Wednesday, 28 December 2011


From my Mum's birthday cake there were some extra macaroons so I sandwiched them with a chocolate ganache. Half with slivers of crystallised ginger and half with little chunks of marzipan.

As mentioned in my previous post these were from a recipe from @hollybellmummy, which was the most detailed recipe. I would certainly recommend giving it a go!

Chocolate and ginger macaroons

Chocolate and marzipan macaroon

Second Christmas

As mentioned in my homemade secret santa post I mentioned that every year between Christmas and New Year we get together with the extended family to celebrate Christmas. It's always noisy, chaotic and full of food and drink, just as Christmas should be!

This year we were responsible for the vegetarian main and a dessert for the cooked lunch and a salad and baked treats for the buffet supper.

For the main I decided to make Homity Pie, this is is, a totally classic, Cranks recipe, from the Cranks Recipe Book. For anyone who doesn't know Cranks they have been championing wholesome vegetarian food for years, I believe they started in the 60s in Carnaby Street, but I could be wrong. Also as far as I know they were sold some years ago and now are far more commerical and therefore just not the same, but the good old recipes are still amazing. Homity Pie is basically a wholemeal pastry case with a potato, onion and cheese middle. It is very filling and warming so perfect for a winters day or a subsitute for a roast dinner for someone who doesn't eat meat. I was feeding the five thousand so made 3.5 times the amount in the recipe below. I also made a mini pie for my cousin's little one who is coeliac and therefore can't eat gluten. This was exactly the same but I subsituted the pastry for a gluten free version made with 1oz of Doves Farm Gluten Free flour and 1/2 oz of butter and a dash of water. This pastry is far more crumbly than normal pastry so you may well need to piece it together and fill in any cracks.

One of the large homity pies

The mini gluten free homity pie

For the dessert my mum made creme caramel's. She is the queen of this simple, but difficult to perfect, recipe and her creme caramels always turn out perfectly. Plus when my cousin's little boy was about two and quite a fussy eater he wolfed one down in about 3 seconds flat and looked up for more, so we thought we had no choice but to make them again for him!

Lots of creme caramels in a useful cardboard box

And one turned out

For the salad I made a barley middle eastern salad which is adapted from a recipe on The barley is studded with jewels of preserved lemons, pistacios, pomegranates and dried apricots. I absolutely love preserved lemons and the pomegrante seeds give this a lovely burst of flavour. Barley is such a low cost filling and healthy grain which is fab chucked into soups and stews to turn them into a meal in themselves. I also think it feels very comforting, which is great at this time of year.

The finished salad in a less than beautiful 'serving bowl'

My sister made a variety of cakes and cookies for the supper. She made the cupcakes in this post plus some chocolate ones with chocolate icing which are basically made with just the chocolate sponge in this recipe plus the same icing but with the addition of some salted caramel sauce on the side for people to drizzle over. These were both piped with a Wilton 2D nozzle and the vanilla ones topped with a little glitter. She also made the same cupcakes with Dove's Farm Gluten Free Self Raising flour for my cousin child.

The lemon loaves are these, but in mini paper loaf cases which I found in a little gift shop.

Finally she made some cookies, which were based on the same recipe as these but as well as chunks of white chocolate she added chunks of biscuit, fudge and mini marshmallows to turn them into rocky road cookies and then made some vanilla ones with chocolate chunks. Which are the same recipe but with the cocoa subsitutued with extra flour.

Here are the cupcakes and cookies displayed on the 'up-cycled' cake stand my cousin made for my secret santa.

And these are the mini lemon drizzle loaves

This was the whole spread for lunch

A slice of Jamie Oliver's Christmas Chocolate Bomb. Which I think was made using this recipe

The spread for dinner

Some bread made by my cousin-in-law

The cheese plate of mainly local cheeses


Homity Pie

8oz wholemeal flour
4oz butter or margarine
3/4 lb Potatoes
1lb Onions
1 tbsp olive oil
A good bunch of parsley, chopped
4oz grated cheese
2 crushed garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste

Makes six 4'' pies or one 8'' tart

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs. Add enough water to bring it together. Handle it with a gentle touch and don't work too much. Allow to rest for 30 mins.

While the pastry is resting. Chop the potatoes into small cubes and boil until tender. Chop the onion into similar sized pieces and saute with the garlic in the oil until very soft. Add the potatoes, half of the cheese, parsley and salt and pepper and stir gently to avoid the potatoes breaking up too much.

Roll out the pastry and line the cases. The recipe doesn't say to blind bake the pastry but I normally do. Fill the case with the filling and spinkle with the remaining cheese and bake in a pre-heated oven for 220C (425F/Gas Mark 7) for 20-30 mins until golden.

Slightly adapted from The Cranks Recipe Book

Moroccan Chickpea Barley Salad

1 1/2 cups barley
1 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tsp salt
Oilve oil
1 tin of chick peas
1 cup shelled pistacio nuts
1 cup diced dried apricots
1-2 preserved lemons with the flesh removed and the skin diced
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 onion
A bunch each of parsley and mint, chopped
Zest and juice of a lemon
1 tbsp ras el hanout mix (below)
Salt to taste

Ras el hanout mix
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cardamon seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric

Saute the barley in a little oil for 3-4 minutes, add the stock, water and a tsp of salt. Simmer until the barley is tender, anywhere from 30 mins to one hour, depending on the age of the barley.

Strain the barley and rinse with cold water to cool it quickly. Drain as much water out as you can and the lay out the barley on a tray. Drizzle with oil and mix to coat.

In a large mixing bowl add the remaining ingredients. Add the barley and mix well.

Adapted from a recipe on

Creme caramel

Grease 8 ramekin dishes. Put 4oz granulated sugar and 4oz of water in a small saucepan. Heat without stirring until it forms a syrup which is deep brown and whirls of smoke have started to rise. Quickly and carefully pour the syrup into the ramekin dishes, swirling each around to coat the bottom. Put 1 pint of gold top milk into a pan with a knob of butter and a tablespoon of sugar, When heated to lukewarm pour it over 3 beaten eggs and whisk. Place the ramekin dishes in a roasting tin, strain the custard into each and then fill the roasting tin with water until it is about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the dishes. Place into an oven preheated to 130C and bake until set, approximately 1 hour and 15 mins. Cool and refridgerate over night. By the next day the caramel will have returned to a runny liquid. To server run a knife around each ramekin dish and turn out onto a plate allowing the caramel to pool around the custard. Put some pouring cream on the table for people so people can add some if they wish.

From a very old newspaper cutting

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Alternative Christmas Dinner

For the first year (I think ever) we didn't have turkey for our christmas dinner. We bought a beautiful joint of sirloin fore-rib of beef to have with a parsnip, shallot and sausage mixture, roast potatoes, green veg and red cabbage.

For the beef we placed a few roughly chopped carrots, onions, celery and garlic in the bottom of a roasting tin and then placed the seasoned beef on top with a good slug of olive oil. To roast it we put it in the oven at 230C for 20 mins before turning it down to 180C for 18 mins for every 500g. This resulted in roast beef which was medium rare. Once it was down we took it out of the roasting tin and wrapped it in foil and covered it in tea towels to rest.

To make the gravy take the roasting tin with the veg and the meat juices in and carefully spoon off most of the fat and discard or put to one side for beef dripping. Put the whole tin on the hob, stir in a couple of spoonfuls of flour and get it nice and hot before pouring in a large glass of red wine. Now use a potato masher to mush all of the veg up scraping all of the yummy goodness from the bottom of the pan as you do. Add some boiling water to thin the stock to the right consistency and simmer for about 5 mins. To finish sieve out all of the vegetables and other lumps and you'll be left with a yummy gravy. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. This is probably vaguely a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Whilst the meat is cooking thinly slice half a red cabbage and half an onion. Place it in a pan with a grated apple, two teaspoons of sugar a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, seasoning and a stick of cinnamon. Cook on a medium to low heat for about an hour until it is nice and soft. This is a recipe I have been given by my mum, which we have been making for years (it originally used malt vinegar but I tend to use balsamic vinegar now).

For the potatoes we used Jamie Oliver's perfect roast potatoes and had garlic, rosemary and red wine vinegar as our chosen flavour combination. They really are great roast potatoes.

For the shallot, parsnip and sausage mix we took 8 good quality sausages (ours were from a local farm) and twisted each in the middle and cut to make 2 mini sausages. We placed these in the bottom of a roasting tin along with halved parsnips, shallots and sprigs of rosemary and then poured over a mixture of 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of sweet chilli jam and 2 tbsps of maple syrup and then roasted at 180C for 45 mins, turning every so often. This was adapted from Waitrose Kitchen magazine.

We served all of this with a bowl of mixed greens including some tendersteam broccoli and sugar snap peas. Overall it was a great dinner even if there was no turkey!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Special Birthday

As mentioned in my previous post Christmas Eve is my mum's birthday and this year was a special birthday. I've been planning what cake to make for ages. I wanted something a bit special, but not a 'celebration cake' as such as she's not keen on icing. I also wanted something that would double as pudding. I was watching Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets back in the summer and found just the thing! A chocolate delice with a chocolate macaroon base. I tried making the macaroon recipe in Raymond Blancs book a few months ago and whilst it was delicious they weren't a total success. The shells weren't perfect and shiny and they stuck to the baking paper a bit. Macaroons have always been my nemesis, they are so temperamental!

As a result I was a little worried about attempting them for this. I even bought some digestive biscuits for a back up biscuit base instead. I'm pleased to say though that the digestives are still sat in the cupboard in their packet, thanks to the fabulous instructions from Holly Bell.

I started by making some chocolate macaroons following Holly Bell's recipe. For this I only made the macaroons, not the filling, but I might make some filling to use up the left over macaroons.

As well as following her advice and making a template from a milk bottle top for standard sized macaroons I also drew around the base of a 8" round cake tin to make a giant macaroon to act as the base for the delice.

Her recipe only has 6g cocoa in so they turned out to be very pale chocolate macaroons but very delicious all the same! She says to use 144g aged egg whites. For me this was about 4 eggs.

In my oven I found they needed a little longer and would also recommend using magic liner instead of greaseproof paper as they came off much better. Other than those small tweaks the recipe was spot on and I'd suggest maybe even foolproof as long as the fool was reading the instructions carefully!

While the macaroons were cooling I set about making the delice. This is basically a chocolate custard. You start by heating the milk and cream and then pour over beaten egg and add chocolate. Very simple! I also added a small amount of salt to help bring out the flavour of the chocolate. I used this recipe but only made the delice not the base, nuts or foam.

Once the macaroon had cooled I placed it inside a greased 8" round, sprung form cake tin ensuring it was a tight fit and then poured the delice mixture over the top and put in the fridge to set.

Once the delice was set I dusted the top liberally with cocoa and then piled up the macaroons, finishing with a little shake of cocoa and edible glitter.

I then made a quick salted caramel sauce by melting sugar with a little water in a pan until it has formed a syrup and turned a deep golden colour. Keep your eye on it as it will turn and burn very quickly. Take it off the heat and add a good slug of double cream. Be careful as it will bubble up. Add salt to taste.

I served the delice with pouring cream and the salted caramel sauce. It was very rich but absolutely delicious and so very smooth and chocolately.

Christmas Eve Pancakes

As I might have mentioned before Mary Berry is a bit of an idol of mine. Her book was my first baking book and is still my first go to point. Christmas eve is my mum's birthday and for the last few years we've had pancakes for breakfast. The deep fluffy kind, Scotch or American rather than thin crepe type pancakes.

One of my favourite recipes is Mary Berry's Scotch Pancakes which we had this morning. I had mine with apple butter, my mum had orange syrup (a simple sugar syrup with fresh orange juice squeezed in) or they're also yummy with maple syrup and berries.


175g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
40g caster sugar
1 egg
200ml milk

Start by putting the flour, baking powder and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl.

Make a well in the middle and add the egg and about half of the milk.

Use an electric whisk to gradually incorporate the dry ingredients. Once mixed together add as much of the rest of the milk as you need to make a thick smooth batter.

Heat a non-stick frying pan up and grease with a little large or flavourless oil. Carefully place 1 heaped desert spoon in the pan and smooth out slightly to form the pancakes.

Once the top starts to set and bubble turn the pancake over to cook the other side. Serve hot with your chosen topping.

If you have any mixture left over save it in the fridge for the next day or make extra pancakes and freeze them.

Recipe from Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Bible.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Snowflake marshmallows

As you may have gathered by now I love Christmas, especially the time spent with family and friends. I have group of friends who I've been close to since I was at school and every year since we were 12 we've gone out for Christmas dinner. People have come and gone over the years, but tradition has remained. We don't all buy presents for each other, we do a secret Santa instead, but every year I make a little something. This year I decided I wanted to have a go at marshmallows as I've never made them before and I'd bought some snowflake cookie cutters which I thought would make good snowflakes marshmallows!

The hardest part was finding the ingredients. Liquid glucose can allegedly be bought from 'all good chemists' but even in London it took me about 5 chemists to track it down. One tried to fob me off with something that cost £11+ (it should be more like £1) and another with Lucozade (because that's just the same). And although leaf gelatine is now more popular they didn't have any in my sainsbury's so I had to go to waitrose. You also need a sugar thermometer and electric stand mixer or whisk.

You start by soaking 9 leaves of gelatine in 140ml of water.

Whilst it's soaking you boil the 450g sugar, 200ml water and 1 tbsp of liquid glucose in a heavy based pan until it reaches 127C keep an eye on it and any children around as it is very hot and can also go beyond the temperature very quickly and potentially burn.

Whilst the sugar is turning into a lovely syrup put 2 large egg whites in your stand mixer and whisk until they form soft peaks (as always make sure you get no yolk in the egg whites and the bowl is scrupulously clean otherwise they won't whisk up).

When the sugar reaches 127C carefully slide in the gelatine and water. It will bubble and potentially spit. 127C is very hot and syrup sticks so careful is the important word here!

Now turn the mixer down to a low speed and slowly and carefully pour the syrup onto the egg whites trying to hit the 'sweet spot', so that the syrup is landing in the little dip just in front of the whisk. When all of the syrup is a 1tbsp of vanilla extract (you could also add food colouring at this stage but I've never seen coloured snowflakes so I left it white) and turn up the speed slightly. At this point the mixture will be quite runny but if you whisk for 5-10 mins as the bowl cools the mixture will thicken and become lovely and fluffy and glossy.

Once you think it looks amazing pour it into a tin which has been greased with a slick of flavourless oil and then drenched in cornflour and icing sugar and try and get the top fairly flat. The recipe said to use a tin 30cm x 20cm but for snowflakes this left the marshmallows too thick so I used another smaller tin as well, probably about 20cm x 15cm and this was perfect.

Leave to set for at least an hour.

I found it too sticky to turn out of the tin so I actually cut the snowflakes directl out of the tin with my cutter. I found I had to be almost rough with the mixture and use my fingers to prise it from the tin. Once they are out dust them in a mixture of corn flour and icing sugar to stop them sticking. You can also dust all of the off cuts and keep them for you!

Next time I am wondering about using the magic liner or even cling film (greased and drenched still). I got there in the end though and popped them into lakeland's clear gift bags, tied with a little present ribbon and a gift tag/Christmas decoration dangling.

I also made a couple of extra bags for stockings.

Recipe taken from James Martin on the BBC website. He put a layer of raspberries in the middle which sounds very yummy.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Heart Christmas Decorations

I've been making Christmas decorations with my mum. Red and white hearts to be precise, very scandi Christmas! Now I know that they are very clearly not food related but try are in keeping with the #letsmakechristmas theme and they really are quite easy to make. My mum is far better at sewing than I am but even my poor needle skills can cope with these! You can also you the same method for year round hearts to dangle off drawer handles, door knobs, pins etc. You can also stuff them with a little lavender or a few drops of fragrance to make hearts to put in chest of drawers between your clothes.

You will need:
Sheets of felt in Christmassy colours (we used red and white)
Other matching fabric if desired (we used white and red gingham)
Matching ribbon (we used red)
Small buttons (we used white)
Embroidery thread in matching/contrasting colour (we used red)
Some thin card (any colour)
A pencil or pen
An iron

Start by drawing a template of a large heart and a small heart on the card. You can do it by eye, use a cookie cutter or print a picture of a heart off the computer. I prefer the rounder hearts for this than the longer pointy ones. You could also do stars or stocking shapes or anything you fancied really but I like the hearts.

Fold your felt in half and pin the large heart template to the felt. Cut around the template through the two layers of felt so that you are cutting the front and back of your heart at the same time. This will ensure that the hearts are the same size. If you do this stage with material it is a good idea to iron some bond-a-web onto the back of the material before cutting out the heart to make it a little stiffer. As felt is quite thick there is no need to do this step for felt.

Unpin the template from your hearts and put to one side.

Take the small heart template and draw around it onto the smooth side of the bond-a-web. Roughly cut the heart out leaving a bit of a border around be edge. Place the cut out heart on a piece of contrasting felt or material. Take an iron and iron the bond-a-web to the material for about 5 seconds. Check the material is stuff to the bond-a-web. If it isn't iron for a few more seconds until it is. Now cut around the small heart you drew so that you end up with a small material heart with bond-a-web stuck to it. Peel off the white layer of paper from the bond-a-web. It can be quite tricky to find an edge but be patient and you will.

Now take your two large hearts and place the small heart in the middle of one of them. Iron it on for about 5 secs or until it sticks.

Now pin the two hearts together with the one with the small heart on at the front. Take your needle and thread your embroidery thread onto it. Either a matching or contrasting colour is best.

Starting at the top in the middle carefully sew a basic running stitch around the heart about 5mm away from the edge. Take your time with this and try and make all of the stitches the same size as they will be on show. If they look too different or scruffy simply unpick one and try it again.

Leave a gap of a couple of cm at the top of the heart.

Take small pieces of padding and gently push them into the heart through the gap you have left. Push them into all of the edges of the heart but don't over stuff it. Once you are happy sew up the gap.

Finish the heart by pushing the needle through the whole heart from the back to the front in the top centre. Thread on a length of ribbon folded into a hook and a button. Sew the button and ribbon onto the heart (pushing the needle all of the way through the heart each time). Try to keep the holes of the button lined up horizontally so it is neat. Finish sewing the button on by ending up with the needle at the back of the heart and tie off your thread.

You can either use these as decorations for your tree or tie them to a long length of ribbon or rope to make a garland. Enjoy!

Here are the finished results:

I'm sorry about the photo being the wrong way around but it is the right way on my laptop and no matter what I do it seems to turn around again when I upload it here

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Hive Beach Cafe

I normally only write about my own food (of food those near to me have cooked) but today I'm going to male an exception. This weekend I've come away for my mum's birthday. Family holidays are few and far between now we have grown up and moved away so we thought we would take the opportunity of her birthday coming up to all go away together. On the way to Devon, our final destination, we stopped at The Hive Beach Bar, Chesil Bank for breakfast. Now I've head a lot about The Hive over the years but have never actually been myself.

The Hive has won loads of awards and although it's a little more than a glorified beach hut it's easy to see why. For a start it has fabulous views.

It has very friendly staff, a counter of very fresh looking fish and seafood and a counter (don't worry a different one!) of big homemade looking cakes.

If the breakfast is anything to go on it also seems to have fabulous food.

I had the Egg Benedict, which was slightly untraditional in that it had crispy streaky bacon instead of ham and the addition of a grilled tomato on the side. I wasn't sure about the bacon when I placed my order but it really worked with the eggs and the hollandaise sauce. I guess maybe because it is saltier than ham. I was less convinced about the tomato as the juiciness of it, at least in my mine, didn't really go with the rich hollandaise. Having said that it was a really tasty tomato so no complains, I just ate it first! The eggs were massive, perfectly cooked and very tasty and the hollandaise sauce was just delicious.

My dad had brill topped with a poached duck egg and bacon. Whilst I wouldn't be sure about eating fish for breakfast it did look very good.

The others had bacon sandwiches with a side of black pudding which also looked really good.

Overall I think this place would be worth travelling for. I'm thinking perhaps a holiday nearby so I can now try out lunch, dinner and afternoon tea!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Free Cakes For Kids - Ealing Young Carers Project Christmas Party

There is a fabulous network called Free Cakes For Kids. As with a lot of great things the idea is very simple. It's a network of people who love baking who offer to make birthday cakes for children who otherwise wouldn't get a cake. It's so sad to think some children might not have the simple joy of getting a birthday cake and so simple to fix! Details can be found on the Free Cakes for Kids website

There wasn't already a group in existence in West London so my sister and I have been busy setting one up over the last few months. Today some children who are young carers from the Ealing Young Carers Project will be enjoying our cakes as part of their Christmas party.

My sister made the cakes. The recipe is a basic chocolate cake with chocolate chips topped with dark chocolate icing piped with a Wilton 2D nozzle with a few topped with holly leaves made from fondant icing, red and green food colouring and a holly leaf shaped cutter.

Here they are boxes up and ready to go

This fits in quite well with both #letsmakechristmas and Random Bakes of Kindness #RBOKindness.

100g margarine or butter (I use Stork)
100g caster sugar
75g self raising flour (I use supreme sponge flour)
25g cocoa powder
1/2tsp baking powder
2 eggs

Beat all the ingredients together. Once fully incorporated carefully spoon the mixture to half fill muffin cases placed into muffin tins. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips on the top of each.

For the icing just add some slightly cooled melted dark chocolate. I use about 100g to regular buttercream. Have a look at my previous posts or let me know if you want the detailed recipe for buttercream.

A round up of #letsmakechristmas

Over the past few months I've been busy making Christmas presents (a couple of the posts have been made by family members, but don't worry I have always credited them!). I always make some of my gifts but @vanessakimbell encouraged a whole host of food bloggers to get making with #letsmakechristmas. I do have a few last minute gifts to make, chocolate truffles, some things I can't post about yet (in case the recipient is reading) and some more mince pie gifts, but as they won't be made until the 23rd December I thought I'd do a round up now.

So here goes...

1. Delia Smith's mincemeat
2. Peyton and Byrne Christmas pudding (large and individual). Decorated versions here and here
3. Chocolate wafers dark chocolate topped with candied orange peel and white chocolate with crystallised rose petals and rose water
4. Piccalilli
5. Apple butter and decorated here
6. Apple and rowan jelly
7. Candied citrus peel
8. Lemon drizzle loaf
9. Double chocolate chip cookies here and here
10. Mulled wine spice bags
11. Onion marmalade
12. Sweet chilli jam
13. A trio of mince pies
14. Gingerbread houses
15. Blackberry vodka
16. Festive chocolate cupcakes
17. Marshmallow snowflakes
18. Chocolate truffles - also to follow but here is a previous post on truffles in the meantime.

There are also a few of posts that weren't made for Christmas presents but that would make good gifts all the same.

Festive Clementine Cake which is also gluten free
Apple and blackberry jam
Plum jam
Chocolate slabs


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Blackberry Vodka and Homemade Secret Santas

Every year we all get together with mum dad's side of the family for a day of festive fun between Christmas and New Year. Maybe 5 years ago we stopped all buying presents for each other and instead started a secret santa, which all worked very well but wasn't quite as exciting as it could be. Last year my auntie had the fab idea of making our secret santas. We all have to make a gift for one person, the materials have to cost less than £5 and it has to be fabulous! Even the children have to make something (with a little help from their parents). The results were amazing, a seriously creative family!

So this year the stakes are high. I can't post about my Secret Santa yet in case the recipient is reading so in the meantime I thought I'd write about my dad's recipe for his secret santa (this is a dad whose only job in the kitchen is normally washing up!). I have been assured though that he did plenty of research to find a recipe for blackberry vodka.

Back in the autumn we had picked lots of blackberries which I posted about here and so both of our freezers have a good stock of blackberries.

To make blackberry vodka you need to start by weighing the blackberries. You then weigh out the same amount of sugar out and put them in a bottle or kilner jar covered with your vodka. Seal it up, give it a good shake and leave it somewhere dark and cool to mature. Ideally you need to leave it for at least 3 months, giving it a shake every week or so. You can then sieve out the fruit and pop in a bottle with a beautiful label. The jury is out on whether the fruit is tasty or not once it's out. Some have suggested serving it on ice cream and others say most of the flavour has gone so bin it. I say give it a taste and if it tastes good then eat it!

Here is the vodka maturing. You can see the blackberries have already started doing their magic as the vodka has changed colour.

Here are the finished product decanted into a bottle with labels added.

Incidentally at uni I used to regularly flavour vodka with sweets and chocolates. It sounds a bit odd but I tell you Mars bar vodka is amazing! Think baileys with a caramel flavour and a bit of a kick. Fab for making cocktails. Lots of sweets work, polo mints, skittles, pear drops. Pick your favourite and experiment. Just pop the sweets/chunks of chocolate in the vodka and give it a shake. I never used to leave it anywhere near 3 months. Maybe a week or so. Shaking every day. I haven't done it for a while though but give it a go and it's done when it tastes good! The sweets/chocolates virtually disappear so there shouldn't be a need to filter it, maybe just sieve and lumps out.


Monday, 12 December 2011

Festive Clementine Cake

Unfortunately I can't take the credit for this one, but it was a bit of a gem so I wanted to write a post on it anyway. So this is a guest post made by my mum. Last week was my dad's birthday and my mum made a lovely meal of butternut squash soup with a swirl of pesto oil, roasted quail with apples and this lovely cake/dessert.

It is a Diana Henry recipe, but from the Waitrose Kitchen magazine not from one of her lovely books.

It's very simple and a similar method to the flourless chocolate orange cake in my previous post This also means it is gluten free so great for any allergy suffers.

Boil 5 unpeeled clementines in water for about 1.5 hours until they are totally soft. Whizz them in a food processor (skin and all). Allow to cool slightly and blend in 6 beaten eggs, 225g light brown soft sugar, 250g ground almonds, 1tsp baking powder and the finely crushed seeds of 8 cardamom pods. When fully incorporated pour the batter into a lined and greased 20cm round cake tin and bake for about 50mins in a oven preheated to 180C/gas mark 4. Cool in the tin. She suggest pouring over a glacé icing made with 150g icing sugar and 2tbsp clementine juice and 1/2tsp of orange blossom water and then pour over the top and allow it to drip down the sides. We simply dusted with icing sugar.

This would make a perfect festive treat due to the clementines and spice.

Gluten Free Treats

I made these cakes sometime ago for a family get together, but didn't write a post at the time. My cousin's child is coeliac and I thought I'd be nice to make some treats that we could all eat so he didn't feel left out.

These are two of my favourite gluten free cakes. They are obviously no good for people with nut allergies, but that wasn't an issue here.

The first is a lemon drizzle cake and the result is quite similar to my 'normal' recipe

It has been adapted from Harry Eastwood's beautiful book. She goes as far to say her cakes, which use vegetables to reduce/remove the sugar and butter content and rice flour, are better than the standard recipe. Now after trying quite a few of her recipes I don't agree completely but they are a very good gluten free alternative, particularly with a few tweaks.

I personally don't like the slightly fragrant taste of rice flour so would recommend trying your favourite gluten free flour.

The second cake is one which doesn't have any grandiose allergy free claims and just sits quietly alongside some other chocolate cakes in Nigella Lawson's Feast book, but it doesn't have any wheat flour in it at all and most baking powders are gluten free. It is an unusual recipe and the batter is very thin, but don't panic as it creates a wonderful, moist, almost torte like cake which can be eaten cold or served warm with pouring cream for a pudding. It also tastes scarily like Terry's chocolate orange. I served it plain but it can be dusted with icing sugar or cocoa or sprinkled with grated dark chocolate or strips of orange zest.

I unfortunately didn't take any better pictures, but this will give you an idea. As normal I used the fabulous Lakeland cake tin liners as neither of the cakes needed sandwiching or cutting in anyway.

Here are the recipes:

Lemon drizzle cake

200g swede, peeled and diced into 2cm cubes
120g clear honey
2 medium eggs
Zest of one lemon
60g white rice flour
60g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

For drizzle:
3tbsp golden caster sugar
2tbsp water
Juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 180C
Line base of 2 litre loaf tin and grease sides with a little oil

Place swede in a bowl with a splash of water and cover with cling film. Cook in micro for 7 mins, blend to a fine purée and leave to cool a little

Whisk honey with eggs for 2 mins until bubbly

Add lemon zest, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt and whisk. Add swede and whisk again.

Pour mixture into tin and bake for 30mins

Whilst cake is baking dissolve the sugar in the water by heating slowly in a small pan. Cool and add the lemon juice.

Remove cake from oven and whilst still in the tin pierce the cake all over with a skewer and pour over the syrup. Leave to cool in the tin. To serve sprinkle with golden granulated sugar

Adapted from Harry Eastwood's Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache

Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake

2 small thin-skinned oranges approx. 375g total weight (or 1 large)
6 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200 g ground almonds
250 g caster sugar
50 g cocoa

1 Put the whole orange or oranges in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours or until soft.
2 Drain, and when cool, cut the oranges in half and remove any big pips.
3 Then pulp everything - pith, peel and all - in a food processor.
4 Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C Butter and line a 20cm spring form tin.
5 Add the eggs, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, almonds, sugar and cocoa to the orange in the food processor. Run the motor until you have a cohesive cake mixture, but slightly knobbly with the flecks of puréed orange.
6 Pour and scrape into the cake tin and bake for an hour, by which time a cake tester should come out pretty well clean. Check after 45 minutes because you may have to cover with foil to prevent the cake burning before it is cooked through, or indeed it may need a little less than an hour; it all depends on your oven.
7 Leave the cake to get cool in the tin, on a cooling rack. When the cake is cold you can take it out of the tin. Decorate with strips of orange peel or coarsely grated zest if you so wish, but it is darkly beautiful in its plain, unadorned state.

From Nigella Lawson’s Feast

Gingerbread Houses

Sarah's Kitchen went on tour yesterday as my friend was having a Gingerbread House decorating party. We all turned up to find she had been busy baking away and had a house, already assembled for each of us to decorate! As I wasn't involved in the baking I'm not sure what recipe she used but I would recommend this one from Tales from a Giants Wood as I can vouch for it being very yummy!

We had bags full of sweets, icing and food colouring (the amount of combined sugar and E numbers would have been enough to cause a riot in a primary school class!) plus the obligatory mulled wine, mince pies and Christmas songs.

Everyone joined in, even though some had never iced before and there were some works of art created!

Here is my attempt

And some of the others!