Dwarf Damson Tarts.

Called “dwarf” because this is the shortest pastry you can make without it being a crumble!

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 200g sugar
  • 200g butter
  • 300g flour
  • 1 egg
  • cinnamon to taste

For the filling:

  • 300g damsons
  • 200g sugar

Utensils:

  • mixing bowl and fork
  • small pot and wooden spoon
  • tart tray, greased or nonstick

Recipe:

  1. Thoroughly blend the sugar and butter. Leave to rest.
  2. Stone and dice the damsons and put them in a pot on a low heat. Wait until they release some juice before turning the heat up. Stew them down as much as possible, and remember to keep stirring.
  3. When the damsons are fully softened, add the sugar and bring the mix to a boil. Set aside to cool.
  4. Mix the flour and egg into the sugar and butter. Divide evenly between 12 tart spaces and make sure the walls are reasonably high.
  5. Spoon some warm damson mix into each casing. Don’t overfill as any bubbling will make the tarts impossible to remove from the tray. They are far too short to withstand rought handling!
  6. Bake at 160C for 25 minutes. The casings should still be soft, but should not dent too easily.
  7. Fully cool before removing and serving.

These were awesome to eat and have motivated me to try and use up all my jam and pie-filling jars this year. Wish me luck! ^^

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
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Oat Pudding.

Unsure what to call it. Not rice pudding as it was made with oat groats, but not porridge as it contained wholegrain oats. But it was nice.

Sort of fitting that an oats recipe goes up on Jon’s birthday. But I’m making a cake instead today. :p

Ingredients.

For the oats.

  • 2 cups oat groats
  • 1 cup porridge oats
  • milk to cover
  • 1tbsp butter
  • 1tbsp sugar

For the jam.

  • 3 cups raspberries
  • 10 plums
  • 1 stem rhubarb
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp nutmeg
  • 1tsp paprika

Utensils.

  • large pot and spoon
  • chopping board and knife
  • small pot and spoon

Recipe.

  1. Soak the oat groats in milk with sugar.
  2. Chop the plums and rhubarb and mix with the raspberries. Put on a low heat to cook down.
  3. Slowly heat the oat groats to a boil and allow to cook.
  4. Mix the porridge oats into the groats and stir as they soak the remaining milk. You want a little bit of excess liquid when you turn the heat off.
  5. Add the butter on top of the oats and set aside to finish cooking in its own heat.
  6. Once the fruit is soft, add the spices and sugar and simmer, continually stirring, until the jam is thick.
  7. Serve the oats with a dollop of jam.

Oat pudding.

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

The Garden Haul Comes In.

Interrupting the recipes for a quick update on the garden foods.

Well, we’re not quite there yet. Beans are not yet ripe, neither are tomatoes. Still got plenty of greens to harvest, as well as around 4/5 of the potatoes. The carrots and beets and turnips could do with another growth spurt too. But both in preparation for moving and because things ripen at different speeds, a load of stuff has already been coming in.

The raspberry bushes. Not actually “ours”. Wild-seeded.

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Raspberry, strawberry and blackcurrant jam prep.

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This year’s attempt at restocking the jam supplies. Got blackberry jam to make soon, then elderberry jam and apple sauce. Hopefully plum jams, but we don’t grow our own so that depends on overstock from neighbours.

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Just a little peek into the top of our bag of frozen blackberries. Pretty much every time I’ve gone out, I’ve been picking early blackberries and freezing them. The picture doesn’t show it well, but the bag has around 1.5-2L of blackberries in it. They will need rinsing from frozen, defrosting gently, adding to however many fresh ones I can gather as September advances, then stewing down for more jams!

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The very last batch of rhubarb. Probably going to be a tart, or maybe a sweet sauce for topping a flan. Now’s time to move the plant roots into pots, to move down to our new place, ready to plant out next Spring.

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Around 1/10 of the potatoes, because we ate half of this batch before I took a photo. Digging them up 1/5 at a time, starting with the shallow ones, to prevent parasites and rot from getting them first. They’re possibly the starchiest potatoes I have ever had. 😀

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And finally some of the greens we are growing. No pesticides, so a bit nibbled, but fine to eat.

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Here are some fresh greens, early beans and herbs being prepped for a stew.

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In short, the garden is serving us well this year.

Sadly my pea plants were not as robust as the beans, though, and produced only a handful of pods before succumbing to the sun during my week of absence. There’s always next year, though!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

12 Treats to Make Before Christmas.

In a month and a half, we will be getting ready for a Christmas dinner. Maybe sooner if you’re holding a few events for friends before the day! And harvest season is coming to an end, with frosts quickly advancing and only a few baskets and boxes of fresh produce left. Soon there will be turnips, parsnips, some berries and that’s about it.

So why not take advantage of the last few batches of harvest and make some amazing food to preserve for our dinner tables over Christmas? Here are twelve of my favourites.

1: Plum pie filling.

The last few batches of plums should be dewey and bursting with flavour round about now, but they won’t last until December. Make the most of them and make a thick plum jam to can and preserve until Christmas.

2: Pumpkin ice cream.

Cook down some pumpkin flesh with a bit of sugar and a lot of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Stir it into cream, drizzle with melted toffee, top with walnuts, freeze and forget about it for a month and a half.

3: Christmas pudding.

If you didn’t feel confident enough to cure your English Christmas pudding for six months, you can always make one now and hang it up in cheesecloth in the pantry to cure just a little bit.

4: Cranberry sauce.

Bring a few bowls of cranberries to a simmer until the juices escape. Strain and keep the liquid. Add a cup of sugar for each cup of cranberry juice. Boil for a few minutes and then can it to save for roast dinners.

5: Mincemeat.

If you want to make your own mince pies, now’s the time to make mincemeat from fresh and dried fruits, to cure and ferment a bit by December. Chop up half fresh, half dried fruits, mash with flour and plenty of brandy, heat, can and leave in the fridge until needed.

6: Pumpkin chutney.

All that remaining pumpkin and pumpkin rind can also be used up efficiently! Chop it roughly and cook it with plenty of sugar, some salt and some vinegar. Maybe a little chili too. Then, bring to a boil and can it. Keep in the fridge until needed.

7: Glacé fruit.

If you have a lot of fruit and time on your hands, you could try and make glacé (candied) fruit ready for cake toppings and snacks. You need 1lb of sugar for every 2lbs of fruit. You boil the fruit in a pan of water several times before adding the sugar to coat it.

8: Marzipan.

From stollen, a traditional German Christmas cake made with a marzipan filling, to your cheeseboard, this rich and tasty almond treat is worth making in advance.

9: Applesauce.

Essentially, apple jam. Boil your apples down with 1/3-1/2 sugar and can for later use.

10: Pear confit.

Bake pears and onions with oil and salt until soft. Bring to a high heat in a saucepan. Can, refrigerate and save.

11: Elderberry wine.

With the last of the elderberries, consider making your own elderberry wine to wow your guests at the dinner table. It is simple and doesn’t take long to ferment.

12: Sloe gin and cherry brandy.

Or, if you’re not that adventurous, get a bottle of gin and place a few sliced sloes in it and a bottle of brandy to fill with cherries.

And those are my top twelve things to make in time for Christmas! What other treats do you like to prepare early?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… make any jam.

This post is part of the Nutritional Health Series, check the tag for the other posts!

Jam is a great way to make use of large amounts of fruit or slightly damaged or defrosted fruit. Many people don’t think they have the time for jam, but really, it’s fast, simple and will save you a lot of money on wasted fruit and buying jams!

1: The basics.

Jams come in three distinct forms. A jelly, made from only the juice. A jam, made from crushed fruit and juice. And a compote, a jelly with whole fruit preserved in it. They are all made largely from fruit and sugar, but sometimes use gelling agents like pectin or gelatine to help them along.

2: Fruit.

You need fruit for a jam or jelly. At least 500g or 1lb of fruit is needed to make a large portion of jam, but with the microwave method you can make smaller batches! Fruit juice is also an option.

In some jams, like marmalade, you use the rinds of the fruit as well as the flesh and juice.

3: Sugar.

The most efficient sugars for jam are crystal sugars, like white sugar, demarera sugar or brown cane sugar. But soft sugars like honey, palm sugar or maple syrup can work too, with a bit more patience.

The perfect ratio for jam is between 50/50 and 1/3 sugar to 2/3 fruit.

4: Gelling.

If you’re really not sure your jam will set, consider using a gelling agent.

  • Pectin is a natural fruit gelling agent you can use to firm up a jam.
  • Gelatine comes from animal bones and collagen, but may make your jam too solid.
  • Packaged jelly is easier to use for a bit of flavoured firmness.
  • Agar is a seaweed product that is used instead of gelatine in veg*n dishes.

5: In a pot.

The traditional way. You put your fruit in a pot and simmer until it begins to break down and release fluids. Then you add the sugar slowly, stirring the whole time. Reduce the jam and let it cool.

6: Microwave.

Small batches of jam can be made in the microwave. Just crush the fruit and sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl, cook for a minute at a time and stir in between until it becomes viscous.

7: Raw.

If you combine gelatinous fruit, like bananas, persimmons or lychee, with your sweet fruit and sugar of choice, you can make a tasty raw jam. Just blend 1/3 gelatinous fruit with 1/3 fruit pulp (mash the sweet fruit and squeeze the juice out) and 1/3 your sugar of choice. A viscous sugar like palm sugar, maple syrup or honey works best.

8: Jars.

Traditional jams can be preserved in a jar. Be sure to soak the jar in boiling water first and fill and seal it while it’s still hot. If you have a canning station, this may be the best option, but otherwise hot jam into a hot jar and seal works fine. My jams last a whole year like this without going off.

9: Fridge.

Microwave and raw jams are best kept more aerated in a bowl with a lid in the fridge. They keep 5-10 days, less if less sugar is involved.

And that’s how to make any jam you fancy. Almost all fruits can be jammed, but gelatinous fruits, apples, pears and berries will jam easier due to their high pectin content!

What’s your favourite jam or preserve?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

If anyone was wondering what 15.5L of jam looks like…

…here’s half a fridge of preserves!

Roughly 20L of jam and preserves.

The taller jars (white tops and the likes) are 0.5L, the big ones are 1L, the smaller ones are 200-450ml.

Raspberry, elderberry, blackberry, plum, apple sauce, autumn pie mix and various mixed jams. Fruit mostly foraged, given or got on the cheap locally.

All preserves in boiled, undamaged pop-top jars, resealed with heat – canning without a canning bath, if you will. I was unsure about this trick, but after a whole year of eating jams made and preserved this way, I trust them. Should be great for Halloween and Christmas and still be edible and usable for a full 12 months from the date on the jar!

I probably made around 20L total, but I had to use some on the day due to jar shortage and gave some away to friends and Jon’s coworkers.

Jam. 🙂

WWW. Beef Noodles and Cranachan.

The cooking lately has been very Jon-directed, largely because I felt I messed up a bit last week and wanted him to have whatever he wanted. So the big ones have been a beef noodles and salad meal and my first attempt at cranachan!

Black Pepper Beef Noodles and Salt and Vinegar Salad Recipes

Recipe 1: Beef Noodles.

First of all the beef noodles. We spied some reduced-price organic beef and Jon wanted to snap it up and make some black pepper steak, so that was what we did. 🙂

Ingredients:

[Makes 2-3 servings on its own, 5 servings with a side.]

-350g beef

-2 small onions

-4 cloves garlic

-200ml double cream

-2 servings rice noodles (soak or boil in advance)

-2tbsp butter

-black pepper to taste

-soy sauce to taste

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-frying pan

Recipe:

1: Finely slice the onions and mince the garlic.

2: Using 1tbsp of butter, lightly fry them until the onions are translucent and the garlic has lost its sharpness.

3: Chop the beef into small, evenly sized pieces. Add to the pan with the remaining butter.

4: Once the beef and onions are brown, turn up the heat and add the cream.

5: Once it has simmered a while, add the pepper, soy sauce and noodles.

6: Stir until the cream has reduced a bit.

Black Pepper Beef Noodles Recipe

Recipe 2: Salt and Vinegar Salad.

A perfect accompaniment for any BBQ, but also for this beef and noodles in black pepper sauce! Spotted some salt and vinegar potatoes in /r/food and improvised a recipe.

Ingredients:

[Makes 2-3 servings on its own, 5 as a side.]

-20 small salad potatoes (fit in a tablespoon)

-2 medium bell peppers

-1/2 an onion or 1 small onion, red or white

-3 carrots

-3 tsp salt

-1 tsp vinegar

-1 tsp chives or mixed herbs

-1tbsp butter

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-frying pan

-mixing bowl and salad servers

-grater

Recipe:

1: Melt the butter in the pan.

2: Slice each potato in half and place in the butter at a low heat.

3: As the potatoes cook, grate the carrots into the bowl.

4: Finely dice the onion. Add to the bowl.

5: Roughly chop the pepper. Add to the bowl.

6: Be sure to turn the potatoes!

7: When the potatoes are brown, add the salt and cook a little longer, to reduce moisture.

8: When they are cooked through and dry, toss them in vinegar and herbs.

9: Add the potatoes to the salad and mix thoroughly.

Salt and Vinegar Salad Recipe

Recipe 3: Cranachan.

This was great fun. Proper Celt food from Scotland. Saw it on a food show and had to try it because it sounded like something Jon would love. He says my end result needs less cream or less whiskey in the cream. He gives my serving a 6.5/8 and his own quantities a 7/8.

As the raspberries aren’t ripe here yet, I made it using our first batch of rhubarb pudding/jam.

[Makes 4-6 servings.]

For the rhubarb:

-6 thick stems

-3/4 cup white sugar

-1/4 cup palm sugar

-2tbsp butter

For the cream:

-300ml double cream

-80ml whiskey

-2tsp honey

-oats?

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-small pot and spoon

-large pot and whisk

Recipe:

1: Peel and finely chop the rhubarb. Place in the small pot and heat thoroughly.

2: Once the rhubarb is soft, add the sugars and keep heating.

3: Once it has melted, add the butter, stir and set to one side.

4: In the large pot, whisk the cream until it’s stiff.

Make a gap. If it doesn't close, it's ready.

Make a gap. If it doesn’t close, it’s ready.

5: Add the whiskey and whisk again until a peak is formed.

6: Stir in the honey.

7: If desired, add oats.

8: Serve with the jam at the base and the cream on top.

My choice of quantities and presentation.

My choice of quantities and presentation.

Jon's ideal mix: 2 digestive biscuits, 4tbsp rhubarb, 1tbsp cream.

Jon’s ideal mix: 2 digestive biscuits, 4tbsp rhubarb, 1tbsp cream.

And those are our favourite meals from this week! What were yours? Found any cool recipes lately?