Home-made apricot jam

Contrary to popular belief, making jam isn’t hard. It’s actually quite easy. This is a wonderful recipe for making the most deliciously more-ish apricot jam. Just come into season, apricots are bursting with flavour and goodness. And as apricots have natural pectin, the jam sets just right. Sometimes nature’s way really is best. Apricot jam tarts anyone?

Ingredients: All you need is 1kg apricots* and 700g of granulated sugar. And some time.

Method (Looks long but is really simple. It also just needs a few minutes of your time the day before you want to make the jam.)

1. Cut apricots in half or quarters, depending on their size. Discard the stones. Mix the apricots and sugar in a large bowl. Cover this mix with a clean tea towel and leave in a cool, dry place for 18 hours.

2. Sterilise 2 jam jars by washing with hot, soapy water and placing in a hot oven (140 degrees, Gas Mark 1). Jam jars that have just come out of the dishwasher, that are still warm to the touch, are also fine.

3. Place a couple of saucers in the fridge to cool. You use them to test how well the jam sets later in the recipe.

4. Now to make the jam! Place the mixture in a saucepan over a high heat. Bring it to a boil. Then reduce the heat for about 15 minutes while stirring occasionally. When the jam looks thick and large bubbles appear, test the jam by placing a little on one of the cooled saucers. If the jam forms a skin that you can see when its pushed a little, its ready!

5. When ready, remove the jam from the heat. Fill up your warm jam jars and tighten the lids. You can store them for upto 6 months.

*If you’d like to try this recipe out, tell us on our facebook page. We’ll include 1kg of apricots in your delivery for just £5 (by giving you a special code). Can you imagine having 2 jars of fantastic home-made jam for just £5. And a little time. Beats that store bought stuff any day of the week!

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What colour is your food?

How many of you consciously try and eat your ‘5-a-day’? All hands go up. The 5-a-day concept has become commonplace and for good reason. But, how many of you try and eat a colourful variety of fruit and veg? Some hands waver.

Fruit Salad with Cacao Nibs

Every fruit and vegetable is a source of some of the vitamins and minerals that we need for good health. Unfortunately, there is no one super fruit or veg. Yes, so-called superfoods do exist but we’ll leave them aside for another blog post.

Fruit and veg that share the same colour also tend to have the same natural plant pigments. These plant chemicals, or phytochemicals, are key to maintaining health and each perform certain functions.

Red fruit and veg contain ‘lycopene’ or ‘anthocyanin’. The former has been linked to reducing the risk of certain cancers while the latter acts as a powerful antioxidant that protects cell damage and keeps our hearts healthy. Tomatoes, watermelon and grapefruit all contain lycopene while strawberries, raspberries and red grapes are excellent sources of anthocyanin.

Orange and yellow fruit and veg contain ‘caretenoids’. Sweet potatoes, pumpkins and carrots have high levels of beta-caretone which is converted to Vitamin A, important for healthy eyes. Carrots helping you see in the dark, although not quite so extreme, is not just an old wives’ tale! Many don’t realise that caretenoid-rich foods also help the immune system and are good for heart health. We also all know that citrus fruits have lots of Vitamin C.

Unsurprisingly, green fruit and veg have lots of ‘chlorophyll’. ‘Lutein’ is in the darker green veg (spinach, green peppers, cucumbers) and works with zeaxanthin (red peppers, oranges, grapes, egg yolks) to keep eyes healthy. Broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbages contain ‘indoles’ that protect against some cancers.

Blues and purples are full of ‘anthocyanin’ which acts as an antioxidant to repair cell damage. Blueberries most often come to mind but don’t forget grapes, aubergines, blackberries, plums and figs.

And don’t forget the whites either. They have ‘anthoxanthins’ (what a mouthful) which can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as reduce stomach cancer and heart disease. Some, like bananas and potatoes, are great sources of potassium too. (By the way, did you know that potatoes don’t count towards one of your 5-a-day)? Other whites are cauliflower, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, onions and parsnips.

Well, there you have it. I don’t think it really matters if you can remember any of the above. What to remember is to try and eat a rainbow of colours. That way, you’re getting a little bit of everything. See, easy!

Packed lunches for ‘The Planner’

Did you like our post on ‘planning ahead‘? On that theme, here are some ideas for rustling up packed lunches with just a little bit of planning.

It always amazes me how people are willing to spend £5 – £10 on lunch everyday. And that is for some sliced bread, a few salad items in between and a piece of overpriced fruit. It seems to be outright robbery but I do understand that we all have to eat.

With a little planning, you can try and take a packed lunch with you to work. It doesn’t have to be every day. Start with once a week and see how you go. Baby steps.

  • A couple of free hours on the weekend? Cook up a huge batch of soup, stew, stir-fried/roasted vegetables. The latter are especially great due to their versatility. Add noodles, rice or even line them up inside a wrap for instant fajitas. Divide your bounty between a few lunch-sized containers. Put the ones for Monday/Tuesday in the fridge and freeze the rest.
  • Cooking up a storm in the kitchen during the week? Just triple the amount you make. Whatever it is. It takes marginally extra effort and time – you’re doing the chopping, cooking and washing up anyway right? 😉 Even chopping a few extra bits for lunchtime salad doesn’t take long.

Food for thought

Stay away from the chocolate bars in the mid-afternoon dip by taking some fresh fruit with you too. Bananas and apples travel well. But if you have a few minutes, just chop up or wash a mixture of any fruit you have at home – kiwis, peaches, berries, grapes, plums, pears. You have an instant, healthy fruit salad that you didn’t pay ridiculous amounts of money for.

Eating something freshly made at home means you know exactly what’s in it – nothing artificial, nothing extra added and you know its good for you. You’ll be well on your way to your 5-a-day AND you’re saving some of that hard-earned dosh (for something special perhaps?).

“Food has become our answer to everything”

Have a look at this great little You Tube video from Bite Size aimed at kids. It brings home how food has become central to our lifestyle and forms part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign targeting childhood obesity in the US.

Making better eating choices – increasing the amount of fresh fruit and veg we eat – is key to good health for both adults and our children. Show this video to your children/nieces/nephews today.