Blueberry and vanilla chia jam
Chia jam is a recent discovery of mine, made when I borrowed the recipe book Eat Smart by Niomi Smart from my local library. It's a great cookbook filled with vegan recipes, and all of the sweet treats made without refined sugars. I've used chia seeds before in puddings and smoothies, they're a good vegan egg replacer because of their sticky-ness making a binding agent for cakes and brownies. I tried a few of the recipes in Niomi's book (I don't recommend the orange and apricot one!) and chia jam was an instant hit in our household. My daughter Rory is a blueberry monster, so I knew I had to make a blueberry version just for her.
If you're unfamiliar with chia seeds, then let me get you acquainted. Chia seeds are a Central and South American superfood. They're rich in fibre, high in protein, contain Omega-3 (although in the plant form ALA, so the Omega-3 content is much lower than from animal sources), and are also rich in calcium, magnesium and trace elements such as manganese. The combination of fat, protein and fibre means the seeds are digested relatively slowly, providing a slow release of energy which keeps your blood-sugar levels stable.
This all means that not only is chia jam quick to make and extremely delicious, but it's also a healthy addition to your breakfast, snacks and puddings. Naturally vegan, gluten free and made without refined sugars, so it's suitable for children too. Rory has a spoonful in her porridge every morning, and loves it in yoghurt for a healthy dessert. I find it's great for keeping sweet cravings away, instead of reaching for sugary snacks just have a bowl of yoghurt topped with a spoonful of chia jam, chopped nuts and some ground flaxseed.
Blueberry & Vanilla Chia Seed Jam
480g fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. In a medium sized saucepan, gently bring the blueberries to a slow boil with the agave syrup.
2. Add in the chia seeds, stir until combined and continue to cook the mixture on a low heat until it thickens. You'll notice that as the seeds start to take on liquid, the blueberry mixture starts to look a lot like jam. There's no exact science with this, just do it by eye and by feel. The jam will thicken up as it cools as well, and also overnight in the fridge. Stir the mixture frequently so it doesn't stick to the sides of the pan. Mash the blueberries down a little, keeping some whole for texture.
3. Remove from the heat when the jam has thickened, and add the vanilla extract. Stir, and add more agave syrup if you'd like it a little sweeter. Personally I love the sharpness of the fruit, a refreshing change from the overly sugary jams we're all so used to.
Chia jam is great served with so many things. Use it like a normal jam and spread it on toast, add it to porridge, yoghurt, pancakes, breakfast bowls, oat bars or anything else you like. It'll keep for at least a week in the fridge, but I find that mine keeps well for two. I make a few different kinds on a weekend so I have a ready made supply during the week. Use whatever fruits are in season, or you can use frozen ones if you have a stash of blackberries to keep you going throughout the winter.
I love recipes like this that are so easy to adapt to your favourite flavour combinations, and also to use up whatever fruit you have to hand. My current favourite fruit to use are strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberry. A touch of vanilla essence goes well with all of them.