Taster notes for jam; varieties; at

Taste notes for Jam… Guest Post, Liz LeFroy

I spied with my little eye a tastey blog post by Liz LeFroy on her blog “I buy a new washer”.  Thankfully, she agreed that I could share it on this blog, so you get to taste its deliciousness also. (New Year dieters: words are calorie-free!)

I Tire Of Damsons


Twenty-something years into being a regular damson jam maker, I can finally admit that it’s not my favourite flavour.


Don’t get me wrong. Damson jam is sharp, it’s dark purple, it sets easily. The problem of the stones can be overcome by sieving. The problem of a glut can be overcome by freezing, then making jam in batches month by month, as I am doing this year. And it provides a source of thoughtful presents for relatives. Okay, a source of presents.

I am not unappreciative of the damson as such. I am not really ungrateful.

But, forgive me, oh damson, you have limitations. Lacking the popularity of raspberry, the easy-going nature of strawberry, the usefulness of apricot (sticking marzipan to cakes), the yoghurt-friendly texture of blueberry, you are destined to be homemade. Mainly, it would seem, by me. You speak of low-maintenance back gardens or self-seeded trees at park-sides; you speak of damson gin, damson ketchup, damson chutney, damson cheese, damson fool, damson crumble, damson bloody anything when there’s no late frost in April and you and your mates turn into an avalanche.

Sorry. I got carried away. It’s just that there have been pounds and pounds and pounds of you and I’ve been denying myself alternatives.

I am not really ungrateful – but I do find myself addressing a fruit in public.

Why this confession? This confusion. I think I need to let it be known that I have switched to blackcurrant. It went like this …

I mentioned to my LSF (Longest Serving Friend) that I’d been out to buy her some jam. It was August. I was in London, presuming on her hospitality; presuming to the extent of finishing a pot of blackcurrant jam which had been nearly full on my arrival a few days before. (There was some unopened damson in the back of her cupboard).

Blackcurrant jam, I’d learnt by day 3 of my stay, is delicious, complex, dense, sophisticated: textured but without the annoying seeds of raspberry, the hairiness of rhubarb, the inevitability of strawberry, the lumps lurking in apricot which make an even spread almost impossible. I think I must have said something about this loudly to my LSF.

Last week, my LSF came to stay en route to Snowdonia. Her bag was unusually heavy, I noticed.  I wondered for one horrified moment if she’d bought camping equipment. But she unloaded 11 heavy, hard, cylinders, individually wrapped – my birthday present. They sat on my table whilst we went off and had a lovely weekend tramping about.

After she’d left, and being well brought up, I only unwrapped 3 of the jars before my actual birthday. After 2, I detected a theme. Opening the third was just to make sure, because of my increasing excitement.

Suffice it to say, that in addition to the half jar I brought back from Wales, I now have 11.5  jars of dense, sophisticated, complex, textured, sophisticated, much-travelled, thoughtful, sophisticated blackcurrant flavour of the highest quality to accompany my toast and butter for the next year six months. Or thereabouts.

Thank you, Liz LeFroy!  I love that line especially about “I find myself addressing a fruit in public.” Her blog fits really well alongside our modus operandi – as she blogs on what strikes her during the day – that mix of the conversation between life and arts.  Liz’s way with words can also be found in her poetry pamphlets (and also in many good poetry magazines):

“Mending the Ordinary” (pamphlet) published Fair Acre Press, 2014
“The Gathering” (set to music by Brian Evans), 2012
“Pretending the Weather” (pamphlet) published Long Face Press, 2011

Comedy Food: Letitia Cropley

I’m beginning to think that the overcrowded market of cookery books lacks one thing – a really funny cookery book.  Here is one of the Master Chefs of the craft: Letitia Cropley, a neighbour of the Vicar of Dibley.  Who always managed to add that little “Je ne sais quoi” ingredient to traditional recipes:

Letitia Cropley has previous “form” in rare cuisine, but is always generous at sharing her recipes, as you can see in this brief but unforgettable clip, in which she provides a birthday cake:

the art of leftovers cooking

Anytime of year (but especially at times of seasonal feasts and celebrations) – there may be leftovers in your fridge/kitchen – or a surplus of one ingredient you’ve grown or been given – can they be put to fresh use?

I’ve just discovered a useful website that says “yes” – “Love Food Hate Waste“.  There’s a great recipe page where you just type in whatever ingredient you have in surplus – press return and ping! Some suggested recipes come up.

Screen shot 2017-12-13 at 17.24.01

To test the system, I just typed in one food group often a leftover in the West at this time of year, after Thanksgiving and Christmas: Turkey.  Result: Potato bites, Celery Broccoli and Stilton Soup, Turkey Tagine, Cranberry Turkey Pasties, Turkey Tomato Gratin (hmm, grasping at straws here), Turkey and Sweetcorn Burgers, Turkey and Chickpea Coconut Curry….  a Smorgasbord of winter fowls.

Worth a try.

And I only visited the site to see if I could freeze cooked rice.

Julia Child: Photo portrait of a cook

This is a review of a book review (?!) jampacked with 1950s Paris culture and glamour, culinary groundbreaking history, Julia Child, romance and gorgeous photography.


The book is “France is a Feast”, and tells the story of Julia Child, with photos by her deeply enamoured husband, Paul Child, who was also an excellent photographer.  The book text is written by Julia’s biographer and nephew, Alex Prud’homme, the photos collected by photography curator Katie Pratt, whose parents were close friends of Paul and Julia Child, so there’s a clear and close link between the writers and their subjects.

A well-written book review makes you want to rush to your local bookshop or library (depending on your budget)


An Amuse Bouche of food jokes

Over our evening meal at home tonight, I laughed as I remembered a joke told – I think – by Woody Allen, many years ago:

There were two women at a holiday resort and one said “Ah – this food is terrible!”  And the other said: “Yes!  And the portions are so small!”

(In case you’re wondering what an amuse bouche is – it’s French for something to tickle your tastebuds – you get it on menus at expensive restaurants.  It’s something unusual and dramatic and in a very small portion.)

I reckon that joke is about 40 years old plus – but my family has one older than that – a relative was told it in school 60 years ago.  Nobody laughed.  And the teacher who told it said to go home and tell it to their parents, because they would be amused.  (Rightly judging that the grownups would be more likely to ‘get’ absurdist humour).  And so the relative told it to her parents and it went down big; her father guffawed and almost keeled over.  Here is the old joke:

Two people were at a restaurant, for a meal.  When a bowl of mayonnaise arrived, one woman began to rub it into her hair.  “What are you doing, rubbing mayonnaise into your hair?” asked her startled companion?  “Oh, I’m sorry” she replied.  “I thought it was blancmange.”

If the joke doesn’t make sense; don’t worry.  It’s the lack of sense which makes it funny.  It is just absurd.

Today somehow being a day for aged jokes about food, I quoted one about 150 years old, today to a friend who mentioned pâté – quoting the wit Sydney Smith (1771-1845) – who said that his friend, Henry Luttrell’s “idea of heaven was eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets”.  

IMG_3919Sydney Smith was accustomed at one point in his life to London dinnerparties of great elegance – he did enjoy his food – but then his career as a minister took him to live in the depths of the countryside where tastes and food were simpler.  He took this change well, but noted that he now lived “Twelve miles from a lemon.”  

This became the title of a small book about him which I rejoice to say I have upon my bookshelves.

I wonder what old jokes about food other people can remember.




Guest blog: Food Photography Tips

Have you ever cooked something rather wonderful – want to share the recipe with others – but found that when you took a photo, your glorious dish looked, well, underwhelming?

Professional photographer and food blogger “Cooking without Limits” has got it sorted out – I picked up some excellent tips from her blog – and she’s kindly agreed that I can share them.  Here’s how to deal with the nightmare of taking photos in poor light…..

Shooting in low-light is a challenge for all photographers. Late afternoons, rainy days, evenings or winter days are just a few situations when natural light is low. You could invest in artificial lights or flashes to deal with all this problems, but not all of us have money to spend on lighting studios. I have […]

via Tips for shooting low light food photography — Cooking Without Limits

Cooking with Georgia O’Keeffe

The artist Georgia O’Keeffe took a keen interest in health foods – believing that what you ate was important to creativity.  Delightfully, she lived to be 99, producing brilliant paintings to the end, her mind sharp as a tack.  So here are recipes for her wholemeal bread, a health shake, and Green Chillies with garlic, oil and a fried egg.


The recipes come from two books: “A Painter’s kitchen” edited by Margaret Wood, who worked as Georgia O’Keeffe’s companion and cook for 5 years – and “Dinner with Georgia