The three berries sorbet, a summer treat in the middle of a winter

This morning I have an hour just for myself! The young one needs a haircut and his father is about to take him to a barber shop. That is never an easy job. The seven year old doesn’t understand the point of cutting his hair as it will grow back again and that makes him unhappy. He is a child who embraces logic so I tease him by saying that if he doesn’t cut his hair it’ll grow so long, maybe down to his feet and he won’t be able to do anything, including making a new lego building. I assume that the fact that he had to stop playing with lego blocks in order to go to the barber shop is what made him unhappy in the first place. He looks at me and his eyes are saying, “Mum your imagination is beyond me,” but he goes to the barber’s giving up his logic as deep down he knows a haircut is much needed.

Now I am sitting on my sofa in front of a large window, looking at the blue sky and the rays shining through the Christmas tree on our balcony. If I look long enough at that bright sky and those fluffy white clouds would I be able to feel summer in the middle of winter? The picture is tricky as it looks so real, and if I didn’t have an extra layer of clothing on me and the window in front of me closed to stop the cold from coming in, I would easily believe my eyes. I guess life combines imagination and reality all the time, but at the same time it gives us a chance to choose the preference.

On this particular morning it is hard to decide, so I choose to take an illogical action to make a sorbet in the middle of winter, purely in order to bring a dash of summer to our table. The three berries sorbet and its wonderful taste and glorious colour will make us smile as I am smiling right now looking at those fluffy clouds. And it’ll certainly ease the irrational circle of “growing hair – barber shop visits”.

Making sorbet is one of the easiest tasks in the kitchen, and I am not just saying this! The beauty is that you get a delightfully refreshing treat. The only trick is to have the right amount of the three ingredients: fruit, water and sugar. The right balance of water and sugar in particular is the key to a successful sorbet! If there is more water than we need, the sorbet will become crystallised and not smooth, and if we don’t have enough sugar the same will happen.

As much as we like using seasonal produce, this is tricky in itself as in a country as big as Australia there is alway a season for certain fruits or vegetables and it’s only a matter of day or two to ship them across the country. Strawberries and raspberries are not in season in Victoria, but you can find them in Queensland and maybe WA. The ones that are hard to find even when in season are blackberries, so I used the frozen ones, as we all really like them. It worked fine.

Three berries sorbet

300 g strawberries

300 g raspberries

100 g blackberries (I used frozen ones )

200 ml water

200 g sugar

juice of 1 lemon

Pour water into a saucepan, add the sugar and keep on a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

Blend all the fruits into the blender, add lemon juice and dissolved sugar into it. Once all is combined transfer into a container that can go in the freezer.

Leave it in the freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.

Plum jam

A broken oven is never good news. For someone who is so into baking, it is a disaster. But things are looking brighter because the oven repair man is coming today! Lucky for me, just a few days ago I got these gorgeous plums (from a friend’s backyard) and since I can cook jam, I didn’t waste a minute. So, I cooked the jam, sterilised the jars and packed all in the same day! Even decorated and wrapped the jars nicely so I could give them away as presents. An act of a nervous woman I’d say. I kept myself busy…

Mornings are always better with a good breakfast and my family are lately enjoying butter and jam on a nice baguette as a favourite breakfast. Even the little one likes it (his favourite is strawberry jam though). I made breakfast for us and then, because it seemed a good opportunity to record the moment, I decided to take some photos.

That is me reflecting in a shiny spoon, standing on the ladder and leaning dangerously towards the table. We have all  done it many times, I know. The question is, how many of you have fallen over the table, spilling all the jam over the floor minutes before a person who is going to fix the oven is about to knock on the door.

Now, I don’t really want to distract you completely from a nice and sweet jam like this one so let’s get back to making a simple jam recipe with an organic fruit. I especially like the part of having healthy and fresh fruit, which gives the process an extra nice feeling.

Plum jam has to be one of my favourites. It’s a jam my mum cooked every year for us and I loved it. The plums she used to use were a different shape and colour though. I believe their name is “Marjorie’s Seedling” and they are perfect for jams. Very sweet and not so juicy so the jam was very sweet and thick, almost too hard to spread on bread.

The oven is working again! and I am about to bake a rye flour tart but that is another story…

Plum jam  

1 kg plums

1 small green apple

500 raw sugar

1 start anise

1 vanilla bean scraped

Wash your fruit even if its organic to remove all the dirt. Pit the plums and although I know it’s not an easy job, there is no way around it.  Just cut them into halves and take the pip out. Place a heavy pot on the medium heat, add plums and sugar and stir a few times using wooden spoon. Add green apple, cored and sliced first. Stir again and add vanilla bean and star anise. I don’t mind if any of these spices end up in my jar but you can take them out at the end of cooking.

Cook jam for about an hour, stirring occasionally and the most important thing, take out the hull which is going to separate from the juicy part minutes after cooking starts. It’s the old fashion way but it works and I don’t mind doing it.

Basically you need to cook the jam until you end up with the colour and thickness you like. When cooked, leave to cool slightly before pouring into sterilised jars (you can check this post for an extra explanation) or you can just use dish washer for sterilizing the jars. Pour into jars and use when needed. I always leave some in a container to use straight away, because I know we will. One of my favourite desserts lately is jam poured over Greek yoghurt! You should try that. Yum!

Magic mix of rhubarb and strawberry

I grew up in a house with a back yard and a small veggie garden and orchard as well. We grew strawberries, tomatoes and carrots and had the most beautiful apricot and cherry trees. It was an absolute heaven for all of us (the neighbours kids included). It was so thrilling playing in nature which went wild with different flowers during Spring and rich with fruits and vegetables during Summer. I still remember how I loved eating carrots straight from the earth but I also remember how I hated picking strawberries. I thought it wasn’t fair that that was especially my job, but being the youngest in the family made me pretty much in charge of it on a daily basis, during the strawberry season. I know that this isn’t a post about strawberry jam but every time strawberries are involved in any of my recipes I go back in time and see all this happening all over again.

This is to what I go back…It’s late May, beginning of June, the end of Spring almost beginning of Summer. The weather is just right to spend a whole day playing outside as often as we can. It’s the end of school as well, hurray! lets go to the gardens (yes we used to jump the gates and use all our garden as a play ground) and play until the inevitable call from the kitchen window will make us all rush back home to dinner. Those were the days of absolute freedom. Enjoying the sun, wind, play and laughter is all we did and it was magical. Being in contact with the soil, quite often with our bare feet and having our own duties was part of our days as well. One of mine was picking the strawberries. Being a very busy child (playing), I saw that almost as a punishment. I had to stop what I was doing and go back to the house for a dish (all a waste of time in my little head) and fill up the whole bowl with fresh strawberries. Oh, if I could only go back in time…

Rhubarb and strawberry jam

400 gr rhubarb

300 gr strawberry

1 green apple, chopped

350 gr raw sugar

2 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

1 vanilla pod, scraped

Always use fresh and good quality fruit for jams. The best choice is seasonal fruit, beside the fact that they are tastiest, you can get a pretty good price for it as well.

The easiest way to prepare jars is to wash them in a dishwasher, which is what I normally do or refer to Quince jam post for another option.

Wrap star anise and cinnamon stick in a cotton cloth and tie with cotton string, or just cook them as they are if you don’t mind them being part of the jam. (If you decide to use cotton wrap don’t forget to take it out at the end of the process). Wash rhubarb carefully, peel and chop into 2 cm pieces. Wash and hull strawberries as well. In a large pot add rhubarb, strawberries, apple and spices. Cook on a high temperature until it boils, then reduce heat and cook for 30 min. Add sugar and vanilla pod while cooking on a low heat for another 1 1/2 hour or until you reach desired thickness, stirring occasionally. I like jam to be quite thick and 2 hours is just what I need to reach that thickness but as always I embrace creativity, so make your own decision and jam. Once cooled pour jam into a clean jars and seal.

quince jam

Quince jam

Quinces are in season! It’s Autumn in this part of the world and besides the wonderful changes in nature, especially its colours, quinces would be one of the first signs that the seasons are changing. Next is Winter in its white clothes but that is another story to tell. Old habits are hard to change. Speaking as a true continental climate adorer – I know.

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