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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Blackberry & Lemon Jam

Blackberry & lemon jam

Blackberry jamAre you interested in learning to make your own jam? Or just looking for more yummy recipes with jam as an ingredient? Click here for jam-making tips and a collection of related recipes.

The brambles are flowering, which made me realise with something of a start that I still had a couple of kilos of blackberries in the freezer from last year.

Also, I'd recently run out of the blackberry & vanilla jam that I made in the autumn. This happy coincidence put me back in the jam-making mood once more.

Following only one minor setback, in the form of an unexpected sugar shortage (seriously, how is it even possible to run out of sugar?), I had the preserving pan out and was ready to go.

The down-side of preserving in April is that there aren't a zillion apples just waiting on the tree to provide a bit of easy pectin. However, lemons are also a good source of pectin, and (if you use loads) add a really distinctive flavour as well. Since I happened to have a few spare lemons, I used those instead, and boiled the lemon halves in with the berries to make sure I got all the pectin out; the result was a really well-set jam, just as good as anything you'd get with apples (or commercial pectin for that matter).

Tea Time Treats
I'm submitting this jam to April's Tea Time Treats challenge, where the theme is jams and preserves. This yummy monthly challenge is hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage and Janie at The Hedgecombers.

Blackberry & Lemon Jam
Fills 5 standard (450g/1lb) jam jars

3 lemons
3tbsp water
1.1kg (2½lb) blackberries
1.1kg (2½lb) sugar
  1. Zest and juice the lemons. Remove the seeds from the juiced lemon halves.
  2. Heat the blackberries, lemon juice, lemon halves, and water in a large saucepan until the liquid boils.
  3. Add the sugar and lemon zest.
  4. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves.
  5. Fish out the lemon halves and squeeze (using a couple of metal spoons - not your fingers!) to extract any remaining juice.
  6. Increase the heat, and boil until the temperature on a sugar thermometer reads 104°C (219°F). This took about twenty minutes on my stove. Check the set by using a small plate, chilled in the freezer.
  7. Pour into heated, sterilized jam jars, and seal.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Easy Spinach Fettucini Alfredo (Secret Recipe Club)

Spinach Alfredo Pasta

Secret Recipe Club

My assignment for the Secret Recipe Club this month was to make something from Sarah's Brit American Kitchen.

I was seriously tempted by this caprese quinoa bake, but in the end I was drawn in by the simplicity of this pasta dish. That, and the fact that alfredo is an absolute classic which for some reason I've never made before.

I adapted Sarah's lemon pepper fettucini recipe to serve two, and added some extra spinach and pine nuts to add a variety of textures. Which, I realise, may be completely against the point of this kind of simple, classic dish, but I think I'm physically incapable of cooking a pasta dish without at least one vegetable. Anyway, I'm not apologising, because the end result was divine. Thank you for the inspiration, Sarah.


Easy Spinach Fettucini Alfredo
Serves 2

180g (6oz) fettucini (or other long pasta)
15g (1tbsp) butter
1 large shallot
160ml (⅔ cup) double cream
1 egg yolk
3tbsp pecorino cheese (or similar hard cheese)
2tsp lemon juice
2tsp ground black pepper
100g (4oz) fresh spinach
40g (¼ cup) pine nuts

  1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions (assuming it's dried pasta; for fresh, you can start this stage later).
  2. While the pasta is cooking, make the alfredo sauce.
  3. Finely chop the shallot.
  4. Melt the butter in a small frying pan, and fry the shallot until softened.
  5. In a separate, dry saucepan, toast the pine nuts over a medium heat, turning occasionally.
  6. Whisk together the cream and egg yolk.
  7. Add the cream mixture to the pan with the shallot, and cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
  8. Season with grated cheese, pepper and lemon juice.
  9. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water.
  10. Stir the spinach into the sauce to wilt, and then stir into to the pasta. Use a little of the reserved water to loosen the texture if necessary.
  11. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts before serving.

Don't miss the other Group B recipes:

Monday, 7 April 2014

Asparagus & Broccoli Quiche

Asparagus & broccoli quiche

Quiche is one of those things that always surprises me by being easier than it looks. If you can make a nice frittata, and you can make (or buy!) pastry, then you're basically there already.

It's definitely a dish that benefits from being homemade, though, since you can include exactly what you want. I love asparagus and broccoli, and it's perfect with just a hint of garlic.

Personally, I think the best quiches have plenty of vegetables, and this particular recipe contains loads, making the final product quite a deep dish. As a result, it takes a bit longer to cook than a traditional, shallower quiche would require. It's worth it, though.

Asparagus & broccoli quiche

Asparagus & Broccoli Quiche
Serves 4

For the pastry:
170g plain flour
85g butter (chilled)
cold water

For the filling:
1tsp olive oil
100g (3½oz) broccoli
200g (7oz) asparagus
1 small red onion
2 cloves garlic
100g (⅔ cup) grated mozarella
2 eggs
150ml (⅔ cup) milk
black pepper (to taste)
  1. Rub the butter into the flour, and add a little cold water until the mixture comes together into a firm dough.
  2. Set the dough aside to chill.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F).
  4. Cut the broccoli into florets and trim the asparagus. Slice the onion and mince the garlic.
  5. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and sautee the broccoli, asparagus, onion, and garlic until softened.
  6. Roll out the pastry into a circle about 25cm (10in) round, and ¾cm (⅓in) thick, and press into a deep 20cm (8in) flan dish.
  7. Layer the vegetables and mozzarella in the pastry case.
  8. Beat the eggs together with the milk, and season with black pepper.
  9. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables (and stop if you reach the top edge of the pastry with a little to spare!)
  10. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the centre is fully set.
  11. Serve warm at once, or allow to cool in the tin before chilling overnight.

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