Happy Easter 2012
Traditional Simnel Cake for Easter
See Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake for cake recipe and information on making a Simnel Cake.
Posted in British Traditional Style, Cakes-Pastries, Family-Personal Recipes, Holy Week/Easter, Make in advance, Tea Time-Coffee Time, tagged baking, cake, cooking, Easter, food on 8th April 2012| 1 Comment »
Dundee Style Christmas Cake 2011
Some years ago, instead of our usual marzipan and iced cake, I experimented by making a Dundee Style one with the traditional topping of cherries and nuts. This year, having already made two marzipanned cakes with one iced as well (the Easter Simnel Cake and our Silver Wedding Anniversary Cake) I decided to make another Dundee Cake. The basic cake was made using the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake recipe which I use for all family celebration cakes. Before it was baked I selected enough nuts and fruits to put in concentric rings on top, which are added before the cake was baked. Last time I used just blanched almonds and glace cherries but this time I topped it with circles of walnuts, pecan nuts and blanched almonds interspersed with red and green glace cherries. When we were in Spain on holiday this year I discovered green cherries in little bottles and was very pleased as I have been searching for them for some years. They are not quite the same as the red cherries we have in the UK, as the syrup is much lighter, but the flavour was the same. The ribbon came from Primark and was a bargain at £1 a roll – a perfect match for the colours I had already used for the cake topping.
My Dad is a Crunchie fan – he just loves honeycomb – actually you could probably call him a ‘Crunchie nut’ so this is ideal for him! When I came across this just before last Christmas I just knew I had to make a batch so I could give him some for Christmas (saving some for our family, of course!) I also made White Christmas Slices and was able to give him and mum mixed box of goodies. I like the idea of giving handmade presents, sadly its something I rarely have time to do. This year my mind has been on other things with little time to make those festive extra treats we love: pickles, chutneys, Stollen, Lebkuchen…
I first saw this on the television series accompanying the new (in Christmas 2010) book, Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. Such a simple idea and I was able to take down the recipe from the TV. A shortcut possibility, or for anyone outside the UK who cannot get Crunchie Bars (though they seem to be widely available), would be to use honeycomb, also known as cinder toffee. I understand this is fairly simple to make and there are various methods online. Here is just one version: Lets make a crunchie bar (giving first a recipe for honeycomb and then turning it into home made ‘crunchie’ bites) from fellow London based blogger London Eats. If you use honeycomb rather than Crunchies, then you would need to add more chocolate to account for the missing chocolate covering on the bars. I found that the finished article was much easier to cut straight from the fridge: once it had started to warm up the portions were not quite so neat and started to crumble. My one concern was that the finished article could have looked a little prettier. I used bars of Sainsbury’s Basics range chocolate, which I understand comes from a very reputable source yet is very resonably priced and was careful not to overheat it. I am not very experienced with chocolate and I would have liked a smoother finish, however I don’t think this was the fault of the chocolate. The taste was great. As an alternative to using lined shallow square or rectangular tins Nigella suggests using disposable foil tins. I always make sure I rescue these when they come with commercially bought meals, usually desserts or cakes, rather than immediately recycling them. By the way, don’t worry about using salted peanuts, just shake off any excess salt before use.
Sweet & Salty Crunchie Nut Bars
200g milk chocolate (I used Sainsbury’s Basics range)
100g dark/plain chocolate (I used Sainsbury’s Basics range)
100g unsalted butter (I used slightly less than the 125g in the original recipe)
1 x 15ml tbsp golden syrup
250g salted peanuts (I used Sainsbury’s Basics range)
2 x 80g Crunchie bars
1. Line a tin about 26cm square or a rectangular tin of similar dimensions with tin foil, smoothing out as much as possible. Alternatively use disposable foil tins (see note above).
2. Tip the peanuts into a large hole sieve or colander and shake over the sink to remove excess salt. Tip them into a medium sized mixing bowl. Crumble and add the Crunchie bars. Stir to combine.
3. Gently melt the butter and golden syrup together in a heavy based pan. As it melts break up and add the chocolate bars. Stir until dissolved, but do not allow to boil.
4. When the mixture in the pan has just melted pour it over the nuts and broken Crunchies and stir together.
5. Pour into the lined tin or foil tray. Spread out to the corners and try to flatten it as possible. A spatula will help with this.
6. Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours. Remove and slice, working quickly before the mixture starts to warm up, which I found made it more difficult to cut accurately. I could be cut it into chunks, wedges or even random shapes.
7. Store in the fridge until you are ready to give away. Placed in small decorative boxes and wrapped with cellophane this makes good Christmas gift. It could also be served as a ‘naughty nibble’ with a cup of coffee!
Posted in Accompaniment/Condiment, Chutney-Pickles, Gift Idea, Make in advance, USA/American Style, Vegetarian (Meat-Fish free), tagged cooking, food, pickle, recipe on 25th October 2011| 3 Comments »
Some time ago I added a recipe to this site for Cucumber Bread and Butter Pickle. Put simply, this is a pickle to eat with bread and butter, perhaps alongside some cold meat or cheese. (I actually enjoy it on its own in a sandwich.) The original recipe was a fairly traditional one and shortly afterwards I added a second version with coriander seeds which gave a citrus flavour to the pickle. (Well at least I think coriander seed tastes a bit lemony!) Here is a third version: different again, this time with a spicy bite from the chilli and mustard seeds and called American style, though I am not quite sure why. I love this one, but next time will make sure I have washed off the salt a little more thoroughly. The first batch was fine but the second needed either an extra wash or perhaps I should have used a little less salt – it was rather too salty for my taste. The salting is essential as without this step, which draws out the excess water in the cucumber, the pickle would go mouldy. All of the cucumber based bread and butter pickles are worth making in the summer months when cucumbers are plentiful, but a smaller quantity can be made at any time of the year, especially if you can find a good offer on the market. Adjust the chilli according to taste: I added a very small one the first time but find I am increasing the quantity with each batch I make. Just a word about the vinegar: this version uses cider vinegar but another type such as wine or malt can be substituted, however it should be at least 5% proof in order for the recipe to be successful. If you substitute malt vinegar the distilled clear type will better preserve the bright colours of the ingredients.
The recipe comes from Pam Corbin and the spin off series from River Cottage, River Cottage bites. I scribbled down the ingredients from the television and am pretty sure they are right. I expect the full recipe is in one of the two River Cottage volumes that Pam has written but I am not sure. Now I just have to decide which recipe to make each time!
A note on how to dry the salted cucumber and onion: Tip rinsed items into the centre of a clean tea towel, gather the corners together and making sure there are no gaps for the cucumber and onion to fly out, take outdoors and shake by flicking your arm downwards, towards the ground. This is Pam’s method demonstrated in the series but has been our family trick for drying lettuce years before the invention of salad spinners. (Be sure to keep away from anything you could hit and try to avoid spraying the windows or the cat!)
American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle
(Makes 2-3 x 1lb jars)
1 medium sized onion
3-4tbsp salt (sea salt recommended if available)
300ml cider vinegar (must be 5%proof – see note above)
200g granulated sugar
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp celery seeds
2tbsp white mustard seeds
1 chopped red chilli (size to taste – removing the seeds & membranes will make it milder)
1. Peel the cucumbers, cut off the ends, quarter lengthways and slice into 3-4mm thick slices. Peel and chop the onion fairly small pieces (no larger than the pieces of cucumber). Mix the cucumber and onion pieces together in a non metallic bowl.
2. Sprinkle over the salt, gently toss through the cucumber and onion and leave for 2 hours.
3. Rinse the cucumber and onion well in icy water. Taste check the cucumber and rinse again if it is too salty. To dry see note above.
4. Wash the jars well and sterilise them. I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water. I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.
5. Place the vinegar into a saucepan that will be large enough to eventually take all the ingredients. Add the sugar, turmeric, celery seeds, white mustard seeds and chopped chilli.
6. Heat gently so that the sugar has dissolved, stir to combine and bring to the boil.
7. Add the cucumber and onion, stir and bring back to the boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes. It needs this long to destroy any bacteria which could cause the pickle to deteriorate. Any longer and the pickle will be less crisp.
8. Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled. This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.
Regular readers of this site will know by now that we love a good chutney! My previous posts for Beetroot Chutney and Tomato Relish are two of the most visited and commented on recipes that I have posted – Spiced Damson Chutney has also proved popular (see comment below – thanks Sharon!). Here, I suspect is another favourite. Certainly, the half quantity I made was eagerly received and left me wondering why I had not risked making the full amount. However, I still have lots of apples to use up – what a bumper harvest (and generous friends) – we have had this year.
I was first alerted to the recipe for Spiced Apple Chutney by Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen. That was way back last year at the end of November when I did not have enough time (and had also just made a shipping order of different chutneys). I made a note to have a go at making the original recipe for Spiced Apple Chutney which came from BBC Food as it looked so good. The amounts spice used looked rather a lot, especially the paprika, so I used scant quantities, but I think I need not have bothered. Shaheen used Allspice rather than Mixed Spice but I am not sure why as they are not the same: it may of course be a personal tweak adding a flavour she really liked – not uncommon! Allspice are berries from the Pimiento. Mixed Spice is a blend of ground spices especially used in the UK which usually includes Cinnamon (or Cassia), Nutmeg, Cloves and Ginger (occasionally Allspice, Cayenne and/or Coriander as well). It is similar to the French Quatre épices (literally four spices): pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger (sometimes substituting allspice for pepper and cinnamon for ginger), commonly used in meat dishes such as paté and terrines. Additionally in the Netherlands (Belgium and Germany too) the Speculaas/Speculoos biscuits contain a spice mixture called (in the Netherlands) Speculaaskruiden, which is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamon and white pepper. (I keep promising myself I will make some of these biscuits…) Although this is rather going off on a tangent, there is an interesting post listing Spice mixtures worldwide on Wikipedia. However, back to the chutney… I’m thinking of putting in ginger another time in addition to what is already in the mixed spice to enhance that flavour. The original recipe gave a choice between adding sultanas or raisins (which are similar) and as an alternative, dates. There was never any contest for me as I would find dates just too much in what is already rather a sweet (though delicious) chutney: sultanas it was! The only other tweak I made was to use my usual method of adding the sugar later once the other ingredients have reduced a little. The sugar can be inclined to make the mixture burn before it has fully reduced and I find this helps to prevent this. Overall I would recomment Spiced Apple Chutney as having a lovely mixture of sweet and spicy. It is delicious eaten with pungent cheese, ham or pork (but I am sure it would be a good accompaniment for all meats.
Warning: Do not try to make a double batch in one pan. Reducing the extra liquid will be difficult and leaving it to cook down for a long time could lead to the sugars burning. I speak from experience! I apply this rule to all home made jams and chutneys: nothing worse than a bitter burnt flavour lurking in the background. I find using the widest saucepan I have gives the biggest surface area for the quick evaporation of liquid.
Spiced Apple Chutney
(Makes 4-6 jars)
225g/8oz onions, chopped
900g/2lb apples, cored & chopped
110g/4oz sultanas, raisins or stoned chopped dates
15g/½oz ground coriander
15g/½oz mixed spice
340g/12oz granulated sugar
425ml/15fl ozs/¾ pint malt vinegar
1. Put all the ingredients apart from the sugar into a saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer for 1 -1½ hours, stirring from time to time to stop the chutney sticking to the pan.
2. Reduce the mixture until it has thickened. You should be able to draw a channel across the bottom of the pan through the mixture that doesn’t close over too quickly.
3. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Continue to cook on a medium/high heat, stirring regularly to avoid burning.
4. Continue to cook until the chutney is very thick and you can once more draw a channel across the base of the pan that does not immediately fill with liquid.
5. Meanwhile wash the jars well and sterilise them. I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water. I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.
6. Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled. This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.
7. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for two to three months before eating. (Actually I opened one jar immediately to test it and it was fine: it will be interesting to try a more mature version around Christmas.)
8. This is particularly good eaten with cheese, ham or pork.
Posted in *Entertaining*, British Traditional Style, Cakes-Pastries, Family-Personal Recipes, Make in advance, Tea Time-Coffee Time, tagged baking, cake, cooking, food on 16th August 2011| 4 Comments »
We celebrated a very special anniversary recently – 25 years of marriage – and as I have my paternal grandmother’s wonderful recipe for Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake it seemed only right to make the cake myself. As usual the recipe was moist and delicious and it was lovely to feel that my Nanna, who died many years ago when I was a teenager was, though her recipe, able to ‘share’ in our special occasion.
The cake was made and decorated in the week following our anniversary as it was made to share with the close friends and family who came to a special meal and party at home. It seemed odd, however, to add this post on any day apart from the actual anniversary. Here’s to many more and the next 25 at the very least!
The recipe for the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake which I use at Christmas and Easter, is versatile and can be made with or without alcohol. Finish with or without traditional marzipan and icing as appropriate to the occasion for which it is to celebrate.
In this case, when deciding on decoration, I puzzled for a while as I am a total novice with a piping bag (and usually fairly short on time!) In the end I decided to keep it simple, using more of the edible glitter and silver balls bought for the Starry Night Cake I made last Christmas. I googled ‘Number 25’, chose one of the many images available, enlarged it to size and printed it, after which I carefully turned it into a stencil. It was fairly easy, after slightly wetting the inside of the numbers, to thickly sprinkle on the glitter and push small balls into the outline of the numbers at regular intervals. After carefully removing the stencil, the excess glitter was brushed away with a pastry brush. The cake was finished with a ruched band of transparent wire edged ribbon with silver printing. The finishing touch was a silver bow which I have had from ages – probably rescued from a gift (I often squirrel bits and pieces away in the hope they will come in useful one day!) On reflection, perhaps a little more colour would have been good – a touch of pastel colouring to offset the greyness of the silver – however the jewel colours on the numbers glittered very prettily in the sunlight. I was not really disappointed and most importantly the cake tasted just as good as I knew, from experience, it would – thanks again Nanna!
A note about cake glitter…
The edible glitter I used was bought from a local cake making suppliers (but is widely available). Craft glitter, which is often made from crushed glass, should never be substituted. For an unusual (non cake) idea of what to do with edible glitter look no further than here! I wonder what other culinary uses this dust fine glitter can be put to (bearing in mind that it’s far too expensive for normal craftwork).
Posted in Basic recipe, Drink Non-alcoholic, Family-Personal Recipes, Make in advance, Picnics-Outdoor Food, Simple recipe-Novice cook, tagged basic recipe, cooking, drink, food, recipe on 16th August 2011| 2 Comments »
I did intend to post this on 16th, but have ended up back posting. It has been a busy week…
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, or so the saying goes… This presumably means you should make the very best of life’s ‘sour’ situations: but definitely no metaphorical lemons here today! This should really have been a day for writing about ‘bubbly’ (rather than lemonade) as the vicar and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage, but the fizzy stuff is being saved for the celebrations with friends and family in a week or so. As for lemons, our market has been full of them recently and I absolutely love home made lemonade, with just enough sugar to take away the excessive sourness … and topped up with sparkling rather than still water we can still have fizz – life is sweet!
Lemonade is easy to make and definitely a good recipe for the novice cook: it was one of the first I was taught at Domestic Science in school (DS – definitely before the days of Food Technology). With the advent of the microwave oven the method has become simpler and I have given both methods below. Herb, spice or other fruit flavours can be incorporated into the the basic lemon (or orange, or lime, or mixed citrus fruit) syrup. For a long hot summer, whatever that might be (!), or as a time saver, prepare a larger quantity and keep a ready supply of undiluted blocks of sugared zesty lemon in freeze. Dissolve, as required, in the correct quantity of water. Simply strain once defrosted before serving. It will cool the water as it melts – simple!
Traditional Style Lemonade
4-6 tbsp granulated sugar (according to personal preference)
(fructose or another sweetener can be substituted)
2 large/3 small lemons – zested & freshly squeezed
1 litre/1¾pints water – still or sparkling.
1. Using a little detergent wash the lemons to remove waxy coating and rinse well
2. Put the lemons in a microwave for about 20 seconds on full power. This burst of heat releases a little extra juice. I understand a similar effect can be had by apply light pressure with the hand and rolling the lemon backwards and forwards on the work surface, although I have not tried it.
3. Zest the lemons into a microwaveproof bowl, avoiding the white pith which will make the drink bitter. (Use a saucepan for the stovetop method). Add the squeezed lemon juice and the sugar.
4. Heat in the microwave, stirring from time to time … alternatively, heat on the stove top, stirring. Remove from the microwave or heat once the sugar has dissolved. Taste and add more sugar if needed. This takes around two minutes.
5. Leave to cool and to allow the zest to fully infuse.
6. Strain and dilute with still or sparkling water. Serve over ice decorated with slices of fresh lemon.
7. If this recipe is doubled – or more – the portions should be frozen preferably unstrained and definitely undiluted.
Alternatives: (suggested quantities to substitute)
Traditional Style Orangeade – 2 small oranges
Traditional Style Limeade – 3-4 limes
Traditional Style Lemon & Limeade – 1 lemon & 2 limes
Traditional Style Mixed Citrus-ade – 1 orange, 1 lemon, 1 lime
Traditional Style Grapefruit-ade – 1-2 grapefruit (preferably sweet pink variety) – may need extra sugar and water if using two grapefruit