Vegetable-and-sausage Paella

We went to LA for a three day holiday recently. Most people would be incredulous that LA is my idea of a holiday. But it is. I’m a city girl. I grew up in the midst of a thriving metropolis and feel most at home and at peace with myself when I’m around the cacophony of traffic and the hustle-n-bustle of a city. Not necessarily in the middle of it, but around it. In its absence, I feel like something is strongly missing from my life. It’s the same feeling I get when I can’t see the ocean too much, or smell the salty spray, only this is more intense. The two years I lived outside of an urban environment had me climbing walls. If I ever have to move out of the city, I would need to return to it often, every other day, like a swimmer surfacing for air.

LA delivers the big city like no other on the West Coast. Of course, San Francisco is prettier in its setting, but it is smaller, very definite. Step out of it and you know you’re out. LA feels like it has no boundaries, one big gritty and interesting melting pot of city and ‘burbs. This time I got to visit places that I haven’t been to before, like the Getty Center and the Griffith Observatory, both of which offer wonderful vantage points to the sprawling behemoth that is Los Angeles. If you haven’t been to LA, put both these destinations on your itinerary when you visit. The Getty Center has beautiful views and even better architecture, with beautiful courts and iridescent buildings dressed in travertine. The combined wallop of the art and architecture raised my spirits. This place radiates a contagious vitality. We had a mixture of lunch and dinner in a lovely little Mexican taqueria that served the best salsa I’ve eaten anywhere, that topped these delicious chicken tacos cooked in a fantastic peppery sauce. LA really has great Mexican food.

The observatory is a study in contrasts. This almost octogenarian building is gorgeous in it proportions and set on what must be one of LA’s most spectacular sites. It has a wonderful planetarium that was both educational and entertaining. The views here are gorgeous in the day time. But it was at night that I had the defining experience of my visit here, probably not an intended one. The sun goes down and the lights come on, studding the cityscape with sparkling dots and dashes that twinkle through the haze that LA is wont to be covered in. The stars in the skies are outshined by the ones on Earth. Nothing else I’ve seen puts the extent of light pollution on our planet into stark reality so definitively, except maybe Las Vegas. Strange, isn’t it? This place exists to search the skies and shed light on the mysteries of space.

Our interest in food never wanes, even on short vacations. So when a local friend told me about the Grove, the Farmers’ market in downtown LA, it was put on the top of my places to visit. I’ve already waxed lyrical about my love for the Farmers’ markets here in San Francisco. The Grove is a good Farmers’ Market with some delicious food. However I thought it paled in comparison to the abundant and gorgeous produce of the Ferry Building Farmers’ market or the Berkeley Bowl. Also, it didn’t help that the experience kept getting interrupted by an over-zealous security guard who came up to us, several times, in the half hour we spent there. He didn’t seem to want to tell us to stop taking photos but he didn’t seem too happy that we were, in a vague fashion. Then apparently someone complained to him that we were taking photos. In a public place. In LA. You would think this was one place on the planet that people with be familiar with a camera. Someone had a problem with me shooting monkey bread and pies. I can tell you it soured the Grove for us and we left it thoroughly confused and a bit miffed, leaving us with a bitter taste that overpowered the wonderful falafel we had for lunch. Made me long for home. No one cares about people with cameras in San Francisco. (I’d say the same for the rest of the world, everywhere except LA, but that would be spite. Gah!)

Anyway, the episode didn’t completely ruin our trip there. The spell of the sun and gorgeous day washed away the annoyance. We also quite accidently discovered this beautiful Indian temple on our way to Malibu which was just icing on the trip. So pretty and white, all by itself, tucked away in the mountains. It quite made up for the morning. There was a serenity reigning over the compound in stark contrast to how noisy and crowded temples can be in the Bay Area.

Before we left SoCal, we had some wonderful tapas in a small California-inspired Spanish restaurant. The tapas were delicious and small, but so filling that we weren’t able to satisfy our interest in the enticing paella photographed in the menu. So today, on this fairly hot San Francisco day, Amey and I decided that we’d try making our own paella, toasting to the memory of our wonderful little trip.

Neither of us is too familiar with cooking Spanish food so we turned to the Internet for explanation. What we found was that onion, garlic and tomatoes form the sofrito or base of this dish, as they often do in Spanish cooking, which put me back a bit in my comfort zone. These three form the base of many an Indian recipe as well. But then there were recipes that included parsley in the sofrito. Problem. Parsley is not one of my favourite herbs. In fact the only parsley dish I ever actually liked was some chimmichurri I had once. Mostly parsley tastes like soap to me. I’ve found the world around me is often divided into parsley lovers and cilantro lovers. Many a parsley lover has told me that to them, cilantro tastes like soap. Those exact words. Weird, no? But I digress..

We also found that recipes often call for all kinds of meat and seafood in the one recipe. This was another problem. Like that little kid who doesn’t like his food touching other food on his plate, I don’t like all kinds of meat playing along in one single dish. But Amey wanted there to be some in this dish, for a contrasting bite to the veggies, so we compromised on including two kinds of sausage instead of several meats. After agonizing over recipes, we decided we needed to make up our own, based on several variations. The result is what you see here.

Paella with sausage and veggies
Serves 3-4

Spicy Italian sausage – 1 link, cut into 1/4” rounds
Sweet basil and roasted garlic chicken sausage -1 link, cut into 1/4” rounds
Yellow onion – 1, diced
Garlic – 6 cloves, minced fine
Cilantro – handful, chopped fine
Green bell pepper- 1, cut into strips
Red bell pepper-1, cut into strips
Carrots – 2, diced
Canned whole tomatoes – 8 oz
Valencian rice – 2 cups OR Bomba rice – 1 1/2 cups
Green peas – 1 cup
Smoked paprika – 1/2 tsp
Saffron – a pinch
Olive oil – 3 tbsp
Water – 2 cups
Chicken stock – 2 cups
Salt to taste
Lemon – 1, cut into wedges

– In a large pan (the more flat surface area, the better), add the oil and the sausage cuts. Brown the sausage and then remove to a paper towel covered plate.
– Add the onion and saute for a while until it starts to caramelize. Then add the garlic and cilantro and fry some more.
– Add the pepper strips and carrots. Saute until for 5 minutes.
– Hand crush the tomatoes and add to the cooking pan. Saute the mixture until it starts to brown or caramelize.
– Fold in the rice into the tomato mixture. After completely folded in, add the water and stock. Keep stirring slowly to cook the rice gradually, about 10 minutes.
– Add the peas. Move the cooked sausage back to the pan.
– Take a few tablespoons of hot liquid out into a bowl. Soak the saffron in this for a bit and return the liquid to the pan. Mix to incorporate. Cover the pan and let cook on medium low heat until the rice is cooked through.
– When almost all the liquid has gone, turn the heat up to caramelize and toast up the bottom layer of rice.

To serve, plate some rice including some from the bottom of the pan. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Cook’s notes:
Traditionally, the Spanish use a paellera; a flat, shallow pan took make paella. I don’t own one so I went with the largest shallow pan I had. You can substitute arborio rice for the traditionally used Bomba or Valencian rice (we got ours from The Spanish Table in Berkeley) but paella does is supposed to have separate, distinct grains, different from the texture of risotto. At any rate, do not use a long-grain rice like Basmati. It will probably turn to mush. The two kinds of sausage were amazing in this recipe, infusing their flavours into the oil. Even so, I think a vegetarian version would be pretty good too. Just leave out the sausage and use veggie stock.

Several recipes said that food colour is substituted because saffron is expensive, but that saffron is the heart of the dish. Every bite had an almost-floral afternote because of the saffron. I would not substitute it with anything else. Saffron is pricey, but so strong that hardly any recipe calls for more than a pinch at a time. If you store it well, tightly capped in a cool, dry and dark place, it has a long shelf life.

We decided to substitute the parsley we read about in some recipes with cilantro. I’m guessing this isn’t quite authentic, nevertheless, it worked brilliantly. This rice dish was piquant and satisfying at the same time, the twist of lemon at the end giving it a fabulous tang. I think the only thing I might try the next time I make it would be to use fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones. It did seem to have an excess of tomato, never a bad thing in my book, but it did tend to overpower the other flavours a bit, so you had to hunt for them. And remember to dish out a bit of the toasted rice in each helping. It really adds to the flavour of the meal. Anyone who has had caramelised onions on a biryani would understand. It is a similar layer of flavour.

The sunshine in San Francisco today echoed the intense heat in LA from our trip there and paella was a culmination of sunshine on our plates. I raise my glass to the West Coast. Right now, warm plate in hand, gazing at an azure sky, I’m exactly where I want to be.

*To learn more about the travel photos and see others, check out the Flickr set.

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Mom-in Law’s Potatoes with Fenugreek seeds & Coconut (Methi batata)

(I’m excited to announce that aside from my own blog, I just began writing for KQED’s Bay Area Bites, a San Francisco chef and foodie blog here in the Bay area! It is a wonderful blog collective showcasing the talents of many local chefs and writers. The following is my first post there.)

The kitchen was always interesting to me as a child because it had a number of things I wasnʼt allowed to touch. My sisters didnʼt have these rules. That is because my mother didnʼt worry that they would kill themselves by trying to eat salt or spices straight out of their tins. My curiosity almost always overshadowed my caution. All that stopped the day I knocked loose a couple of my milk teeth; the day I tried to munch on methi (fenugreek) seeds.

When you look at the squat, rectangular and extremely hard seeds of fenugreek, you may wonder why anyone would take any trouble to work with it. But this unyielding spice is accompanied by a nutty, bitter and mellow flavor that could not be replicated by anything else. It loses some of its toughness when you gently fry or boil it, which also brings out its subtle flavor. The fragrance of the whole spice is a bit woody. But the wheaty, caramel colored seeds release a nutty aroma when cooked. In a spice blend, its flavors meld with the other spice to give the blend a deep bass note.

Due to the tough physical nature of the spice, it finds wide application in its ground form. But its seeds are also popular. A little goes a long way with this spice, as too much can make your meal overwhelmingly bitter. This is especially true if you are using whole seeds.

Fenugreek seeds also have medicinal qualities. As traditional remedies, concoctions of fenugreek are used as an appetite stimulator, in the curing of cough and congestion and prescribed to nursing mothers.

In India, the leaves of the fenugreek plant are used as a fragrant herb when dried and used as greens in their fresh state. The bitterness of the seed is reflected in the fresh leaves. They are very fragrant when they are dried. In the dry form, fenugreek leaves are used in curries and paired with vegetables like peas. They pair especially well with cream-based recipes. The seeds are like a more humble cousin. They too are used in different kinds of curries and in combination with various vegetables like okra and eggplant. The difference is that the seed will form the base of the recipe while the herblike leaves will be sprinkled on top of a dish towards the end of cooking.

While several dishes use fenugreek seeds, either as part of a spice mix or on its own, the seeds are the star of this recipe along with the very versatile potato. It would be hard to define the roots of this dish. It falls under some semblance of western Indian cooking, but I think the credit lies with my mother-in-law, from whom I got the recipe. Were you to try to look for a similar vegetable recipe, you would most likely end up with several using fenugreek leaves. Like most Indian dishes, this one involves a combination of a few spices but they all come together in celebration of this unassuming seed, which is often relegated to a supporting role.

Potatoes with coconut and fenugreek seeds

Click here to read the recipe

Spiced Tomato – Coconut Soup

Tomatoes. Fresh, luscious, straight-off-the-vine. glistening and full of flavour!

The actual association of tomatoes with physical summer has come about more for me after moving out of India. Back there, not only are good tomatoes available all year round, the sunshine is more or less always there too. But here, one waits till summer to have the truly tantalizing tomatoes. The rest of the year we make do with what we can get. They are certainly better than no tomatoes, but not a patch on the summer freshness of the pomme d’amour in season.

There’s nothing more alluring about summer than the tomato. They are everywhere in the markets, ripe and ready, simply there for the taking. You slice one up and inhale the heady bouquet. There is sunshine all around you even on a cold day in July. Yes, you heard that right. Cold day in July. I’m not talking about the southern hemisphere either. While the rest of the country is sweating it out and bitching about heatwaves (as a friend of mine up in Seattle so delicately puts it), we are having shivery days under thick blankets of grey-white fog. While I do love the cold and am not too crazy about heat, I do miss the sun. I’ll take it where I can find it, and nothing delivers like new seasons’ tomatoes.

It is strange how much I love the nightshade family of vegetables (though some are technically fruits). Maybe I dabbled in poisons in a past life? At any rate, the potato, the chilli peppers (self-evident how I feel about those) and the tomato; poisonous they are not. What they are, is tops on my list of favourites. There is no better sandwich than a good tomato, cut into thick steaks, on good white bread with some cheese, salt and pepper. For me, there wasn’t a better sandwich for years. Tomato, bread and cheddar, that what I demanded for lunch every time I had to take a packed lunch; to school, for the school picnic…or simply because it was Tuesday.  There is something inherently comforting sitting with that tomato sandwich, the piquant juices oozing into the bread and running down your fingers. You experience an unexpected lifting of your spirits. It is like metaphorical sunshine for your soul.

It was also here that I discovered the heirloom tomato. Ever since, I’m torn between the scarlet red tomatoes and the rich greens, yellows, and purples of the heirloom variety. Also the ridiculous shapes crack me up. They are the funniest looking veggies around, unless of course, there’s some ginger around. (What can I say! I’m an architect! We respond to form.:)) Sometimes I end up with quantities of both. This is a major no-no in my tiny apartment, which can look like it is drowning in tomatoes even if I only have a couple of dozen or so on the counter. Tomatoes are best stored out of the refrigerator. This is exactly where I found myself after a recent trip to the market. Fortunately, I also have this recipe for a sublime tomato soup.

Given the recent weather in San Francisco, a soup is completely apropos. This recipe is essentially one for a saar, a thin type of curry eaten over rice. But many dals and curries make a comfortable transition to soup, just like that of a sauce. This is another of my mother-in-law’s gems, a genius recipe for a cold summer.

Tomato soup with a twist

Tomatoes – 6, medium to large
Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Peppercorns – 4-5
Coconut milk – 3 tbsp
Honey – 1 tsp
Chickpea flour – 1 1/2 tsp
Canola oil- 2 tbsp
Curry Leaves – 4
Asafoetida – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Cilantro for garnish

– Put the tomatoes in a large pot. Pour enough water to cover the tomatoes. Bring the water to a boil along with the tomatoes. (about 15 to 20 minutes).
– Pick the tomatoes out of the water and plunge into a bowl of cold water. This should loosen the skins which you should remove.
– In a blender, add the skinned tomatoes, peppercorns, coconut milk and chickpea flour and puree until smooth.
– Pour back into the pot and add salt, chilli powder and honey. Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat.
– In a small pan, heat the oil. Temper the oil with cumin, curry leaves and asafoetida.
– Pour the tempered oil into the heated tomato soup.

Ladle into bowls to serve and garnish with cilantro.. and a few croutons, if you like.

Cook’s notes:
The tomatoes shine through brilliantly in this soup. It looks a bit like a light cream of tomato, but is infinitely healthier. The little bit of chilli powder you add, coupled with the peppercorns give the soup a deep heat that rise up on your tongue just behind the piquant sweet and sour taste of the tomato and honey, rounding off the flavour nicely. Wonderful as this is served over rice, as a soup it acquires an unadulterated dimension, the tomatoes singing in your mouth with each spoonful. The coconut milk gives the entire thing a silky smooth finish, barely there as it is. I worked my way through two and a half bowls without pause. It was impossible to put down the spoon. Amey was over the moon as he worked his way through the rest of it, mopping up remaining splashes with the piece of bread we didn’t bake into croutons. I’m sure this would taste just as great served cold.

It may be a real summer where you are. Even so, if you find yourself in possession of a few tomatoes and at a loss of something new to do with them, give this recipe a try. Summer tomatoes are so rarely turned into a soup, even though they do very well as one. This recipe celebrates it as well as your favourite tomato standby. It will not disappoint.

Roasted Carrots with Orange and Coriander

Summer is full of countless treasures; so many vegetables in the market, so much fruit readily available. It’s very easy to get carried away in the excesses as you scramble to sample all that is available before it’s gone for the year. And sometimes, while you hop through the tomatoes nd the sugar peas, you chance upon an old friend from a colder time, the bright orange root with cool green plume. What you’ve just rediscovered is the lovely, saffronesque carrot.

Growing up, the carrot was a vegetable often consumed raw or in sweets. My mom included it in several salads. There were also some decadent sweets made from carrots that were a pleasure to eat. Sometimes, it would be used as a filler vegetable in curries and dals, or in sambar. Carrots have a way of soaking up flavour while passing some of their own on into the dish. There are few things as delicious as a curry-soaked piece of carrot. It is, at once, understandably soft yet with a bit of surprising bite, sopped up in spicy goodness. It is incredible.

Carrots were generally a welcome vegetable among my generation in India; partly because of the popular detective Karamchand in the 80s, but mostly because with their slight sweetness which makes them an easy vegetable for kids to love. My liking of the vegetable only increased as I grew older. One of my favourite snacks still is a bit of raw shredded carrot tossed with some lemon juice and salt. But it wasn’t until I came to live here in San Francisco that I truly came to appreciate the nuanced flavour of a roasted carrot.

Indian kitchens aren’t very big on ovens. It was a rare kitchen that actually had one until very late in the last century. Some time in the 90s, my mom acquired for herself a small, counter-top version of an oven, a toaster oven if you will, which allowed us to experiment to some extent with kababs and cakes. But most of my baking and roasting began after graduate school, here in this city. Once I tasted the warm, caramelized flavour that most veggies develop after the long, hot sauna of the oven, I was hooked. It was only a matter of time before I tried it with carrots. What gave me the necessary impetus were these gorgeous, golden sunset roots that I found in the market. That, along with the inspiration that dawned upon me while thumbing through my surprisingly still-pristine copy of Cook with Jamie. (My secret? Leave the cookbook outside the kitchen and walk out to read the recipe…. I know, I need help.)

Roasted Carrots with orange and coriander
with combinations suggested in Jamie Oliver’s Cook with Jamie
Serves 2 as a side (or one for lunch if I’m one of the two)

Carrots – 4, cut into 1/2” slices
Orange – 1, zested, then juiced
Garlic – 4 cloves, smashed
Thyme – 8-10 sprigs
Ginger – 1/2 teaspoon, grated
Coriander seeds – 1 tablespoon
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil – a couple of tablespoons

– Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
– In a bowl, toss the carrots with the orange zest, juice and olive oil. Spread in a small roasting or sheet pan.
– Bash the coriander seeds up in a mortar and pestle until it becomes a coarse powder. (You can use a spice grinder if you’re in a hurry but it’s more fun the first way!)
– Sprinkle the coriander powder on to the carrots and toss on the smashed garlic cloves.
–  Add a couple of grinds of black pepper and season with salt. Add the sprigs of thyme.
– Give the carrots a bit of a mix up, spread evenly on the pan and roast for about 45 minutes or until the carrots caramelize.

Cook’s notes:
The carrots smell heavenly as they slowly roast. They come out of the oven deliciously and deeply browned, even blackened. I like them that way. It was hard to wait until they had cooled down so I could pop one in my mouth. It may seem incongruous with the vegetable, but somehow their light, citrus flavour conveyed the promise of summer. The coriander seeds add a wonderful grassy, smoky flavour to the party, melding with the juices of the orange and carrot to form a lovely glazed coating on the carrot.  Amey popped one into his mouth and I had a hard time keeping him away from it until lunch.

A later batch of this recipe was great when eaten with some pasta. The carrots added a sweet, warm depth to the mushroom sauce and penne, creating an entirely new flavour profile. The roasting really concentrates all that is good in this vegetable. I think they would be great sprinkled on some pizza as well.

It is summer and there is some truly great produce out there. But culinary nirvana can be achieved with the easily accessible carrot even when the summer veggies are gone. One bite will transport you right back to brilliant sunshine. Plus it’s hard not feel happy when you are looking at something so remarkably sunny in appearance.

Strawberry-Ollalieberry Jam

Having acquired the berries, there were still lingering questions in my mind. How does the complete novice start with making jam? It is a bit scary to think that tasks that women of the past easily performed now have to be assiduously read about on the Internet by the 21st century person. Accompanying all instructions to jam-making are dire warnings about canning and storage, hot water and cold plates. It is enough to scare off the most easy-going person. Well, I’m here to tell you that the whole process is absolutely as easy as reaching out and picking the berry off the tree. Put all those people screaming about contamination on mute. Also ignore anyone who tells you that you need tons of specialised equipment. All that you really need is a large stockpot, some very clean Bell jars, a pair of very clean and hefty tongs and a clean ladle. Make sure your hands are clean and that you don’t touch the clean stuff with messy hands, and you’re in business.

Since ollalies are not the most well-known of berries, it is hard to find a recipe with them. I read in several places that they can be used wherever blackberries are specified. However, it is even harder when you are looking for something coupling strawberries with them. So I decided to loosely follow this recipe for easy jam off the Food Network, from Ina Garten. This would be a bit of a trial and error since there is some science to the proportions of fruit, sugar and acid used to make jam. At worst I figured I’d end up with lots of fruit syrup. Not what I was looking for but given how good the berries tasted it would still taste good. When life gives you fruit, messing with its natural perfect state without knowing exactly what you’re doing must come with some punishment. So I steeled myself to possible failure and decided to forge ahead.

Amey found me some wide mouth Bell jars at the local Safeway. It really is a pity how in the city of San Francisco, they do not sell these individually. The size of the apartments here is hardly going to encourage bulk canning and storage. Yet the smallest amount of jars available are fifteen. But I had committed to serious jam making and if my math and understanding of the process was correct, at least three to four jars were required. Having gotten the jars home without mishap, we proceeded to wash them clean in soapy water. Then I boiled some water in my largest pot and placed the jars, lids and all in the boiling water for ten minutes. Taking them out, careful not to touch the mouth or inside of the jar, I placed them on a tray and put them in the oven to dry out.

That truly is the only possible aggravating portion of jam making. From there on, it’s all downhill. You cut wash the fruit and clean it. Hull the strawberries and clean out any leftover stems from the ollalieberries. Mix them altogether and then measure them out to see exactly how much fruit you have. Ina’s recipe had about 3 1/4 pints of fruit to 3 cups of sugar. I had about that much fruit, plus a few more cups. But three cups of sugar had already made me nervous. Chalk it up to the ingrained mass of worries we all become around sugar. So I didn’t increase the quantity of sugar. I put ollalieberries in whole, halved the strawberries, tossed in a cup of sugar and set the bowl aside so that all three could get to know each other a bit better.

This recipe instructs you to use half a green apple. This provides the pectin for the party, the natural sugar found in apples that allows for the jammifying of things. It’s one of the reasons I like the recipe. No futzing around with pectin powders in sachets allowing it to stay as basic as possible. So half an apple, duly peeled and sliced, joined the rest of the fruit. I squashed the fruit a bit with my hands (let me tell you it is strangely therapeutic squishing berries under your fingers, an instant calmer), but not too thoroughly, then poured the entire thing into a deep pan to boil away and become this magic deep red nectar of the gods.

Strawberry-Ollalieberry Jam
Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe off Food Network

Strawberries – 2 pints
Ollalieberries – 2 pints
Apple – 3/4, peeled and sliced (I used a Granny Smith)
Sugar – 3 cups
Orange Liqueur – 3 tsp
Lemon juice – 1/2 lemon

– Wash the fruit. Hull and cut the strawberries in half. Toss the ollalies in whole.
– Add one cups of sugar to the mixed berries in a large bowl. Set aside for ten minutes.
– Peel and finely slice the apple.
– Gently squeeze the berries to release the juices then place into a deep bottom pan at medium high. Add the rest of the sugar and orange liqueur
– When the mixture comes to a boil, add the apple and lemon juice. Stir the mixture often and keep it at a rolling boil.
– Skim and remove the foam that forms on the top as much as you can. Keep boiling the mixture until it thickens. This can take anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes.
– Once the mixture has thickened considerably, give it the frozen plate test. Place a few drops on a plate and place in the freezer for a minute. If the syrup on the frozen plate doesn’t run when you tilt the plate, you have the desired consistency.
– Move off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before storing. This jam can then be canned per your jar manufacturers’ instructions or, it can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Cook’s notes:
My first jam-making experiment was a resounding success according to my very happy husband, who was thrilled to eat several crackers with the freshly made jam, making a crumby mess. It is almost as if the essential fruitiness of the berries multiplies exponentially as it conentrates and you reap this glorious nectar. The jam hits you with a sweetness immediately followed by tartness that lingers in your mouth and you immediately reach for another bite. There is a goodness in it that cannot be denied.

This quantity of fruit yielded two and half jars of jam. I proceeded with canning the almost full jars. You leave some room on top to allow for the expansion and cooling of air. Using a very clean ladle to dollop out quantities of jam into the prepped jars, I was careful to clean the few spill ups with fresh paper towels, never using the same one twice. Then placing the lids and tightly screwing on the rings, I used the tongs to place the full jars for a bath in a pot of boiling water for a scant five minutes. Fishing them out of the water (narrowly avoiding an accident that might have turned my kitchen into ending scenes from The Amityville Horror), I placed them on clean paper towels to cool. Everything was as sterilised as is possible in a kitchen environment.  As the jars cooled there were two faint pops. I have to say there is nothing as satisfying hearing that lid pop. It means all your mucking about with the jars was accurately done. I’m reasonably sure that these jars would have lasted to winter but had no opportunity of testing it with this batch. Between my co-workers and Amey, we have gone through two jars of jam. I wish I’d made more. I love to cook for people but there is nothing as gratifying as watching someone whose eyes light up when they taste jam that you made. That childhood bliss is written all over their face. I was struck by how many people told me only their grandparents actually made jam. Not only is it unbelievably easy to make, it is extremely economical when made in large quantities. Also, no store bought jam in the world tastes like the one you make at home. The aromatherapy of cooking jam is an unbeatable added benefit. At least two neighbours stopped by to ask what was cooking and I didn’t even know them (city dweller, so that’s no surprise), but I do now. I wish I’d made more to share but that is a mistake that can easily be remedied. I will certainly make more jam before the summer fruit season is over. If you are wondering about jam, I encourage you to try it. This is so easy that the idiom ‘easy as pie’ should really read ‘ easy as jam’.