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, March 27, 2011

Rosemary Flatbread Crackers

Crackers have always been a bit of a non-event for me.  They are the vehicle to the good stuff - dip & cheese - but I’ve never really paid them very much attention.  All that has changed now that I know how incredibly easy (and tasty) it is to make your own at home. 

Even better when you find out that you are living in a rosemary hot spot of Sydney!  I was about to go and buy some fresh rosemary from the supermarket to make these crackers when my friend told me about two rosemary bushes within a five-minute walk from my house.  Hey, if people are going to grow herbs so close to the footpath they shouldn’t be surprised when people meander by and steal some.  It’s made me wonder about what other urban delights are out there on my doorstep.  Maybe I could put together a little herb-finders website so that other thrifty thieves can find them too?

Anyway back to the crackers.  These take no time whatsoever and most likely you will have everything you need in your pantry right now.  They are great served on a cheese platter, or even as a side dish for a bowl of soup or a salad. 

1 ¾ cups plain flour
1 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary plus some extra 
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil plus some extra for brushing
Coarse sea salt


Preheat the oven to 230°C and place a baking tray in the oven to warm up. 

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.  Add the chopped rosemary.  Using a wooden spoon, slowly mix the ingredients while you add the oil, and then the water.  Bring the dough together and knead carefully for about 15 seconds on a floured surface. 

Divide the dough into 3 pieces and place one of them on a large piece of baking paper.  Cover the other 2 pieces with cling film.  Roll out the dough – the shape doesn’t matter, as long as it’s thin.  Brush the dough with some olive oil, and add a few pieces of rosemary, pressing into place.  Sprinkle with some coarse sea salt. 

Place the dough and paper onto the warmed baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes or until it looks golden and has a few darker bits on it.  Cool on a wire rack and continue with the other 2 pieces, using fresh baking paper each time.  It’s best not to oil and salt the dough until you are just about to put it in the oven.   

Once completely cooled, break up into pieces and store in an air tight container in the cupboard.  

Variations – of course you could use anything you like to flavour these crackers.  Maybe a little grated parmesan in the dough, or some cracked pepper would be nice too.  But the salt and rosemary gives a great flavour hit on it’s own.  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Minced Beef Wellington

I love 80’s inspired meals.  If I went to a party and saw cocktail onions and cubes of cheese on toothpicks I would be in heaven.  Chicken Kiev, Coq au Vin, Fondue – all the good stuff is from the 80’s (did I mention I was born in 1980?). 

While Beef Wellington would have been the height of cool when the boss was coming to dinner, it can get a bit expensive these days to use the recommended eye fillet.  It’s good old mince to the rescue!  Using mince brings the cost right down but you don’t compromise on the flavour.  As I’ve said, wrap anything in pastry and I will probably want to marry it, but this one really is gorgeous.

A perfect Sunday night dinner when it’s a bit wet and miserable outside. 

500g beef mince
5 mushrooms, thinly sliced and chopped up small
1 brown onion, thinly sliced and chopped up small
3 rashers bacon, rind removed, cut into 1cm cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg, in a cup, beaten
1 tbsp dried rosemary
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan over med-high heat.  Add the garlic and onion and fry until translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook a further 3 mins until it all comes together. 

Place the mince in a large bowl, then add the salt and pepper, half of the egg, and the rosemary.  Mix together with a wooden spoon until combined.  Divide into four pieces and form each into a round rissole shape.

Lay out the pastry sheets and place a quarter of the mushroom and onion mix in the centre of each sheet.  Place the meat and the bacon on top and wrap the pastry up into little parcels, using the rest of the egg to join the pastry together and glaze the tops*

Bake at 180°C for 45-60mins, or until puffed and golden.  Serve with your favourite vegetables.

* When we made this we didn’t have the recommended 4 sheets of pastry so had to make do with a more hodge-podge version with 2 sheets and some spare scraps of pastry covering the gaps.  Still delicious but not so photogenic!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Any time is biscotti time

When I flick through a recipe book and see a recipe like the one for biscotti (that is, something easy, something that I like to eat, and something that I thought needed to be made by professionals) I get a little flip flop of excitement in my stomach.  Yes really.

Biscotti, in case you don’t know, is that crisp, sweet, delicate little biscuit that you can only eat if you are in a fancy café, or in Italy, or on Sex and the City.  Until now….

The great news is that these contain no butter and are cooked in a way that dries them right out to an almost stale texture, so they last for ages in a container in the pantry.  When you’ve just finished the washing up – biscotti.  Pouring a coffee – biscotti.  Just got back from a walk – biscotti.  You get the idea. Make it.  You won’t regret it. 


1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 lemon, rind finely grated
2 cups plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
150g whole almond (leave the skin on)

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line a tray with baking paper.

Place your sugar, eggs and grated lemon rind in a large bowl. Beat with electric beaters until pale and thick.

Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and almonds, then use your hands to lightly knead dough on a floured work surface until the dough is smooth.

Divide the mixture in half. Form 2 logs about 25cm long x 5cm wide and place on the baking tray, leaving space between logs. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the dough is firm to the touch and slightly golden. 

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely  - this should take about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 140°C.

Once dough is cool, use a knife to cut each log on an angle in 0.5cm slices.

Lay slices flat on the baking tray and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes,
turning once, until completely dried out. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lazy girl frittata

I’m always on the lookout for short cuts.  Anything that tastes good and takes the least amount of effort possible will always appeal to me.  So hang onto your hats cause this one is pretty much as simple as it gets.

Check out your fridge and see what needs eating.  You can use anything, seriously, anything.  Maybe you’ve got five tomatoes and a jar of olives?  Or half a bunch of shallots, a bit of celery and a random bit of cheese?  Some leftover crispy bacon and a can of corn?  A sweet potato and a red onion?  All good options! Today I found an eclectic mix - 4 carrots, an onion, a potato and 2 cherry tomatoes.

Chop up the veg that needs cooking so it’s all a similar size (say 1cm cubes), drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven on 180°C until golden.  In a medium sized frying pan, whisk up 6 eggs.  Add in the veges plus anything else you fancy that you didn’t need to bake (cheese, olives, shallots etc) plus salt and pepper.

Place on the stove over a med-high heat.  After a few minutes you will notice the edges starting to firm up.  When the centre is getting firmer but still a bit runny, place the pan under a med-high grill for about 5 mins or until the top is golden.  Loosen the edges of the frittata and flip out onto a wire rack.  Once cooled, slice up and serve with a side salad.  Also perfect for lunch boxes or picnics.

If you have any favourite recipes for meals that you can make with minimum effort, I’d love to hear from you!