Friday, 16 November 2012

Christmas Cake

This is the recipe for the Christmas Cake that my Mum in Law and her best friend bake every year. This year however as my mum in law is overseas visiting her daughter I though I would bake the cake for her. I've never baked a fruit cake before so this could be wonderful or disastrous!! Unfortunately I won't know for a couple of weeks as you have to let it sit for a while.  Wish me luck!!

  • 350 g (12 oz) Plain Flour
  • 1 x 5 ml spoon (1 tsp) mixed spice
  • 100 g (4 oz) ground almonds
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 150 ml (¼ pint) milk (or ½ milk, ½ brandy)
  • 225 g (8 oz) butter
  • 225 g (8 oz) caster sugar
  • 225 g (8 oz) currants
  • 225 g (8 oz) sultanas
  • 225 g (8 oz) raisins
  • 100 g (4 oz) glacé cherries, halved
  • 100 g (4 oz) cut mixed peel
  1. Heat oven to 150ºC, 300ºF, Gas Mark 2. Grease and line a 23 cm (9 inch) round or 20.5 cm (8 inch) square tin.
  2. Sieve together flour, spice and ground almonds. Beat eggs with milk.
  3. Cream butter and sugar, stir in flour mixture and egg mixture alternately, a little at a time.
  4. Lastly add fruit. Mix thoroughly. Place mixture in prepared tin and protect with brown paper.
  5. Bake for about 3½-4 hours.
  6. Allow to cool then cover with almond paste and leave for 1 week.
N.B. If you prefer a more open texture use self raising flour in place of plain.

Royal Icing
  1. If possible, stand the cake on a revolving cake stand or upturned cake tin.
  2. Spread the icing on with a palette knife dipped in hot water to ease smoothness of the finish - but avoid making the icing too wet.
  3. Cover the cake completely with icing, using sweeping strokes of the knife. Then spread the top smooth. To make the sides straight, bring the palette knife around the cake continuously, holding the knife upright.
N.B. If the cake is to be iced further e.g. piping, leave to stand for 24 hours.

Royal Icing

Use this recipe to decorate fruit cakes and celebration cakes. This will be enough for top of 20-23 cm (8-9 inch) cake.

  • 1 kg (2 lb) icing sugar
  • 5 medium egg whites
  • 2 x 5 ml spoon (2 tsp) lemon juice for firm icing
    2 x 5 ml spoon (2 tsp) glycerine may be added to keep icing soft
  1. Lightly beat egg whites with glycerine or lemon juice.
  2. Sieve icing sugar, add half to egg whites, beat well.
  3. Add remainder of sugar gradually stirring well until stiff enough to stand in peaks in the bowl.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Mini Eclairs

Makes: 30
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 30 mins

  • 75g/3oz butter
  • 100g/3½ oz plain flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 600ml /1 pint double cream 
  • 200g/7oz dark chocolate 
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup 
  • You will need: a piping bag and nozzle
  1. Preheat oven to gas mark 6 / 200°C(19O°C in a fan oven). 
  2. In a saucepan. melt butter with 200 ml /7 fl oz cold water and bring to boil. 
  3. As soon as it's boiling  remove from heat and tip in flour. Beat well to combine. 
  4. Then, whisk in eggs a little at a time to make a smooth, shiny dough that easily comes away from the sides of the saucepan.
  5. Pipe dough onto baking sheets lined with baking paper. You need éclairs about 5cm/2in long. 
  6. Cook for 20 mins till golden brown, then remove from oven and make a slit in sides. 
  7. Return to oven for 5 mins, till centres are cooked through and dry. 
  8. Leave to Cool completely. If making ahead of time, store in an airtight container, till ready to fill.
  9. ln a bowl, whisk 500 ml / 16 fl oz cream, till fairly stiff peaks. 
  10. Fill piping bag with cream then pipe éclairs with cream. ln a small saucepan, gently melt remaining cream with chocolate and syrup, till smooth. 
  11. Spoon over éclairs before serving.

Mushroom Pate

Serves: 8
Prep 15 mins


  • 600g/1lb 5oz butter 
  • 450g/1lb fresh chicken livers (organic if you can get them), washed and cleaned, with any green-tinged bits removed
  • 3 tbsp port
  • 2 cloves finely Chopped
  • l tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 40g/11/2oz dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 mins
  • 50g/2oz cranberries
  1. In a large frying pan, heat 25g/1oz butter. When beginning to froth, add chicken and cook till no longer pink. Insert a knife into them to check they are cooked. if still pink or bloody, give them a bit longer till any juices run clear, but don't overcook.
  2. Transfer livers to  food processor and whizz till smooth. Reheat pan so hot. then add port and scrape up all the bits. Now add garlic and thyme, and cook for 1 min, then add to food processor along with a pinch of 1 sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Whizz again and taste. Remember the flavour will intensify over time. Leave to cool.
  3. When chicken livers are cool  add  450g/1lb butter, cubed, and whizz till well combined, then add mushrooms and pulse a few times so they are broken up but a few still left slightly intact. Now add cranberries and pulse again so cranberries don’t break up too much. Using a spatula or spoon, transfer pâté into a large terrine dish or dishes of your choice.
  4. In a saucepan, heat 125g/4oz butter till melted, then pour off golden liquid into a jug, leaving any solids behind to be discarded. Pour over pâte so it completely covers, then allow it to set. 
  5. Keep in fridge till ready to serve.
This makes a great starter or if spread on bite sized pieces of toast makes wonderful canapes.

Italian Limoncello

I haven't tried this yet, but hope to soon!  Watch this space.....

  • 15 lemons*
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle of Everclear (grain) (190-proof) alcohol  (Strong, unflavoured vodka works too)
  • 900g / 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1.1litre / 5 cups water (filtered tap water or distilled water)
    * Choose thick-skinned lemons because they are easier to zest. The lemons must be yellow and not tinted with green.
  1. Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any residue of pesticides or wax; pat the lemons dry.
  2. Carefully peel with a vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel. NOTE: Use only the outer part of the rind. The pith, the white part underneath the rind, is too bitter and will spoil your limoncello.
  3. In a large glass jar (1-gallon jar with lid), add Everclear.
  4. Add the lemon zest as it is zested.
  5. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least ten (10) days and up to forty (40) days in a cool dark place.
  6. The longer the mixture rests, the better the end taste will be. (There is no need to stir - all you have to do is wait.) As the limoncello sits, the alcohol slowly takes on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon zest.
  7. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; bring to a gentle boil and let boil, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let the syrup cool before adding it to the limoncello mixture.
  8. Add cooled sugar mixture to the limoncello mixture (from Step One).
  9. Cover jar and allow to rest for another 10 to 40 days.
  10. After the rest period, strain the limoncello; discarding the lemon zest. Pour strained limoncello in bottle/bottles (of your choice) and seal tightly.

    NOTE: Coffee filters or cheesecloth work great for straining the mixture. Moisten the filters before beginning the straining process.

    Keep your bottle/bottles of limoncello in the freezer until ready to serve. Serve ice cold.

Chicken and Leek Pie

This is a recipe I saw on the television the other night. On Nigel Slaters Dish of the Day he made this pie as a  way to use a small piece of good but inexpensive chicken, we had some chicken in the freezer, so I thought I would give it a go and boy was I glad I did! This was a hit with the whole family and was really easy to do!
This is definitely going to to be a family staple from now on..... thanks Nigel!

  • 2 chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken legs
  • 8 peppercorns
  • ½ onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • milk (enough to cover chicken pieces)
  • 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, cut into postage stamp-size pieces
  • 30g/1oz butter
  • 2 leeks, sliced into ½ inch discs
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 3 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 x 375g/13oz packs of puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glazing
  • parmesan, grated, for topping

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. In a saucepan add the chicken, peppercorns, onion and bay leaf. Cover with milk. Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
  3. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in the butter. Add the sliced leeks and allow to soften.
  4. When the chicken is cooked remove from the milk and flake the chicken meat into the pan with the leaks, discarding the bones.
  5. Add the flour and cook through for two minutes before adding the milk through a sieve to remove peppercorns and bay leaf. Add the Dijon mustard. Stir constantly to make a thick sauce.
  6. Roll out the sheets of puff pastry to a rectangular shape at a pound coin thickness. Lay the filling on one sheet and then cover with the second sheet and crimp the edges.
  7. Brush the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkle the grated Parmesan over the top. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes

I made a few changes to the recipe.... I knew that I wanted this to do the 4 of us for 2 nights so I bulked out the filling a little by adding mushrooms to the frying pan once I had fried off the bacon.  I also used chicken drumsticks instead of thighs as that was what I had in the freezer. I didn't add the mustard or sprinkle with parmesan as my husband and son are not keen, although I would have loved it!!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Drop Scones (Scotch Pancakes)

  • 150g/5oz of Self Raising Flour
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Large Egg (beaten)
  • 150ml / quarter pint of Milk
  • butter for greasing the frying pan
  1. Sieve the flour, sugar, and salt into a bowl.
  2. Beat in the egg and then start to add the milk a bit at a time - don't make it too thin & runny - just pourable.
  3. Heat up the frying pan (skillet) to a medium heat and coat the base with butter.
  4. Pour the batter on one tablespoon at a time, not too close together, to make little pancakes. (Maybe do a single one as a test)
  5. As soon as bubbles start to appear and then burst - turn the pancakes over. This should take about one minute per side or until golden. If the pan is too hot they'll brown too quickly before the bubbles burst.
  6. Let the scotch pancakes cool for a minute before trying.
  7. Eat with honey, syrup or butter and jam.

Pancakes (Crepes)

It's Shrove Tuesday tomorrow, so in celebration here is a recipe for simple pancakes(or crepes).

In Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, pancakes are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, which is also known as "Pancake Day" and, particularly in Ireland, as "Pancake Tuesday". (Shrove Tuesday is better known in the United States, France and other countries as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.) Historically, pancakes were made on Shrove Tuesday so that the last of the fatty and rich foods could be used up before Lent. (from Wikipeadia)

  • 100g/4oz plain flour
  • 250ml/Half a Pint of milk
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  1. In measuring jug measure out the milk, sift in the flour and add the egg.
  2. Add in the pinch of salt.
  3. Beat together until a smooth batter has formed.
  4. Leave to sit for at least half an hour.
  5. Heat a small frying pan (skillet) on a medium heat and add a small knob of butter.
  6. Pour a small amount of the batter into the pan until a thin layer is formed.
  7. Once bubbles start to appear on your pancake it is ready to turn. Tossing pancakes is the traditional method.
  8. Cook briefly on other side and layer between sheets of greaseproof / parchment paper.
  9. Eat with lemon and sugar (or cheese and ham or chocolate and bananas or golden syrup).

Rolled pancakes with lemon and sugar.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Beef Goulash

  • 750g/26oz stewing beef
  • 60g/2oz butter
  • 4-5 tbsp plain flour (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 glove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground paprika
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup sour cream
  1. Dust beef with seasoned flour and shake of extra.
  2. Heat butter and oil in a heavy based saucepan. Fry of beef,in batches, until well browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  3. Add garlic, onion and paprika to pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring the ingredients together well.
  4. Return the meat to the pan and add the tomatoes, purée, stock and bay leaf and bring to the boil.
  5. cover, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours until meat is tender. Check every so often and add water if stew is becoming dry.
  6. When meat is cooked, season with salt and pepper and stir through the sour cream before serving.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Marble Cake

  • 125g/4oz butter
  • 175g/6oz caster sugar
  • 5ml/1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g/8oz self raising flour
  • 45-60ml/3-4tbsp milk
  • 30ml/2tsp cocoa power dissolved in same of water
  • 2.5ml/½tsp red food colouring
  1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar together until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the vanilla and eggs.
  4. Fold in the flour with the milk.
  5. Divide batter into three.
  6. Add the red food colouring to one third and the cocoa to another. Leave the last third as is.
  7. Spoon the mixtures into a well greased 18cm / 7in cake tin in alternate colours.
  8. Cut through and swirl the mixture using a skewer.
  9. Bake for 50 min to an hour, or until a knife inserted into the centre come out clean.
  10. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
I never use the red food colouring and instead only have choc and vanilla marble cake.
We have this cake un-iced but one of my friends has a recipe for icing this type of cake. I will ask if I can post her recipe.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 75g/3oz butter
  • 50g/2oz caster sugar
  • 125g/4oz self raising flour
  • 50g/2oz plain chocolate chips
  1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar together until fluffy.
  3. Fold in the flour to get a smooth paste.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Roll in to small balls and space evenly on a well greased baking tray (I use a piece of baking parchment to stop them from sticking).
  6. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
I can never get the mixture to bind once all of the ingredients are added so I always add a tiny splash of milk to bind them. My cookies need slightly longer baking but are always lovely.

You can change the type of chocolate chip (milk, white) or even add fudge pieces and you can make double chocolate chip by adding some cocoa power in place of the flour.