Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sweetbitter + a simple chanterelle omelette

Sweetbitter. First things first, this is not a cookbook, it's a novel. A novel that has had rave reviews from the media and it being based on food, wine and the restaurant industry I thought it still appropriate for here.

I went in with high expectations as I love books that have even the slightest mention of food in them plus this one is set in New York, who doesn't love New York as a setting?? So with these both playing a huge feature in the book I had a feeling I'd be instantly hooked before I even started.

The book is set out in seasons and follows the 22 year old narrator from her hometown into the big city, New York. She gets a job as a server in a renowned restaurant and the story is based about her time there, the people she works with, the customers she serves, the mentor she craves and of course the mysterious talk, dark and handsome character, who she desperately wants. There is swearing, drugs, sex, food, wine, everyones dirty little secrets and more wine.

By the hype of the book, I thought that there would be more food involved but to tell you the truth it didn't make me want to cook, it made me want to open a bottle of wine every time I picked it up.

I don't think I've mentioned it on the space yet but I've worked in restaurant kitchens before so a lot of the kitchen talk in the book brought back memories of my apprenticeship with head chefs that yelled, screamed 'pick-up', screamed 'pick-up!' even louder if no one came running, threw plates of food at walls or called you a 'blow-arse'. Now, not all my head chef's were like that and the social vibe between staff was not as gritty as this book makes it out to be but it still brought back the feeling of being at the pass and waiting for my desserts to be picked up, hoping desperately someone would come quickly so the ice cream didn't end up like soup. I will also admit when I first started reading this book, it brought back the anxiety that also came hand in hand with my kitchen gig and the feeling of being the newbie in a foreign space.

I enjoyed this book but there was something that kept me a little uneasy throughout the entire thing and I think it was my own experiences working in restaurants and being on the kitchen side of it all. All I saw was the kitchens I've worked in and the chefs that yelled. I never had a mentor, it was all for one and one for all. You had two feet to stand on and if you didn't get it right the first time the second time you had no choice but to get it right or you got your head bitten off.

Although my time sounds highly unpleasant working in a kitchen, it wasn't all like that but I do think the name of the book is very fitting and describes restaurant life in one (two) words perfectly. Sweetbitter.

One thing, I wanted more food. I wanted more mouth watering family meals and cooking for one in her tiny New York apartment but I didn't get much of that. There were two memorable food moments in it which I'll mention. One consisted of oysters, beer and the tall, dark and handsome fella and the other was a simple chanterelle omelette which had me craving mushrooms. As I can't give you a recipe for a tall, dark handsome fella who hands you freshly shucked oysters and an ice cold beer, I can share with you a recipe for a chanterelle omelette I made recently. It is a given that you are required to open a bottle of wine with this.

a simple chanterelle omelette

inspired by Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
serves 1 - recipe adapted from Savour

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 small shallot, finely diced
about 1 cup chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and torn (or any mushrooms you like)
a dollop of creme fraiche
a handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten

- In a frying pan heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat until melted then add the garlic and diced shallot. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the chanterelle mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes or until soft. Add the creme fraiche and parsley and cook until melted and oozy, season with generous amounts of salt and pepper.

- Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Wipe the frying pan out with paper towel then add the other tablespoon of butter on medium heat. Pour the beaten eggs into pan and cook for 30 seconds, lifting cooked edges with a spatula to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath.

- Spoon mushroom mixture into the centre of the still slightly runny eggs and fold closed, cook for 1 minute more. Serve with some toasty sourdough and salty butter.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler is published by Allen and Unwin, August 2016 (RRP $27.99).

Monday, 15 August 2016

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles by Fuchsia Dunlop from Land of Fish and Rice

The other day I was extremely lucky and received a copy of Fuchsia Dunlop's new cookbook 'Land of Fish and Rice' in the mail. Fuchsia Dunlop is known for her authentic Chinese cooking but I've never owned one of her cookbooks before, having heard only good things everywhere I was pretty exciting to get a copy. The first thing I did was grab a pen and paper to make my shopping list, knowing well and good I'd need to stock my pantry with a few bits and pieces from the Asian supermarket. What I didn't realise was that there would be quite a number of vegetables that I've never heard of and to be honest, no idea what or where to look for them.

It was the dumpling section of the book which had me hooked the minute I flicked to it. I have a weakness for Chinese dumplings, doesn't everyone?! but the thought of making them on a Thursday night after work was a little intimidating so I'll admit it, I went for an easier looking, midweek option rather then some of the other more complicated dishes in this cookbook. The other section of the book which I was drawn to was the noodles and rice chapter, any type of fried noodles or rice and I'm done. I decided to make the Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles as it can be a stand alone dish or part of a banquet style dinner, plus the ingredients weren't too obscure and no random vegetables I'd never heard of so I jumped at it almost instantly.

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles by Fuchsia Dunlop from 'Land of Fish and Rice'

My first tip if you're going to make this dish or in fact any of the dishes that require stir-frying in this book, get a wok. I don't have one and I kind of struggled. The pot I used had noodles sticking to the bottom instantly and needed soaking for a good 48 hours after. My second piece of advice when making this dish is get the wok stupidly hot! Do not use your crock pot like me and have it over a medium flame. I felt like I was having a work out trying to toss the noodles and get to the the bottom of the pan to stop the sticking.

Apart from my pan troubles, the flavour of these noodles with strips of lean pork dotted throughout and crunchy pakchoi was delicious. It was salty and comforting and the vegetables added a lovely freshness to the whole dish, it was moorish. I could have eaten the whole pot myself in one sitting if my stomach had allowed it. Normally when I make a throw-everything-in-a-pot-stir-fry I make them a little heavier on the vegetables but what I've come to realise is that Chinese cooking is a lot about sharing a variety of dishes so I think a vegetable dish on the side would be a perfect combo to these noodles.

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles by Fuchsia Dunlop from 'Land of Fish and Rice'

I can't wait to get stuck into the other recipes in this book and even plan a banquet style dinner party... might need to tell people to byo a chair but it'd be worth it to try some of the other dishes. A trip to the asian fruit and veg store might need to happen first and maybe even bring the cookbook along with me so I can ask for help. With some of the ingredients I wouldn't even know where to start but there is nothing wrong with a challenge now and then for a delicious dinner.

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles

by Fuchsia Dunlop from 'Land of Fish and Rice'

100g lean pork
425g fresh Shanghai noodles or Japanese udon
2 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
200g baby green pakchoi or 2 large handfuls of spinach (I used regular pakchoi)
1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
ground white pepper

for the marinade:
1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
2 teaspoons potato starch (potato flour)
1 tablespoon beaten egg or 1 tablespoon cold water

- Cut the pork evenly into thin slices, then into slivers. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.

- Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes (fresh shanghai and udon are half-cooked when you buy them which is why this doesn't take long) or if using dried noodle, according to packet instructions. Turn the cooked noodles into a colander and cool under the cold tap. Shake them dry. Drip over 1/2 tablespoon oil and stir in thoroughly to prevent sticking.

- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame. Add the pork strips and stir-fry swiftly to separate them. When they are just cooked, remove from the wok and set aside.

- Clean and re-season the wok if necessary, then return it to a light flame with the remaining oil. Add the noodles and stir-fry until piping hot (if you used regular pakchoi, add it with the noodles), adding both soy sauces and seasoning well with sale and ground white pepper. Add the baby pakchoi or spinach and continue to stir-fry until just wilted. Finally, stir in the pork. Serve.

Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop is published by Bloomsbury Publishing, August 2016 (RRP $49.99)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Seven Spoon's Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies + Love.

So here is a little re-cap of whats been going on in the life of salt sugar and i.

I went lovely hot Thailand with the bf. Spent 90% of the time drinking our way through the cocktail menu by the pool. Got sunburnt on the first day. The bf/love of my life asked to spend the rest of his life with me. I said yes. I got a really sparkly ring. We spent more time by the pool drinking cocktails like sunburnt sloths. Ate ALOT of fried rice and eggs. Rang the parents and heard my mum scream with joy all the way from Thailand. Ate too many omelettes for breakfast. Said OMG we're engaged about 1000 times. Flashed my sparkly ring about. Ate more fried rice and eggs. Got photos with 'lady-boys'. Flew home. Hugged and kissed the cat against his will. Got Thailand Tummy. Silver Lining - great detox from my poolside drinking habits. Temporarily had enough Thai food to last me a while. Made a couple of birthday cupcakes/cakes. Went back to work. Realised I definitely have the holidays blues. Started semester 2 of night school. Lost my calculator. Hugged the cat again. In shock over how expensive weddings are. Baked cookies. Still in shock.

I think that sums it all up... mmmm love.

All in all... pretty damn good holiday. I even came back with a tan which means I am the same colour as normal people now and not 'grossly' white anymore. yay!

Back it up to where I mentioned cookies. I made these Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies from Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady over the weekend and I'm going to say it...they are my favourite and not just because they taste amazing straight from the oven or the next day but they are a melt and mix recipe. The best kind. Tara even gives you little notes so tweak the recipe if you prefer crunchy cookies rather then soft chewy ones or what to add instead of sticking with chocolate or if you conscious gets the better of you and you decide to add wholemeal flour. I've mentioned these cookies before on this space but rudely, never shared the recipe. So here it is in all it's glory.

Now on to more important things... does anyone know if wedding venues, stylists or florists are easily bribed with chocolate chip cookies? If so, please leave your comments below or email me if it is sensitive information. Your secret will be safe with me.

Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady
(recipe ever so slightly adapted)

225g unsalted butter, melted (but cool)
415g plain flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
320g light brown sugar
100g white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
340g dark chocolate, chopped (or any type of chocolate you like best)
flaked sea salt, for sprinkling on top (optional)

- Preheat your oven to 180C/360F and line two trays with baking paper.

- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

- In a large bowl whisk together your cooled melted butter and both sugars. This will looks like it's not coming together and the butter is separating but don't worry, just go with it. Add your eggs, one at a time, whisking well followed by the vanilla extract.

- Next fold the dry ingredients using a spatular or wooden spoon until almost mixed through then add the chopped chocolate. Bring any stray ingredients up from the bottom util the dough is no longer dusty but don't over mix. If the dough seems warm or looks overly glossy, refrigerate for five minutes.

- Roll the dough into balls using 2 tablespoons for each. Arrange on the prepared trays, leaving a good 3 inches in between each one. Sprinkle with sea salt (optional) and bake until the tops are cracked and lightly golden, yet the cookies are still soft at the centre, about 9 to 11 minutes. If your oven bakes uneven or has a hot spot, make sure you rotate your trays in the oven so you get even baking.

- Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Continue shaping the remainder of the cookie dough, making sure to use a cool baking tray for each batch.

- Keep cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week (if they last that long).

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Rome’s Involtini di Manzo (Beef Rolls) from Tasting Rome.

This will be my last post before I enter into a blissful week of tropical summer where my hardest decisions will be whether I order a cocktail in a coconut or pineapple. I'm going on holidays!!! And I'm so excited. It's been 5 years since I've been on a proper 'hop-on-a-plane' holiday and the first time in 9 years going overseas with my other half. Thailand here we come baby!!

But before I disappear off cyber space for the next week I thought I'd share the dinner I made on Saturday night when the big chill decided to hit the east coast of Australia. My previous post must of jinxed it and Mother Nature thought 'I'll show her!' and let Jack Frost go mental on us all. So to warm our little footsies a hearty, carb filled, slow cooked dinner was on the cards with a glass of wine (or a bottle or two) for Saturday night.

Earlier in the week I read a blog post from 'Dinner: A Love Story' where guest blogger Katie Parla shared a recipe for Rome’s Involtini di Manzo (Beef Rolls) from her new book Tasting Rome who she wrote with Kristina Gill - I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy when I'm back. As soon as I read the post, I knew I had to make it this weekend, especially if it was going to be as cold as they were predicting. And it was. Jack Frost did not hold back although he didn't quite bring the snow to Sydney unfortunately.

Now I could tell you that the entire dinner went smoothly and I had no hiccups but then my nose would grow and quickly poke the laptop screen in front of me as I'd be telling you a fib. I blame the fact that there was a cheese plater and a bottle of really delicious bubbles that made me (kind of) forget about the involtino in tomato sauce blipping away that needed checking now and again to make sure it hadn't reduced too much or caught on the bottom. It was my nose that picked up on it before dinner ended up a total disaster. I could suddenly smell something and I instantly knew what it was, I've done this before you see. I had a 'Julie and Julia' moment when Julie Powell burns the stew... no no no no! I walked very quickly (I didn't want to cause alarm by running despite what instinct told me to do) over to the pot and lifted the lid. I had caught it just in time. I turned the heat off, didn't stir it and scooped the involtini out of the pan and the parts of the thick sauce which hadn't caught to the bottom of the pan yet and put it all in a new pot with about a cup of boiling water to save dinner. It worked...thank goodness!! Dinner was saved and even with my hiccup it tasted pretty darn delicious.

The recipe says 'cook once, eat twice' but I decided to serve the entire dish with spaghetti and serve it all together with the involtini sliced on top. It was delicious and the leftovers on Sunday night were just as good, if not even better.

I know I will make this again and again, I love pasta with tomato based sauces and any kind of slow cooked beef. Yum. It does take and hour and a half on the stove and YES it needs to be checked now and again to make sure it hasn't reduced too much or caught on the bottom of your pot. But then maybe don't try and consume half a bottle of bubbles and a cheese plate while cooking or at least set a timer if good wine and cheese distracts you as much as it does me.

It was a great way to spend a chilly Saturday night... great food and great company now bring on the cocktails and sun lounges. Laters!

Rome’s Involtini di Manzo (Beef Rolls)

Makes 6 involtini, plus about 2 cups sauce for pasta
From Tasting Rome, by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill

500g beef sizzle steaks or rump roast, cut into six equal thin slices
sea salt
6 thin slices prosciutto
1 carrot, julienned
1 celery stalk, julienned
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
800g can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

- Lay the slices of beef flat on a chopping board and season with salt on both sides. Place 1 piece of prosciutto over each slice of meat, followed by 3 or 4 sticks each of carrot and celery at one short end of the meat. Roll the meat around the vegetables, forming a medium-tight involtino (roll). Using a couple of toothpicks inserted flush with the meat to keep the roll closed (or you can use kitchen twine).

- Heat the olive oil in a medium to small pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the involtini and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the rolls from the pan and set aside.

- Add the crushed garlic to the same pan and cook, stirring constantly until it just turns golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the canned tomatoes and wine and cook until the alcohol aroma dissipates, about a minute or two.

- When the sauce begins to simmer, add the involtini back to the pan. The meat should be mostly covered by the tomato sauce. Cook, covered, until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ hours, checking occasionally (very important!!) to be sure the meat is at least two-thirds submerged and adding water if necessary.

- Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with spaghetti (like I did) or separately serving the sauce with pasta as an entree and the Involtini as a mail. Or allow the dish to rest in the refrigerator for up to three days to allow the flavours to develop - it's even better the next day!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Blondies - a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and a brownie.

Jack Frost has taken leave this winter in Sydney. I haven't had any icy mornings or crunchy grass and winter has been here for officially 3 weeks now. I think the weather is drunk. Crazy storms one weekend (like swimming pools falling in the ocean) and then humid the next. Where is winter?? Jack Frost where are you??

Since Mr Frost has taken leave I've not had any desire to cook wintery comfort food yet. Instead all I've thought about it blondies. What are blondies? They are like a poor mans brownie since they have a whole bunch less chocolate in them but still just as good or more traditionally, a vanilla version of brownies. They go perfect with a morning coffee, delicious heated up so the chocolate chunks go molten with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (in front of the fire - if you're lucky enough to get cold weather to warrant a fire) or if your a cookies and cold milk kind of foodie then these will blow your mind. To me they are a mixture between a really great chocolate chip cookie and a brownie.

Have I convinced you that you need these? I need them. If only there was more hours in the day and we were born with two stomachs, I could cook and eat everything I ever want in a day.

Instead, since it's the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, why not do some night time baking and enjoy a molten blondie with some vanilla ice cream on the couch snuggled up tonight. Fingers crossed it gets a little frosty in Sydney!

blondies | salt sugar and i

*photo fail but since it's like a cross between a brownie and chocolate chip cookie - thought this was appropriate. Or click here to get your fix of 'blondie' images.


adapted from Food52 & Cook's Illustrated 

100g macadamia nuts
215g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
170g butter, melted and cooled
290g brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
90g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate

- Preheat oven to 350F and move trays to bottom wrack. Spread macadamia nuts onto large baking tray and bake for about 10-15 minutes. Transfer nuts to chopping board to cool, roughly chop and set aside.

- While the nuts are toasting, line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan/tin with baking paper, making sure the edges come up a little higher so you can lift the blondie out once baked.

- Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

- Whisk melter butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Fold in the dry ingredients using a rubber spatular, until just combined but do not over mix. Fold through chocolate and nuts then pour into prepared tin and smooth over the top making sure the batter is level on top.

- Bake for about 22-25 minutes, until top is shiny, cracked and lightly brown. Do not over bake! Cool on a wire wrack in the baking tin until room temperature (if you can last that long!). Remove from pan by using the overhanging baking paper and cut into squares and enjoy!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Homemade Monte Carlos + I heart Hunter Valley.

*warning. this biscuit recipe is so good. stop what you are doing and just skip to the recipe.

The weekend before last, I went away for a girls weekend to the Hunter Valley. It was filled with local wine, delicious and large amounts of cheese and of course, great company. Some of us drove down on the Friday listening to RnB Friday's, all on a giddy high from having the day off work... we were free!! (until Monday). And! we were heading to a farm that had a real fire place with logs of wood and chickens that laid eggs. To say we were slightly excited was an understatement.

I was a little too excited the night before and morning of and made two containers of baked goodies. Homemade Monte Carlos and Food 52's famous Blondies. I couldn't decide which one so ended up making both, I didn't think anyone would complain.

After we all survived the grocery shop and after everyone was still best of friends we arrived at our little farm house for the weekend and were greeted by cows and an over-friendly cat called 'Smudge'. I say over-friendly because he had a plan which we realised quite quickly; he was trying to butter us up to let him inside by the fire but after rolling in cow patties, eating a bird on our door step and strict instructions from the owners it best he stay outside. While it was still light we went to visit the chickens AND a mama cow and her calf. Ahhhhh we all squealed, you could tell we were not from the country. When the farm dogs tried to round us up like wondering cows we decided it was time to retreat inside and warm ourselves up with a cuppa and a Monte Carlo before we cracked open the champagne and cheese platter.

The first challenge of the weekend was not who could finish their tea first and start on the bubbles but to light the fire and keep it going. We had wood, we had kindling and we had a match. Yes. One match. Luckily we had a ex-Scout with us and a couple of tea-lights to help.

*i thought i told you to skip straight to the recipe!

The next morning we were up at sparrows fart to get ready for our early shuttle bus pick-up. Over cooked eggs (I'm useless at cooking eggs), buttered toast, milky tea, face on, hair done and the realisation of my jacket still sitting at home but I was ready to start tasting what the Hunter Valley was made of. My favourites were definitely Ernest Hill and Draytons, they were also the first two we went to so that could also why I remember the wines better then the rest. The last stop was the Vodka Distillery which was more fun for the novelty of flavoured shots in test tubes then exactly tasty. The chilli vodka blew my head off! It was home after that to start our fire again and warm our feet, luckily our late addition to the girls weekend brought more matches with her late on Friday night. Farm/life saver!

Being back to the usual grind of Monday to Friday now for 2 weeks, I cannot wait to escape again this long weekend. But if I can recommend anything, it's to make these Monte Carlo Biscuits this weekend. They are seriously good.

#freakinamazing #sososodelicious #betterthentheoriginal #sorryarrnotts #homemadewinseverytime #yumyumyumyumyum #iusedhomemadejam #bestbiscuitever #justdoit #makethemnow #whatareyouwaitingfor!? so.... why are you still sitting reading this??

If your not an Aussie and weren't brought up licking the centre out of these chewy jam, cream filled biscuits then you probably have no clue what I'm talking about. The Monte Carlo is an iconic Australian biscuit made by Arnotts which has been around since 1926 and in my opinion, this homemade version is going to change your biscuit making/eating life forever.

The honey, golden syrup and coconut in the shortbread gives it a really great caramelised, nutty flavour while the sweet sugary buttercream on the inside is tongue tingling against the tart raspberry jam. I used my homemade raspberry jam that I made a few weeks ago so I am slightly bias and probably love them even more because of it but you could use a store bought jam and still make one of the best biscuits you'll ever make.

They go perfect with a cuppa or even a glass of bubbles.

Monte Carlo Biscuits

adapted from Paul West, River Cottage Australia.

makes about 30 sandwiched biscuits

for the biscuit.
180g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 cups plain flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup desiccated coconut

for the filling.
raspberry jam, homemade or store bought
70g butter, softened
1 cup icing mixture, sifted
1 teaspoon milk
dash of vanilla

for the biscuits.
- Preheat oven to 175C/350F and line as many baking trays as your have with baking paper.

- Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, honey and golden syrup and beat until really well combined.

- In a separate bowl mix together flour and baking powder (really well) using a whisk. Add the coconut and then combine all the dry ingredients with the butter mixture stirring until everything is evenly combined and a soft dough forms.

- Pinch off about a teaspoon (roughly 10g) of dough at a time and roll into a smooth ball. Place on your lined baking tray about 3 inches apart. When you have filled one tray, press each ball down to flatten it then using a wet (must be wet!) dessert spoon smooth over the top, flattening it more and forming it into an oval shape, about 5mm thick. Using a fork, rough up the tops to give them a more traditional 'Monte Carlo' biscuit look.

- Once you have done as many trays you have/fit in your oven, you can start baking.
(I had to make mine in batches as this recipe makes about 60 halves and I only own 2 baking trays and a tiny oven)

- These biscuits will take about 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven so keep an eye on your first tray to give you a guide for baking. They should come out of the oven golden brown and smelling of the golden syrup and honey.

- Allow to cool on trays for about 5 minutes then remove onto wire racks to cool completely.

- When all your biscuits are baked, start on your buttercream filling.

for the buttercream filling.
- Cream butter until pale a creamy then add your icing mixture then your vanilla and milk. Beat on high until the buttercream is pale and fluffy.

- You can now start to fill.

filling your biscuits.
- No one is perfect so not all your biscuits are going to be the same size. Match them up in pairs as best you can.

- Your can fill these two ways:

The first way, spread about a teaspoon of buttercream onto one side of a paired biscuit and spread about half a teaspoon of jam on the other and press gently sandwiching them together.

Or the second way, put your buttercream into a small piping bag or sandwich bag and cut about 5mm of the tip/corner off. Pipe around the edge of one of your paired biscuits and a swirl in the centre. Spoon half a teaspoon of jam on the inside of your buttercream piping edge and on top of the swirl and press gently sandwiching them together.

(I used the second method to fill them as it seems to hold the jam inside a little bit better and I didn't want the jam to leak out everywhere during the car trip. BUT both ways will taste just as delicious.)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Quintessential Raspberry Jam from Not Just Jam.

I've been meaning to write this post for a little while now. I made jam. And I feel totally accomplished.

I wish I had a romantic story and photos of me skipping through a berry farm swinging a woven basket full of hand picked berries but unfortunately I don't. In reality fresh berries in Sydney are stupid expense so unless you have the garden of my dreams, frozen berries are what you're left with. As long as their 'Australian grown' I think you're doing pretty alright. So instead of a romantic montage of photos, I have a really great jam recipe from a book that makes you wish for a pantry the size of a walk in wardrobe.

The last time I made jam was for my year 9 Food-Tech assignment where I successfully turned sugar and berries into toffee and the only way to get it out of the jar was to microwave it. To say I haven't been super confident to jump back in is an understatement. But then over the last long-weekend I read Michelle Crawford's book, 'A Table in the Orchard' and fell in love with her story, her garden, her kitchen and it was like jam called to me from it's pages. I wanted that homey feeling of warm toast, salty butter and sweet homemade jam with a steaming cup of tea. I wanted to stand over a stove and stir jam, pour it into jars and label them as my own. Recently on her blog, 'Hugo & Elsa' she wrote about a book she co-wrote with Matthew Evans, an ex-food critic turned farmer called 'Not Just Jam'. It had me at the name and when I found it in my local library I instantly put a hold on it and picked it up that Saturday morning. I never want to give it back. It's full of recipes that you wish you could grab a spoon and dig in straight from the jar. I was still a little hesitant to jump two feet first so instead of going for one of the more complex sounding recipes, lets me honest jam making still scared the pants off me, I went with 'The Quintessential Raspberry Jam'.

Having stirred about 1000 pots of bubbling sugar, it's second nature to be precaution but I still felt out of practice, it's been nearly 2 years. Was it going to bubble over? was my pot too small? do I need to roll my sleeves down? will it spit at me or splutter and cover the cooktop and me with sugary jam goop? Every type of bubbling sugar acts differently and I don't think you can classify my year 9 attempt as a successful jam making venture.

I don't know what I was nervous about!?

With my plate in the freezer and my jars sterilised, I stood in front of my pot of raspberries, sugar and lemon juice armed with a candy thermometer and spatular, I felt a buzz, this was exciting. I was making my own jam. I precariously watched the temperature climb, ready to ditch my stirrer any second and run to the freezer in a panic but it all happened so smoothly. I gave it the wrinkle test as well as making sure it came to the correct temperature and turned off the heat. Filled my jars with hot jam, screwed on the lids and I was done. A couple of hours later the lids had inverted and they were sealed, waiting to be labelled and stored. Ok one jar didn't get stored, it was instantly opened with a satisfying pop and toast happened. I had to make sure it has set right before I could give the rest as gifts right??

We've gone through one jar already and on to the second. I had grand plans to gift this first batch of jam but I don't know how much will make it out of our apartment, more likely to end up on our morning toast. Might just have to make another from this delicious book before I return it to the library.

The Quintessential Raspberry Jam 

Makes about 1.8kg
very very slightly adapted from 'Not Just Jam' by Matthew Evans and Michelle Crawford
(there are 2 different methods for making this jam, I have only put the one I used below)

1kg raspberries (if using frozen, thaw completely)
900g sugar, warmed gently in the oven
juice of 1 lemon, strained

- Wash and sterilise six 300ml jars (or equivalent capacity). **see notes below

- Place a small plate in the freezer to chill and warm your sugar in a moderate oven, in a heatproof dish until warm to the touch.

- Heat the raspberries with the warm sugar and lemon juice in a wide-based pan over high heat. Stir every minute or so using a flat-edge heatproof spatular.

- After about 9 minutes start to test for a set. Dribble a little jam onto the saucer which has been chilling in the freezer and leave for 30 seconds. Run your finger across the drop of jam, if it wrinkles it has reached the setting point. Alternatively if you have a candy thermometer handy, it needs to reach 105C (220F).

- Once at setting point, remove the jam from the heat immediately, pour into warmed jars. If jars are not warm when filling them they can crack. Wipe down any messy edges with a clean cloth and seal the lid immediately.

The jam should keep well for up to 2 years in the pantry.
Once opened, store in the refrigerator.

** Sterilising jars.
If you have a dishwasher, this is the easiest way. Place jars and lids in a dishwasher on a hot cycle, remove them once done without touching the inside of the jars or inside of the lids. Make sure jars are still warm (but not wet) when filling them with hot jam.

Otherwise if you don't have dishwasher like me, wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Place rinsed jars on a tray in a preheated, low (120C) oven for about 30 minutes. Place the lids in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. I take the jars out of the oven just before I am about to fill them so they are still warm.

Or you can go to any home-brew shop and they sell sterilising chemicals which you can also use.