Thursday, 7 April 2016

Chilli Jam - as hot as you dare

With a long hot summer there are always chillies in abundance and almost everyone likes chillies.

Last Friday, during my weekly tennis match I was given a bowl of fresh birds eye chillies.
They were plump and bright red, smiling with happiness - oh wait, that was me - thinking of what to create with this gorgeously gifted bunch of chillies.

Vegetables and fruit are always better when given or received with no expectations.

After dinner last Friday night I was ready to create a chilli jam concoction.
This is the perfect Chilli Jam, with well rounded flavours to accompany all cuisines.

When two of the young adults in our house came down to snack on baklava for supper that evening 
I proudly pushed my bottle of chilli jam under their noses with pride, waiting for a positive reaction. They couldn't smell anything and looked at me in confusion.

It takes a week for the flavours to meld and the aroma to blossom but the taste is immediately divine.

Here it is, the best Chilli Jam ever ....


Chilli Jam

2 whole bulbs of garlic, unpeeled, preferably organic
1 1/2 red onions, unpeeled
1 large cup birds eye or other red chillies (300g) 
1 cup vegetable oil  (250ml)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 200C and lightly squash the garlic bulbs with the flat of your knife to break them apart a little but not separate them.  Wrap the garlic bulbs in foil.  Also wrap the unpeeled red onions in another piece of foil.  Place fresh chillies in an oven proof dish.
Place all in the oven, the garlic and onions on top shelf with the open bowl of chillies on the second shelf for 20 minutes in total.  Roast for 10 minutes, turning over the chillies.  Check after another 5 minutes and toss chillies again.  After another 5 minutes they can all be removed.  You want the chillies to be slightly browned but not burnt.    Leave to cool before opening the foil packages.
Remove stems from the chillies but leave seeds intact.
Place chillies, onions and garlic into a food processor and puree until roughly blended.  Stir through the sugars and salt.
Heat vegetable oil in a large non stick saucepan over medium heat.  Pour in chilli paste and stir continually for 5 minutes until it is all blended and the sugar is dissolved.
Pour into a hot 400ml sterilised jar, topping up with all of the vegetable oil so it forms a barrier on top of the chilli paste to preserve the gorgeous jam.
Let cool and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 4 April 2016

Limoncello - a delightful liquer best made at home

My hubby and I were intently discussing if Limoncello was an aperitif or a digestif....

The first time I tried Limoncello was on the morning of a dear friend's birthday when we popped over to share our birthday wishes and she had just created a new batch of Limoncello.  We sipped on our shot glasses, toasting our friend's birthday and I was informed that Limoncello was designed to "cut through the fat" after a meal, thus assisting digestion.  Our friends considered it to be a digestif.

The warmth of that one glass of Limoncello and the memories we shared remained with us all day.

Stored in a beautiful glass bottle they keep it in the freezer so it could be served icy cold.   Since then I have discovered other people keep shot glasses in the fridge and the Limoncello in the pantry so it is always served cool; but never over ice.

Just before Easter I was fortunate to be given a bottle of 90% grappa which was immediately put to good use for limoncello.

With some ripe lemons I made my own limoncello.  My dear Italian friends say that you must wash the lemons and peel the skin away within 2 hours of picking the lemons for maximum oil content.    I don't know that you need to be that serious as my liquer was purelu delightful and the lemons were store bought!  The exceptional lemon flavour is exquisite with just enough sugar to enhance the flavour while the alcohol adds a warm depth and undercurrent to this welcome digestif.


750ml grappa (or vodka)
5 lemons
3 cups water, boiled and then cooled
2 cups white sugar

A large glass jar

Wash the lemons in warm water then dry.  Peel the skin thinly away, you don't want any white pith in this mixture as it can become sour.    Place lemon peel into the grappa or vodka in a large white jar.   Pour in the sugar and cooled water then stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Put on the lid tightly and store in a dark place for 5 days.
Remove, strain and bottle.
This will keep indefinitely.

I made candied lemon peel with the lemon strips after they were drained and these were delightful.

Have you ever made your own liquer?  
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx