Tag Archives: Strawberry

Leftover champagne? Say what?

Woah, 2013 needs to slow down.  I can’t quite believe that it’s already been a whole two weeks since Kat and I opened the fridge on New Year’s Day and were greeted by a rather astonishing sight: an unfinished bottle of champagne.  The concept of leftover champagne may well be foreign to you – indeed it’s an incredibly rare event when I’m involved (assuming it isn’t a case (badum-tschhhh!) of bad champagne…).  So.  What does one do with champagne leftovers?  Despite the teaspoon trick (popping a teaspoon handle down in the bottle which is magically supposed to keep most of the bubbles in, though I’m not sure how), it wasn’t in the bubbliest state so drinking it wasn’t going to be ideal.

This.  This is what you do with leftover champagne…

Baking with SpiritLuckily, the alcohol of choice for this month’s Baking with Spirit challenge is “champagne” – perfect, although that doesn’t really help in choose what exactly to make.  I feel a little guilty for missing last month’s Baking with Spirit challenge (here’s the round-up) since I went on holiday and generally ran out of time, so I wanted to make something awesome to make up for it, plus it’s also Janine’s birthday month.  That plan failed a little because after much deliberation, we settled on something not particularly original and which may seem a bit of a cop-out, but it’s so delicious that I do hope Janine will forgive me…

Oh look, a champagne cork crept into the photo and everything…

It is, of course, summer here in NZ, and summer means summer berries.  Yay!  Originally we wanted to honour the Kir Royale by poaching some blackcurrants in a champagne syrup (in case you’re not familiar with Kir Royale, it consists of crème de cassis – blackcurrant liqueur – and champagne).  However, we couldn’t find any blackcurrants – I wonder if they’re only available at farmers’ markets or at pick-your-owns.  So our idea morphed into poaching a combination of summer berries in a Kir Royale syrup.  Oh hey there decadence, how you doing?  The champagne is quite a subtle taste, coming through at the start and then turning into a deliciously fruity flavour.

Looks like decadence invited itself to this party

Simple and in SeasonI have a little confession though.  Even though summer berries are in season, we actually used a frozen summer berry mix.  Shock horror, I know, but let me explain.  For a start, I needed to create a bit of space in my freezer, but more importantly, not all of the summer berries in the mix are readily available to buy fresh – as well as the mysterious lack of blackcurrants, I’ve never seen fresh boysenberries, for example.  I’m not sure why that is because the berry mix is from a NZ farm, so they are definitely grown here.  Luckily this dessert works perfectly whether you use fresh or frozen berries.  I’m going to be cheeky and still submit this to Simple and in Season, hosted by Lavender and Lovage this month, since the berries are in season, and I’d have used fresh if I could find them all.  I might be bending the rules a little bit, so I’m just going to smile, wave and move on swiftly to the actual recipe.

Langues de chat make the perfect accompaniment for this general deliciousness

Kir Royale-poached summer berries

Serves 2
Recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

You can use fresh or frozen berries for this dessert, but if using frozen berries, defrost them in advance and make sure to keep the juice.  You can use berries in whatever combination you like – although definitely make sure to try and get blackcurrants in there.  The dessert is best served with little biscuits to nibble on alongside (although it won’t necessarily be dairy-, egg- and gluten-free anymore) – langues de chat would work perfectly – and serving it in fancy glasses such as champagne saucers or martini glasses really dresses it up.  I sprinkled a bit of raw sugar crystals over the top but most of them ended up dissolving into the poaching liquid, so that ended up being a bit pointless.  If you have any leftover syrup, keep it in the fridge and use it to drizzle over icecream or sorbets.

Ingredients

250g mixed summer berries (blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
250g caster sugar
250ml champagne
1 tsp crème de cassis
Langues de chat or other little biscuits, to serve

Directions

1.  Add the sugar, champagne, crème de cassis and 350ml water to a medium saucepan (make sure that it’ll be large enough to fit all the fruit as well) and bring to the boil.

2.  Turn down the heat, and add the fruit (and any juice if using defrosted fruit).  Simmer for about 10-15 mins.

3.  Remove the fruit into a serving bowls or individual dishes or glasses.  Return the poaching liquid to the heat and simmer down until syrupy and reduced by half.  Spoon over the top of the fruit and serve with little biscuits on the side.

Enjoy!

Always a good sign.

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Sunday Smiles: “We might fail at science, but we’re pretty good at baking”

I feel the news this week has almost entirely been dominated by Hurricane Sandy – I hope that if any of you or your families live in affected areas, you made it through alright.  Then as Sandy blew itself out, there was the news that CCAMLR has failed to come to a consensus about protecting parts of the Ross Sea.  I haven’t read the full details yet, but I doubt they’ll reveal anything particularly positive about the situation.  Not a particularly uplifting week in the news department, really (but then when is it ever?).

Hopefully to cheer us all up, on to this week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • The week started off with a Baking Competition within the School of Biology.  The theme was ‘Health & Safety’ and they managed to ambush us with a H&S lecture after having lured most of the school up to the tea room with the promise of baked goods – I can’t believe that none of us saw that coming.  We had to sit through the lecture to find out who the winners were.  The Marine Lab cleaned up two of the three available prizes: one of the technicians won “Best Looking” for her amazing marine-themed cake and I won “Best Tasting” with my ‘radioactive’ lemon macarons (I’ll post the recipe soon).  If I’m honest, we didn’t have much competition, but still, yay!  The title of this blog post comes courtesy of my fellow Marine Lab winner.

  • I randomly came across the blog Things I Want To Punch In The Face which basically consists of little rants but written amusingly.  It includes an amusing (and very valid) rant about hurricane names – I couldn’t agree more that Rizzo would be a rather more appropriate name for a destructive hurricane.
  • Last week we had a groan-worthy biology joke, this week we have a punny biology meme featuring… heterozygoats.  Geddit?  (Image source)

  • Speaking of goats, our Spanish labmate told this week that the Spanish Special Forces have a goat as a mascot.  No really, I’m not kidding, and it even has a special little coat.  They’re also clearly in a hurry to get places and march funny (the soldiers, not the goat).
  • This week I ate my first strawberries of the season.  I was too busy savouring them to take a photo – I love strawberries and these were full of flavour.  I’m looking forward to eating many, many more over the next couple of months…
  • I came across this time lapse taken over a three-month holiday in Europe.  It’s incredible and rather enthralling to watch, and quite fun to see if you can recognise where the different places are.
  • I mentioned last week that Wellington airport have put up a giant Gollum in preparation for the release of The Hobbit, Part 1 soon.  Well this week, Air New Zealand has released a new Hobbit-themed safety video on their planes.  It’s totally amazing, but equally rather on the cringe-worthy side.  I can’t actually decide whether amazement or embarrassment wins out.
  • There was a Rose Festival in the Parnell Rose Gardens this weekend.  I’ve mentioned my love of roses on this blog several times, so you won’t be too surprised to hear that I’m totally keen on anything that involves looking at lots of pretty roses (unless it rains, obviously), which is precisely what we did.  I loved it, despite the odd shower.

  • And finally, I’ve also previously mentioned my love of watching fireworks, and it turns out that, although I’m not entirely sure why, Guy Fawkes is a huge deal here.  The whole bonfire thing doesn’t seem to happen and it’s all about fireworks.  From what I understand, it’s the only time of the year that fireworks can be legally sold, so this weekend has been a bit of a firework extravaganza.  In fact, as I’m typing this I can see fireworks being set off from the roof of a nearby apartment block.  Yesterday evening we went to a firework display in Papatoetoe, which was good fun to watch, although it got a little cold waiting around for 3h before they started.

What made you smile this week?

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Sunday Smiles: A last Olympic huzzah!

I spent most of this week rather wiped out from the tummy bug that ambushed me last weekend – an entire day of vomiting and not eating much for two days really does floor you.  I didn’t have enough energy (nor the desire) to cook something more complicated than plain pasta until Tuesday evening, and even then my energy only extended as far as chopping up some kumara and roasting it in the oven… and then adding it to pasta.  Being ill is miserable.  And if I barely had the energy to cook, I certainly didn’t have enough energy to bake.  No baking for an entire week.  Sad times.  Luckily, in an unusual fit of organisation, I had this week’s blog posts prepared, and there were quite a few things that brightened up the week.

Here are my Sunday Smiles for this week:

  • The third season of Downton Abbey has started!  Huzzah!  Yes, it’s rather ridiculous, and yes, some of the plot points are dubious, but it’s utterly addictive and I’m hooked.  I won’t give anything away in case you haven’t watched it, but it looks like Season Three is shaping up to be just as addictive as its predecessors.
  • I’ve heard whispers that strawberries are very nearly in season here…  I’m beyond excited.  I adore strawberries.
  • New Zealand offered the perfect antidote to any Olympics and Paralympics withdrawal symptoms this week with the Gold medal ceremony for Valerie Adams (women’s shot put).  The original winner from Belarus was caught doping, so Valerie Adams, who also won Gold in Beijing, was upgraded from Silver medallist to Gold medallist.  After some delays with getting the Gold medal back (apparently) and further delays whilst Valerie Adams was participating in other competitions, an official medal presentation ceremony was finally held on Wednesday evening here in Auckland.  The Sky Tower was lit in gold for the occasion.

  • But that’s not all.  This was the first ever Olympic Gold medal ceremony to be held on NZ soil, so the Kiwis went all out and ended it with seven minutes of fireworks simultaneously in Auckland and Wellington.  Can you imagine if NZ actually hosted the Olympics?!  It would be amazing.  Not to mention hilarious – my favourite part of the ceremony, which I must admit resembled more of a school prize-giving than the very official London Olympic ceremonies, was the part where the “MC” thanks Auckland’s mayor for having an easier to pronounce name than the Tongan royals present.  I kid you not.  You can watch the ceremony here in case you missed it or just want to listen to Kiwi accents (there are several speeches at the start, so the actual medal presentation part starts around 31:30, and the Auckland fireworks at around 45:00).  I bundled up warm and went down to the Waterfront to watch the fireworks, which were beautiful.

  • On a more sobering note, I heard about Operation Sugar this week, which aims to provide birthday cakes (baked by volunteer bakers) for critically ill children in NZ.  I think this is a fantastic idea, although from what I understand (I need to read the information email properly) cakes need to be able to feed 40 people which might be a little past my abilities, so I’m not sure whether I can really commit yet.  But I absolutely do want to spread the word!!!  So if you’re a baker in NZ and you’re interested, head over to their facebook page for more information.
  • The iPhone 5 and the new iOS release seem to have been the big tech news this week.  I haven’t upgraded to iOS 6 yet (I was going to but then got distracted and forgot about it), but from what I’ve heard the new Apple Maps app is dreadful.  There’s a whole tumblr dedicated to it (of course): The Amazing iOS 6 Maps.  Whilst very amusing, I’m not sure how keen I am to update because I use the Google Maps app a lot.
  • You may have noticed that I have a slight Instagram addiction…  If you also share my over-enthusiasm for Instagram, you might appreciate the Instagram song which Craig sent me this week.
  • And finally, this meme made me laugh about 56 times more than it should have…  Don’t judge my sense of humour.  Thank you Emma for brightening up my week no end – alpaca lunch next time we go for a picnic.  In the meantime, I think I’ll be printing this out on Monday and pinning it next to my desk.  (Not sure of the original source)

What made you smile this week?

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Strawberry & Pimm’s jam

Last week was Graduation Week here in St Andrews (I graduated on Wednesday, which means that, for now at least, I’m suddenly no longer a student – my gosh, how did this happen?!), so things over the last two weeks have been rather on the hectic side.  There’s been a lot of running around, various half-hearted attempts at packing, meeting up with people for one last coffee/game of pool/drink/lunch, etc., a lot of celebrating and many goodbyes.  On top of all of that, my laptop is very rapidly nearing the end of its lifespan, resulting in a lot of frustration whenever I try and write anything up (if you’re familiar with the Blue Screen of Death or the Black Screen of Incomprehensible Scrolling Text, then you’ll know what I mean).  So my rather rambly point is that I’m afraid I’ve neglected my poor blog somewhat, resulting in a slight back-log of recipes, including this lovely jam that I made just over two weeks ago.

Now, I love home-made jam (who doesn’t?!) and it always reminds me of making jam during summer holidays at my French grand-parents house when I was younger using the fruit from their garden.  My French grandma had an ancient (to me) pair of kitchen scales that you had to balance out using weights and so on, and I thought that they were great fun to play with.  So actually, what really happened was that I played with the scales and generally got in the way and probably ate a fair proportion of the fruit, my mum did all the hard work of actually making the jam (stirring, pressing, etc.), my grandma sat at the table and probably told me off for getting in the way and mucking around and occasionally helping my mum, and my grandpa went off gallivanting in the garden.  The end product was jam though, and gosh was it good jam!  Unfortunately, we haven’t made jam since I was about 15 or 16, because my French grandparent’s house has been sold now, and we don’t have a garden in Edinburgh, nor do I have one in St Andrews.  Sad times.

My mum suggested that we make strawberry jam last summer, but I’m not really a huge fan of strawberry jam – I often find it a little too sweet and I’m not too keen on the big lumpy bits that you often get (picky?  Me?), so that didn’t end up happening.  However, we’ve had a lot of really tasty strawberries this year, and when I saw a recipe for strawberry & Pimm’s jam in BBC Good Food, I absolutely had to try it.  Now, I don’t know about you, but in my world (and most of St Andrews) it’s pretty much always Pimm’s o’clock.  Never mind that the recipe was still for strawberry jam, strawberry and Pimm’s is a fabulous combination, and it sounded delicious.  I’m also submitting this recipe to this month’s Simple and in Season blog event, even though I already used strawberries for the same event last month.  But they’re so delicious and still seasonal, so I’m not too bothered!

I won’t lie to you, I was a little bit nervous about making jam by myself – I’ve only ever been involved in making jam when there have been other people around who actually know what they’re doing.  But the recipe looked straightforward and detailed enough, there was no straining fruit through muslin or anything, and I even have a sugar/jam thermometer, so I took advantage of Tesco’s apparent failure to estimate the quantities of strawberries they would sell and snapped up a lot of very tasty strawberries at super-reduced prices.  Win!  The jam turned out to be really quite easy.  Yes, you do have to watch the temperature a bit, and I did think the jam was going to bubble over the top of the pot at one point (it didn’t), but there was nothing especially difficult to do.  Jam-making is as much fun and smells as wonderful as I remember!  And the jam turned out to be rather delicious – the Pimm’s comes as more of a subtle after-taste and also means that the jam isn’t too sweet at all, and I made sure to mash it up a bit at the end to avoid the lumpy bits that I don’t like.  If you’re not keen on having alcohol at breakfast time, this jam would go wonderfully on scones for afternoon tea.  Or served with Pimm’s.  Yummy…

Strawberry & Pimm’s jam

Makes just under 6 x 350g jars
Adapted from BBC Good Food (June 2011)

This is a soft-set jam, presumably mostly as a result of the added Pimm’s and gin.  It is wonderful for breakfast, but would also be delicious on scones with afternoon tea or served with a pitcher of Pimm’s.  To sterilise the jars, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water before placing on a baking tray and placing in an oven on low heat until fully dried (about 10 mins or so).  Apparently choosing just-ripe strawberries will help the jam set, though the ones I used were quite ripe and the jam worked absolutely fine.

Ingredients

1.5 kg strawberries
1 kg jam sugar
2 lemons
1 orange
4 tbsp Pimm’s No. 1 cup
1 tbsp gin

Directions

1.  Place a few saucers in the freezer to be used later (I ended up using 4 or 5).

2.  Hull and halve or quarter the strawberries, depending on how large they are.  Place them in a preserving pan or large pot (the jam will increase in volume when bubbling away, so make sure the strawberries only come half-way up the side of the pot or so).  Using a potato masher, give the strawberries a good mashing until quite juicy (if you like lumpy jam then don’t mash too much).  Stir in the sugar and place the pan over a low flame, stirring occasionally, and taking care that the jam does not boil.

3.  Once all the sugar has dissolved, stir in the juice from the lemons and orange and turn up the heat.  Once a fast boil – 105°C on a preserving thermometer – has been reached, time the jam for 10 mins.  After 10 mins, place 1 tsp of jam onto one of the frozen saucers and place in the fridge (allow the jam to continue on fast boil).  After 1 min in the fridge, push your finger through the jam on the saucer.  If the jam wrinkles (this may sound strange, but you’ll be able to tell exactly what I mean when it happens), then it is ready.  If not, allow the jam to continue on fast boil for a further 2 mins before testing again.  As soon as the jam is ready, remove the pan from the heat.

4.  Allow to cool for 30 mins, then skim away any scum from the top of the jam.  Mash the jam slightly more if necessary (this depends on your taste), before stirring in the Pimm’s and gin.  Ladle the jam into sterilised jars (a jam funnel helps considerably).

Enjoy!

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Breakfast Club #12: Berry crumble bars

I was super-enthusiastic about the theme for this month’s Breakfast Club challenge, which is “Berries,” chosen by Nayna at simply.food.  Along with warm sunshine, summer berries have to be one of my favourite things about summer.  Fife seems to have a lot berry farms, and I think it might be one of the main raspberry-producing areas in the UK – with good reason, because the local raspberries are absolutely scrumptious.  So that’s one of my favourite summer things sorted.  As for sunshine, well, although St Andrews is apparently one of the sunniest spots in the UK, I still feel that the heat of a proper summer is distinctly lacking.  I suppose you can’t have  everything, and it would seem that local, tasty summer berries and a hot, sunny summer are too much to ask for.  So, as a whole bunch of clouds appear out of nowhere and the temperature drops to prove my point, let’s focus on the fruit.

There are so many breakfast possibilities involving berries, and the first that sprang to mind were granola, pancakes or muffins.  I decided that I wanted to try something a little less obvious, particularly since I have time to try things out at the moment (and all those baking supplies that I need to work my way through).  I happened across a recipe for some fruity crumble bars the other day, and not only did they look super tasty but the recipe was easy to adapt depending on whatever fruit you want to use.  So I decided to try the recipe out last night, ready for breakfast this morning.

Since Tesco (my local supermarket) conveniently had a whole bunch of locally-grown berries at half price, I decided to make the crumble bars with a selection of berries.  I picked up some raspberries, blueberries and strawberries (they didn’t have any blackberries sadly) and headed home to attempt the bars.  In a vague attempt to make this slightly healthier, I added some porridge oats to the crumble mixture, which worked nicely, adding a little bit of subtle crunch.  I actually really enjoyed having these for breakfast, they’re filling and tasty and a little different from what I usually tend to eat for breakfast, but they would also work as a post-lunch or mid-afternoon snack if cut into smaller squares, although they’re quite crumbly and not necessarily all that transportable unless in a box.

Berry crumble bars

Makes 12 squares
Adapted from Shop.Cook.Make

You can easily adapt these depending on which fruits you have at home or are in season.  You can also use whichever type of jam you want, and if you really like marmalade, you can also use that (I did, and it was yummy, though make sure to spread it thinly so the bitterness of the peel doesn’t overpower the rest of the bar too much!).  I was worried that keeping them overnight in an air-tight box would make them go a bit soft, but they were absolutely fine.

Ingredients

230g all-purpose flour
50g porridge oats
150g demerrera sugar
225g unsalted butter
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
Pinch salt
Jam of your choice, to spread
200g of mixed fresh berries or fruit

Directions

1.  Line a 19 x 25 cm baking tin with baking parchment (this will make it easier to lift out of the tin when cooled so that it can be cut into squares).  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.

2.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg.  Cut the butter into small cubes and add to a large bowl with the flour, oats, sugar, beaten egg, baking powder, vanilla extract and salt.  Work the ingredients together using your hands to make a lumpy crumbly mixture (don’t worry if you think that the mixture is unlikely to turn into anything resembling the end product, or is a lot more buttery than a normal crumble mixture – this is normal).

3.  Gently press about half of the crumble mixture into the baking tin.  Spread a thin layer of jam/marmalade over the top of the crumble mix, leaving an edge of about 1cm.  Spread the washed and dried fruit (if using strawberries, do chop them up, and rip raspberries or blackberries in half as well) over the top of the jam, and then crumble the rest of the crumble mixture over the top of the fruit.  Don’t press the mixture down, but make sure that it’s more or less evenly spread across the bars.

4.  Bake for about 45 mins, until golden on top.  Allow to cool fully (it will harden up as it cools, which should take about 40-50 mins or so) before lifting out of the tin and slicing into squares.

Enjoy!

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