Monday 10 December 2012

Pour a bottle of half decent red wine in a saucepan, add a glug of brandy, a slurp of honey, add an orange, sliced, a cinnamon stick, 6 cloves and a star anice and heat gently.

Spread a little luxury on some toast and served with mulled wine. What better way to celebrate the lighting of our Advent candles. My apologies; late again with my post. Great day at Abergavenny christmas food and drink fair. Tutored tasting went well. Bought lots of charcuterie, chocolates and other goodies for presents, ready for Christmas. Then had a delicious late lunch at the Hardwick - The Terrys certainly know how to train their girls - beautiful service! Back to the recipe now.....

Luxurious Venetian Liver Crostini

1 tablespoon of olive oil

15g butter

200g onion, finely sliced

2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley or marjoram, finely chopped

250g thinly sliced calves liver, or half quantities of lambs liver and half chicken livers

50-100ml hot stock

Salt and pepper

1 baguette cut into slices 1 cm thick

Extra salt

2 extra tablespoons parsley or marjoram, finely chopped

Caper berries or gherkins for serving

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy based saucepan over low heat. Add the finely sliced onion and parsley, stir and cover. Cook slowly for fifty minutes, adding a little water from time to time to prevent burning.
Cut the liver into slivers roughly the size of dominoes. When the onion is very soft, increase the heat and add the liver, turning it quickly to seal, add the stock and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Add plenty of seasoning and taste. Stir well.
Stain off any excess liquor. Transfer the liver and onion to a board or food processor and chop into grain size pieces with a knife and serve on tartine of crusty buttered bread or crostini topped with a little parsley or marjoram.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Whiskey and ginger Chrismas cake

I love a traditional Christmas cake; but like a lot of other people I find a little goes a long way (read - too many calories) Don’t let this put you off; the best thing about Christmas cake is that you don’t need to eat it all at once, it keeps well. After the festivities, wrap it up and put it in a tin and it will keep for as long as you can resist it. We are all far too quick to throw food away and there is no need. All this said Christmas cake never lasts long enough in our house as my husband ploughs through it with no trouble at all and just when I have a fancy of a slice it has already gone.

Top tip: if you don’t have time to soak the fruit overnight; steep it in boiling water for 5 minutes and drain and toss in a clean tea towel to remove any excess water then stir in the whiskey etc.

Whiskey and ginger Christmas cake
150 g sultanas
150 g raisins
400 g currants
100 g stem ginger finely chopped, rinsed in boiling water and drained
Juice and fine zest of 1 lemon
Juice and fine zest of 1 oranges
4 tablespoons whiskey
2 tablespoons ginger wine
200 g plain flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon mixed spice
50 g chopped whole almonds
200 g salted butter
200 g muscovado sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons golden syrup

Pre-heat oven to 140C, gas mark 1

Line an 18 cm cake tin with baking parchment

Put the dried fruit, ginger, mixed peel, citrus rind and juice, whiskey and ginger wine in a bowl, cover with a cloth and soak overnight.

The next day sieve the flour and spices together into a bowl.

Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat hard until light, fluffy and very pale. Put the eggs in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Add the egg to the creamed butter and sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mixture starts to curdle add a tablespoon of the sieved flour mixture.

Fold in the flour and spice mixture and the fruit and chopped nuts and golden syrup.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin.

Tie brown paper around the tin. Put your cake on the lower shelf of the oven for 4 – 4 ½ hours or until firm to the touch. Test with a baking skewer; if the skewer comes out dry it is ready. If not return the cake to the oven for little longer.

Leave to cool in the tin then wrap in foil and store in a plastic bag.

Unwrap from time to time. Pierce with a cocktail stick and feed with a tablespoon of spirit.Take care to re-wrap the cake carefully each time.

Monday 3 December 2012

Born with cider running through my veins

Cider cup

I always say that I was born with cider running through my veins! My maternal grandmother's family home was a cottage with its own cider mill set in a vast cider apple orchard that ran down to a stream. Linton in Gloucestershire  is a small fertile area of gentle rolling countryside with its own micro-climate, crisscrossed with tiny roads that connected once major cider producing orchards.
I now live, not far away in Herefordshire home of two of the best known cider producers in the country and an infinitesimal number of craft, cider makers. It is no surprise then, to say that I never tire of drinking cider. I like the rougher dryer more genuine varieties rather than the mass produced ciders sold in many pubs.
Given my love for it I also love to make cups and punches with cider. They are festive, traditional and practical when large numbers of people are involved. They can be mixed in advance and the sparkling elements added when ready to serve. Use chilled ingredients or an ice block rather than adding lots of ice which can make the punch watery.

1 wineglass of brandy (apple brandy if possible)
1 vanilla pod
25 g sugar or more to taste depending on the type of cider uses
1 L best cider
500 - 750 ml soda water
1 thinly sliced lemon and extra lemon juice
1 dessert apple cut into wedges and sprinkled with lemon juice

Put the brandy in a punch bowl or large stainless steel pan. Slit the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the brandy. Add 25 g sugar and leave for at least an hour or until required.
When ready to serve top up with the cider and 500 ml soda and stir well. Taste and add extra sugar and soda as required.
Add the fruit, stir again and serve with a ladle.

Star struck mince pies

Apologies for not posting this recipe as promised we have been having problems with our internet connection over the weekend.
A mince pie should be a rich melt in the mouth experience. So keep pastry light and roll it as thinly as possible. I use all lard and no butter but I have given a half and half quantity. Lard makes extremely light pasty and is a hugely undervalued commodity but I know many of you would prefer to find some butter in your pastry.
If you don't make your own mincemeat add a finely chopped cooking apple and a little extra spirit to shop bought to subtle-up the flavour. If you want to make your own, take a look at my special mincemeat recipe in the previous post. One more thing don’t over-do the mincemeat because it will boil out of the pies.

makes 24

2 x 12 mince pie trays, greased
2 fluted pastry cutters 7cm and 6cm
1 star shaped cutter 4-5cm

400 g plain flour sieved
Pinch salt
100 g butter and 100 g lard cold from fridge cut into cubes
Cold water
caster sugar for sprinkling
extra flour for rolling
Icing sugar for serving

1- 2 pots good quality mince meat
1 cooking apple or hard pear finely chopped
2 tablespoons brandy or rum

Pre-heat oven to 180C gas mark 4

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, add the chopped fat and rub in with the tips of your fingers to form crumbs.
Add 6-8 tablespoons cold water and mix with a knife and bring the dough together in a ball with the fingers.
Flour a work surface. Cut the dough in half and roll out a piece at a time as thinly as possible and cut out 24 discs with the larger of the two cutters.
Line the greased mince pie trays with the pastry disks.
Tip the mincemeat in a bowl, add the chopped apple and the brandy or rum and mix well. Add a generous teaspoon of mince meat to each pie.
Now roll out the other ball of dough, dusting the work surface first with more flour. This time cut out 24 discs with the smaller cutter. Then cut a star shape into the middle of the disks without taking out the "star".
Using a pastry brush paint the edges of the pies with cold water and put the starred lids on top and seal. Paint the lids with cold water and sprinkle generously with caster sugar and bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until crisp and lightly golden.
Leave to cool in tins and then transfer to a rack until quite cold. Store in an airtight tin or freezer until required and reheat in a warm oven and dust with icing sugar before serving.