The past few weeks here at home have been all about holidays then getting back to school, my poor husband Tim and his poor sore back which needs surgery next week (ouch), trying to get back into a routine of work, trying to get back into the garden and just catching up.
Catching up, because the past few months for me have involved quite a bit of travel and work (both cooking/catering and events for my new book A Basket by the Door). And so, despite ‘the back thing’, it’s been a really lovely, quiet time here on the farm.
In addition to some gardening (see pic below of my fledgling vegetable garden and following picture of the carrots which I grew and which prove I will never be a carrot farmer), I’ve been cooking lots and just yesterday made the best jam I think I’ve ever put in a jar. Or at least that’s what my family said! High praise I know! And because I was so happy with this rhubarb and vanilla concoction, made some thumbprint biscuits to make the most of it! They are crumbly (in the best way), super delicious and extra good with a strong coffee.
Rhubarb, orange and pistachio thumb prints
Swap the pistachio with hazelnut or almond meal and of course the jam with whatever you have handy. I’m thinking cumquat marmalade would be gorgeous here too. Makes about 24 biscuits.
150g butter, softened
50g icing sugar
Zest of one orange
100g plain flour
50g corn flour
40g pistachio meal (just whizz up 1/3 cup or thereabouts of pistachios in a food processor or bash finely with a mortar and pestle)
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.
Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest together in an electric mixer with paddle attachment for five minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the flours and pistachio meal and mix until well combined.
Roll walnut-sized amounts of dough into small balls and place, a few centimetres apart, on trays. Dip the end of a wooden spoon in water then gently press down in the middle of each ball of dough to make a thumb-sized indent (or use your thumb!). Fill the little cavity with rhubarb jam then. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until pale golden.
My family all commented that this is the best jam I’ve ever made, and, flush with success, I tend to agree. Tangy, full of rich vanilla flavour and zing from the rhubarb and lemon, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I had a dollop on my porridge this morning which was a winner. It would also be good stirred through a simple warm rice pudding for dessert or here below, tucked into little thumb print biscuits.
600g rhubarb, trimmed and washed
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tsp vanilla extract (I’m a huge fan of Grounded Pleasures vanilla extract the quality is waaaay superior to others I’ve used and makes a big difference here)
Combine all ingredients in a large glass or non-reactive bowl, stir really well and set aside in a cool place to mascerate overnight (this is an important step and really makes a difference I think – it softens the rhubarb so you don’t have to cook it for longer and hence lose flavour, plus it means that all the flavours are really well melded before adding heat).
The next morning, pop a couple of small plates in the freezer and sterilise a few jars. Depending on what size you use of course! I used 2 x 250ml jars for this amount.
Transfer rhubarb mixture to a saucepan or preserving pan on high heat and cook, stirring often (so the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom and burn) for about 20 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready to bottle via this little test; take one of your plates out of the freezer and dollop onto it, a small spoonful of the hot jam mixture. Run your finger through the middle, if a track is left and the jam looks and acts ‘set’, it’s ready to transfer to jars.
Divide mixture between sterilised jars, seal and store in a cool dark place. I made this batch on Monday. It’s Wednesday and there’s now none left. So. Needn’t have bothered with the sterilising in this case!
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