jam-ing; bean-ing; chocolate chipper-ing

still here. sorry the red kitchen has been a little quiet of late. i’ve been either too exhausted to post or had no time to post.

nonetheless, the kitschenette kitchen has been humming with activity. since bruno has been away i’ve been baking and jam-ming away almost every night! gotta keep busy so that the silence of the household (once the kiddies are asleep of course) doesn’t deafen me.

in the last few days i’ve made double batches of the great chocolate chippers from a couple of weeks back, this time using chopped up dime bars (these were FANTASTIC, properly chewy and caramelly with half melted chocolate and toffee), banana cake, a double batch of zopf, and two batches of strawberry and vanilla jam. and a big pot of chilli beans (max’s favourite meal, with rice and yoghurt) is currently simmering away nicely on the stovetop now. no pics, unfortunately, because bruno has taken the camera to milan with him. bummer.

the strawberry jam is really pretty, a beautiful glowing red. i first tasted strawberry and vanilla jam at a great little cafe in erskineville called bitton (i think it has now moved, gotten bigger and more famous) with my friend adamski. i bought a jar to take home and was delighted to find half a vanilla bean in the middle. if i remember correctly though, the jam itself was a little overcooked, brownish red rather than a bright fresh red. strawberries are in plentiful supply here at the moment, and quite cheap, so i bought a kilo and cooked them all up in sugar, with the juice of a lemon and a vanilla bean thrown in. the result was so wonderfully warm, and fragrant and delicious that i had to give a few jars away to share around the goodness. so i had to make another batch to replenish our sadly depleted jam stock (because we were in oz last summer i missed out on the last half of the jam-making season, when all the plums and blackberries are ripe). so, so good. max has declared it his new favourite jam (mr jam afficianado).

today is cold and gray, AGAIN. time for a pot of beans to warm the cockles of the heart. max will be happy to have his favourite meal, one that i KNOW he likes, after the disastrous lunch i made yesterday. reminder to self: cooked avocado tastes VILE. i know this, but i accidentally over-heated the simple pasta with avocado and tomato after i had tossed the green and red bits through. what is it about avocado that makes it taste so great raw and so disgusting when warmed? be warned!

strawberry and vanilla jam, via bitton cafe

1kg of strawberries, washed and hulled

800g jam sugar, or plain white sugar

juice of a large lemon

2 vanilla beans


prepare and sterilise the equipment you will need: jars (about 6 small ones, or a similar assortment ie. 1 big one and 4 small ones), ladle, jam funnel

– place strawberries into a large pot, and macerate them (i use a potato masher) until fairly pulpy.

– pour in sugar and lemon juice and bring to the boil. add one of the vanilla beans.

– continue to boil over a medium heat (be careful it doesn’t boil over!!!! very sticky!). skim off the foam as you go, but you don’t need to get too paranoid about getting every last foamy bit.

– when the jam has reached setting point (when the last drop hangs off the wooden spoon and doesn’t fall – this should take about 20 mins. don’t overcook it or else it will lose it’s beautiful fresh strawberry red colour and flavour), take it off the heat and fish out the vanilla bean (be careful, it’s HOT). cut both vanilla beans into thirds.

– working quickly, ladle the hot jam into the jars, and poke a vanilla bean into the middle of each jar. make sure the tip of the bean is covered with jam. seal the jars tightly, wipe off any sticky drops and let cool.

– enjoy with good bread. make sure you share some with friends, they’ll love you for it!


mr. max’s chilli beans

olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp of ground cumin

1 tsp oregano

1 Tb paprika

1 tsp dried chilli * optional!

1 tsp brown sugar

1 large tin of crushed tomatoes or 2 small tins

1 tin of red kidney beans (or 2 tins if you really lvoe kidney beans, like we do)


– gently fry onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent

– add the cumin and oregano and fry for a minute to release the flavours

– add the paprika, chilli if using, tomatoes and brown sugar. stir to combine.

– bring to the boil, then add the kidney beans.

– simmer for half an hour or so, maybe three quarters, until it is a thick, spicy red beany mass.

– serve with rice and a thick creamy natural yoghurt. steamed broccoli is a nice accompaniment. a very nutritious meal!

>> we love this meal in our family. it’s quick, inexpensive and hearty. also, it smells fantastic as it cooks. i can’t think of anything better to eat on a cold, gray day (like today). leftovers work well as fillings for tortillas or burritos, with avocado, yoghurt or sour cream, cheese and salad leaves.


12 thoughts on “jam-ing; bean-ing; chocolate chipper-ing

  1. strawberry and vanilla sounds delightful… a stall at our local market sells something called “raw stirred” strawberry jam. I’ve no idea how it’s actually made but it tastes very very fresh, more like strawberries than the usual stuff. It also goes mouldy within a week if not kept in the fridge. have you any idea of how to make jam without cooking?

  2. david – hmmm, the only jam i know of that doesn’t need to be cooked is something similar to the ‘raw stirred’ jam you mention. i think it must be a fresh jam, where all you do is macerate the fruit and add sugar or lemon juice or something similar. because the fruit isn’t cooked in a sugar syrup at high heat and thus preserved, it would soon go off or mouldy, just as fresh fruit would.
    the sugar syrup in which the fruit is cooked when making conventional jam acts as a preservative, sealing out air which would cause the fruit to decay. hence, if you get any air bubbles or an improperly sealed jar of jam it also tends to get a bit whiffy, brown or mouldy.
    here’s a quick jam recipe from nigella (from ‘forever summer’)which aims to preserve the freshness of raspberries while doing away with all that stove-top faffing about:
    – put 250g raspberries into an ovenproof dish and 250g castor sugar into another.
    – cook both in an oven pre-heated to 180° for 20- 25 minutes.
    – remove from oven and add hot sugar to hot berries – instant jam!
    – pour into a 250ml jar and leave to cool and set in the fridge.
    mmm, that sounds yummy. will have to try that myself.
    if you want even less fuss than that, i reckon just try cutting up some fresh fruit very finely and adding icing sugar to taste (other sugars will leave a grainy texture) and maybe lemon juice, mint leaves etc and eat straight away. just make a small amount as it won’t keep for long!

  3. Thanks for a great blog. I’ve been reading instead of doing some work I need to finish.
    I almost entirely agree with you about cooked avocado with one exception. There is a quality vegeterian restaurant here in Melbourne, Australia (in Carlton) called Shakahari that do an entree that is a tempura batter around a roll of eggplant, avocado and (if I recall correctly) red capsicum in a coriander/sweet sauce. I don’t know where in Australia you originally come from but if you’re in Melbourne it’s definitely worth trying.

  4. ‘Ericka’ Getting Last Laugh at Shaq’s Expense

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