Christmas Cake

It’s that time of year to start your Christmas cooking. This week, I have baked my Christmas cake. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her Christmas book.

First up, was to soak the fruit in brandy – all 400ml of it! After bringing it to the boil, it was left to steep overnight and it smelt absolutely heavenly.

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The next day, I prepared the rest of the mixture and was just about to start adding in the fruit and dry ingredients to the sugar, butter and eggs, when I found out I didn’t have enough nuts. Mad dash to the shop to get the missing ingredient and it was on with the mixing. Mixing together the finished batter is pretty tough going, but stick with it and think of the good it’s doing for your bingo wings!

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Lining the tin is always fun, but after some adjustments, it was ready and full of cake mix, which was then popped in the oven on 150C.

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Nigella said it would take between 2.75-3.25hours, but I checked mine after 2.5hrs and it was done.

 

 

After getting it out of the oven, I brushed the top with more brandy and wrapped in tin foil twice. It cracked!! But this was because I didn’t allow it to cool enough, so make sure you really allow yours to cool before taking it out of the tin. However, checking the cake again today and it has survived, hurrah!

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For the next five weeks now,  I shall feed the cake brandy every day, through until Christmas Eve, when I shall ice it, ready for the big day.

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Sausage Rolls

One of the big favourites in my house is sausage rolls. It seems I can’t make enough of them and as fast as I make them, they vanish!

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I use shop-bought puff pastry for my sausages rolls – in my world, life is too short to be making puff pastry. I also, always buy my sausage meat from the butcher, rather than the supermarket, as I find it is far less fatty and much tastier. Personal preference.

I always make a double batch and for this I use two packs of pastry and two packs of sausages meat.

Put the sausage meat in a good-sized bowl and add plenty of Worcestershire Sauce and as much tobacco as you like. Add a pinch of thyme or any other dried herb you like, salt and pepper and two or three rashers of bacon, cut up into small pieces. If I have any to hand, I also chop up a handful of olives and add those too. I’ve also added parmesan cheese in the past. In fact, it’s a bit of a running joke in the house that I never make them the same way twice! Actually, on this occasion, I fried off tiny pieces of chorizo and added that and its released oil into the mix.

I say experiment and just try adding a bit of this and that and see how it turns out!

Once you have all your ingredients in the bowl, it’s time to get your hands dirty and give it a good squish together.

Roll out your ready-to-use pastry and slice into two long rectangles. Place a line of sausage meat mix down the centre of each half and carefully roll into the ‘sausage’ shape. I use milk as a wash to seal the pastry together rather than eggs. Once you have your sausage roll, milk wash the top and then cut into portions – it’s entirely up to you what size you want. Pop a little slash in the top of each sausage roll.

Use the paper the pastry was wrapped in for your baking paper and pop into a pre-heated oven at 200C for around 20mins, or until the sausage rolls are nicely golden. Leave them to cool on a wire rack, or watch them vanish, which may be the preferred option for others in your home!20170816_234736

Apple Cake

Like many of us at the moment I’m sure, I am wading my way through an absolute mountain of apples. We were very lucky so stumble across some wild growing apples, so we stocked up – my other half eats them like they’re going out of fashion!

So, on the menu, just had to be an apple cake.

I had a browse online and came across this recipe for Dorset Apple Traybake. It looked simple enough, so I gave it a go.

It’s very easy, all of the ingredients go into a bowl at once to make sponge cake – a very rich one at that I might add. And then you layer the sponge mix and apples into a baking tin before popping in the oven – simple!

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I have to say the finished cake is rather nice and I can highly recommend you give it a try. I think next time I give it a go, I may add some spices or chocolate chips, maybe even some peanut butter.

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Sharon’s Parcels

Last night, I made a steak and kidney pie for dinner, thinking – foolishly! – it would last for two nights’ dinner. Wrong! My partner couldn’t help but go back for seconds, meaning there was only enough left for dinner tonight – my dinner! But what was I going to give him??

I opted for pasties, or as they turned out, Sharon’s Parcels! Now, for me, life is just too short to make pastry, well more to the point, it’s the one thing that I’m yet to brave making on my own. But, as I was using puff pastry on this occasion, I think I can get away with shop bought – can’t I?

Starting with some casserole steak, I diced it into bite-sized pieces and browned them in a saucepan, with a little oil, before removing the meat into a bowl and dusting with plain flour – this will help to thicken the gravy later.

Then I put a finely chopped onion and two cloves of minced garlic in the same pan and softened them for a few minutes, before adding a finely chopped carrot, finely sliced leek and a good knob of butter, along with a beef stock pot and a red wine stock pot. Allow the stock pots to melt down and keep everything moving in the pan.

Return the steak to the pan, along with any juices that have seeped out, whilst it’s been resting and give it a good stir. Add in enough water to just cover everything in the pan and turn the heat down low, add some salt, pepper, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and a pinch or oregano, stir it in and let the meat mix simmer for a good hour, stirring occasionally.

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After an hour, add a potato, cut up small and add that into the mix. I had baking potatoes to hand, so that’s what went in. I added it later, so it didn’t turn to mush. Check too at this point whether the gravy is thick enough for you – remember, it’s going in pastry, so you want a fairly thick one. If it’s not thick enough, make a slurry out of cornflour and add that in, giving it a good stir. Leave to simmer for another hour, again stirring occasionally, then take the pan off the heat and allow to cool.

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Once cool, take your pastry and roll it out – or unroll if you’re like me, using shop bought – and cut your shapes. I had two rectangles. Put a generous, but not too generous amount of filling in, put a little milk – it’s cheaper than egg wash – around the edges and make your parcels, or if you’re super neat, pasties. Brush the top with milk and put in the oven at 180C for around half an hour. Again, I’m a so-and-so for timings, I go by look and feel, so just keep checking! When the pastry is golden brown and possibly serving.

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A sturdy baking tray is a kitchen staple in my opinion.

Adorable Bee Cookie Cutter

It’s always dangerous leaving me alone in the kitchen section of any shop. The other day, whilst waiting for a friend to join me for coffee, I stumbled across the cutest little – or no so little – cookie cutter. In recent months, I seem to have developed a bit of a love for bees.

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This lovely beehive with bees cutter is available in Sainsbury’s – I’ve found it online here – and was just too sweet not to pick up. I have to admit, I haven’t yet used it, but I’m longing to do so. I’m guessing that all the little bees and pieces of hive will become individual cookies. Owing to the different sizes, there could be, shall we say, ‘heated discussions’ as to who gets which bits!

I also found this other beehive option online, which doesn’t have the bees, but is still lovely.

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