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, February 27, 2011

Real Strawberry Jelly

Kids seem to gravitate toward simple pleasures – eggs & soldiers, macaroni & cheese, ice cream & chocolate sauce.  Fancy stuff doesn’t really get a look in until you’re all grown up.

To me, nothing sums up childhood desserts like jelly.  I remember one day before school I grabbed a packet of strawberry Aeroplane Jelly from the pantry cupboard.  At recess I began the (quite disgusting) process of licking my fingers and dunking it into the crystals.  Needless to say, after demolishing the whole pack, I ended up with very pink fingers and quite a stomach ache.  Somehow this didn’t stop me from devouring whole plates of jelly if left to my own devices. 

Every now and then it’s nice to regress to the good old days when life was all about the next episode of the Cosby Show and who would get to lick the bowl when your mum baked a cake.  If it’s been a while since you indulged in a little wobbliness, why not try out a more ‘adult’ version of jelly using real fruit.  It’s super easy and sure to send you on a trip down memory lane.


·      2 × 250g punnets ripe strawberries, hulled
·      180g caster sugar
·      1 tbs lemon juice
·      1 ½ cups water
·      3 tsp powdered gelatine


Halve the strawberries and ensure there are no leaves or dirt left on them.

Place the sugar and 1 ½ cups water in a large saucepan on a high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring this to the boil, then reduce the heat down to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Add the lemon juice and strawberries, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until the berries are soft.

Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over a large bowl, and let it stand for 40 minutes, until most of the liquid has drained from the berries.  Don’t push down on the berries as this makes the jelly cloudy.  But the solids aside (they are great with some yoghurt or on top of pancakes).

Place the berry syrup back in the pan over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until hot but not boiling. Place ½ cup of the syrup into a large bowl, sprinkle over the gelatine and stand for 2 minutes. Whisk to completely dissolve gelatine, then stir in the remaining syrup. Transfer to a jug and chill for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the jelly is thick but not set.

Pour the jelly into four small serving glasses and return to fridge for approximately 6 hours to set.  Jelly will keep for 2 days.   

Great served with ice cream, custard, or straight up.   

This recipe will work with any berries that you have on hand so just go with your personal preference (or what's on sale that week).   Why not look up recipes for champagne jelly, lemon and lime jelly, or even ginger beer jelly. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mum's Red Chops

A while ago I wrote about my top 11 meals of all time based on memories, nostalgia and general greediness. 

Mum’s Red Chops (yes that’s the official name) has been one of those recipes that I cook again and again.  I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t like them – for some reason guys especially like this meal. 

The original recipe calls for lamb cutlets but I usually just use lamb chops, or lean pork steaks, or cubed beef on skewers, or whatever you have on hand really.  Lamb cutlets are a bit expensive and to be honest there’s not enough meat on them for gluttons like me.  You can also cook these on the BBQ.  

If you have time it’s good to leave the meat to marinate for an hour or so before cooking, but it will still taste great if you don’t do this.  When this is cooking in the oven it gives off the most amazing aroma.  

You will see from my picture that this is the 'before' shot of the meat before placing in the oven.  Honestly it smells so good that before I knew it I had cooked it, served it and eaten it all before I remembered to get the 'after' shot.  


6 big lamb chops, trimmed of excess fat


1/3rd cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 clove of garlic (crushed)
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey


Preheat the oven to 190°C

Place all of the sauce ingredients in a large casserole dish.  Add the chops and ensure they are well coated in the sauce.

Place in the oven, turning once during this time.  Cook for 30 minutes or until cooked as desired.  Serve with peas and mash. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Waste Not

Last week I went to a free talk held by the local council about food waste in the home.  They said that, on average, between 38-50% of a Sydney household’s waste is made up of food and drinks that have been thrown out.

Sometimes it’s things like uneaten Thai leftovers, milk that’s gone bad, bread that’s gone mouldy, veges that have gone soggy, biscuits gone stale, leftover cereal and milk from the bowl, flour that’s past it’s use by date, meat that has freezer burn, rice that’s been in the fridge too long, soft drink that’s gone flat – it all adds up pretty quickly.

This equates to around $1,000 per household in wasted food each year.   This is like throwing out 1 in every 5 bags of your groceries each time you shop.

There are plenty of ways to save money and reduce your impact on the environment, but the most important one is just being mindful of waste before it happens.

1. Plan your meals in advance – this is the single best way to avoid waste.  If you know what you are going to cook you can then avoid purchasing items ‘just in case’ you feel like using them.  You can also plan your meals to use up perishable foods such as herbs by using them in 2 dinners instead of 1. There are going to still be times when you decide to grab take away instead of cooking so why not just plan for 3 or 4 meals a week if that’s more realistic for you. I have personally noticed a lot less waste since I started planning meals in advance.  Honestly it only takes about 15 mins each week - try it!

2. Make a shopping list and stick to it.  This really ties in with the meal planning but is a good way to avoid feeling overwhelmed in the supermarket and buying random things you might not use.  And never shop when you’re hungry, or you will end up with chocolate milk and cheezels for dinner. 

3. Check your fridge, freezer and cupboards before you shop.  This is a good one that we often forget to do, but can save you ending up with 3 packets of frozen peas when you only needed one.  It also means you can see items that need to be used in the next day or so and put them to good use.  See some strawberries on the way out?  Cut off any bad bits and turn them into a smoothie, or even just cut them up and freeze them for another time.  See some bananas looking a bit sad?  Why not make some banana bread and then freeze it for whenever you feel like it.  Got 2 eggs left and you're about to go away for a week?  Have eggs on toast for breakfast.  

4. Store things correctly.  Use jars or containers to store perishable items like biscuits and rice.  Cover food before you put it in the fridge (my husband drives me crazy with this one). If your bread always goes stale before you can use it, why not put half of each loaf in the freezer and then pull it out when you need it.  Keep fresh herbs in a container wrapped in a damp tea towel. Take note of things that you regularly throw out and make an effort to do something about it next time.

5. Get your portions right.  If you always cook too much rice, try to use a little less next time until you get it right. Made too much dinner?  Put it into a plastic container and take it to work the next day for lunch.  If you always end up throwing out off milk, buy smaller bottles.  A 3L bottle may be better value for money, but it's not if you never get through it all in time.

6. Use your leftovers or items that are on their way out. Visit this great website Love Food Hate Waste where you can get ideas for using up specific foods and drinks.  For instance you can click on apples and it will come up with loads of ideas for using up apples. 

If we just make a little effort we can all save money and avoid filling up landfill with food that could have been eaten

Have you got any tips for reducing waste in the kitchen?

p.s yes that milk carton is crying

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lay back and think of English Muffins

You heard it here first, English Muffins are not just for Eggs Benedict or McMuffins. They can be a part of your everyday life…if you let them. 

Plain, sweet or savoury, they can be made in advance and kept in your freezer for toasting anytime you please. 

I’ve put together this recipe for a sweet version, but for plain just omit the cinnamon and sultanas. 

Ingredients (makes 10)
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 7g sachet of yeast
1 cup milk (light or regular)
Pinch salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups plain flour
½ cup sultanas
Cooking oil spray to grease the pan

In a large bowl, mix the water, sugar and yeast and allow to stand for 10 mins or until frothy.  Stir in the remaining ingredients with a wooden spoon.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 mins in a warm spot (near the fridge works at my place).

Heat a frying pan over med-high heat and spray with a little cooking oil. Drop 2 tbsp of the mixture into the pan to form one muffin, continue until the pan is full.  Cook until browned on the bottom, which should take about 4 mins. Flip and do the same on the other side.  Cool on a wire rack until completely cooled down.  When ready to eat, split the muffins with a fork and toast.  From frozen, defrost in the microwave for about a minute, then slice in half and toast.

Serve with a big cup of tea and enjoy