Jams/ Preserves.

Homemade Blackberry Jam & Blackberry Picking at Eckert`s.

Delicious Home Made Blackberry Jam.

July-August of every year is the best season for picking blackberries and tomatoes in the mid west. Every home has beautiful pots of tomato plants, all ripe with tomatoes in conceivable hues of orange, red and crimson. Summer in fact is the best season for all fruits and flowers specially in the midwest. My daughter aged 6 had been wanting to go blackberry picking for quite some time now, as we do Apple Picking regularly every year during fall, and strawberry picking every year during spring!

Strawberries ready for picking.

GROWING BLACKBERRIES:

Blackberries grow best in warmer, temperate regions and are generally considered less hardy than raspberries. The plants flower relatively late, from May onward, and bloom over a long period. Because blackberries flower late, damage to flowers from spring frosts and freezes is seldom a problem . In the mountain areas where the winters are more severe, the use of hardy cultivars and planting of blackberries on hillsides will help to avoid damage to the canes from the cold.
Hot summer winds can dry the fruit, causing sunscald, and increase the plants’ water demand. In addition, fruit size and plant growth will be compromised.
However, keep in mind that good air circulation should be maintained in the field, because adequate ventilation minimizes disease problems.
Blackberries prefer full sun and a well-drained soil. The weather needed for this fruit is replicated in many farms across the midwest and one such is the Eckerts Farm in Belleville, IL close to the Illinois Missouri state borders. The farm had organised a tram ride to the actual picking area and provided every one with little plastic buckets to pick the fruit. The fruit itself breaks easily on crushing, so it is important to pick it carefully. The instruction was to seperate the vines and look inside to find deep garnet black ripe blackberries which are just right to pick.

The Country Store @ Eckerts Farms.

The farm also had ripe peaches, home grown tomatoes and  orange and green bell peppers. The farm also promises not to use any presticides in their crops. The Eckerts Farm has recently renovated their Country Store to stock every conceivable processed food item made from their freshly grown produce. Their bakery makes amazing pies, cakes, bread, cookies and brownies. The stock all kinds of fruit preserves as well as apple butter, peach butter, orange marmalade, honey butter etc. They also sell fresh green beans, peppers, cauliflowers, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, lettuce etc.

Ripe Blackberries ready for picking!!!

We had picked almost 4 pounds of ripe blackberries, 6 pounds of ripe sweet tomatoes, peppers etc. We washed and ate the blackberries enjoying the sweetness bursting from the fruit and then realising the late tartness, apart of course from the fact that it was very very juicy. I wanted to have a way of preserving this fruit even after the season was done, and in a way of treasuring the memories assosciated with it…I made a simply Blackberry Jam/Preserve  using very few ingredients and we all agreed that it was way better than the ones at the store made with pectin to keep it for a year or so.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups freshly picked and washed and patted dry.

2 1/2 cups sugar.

1/2 lemon juice.

PREPARATION:

  • Take a clean kadai and put all the cleaned and dried blackberries in it.
  • Smoosh it well with a ladle/ spoon and mash it well.
Blackberries.

  • Add 2/12 cups of sugar and lemon juice and mix well.
  • Allow it to cook over a slow flame and mix it well.
  • After about 30-45 minutes when it comes together and reduces, with the water evaporating.
  • When it reaches a semi solid jam consistency switch off the stove and allow to cool.
  • Store in an airtight glass jar for months.
  • Use it lavishly on breads and rotis as a spread.
Sweet & Tart Blackberry Jam!

HINTS:

  1. The amount of sugar used generally depends on the tartness of the fruit. Please regulate the same.
Brisk Breakfast · Snacks & Tiffin Items · Travel

Instant & Healthy Oats Masala Idlis. (Savoury Steamed Cakes made with Oats, Semolina, Carrots & Spices)

Idlis are always a welcome breakfast at home as both my daughters love to have them, steaming hot and with a generous spill of  ghee melted to a sunshine golden yellow, and some sugar sprinkled on top of that. YUM…is the only word she keeps re-iterating again and again. When she was smaller, and hadnt started talking, she would simply finish off the idlis in minutes, and sometimes, lick the little  bowl clean of all the ghee and sugar…only moments after my head is turned to wash my hands and pick up the little one to wash and wipe her face!!! She is almost 7 now and she still loves them. The other day I had made Rava Idlis, and she simply refused to touch them. I had added peas, carrots and onions but it was of no use. She wanted white soft plain idlis and that was that. This weekend, I tried my oats idlis with the added incentive that I would flavour it with yoghurt/buttermilk. She was willing to give it a go. I used the same method as I would for the Rava Idlis, only I substituted most of the rava, with oats. No rice…at all, no fermenting, and pretty much on the go. Give it a try and you`ll realise just how delish it is. My daughter thought so too..

INGREDIENTS:

2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats.

1 Cup Rava.

1 Carrot Grated.

1 Onion finely diced. (Optional).

1 Tbsp Coconut Powder/ Fresh Grated Coconut.

3 Cups Diluted Buttermilk. (The more sour, the  more tastier).

1 Tsp Baking Soda.

Salt to taste.

Hing.

A handful of finely chopped cilantro.

2 Tsp Flax seed powder.

Seasoning:

Mustard.

Curry Leaves.

Cashew Nuts Chopped.(Optional).

Hing.

2 Green Chillies chopped finely.

PREPARATION:

  • Roast the 2 cups of old fashioned oats in a dry and hot tava for 4-5 minutes on medium low flame. Set aside.
  • Roast the 1 cup of rava/semolina for 3 minutes until you get the aroma. Set aside.
  • Powder the oats coarsely in the mixer, take care that you don`t powder it too fine. The coarseness adds a lot of character to the final dish, in my opinion.
  • In a mixing bowl add powdered oats, rava, salt, hing, coconut powder, flaxseed powder and finely chopped cilantro.
  • In a kadai add a spoon of oil and when hot add cashew nuts, green chillies, curry leaves,mustard seeds and hing. When it comes together toss it in to the bowl along with the other ingredients.
  • Add the 2 cups of  buttermilk and with the third cup, add it little by little so that the batter does not become runny. The consistency should be like the batter of rava idlis. You should be able to pour and it will fall slowly.

  • Mix in all the ingredients well and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes as this works on the baking soda and airs the batter a little.
  • Grease idli plates and pour out the dough , steam in pressure cooker WITHOUT WEIGHT for 10-12 minutes.
  • Switch off the cooker and after 2-3 minutes remove the plates.
  • Splash a few drops of water on the idlis and using a spoon dipped in water, slowly scoop out the Oats Idlis.
  • Serve piping hot Oats Idlis with Tomato Peanut Chutney.

HINTS:

  1. I used diluted buttermilk as I wanted the Idlis to be light and fluffy. Feel free to use regular buttermilk or beaten curd diluted with water.
  2. Onions are completely optional. I used it for an extra zing on the taste.
  3. Cashew Nuts and flax seed powder  are also an optional additions. I use flax seed powder mainly for the fibre content.
  4. The consistency largely depends on the kind and brand of rava, oats and other ingredients. Take the water measurements as a benchmark and experiment on the kitchens!!!



Indo-Chinese Cooking. · Side Dishes for Rotis/Dosas/ Naan.

Mainland China Inspired “Seasonal Vegetables and Mushrooms in Chinese Parsley Sauce”

One of the best restaurants that I never miss every time I visit India, is Mainland China. I simply love their twists on the indo chinese version of gravies and sides. Every time I have been to this restaurant, I have come out supremely satisfied. The consistency of their preparations amazes me, so does the “to die” for Vegetable Momos dumplings served steaming hot in little cane baskets, with a side of their secret Black Pepper Sauce, swimming in pools of sesame oil redolent with the aroma of pepper, garlic, soy sauce and everything else nice…One of the most constant order that I would place would be the “Seasonal Vegetables and Broccolli in Chinese Parsley Sauce”. At that time, I never knew chinese parsley was our cilantro…which would explain why I loved it so much. This is my version of the recreation of the  original, and I must say, a very good one.

INGREDIENTS:

2 Carrots Sliced in to diagonally oval strips.

1 cup thinly shredded cabbage.

1 Zucchinni sliced in to thin semi circles.

1 Pound of Fresh baby Corn sliced long.

3 leaves of Romanie Lettuce Chopped.

1 Cup Chopped Cremini/Button Mushrooms.

1 Spring Onion – Seperate the White roots and the green portion. Chop the green portions finely.

Salt to taste.

1 Tsp Pepper Powder.

To Puree for the Sauce Base:

1 Stick of Ginger at least 2″ long.

5 Green Chillies.

1 Bunch of fresh Chinese Parsley (Corriander/ Cilantro).

White portion of the spring onion.

1 Tsp Soy Sauce.

Dash of water.

PREPARATION:

  • Puree all the ingredients for the Sauce base, specified to a smooth paste. Set  aside.
  • Chop all the vegetables and keep ready.
  • In a wide mouthed kadai, add 2  tsp of sesame oil and allow to heat up.
  • Add all the chopped veggies, salt and pepper and saute for a few minutes. The idea is to retain the crunchiness of  the vegetables and not cook them till they turn mushy.
  • In 2-3 minutes, add the ground paste and mix it in well.
  • Add 2 cups of water to allow it to cook well.

  • Stir carefully so as not to break the veggies. Add more salt if needed.
  • When the gravy loses its raw flavours, its time to turn down the stove. This took roughly 8-10 minutes.
  • Garnish with finely chopped spring onion and serve with Restaurant Style  Indo Chinese fried Rice.