Archive for December, 2009

h1

Much Christmas Baking was Done

December 28, 2009


There’s nothing quite like having a purpose and a plan, and Christmas provided ample opportunity for both. The lists I’ve made, the recipes I’ve collated and the baking that my kitchen has seen have filled many an hour.

Mary Berry’s Christmas Cakes were handed out amongst friends and family


Work colleagues were treated to the large Christmas cake which I sliced small and topped with icing stars along with a Ginger and Chocolate Bundt Cake from Martha from my new festive tin



There were also tins of Swiss Cinnamon Stars to nibble on with morning coffee



An evening of gin was had at mine where I served the mince pies with the gin mincemeat (the leftovers of which have also been making an appearance in my morning porridge)



Along with Panfote all’Inglese made with gluten free flour and an additional hint of cloves and orange zest



And some spiced, candied nuts, from the ever reliable Smitten Kitchen, to nibble on – these will be making an appearance as gifts next year, the mix and the nuts presented in a festive jar (top tip to be included along with the mix; use baking parchment rather than foil to line the pan)



The day itself was a lovely one, the timings of roasts scare me but a plan was drawn up



The timings adhered to, even through the warm glow of a festive G&T and the end result, on the table at 2pm sharp


I hope everyone had a lovely break, whatever they did, whatever they ate and whoever they shared it with.
Advertisements
h1

Gin in the AM (and another bundt)

December 6, 2009


Not hair of the dog but an ingredient in the mincemeat I made this morning in preparation for mince pies.

Another Sunday, another 4am start and another few hours spent in the kitchen. The idea for gin and the base recipe I used came from a friend who kindly gave me a taste of her batch earlier in the week. I am a little scared of mince pies as pastry is my baking nemesis. Last year, full of good intentions, with family coming to visit, my Christmas Eve baking session ended up in the bin. Luckily I had some shop bought ones in the cupboard and when people arrived the house at least smelled of fresh, home-baked mince pies (and no, I didn’t try and pass them off as my own!).

There was something very therapeutic about chopping the apples whilst listening to yet more torrential rain. The high point of the morning was adding a little of the cooling (pre-gin) mixture to my porridge. The finished product is sat, in jars, maturing and waiting for me to be brave enough to attempt the pastry.

This weekend I also put my Christmas decorations up, fed the Christmas cakes again and had a little slice of the test cake – delicious. I love this time of year.

As the mincemeat didn’t call for me to use the kitchenAid I of course had to bake something else too. I went with Dorie Greenspan’s ‘All-in-One Holiday Bundt’ crammed full of cranberries, pumpkin, apple, nuts and spices, it’s just delicious.

Mincemeat

Makes about 1 1/2 large kilner jars
200g muscavado sugar
175g butter
Juice and Zest of 3 oranges (approx 200ml)
Zest of 1 lemon
Heaped tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

750g Bramley Apples finely diced (approx 4)
340g currants
340g raisins
200g dried cranberries

Put butter, sugar, orange juice and spices in a pan, heat slowly until smooth, add apple, zests, dried fruits and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for 10 – 15 mins or until the apples are soft. Allow to cool then add the gin …. and a bit more … and go on just a bit more. I added a lot of gin … I will let you know how it turns out in a few days!



All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake
from Dorie Greespan’s ‘Baking, From my Home to Yours’

300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarb
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tps freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
135g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar (I reduced to 3/4’s)
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar (I used reduced this too, to about 1/3 cup, not packed)
2 large eggs at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved
1 cup pecans roughly chopped (I used walnuts).

Butter and flour your bundt tin and preheat the oven to 175C
Mix flour, spices and raisin agents in bowl
Mix butter and sugars until light and fluffy (approx 5 mins) at medium speed
Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 min after each addition
Add vanilla
Reduce speed and add pumpkin and apple – Dorie points out at this point not to worry if your mixture looks curdled – mine did!
On low speed add the dry ingredients but do not over mix
using a spatula stir in cranberries and nuts – spoon into pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 60 – 70 mins, leave to cool in tin for 5 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.





h1

Still Loving the Soup

December 3, 2009

As I mentioned previously, my trip to Scotland reignited my love for soup and I’ve made plenty since, adapting the original recipe from the River Cafe quite a bit over the weeks. Then I saw the invitation on What’s for Lunch Honey to take part in the 38th Monthly Mingle – Warming Soups for the Happy Soul. Well, I don’t really believe in the concept of the soul as such, however if there’s something that lifts and warms my heart it’s chopping and stirring, creating over a low simmer and then enjoying the fruits of my labour, and this soup has warmed me, both literally and figuratively quite a bit over the past few weeks.


Firstly, the tinned cannelini beans were a bit hit or miss, too often dry and grainy. Textures are always important in food, whether complimentary or contrasting, and I make this soup with plenty of very chunky vegetables in order to provide some bite, the greens added at different times to give variation. The beans are by no means the main ingredient, but there’s nothing worse than glancing at the next mouthful on the spoon, spying a bean and feeling a sense of trepidation. I bought some Cerrato ‘Organic Minestrone with Kamut’ bean mix containing various beans and lentils from Waitrose on a whim, the pre-soaking is a bit of a pain, but worth it as they’re just delicious.

I’ve added a decent amount of tomato puree for some extra depth and a sprinkling of chilli flakes too. I’ve also, thanks to an excess in a colleagues veg box and their generosity, discovered calvo nero and can’t seem to get enough at the moment. I don’t know how many the following recipe would feed as it keeps me going for nearly a week, the flavours developing all the time. The great thing is it’s infinately adaptable – take out or add as your taste or the seasons dictate.

200g beans pre-soaked for 12 hours
Olive oil
1 large leek
1 large carrot
1 head of celery
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Bunch of parsley
Tomato puree
1/4 tsp chili flakes
large bunch of Calvo Nero or cabbage/greens of your choice, roughly chopped

  • Cover the beans with water, cover, bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes.
  • Chop the carrots, leeks and celery roughly, I like my veg to still have a bite at the end so keep the pieces quite big.
  • Put a dash of olive oil in a large pan, when hot add the chopped veg and cook slowly over a medium heat for 20 mins, stirrring all the time to prevent them browning or sticking.
  • Add tomato puree, chopped parsley, chili flakes to your taste and coat the vegetables before adding the tin of tomatoes, simmer for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are reduced.
  • Add the greens – if using a more delicate green reserve half for adding at a later point
  • Add the drained beans and pour boiling water over to cover the contents of the pan and simmer for 20 – 30 mins.
  • If you’ve reserved some greens add them 5 mins before the end.
  • Serve with some parmesan and fresh bread should you wish.

h1

Shiny New Thing

December 1, 2009
I’ve not had a good week. Well, some bits have been fantastic; my birthday was spent with friends, I felt loved and I had lots of fun – along with a fair amount of gin. I’ve been to the cinema several times; seen good films, bad films, barely watched one film at all because it was too scary and had rather a lot of damn fine popcorn. I have all but finished my Christmas shopping, eaten and baked cakes, drunk good wine and tasted Marmite Truffles for the first (but not the last) time. When I write it out like that it seems wrong to sum up the past seven days as poor, but the things that have gone wrong, whilst not taking away from all the lovely things I’ve done and shared, still make for a sum total of a pretty bad week.

So I shopped.

And I bought a shiny, new, lovely thing that I have been resisting for so long.

Todays inaugural baking session took place pre-dawn once again and I just can’t imagine how I’ve managed without (a bit like when I finally capitulated and ordered Sky+). I’m not one for the personification of inanimate objects but this may need to have a name as I can see a meaningful relationship developing (not the type to feature on a Channel Five documentary you understand).


To pair with the most American of kitchen equipment I went with the most American of cakes and baked a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing from Epicurious, found via the recent Bundt Fest over at the Food Librarian. She did a recent round up of all the Bundts baked on National Bundt Day and my contribution features. I reduced the sugar slightly, 1 1/4 cups of caster sugar equals about 280g but I used 250g, I read somewhere recently that a lot of US recipes can cope with less sugar so I’ll be giving it a try. This also had a sugar and buttermilk glaze which added an great sweet and sour element.

I really enjoyed the finished cake, quite simple in terms of taste but unusual to a palate not raised on the taste of pumpkin. There is a comment section on the Epicurious site and there are plenty of hints and tips about adjusting the spices and ways to get a better glaze. The initial glaze on mine went translucent, but I added more once the cake was cold.