Conserves, preserves and jam

As my we were tootling along somewhere, for no remembered reason, we began to talk about jam… maybe we had started by talking about marmalade, the making of which we are experts, or maybe it was something else which triggered the conversation, but we began to wonder what the difference was between preserves and conserves and how they were different from jams. I knew I had looked at this before and had a guess that is was maybe the amount of fruit to sugar, or the size or sort of fruit…

here is what the Kilner (Kilner jar people) site says about it:

The main distinguishing factors between these preserves are:

  • The fruit used
  • The size of the fruit pieces
  • The addition or omission of flavourings
  • The procedure used to process the fruit and sugar mix

There is a marvellous little book, ‘Jams, Jellies and Preserves – How To make Them’ by Ethelind Fearon, first published in 1953 which has a really interesting introduction. It’s interesting for two reasons – one it has some great recipes and helpful advice, and secondly it’s an insight into how basic cooking has changed.

In talking about pectin, Ethelind reminds us that the most usual test for the amount of pectin in fruit is the methylated spirits test – I don’t suppose many of us have methylated spirits in our houses any more – maybe in the remote corner of the garage or garden shed, but in the kitchen? I don’t think so!

She also mentions that in the old days (the old days for her would have been way before the war) ‘old paper dipped in brandy was used for sealing the jars. This is now rather expensive…‘  Ethelind also reveals that many of her recipes came from a handwritten book of her grandmother’s; as Ethelind was born in 1878, her grandmother must have been born between fifty and sixty years before. here is what grandma said about sealing jam pots:

Observe to keep all wet sweetmeats in a dry cool place, for a wet damp place will make them mould and a hot dry place will dry up the virtue and make them candy. The best direction I can give is to dip writing paper in brandy, and lay it close to your sweetmeats, tie them down well with white paper and two folds of thick cap paper to keep out the air for nothing can be a greater fault than bad tying down and leaving the pots open.

In the ‘older days’ of course, people would have relied on their preserves to last them over the winter – no fridges, freezers or supermarkets!

Going back to the different types of preserves, here is a list:

  • jams – small or chopped or mashed fruit and sugar
  • jellies – fruit and sugar cooked and strained so there are no bits
  • preserves – whole fruit or large pieces and sugar
  • conserves – high fruit content, often with added dried fruit, nuts, etc, similar consistency to jam
  • marmalades – mixed citrus fruit and often with chopped or sliced peel, and sugar
  • fruit butters – puréed cooked fruit and less sugar, soft and spreadable – they don’t keep well so have to be eaten quickly – oh good!
  • curds/cheeses –  fruit, sugar, butter and eggs, and as with butters, and have to be eaten quickly

Here is a link to the Kilner jar site:

Town and Around and Zena Skinner

‘Town and Around’ was a 1960’s TV programme; it was a London and South East regional  programme, the BBC’s first regional news programme. It was replaced by  ‘Nationwide’ which started in 1969 and continued until the 1980’s, an early evening news, current affairs programme.  ‘Town and Around’ didn’t exactly die, it became another programme which was on a couple of times a week, ‘London This Week‘. ‘Town and Around’ had many different features, and one of them was a cookery feature with Zena Skinner.

Like many other of the first TV cooks, Zena was originally a cookery demonstrator for London School of Electrical Domestic Science. However, during the war she had joined up as a WRNS – The Women’s Royal Naval Service (known as the Wrens) and she became a decoder. Her first TV appearance was in 1959, and she went on to become a popular TV cook, and also published many books.

I’ve just been glancing through the little book I have ‘100 More Town & Around Recipes’ published in 1965. it’s interesting to look t the fish section, as fish was much more commonly eaten than it is now. This is a book for ordinary people who would want economical as well as tasty meals; her first recipe is for dressed crab … and then she has a variety of different fish and shellfish, some of which I’m not sure we would find today:

  • cheese and shrimp fritters – not a combination which I have ever had, but Zena makes a comment that whenever she made them, she never made enough!
  • creamed kipper fillets – a basic recipe really, white sauce with flaked kipper fillets, mustard, lemon juice, served with mashed potato piped round the edge; I love kippers but I’m not sure I want to try this either!
  • marinaded dabs – can you get dabs any more? I used to love them as a child! They are marinaded in olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped onion and a pinch of rosemary, then grilled or bread-crumbed and fried
  • prawns with macaroni – this actually doesn’t really sound very nice; heat a tin of tomato sauce and add grated cheese, (she has a thing about shrimps/prawns and cheese) milk, butter, and prawns, and then the cooked macaroni when everything is hot – apparently it’s a tasty supper dish
  • baked stuffed herring – you need herrings with soft roes, boned and stuffed with the lightly fried roe, onion, mushrooms and mixed with breadcrumbs and lemon juice. They are cooked in greased grease-proof paper and baked… might be nice…
  • crunchy tail of haddock – well, since haddock has just gone onto the endangered list I don’t think I’ll be trying this soon! However, the fish is grilled and well basted with plenty of butter, before being spread with a thin layer of mayonnaise, coated in crushed cornflake crumbs and crisped under the grill… strange but sounds a possibility, the crushed cornflakes might be quite tasty!
  • savoury fish pancakes – cod, simmered in water and lemon juice then flaked and added to a white sauce with mushrooms, Worcester sauce, sherry, and yes, grated cheese, spread on thee pancakes which are rolled up, decorated with flaked almonds and browned under the grill – actually could be quite nice, but I’m still not sure of the cheese
  • plaice or cod in orange sauce – fry the fish then make a sauce from the butter it’s bene fried in, marmalade, and orange zest and juice – simples!
  • sprats – Zena describes them as ‘delightful little fish… and you get very good value for the money’. How charming that their Latin name is ‘sprattus’! Zena just flours and fries them, or batters and fries them, or egg and breadcrumbs and fries them – she likes Cayenne pepper with them!
  • shrimp and orange cocktail – shrimps but no cheese! Oranges cut in half and the flesh scooped out to make a cup of the shell, line the shell with shredded lettuce, shrimps mixed with mayonnaise, chopped cucumber, and the drained orange pulp (I’d take out the pips, pith, and skin!) then put the filling in the shells and chill

Zena was born in 1927 so she will be ninety this year! Well done Zena!

Who were Laurence and Veronique?

Perhaps we will never know, who Laurence and Veronique were who inspired this recipe, which was created by the Belgian chef, Pierre Wynants.

Le gateau aux chocolats ‘Laurence et Veronique’
(for 8 – make at least 24 hours before eating)

White chocolate cream:

  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 vanilla pod cut lengthways, seeds scraped out (or you could just use vanilla paste)
  • 3 oz white chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 oz castor sugar
  • ½ sachet powdered gelatine dissolved in 6 tbsp water – you will need some of this for the chocolate sauce
  • 10 fl oz crème fraiche (or 5 fl oz each of double cream and soured cream)

Almond and hazelnut meringue

  • 2½ oz blanched almonds/1½ oz blanched hazelnuts ground together and mixed with 2 oz castor sugart and 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 large egg whites

Dark chocolate cream

  • 6 oz dark chocolate broken into pieces
  • 1 fl oz strong coffee
  • 1 oz
  • 3 oz butter


  • 2 oz  dark chocolate grated into large curls
  1. begin with the white chocolate cream – put milk, white chocolate, vanilla  in pan and heat gently, stirring from time to time
  2. meanwhile mix yolk and 1 oz sugar thoroughly until very smooth
  3. add milk/chocolate mixture to yolk/sugar mixture, mix very well and cook very slowly over low heat, until very thick DO NOT BOIL!!!
  4. take from the heat and add 2 tbsp gelatine, stirring very well so it is completely mixed in, leave to cool but stir from time to time
  5. beat the crème fraiche (cream/sour cream) until it is firm and add half to the cooled white chocolate mixture, mix well and pop in the fridge
  6. now the meringue – beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in nuts/sugar/flour
  7. spread over a 6½ inch x 3½ inch baking tray lined with baking parchment
  8. cook in preheated oven 400°C/200°F/gas mark 6 for 12 mins, then leave to cool
  9. and now the dark chocolate cream – add the coffee, sugar and chocolate very carefully until the chocolate has completely melted and mixed in with the other ingredients DO NOT BOIL!!!
  10. stir in the butter very well, then add the rest of the gelatine, stirring really well so it is completely mixed in, leave to cool
  11. when the dark chocolate is cool, add in the rest of the crème fraiche(cream/sour cream)
  12. line a 10x3x2½ inch baking tray with parchment (you might want to run strips of parchment underneath, for and aft to act as handle to lift)
  13. pour in half of the dark chocolate cream and spread it evenly  across the tray, cut the meringue in half and place one half on top of the chocolate in the tray
  14. spread all of the white chocolate cream onto the meringue and spread it evenly and lightly, then put the other half meringue on top
  15. cover the top with the remaining dark chocolate cream then refrigerate for 24-48 hours
  16. to serve, cut into slices and decorate with the chocolate curls

It sounds complicated but actually it isn’t – each of the processes are quite simple, and as long as you take care structuring the gateau it should be fine – and even if it doesn’t quite look as you might hope, I’m sure it will taste delicious!

Folkestone pudding or is it Kent tart?

It’s the fasting period of Lent at the moment; I have friends who are doing it for a religious reason, and others are doing it as a useful time to eat less , or drink less alcohol, or abstain from chocolates and sweets, and I was wondering if there are any special English Lenten recipes. I can find plenty from other countries, but apart from pancakes at the beginning and Simnel cake on Mothering Sunday, I can’t find much else.

However I did come across references for Kent tart or pie and Folkestone pudding which actually seem to be pretty similar from the recipes I have seen. The pie tart or pudding seems rather rich and delicious for a period of fasting, pastry made with butter, spices eggs and sugar in the filling as well as dried fruit… maybe the originally recipes were plainer, with lard instead of butter, and just rice and milk and a few odds and ends of dried fruit.

Here is a recipe which sounds fairly simple and delicious:

  • shortcrust or enriched pastry, enough to line a pie dish (some recipes call for puff pastry, but I think that would go a bit soggy!) chilled in the fridge and then baked blind as a tart case for the  rice pudding
  • 1¾ pints  milk
  • zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • pinch of nutmeg and vanilla essence or paste, I know it’s not traditional but I would add some ground cardamom too!
  • 10 oz pudding rice
  • 2 oz butter
  • 5 oz castor sugar
  • 7 oz raisins or currants or sultanas, soaked overnight in sweet sherry or for as long as you like but so they are plump and juicy – or if you’ve given up alcohol for Lent, soak them in tea – and I guess if you like Earl Grey that would be nice
  1. make a rice pudding with all the ingredients except the soaked fruit; heat the milk, add the flavourings and the rice, when it is soft add the butter last when the rice is cooked
  2. strain the raisins and put in the pastry case (this is what the recipe says, but I think I would stir the fruit into the rice once it was off the heat)
  3. add the rice pudding mixture and let it cool

My featured picture is of violets growing in Kent

I like your sauce!

I’m not sure if anyone says ‘I like your sauce!’ anymore and in fact when I tried to look up where the phrase came from or what its history was I couldn’t find anything about it – so maybe it was just local when i was growing up, or maybe it was just a family saying. I was going to write a little about it before talking about edible sauces (as opposed to sauce meaning liquor)

When we were children there were a few homemade sauces which we had very specifically with things –

  • mint sauce – with lamb, home-made with malt vinegar and home-grown mint
  • white sauce – with vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli (not calabrese, we didn’t have that as children) and asparagus
  • onion sauce – made with onions cooked in butter, a roux, milk, and a dash of cooking sherry
  • parsley sauce – white sauce with parsley with ham and also with fish
  • gravy – if that counts as sauce

The only tomato sauce we had was ketchup, and I don’t remember us having brown sauce at home; ketchup was served on the side as mustard might be to go with a particular thing. There was Worcestershire sauce of course which was useful in cooking as well as with breakfast! We didn’t have bread sauce with roast chicken or turkey – and in fact I didn’t come across it until i was an adult… and then I didn’t like it!

The only sweet sauce we had was Bird’s custard – we didn’t have the mysterious sweet white sauce my friends spoke about, which sounded odd and not nice – not that we ever tasted it!

Looking at old recipe books, I’ve come across loads of sauces, for every day cooking as well as for special dishes, so I think maybe our family just weren’t very saucy! In ‘Light Fare Recipes for Corn Flour and Raisley Cookery, there are three sauce sections, fish, savoury and sweet. I use corn flour a lot, and a cousin who is an excellent cook always uses it for making sauce whereas I just use ordinary flour.

Anyway… here’s a list of the different Raisley Cookery sauces:


  • anchovy – white fish sauce with anchovy essence and anchovy paste and paprika
  • brown – using stock made from butter, fish bones etc. (presumably heads and tails) onion, carrot, herbs, mushrooms, claret, thickened and with extra mushrooms added
  • caper – white fish sauce with coarsely chopped capers and tarragon vinegar
  • cardinal – (for turbot, salmon or sole) white fish sauce with, lobster spawn rubbed through a sieve, butter, double cream
  • Dutch – essentially Hollandaise
  • egg – white fish sauce with chopped hard-boiled egg white, the yolk being used to decorate when served
  • Indian – a curry sauce made from butter, onion, carrot, curry powder, apple, tomato sauce or pulp, fish or meat stock, finely chopped gherkins
  • lobster – white fish sauce with finely chopped lobster and anchovy essence
  • mayonnaise – made over a double boiler, but otherwise just a mayonnaise
  • mustard – roux, fish stock, mustard, vinegar, cream
  • oyster – white fish sauce with oyster juice and cooked oysters
  • parsley – white fish sauce, parsley, lemon juice
  • Polish – roux, fish stock, horseradish, cream, lemon juice
  • shrimp – shells and heads of shrimps boiled in vinegar with mace and a bay leaf, strained and added to white fish sauce, shelled shrimps, anchovy essence
  • white – an ordinary butter and flour roux with milk and fish stock

vegetable – most of these are a white sauce base plus the flavourings of the particular vegetable, except the tomato which is just a normal tomato sauce thickened with corn flour, and the Espagnole which has sherry

  • béchamel
  • brown
  • butter
  • celery
  • Dutch – added egg yolks
  • egg
  • Espagnole
  • gratin
  • lemon
  • mushroom
  • onion
  • parsley
  • tomato
  • white


  • apricot
  • caramel
  • chocolate
  • custard
  • fruit juice
  • jam
  • orange
  • raspberry
  • rice – made with the water from cooking rice
  • white
  • wine


Kale… kale crisps!

I like a lot of green vegetables, especially cabbage and sprouts; as a child there were always greens growing in the garden, including cabbage (white cabbage, not the big leafed green variety) and sprouts, and also broccoli. Broccoli was my favourite, it was so delicious, so sweet, so tender… however, when I buy it these days it just doesn’t seem to be the same, not as nutty, not as melt in the mouth, not as flavoursome – I am talking about green and purple sprouting broccoli, not calabrese which I do like but is very different. However, two things we never had were spinach and kale.

I have tried my best with spinach – I don’t mind it raw in salads, or just a little cooked with other things, especially cheese, but kale, I admit I struggle with. I have an organic vegetable box delivered every week, and there are always lovely treats, but I do get a lot of kale… my husband doesn’t like any green leaf vegetables at all – he will have one single Christmas sprout but that is it, so to get through a great big bag of kale is a challenge.

I was searching for recipes using it which might appeal, which I could make in small enough quantities for me to be able to eat… and I came across kale crisps, which do sound very strange – crisps are usually root vegetables…

Nothing ventured nothing gained, and improvising on ingredients I had a go, with great success!!! Now I know what to do with kale if I get more, what delicious thing I can do with it!

Here is what I did:

  • kale
  • olive oil
  • desiccated coconut ( I guess you could use small seeds like sesame, poppy, chia etc)
  • salt – not too much – you can always add more later, I overdid it and it was a bit too salty
  1. strip all the green part off the stems of the kale, wash if necessary, tear into smallish pieces
  2. add the other ingredients – I didn’t measure the oil, just glugged it in and I did put in too much – better to add a generous amount and then more if you need
  3. massage the leaves with your hands and so they become all oily and soft and a bit wilty
  4. spread them in layers on trays to go in the oven
  5. put them in the oven at gas mark 3 or 4 (I had them at 3 and it was a bit low)
  6. the recipe I followed said for 6 minutes but that wasn’t nearly enough, more like 10, but check to make sure they’re not getting too crisp, turn them over as necessary
  7. leave them to cool if you can – if you have too many they store well in an air-tight box

There are loads of variations available, using different flavourings, herbs and spices – parmesan and lime sound good, and so do maple syrup, or salt and cinnamon if you like cinnamon, ras-el-hanout… and pretty much whatever appeals to you palate!

I have no photos to share, dark green grizzled crisps taste yummy but don’t look that special! The featured image is of a coconut that my dad carved by hand.




Time to think about a Simnel cake

Easter is not that far away and maybe its’ time to think about a Simnel cake; many recipes suggest, that like Christmas cake, it should be made in advance and left to mature for a few weeks! Actually, traditionally Simnel cake wasn’t eaten at Easter, it was eaten on Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday should not be confused with Mother’s day which is a modern invention – Mothering Sunday was a time when servant girls were allowed to go home to visit their mothers, and would pick posies of spring flowers on the way. This in turn was a tradition which grew out of something older, when people would return to their home church, their mother church on the fourth Sunday in Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter.

Maybe servant girls took Simnel cake home to their mothers – which seems unlikely thinking how many rich ingredients it has, but the cake is much older than servant girls going home – it is possibly eight or nine hundred years old – modified over the centuries of course!

The essential thing about Simnel cake, is that it has marzipan cooked in the middle of it, and when it is decorated it has more marzipan on top, with eleven marzipan balls – for the disciples minus Judas, or twelve with one for Jesus.

There are many, many recipes, but basically it is a spiced fruit cake; I came across one recipe with twenty-four differed ingredients; this one from the National Mark Calendar of Cooking, in its March section has fewer:

Simnel cake

  • 12 oz flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz butter
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 12 oz currants
  • 8 oz sultanas
  • 6 oz chopped mixed peel
  • 4 oz raisins
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • pinch of mixed spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • salt
  • almond paste, rolled out to ½ inch thick and in two 8 inch circles, plus extra to make marzipan balls
  1. beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  2. beat in the eggs one by one
  3. sieve the dry ingredients together and add alternately to the fruit and peel
  4. add a little milk if the mixture is too stiff
  5. put half the mixture into a greased, lined, 8 inch cake tin
  6. carefully put one of the almond paste circles onto the mixture then top with the rest of the mix
  7. bake in a moderate oven, 180°C, 350°, gas mark 4, for 3½ hours
  8. allow to cool, brush top with marmalade (no shreds) or apricot jam and lay the second almond paste circle on top. Add the marzipan balls and brown carefully under the grill

I would at least double the quantity of spice!

Here’s an interesting article, and the 24 item recipe!