Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Jelly, jelly & jelly

Jelly is a funny old word with a surprising range of meanings. In my world it usually refers to an amusingly springy fruity dessert stuff, a jam without seeds in it or a soft, fruity, sugar coated sweet. Oh, and I guess it is also that stuff you get inside pork pies that some people love and others fund totally gross.

All of these types of jelly will be featuring at my table this Christmas.

The first will be made from homegrown raspberries from the freezer, pureed and mixed with powdered gelatine to provide the "jelly" set. This will be poured over slices of Swiss roll and topped with custard and cream to make a classic trifle. We all love trifle in this house and you can't beat the lovely fruity flavour you get from a homemade jelly rather than the weird artificial flavour of the stuff you just mix with boiling water.

Raspberry Jelly

3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon or 1 sachet powdered gelatine
8 oz (225 g) raspberries
4 oz (110 g) granulated sugar
12 fl oz (400 ml) cold water

Put 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small pan and sprinkle over the gelatine, then stir and set aside for 5 minutes. Put the raspberries, sugar and 12 fl oz of water into a large pan and bring to the boil. Leave the fruit to simmer for 5 minutes until soft then press through a sieve to make a puree. Heat the gelatine over a low heat for a minute or two until clear then stir this into the raspberry puree.

Raspberry Trifle

1 pint (600 ml) of raspberry jelly (see recipes above)
1 small Swiss roll
Sherry or apple juice
1 pack of ready to make custard powder
150ml double cream
100ml creme fraiche
12g (1/2 oz) icing sugar

Make raspberry jelly as shown in the recipes above. Slice up the Swiss roll and layer it into the bottom of suitable containers and pour over enough sherry or apple juice to cover. Allow the cake to soak up the liquid and become mushy. You could also add a layer of fresh raspberries too at this point. Pour the jelly over the cake and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until set. In the meantime, make up the custard as instructed on the packet and allow to cool completely to room temperature - placing a piece of clingfilm on the surface of the custard will stop it forming a skin. Once the jelly has set, pour the custard over the top and level off. Return to the refrigerator for at least another hour. Combined the cream, creme fraiche and icing sugar together and whip until it forms soft peaks then spoon this on top of the custard layer. Add any decorations just before serving.

The next kind of jelly will be redcurrant jelly, made from our homegrown redcurrants earlier in the year. Some people seem a little confused by the name "jelly" on a jar and it can put them off as they seem unsure how to use a jelly. Well, it really is just a seedless jam, usually strained to produce a beautifully clear end product. If you fancy spreading it on your toast then do so but it can also be eaten as an accompaniment to meat or a flavour added to it when cooking. Undoubtedly, we will use some redcurrant jelly to accompany a nice bit of lamb but I shall also use it for redcurrant cheesecake.

Redcurrant Cheesecake

6 oz crushed digestive biscuits
2 oz melted butter

7 oz soft cheese
3 oz caster sugar
1 egg
4 fl oz whipping cream

4 oz redcurrant jelly

To make the base: Put the biscuits in a bag and crush them with the end of a rolling pin until finely crushed. Melt the butter and mix it with the biscuit crumbs. Press the mix firmly into the bottom of a flan dish and chill for about 1 hour.

To make the filling: Preheat oven to 180 °C, gas mark 4. Cream together the cheese and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and cream and whisk until thick. Dollop the creamy filling onto the biscuit base and spread out evenly. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes then turn out the oven and leave it in the oven for another 10 minutes. After that open the oven door and leave the cheesecake inside to continue its slow cooling so that it doesn't crack. Once cooled but still slightly warm, carefully heat the redcurrant jelly in the microwave (2 x 20 seconds) or a pan of hot water until it is runny. Pour the warmed jelly evenly over the surface of the cheesecake. When sufficiently cool, refrigerate until ready to serve.

When I was a kid my lovely next door neighbour (Mrs P, we used to call her), used to give my brother and me a large tube of Fruit Pastilles every Christmas. A lovely treat, although back then they were full of artificial colours and flavourings. I'm pleased to say that, as so many food items have, they have vastly improved since then. Even so, they do not taste anywhere near as fruity as the homemade fruit jelly sweets I have made this Christmas. Using little more than fruit and sugar, I have concocted both blackcurrant and raspberry flavoured blocks of fruit jelly. They need to be stored in the fridge and they aren't quite as robust as the ones you get in a tube but, my God, they knock your head off with their lovely ziggy fruity flavour. And as an added advantage, they are a jelly that doesn't contain gelatine so are suitable for my vegan step-daughter. Hmmm... makes me wonder if I could make a vegan trifle... now there's a challenge!

Real Fruit Jelly Sweets

300-350g blackcurrants (or other high pectin fruit - e.g. gooseberries)
300g of apple or crabapple pectin stock
2 tsp lemon juice
250g granulated sugar
2 tbsp glucose syrup
Granulated sugar for rolling

Blitz the blackcurrants in a blender until it forms a thick liquid. Add the apple/crabapple to it then strain through a sieve to remove the seeds and skin. Pour the liquid into a large saucepan and add the lemon juice, sugar and glucose. Gently heat, stirring all the time, until the sugar is dissolved and it no longer feels gritty. Bring to the boil and boil vigorously for 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and pour into a greased plastic food container. Leave to cool then refrigerate until set. Use a spatula to loosen the jelly from the container then turn out onto a surface sprinkled with sugar. Cut into stripes then cubes. Roll each on in sugar then place in a container and keep refrigerated until ready to eat. The jellies do not melt if left out of the fridge but they do become softer and harder to pick up.