After my earlier attempt at jam (see Plum Sauce I & II) I decided to have another crack. In order to motivate myself, I put my hand up for the jam stall at the school fete. Also, the P&C chair is a lovely woman and she put in a late tuckshop order for me. So I owed her. I’m new to the school and you never know how the P&C is going to work. I figure most people work on a mob-like favour system, hopefully with less violence and horse heads. I want the neighbourhood to know I know how to return a favour.
Jam is not something I would have bothered with before Thermomix. It sounded like something that you need to clear the kitchen for, get in heavy equipment and risk burns and ruining a large pot of something just because you forgot it was on.
There are some excellent jam recipes in the Everyday Cookbook. I plan to make the citrus marmalade and the strawberry jam, but first I wanted to try something more my Grandma’s style. She is a ginger fan. Ginger wine (by the thimble, she doesn’t want to get silly), crystallized ginger and, when the local markets are on, ginger jam. This keenness on ginger is interesting because aside from this she has a rather bland palate. Forget spices, salt and pepper are exotic and unnecessary in her meals. Her tea is taken with a mere wave of a teabag over some hot water, with very weak powdered milk added. On a night out at the club she will occasionally order a shandy with strict instructions for only 1 finger of beer, with the rest of the glass filled with lemonade. I like my shandies the other way around.
I found a pear and ginger jam recipe here, which suits because I needed something to bulk out the more expensive ginger and pears were a pretty good price from the apple man at the Kelvin Grove Markets. He sells produce from the orchards around Stanthorpe. Mainly apples, but also whatever else is dropping from the trees at any particular time of the year. I have bought quinces from him (short season this year – too much rain to keep them from rotting), huge Golden Queen peaches and every variety of apple you can think of. He had some called Champagne Apples, which I had to buy. They look very interesting and I am mulling over how to use them.
So with piles of fruit around me I peeled and cored a kilo of pears and half a kilo of pink lady apples. Keep the apple peel and core to add pectin to the jam. Peel 125g ginger and cut into chunks. To chop the ginger finely I put it in the Thermomix first and blitzed at Speed 7 for 3 seconds. Scrape and blitz again if not fine enough for you. Add the rest of the prepped fruit and chop at Speed 5 for 3 or 4 seconds. Check if the right texture for your liking. If you like it extra chunky maybe even just Turbo it a couple of times. Add juice of two lemons, reserving the seeds to add to the apple offcuts.
Add 800-1000g sugar. I didn’t want it too sweet, so I stopped at 800, but the original recipe said 1kg. It will take it right up to the maximum level in the jug, but it cooks down, so I didn’t get overflow during the cooking. Mix it all up on Speed 5 for 2 seconds.
I tied the apple peel, core and lemon seeds into a clean chux cloth and rested it on top of the fruit and sugar. You could also blend the peel and core (but not seeds – will add bitterness) all first up with the ginger so they are very fine and incorporate them in the jam mixture. I didn’t think of that until now, so went with the bouquet garni style. According to the lady I buy milk from you could also just stick a whole apple in the mix as it cooks and pull the core out at the end, the rest will have cooked down with the rest of the fruit and sugar. If you use the chux method just remember to check now and then that the bundle hasn’t become caught up in the blades. It is not a chux jam we are making. I found it stayed on top quite well and cut down splatter through the lid. Close lid, cook for 20 minutes at 100 degrees, speed 1. If you have blitzed apple peel, core and lemon seeds with the ginger you can increase speed to 2 as no issues with getting anything caught up. Put a clean saucer in the fridge.
After 20 minutes check jam is setting by spooning small amount onto the cold saucer. If its ready it will set in 30 seconds and be jelly like instead of runny. If still runny cook again in 5 minute increments until you are happy with it. This recipe filled 5 of my jam jars which I figure is the biggest yield possible, given we started out with a maximum capacity amount in the jug.
School holidays are here (in Queensland at least), which means I try to fill up our time with lots of playdates. My aim is to minimise long stretches of time at home and maximise both tiring activities for the children and adult company for me. Both visits to other homes and receiving guests means a need for morning or afternoon tea. Having been in a mothers group for five years (a lovely group of people who are the very best of what other parents can be – non judgmental) I have found there is such a thing as cake overload. However, you still need to cater for the varying states of parenthood:
1. Pregnant. Eating cake is mostly guilt free (making exceptions for those with gestational diabetes, where you just have to say ‘I realise there is hardly anything here you can eat and I am really sorry for that. Have a cracker.’). When you are pregnant these days it is often necessary to feel guilty eating almost anything but cake once you have been handed that listeria pamphlet by your well meaning doctor. Any food prepared by others, especially your healthy choices of salads and sandwiches, are possibly harbouring this horrifying bacteria. And under no circumstances eat chicken, deli meats, soft cheeses or anything else that might allow you an enjoyable life.
2. Breastfeeding. Need cake even more than pregnant. Operating on very little sleep, possibly forgetting meals in the constant fog of calculating times between feeds for the wee one and requiring a larger calorie intake than usual due to having all nutrients sucked out every two to four hours.
3. Trying to lose weight. Once breastfeeding stops that larger calorie intake needs to be curtailed quicksmart or the continued lack of sleep and irregular meals seems to start working against your body and weight gain happens while you are worrying if the house is child proofed enough for the junior Houdini who recently emerged from babyhood. Which means cake playdates can be very hard to do.
4. Maintaining sanity. The rest of the parenting experience. Sleep is either still being caught up or just a new level of deprived. Children’s needs continue to outweigh parents’ needs by everything to none. Cake is appreciated but when playdates are more than once a week it is useful to have another choice.
Which brings us to muffins. Sure, they are cake like. But I find a bit more room to move in the healthier options department. And nutritional value. For example, you can stick either fruit or vegetables in there and children won’t necessarily run from them. Also, because muffins are supposed to be only barely mixed together they are very quick to make.
I have loosely followed a recipe from a blog I googled while looking for a way to make use of an excess of bananas – Cat Can Cook. It seemed to be a fairly robust, simple recipe that could be adjusted easily to fit in whatever you have in the fruit bowl or in the vegetable drawer. Firstly I did banana and sultana muffins.
Peel 3 or 4 bananas and break them into pieces as you put them in the Thermomix bowl. Add half a cup of sugar (I used rapadura sugar for these as I had it and am finding it gives a lovely caramelly flavour to things), a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of bicarb soda (while you have the teaspoon out), 1 egg, a pinch of salt, 60-70 grams melted butter (or oil – depending on your tastes and what is in your stocks) and 220 grams (or one and a half cups) of plain flour. Mix on Speed 5 for 10 seconds. Check on it, maybe spatula the sides and if need be mix for another 5 seconds. Add a handful or so of sultanas and mix again, but on Reverse this time, for 5 seconds. Decant to muffin tray with patty pans if you can’t be bothered greasing the little indents. Bake in oven on 180 degrees for about 20 minutes. Everyone’s ovens are different so keep an eye on them and don’t do what I did and forget until they are quite brown on top and you can smell them through the house. Or do if that is how you appreciate time.
I have also tried apple and blueberry muffins, where you make an apple sauce first (there is one in the Everyday Cookbook – add some cinnamon if you wish) then follow as above, substituting blueberries for sultanas. Adjust sweetness depending on the fruit by tasting the batter. If it tastes as if you could keep eating it without bothering with the oven you should have it about right.
As for savoury, I have found if you substitute, say, grated zuchinni and/or carrot (blitzed from roughly chopped to itty bitty pieces prior in Thermomix) for the fruit and grated cheese for the sugar the flavour is about right. You may need to add some salt depending on the saltiness of your cheese. Depending on your child’s tastes you could throw in some spring onion during the grating process to add a zing to the flavour.
And there you have your basic muffin. Breakfast substitute for the perpetually foggy minded. Nutrition for the kidlets. Close enough for the cake deprived.
Sure. It doesn’t sound like the most exciting soup. Or vegetable. But whiz it up with some potato to thicken, perhaps some truffle oil if you are being fancy (I just happen to have some in the pantry at all times), sprinkle with cracked black pepper, fresh parsley and some crisped pancetta chips (bacon will do) and you have yourself a high end meal. Even for those ‘soup is not a meal’ folk out there, pair this soup with some gruyere on toast melted in the grill and it will be hard to argue that all the food groups are not getting fair representation.
Having a Thermomix has made me enjoy making soup in a way I have never before. I have dabbled with soups in the past. They have never met my standards. The cooking of the vegetables then transferring to a food processor was the kind of hassle that loses that therapeutic feeling most cooking gives me. Or the draining of a giant stockpot into a colander over a bowl in the sink. I’m not very coordinated so many times hot liquid was splashed about causing not only interesting shaped burns but also a mess that made me regret embarking on the whole process in the first place. Also I have a talent for always choosing a container that is too small for whatever I am trying to pour into it. I don’t know why. But I do it every time.
However, forgive my bias, the Thermomix has changed things. Soups are a breeze, a joy. Just chop onion and garlic in the bowl. Add around 20g oil and saute on 100 degrees for 2-3 minutes on speed 1. Fill the basket with your vegetables of choice (in this case mostly cauliflower, plus about 2 peeled potatoes cut in half). Pour 1 litre of water plus 3 tablespoons of your concentrated vegetable stock (or if you want to keep the soup a whiter colour use 1 litre of chicken stock, which you have of course made previously in the Thermomix) into the bowl. Place the vegetable laden basket inside the bowl and cook for 15 minutes at 100 degrees on Speed 1. Test that the veggies are soft. If not, cook for a further 5 minutes. Add a good splash of truffle oil at this stage, maybe some cumin if you feel like another layer of flavour. Then blend it to a smooth puree (with the MC on) on Speed 9 for 1 minute. Decorate as described above for maximum wow.
The Everyday Cookbook has another version. Recipe Community has a Neil Perry conversion as well which sounds extremely tasty. Of course it has more cream and such. Thermomix recipes are there for the experimenting. Its so easy to do. You’ve just got to try it.
I was very happy to see a big box of quinces at a reasonable per kilo price at our local market recently. It meant I had an excuse to try out making quince paste!
They are a less than appealing looking fruit and the preparation methods you generally find for them don’t help their cause. But if Maggie Beer can do it so can I. For I have the added super power of a super kitchen tool.
I followed the best bits of a few recipes and hints I found from Thermomixer, Tick of Yum and Recipe Community, which were variations of recipes from the beautiful (but not yet mine) Thermomix recipe books In the Mix and Devil of a Cookbook. Keeping the peel and core in the process, but separating them from the flesh while cooking made it really easy to follow and the paste set beautifully. So much so that I allowed it to cool a little too long and then had a lovely set jelly in the processing bowl which I then had to lever out and squish in to molds. Just over a kilo of quinces makes a shed load of quince paste. I am now in search of a gigantic wheel of stinky cheese to eat with it.
This is just a small part of the quince paste produced in my inaugural batch. You will note that the result is not quite as neat as Maggie’s. Next time I won’t get distracted once I’ve finished cooking it. Apparently it keeps for an age as long as you take the least precautions against the extreme wildlife or weather that are an everyday part of living in Queensland. As with everything I am making for the first time the use by dates are an experiment in mould identification and the sniff it and see test.