Dad’s Bramble Jelly

I’ve been meaning to add a bramble (blackberry) jam recipe to the blog for some time now.  Not only is it my very favourite jam, the berries can be found all over the place in late summer/early autumn in this part of the world. 

Thing is, I actually don’t make bramble jelly myself.  I could and I would except that the world’s bramble-jelly-master is actually my Dad and it would be silly not to take advantage of that.  🙂

So today my Dad is guest posting.  Below, in his own words, are Dad’s very thorough and totally fool-proof instructions for making some absolutely cracking bramble and apple jelly.  Enjoy.

Bramble and Apple Jelly

 2 kg wild brambles

½ Kg green apples

Around 1 ½ Kg sugar

Gently wash the brambles in a basin of water and pick out the floating bits. Pour out the water and place the brambles in a pot.  Wash and core (do not peel) the apples then chop them into 10mm slices and add to the brambles. Add around 50mm of cold water to the bottom of the pot and place it on a medium ring.

When the water has started to boil through the fruit reduce the heat to a good simmer and stir occasionally. Continue simmering for around 20 minutes or until all the brambles and apples have softened into a lovely deep red goo. At this point it may help to squeeze the mix very gently against the side of the pot with a large spoon as this can release extra juice from the brambles.

Turn off the heat and allow the goo to cool slightly then pour it into a jelly bag suspended above a large bowl to catch the juice. This should be left to drip for a few hours or even overnight.

Weigh the juice then pour it into a pot and bring it to the boil. (Note you may wish to use only a portion of the juice to make jelly and freeze the rest for later. See * below.) Add the sugar to the pot using same Kg sugar for Kg juice and stir it in gently. Note it is not necessary to use jam sugar as the green apples do the same job as the pectin in jam sugar. Bring the pot back to a fairly active boil and stir it occasionally. Continue to boil for about 15 minutes then test the jelly.

To test the jelly I find the following method is simple and works well. Place an ice cube in a shallow bowl and on top of a piece of kitchen roll to prevent it slipping about. Dip a soup spoon into the boiling jelly then remove it with only a skin of jelly on the spoon. Place the spoon on the ice cube and with the handle resting on the rim of the bowl. This cools the spoon quickly and if the jelly is ready there should be fairly stiff film on the surface of the spoon.

When the jelly is ready remove it from the heat and let it stand for a few minutes then pour it into sterilised jars. As soon as the jars are cool cover the surface of the jelly with a generous layer of cling film tucked well into the sides of the jar then seal the lid.

The jelly will stay fresh in the fridge for a few months but the jelly also freezes very well if you wish to keep it for use over the winter.

* It is also very useful to freeze a container of the juice if you wish to make fresh jelly later in the year.

* The juice is also very good as a base for a fruit coulis and it can also be useful to fill a few yogurt containers or small jars and freeze them.

(the man himself)


Toffee Apples

There’s a stubby little apple tree in our front garden which is probably older than me.  Its short, gnarly branches produce the most beautiful blossoms in the first half of the year and the most surprising amount of apples in the second.  This year was no exception and, until last week, I had been happily enjoying strolling out front to pluck an apple from the tree to munch on while I played ball with Marco on the shore. 

But then came the gales and all the fruit that little tree bore was blown and shaken from the branches.  Luckily, a quick thinking father gathered up the apples before they could rot on the ground and (after nicking a few for his bramble and apple jelly) piled them up in plastic baskets for me to use as I pleased.

First thing I did was to munch a few more down by the shore playing ball with my pup.  Next thing I did was make a big pile of toffee apples and eat them with ice-cream for a naughty Sunday lunch.  🙂

Toffee Apples

(Enough for 2 greedy people or 4 normal folk)

4 apples, cored, peeled and cut into eighths

2 tblspn brown sugar

1 tblspn golden syrup

1 heaped tblspn butter

1 tblspn water

Pinch of cinnamon

Vanilla ice-cream – optional

  • Heat the butter, syrup, sugar, cinnamon and water in a small pot until they melt and begin to bubble.   Reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes.  DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO LICK THE SPOON – trust me on this one.
  • Add the apples to the caramelised sauce and cook for 5 or so minutes until the apples are well coated and just beginning to soften.
  • Serve drizzled with extra sauce alongside vanilla ice-cream.

Green Olive Tapanade

I adore olives.  All of them.  Black, green, pitted, whole… I love them on their own or with feta, in salads, in pasta and tagines and stew.  I love them marinated with herbs or with spices or chilli.  I love them stuffed with anchovies or lemon or chilli or capers.  Other than mouldy or soiled ones, I reckon you couldn’t find an olive that I didn’t wholeheartedly adore.

It’s no surprise, then, that I also adore tapanade – the rough textured, pungent paste made from olives.  What was surprising, though, was discovering how quickly and easily it could be made and how when spread on chewy country bread and topped with scarlet slices of tomato, it makes the perfect Saturday lunch.

Green Olive Tapanade

(makes approx. half a cup)

150g pitted green olives

1 anchovy fillet

1 tspn capers

Ground black pepper

Extra virgin  olive oil

  • Simply whizz the olives, capers and anchovy together in a small blender until ingredients are finely and evenly chopped up.  Add a little olive oil (around 2 tblspns) and whizz again until a paste is formed.  Season with black peppper.

Roasted Squash and Chickpea Salad

Despite having sworn off buying cookbooks, I bought the second Moro book recently, Casa Moro.  No regrets here.  Already I’ve made the vegetable paella, the white bean and chorizo soup and some warmly spiced lamb chops.  They’ve all been exceptionally good.

My favourite recipe by far is the Warm Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad with Tahini.  We’ve had it several times already alongside the lamb chops mentioned above or eaten on its own.  Each time we have fought over the leftovers. 

Below is my own tweaked version of the dish.  Highly recommended.

Roasted Squash and Chickpea Salad (adapted from Casa Moro)

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 garlic clove, crushed

3/4 tspn ground allspice

Olive oil

400g tin chickpeas

1 small red onion, finely chopped

Handful of fresh coriander and parsley, finely chopped


For the dressing:

1 garlic clove

1/4 tspn salt

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tblspn tahini

2 tblspn water

3 tblspn yogurt

Extra virgin olive oil

  • Pre-heat oven to 220 oC. 
  • Add squash, garlic, allspice and seasoning to a baking tray.  Coat your hands well in olive oil and toss the ingredients together until the squash is well coated with flavoured oil.  Roast in the oven for 20-25 mins (tossing occasionally) until soft and bronzed.
  • Meanwhile, warm the chickpeas in a small pan then drain. 
  • Mix together the dressing ingredients tasting to see if you need more lemon juice, tahini or yogurt.  You’ll know.
  • In a large bowl, toss together the squash, chickpeas, onion and chopped herbs.
  • Serve with large dollops of tahini yogurt dressing.


As suspected, I was too preoccupied with old friends, amazing food and copious amounts of French wine to put much effort into photographing my weekend on the French/Swiss border. 

A few details to contextualise the few photos below-  We stayed in Gex(France) where there was a lovely Saturday morning market; the ceremony was in a pretty village church in Gingins (Switzerland) and the reception was held in a cosy but grand auberge in Echenevex (France) overlooking Mont Blanc. 

From the 7 old friends I got to catch up with to the 7 course meal to the 7km walk back to our accommodation at 5am in dainty heels, it was all absolutely wonderful.  🙂


And then home…