Tag Archives: Soda bread

Plum Jam – A Sweet Treat

“Hold your Plums…….. And make some Jam”

I came home last week to a rather handsome but somewhat surprising sight. A huge soggy cardboard box of what turned out to be Victoria Plums. Evidently during a recent alcohol infused camping trip I had egged on fellow outdoor chum Keith that I would have all the plums he could muster from his new back garden. So of I went, a plum crumble, stewed plums and cream and finally a couple of batches of plum jam. I’ve only ever made marmalade (see link) but never made jam so the challenge was set. A quick flick on the Country Life website sent me to the following instructions. The result was rather wonderful. 1kg of fruit produced about four jars of the jewelled stickiness. The process is simple and the results seemingly easy to replicate. As a bonus it goes great with my soda bread recipe here.

  •  Ingredients
  • 1 kilo freshly picked plums (halved and stoned)
  • 225 mls water
  • 700 grams caster sugar


Simmer the plums over a mid heat for 20 minutes until the plums are soft and the skin has started to loosen. Make sure you put the water in as well. You don’t want your plums to catch on the hot pan. You’ll end up scraping them with a Brillo pad or the back of a knife!

The plums getting stoned and halved

The plums getting stoned and halved

Whilst this is simmering pop the sugar into the oven to heat up, this will prevent it from crystallising when you add it to the plums. I missed this step one time and it didn’t seem to have any noticeable effect.

After simmering add the caster sugar and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved completely. It is very important that no sugar crystals are left in the jam. You can test this by coating the back of a wooden spoon with the mixture, you will be able to see if the sugar has not dissolved.

Turn the heat up and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. I had it on a ‘rolling boil’ so,it wouldn’t boil over. Spoon a little jam onto a cold plate and when the jam cools, push with your finger to see if a crinkly skin has formed, this means it has set, if not, just continue boiling.

Whilst the jam is boiling, don’t be put off by the scum which may appear, a small amount of butter added to the cooling mixture will get rid of most of it. You can skim any remaining off with a spoon.

Testing testing

Testing testing

Leave to cool for 15minutes and pour into hot sterilised jars. Cover with a waxed disk and screw the lid on tightly.

Tip: a simple way to sterilise jars, pour a small amount of water into the jars and boil in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

Place your jams in the larder for a taste of summer on a winter morning.

The final result

The final result

Read more at http://www.countrylife.co.uk/news/country-news/how-to-make-plum-jam#0FFdGBKdcqz2ZeBY.99



Soda Bread – Easy Bread in an hour

“Easy, quick, tasty bread….anyone can do it”

I love bread, but the anti carb Gestapo tend to steer me away from it. It’s become a rare treat! Still every now and again I reach for this old favourite that I first saw Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall do on one of his River cottage programmes. This soda bread recipe is fail safe, always works and I vary it for good measure. The recipe makes a decent medium loaf which me and the flame can demolish over a weekend.

* 500g plain flour (I sometimes do 250g whole meal, 250g plain)

* 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

* 1 tsp fine sea salt * Approx. 400ml buttermilk or live yoghurt (I just use Greek low fat yoghurt, seems to work!)

* A little milk, if necessary

For a variation, I add various type of seeds to the dry mix. A tsp of fennel gives good flavour, but don’t overdue it. I’ve even added dry herbs which doesn’t seem to upset things.

1. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yoghurt, stirring as you go. If necessary, add a tablespoon or two of milk to bring the mixture together; it should form a soft dough, just this side of sticky. It is quite claggy and sticks to your fingers.

Mixing the stuff
Mixing the stuff
Told you it was easy
Told you it was easy

2. Tip it out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly for about a minute, just long enough to pull it together into a loose ball but no longer – you need to get it into the oven while the bicarb is still doing its stuff. You’re not looking for the kind of smooth, elastic dough you’d get with a yeast-based bread.

3. Put the round of dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and dust generously with flour. Mark a deep cross in it with a sharp, serrated knife, cutting about two-thirds of the way through the loaf. Put it in an oven preheated to 200oC/gas mark 6 and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

The end result
The end result

4. Cool on a wire rack if you like a crunchy crust, or wrap in a clean tea towel if you prefer a soft crust. Soda bread is best eaten while still warm, spread with salty butter and/or a dollop of your favourite jam. But if you have some left over the next day, it makes great toast.

Variation: I add seeds to the dry mix. A suggestion is to mix together 2 tablespoons each of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, poppy and linseeds, plus 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds; set aside. Follow the main recipe but use half white flour and half wholemeal flour. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the seeds to the dry ingredients before proceeding as above. After cutting a cross in the top of the loaf, brush it with a little buttermilk or ordinary milk and sprinkle with the remaining seeds. Bake at 200oC/gas mark 6 for 40–45 minutes.

The original recipe was taken from http://www.rivercottage.net