Strawberry & Wild Hibiscus Jam

I love to make jam. There’s something very satisfying in the whole process. I even love choosing my jars and labels.

I have just a few jam making tips to pass on. Just things I’ve learned along the way.

  •  Always sterilise your jars. I wash mine in hot soapy water and then put them in a 300F oven for 20 minutes. I put a teatowel in a baking tin and put the jars on that. I love to use recycled jars when I can, but I always buy new lids. They’re cheap and it’s just nicer, especially if the jar once had pickled onions in it! I boil my lids in a pan of water for 10 minutes. Be very careful when you get your jars out of the oven, they are hot, hot, hot. Leave them to cool, just a little minute before you put your hot jam in, if you don’t, the jam will bubble and boil!
  • Invest in a candy thermometer. It takes the guess work out of making jam (and caramel, sugar syrup and toffee) There will be a mark on your thermometer that will tell you when the jam has reached the right temperature for the perfect set.
  • Stir your cooking jam well, and often. If, by chance it does stick and catch on the bottom, DON’T stir the caught bits back into the jam.
  • Always add some lemon juice. As well as adding valuable pectin, for the perfect set, the acid helps cut through the sweetness, adding a nicer balance of flavour.
  • Always use a nice, big pan, maybe even bigger than you think you’ll need. Boiling sugar is scalding hot and jam bubbles and splatters. Safer and less anxiety all round if your pot is a nice big one.
  • Cook your fruit/s to your desired consistency before adding the sugar. The sugar, once added will, for the most part prevent the further breakdown of tougher skins like apple, plum and peach.
  • I use a 1/1 fruit sugar ratio for my jams. For example, 1 kilogram of cooked fruits get 1 kilogram of sugar added to it. I am happy with the flavour and set this gives me, plus, this sugar/fruit ratio affords a nice degree of preservation.
  • Store your opened jam in the fridge, just to be on the safe side.

Just lately, I’ve been concentrating on developing a small range of jams using Australian native ingredients. Native fruits and spices often deliver an intense, unique flavour note to dishes, and with judicious use, offer the cook a range of flavours that can’t be replicated with regular ingredients.

I’m very fortunate in that other people seem to like my jam too, so I get to make lots and lots of jam AND then I get the added pleasure of having others enjoy the end result.

This one was the first to be trialled: a beautiful, ruby red blend of strawberry and wild hibiscus. The wild hibiscus flower, or Rosella, is available in jars, in syrup, and I believe people love to add them to a glass of champagne, where they open up for a visual and taste treat.

I used around 6 flowers, and all the syrup in the jar for my kilogram of jam, the “shards” of flower became suspended in the jam, it was lovely. The flavour is subtle and distinctive, and was beautifully complemented by the strawberry.

Happy jam making!

’till next time

sweetrosie x

IMG_20140803_112310IMG_20140802_174731

Gluten-free Super Healthy Chocolate Cake

Why “super healthy?” It’s a big claim, especially when we’re talking about a chocolate cake.
Well dear reader,  in lieu of any kind of flour,  the base of this cake is cooked kidney beans.

image

I must say, when I first read this recipe, I was skeptical. Kidney beans in a cake? Surely not.

But, I made it, and it works!
This gluten-free cake has the added bonus of being ridiculously easy to make and bake.
If you have a food processor and an oven,  you can have this cake out of the oven and ready to serve in less than an hour.

The original version,  called  The Magic Bean Cake, came from the ABC website,  abc.net.au.
I used the original as a starting point, and adapted it a little.
Here is what you need.

image

400g of cooked kidney beans. I used canned.
5 eggs.
3/4 cup coconut sugar, or the sugar of your choice, or equivalent sweetener of your choice.
3/4 cup raw cacao, or good quality cocoa.
1/3 cup sunflower oil,  or liquid coconut oil, or oil of your choice.
1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
1/2 teaspoon salt.
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.
1 teaspoon baking powder.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Put the beans, 2 of the eggs,  the vanilla, oil and sugar into a food processor.
Process on high speed until very smooth.
Add the remaining eggs,  the cocoa,  the salt,  bicarbonate soda and baking powder,  and blend very well.
Your mix will be quite liquid, and this is good.
Pour into a greased, and lined loaf tin.
Bake at 180C  for around  30-40 minutes.
The edges of the cake will feel quite firm,  while the middle feels softer,  more wobbly.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes,  before turning out to cool.

image

To serve,  dust with icing sugar.
For an indulgent treat,  or for a special occasion,  I think a chocolate ganache frosting would be divine.
So nice! And I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tried it for myself.
Till next time
sweetrosie x

Indian Spiced Fried Potatoes & Peas

Wok Fried Spiced Potato & Peas
Wok Fried Spiced Potato & Peas

This vegetarian dish accompanies both Eastern and Western-style meals beautifully.

falafel 002

Use this recipe as a road map, substituting, and/or adding your own favourite spices, aromatics and vegetables.

Indian Spiced Potato & Peas

500g almost completely cooked, but still firm, cooked, chopped potato

1 cup of fresh or frozen peas

1 tablespoon coconut oil, or oil of your choice

3 grated cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons of grated ginger

2 long, green chillis, cut into thin slivers

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

salt, and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a wok, or large fry pan.

Briefly fry the garlic, ginger, spices and chilli, until fragrant, but not too brown. It may only take 20 seconds or so.

Add the potato and peas, increase the heat, and stir-fry until the potato starts to get crispy bits. Keep the mix moving so that the spices don’t burn.

Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with fresh coriander and serve.

It does perfectly compliment roast lamb, and is especially good with barbecued meats.

As part of an Indian menu, this fried potato and peas combo is perfect alongside dhal, yoghurt, parathas and pickles.

The mix, “smashed” or mashed, when cooked, also makes a delicious filling for samosas, or curry puffs.

curry-puffs-2008

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows

marshmallow with sprinkles

We love to add a plumpy, sweet marshmallow to our hot chocolate at work, and to make it an extra special experience, we’ve decided to start making our own.

I wanted a recipe that didn’t use egg white, a common ingredient in homemade marshmallow. I found this excellent recipe at Cooking for Engineers.

Here’s the recipe we used, and succeeded with, if you want to give it a go.

You’ll need 2 cups of sugar, 3tbsp of gelatine, 3/4 cup light corn syrup and 1/2 cup cold water.

Soak your gelatine in the cold water and then gently heat until the gelatine dissolves.

Heat the sugar, syrup and cold water gently in a pan until the sugar dissolves.

Then, boil rapidly until the temperature of the syrup reaches 250F on a candy thermometer.

Now, be careful with this part. You need to put your gelatine liquid in the bowl of a stand mixer and very, very slowly dribble in the hot sugar syrup, all the while keeping the mixer on low.

 Add a quarter teaspoon salt and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Drape a couple of tea towels over the mixer so that none of the hot mixture can splatter out and crank the speed up to high.

Whip, on high speed for 12 – 15 minutes. The mixture will increase enormously in volume and become light and fluffy.

 Lightly grease a tray, and dust with icing sugar.

Scrape out your lovely marshmallow into the tray. It will be sticky and will become harder to work with, the cooler it becomes.

Now, oil a piece of plastic wrap ( we used cooking spray) and use it to smooth down the top of the marshmallow.  Add sprinkles now if you want to :)

Chill in the fridge, cut into your desired shape and toss the pieces in icing sugar.

Store in a cool, dry place.

You can colour the marshmallow if you like. Add  a little food colouring  at the same time you add the salt and vanilla.

You can dip these delectable morsels in chocolate when they are set, a very special treat indeed!

Till next time

sweetrosie x

Vanilla Chai Latte

Image

Chai latte, it’s become quite a popular offering on espresso menus everywhere.

A chai latte is a shot of spiced tea mix, sometimes a powder , sometimes a syrup , topped up with steamed milk. At work, I make my own chai syrup, and we top our lovely drink with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Looks and tastes so beautiful.

Chai = tea. Latte = milk.

Technically, we should call it Masala Chai Latte, masala translates as spiced, and here is where the wonderful magic starts.

I make two very distinct styles of chai syrup at work. One is a traditionally spiced mix, with the addition of fresh vanilla. The other is a bush spice chai.

I maintain a background of traditional exotic spices, whilst adding the evocative, and distinctive flavours and scents of the Australian bush, with spices like lemon myrtle, aniseed myrtle and pepperberry.

Lemon Myrtle

I really do encourage you to experiment with your chai syrup recipe. Let me tell you what I use, and how I make it, but it’s a wonderful thing to develop your own, special, bespoke blend. Decanted into bottles, and labelled, these blends make a lovely gift from the heart.

Luscious Vanilla
Luscious Vanilla

One of the first things you need to think about is – sugar!

Now, I have a fondness for palm sugar. It’s rich, luscious, and adds a caramel not to the blend. However, my daughter keeps telling me stories about homeless orang-utans, and whilst I am not pretending to know anything about the primate/palm link, I respect her input, and now use a mix of coconut sugar, and ordinary, white sugar. All the while, hoping, no creatures have been displaced or disadvantaged by my decision…

You may of course choose to leave your syrup unsweetened, although of course, it will not actually be a syrup, more like a tisane, or tea.

It may be useful, if you use alternative forms of sweetener, like stevia, or rice malt, to try these in your syrup mix. Some alternative forms or sweetener may not be suitable to boil, but may be perfectly fine added to the hot, spice liquid after the cooking process.

Orange & Spices
Orange & Spices

For my latest batch of chai syrup, this is what I used. Quantities are approximate. Trust me, trust yourself, it will be wonderful!

To make approximately 700ml of Vanilla Chai Latte Syrup

To a medium, heavy base pan, add the following:

1 cup of coconut sugar

5 cups of cold water

2 vanilla pods, split and the seeds scraped into the pan. Put the pods in the pan too.

6 whole cloves

1 freshly grated nutmeg – around a teaspoon full

8 whole, green cardamom pods, bruised to allow the flavour to escape.

6 whole black peppercorns

1 stick of cinnamon

1/2 of a star anise pod

a slice of orange peel, around the size of your thumb

a couple of slices of fresh ginger, just leave the skin on

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bring everything slowly to the boil and allow to gently simmer for 30 minutes. The 5 cups of liquid is around a litre, so just keep simmering away until it reduces to around the 700ml mark. It might take 30 minutes, it might take longer. All is good.

Your liquid  will become a little thicker.

Take the pan of the heat and pop 3 ordinary black tea bags into the hot syrup to steep.

I have experimented with green teabags too, it’s lovely, they impart a more gentle and subtle tea flavour.

I only steep my teabags for around 4-5 minutes, it’s a personal preference, as I don’t want an overwhelming tea flavour, or a lot of tannin qualities in the syrup.

Strain the syrup well, and decant into your chosen bottle. Seal, and just for safety’s safe, store in the fridge.

My standard measure to a 12oz chai latte is around 40ml of syrup. I warm the syrup first, in the cup, just in the microwave, so that it doesn’t chill the hot milk.

Oh, it’s so nice. I am sure it’s good for the spirit too, so comforting and soothing.

Till next time

sweetrosie x

 

 

 

White Sourdough Tin Loaf

My sourdough starter improves all the time.
  It’s so cold here in Adelaide at the moment,  so its progress is slow and gentle.
When I want to bake a loaf with it,  I  feed it up the day before.
I’m not precise with quantities or anything.  I guess I  usually stir in around a cup of white flour and a cup of water.
It starts to form bubbles after a feeding fairly quickly now,  I take this as an auspicious sign of strength and sourdough happiness!

image

The smell is distinctive,  sour with beer/vinegar nuances .I have read that a vinegary fragrance is undesirable,  I don’t think it is. It still smells pure and “right” to me.
Very pleasant process, watching your starter grow and mature.
Things change,
and it does get more complex as time goes by.
I baked this weekend. A white tin loaf. Super tasty crust with that sourdough crackle and wonderful flavour.
Light crumb, and it toasts beautifully.

image

If you’re just starting out with sourdough and you want to experience the flavours,  without the uncertainty of relying on wild yeasts, just add a cup or two of your starter to your favorite bread mix.
Adjust the water quantity in the mix instructions,  and use regular dried yeast,  as normal.
You will be delighted with the results,  and it helps build one’s confidence in the whole sourdough baking journey.
I especially recommend this method for new sourdough bakers who want to make a wholemeal loaf.
The heavier wholemeal flour can  sometimes be harder to prove with just a starter as leavening.
Many might disagree with me,  but it never hurts to have a go to plan when you want to make sure your loaf is as perfect as can be.
I used about a quarter teaspoon of dried active yeast, along with the starter in this wholemeal oat and honey loaf.
Maybe I didn’t need it,  but it did turn out to be a lovely loaf.

image

image

Till next time
sweetrosie x

Lovely Scones for Sharing

In Australia and the UK, scones have long been a mandatory addition to morning or afternoon teas for company.

A plate of warm, freshly baked scones,  served with homemade jam,  and thick,  luscious cream,  is,  to my mind,  as wonderful an offering as any fancy torte or refined macaron.

image

I have previously blogged about scones,  I do love them, they fill me with comfy nostalgia. I bake them and imagine simpler times.  Outings to the seaside with a cream tea to finish a perfect day.  Teashops with bunting and floral china.  Farm shops, steam trains, Enid Blyton and Liberty prints…
I know,  I’m in the wrong century and surely would have been much happier back in 1940’s Britain !

image

I made afternoon tea yesterday, mummy came over and we had giggles and arguments – just the way we like it!
I made this boiled fruit tea loaf,  a special cheesecake and a batch of scones.
I had to blog and share as what was once my very favourite scone recipe is now discarded for a new favorite recipe!

image

It’s as easy as my old favourite but the results are so much nicer.
Quantities are vague, and depend on how many scones you’re planning to make.
For a dozen medium scones,  I started with about 4 cups of self raising flour.
Sift your flour into a large bowl, along with some icing sugar, (1/2 cup per 4 cups of flour) and a  little salt (1/2 teaspoon per 4 cups of flour)
This is so easy,  you’ll love it!

image

Add equal amounts of cream and fizzy lemonade until your mixture comes together and you have a slightly tacky dough.

image
We also had this delish rum and raisin cheesecake with poached pear

Tip it all out onto a floured bench,  or a piece of baking paper,  if you want to save yourself some mess.
Gently and briefly knead,  just until it all comes together.
Don’t overhandle the dough,  it toughens it.
Pat out into a squarish shape,  approximately 4cm thick.
Cut with a scone cutter dipped in flour.
Gently knead the scraps until all the dough is used.
Place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, and pop into a 200C oven,  they’ll take around 20-30 minutes.
Placing the scones just touching on the tray,  will ensure they support each other as they bake,  and keeps the scones sides soft and delicate.
You’ll know when they’re done. They’ll be golden and light,  with lovely,  firm brown bases.
Remove from the oven and cover with a clean teatowel to trap in the warmth and steam.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.
I do hope you enjoy my new, improved scone recipe.

Till next time
sweetrosie x

Dear readers…

lotus-55721299582909VG0

This is a post that nearly never was. I always meant to just start blogging again, thinking, hoping that maybe you would just ignore my long absence from sweetrosie.

I can’t do it. You see, I realised that honesty and sharing is exactly what blogging is about. Well, it is for me anyway.

It’s been months since I posted, and still you wrote to me. The comments and kind words just kept coming. You sustained me and gave me hope during what has been a tumultuous, challenging time.

I was diagnosed with depression. It’s a stealthy, thieving illness that creeps around your life, robbing you of all that good and positive. Depression feeds on positive energy and like an emotional vampire it sucks you dry, all the while growing stronger.

I looked at other people in wonder. How did they manage to have such happy, complete lives? Actually, I didn’t just wonder, I envied and succumbed to self-pity and self-loathing.  

It was only by reaching out and talking did I come to realise that what I projected onto others was an illusion of my own making. Most of us struggle, many people face unimaginable sorrow and distress every day.

Our lives are complex, with many facets hidden deep inside of ourselves. Depression, in its wily, seditious way, latches on to everything we struggle with, and uses it to grow stronger. Where once a struggle or challenge seemed just that, an opportunity to think, cope and grow, now, for me, became an overwhelming complication, and a mind-numbing obstacle to living.

I am moving forward now. When I broke my self-imposed silence, I found the help I needed to shrink this demon. If I can say just one thing to anyone suffering depression right now, it would be this, it’s not forever. Trust me, it isn’t. Please reach out.

 

Juice for Today

A freshly prepared juice is the perfect start to the day.
This was todays juice:
carrot
green apple
pear
peach
lettuce

lettuce_199883
delicious_fruit_04_hd_pictures_167513
I felt hydrated and invigorated.
Drinking fresh juice is a gentle, yet effective way to deliver essential, revitalising vitamins, minerals and enzymes to every cell in your body.

Today I introduced lettuce into my juice for the first time. I always buy a full lettuce, with all the dark green, outer leaves attached. When I wash my lettuce, the dark green leaves go to the chickens, and they do love them. However, knowing that these dark green leaves contain valuable quantities of nutrients, I washed them carefully, and added them to my juice. Mild, palatable and delicious! Do try it.

’till next time
sweetrosie x

Happy New Year 2014

Happy New Year 2014

To all my friends and family, including those I’ve never met but whose friendship via sweetrosie means so much.
I wish everyone the most joyful of New Years celebrations.
May the coming year bring you peace, love, and happiness.
I wish you comfort if you are ill, sad or grieving, strength if you face battles and obstacles and determination in the face of difficulty and uncertainty.
May you be surrounded by kindness always.
If you were standing next to me, I would hug you and whisper my wishes to you.
sweetrosie x