More preserves – Redcurrant Curd

redurrant curd  -final

I still had some of my redcurrant glut to use after making my redcurrant jelly. Last year I made Bramley Apple Curd so I decided that this year I would have a go at making a redcurrant version.

This is another easy preserve to make although it only keeps for about 4 weeks so you can’t make too much of it in one go. As with redcurrant jelly, you start off with making the redcurrant juice. Whilst you should give your fruit a quick wash you don’t need to take them off the stalks. Take 200g of fruit and add 80g of water. Bring the water and fruit to a simmer and leave until the fruit is soft and has released all its juices. This will take about 30mins. The fruit is strained to get all those lovely juices, but unlike jelly you can squish this through a sieve if you want.

redcurrant curd - mixYou want 200g of the juice. Put it in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Add 125g of unsalted butter and 450g of granulated sugar. Keep stirring until the butter has melted and the sugar has completely dissolved. Pour into a clean pan. Make sure the mixture isn’t too hot – you don’t want to cook the egg as soon as it hits the pan so it shouldn’t be any hotter than 55C.
redcurrant  - custard

Take 200g of beaten egg and pass through a sieve into the redcurrant mixture. Keep stirring over a medium heat until the mixture thickens into a rose coloured custard. It should be about 84C. Pour into warm sterilised jars.


I love this preserve – it’s such a beautiful dusky pink colour that beats any shop bought curd. It’s delicious in cakes or just spread on toast or indeed any use you have for lemon curd. As I made extra redcurrant juice I’ve decided to have a go at making redcurrant shrub – a traditional fruit liquor. It’s currently fermenting in the kitchen cupboard so I will report back later on how that one has turned out.


Catching up with the Bake Off Family.

Dukkah bread - final

With the ending of summer comes the return of the Great British Bake Off with in all its floury, pastel shaded loveliness. But it’s no longer the only Bake Off kid on the block with the US and Australia both having their own versions. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet I’ve been able to tide myself over waiting for our UK version to start by following the Great Australian Bake Off.

And it’s been brilliant! Instead of Paul Hollywood they have the Guardian columnist Dan Lepard (one of my baking icons) and Mary Berry has been replaced by Kerry Vincent, wedding cake designer extraordinaire. They even have two hosts with comedian Shane Jacobson and tv cook Anna Gare in the Mel and Sue roles. It’s still set in a giant marquee furnished with pastel workstations and envy inducing stand mixers. And it even has its own version of the infamous squirrel with lots of kangaroo shots scattered throughout the show.

Dukkah blend

Dukkah blend

I have been totally addicted and was even persuaded to bake the Dukkah and Macademia bread baked by Nancy in their Bread episode. It was Dan’s comments about being able to smell the Dukkah before even eating it that sent me scurrying to the GABO website to print off the recipe. A bread that fragrant had to be tried and, more importantly, eaten.

Dukkah means “to pound” and is Egyptian in origin. It is a mix of nuts, seeds and spices that are roasted and ground into a powder. It is traditionally served with bread and oil but in this recipe the oil and Dukkah are combined with the flour and yeast to form the dough. I couldn’t find Macademia nut oil so I used a mix of toasted sesame oil and olive oil instead.

Dukkah bread - plaited

More of a challenge was the plaiting. The last thing I plaited was my hair when a small child and this was many years ago. So it took me a couple of goes to get the plait to look attractive. The loaf is formed from two plaits which are laid side by side before proofing. Nancy drew an attractive design into hers – my artistic abilities are distinctly lacking so I stuck with just glazing with egg and scattering with nigella seeds.
Dukkah bread - crumb

The result was a beautiful fragrant bread to be proud of – even for a novice plaiter like me. The coriander is the strongest smell and flavour but it’s not overpowering. Instead it complements the rest of the flavours producing a bread that will take pride of place on my table any time. Check out the Great Australian Bake Off website for more recipes including a 4 hour(!) croissant ideal for the impatient baker.


Easy Rose Petal Jelly

rose petal jelly

As I type this post the rain is hammering down outside and we definitely seem to be moving into Autumn. A few days ago it was bright and sunny though so I was harvesting again in the garden to make more preserves. But this time I had a more floral crop in mind – my old English roses.


I adore these old English roses with their heady scent and big frilly flowers. We have a few of these in the garden and at this time of year they are coming into bloom with their second (and final) flush of blossoms. Hot on the success of my redcurrant jelly I thought I’d have a go at rose petal jelly to try and preserve my roses for a little while longer.

This is a really easy recipe as you only need to remember one simple equation – volume of petals in a jug = volume of water = weight of jam sugar. Dead easy. All you then need to add is the juice of one lemon for every 500ml of water.

Rose petals in jug

You want scented roses for this as this is what is going to give the flavour for your finished jelly. And you need to make sure that you haven’t sprayed them with anything.  Cut you blooms and carefully pull the petals from the flowers. Make sure that you pick through them to remove any creepy crawlies that might be lurking (you want rose petal jelly – not rose petal jelly with speaks of insects…).

Put them into a measuring jug and lightly press down to compact them slightly. You don’t want to squash them but you do want a reasonably accurate idea of the volume. Whatever mark it comes to, that’s how much water you add and that’s how much jam sugar you need in grammes.

Rose petals

Put the petals into a pan and add the water. Bring up to a simmer and leave for about 5 min until all of the colour has come out of the petals and into the water. Drain through a seize, pressing the petals to try and get all the liquid from them. The colour will look a bit anaemic at this point but don’t panic – this will all change.

Put the liquid into a clean pan and add the lemon juice. You should see the colour immediately become more vibrant (the final colour will depend on the colour of your roses). Put back on the heat and gradually add the sugar, stirring all the time until it is completely dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil rapidly for about 8 minutes until it reaches setting point. If you have a jam thermometer this is easy as it’s ready once it hits 105C. If not you need to take it off the heat and put a teaspoon of jelly onto an ice cold saucer and see if it crinkles when it cools. If it doesn’t bring it back to be boil for another few minutes.

rose petal jelly 2

Once it’s ready, pour into warm sterilised jars.

You should have a delicate sweet jelly a taste not dissimilar to Turkish delight. Delicious on scones or in my case eaten straight out of the jar!


Spicy Lamb Empanadas

Spiced Lamb Empanadas

I’ve complained on my blog before about how difficult it can be to find many speciality ingredients where I live with many herbs and spices requiring a special outing. I love trying out food from across the globe and it’s so frustrating to find that the key ingredients I need are nowhere to be found.

But now I may have the answer in the form of Kitchen Nomad and their monthly box scheme. The idea is that you subscribe and each month they send you a food parcel with various ingredients from difference areas of the world along with recipe cards. I think it’s a brilliant idea – not only do I get forced out of my culinary comfort zone and get to try things I’d never have thought of cooking, I also get those hard to find ingredients. So it was with a great deal of excitment that I opened my first box and found it was the Lebanon!

kitchen nomad - box

The box is filled with various spice mixes including a version of Lebanese Allspice that I had never even heard of before let alone used, pomegranate molasses, za’tar, tahini and a few other things. With it were a number of different recipe cards and the first one I’ve made is the spiced lamb flatbread. Whilst the bread itself wasn’t anything special the lamb topping was something else! Spicy with a subtle sweet undertone from the molasses and a definite kick from the chilli flakes. I’d made the full amount of lamb and so I left half of it in the fridge to turn into little empanadas the next day.

I used the Dan Lepard recipe I’ve used previously but this time I left out the cumin and replaced it with a teaspoon of the Lebanese Allspice. The flour smelled amazing – really fragrant. I could have just sat and inhaled it happily!

Spiced Lamb Empanadas - lamb

I then fried the lamb mix until cooked and left it to cool. The pastry was then rolled out and cut into 10cm circles. I rested them for about 5 minutes and then gave them another quick roll to thin them out a bit more before putting 2 teaspoons of the lamb mix onto them and sealing with water.

Spiced lamb empanadas - pre bake

You can freeze them at this stage (you just defrost before baking). I baked them for 20 min at 180C and they were delicious! Crispy fragrant pastry stuffed with tangy, spicy lamb. And just as nice eaten cold the next day. Next time I’ll turn the full lamb mix into these as they were a definite triumph! I look forward to seeing what the September box brings.

Yoghurt Bread Rolls

Yoghurt Rolls - bacon 2

I had a lot of natural yoghurt left after my pitta breads (I can only seem to find it in giant pots) and I had bread rolls to make for LSH’s lunches. Whilst I’ve used milk in bread recipes I’ve never used yoghurt. Given the amount I had to use up I thought I’d see what difference it makes. The results were lovely and moist rolls with a bit more depth to their taste – not tangy exactly but definitely something different. I’ve made this a couple of times since with the latest version in loaf form. LSH had complained that the last one was a bit on the dry side but this version was described as one of the best breads he’d had! Not a bad result and enough to add yoghurt to our regular shopping list. So here is the recipe so you can try it yourself.
Yoghurt Rolls - post bake

You need: 420g strong white flour;
80g stoneground wholemeal flour;
100g natural yoghurt;
250g cold water;
1 tsp salt; and
1 tsp easy bake yeast.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix together the yoghurt and water and then add them to the bowl.

Bring together all the ingredients into a rough dough and then knead for about 10mins.

Cover and leave to rise for about one and a half hours when it should have doubled in size.

Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 5. Shape each roll into a round and pop onto trays to proof. Leave for about 40min or whenever the dough comes back slowly when prodded.

Wash each roll with water and sprinkle sesame seeds over the top (or whatever you have to hand).

Yoghurt Rolls - before bake

Bake at 200C for about 30-35 minutes when the rolls should be well risen and golden. Eat. Simple straight forward baking but a definite improvement on the standard white roll. Yoghurt Rolls - post bake 1

And here’s the crumb shot…..

Yoghurt Rolls - crumb

Capturing Summer – Redcurrant jelly

Redcurrant jellyIt seems hard to believe but the nights are already drawing in and the fruit harvest season is coming to an end. The autumn fruiting raspberries have a while to go yet – the canes themselves are now bigger than me and are producing a decent crop of good sized juicy berries. But both my redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes are now empty of fruit after I spent time stripping them of their jewel bright fruits.

Recurrant harvest

I’d already made some delicious cordial with blackcurrants and the rest has been made into three jars of jam. But the redcurrant needs a bit more thought as its produced its best ever harvest producing over two kilos of fruit.

Redcurrant jelly - straining

I’ve made half of it into redcurrant jelly using the recipe from the River Cottage Preserves book. It’s pretty straightforward. First you make your juice and you don’t even need to strip the berries off their stalks to do that. Just put them in a large pan with water, simmer and wait until all the juices have been released. Then it’s all about patience as you need to leave it to strain naturally with no pressing of the juices out of the fruit as it will make the final jelly cloudy. I have this wonderful straining bag from Lakeland and I had to stand on a stool to tip all the fruit into it.

I left it for about 6 hours before putting the juice back into a pan, bringing to the boil before adding granulated sugar stirring all the time (there is a lot of pectin in currants so you shouldn’t need special sugar for this).
Redcurrant jelly - set

You then bring it to the boil again for about 8 min until it’s reached its setting point. I test for this in two ways – using a probe thermometer to check the syrup has reached 105C and then I pop a teaspoon of the syrup onto a very cold saucer to make sure that a crinkles once cool. It’s then popped into jars whilst warm.

It’s incredibly tasty stuff. I wolfed the little that was left on the ladle as jam maker’s perks. Roll on Autumn when I can start adding this to the juices of my Sunday joint to create a delicious gravy. I just need to decide what to do with the rest of them…Any ideas?

Red Onion Rolls

Red onion rolls - rolls

We’ve actually managed to grow some decent sized red onions this year for once – the first time for a few years. It’s frustrating as I love red onions and they are supposed to be easy to grow, but each year I end up with onions that are only a little larger than the sets I planted many months before. Not good… This year was their last chance. Whilst my garlic crop has done well I have only a handful of onions to show for my troubles and given how easy they are to buy I’ve decided that enough is enough. Next year I’ll give the area over to strawberries instead and hope for better luck.

Red onion rolls - roux
In celebration of my meagre harvest I decided to make red onion bread. This is another Dan Lepard recipe from Short and Sweet and it starts with the creation of a red onion roux. The onions are sweated in lots of butter until soft and flour is added to create a thick roux. Finally a good splash of red vinegar is used to help retain their colour. You can’t taste it at all in the finished bread so don’t be tempted to miss it out.

Red onion rolls - post rise

I forgot to add the olives until after the roux had cooled but that didn’t seem to matter. And I added black olives rather than green as that was what I had in the fridge. I found the mixture hard to knead. It is the wettest dough I’ve dealt with in a while, nearly as bad as ciabatta, and it took a lot of will power not to add extra flour. Eventually it came together and after about an hour it had risen considerably to form something that looked worryingly like spotted dick.

Red onion rolls - pre proof
Having found the kneading bad, it didn’t get any better with the shaping. As with the semolina buns I made earlier, these were rolled and then cut into rectangles. But it had lost none of its super stickiness and despite a generous coating of semolina, I had a devil of a job trying to get the dough to separate at all, let alone neatly. As you can see from these photos I ended up with a few odd shapes!

Red onion rolls - rolls 1

They continued to rise well and by the time I popped them into the oven, they were considerably larger. By the time they came out of the oven, they were plump and golden with a texture not unlike ciabatta which is not surprising given how wet the dough was.

These are definitely bread rolls to eat warm from the oven with a delicious smell and flavour. I thought that they were much nicer warm so if you have to keep them longer I recommend popping them back into a warm oven for about 15 mins to crisp up again. But no matter how tasty they were, it’s still not enough to motivate me to attempt growing onions again. Next time I make this it will be onions from the local shop…