What is Operation Jam Jar?

Operation Jam Jar is all about getting back to basics in the kitchen.

Check out my efforts at cooking from scratch - cakes, soups, biscuits

Learn how to make things that you would normally buy at the supermarket - wraps, ice cream, pizza bases

Try to live a more 'country' lifestyle in the city - making your own jams or relish

Get the skills to enjoy cooking in a thrifty way, and have a bit of fun while you do it

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Will’s Cheesy Soda Bread

Just the other night we had what is affectionately known as a pantry cupboard curry (an assortment of lentlls, tinned tomatoes and unknown quantities of spices and chilli).  Instead of reaching for the old faithful accompaniments of rice or cous cous, my husband decided to bake us a loaf of fresh bread instead (‘for dunking in the sauce’).  It was so tasty I thought I would share it with you. 

And even though it’s the start of summer, this crazy weather means that you might still be needing a little comfort food at dinner.  Just today we went down to the beach for a swim and ended up running home (OK, briskly walking) with the beach towels over our heads for protection.

If you think that baking your own bread sounds a bit too hard, soda bread is a nice way to start.  There’s no yeast or rising time - just chuck it all in a bowl and away you go.  Couldn’t be simpler.


4 cups plain flour
2 tsp bi carb soda
1 tsp salt
60g butter, cut into small cubes
2 cups milk
½ cup grated cheese (we used cheddar)


Pre-heat your oven to 190°C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Sift the flour, bi carb and salt into a large mixing bowl.  Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the milk and use a wooden spoon to form a ball of dough (you may need a little more milk if it’s too dry).

Place on a floured work surface and bring the dough together into a firm ball.  Shape it into a 20cm round and place on the baking tray.  Sprinkle with the grated cheese, pushing it down on to the dough so that it sticks.

Bake in the oven for around 40 mins or until the top is golden brown.  Serve warm with plenty of butter.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Soft and Chewy Ginger Biscuits

There is something so Christmasy about the smell of biscuits baking in the oven.  If the biscuits happen to contain ingredients such as cloves, ginger or cinnamon then they are bound to smell like Christmas to me. 

There are a lot of recipes out there for ginger snaps, gingerbread men, ginger kisses and even ginger bombs (look out) but this one really appealed to me.  Soft and chewy and two key components of a good biscuit in my book.  Unlike my husband who loves to almost break his teeth on the super hard ginger nuts, I love the delicate lightness of this biscuit.

I know there are a lot of people that think that baking is too hard, too time consuming, or too messy.  Well it is only one of these things once you get a couple of simple recipes up your sleeve (the day I can bake anything without getting flour on the counter and the floor will be truly magical).  I’m sure you could get these biscuits from your imagination to the oven in less than 10 minutes.


1 ½ cups plain flour
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
100g unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions (makes 12)

Line two baking sheets with baking paper and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, around 3 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix again for around a minute. 

Add half of your flour and all of the other dry ingredients.  Mix on low for 20 seconds before adding the rest of the flour and mix until combined.

Using your hands, make balls of dough and place them evenly spread on the baking sheets.  Press down slightly to flatten if you like.  They will spread out quite a bit in the oven, so maybe do 6 biscuits per tray.  Place the sheets in the fridge for 15 minutes. 

While the trays are in the fridge, heat your oven to 180°C.  Bake until golden brown on the bottom and top, which takes around 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack (at least until it’s safe to eat without burning yourself) before getting stuck in.

These biscuits would be lovely with the addition of some chunks of crystalised ginger thrown in, or even some choc chips.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Simple Coronation Chicken

When I first visited London in 2001, I was a little disappointed with the sandwich situation.  In my first week, as I witnessed what passed for a salad sandwich (sad lettuce, unripe tomato and a piece of cheese) I remember thinking ‘I may have made a big mistake in coming here’. 

After that fateful day I was then introduced to the ‘sandwich in a cardboard box’ that is available from Boots the chemist (we buy food from the chemist here? Really?).  I longed for the sandwich shop from back home, with the glass cabinet of dreams overflowing with delicious cold meats and crisp healthy salads.

About 6 months later I made the move down to the south coast to Portsmouth, to live with my now-husband and his four male housemates (where I was introduced to student life in all it’s glory – think jacket potatoes, late night curries and home made cider). 

It was here that my sandwich dreams came true when my husband took me into an old fashioned shop called Jenny and Mark’s where they made baguettes to order and you could choose from the vast array of fillings from the blackboard.  

The first time I tried coronation chicken I think I may have cried a little inside.  It was SO GOOD.  I couldn’t believe I had never tried it before.  From that day on, I must have consumed at least 2 per week.  At times I even managed to squeeze some in between meals in order to get my fix.  These days when we visit England a coronation chicken baguette is always on our to-do list.

The traditional recipe was made especially for the banquet that was held in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.  Sadly, I have never once seen coronation chicken on a menu in Australia, so today my husband and I decided to have a crack at making our own.  It’s still great, and brings back so many memories.  Try it as a filling for a sandwich, roll or baguette.  It’s also delicious as a topping on a jacket potato, or mixed with some cooked rice for a rice salad.  

I think my husband’s quote as we ate our lunch today really sums up how much we love this recipe.  He said ‘I think I’d like to be buried with a coronation chicken sandwich’


1 BBQ chicken, or leftover cooked chicken
5 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp mango chutney
2 tsp curry powder
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 handful sultanas
5 dried apricots, finely chopped (optional)
1 squeeze of lime juice (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste 


Pull the meat from the chicken and place into a large bowl.  Add all of the other ingredients and bring together with a wooden spoon. 

If you have time, chill in the fridge for an hour to allow the flavours to come together.  If, like me, you are hungry right now and don’t want to wait – it will still taste great.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rhubarb Crumble Slice

I need to start off with a confession.  This slice, delicious as it is, was a bit of a pain in the butt to make.  For starters you need FOUR mixing bowls.  Now I don’t know about you but I have a favourite bowl, a second favourite bowl, and that’s about it.  So when I have to wash up half way through a recipe (or in my case, when I have to wash up at all) it makes me pretty upset.  But onwards and upwards, don’t let a little thing like needing FOUR mixing bowls put you off.  For my second confession, I need to apologise for the dodgy photo.  I was far too excited about shoving the slice in my mouth than I was about photographing it.  Luckily there is not a photo of that.  

It’s not exactly rhubarb season here in Australia but for some reason the other day at the market it was selling super cheap, so I decided I should grab a couple of bunches.  It wasn’t until I got home that I realised I have never cooked with rhubarb before.  I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with it.  And while I had tried my husband’s delicious apple and rhubarb crumble (coming to a blog near you when there is some cooler weather) I wanted to try something new. 

This slice has everything going for it – the smooshiness of the fruit, the sweetness of the cake, and the amazing crumbly goodness of the topping. I think there should be more crumble in everyone’s life.  Honestly it makes everything better. 


Bowl 1: the fruit
2 bunches of rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into 1cm pieces
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp ground ginger

Bowl 2: the crumble
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
Big pinch of salt
100g butter, melted
1 ¾ cups plain flour

Bowls 3 and 4: the cake 
1/3 cup sour cream
1 egg plus one extra egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
100g butter, cut into small pieces

Directions: makes about 16 pieces

Preheat your oven to 170°C and line a 20cm x 20cm baking tray with greaseproof paper.  Make sure it is a deep enough tray to hold the 3 layers. 

Bowl 1: place your sliced rhubarb, sugar, cornflour and ginger into the bowl and set to one side.

Bowl 2: in this, we make the crumble. Pour in your melted butter and whisk in the sugars, spices and salt until smooth.  Add your flour and mix with a wooden spoon until it forms a firm dough in the base of your bowl.  Set aside.

Bowl 3: almost cake time.   Using a small bowl for this step, place your sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla and stir to combine.

Bowl 4: here comes the cake.  In a larger bowl, mix together your flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the butter and a spoonful of the sour cream mixture and bring together with electric beaters until moistened.  Turn up the speed and beat for a further 30 seconds.  Add half of the remaining sour cream mixture, beating well before adding the other half and beating again. 

Pour half of the cake batter into your prepared tin, and then sprinkle the rhubarb over the top.  Pour on the rest of your cake batter – it doesn’t matter if it’s not spread evenly.

Use your fingers to break the dough from bowl 2 into crumble.  You want the pieces to be quite chunky, so aim for them to be a bit bigger than a sultana.  Sprinkle these over the cake and bake for around 45 mins.  You will know that it’s ready when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, though it may be a little moist from the fruit.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hi Rise Apple Cake

When I am looking through recipe books or online for recipe inspiration, I tend to skim over the ingredients thinking ‘got that, got that, haven’t got that – move on’.  Normally it won’t be long until I am inspired, and find a recipe that I have all the ingredients for. 

I have to admit that when I scanned the list of ingredients for this cake I didn’t look at the measurements.  Had I seen that TWO cups of sugar were required, plus a CUP of oil, I might have moved on to healthier pastures.  But alas, I missed all that and ended up cooking a cake that I would have usually passed by. 

Now when a cake’s ingredients can make you swear out loud (wait until you take a whiff of apples + sugar + cinnamon in a bowl) you know you’re onto something good.  Since I am in the family way I managed to stop myself from licking the bowl (apparently the unborn can’t handle a little raw egg) but again the smell was heaven sent (or scent? I can’t decide).

So a warning for you - make this cake, but make it when you know you have people around to share it with.  It takes quite a while in the oven (90 minutes +) so you could even bake it the day before you need it, which would give it time to release even more of it’s apple-y goodness and taste delightful.

You’ll need a bundt tin or tube tin for this recipe (these are the ones which produce a hole in the centre of the finished cake).  I didn’t have either of these so I just used a deep round tin, which was fine except that my cake took 120 mins instead of 90 to bake! 

6 apples (any variety)
1 tbsp cinnamon
5 tbsp sugar

2 ¾ cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
¼ cup apple juice
3 tsp vanilla essence
4 eggs


Preheat your oven to 180°C.  Grease and line your bundt/tube tin with baking paper.  Peel, core, and chop your apples into chunks.  Place in a bowl with the cinnamon and sugar, mix well, and set to one side.

Sift your flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.  In another bowl, use a fork or whisk to bring together the oil, sugar, juice and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and bring together with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Add your eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Tip half of the cake mix into your prepared tin, then half of the apples on top.  Add the remaining mixture and then top with the last of the apples, ensuring you have pretty good coverage across the top of the cake.

Bake for 90 mins (or up to 120 mins if using a regular round tin – keep checking it) or until the old skewer test comes out clean.  Allow to rest in the tin for 10 mins before removing to cool on a wire rack.

Monday, October 3, 2011

No rise pizza dough

By the time Friday night rolls around, it’s easy to opt for a quick take away.  But lately I’ve found a new way to get the Friday feeling without spending loads of cash – make your own pizza.  It’s become a little bit of a tradition in our house as we save our pennies for the arrival of baby jam jar in January. 

I’ve been making pizza dough for a while now, and while I love cooking with yeast (I still find it all quite amazing – it’s alive!) I am not a fan of waiting around.  So when I was short of time one Friday night I thought I would cruise around the internet looking for a recipe that didn’t involve the dreaded “and then let the dough rise for one hour”.   This is definitely the most straightforward one I found that fateful day.

When you think about it, pizza dough doesn’t need to be light and fluffy like, say, a hot cross bun does.  So the whole idea of not letting it rise is really fine (I promise) if, like me, you love a thin crispy base as opposed to a deep pan base that you could almost build your house on.

The best thing is, you don’t need more than a couple of toppings for this to be extraordinary.  I love a good old mushroom pizza with just the tomato base, mushrooms and cheese.  Keep it simple and you will still have plenty of time to get on the couch with your favourite slippers. 

Ingredients for the dough:
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
1 pinch sugar
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups plain flour
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

A really simple tomato base:
1 can diced tomatoes
1 brown or red onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon garlic
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, or red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil


First of all, place the yeast sachet and the sugar into the warm water.  Place somewhere warm to allow the yeast to activate for 10 minutes.  It should become foamy on top.  If it doesn’t check the use by date as the yeast may not be fresh enough.

Preheat oven to 200°C and spray 2 baking trays with olive oil.

Now it’s time to get your sauce on the go.  Of course, you could just use a tin of tomato paste, but I find that the version outlined here gives a greater depth of flavour than the paste on it’s own.

Heat a frypan on medium-high heat.   Heat up your oil and add the garlic and onion.  Stir well until just coloured.  Add your tomatoes, plus the salt and pepper.  Allow the sauce to cook down a little for about 3 minutes before adding your balsamic or wine.  Turn down the heat and allow to simmer while you get on with your dough.

Place the flour, salt and olive oil into a large mixing bowl and add your yeast/water mixture.  Bring together with a wooden spoon to form a ball of dough.  You may need to add a little more water or flour to get the consistency right. 

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about two minutes.  It will become more soft and elastic.  Pull into two pieces and roll out thinly to fit the size of your baking tray.   Pour over your sauce and then add the toppings of your choice (remember, less is more) with cheese on top.  Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until the crusts are crispy and the cheese is golden.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jam and Coconut Slice

If you really want to feel a bit pleased with yourself, I recommend whipping up a slice this weekend.  There is nothing more satisfying than pulling out a tray of loveliness and having your friends smile like you’ve just made their day. 

I think I love slice because it always seems a bit moister than a cake or a biscuit.  And this one is terrific because (as usual) there are no weird ingredients, and you can use any old jam you like.  Apricot jam is nice too, or even lime marmalade or lemon curd if you have some. 


1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
125g butter, melted
1 cup strawberry jam (or replace with your own favourite jam)

2 cups desiccated coconut
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, whisked


Preheat oven to 180°C and line a 20cm x 20cm pan with non-stick
baking paper.  Place the flour, sugar and butter in a mixing bowl and whisk  
until combined.   Pour into the tin and spread evenly over the base. 

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden on the top.  Set aside to cool for 10
minutes.  Spread the jam evenly across the cooled cake.

Now for the topping, mix together the coconut, sugar and eggs.  Spread
evenly over the jam, roughing up the top so that it gets nice and crispy.  Bake
for 20 minutes, or until golden on top with a few browned pieces of coconut. 

Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to
cool completely.  Slice into squares and eat immediately with a cup of tea. 
This slice will keep well in an air tight container for up to one week.