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, April 24, 2011

ANZAC Biscuits

It’s amazing how so much of our cultural rituals are tied up with food.  It all started for me mid-last week when I was given a handful of mini easter eggs from a fitness trainer after outdoor training at 7.30 in the morning (yeah that was weird).  Before I knew what was happening, I had eaten all 6 before I even got back to the car.  It was all downhill from there – once you’ve had a sugar hit that early you lose all sense of reason.  

So after I got to work I managed to scoff 2 more (bigger) easter eggs that some work friends had lovingly placed on my desk.  Then I pulled out the hot cross buns that I had made the night before to share with my workmates, and had to try one of those.  You get the picture. 

Now all of a sudden I turn around and it’s ANZAC day tomorrow and I haven’t even made any biscuits yet!  Plus I’ve just got back from 3 nights of camping and find myself itching to cook something after 3 days of camp-food – bacon + eggs for breakfast; sausage rolls + hot cross buns for lunch; and pub grub / bowling club early bird specials / expensive but tasty gourmet pizzas for our dinners.

Right now, as I type, the delicious aroma of freshly baked biscuits are wafting across the kitchen, urging me to hurry up and get the kettle on. 

This is the first time I’ve made ANZAC biscuits, and it definitely won't be the last.  They couldn’t be easier. 

Enjoy the super long weekend!

Ingredients - makes about 16 big biscuits 

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup plain flour
¾ cup caster sugar

¾ cup coconut

125g soft butter

3 tbsp golden syrup

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp boiling water

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line two trays with baking paper.

Combine your flour, oats, sugar and coconut in a large bowl. 

Melt the butter with the golden syrup (I used the microwave on medium power). Dissolve the bi-carb into the water and add this to the butter mixture. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

Wet your hands a little and roll a small amount of the mixture into the size of a golf ball.  Flatten out between your hands and place on the trays, leaving room for them to spread out. 

Place the trays in the oven and bake for 18 mins, alternating the position of your trays half way (as most ovens are hotter on the bottom).

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays before devouring.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

Easter is around the corner, so what better time than now to get some buns in the oven.

It’s easy to think that hot cross buns are a bit of a baker’s secret and that we mortals shouldn’t bother trying.  But no, no no no. You can do this and you can do it BETTER.  Oh and CHEAPER.  

Baker’s Delight sell a dozen of these for $13.  This will cost you about $3, based on some really rough, I’m-too-tired-from-an-awesome-wedding-in-the-country-this-weekend-to-do-maths type of maths.

Sorry about the dodgy photo – I was far too excited when I made these and couldn’t wait to shove one in my face.

1 x 7g sachet yeast
½ cup caster sugar
1 ½ cups milk
4 ½ cups plain flour
1 ½ cups sultanas
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
50g butter, melted
1 egg
For the crosses:
4 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp water
For the glaze: (optional)
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp water

Directions (makes 12 large buns)

Warm the milk in the microwave and then add the yeast and 2 teaspoons of the caster sugar.  Mix and allow to sit for 10 minutes until it looks fluffy.  Sift the flour and the rest of the sugar into a large bowl, then add the cinnamon and mixed spice.  Mix in the butter, egg, and sultanas until all combined.  

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 8 minutes.  You may get bored after about minute 4 but do not give up!  The kneading is what gives you the light fluffy texture that you know and love.

Oil your mixing bowl with vegetable oil and place the dough inside.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour until doubled in size.  Divide the dough into 12 balls. Place in a baking dish lined with baking paper.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place somewhere warm for half an hour until they have risen again.

Heat the oven to 200°C.  You need to make your crosses now.  In a small bowl, mix the flour and water together to form a runny paste.  Place inside a small plastic bag and snip the end off to make a piping bag.  Using long lines, make your crosses by piping all the way from one side of the baking dish to the other.  Repeat until you have all of the buns crossed.

Bake for 35 mins or until golden on the top.  If you would like them glazed, place your sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Dip a pastry brush into the mix and glaze the tops of the buns while they are still warm.  This will make the tops sticky and delicious.  Serve while still warm, with butter.  

The buns will stay fresh for 24 hrs, so if you have any left the next day it’s best to toast them first.

With such a simple recipe up your sleeve, who says you can’t enjoy these all year round?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Marmalade Scrolls

After a lovely pub lunch with friends today, I was walking home with my husband when it started pouring with rain.  Smug in the knowledge that I had my new umbrella in my bag, I pulled it out only to be shattered by the sight of a pathetically small, already-a-bit broken excuse for an umbrella.  We struggled up the road arm in arm, trying to keep the rain out, but it was no good.  We ended up soaked, slipping in our shoes that were chosen in sunnier times.  We rolled in the door, had a warm shower, put our PJ’s on and got ready to snuggle down for the night.  

The winter feel of the afternoon made me crave something warm and tasty.  Nothing says comfort food to me like some sweet, sticky bread that you can eat on the sofa in front of an old movie (Taladega Nights if you’re wondering).  These take no time at all and there’s no waiting around for the dough to rise. 

3 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g butter, chopped up small
1 cup milk
1 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup sultanas (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and grease a medium sized cake tin.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.  Add the butter and combine using your fingertips until it looks like a fine crumb.  Add the milk to the dry ingredients.  

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 30 seconds, bringing it all together into a ball.  Roll the dough out to a rectangle shape about 1cm high.  Spread the marmalade over the top, and then sprinkle the sultanas over the top (if using).  Roll up from the long side into one long roll.  Cut the dough into about 10 pieces and place, cut side up, into your greased cake tin.  

Bake for about 35 mins or until lightly browned.  Best served still warm with a big cup of tea, on the sofa, in your PJ’s.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Big Choc Chip Biscuits

For obvious reasons, bigger is usually better.  Just think of the big banana, the big pineapple, the big prawn.  They’re all popular.  So why bother making regular sized biscuits when you could make big ones? And there’s nothing like pulling out a batch of warm biscuits from the oven to improve your popularity at home.    

Except for the choc chips you probably have everything you need in the cupboard for these (my kind of recipe).  I can’t keep things like choc chips in the house for long as my husband has a nose for anything of the chocolate persuasion and usually sniffs them out before I’ve had a chance to bake anything. Hopefully you have more luck with your pantry. 

This basic recipe could also be used for a regular plain biscuit, or you could add anything to the dough that you like to change up the taste – lemon zest, coffee, sultanas, vanilla.  Or on top of the flattened biscuit you could make an indent and fill it with jam, or sprinkle with sugar or hundreds and thousands.

125g softened unsalted butter
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self raising flour
½ cup sugar
1 pinch salt
Splash of milk (if required)
Choc chips

Directions (makes 10 big biscuits)

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line two baking trays with paper. 

Cream the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.  Mix in the egg, followed by the salt.  Pour in the flour, adding just half a cup at a time.   Add a splash of milk if you need it.

Bring the dough together in a ball.  Pick off pieces of the dough and roll into a golf ball size.  Flatten out between your hands and place on the baking tray.  Continue with the rest of the dough – you should get around ten biscuits depending on the size you choose. Space them evenly apart as they will spread a little while baking.  Push in your chocolate chips into any old pattern you like (remembering more is better!).  

Place in the oven for around 10-12 mins or until the bottom of the biscuits are starting to brown.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving