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, July 24, 2011

Coconut and Lemon Kisses

Quick, easy and delicious.  Three words that I like hearing when it comes to cooking.  This is my go-to recipe whenever I feel like taking a little something over to a friend’s house for afternoon tea.

These biscuits come out chewy in the middle and nicely crisp on the outside.  The original recipe doesn’t include the lemon but if you have some it is definitely worth adding.

1 cup desiccated coconut
½ cup sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 egg
Juice and zest of ½ a lemon


Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a tray with baking paper.

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.  It may look like it’s going to be too dry but don’t worry it will stick together.

Using your hands, form small balls the size of a cherry tomato.  The mixture is quite crumbly so you need to squeeze them in your palms rather than rolling them together.

Place on the baking tray with space between each for slight spreading.  Bake for just under 10 mins in the coolest part of your oven (for me, that’s the top shelf as the element is on the bottom).  Watch that the bottoms don’t burn. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the tray before touching.  When first out of the oven they are easily pulverized by eager hands (speaking from experience) so you really need to let them harden up first.  I find that sliding a spatula underneath them after cooling stops them from sticking.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jam Roly Poly

I love it when I find out about a famous dessert that I’ve never heard of.  For me, this inspiration often comes from my lovely English husband who has introduced me to such pleasures as Eton Mess and Spotted Dick (tastes better than it sounds).  So when he found out that I had never tried, let alone heard of, Jam Roly-Poly, I felt compelled to give it a go on a cold and miserable Sunday afternoon.

A recipe like this is great to have up your sleeve as you would have most of these ingredients on hand the majority of the time.  It’s also pretty fast to pull together and doesn’t take too long in the oven.  Some other versions you might see involve steaming for 2 hrs, which sounds like a lot of hard work to me.

Use any jam that you like, or even a mixture of a few.  I used strawberry, only because it’s my favourite.  A few cracks will form on the top of the pudding, but this is all just part of its rustic appeal.  The taste is a bit like a moist, sweet, jammy scone.  Also known as delicious.


1 cup plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
60g cold butter
3 tsp sugar
1/3 cup milk
4-5 tbsp jam
Custard or ice cream to serve


Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a tray with baking paper.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Grate the cold butter in and use your fingertips to blend it with the flour into fine crumbs.  This should take about 8 minutes.  Go with it.

Add the milk, and bring the dough together into a ball.  Flour a work surface and roll the dough out to about 20cm x 30cm.  Spread the jam over, leaving about a 2cm gap on one of the long sides.  Starting on this long side, bring the dough over into a swiss roll shape, smoothing any cracks in the dough as you go.  Blend the edges of the seam together and place, seam-side down, onto your lined baking tray.

Place into the oven and bake for 15-20 mins.  Allow to rest for 10 mins before cutting into thick slices and serving with custard or ice cream.  Or maybe even both.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bubble and Squeak Sausage Rolls

Hmm what to cook what to cook.  Translation: what can I cook this chilly afternoon that means I don’t need to leave the warm house?  They say that necessity is the mother of invention and so I give you this recipe because a) I always have pastry in the freezer (see previous posts) and b) I always cook too much when I make a roast so there are always leftovers.

Normally I am a big fan of good old bubble and squeak – melt some (OK, lots) of butter, chop up your leftover veg and roast meat and fry it up until little crispy yummy bits form, and serve on toast.  And by all means, this is still a fabulous option.

But today I had just decided to make some sort of vegetarian sausage roll (as I always have about 10 cans of lentils for some reason) and was pulling out the canned goods, onion, garlic, carrot etc when I thought “I really can’t be bothered with this” and so did the old stare into the fridge waiting for inspiration trick and voila – there was my container of leftovers just waiting to be whipped up into another lovely dinner.

So I put away everything else, and felt very thrifty indeed when I pulled this together.  The list of ingredients is a little vague, but I think if you just use what you have it should come together with the consistency of a sausage mix.  If too dry, add an egg.  If too moist, add some breadcrumbs until it feels right.

The best part is, you know this is going to taste delicious because I'm guessing your roast tasted pretty darn good last night too.

Ingredients (makes 8 sausage rolls) 

Leftover roasted veg and meat (I used roughly 1 carrot, 1 potato, a big chunk of sweet potato, 1 onion, about a cup of peas, and a handful of lamb) 
1 tbsp curry powder (optional, if you feel like a different flavour after gorging yourself on a roast dinner)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional, purely decorative)


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

Take your pastry out of the freezer to thaw a little on a tray each.

Place all of your leftovers into a small food processor and bring together.

Pour into a large bowl, and add the curry powder (if using) and seasoning.  Add the egg or breadcrumbs if needed.

Cut each of your squares of pastry in half.  Spoon a quarter of the mixture onto each pastry rectangle and form into a sausage shape, the length of the pastry.

Beat an egg in a cup.  Using a pastry brush, paint the egg down the left side of the pastry.  Pick up the right side and roll over to join onto the eggy left side.  Use your finger to smooth down the seam and then place the roll seam-side down on the tray.  Cut into desired size (I cut them in half).  Brush with the egg and sprinkle with the seeds (if using).

Place in the hot oven and bake for around 40 minutes or until golden and crispy on the outside.  Serve with tomato sauce and enjoy.  Also tastes delicious the next day for lunch.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sticky Date Pudding

You’ll be pleased to know I’m still kicking on with my date frenzy.  It seemed only fitting to top off two healthy(-ish) date recipes with one slightly more decadent option. 

Sticky date pudding is something that I’ve always wanted to try cooking but have never really had enough faith that I could pull it off. It’s another one that I thought had to be done by professionals. I always thought that there would be weird bits of date in the cake itself – but the dates just sort of dissolve into delicious nothingness. 

And the sauce!  Oh the sauce is the best bit.  Who knew caramel toffee sauce was so easy to make?  Not me that’s for sure.  I think you would be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t enjoy this dessert.  Make it, please.


1 ½ cups chopped dates
1 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons bi-carb soda
90g low fat margarine
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg white
1 cup wholemeal self raising flour, sifted
½ cup self-raising flour, sifted

¾ cup light evaporated milk
½ cup soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon low fat margarine
1 ½ teaspoon corn flour 


Preheat oven to 180°C.  Grease a round cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

Place the dates and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes or until the dates are soft. Mix in the vanilla and bi-carb soda and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Whisk the margarine and sugar together. Whisk in the egg and egg white, and then the flours.  Add the date mixture and whisk until well combined. Pour the mixture into prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes or until cooked a skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a plate.

In a small saucepan heat the evaporated milk, brown sugar and margarine until almost boiling. Combine the corn flour with 1 teaspoon of water and gradually add to the sauce, stirring continually until sauce thickens. Serve up the slices of cake and add the sauce and a few big spoonfuls of ice cream.  Delicious.