Wednesday, July 23, 2008

J is for...Jam

Well so says my “A is for Apple, B is for Boar, C is for Caterpillar crawling under the Door” book that I learnt my alphabet from many years ago. But how is this linked to Stephanie and her dispensing a little extra happiness this month by making the month’s blog party theme – blogger’s choice? Hmmm our choice, there's just so many possibilities! I started plotting on the plane over to the US at the beginning of my holiday. It seemed to be one of the things that I was still allowed to do as the plane was taking off. I haven’t flown a US airline for years and they seemed to have added a few do’s and don’ts to the pre-flight instructions, but fortunately pondering blogging party themes in a little black notebook hasn’t been outlawed yet. This airline that will remain nameless, as I was singularly shocked at how spoilt I’ve been on my usual carrier (Virgin Atlantic) and that the infamous quote “Anything that is white is sweet. Anything that is brown is meat. Anything that is grey, don't eat!” definitely applied to this anonymous American airline as the in-flight food was shockingly inedible even when it wasn’t grey. Not that I was worried as a veritable feast of gourmet food lay ahead but honestly, a complete waste of the surly flight attendants' efforts, and that bread roll – I demonstrated how tasty it would be by bouncing it off the seat back in front of me. No, not a memorable meal and only beaten to an all time low by the even worse dross we were served on the flight back to the UK which was entirely irredeemable! But despite the complete lack of foodie inspiration around me I mustered my thoughts in the directions of how my choice should manifest itself. M put forth seafood as a suggestion as she was just hoping she’d get to partake of these fishy bites before returning home but I wanted something a little more esoteric.

What I didn’t want was to whip up every fruit of the sea I could think of to see that next month’s blog party was ‘from the deep’ or something similar. I needed a theme that Stephanie was hopefully not planning for one of her future gourmet gatherings and after much head scratching I decided to go for ‘J’. I would create little nibbles based on the letter ‘J’ and consider some suitably J themed table decorations also. The first on my list was jam, followed by Jaffa cakes, Jerusalem artichokes, jelly, jelly tots, jelly babies, Jersey Royals, Jalapeño, Jambalaya, jerk chicken, juice, jacket potatoes, John Dory and Jägermeister. Hmmm an eclectic bunch and clearly they are all not going to work together, but a jolly good start.

Firstly I was determined to finally christen by mini tart-shaper I bought from Pampered Chef a couple of months ago and make some jam tarts. I’d been trying to find this little wooden ‘pusher’ to help form tarts in my mini muffin tin for ages and when D when an upcoming party I found the very gadget I’d been hunting for. I’ve already made little bread tarts and scrambled egg stuffed smoked salmon with this tin for previous parties but tiny tarts had alluded me being a tad too tricky to shape. All I had to do now was pop a ball of shortcrust pastry in each pan and then push the balls into little pastry shells, it just took moments. Each shell was filled with a heaped coffee spoon of strawberry jam and then topped with a little pastry ‘J’. I baked them at 200o C for about 12 minutes, I kept a close eye on them from 8 minutes but it was nearly 12 that they lost their pallid look. Next time I'll make a slightly smaller ball as the tart shells ended up quite deep but then this is a muffin tin so there is move for expansion.

Whilst the oven was hot I thought I’d also whip up the only savoury bites that made the cut this month. I got the tiniest new potatoes I could (Jersey Royals would obviously have been perfect if it wasn’t too late in the season for them) and anointed them with olive oil. I poured a bed of salt onto a baking tray, topped with the oiled potatoes and dredged with more salt. I gave these about 30 minutes at 200o C and they baked beautifully, the salt really helping to remove the moisture in the potatoes and crisp the skin. When suitably crusted, I brushed off the salt, quartered with the point of a tiny knife and added a minute pat of butter, the obligatory black pepper and topped the jacket potatoes with grated Jarlsberg cheese, well I had to continue the J thing. The jacketed spuds sat pertly on my new little porcelain canapé tray that I procured from my brief foray to Portugal last month. It is accompanied by six porcelain canapé spoons which no doubt will make an appearance at a future blog party.

I pondered making some Jaffa Cakes but I really think only McVities and Gary Rhodes can do that satisfactorily so settled instead for cutting them into my favourite shape -hearts. And one lucky Jaffa Cake also had a ‘J’ removed from its chocolaty middle. I was planning on making some jelly, maybe even jelly shots but instead decided to settle on the ‘smashing orangey bit’ to sate my jelly desires. I’d considered (very briefly) about ‘J’ table confetti and decided instead to plump for a ‘J’ adorned table cloth, considerably more practical and despite best efforts I’m still being haunted by bats from a previous blog party foray so that clinched it!

For the required drink I had first thought of Jägermeister, but its curiously medicinal taste takes me right back to an alarming night in a ski-lodge in Sälen, Sweden many, many moons ago that I have no particular desire to relive. So what other ‘J’ drinks could I imbibe, Jacob’s Creek or some Japanese cocktail perhaps? I thought of something juice-based but that seemed a little obvious but after wandering the aisles of Waitrose I opted for J2O, which is just a bottled juice drink let down with some water so it's not cloying as just juice can sometimes be. I thought I'd have raspberry and apple J2O, pepped up with fresh raspberries and mixed with a Scrabble 'J' crowned stirrer. And for a little drink accompaniment, I had rallied a small army of jelly babies, but only the red and black ones!

This event gave me the perfect opportunity to whip out the gorgeous J-embroidered linen napkins that Marcia did so beautifully in time for my birthday last year and as Stephanie always chooses the optimum music to match the mood I thought I’d better put a few of my own quarters in the jukebox and selected Jay Kay and Jamiroquai - there’s plenty more J is my collection but this is perfect funky cooking music.

So, in case there's any doubt - my blog party was brought to you by the letter ‘J’. I hope I guessed right Stephanie, and you’re not planning a J-themed do any day now and shock horror, I’m a tiny bit early but there may be a good reason for this – there is one other thing that ‘J’ stands for and that is - jetlag!

I'm intrigued to see what everyone else has concocted this month, and if you are also, all the other randomly themed blogging party entries will appear here when posted after Saturday...


Debinhawaii said...

Nice to "see" you at the party. I love all the "J"s--a brilliant idea. The jam tarts and the jacket potatoes especially caught my eye. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Being that my first initial is "J" how could I not LOVE every one of your contributions?!!!! Altho the jacket potatoes are first on "my to "j" list"!!! Was a "J"oy bumping into you at Stephanie's!!!!

Gabi said...

J is for joyful! Lovely offerings for blog party here. May I have some more please? Nice to see you at this month's Blog Party!

Natashya said...

Well, that was a wild ride!
I love the J theme, you are very creative.
So nice to see you at the party.