Archive for ‘preserves, jams and curds’

July 3, 2013

Back in Blog… still foraging, still cooking, still gardening…

by Ciaran Burke


Oh how time has flown… it has been quite a while since I last posted a blog on this site. Its not that I have lost interest in gardening,  foraging and cooking, I still vey much have a passion for blooms and food.

Over the last months I have been taking my foraging activities to a new degree and have started a new food business called NjAM Foods. utilizing nature’s bounty I have been busy developing a range of wild flower cordials, ketchups and jams.


This is an exciting venture. I travel around the quiet roads in our locality and harvest flowers from flowering currant, gorse, dandelion and lately elder. I love the idea of using the wild plants to produce a food product which is uniue and delicious and really captures a true taste of the Irish countryside. Apart from the harvesting, there is the cooking, bottling, labelling, marketing and deliveries, it takes quite a bit of work to convert a flower in the hedgerow to a product on the shelf of a shop, but it is a fun new challenge.


So far a number of outlets are stocking NjAM Foods products:

Cafe Rua, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Dew C Fruit & Veg, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Kate’s Place, Oranmore Town Centre, Orenmore, Co. Galway

Brid Tiernan at the Carrick on Shannon, Longford and Boyle Farmers Markets


Brogans’s Health Food Store in Bioyle.

The products we have made include Beetroot ketchup, Carrot Ketchup and Beer Ketchup. The wild flower cordials include Elderflower, Gorse, Flowering Currant, Danelion and soon it will be time to pick meadowsweet blossoms.

I have also been making jams; gorse flower, elderflower and meadowsweet from the wild flowers. Pina Colada, Rose and Apple are a bit more unusal but we are also making rhubarb and Vvanilla and delicious strawberry jam.

For some of our clients we supply the products labelled specifically for our suppliers as we do for Kate’s Place and our gorse flower jam for Cafe Rua.


We have a website, a Facebook Page and Twitter account too…

Njam Facebook page

Njam on twitter

I have also been busy with our Scoodoos, ancient tree spirits helping to save the planet, and my one tree photogrpahy project

I have also had time to forage for dinner and have been using foraged wild plants to give a wild twist to a couple of indian recipes… next blog will feature Saag Nettle Panir… and it wont be 4 months, promise…

December 2, 2012

Cranberry and Orange Tart – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke
Cranberry and orange tart

Cranberry and orange tart

Cranberry and Orange Tart Recipe

This is one of the lovely cakes that we enjoyed during our Christmas Wreath Workshop on 1st December in The Garden School.

Here is a link to the Christmas Wreath Workshop



  • 2 cups of porridge oat flakes
  • 2 cups of whole grain spelt flour
  • 100g butter
  • 4 rounded dessert spoons of light brown sugar
  • Water


  1. Place oat flakes in a food processor and blend until they are like a coarse flour
  2. Add spelt flour and sugar to the oat flour in the processor and process for a minute to mix well
  3. Add the butter a little at a time while processing until the mixture becomes crumbly and slightly moist to touch
  4. Add a couple of dessert spoons of water and process for a minute
  5. Remove pastry from processor and wrap with grease proof paper , leave the pastry for an hour in the fridge.
  6. Roll out to fit a 20cm buttered tart tin.
  7. Press the rolled pastry into the tin and trim away the excess from the edges
  8. Place and fit some grease proof paper onto the pastry in the tin and pour some rice or dried peas onto to the paper to weigh it down.
  9. Bake in the oven at 180° Celcius for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is properly cooked
  10. Then remove the paper and let cool
Cranberry and orange tart

Cranberry and orange tart



  • 500g cranberries
  • 350g sugar
  • 250ml water
  • grated zest and juice of two organic oranges


  1. Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan
  2. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes
  3. The jam will be sticking to a wooden spoon
  4. Allow the jam to cool a bit, a skin will form on top
  5. give the jam a stir and then fill in to the pastry base
  6. Allow to cool at room temperature  until the jam is set
November 11, 2012

Tom’s Tom- From red centiflor to little yellow pear

by Ciaran Burke

A few years ago we sowed some seed of a Tomato, the variety was called Tomato ‘Red Centiflor’. We purchased it from Irish Seedsavers Association. It grew well, a tasty little tomato. It bears its fruit in big clusters. The trusses, the fruiting branches f tomatoes, are packed with a huge mass of flowers and bear masses of small red fruit. We saved some seed of our own. Some of it we gave to my Dad, Tom.

The following year our seeds germinated and grew as we expected, masses of tiny red fruits on large trusses, but one of Tom’s plants of ‘Centiflor’ produced not round, but plum shaped red fruit, nice. In all other respects it was the same as the original variety, but the shape was like a tiny plum tomato instead of round. That is the nature of seed raised plants, genetic variation can lead to variants, new varieties. We encouraged Tom to save some seed. We sowed some seed this spring and the couple of plants that we grew produced masses of flowers in large trusses, and when the fruit appeared they were plum shaped, actually more like pear shaped.

It grew all summer and when towards the end of the miserable season the fruit eventually ripened they were yellow, not red! So from round red ones they have changed to plum yellow fruits. So this year we will save some seeds and see what comes up next year.

I want to keep the yellow pear shaped centiflor going so before the frosts finally put an end to the plants in the polytunnel I took a few side shoots off to make cuttings. Cuttings are clones, no variation. Tomato cuttings root very easily, even in a little water on the windowsill. I will try and keep it going through the winter and plant it in the tunnel next spring when the weather warms up again.

In the meantime, I will pickle the green fruits that I harvested yesterday using Helsinki Granny’s recipe that I used before. The small funny shaped fruit will look great in a jar and taste delicious with cheese.

Irish Seed Savers Association –LINK

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November 1, 2012

Hawthorn Tapanade Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Hawthorn, whitethorn, May bush; Crataegus monogyna. You see it all around the Irish countryside, sometimes old rings of the gnarled and spiny trees are left untouched in rings in the middle of fields. For generations they have been treated with respect and superstition, this is where the fairies live.

Hawthorn tree with berries after the leaves have fallen

In our garden we have wild hawthorns growing, a couple of them are old and twisted. Their branches twine around themselves, imbued with a mystical quality it is easy to see how the superstitions arose.

In May, their branches are festooned with white flowers, in times past children went knocking on their neighbours doors with a flowering branch, “a penny for the May bush?” their request. When I lived in Sallynoggin, in Dublin, a number of years ago, some children called to my door with a flowering branch. They asked for a penny. Although the branch they held was a blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, and we had already converted to euro currency, I donated a small sum to their appeal, after coaxing from them a song for their reward.

Hawthorn flowers – Crataegus monogyna

Now in autumn, the flower have turned to dark red fruits, abundant but usually redundant. Few people will harvest these berries, often called haws. I read in one book that the berries were only ever used in times of famine. The berries are quite tasteless when eaten raw, and only a thin covering of flesh surrounds the stone. However, with so many berries in the hedgerows, there must be a use for them, I was determined to find some.

In a second hand book sale a couple of years ago I purchased a publication on wild food, in it a recipe for hawthorn chutney. While I was cooking hawthorn chutney, Hanna experimented with some of the berries and created a delicious hawthorn tapenade. This resulted in another foray along the lanes and narrow roads in the Mayo countryside picking ripe haws from the trees. Hanna reckons they are like Irish olives.

Further developments have led to a range of flavours: lemon and coriander, sweet chilli and garlic. I cannot pick a favourite, all are great. The chilli hawthorn tapenade was superb with organic pork sausages from Irish Organic Meats, which we buy with all our meat, vegetables and fruit from the market in Boyle each Saturday.

Cleaning the berries

Here is Hanna’s Lemon and Coriander Hawthorn  Tapenade recipe:


  • 1/2 litre Hawthorn berries
  • Organic Cider Vinegar
  • Irish Rapeseed Oil
  • Whole Coriander Seeds
  • Organic Lemon
  • Salt

Press the cooked hawthorn through a sieve


  1. Clean and rinse ripe haws.
  2. Place in a saucepan and cover with the cider vinegar. Simmer berries for twenty minutes or  until the berries break up.
  3. Sieve away the vinegar.
  4. Push the berries through a sieve to remove stones
  5. Mix berries with lemon rind, coriander and a goo quality rapeseed oil or olive oil
  6.  Then put pulp in a sterilized jar to store.

Filling the tapenade into sterilized jars using jam funnel

Enjoy with cheeses, meats and salads.

For garlic variation replace lemon and coriander with freshly pressed garlic. For chili use dried chillis instead of lemon and coriander and stir in honey after sieving. When we first made these tapenades a two years ago we found that they kept perfectly for well over a year.

Foliage of Crataegus monogyna – hawthorn leaves

October 22, 2012

Blackberry Ketchup Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Blackberries are coming to the end for this year, but you might still be able to pick a kilo for this delicious recipe, Blackberry Ketchup. It is delicious with all sorts of savoury foods, use it instead or tomato ketchup. I love it with organic pork sausages that I buy at the market. It is easy to make too…

Backberry ketchup ingredients


  • 1 Kg of Blackberries
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp of dried chillies
  • 1 tbsp of yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • 200ml vinegar
  • 250g of light brown sugar


  1. Put blackberries in a large saucepan with about 200 ml of water and start to cook.
  2. Press the garlic cloves into the berries and add all the other ingredients
  3. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking for about 25 minutes until the fruit is soft.
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little
  5. Blend with the hand blender.
  6. Press through a sieve to remove seeds
  7. Bottle in sterilized jars.

When the ketchup has thickened it is ready to be sieved

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