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 2: Beef and Apple Slowcooker Stew

This recipe is a simple winter warmer that anyone who is old enough to operate a frying pan and use a kitchen knife can make. And if you fall into the younger brackets of that age group, I think you should make it. Here’s why.

Christmas is the time of year that children have oodles of time on their hands, and weary students trundle home for a break from their studies. It’s the time of year that parents break the bank to spoil their loved ones, and also pick back up the full time care of their children, no questions asked. To have one of their own offer to take over the cooking, even for just one meal, would be a huge help to them and greatly appreciated.

All you will need to make this delicious and hearty stew (beyond the ingredients) is a frying pan, a knife and a slow cooker, or an ovenproof lidded saucepan. The measurements below are for a slow cooked meal. If you don’t have access to a slow cooker, reduce the cooking time to two hours, and add at least an extra litre of water.

Beef and Apple Stew

  • 400g stewing beef (shin is excellent in this dish, but any tougher cut will work fine)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 eating apple
  • ½ tbsp mixed herbs or a bouquet garni
  • 2 stock cubes (beef or vegetable)
  • 500ml cider
  • 1tbsp cornflour

If your beef isn’t already in bitesize chunks, cut it up. Then, brown it in a frying pan, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. You want nice caramel colouration on all sides of the pieces. Once browned, pop the cooked beef into the pot of your slow cooker.

 

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Core the apple, and chop it and the other veg into bite size pieces. Add them to the pot and mix them into the beef pieces.

Sprinkle over the herbs, crumble in the stock cubes and add plenty of salt and pepper.

Pour over the cider and mix the ingredients together. This may seem like a rather small amount of liquid, but so long as the liquid is about half as deep as the whole mixture, you should be fine.

Pop the lid on the slow cooker and turn it on to ‘high’. Cook for 3 hours.

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Mix the cornflour with a drizzle of water until a paste is formed. Add this to your stew and mix through thoroughly. Recover the pot and cook for a further two hours. (It bears mentioning that this would be very early to add a thickener like cornflour in most recipes, but in slowcooking so little moisture is lost that its fine to add the flour now. It won’t thicken the sauce too much- it’ll just help it become more gravy-like.)

Serve with mashed potatoes, braised leeks and any other veg you fancy.

This recipe is pretty flexible- it would work very well with pork or rose veal, and you can replace the cider with beer or water if you like. You can also feel free to add other vegetables, or reduce the beef and up the veg content.

The final product, after barely half an hour of actual labour, is aromatic and flavoursome. The cider gives tart fruitiness, while the beef makes it intensely savoury and satisfying. The apple will likely melt away to thicken the gravy, leave the inoffensive peel to blend in with the other veg. If you want to be pedantic and peel your apples, then do, but it really isnt necesscary.

So there you have it- an incredibly easy and tasty meal to warm your cockles this winter.

Enjoy!

Turkey in Creamy Sage and Leek sauce.

I like to eat simple, tasty food. If it reheats well, all the better, as batch cooking is the way to go. I also like eating Turkey a lot, if you hadn’t noticed. This recipe is something I make all the time with little fuss. It’s simple enough for a midweek meal, ‘dressy’ enough to serve to your in laws or guests, and so darn delicious my mother requested it for her Birthday dinner.

If you were here in December and liked the Boxing Day Pie recipe, you’ll like this dish. If the pie was the short martini, then this recipe is the long highball. They’re very similar in their make up, which is no accident. I wanted to enjoy the same delicious flavours from the pie, but in a quicker, easier way. I also don’t keep crisps in the house as the matter of course, so a recipe I could pull together from things I *do* keep in the house on a regular basis was a plus.

Turkey in Creamy Sage and Leek sauce

  • 400g-500g turkey breast meat
  • 2-3 leeks
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 healthy bunch fresh sage
  • 2 stock cubes
  • knob of butter
  • 300ml creme fraiche or double cream
  • 1 huge glass of white wine
  • salt and pepper

IMG_4522If your turkey isn’t already cooked (and this is a great recipe to use up cooked meat), brown the pieces in your pan to seal them for a few minutes then set aside.

Finely chop your leeks (all of the white part, and as much of the green top as you like) and onion and sweat them off in the butter over a medium heat.

Roughly chop your sage, stalks too if you like, and add to the pot. Stir them through the other vegetables quickly.

Now add everything else (wine, creme fraiche, turkey, crumbled stock cubes and a pinch of salt and generous twists of pepper) and stir to combine over the heat.

Let the delicious mixture cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture is a little reduced and yellowed, and the turkey is cooked through. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Serve with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

 

This recipe is child’s play, and from prep to finish, including the accompaniments, shouldn’t take more than 50 minutes. This much meat makes four generous portions of mixture, and it reheats well. You may need to add a drop of water when reheating it to loosen off the sauce again. It’s so flavoursome and delicious, the sauce will complement any vegetable, so it’s great for getting fussy eaters (*cough* me *cough) to eat their greens.

Of course, this recipe would work with any white meat, and a clove or to of garlic sweated with the onions wouldn’t hurt, if you are that way inclined. You can also substitute the wine for mead or cider if you are short of adult grape juice.

However you eat it, enjoy it!

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BEDA: Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Fun fact, kittens: I’m not a big fan of beetroot. Yes, it has incredible colour and it’s really good for you… but it smells funny.

However, I never skip it in my veg box for one simple reason: Chocolate Beetroot Cake.

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Chocolate Beetroot Cake

  • 200g Beetroot (about 3 medium beetroot, or 1 large and one small)
  • 125g Plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150g Caster sugar
  • 200g Unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 3 Free range eggs
  • 150g dark chocolate, finely grated
  • 200g icing sugar
  • A few drops of water

Cook the beetroot. If in doubt, check online for a method that suits you (read: microwave). I did mine by topping and tailing them, then boiling them 40 minutes-1 hour, until they fell off the fork when pricked through. For larger beets you’ll need longer, obviously, and if you are using multiple small beets, you’ll need less time.

Peel off the beet skin (your fingers under a cold tap works- washes the skin away and keeps you from getting scalded by those toasty beets) and grate or chop the beet flesh. Now, this is important: reserve some beet juice- about a tablespoon or so. You can get this by squeezing the grated/chopped beet.

Puree the beets into a pulp, as smooth as possible. A few lumps and bumps won’t matter.

Preheat the oven to 190 c and grease your cake tin. I used a bunt tin, because bunt tins are fun, but a 8 inch cake tin works fine too. At this time, melt the chocolate in a microwave or on a bain marie, taking care not to burn it.

Separate the eggs, and beat the soft butter, egg yolks and sugar together into a sunshiny paste. Whisk the whites to stiff peaks separately.

Sieve the dry ingredients together (or, if you are lazy like me, use a whisk- does the same job in minutes), and then fold in the yolk mix and chocolate until mostly combined.

More gently this time, fold the whites into the mixture third by third. When almost combined, stir in the beet pulp until the mixture is uniform, but not over beaten.

Pour out evenly into your bunt tin and bake for 45-50 minutes. I would check at 35-40 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer comes out clean, or ideally with a couple of damp crumbs attached.

While the cake cools, mix your icing sugar and the beautiful purple beet juice to make a gorgeous pink glaze for your cake. You can add more icing sugar, or more water, should you need to in order to achieve the runny consistency you need. It should be a free flowing glacé icing, but not too thin.

When the cake is cool, turn it out and pour over the glaze. Serve in generous slices or chunks.

 

Considering that carrot cake doesn’t really do it for me, I didn’t have the highest hopes for this bad boy. Thankfully, I was SO wrong. Delicately crumbed, super moist and full of dark earthy flavours from the chocolate and ‘roots, this cake is such a keeper. Alas, it doesn’t last so very long, and needs to be polished off within a couple of days if kept out of the fridge, perhaps within 5-7 days if kept in the fridge. What a chore that’ll be.

 

Enjoy!

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BEDA: Special Delivery! Veg Box Review

In December I stopped taking my monthly beauty boxes. I gave them a good run, and I enjoyed them, but even now I haven’t tried or used half of what I was sent… or done a write up of them. Short version- get the Birchbox. Longer version- Glossybox is also very nice and occasionally better. Full version-… weeeeell that’s pending. Maybe.

This year, I really want to eat better. I’m not currently dieting, and I haven’t any great plans to start. For me they tend to become poisonous to my fragile self esteem far too fast to really be healthy, despite the weight loss. Instead, I want to really get back in the kitchen, and fill that kitchen with delicious fruit and veg filled goodies. Add that to an occasional spin on my exercise bike, and I’m hoping for fitter, if not thinner.

With all this in mind, and recommendations from several friends, I decided to try out a delivered Veg Box. Getting something delivered is a great way to avoid procrastination on healthy eating plans if you, like me, are a lazy slattern. They turn up at your door and you’re stuck with them- no having to face actual people in the shops, no getting scared off things you haven’t tried and no option to just give up and grab a pizza instead. Also, I don’t about you, but getting anything delivered is novel, particularly a ‘surprise’. For me it was a huge draw on the beauty boxes. Getting a weekly goody box of delicious fresh veg is, perhaps somewhat sadly, as exciting to me as getting a box of potions and lotions. Not that I’m off the potions and lotions, mind you. Far from it. I am a neon goddess.

Almost unanimously, I was recommended Abel & Cole as my supplier. Their website is friendly and easy to navigate, and for every item listed on the site, there is traceability of country of origin, and in many cases the farm/producer who supplied it. Most of their food is Organic, which I’m somewhat ambivalent about, much to my shame, but much/most of their food is British, which I thoroughly support. I loved the fact I could meet their farmers via videos on the site, and learn about their individual farming practises and the specialities. The boxes are also seasonal, which is hugely attractive for me. Too often I hear people talking about eating seasonally, which sounds like a fantastic idea, and would help us all support our local suppliers. However, in today’s convenience culture, when you go to the supermarket, or even the greengrocer, it can be difficult to get to grips with what to eat when. Having a box of seasonal produce delivered takes the query out of the whole affair, and over time could help us spoilt brats of the modern age better understand the sensibility of seasonality. Hey, it worked for our ancestors, right?

Abel & Cole offer a rather expansive service. Looking for veg? There’s a box for that. Organic meat? There’s one for that too. Short on fruit? Yep, a box for that too. Want to mix and match? There’s boxes that do that, and you can pick and mix individual items from their vast store, whether you need extra fresh produce, eggs and meat through to dairy, store cupboard staples, wines and spirits, even cleaning supplies! Everything they offer has a focus on environmentally friendly sources and supporting farmers. No bad tastes left if your mouth if you shop here, it seems.

Boxes come in a variety of sizes and specialisations. There are Salad boxes, Baby and Toddler focused boxes, boxes for juicers, ‘Gourmet’ boxes for the more adventurous… and it is remarkably easy switch and change between one and the other, and up or downsize your order week by week. For me, as I’m a singleton (plus some hungry rodents), a small veg box seemed like the best start. Coming in at £10.50 for 6-7 portions of organic, seasonal and mostly British vegetables, the price is fair, and includes tips and tricks recipes provided with the box. Shipping from Abel & Cole costs a flat rate of £0.99 on orders over £12.50. The latter is a bit of a blow to those, like me, who are only feeding the one person, but as afore mentioned it is easy to find something to add to top up your order. For my first week it was a couple of pats of butter, as I was clean out (and they were extremely reasonable), the next week some additional leeks for a planned recipe. Alternatively, I could have swapped up for £2.75 to a small fruit & veg box (5 veg and 3 fruit), for example.

 

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One problem I thought I would have is that whilst I am a far less fussy eater than I used to be, there are some things that I simply don’t like (cauliflower, for one) and some things I simply can’t eat (garlic, for two). I feared that I might have some useless veg sent to me that I’d have to give away or bin, which is, essentially, a waste of money. Abel & Cole have thought of this, with their Likes and Dislikes app. You can add dislikes by searching for the offending product, or view the box you are ordering from a drop down list. This will load up the contents of the box with the option to ‘love’, ‘like’, ‘dislike’, or ‘skip’. So lets say my small veg box is going to contain potatoes, carrots, onions, red cabbage, leeks and broccoli. I enjoy eating most of these things, except red cabbage, so I can make that as a dislike. Abel & Cole will provide a different veg instead (for example, Kale), and so long as I have filled out my Dislikes list, I will get something I like instead. Now, let’s say I’ve just bought some leeks, so I don’t need any more this week. Not a problem- by choosing ‘skip’ I can alert Abel & Cole that I don’t want any leeks this week, and they’ll pick something else for me, just as with a dislike. With a skip, however, the veg will be offered again as usual on my next order- it’s like a temporary dislike option, and it’s really handy. Certainly this whole system takes the surprise out of everything, but so long as you sit down for a few minutes and fill in your dislikes thoroughly, and so long as you don’t mind getting something you might already have, you can still have a surprise box with no nasty, er, surprises.

For that £0.99 delivery fee, their own driver delivers your groceries to your door on a set day (in Portsmouth that is thursdays, and the friendly driver is the charming Darren), and will leave your items in a pre-designated place should you not be up/around to receive them yourself. The downside- you can only take delivery on that specific day. The upside- the delivery is darn cheap and reliable. The packaging is recyclable to Abel & Cole (the driver will collect the flat packed box and cool bag the following week) and through your local recycling services (for mushroom punnets, paper bags etc). Their reused cool bags, which contain a frozen gel pack to keeps things chilly, are lined with sealed in british wool, making them sterile and sustainable, and providing a use for a local product. The fact they insist that you pre designate a ‘safe place’ is very reassuring- it screams of a company in touch with their consumers, and is much more friendly than most delivery services, who will leave things unguarded on your doorstep, or rope in your neighbours to do their work.

As you can probably tell, I was pretty sold from the moment of ordering. The fact they offered me a free cookbook (RRP £12.99) and my fourth box free just sweeten the already tasty deal. The giving doesn’t stop there. I’ve so far received free blood oranges, milk, tinned tomatoes, a chilli pepper, yoghurt, plus several bottles of lovely olive oil to thank me for recommending friends, all in less than 3 months worth of deliveries, plus vouchers to give those friends free boxes, and get money off my orders. Their customer services teams are also spot on, whether by phone or email. For example, my first box had a rotten onion in it. I pinged an email with a picture of to customer services, requesting a free onion in my next box to cover said dud. Instead I got 2.75 off my next box- much more than the cost of reordering onions- to compensate me for my inconvenience. The response was swift (within 12 hours- more impressive since I sent in my complaint in the evening!), and gracious.

IMG_4332What is it?… Does it have fish in it?… Can we have it?… We’re gonna have it…

 

Downside wise… Organic food doesn’t last as long? But that has nothing to do with the company or concept. Most produce provided will last the week, if not longer, and in my house there are a bunch of greedy pets who enjoy left overs and slightly wilted cabbage and what not. The price is right, the service is spot on, and the produce is stonking. I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true- the veg they send is bright and fresh and beautiful.

I have no plans to cancel my box at this point- it’s really doing the job, and if you have’t guessed, I love it. Some fat little rodents staring lovingly at me from their cages by the computer obviously do too. If you’re pondering eating better, or a veg box, I can’t recommend A&C highly enough.

Go forth and eat green stuff,

 

 

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Candied Carrot deliciousness : Recipe Advent Calendar 15th

I love carrots just as much as Rudolph and his pals do, but since it’s a special time of year, I like to dress them up in sticky sweetness. Yes, it’s not fabulous for you, but hey, it’s Christmas!

I must apologise that there is no picture with this one- I made this with a lovely Toad in the Hole last week, but we were so into our dinners that we forgot to take snaps! Anyway, here’s a recipe for your new favourite side dish.

Candied Carrots

Serves 4

  • 450g Carrots (this recipe works well with baby/Chartenay carrots, or with the regular sort)
  • 2tbsp Butter
  • 250ml Water
  • 75g Dark brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

If you are using baby carrots, just wash them and take off the tops. For regular carrots, prepare into chunky medallions or batons.

Add all the ingredients, including the carrots, into a pan, and bring up to the boil.

Reduce the heat down to a rolling simmer for 20-30 minutes, until all the liquid is gone and you are left with sticky, glazed delights.

 

It really is that simple- easy enough, I think, to do even on Christmas Day herself. Why not give it a go? You won’t be disappointed. This is the perfect time of year to indulge in a treat like this, and a great way to get fussy eater to try their vegetables.

Enjoy!

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