We are planning a beach trip tomorrow. This is becoming something of a habit of late – partly because our neighbours seem to have the noisiest visitors in the world, and this could possibly incite me to cross words if I have to put up with too much more of it, which I am keen to avoid in the interests of good neighbourly relations.
Our current favourite beach is about 40 minutes east of here – usually pretty quiet at this time of year, as the Turkish and European school holidays are still weeks away. At our favourite beach cafe, the food is excellent, the music mellow and the sheltered bay means warm water, even this early in the season. One of its finest features is a complete lack of white plastic – no plastic chairs, brollies or sun loungers, just timber loungers, rattan parasols and a bring-your-own cushion policy if you are as ancient as us and don’t want a stiff back. As you can see, it was not exactly mobbed on our last visit.
Whenever we take someone to this beach, they comment that it doesn’t feel like Europe – more as though we should be somewhere exotic in South America or the Caribbean. There is a hotel at the far end of the beach and I have rather an urge to stay there overnight, so that we can have dinner on this beach too.
Anyway, back to the kitchen. One of this week’s projects was making some strawberry jam in the microwave – very easy, but I can always be trusted to make a mess. I managed to slightly boil over the jam right in the very last seconds of cooking, mainly because the dish I had chosen wasn’t quite big enough, due to the practically miniature nature of our microwave. I didn’t realise I had dunked the oven mitts in the boiled-over jam, so then inadvertently dabbed it all over myself and various parts of the kitchen (including, inexplicably, at least two shelves of the fridge and quite a few of their contents). Oh dear.
This is a great recipe if you just want one or two pots of jam (or if you have squashed strawberries because you failed to properly tether the large – heavy – bag of leeks that you bought alongside them and they decided to murder the strawberries on the way home in the car – ooops). If you are going to be eating the jam straight away, there’s no need to faff about with jar sterilisation – just wash with soapy water and rinse with very hot water, so that the jar is warm and won’t crack when you pour the jam in. If you do want to keep the jam longer term, either sterilise the jars by putting them through a hot cycle in the dishwasher (and use while still hot), or wash in hot soapy water, rinse well and then dry in a 100°C oven for 10 minutes and fill while still hot.
This would work with any kind of berry or soft fruit – however, if you try it with plums, then omit the lemon juice or you will have too much pectin and end up with plum-flavoured concrete. If your microwave is a reasonable size, you could definitely double the recipe, but do ensure that your ingredients only take up about one third of the volume of your dish, as the jam does rise up when it boils.
20-minute microwave strawberry jam
Makes approx 1 x 500g pot
350g strawberries (or other berries and/or soft fruits)
200g white sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Put the ingredients into a dish in which they only take up about one third of the total volume (you need plenty of space for it to rise up when it boils).
Put the dish (uncovered) into the microwave and cook on ‘high’ for two minutes, then stir thoroughly to ensure that all the sugar has dissolved. This stage is important – if the mixture boils before the sugar has dissolved, you will end up with crystals in your jam.
Return the dish to the microwave and cook for five minutes, then remove and stir. Repeat twice more, so that the jam has had 17 minutes in total.
Pour into your warmed jar and seal tightly. This will give you a softly-set jam – if you prefer a firmer consistency, you can cook it for an extra three or four minute burst.