It used to be that Mr Mac made jam and I made chutney. Usually because Mr Mac has a short attention span and when I would still be up at 2am stirring the chutney, patiently waiting for the vinegar to evaporate and a “channel” to form, he would be giving out zzzzz’s, the jam finished hours ago.
However, I’m not sure how it happened but I seem to be the one who makes the blackcurrant jam now (not the gooseberry, raspberry or strawberry though). So despite the awful weather, we picked a bumber crop of blackcurrants at the weekend – just over 6lbs from 2 bushes. Don’t quote me but I have a sneaky feeling blackcurrants have a strong Scottish connection and therefore thrive in the dreich, damp, drizzle!
Anyway, between us we have been making this jam for years. It gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it and it is so simple and quick to make although I must credit the Goddess that is Delia as the recipe is hers!
ingredients (for approx 9-10lbs)
- 3lb blackcurrants with the stalks picked off and washed
- 1.5 pints water
- 3lb 12oz sugar
- Put the oven on to a medium heat. Sterilise enough jars for about 10lbs of jam. I put them in the dishwasher and then stick them in the oven.
- Measure the sugar and put it in the oven to warm it through.
- Put a couple of plates in the freezer (seriously – trust me!).
- Put the blackcurrants and water into a large pot and slowly simmer until the fruit is tender. You want to try and keep some of the fruit whole.
- Tip in the warm sugar and stir it in gently until it has all dissolved. Coat the back of the spoon and you will be able to see if the sugar has not dissolved.
- Once all the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat as high as it will go and boil the jam rapidly for 10 minutes.
- Get a plate out of the freezer and spoon some of the jam onto it. When the jam is cool, push it with your finger and if a crinkly skin has formed, it has set. If not, boil again for 5 minutes and keep doing the set test.
- Remove jars from the oven (remembering to wear oven gloves – just giving you the benefit of my personal experience) and I use a ladel to fill a measuring jug which makes it easier to pour the jam into the jars.
- Tighten the lids and leave to cool. Depending what type of worktop you have place the jars on a wooden chopping board if you have one. Granite, slate or stone might cause the jars to crack.
Two important points to remember. First, scoop some jam into a little ramekin so you can try some on toast or with creamed rice for your supper. Secondly, make sure you keep a Mr Mac (or equivalent) handy so when, in the middle of the night, the lids start to pop, you can send him downstairs to check it is not a burglar!
Being quite far north in the UK we have the benefit of light nights in the summer. Already Mr Mac and I have still been out working in the garden at 9pm (just once though!).
At this time of year when there is so much to do outside, it is great to be able to work well into the evening. The last thing you want to do is spend hours in the kitchen making dinner.
I found a little booklet last week called 25 Quick Fixes – meals in 20 minutes or less! There are some great recipes for quick but tasty meals. I tried this one and it was delicious…and it definitely took less than 20 minutes to make.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- olive oil
- mini chicken fillets about 350g or just cut 2 chicken breasts into thin strips
- ground cumin 2 tsp
- chicken stock 300ml hot
- couscous 150g
- mango chutney 3 tbsp
- spring onions 4 sliced into 3cm pieces
- coriander a small handful roughly chopped
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok or large frying pan. Sprinkle the chicken with the ground cumin and cook for a couple of minutes until lightly browned.
- Pour 200ml of the chicken stock over the couscous and leave to soak for 5 minutes.
- Add the mango chutney to the chicken, stir well and leave to bubble for 2 minutes.
- Add the remaining chicken stock and spring onions and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Fluff up the couscous with a fork, stir half the coriander through the couscous and the remainder through the chicken.
- Serve and enjoy!
For the health concious among you each serving has 505 calories and 10.4g of fat.
This is a great cake for your afternoon tea break. The lemon gives you a hint that summer is on the way but in cake form it is the perfect comfort food. Slice it up and keep it in a sealed container for up to a week……if it lasts that long!
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 175g caster sugar
- Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
- 3 medium eggs
- 175g self-raising flour
- A pinch of sea salt
- A splash of milk (optional)
- 200g icing sugar
- 75ml lemon juice
- Grease a large loaf tin, 1 litre capacity and line the base and sides with baking paper.
- Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until pale and fluffy.
- Add the grated lemon zest and then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour with each (to stop the mixture curdling).
- Sift the remaining flour and salt into the mixture and fold in lightly using a large metal spoon. Add a little milk, if necessary, to achieve a good dropping consistency.
- Spoon the mixture into the tin, smooth the top and place in an oven pre-heated to 170C / Gas Mark 3. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Put the icing sugar in a bowl, add the lemon juice and stir together until smooth. Leaving the hot cake in the tin, use a fine skewer to make holes over the top of the cake, going quite deep but not all the way to the bottom. Spoon the lemon icing slowly over the cake so it all soaks in.
- Leave in the tin until cool, then turn out and serve in slices.