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Plum Jam

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Ingredients

  • 2 kg red-fleshed plums such as Omega
  • 50ml water
  • 1.8kg granulated sugar



Method

  1. Wash plums, cut in half and remove stones. Put chopped plums in a preserving pan with water (the water stops the fruit sticking until it oozes juice). Set pan over a medium heat and slowly bring fruit to a bubble. Lower heat and cook at a gentle bubble for 30-40 minutes, stirring often, until fruit has broken down and liquid content has reduced by about one-third.
  2. Preheat oven to 50°C. Tip sugar into a large clean roasting tin and place in oven to warm. When fruit is ready, tip in sugar, and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon until dissolved. Warm a sugar thermometer in a jug of hottish water, shake dry and insert into jam. Let jam bubble away for about 10 minutes, or until it reaches 104°C – the setting point for jam; don’t stir during this process. Immediately turn off the heat and quickly skim off any bubbly scum from the top.
  3. Have warm sterilised jars ready either on a wooden board or double thickness of newspaper. Pour jam into jars – this is easily done using a jam jar funnel. Wipe rims of jars with a clean hot cloth, put lids on jars and leave jam to cool. When jars are cool, wipe clean with a damp cloth, then polish with a dry cloth and adhere labels.

View the recipe here.

Vietnamese Mint

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Vietnamese mint smells similar to Thai basil but it is far more pungent with a hot bite and slight numbing character and a strong alkalinity.

Also known as hot mint, it is the leaf to use in Malaysian laksa soups, and is often simply known as laksa leaf. It’s also used as a salad ingredient, and cooked dishes.

The pointed leaves are often marked with burgundy or purple-brown coloured smudges near the leaf base. It’s easy to grow and is best kept contained in a pot. Start it off as described above in Thai Basil. It will dry out and whither if it is not kept watered.

Thai Basil

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Thai basil is more pungent than regular sweet basil with a pronounced liquorice taste. It leaves the breath fresh and slightly sweet. The smell of the crushed leaves is a mix of lime, cinnamon, rubber and cloves. It’s used in salads and cooked dishes.

The stems of the plant are green, becoming purple towards the tips and it sports attractive edible purple, mauve or white flowers.

It’s an easy herb to grow. Put a thick stem in cold water and leave in a cool place for a few days until it starts to show signs of small white roots. Transfer it to a pot of soil and place it in a semi-shaded place. Water regularly, although it is fairly hardy.

Avocados

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

You cannot tell by looking at the avocado whether it is ripe to eat. You must give it the gentlest squeeze to check whether the flesh just moves under the skin. When you pick it up, it snuggles into the palm of your hand. It’s as if it wants to be taken home to your place. When you hold a perfect specimen in your hand, it’s hard to resist it.

There is a company called Avocado To You that specializes in growing prime organic fruit and sending it around NZ while it is still unripe. You then ripen the fruit naturally in a fruit bowl at room temperature and so avoid buying avocados that have been squeezed to death in a supermarket, or dumped into a vegetable bin and bruised. The quality of the fruit is extraordinary. Without fail each cosseted avocado will be perfect!

When overripe, the avocado flesh turns to mush and is often dark in places. But unripe avocados are not pleasant to eat, either. Leaving them to ripen at room temperature is the way to do it, and you can speed this up by putting them in a brown paper bag with another piece of fruit which gives off ethylene gas, such as a ripening apple or banana. It is best not to refrigerate them until they are nearly ripe though, as chilling can inhibit ripening.

Avocado is bland to taste, possessing a mild nuttiness, but this blandness is what makes it so good as a food. Citrus flavors give it a bit of a wake-up, as does salt, and its delicacy is a perfect match for seafood, especially prawns, crab, crayfish and scampi.

Avocados blow apart any theory that food which feels smooth and velvety in the mouth must be wickedly rich and bad for you. While it’s true that avocados contain about 20% fat, you can relax and gobble it up without too much guilt because it is monounsaturated. In short, that is good fat! And there’s more good news -nutritional experts have labeled the avocado “nutrient-dense”. To qualify, a food must provide at least four essential nutrients in the same percentage as the calories it supplies. Avocados provide five essential nutrients in this proportion: Vitamins A, B6, C, folic acid and the mineral copper. They are a good source of energy, are easily digested (and therefore suitable for babies), and their high protein content makes them a valuable food for vegetarians. Half an avocado provides about the same amount of calories as 25g butter (180 calories).