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, January 30, 2011

If you like it then you better put some pastry on it

Sausage Rolls

I can’t think of anything involving pastry that I don’t like.  Pasties, pies, flans, tarts, turnovers, samosas, parcels – whatever you want to call them, I’ll eat it. 

So when Australia Day came around this week I thought why not combine my love of pastry with my love of mince and make sausage rolls?  I love those little suckers and yet (as with so many of my recipes on this blog) I had never thought to make them myself. 

So with a public holiday upon me I had no more excuses.  And the results? So simple and so tasty!  At the Australia Day picnic they were quickly consumed - along with some tasty salads, chicken, quiche, rocky road, watermelon, cheese, bread and loads of other good stuff.

Why not try your hand at these next time you’re hosting a BBQ as a nice little appetiser; have them for a lunchbox treat; or better yet as a midnight snack after a night out.  

Ingredients (makes about 12 small sausage rolls)

500g pork mince
1 onion, finely sliced
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
1 handful of chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, mint, or basil – or a combination of these) OR use 1 tsp of any of those herbs in dried form
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 sheets of puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg, lightly beaten
Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line two trays with baking paper

Place the mince, onion, carrot, zucchini, herbs, salt and pepper into a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon.

Lay out the sheets of pastry and cut them in half so that you have two rectangles of equal size.

Spoon the mixture down the centre of the pastry (long-ways) so that the mix goes right to each end.  Be careful not to overstuff. 

Brush the egg down the right hand side of the pastry.  Pull the left side over the mixture and place the right hand side flat on top of that.  Smooth down the seam with your finger.  Cut into 4 pieces (or 2 if you want bigger ones) and then place seam down onto your trays, not too close together.

Brush the tops with the beaten egg and then sprinkle on poppy seeds or sesame seeds (if using – these are just for decoration) and bake in the oven for around 30 mins or until the tops are golden and crisp.

Notes – you can substitute almost anything in this recipe; for instance omit the onion and use fennel if you like it; use lamb mince and rosemary; or some beef mince and some horseradish would be nice.  

These freeze well in an airtight container (uncooked) and you just defrost them in the fridge overnight and then cook them in the oven as per the instructions above.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Slow cooked leg of lamb

If like me you have a slow cooker you may have already tried your hand at a curry, or lamb shanks, or soup.  But something that I hadn’t thought to try until recently is a whole leg of lamb in there.  The hours of slow cooking give this large cut of meat a chance to become super tender – you could cut the meat with a spoon.  The great thing is that it looks like you’ve spent hours in the kitchen when actually it takes less than 10 mins to prepare.

Ingredients (serves 6 depending on the size of your lamb)

1 large leg of lamb – if you don’t think it will fit in your slow cooker, ask the butcher to cut the shank off and place this into the cooker separately
1 bulb of garlic (or 4 tbsp minced)
1 large sprig of rosemary (or 2 tbsp dried)
1 cup red wine
1 can diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil


1. Heat the oil in a large pan on the stove and brown your lamb all over.  This may be a little tough due to the shape of a lamb leg, but just do your best.  Browning gives it more flavour as it gives you crispy bits on the outside.

2. Place the can of tomatoes on the bottom of the slow cooker.  Add the lamb and then and pour over the wine.  Rub the garlic and rosemary all over the lamb, then season with salt and pepper. 

3. Cook on low for 6-8 hrs (I accidentally cooked it for 9 hrs once and it was still great).  Serve with roast vegetables + peas; then you can use the leftovers the next day for sandwiches

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Easy Vanilla Biscuits

I’ve never been much of a biscuit baking person.  It was only when I looked through an old book and found a recipe with the most basic of ingredients – flour, butter, sugar and vanilla – that I thought maybe I could do this. 

When it comes to cooking and especially baking I think it’s important not to let yourself get nervous about giving it a try.  You never know, biscuits could be your hidden talent!  Recently I tried to make bagels and found that these are NOT my hidden talent, but I am going to re-work the recipe later on and try them again.

Like most things, home made biscuits taste so much better than store bought ones. These biscuits are great for afternoon tea or for a gift wrapped in cellophane and tied with a ribbon.  Mine only lasted 1 day as I have a biscuit-loving husband who ate them for breakfast (no judgment)

Ingredients (makes 12)
225g plain flour
150g butter, straight from the fridge, cut up into small squares
125g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Place baking paper onto your trays. 

Sift the flour into a large bowl.  Add the butter and use your fingertips to blend the butter and flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.  If like me you have hot hands (what a curse!) it may be hard to do this so add the sugar to the mix if you find it’s not working. 

Then just add the vanilla and roll it into a firm dough.

On a floured surface carefully roll out the dough to about 1cm thickness.  Using a biscuit cutter (or an upturned glass) stamp out your biscuits and place them onto the tray.  Re-roll the rest of the dough and keep going until you’ve used up all the dough.  Depending on the size of your cutter you should get about a dozen biscuits.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins or until just coloured.  Place on a wire rack to cool.  Dust with a little caster sugar before serving.   Store in an airtight container.