We all know the importance of fruit in our diets - they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, and are an excellent source of fibre and antioxidants.
As parents, Catherine and I encourage our children to eat plenty of fruit and I believe a fruit bowl is a must in every kitchen so children can grab some on the go as part of their essential 5 a day.
I love peaches and nectarines, which are in abundance at the moment and you can check out my simple take on peach melba recipe below, which is a lovely summer dessert. I’m also sharing my blackberry souffle recipe with you, served with a delicious blackberry coulis. Though soufflés can be a bit tricky to make, the results are well worth the effort.
Another joy of this time of the year is foraging for fruit and nuts, and the wonderful blackberries, plums, elderberries and crab apples which are all available at present.
An obvious use for these is to make jams, jellies and chutneys. The main difference between jam and jelly is that jam uses chopped or mashed fruit and is usually thick whereas jelly is made from the juice of the fruit, strained off after cooking. Jelly is smooth with no pieces of fruit and should definitely be clear and firm.
Here are a couple of my simple tips for Jam making:
I always recommend using fruit which is ripe, fresh and andin season to ensure maximum taste and texture. Frozen fruit can also be used if your favourite fruits are not in season, as it will still yield delicious flavour. Don’t use over soft fruit as it will contain less pectin, which will affect its natural ability to set. Another important thing to remember is that when you’re making a fruit jam, fruits have different pectin levels and to achieve the correct setting you may need to use jam sugar (which contains pectin), and is available in SuperValu stores.
To start with your should use 1kg fruit to 1kg sugar (or jam sugar) and place 2 – 3 saucers into the freezer to chill. Using a heavy based pot, cook the fruit and sugar over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has fully dissolved, bring the pan to the boil. Boil vigorously for 6 – 8 minutes, then check the setting point.
To check if your jam has reached setting point, remove a spoonful onto a chilled saucer, and allow the jam to cool sufficiently so you can drag your finger through it – if it crinkles it’s ready, otherwise bring the jam back to the boil and check every couple of minutes.
It’s vitally important to use sterilised jars and lids when making jams – so firstly you need to preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, then wash the jars in soapy water, rinse in hot water and dry thoroughly. Place the empty jars (not lids!) in the oven while your jam is cooking – they need to be hot otherwise the jars may shatter when you fill them or condensation may cause a liquid to form on top of the jam, allowing mould to form. Pour the hot jam into hot jars then seal. Some other great jam alternatives at this time of year are damson, blackcurrant, plum and rhubarb and ginger.
There’s nothing nicer than a batch of homemade scones served with a spoonful of jam, topped with some freshly whipped cream, the perfect reward for your toils.
Here are the recipes... now get cooking!
The Peach Melba is a classic dessert invented in 1892 for Dame Melba a soprano signer.
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Cranberry Apple and Ginger Chutney
The perfect Chutney to accompany the perfect Christmas dinner.
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