Friday, 20 December 2013

Cherry chocolate spice cake

200g butter, 100g icing sugar, 75g dark chocolate, 120g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 100g self raising flour, 25g cocoa powder, 1 tsp baking powder, 150ml red wine, 1 tsp cinnamon,
1/2 tsp cloves, 1/2 tsp allspice, 100g natural glace cherries, 2 packs chocolate fingers, 1 pack maltesers. 

Serves: 6 Preparation: 1 hour

When it comes to Christmas, mulled wine is at the top of my list of indulgences. The scent fills the house and warms the blood. When it comes to festive cakes, not everyone likes the traditional fruit cake so I always make an alternative. Last year it was mulled wine cake, which was lovely... but this year I wanted something a little more decadent, which meant at LOT more chocolate. Unlike the "dry" spice cake of last year, this cake involves cherry mulled wine syrup to flavour the cake, glaze the cake and ice the cake. A holy trinity of taste that I will definitely be making again and again!

1) Bring the red wine, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and cherries to the boil in a pan. Add 20g sugar and simmer until the wine has reduced to a syrup, pour through a sieve (saving the cherries) and set aside to cool.

Cream together 100g sugar and 100g butter using an electric whisk, then whisk through the cocoa powder and eggs, one egg at a time.

3) Add a tablespoon of the mulled wine syrup and sift together the flour and baking powder. Whisk into the cake batter, then bake in a buttered tin for 35 minutes at 155 degrees or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cake rack to cool completely.

4) To make the chocolate icing, melt the chocolate gently in a bain marie. Cream together 100g butter and 100g icing sugar, then slowly add the melted chocolate and a tablespoon of the mulled wine syrup, whisking continually.

5) Using the remainder of the mulled wine syrup, glaze the cake thoroughly before spreading on the chocolate icing. To decorate the cake, stick the chocolate fingers round the edge, using the chocolate icing as sort of grouting. The chocolate fingers form a sort of dish in the centre to fill with maltesers and the mulled cherries. I also dusted this with edible gold shimmer because CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Chestnut gravy


1 1/2 pints vegetable stock, 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg, 1 tsp nigella seeds, 2 onions, 1 tbsp garlic salt, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 can chestnut puree.

Serves: 10 Preparation: 30 minutes

Vegetarian gravy. It is what it is but it rarely competes with a "proper" gravy in terms of colour, texture and flavour. This Christmas, treat your vegan and vegetarian guests to a beautiful, fragrant sauce that isn't bulked out with thickening agents and flour that compromise the flavour. Speaking of flavour - what could be more Christmas than chestnut and nutmeg? Bring it on! (Mashed potato snowmen optional)

1) Peel and thinly slice the onion, then pop out the rings. Add to a pan with the olive oil and nigella seeds and sizzle until soft.

2) Add the rosemary, thyme and garlic salt, then stir in the chestnut puree.

3) Add the vegetable stock and bay leaf and stir until the chestnut puree has dissolved.

4) Season to taste with salt pepper and freshly grated nutmeg and serve.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Chorizo butter


Butter, chorizo.
Preparation: 10 minutes (plus 5 hours for chilling)

You know how it goes, it's almost Christmas and you've either run out of money or run out of ideas and desperately decide to bake biscuits or make chutneys or jam as extra Christmas presents. Not that chutneys and jam and biscuits are bad Christmas presents - I'd far rather receive some biscuits made with love than something shop-bought and full of preservatives and additives - but for most people it's a hassle to organise during an already pressured time of year.
Well enter clarified, flavoured butter. For the meat-lover in your life, this will make the most fabulous bacon sandwich bread spread they've ever had. And for roasting potato wedges? Fuhgeddaboudit! Delicious. And all it takes is 10 minutes, a pan, a knife and some kilner jars.

1) Slice and dice your chorizo (it's up to you what ratio you use to butter - I tend to use about 1/4 of a chorizo per 500g of butter but even if you only have a knobby end of chorizo left, you can still render a surprising amount of colour and flavour out of it!) and add it to a cold pan.

2) Gently heat it, dry until some of the fat begins to seep out, then add the butter. Taking a spatula, stir constantly as the butter begins to melt and the chorizo begins to sizzle.

3) Do not allow the butter to burn, turn down the heat once it begins to sizzle.

4) After around 2 minutes, pour the butter through a sieve to separate the chorizo pieces and then scoop off the "froth" that you will see on the surface of the butter.

5) Pour the now clarified butter into your kilner jars and seal. Chill in the fridge and dish them out as presents!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Peanut buttered mash


1 tsp peanut butter for every potato.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Over the years I have shared many mash recipes on this blog. Whether potatoes or other root vegetables, whether herby, garlicky, buttery, cheesy, spicy or creamy - mashed potato is the food of the Gods. When I was recently sent some luscious Whole Earth peanut butter, I knew it would add a great salty richness to my mash. I tried this with and without adding regular butter and honestly it's delicious either way so this is vegan friendly.

1) Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks and bring to the boil in a pan of water. Leave to simmer until soft (about 20 minutes depending on how small you cut your potatoes) then drain away the water through a colander.

2) Using a potato ricer, masher or food processor, mash the potatoes and stir in a teaspoon of peanut butter for every potato before serving hot.

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