Big Mary’s Raspberry Jam

There are three good times to make raspberry jam. Firstly with fresh raspberries if you have them growing in your garden. Secondly with fresh raspberries in mid-summer, when they’re at their lowest price in your local farmer’s market or supermarket. And thirdly with frozen raspberries. So basically any time is a good time as frozen berries work just as well as fresh ones and they’re considerably cheaper. With frozen fruit the jam ends up a darker red, as you can see in the photo.

Holidays spent as a child with my Dad’s cousins at Hill House, a dairy farm in the very north of England, had a huge impact on my love of cooking. From Great Auntie Vina and Little Mary I learnt how to bake a full repertoire of cakes and pastries. And my Dad’s cousin Big Mary, so-named in order to distinguish her from her brother’s wife Little Mary, who was much shorter, taught me to make raspberry jam. She also gave me the recipe for a spectacular dessert called Mexican Bombe which I make for special occasions. It’s not on the Weight Watchers diet, but everyone loves it.

Unopened jam keeps for several months without refrigeration, but Big Mary said it was best to make a kilo or even half a kilo of raspberries into jam and keep the rest in the freezer to make another batch at a later date. Freshly-made raspberry jam, she said, was much nicer than jam made a few months ago.

With experience you will know when jam has reached setting point, just by looking at it. If you’re new to jam-making the best way to check for setting point is as follows. Put a saucer in the freezer before you start, so it gets very cold. When you think the jam may have reached setting point (which varies according to the acidity of the fruit from 5 to 20 minutes) place a scant teaspoonful onto the cold saucer then put it back in the freezer for a minute or until cold. To avoid over-cooking most cookbooks suggest you take the jam off the heat while you’re testing. Push the cold jam with your finger and if it’s ready you will see that it’s starting to gel. If it’s not ready it will still be liquid when cold.

Raspberry jam is delicious on fresh bread or with croissants. It’s also the perfect topping for thick Greek yoghurt or as a filling for a sponge cake, with some whipped cream. And if you ever make too much to eat yourself, it makes the perfect gift.

1 kg raspberries (fresh or frozen)
800g sugar
A small knob of butter

Place raspberries in a large heavy-bottomed pan with sugar and heat gently, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. A preserving pan is best. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes or until setting point is reached. Stir in a knob of butter which will dissolve any scum.

Pour into hot sterilised jars. Place lids on while jam is hot. Store in dark cupboard and refrigerate after opening.

To sterilise jars, wash thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse in hot water, then drain. Microwave on High (without lids) for 2 minutes just before you pour in the jam, so they are still hot. Dry the lids and put them on immediately.

Variations: For strawberry jam add the juice of a lemon when cooking the fruit. I like to use small strawberries for jam rather than the huge ones you can buy these days. For apricot jam start by cooking the fruit in 2-4 Tbs water (less if fruit is very ripe, more if not), then proceed as above, adding the juice of a lemon.

Makes 2-4 jars, depending on size of jars

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will have noticed that we like to give meat and fish a rest about once a week and go vegetarian.

A frittata is an egg-based Italian dish, similar to an omelette. A vegetable frittata makes a tasty light supper and any leftovers are nice cold the next day. Choose a medium sized non-stick frying pan (mine is 25 cm or 10 inches) with a metal handle, so it can go in the oven.

When the frittata comes out of the oven the metal handle will be very hot. I forgot and have the blisters to show for it.

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

1 Tbs olive oil
60g butter
200g mushrooms, cut into quarters or sliced if large
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
About half a bunch of spinach
6 eggs
½ cup sour cream or fresh cream
Grated rind and juice of half a lemon
2-3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sour Cream Sauce (optional):
½ cup sour cream
2-3 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat half the butter and oil in the frying pan and cook the mushrooms and garlic over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring, then transfer to a bowl. Strip the spinach from the stalks and discard the stalks. Tear the spinach into smaller pieces. Add to the frying pan with the remaining oil and butter and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until wilted. Add to the bowl with the mushrooms.

In another bowl using a balloon whisk beat the eggs, sour cream, lemon juice and rind, grated Parmesan and salt and pepper. Pour into the frying pan, Scatter the spinach and mushrooms and any juices over the top. Place small pieces of goat’s cheese or feta all over the top. Place back on the stove until the frittata starts to set, then bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve with a mixed salad and the sour cream sauce.

Sour Cream Sauce: mix sour cream with chopped parsley.

Serves 2-3

Variations: use small broccoli florets instead of spinach; use Pecorino instead of Parmesan cheese; use a mixture of fancy mushrooms instead of the usual ones

Baked Eggplant with Halloumi

Fed up with ham and turkey? Here’s a quick vegetarian dish made with eggplants, tomatoes and halloumi cheese.

Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese which originated in Cyprus. I first ate it at a lunch hosted by my brother and sister-in-law at an Airforce base in the UK where they were stationed nearly 20 years ago. They cooked the halloumi on the barbecue and our kids decided to rename it squeaky cheese, because of the noise it makes as you bite into it.

Some eggplant recipes involve lots of frying. This method doesn’t, making it truly quick and easy.

2 medium to large eggplants, halved lengthwise
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tin tomatoes (chopped)
2 tsp sugar
250g halloumi cheese
2-3 Tbs Dukkah (bought or home-made)
Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish in one layer, cut side up. Make deep cuts in the surface of each, one way and then the other, so you cut the flesh into squares but not right through.  Brush with one tablespoon of the olive oil and season. Bake for 30 minutes or until eggplant is tender.

Meanwhile heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add onion and garlic. Cook gently for a few minutes till soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes and sugar, season to taste, then simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken a bit. Spread over the eggplant. Slice halloumi cheese and arrange over the top. Brush the halloumi with the third tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with dukkah, then put the dish back in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until halloumi is golden.

Garnish with fresh basil and serve with a mixed salad.

Serves 4

Substitutions: use fresh, peeled tomatoes instead of a can; use a different cheese such as sliced cheddar or Manchego (hard sheep’s cheese from Spain) or whatever you have.

 

Cooking for the Holiday Season

With less than a week to go till Christmas everyone is busy shopping and cooking. A week later we’ll all be at it again for New Year. Here are some links to Café Cat recipes to help you through the holiday season.

If you want to make your own Christmas cake or pudding it’s not too late – just give it a good drizzle of brandy a couple of days before serving and it will be nice and moist. And this cheat’s recipe for Quick Individual Christmas puds, made with crumbled shop-bought cake, is a sure winner for end of year gatherings.

Sausage rolls and mince pies are traditional Christmas finger foods which can be baked ahead until just slightly under-done, then frozen (or refrigerated for a day or two) and reheated for a few minutes on the day. These sausage rolls decorated to look like Little Piggies are sure to please the smaller guests.

At this time of year I always make a Glazed Ham  and some Gravlax with Sweet Mustard Sauce because they both slice into a lot of servings which means they last for several meals. Cook the ham a bit longer than the one shown in the photo, so the glaze goes a darker brown. I must have been in a rush that day! Make double the Sweet Mustard Sauce recipe and keep it in a jar in the fridge. You’ll find it goes well with ham as well as Gravlax or Smoked Salmon. Here you can see a platter of sliced Gravlax next to some cooked asparagus surrounded by good old-fashioned devilled eggs, garnished with a small piece of anchovy.

Here are some more ideas for a cold buffet:
Spinach Salad with Red Dressing
Cucumber Salad with Dill
Curried Chicken Salad (which works well with leftover chicken or turkey)

And a few cold starters for a sit down meal:
Japanese Raw Fish Salad
Smoked Salmon with Mango and Avocado
Lobster, Mango and Avocado Salad
Salmon Tartare with Orange and Passionfruit

 

And if you’re short of time try one of these:
Instant Pavlova
Seven Quick Desserts
Sweet and Salty Cheesecakes with Cherries & Crumble

I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year. I look forward to sharing more recipes with you in 2018.

 

 

 

Pasta with Prawns and Pepperoni or Chorizo

This recipe comes from my friend Ferne. She’s made it for me twice, once in Canberra and once in Brisbane where she now lives. Both times it was delicious.

Any kind of pasta will work, but my preference is to use fresh fettuccine, sold in most Australian supermarkets in 375g packets.

With a mixed salad and some fresh crusty bread, this recipe will serve 4.

375g fresh fettuccine
20g butter
250-300g pepperoni or chorizo, sliced
350g peeled raw prawns (weight after peeling)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup dry white wine
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ a fresh diced chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
Handful chopped parsley
½ cup cream
Extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Cook pasta according to packet instructions then drain. Meanwhile heat butter in a large frying pan and cook pepperoni or chorizo for a few minutes, until starting to brown. Add prawns and garlic and continue to cook, stirring, until prawns turn pink. Add wine and lemon juice and cook over moderately high heat for 3-5 mins, to reduce the sauce by half. Add chilli and seasoning to taste. Mix in the cooked pasta, the parsley and cream. Divide between 4 bowls. Top with extra chopped parsley and drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Makes 4 servings

 

Turkish Green Rice

Cappadocia, in the middle of Turkey is well worth a visit. We stayed in Göreme in a cave hotel which had been carved out of the rock, but was nonetheless very comfortable.

Over the centuries the inhabitants of this region have carved out shelters, houses, churches and monasteries from the rocky outcrops, which are often described as fairy chimneys. The geology and history of the area is fascinating and in order to see the terrain from above we went on a balloon flight at dawn. One hundred and twenty balloons all taking off at about the same time is a sight to behold.

A Turkish passenger on our inward flight asked for a drink which the flight attendant poured from what looked like a two litre bottle of milk, but as he poured I could see it was much too thick to be milk. When I asked if I could “have what he’s having” the flight attendant looked sceptical. He said that usually only Turks asked for Ayran and I might not like it, so he gave me a little to try before filling up my glass. It’s basically plain yogurt watered down to pouring consistency, with a little salt added. Full of probiotics it’s really good you, so I drank it all the time while we were there. Delicious.

This was our third trip to Turkey and we felt perfectly safe. The people are friendly and helpful and the food is simple, but healthy and delicious. Lots of kebabs and grills, as well as vegetable dishes, salads and traditional casseroles cooked slowly in sealed clay pots. Thick yoghurt drizzled with local honey was my favourite dessert.

This rice recipe is from the inflight magazine on Turkish Airlines. It makes quite a lot so you may want to halve the recipe. Serve it with kebabs, hummus, Turkish bread and a salad of diced tomato, onion and cucumber.

2 cups long grain rice such as Basmati
1 packet frozen spinach or 1 bunch fresh spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
50g butter
3 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-3 Tbs each finely chopped parsley and mint
2 Tbs pistachio nuts or pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan

If using fresh spinach, remove leaves and discard stalks. Wash thoroughly. With just the water clinging to the leaves, place spinach in a large saucepan, cover and cook, stirring from time to time, for a few minutes or until wilted. Place in food processor and chop finely. You will need a generous cup or more of this chopped spinach, or use thawed frozen spinach. Quantities are flexible.

Heat butter in a large saucepan and cook onion until soft, stirring from time to time, and allowing it to brown slightly. Add rice, spinach, water, salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat as low as it will go. Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid. If not quite ready, turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to continue cooking in its own steam. Stir in the chopped herbs. Check for seasoning and if liked add another knob of butter. Garnish with the toasted nuts.

Serves 6-8

Sweet Potatoes with Almond Tahini

I found this recipe in the Financial Times newspaper which I was reading on a recent QANTAS flight from Bangkok to Sydney. I tore it out as  I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes and although we’re not vegetarian I tend to cook a meatless evening meal at least once a week.

So last night was try-out night and the recipe didn’t disappoint. It said to bake the sweet potatoes on a bed of salt to draw out the moisture. I don’t think this made any difference, so I would leave that out next time.

2 large sweet potatoes
Tahini:
100g whole shelled almonds
Small clove garlic, peeled
3 Tbs vegetable or olive oil
Pinch salt
2 tsp lemon juice
4 Tbs water
Garnish:
2 Tbs almonds roughly chopped (blanched or unblanched, I used slivered)
2 tsp oil
pinch salt
2 spring onions, thinly sliced or 2 Tbs snipped chives
Pomegranate or date molasses (or fig glaze)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, but don’t peel them. Line a baking tin with foil and place the sweet potatoes on top. Bake for an hour or until soft and a knife can be inserted easily.

Meanwhile make the Tahini by blitzing the almonds in a food processor until fine then adding the garlic, oil, salt, lemon juice and water. Taste and adjust seasoning. It will thicken up as it sits. If made ahead and refrigerated you may need to mix in a little water when serving.

For the garnish, place nuts in a small frying pan with the oil and salt and stir over moderate heat until golden. Turn off heat.

To serve, cut the sweet potatoes in half horizontally. Squeeze to open up the flesh a bit then top with a couple of dollops of tahini. Top with the nuts, the spring onions or chives and a drizzle of molasses or glaze.

Variation: use pine nuts instead of almonds.

Serves 2-4

 

Cinnamon Doughnuts

Cinnamon doughnuts are a guaranteed winner with kids. You’ll be their best friend for life.

I recently came across this quick and easy recipe based on choux pastry and decided to make them for afternoon tea while the grandkids were staying. Traditional doughnuts contain yeast, which means making the dough in advance and I never seem to get around to it when we have a house full.

You don’t need a deep fat fryer – I just used a wok. The doughnuts don’t come out as perfect rounds, but it doesn’t matter, they taste delicious.

Sixteen cinnamon doughnuts were made and polished off in less than half an hour. You know you’ve hit the jackpot with the grandkids when instead of saying “Try it, you might like it” you’re saying “Okay how many have you had?” in order to work out who gets the last one.

The grown ups liked them too. You could serve them as dessert for “big kids” with chocolate sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Love the half-peeled lurid green nail polish, don’t you?

100g butter
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
1 cup plain flour
4 eggs
About half a litre vegetable oil
To coat the doughnuts:
3-4 Tbs sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Place butter, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat until butter has melted. Remove from the heat and using electric beaters add the flour and mix until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. If you have time you can refrigerate the mixture for a while at this stage to make it firmer for scooping. I didn’t have time.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a wok or deep saucepan until hot enough to cook the doughnuts – test it by putting a small bit in. Cook about 8 doughnuts at a time, using a large spoon or an ice cream scoop to make them. Cook on one side for a minute or so then then flip them over.

Remove doughnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon and roll them in the mixed sugar and cinnamon. Serve immediately.

Makes about 16

Mango Kulfi

To make traditional Indian or Pakistani ice cream, known as Kulfi, you begin by cooking sweetened flavoured milk over a low heat, stirring continuously to stop it from sticking and burning, until the volume is reduced by half. The milk takes on a distinctive flavour due to the caramelization process and this is the base you use to make the ice cream.

Having read a few articles and recipes online, I decided to replace the cooked milk with what is called Manjar or Dulce de Leche in South America. If you can’t find this use a can of Nestle Caramel Top n Fill, which is readily available in Australian supermarkets.  Kulfi can be made in any flavour, but mango kulfi is very popular in India, so as I had a packet of frozen mango in the freezer I thought I would give it a try.

This method of making ice cream in a food processor with frozen fruit virtually turns your food processor into an ice cream machine. As the frozen fruit breaks up it freezes the other ingredients. As you can see from the photo of the Kulfi when it was ready to go into the freezer, it already had the consistency of ice cream. Quick Raspberry Ice Cream is another recipe on this blog which uses this speedy food processor method. You can use any frozen fruit but the pieces must be fairly small or the motor will struggle.

250g Dulce de Leche or Manjar (or 1 can Nestle Caramel Top n Fill)
300ml cream (thickened, whipping, double)
1kg frozen mango pieces (I bought mine at Aldi)
Ground cardamom to taste
Pinch of salt
Grated rind and juice of 1 lime (save a little zest for garnish)
Lime Syrup to serve (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
Lime zest

Place Dulce de Leche or Caramel topping in food processor with cream. Process until mixed and then, with the motor running, slowly add the mango cubes through the feed tube. Depending on what size food processor you have, you may need to make the Kulfi in two batches. Mine was just big enough. Keep mixing until all the mango cubes have been pureed, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula from time to time. Add cardamom (half a teaspoonful then mix and taste and see what you think), the salt and the lime zest.

Scrape Kulfi into a plastic container, cover and freeze for 3-4 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer 15 mins before serving. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with lime syrup and garnish with a little lime zest.

Lime Syrup: Place lime juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat to dissolve sugar. Continue cooking until reduced by a third to a half and syrupy. Cool.

Serves 8-10

Figgy Biscuits

As kids we all loved figgy biscuits. These little pillows of fig paste encased in a delicious cakey-biscuity dough were invented in Philadelphia in the late 1800s and are sold in the USA under the Newton brand. In England we bought a version made by McVities.

Anything home-made always tastes better than the shop-bought variety and these scrumptious biscuits are no exception. Buy dried figs which are plump and sticky and not too hard. If you don’t have quite enough throw in a few sultanas, raisins or dates to make up the two cups. The addition of ginger is my own suggestion for ginger fans. This is a good recipe for using up that last bit of jam or marmalade from the bottom of the jar.

Commercial figgy biscuits don’t have a sprinkling of icing sugar, but I always think it enhances the appearance of baked goods. Mine were a bit overcooked, as you can see in the photo. They should have been whipped out of the oven a few minutes earlier.

Serve as a biscuit or warm with vanilla ice-cream as a delicious dessert.

Dough:
140g butter (at room temperature)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs orange or lemon juice
1 egg
2 cups plain flour
Filling:
2 cups chopped dried figs, stems removed
1/3 cup jam or marmalade
2 Tbs orange or lemon juice
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger or glacé/crystallized ginger (optional)
To finish:
1 egg white, beaten
Icing sugar (optional)

Place butter, brown sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon and honey in food processor. Process for a minute or two, stopping to scrape down the sides and gradually adding the orange, egg and flour. When thorough mixed use a spatula to scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat it into a thick square, wrap with the plastic, then refrigerate for an hour or so.

There’s no need to wash the food processor before you make the filling. Place all ingredients in food processor and process till smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Cut dough in half and roll out one half on a floured surface to a rectangle approximately 30cm by 10cm. Spread half the filling thickly down the middle as shown in photo. Bring in one side over the filling, then the other side, overlapping with the first side. You may need to use a metal spatula to lift the dough which will be quite soft with a tendency to stick and break. You will then have a long sausage with a seam along the top as shown in the photo. Turn it over and cut into 8 to 10 even pillows. Arrange on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper, with a space between each biscuit. Repeat with the other half of the dough and filling. Brush with beaten egg white then bake for 15 mins or until light golden brown.

Cool biscuits then store in an airtight tin.

Makes 16-18