Saturday, December 4, 2010

Breakfast basket

My Nana is one of those people who's difficult to buy for. There's nothing much she needs, nor (as far as I know) anything she particularly wants. So Christmas gifts for Nana often tend to be of the edible variety. That being so, I decided that this year's gift should be a home-made one.

After a little thought (and a lot of flicking through my Edmonds book) I came up with the concept of a 'breakfast basket' containing some marmalade, some jam and a jar of muesli. I'm not sure whether or not she'll eat the muesli, but it rounded off my concept nicely so I went ahead with it.

The first thing on my list was sweet orange marmalade (p228). I'd meant to get this done one night during the week, but I never got around to it, and so found myself standing over a pot of orange pulp at 9.00 this morning.

The marmalade uses the juice and skins of oranges and lemons. Knowing how hard it would be to remove the skins after juicing, I began by peeling thick strips of skin off with an orange peeler. I did wonder for a while whether "skins" meant the whole thing (pith and all), but decided in the end just to include the top layer of peel.

This done, I moved on to juicing the oranges and lemon. It was a bit more difficult squeezing them with the skin off - they kept falling apart - but I managed it without too much trouble. The pips were supposed to be tied in muslin and added to the pot. I did this with the lemon pips, but when I got to the oranges, I found I had inadvertently bought a seedless variety.

With the orange and lemon juice in a large saucepan, I added the muslin-tied lemon pips and some water. The last thing to go in was my pile of lemon and orange peel. The recipe said to "finely shred" the skins, which seems to indicate tearing them by hand, but I just cut them into thin strips and hoped that would work.

This mixture I boiled gently for about an hour while I pottered around, doing dishes and preparing jars. At the end of this time, the strips of peel had softened up, so marmalade was ready for the next step. Pouring my pulp mixture into a jug, I found I had 3 cups' worth. This went back into the pot with an equal amount of sugar.

The last step was to boil the mixture for 20 minutes or until it reached setting point. 20 minutes came and went, and the mixture showed no sign of thickening or setting on cooling. After half an hour or so, I shrugged, and decided to take it off the heat anyway.

The mixture was very runny and I wondered if I'd made the wrong decision. Still, it was too late to change my mind, so I just kept pouring it into the jars. My mother had kindly supplied me with a jam funnel to help with this particular procedure: unfortunately, it was too wide to sit inside the jars I was using. I tried holding it in place at the top of the jars, but it kept slipping and the marmalade oozed everywhere.

By the time I'd applied jam seals to my jars and wiped away the spillage, the film of marmalade remaining in the pot and on my wooden spoon had started to set. Since none of my setting tests had shown any signs of thickening at all, I was quite surprised - but glad that there was some evidence that the marmalade might actually set as it cooled.

The next step in making my 'breakfast basket' was toasted muesli (p156). A quick walk to the local Bin Inn supplied me with everything I needed, and I was soon back in the kitchen mixing up my muesli. First, I put a saucepan containing oil, honey and brown sugar on a low heat, and let it heat up and dissolve the sugar while I threw together the rest of the ingredients.

I piled the rolled oats, coconut flakes, wheatgerm, bran flakes, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and chopped nuts together in a bowl. By the time I had these mixed together, the honey mixture on the stove was ready. I poured it over the muesli and stirred it through to coat all the ingredients with the sweet sticky mixture.

After that, it was just a matter of spreading it all out in a roasting dish, and putting it in the oven at 150 for about half an hour, taking it out to stir every now and then. Easy. When the muesli came out (looking golden, crunchy and delicious) and had cooled down, I added the fruit. The recipe states just sultanas or raisins, but I decided to add some dried cranberries as well.

With the fruit stirred through, the muesli was complete. I tried a bowlful and it was delicious. When you consider how much a box of ready-made muesli costs, it's really worthwhile (if you're a regular muesli eater) to make your own. It took about $7.00 (and maybe 10 minutes' work) to make a whole roasting dish-full, and you can add or leave out ingredients as per your own tastes. If you prefer a natural muesli, there's a recipe for that in your Edmonds book too.

Later this afternoon, I made a trip to the supermarket, where I got a jar for my muesli, and a packet of frozen boysenberries. Seeing as my raspberry jam had been so successful, I'd decided to do the boysenberry jam variation (p228) for the breakfast basket.

Just like the raspberry jam, boysenberry jam is fairly quick and simple. You just put the berries in a saucepan over a low heat until all the juice comes out, then add the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, you boil the mixture for 3-5 minutes, then pour it into prepared jars. Easy. The bit I like about this recipe is that there's no fretting about whether you've reached setting point, like I had with the marmalade this morning.

With all three of my recipes complete, I got onto my computer to make up some labels, and cut some jam covers out of Christmas fabric. The components of my breakfast basket are ready to go - now I just need to get a basket to put them in!


  1. Now that's a great idea! AND it all looks so good!

    On a side note, hooray for December!

  2. Hooray for December indeed! Though I'd be happier if I were as organised as I usually am by this time! Still got a heap of Christmas shopping to do...


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