Thursday, 17 July 2014

Summer Smoothies in a Kilner Jar sippy cup




Phew! It's been hot this week and I've been trying to spend as much time outside as possible to make the most of this spell of gorgeous weather. 

These lovely sippy cups made from Kilner Jars were my daughter's idea and are brilliant for sipping a cool smoothie, fruit juice or cocktail from while lounging in the garden. I love them because there's less chance of spillages and she loves them because they greatly reduce the chance that insects of the winged variety will inadvertently find their way into her drink! 

Kilner Jars are ideal for this purpose as they're made from thick glass and are therefore nice and sturdy so great for outdoors but really any kind of jar could be used. Kilner is a UK brand of glass jar but if you're from North America I think Mason Jars are the nearest equivalent.

Kilner Jar sippy cups are really easy to make so feel free to check out my daughter's blog to find out how.

On the subject of smoothies, I couldn't let this opportunity pass without sharing a couple of delicious recipes. Both of these recipes make 2 large smoothies.

Strawberry, Raspberry and Ginger Smoothie



Notes: I found this recipe on Driscoll's website. They have lots of great recipes using raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries so is worth checking out for some great ideas. I have reproduced the recipe below in the quantities I made it with using metric measures.

The finished smoothie has a lovely berry flavour with a hint of ginger. As the yoghurt is quite bitter I think it needs the honey to add sweetness but by all means, make it without and then add at the end to taste.

Ingredients:
160ml milk (full-fat, semi-skimmed, almond, soya...whatever you fancy)
250ml natural yoghurt
1½ tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp honey
400g strawberries, hulled
150g raspberries

Method:
Put all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.


Banana, Blueberry and Lavender Smoothie





Notes: The lavender that's added to this smoothie adds a fragrant aftertaste but feel free to omit if preferred. I've added 2 teaspoons of honey which I think gives the smoothie a nice sweet touch but, as with the strawberry one above, feel free to leave it out and add it at the end if you think it needs it.

Ingredients:
1 banana
375ml milk (full-fat, semi-skimmed, almond, soya...whatever you fancy) 
400g blueberries
1 tsp edible dried lavender flowers
2 tsp honey

Method:
Put all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Barbecue Dessert Idea - Chocolate Fondue





I envy those of you who live in warmer, sunnier climes who can plan a barbecue weeks ahead and know there's a good chance that when the day arrives you won't be stressing about the weather and constantly scouring the sky for rain clouds! As the weather here in Northumberland can be a tad unpredictable, in our house our barbecues are usually planned a maximum of 2 hours in advance when we're sure it'll stay warm enough and dry enough not to be worried about whether we'll be cooking in our raincoats. It's then a case of dashing down to the supermarket to get barbecue supplies when, more often than not, everyone else in the neighbourhood has had the same idea so inevitably, burger buns, charcoal and any kind of meat that can be cooked over hot coals has already been snapped up.

Because of this, we don't have barbecues very often so when we do I always like to make an occasion of it and have a nice dessert to finish off. This one is delicious - a bowl of chocolate sauce with a selection of sweet, juicy fruits to dip in it - and is so quick and easy that I don't need to spend hours in the kitchen and miss out on all the fun! Also, as it can all be served on one plate with a fork (or even a wooden skewer) for each guest to use for dipping it saves on the washing up too!

This is such an easy dessert it doesn't really need a recipe but here goes...


Chocolate Fondue Recipe

Notes: This makes enough for 3-4 people to dip with around 750g of fruit. To increase the quantity is simple - just use the same weight of chocolate to volume of cream i.e. 100g chocolate to 100ml cream, 150g chocolate to 150g cream and so on. 

If your making this only for adults, 1-2 tsp of liqueur could be added, for example Cointreau for a chocolate orange sauce, Amaretto for an almond flavour or Tia Maria for a mocha sauce.

For the fruit, raspberries, strawberries and banana are my favourite but other fruit such as mango and orange segments are also nice. Shortbread is a lovely option too. 

Ingredients:
100g chocolate (use milk, dark, white or a combination)
100ml double cream
1-2tsp liqueur (optional - see note above)
Selection of fruit or biscuits for dipping.

Method:
1. Place a bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl.

2. Break up the chocolate, place it in the bowl and warm it until it begins to melt, stirring occasionally.

3. Once the chocolate has melted gradually add the cream, stirring well to allow the mixture to form a smooth, silky sauce and to enable it to warm through. 

4. If using, add the liqueur and stir this into the sauce at the end.

5. Pour the sauce into a bowl and arrange a selection of fruit or biscuits on a large plate. Provide forks or skewers for dipping.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Make homemade fruit jam - it's easy when you know how!




I used to think that jam-making was a dark art that needed some specialist equipment and knowledge that was handed down through generations that I had somehow missed out on. I think my opinion was formed when I was doing my food technology exam (or domestic science as it was called then) at high school and had to make marmalade as part of my final assignment. I boiled the fruit and sugar for so long that it cooled to a hard solid lump in the jar and certainly wasn't edible. Luckily for me the teacher only checked that the marmalade had set and didn't try to spread some on a slice of bread so I ended up with a good result that I definitely didn't deserve!

I've since discovered that by following a few simple rules (thank you Delia) it's really straightforward and I've learned to make delicious jams with a wide variety of fruit and every summer, when fruit is cheap and plentiful, I try to make a good number of jars of it so I don't have to buy commercially produced jams that just aren't as nice. 

I'd like to share my tips for making jam along with my recipes for strawberry and blackberry jam which are shown below.


5 tips for making homemade jam

1. The general rule is to use the same quantities of fruit and sugar. 

2. Add the juice of 1 lemon per kg of fruit if the fruit is very sweet. The pectin in the juice will help the jam to set. For more tart or under ripe fruit this is not necessary but if in doubt feel free to add lemon juice.

3. Make sure the sugar has completely dissolved to a syrup before turning up the heat and boiling the mixture - this ensures there are no sugar crystals in the finished jam.

4. Sterilise jars by washing them in hot soapy water and drying with a clean cloth. Place the jars on a high shelf in a pre-heated oven at 100°C/225°F/Gas Mark ¼ for 15-20 minutes.

5. To test whether the jam is ready put a saucer in the freezer and let it get really cold while the jam is cooking. After the jam has boiled for approx 8 minutes take the saucer out of the freezer and put a tsp of the hot liquid onto it. Leave it for 30 seconds then push the jam with your finger. If the jam has formed a skin on the top of it and wrinkles when pushed then it is ready. If not, put the saucer back in the freezer and boil the jam for another 3-4 minutes then test it again.

I use sugar that has been specially produced for jam-making and has pectin already added. I think it just makes the process easier but simple granulated sugar can be used. As in point 2 above, if in doubt just add some lemon juice.

These two recipes make approx 1.5kg jam each.


Strawberry Jam Recipe

Ingredients:
750g strawberries, hulled
750g jam sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Method:
1. Place the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice into a large saucepan. 

2. Place the pan over a very low heat and warm the mixture gently. The fruit will begin to emit its juice and the sugar will gradually dissolve and turn to syrup. Stir occasionally, trying not to damage the fruit. The syrup should become smooth with no sugar crystals. This process will take approximately 20 minutes.

3. Once the fruit mixture is ready, turn up the heat and boil the mixture rapidly for 8 minutes, stirring from time to time. Don't worry about any scum rising to the surface. After 8 minutes test the mixture to see if it is ready as outlined in point 5 above. If not, continue to boil for a further 3-4 minutes. Keep testing and boiling further if required.

4. When the jam is ready, remove it from the heat and allow to settle for 15 minutes before pouring into warm, sterilised jars.

5. Seal the jam with waxed paper discs, screw on lids and allow to cool.








Blackberry Jam Recipe

Ingredients:
750g blackberries, stalks removed
750g jam sugar
2 tbsp water

Method:
1. Place the blackberries, sugar and water into a large saucepan. 

2. Place the pan over a very low heat and warm the mixture gently. The fruit will begin to emit its juice and the sugar will gradually dissolve and turn to syrup. Stir occasionally, trying not to damage the fruit. The syrup should become smooth with no sugar crystals. This process should take approximately 20 minutes.

3. Once the fruit mixture is ready, turn up the heat and boil the mixture rapidly for 8 minutes, stirring from time to time. Don't worry about any scum rising to the surface. After 8 minutes test the mixture to see if it is ready as outlined in point 5 above. If not, continue to boil for a further 3-4 minutes. Keep testing and boiling further if required.

4. When the jam is ready, remove it from the heat and allow to settle for 15 minutes before pouring into warm, sterilised jars.

5. Seal the jam with waxed paper discs, screw on lids and allow to cool.
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