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 19, 2010

Christmas Cake Ice Cream

So confession time - I really don’t like fruit cake, or Christmas cake, or Christmas pudding or whatever else you like to call it.  So when my friend told me she was making Christmas Cake Ice Cream I was pretty sure that I was not going to be a fan.  Boy was I wrong! 

You know how people say something ‘tastes like Christmas’? This actually does!  OK, maybe it’s only me that says that things taste like Christmas (mulled wine, gingerbread biscuits, anything involving honey and cinnamon).  This is a great option to serve up around this time of year since it cools you down and gets you a little tipsy – brilliant!

As with most recipes like this it is really up to you what you add in or take out.  So long as the consistency still feels right – go for it.  Another cute idea my mum told me about would be to leave out the fruit and booze altogether and make a kid’s version with Smarties, snakes and thinly sliced Mars Bar.   In her words ‘you would have turned yourself inside out to have some of that when you were little’.  It’s true, I was nuts about sweets.

So you want to make this the day before you serve it so that there is plenty of time for it to re-freeze.  Take it out of the freezer about 15 mins before you want to serve it so that it has time to thaw a little, making it easier to scoop out of the container. 

As with anything, buy the best ingredients you can afford.  Cheap chocolate still tastes like cheap chocolate when frozen


2L vanilla ice cream
200g sultanas
125g pitted prunes
125g glace cherries                                   
60g mixed peel
125 mls rum                                   
160g almonds
100g block of dark chocolate, broken up into small pieces                 
300ml cream

Leave the ice cream out on the bench to get really soft while you prepare the other ingredients.

Try to cut up the chocolate and fruits so they are all roughly the same size

Place all of the fruits into a saucepan on medium heat, and add rum. 

Heat gently for a few minutes so that the fruit begins to soak up the alcohol

Set aside to cool down a bit

Stir the cream into the ice cream, then add everything else and place into a plastic container (you could even use the ice cream container if it will all fit).

Freeze overnight. 

This ice cream is delicious on its own, or served alongside your favourite Christmas dessert such as cheesecake, mince pies or brownies.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Simple Pancake Recipe

As a kid I spent most Saturday mornings making pancakes for breakfast.  It was one of the first things that I was able to cook for myself.   It might seem strange to post about such a simple recipe that most people probably already know.  But I just love food with just a couple of ingredients as you don't feel overwhelmed when you think about making it.  

Whip these up for breakfast next weekend, it's guaranteed to be a hit!

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup milk
1 egg

Mix all ingredients together with an electric mixer or whisk in a big bowl.

Heat up a small frypan to med-high heat.  

Grease the pan with butter or olive oil spray and pour on the mixture so that it takes up most of the bottom of the pan.  

Once the bubbles begin to pop on the top of the pancake, flip it over to brown the other side.  

Serve any way you like:
- fresh lemon and sugar
- honey
- butter and jam
- bacon and maple syrup
- strawberries and cream

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Delicious Home Made Rum Balls

Whenever I taste rum balls I wonder why they are usually relegated to Christmas only.  We should be eating these all the time!  I don’t actually like rum as a drink, but the small amount that you use in these really adds a lovely sweetness to the flavour. 

These are super easy to make and involve no baking which is always a bonus.  They are lovely as a present wrapped in a little bag with a ribbon and card (thanks Tess for the inspiration from last Christmas!). 

I plan to make them to serve on Christmas afternoon – just when you think you can’t fit anything else in there is always room for a little treat!

1 pack (250g) Nice biscuits
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ cup desiccated coconut
1 can (395g) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (or ½ tsp of the real stuff)
1 ½ tablespoons rum (I used Bundaberg)
2/3 cup sultanas

¾ cup desiccated coconut, for coating

Slightly squash the Nice biscuits in their packet with a rolling pin, then pour them into a food processor with the cocoa and whiz until finely crumbed.  If you’re like me and only have a small food processor you may need to do this in batches.

Pour the fine crumbs into a large mixing bowl.  Add all of the other ingredients (except the extra coconut) and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Place in the fridge for 30 mins to harden up a little – this will make it easier to roll later.

Pour the extra coconut into a large baking dish and spread out over the base

Wet your hands and pinch a little of the mixture, and roll into a ball, adding it to the coconut and rolling to coat. Keep rolling and you should end up with about 30 rum balls depending on the size you choose to use.

Place into a single layer in a Tupperware container and chill in the fridge overnight to harden and intensify in flavour.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lamb Burgers with Peach Chutney

There’s nothing better on a summer’s day than a BBQ with friends.  But as much as I love a snag or two, it’s nice to try something new every now and then. I had a whirl at making lamb burgers on the weekend for a BBQ and they were pretty tasty.  So easy too, you all know how much I love recipes where you just bung everything together in a bowl.  The fun part is adding all the extras – lettuce, tomato, cheese, and some nice sauce.  You might be wondering why there is no photo of these alleged burgers – if truth be told I was far too busy eating and drinking in the sunshine to remember to photograph them.  They look quite burger-like - you will just have to take my word for it.


500g lamb mince
Big handful of fresh herbs (basil, mint or parsley work well)
½ a red onion, very finely sliced
½ a cup of breadcrumbs
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chilli flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
Bread rolls, chutney + salad to serve

Mush everything together in a big bowl.  The idea of the breadcrumbs and the egg is just to have the consistency right to ensure the burgers stay together.  You may need to add more or less breadcrumbs so just keep an eye on it when you’re making them. 

Wet your hands a little and form the mixture into patties.  Place on a tray covered with baking paper so they don’t stick.  

Cook on a hot BBQ or in a frying pan for a few minutes on each side until browned.  

Add your favourite salads and some fruity relish (recipe below) and hommus (I used the beetroot hommus recipe and it went down a treat).  

These patties also freeze well so you could make some extras and keep them in the freezer for a night when you don’t feel like cooking. 

Easy peasy microwave peach chutney

I had no idea you could make chutney in the microwave.  The things you find on the internet hey?

6 ripe peaches, peeled (you could also use mango, nectarines, or a combination of any of these)
1/2 a red onion, finely sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup malt vinegar
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp ginger

Chop the peeled fruit up into chunks, and add everything into a microwave safe bowl.  Mix well and place uncovered on high in the microwave for 30 mins.  Stir it every 5 mins.  

When the time is up the peaches will have broken down and the whole thing should be quite thick.  Allow to cool on the benchtop, and serve on top of your lamb burgers.   

The taste of summer!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Growing your own herbs from seed

I absolutely love using fresh herbs in my cooking.  There’s nothing like basil on top of spaghetti bolognese, coriander in a stirfry, or fresh mint on new potatoes with loads of butter. 

I don’t know about you but I was very guilty of buying a bunch of herbs, using half, and letting the other half wilt sadly in the fridge.  So I decided if I was going to get seriously thrifty I would need to grow my own. 

Even though we have a shared backyard we can’t just plant what we like as we are renting.  So we spoke to the unofficial gardener in our block and she set aside a pot for us to use to grow basil, mint and chillis. 

Before this I had not had much luck with growing herbs that are already mature.  They seem to last a few weeks and then flop.  These ones were OK (not great) so I thought next time I would instead plant from seed as it might give me a better chance – plus it’s much cheaper. 

We decided to buy a few small pots to plant some seeds and sit them on our front step so they get sun and rain.  We ended up planting parsley, coriander, basil, chives, rocket and cherry tomatoes.   You just follow the directions on the back of the pack.  I usually put about 12 seeds in total per pot.  Keep them well watered - every 1-2 days is good.

It was so exciting watching them grow.  The rocket was peeping out within a week! I was so thrilled (and embarrassed by how thrilled I was).  After just 4 weeks it was really going strong.  The others have all sprouted nicely, however the chives have just not happened for me.  Not sure what went wrong there?

We haven’t had our first harvest yet but looking forward to a rocket salad in the next few weeks.  It is definitely worth doing and you don’t need lots of room either.  You could even just plant some in empty cans (cut a few holes in the bottom with a can opener for drainage) and place them on a sunny windowsill and enjoy fresh herbs whenever you like! 

The pics above show my rocket at 2 weeks and then again at 6 weeks.  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The. Easiest. Cake. Ever

Today I have a recipe for a super easy and super tasty little coconut cake.    

I absolutely love recipes like this.  4 ingredients, mixed in a bowl with a wooden spoon and then baked – no melting this, separating that, whisking or sifting required.

This cake can be made in about 32 minutes, so the minute that your friend calls and says they’re stopping by for a visit you can whack this in the oven and serve it warm with a lovely cup of tea. I have to say it doesn’t look all that impressive and doesn’t actually rise too much.  But it’s a bit crunchy on the outside and lovely and moist on the inside, and I’ve never had anyone that didn’t like it yet.  Give it a whirl next weekend!


1 cup of self raising flour
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of desiccated coconut
¾ cup of milk

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.  Bake in a greased and floured loaf tin or small round cake tin at 180°C for 30 mins or until golden on top.  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Home Made Muesli

I looooove muesli.  But I never ever buy it.

There are a few reasons for this.  First of all, I’m not quite sure if it’s healthy or not (I’m still not sure).  Secondly I’ve had a few bad experiences with buying some and then it not tasting all that great.  Or others that tasted so good that I would eat it out of the packet every time I passed the pantry cupboard, and then worry again whether it was healthy or not.  Confused yet? I was, I must admit. 

So when I saw this simple recipe I thought - well at least if you know exactly what’s in it, you know it’s going to be healthy and taste good! 

Hate sultanas? Leave em out!  Love dried cranberries? Chuck some in.  There are no rules here, let your hair down.  Go wild.  This recipe is what I ended up using based on my tastes, my budget (dried fruit ain’t cheap) and what was available at my local fruit shop.

It ends up around the same price as store bought muesli but I think it’s worth spending the time to make your own.  Not just for the taste and health factor, but also for the smugness of knowing ‘I made that!’ – especially when someone else tries it and loves it as much as you.  

Plus you can leave out that awful awful dried paw paw (gag)


5 cups rolled oats (the full size big ones, not the quick-cook oats)   
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil  - best to use this as it hasn’t got too much flavour to overpower the muesli
80g honey – I used probably double that as I wanted it to clump together
1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup flaked almonds         
1 cup of shredded coconut (not desiccated)     
2 cups sultanas
1 teaspoon cinnamon      
A handful of sliced dates, dried banana, or any other dried fruits that you like

Preheat your oven to 160°C.

Line two trays with baking paper.

Mix all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl.

On a medium heat on the stove, heat oil and honey until melted, then stir into the dry ingredients ensuring an even coating.

Spread the mixture evenly over the two trays, quite thickly, and push it out to the edges.

Place trays in the oven and bake for about 30 mins, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon to prevent burning.

You want to get the ingredients browned, and for the fruit to become chewy.

When the mixture is browned to your liking remove from the oven and cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

I like it straight up with milk but you could always add yoghurt or fruit on top.

Goooooood morning!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Easy & Delicious Pasta Sauce

It’s easy to get stuck in a food rut where you are cooking the same meals on a 2 week rotation.  It’s well worth taking the time to experiment with new ideas - even simple ones - and it doesn’t have to take hours as this recipe will demonstrate.

As I’ve been cooking for this blog and trying a lot of new things of late, my husband has not had much of a chance to cook.  He really enjoys cooking (and is very good at it too!) so this is one of his recipes that he cooked up for me on Friday night

Normally for a pasta sauce we would use tinned tomatoes but the depth of flavour that you get from really fresh bright red tomatoes just can’t be beat.  Same with the fresh garlic, it is so much more flavoursome than the type that comes in a jar.

6 Tomatoes really ripe red ones (I used the vine ripened ones)
1 bulb of fresh garlic
2 red onions
2 small red chilis
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp red wine
Crumbled feta to serve
Whole olives to serve
Fresh basil to serve
Spaghetti or pasta to serve

1.    Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Cut the tomatoes and garlic bulb in half and place cut side up on a baking tray with the whole chilis.  Slice the red onions into quarters and add those. Drizzle with olive oil and season well
2.    Place in the oven for around 30 mins or until the tomatoes are looking a bit mushy and the garlic is soft to touch
3.    Cook the spaghetti according to the packet directions
4.    Take the garlic and squeeze all of the flesh out into a bowl, then add the tomato, chili, onion, wine and vinegar.  From here you can either break the mixture up with a fork (for a chunkier sauce) or whiz it in a blender until just combined.  Mix in the whole olives. 
5.    Place the spaghetti into a bowl, top with sauce, feta and basil and serve with a massive glass of red wine

A recipe like this is a great base to use for any pasta dish. You could lose the feta and olives, and maybe add chorizo, bacon, mushrooms, baby spinach - anything you’ve got in the fridge really - to change the flavour each time you make it.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fluffy Baked Eggs

I love going out for breakfast, but a lot of the time I really struggle to get out of my dressing gown and tame my crazy hair for public viewing.  Such an effort. 

I’m also a bit fussy.  There must be at least 30 cafes within walking distance from my house but I only usually frequent a few of them that have the 2 ticks - great coffee and of course, great eggs.

On Saturday I decided to recreate the café experience at home (with my husband still asleep and my seriously comfy slippers on - I wasn’t going anywhere).  I tried my hand at one of my favourite café breakfasts – baked eggs.  I’d never made these before and had no idea what was in them.

I had a quick look through some of my ye olde recipe books and found a recipe that was so simple I kept looking over the page to see if there were more ingredients.  The great thing is you can use the eggs as a base and then add flavours depending on your taste and what’s in the fridge. 

I think that cafes must add cream to theirs but I decided to follow the recipe book for now and see how it went.  'Flippin awesome' is how it went according to the one guest at Cafe Jam Jar. 

The Basic Ingredients
4 eggs, separated
Salt and pepper

Yes, that’s it! I checked out the fridge and saw that I had some feta and baby spinach so decided to go with that for mine. 

1.    Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Whisk the egg whites until fluffy.  This is what will give your eggs the light fluffiness at the end (hence the name).
2.    Place the egg yolks into a small oven proof dish and season well with salt and pepper (I used a 15cm ramekin dish).  This is where you can go crazy and add whatever you like – sliced ham, olives, cream (mmm), cheese, mushrooms, whatever takes your fancy.  I added a handful of baby spinach and some crumbled up feta to the egg yolks and then folded in the egg whites. 
3.    Place on a tray in the oven for around 6-8 mins.  Keep an eye on it as everyone’s oven varies.  It’s ready when the top is slightly browned, and the eggy mix doesn’t jiggle around when you move the dish. 
4.    Spread ¼ of an avocado on a slice of toast, and spoon the eggs on top.  Add some tomato relish to serve (if you have some), as well as a big cup of coffee on the side.  Serves 2.  Big hair welcome.      

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Make your own tortilla wraps

I love it when you discover that you can easily make something that you always buy from the supermarket.  Last weekend I thought I would try my hand at making wraps, and wow! So nice, and pretty easy too.  The other thing is, they're about a quarter of the cost of store bought ones. 

These are great to make into burritos, serve with a curry, or as a simple wrap for lunch stuffed with chicken & salad.  Give them a whirl!

2 cups plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
¾ lukewarm milk (you can use skim or full fat)

Place the flour and baking powder into a large bowl

Add the salt and oil to the lukewarm milk, stir to combine.  Add this mix to the flour and stir until it looks like a sticky dough

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 2 mins.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a cloth and allow to rest for 15 mins.

Divide the dough into 8 even size balls, cover and allow to rest again for 20 mins without touching to avoid them sticking together.  The resting gives it it’s elasticity and stops them being too hard.

Place a single ball of dough onto a floured surface and roll out thinly with a rolling pin until about the size of a small side plate.  Try to roll them into a circle but don’t re roll if it is the wrong shape.  You don’t want to overwork the dough or the tortilla will come out tough

Place into a pre heated frying pan and cook for 30 seconds each side.  It may puff up slightly while cooking.  Wrap in a cloth to keep warm and plough through the other 7.  If you get into a groove you can roll out the next tortilla while another one is in the pan.  Better yet, have a kitchen buddy to roll while you cook.

These are best eaten as soon as you make them but they actuallly freeze quite well too.  You just let them thaw on the bench, wrap in foil and heat in a warm oven.  Don’t microwave them as it makes them too chewy. 

Once you’ve got this recipe down you could try adding flavouring next time – such as a teaspoon of dried herbs or maybe garlic salt instead of plain salt.  I’m going to add chilli powder next time.  Let me know how you go with this!