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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Overseas Post - Spinach, Egg and Cheese Pie

Today I am writing all the way from sunny England, as I am here visiting family and friends with my handsome husband.  After the long flight and bad aeroplane food it was lovely to arrive at my in-laws for tea and cake.  Not to mention loads of lovely meals made from the fresh fruit and veg from their allotment just down the road.

On Sunday we had some friends over for lunch and my mother-in-law did all of the cooking for the 8 adults and 3 kids. We had marinated chicken thighs, lamb moussaka, spinach, egg and cheese pie, beetroot and mandarin salad, green salad, roast veg and way too much garlic bread (that may have just been me).  For dessert, ginger and rhubarb crumble, trifle, and a whole wheel of brie. Then, just when we thought we'd had more than we could handle, out came tea and cake.  I was in food heaven.

For today's recipe I thought I would share with you the spinach, egg and cheese pie as it seems like a nice easy one to pull together for lunch or dinner.  You could use any veg you like really, but there is something about the combination of spinach and cheese that just works so very well, so don't fight it.  You could also use feta or ricotta if you can't get your hands on some Boursoin cheese; or even just grate up a harder cheese if you have some in the fridge.


1 big bunch of spinach
3 eggs
Dash of milk
200g Boursoin cheese
1 sheet of ready made puff pastry
Salt and pepper for seasoning


First you need to cook your spinach.  Give it a really good wash first, to avoid any grit in the pie.  In a large saucepan, place the spinach along with 3 tbsp water and cover.  Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach has cooked right down.  Place in a strainer over your saucepan and allow to cool completely - if the spinach is warm when you add the eggs you will have a scrambled mess on your hands.

Next, preheat your oven to 170.  Line a tray (around 20cm x 30cm) with baking paper, going all the way up the sides.  Chop your pastry to fit the bottom of the tray, coming up the sides too if you have enough.  Bake the pastry on it's own for around 10 mins or until it puffs up a little.  This will avoid the base ending up all soggy.  Push the pastry back down if it got a bit wild in the oven.

Beat your eggs and milk with a fork, adding seasoning to taste.  Chop the spinach as finely as you can (you could use a food processor if you prefer) before adding to the egg mix.  Mix well and then pour into the pastry lined tin.  Cut your cheese up into small pieces and dot all over the pie.

Bake until set, and golden on top.  Depending on your oven, it may take around 25 mins or so.  A great meal on it's own served with a crispy salad.  It also works well in a packed lunch or picnic.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lamington Slice

When it comes to choosing a cake to make for afternoon tea, sometimes you just feel like an old favourite.  Lamingtons are usually a sure-fire hit with adults and kids alike and these are no exception. 

Unlike traditional lamingtons where you bake the sponge and then ice them the next day, this can all be done in one hit.  And when you think about it, they are ever so slightly healthier than normal ones as the chocolate icing is only on the top and not the whole way around. Believe me you don’t feel like you’re missing out though. 

I used a cake tin that was a little bit too big, and my icing was a little too runny.  This meant that my chocolate icing seeped right through the whole sponge.  This wasn’t a bit problem (they still tasted good) but I would recommend using a smaller square tin (20cm x 20cm) so that the sponge will rise higher and I have adjusted the recommended amount of water for the icing.

These are lovely and moist, and have the lamington taste that you know and love.  In the words of my gorgeous 2-year old nephew, it’s a ‘yummy cake!’


125g unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1¼ cups plain flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk
1 cup shredded coconut

Chocolate icing
¾ cup icing sugar
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
¼  cup boiling water
20g unsalted butter, melted


Preheat your oven to 160°C.  Spray a 20cm x 20cm tin with cooking oil and line with baking paper.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and beat again until combined. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and mix well along with the milk.

Pour into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool for 10 minutes while you make the chocolate icing. 

Place all of the ingredients for the icing into a large bowl and mix to combine.  Note that you may not need to use all of the hot water.  If it looks too runny, add more icing sugar.

Cut the cake into squares, pour the icing over the top and then sprinkle with the coconut to finish.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Earl Grey Teacakes with Lemon and Lavender Icing

Tea and cake.  They go so well together don’t they?  So imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across a recipe that combined the two together.  Tea has such a delicate flavour, it gives the cake a very subtle taste that is quite different (in a good way) to most cakes. 

Using Early Grey gives you that citrus hint that goes so well with the icing.  Don’t worry, you don’t even notice the tea-leaves in the finished product, they seem to melt into the cake quite nicely.

You can see from my picture that I had a little issue with the icing.  When I pulled the icing sugar from my cupboard it had formed itself into a jar full of hard little pebbles instead of light and airy icing sugar.  I actually had to grate the little pebbles through a hand held sifter to get things moving.  Needless to say I had had enough after about 30 seconds so my icing is a little sparse.  Still tasted great though. 

Lavender leaves are an optional extra if, like me, you can pinch some from the neighbour’s garden. Use only the tips of the lavender as the flowers are light and tasty.  They add another layer of super delicate flavour that is just gorgeous.

This cake is lovely and moist with a really different flavour to regular cupcakes.  Kids and sweet tooths may find that they are not sweet enough but I think they are a fabulous addition to any afternoon tea.  Serve with Early Grey tea, of course.

Ingredients for the cake (makes 12)
2 Early Grey tea bags
1/4 cup boiling water
1/3 cup milk
100g soft butter
2 eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
Oil spray for greasing the tray

For the icing:
1/2 cup sifted icing sugar
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Lavender flowers (optional) to decorate 

Remove the tea-leaves from the bags and place in the boiling water for 5 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 12-capacity muffin tray with oil spray.

Add the hot water and all of the ingredients to a large mixing bowl.  Mix on low with an electric mixer until just combined, and then increase the speed to bring it all together.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin trays and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer placed in the centre comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack before icing.

To make the icing, place the icing sugar and zest into a bowl.  I like the zest quite chunky but if you prefer you can chop it more finely.  Add enough lemon juice until you have the right consistency.  Use a spatula to spread the icing on the cooled cakes.  Decorate with lavender leaves if you have some.

Store in an airtight container.  These stay lovely and moist for several days, if they last that long.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blueberry, Oat and Yoghurt Muffins

Man cannot live on sandwiches and apples alone.  For this reason I like to have a little something tasty in my packed lunch each day.  A muffin or biscuit can sometimes be the only thing that gets you through the morning.

Now I must stress - don’t judge a book by its cover.  And never has this saying been truer than when describing these healthy, unattractive, delicious muffins.  Low fat, low sugar, whole grains, a calcium hit, nuts and some fruit – ticks all the boxes doesn’t it?

This is definitely a recipe ripe for the tweaking.  You could use dried fruit such as sultanas or dates, or even some grated apple.  Any nuts would work, walnuts would work well.

Ingredients (makes 10)
¾ cup plain wholemeal flour
¾ cup rolled oats
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
½ cup finely sliced almonds
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten lightly

Preheat your oven to 200°C and spray a muffin tin with olive oil spray. 

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and combine well.  Place into the muffin tin and bake for around 35 mins or until golden on top. Allow to cool in the tray before removing.