Thursday, 18 September 2014

Russian salad

Do you do traditional roast dinners on Sundays? Are you tired of eating the usual roast beef sandwiches or quiche with ham for a few days in a row? And do I dare even to mention the C-word and the inevitable roast turkey? What do you do with the leftovers?
You might remember me mentioning it already that I was one of a few lucky bloggers who were selected to become ShortcutEggsperts (why do I always read this word as short cute eggsperts?!). This month's challenge was to create a dish with eggs, using leftovers. Many of my American readers will be celebrating Thanksgiving soon, and even Christmas is not that distant. At least some people are eagerly anticipating it, like my little man. The shops have already started selling mince pies, which I am going to resist buying for another month or more. As it often happens, both of these celebrations are accompanied by tables laden with food often including a traditional turkey or ham (that is, if you are not a vegetarian). My recipe for Russian salad is made, using the leftover turkey meat, but you can easily substitute it with the same amount of ham or roast beef.



Russian salad
Ingredients:
2 potatoes, about 350+g, cubed
1 carrot, 100g, diced
200+g turkey, cubed (or ham or beef)
3 eggs, hard-boiled
4 gherkins
2 heaped tbsp green peas
1 apple, diced
5tbsp mayonnaise
olives + gherkins for decoration



Leftovers used in this recipe were turkey and carrot (steamed).
Cook the potatoes in salted water, once cooked, let them cool completely before chopping into small cubes. Dice the cooked carrot and turkey meat. Chop three hard-boiled eggs, gherkins and dice an apple. Mix all the ingredients together with green peas (either tinned or cooked from frozen). Add the mayonnaise and again mix well, so that all the ingredients are covered with mayo. Decorate with the olives, baby tomatoes, gherkins or peas.



This salad will keep for a day in the fridge.
Salads are always a good way of re-using the leftovers, and the best part is that you can play with the ingredients. If you don't have carrots, add the cooked parsnip. Swap gherkins for cornichons or olives. Ham works very well in this salad, and so does cubed roast beef. You can also try it with the chicken.


For more egg facts and information, visit Egginfo.

Disclosure: As part of the ShortcutEggsperts programme launched by BritMums and Lion Eggs, I received vouchers for creating a recipe using the eggs.



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Is it Christmas yet? by Jane Chapman

Any parent of a young child knows that urgency and impatience with which our little ones wait for a big occasion like their birthday or Christmas. They cannot wait for the big day to arrive and keep pestering asking their parents "Is it my birthday today? Is it Christmas yet?" Sounds familiar? Then you will smile reading a lovely new book from Little Tiger Press called "Is it Christmas yet?"



This charming story is written and illustrated by Jane Chapman, and features two bears, Big Bear and his little son Ted. Little bear is very excited, rushing around in his Santa hat: "Christmas is coming". Not yet, his Daddy tries to reason with him, we still need a lot to do before Christmas arrives.



So, they wrap the presents together, and the little Ted is helping over-enthusiastically.
Both my younger son Eddie and I giggled, looking at the bear with the scotch tape all over him, as it brought back memories of our last Christmas gifts' wrapping session, when we also ended up unsticking the scotch tape from ourselves.


Then they have to bake a cake. And again, the mess in the kitchen looks very familiar. Whenever Eddie joins in my baking session, our working surface ends up covered with the flour and whatever dried ingredients we are using.



And then they need a Christmas tree... so off they venture in the woods to pick a perfect tree.


And by the time everything is ready, the little bear gets too tired. Aww.



As all the books from Little Tiger Press, this illustrated book would appeal to both children and their parents. It is a wonderful kind story with lovable characters. Parents and children would easily identify themselves in similar situations, and will chuckle together, reading this amusing and entertaining book.

Explore Little Tiger Press for more information.


Disclosure: I am a member of Parent Review Panel and received this book for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Malibu rum cake

I love coconut-flavoured cakes and bakes. There is something immensely satisfying in a big slice of moist sweet cake with a beautiful exotic aroma. I love the chewiness the dessicated coconut adds to baking. Alas, my older son is not very keen on the texture of shredded coconut, so I was looking for alternatives. I had a small bottle of Malibu rum, which I bought spontaneously, when it was on offer, a while ago. It was collecting dust, and I thought I could try to do a variation of our family favourite Advocaat cake. After all, slightly adapted, it worked with Limoncello, why not with Malibu?



Malibu rum cakeIngredients:
4 eggs
200g caster sugar
150ml Malibu rum
200g self-raising flour
60g cornflour
2tsp baking powder
25g dessicated coconut
5 Vanilla spice drops
200g butter, melted

Beat the eggs with the sugar, add the rum, flour, cornflour, baking powder, dessicated coconut ad mix well. Melt the butter, add to the mix, and mix well again. I also used 5 drops of Vanilla Spice Drops, but you can substitute it with the vanilla essence (1tsp).
Pour the cake batter in a bundt cake tin, and put the tin in the oven preheated to 180C. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden (check with the wooden skewer if it's ready).
Dust with the icing sugar, or make an icing with the icing sugar and rum.



I didn't add the rum to icing, because I didn't want it to taste boozy. When baked, the alcohol evaporates, leaving the lovely flavour, so you wouldn't taste any alcohol in the cake.
Well, let me tell you, it was a total success.



The cake is fluffy, moist and aromatic. I'm glad I felt like experimenting today.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Vodka-pickled tomatoes

Stereotypes are hard to eradicate. Just because I am originally from Russia, many people automatically presume that I am partial to a shot of vodka. They couldn't be more wrong though. I don't drink neat vodka, and have a vodka cocktail once a decade only. When we invite people for dinner, like my husband's colleagues, they would often arrive with a bottle of vodka, just because they heard of "the Russian wife". They must be sorely disappointed because I never drink it. The last time we received a bottle of vodka was from a very charming couple, and I didn't want to disabuse their notions, thanked them profusely but offered wine at dinner time. Now I have a bottle which I am going to use in cooking. It is a great ingredient in curing salmon, or adding to the pickling liquid. One of my favourite recipes for roasted tomatoes also includes vodka among its ingredients.
Just the other day, I made several jars of tomatoes pickled with vodka. It doesn't use a huge amount of vodka, just 50ml, and you cannot taste it in the finished result.



The recipe I use is supposed to fill in one big 3L jar and be enough to pickle up to 2kg tomatoes. I don't have a jar this big, so I used 3 Kilner style jars, and had a bit of pickling liquid left over.

Vodka-pickled tomatoes
Ingredients:
700g red tomatoes (baby plum variety)
250g yellow tomatoes, baby vine variety
6tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic
1 red sweet pepper, diced
for the pickling liquid:
30g salt
60g granulated sugar
30g apple cider vinegar
1tbsp pickling spice (for example, Bart)
2 bay leaves
1 litre of water
50ml vodka



Wash the tomatoes. Chop the dill and dice the pepper, discarding the seeds. Put 2tbsp of chopped dill per each sterilised jar, add a couple of cloves of garlic. Pack the tomatoes inside quite tightly.
Prepare the pickling liquid by mixing the salt, sugar, vinegar, pickling spice, bay leaves and water, bring to boil. Once the sugar and salt dissolved, remove from the heat and add vodka. Let it cool completely before adding to the jars with tomatoes. Close the lids.
These tomatoes will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.



You can eat them the next day, they will be mildly pickled, or what in Russia is called "malosol'nye" lit. salted-a-little. The longer they stay in the pickling liquid, the stronger the flavour is.


Plan Toys Croquet

"Get to your places!" shouted the Queen in a voice of thunder, and people began running about in all directions, tumbling up against each other: however, they got settled down in a minute or two, and the game began. Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet in all her life: it was all ridges and furrows; the balls were live hedgehogs, the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themsleves up and to stand upon their hands and feet, to make arches" (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)



As a young child, I was fascinated by the description of the mysterious game called croquet in Alice's Adventures. The marvellous Russian edition came with footnotes which explained the intricacies of the English lifestyle and its idiosyncratic features. I learnt what croquet was supposed to be, but much preferred Lewis Carroll's version, and who wouldn't?! Needless to say, I never played this game as a child, it sounded very exotic to me, and quintessentially British. Fast forward 35+ years, and I am teaching my younger son how to play croquet with the help of a beautiful Plan Toys Croquet.



This family game comes in a sturdy box. It includes 4 different animal wooden balls - bird, tiger, monkey and frog, 2 mallets, 4 wickets and a final stand. There is also a bag, handy for carrying the set to and fro.



Eddie was very excited to see a big box, when the game arrived, and was impatient to start playing immediately. As our lawn was quite overgrown, I suggested playing indoors. Then for several days he kept asking when we were going to mow the lawn. Finally we cleared the space for him at the weekend, and Eddie was happy to play outdoors with his new croquet.

Unpacking and testing the ground


This set is well-made of sustainable wood and eco-friendly materials. I have never held a grown-up version of croquet in my life, so it is hard for me to compare, but I liked the fact that the mallets are light enough for little hands, yet heavy enough at the same time so that they are durable and sturdy.
Great fun for playing both indoors and outdoors.
It is useful to learn social interaction skills, like taking turns and patience. And it is good for gross motor skills and coordination.
My son has been very enthusiastic about learning a new game.



This lovely set is available from Great Gizmos online shop which is a veritable Aladdin's cave full of treasures. You can find a big variety of games and toys there, suitable for all ages and tastes. This is a shop to be bookmarked for the coming Christmas shopping, or for any occasion indeed, when you need to buy a gift for a child.

Disclosure: we received Plan Toys Croquet for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Cucumbers pickled with mustard seed and turmeric



When autumn arrives, I usually start craving pickles. I love pickles of all sorts, and each year make a batch of preserves, both sweet and savoury - jams, marmalades, chutneys and pickles. It must be my "homing instinct" thing, as when cooking preserves, I go back to my territory. Though I haven't visited my homeland for 10 years, canning takes me back home, at least in my mind. Canning is a national religion in Russia. Quite understandably. If you have snow for up to six months (as in my parts of the world), you need to be well prepared food-wise. Of course, with supermarkets open 24 hours a day nowadays, you don't actually need to save food this way, but it must be a genetic call: get ready for winter, save your harvest. Oh, and it's also great fun.
I have recently come across a lovely recipe for bread and butter pickles on Pinterest, and wanted to try it. The original recipe for bread and butter pickles appears on Savoury Simple blog. I have slightly adapted it, and also converted some of the cup measurements into something I can understand. I don't quite know why these pickles are called bread and butter pickles, as neither ingredient is used in the recipe. Does anyone know the origins of this name?



Anyway, I managed to buy some lovely small size cucumbers at the local farmers' market. I also used half a standard size cucumber to add to the total weight, so you can use either. It's just smaller size cucumbers look prettier and taste better, I think.



Cucumbers pickled with mustard seed and turmeric
Ingredients:
800g cucumbers, thinly sliced
5-6 small shallots, thinly sliced
75g coarse salt
375ml apple cider vinegar
150g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 fennel flowerhead (or 1tsp dried fennel seed)

Slice the cucumbers thinly and slightly at an angle if you want oval-shaped slices rather than round (I did a mix of both).Slice the shallots thinly. Put both sliced cucumbers and shallots in a big pan, add the salt, pour the cold water over. Leave the pan to sit for 2 or 3 hours.

Now the original recipe suggested draining the cucumbers and doesn't mention if the salted water should be preserved. Save one mug of salted water. I thought that the pickling liquid might not be enough to cover the cucumbers, and I was right. I have saved a mug of salted water, which I later added to the pickling liquid. Rinse the sliced cucumbers in cold water.
In a medium size bowl or small pan mix the apple cider vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, turmeric , and add a fennel flowerhead (or fennel seeds). Pour this mix over the sliced cucumbers and shallots in a big pan. Add the saved mug of salted water.



Bring to boil and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring the cucumbers.
Remove from the heat and ladle into sterilised jars.

I often reuse jam and honey jars for my homemade jams, but for pickles prefer the wider jars, so I buy either Kilner or Tala jars whenever they are on offer (right now, for example, they are 4 for 3 at Robert Dyas). Once you have a good supply, you can reuse these jars for many years.

The pickles will keep well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Though they won't last that long here. These are very tasty pickles, crispy, flavourful, sightly yellow from turmeric. Brilliant with plain boiled potatoes, or in a sandwich with rye bread and corned beef.





Thursday, 11 September 2014

Olé, olé, olives!

These days we are more conscious about the origins of the foods we consume. Reading the stories of the products makes them more special. I have a soft spot for olives, and typically have a couple of jars in the pantry, as well as some plastic containers with olives in the fridge. Fragata offers a wide selection of Spanish olives and other Mediterranean products.
Fragata was founded in 1897 by Don Santiago Camacho Roman in Seville. Since then, Fragata has conquered the hearts and stomachs of the Spanish and has remained a family favourite for more than a hundred years. Their products are now sold across the world, and are widely available in the UK as well.


Olives are such a versatile ingredient in cooking, from snacks to soups, from salads to stews. Pick your preferred choice of olives and ready, steady, cook. A plain chicken and potato soup will be much improved by an addition of a handful of pitted green olives.



Pitted Green Olives are a staple food in Spain. They are eaten both in cold and hot tapas and are a great ingredient for many Mediterranean dishes, not just the Spanish cuisine. I am happy to dig in the cold jar of olives straight from the fridge.


They are lovely in easy and quick chicken dishes like this tomato and sweet pepper chicken recipe. Just pan fry mini chicken fillets in the olive oil, with the sliced sweet pepper, a few tomatoes, finely sliced garlic. Add one tin of chopped tomatoes or a jar of plain tomato and herb sauce, a good handful of olives, and cook on low until the chicken is done. Colourful and bursting with flavours, it is an easy dish for a midweek dinner.


Garlic stuffed olives are lovely on their own, and equally fab in cooking. I used them in a chicken bake, with the olive oil, carrots, celery, herbs and lemon zest. These juicy flavourful olives will enhance many a meat dish, and will work well in lots of salads.




Another suggestion for using green olives is to bake them in a focaccia (buy a focaccia bread mix, just follow the instructions, then add a good amount of olives on top, sprinkle with herbs like rosemary and thyme and bake). Absolutely delicious!


Fragata Pimiento Piquillo are sweet Spanish peppers. If you manage not to eat the whole lot straight from a jar, make a super-sandwich with cream cheese and pimiento piquillo.
I have mentioned these lush sweet peppers earlier in summer, when I posted a recipe for Mediterranean Salad.


I have seen on Fragata site that they suggest stuffing the peppers with prawns, cucumber and onions and roasting for an authentic Spanish tapas dish. Sounds very exciting, and I must try this recipe soon.



Anchovies are like Marmite, love them or hate them. While I enjoy eating anchovies, all my guys don't like them, and there is no convincing them in how tasty they are. I tried and failed.
Spanish olives stuffed with anchovies are Manzanilla olives, stuffed with anchovy puree. They make a lovely snack on their own. For a slightly more sophisticated twist you can also serve them drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with freshly grated lemon or orange zest.
If my family showed some enthusiasm, I would have added them to the homemade focaccia or ciabatta bread, or topped a pizza with. Alas, they don't share my passion for anchovies, so I eat them in salads made just for myself.

A simple bean salad makes a lovely lunch or dinner, just assemble the ingredients together, pour the dressing and enjoy. Just the other day I made a big plate of bean salad with 70g rocket leaves, one thinly sliced apple, a handful of baby tomatoes from our garden, a handful of olives stuffed with anchovies and dressing made of the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add some parmesan shavings on top. For a budget version, buy an economy supermarket own tin of mixed beans, and rinse it well.


Four products which I mentioned today are just a few of Fragata range of foods which is more varied (apart from a wide selection of olives you will find capers and pickled garlic).

For more Fragata news and recipe suggestions, visit Fragata on Facebook.

Disclosure: I received a selection of Fragata products for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Sudocrem goodie bag giveaway (c/d 26 September 2014)

Many parents with young children are familiar with Sudocrem. This brand creates skin care products suitable for the whole family, not just babies in nappies. Over a week ago Sudocrem Care & Protect has created an exciting new game online, and is asking people to take on the digital ready, steady, change challenge.
The challenge consists of 3 mini games. The user is encouraged to play a game under 50 seconds to enter a competition and be in with a chance of winning an ipad Air. You can also get money off coupons. If you enjoy entering competitions, visit Ready, Steady, Change Challenge of Facebook.

To coincide with the launch of this new challenge, lovely people at Sudocrem have offered 3 goodie bags for my blog readers.

Each Sudocrem goodie bag will include Sudocrem Care & Protect, Sudocrem Skin Care Cream, Sudocrem Moisturising Mousse and a cuddly moose toy.



For a chance to win please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below.
As usual, you have a choice of options to enter: by leaving a comment (this is the only mandatory step), following the brand on Twitter etc.


T&Cs:
Only the first step is mandatory: all you need to do is answer my question and leave a comment below. If you login as Anonymous, please leave your Twitter name or Facebook name so that I can find you if you win.

All the other steps are optional, you don't have to do them all. All it takes to win is just one entry.
Only one entry per person is allowed (however, you can tweet daily to increase your chances).
The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
Once the Rafflecopter picks the winners, I will check if the winners have done what was requested. I will contact the winners, if they do not reply within 28 days, the prize will be allocated to another person.
Please don't forget to leave a comment, as it is the only mandatory step, I will make sure the winner selected by Rafflecopter has complied with T&Cs. 

The giveaway will close on 26 September 2014 (at midnight, the night from the 25th to the 26th)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 8 September 2014

Ben de Lisi Limited Edition Ryvita tin giveaway (c/d 29 September 2014)

What is your favourite Ryvita? Is it Fruit Crunch Crispbread or Mediterranean Herb? Pumpkin Seeds & Oats or Sweet Onion? And how do you keep your Ryvita crispy and crunchy? Do you have a special tin for your snacks?
I am very partial to tins, and have quite a collection, so I was very excited to read that Ryvita has teamed up with a renowned fashion designer Ben de Lisi to create a limited edition tin for the nation's favourite crispbread.



I am pleased to say that lovely people at Ryvita have kindly offered a prize for my blog readers. Now you have a chance to win a colourful modern art piece that will spruce up your kitchen! Ben de Lisi label is a synonym of chic and trendy, as this cheerful tin proves yet again.

Ben's bright and bold tin design reflects the exciting new changes occurring at Ryvita as the brand moves into a fresh and dynamic new era.
Ryvita and Ben de Lisi have teamed up to create this stylish new limited edition tin this autumn to celebrate the endless tasty combinations you can enjoy with Ryvita - anything goes!

One of my lucky blog readers will win an irresistible limited edition Ryvita tin that has been created by Ben.

For your chance to win this lovely tin, please answer the question and leave a comment below:
What renowned fashion designer has Ryvita teamed up with to create a limited edition tin?
- Matthew Williamson
- Ben de Lisi
- John Rocha

If you cannot wait to get your hands on your very own limited edition Ryvita tin (£7.49 including postage and packaging) please visit Ryvita tin shop page.

Terms & Conditions:
This giveaway is open to UK residents only.

All the names (who gave a correct answer) will go in the Raffleking widget, which will pick a winner's name.
The giveaway will end on the 29th of September at midnight.
If you login as Anonymous, please leave your Twitter name or Facebook name so that I have ways of contacting you if you're the winner.
I will contact the winner, if they don't reply in 28 days, the prize will be allocated to another person.
Good luck!

Equip: a range of waterless hygiene products

Over four years ago I spent four long days in the hospital, giving birth to my younger son and recovering after a c-section. Washing oneself was out of question, I had to take a little cot on wheels with Eddie everywhere I went, even to the toilet. I understand the nurses are busy (well, most of the time, when they are not chatting idly and looking through you when you need them), and there was nobody to ask to look after my son if I wanted to have a quick shower. When my husband was able to visit (he was working, plus our older son needed looking after), I tried to at least have an uninterrupted meal in the evening and talked to him, trying to catch up on the news at home. I wish in those days I knew about Equip, a range of waterless hygiene products. It would have been very handy to use them in the hospital.

I have recently received a range of Equip products for testing and reviewing... I tested all of them, and here are the results.



I always carry with me a packet of baby wipes, for all kinds of accidents. Just recently, when we travelled to Cornwall by car, and my little man kept being sick, they were very handy, and I used half a packet for sure, to clean him and wipe the seat. Yet again, I wish I had a packet of Equip with us for a more durable sturdy cleansing product.


Equip Waterless Wash 24 oversized wipes are 30cm long wipes, for cleansing, moisturising and deorodrising. They are pretty big, and thus convenient for grown-ups to get cleaner faster. It contains a blend of coconut extract, aloe vera and Karanja nut for a soothing fresh feeling. They are mild and kind to skin, being dermatologically tested and PH balanced. The fragrance is mild, not overwhelming. In a way, it is like a small wet towel. I bet these wipes would be super handy in many situations where you cannot get access to a shower, like during camping, festivals or after sports.



Equip Waterless Wash 24 protective wipes are pre-moistened protective hygiene wipes, designed for your most intimate places. Specially formulated with Canadian Willow herb, which is known for its anti-itch properties, these wipes are perfect for cleansing, refreshing and protecting the skin. I can think of quite a few situations when you might need to use them, like when going to the dreaded smear test, and some other unpleasant invasive medical appointments, or again, camping etc, where washing facilities are limited.




Equip Waterless Wash Super-thick wash mitts are strong and durable. After using this product, you are feeling clean and refreshed. These super-thick mitts are spun-lace, they keep moisture well, and one mitt is enough to clean large areas.



All the wipes are really moist, the sealed packets prevent them from drying. And because they are bigger than standard baby wipes, you can clean yourself (or someone else) much faster. They are dermatologically tested, pH balanced, and formulated to be kind to skin.



I have also tried a waterless wash shampoo cap, which I confess I did with a slight hesitation. Though I have used dry shampoo like Batiste in the past, I am not very keen on it. I wear my hair pretty long, and it needs a good rinse. But I was brave and opened the sealed packed. It contained a wet shower cap, with a plastic outside layer and a very moist inside layer.



Instructions say: Place the cap on the head, covering all the hair and gently massage thoroughly for 2-3 minutes, as massaging activates the shampoo and conditioner.
First impressions? It feels quite odd to have a wet cap on the head, but it's not unpleasant. While you massage the shampoo in, the scalp feels refreshed. After working the solution through my hair, I used the towel to dry it. My hair, though washed, wasn't quite what I expected. Once it dried, it was quite dull-looking, and I felt it still needed a good rinse. I couldn't wait to wash my hair again, this time with water, the next day. I don't know if it is because my hair is long. I would like to know if someone else with shorter hair tried it, and if they liked it.



To be fair, I think it is a great concept, but it still needs working on. It might be a good idea to have two shower caps perhaps, one with shampoo/conditioner, another just like a giant wet wipe for "rinsing"?!

Apart from the shampoo cap which is not perfect, the range of wipes is excellent, and could be very handy during long trips, camping or a stay in the hospital.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Plum, sloe and vanilla jam



The Indian summer is here, and it's a perfect time for foraging. Wild berries and fruit are now out in abundance, and who doesn't like free food?! Sloes are quite ripe already, much earlier this year than usual. I know people tend to pick them after the first frosts for making sloe gin. But I am not a fan of gin. I know it is trendy nowadays, but in my mind it is forever associated with the Hogarth's Gin Lane. Sloes' main claim to fame is it use in sloe gin, but surely there are other ways of using this tart fruit with shiny dark blue skin. Walking yesterday into town, my son Eddie and I went through the fields near our house and I have picked a punnet of sloes.



Plum, sloe and vanilla jam (makes 4+ assorted jars)
Ingredients:
400g sloes
1200g plums
1400g sugar (I used 1kg of preserving sugar and 400g of granulated sugar)
4 Vanilla spice drops
a blob of butter.



Cover the sloes with water in a deep pan, bring to boil and cook for 15 minutes on low. Once the sloes are soft and mushy, remove the pan, let it cool a bit and strain through a sieve. Use a wooden spoon to push the sloes around the sieve to get as much juice as possible. I ended up with 350ml sloe juice.
If you like you jam smooth and skin-free, skip this stage altogether, and cook the plums and sloes together before straining them, so that the skins are left in the sieve. I prefer to have a bit of a bite in my plum jam, and love plum skins and pieces.
Place the stoned and quartered plums in the deep pan, pour the sloe liquid over the plums. Bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer the plums for 15 minutes. Add all the sugar, stir on low heat until all sugar has dissolved. I used a mix of preserving and granulated sugar, by all means use whichever you prefer, just preserving or just granulated.
Bring to boil again, boil rapidly for 10 minutes, stirring regularly and skimming the scum (though it is a shame to call the pink sweet foam scum; in fact don't throw it, is is lovely on toast or in croissants). Add 4 Vanilla Spice Drops if using (or a tbsp of vanilla essence).
 Turn off the heat, add a blob of butter.
Let it rest for 10 minutes before ladling into sterilised jars).


I used Vanilla Spice Drops in this recipe. Spice Drops are a new range of concentrated extracts of natural spices. They are not alcohol based, but are very concentrated extracts of natural spices. You literally need just a few drops to enhance food and drink. I have recently received a couple of spices for testing and reviewing, and I am going to do a review, once I used them in a few recipes. So, watch this space if you want to find out more or follow the link above to read about them.


Adding my jam recipe to Four Seasons linky hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg.


The Vegetable Palette on Allotment2Kitchen blog this month is everything Purple, so I am adding this recipe too.