Instant Pot

I’ve acquired a new gadget in the kitchen, and I’m hoping it’ll make life a lot easier once I’ve refined my recipes a bit to suit this new mode of pressure cooking.

Instant Pot

I got this Instant Pot in a flash sale last week, and despite my hectic schedule have already tried my vegetable soup and a new three-bean vegan chilli recipe in it. It’s quite an exciting prospect as it ticks a few boxes for me; plenty of scope for one-pot meals (my favourite), it uses significantly less energy than our gas hob cooker (green), easy to clean (bonus) and overall needs less of my brain power to get everything cooked to perfection (practical).

The Instant Pot isn’t just a pressure cooker – you can slow cook in it, saute (with the lid off), cook grains and pulses (from dry, in a matter of minutes), make bread and even create yoghurt. And more, probably. I haven’t got that far yet, I’m just getting used to the nuances of cooking under pressure using the manual button and having to adjust liquids to account for the lack of evaporation.

I’m not a bad cook at all – in fact, Rich says that my roast potatoes are the best (apart from my mum’s, who is a master at cooking and baking). I’m just lazy and forgetful, and with our cheap stainless steel saucepans, I have a habit of getting wrapped up in something else and burning things quite easily. I’m definitely an advocate of one-pot cooking, which is why the Instant Pot has appealed to me for a long time.


With the baby due in August, I thought it would be a good investment. Once the cooking time has finished, the Instant Pot automatically goes on to “keep warm” mode for up to ten hours. For a busy mother, I’ve been told this is a bit of a God-send. The function has already come in useful, when I had my chilli* on and my sister called me. The IP went into keep warm mode for fifteen minutes before I got around to serving it up. Had that been on the hob, it would have been a crispy disaster.

My aim is to be able to reduce my monthly food budget by buying in less tinned pulses and more dry pulses, cooking in bulk and freezing for later. The IP means I don’t have to do an overnight soak (I really don’t have the patience or pre-planning abilities to do this kind of thing), and I can cook chickpeas (one of my main food groups) from dry in 40 minutes, and other dry pulses under 20 minutes. I can sling everything in the pot, press a few buttons and let the magic happen and allow my attention to be diverted. I’m also hoping that with more homegrown veg on the agenda this year, I’ll be able to produce bowls and bowls of homemade soups, stews, curries and more using homegrown produce. And maybe, just maybe, I might even get around to making my own bread.

For help and support with Pressure Cooking and the Instant Pot, you can join a dedicated Instant Pot Facebook group here

*I’ll post the vegan chilli recipe once I’ve refined it a bit!

How to Make Sloe Gin

It’s gin o’clock… almost!

Sloes for gin

The sloes have been ripening on the blackthorn bush for what feels like weeks now, and quite frankly, my impatience got the better of me. I need some sloe gin ready for Christmas and the longer I have to let the sloes ferment, the better my gin will be. I mean, you could leave it for a year and you’ll have something amazing. In 5 years you’ll have the best sloe gin ever known to mankind. But I’m too impatient. And at this rate, with 23C temperatures in September, it’ll be a long while until the first frosts hit – traditionally when it’s advised that you pick your first sloes.

So to compensate for the balmy Indian summer, I plucked the sloes from my own homegrown blackthorn bushes (at night, I should add, in my pyjamas and armed with a head torch) and stored them in the fridge for a few days. They then went in the freezer overnight to simulate a cold snap. And now, we’re ready!

Sloe - blackthorn bush

How to Make Sloe Gin

It’s really quite simple. Sterilise your jar. Pick your sloes, freeze them to split the skins, wash them,  bung them in an air-tight container, then add gin and sugar. The volume of gin should be 1:1, so if you have a container, fill it halfway with sloes and the rest of the space is taken up with the gin. Simple. You can find my full How to Make Sloe Gin post here if you need a bit more guidance (and check out the comments for some top tips).

sloe gin steeping in a kilner jar

My gin is now doing it’s thing and waiting for me to take the first slug in December. It’ll need a turn each day for a while, and then a gentle shake every week or so until thereafter. I opted for a cheap Ikea airtight glass jar to ferment it, and sterilised by washing in warm soapy water and then drying in the oven on a low temperature for a few minutes. I’m pretty sure a run through the dishwasher would be fine too.

What Gin Should I Use for Sloe Gin?

The general consensus is that you don’t need a top quality gin to make great sloe gin – even just a supermarket brand will do. I was given a bottle of Bombay Sapphire for my birthday last year, and because I don’t generally drink much (apart from damson gin or sloe gin in winter, it seems) I’ve still got loads left. So for me, from a frugal point of view it makes sense to use the Bombay Sapphire, but equally if I was to go out and buy a bottle of supermarket own that would do the job.

How Much Sugar Do I Put in my Sloe Gin?

It depends on your tastes – anything from a couple of tablespoons of sugar will do the trick. I have a fairly sweet tooth, so anything from 150g per half litre of gin should do the job. If you have a really sweet tooth, around 250g sugar per half litre of gin should be plenty!

One last tip…

When foraging for sloes, please only take 10-20% of the fruit on the bush. The rest is for the wildlife.


Jam Making Part One – Homegrown, Homemade Raspberry Jam

Grow your own raspberries

The raspberries ripened recently (try saying that in a hurry!) so after enjoying a few homegrown-homemade apple and raspberry crumbles, I have been picking the ripe and slightly under-ripe fruits daily for the last few days in preparation for my first ever go at jam making. I’ve been freezing the raspberries each day that I’ve been picking them, and have about enough for 4 jars of jam to start me off. Once I’ve found my feet with jam making I’ll be more inclined to make a bigger batch. Small steps.

I recently found a maslin pan half price at John Lewis, and as it was after pay day I seized the opportunity to get a good quality pan for jam making, preserves and maybe even a few chutneys. Who knows what the future holds!

John Lewis maslin pan

I’ve had my Polka raspberry bushes in for about four years now, and they’re doing very well. They’re an autumn fruiting raspberry that fruit in their first year, so the same year that I planted in the canes, I was able to enjoy the large, fat fruits. They’ve fruited successfully every year since, even when the summer has been a bit dismal and perpetually wet. This summer has delivered on the fruit front and we currently have lots of raspberries still left to fruit, as well as a bumper crop of crab apples. So I’m almost set (jam pun not intended)!

Top Jam Making Tips

I’ve been doing my research ahead of my jam making, and here are a few tips that I’ve found:

  • For a jam to be considered as ‘proper jam’ it needs to have over 60% sugar content
  • Raspberries and other berries can be set with sugar jam (which includes pectin to help the jam set, but apparently it can made a pretty ‘solid’ consistency!)
  • Crab apples have a high pectin content, so are perfect for helping jam to set. We have plenty of crab apples that we can use, so I will be opting for this free jam sugar alternative in the future! There seems to be a lot of debate around this so might take a little experimentation…
  • Jam setting point is 104.5°C. Some jam making stalwarts might not need a thermometer, but I’ll be using one to reduce the likelihood of a failed batch!

I’ll keep you updated on the progress this weekend… wish me luck. This could be the start of a new venture into jams and preserves for me… at least, I hope so!

Fresh raspberries frozen

See how my raspberry jam turned out and get my easy raspberry jam recipe here.