Advent Calendar 6 and 7: Christmas Chutney and Cranberry-Red Onion Marmalade

It doesn’t get much more festive than Cranberries. They’re in season over the festive period, they’re santa-suit red and they taste phenomenal with meats and cheeses- staples in many a Christmas feast. They also have a very high pectin count, meaning they make excellent additions to preserves, helping them to set beautifully.

Cranberry sauce is great and all, but we can do better at SWB this year. Plus, a good chutney or savoury marmalade is a fabulous addition to any cheeseboard or buffet. Here are two of my Christmastime favourites I’m making up for my own Christmas dinner, plus extra for gifts.

Christmas Chutney

This recipe is childsplay to throw together and packs a great flavour punch. It goes great with sharp cheeses or meats in sandwiches, and can be made, start to finish, in under 45 minutes., including any chopping.

  • 400g cranberries
  • 400g cherry tomatoes (you can use regular tomatoes, just chop them up first)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1/2tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 100ml cider vinegar

Chop the onion into rough slices.

Pop the cranberries, onion and tomatoes into a saucepan over a low heat, and heat for 10 minutes, until the berries start to pop.

Add all the remaining ingredients and stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.

Simmer the chutney for 15-25 minutes until the chutney is combined and pulpy.

Pot into sterilised jars, or store in the fridge.

IMG_6848Next up is a delicious red onion marmalade with the festive twist. If you don’t want to use the cranberries, use an extra 400g of onions instead for a true red onion marmalade.

Cranberry and Red Onion Marmalade

  • 500g red onions
  • Juice of an orange
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground gunger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 150ml ruby port
  • 100ml cider vinegar
  • 400g cranberries

In a glug of oil, fry the onions off until translucent.

Add the orange juice, port, vinegar, sugar and all the spices. Stir through to combine and dissolve the sugar.

Simmer the mixture gently for 35-40 minutes. The mixture should be nice and syrupy by this point.

Chuck in the cranberries and turn up the heat a little. Cook for a further 15-20 minutes, until all the berries have popped and the mixture is nice and thick.

Pot into sterilised jars and store in the fridge.

 

Enjoy!

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Advent Calendar 4: Christmas Cake

If you are anything like me, then the year has gotten away from you, and half a moment ago it was halloween, and you were overdue for making your Christmas cake, and now, BAM! It’s December 4th, and you still haven’t done it. Do not despair, dear ones. It is not too late.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t *need* to make a Christmas cake months and months in advance. Sure, you get more time to feed it to boozy godliness if you do, but it is not essential. So long as you make your cake 3-4 weeks before the big day, you will have plenty of time to get in plenty of feedings to have a delicious, brandy spiked delight to serve on Christmas Day.

The recipe below is adapted from Delia Smith’s age old and much loved Christmas cake recipe. I’ve really only removed the nuts (I prefer the texture nut free, personally), tweaked the spices to my preference, and altered the fruit a little (cranberries > currants).

Christmas Cake

  • 750g dried fruit (you can pretty use whichever dried fruits you like in this mixture. I used approximately 100g glacé cherries, 200g sultanas, 200g raisins and 250g dried cranberries)
  • 50g candied peel
  • 3tsbp brandy
  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1tsbp treacle
  • Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

9-12 hours before you want to make the cake, or the evening before, weigh out the fruit into a mixing bowl (If you like, you can chop your cherries, but I prefer them as whole gleaming jewels in the finished cake). Drizzle the brandy over the fruit and stir to ensure all the fruit is coated. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to steep. If you are able, the odd stir during this process will only help the absorption.

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Preheat the oven to 130-140c and double line an 8 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper. Prepare a double layer of greaseproof to sit on top of the cake in the oven too. This will help protect the cake from over-browing during its long and slow baking.

Weigh out your flour and measure out your spices. Sieve or whisk together to remove lumps.

In another bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat the eggs, and mix into the butter mixture in 2-4 parts until completely incorporated.

Add the flour mix into the wet ingredients and fold to combine.

Finally add the zest, treacle and fruit, and fold into the mixture until it is uniform.

Pour the cake batter in the prepared tin, cover with the paper ‘lid’, and pop it in the oven for 4 and 1/2 hours. If your oven is particularly fierce, check at 4.

Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing the cake to an airtight container. Poke the cake full of holes with a toothpick, and drizzle in a healthy plug of brandy. Repeat this process at least once a week until you are ready to ice the cake, flipping the cake over each time to ensure an even feeding.

 

Like a lot a festive recipes, this cake is super easy, it’s just time consuming, and contains a lot of ingredients. Making your own Christmas cake is a labour of love, and will rapidly become a tradition in your household, if for no other reason than the phenomenal scent of it baking for hours on end. With so many steps before the cake is baked, and after, theres plenty to get the whole family involved in. If you are tee-total, use strong tea instead of brandy in the first step, and simply don’t feed the cake. It will keep well enough if it is kept airtight.

Enjoy!

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Advent Calendar 3: Quincemeat

I have wanted to make this recipe for literally years, but it has been too difficult to find the ingredients. However, with quince making a resurgence, and whole bushel of them showing up in my local wholefood shop, I decided it was about time to scratch this recipe off my to do list.

I love mince pies, and mincemeat in general. They celebrate the best
of the season; sweet fruits, heady spices and plenty of warming booze. This ‘Quincemeat’ has all of that in spades.

Quincemeat

  • Approx. 1kg quince (3-4 fruits is a good guide for this. I used just over 3 for this recipe.)
    2 tbsp butter
    250g sultanas
    250g raisins
    250g dried apricots
    250g soft light brown sugar (muscovado is a good call but any soft brown sugar will do)
    100g candied peel
    1tsp ground cloves
    1tsp ground ginger or cardamom
    1tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    100ml calvados or brandy

Preheat the oven to 150c.

Peel, core and chop your quince into chunks. Quince have a much firmer flesh and woodier core than their cousins apples and pears, so take your time and use a sharp knife. Place the fruit on an oven tray or dish

IMG_6781.JPGMelt the butter and drizzle it over the quince. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the quince is soft.

Pour the hot quince and any juices into a mixing bowl. Rouglychop the sultanas and raisins and cut down the apricots into sultana-sized pieces. Add the fruit to the quince and mix together. Allow the mixture to cool completely.

Measure out your spices, sugar peel and booze. Add in the dry ingredients and peel and mix through, before adding the brandy and doing the same.

Pot up into jars or store covered in the fridge.

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This recipe isn’t particularly difficult. Like most mincemeats it just takes time and has a lot of ingredients. The most difficult parts are the chopping of the quince, and then the chopping of the sticky dried fruit. Beyond that it is just a case of weighing, mixing and and waiting.

This sweet and aromatic mincemeat makes a nice change from the dark and sticky traditional mincemeat. Pair it with lightly spic pastry or vanilla infused creams and ice creams for out of this world desserts this Christmas. Also, this method, with perhaps a reduced cook time, would work exceedingly well with similar fruits like apples and pears if quince are not availiable.

Enjoy!

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Advent Calendar 1: Sbiten

To get the ball rolling on this recipe advent calendar, here’s a Russian winter warmer that’s great if you want something fruity this festive season.

Sbiten used to be the eastern european go-to warm drink. The recipe was first documented in the twelfth century, and wasn’t replaced by the now more popular tea and coffee until the 1800s.

Full of festive spices and sweet blackberry flavours, this inky drink is going to becomes a season favourite of yours, for sure.

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Sbiten

  • 115g blackberry jam or bramble jelly
  •  honey
  • 1tsp cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint, or a pinch of dried
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 625ml water

This recipe couldn’t be simpler. Put all your ingredients in a saucepan and bring it up to the boil, stirring to combine and to melt the jam.

Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Strain, and serve piping hot.

 

If you have leftover Sbiten, you can store it in the fridge for a day or two and reheat as needed. Realistically though, this sweet and spicy drink is going to vanish faster than you can say ‘Za zdorovje’!

Enjoy!

Red Berry Pavlova

I love meringue. As a child, when my brother and I went with a parent to the baker to buy bread for the weekend, we would often be allowed a treat. Hot sausage rolls were one of our favourites (and I’ve never had one better, even if I can’t really process pork and they made me ill in the long run), but if we went for sweet things, I would nearly always pick a meringue pig, or dog, or sheep, or whatever animal they were doing that day. There’s something so perfect about the crisp outer shell yielding to gummy, soft, insides. Fluffy and crunchy and so, so sweet and light. Mmmm.

For a big family party, I volunteered to make a few desserts. One was the lovely fruit salad I shared a week or so ago. Another was a fabulous three tiered red velvet cake. The third was a sumptuous double layered Red Berry Pavlova.

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This is originally a Jaime Oliver recipe, and boy did good. I’ve never had much luck making my own meringue in the past, but this time it came out perfectly. The only thing you really need for a pavlova is time. This meringue recipe would work perfectly for individual nests or biscuits too, but here’s how I made my pavlova.

Red Berry Pavlova

  • 6 Egg whites
  • 300g plus 2 tbsp Caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 400g Strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 400g Raspberries
  • 400ml Double cream
  • Plenty of sprigs of fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 150c. Line 2 baking sheets with greaseproof paper, and outline a 20cm/8inch diameter ring on each with pencil.

Either in a stand mixer or in a bowl with an electric whisk, beat up the 6 egg whites at a medium pace, until you reach firm peaks.

Next, add your salt, then gradually add your sugar about 1/6-1/4 at a time, all while the beaters are going.

Once the sugar is incorporated, whack the speed up really high- damn near as high as it’ll go, and beat the meringue for 7 minutes. The transformation will be incredible- the mix will become voluminous, thick, stiff and bright white. After seven minutes test the meringue for graininess. No grains means you’re good to go. If not, beat it for a minute or two more.

Spread your meringue into rings on the baking sheets. I like to make a well in the middle with a higher, crown like rim. Use your stencil as a guide for size, and bear in mind the meringue will expand further in the oven.

Bake for 1 hour- they should be risen and ivory. Turn off the oven. Moisture is the death of meringue, so my advice is to cool the meringues in the oven, but you could cool them on a rack if you are in a rush.

When you are ready to assemble the pavlova, whip the remaining sugar and all the cream to stiff peaks and spread half of it on the bottom meringue ring.

Stud the middle layer of cream with half the strawberries and raspberries- any slightly ugly or softer ones can go here.

Sit your second ring of meringue on top of the first, top with the rest of the cream and the remaining berries. Decorate with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container.

 

This dessert is special, yet not particularly difficult, particularly if you use a stand mixer. You just need to be able to tell what stiff peaks are (if in doubt, youtube is full of tutorials) and the rest of the work the mixer and oven do. When I stayed in New Zealand, they had pavlova after nearly every sunday roast or big family meal- they just stuck the meringue in the oven after the main meal was done to cook in the residual heat. The method above does call for actual cooking, and you get a crisper meringue for it, but it’s certainly something you could do in the same manner.

It’s a no brainer that you can change the fruit for anything you fancy. Since you eat it fairly fresh, wet fruits like soft berries are too much of a problem. Blackberries, currants, kiwi fruit, even sweet citrus would work well here. Can you imagine a creamsicle flavoured pavlova? Oh my goodness. And the mint here isn’t just a garnish- it tastes awesome with the berries and cream.

The soft summer fruit season is coming to a close, so give this delicious dessert a go while you can.

Enjoy!

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Scrumptious Summer Fruit Salad

Hiya kittens,

Fruit salads have been a staple ‘back up’ dessert for forever and day. They’re the kind of dessert people pick if they’re on a diet, or if all the cake is gone, or if their grandmother is looking at the food choices disapprovingly.

Darlings, it need not be this way! Throw down those tinned peaches and orange slices! Back away from the humdrum and dreary! A really good fruit salad makes a really refreshing and delicious summer dessert, and a kick-ass breakfast too. Layer up different but complimentary flavours, textures and colours, and your guests, and your tummy, will thank you. It’s also a pretty neat way to get your ‘five-a-day’. Also, come on guys, it’s summer- let’s eat up all the goodies that are in season while we can!

This is how I make fruit salad, and this makes a butt-ton of portions, so feel free to cut it down. The focus here is creating a visually appealing bowl, as well as a taste sensation.

Scrumptious Summer Fruit Salad

  • 1/2 Watermelon
  • 1 Cantelope Melon
  • 400g each Green grapes, black grapes (you could use red, I just prefer the flavour and colour of black ones, strawberries, blueberries
  • 4 apples (a crisp variety like pink lady or granny smith is perfect)
  • Juice of a lemon and 3 oranges
  • two handfuls of fresh mint

Wash your fruit if you are that way inclined, but make sure it’s dry-ish before going into the salad- the melon and fruit juice will provide all the liquor you need.

Cut the watermelon into bite-size chunks. I personally leave in the pips and slightly grittier flesh surrounding it, as I like the texture compared with all the softer fruits. However, you can omit this if you prefer. Add to your serving bowl

Cut the cant elope in half and scoop out the seeds. Chop up the beautiful orange flesh into bite size pieces. Pop them into the bowl.

Hull and halve the strawberries, and remove any stalks from the other berries. Add them on top of the cantelope.

Juice the oranges and lemon.

Finally, core and chop your apples into bite size chunks. You can peel them, or not peel them. I tend to go half and half, as the skin provides visual interest. After each apple, add the chopped pieces to the bowl and treat with some of the citrus juices.

Add any remaining juice to the fruit mixture, and add the mint sprigs, reserving a few visually appealing ones for final decoration.

Using a large spoon, or indeed the serving spoon, mix the fruit together gently, coating it all with the juices and creating a uniform mixture. Top with the last few sprigs of mint. Serve immediately or over in cling film and refrigerate.

 

This fruit salad is a treat for the senses. The fruits chosen provide a rainbow of colours- red strawberries, yellow apple flesh, pink watermelon, green grapes, purple ‘black’ grapes, orange cantelope and blue-black blueberries. In terms of flavour, mint-orange is a much underrated combo. Both flavours are super aromatic, and the coolness of mint compliments the slight tang and sweetness of the orange. All the fruits used are fairly robust too, so can stand up to being stirred together without dissolving into mush, and will last, even cut, for several days in the fridge if needs be. Really, if I were serving this to guests, I would serve it within 24-36 hours of making it, but after the party it lasts fairly well as is easy to supplement the last bits with extra fresh fruit.

Great alternatively and additional flavours/colours include beautiful dragon fruit, orange segments, other melon, plum slices, and even soft fruits like raspberries or blackberries. However, I would use these as fresh as possible, and sprinkle them over a mixed salad, rather than mixing them through- they’re too delicate for that.

So there we go, a pretty special update on a staple dessert. If you’re entertaining this weekend, or need a way to make fruit more palatable, give this a go.

Enjoy!

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Spiced Blueberry Jam

I have been teasing this recipe for too long, but here it is- Spiced Blueberry Jam. The timing is pretty good actually- british grown blueberries are coming into season, to the time is right to capture their sweet ripeness to savour year through.

Not so long ago I was preparing a gift for my father’s birthday, when I realised I hadn’t made him a cake. And looking around my kitchen, I actually didn’t have enough butter or eggs to make him one. Que Desastre! Well, not quite.

Preserves make wonderful gifts- they are artisan, and require if not ‘mad skills’, then at least concentration and timing. They’re also delicious and multi functional- jams especially can go on bread, in cakes, in yoghurt… They also last a wee while, unlike more perishable goods like cakes and bakes, so they carry on giving for some time. They’re also pretty darn customisable.

I love blueberries, not just for their colour but the sweet, almost buttery fresh flavour, so unlike red berries, or even other berries of a similar colour like Blackberries and currants. I also, if you haven’t twigged from reading this blog, j’adore warm, fragrant spices. This jam, and it really does jam up a treat, combines these two great flavours together to make sweet, aromatic, deep indigo goodness worthy of the finest of slices of toast.

Spiced Blueberry Jam

  • 700g Blueberries
  • 225mls Orange juice (about two oranges worth)
  • 2 Star anise
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 700g Jam sugar

If you haven’t already, thoroughly wash out 2-4 jars, depending on their size. Set them in a low oven (about 100-110c) to dry and warm.

Give your cinnamon stick a couple of whacks with the back of a knife to bruise it, then toss it in a pan with the blueberries, orange juice and star anise.

Cook the berry mixture on low to medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until the berries are very soft and pulpy.

Add in the sugar, which contains all the pectin you’ll need, and stir it through until it dissolves.

Bring the mix up to the a rapid boil for three minutes, then remove it from the heat. Discard the spices, and pot the beautiful violet jam into your warm jars. Close the tops almost completely, then fully seal when completely cool.

Store in a cool place, or refridgerate.

 

So there you have it: a simple, but a little different, preserve that is fruity and bright for summer, and warmly spiced for winter. You can use frozen berries in this recipe- just allow them a few extra minutes to thaw in the pulp-ifying stage. You can also play with those spices- vanilla or cardamom would be divine.

Enjoy!

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You know I promised Strawberries?

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 00.14.07Well, I picked these today 🙂

This time of the year is strawberry season, and besides growing your own, and generally eating them as often as you can, I highly recommend finding a pick-your-own near you and really benefitting from the season’s glut. I picked these at Durleigh Marsh Farm just on the Hampshire/West Sussex border, and there’s thousands upon millions more more just waiting from greedy fingers to come and claim them across the country RIGHT NOW. If you aren’t in the Hampshire area, or you want a closer PYO experience, follow this link, and you’ll find somewhere to stock up in no time. Really, there’s nothing better than berries fresh from the plant- no chemicals, no lengthy lorry trips, and complete traceability.

Posts regarding what I get up to with these beauties shall follow. Stay tuned!

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Mango Chutney

I love Indian food. I used to be very suspicious of it (I have an intolerance to garlic, and have therefore had some very bad experiences) but got turned back on to it via the delicious fare at a friend’s wedding last year.

‘Indian’ food has long been a staple favourite in Britain, since the days of Empire, and today this persists in our love of the take away curry, as well as the homemade option. However, this neon food is a long way from the traditional flavours it was inspired by, and this is perhaps truest for the tango-orange gel that is called Mango Chutney.

My father loves a good Indian, and since it was his birthday last month, I whipped him up a batch of curry-changing sweet goodness in the form of a more traditional Mango Chutney. And, spoiler alert: it’s not bright orange.

 

Proper Mango Chutney

  •  145ml Cider vinegar
  • 250g Caster sugar
  • 180g Dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ground allspice
  • scant 1/4 tsp Ground cloves
  • 1 tsp Ground nutmeg
  • 1 red chilli
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 onion
  • 70g sultanas
  • 10g Root ginger
  • 500g mango flesh

First things first, get prepped. Wash up 4-6 jars to make sure they are super clean, then pop them in the oven at 100-130c to dry and sterilise. You can also put them through the dishwasher, but I recommend sticking them in the oven anyway, as hot food needs to go in hot jars, or the jar could shatter.

You also need a decent sized saucepan, and ideally to prep your fruit and veg in advance. The chilli needs to be deseeded and chopped finely. The onion needs to be chopped fairly finely. The ginger needs to be grated or very finely chopped. I bought my mango frozen because I am incredibly lazy, so all I had to do was defrost it, but if you are using fresh you need to chop your mango into 1cm cubes. You can do this as you go, but it’s much easier to get ahead.

Right, now to the cooking part- heat the vinegar and sugars to combine, and add the spices, chilli and salt. Bring up to the boil, and boil for 10 minutes.

Add everything else except the mango and boil for further 10-15 minutes.

Finally, add your mango and reduce the heat to a simmer for a further 15 minutes. Depending on how chunky you want the finished product, you can use a potato masher or your spoon to crush the mango into the mixture as it cooks.

Remove your jars from the oven and take the chutney off of the heat. Spoon the mixture into the jars and, ensuring the screw top is clean of drips, screw on the lids until closed, but not sealed. Allow to cool fully before tightening the top of the jar up.

 

The finished product is dark, spicy and sweet. You can play with the chilli content and spice balance if you know you like things hot, and add a clove of garlic or more onion if you want more punch, but this chutney is sweet and complex, and goes well not only with curries, but with meats and cheeses.

Enjoy!

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Sexed up Tiffin

Tiffin is the British answer to Australia’s Rocky Road- a no-bake delight full of tasty morsels bound together in cocoa-y goodness. It was invented in Scotland in the early 1900s. Though traditionally filled with a mix of raisins and biscuits, this is the twenty first century, peeps. We can do better than that. Also, loads of folks don’t like raisins, so there’s that.

My adorable pal Davi introduced me to his version of this delight a few months when he had me over for his birthday. I was hooked. When Valentine’s day came round a few weeks later, and I wanted to make some chocolatey treats for my nearest and dearest, and this sprang to mind.

A traditional tiffin is pretty basic, and can be serves as is or topped with dark chocolate. One, I think we can all guess which option I chose. Two, I decided to step things up with some extra fillings. I take my confection-making pretty darn seriously, after all, and nothing is more serious than gosh darn mini marshmallows.

Sexed Up Tiffin

  • 110g butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 tsp cocoa
  • 225g digestive biscuits
  • 75g dried cranberries
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 2-3 handfuls mini marshmallows
  • 300g bittersweet or dark cooking chocolate (you can use any chocolate really, but I think cooking chocolate sets better)

Line a 9×9 pan with parchment. If you trust your non-stick, you’ll probably get away with just a sheet across the bottom and up two of the sides.

In a milk pan, melt together the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa into a delicious, dark paste. Take off the heat when combined.

Crush up the biscuits into roughly 1-2cm pieces. Retain all the crumbs and shards, as these will give the tiffin bulk.

Add your biscuits and fruits (the cherries can be chopped if you like, but they look gorgeous sliced through whole in the finished product) to the paste and mix, mix, mix. It will cover everything, I promise, you just have to be patient and mush up those biscuits as you go.

Add your marshmallows and mix through a few times. You can add them with everything else, but I like to leave them only half incorporated.

Spread the mix out into your tin to an even thickness.

Melt your chocolate, either in a bain marie or in the microwave, taking care not to burn it. Spread the chocolate out over the top of the tiffin to almost seal the top of it. FYI, You will need more chocolate than this if you use a pan with the larger surface area than the recommended 9×9, and depending on your taste, you may wish to use more anyway.

Pop the tin in the fridge for 1hr or so, until the confection is set. Chop up into inch squares and serve in a glorious mound of joy.

 

This stuff lasts well in an airtight container out of the fridge or in, and tastes awesome. Of course, it is super customisable with different biscuits, chocolate, fruits, nuts and even jelly beans or sweets if you like- just stick in what you like, leave out what you don’t. It’s also very rich, so even a chocoholic like me can’t trough the lot in one go, so that 9×9 worth of mix will go a really long way.

This recipe is so easy, too. If you have a microwave, you can make this. You can do the first step in a microwave if you need to, just melt everything in short bursts and stir in between.

I hope you’ll give this a go. It’s ‘civilised’ enough for a picnic or party, but relaxed enough for a night in with friends too. And it goes great with tea.

Later days!

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