Category Archives: Jams and Preserves



I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this but I’m obsessed with trifle. I had forgotten about this obsession until quite recently. It had manifested in other ways – my take on Nigella’s Italian Christmas Pudding Cake which I’ve made for several years for dessert on December 24th; my love of all things custard. But pure trifle, unfussed with, traditional sponge cake, custard, berries and cream trifle, I hadn’t made in a long time until we went to Spain (of all places) last May.


There I met Andrés’s friends for the first time. We had a braai one day and they requested that I bring trifle as dessert. (They all pronounce it so it sounds like ‘truffle’ to my ear, elongating the ‘i’ so it sounds more like ‘e’, which makes it sound much more magical and alluring.) So I made a strawberry trifle. It was such a hit – gone in about 30 seconds – it made me remember the magical power of trifle. The power trifle has to make things better, seduce people, make you feel like the world is going to be a better place. That comforting memory of early childhood, where adults knew how to fix things, and the world was a place full of wonder and magic… (Of course, there are other takes on trifle, possibly not fueled by the same experiences I had, which you can hear about on this BBC Food programme or read about in this book, which is on my wish list.)

In need of such reassurances recently, I made what I like to term ‘freezer trifle’. This is trifle thrown together from things you already have skulking about in the back of your freezer. In my case there are always cake pieces and frozen raspberries (as well as emergency gin – like I suspect other people have homemade ready-meals, muffins and vegetables). Add in some super fast and easy vanilla custard, a slightly whipped double cream (and hazelnut praline for the funsies) and you have an easy dessert, any day of the week.


So this is not a recipe for trifle as such, it is a collection of ingredients that can be used to make trifle. With the exception of the custard – I’ve given you the recipe for that.

Some leftover vanilla cake pieces

Sherry (if you have it. I didn’t so mine were non-alcoholic trifles. We can debate whether this renders the dessert something else entirely if you’d like.)

Frozen raspberries, about a handful if there are two of you, heated with a tablespoon of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. You just want them slightly mashed and a bit juicy. (If you have a syrupy raspberry preserve, that’d work too.)

One quantity vanilla custard (see below)

Double thick cream, whipped to soft soft peaks.

Hazelnut praline. Toss a few hazelnuts (about half a cup) in a nonstick pan until they start to brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, heat some sugar – add just enough to cover the base of the pan. Cook until the sugar is a deep golden. Add in a knob of butter and swirl to incorporate. Roughly bash the hazelnuts and then place them  on a sheet of baking paper, on a tray. Pour the caramel over the nuts and leave to cool. When cold, bash up so you have different sized pieces.

For the custard (This recipe comes from my cooking school days and so I think belongs originally to Sam Marshall.)

180ml full fat milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract (or one quarter of a vanilla pod, split with seeds extracted)

2 egg yolks

60g caster sugar

25g plain flour

double cream (1-2 tbsp)

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Heat the milk and vanilla to scalding point. Whisk the yolks, sugar and flour together until thick and no lumps remain. Temper the hot milk into the eggs. Whisk to incorporate. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook out over a low heat until the custard is thick. (A wooden spoon is best here.) Pour into a container and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool.


Once the custard is cold, you can assemble your trifles. Layer cake pieces at the bottom of the serving dish. Splash with sherry, if using. Pour over the raspberries. Then distribute the custard. This makes enough for three (or two plus the cook eating what is left in the dish). Cover with cream and sprinkle generously with the praline. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour so things can settle. Eat.



Marmalade Poppyseed Loaf

It is that time of year for marmalade making! Which means it is essential to use up whatever is left of last years marmalade stores to make way for the new. I guess you can tell I’m slightly obsessed with citrus this year. Andrés found blood oranges in the market the other day and seemed surprised when, upon finding them in the kitchen I immediately peeled one and ate it, the juices running down my hand. Blood oranges are my absolute favourite – the colour wheel of reds, oranges and purples delights me – and it turns out they’re superbly good for you too, which is always an added bonus for favourite foods.

2016-01-24 10.58.47-1Anyway, on Sunday I made the new batch of marmalade (having recovered sufficiently from the earlier in the week mess) and, because it was overcast and dark in a way only a January afternoon can be dark, I decided to use up the almost-last jar of 2015 marmalade in a cake. A brief scour of the web combined with Annie Bell’s Baking Bible lead to this: a rather glorious, bitter, damp, orange loaf cake that I intend to eat around 4pm most of this week.


In truth, it is an exceedingly simple riff on a pound cake and could probably be adapted to use up whatever jam you have skulking in the back of the fridge. I used ingredients I had to hand, hence the use of honey – feel free to substitute for more soft brown sugar. Personally, I love this because it is not very sweet and the marmalade glaze gives it a bitter edge. Serve it with vanilla ice-cream for a winter dessert.

Marmalade Poppyseed Loaf

Makes one loaf tin

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature

90g soft brown sugar

3 eggs

60g runny honey

75g marmalade

175g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

zest and juice of one orange

2 tbsp poppyseeds

marmalade to glaze

Preheat the oven to 170C and line a loaf tin with butter and parchment.


Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, beating after each one. Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl and add in two tablespoons to the egg mixture. Beat lightly.


Fold in the honey, marmalade, orange zest and poppyseeds. Lastly fold in the rest of the flour mixture followed by the orange juice.


Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for half an hour, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake rest in the tin for ten minutes before turning out and cooling. I spread the marmalade directly from the jar onto the still warm cake so it has a chance to absorb some of the syrup. Slice when cool. (Slicing when warm will lead to the cake falling apart.) Eat.


Raspberry Preserve

I wrote this post ages and ages ago, whilst I was still at cookNscribble, but never published it for a variety of reasons. My life is currently in suspension (or so it seems) and I am living on a friend’s couch before going back to South Africa for nearly a month (having just been there to see my grandmother who is very frail) so everything is in storage and on hold slightly. This is to tide you over until I’m able to blog properly again…

When I was about 16, my family started to grow berries for export. We had always been mielies, potatoes, cabbages and wheat folk, but one summer we were suddenly also berry growers. Now, after spending several summers in England, watching people’s delight as raspberry and strawberry season unfolds, followed by blackberry season in the early autumn, I sort of understand what all the fuss is about. I love a wander and a forage as much as the next person. And I can even get into growing my own raspberries. But this is a good 15 years on from the “summer of the berries” (as it is collectively known by the cousins). That summer has taken on myth and legend in my family as a result. One just has to mention “the summer of the berries” to elicit a collective groan and much laughter. (Or as Tim so eloquently put on the Whatsapp conversation I started to jog their memories of that summer, “shit, do we really need to go there?”)

preserve ready for cooling

That summer, there was an abundance of blackberries and raspberries on the farm. Berries that didn’t make the export standard had to be used up – by us. So ensued: berry jam, berry pavlovas, berry trifle, berry alcohol, berry salads. Anything that could use a berry was made. And eaten. No one survived the summer untraumatised. None of us could stand to look at a berry by the end, let alone eat any. My cousin Jess still will not eat raspberries. I’ve spent years avoiding blackberries – it’s only recently that I have started to eat them again, and then only if I’m taking them off the plant myself and only a few at a time.


But raspberries I’ve sort of come around too. Not in vast quantities. I will never be the girl who eats a punnet surreptitiously in the kitchen when no one is watching. But the odd one or two, a smear of jam on toast, an Eton mess, I can get in to. I’ve started to, dare I confess it?, even like raspberries, particularly sun-drenched ones, still warm, eaten straight from the cane. So when the opportunity came up to go raspberry picking as part of my experience at cookNscribble, how could I say no? Perhaps I might finally be cured of that fateful summer of berries.

Raspberry Cane Punnet in the field Raspberries in hand View of raspberries

So it was that one day this summer we journeyed to the valley of Schoharie, where Molly’s friend Alexandra has a farm with about 20 rows of raspberries which she grows predominantly for preserves. That week, the canes were suddenly all loaded with ripe fruit. We spent a hot hour on a Tuesday afternoon picking gloriously red, pink, magenta raspberries. Then on the Wednesday morning, Ali and I spent another hour (the breeze making things ever so slightly cooler) picking several more baskets. By the end, we’d picked our way up a row, but we were dripping sweat, our hands stained with berry juice. Alexandra, who is French, floated through the rows beneath a sun hat, her glamour in the face of berry picking putting the two of us to shame. But, despite our inelegance, she agreed to show me how she makes her preserves. So it was that a few hours later I found myself in her sunlight kitchen (with the help of her two cats), learning the art of, what Alexandra says, is originally Russian preserve making.

detail of macerated raspberries

The process had actually begun several hours earlier, when Alexandra macerated 4 quarts of raspberries with 1kg of sugar. She told me that she dislikes very sweet preserves and so, even though traditionally jams and preserves use equal quantities of sugar and fruit, she uses half the amount of sugar to fruit. So we used 2kg of sugar in total. The macerated raspberries take between 4 and 6 hours to seep enough juice to begin the preserve making. The time is dependent on the age of the raspberries – fresh-off-the-cane ones take much longer – and the temperature (if it’s hotter the process happens faster).

There was just enough juice to begin the process and so Alexandra strained the berries through a colander, collecting their juice in a large copper pot. To this she added the other kilogram of sugar, stirring to prevent the mixture from burning over the heat. Once all the sugar is melted and a cloudy syrup has formed, the heat is turned up.

macerated raspberries

sugar and raspberry juice

The syrup was then brought to a boil, and cooked until it reached soft-ball stage. (This is the stage at which you can create a soft ball of sugar in some water.)

creating raspberry caramel

Alexandra advised that the syrup should cool somewhat, before the berries are added back in. I think this is to prevent the destruction of the fruit – Alexandra likes the fruit hardly cooked at all to retain their taste.

caramel and fresh raspberries

The berries, in the syrup, are brought back to a rapid boil before the heat is reduced once more and the mixture simmered for between five and ten minutes.

cooking raspberries

detail of preserve

Off the heat the preserves are ladled into hot, sterilised jars immediately. Alexandra put the lids on the jars and allowed them to seal, keeping them in a cool dark room until they set. She told me that this preserve is best eaten sooner, rather than later… On toast. On yoghurt. On ice-cream. Or sandwiched between a sponge cake.

filling the jars

raspberry preserve bottled

And who knows, perhaps the cousins will be persuaded to try berries again once more…

Strawberry Jam (with Redcurrants)

I recently moved flats for the fourth time in two years. The new flat is much bigger, there is an actual bedroom and a balcony (on which I now have two lavender plants growing). But the kitchen is smaller and dysfunctional. It’s obviously not meant for someone who needs work space. But it’s okay. I can’t get the one cupboard to close because the frying pan is too big and there isn’t anywhere else to put it (or all the other things like bowls and cake tins I’ve accumulated) but I am taking deep breaths and ignoring it. I broke in the new oven with a cinnamon buttermilk cake and some strawberry jam.

Fourth Flat Kitchen

The new kitchen. At least the sink is a decent size.

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We had a glut of redcurrants on the allotment this summer. No one was entirely sure what to do with them but I had an idea you could put them into jam. I did some scouting on the internet (because none of my books had a recipe that was useful) and between Poires au ChocolatThe Guardian Word of Mouth Blog, and Darina Allen, I worked out a recipe. In the end I just used the redcurrant juice, smashing the redcurrants through a sieve. It seemed a good enough way to use them up. The jam is wonderful, strawberry and sweet, invoking the smell of high summer.

Strawberry Jam (with Redcurrants)

1.4kg strawberries

100ml redcurrant juice

1.1kg sugar (I used 3/4 granulated and 1/4 golden caster)

1 lemon

1 1/2 sachets pectin*

Place some side plates into a freezer. Wash and rinse 9 340g jam jars and their lids. (I save all the honey jars for this. And my jar sizes ranged from 300g to 450g so 9 is a guesstimate.) Place on an oven tray and sterilise in the oven (oven at about 100C). They can remain in the oven til you need to use them.

Wash and hull the strawberries. I cut the larger ones into quarters and the smaller ones into halves. (I prefer smaller pieces of strawberry in my jam – if you like bigger pieces leave some of the smaller ones whole.)

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Smash the redcurrants through a sieve into a bowl. Reserve the juice, compost the skins and seeds.

Place the strawberries in a large jam pot and smash them slightly with a potato masher – leave some whole and some smashed. Then add in the redcurrant juice, sugars, pectin and juice of the lemon.

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Bring to a rolling boil and boil until it reaches 104C – jam stage on a sugar thermometer. This can take anywhere from 5 until 15 minutes. Skim some of the scum off the top. Then place some onto a frozen plate and return to the freezer for a few minutes. Move your one finger along the jam on the plate – if it crinkles slightly and doesn’t run excessively it is done.

Spoon into sterilised jars whilst still warm, using a funnel to keep the jars clean. Seal with wax paper circles and lids. Eat on toast, crumpets, pancakes or in yoghurt.

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*I only used the pectin sachets because I couldn’t find jam sugar anywhere. Feel free to use jam sugar and no extra pectin.

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The new view from my flat.

Lemon Curd

I have come down with that dreaded winter event, the flu. As such I am spending most of the day in bed, feeling sorry for myself and eating soup. Oh and I am reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake which so far is totally fabulous. I am not into self torture and so am eating ready made food, which I know, is like totally sacrilegious or something but what’s a girl to do? Anyway, so I thought I would share a lemon curd recipe I found which is by far more superior than all the others I’ve tried. I made it a few months back for the filling for Lemon Curd Pavlovas. I didn’t share it with you then but its so good I decided I needed to tell you about it now.

It goes without saying that I am a huge lemon curd fan. I suspect it all started with a trip to Borough Market in London town one sunny Saturday morning. It was summer and there were more strawberries than I care to mention. Next to one strawberry seller was a preserve person (the exact details are fuzzy) who had lemon curd. The two genius stallholders were letting people sample strawberries dipped in lemon curd. Its a totally sublime combination and I was obviously compelled to buy a punnet and a jar and have a happy day dipping strawberries into lemon curd. Lemon curd is good with other things too. Toast for one, especially if you do not like jam/marmite/peanut butter or are simply in need of a change. As someone who does not like jam sandwiched between cake, lemon curd is the perfect alternative. Victoria Sponge filled with lemon curd and mascarpone is elevated from the mundane into the catalogues of cake greatness. Even better, if you are a significant lemon fan is lemon cake filled with lemon curd. All round lemon yummy-ness. Lemon curd also works with white chocolate anything, lemon and white chocolate being a great pairing.

Lemon Curd
Makes enough for 1 1/2 preserve jars
3 lemons
200g caster sugar
125g butter
2 eggs
2 yolks
vanilla pod
Zest and juice the lemons into a pan. Add in the sugar, butter and vanilla pod and allow everything to melt together. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks until broken up. Pour the butter/sugar mixture into the eggs and give everything a quick stir before pouring it back into the pan. Over a low heat, cook the curd until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. (Just like making custard folks.) Once you’re at that stage, remove from the heat, sieve, scrape the seeds out of the vanilla and into the mix and pour into sterilized jars.Seal and store in the fridge for up to 3 months. If you’re using all the curd straight away, strain into a bowl and put this bowl over another that is filled with ice. This will cool the curd quickly and can then be cooled in the fridge further until needed.

You will notice that my method works over direct heat. If you are nervous or new to the whole custard making debacle I would suggest you cook the curd over a pan of simmering water. I am too impatient for such things, don’t have bowls that fit nicely over pans and figure that the worst is it starts to curdle and you have to start again.

If you don’t like vanilla in your curd simply omit it from the recipe.

Fig Jam

I’ve started and lost this post more times than I care to count. These are the images for the fig jam I made to fill Mrs Figg’s Figgy Newtons which you can read about here.

Fabulous ripe figs awaiting their evolution into jam
 Figs cooking down into jam