Monday, 22 March 2010

Shepherd's Pie and more jam!

Saturday afternoon, after the reglementary Trip to the Supermarket (which didn't involve much food shopping, other than for Greta- Peter is away most of this week, and then most of next week as well), I started off by re-boiling my blood orange jelly, as it hadn't set.

I think I didn't get enough pectin out of the skins during the initial cooking phase- despite keeping it at 221F/105C for a while, it's still pretty gloopy. However, it tastes unutterably yummy, so I'm just going to keep it, and use it to drizzle on things (hey, my Citrus Cake!), and in things (yoghurt!). I've labelled it as Blood Orange "Honey".

Whilst that was boiling, I chopped strawberries and rhubarb up, weighed them (just over 2kg, about half of each), and put them in to macerate with the same weight of sugar. And the juice of (my last) two small lemons. One of them was getting a bit hard, but fortunately it was still pretty juicy.

I did surf around, looking for Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam recipes, but I couldn't find any that floated my boat- every single one I found used pectin, and I don't do pectin. Christine Ferber says that pectin is unnecessary, as long as you cook things down long enough, or use fruits that have a higher concentration of pectin in with ones that are low. I don't really like that sort of dogmatism on recipes, but it's worked so far (mutters darkly about orange jelly).

Thus, I made my jam without a recipe, adapting what I've been doing so far.

I did discover a couple of interesting other blogs, though, which I shall wander through before deciding whether to add them to my blogroll!

After setting my fruit to macerate, I peeled and boiled a kilo of potatoes, and put them on to boil. There was a whole thread on the Guardian Word of Mouth blog last week about mashed potatoes, and I found it all very interesting. I know about the discussion on whether to use a ricer or a masher when making your mash, if that makes it lighter/fluffier, but I must say that I've never used either. I boil my potatoes, drain them, then chop them with a knife in the saucepan, after which I add either milk or cream, then mash them with a fork. Then butter.

In this case, I added a tablespoon of mascarpone (using it up), then about 3-4 tablespoons of double creme de Gruyere (ditto), then a few slices of butter, then thinned it out with some milk. None of which I heated, although I do sometimes. I then salted it, and left it all to sit in the saucepan.

In the meantime, I'd taken the remains of the leg of lamb from last week out of the fridge, removed all the remaining meat, and cut it into mouthfuls. I put that in a frying pan with one onion, chopped, and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I fried them up until the meat, which had been very pink, was slightly less so, and the onion was translucent. I then added a bottle (700ml) of passata, lots of black pepper, some herbed salt, some herbes de Provence, and let it simmer until thick- but not too thick.

I then tipped the whole lot into a pyrex casserole dish, left it to cool a bit, and topped it with mashed potato. It all went in the oven at 200C for about 45 minutes that evening (with a piece of greaseproof paper underneath to catch the drips!), and we ate it with much pleasure. A surprising amount of pleasure, in fact, as it was absolutely delicious.

And, a definite bonus, Greta actually tolerated a few mouthfuls of mashed potato! Last time I tried her with it, she spat it all out in utter disgust. I so hope this new period of eating things continues- I'm going to keep trying her with all sorts of things!

(She did spit out a mouthful of cauliflower the other day, and gave me such a look for having snuck it in around the side! But at least she didn't burst into tears and refuse to continue to eat her chicken...)

On Sunday, I cooked my rhubarb and strawberry jam (having to use my friend Mousecatfish's casserole dish again, as mine is too small- reminding me that I really do need to get my hands on a proper dish to cook my jam in!) bringing it up to the boil and keeping it going until it hit 221F/105C, and stayed there. It was very bubbly at the beginning, and kept on threatening to boil over, but the last half hour it was calm enough for me to have my lunch, Peter and Greta having had theirs. And I got to finish off the shepherd's pie, yum! And eat strawberry jam scum for dessert, also very yum.

Of course, the whole thing was so relaxed that I burned the bottom of the jam, but I was careful and didn't stir it in- and it really seems to only have affected the very bottom level of the pan, and that layer has gone in the one pot, which latter is already in the fridge, not being full, and, actually, tastes pretty damn good.

I didn't want to stir it too much anyway, because my rhubarb and orange jam I stirred a lot, and the rhubarb all broke up, and various other recipes that I've read since (including Alice B. Toklas!) say to stir rhubarb jam as little as possible to avoid this. Nevertheless, the rhubarb seems to be pretty much mush, whereas the strawberry quarters have stayed in nice chunks. It is a bit darker than I expected, and a bit caramelised, but the flavour has a nice few layers in it- sweet strawberry (also sweeter than I expected, as when raw they were as tasteless as strawberries bought in March should be!), nicely sour rhubarb, and then this odd caramel layer.

Tonight I have to roast a chicken (for Peter's dinner, then to feed Greta with for the rest of the week), but myself, I shall be back to eating apples and celery, as I've had the most outrageous craving for chocolate the last 10 days, and have given in to it to an extent that I really should not have...


  1. Yay JAM! Gearing up for summer, are you? I think that the pinked edged cloth is very cute. A good place for finding the jam cooking pots are the brocantes you see on weekends.

  2. @ Lucy- Definitely gearing up for summer... although looking out the window at the pouring rain, I've got time! The pinked cloth came with the pots- first time I've bothered putting them on. Hm, maybe I need to make a trip to the next brocante or vide-grenier... either that, or bat my eyelashes at my father-in-law in case he has a copper jam saucepan knocking about that he doesn't use any more.