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Strawberry and lemon Jam

For me strawberries are a true taste of summer, but you don't have to just relegate them to one season. You can prolong the season by making jam with them. Strawberries are a fruit that are low in pectin (natural setting agent) so need a helping hand when making jam. I tend to use jam sugar that has pectin added which helps the set. In this recipe I also like to add some lemon juice which offsets the strawberries with a bit of tartness. 

2kg strawberries, hulled and any soft spots removed
2kg jam sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Place the sugar, strawberries and lemon juice in a large heavy bottomed pan
Bring to the boil and lower the heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes
Using a sugar thermometer or thermapen constantly check if the temperature has reached setting point which is 104c, it may reach this temp before 20 minutes is up

You can also check the setting point using a plate which has been left in the freezer;
Pour a small amount of jam onto the plate and check to see if you can push the jam across the plate and that it wrinkles and does not flood back to where it was
Once the jam is ready you can now fill your jars

This makes approximately 10 jars of jam
Ensure your jars are clean and both the jars and the lids have been sterilised using hot water or a hot cycle in your dishwasher
Allow the jam to cool slightly and ensure the jars are warm while filling otherwise they will crack
Place the lids on immediately and store in a cool dry place until you wish to use it
The jam will keep for up to a year in a cupboard
Once opened the jam will keep for up to six months in the fridge

Smoky slow roast tomato and chilli salsa

This is a great BBQ side dish and all you need to accompany it are some tortilla chips. This also pairs well with grilled cheese nachos or sometimes I like to add it to fried or scrambled eggs to pep them up. 

5 tomatoes halved
1 large red onion halved
1 red chilli, stalk removed (or more if you like yours spicy)
Juice of one lime
20g fresh coriander finely chopped
10ml olive oil
2g sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Set your BBQ up for indirect cooking at 130c, I also like to throw on some hickory chips just to add a little extra smoke flavour
Place the onion, chilli and tomatoes on the griddle and cook for 2 hours
Place in a food processor and blend to form a chunky paste, you don't want it too smooth
Add the olive oil, sugar, lime juice, and coriander, stir to combine
Season to taste with the salt and pepper

West African fish stew

This recipe was given to me by a friend of mine who runs West African cookery classes. I attended one of her classes recently and this is one of the dishes that we were taught. We were told that the base stew recipe forms the basis for a lot of West African dishes, if you can get this recipe right, then the rest will fall into place.

1 onion finely chopped
1 pepper finely chopped
4 fresh tomatoes chopped or 1 tin of tomatoes when not in season
2 scotch bonnet chillies finely chopped
15g West African seasoning mix
5g fish rub
10g dried crayfish, if you can't get these then dried shrimp can be used instead
150ml stock (fish or vegetable)
200g monk fish or halibut, sliced into 50g chunks, you can also use prawns or mussels 
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper to season

Fry off the onions on a low heat until soft and glossy
Add the peppers, chillies and tomatoes and cook through for another 5 minutes
Add the West African seasoning mix and cook out for 5 minutes
Pour in the stock, add the dried crayfish and cook for a further 10 minutes on a medium heat until you have a nice thick base

Before adding the fish, coat in the fish rub
Lower the heat and add the fish
Place a lid on your pan and cook for 10 minutes until the fish has cooked through 
If using prawns or mussels; cook the prawns for at least 7 minutes until they are pink on both sides, mussels will need at least 10 minutes and ensure they are open when cooked

This can also be cooked on the BBQ in a cast iron casserole or Dutch oven
Set your BBQ up for indirect cooking at 150c
Fry off the onions in some oil as above, follow with the peppers, chillies and tomatoes 
Add the West African seasoning and cook out for 2-3 minutes
Add the stock and dried crayfish and place the cooking pot on the BBQ with the lid off
Cook for 10 minutes until you see the sauce has reduced
Add the fish, place the lid on your pot and continue to cook for 10 minutes

For more information on the spices, check out Ataro Foods

Porcini and smoked paprika beef rub & flavoured butters

I would dearly love to claim this recipe as my own, but I came across this rub from Hartnett, Holder and company (Michelin starred Chef Angela Hartnett) on another site by Eat Like a Girl and just had to share it with you. This is a really great rub for beef and works really well on a good steak, I'll leave the preference of what steak you use up to you. 

I also like to pair it with either a blue cheese or garlic and herb flavoured butter. These recipes are my own and I've included them for you to accompany your steak.
The one thing you have to be careful with this rub is the sugar in the rub has a propensity to char easily, so keep turning the steak so it doesn't catch.
I've made some adjustments from the original recipe as I find the sugar tends to dominate, this version has a more savoury element to it and a nice kick, with the pepper

100g dried porcini mushrooms
100g maldon salt flakes
70g light brown sugar
15g smoked sweet paprika
10g ground black pepper

Bring all the ingredients together in a blender until they resemble a fine powder

Oil the steak and rub with the porcini mix
As there is sugar in the rub don't marinade for too long; 10-15 minutes is fine, any longer the sugar will start to "cook" the meat and your steak will be tough

Set the BBQ up for direct cooking at 200c, normally I would have the temperature higher but the sugar in the rub will turn bitter, so keep it a bit lower
Continue to cook the steak until you have reached your preferred doneness, I wouldn't like to dictate how you should cook it or you can find my article here
If you are using a cote de boeuf or thicker steak then go by core temperatures of 50c - rare, 55c -  medium rare, 60c - medium, 65c - well done
Rest your steak in a warm place for 10 minutes before serving

Flavoured butters

Garlic and herb
10g fresh tarragon
10g freshly chopped chives
100g softened salted butter
1 clove garlic finely chopped (place the clove in boiling water for 2 min before chopping, it removes the harsh notes)
10g fresh parsley finely chopped

Blue cheese
70g blue cheese, my preference is either gorgonzola dolce or stilton
100g softened salted butter
10g dijon mustard

For both butters
Mix all ingredients together until well combined and roll into a log shape
Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge until you wish to use it, these will keep for a couple of weeks
You can also freeze these and just slice a piece off when you need some, these will keep for 3 months

What's in Season - June

I'm really pleased to announce a collaboration with Eat the Seasons to bring you information on what is at its best each month. 

Many of us may not be aware what is in season and when, we see the same fruit and vegetables available all year around in the supermarkets, but out of season many will be imported and expensive. Eating in season means you support your local farmers and producers and also experience the food when it is at its best and cheapest! 
Seasonality doesn't just apply to vegetables and fruit, but also to meat, herbs and fish too.

We're now entering the bountiful season, summer, there are lots of fruit, herbs and vegetables available, so make the most of it.

What can I eat now?

Artichoke, asparagus, aubergine, beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, carrots, chillies, courgettes, fennel, french beans, garlic, jersey royal new potatoes, kohlrabi, lettuce & salad leaves, mangetout, new potatoes, onions, pak choi, peas, radishes, rocket, runner beans, samphire, spinach, spring onions, tomatoes, turnips, watercress, wild nettles

Apricots, bilberries, blueberries, cherries, gooseberries, greengages, kiwi fruit, peaches, strawberries

Basil, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, elderflowers, oregano, mint, nasturtium, parsley, rosemary, sage, sorrel, tarragon, thyme

Lamb, wood pigeon

Cod, coley, crab, haddock, halibut, herring, langoustine, plaice, pollack, prawns, salmon, sardines, scallops (queen), sea bream, sea trout, shrimp, squid, whelks, whitebait

For more information visit Eat the seasons for weekly updates and recipes. 

No bake chocolate biscuit cake

Now I don’t have a sweet tooth, nor am I the world’s biggest fan of chocolate, but this recipe was a big favourite of mine growing up. It was also one of the few recipes where my mother would actually let me help. I used to get to stir the chocolate sauce and crumble the biscuits in. The biscuits used in this recipe are called Marietta or in some countries they are called Marie (it’s the brand name here in the Netherlands). I've no idea where this recipe came from other than it's one my mother learned at school in Ireland about 60 or so years ago. 

2 eggs (room temp) beaten
50g cocoa powder
150g caster sugar
200g butter
2 packets marie(tta) biscuits roughly broken up into small pieces

In a saucepan melt the butter and sugar together on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved
Lower the heat, add the cocoa powder and then stir through the eggs, 

Stir for 2-3 mins to cook out the eggs, ensure to keep the temperature low as you do not want the egg mixture to scramble
Add the broken biscuits and ensure the chocolate mixture coats all the biscuits
Transfer to a baking tray and push the mixture down ensuring it is nicely compacted
Place in the fridge and allow to set for 4-6 hours

Spinach and feta frittata

This dish is my weeknight recipe for when I don't want to go to too much effort in the kitchen. Frittata is an Italian version of an omelette but doesn't require as much attention and you can pretty much use any filling or topping that you like. One of my favourites is spinach and feta.

100g baby spinach washed
70g feta
20g butter
6 eggs
Salt and pepper
1g grated nutmeg
50ml milk

Place the spinach in a frying pan and cook on a medium heat until it starts to break down, cook until all the moisture is out of the spinach
Add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt
Whisk the eggs and milk until combined, add a little of the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and add to the pan with the spinach, stir to ensure the spinach is well distributed
cook for 2- 3 mins to allow the bottom to set
Next sprinkle over the feta and place under a hot grill for 5-7 mins or until browned