Tag Archives: preserves


Mr Colonial Cravings here, writing a guest post on my wonderful wife’s excellent blog! (you see I get to benefit from the fruits of Mrs Colonial Cravings efforts, so I really do think it’s excellent!)

mandarin basil shrub

A few years ago, while in a sleepy Cornish town, I was party to a very British tradition, the pub lock-in. My ticket to such a prestigious event lay with the old bar piano, on which I had been entertaining the locals with increasingly messy versions of Delilah, Your Song and Hey Jude (amongst other less memorable sing-alongs), increasingly messy because the locals had been plying me with the traditional Cornish tipple Rum & Shrub. I came away with an almighty hangover, but also with a taste for this new delightful beverage, and its similar cousin Brandy & Lovage.

Not only do they taste great, but they have a great story too. Shrubs have been around for a long time, according to ‘The Ark of Taste’ it was a colonial drink whose name derives from the Arabic word sharab, to drink, but by the time they arrived in Cornwall they took on their own unique purpose. Cornwall was a hot-spot for smuggling due to its abundance of coastline littered with many small coves, and one of the big items to smuggle was booze, in the form of French Brandy and Caribbean Rum. Trying to get a barrel of booze, in the dark, onto a small boat, into a small cove in the notoriously fickle seas around Cornwall could easily result in a dunk in salt water leaving you with a tainted product. No problem, just adding some Shrub or Lovage would mask that salty taste – proper job (as they say in Cornwall!).


Anyway, fast forward to the present and I find in our new stateside home that Shrub is back again, and back with a vengeance. I’ve even got a book on it now and have found out you can make all kinds of yummy shrubs by combining fruit, vinegar, sugar, water and herbs. So Mrs Colonial Cravings asked me to have a play with a new shrub concoction and write a post about it. This is a simple shrub combining mandarin and basil, it’s incredibly easy to make and can be used in all sorts of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.


2 mandarins
lots of basil (at least 20 leaves)
100g sugar
120ml white wine vinegar

Remove the zest from the fruit, trying to keep the amount of white pith to a minimum. Muddle the zest thoroughly with the basil and the sugar before covering and leaving it for 1 hour (this allows the sugar to extract the citrus oils from the zest).

Combine the oily sugar mix with the squeezed juice of the fruit and the vinegar. Stir it well so that the sugar dissolves and then strain the liquid into a clean jar and give it a good shake. Put the shrub in a cool dark spot and leave it for a couple of days for the flavours to mellow and mingle together. When it is ready store it in the fridge until you want to use it, the sugar and vinegar combined with the cold of the fridge should keep it fresh for a long time (although ours only lasted 6 weeks because we’d drank it all by then!)

Now you have your shrub there are many ways to use it, here are a few suggestions we tried but I’d encourage you to get creative and try others too.

Elderflower & Mandarin Martini – try this sophisticated drink for size.



2 parts shrub
4 parts gin
1 part elderfllower cordial

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and then strain into martini glasses. Add a simple garnish of basil for presentation.

New-Fangled – my take on an Old Fashioned!



1 part shrub
2 parts bourbon
1 tsp honey
2 dashes of bitters

Warm the honey so it will dissolve more easily and then combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (without ice), shake and then serve over ice in a rocks glass. Add a twist of mandarin peel for presentation.

Mandarin-Basil Mocktail – even the kids can get involved in this one, it makes a very sophisticated and refreshing take on a soft-drink.


Serves 2

1.5 oz shrub
1 tsp demerara sugar
big handful of basil
soda water

Muddle the basil (keep some leaves for garnish) with the sugar in a jug (or directly in the glasses if they’re sturdy). Add the shrub and then slowly add the soda water to keep the fizz. Serve in glasses with a garnish of basil leaves.


Leave a comment

Filed under Libating


Peach and herb jam
This was made purely as a way of using things up. Whilst rummaging in my overfilled fruit bowl I discovered some slightly geriatric peaches, not too far gone but the skins were certainly starting to get the sort of wrinkles I wouldn’t be happy with! We also still have several chilis growing on our deck, along with some basil and oregano, all seemingly in denial about the rapidly retreating warmth and sun.
That’s kind of the point of jam making though isn’t it? Preserving what you can’t consume now, it also means that in the gloom of winter you can open a jar of summer!


makes one large jar

400g peaches
400g sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
1 red chili
8ish basil leaves
2 sprigs of oregano

Peach and herb jam

Put a small saucer in the freezer to test the jam later for setting point.

Roughly chop the fruit. You can peel it if you’re that way inclined but I can never muster the energy to do that. I quite like the skin in the jam, it reminds me of the chunky apricot jam that we always used to eat slathered on crusty baguettes in France.
Put this in a large pan and stir in the sugar and lime juice. Stab the chili with the point of a knife. I tend to go a little bit Norman Bates with mine because I like quite a lot of warmth from it but do it less if you want to keep it subtle.
Put this in the pan too and place it over a moderate heat. Bring the mixture to a gentle rolling boil and leave it to bubble for around 30 minutes.
Test the jam to see if it’s reached setting point by dropping a spoonful of it onto the saucer that you put in the freezer earlier. Leave it to cool for a moment then push your finger through it, if the surface wrinkles then it’s ready. Once it has reached this point turn off the heat, remove the chili and stir in the chopped fresh herbs.
Pour the jam into warm sterilized jars, label, seal and leave to cool.

Peach and herb jam

Leave a comment

Filed under Baking



Jam isn’t hard work. I think a lot of people assume that it is and are bit scared of making their own. It’s actually pretty quick and if you use homegrown or foraged fruit it’s pretty cheap too.
I’ve talked about my love of blackberry picking and my many fond memories of it before but I have to say that there aren’t many bushes local to me now so I had to use frozen fruit for this. The rosemary was homegrown if that redeems me at all…
Mr Colonial Cravings is pretty obsessed with tea and so my kitchen drawers are awash with various infusers. These are perfect for popping the rosemary in but if you don’t have one of these you can just tie it up in a little muslin bag.

Makes 2 jars

600g blackberries
600g sugar
juice 1/2 lemon
3 sprigs fresh rosemary.
1-2 tbsp water
small knob butter

PA251766 (2)

Put a small saucer in the freezer to chill, you’ll need this later to test for a setting point.
Simmer the fruit with the lemon juice and water for 5 minutes to release the juices. Strip the leaves from the rosemary stalks and tie them up in a muslin bag or put them in a tea infuser. Add this to the pan. Stir in the sugar and bring the mixture to a gentle rolling boil for 20-25 minutes.
Test for setting by dropping a teaspoon of the jam onto the chilled saucer. Let it cool and push your finger through it, if the surface wrinkles then it’s ready. If not let it boil for a few more minutes. Skim most of the scum off the surface of the jam and add a knob of butter to disperse any that remains. Carefully pour the jam into warm sterilized jars, seal, label and leave to cool. It’s as easy as that!

Leave a comment

Filed under Baking



I’m a big fan of chili jams and jellies, more so than hot sauces (with the exception of chipotle, to which I am wholly addicted). I really like the touch of sweetness followed by the gentle warmth of the spice.
This one is great for summer, it’s so tart and tangy! It’s a really good condiment to use with fish, seafood and chicken and works well with Mexican food. There’ll be some more suggestions for what to pair it with in the next few weeks too…

makes 1 standard jar (about 450g)

6 limes
900ml water
2 tbsp cider vinegar
300g sugar
1 jalapeño pepper

Put a small saucer in the freezer.
Cut all the skin and pith away from the limes and remove the segments from their membranes. I appreciate that this is a bit of a faff but the first time I did this I made it the way that I sometimes make marmalade, by simply quartering and boiling the fruit. This made the end result too bitter for my tastes, I think this method gives better results.
Put the segments and any juice that may have escaped into a large saucepan. Halve the chili lengthways and finely slice it, seeds, membrane and all. Add this and the sugar to the pan and give it a stir. Mix in the vinegar and water and set the pan, uncovered over a moderate heat.
Bring the mixture to boiling point and then allow it to bubble away for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You can, very carefully, give it a stir every so often. By this time the volume should have reduced by about half and the colour should have turned slightly more golden.

Test that it has reached setting point by dropping a teaspoon full onto the chilled saucer. Leave it for a minute and then push your finger through it. If it wrinkles then it’s reached setting point. If not then let it bubble for a few minutes more before testing again.
Pour the mixture into a warm, sterilised jar and seal.

1 Comment

Filed under Baking


America doesn’t seem to do mince pies at Christmas. Cookies appear to be the festive baking classic on this side of the pond.


I’ve never been a particular fan of mince pies – unless I can pry off the pastry lid and fill it with clotted cream, but Mr Colonial cravings was raised on them, with his Nan producing them all year round!
Bearing in mind that Christmas is a time of tradition I have conceded to make a batch of mincemeat this week to give it a bit of time to mature and for the flavours to develop.

Bearing in mind my aversion to meat, I don’t put suet in my mincemeat. I don’t even bother with vegetarian suet because I don’t really like the slightly greasy feel it leaves in your mouth and it never really seems necessary to add it for preserving sake. For the amount of time that I keep it for, the booze will take care of that…


makes about 800ml


1 large apple (about 250g once cored)
1 orange (zest and juice)
350g mixed dried fruit and peel (I like to include a few golden raisins to lighten it a bit)
50g glace cherries
200g soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp each ground ginger, cinnamon and allspice
150ml rum
100ml port

Core the apple but don’t bother to peel it. Chop it really finely (a dinky food processor is good for this) or grate it. Chop the cherries into quarters and zest the orange. Put everything but the booze into a big, heavy based saucepan, squeeze over the juice of the orange and mix well.
Heat to a gentle bubble and leave for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the booze and bring the mixture back up to a bubble and leave for a further 45 minutes until most of the liquid has either been absorbed into the fruit or evaporated off and you are left with a thick compote.

Spoon into warm sterilized jars and seal.

Use to fill pies, tarts, Chelsea buns, baked apples, you can even fold it through a no-churn ice cream.



Filed under Baking


The other week I made a batch of scones which resulted in an odd number. Rather than subject the last one to a battle of greed with Mr Colonial Cravings I decided to incorporate it into a recipe to share.


This is my last-ditch attempt to hang onto the tastes of summer. It is strictly for tea lovers though, especially those who like their tea sweet. Having said that however, you don’t want the flavour of the tea to be overpowering so choose a slightly more delicate blend for this, I used Darjeeling. PG tips just isn’t going to cut it here I’m afraid…
It is very important to chill the cream completely after infusing it with the tea or it simply won’t whip. It’s also a good idea to chill the bowl and whisk too.
Be sure to take the ice cream out of the freezer a few minutes before serving so that the little nuggets of scone can soften a little.


makes approx 1 litre

300ml double cream
175g condensed milk
4 tsp strawberry jam
1 tsp loose leaf tea (preferably Darjeeling)
1 scone (crumbled into little chunks)

Place the tea and half of the cream in a small saucepan and gently steep the mixture over a low heat for a few minutes, but don’t let it boil. Chill this in the fridge before straining and discarding the tea leaves.
Whip the other half of the cream along with half of the condensed milk until stiff and fluffy.
In a separate bowl whip the tea flavoured cream with the rest of the condensed milk. This might take a little longer to reach the fluffy stage but so long as it is cold enough it’ll get there.
In a freezable container ripple together the two cream mixtures with the crumbled scone and jam. Freeze until firm.


Leave a comment

Filed under Baking


There is a café in Bath called Jika Jika that serves a breakfast burrito that can stand up to even the most tenacious hangover – I know, I’ve tested it on many an occasion.

This burrito is made using the most delicious tomato jam I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know if they make it there or if they buy it, but it is wonderful. Sweeter than a salsa but less vinegary than a chutney it’s almost like a mildly spicy chunky ketchup. What ever it is I miss it and I need it back in my life!


This isn’t quite as good as the one from Jika Jika but for a first attempt it’s certainly not bad. I should imagine that the results will vary a bit depending upon the type of tomatoes that you use. I made mine with some quite large plum tomatoes simply because they were cheap but I think maybe next time I would be better off using cherry tomatoes to give a slightly deeper flavour.

This is, of course, a good way of using up those end-of-season fruits if you’re a bit of ‘Good Life’ grow-your-own type.



makes two small jars (about 800ml)

1kg tomatoes

150g shallots

150g soft light brown sugar

1 large red chili

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp ground cumin

salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)

Dice the shallots and cut the tomatoes into smallish chunks. Finely chop the chili, leaving the seeds and membrane in if you like a little more heat, removing them if you want it milder.

Put all of the ingredients into a large, heavy based saucepan and mix well.


Bring to the boil over a moderate heat and let the mixture gently bubble away for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.

Once it’s cooked you should have a syrupy, pulpy mush, which I realise doesn’t sound very appealing but it honestly is very tasty. Because this is the love-child of a relish, a chutney and a jam you don’t need to worry about it reaching a setting point.

Pour into sterilised jars, top with a wax disc and seal whilst it’s still warm.

As I’ve only just made my first batch I’m afraid I can’t really tell you how well this keeps but be sure to store it in the fridge once it’s been opened.


Enjoy as a condiment with everything; cheese, sausages, burgers, falafel, tofu, tacos, eggs, cold meats, pies…the possibilities are endless.


Filed under Baking