Thursday, 30 April 2015

Rhubarb, Ginger and Star Anise Jam

As with most of my jams, this particular beast was made on an unplanned whim, after finding a packet of gloriously pink Yorkshire rhubarb reduced to a pound, then being super busy over the weekend it kinda got forgotten… and then I picked up 4 bramley apples a few days later for a mere 25p I just knew it had to be jam time! My previous batch of Rhubarb jam, involving ginger was really quite delicious and well received but I fancied a twist this time and a few weeks ago I bought, also on a fairly random whim a bag of Star Anise, which are gorgeously scented dark little star like spices, think Chinese 5 spice, then as the name suggests, Aniseed but not quite into liquorice territory.

Its a fairly thick jam - possibly a little too thick in after thought but that is some of my inexperience of using preserving sugar! I am still ploughing through some of the 4kg I bought of it last year reduced to clear!

Makes 3 medium sized jars
Special Equipment - preferably a jam thermometer


560g preserving sugar
300g diced rhubarb
One large bramley apple
2 balls stem ginger
2 star anise

Peel and dice the apple into small chunks. Dice the rhubarb into 1 cm chunks. Finely chop the ginger.

Place everything in a large, heavy based saucepan, cover and bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until it reaches a temperature of 105o, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, dig out the star anise and blend too make a smoother jam, if required.

Pour into sterilised jars and seal. I use wax paper discs but its honestly not the end of the world if you don't have any. Keep refrigerated on opening.

Overall it was a mixed result - me and the boyfriend really liked the flavour, though the star anise was confusing to my dad and not for him, though that in itself was a bonus as it made me feel less guilty as I didn't have a jar to spare for him, as one was promised to my boss (returned in her jar which had her marmalade in to me last time) and as you will notice on one of the jars - its already promised to my auntie!

Just in the nick of time I am sending my jam into The Great British Rhubarb Round-Up from Farmersgirl Kitchen and Lavender & Lovage:

Monday, 27 April 2015

Meal Planning Monday

Sorry I am a bad blogger. I just really have lacked motivation over the past few months, my meal planning has been done sporadically often without rhyme, or reason and overall I suppose, that actually I am not that sorry. Having a semi on/off break has been helpful in working out what actually I want from life, finding that perfect balance, is well never possible as I believe perfection often results in ruin and drives my long standing anxiety round the bend and back again. In some ways I am no closer to finding what makes me tick but one thing that is important is spending quality time with loved ones, that's what makes my heart sing anyway!

Life has been busy, we are currently landscaping my mums garden, which is finally taking shape after what seems like forever and its been playing havoc with my body but thanks to mass quantities of pain killers its made it all worthwhile! Sunshine on my skin, and feeling like I have made a difference is like a soothing balm to my soul. We have a new fridge freezer, which is pretty exciting as I can take more advantage of reductions and I've had some proper bargains squirreled away! 

Overall though I've still been cooking, just not been as actively blogging/ tweeting/ instagrammaing etc, as whilst naughty finger was healing it was somewhat a nightmare, yet alone trying to photograph and scribble down on top of the hassle! Fortunately its nearly back to normal and I can just about type with it, not waving in the air like some crazy flag! 

So this week I have made a proper plan, Thursdays meal is questionable as Cricket season has started, and therefore I am now billy no mates most weekends and the odd Thursday too, I see a lot of cheese and mushroom dishes in my future!

Tonight we had this fridge surprise - Aubergine and Polish sausage and rice - basically leftover rice, fried with aubergine chunks, Polish salami and tomatoes, some leftover salsa formed the sauce diluted down:

Bacon and cheese pasta bake, broccoli 
Beef burgers, sweet potato wedges, carrot pea mix 
Tuna meatballs with orzo
Chicken, coconut and green bean curry, rice 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Baked Coley with Parma Ham

For the more avid reader....this dish actually was made last year but was somehow relegated and I stumbled across it lurking in the bottom of my word document for unfinished blog posts! Now its starting to get more summery, I am thinking more summery food and I remembered how easy, and delicious this dish was! Perfect for an easy summer nights meal! I think the night it was made, we had been for a long, leisurely walk around the grounds of nearby parkland and moaning about the inevitable midges and bugs of balmy evenings!

Blogging has been tough this past month, I have been purposely neglecting my internet presence, and trying to reconnect with real life in a hope to understand why I go through such bad bouts of low mood etc...making sure I am not just using the blog etc as escapism... that combined with deciding to come off virtually all my prescription meds and recovering from my mangled index finger has almost driven me to the edge of giving up the blog. The dressing is finally off, though I have numbness and a fear every time I pick up my chef's knife! Giving up though is not an easy decision, after over 8 years of doing it! I love blogging, connecting with others but sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed with it all, all the talk of PA, DA, SEO etc just phases me to the point of erm, should I retire?! Anyway, do please bear with my wobbly moments!

This dish is so easy it takes moments to throw together, and looks like you have made a bit of an effort! We originally had this with creamed spinach and jacket potato mash - can't go wrong really with its accompaniments but something green always complements fish very well!

Serves 2

2 Coley fillets
4 slices parma ham
6 halved cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp grated parmesan
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Line a baking tray with foil and grease lightly. Pre-heat oven to 200o

Wrap the parma ham around the coley fillets, tucking the seam underneath. Place in the baking tray,  season with salt and pepper, then scatter over the tomatoes and the parmesan. Drizzle with a little oil and bake for roughly 18-20 minutes, or until the fish has cooked through.

The flavours work so well together, Coley is a fairly light, inoffensive tastying fish and the Parma ham gives it a lovely, slightly salty tasting boost!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Cheesy Sausage and Spaghetti Hoop Bake

Many apologies for the tumbleweed gathering on my blog of late! Its been a funny few months, with family being poorly I have been prioritising my time, also I've been spending time focusing also on me, following my pain management program I've found myself questioning a lot of what I do, how and why.... Plus I decided I'd had enough of the side effects for one of the meds for my Fibromyalgia and I have been weaning down slowly, which apart the current insomnia phase its been overall worthwhile!

Also managing to slice through my left index finger 3 weeks ago really has not helped with blogging in general! Typing's a nightmare, yet alone cooking and pretty much all my meal planning went out of the window and whilst there has been some pretty decent meals...they have been few and far between! On the plus side we have been busy perfecting making calamari!

Pasta bakes are one of my go to dishes - it feeds us for days and I had made this dish at the beginning of March we had family over, and it also gave us lovely leftovers too! Pasta hoops or as they are better known - spaghetti hoops - are one of my favourite pasta shapes and writing this now reminds me I must pick some up some more next time I am in town! This is by all means not my first dish with hoops - you can see here my other Spicy Toasted Cauliflower Spaghetti Hoops.

Its a bit of a naughty ingredient but I used Garlic Sausage in this, which I get in the Polish aisle - its garlicky but without being over powering and it keeps for ages before being opened, so I often keep a pack or two stashed away in the fridge for impromptu dinners! I also used some ready diced onion, its super lazy but when tight for time its a handy cheat! You might also spot there is no thickening agent - however 'loose' it might look let the oven do its magic- the al dente pasta will soon devour any excess!

Sizing wise - I used my large rectangular traybake tin for this- which worked perfectly and roughly feeds 6 to 8 people, depending on your appetites of course!


300g pasta hoops, boiled as per packet instructions, until al dente
2 sticks of finely chopped celery
200g garlic sausage, chopped into 1/2 cm chunks
1 red pepper, diced
2 tbsp finely chopped onion
400ml light vegetable stock
200ml milk
1 heaped tbsp rosemary, leaves finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
100g grated extra mature cheddae
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp olive oil


1) Heat the oil in a large saute pan, fry the onion gently then add the celery and pepper, fry for about 5 minutes or until softened, then add the sausage until lightly browned, stirring regularly.

2) Add the tomato puree and rosemary to the pan, fry for a minute then add a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta water to loosen, then pour in the milk and stock, bring to the boil.

Pre-heat oven to 200o.

3) Drain the pasta and add to the pan, season to taste, then transfer into a dish large enough to hold it all!

4) Top with the grated cheese and scatter over the cherry tomatoes. Put in the oven, near the top and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden, bubbling and crispy.

When cooked and all lovely looking, serve with buttered green vegetables:

Enjoy! Its a real crowd pleasing family meal and proper comfort food!

As my pasta bake had three vegetables in it, along with on the side I am sending my dish over to this months Extra Veg Challenge - being hosted by Jo's Kitchen, which was originally set up by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy Food for Families

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