Archive for the ‘jam’ Category

the perfect apple

I received a phone call from a wonderful friend the other day. “I’m so excited,” she quirped, ” I’m outside a fruit stall and I’ve found the most perfect apples. They’re just too beautiful, I’m going to buy you one.” My kind of friend. And she was right. When we met up later at the Farmers Market, which has sort of become a naughty habitude of ours, she plonked her find down on the picnic table we were sitting at, snacking on various freshly bought goodies, and grinned at me. “Don’t you think?” she asked. I did. I thought very much. Just perfect. It’s colour somewhere between ochre and chartreuse, the size of a softball, and firm and crisp in texture. I got home, gave it pride of place in the fruit bowl and spent 2 days looking at it before deciding just what would be the perfect ouvre for this perfect apple. A perfect, early autumn apple. A bread pudding perhaps? Could it be that simple?

So, the problem I’ve always had with bread pudding is that it often felt like some sort of punishment at home. I was known, as a child (and sometimes as an adult), for living with ‘my head in cloud nine’, as my Mum would say. There were plenty occasions growing up where I left my lunch behind on the kitchen counter: peanut butter and jam sandwiches neatly wrapped in wax paper; only to find, later that starving day, that we were having bread pudding for dinner. Peanut butter and jam bread pudding. Needless to say, it’s taken me a bit of time to confront the bread pudding demon from my past and establish that it is, indeed, one of the greatest of comfort puddings known to man. And downright thrifty too, if you don’t mind me saying. In fact, I might go so far as to say that bread pudding is quite possibly the only acceptable way to head into autumn. An army marches on its stomach, after all. Best be prepared, non?

Apple nut bread pudding

Apple and Four Nut Bread Pudding

feeds 4 (or 2 with leftovers for round two the next day)

4 slices whole grain bread
butter, enough for spreading bread, greasing dish and dotting on pudding
6 – 8 Tbsp sweetened Chestnut Spread (creme de Marrons)
1 big (perfect) apple, peeled, cored and sliced (I ate the perfect peel, don’t you worry)
½ cup saltana’s
4 large eggs
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp clovesCreme de marrons
pinch nutmeg
pinch salt
¼ cup golden brown sugar
1 cup milk
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ pistachio’s

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– thinly butter the bread and spread with chestnut spread. Cut slices into quarters, diagonally, to make tirangles

– grease an oven proof dish. Alternate slices of bread and slices of apple to fill the dish.

– scatter saltana’s over top

– beat eggs with spices, salt and sugar, then add milk and beat well but not long enough to froth the eggs.

– pour milk/egg over bread. Scatter nuts over top and let pudding sit for 5 minutes. This lets the bread absorb the liquid.

– bake for about 35 – 40 mins.

– serve with vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream.

Apple nut bread pudding baked

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Jammy Jars

We’ve been up late trying to fit more stuff into backpacks than is Scientifically possible. This makes for hard, sweaty work, seeing as how it’s about 38 degrees outside (that’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit) and testy moods. The reason for all this silliness is a Canoing trip we’ve been invited on with some friends for the long weekend in Algonquin Park. I was told last night, when it’s now too late to cancel, that the first time you go Canoing it’s called the Divorce Canoe. Well, I’m hoping that having already survived a trying and emotionally testing move to a foreign country has given Mr P and I enough karmic balance to see us through the next couple days.

Just in case things turn a little sour, I’m taking some of my homemade blackcurrant jam with and these delicious little scrumpets, which had Mr P dribbling at the chops and is bound to help even the most blistered-hand, sore-footed, tired shouldered campers smile a little around the camp fire.

Wilderness, here we come! See you when we get back.

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Wild Blueberry tarts with Marzipan

It’s been a busy weekend, jam packed (ahem, excuse the pun) with picnics, parks and outdoor activity. After a birthday party picnic on Saturday Mr P and I met with friends on the Toronto Islands for a day of sun and tennis and food. There’s something about picnicking, where you you snack all day and never really know just how much you’ve eaten or not, that leaves you feeling satisfied with life and full of the goodness of the earth. It is good to let your bare toes curl and flex in fresh, soft grass, and to let your skin turn golden in the sun under the SPF. I’m having a complete berry love affair at the moment, in case you hadn’t noticed, and my pet favourite has always been the wild blueberry, impossible to get back home or any time but Now, here in Toronto. One had better make the most of it! I throw them by the handful into cereals and buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, snack on them during the day and love doing up a batch of little tarts (or pies as they’re called here). Great for picnics, non? With these ones I threw a slice of marzipan on top of each before baking. Wow. Delicious. Just be sure to mention it to your feed-ees in case of nut allergies, advice I could almost have learned the hard way this weekend.

I was overcome with the berry-fever at the farmers market on Saturday. Everywhere you looked berries flooded the vision. I found myself unable to concentrate on anything the blue and red and yellow and magenta and black of berries berries everywhere. I arrived, as often happens, with a small list of things I need to pick up: just raspberries in this case, but end up, after am entranced, hypnotised hour, with almost more than I can fit into the basket of my bicycle. Now, again, I find myself in the predicament of what to do with all the berries I have sitting in pretty, green cardboard punnets on my counter. Berries don’t keep as long as, say, apples. I spent a couple hours yesterday making up a fresh batch of flavour-packed, irresistable on a spoon black currant jam and still have a couple punnets of small, green and maroon gooseberries to do coax into submission.

Blueberry tarts with Marzipan

Pate Brise:

1 cup all purpose flour
1½ cups Whole wheat flour
¾ tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
250 g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and chopped into small pieces
¼ – ½ cup ice cold water


3 cups wild blueberries
½ cup sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
juice from ½ a lemon
12 slices of marzipan, about 5mm thick

Preheat oven to 420˚F

for the pastry:
– combine sifted dry ingredients and butter in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles bread crumbs. The trick with pate brise is to work lightly and not blend the mixture too well, leaving chunks of butter. This keeps the pastry texture light when it bakes.

– add water, a bit at a time, until the dough only just comes together. Again, don’t mix too much. Divide dough into two pieces, flatten each into a round disc, cover in plastic and refrigerate at least half an hour.

– on a floured surface, using one disc at a time from the fridge, roll dough out to about 3mm thick and cut rounds to fit inside 12 well greased small pie or muffin tins (I used both)

– place lined tins in the fridge.

for the filling:
– mix berries, flour and sugar. Add lemon juice and mix until berries are coated in mixture.

– divide mixture between between pastry shells and top with a slice of marzipan.

– bake pies at 420˚F for 10 mins, then lower temperature to 350 and bake a further 15 mins or so, until the berries are bubbling and their juice starts to run.

Blueberry tarts with Marzipan

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Chocolate Cake with Raspberries

One of the toughest parts of relocating to a far and distant land is that your loved ones, your friends and family, become far and distant in their own right. Celebrations become a little bitter sweet events spent with fewer people and often thinking of the loved ones you wish were there. When a couple of expat friends celebrated their Birthdays days apart and had a celebratory picnic in the park I offered to bake a cake. And with all their family as far from them as ours are from us… well. What’s a Birthday without cake?

They asked for Chocolate. This one is almost very nearly flour free, and dense and gooey. Too rich for a ganache or icing I opted to make use of the berry season and covered it in the Raspberry and Orange Flower jam I’d made a few weeks ago and some gorgeous, dark red raspberries; not the jelly-red, candy looking giant, red lumps you see in the store all through the year. Oh my. It was good.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberries 2

note: this recipe uses only a few ingredients, so use the very best you can find because you’ll taste the difference!

This cake is great the day after, but brilliant served hot like a pudding with

Chocolate Cake with Rapsberries 70% Callebaut and butter in bain marie

to make a small, 5½ inch cake:

100g dark chocolate (I used Callebaut 70%)
100g good unsalted butter
100g light brown sugar
small pinch salt
2 eggs
2 Tbsp flour
tiny pinch ground cardamom

– preheat oven to 350˚F

– grease and flour a 5½ inch spring form cake tin. Line bottom with parchment.

– in a bain marie, melt chocolate and butter and stir until fully mixed.

– when chocolate is smooth and liquid, add sugar and salt. Mix and remove from heat.

– add eggs one at a time and mix well between each.

– Add flour and cardamom and mix.

– pour into cake tin and bake about 20 mins until firm on the outside and slightly sticky in the middle. Allow to cool thoroughly before decorating.

for a normal sized cake: double the ingredients and bake for 25 – 35 mins


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White Choc Mousse with Red Currant Sour Cherry

Three egg whites and a secret, long kept desire to make white chocolate mousse. I’ve developed a real taste for white chocolate over the last few weeks. I’ve been making white chocolate and macadamia nut muffins and chucking a cup in with the dark chocolate when making choc chip cookies, but somehow an entire dessert of white chocolate seemed far too cloying to be a success. But cut the extreme sweetness with some tart, sour berries and voila! Success! The berry confit I made from the red currants and sour cherries perfectly complements the white chocolate of the mousse. Yum!

White Chocolate Mousse with Red Currant Sour Cherry Confit

for the confit:Sour Berries

(best made a day or so ahead)

1 punnet red currants, destalked
1 punnet small, red sour cherries, pitted
½ cup sugar

– put a saucer in the freezer

– in two separate, large, heavy based pots
bring the berries to the boil with ½ cup of
water each. Simmer until tender, about 10 mins.

– using a potato masher, mash the currants.
Add cherries to currant pot.

– add the sugar and bring to a hard simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens a bit, about 15 mins.

-remove saucer from freezer and put a drop of the conserve on it. When the edges wrinkle when pushed with your finger, the conserve is ready. Bottle in a sterilised jam jar.

for the mousse: (adapted from the Callebaut website, which is the couverture I used for this)

230 – 250 g white chocolate, chopped
80 ml milk
3 large egg whites
200 ml whipping cream

-melt the chocolate in a bain marie

-warm the milk, do not allow to boil

– remove chocolate from stove once melted. Transfer to a bowl and add milk. Mix until smooth.

– whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into chocolate mixture.

– whip cream and gently fold into chocolate mixture.

– divide mousse into two parts. Gently fold about 60 – 80 ml currant and cherry conserve into one half.

– place 1 Tbsp berry conserve into the bottom of each serving glass/bowl. Divide white mousse between bowls. Carefully pour berry mouse into centre of each bowl

– refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Can be made the day ahead, so it’s a great, easy dessert recipe for dinner guests.


White chocolate mouse with redcurrant sour cherry conserve


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Berry Bowl


At the market on Friday, I was overcome completely by the astounding variety and sheer volume of delicious looking berries. Red currants! Strawberries! Raspberries! Cherries! Blueberries! Blackberries!

Ontario is a couple of weeks behind the States in terms of crop growth and even though we’ve been able to get fresh berries for a while now at the market, this time they were from the local area, fresher and sweeter looking than the previous punnets which have obviously had to be driven in from across the border. How could I resist? I couldn’t, not in the least, and ended up having to carefully, and delicately balance far too many berries in the basket of my bicycle, hoping the whole way home that the ones on the bottom wouldn’t end up a pulpy, juicy mess by the time I made it back. There are definitely downsides to deciding to travel by bicycle through the city. I can’t wait to get a rack and set of baskets on the back of my bike as well so I can do more shopping at one time.

I arrived home still grinning with the excitement of my find and unpacked all my purchases on the kitchen counter, only to stare in post-purchase disbelief at the pile left there. So many berries, and all so beautiful and tempting, but what was I going to do with them all? Surely they wouldn’t last the time it would take to think of something lovely to do with each of them and finish eating what was made. I couldn’t let them go to waste, and there was no concievable way I could have not bought them in the first place. Okay, so let’s look at what there is: red currants, sour red cherries, sweet black cherries, deep red raspberries, strawberries, green gooseberries and fresh rhubarb. Rhubarb is another thing I can’t seem to resist buying when I find it: it’s so rare and its season is so short.

When I saw the gooseberries,
I pounced on them immediately, berries-2.jpg
a slightly crazy, wicked glint in
my eyes. I’d been keeping a wary
eye out for these for a while now.
The reason is simple. In South
Africa, what I was brought up
believing was a gooseberry
(and which my Granny had a
bush of at her front door and
on which we feasted as children)
is actually known as a Cape Gooseberry,
though I’ve seen the same fruit
referred to as a physalis or a
ground cherry. I’d never seen
them before, but having read
about them in Jam Faced recently,
I couldn’t wait to see what all
the fuss was about.

Which led me to the decision to simple preserve a bunch of the fruit, before it could ruin, and have it ready to eat whenever the mood should strike. Jam! I was going to make jam! And it turned out to be a rainy Sunday today so what better way to pass the time?

Raspberry Orange Flower, Red Currant Sour Cherry and Gooseberry jams

I made three kinds:
a simple gooseberry jam,
which left me in no doubt
as to who the real gooseberry
is (yum!) a raspberry and
orange flower jam
which is so delicate
and delicious, I might end
up eating it by the spoon
and a red currant and
sour cherry jam
, which I left
quite tart and a bit runny
because I have a wicked plan
for its future… watch this space!

Jams are really easy to make, despite what you’ve heard to then contrary, and I love how making them reminds me so of my Gran.

With the rest I made some divine little strawberry and rhubarb tarts with a fresh custard, made slightly lighter than the previous post by using half milk half cream and the sweet black cherries are to become a cherry clafouti soon.

Of course, now I have three egg whites left over in the fridge from the custard, but again, you’ll have to wait to see what I do with those.

Strawberry Rhubarb Tart w Custard

For the Strawberry Rhubarb Tart:

Pie Crust of your choosing. A vanilla one complements the strawberries well.

2 ½ cups chopped rhubarb (1cm pieces)
1 ¼ cups hulled and quartered strawberries
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour

Preheat oven to 420˚F

– make pie crust, refrigerate for ½ hour before rolling out and lining 6 mini tart cases. Refrigerate 10 mins.

– mix pie ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to sit for a few minutes so that the fruit juices run out a little and soak up the flour and sugar. Mix a couple times until fruit is well coated.

– divide evenly between cold pie crusts, bake at 420˚F for 10 mins, then lower oven to 350˚F and bake for 45 mins.

Sour Cherries and Red currants

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