John Place's favourite dessert: English summer pudding

750g: mixture of blackcurrants, redcurrants, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries.  Keep varieties separate
150ml still water
100g castor sugar
8 slices of slightly stale white bread – crusts removed

Put the blackcurrants, redurrants , water and sugar  in a heavy based pan and cook gently for 10 mins.  Add the raspberries, strawberries and blackberries and cook for a further 4 minutes. Strain the fruit but keep the remaining syrup for later.

Cut a circle from one slice of bread to line the base of a pudding basin and then cut sufficient wedges to line the remainder of the pudding basin. Use any scraps of bread to fill any gaps if you have any. Remove all the bread from the pudding basin and dip each piece into the reserved syrup and re-line the basin.  Fill with half of your fruit mixture.

Cut another circle of bread, dip in the syrup and layer on top the fruit. Pour in the rest of the fruit. Cut a final circle of bread, dip in the syrup, layer over the top of the fruit and spoon over any remaining syrup. Put a plate base side down over the top of the pudding basin and sit a couple of weights on top (jars of pickles, mustard etc would be great).  Chill overnight.

Remove the weights, take off the plate, replace with a clean plate correct side up; turn the basin upside down.  Place on a surface and gently shake the basin to release the pudding.

Serve with cream or ice cream.

Shirley Place's bottled plums

Shirley prefers the water bath method and this is how she does it.

Kilner jars or equivalent. These are jars with special lids (a sealing cover which is then super sealed onto the jar with a screw rim)
plum halves (stones discarded)
sugar and still water: 1 part sugar to 1 part water heated in a pan but not quite boiling.

First you need to sterilise your jars and lids: put them in boiling water or wash them in a dishwasher and then transfer them to an oven at 180º for 10 mins.

Fill each jar with your plums (not quite to the top) and fill the jars with your hot (not boiling), syrup mix. Put on the lids and tighten the screw bands in place, then turn the screw bands back a quarter turn.

Place in a large pan and cover to the jar necks with warm water (boiled water from the kettle is fine) and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the jars from the pan, place on a wooden surface and tighten the screw lids.

These bottled plums will last at least 2 years (once opened please consume within 1 month) however, mine are usually gone in a couple of days – enjoy!

Ovidija's refreshing smoothie

500g strawberries – take off the calyx (green stalks) and cut into quarters.
200g raspberries – take off any plant debris & prepare for eating
100g cucumber – peel and dice or slice.

Put all ingredients into a food processor or liquidiser and whizz till smooth.
Pour into tall glass and garnish as you please.

You can use any soft fruit but the cucumber adds freshness to the drink (if you use a stoned fruit like a plum, please remember to take out the stone).

Sarah's nan's gooseberry jam

500g of gooseberries
500g of sugar

Put the gooseberries and a small amount of water in a large pan and cook until fruit is soft, then add all the sugar. Boil for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Test to see if the jam sets by putting a spoonful on a cold saucer; the jam is ready when a skin forms. Remove any scum that is floating on the surface.

Pre-heat your jars in the oven before filling with jam. Cover jam with a round of greaseproof paper and seal jar with good fitting lid.

Jackie's scrummy plum crumble

20 Victoria plums, halved and de-stoned
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
For the Crumble:-
3 tablespoons of plain flour
3 tablespoons of oats
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of margarine

Partially cook the plum halves and top with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar – leave to cool.

In a bowl put 3 tablespoons of flour and 1 tablespoon of margarine and rub together until this has the consistency of breadcrumbs; then add 3 tablespoon of oats and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.

Put the plum mixture in a flan dish or a pie dish, top with the crumble and cook in a preheated oven at 180° for 25 minutes. Serve with cream, ice-cream or custard.

Cindy's rhubarb and ginger jam

1kg rhubarb, washed and cut into small pieces
1kg jam sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
65 – 70 grams of stem ginger, finely chopped

Glass bowl
Preserving pan ideally but, if not, a low-sided wide stainless steel saucepan will do. Do not use an aluminium pan as the acid in the fruit will react with it and give off a tinny taste.
Jam thermometer.  If you don’t have one put a small plate in the fridge!
Sterilised jars

Place all the ingredients in a glass bowl, mix and leave overnight.

Pour into your saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes or until set (125°C on the jam thermometer) or, and here’s the wacky bit, take a teaspoonful and put it onto the cold plate you put in the fridge. Push the outer edge of the jam puddle into the centre with your index finger. If the jam wrinkles even a little, it will set

When the jam has reached setting point, pour it into sterilised jars and cover immediately. You can buy jam covers in most shops and supermarkets. These are made up of three elements, a silicone disc of paper, a large round of cellophane and a rubber band. Cover each jar with a silicone disc (slippery side down onto the surface of the jam), wet one side of the cellophane round, then stretch it over the jar, and secure with a rubber band. If the cellophane disc is not moistened, it will not become taut when the jam gets cold.