juice and heat for 10 minutes until the fruit is soft. Using the back of a spoon crush some of the fruit to release the pectin. I crush most of the berries as my kids like a smooth jam, however you can crush as few as one-third.

Add the sugar to the pan and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved completely. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Continue to boil rapidly for about 15 minutes. Do not stir as this will reduce the temperature of the jam. Check to see if the setting point has been reached*

Once a set has been reached skim off any froth that has risen to the surface.

Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir to distribute any larger pieces of fruit. Pour into sterilised jars and seal immediately. Store for up to a year in a cool dark place.

Strawberry Jam

*There are a few ways to test for a set. You can use a thermometer to check the temperature, Setting point is reached at 105ºC. Alternatively you can do a “wrinkle test”. Spoon a little jam onto a chilled plate (I place a small plate in the freezer as I start cooking). Leave it to cool for 2 minutes, then push the jam with your finger. If the top wrinkles the jam is set. If it wrinkles only a little or not at all continue boiling the jam for a little longer (2-5 minutes) and test again.

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Making Soup

For several days now Jasmine has been asking me if she can have soup for lunch, soup with vegetables in. I know she actually meant Heinz Vegetable Soup but as we had rather a lot of peas and some carrots left over from our PYO trip to Garsons Farm I decided it would be much nicer to make our own.

Yesterday morning we spent a long time shelling all the peas and I made Pea Soup with half of them. In the afternoon we went shopping and bought some green beans and broccoli and then this morning, with Gordon around to play with Ben, Jasmine and I (with a little help from Thomas) made our own vegetable soup.

I got all the ingredients together and put everything on the table with a chopping board, a knife, a vegetable peeler and several bowls. Jasmine started by chopping the green beans into small pieces and placed them in a bowl. She pulled some “small trees” off the broccoli and these went in another bowl. I peeled a couple of potatoes (I wasn’t brave enough to let her do this!) and she chopped them into cubes. Lastly, she got to use the peeler and she peeled and chopped the carrots. Thomas appeared while we were doing the carrots so he had a turn peeling and chopping as well.Soup 1They both really enjoyed preparing the vegetables and were really sensible with both the knife and peeler. This is what has always worried me about letting them prep veg because they do have a tendency to become a little silly as kids do! When I am on my own with all 3 kids I know I would find an activity like this very stressful, but today with Ben distracted and both Jasmine and Thomas really keen I was so impressed with them. Jasmine told me that chopping the veg with a knife was just like using the saw at Forest School! She also said a couple of times how much she enjoyed “learning how to chop things because when I have my own house when I am bigger I need to know”!!!

Once everything was prepared I put it all in a pan with about half of the remaining peas from yesterday, a couple of handfuls of small pasta bows and a jug of vegetable stock. I simmered this over a low heat for around 40 minutes.

I then ladled out about half of the soup into a bowl and blended this until it was smooth. I added the blended soup back into the pan and mixed it well, to give a lovely final  soup with vegetables in, just as requested.

I knew the biggest test would be when it came to eating it for lunch. Jasmine usually doesn’t like mixing her foods and everything on her plate has to be separate, so I was a little concerned that even though she had helped plan and prepare the soup, she wouldn’t actually eat it! She well and truly proved me wrong though and she loved it! Ben took a while to start, but eventually he ate his. Thomas had pea soup and he enjoyed this as well!

And my opinion.. it is delicious and I think we did a good job!

soup 2

 

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Asparagus Soup

Making use of the absolutely delicious asparagus we picked at Garsons Farm, I made Asparagus Soup for lunch today. I can’t describe how nice it was.. you just have to try it for yourself!

Asparagus Soup

Best served with warm, crusty bread!

You will need:

Small knob of butter
1tbsp olive oil
450g asparagus (approx), finely sliced
2 shallots, roughly chopped
600ml vegetable stock
5tbsp double cream

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the shallots and fry for four minutes until softened. 
  3. Add the asparagus and fry for a further two minutes. 
  4. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 7 to 10 minutes until the asparagus is cooked. 
  5. Remove from the heat. Roughly blend using a hand blender. Add the double cream and season to taste. Blend until smooth.
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Easter Fudge

Today we have had a full on Easter craft day! Alongside making our Easter Bonnets I got my wonderful Usborne Little Book of Easter Activities out and chose 2 activities; one for the kids to do, one for me to do.

For me, I chose Easter Fudge.

While the recipe is in a book designed to be for children, I wouldn’t say this recipe is child-friendly as it involves using a hob. I don’t know at what age I will consider it OK for the kids to get close to a hot hob, but it is not yet!

It is, however, a very simple recipe and makes delicious fudge!

IngredientsEaster Fudge

450g (1lb) icing sugar
100g (4oz) white marshmallows
2 tbsp milk
100g (4oz) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
yellow food colouriing

shallow 18cm (7in) square cake tin

Method

1. Using a paper towel, wipe some oil onto the sides and bottom of the cake tin. Line the bottom with greaseproof paper and wipe oil over this as well.

2. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl.

3. Cut the marshmallows in half and put them in a small pan. Add the milk, butter and vanilla essence.

4. Gently heat the pan. Stir the mixture every now and then with a wooden spoon until everything has melted.

5. Pour the mixture into the icing sugar. Beat everything together until it is smooth then mix in the food colouring.

6. Put the fudge into the tin and push it into the corners. Gently agitate the tin to smooth the top of the fudge.

7. When the fudge is cool enough put it into the fridge for around three hours to go firm.

8. Once firm, loosen the edges of the fudge with a blunt knife, then turn it out onto a chopping board. Remove the paper.

9. Cut the fudge into pieces. Put the pieces in an airtight container in the fridge for a further hour to harden.

Note: If you want to make pink fudge, use pink marshmallows and add pink or red food colouring.

Eat and Enjoy 🙂

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Lemon Curd and Lavender Bags

I have been holding off writing about the hand-made Christmas Gifts we made this year because Granny (Gordon’s mum) was away for Christmas and in our usual disorganised way we hadn’t finished most of the gifts before she went! She is back home now and we are going to visit tomorrow so finally she will get her Christmas gifts and I can write the first post! 

Lavender Bags

One of the things I really started to enjoy last year was sewing. I have never really done any needlework in the past but my Hama Bead obsession led to me trying out Cross Stitch (they are both about counting patterns and colours!) and from there I gained confidence with a needle and began making some simple items. One of the first hand-made gifts I decided to make for Christmas was lavender bags and satchets.

I began by cutting 2 pieces of fabric 18cm x 15cm. With right sides of the fabric facing, pin together. The pattern I was following said this included a 1cm seam allowance so, being a beginner, I marked a 1cm border along 2 long sides and 1 short side and used this line as a guide for the stitching. For the first bags I made I hand stitched in backstitch but I have also machine sewn a few now.

Once the 3 sides are sewn turn the bag inside out and push the corners out with a blunt pencil or similar. Hem the top opening. The pattern said to either hemstitch or blindstitch. I had to google both and found a great tutorial on YouTube for blindstitch so used this. I was surprised by how easy it actually was once I knew how!

I then filled the bag approximately 2/3rds full of lavender (purchased from Ebay) and tied it tightly shut with a 30cm length of ribbon.

I also made some lavender drawer sachets using 15cm square pieces of fabric and leaving a 2cm hole in one side to turn out and fill. Once filled I sewed the hole up and completed the gift by tying 3 together with ribbon.Lavender Bags and Sachets

Lemon Curd

One of my favourite books of 2012 was The Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew. I used it a lot over the year and one of my very favourite recipes is Lemon Curd. It takes only 4 ingredients and can be made from start to finish in less then an hour. It is a perfect hand-made gift idea.

To make about 450g/1lb you need:

3 lemons
200g caster sugar
115g unsalted butter, diced
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

Wash the lemons, the finely grate the rind and place in a large heatproof bowl. Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Set over a pan of gently simmering water and add the sugar and butter. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted.
Put the eggs and yolks in a bowl and beat together with a fork. Pour the eggs through a sieve into the lemon mixture and whisk well until thoroughly combined.
Stir the mixture constantly over the heat until the lemon curd thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove and pour into small warm sterilised jars. Cover, seal and label.
Store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. Once opened keep in the fridge.Lemon Curd

 

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Snow and Stained Glass Window Biscuits

We awoke this morning to squeals of delight coming from Thomas & Jasmines bedroom.

“Its Christmas, its Christmas”

It took us a moment to wake up fully and then they were running in to our bedroom.

“Its Christmas. Its snowing!”

Oh, to be 5 years old again 🙂

We explained that it wasn’t quite Christmas just yet, it was just snowing. They were still happy because that meant that “Elf Pepper is still staying with us then”

Some time later we made it downstairs for breakfast and found that indeed Elf Pepper was still staying with us, and he had planned to make biscuits with us today 😉

There was just the small matter of snow to play in first!

Playing in the snowGranted, there was not much snow but still, plenty of fun was had!

Once we’d got back indoors and had hot chocolate and popcorn while watching The Snowman (it had to be done!) we started on the biscuits.

It is a basic gingerbread recipe, but you add a boiled sweet into the centre to give a wonderful effect.

Ingredients:

  • 350g/12oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 100g/3½oz butter
  • 175g/6oz soft brown sugar
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • packet wrapped fruit-flavoured boiled sweets in different colour

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

For the biscuits, mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and ginger together in a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. In another bowl, beat together the egg and golden syrup, then pour this mixture into the flour mixture and mix to make a smooth dough, kneading lightly with your hands.

Roll the dough out on a floured work surface to about 0.5cm/¼in thick, then cut into shapes using a selection of Christmas-themed cookie cutters. Transfer the biscuits to baking sheets lined with baking paper. Cut out shapes in the centre of each biscuit, making sure you leave a good edge all around the biscuit. Completely fill the hole in each biscuit with one or two boiled sweets. Make a hole at the top of each biscuit using a drinking straw so that you will be able to thread a ribbon through it later.

Bake the biscuits in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden-brown.

They are so simple to bake, and are delicious to eat!

Stained Glass Window Biscuits

 

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Pomanders and a Sweet Treat

A few days ago a friend posted a link on Facebook showing how to make an Orange Pomander. I’ve not done these since I was at school so really wanted to give it a go with the kids. It is a brilliant, simple festive activity and they look and smell wonderful too!

All you need is an orange, whole cloves and ribbon.

I also used some plastic pins to hold the ribbon in place and for younger children you will need something to make holes in the orange for them to place the cloves in to. Even at 5 Thomas and Jasmine were getting frustrated at times as they couldn’t always push the cloves through the orange peel. I used one of the plastic pins to make holes for them but you could use a knitting needle or a toothpick.

Place the ribbon around the orange, using pins (or paper fasteners) to hold the ribbon in place. Leave enough ribbon at the top to make a hanging loop. Then fill the orange with the cloves.

Orange Pomanders

This evening I have been experimenting with boiled sweets and, after 3 failed attempts, made these

Boiled Sweet Decorations

 

For the small shapes I cut the sweets up but for the larger one I just used whole sweets. Place the sweets in a cookie cutter on a lined baking sheet and place in the oven until they have melted. You have to remove them from the oven as soon as they go soft or the sweet leaks out from underneath (as I discovered!) Once I had removed them from the oven I placed a drinking straw into the large one to make the hole. I had to hold it in place for a minute or 2, until the sweet had hardened enough to hold it in place. Once it has cooled thoroughly, remove from the cookie cutter and thread with ribbon (if required)

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Pizza Making

This recipe is very quick and simple and the kids love helping to make their own dinner!

For the Dough:

300g Bread Flour

1tsp Instant Yeast

1tsp Salt

1tbsp Olive Oil

200ml Warm Water

For the topping:

100ml Passata

Clove Garlic

Basil/Parsley/Oregano (I use dried but fresh would work too)

2 x 125g ball Mozzarella

Parmesan

Any other toppings as required!

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Preheat oven to 220 degrees C and place a baking sheet/tray upside down on the top shelf.

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Add the oil and water and mix to a dough. Knead on a floured surface for approximately 5 minutes to form a smooth dough. Cover and set aside.

Mix passata, crushed garlic and herbs in a small bowl.

Roll out half of the dough to the required thickness and place on a floured baking sheet. Top with passata, one ball mozzarella sliced, grated parmesan and any other toppings required. Place the pizza, still on the baking sheet, in the oven on top of the preheated sheet/tray and bake for 10ish minutes until crisp.

Repeat for the second pizza.

Eat and enjoy 🙂

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