Taster notes for jam; varieties; at www.commaand.co

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

Just chilli-in

How about growing your own chillies in the UK?  And then cooking with them?

As I am to gardening what Kubla Khan was to crocheting, I simply bought a plant from a supermarket and kept it on the kitchen windowsill.  I was amazed at how many small chillis popped up in due course.  And they tasted all the more delicious for being a crop growing freely from a plant which cost the price of a handful of pre-grown chillis.

But for someone with a greenhouse, there is much more scope – literally.  This lady went for it


observing that there are some universal general rules:

Quick Guide to Growing Chilli Plants

  • Start early with your seeds – January – March – different varieties
  • You need them to be kept warm, invest in a heated propogator for quickest germination
  • Plant seeds in soil based compost – they like good drainage
  • Use a little surface spray for watering rather than watering from the base (no soggy bottoms)
  • Pot on once the seedlings have two well formed leaves into bigger individual pots
  • They still need warmth and lots of sunlight while they are little
  • Make sure they have enough space, they’ll need repotting again
  • Feed them with tomato food when fruit starts to set
  • Don’t let them get too hot and dry – they may need a little shade
  • Pick fruit as they are ready to encourage more fruit
  • They can survive over winter if kept warm!

Pictures and longer story over at blog:



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


Poetry, noodles and animation

As you know, this blog likes to mix its ingredients of art and life, so putting together poetry, noodles and animation this morning was the work of a moment.

Exhibit A – the poem is “Making Mines Frires” by Dominique Ahkong and if you pop over to http://bit.ly/2vm5ZEk you can read the poetic description of the family-making of noodles for the dish.  (from Cha: An Asian Literary Journal)  It includes phrases such as:

“My mother and grandmother trickle water

and crack runny suns into a powdered white well.

They whisk and mix until the walls collapse.”

(very recognisably a description for making pasta – but what genius to describe eggs as cracking ‘runny suns‘.  This simple and beautiful descriptive poem gently hints at family dynamics and cultural expectations and norms, too).

When the pasta machine slices the noodles into running ribbons, the writer describes it as “”like limbs in a Ghibli cartoon.”  Dominique was born to Mauritian parents in London, and now works as an animation writer in Singapore.


Exhibit B: the food – Mines Frires is a classic noodle dish of Mauritius and you can see it being made here in this video.  The noodles have already been made, sadly.  Now you’ll have to excuse me, as I feel an irresistible urge to go and eat noodles, suddenly……



Exhibit C: an animation about noodles….

Forager’s delight

This.  Today.


A reward for doing a week’s foodshop so close to Christmas – just before the parking lot turned into an accident waiting to happen (11 am, on the dot – make a note for next year) with too many cars chasing too few parking spaces and pedestrians attempting to walk in front of cars, randomly.

Home to foraging repast: an unmade bed of instant lettuce (prewashed), with readycooked prawns on top, slathered in seafood mayonnaise (bought) and freshened up with roughly chopped cucumber and tomato and hewn bits of lemon.  A generous grating of black pepper on top.

Thrown together instantly and delicious.