Thursday, October 30, 2014

Raspberry and Rhubarb Jam

Well this is a bonus.  Normally you don't hear from me for weeks but here I am again.   I had a couple of requests for the raspberry and rhubarb jam from last time so I thought I'd get onto it straight away.  You know how I said the iris weren't out yet??  Well, a couple of sunny days later and they have popped up everywhere.  So nice to see them again, after last year's disappointment (too cool and wet).
Anyway, back to the jam.
This is easy and a great way to use rhubarb, but you do need a sugar thermometer (they are cheap).  You can't really even taste the rhubarb...the kids, who don't like rhubarb, didn't even bat an eyelid.

RASPBERRY AND RHUBARB JAM    Makes about six jars

4 cups of rhubarb, washed and chopped into 5cm chunks
4 cups of raspberries (I use frozen)
6 cups sugar

Place the rhubarb in a heavy saucepan with about 1/4 cup water.  Cook gently for five minutes until the rhubarb starts to soften, tossing occasionally.  Add the raspberries and cook for about 15 minutes until the rhubarb is completely cooked.
Add the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Insert the sugar thermometer and continue to simmer until the jam reaches 100c, stirring occasionally to make sure it's not sticking.
Remove from the heat and skim the surface.  Pour into sterilised jars.  Keep it in the fridge.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spring fever

The garden is looking lovely at the moment.  Spring is the time when this garden really looks its best; the lawns are green, flowers are budding, the trees exploding into life, and the paddocks beyond are lush and green as well.  It is busy, but it will not be long before the it all dries off for the summer.
There is nothing like garden tour groups to initiate a call to action.  Weeds have been pulled, hedges cut back, lawns mown, paths raked.  The beehive on the verandah was removed (by a professional), gutters that were growing small bushes were cleaned and beds were mulched.  Fallen branches were picked up and overgrown fence lines were whippersnipped.  I just love getting these jobs done.
I did afternoon tea on the verandah, which included these sticky buns.  They are always a hit.
The roses and irises aren't quite out yet but are so close.  

I've got another group coming next month so I have been whipping up a few jars of jam and marmalade to sell as a fundraiser.  These are raspberry and rhubarb:
The spinach has been going mad in the vegetable garden...
so I have been throwing it into every dish I can think of.  A while ago a couple of friends and I had breakfast at the charming Rouge cafe in Armadale in Melbourne: scrambled eggs with creamed spinach which was the perfect antidote for the maybe one or two drinks that we'd had the night before....ahem.  Needless to say I went straight home to work out the best way to do this with my beautiful home grown spinach.
A little googling revealed that the traditional way to do creamed spinach is by making a bechamel sauce.  Frankly I thought that sounded a bit heavy and too much hassle so I thought I'd try a quicker and easier method.

There is no recipe here, as it really depends on how much spinach you end up with after it is cooked.  My spinach seems to go much further than say the baby spinach leaves you might buy from a shop.  Remember, it cooks down to almost nothing so you need lots.

Take any thick stalks off and roughly chop the spinach.  Wash but there is no need to dry it.
Heat a frying pan with a swirl of olive oil and add the spinach.  Stir around until it shrinks a bit then put on a lid and steam until cooked.  If you don't have a lid it doesn't matter, it just makes it a bit quicker.  Set aside and keep warm.

Put a couple of tablespoons of verjuice or lemon juice in the pan and sizzle for a minute.  Add 1/4-1/3 cup of cream and bring to the boil.  I usually grate some lemon zest into the mix at this point.  You could gently fry a finely chopped shallot or some garlic in a lick of olive oil before the verjuice goes in if you like.
Allow the cream to reduce slightly and add back the spinach.   Simmer until there is not much liquid left in the pan.
Season with salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg and get your daily dose of iron.
I made this slice for emergency back up for the garden day.  Since we didn't use it I thought I'd put it in the freezer and I need to be sneaky so that anyone on the hunt for a sweet treat can't find them..
That should do the trick....