British Summer ~ Part 3: Classic Strawberry Jam

My first memory of strawberry jam was the sweet jars of sticky spread my Mother made when I was four years old. She used to send me to school with little sandwiches of Cheddar cheese and strawberry jam on white bread. I used to swap one bread slice from the jam sandwich with the plain buttered slice of the cheese sandwich to create a cheese and strawberry jam mash-up. They were amazing.

Strawberry Jam has always been a food staple in many kitchen cupboards, but how many of us realise that it is only made up of strawberries, sugar and a splash of lemon juice? What sweet simplicity in a jar.

2 kg Strawberries
2 kg Granulated Sugar
4 tbsp. lemon juice


Start by preparing your jam jars: Sterilise the jars by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing and letting them drip dry in on a rack in a pre-heated oven on 100ºC.

Now prepare the fruit: Top green heads off the strawberries and hull and halve any large ones. Place them into a large pan with plenty of space and add the lemon juice. Set over the stove on a very low heat to for twenty minutes or until all the fruit are very soft, stirring occasionally to move the strawberries from the bottom. Pour in the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Bring the jam temperature to setting point (105ºC/220F) by increasing the heat to a gentle rolling boil, whilst stirring.

TipIf you do not have a kitchen thermometer, then have a cold saucer to hand. Quickly spoon out a little on to the saucer and after a minute run your finger through the jam. If the syrup wrinkles and your finger leaves a path through it then the jam is ready.

Pour into the jars, and seal tightly. To help with preserving your jam, you can buy cheap jam jar kits. These usually include cut-to-size wax circles to place over the surface of the jam, transparent plastic covers to wrap over the jar top, tied off with an elastic band before you screw on the lid.

Tip: Wet the plastic cover with a clean, damp sponge to allow for good contact and extra elasticity as you pull it over the jar top.

What else? Well, have you heard of the gardening phrase what grows together, goes together? Well it’s true – and if you consider it in jam making, here are some great variations to classic strawberry jam for different uses, during the summer months:

  • Strawberry and Lavender (in season: late June – early August)
  • Strawberry and Rhubarb (in season: April – July)
  • Strawberry and Gooseberry (in season: July – August)
  • Strawberry and Raspberry (in season: July – September)
  • Strawberry and Peach (in season: July – September)
  • Strawberry, Vanilla and Basil (all summer)
  • Strawberry and Mint (all summer)

And what else is there to do with jam? Well those possibilities are infinite:

  • Rice Pudding and jam
  • Strawberry Jam tarts
  • Jam roly-poly
  • Pavlova/Eton Mess
  • Classic Victoria Sponge Sandwich with butter cream and strawberry filling


Toffee Crisps

I remember when sticky toffee rice puff bars first appeared in the shops, complete with cereal branding to grab your attention. At least half the kids in my class had them in their lunch boxes at school. I was about nine years old and no doubt one of many kids who nagged their mothers for this sugary block on the supermarket shelf.

I don’t know why I was so amazed to find this recipe on the desert postcard my Grandmother had kept. It was as if I had assumed that crispy puffed rice cereal did not exist pre-1990’s, let alone without the slogan – snap, crackle and pop. But it did – and instead of referring to them by brand, they were just rice puffs or rice crisps. It is with these that this ridiculously high-sugar, but kids’ delight, snack is made.

My grandmother starts this recipe with ‘a shilling slab of toffee’, which is not the most helpful of measurements in 2012, I have to say. After some reckoning and experimenting, these are the modern measurements I now use.

175g toffee (a slab broken up, or just a bag of toffee pieces)
100g butter (unsalted)
100g caster sugar
150g rice puffs

Melt the toffee with butter and sugar gently in a pan over a low heat. Keep stirring to avoid any sugar burning or catching at the bottom of the pan. Once you have a smooth thick syrupy mixture, pour over the rice puffs in a large bowl and stir, carefully folding the liquid through the rice until everything is coated evenly. Pack it down flat into tin lined with greaseproof paper and chill.

Once set, cut the square into blocks small enough for small hands not to make too much of a mess when eating.

Sweet and Sour Pork & Egg Fried Rice

When it comes to my Mother’s culinary repertoire, this is one of her crowning dishes (and the one my Dad goes on about the most). It’s a much loved family favourite and it always seems to be this special meal that gets cooked whenever there are a million family guests visiting. I won’t deny that it is a timely and excessive recipe but with a bit of easy preparation anyone can get it tasting delicious. Don’t be deterred by the ingredients list – I promise there will be full and happy bellies all round.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
Pork tenderloin (cut into ½ inch chunks)
1/2 cucumber
2 carrot
2 peppers
4 chestnut mushrooms
1 large onion
1 inch of ginger
Whole bulb of garlic
Pineapple chunks
Pineapple juice (if from tin)
1 cup of corn flour
Tomato sauce
Vinegar to taste
Lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
5 small chillis
Salt and pepper to taste
2 spoons soy sauce
2 spoons of sugar
1 tbsp. five spice

Marinate the pork chunks in the fivespice, sherry, soy sauce, lemon zest and lemon juice and corn flour and pepper. Make sure the meat is coated well in the mix to ensure good cornflower coverage. Leave for at least an hour in the fridge but overnight is best.

After the marinating, give it a stir to make sure everything is coated evenly and fry in a pan with 1/2 inch of hot veg oil, carefully turning the chunks only when the underside is browned and the thin corn flour coat has crisped at the edges. Do not over cook the meat.

Drain on some kitchen towel.

Use the left over marinade to make the sauce base. To this add half a cup of tomato sauce, sugar and the pineapple juice (if using tinned pineapple).

In a large wok – fry off the onions, garlic, chills, ginger in a little oil.  To the pan, add all the veg and pineapple, stir-fry briefly then add the left over marinade sauce. As the cornflower begins to thicken the sauce, add a generous glug of vinegar. Give it a taste to make sure the sweet/sour balance is as you like it. Lastly stir in the meat and add chives and parsley chopped to season.

Serve with rice and top with finely sliced spring onions. A chilled Rosé stands up refreshingly well to the sweet and sour without overpowering (like a fuller bodied red) or skewing the flavours (like a dry white).

Steamed rice (let it dry and cool with the lid off before frying)
A dash of Shaoxing rice wine or sherry
1/2 tbsp. light soy sauce
1/2 cup of peas
2 eggs – fried like an omelette, rolled and sliced

Chop the ½ inch of ginger as finely as possible and fry in a pan with some light oil. Add an egg – breaking the yolk into the white. Fry until you have a set omelette that you can roll out and slice into thin strips.

Place the empty pan back over a hot flame, add a little more oil and add your cooked rice. Turning the rice as you go so that it does not stick, add a dash of soy sauce and an equal dash of rice wine or sherry.

When the stain of the soy sauce is mixed through all the rice – add some peas (or any other small veg pieces you’d prefer) and the egg back into the mix. Turn constantly so that the rice does not burn to the pan. When the peas are cooked (which does not take long) the rice is ready to serve.

Coconut Macaroons

I first tasted coconut macaroons in the Christmas Markets in Manchester a few years ago. Although originally macaroons are made with crushed almonds, these coconut versions are actually quite easy to make and are pretty snacks to decorate the table for any sort of party. Or just a comforting sweet bite to bake all for yourself…

200g shredded coconut
150g caster sugar
2 larges egg whites
8 squares of dark chocolate (or milk if you prefer)

Simply mix all three ingredients well in a bowl and chill for fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°. Using an ice-cream scoop, make moulds of coconut half-spheres and space them out on a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper.

Bake for fifteen minutes, until the coconut catches a golden colour. Remove from the oven and whilst cooling, melt a small amount of dark chocolate in a ban-marie. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cooled macaroons – or alternatively, dip half of each macaroon in the chocolate and allow the chocolate to set on the baking paper before eating. ~

Pineapple Custard Tart

Ingredients  Pineapple chunks 1 cup double cream 2 large egg yolks Vanilla essence Butter 50g (cubed) Flour 125g 1 tsp caster sugar 2 tbsp milk 2 eggs Make up the sweet short crust pastry by rubbing the butter and flour and sugar together between your fingers. When the mixture is crumbly add the eggs and […]

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