Black Jam


I’ve been consulting my provençal cookbooks again, this time for jam recipes as there are loads of plums, blackberries and other fruit just waiting to be preserved around here and I thought it would be fun to try something a little bit different this year.  I was intrigued to see a couple of recipes suggesting the use of aubergines.  Apparently they add bulk.  OK, why not?

The Confiture Noire of Provence is typically a mix of whatever fruits and nuts are available locally, including figs, melons, quinces and walnuts, according to Mireille Johnston in her book ‘The Cuisine of the Sun’.  I’m going for black fruit as Clare Ferguson suggests in ‘Flavours of Provence’, and I’m including the aubergine but omitting the nuts.  The result really is black jam and we’re onto the second jar already – it’s a hit with all the family so another blackberry-picking session may follow imminently.


Black Jam
Makes three x 300ml jars

400g black plums, stoned and chopped into bite-size chunks
300g blueberries
300g aubergine, chopped into bite-size chunks
150g blackberries
150ml water
100ml white wine
Juice of a lemon
500g jam sugar
Sterilized jam jars (see note below*)

Place all the ingredients in a preserving pan or sturdy saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil.  Stir regularly for ten minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook for a further 20-30 minutes or until the mixture is dark and sticky.

To test the set of the jam, place a saucer in the freezer for a few minutes. Remove it and pour a small spoonful of jam onto it.  Leave for a couple of minutes and come back to it – the jam should be thick and crinkly, not runny when you touch it.

*To sterilize the jars, you can put them through a hot dishwasher cycle. Alternatively clean them thoroughly in very hot, soapy water.  Rinse them and dry in the bottom of a very low oven.



Aubergine Salad

IMG_20140726_161055Since waxing lyrical about the recent English weather in Wednesday’s post, it seems a prolonged, warm and dry spell was not on the cards after all.  Today it has mostly rained.  Never mind – in the garden summer vegetables are starting to ripen and it’s time for aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes to shine in the kitchen.

I knocked up this simple aubergine salad pretty quickly the other day and it’s delicious served either with grilled meats or (and this is my preference) with some fresh, burrata cheese and a hunk of crusty bread.  The ingredients make enough for a side salad for two hungry people. Do give it a try.

Aubergine Salad

1 medium aubergine, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
A few leaves of basil
Salt and extra virgin olive oil

Pour the red wine vinegar over the chopped onion and leave this to sit while you prepare the other ingredients.

Fry the aubergine pieces in a little olive oil until they have softened and browned a little.

Combine the aubergine and quartered tomatoes with the onion and vinegar mixture.

Add a tiny pinch of salt to taste and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir and top with torn basil leaves.  Serve with your choice of accompaniments, not forgetting a glass of something pink and chilled, naturally.