Posts Tagged ‘chilli jam’

After spending the past two weeks catering for a large family, parties and feasting on rich food – suddenly the thought of having to return to a food-routine and creating simple suppers for one is quite daunting.

Since mid December, my diet has generally been three courses (both at lunch and dinner) decadent and full of festive indulgence, or should I say indigestion!  And even now as I sit here contemplating how much I’ve eaten I am still trying to organise another festive offering of food and wine – literally squeezing the Christmas out of the final days of the holidays.

My festive kitchen has had me busy creating the now traditional foodie gifts my friends and family so look forward to, such as chilli jam, cookies in a jar, biscotti and limoncello.  This year saw a few new ideas in the form of gingerbread men mix in a jar, fig and olive chutney, chocolate puddini bon bons and sweet potato and pine nut delights (piezecitas) which I made with friends at what has now become our traditional Christmas cookathon.

An absolute joy to prepare and eat was the smoked salmon terrine that we ate as our Christmas Eve starter and finished off on Christmas Day!  My only comment about this is that it is imperative that your knife is razor sharp as otherwise you won’t be able to make clean slices through the terrine.  A beautiful beef carpaccio, my crème brûlée, plum crumble and deconstructed seafood cocktail were also stars at our Christmas table.

So once the tree comes down and the Wise Men return East I wonder what January will hold for me in my kitchen?

Happy New Year!

So…food gifts…where do you stand on these?

Are you of the, “What a great idea! Such a personal gift made with love”, “Can’t wait to use those preserved lemons in my next tagine” or “Stingy f*****r!”

TV Chefs and food experts try to convince us that a food gift would be a great present to receive – but most individuals would conceive it to be a cheap gift.  Others sense it to be almost like a charity thing, “food gift at Xmas.”  I must agree with the sentiment heralded by chefs, however, must clarify what I mean and would accept by a food gift:

a personalised, bespoke, homemade, carefully packaged gift.

Perhaps not some BHS random jar of something!

Some people may see the idea of a food gift as thrifty and a cheap option – but it is not about the money spent – as buying the ingredients and glass jars/bottles can sometimes be quite costly – and expensive gifts can often be inappropriate or unwanted! For me it’s about sharing with the recipient my time, thoughtfulness and newfound expertise (and clearly none of my humility!)


I do feel that you must know those who you are giving these gifts to well.  As they are going to appreciate your gift and not see it as a cheats way out of Xmas shopping.

Some of my staple gifts are Chilli Jam (which gets pre-orders throughout the year!) and biscotti (often made with a limoncello combo).  This year florentines, peanut brittle and cookie mix in a jar were also part of the food gifts available.

And having given them out to my Christmas Party guests I can’t but hope that they’ve enjoyed every bite and those with children have appreciated the cookies in a jar – which are ridiculously easy to make following the on jar instructions:

Merry Christmas!!

December arrived before I managed to hear it creeping up on me but once 1st Dec dawned upon us I couldn’t wait to literally Deck the Halls!

Christmas is my favourite time of the year – I love everything about it.  From preparation to execution I am a complete convert.  The minute I see a twinkling fairy light (a traditional warm light none of those modern blue LED monstrosities!) and holly wreathed front door I both exude and want to be filled with Christmas Spirit (or two).

But after all what is Christmas if not a festival of excess; of everything:       food, drink and cheer.

Before I get slated by those that believe that Christmas is all about faith, I’m not trying to ridicule that Christmas; the Christmas I’m talking about is clearly the Pagan Saturnalia version which is all about merry-making, excess and misrule.  My sort of festival!

Where to begin?  In the same way that December arrives it will rapidly move into January.  The best way to make the most of the food and drink that will be consumed this season is: 1) Plan and prepare ahead and 2) Not to worry about the effects of this indulgence on the waistline.

So I started my Christmas cooking off gently by getting some pots of Chilli Jam organised, Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti and Sesame Toffee Snaps.


Chilli Jam

1st) Put 150g of red peppers and 150g of red chillies into a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.

2nd) Pour 600ml of cider vinegar into a saucepan with 1Kg of jam sugar (high in pectin).  Heat gently until the sugar dissolves.

3rd: Pour the red flecks of chilli and pepper into the vinegar and bring to the boil.  Boil ferociously for 10mins and then allow the mixture to cool for approx 45mins before you decant into sterilised jars.


Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti

I have already included this recipe from before.  It is included in a previous blog titled

“I know what you did last summer…biscotti!”    

Please click on the link to be taken to the recipe.

 Sesame Seed Toffee Snaps


The third of the Christmas goodies were the sesame seed toffee snaps.  Very easy to make but take caution as you will be working with boiling sugar.

1st) Put 455g of Caster Sugar into a saucepan with 8 tablespoons of water.  Bring to the boil.

2nd) Once the sugar boils and turns a nutty brown colour (take care not to burn it) add 200g of sesame seeds.  Mix well and pour onto a greased baking sheet.  Smooth it down to create  a thin continuous layer.

3rd) When cold and hard break the snap into pieces.  Enjoy on its own or use to mop up desserts.

Ok – so it’s not the onslaught of the Xmas Turkey with all the trimmings but these are three easy but impressive Christmas goodies to either devour yourself or give as gifts.  Why not give one a try and let me know how you got along.

If I don’t get a chance to wish it before – Merry Christmas.

Weekend – Saturday

Posted: February 4, 2012 in Weekend
Tags: , ,

Hard as it may seem, it had felt as if I had not thrown myself into the kitchen for a while. So at some quiet moment on Friday, between breakfast and after work beers (of which there were lots) I sat down with orange post-it notes and pen in hand and decided on cooking/baking that I was willing to embark upon this weekend.

The following recipes are neither of them difficult nor tedious – they just require some waiting around. This is why they are ideal weekend activities. During the week I wouldn’t want to wait 45 mins for something between creation and consumption.

First on my to do list primarily because I had run out of it was the infamous chilli jam:

I have put the recipe on a previous post but here are some photos taken during the production of this batch.

You have got to take my word for it, please believe me; red flecked and fiery this chilli jam is addictive. It makes for complsive eating as you convince yourself that you need that extra chunk of cheese or slice of cold meat drizzled with sweet chilli. It is so easy to make it is a shame not more people try it. All I really need to do here is buy smaller Killner jars and hand out to friends and family, as 1500mls of chilli jam is clearly too much for me. Any takers?

Whilst my preserve cooled, I started on my Saturday night staple Pepperoni Pizza:

I use a very basic bread recipe taken from Jamie Oliver which I have jiggled slightly.

1st: I pour out my bread flour direct onto my granite worktop and mix with lukewarm water, dried yeast, salt and honey. NB: Yeast is a microorganism. Hot water will denature the yeast and it will not make your dough rise (that’s enough science for now.)

2nd: Once the flour has absorbed the liquid I start using my hands to bring the mixture together. At this moment I start kneading the dough.

Kneading: This is the process whereby you use the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you, fold the dough over, rotate and repeat until the dough becomes elastic and smooth.

3rd: I then place this dough ball into a bowl and cover with a tea-cloth to prove. It is this proving that makes the dough rise and fill up with pockets of carbon dioxide gas making for a light and fluffy dough.

After ~45 mins I knock the dough back and start rolling out and assembling my pizza.

I make this pizza so often that I don’t weigh the ingredients. Everything is by eye. My two rules are: how big a pizza am I going to able to consume and how big my oven is!

“For me it is about the feel of the dough under my hands”

If with every push of the heel of my hand I feel the dough is dry and flaky I wet my hands in tepid water and continue. If alternatively it is too moist and not taking the force I add more flour. Once the dough becomes as warm as flesh, it is ready to rest in a warm place to allow the yeast to work its magic.

Fresh parmesan grated over and topped with rocket leaves. Drizzled with olive oil and tobasco sauce at the ready.

I always eat my pizza off the board.