home-made blackberry jam

24 Oct 2016

I think I've finally worked out the best way to bake bread in my new oven so to put my theory to the test I made these sourdough fruit buns. Once they were underway, I decided that I needed to serve them with blackberry jam.

Now I didn't have any blackberry jam in my pantry just plum jam. As far as I know there is nothing wrong with the plum jam, I just wanted blackberry jam.

It's not even blackberry season in Sydney but I knew I had a packet of frozen berries in my deep freeze. I had sugar, lemons, vanilla bean and a few spare jars so off to the kitchen I went to make some jam. 

I take pleasure from the knowledge that if I need to bake bread or make jam, as long as I have the ingredients in the house, I can.

I used one of my Le Creuset pans in which I both preheated the sugar and made the jam. Preheating the sugar really speeds up the process and the jam was made in just over 20 minutes. You don't really need any special equipment to make jam but I've found a thermometer an invaluable item. I can't tell you how many pots of inedible fruit toffee I made in the past before I bought one. It doesn't tell you if the jam is ready but it tells you when it's time to test the setting point. 

If you too would like to make jam, you can and here's the recipe for you. As always I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Blackberry Jam (adapted this recipe) Makes two 500ml jars 

2½ cups granulated white sugar  
1 lemon juiced, seeds reserved  
825g fresh or frozen blackberries 
1 vanilla pod  

To sterilize jars, wash in hot soapy water and rinse. Place the jars and lids in a deep saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring water to the boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and boil for 10 minutes. Line a baking tray with paper towel. Remove the jars using metal tongs and allow to air dry or dry with a clean paper towel.  

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Place the sugar on an oven tray and warm the sugar for 15 minutes. Meanwhile place a saucer in the freezer to test the jam’s setting point.  

Place the lemon seeds in a small piece of muslin and tie with kitchen string to secure. Combine the blackberries, lemon juice, lemon seeds, the vanilla pod and sugar in a shallow saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolvesBring to the boil stirring occasionally for minutes to allow the berries to soften before coarsely mashing the fruit with a potato masher. Continue to cook for a further 15 minutes or until jam has reached it's  setting point ~ 105ºC. To test when the jam is set, remove the jam from the heat and place a spoonful of hot jam onto the chilled saucer. Return to the freezer for 1 minute. Run your finger through the jam to test if it wrinkles and jells. If it doesn't, return to the heat for a further 5 minutes then repeat the test. 

Remove the lemon seeds and vanilla pod from the jam. Discard the lemon seeds but the vanilla pod can be washed, dried and reused. Take the jam from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or 2 before spooning the hot jam evenly among the sterilized jars. Seal immediately then turn the jars upside down for 2 minutes before turning upright. Set the jam aside to cool completely before labelling and dating.  

I now have 2 pots of home-made blackberry jam in my pantry. The jam is lovely and dark, a bit runny and very delicious.

Happy jam making,

Bye for now,



a brisbane wander

20 Oct 2016

I spent most of last week visiting my old home town of Brisbane.

I decided to go into the city on Friday to do some shopping and before the shops opened, I walked to the City Botanic Gardens to see if 
the jacarandas were in bloom. 

I did a big circuit of the city, finding this intriguing alleyway on my way to the gardens. Inner city bars and coffee shops in Brisbane - that I don't remember.

Eventually I found my way to QUT and Parliament House, where I knew I'd find some majestic old jacaranda trees.

It must be 20 years since my last visit to the gardens to attend a friend's wedding. Some parts of the gardens I remembered whilst other parts were all new to me.

It wasn't the brightest of days but I wanted a photo of Brisbane's iconic Story Bridge.

I found this beautiful fountain next to the bamboo grove. I can vaguely recall the bamboo grove but I really don't remember the fountain.

A close-up of the Walter Hill fountain.

I found myself near the ornamental pond where I found a family of lizards sunning themselves. All ran away when they heard my rustling except for this handsome specimen.

I found this beautiful doorway on Edward Street on my way back to the shops.

I really enjoyed reacquainting myself with some of my old haunts. I hope you enjoyed my little wander through the streets of Brisbane.

Bye for now, 


apricot, cinnamon and almond biscotti

17 Oct 2016

I received a copy of Tasting Rome by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill just before I went on my holidays way back in June. It's a lovely looking book and I've been dying to try out some of the recipes but just haven't had the time. Last weekend the biscuit tin was empty so I decided to make some biscotti.

I make biscotti quite often because most recipes don't contain any additional fats and they last for ages. I'm also a 'dunker' and love having something I can dip into my cup of tea.

I particularly wanted to combine apricots with almonds so I used one of the recipes from the book as my inspiration, adapted a recipe I use all the time and went from there.

I halved the recipe as most biscotti recipes make a huge amount and I knew I was heading out of town for the week and I couldn't bear the thought of all those lonely biscotti sitting in the tin. 

For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Dunking, you see I told you I just can't help myself.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes 2 dozen biscotti.

Apricot Cinnamon and Almond Biscotti 
1¼ cups plain flour 
½ cup caster sugar 
tbl light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp baking powder 
pinch bicarbonate soda
1 tsp finely grated orange rind 
 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
⅔ cup toasted whole almonds 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
2 eggs
a little milk

Preheat oven to 170°C/325°F. Line a baking tray with baking paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, mix together the flour, the sugars, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Add the orange rind, the dried apricots and almonds.  

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract. Gradually pour most of the egg mixture into the dry ingredients (you'll need a little of the egg mixture to glaze the biscotti). Mix with the dough hook for 1-2 minutes until a sticky dough forms. 

Lightly moisten your hands with cold water to prevent the dough from sticking to them then shape the dough into a flattened log 12 inches long by 2½ inches wide by 1 inch high. Add a dash of milk to the remaining egg mixture and lightly brush over the biscotti dough.

Bake the biscotti in the preheated oven until it’s dry to the touch and firm in the centre, about 30 minutes. The log will spread and may crack slightly on top. Transfer the log to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. The log will still be slightly warm to the touch. 

Carefully transfer the log to a cutting board and using a serrated knife, cut the log crosswise on the diagonal into slices 1 cm inch wide. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the lined baking tray, placing them close together but not touching. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the biscotti. Continue to bake until dry and crisp for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the biscotti to wire racks to cool completely.

Store the biscotti in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks, if they last that long. 

See you all again next week.

Bye for now,


in the garden - dungog

12 Oct 2016

Now I live in an apartment in Sydney with a view over a large backyard which consists mainly of lawn, 2 Hills Hoists, some established trees and at the moment, lots of Clivia in flower. I also have a glimpse of Bondi Beach from my balcony so I'm not complaining but...

During the Labor Day Long Weekend I took the opportunity to drive up to visit Farmer Andrew in Dungog. Farmer Andrew's house in Dungog has a very large garden with lots of fruit trees and as it's spring, the garden is in bloom. 

I love wandering around his garden camera in hand seeing what's come into flower since my last visit.

I found the nectarine tree covered in blossoms and if you look closely you can see a few little nectarines have formed.

This mysterious and still to be identified tree was in flower again and covered with bees going mad for its nectar.

I thought I might have been too late to catch the wisteria but it was still in flower.

Some of the prettiness I found in the garden.

The garden was heavy with the scent of these beautiful roses.

A final shot of Farmer Andrew's garden before I close here.

See you all again soon,


pecan pie cake(s)

10 Oct 2016

It's not autumn here in Sydney by any means, in fact the weather has been more summer than spring. However most people I follow on instagram live in the Northern hemisphere and their feeds are filled with photos of the changing seasons.

With that thought in mind I made something very autumnal during the Long Weekend, which I thought would be perfect for Thanksgiving. It's a cross between a pecan pie and a cake and I found the original recipe in the August 10-16 2016 issue of the Brisbane News. 

The original recipe suggested making mini loaf cakes or muffins but I decided to bake the cake in a pie tin. I covered the holes with baking paper to prevent any leakage. I had a little leftover cake mixture so I made a little cake as well, just for the cook. 

The recipe is designed to be served with caramel sauce so I used my go-to recipe from Belinda Jeffery with the addition of a touch of sea salt.

cake itself is nice and moist but barely sweet so if you're planning to serve it without the caramel sauce I would add a little more brown sugar to the cake, maybe an extra ¼ - ⅓ cup.

Here's the recipe for you adapted just a little from a recipe by Caroline Jones of Skipping Girls Cafe in Brisbane. I found the recipe in the Brisbane News August 10-16 2016 issue.  For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Pecan ‘Pie’ Cakes (makes 8 cakes or one 9 inch pie)
150g unsalted butter, softened
180g (1 cup) brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g (⅔ cup) self raising flour 
150g pecans, processed to a rough meal

Crumble Topping
80g pecans, roughly chopped
60g plain flour
50g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter, softened

Belinda Jeffery's Caramel Sauce
½ cup cream
110g firmly packed soft brown sugar
35g caster sugar
30ml maple syrup
30ml golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt

To make the caramel sauce, put all the ingredients except the sea salt into a smallish, heavy-based saucepan. Sit the pan over high heat and stir the mixture just until the sugar dissolves, then stop stirring and bring it to the boil. Let it bubble rapidly until a sugar thermometer registers 108°C. Take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool for at least 20 minutes then add a pinch of sea salt to balance out the sweetness. You can use the sauce warm, or store it in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks. It tends to separate a little when it’s cold, but just give it a good stir and it comes back together. Makes about a cup.

Preheat oven to 170°C, conventional. Grease, flour and line 8 mini loaf tins or muffin tins or the base of a 9 inch pie plate. In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until pale and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl intermittently. Beat in the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract. Remove the bowl from the stand and use a wooden spoon to fold through the flour and pecan meal until evenly combined and then spoon into the prepared tin(s).

To make the topping, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and rub between your fingertips to combine. Sprinkle the crumbly topping over the mini cakes or pie and bake for 15-20 minutes for the small cakes or 40 minutes for the pie or until a skewer when inserted, comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin(s) for several minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Cool slightly before serving topped with cream and caramel sauce.

Next time I wouldn't decorate the cake with extra pecans as they got a little too sunburnt in my brother's oven.

In a complete coincidence I discovered today is Thanksgiving in Canada so happy thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends.

Until next time,


shopshoot - the lost and found department

5 Oct 2016

Here's something you've not seen on the blog for a while, a Sydney shopshoot. There have been some health issues with my family the past year, so every 6 weeks I fly to Brisbane for a few days. It means I have less free time on my hands to do anything let alone shoot shops.

Roaming through instagram a few months back I noticed quite a few references to Silvia from The Lost and Found Department. The Lost and Found Department looked like a shop filled with the kind of goodies I'd like to buy so I checked where it was; decided to clear one Saturday morning, took along my as yet unspent birthday money and headed over to Artarmon. 

I have a bit of a thing for succulents and green demijohn bottles so look at what greeted me on my arrival. Come inside with me.

The shop is a bit of a treasure trove, filled with everything.

I found antique wares, linen, garden supplies, gifts, copper goods, ceramics and even a chandelier.

I'm not sure why that beautiful antique platter didn't come home with me. I liked it so much I photographed it twice!

As you can see, you can buy just about everything at The Lost and Found Department. I think I've spied a potential Christmas gift or two.

I came home with a little tarnished jelly mould and a beautiful sharp Pallarès kitchen knife, which has already become my go-to knife.

Many thanks to Silvia for letting me roam around her lovely shop. If you'd like to visit, you can find The Lost + Found Dept at 81 Dickson Avenue in the Sydney suburb of Artarmon.

See you all again next week,

Bye for now,


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