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…he’s going to be living with us for the next Month.

He’s our Christmas pudding. And that bottle behind him is his medicine.

Its not very often that anything you cook hangs around your house for a whole month but since he’s going to be with us for a while, he’s my first Christmas pudding, and I have to feed him once a week… I’m already quite attached. It seemed only fitting to give him a name (and it had to be something grand of course).

Because you have to store your pudding somewhere cool and every room in our house is now almost constantly warmed by central heating, he’s living in a large tub at the top of the stairs to the front door which is the only cool part of the whole house. So I pass him every morning and evening as I am heading for the door. I’ll probably start saying hello soon.

You also have to look after your pudding. He needs fed once a week with brandy. It may seem like a lot of alcohol for one pudding but if I was sitting in the cold for four weeks, I would also need a fortifying spoon of liquor every now and then to keep me going.

So if you like the idea of a pet for Christmas, its not too late to make your own. Here’s a recipe with a bit of a twist if you like your pudding a little less traditional.

Cherries and Berries Christmas Pudding (aka Tarquin)

I’ve used cherries and berries instead of the plain mix of raisins, currants and mixed peel and cherry brandy instead of plain. As long as you have 350g fruit in total you can make your own combination. Of course I havent had a chance to taste it yet but going on smell alone, I think I’m going to enjoy eating Tarquin just as much as I like looking after him.

  • 100g dried blueberries
  • 100g berries and  dried fruit mix (mix of cherries, cranberries, blueberries and raisins)
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 100g dried currants
  • 125ml cherry brandy
  • 90g unsalted butter
  • 75g breadcrumbs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 75 dark brown sugar
  • 1 eating apple, grated
  • 2 medium size eggs
  • 70ml sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 100ml vodka (for serving)

Butter a 3pint pudding basin and lid. The plastic ones are cheap and definitely less fuss than a bowl and foil top so although I normally don’t like having to find specialised cooking contraptions, in this case I make an exception (once you realise how easy it is to make a pudding you will use it every year too). Put the fruit and brandy in a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 min. slice the butter over the fruit, put a lid on and leave to sit for another 10 min. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, add the grated apple and then the fruit. Mix together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla and beat into the fruit mixture. If like me you allow yourself to get ridiculously over excited about Christmas and follow every daft tradition with an inane sense of glee then this is the point when you take your bowl around the house and get everyone to take a turn at stirring the pud (in my case that meant one bemused husband).

Once you have returned to the kitchen, spoon the pudding batter into the prepared basin and put on the lid. Place the basin in a large pot, pour water up to about half way up the sides and put on the pot lid. If you are not using a plastic basin that floats then you will need to place an upside down side plate in the bottom of the pot. You will also need to make sure you securely fasten a lid of kitchen foil and dont let any water get in which is not a problem with the plastic kind. Now bring the water to a gentle boil and steam the pudding for 4 hours, topping up the water as necessary. After 4 hours take the pudding out and leave it to cool before wrapping the basin in cling film and storing it somewhere cool and dark. Once a week, take your pudding out off his hiding place (its at this point that your pudding starts to develop a personality) and give him a tablespoon of cherry brandy before putting him back to bed.

When its time to serve, steam him for another 3-4 hours and turn out onto a serving dish. Warm the vodka, light it and pour the flaming liquid over the pudding (seems a little violent now that he’s a pet but what a way to go).

P.s. For thos of you who are interested, my topics for this month’s cooking challenges are as follows

  • Reinventing a classic – mince pies
  • Technical skills – french macarons
  •  As well as the usual “extraordinary flavours”

If you’d like to submit your own mince pie reinventions I will be doing a round up and there will be a little prize for the best one so please let me know if you are joining the challenge by leaving a comment/message, either on here or my facebook page, with a link to your post by the 31st December 2011 .

♥♥

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It’s nearly time to go…

I’m finally off to get married in Gozo and then use my honeymoon to eat my way around Sicily. So because I might not be able to post anything for a month I decided to write one final bumper post – a collage of pictures and recipes from the last two weeks of last minute chaos which have stopped me writing all the things I wanted to post on their own.

I did somehow find time in amongst work and wedding preparations to eat a lot of delicious things and even make a few of them myself. So this is my week in pictures…

Roseleaf – Ruby red risotto and a Madhatter!

Great little restaurant down near the docks in Edinburgh which has hats all over the walls, serves cocktails in teapots and produces some seriously good food. The Madhatter cocktail is brilliant!

Cheese and Cherry Scones (adapted from Goodfood magazine)

Not together, a batch of half cheese and the other half cherry. Remember that amazing scone recipe I mentioned…

  • 450g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g cold butter, diced
  • 284ml buttermilk, halved into two portions
  • 2 tbsp milk plus extra for glazing
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g glace cherries, chopped
  • 50g mature cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Combine flour, 1/2 tsp salt and bicarb and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Put half this mixture in another bowl.

For the cheese ones, add the rest of the salt, cheese and paprika. For the cherry ones, add the cherries, sugar and vanilla. Now mix in half the buttermilk and milk into each one and bring together to form a soft dough. Press out on a lightly floured surface to about 2cm thick and cut out with cookie cutters to form rounds. Place on a floured baking tray, brush the tops with milk and bake for 12-15min until golden and risen.

Chocolates, Calissons, Marzipan Fruit & Marron Glacé

A very generous gift of Puyricard Delicacies in return for the cakes I bring in to work when I’m in the mood bake.

Cherry & Coconut Cakes – made these as a birthday cake for Dawn last week

  • 225g butter
  • 225g self  raising flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g glace cherries
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 tbsp warmed cherry or strawberry jam
  • 100g desiccated coconut
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a 12 hole muffin tin. Cream the butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time. add the vanilla. Fold in the flour and chopped cherries and pour into the muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove and turn out on to a wire rack to cool. Dip the tops into the warmed jam and then the coconut.
And last but not least… The Daddy Steak Sandwich
  • 2 large rump steaks
  • 2 long ciabatta rolls
  • 1 punnet of chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1tsp english mustard powder
  • 1tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2tbsp mayonnaise

Fry the onions and mushrooms together until soft. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and continue to fry gently until the liquid has evapourated. Season and fry the steak until medium rare (usually a couple of minutes each side, depending on how thick your steak is). Combine the mustards and mayonnaise and spread on both halves of the warmed rolls. Add the steak and top with mushrooms and onions. Ta da!

Speak to you all in a month, wish me luck!

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