Archive for the 'preserves' Category

Drunken Orange & Ginger Jam

I initially got into cooking when I moved to the UK. Because of this, I can cook a vast repertoire of heart-warming stodgy winter food, but am pretty useless at light, summer food. So, despite me being a massive “cold frog” and hating the chill, I find myself greatly anticipating winter!

All the good things seem to happen in winter. The rugby, rugby league and AFL starts; my birthday gets closer; and I get to make thick stews and puddings to keep us warm through the chilly months. I also get to count down the days until Papa C’s lemon tree goes crazy and produces more lemons than we can pick!

I have noticed lately that the citrus fruit is becoming plentiful, but I’m not the biggest fan of marmalade as it is too bitter for my liking. So I’ve made a slightly sweeter orange jam, and jazzed it up with a bit of sherry for the cold. You can leave the sherry out, it tastes good without it. This one would also be good on fresh scones!
Drunken orange jam – adapted from the BBC Good Food website
1 kg oranges, well scrubbed and halved
1 unwaxed lemon
1.5 kg granulated sugar
30g stem ginger
2 l water
1/3 cup sherry

the oranges having a bath...

Grate the rind and squeeze the juice of the oranges and lemon, and place in a large saucepan with 2 l water and ginger.

Bring the liquid to the boil, then simmer for about 1 hr, or until the peel is soft and translucent and the liquid has reduced by one third. Turn off the heat and lift the ginger out.
While you wait, get your jars ready. Wash 8 x 450g/1lb jars (or the equivalent volume larger or smaller jars) in hot, soapy water, then leave in a low oven to dry completely. Keep them warm. Alternatively, if you’ve got a dishwasher you can run the jars and lids though a hot cycle, then let them dry. Put a saucer in the freezer at this point, too.
Add sugar and pectin to the pot, along with the sherry. Stir every so often over a very gentle heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Don’t boil before all the sugar has melted.

Slowly bring the pan to the boil. After 10 minutes boiling, spoon a small blob of marmalade onto the cold saucer. Leave for a minute, and then push the marmalade with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s ready. If not, boil for 10 minutes more then try again. If yours seems to be taking a while don’t worry, it can take anything from 10 minutes to 45 minutes for marmalade to reach setting point, depending on your oranges. Skim off any scum that comes to the surface in the meantime.

Once you’ve reached setting point, ladle the marmalade into the warm jars and seal. The marmalade will keep for up to 1 year in a cool, dark place, and for up to a month in the fridge once opened.


Rhubarb & Vanilla Jam

My tummy is the boss. When it says jump, I don’t even stop to ask how high, I just jump as high as I can in a desperate attempt to keep it happy. My tummy tells my mind what to think, and my hands what do to. Which is why I can never be blamed for eating anything I’m not allowed to, my tummy made me do it officer!

Avoiding sugar for so long as made me slightly nuts. My tummy has been rather angry with me and is intent on seeking revenge. The other day I was sitting on the couch and my tummy said to me “why don’t you try that delicious custard tart in the fridge, Frank won’t even notice it’s gone, and I won’t tell your Naturopath”. As my tummy presented a solid argument, I thought “why not eh!” and proceeded to scoff down the only custard tart in the fridge (it was small, don’t worry).  Unfortunately Frank went into the fridge that night and asked where the custard tart went… and I was totally busted! I believe his words were “has it gotten so bad that you are eating in secret?”, but of course it wasn’t me, it was my tummy that did it!

Because of my sugar addiction, my tummy has been dreaming up all sorts of sugary deliciousness for me to make. And as there has been a mass of rhubarb in our local store lately, I decided to try my hand at rhubarb jam. This recipe is really simple to follow, and the jam is delicious. As soon as I finish the diet I’ll be making fresh scones to have all the jam with.  And tummy says “yes please!”
Rhubarb & vanilla jam – recipe from the BBC Good Food website

1 kg rhubarb, weighed after trimming, cut into 3cm chunks
1 kg jam sugar (or 1 kg sugar plus 1 x 8g sachet pectin)
2 vanilla pods , halved lengthways
juice 1 lemon

Put a small plate in the freezer. Put the rhubarb into a preserving pan or your largest saucepan with the sugar and halved vanilla pods. Heat gently, stirring, until all the sugar has dissolved, then squeeze in the lemon juice and increase the heat.

Boil for about 10 mins, skimming off the scum as you go (the fruit should be soft).

Test for setting point by spooning a little onto your chilled plate. After 1-2 mins, push your finger through the jam – if the surface wrinkles it is ready, if not, keep cooking for 2-min intervals, testing in between. (Or if you have a sugar thermometer it should reach 105C)

Once the jam is ready, let it cool for about 15 mins before ladling into warm sterilized jars and sealing. Will keep for 6 months in a cool, dark place.

Lemon curd cupcakes for a special little girl

I am the baby in my family. I have a very tall older brother who goes by the name of Dude, who was my hero and tormentor (sorry Dude) until I was old enough to run fast. Now that we are both adults (well, perhaps only some of the time) he is no longer my tormentor, but still manages to be my hero.

I was, and always will be, the baby sister in his eyes. When we were kids it was because I was always much smaller and knew less about the world than he did. Now it is because I am much shorter and know less about the world than he does! Being the baby sister has its benefits. When we were at the same university all his friends knew me and called me by the same nickname as Dude did. So I knew when someone was yelling “Snollie!” across campus it would either be Dude or one of his friends. (I seem to have a runny nose frequently, hence the name) Because they were his friends, and I was his baby sister, they began to treat me like their baby sister too. And I was lucky enough to gain some extra family members in the process!

When Dude started University he met a guy called Swede in his class. Swede is a wonderful guy from, you guessed it, Sweden. He and Chris used to party together, often telling us he was “too old for this sh*t”. On one of their nights out they met a beautiful girl called Nix, who became a regular in the crowd. After a few years of knowing each other (and my mom predicting it), Nix and Swede fell in love and got married. Swede and Mrs Swede then moved across the globe, eventually ending up in Australia.

When I moved over here, it was a comfort to know that I had family already here. Swede and Mrs Swede have always been honorary members of our family, and I know my parents and Dude feel exactly the same way. Mrs Swede (as mentioned in my sponge cake post) is an amazing chef. AMAZING. She has been a big influence in my cooking, and Frank and I get very excited when we go to the Swedes for a visit.

As of Monday at 4:30am there has been a new addition to the Swede clan of three. (The Swedes have one gorgeous mini-Swede already) To celebrate, I decided to put my new-found cupcake decorating skills to the test. Luckily I had bought new pink and purple food colouring last week, and some little flower cutters, so I was ready to go! Using my favorite recipe, I made some lemon cupcakes. I cut little pockets in them and filled them up with fresh lemon curd. Once the tops were on I covered and decorated them with fondant. Now they will be taken to see the new addition tomorrow morning, I can’t wait!

Lemon fondant cupcakes – adapted from “Little cakes with attitude” by Kate Shirazi

1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup soft margarine
2 eggs
zest of two lemons
1 tbsp lemon juice

jar fresh lemon curd
fondant icing
selection of food colours

Preheat oven to 180C/ 160C fan-forced and line a 12-hole muffin tin. Put all cupcakes ingredients in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Fill muffin cups and bake in oven for 20 minutes, until firm to the touch.

Take out and cool. Once cooled, cut holes into top of cakes and fill with lemon curd.

Put the tops on and cover in fondant. Colour and cut out extra fondant and decorate cakes. Enjoy!

Cupcake on Foodista

Black forest lollcakes

Back in June, when Mama C and I hit the local food stores of Newcastle, I picked up a lot of speciality ingredients that sounded wonderful. The only problem was, I had no idea what to do with them. Having faith (or blind hope) that an opportunity to use all my goodies would present itself in time, I pushed all my new things into the grocery cupboard.

When passing the preserves isle on that fateful trip in June, I saw my favorite jam on special. Not knowing which flavour to choose, I picked the fruit that sounded the most delicious – cherry. Despite the fact that I’ve never tasted it or that I don’t eat jam very often these days, I thought it was a great idea. Now every time I open the cupboard to get the oats out (good for the heart and they warm us up, yum!) I see a beautiful little jar of cherry conserve winking at me from the top shelf. And I have to use it!!

Tomorrow is my last day in my current company. Our gang at ‘No Care’ has been through some very tough times, but we’ve had a lot of fun along the way. To celebrate my second-last day, and to spoil those I am going to miss (while the ones I’m not going to miss are away) I decided to make cupcakes. As the gang has tasted a lot of my cupcakes in the past six months, I wanted to do something a little different. I don’t think I’ve met a person that doesn’t like black forest cake. Even though the name reminds me of a laxative (Black forest tea. Don’t leave the tea bag in for too long apparently…) the cake is amazing. But what about black forest cupcakes eh? A perfect excuse to use the cherry conserve in the cupboard!

Taking my favorite basic cupcake recipe, I tweaked it to make the cupcakes extra chocolate-y. I mixed the cheery conserve with the smallest drop of brandy and used it as a filling. If you can find cherry brandy, it would be ideal, but no-one near me seemed to stock it. Lastly I topped it with whipped cream and some grated chocolate, and voila! Black Forest lollcakes…

Black Forest cupcakes – recipe adapted from “Cupcake Magic” by Kate Shirazi

1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup margarine, softened
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
300ml thickened cream
4 tbsp cherry conserve
1-2 tsp brandy/cherry brandy
1 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced, and line a 12-hole muffin tin. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and castor sugar into a large bowl. Add in margarine, eggs and milk; and beat until light and fluffy.

Divide mixture between 12 muffin cases, and bake for 20 mins until the tops are firm. Remove from the pan and let cool. While cooling, mix the cherry conserve with the brandy. Whip the cream with icing sugar until stiff.

Cut pockets into cupcake, fill with cherry mix, and pop the tops back on. Put cream into a piping bag and pipe swirls on top of the cakes. Sprinkle grated chocolate on top. (and pop on a cherry if you have, I didn’t…) And enjoy!

Quick and easy lemon curd

Frank and I made a trip up to see Mama and Papa C on the weekend past. Papa C’s lemon and orange trees have been going crazy at the moment, and despite the bumper crop I got last week there were still copious amounts of fruit on the trees. Mama C and I immediately got the ladder out of the garage and started pillaging the lemon tree, and I came home with about 40 lemons and 15 oranges! (and 2 dozen eggs, but who’s counting eh?)

Mama C and I also spent the weekend checking out the local food stores and delis, so I cam back with a delicious bag of goodies including some orange blossom water and my favorite Dutch cookies. A shop I would recommend if you are ever up near Newcastle is Bibina, it is amazing and stocks just about everything an amateur cook would want.

Now I can hear you say “she’s already posted a recipe for lemon curd”, but this recipe is different. As much as I love doing things the proper way, when you need a quick lemon curd, or you have copious amounts of lemons and eggs, this recipe is fantastic. It has more lemon juice than the last one, so is much more tangy and cuts through any surrounding sweetness. It is also a lot smoother, and sets firmer, so perfect for tarts and pastries. I made this curd to include in my seasonal cupcakes (see the next post coming up!)

I wrote this recipe on a post-it to take home with me, instead of using company stationery for personal use like I normally do. What I would recommend is you don’t stick any post-it notes on cupboards near gas stoves that are on, as the sticky back isn’t sticky enough to save you from a small kitchen fire!

Microwave lemon curd (makes two cups) – recipe from

1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3 lemons, zested
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest and butter. Cook in the microwave for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the microwave, and pour into small sterile jars. Store for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

If you can’t be bothered taking the pips out, just squeeze them into the bowl and strain them out once the curd has cooked!

Seasonal cupcakes

On a good day I quite fancy myself as an accurate predictor of baby gender. When my sister-in-law was pregnant, Beets had a dream that she was having a girl, and therefore I told my sister-in-law throughout her pregnancy that she was having a girl. And what do you know, I was right! So, guessing correcting, I did the required “I told you so” dance. Of course I am in Sydney and they are in London, so it didn’t have the same effect.

Next up was LL. I was convinced that she was having a girl, despite what everyone else said. I was right before, so of course I was going to be right again! She had a boy, and I was wrong. I was running on a 50/50 tally, which didn’t stop me from believing I could predict genders. My latest prediction was for Frank’s sister: I said “girl” again, and when she went into labour this morning I decided I was going to make her cupcakes to have in the hospital. But what colour to ice the cakes? I wisely asked Frank if he wanted to change his prediction to a girl, and if he thought I should ice the cupcakes pink. His response was: “ice them pink, and if you’re right you get to gloat tomorrow when we go in, and if you’re wrong we get to laugh at you.” Just before I was due to make the icing this evening we received a call from Mama C telling us that TW has just had a baby boy. And as sad as I am that I was wrong AGAIN, I am very overjoyed that little JTW is here safely, and that I hadn’t iced the cupcakes pink!

As citrus fruit is in season at the moment, and I have an abundance of the little darlings in my dining room, I thought I would make some orange and lemon cupcakes.  I picked up some orange blossom water while on a shopping spree with Mama C, and was keen to try it. Proud Daddy MW loves any cupcakes I make, so I thought I’d give it a go and no matter what I would have an appreciative audience!

As a base, I used my ever-faithful vanilla cupcake recipe. I left out the vanilla, and added in the zest of two of Papa C’s navel oranges and a tablespoon of the juice.  Once baked and cooled, I used an apple-corer to take out a little bit of the centre of each cake. A knife is normally recommended to hollow out cakes for filling, but I didn’t want to add too much filling so I only made small hollows. Once hollowed, I filled each cupcake with a spoonful of freshly made lemon curd and popped the top back on. I then make some buttercream icing with orange juice and 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water, and tinted it blue. Lastly I used a big star tip to ice buttercream swirls on top of the cakes.

I made 13 cupcakes, as I needed my honest-oppinion-giver to give it a taste test before I inflicted it on the family. I believe his response was: “mumble mumble mumble” *swallow mouthful of cake* “you done good.”

Seasonal cupcakes – adapted from basic cupcakes in “Little cakes with attitude” by Kate Shirazi

1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp baking powder
rind of two oranges
1 tbsp orange juice

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake cases. Sift flour and sugar into a large bowl. Plonk the rest of the cake ingredients and whisk away until pale and fluffy (I would use an electric whisk).

Plop a tablespoon of the batter into the cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Hollow out with a knife, fill with lemon curd and put the tops back on.

Orange blossom buttercream icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
1.5 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp orange juice

Beat everything in a large bowl for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add food colouring to your heart’s content. (I used royal blue colouring)

Lemon curd delight

When I am asked the question “what is your favorite food?” I am stumped. My favorites change depending on what new food I have discovered, or what the weather’s like, or what I had for breakfast. But one favorite that has stood the test of time has been lemons!

I love lemons in dessert. There is nothing better than having a slice of lemon meringue pie after a good dinner. Or a bad dinner. (But really, do those exist?) Or just for! I remember one year my mom asked me what cake I wanted for my birthday and I requested one of her delicious lemon meringue pies. I waited in anticipation for a week, and when it arrived it was amazing. My fatal mistake was having friends around for tea – they scoffed it all and I ended up with only one tiny slice! I still get sad just thinking about it…

Last week Mama and Papa C gifted Frank and I with some eggs. And by some, I mean two dozen. They are delicious free-range eggs, and they deserve to be made into something special. As luck would have it, Papa C’s lemon tree has been going crazy in the sunshine and has produced a bonza crop of lemons, so we were gifted a dozen lemons to go with the eggs. I wracked my brain for a recipe to use the eggs and lemons, and with a lot of inspiration from Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella’s post on finger lime caviar butter I decided to make lemon curd. As I have never made any sort of curd before, and I am currently in “daring cook” mode, I thought there is no better time to give it a try. It isn’t nearly as exciting as Lorraine’s, but hopefully I’ll get to make that one soon!

Tangy lemon curd – adapted from Good Housekeeping’s Step-by-step cookbook

4 lemons
4 eggs, very lightly beaten
100g butter, chopped into small cubes
350g castor sugar
600ml glass jar for storage

The recipe recommends using a double boiler. I used a metal mixing bowl over a smaller pan of boiling water.

Wash jar in warm, soapy water. Place in an oven preheated to 120C for 10-15 minutes until the jar is dry. Keep aside.
Zest and juice lemons, and put these in a mixing bowl or double boiler.

lemon zest and juice

Add the butter, sugar and eggs; and place bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat until sugar has dissolved, stirring continuously.

ingredients on the stove

Continue to heat, without boiling, for 20 minutes.

after 10 minutes over the heat

Remove bowl from the heat, and strain the mixture through a sieve. Pour the strained mixture into the jar, allow to cool and store in the fridge. The curd should be eaten within two weeks.

straining the mixture

Lemon curd can be used in pastry cases, for the base of lemon meringue pie, or to spread on toast! I doubled the recipe up and will be taking a jar up to Mama and Papa C to say thank you for the lovely ingredients.

ready to eat!

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