Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Capsicum Jam

Are you a chilli person or not? I like it hot and fiery but leaving enough to taste whatever it's in. Past life I made a lot of Chilli Jam but I was getting a little bored with it and as I had a delicious dollop of Capsicum Jam on a plate the other day, I thought it time to investigate making my own.

I've looked at a lot of ingredients and I've settled on making something that is fiery but not too sickly. I want a big chilli hit without the sweetness and a richness in colour, chunky and full of body; I've been experimenting to get the right taste for me. OK, so I did add a bit of sugar, but not too much.

Are you brave enough to try it? 

It only takes a few ingredients.

Don't think you would want to eat it straight from the jar.

But with this cheese and fruit platter - it made a great addition to lunch.

Here is the recipe - give it your best shot!


2 red onions diced
2 red capsicums diced
3 long red chillies sliced, leave seeds in
100g caster sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g cherry tomatoes

In a large heavy saucepan heat oil ver low heat. Gently sauté capsicum, onion and chilli until they begin to soften. 

Add tomatoes and cook until they are soft and mushy.

Add sugar and stir until dissolved, then simmer for 30 - 40 minutes until the mixture has thickened.

While this is cooking, wash and rinse jars and sterilise. 

When the jam is nice and thick, ladle into hot jars and seal.

Once opened, keep in the fridge, otherwise it should keep in your pantry for up to 12 months.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Apologies for my absence from this blog for a few weeks. Needed to take a few days out to refresh my thoughts, try out new recipes and basically veg out. But I'm back, so watch out!

Thinking about a garden tour of Italy in 2018. What do you think? I've visited Italy many times, seen a few famous gardens as well as magnificent towns, cities, churches, cathedrals, markets and museums. But a holiday just looking at gardens, now wouldn't that be fabulous for a 'plant-a-holic' like myself?

On my last visit to Florence I walked the Boboli Gardens. The view of Florence from the top of the embankments was breathtaking. 

I was reminded of this trip only a couple of weeks ago when I visited a dear friend in Brisbane. Over dinner - a fabulous Caponata, we discussed our very next adventure - walking trails and gardens in Tasmania - a garden tour of Italy! With these very thoughts on my return to Adelaide I grabbed my Private Gardens of Italy by Helena Attlee and an Italian phrase book. Neither of which would help if we go the Tasmanian road. 

So dreams of Italy and Italian food and nudged by my restorative time in Brisbane - here is my version of Caponata.
Buon appetito!

The origin of this recipe is thought to be Spanish and the earliest recorded recipe dates back to around 1700. The thought is, that it is derived from the word Caponada meaning a kind of relish and yes the consistency could almost be classed as a thick relish.  I suppose some people might serve this with meat or chicken but on its own I think it's perfect. Today, Caponata is often referred to as Sicilian Caponata or Sicilian Stew.

The flavours will be much stronger if you cook the Caponata the day before you wish to eat it. Store covered in the fridge overnight.


1 large eggplant diced
1 onion finely diced
I red capsicum diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
3 large tomatoes diced
1 440g tin crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons capers
10 kalamata olives, halved, pits removed
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup water/veg stock
handful chopped parsley and oregano
olive oil

  • Put a good lug of olive oil into a large fry pan and on a low heat cook onions and garlic until slightly softened. 
  • Add eggplant and cook until it is lightly browned and starting to soften.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, except parsley and oregano and cook on a low heat until the eggplant is very, very soft. Around 30 -40 minutes. Keep checking to ensure that it is not sticking on the bottom. Add a little more water/stock and continue to cook. 
  • The mixture should be nice and thick and the eggplant very, very soft. Check seasoning. If you are not going to eat this straight away, then hold off adding the parsley and oregano.
You can serve this with any pasta/couscous if you prefer, but some nice chunky bread to mop up the juices is my preference.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Irish Tea Cake

There was an assumption that my paternal ancestors came from Ireland. No one knows where this information came from and I suppose when you looked at the family's dark hair and fair skin, you didn't really question it.

As a child I learned Irish dancing; we ate lots of potatoes and cabbage, drank a lot of tea and my father was a Socialist. So it came as quite a surprise when, years later I started to uncover the real family history. No trace of Irish anywhere! 

I've found a brief but unexplained encounter with King Charles II and the Holt Family of Aston Hall, but no Irish. So I'm a bit bemused to understand why I feel so at home when I visit the Emerald Isle.

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
But I have strayed a little from the topic of tea and teacake. I hope you will see where I am heading -  soon.

There's not one good reason to visit Ireland, there's many. Wonderful scenery, the greenest green countryside, a torturous history and the very friendly Irish themselves. 

Powis Caste, Ireland
Portballintrae, Northern Ireland

But if you are not able to visit, I have a suggestion. You can have a hint of the country by baking a Barmbrack, (Irish teacake) . This has been a family recipe for a very long time, although I must admit it's a fair time since I have cooked it. (And why my non-Irish family had this recipe is still a total mystery.)

I'm feeling a little homesick (for a country I don't come from) so I've rustled up some dried fruit and lots of cold tea and here is the result.



375g dried fruit - I use currants, sultanas, raisins, cranberries and peel

50ml whiskey*
250ml cold tea - I use Irish Breakfast Tea
225g Plain Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
100g soft brown sugar
3/4 tsp mixed spice
1 tablespoon of whiskey extra ( optional)

  • Soak dried fruit in whiskey and cold tea, overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 160/320º. Grease and line a loaf tin (about 750g)
  • In a large bowl add sugar, plain flour, baking powder, mixed spice.
  • Using a wooden spoon mix beaten egg to the flour mixture. 
  • Now add any remaining liquid from the soaked fruit.
  • You need to have a reasonably wet looking batter. 
  • Now add the fruit and mix until everything is even.
  • Spread this into your prepared tin and bake for 30 - 50 minutes. 
  • Check with a skewer to see if it is cooked through, leave in the tin to cool slightly, then finish on a rack.
  • I added 1 tablespoon of whiskey to the base of the cake, then wrapped in foil for 2 days before slicing and eating. Delicious with a strong cup of tea and shared with friends.

Eat it as it is or slather it with butter, either way it's very Irish.

* In Ireland, whiskey is spelt with an 'e' but in Scotland it is spelt without.