Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Festive Cake

Glazed Fruit Festive Cake
A latecomer, so not exactly a fully fledged Christmas cake but an equally full gorgeous flavoured delicacy to share with friends, family & especially a taste of welcoming heaven for those unexpected drop'ins who were just passing!!! Don't underestimate this tasty cakes seductive prowess, just because its a late starter & doesn't include all traditional ingredients doesn't mean we lose any of the moist rich deliciousness. I'm all for the entwining mature flavours, flowing amongst a delicate warmth all merging to become a light fruity texture with a scrumptious rich texture finished with a fruity (or if you like nuts) a nutty, sweet sticky glaze.
As you can probably tell - in other words I don't get along too well with the traditional heavy fruit cakes, especially Christmas ones with the marzipan & icing. There's just something about icing that provokes my throat into a barf state of peristalsis!!
Sooooo this recipe is especially for any of you other Christmas cake declinees - who still want the pleasures of having a nice cake but without all the traditional stifled stiffness - this is the cake for you!!! :) Try it & see, use your own ideas if you don't like mine. . its a beautiful alternative yet it can still strut its stuff as a traditional cake , still hold its nuts high amongst the best of the cakes :)
Last year I drizzled my mixture with Jack Daniels - no reason behind this other than it was all I had in the cupboard (except vodka & sloe gin maturing). It turned out beautifully & the flavours awesome. However please drizzle your mixture with your favourite tipple. This year I'm daring to make a batch of them for the family . . . so there's minature Brandy, Whiskey, Rum & Vodka bottles in my cupboard of their favourite tipples :) A couple of them like nuts - the others don't .. so decide if you like the nut finishing then glazed with melted apricot jam or simply glazed plain or even served naked without the glaze :)

8oz Sultanas
6oz Full Juicy Raisins
2oz Currants
6oz Apricots
6oz Dates
6oz Figs
4oz Prunes
* this is where - if you like these specific flavours - you would add
2oz glade cherries, 20z almonds, 2oz pecans, 20z candied peel etc adjusting the amounts to suit taste.
Grated zest of an orange & lemon
1 teaspoon Black Treacle
1 & 1/2 Teaspoons Mixed Spice
Teaspoon Ginger
Teaspoon Cinnamon
Teaspoon Nutmeg
Teaspoon Ginger
3 tablespoons of Brandy or Sherry or Whiskey etc)
Large cup full of water
  • First of all we prepare the dried fruits. Measure them all out individually then with a pair of scissors cut some of the fruits into long thin pieces then into smaller cubes (painstakingly boring I know but well worth the effort) then place into a large saucepan. Once all fruits are cut, add the spices & stir. Add the liquids & bring the mixture to the boil, reduce & simmer for about an 15 mins. Allow to cool, cover then leave to rest into a refrigerator overnight. *Sorry but as its evening, working only with the kitchen light -the photographs of the dried fruit, saucepan & mixture look naff so unfortunately I'll have to take some more tomorrow but it will all be already mixed! However I'm sure you can imagine what weighing our dried fruit looks like & mixing in saucepan :D I'll continue writing the recipe & method just incase there are any more late comers ..

6oz Plain Flour
2oz SR Flour
Teaspoon Mixed Spice
40z Soft Brown Sugar
40z Dark Brown Sugar
8oz Butter (room temperature)
4 Eggs

Apricot Jam

8" round tin, 7" square
Greaseproof paper .

  • Remove fruit mixture from fridge, give a good stir. Remove cover to allow mixture to reach room temperature
  • Pre heat oven
  • Measure out cake ingredients
  • Sift the four well & the spices into a large separate mixing bowl (not the one used to mix the butter & sugar) put to one side until needed
  • Whisk the butter & sugar together to make lovely light creamy fluffy consistency
  • Beat the eggs in a small dish & add them little by little to the creamed mixture, keep gently mixing all ingredients continuously. Once all the eggs have been used into the mixture stop whisking
  • Using a large wooden spoon gently fold into the mixture the sieved flour - do not beat as the air is nicely trapped between each fold which adds to the texture
  • Next fold in the fruit mixture & other ingredients chosen by you i.e. chopped nuts, glace cherries etc
  • Transfer the cake mixture into a lined cake tin . I line mine with greaseproof paper in a cross shape so I have the balance of the cake weight to lift evenly
  • Cover the top of the cake with a double piece of greaseproof paper
  • Cook for 1 hour on 200oC then after an hour reduce heat & continue to cook for a further 2 hours
  • Leave the cake in its tin to cool then once cold remove the greaseproof paper
  • Wrap in double greaseproof paper, add into a large air tight cake tin. Pop some halved apples into the tin (skin side against the greaseproof paper)
  • Before giving the cake as a gift - its a lovely way to finish & to present the cake by adding the glazed fruit/nut topping. Choose which ingredients you prefer to use if its nut slightly - lightly- toast them beneath a grill. If its fruits half them so you still have the whole shape of the fruit.
  • Melt the apricot jam into a small saucepan (you can add a teaspoon of Brandy or whatever alcohol you chose to use) Gently heat & stir until blended & melted. Using a pastry brush paint some of the glaze over the cake as if it were a glue. arrange the fruit/nuts in any pattern you like.
  • Finally brush all of the artistically arranged fruit/nuts with the remaining warm glaze.
  • Wrap a ribbon around the cake & store in a cake tin until needed.
  • I use apricots, figs, prunes & cherries mainly for the colouring & the exquisite aesthetic result achieved by the contrasting colours & the lovely unusual instinctive appearance of the fig against the soft fleshy apricot.
  • I'm sure the same aesthetically pleasing masterpiece can be achieved using walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts & pecans :)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Scrumptious Breakfast

Breakfast can easily become such a boring quickie as if the most insignificant endurance, especially if ones seduced or rather entrapped by the cereal is best brigade - usually marketing ethos as opposed to healthy regimes - yet a 'Breakfast' leisurely enjoyed with great textures, treats & taste is an  indulgence served with pleasures in mind. It doesn't take much to create a real tasty treat out of the typical breakfast cupboard ingredients, to turn the cereal banality into a delicious dish which will not only awaken all taste buds & make you smile ... but its  so aesthetically pleasing.
During the sultry Summer we were the appreciative recipients of some gorgeous plums given to us by neighbours & family. Never have I tasted such exquisite plum. this year they were exceptionally delectable! We had soo sooooo many to enjoy. One day we decided to stew some & decant into jars to keep in the fridge so we could have them with desserts, snacks & for breakfast. Any fruits we have to hand - in season - suits this dish. However it especially suited the plums.  Although I'm not  great lover of cereal, its quite a handy base upon which such moreish treats can be served.

Pecan & Maple Clusters are our usual favoured base but equally as good are Muesli
and also the more general cereals like Cornflakes, Branflakes etc
Fruit.. Victoria Plums
Natural Greek Yogurt
Maple Syrup
  • Rinse the plums beneath running cold water
  • Halve & remove the stone
  • Add the halved plums into a small saucepan, add a drop of water 
  • Place the saucepan on the heat & cook the fruit until it softens to a stew like consistencey
  • Remove from heat, allow to cool then decant into jars. 
  • Store in fridge until needed.
  • Take a handful of your favourite cereal and add it to a small bowl
  • First stir the Greek yogurt, then take a large tablespoon full of the yogurt and add the dollop on top of the cereal
  • Next take a large spoonful of the stewed plums adding the fruit onto the yogurt
  • If preferred, you can now add a drizzle of Maple Syrup which just rings a lovely completion to the flavours, texture & taste.

  • If not eaten immediately  the yogurt softens the cereal & the flavours become merged creating an almost caramelised flavour.
  • Also Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Melon, Grapes & Apples are also sooo tasty. So do try all of them.
  • Mmmmmmmm absolutely delicious 
  • Experiment & enjoy but much more than pleasure its quite a good wholesome ways to eat cereal for those of us who don't really enjoy the taste of cereal drowning in milk.
This post is dedicated with love to Imi :)  who graced our breakfast table & thoroughly enjoyed the wee bowl of clusters, pecan nuts topped with yogurt, chopped apple & maple syrup. "Imi, you see I knew I had some old photos on file somewhere  ..  so here we are ..  now Imi you show your nearest & dearest the tasty treat, the great recipe for those dreary mornings which need a little fruity awakening" xXx


Traditionally at Christmas time we would have a huge joint of ham.. alongside the turkey. For days after we would have the most gorgeous teas. Sandwiches with turkey & ham, ham with stuffings, ham with cranberry etc. Its silly really we have ham all year round but its this time of year which seems to lend itself so beautifully to ham & all its multiple uses & flavours. Ham stock, ham & lentil soup, ham sandwiches with lentil soup. It's just an all round full flavour which can be gently persuaded to become infused with any  preferred fragrance or flavour. Often bathed in cider, coated in maple syrup or black treacle, showered in cloves & garlic. If you haven't much time, try chucking into the pot  a mulled wine tea bag :) he he  it actually adds great flavours to the ham.  'Ham' or is it Gammon .. anyway really does allow much experimenting. Do try the multiple ways ham can be enjoyed & served.
This particular time we enjoyed a marinated ham simply served with one of my favourite accompaniments . . cauliflower cheese  & a pile of green veggies :D   Mmmmmmm so soooo good, hearty warming, sustaining & yes  a little naughty but very nice.  Great news too the supermarkets seem to be selling off their little gammon joints often 2 for the price of 1 so its hard not to indulge frequently :)

Large Saucepan
Cold Water
Unsmoked Gammon Joint

Marinating Cooking Flavours
Cloves, Cinnamon
Garlic, Ginger
Black Treacle, Maple Syrup
Cider,  Apple Juice
(these are just a few I use (not all at the same time) of course you can add any flavours you prefer)

Melody of Greens: Green Beans, Runner Beans, Petit Pois, Leeks, Broad Beans etc etc

Large Cauliflower
Cheese SaucePlain Flour

Strong /Mature Cheddar
English Mustard Powder

  • Rinse ham in cold water.
  • Place in container full of cold water & store over night. Change water a few times to remove excess salt (even unsmoked ham is too salty)
  • Remove ham from water rinse again then add to large saucepan. 
  • Cover with cider, add spices & treacle
  • Pop onto stove add lid & bring to the boil
  • Allow to simmer for a couple of hours or after an hour remove from water & roast.
  • I sometimes just leave mine in the marinade & serve when needed.

For the Cauli Cheese: 
  • Remove all of the outer leaves.
  • Score a cross in the base of the cauli stalk
  • Plunge into boiling salted water & cook for around 7 minutes.
  • Remove from boiling water & rinse beneath cold water until cauli feels cold (this prevents it from further cooking & becoming too soft)
  • Add large lump of butter into saucepan, melt down then add a handful of flour
  • Gently stir in flour & cook it out over the heat  til it bubbles
  • Add little flows of milk to the flour & butter until all the milk is used & you have a lovely thick but pouring consistency to create the sauce
  • Add a large pinch of English mustard
  • Once you have a lovely creamy white sauce grate the cheese and add
  • Keep stirring until the cheese melts into the sauce. Remove from heat to use .
  • Place the whole cauli into a tureen, pour the cheese sauce over the cauli
  • Sprinkle with paprika
  • Place into a pre heated oven for around 45 mins
  • Serve immediately with the gorgeous ham & a melody of greens
  • ENJOY!!!
  • Also remember the chutneys made in the Summer, well they're now ready to have with the remaining cheese as sandwiches :)
  • In the Summer its great as a ploughman's lunch in our cold Winters the ham sarni is equally delicious with lentil soup, chutneys etc 

Mmmmmmmm indulge & enjoy xxx

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Emily's Dessert Scones

Mmmmmmm I still love my Mam's cooking & baking. At   86 yrs old she's still such an inspiration. In the Summer her sweet scones were such a treat. Our neighbour used to go to Cornwall for their holidays & always brought us back a small tub of clotted cream, before we could open the seal Mam would make a batch of Scones.   Here's her delicious recipe to emulate a traditional Cornish /Devonshire Tea.  The result a light deliciously tasty scone.

1lb SR Four
4oz Caster Sugar
4 oz Butter
Clotted Cream or Whipping Cream
Jam or fruit compote 

  • Mix the flour & the sugar together
  • Add the butter, cut with a knife
  • Add the milk
  • Roll onto a floured surface & cut into scones
  • Place on greaseproof paper covered try
  • Brush the top of the scones with beaten egg
  • Place in pre heated oven for 15 mins
  • Remove from oven, allow to cool.
To enjoy scones at their best, halve & spread some jam straight onto the scone. On top of the jam add a dollop of whipped or clotted cream. Mmmmmmmm tasty.
Mmmmmmmm absolutely delicious. Enjoy!!