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Slow Cooker Caramel Coconut Jam

coconut jam 

Theoretically I have the most fantastic simple slow cooker idea for a Christmas gift for you today. However when you taste it, you’ll fall so in love with it that you might want to hoard all the jars to yourself and sit in eating it off the spoon while you wrap something from the pound shop instead.

I hadn’t heard of coconut jam until very recently. My local branch of Marks and Spencer has gone a bit upmarket with lots of the posh gourmet food products you buy for people at Christmas and while I was circling the aisles going green with envy at all the stuff I could never justify buying, I saw a jar of coconut jam. Interest piqued, I lifted it and saw that it was coconut cream cooked down til soft and jammy and highly popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. I took a snap of the jar and went home to research it.

I have a pretty unerring knack of being able to adapt things to the slow cooker these days and the more I read about coconut jam or its Singaporean name of kaya, the more I suspected I could make something really good here. As is my wont with anything from Singapore, I checked out Shu Han’s fab blog Mummy I Can Cook to see what she had to say on the subject. Two paragraphs in and I knew I had to make this.

Practically the national obsession out there, it’s usually served as kaya toast on white toast with butter and some hard boiled eggs with it. I eat eggs for breakfast every morning, but some reason, the idea of eggs and coconut together doesn’t appeal to me. (I’m very fussy about eggs for breakfast. I don’t like the whites and yolks mixed together, fried eggs must not be crispy and chilli can only accompany them when I feel like it. French toast cannot be the savoury eggy bread. This is the law in my house.)

Instead my eye was drawn to the variations on kaya. I couldn’t really be authentic as kaya relies on pandan or screwpine leaf for a distinctive flavour to cut through the richness of the coconut and I have no idea where you’d find it in the UK. I read on. The Hainanese variety caramelises the sugar first for a darker stickier version and I decided to tweak this into a very multicultural cross between kaya and dulce de leche as few things I’ve done have pleased people more from the slow cooker (see page 199 of Slow Cooked) . The result was even better than that sounds and is spectacular on toast, even if might technically be better described as a curd than a jam.

Slow Cooker Caramel Coconut Jam (makes 5 x 250ml jars)

  • 250g sugar
  • 2 x 200g block creamed coconut
  • 1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks

As with any dish involving the heating of sugar, get everything ready first. Speed is imperative to prevent things burning. Grate your blocks of creamed coconut using a box grater onto a plate and set aside. Open the coconut milk as well.

Put the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and allow it to melt over a medium heat. Don’t stir too much. When it starts to colour very slightly, put the creamed coconut in and stir well. The sugar will continue to colour as will the creamed coconut. Keep stirring like crazy. Don’t let the coconut catch on the bottom of the pan. Once it starts to melt, add the coconut milk and stir it all well with a balloon whisk. It will continue to darken in colour, so keep stirring until everything is melted together and a lovely golden caramel colour.

Take off the heat immediately and stir the vanilla in. Leave to cool slightly for about 15 minutes in the pan. Then beat the eggs in and pour into a lidded plastic pudding basin. Put the lid on and place the basin in the slow cooker. Pour boiling water half way up the basin. Cook on low for 3 hours without disturbing it.

At the end of three hours, the coconut cream and milk will have reduced to a caramel and the eggs will have caused it to set like a custard. You could in future halve the amounts and pour it into ramekins before cooking for 2 hours and serving as a gorgeous dessert. Just allow it to cool for about 20 minutes first to enhance the flavour. However to turn it into a gorgeous jam, simply beat it with an electric whisk for 2 minutes until light and creamy.

Put the jam into glass jars you’ve sterilised in the oven at 160℃ for 15 minutes and seal immediately. Allow to cool and keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. If you’d like Christmas to come early, make some French toast and spread this on it to serve. You’ll hear angels sing as you eat.

Don’t forget that if you’re enjoying Slow Cooked, you can leave your 5 star review on Amazon even if you didn’t buy it there. It’s a great way to introduce people to the book as they browse before Christmas and since I’m on this bland low fat diet again, the only thing I can have fed at the moment is my ego so I’d really appreciate it!

Damsons: not just for gin…

damson_gin_crumble-01

I don’t believe in doing a dry January. It’s a long bleak month, made grey by the weather and the removal of those lovely twinkly Christmas lights and decorations. The rest of the world withdraws from society, exhausted after the festive season and starts detailing every morsel they do or don’t eat with a side helping of shame and the Special K diet. So frankly I need a drink just to deal with them.

I don’t mean going out and drinking every bar in the borough dry, but I do enjoy a winter time tipple, usually just before bed to warm the cockles properly. And luckily my family always comes up trumps with just the ticket over Christmas in the shape of homemade fruit gins. Mister North tends to specialise in damson gin and our mum tends to go for sloe gin, which is a family tradition dating back to my childhood. However the weather in 2012 was not good for sloes, so both of them went for damson gin this year.

Warm and jewel coloured, this plum rich sweet liquor warms you better than an electric blanket and with much more style. Sipped slowly in front of fire, it softens and soothes you to sleep well when you get to bed. Served long, tall and cool over ice with tonic to cut it, it reinvents the gin and tonic in a way that’s not just for Christmas. You can even, oddly enough, douse fish in it to make a sultry salmon gravlaks.

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Apricot and Rosewater Conserve

Apricot and Rosewater conserve

It was inevitable after my marmalade making fun earlier this year that I would enter the jam making world as well. It came about accidentally when after buying some plump looking apricots in the market as a change from the constant stream of flat peaches and white nectarines, I bit into one and all I could think was ‘cotton wool’. The apricot is a fruit has doesn’t work for me unless it’s cooked. I roasted the rest of that batch, scattered with rosewater and flaked almonds and they were fantastic on bircher muesli.

But after a Twitter conversation with the lovely @RachaelParkman who is the Peckham preserve queen, I decided my first foray into jam would be apricot so that the taste of summer would remain at my table for months to come. Plus it makes such a good base for cake decorating, I might do more marzipan making.

I turned to my preserve Bible ‘Let’s Preserve It‘ by Beryl Wood which was reissued recently in hardback and it’s delightfully British and excellent on jams and conserves. (For the record, jams are cooked down fruit puree, while conserves retain chunks of fruit in with the puree.) I must say, I only picked the conserve recipe because it used less sugar and I’d brilliantly managed to tip a good amount of my kilo bag down the side of the cooker and into the box of mouse poison there and couldn’t be bothered to go to the shop for more…

Apricot and Rosewater Conserve: makes about 6 jars each 160ml*

  • 900g (2lbs) fresh apricots
  • 900g sugar
  • 1/4 pint water
  • juice of two lemons
  • 2 tbsp rosewater
  • 2 tbsp rose petals (optional)

Make sure your apricots aren’t bruised. Soft ripe fruit is fine, but don’t use fruit you wouldn’t eat yourself or it can make the conserve bitter. Wash well. Stone the fruit and then cut each half into quarters.

Put the fruit in a pan with the sugar and the lemon juice and and heat gently along with the water until it is boiling gently and then continue boiling until it starts to set. This took me about 30-40 minutes while the fruit broke down into a pulp and the sugar and water became syrupy. Stir frequently. I then used the good old wrinkle test on a cold saucer and then took the pan off the heat.

I added in one tablespoon of the rosewater and tested another snippet of the jam on the saucer until it cooled and tasted it. It wasn’t quite enough so I added a second scant spoonful and then added in the rose petals. I’d sprinkled these lightly with water so that they didn’t float in the conserve and stirred them through well before filling my jars as usual.

This was very easy to make and lifted some uninspiring fruit to something really wonderful. The rosewater brings out the apricots’ sweetness and makes this a very grown up addition to the breakfast table. I love the texture with its chunks of fruit instead of the sticky-sweet nature of commercial preserves. I’ve been heaping it on toast and enjoying the summer flavours as the season changes…

 

*I use Sainsbury’s Basic Mint Sauce jars. Under 30p a jar and a useful marinade, they are the best way I’ve found to get standard sized jars for jam and marmalade that aren’t huge or very expensive. Plus I enjoy the look on the delivery driver’s face when he hands me 14 jars of mint sauce.