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Rhubarb, Vanilla & Cardamom Jam, Small Batch

Rhubarb, Vanilla & Cardamom Jam, Small Batch

When I had a growing family, I made oodles and scads of jams, preserves, jellies and pickles every year.  I spent hours putting up fruit and veg from our garden for the winter and all of it got eaten. Now that there are only two of us, it just isn't practical anymore as it never gets eaten.  The only kind of preserving I do now, is small batch preserving.  That is what suits the size of our family most of all.

I love rhubarb preserves however and was recently inspired by the influx of early rhubarb in our shops to make a small batch for Todd and myself to enjoy, but with a twist.  This is Rhubarb, Vanilla & Cardamom Jam . . .  this is a delicious trinity of very good taste! 

See how lovely and pink the rhubarb is?  It comes from an area in the UK known as the "Rhubarb Triangle."  This covers a 9 square mile area in West Yorkshire which is famous for producing early season Forced Rhubarb.  

This rhubarb has a Protected Designation of Origin status. (PDO)  Rhubarb which is a native plant species of Siberia actually thrives in the soil and wet and cold winters of this area of the UK.  Forced rhubarb grown in sheds has a beautiful pink colour and is a quite a bit more tender that that which is grown outdoors in the summer months.

I used some to make an upside down cake one day and I had just enough left over to make this lovely jam.   This jam comes from a recipe I adapted from a site called Lovely Greens.

The addition of the vanilla and cardamom are my own additions.  I love the three flavours together. 

The rhubarb is tart, and the addition of lemon juice helps to preserve the pink colour and integrity of the tartness of the fruit. 

The vanilla adds a beautiful aroma and flavour which goes very well with the flavour of the fruit  . . .  I think it actually enhances it.

Cardamom adds an additional flavour.  There is just a small amount  . . .  just enough to give a hint of warmth and additional fragrance . . . it lends a gentle almost citrus-like flavour which goes so very well with the fruit.

 Just a hint which is not over-powering in any way.  You can leave it out altogether if you wish.  I, personally, quite like it.

I had a fresh Parisien loaf from the bakery . . .  I cut it into thin slices and lightly buttered it with some softened Danish butter  . . .

I almost could not wait for the jam to cool down entirely before I was wanting to dig my spoon into it . . .

I know we were going to  be in for a real taste treat!

I was right.  This was pure and utter early Spring bliss . . .

Yield: Makes 2 (340g/12 ounce) jars

Rhubarb, Vanilla & Cardamom Jam

The taste of spring, flavoured lightly with vanilla and ground cardamom. Rhubarb, vanilla and cardamom are a trinity of great taste.  This is another small batch recipe.


  • 500g early rhubarb (1 pound)
  • 475g jam sugar (has pectin in it) (2 1/2 cups)
  • the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom


  1. Wash the rhubarb and cut it into 1/2 inch pieces.  Place into a reaction free container/saucepan along with the sugar.  Cover and place on the side overnight.
  2. When you are ready to make the jam.  Place on the stove, over medium heat, and bring to the boil. Add the cardamom and lemon juice and continue to boil, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for five minutes.  Stir in the Vanilla paste.  Ladle into hot clean and sterile jars.  Seal tightly while still hot.  Once cooled, if the lids have popped down you can store in a dry dark place. Otherwise store in the refrigerator.  Delicious.
  3. Note - Jam sugar is granulated sugar which has the pectin already added.
Created using The Recipes Generator

What a wonderfully European combination  . . .  soft chewy bread from France . . .  pink rhubarb from England . . .  and creamy lightly salted butter from Denmark.  How very cosmopolitan!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Beef Stew and Leftover Stew Pie for Two

Beef Stew and Leftover Stew Pie for Two

Simple Simon met a Pie Man going to the fair, said Simple Simon to the Pie Man, let me taste your ware.  Said the Pie Man to Simple Simon, show me first your penny.  Said Simple Simon to the Pie Man, Indeed I have not any." 

Such a sad verse I think!  I can remember reading this as a child and feeling very sorry for Simple Simon.  Pies have always been one of my favourite things!

Everyone in my family is the same.  If it is between two crusts, sitting beneath a crust, or sitting on top of a crust . . .  we are ALL over it! 

Largely due in fact to  my mother's ability to make really fabulous pies, sweet or savoury.  We loved the sweet of course . . .  but we were also very fond of her savoury pies.  I don't think we had a roast dinner when I was growing up that wasn't followed by a tasty pot pie later in the week. My mother had the God given ability to make leftovers taste brand new and just as yummy, if not more yummy than the original dinner! 

I like to think I have somewhat inherited that ability in that I, too, can create wonderful things from leftovers.  Take for instance this delicious beef stew I made the other night.  My Todd really loves a stew, and I do also.  Sometimes I put potatoes in the stew, but he really likes potatoes on the side as mash, so more often that not I will do that.

So anyways I made a pretty basic stew for us for tea one night last week, using only beef, carrots, parsnips, onions, celery and swede/turnips/rutabaga . .  . leaving out the potato because Todd wanted mash.  I had in mind to serve it on two nights as there are only two of us . . .  so once again a perfect opportunity for me to make something tasty from leftovers.

This stew is pretty fabulous, and you an double it to serve more people if you would like.  Stews are pretty simple dishes to do and they basically (after the initial browning of the meat) cook themselves.

Yield: 4

A Basic Stew

prep time: 30 minscook time: 1 hour and 30 minstotal time: 1 hours and 60 mins
This is the very basic recipe for a delicious stew.  You can use beef, or pork, or lamb, or venison and it will come out perfectly every time.  The secret is in the browning.


  • 1 pound of stewing meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • (trim of any fat and gristle and discard)
  • salt and black pepper
  • flour to roll the meat in
  • a knob of butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into coins
  • 1/2 a small rutabaga (swede) peeled and cut into cubes
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBS tomato ketchup
  • hot water to cover
  • beef stock cube
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Season your meat and roll it in flour to coat. Melt the knob of butter in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the meat and brown it well on all sides working in batches. Don't over crowd your pan or your meat won't brown well. Browning it well is the secret to a nicely coloured gravy. Remove the meat to a bowl as it browns and repeat until all the meat has been browned. Add the onions and celery to the pan. Saute until softened. Return the meat to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Add enough hot water to barely cover the meat along with the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, stock cube, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, tightly covered at a slow simmer for about an hour. Add the carrot, parsnip and rutabaga. Cover and cook for about half an hour longer. Add the potato cubes and cover again. Cook for a further 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the meat is falling apart. Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Serve hot with plenty of crusty bread for sopping up all the juices.
  2. Note - if you wish a thick gravy you can shake a tablespoon of flour in a jar with about 110ml or 1/2 cup of cold water until smooth. Stir this into the stew and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Cook for several minutes to cook out the flavour of the flour.
Created using The Recipes Generator

I had in mind the night after to make a simple Pie for us to enjoy, using the leftover stew.  Pretty basic really.  It was not hard.

I made my own pastry for it, but you could use any store bought ready rolled short crust pastry you can get.  Even puff pastry is pretty special. 

For myself I prefer to use my Butter Lard Pastry.  It is a beautiful pastry that always comes out very flaky and delicious.  There is something very magical and flavourful about pastry that is made with both butter and lard.  In my opinion it can't be beat! 

Yield: makes 2 (9-inch) crusts

Butter Lard Pastry

This is a beautiful pastry.  Flaky just right.  You can add a touch of sugar to it if you are making a fruit pie.


  • 2 cups all purpose flour (280g)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter (76g)
  • 1/3 cup lard (or white vegetable shortening) (74g)
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons of ice water
  • (note: if using for a sweet pie, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar.)


  1. Mix flour with salt, and cut in butter and lard, until you have pieces of fat in the flour about the size of peas. Add ice water, one TBS at a time, tossing it in with a fork until pastry comes together. Form in to a ball and cut in two pieces. Form each into a round flat disc. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Of course I had not put any potatoes in my stew, and I wanted some in my pie. I always have tinned new potatoes in my store cupboard, which are perfect for things like this, or even just for making fried potatoes. 

I warmed the stew gently and added a bit of boiling stock to loosen it a tiny bit. You don't need much.  You just don't it to be really thick.  You want it a bit juicy. 

Then I stirred in the sliced potatoes, gently folding them into the stew so as not to break them up too much.  After that I just poured the stew into a baking dish and topped it with my pastry.  I like to get really fancy when I do a meat pie crust.  I always make fancy cuts in it and in this instance I cut out some extra pieces and stuck them on top to decorate it a bit.

You can brush it with some beaten egg (1 small egg, 1 tsp water) which really glazes it up nicely. Or you can brush it with some milk.  Heck, you can even just leave it alone.  All are great.  It just depends on how fiddly you want to be.

Then you just pop it into a hot oven (200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6) and bake until the filling is bubbling away and the pastry is crisp and golden brown.  Easy peasy.  Everyone is happy.  Obviously for a pie for two people, you will only need half the pastry.  Just wrap and freeze the other disc for another time.  For a pie for more people you can use the whole recipe and just roll it out to cover your casserole dish.  I served this with some coleslaw.  I am not bragging, but . . .  okay maybe a little bit  . . .  it was some tasty!  And it was just leftovers.  I love it when that happens!  No waste here! Happy days! 

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Marie Rayner
Small Batch Maple & Oatmeal Muffins

Small Batch Maple & Oatmeal Muffins

I quite like to enjoy a muffin in the mornings either for breakfast or mid morning with a hot drink. Muffins always seem to be an acceptable option to choose for a snack rather than having cake.  And a proper muffin really is nothing like a cake, so you would be well justified in thinking so.

By muffin, I mean a quick bread, not overly sweet, the size of which is  somewhere in between a golf ball and a tennis ball . . .  not those huge things that masquerade as muffins in most bake shops, coffee shops and yes, even Costco.

I love oatmeal muffins.  I think next to bran muffins they are my favourite kind of muffin.  When my children were small I used to buy the Quaker Oat Muffin Mix and stir chocolate chips into it  for baking.  The children loved them, and yes, so did I. 

There is no such thing as a muffin mix over here, at least not that I have seen.  When I had my own Coffee Shop, I used to serve muffins.  I would buy big plastic containers of muffin mix  . . .

I would buy in carrot muffin mix, bran (always popular), banana and morning glory (everyone's favourite.)  Personally I was never fond of the carrot one, but I did not mind the others, and I did a brisk business with them, selling them out every day.

It was an easy option.  It came frozen in huge tubs and you just scooped the mix into the muffin tins and baked. Easy peasy lemon squeasy.  When you are on your own and baking dozens every day, it was the best option, especially when you also had a lot of other things to prepare such as sandwiches, etc.

Now there are only two of us I usually bake small batches of things.  I have slowly been cutting my regular recipes down to make only half as much of things.  It only makes sense. 

These are lovely muffins . . .  just about the size of your fist.  Moist and delicious with a lovely peaked top . . . 

The flavours are nice  . . .  maple, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Not overly sweet, but just right . . . 

Using oats adds a bit of nuttiness and a lovely texture . . .  and oats are wholesome and good for the heart.

I favour old fashioned oats . . .  with large flakes.  You can use rolled oats also.  I just don't recommend using quick oats . . . but that is just a personal choice on my part. 

Never having used them, I cannot answer to the result you might have if you did use them. Like I said I like the old fashioned ones.

I also like to use Muscovado brown sugar, which has a higher molasses content and which is less refined than regular brown sugar.  I also use pure Maple syrup, amber grade, not artificial maple syrup. 

Yield: makes 6

Small Batch Oatmeal & Maple Muffins

prep time: 10 minscook time: 25 minstotal time: 35 mins
Delicious Maple and brown sugar muffins that we really love. Moist and delicious and not overly sweet. Sized to make just six muffins, but can easily be doubled to make more.  You can also freeze these


  • 80g old fashioned oatmeal (1 cup)
  • 120ml milk (1/2 cup)
  • 60ml pure Maple syrup (1/4 cup)
  • 3 TBS vegetable oil
  • 70g soft light brown sugar (1/3 cup, packed)
  • 1 large free range egg, beaten
  • 105g plain flour (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Demerara sugar to sprinkle on top (turbinado) (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Line a six cup muffin tin with papers.  Set aside.
  2. Measure the oats into a bowl. Add the milk and let sit for 10 minutes.  Add the oil, brown sugar, maple syrup and egg.  Sift together the flour, soda, baking power and salt.  Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture just to combine. You will have a wet batter.
  3. Divide equally amongst the muffin cups. Sprinkle a bit of demerara sugar on top of each if desired.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until well risen and the tops spring back when lightly touched.
Created using The Recipes Generator

These really are lovely muffins.  Sometimes I will add some vanilla, but  more often than not I don't.  I suppose if you really want a deeper Maple flavour you could use Maple Extract.  Its not something which exists over here in the UK.  I like these just as they are.  I do think some chopped toasted walnuts would also be an excellent addition.  Bon weekend! 

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Marie Rayner
Salmon Pot Pie

Salmon Pot Pie

We eat a lot of fish and chicken in our home.  Mostly chicken, and then fish.  Sometimes it is fresh fish, but often I take advantage of good tinned fish, such as salmon or tuna. It is something I grew up with, so I quite like tinned fish.

I will often make us a salmon loaf, or fish patties, fish cakes, tuna melts, or another of our favourites which I am sharing with you here today, Salmon Pot Pie.  You don't have to use tinned fish in this. You could certainly use leftover cooked salmon. I have used a mix of cooked and hot smoked salmon which is really tasty. You could  use Tuna if you don't like salmon.  Its a very forgiving, very delicious recipe. 

It is a very simple recipe, which involves sauteing a mix of vegetables (leek or onion, peppers and celery) in a bit of butter until softened.  You then add some flour, stock and milk to create a creamy sauce, which is flavoured with thyme and cayenne pepper.  (How little or how much is up to you. I prefer to err on the side of caution myself!) 

 Salmon Pot Pie

Once the sauce is made you flake the fish into it along with some frozen peas.  You pour this mixture into a casserole/pie dish or dishes (if making individual ones) and top with some short crust pastry.  I like to brush it with an egg wash  prior to baking which gives it a lovely golden glaze.

For all of my chopping today I used the 6 inch knife from the MyKtchn Premium Black Ceramic Kitchen Knife Set.

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The six piece set (including an attractive acrylic holder/stand/storage unit) 6 inch, 5 inch, 4 inch and 3 inch knives, plus an exclusive vegetable peeler.

These knives are really great, and make short work of chores such as slicing and chopping all of the vegetables for this lovely pot pie.

They are sharp, durable and also very attractive. To find out more just click on the above link.

The end result is positively scrumptious. 

That rich and creamy sauce goes perfectly with the salmon.  Salmon is an oily fish and quite good for you, being high in protein, vitamin D and heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids.  

Its a good practise to eat oily fish at least once a week, if not more often. 

Fresh salmon can ofttimes be a bit cost prohibitive, so that's why we will more often than not use tinned.

And this simple and delicious Pot Pie is an excellent way of preparing it.

If you want to make it even more colourful, you can use a mix of frozen vegetables, such as peas/carrots/corn/beans.  My mother always used frozen mixed vegetables in her pot pies.

And she made GREAT pot pies.  She was the Queen of pot pies! 

You can of course use ready rolled pastry for convenience, but if you are keen to make your own, I have an excellent recipe for Short Crust pastry that you can use.  You would need to double it. 

One of the things I love about this fabulous Salmon Pot Pie is that it uses simple ingredients that I have in my home most of the time.  I also love that it is quick and easy to make. Best of all, its very tasty!

Yield: 6

Salmon Pot Pie

A simple, yet flavourful salmon filling beneath a crisp crust. Ordinary ingredients done well. Delicious!


  • 1 lb prepared short crust pastry
  • (alternately  make enough pastry for two crusts)
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1 medium onion or leek, trimmed, washed
  • and thinly sliced (leek) or chopped (onion)
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 small sweet bell peppers, trimmed and chopped
  • (I used green and yellow)
  • 35g plain flour (1/4 cup)
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 240ml chicken or vegetable broth (1 cup)
  • 180ml milk (3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 (170g) tins of boneless, skinless cooked salmon, flaked (12 ounces)
  • a handful of snipped fresh parsley (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


  1. Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Have ready a deep pie dish, or six individual pie dishes.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the leek/onion, peppers and celery.  Saute for 4 to 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Whisk in the flour, thyme, salt and cayenne.  Add the broth and milk, and cook, stirring until the mixture is thickened and bubbly.  Stir in the salmon, peas and parsley.  Pour into the pie dish, or divide between the individual dishes.
  3. Roll the pastry out  to fit the top of the casserole dish (s).  If using individual ones, cut shapes large enough to sit on top of each.  Place the pastry on top of the hot filling.  Brush with beaten egg.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until crust(s) is/are golden brown.  Let stand for 10 minutes prior to serving.
Created using The Recipes Generator

You could serve a nice mixed salad on the side of this tasty dish, or coleslaw, which would also be fabulous. I really think you are going to like this, or at least I hope you do!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner

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