Sisters & Sweeties

I am perfectly aware that my last post announced my need to consume anything other than sugar. Do not trouble yourself with pointing it out for me. Like any relationship that comes to some sort of end, there is always a rebound. I have no excuses or apologies; sugar was always waiting in the wings, barging into my kitchen with it irresistible presence. I flutter and find it hard to say no. These Blackberry, Passionfruit and Ginger Pastilles are worth saying yes to. Long name, for such a sweet little thing.

In my defence, I made these for my sister Mel who, in much more innocent times, was rather fond of candy. Especially boiled sweeties wrapped in transparent, crackly wrappers. Or bubble gum pink candy floss sold by the sun-baked Indian man at the school gates; bags and bags of pop-candy coloured clouds overwhelming his ancient, rusty bicycle. Those were the days when sugar and spice were all things nice. And less deadly on the waistline.

We were partners, Mel and I, all-in; sparring, playing, arguing or eating. Both of us occupied this hidden world, only accessible to the imaginations of children and we spent every afternoon in some fantastical, nonsensical adventure. One day, we were gymnasts at the World Championships, springing  off a pommel horse (back of the sofa), the next; Victorian ladies, complete with long skirts (made puffy by wearing all our skirts together) and bonnets (fashioned out of sun hats); and in the evening we inevitably underwent a metamorphosis, transforming into mermaids (in the bubble bath…and Mel will kill me for publicising this!). I cringe while chuckling at the memory of it. Mel always finds the regaling of such tales rather toe curling-ly embarrassing. Which makes me talk of it more!
Returning to the present; these types of confectionary have diverse interpretations based on where you ask. Pastilles are rather easy to make and you will find various methods using citric acid, liquid glucose or gelatin. Annie Rigg‘s excellent book, Gifts from the Kitchen, has a simple Raspberry Pastille recipe which uses just fruit and preserving sugar. So that’s the one I adapted.

The base recipe unfortunately, does not have a temperature reading for the setting point. I did a bit of digging online and found rather conflicting instructions. A common method for making pastilles was to add liquid pectin after the bubbling mix registered a soft ball temperature of 116 deg C. Those recipes which used preserving sugar (which has pectin added to it already) called for a temperature of 103 deg C. I went with preserving sugar as that is what I had. My thermometer read 101 deg C when I decided that it was ready. Listen, a degree this way or that, is not a reason to doubt or panic. It will turn out fine. Mine did.

So these are the pointers that I look out for. The ‘jam’ (basically, pastilles are overcooked jams) should come away from the sides of the pan in one continuous mass, like it desperately wants to clump around your spoon. Have a wee bowl of ice cold water at the ready, to drop a blob of the mix into, when you think setting point has been reached. The blob or ball, should be at a soft ball stage. It should be firm enough to hold its shape well; soft without being squishy and it should have a bit of resistance. The sugar thermometer read around a 101 deg C for me. After a cooling time of 6 hours at least, cut your pastilles out with oiled knives or pizza cutters. Roll it in caster sugar.

Here the perfume of the berries, along with the fruitiness of the tart passionfruit, is balanced by the spiced heat of ground ginger. It has no bite, coming in as a subtle background layer; a warming finish to the tart beginning. Everything is better with a little soothing. So, drape yourself over a comfortable seat, in a satin dressing gown with silk slippers, and indulge in one jewel coloured square at a time. At least that’s what I would have done with Mel.

I sent these away to Mel when my mother was returning back to Abu Dhabi. I hope she likes them. I love the idea of indulging my baby sis by making home made candy, just for her. I know,I know… she is married with a wee girlie of her own now and possesses more sense than I ever could.

And yet, once a big sis…

Blackberry, Passionfruit & Ginger Pastilles

400g blackberries
3 passionfruit
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
juice of ¼ lemon approx.
300–400g preserving sugar with added pectin
caster sugar, to dredge

Lightly oil a 17cm square baking tin and line with non-stick baking parchment. Tip the blackberries and scooped out passionfruit pulp, into a solid-bottomed shallow pan. Add the lemon juice, cover the pan and cook over a medium heat until the blackberries have softened and cooked down to a pulp. Remove from the heat and push the fruit through a fine nylon sieve into a bowl.

Weigh the puree and add an equal amount of preserving sugar and put the mix into a clean pan, along with the ground ginger. Stir over a low heat, until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the purée has reduced and thickened considerably to the consistency of jam and reached setting point. Check for this by dropping a blob of the jam into a bowl of ice cold water. The ball will cool immediately. It should feel like a soft ball, but not squishy (underdone) or hard (overdone), with a bit of resistance. A thermometer reading between 100-103 deg C is about right.

Use a rubber spatula to scoop the purée into the prepared tin and leave to set for at least 6 hours or overnight.Cut into your preferred shape and roll in caster sugar. Store in an airtight container for a week.

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26 thoughts on “Sisters & Sweeties

  1. jobakes

    Awwwww! Carrie, you’re a bloo meanie of but a totally lovely big sister! How adorable is that picture of you two? I’m sure Mel will love to hate this post! Having a partner in crime must have been wonderful to grow up with, my bro was too much older than me to be a real friend. You are a lucky lady, and so is your sis x

    1. thePatternedPlate

      I can see Mel’s toes curling. She hasn’t given me a lashing yet! LOL! And believe you me, there are more extraordinarily embarrassing stories, which we shall keep in the memory vault 🙂 And yeah, I am lucky. I would say fortunate. She’s special 😉

  2. Jacqui

    nawwww thats a great post!
    and the jellies sound awesome – my dad would love these! I dont have a sugar thermometer though as I really dont cook alot of sweet things. Might be worth getting one!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Thanks Jacqui 🙂 For this recipe, you don’t *have* to have a sugar thermometer, you can go by the iced water method. When I first tried the original Raspberry recipe, I didn’t have one, and it turned out perfect. So you always give it a go. Make plans for purchasing a thermometer down the line. It opens up another world to you.
      It would be the sweetest thing, a girlie can make for her Pa! 🙂

  3. melanie

    NOOOOOOOOO!!! oh dear ….well I have even more embarrassing stories of our dress up times which i dare not mention to you these days…we did come up with some outrages pretend play…ahahahaha!!! does make me laugh… but truly it was fun to read especially first thing in the morning at the office…..

  4. Thanh @ eat, little bird

    Oh what a delightful post!! I laughed at loud at the thought of you two wearing all of your skirts together to puff them up! So cute 🙂

    I’ve been dying to make these pastilles ever since your first attempt. Now that I’ve been to the dentist and have got the all-ok, maybe I can indulge in some sugar?? Thanks for your tips about the setting temperature – I’m not so confident with my sugar thermometer but it’s good to know that you have tried and tested the recipe for the rest of us 🙂

  5. Hannah de Bevy de La Faverge

    What a lovely entry Caroline! The Pastlles looks fabulous and you and your sister look gorgeous too!

  6. Pingback: MMXII 23 ‹ Brian Jones Photography

  7. twicecookedhalfbaked

    I made pate de fruit last fall. They were also for my sister, but she is 9 years my senior. Sadly, we both thought they were too sweet to eat too many. Didn’t stop my kids though. I had planned to make more for the holidays, but never got around to it. I have blackberry and pear pate waiting in the freezer. I literally was thinking about them today. I may pull them out for Valentine’s Day. Who knows.

    I love the blog. Happy to be a new follower 🙂

  8. sannekurz

    Made a similar thing with quince last autumn – we call it ‘quince bread’ here, but reading your post it seems to be based on the same idea. Now I really really wanna try other fruits, too!

  9. myturkishjoys

    I really enjoyed your writing and story telling! These Pastilles also remind me of the Pate de Fruit we used to make where I worked at in New York City. I’ll have to try something like this soon once I can find some preserving sugar, pectin or powdered gelatin here in Istanbul.

  10. My Turkish Joys (@MyTurkishJoys)

    I really enjoyed your writing and story telling! These Pastilles also remind me of the Pate de Fruit we used to make where I worked at in New York City. I’ll have to try something like this soon once I can find some preserving sugar, pectin or powdered gelatin here in Istanbul. (I also have a friend moving to Doha soon.)

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Hello Joy, thankyou for you lovely words! These are more or less Pate de Fruit, but whatever the name, they are delicious!
      Good luck to your friend with the move. If she/he hasn’t been in the Middle East before, it can take a bit of getting used to! Still, once you get over the strangeness, its quite vibrant, and there is no shortage of good eats 😉

  11. Pingback: Raspberry and Orange Jam « The Patterned Plate

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