Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blackberry Jam

Part 1.

We went berry picking on the weekend. We picked purple raspberries, red raspberries and new season autumn blackberries which looked so good I took this photo of them.

One thing I've been quite interested in recently is making jam or fruit conserve with no sugar added. So now's my chance to give it a go. Unfortunately I don't have a recipe I'm happy with yet and although I've decided to add some apple for the pectin I'm not sure if this alone will make my jam set or if the sugar in regular jam helps with the setting as well as the preserving. Stay tuned.. hopefully I can report on the results soon.

Part 2.

Well after a bit of research I discovered that making no sugar jam should be easy, but was in fact, a little bit trickier than I had anticipated. The main reason being, I couldn't find any no sugar pectin, or low-methoxyl pectin, to purchase.

Low-methoxyl pectin is basically a pectin that doesn't need added sugar in order to set (it uses calcium) and it seems to be available commercially but not really available to retail customers anywhere that I can find in Melbourne. I think the best thing to do will be to purchase Pamona's Universal Pectin online so that I have a supply of it. Then I'll already have some on hand the next time the opportunity to make jam arises.

So lacking the essential ingredient for setting my no sugar jam, I divided the blackberries in half and decided to make two lots of jam. The first one, for me, would be more like a fruit compote rather than a jam since it wouldn't set to jam-like consistency and the second one, for my partner, would be a normal jam, albeit with less sugar than most regular jams. Using just slight less sugar makes jams taste beautifully fruity rather than just tasting like sugar.

Blackberry and Apple Fruit Compote


500 gms black berries
2 granny smith apples
juice of half a lemon


Put blackberries, apple and lemon juice in a large saucepan and bring gently to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes or so and then pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Important - Since this has no sugar to act as a preservative you must store the jars in the fridge.

Blackberry Jam (Pictured above)


6 cups blackberries
4 cups white sugar
juice of half a lemon


Add blackberries, sugar and lemon to a large saucepan and bring gently to a simmer until all the fruit has dissolved. Simmer until it reaches a point where the jam will set.

To test this have a cooled saucer or plate on hand, then drip some jam on it, place in the fridge to cool it and once cool, run your hand through the jam. If the jam doesn't run together again but stays separated its ready. If the jam runs together again, keep simmering and then test again until it reaches setting point.

Once the jam has reached setting point, take it off the heat and carefully pour through a funnel into sterilised jars, then seal and leave to cool.

I used lots of different sized jars to store this jam but I would say that if you used regular small jam jars you'd probably get 6 jars out of this quantity of jam. My lot made the jars pictured below as well as a really large jar. These ones are destined for jam appreciating family members.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Asian Style Chicken Soup

This soup is really easy, really yummy and really healthy! In other words it's great and it only takes about 30 minutes to make so it's a good dish for a busy weeknight dinner! I usually make this in a large amount and then we just eat it over a couple of days (three at the most). I estimate that the amount of soup in the recipe below would end up being about 10 servings. There's only two of us so that's a lot of meals of eating this soup but that's okay because we love it. But I'm sure it would freeze well although I haven't tried it yet. You could also reduce the quantities to suit.

One of the ingredients in this soup is one that some of you may not have used before, and that's wakame. It's dried seaweed which doesn't sound very appetising I know, but it re-hydrates beautifully, and the end result is that it tastes like a luscious green vegetable but a little different. I would urge you to try it out. You can purchase it from any Chinese supermarket and for those of you who frequent the Queen Vic Market in Melbourne there's a few different sorts available at Minh Phat on Thierry Street.

One of the good things about this soup though is that you can add whatever you want really. Sometimes I add peas and soba noodles are a good addition as well.


1 1/2 litres of good quality chicken stock
700 mls of water
1 small red chilli
1 tbs of dark soy sauce
5 cm piece of ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 large organic chicken breast fillets
1 red capsicum, cut into thin strips about 3 cm in length
1 punnet or small bag of shitake mushrooms, stalks removed and sliced
1 punnet or small bag of ennoki mushrooms, gently broken apart
2 bunches of bok choy, washed and torn or chopped into smallish pieces
a couple of handfuls of cut wakame*
3 small carrots, cut into thin strips about 3 cm in length
handful of baby corn, chopped into chunk sized pieces
1 small tin of water chestnuts, drained
half a bunch of spring onions, chopped
roasted cashews
handful of coriander leaves

* Available from Asian grocery stores.


Pour stock and water into a large saucepan, add ginger, chilli and soy sauce and bring to a simmer. Trim chicken of any fat or sinew and add to the pot and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the carrots to the saucepan, then the seaweed, then the capsicum, water chestnuts, mushrooms, bok choy, and half of the coriander leaves. Then tear or chop the chicken fillets into small pieces and add them back into the soup along with the spring onions. Serve immediately and add the remaining coriander leaves and some roasted cashews to garnish each bowl.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Mushroom and Tomato Bread Casserole

This easy casserole was inspired by a recipe that I found on the Whole Foods Market (a US organic and whole foods supermarket chain) web site. It's supposed to be a breakfast casserole but we haven't managed to have it for breakfast yet, I'm not organised enough. For the best results it really should be left in the fridge for a few hours or overnight so that the flavours infuse and the egg fully soaks into the bread which would mean making it the night before - way too much work! I've only managed to make it in the morning and cook it for dinner. But it's great as an evening meal. I've used two different cheeses on the top simply according to what I've had on hand and I think crumbled feta cheese works equally as well as shaved parmesan in my book but if you don't mind making a more calorific version by all means use Gruyere.


2 slices dark rye bread
a drop of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
several large swiss brown mushrooms, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
splash of red wine vinegar
fresh oregano leaves
4 eggs
splash of low-fat milk
bunch of chives, chopped
small piece of parmesan, shaved


Tear the bread into pieces and press into the bottom of two individual casserole dishes; set aside.
Heat oil in a medium fry pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for a minute, then add tomatoes, mushrooms, salt and pepper, vinegar, and oregano, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and liquid is thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon tomato mixture evenly over the top of the bread in each casserole dish; set aside to let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper and chives. Pour evenly over tomato mixture. Cover casseroles and chill overnight in the fridge.

To cook, bring casseroles to room temperature and preheat oven to 180°C. Sprinkle casseroles with parmesan and bake, uncovered, until puffed, cooked through and cheese is golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving in the casserole dish. Don't forget to warn unsuspecting diners that the dish is hot!