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!

sigdraft

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.

IMG_6780

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!

sigdraft

BEDA: Chocolate Kissed Honey Flapjacks

Whilst they weren’t the first thing I ever learnt to bake, Flapjacks evoke strong and nostalgic memories for me. I remember in year four or five bringing home a tin of flapjacks I had made in cookery class at school, and presenting them to my parents. They were mostly stuck to the greaseproof paper, and I remember the sweet gooiness of them, between picking out bits of chewy tacky paper. I think my father snuck most of them.

Valentines Day holds no happy memories for me, so every year I have two choices- stay very busy, or wallow. Either way, I eat my weight in chocolate. This year I arranged days out and visiting with friends, and, erm, a date for the inauspicious weekend, and baked up a storm of choccy drenched treats for my friends. This included my first venture in perhaps twenty years into flapjack making. Which is ridiculous, really, because they are sickeningly simple and damned delicious.

The ingredient breakdown for this recipe is so easy to remember, it’s become a staple bake for me. You can substitute the honey for golden syrup, but unless you do this for diet reasons I will judge you quite a bit. Honey is infinitely tastier. That being said, should you be of the Vegan persuasion, then of course, substitute in syrup for honey and any Vegan friendly spread for the butter (I recommend Pure).

 

IMG_4347

 

 

 

Chocolate Kissed Honey Flapjacks

  • 200g Butter
  • 200g Local Honey
  • 200g sugar (approximately half dark brown and half caster provides the best flavour, but use what you have)
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g dark or bittersweet chocolate

Line a Swiss Roll tin, or any 13″ x 9″ pan with a strip of greaseproof paper, and preheat the oven to 180 c.

In saucepan, melt together the butter, honey and sugar. Do not allow to boil- just heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved, the butter melted, and the whole glorious mixture is combined.

Next, dump in your oats in roughly half batches and stir in until the liquid coats the oats and you have no dryness of spare fluid.

Mix the cranberries in, and spoon out the mix onto your tray, pressing down and flattening with your spoon into the corners.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. If you over bake don’t worry, they’ll just be more cookie like than chewy.

Cool in the tin.

Once cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave or a bain marie, taking care not to burn it. Kiss the surface of the flapjacks with trickles and drizzles and blobs of cocoa-y goodness, and let it set at room temperature.

To serve, lift the sheet of paper to remove the flapjacks in one fell swoop, and chop into generous bars or squares. Store in a airtight container for up to 10 days… if they last 10 minutes, that is.

 

Obviously you can omit the chocolate if you hate yourself, or substitute in any fillings you like (including, of course, chocolate). However the sweet, bright tartness of the cranberries is perfect with the comforting, sweet and rich oaty base. Whatever you do, be sure not to skimp. Never go under 60g of filling, or else it’ll be too sparse in the mixture.

 

Let me know how you make yours!

 

sigdraft

Festive Libations: Recipe Advent Calendar 5th-9th

Sorry tee-tollers; this post is not going to be for you.

I like my Christmas ‘merry’, and for me there is nothing so festive as a swanky Christmas cocktail party. Not that I get invited to too many of those, but an evening under the Christmas lights, martini glass in one hand and wrapping paper in the other does me just fine.

I like my cocktails fruity and sweet, so this ‘menu’ leans quite a bit that way. Some are long, most are strong, but all are instant festive favourites and I just know you’ll love getting ‘jingled’ on them as much as I do.

I dedicate this post to Simon, Davi, Pam, Amber, David, Gary, Holly and Izzy, who dutifully ‘tested’ these out for me over the weekend.

IMG_3932

 

Cheery Chocolate Cherry-tini

For a ‘martini’, this isn’t the strongest drink around, but it is so tasty and festively red. I adore it. If you really can’t get hold of creme de cacao you *can* use a sweet clear liqueur like Malibu, but I really recommend getting yourself a bottle of this stuff. One, you’ll need it for another recipe later on. Two, you deserve it. Three, it isn’t too difficult to find- a well stocked drinks specialist/off license should have it, or try amazon or thedrinkshop.com.

  • 1 part cherry juice
  • 1 part creme de cacao
  • 1 part vanilla vodka

Add ingredients to a shaker and shake over ice. Serve in a martini glass with a glacé or maraschino cherry garnish. If you like your drink a little longer, use two measures of cherry juice.

IMG_3972

 

The Grinch

I love love LOVE this cocktail because it is such a step away from the usual christmas flavours, whilst still being pretty darn festive, colour accurate and refreshingly delicious.

  •  2 measures midori
  • 1/2 measure lemon juice
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • OPTIONAL: a tap of confectioners glitter in Holographic White (for the snow of Hooville)

Shake ingredients over ice and serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with a glacé or maraschino cherry. For extra cheer, wet the rim of your glass with the rind of the lemon and rim it with coloured sugar- I recommend red.

IMG_3926

 

Poinsettia

This fruity, oh-so-red holiday favourite is a great pitcher drink for parties, but here are the measurements for just one glass… if you can restrain yourself to that. There is debate on the the orange liqueur to use, and the sparkling wine, but for me it has to be Cointreau, and I’m not fussy on the wine. White or pink, Champagne or reasonable-but-drinkable plonk- I don’t think you need to go all out on a wine you are using in the mix. If you can drink it on its own, you’re doing it right. If you’re breaking the bank to buy a bottle, you’re doing it wrong.

  • 1/2 measure Cointreau
  • 2 measures Cranberry juice
  • Sparkling wine or Champagne

Pour the Cointreau and chilled cranberry juice into your champagne flute and stir well. If the juice isn’t chilled before hand, use a shaker full of ice to bring the temperature of it and the liqueur down. Top with the fizz.

IMG_3970

 

Black Forest Martini

There are lots of versions of a Black Forest or Chocolate Raspberry Martini, but this is my favourite. I find this recipe irresistibly festive and delicious, so I’ve included it. Because I love you and I want you to get proper merry this season. This one is really very strong- you have been warned.

  • 1 measure Raspberry Vodka
  • 1 measure Cherry Brandy
  • 1 measure Creme de Cacao

Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake over ice. Serve in a cocktail glass rimmed with sugar and confectioners glitter, like a touch of hoarfrost. Beautiful and delicious.

IMG_3930

Lets Get Sauced

I saw this fun and, essentially, frugal take on a Cosmopolitan on Mamrie Hart’s genius Youtube show ‘You Deserve a Drink’. If you’ve got some Cranberry Sauce that needs some love, fix yourself one of these. Please note that I’ve erred on the side of, erm, caution with these measurements.

  • 2 shots citrus vodka
  • 1 shot lime juice
  • A generous tablespoon of cranberry sauce

Add all your ingredients to a shaker and shake thoroughly over plenty of ice. Strain and serve in a martini glass with a slice of lime to garnish.

IMG_3973

After one of each of those you’ll probably be a little worse for wear, so please remember to drink responsibly, particularly around this feast season: you shouldn’t let anything spoil your celebrations.

That aside, the above concotions also make an excellent cocktail menu if you are planning a christmassy party- try writing or printing them up in a calligraphy style font to set out for your guests to order from or serve themselves with.

I’ll see you again on the 10th with another recipe. Have a Merry-in-more-ways-than-one evening, everyone!

sigdraft

Cranberry Mincemeat: Recipe Advent Calendar Redux

I posted this recipe last year, but it’s so good, I figured it needed a repost for this year’s Recipe Advent Calendar. I mean, I am making this juicy, ruby delight again this year, so why not?

Cranberry Mincemeat

  • 130ml Ruby port
  • 200g Dark soft brown sugar
  • 600g Cranberries
  • 100g Dried cranberries
  • 125g Dried mixed fruit and peel
  • 1/4 tsp Ground cloves
  • 2tsp Ground ginger
  • 2tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp Mixed Spice
  • 1 Clementine or 6tsp orange juice
  • 6 tbsp Honey
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp Almond extract
  • 50ml brandy
  • Optional: 3 drops Orange extract

Over a low heat, add the sugar and port to your pan and stir gently until the sugar dissolves.

Add the cranberries and coat in the port syrup, stirring as needed until the berries begin to pop. If you are using frozen fruit straight from the freezer, allow a few minutes extra for the fruit to defrost.

Add the spices and dried fruit to the mix and stir in.

If you are using the orange juice, just add and mix it in. If you use a clementine, squeeze the juice into the pan and add the juiced halves of the fruit to the mixture. Stir to combine.

Let the mixture simmer over a low heat for 15-20 minutes until nearly all the berries are popped and the mixture is a deep, dark sultry red. Check it frequently in this time to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Take the pan off the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes. It will become quite jellied.

Beat the honey, extracts and brandy vigorously into the mix until it becomes runnier and pot up, if storing, or pour into a storage bowl if you are going to use it within two weeks, and have fridge space. This recipe makes one good litre of Mincemeat- I filled a Kilner jar, with one pie’s worth left over.

If you are going to give the mincemeat as a gift, or store in jars for more than a month or so, add a splash of brandy to the top of the jar to help keep if preserved.

IMG_1086

Cranberry and Port mincemeat blends have become very popular in recent years, to the point where pre made mixes have become available in some supermarkets. I think this is wonderful, and great help for those who simply don’t have time to make their own but still want to enjoy festive goodies. I think, however, the foodie community can take the idea further. Swap out liquors for your favourites, providing they have a similar consistency (I don’t recommend cream liqueurs for example, but who knows, you could make it work!). Play with the spices- why not try a fruit pink pepper, or fragrant cardamom? Be brave and try new fruit combinations.

And of course, share, dears. I do so like to chat cooking.

sigdraft

They’re here!

I don’t care that it’s only just December. I don’t care that they turned up when we were barely over halloween. I’ve been quashing down my festive feelings for months, and now, I don’t have to any more. Why?

Because fresh cranberries are in the shops. And that means it’s Christmastime.

IMG_3897

I love cranberries, and yes, I know they aren’t particularly british, but who cares? They’re obscenely red, super delicious and pretty darn good for you, until you cover them in sugar. They’re a Christmas staple in my house, from sweet to savoury dishes throughout the season. The colour alone is reason enough to have them in your kitchen and on your plate, which makes this recipe perfect for the second entry in my Recipe Advent Calendar.

Last year I shared my cranberry mincemeat recipe, which is awesome in pies, tarts, cheesecakes and crumbles, but if theres one thing you NEED to make with cranberries this season, and then duly cover everything with, it’s cranberry sauce. I don’t care that it is readily available in the shops, homemade tastes so much better and is too easy for words. You’d even find time to whip it up while the turkey’s in on Christmas Day. So no excuses!

Spoons at the ready? Let’s go!

Yuletide Cranberry Sauce

  • 300g cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 65ml water
  • A healthy shot of cherry brandy
  • 1 tsp mixed spice- make sure yours contains cloves.
  • A healthy shot of Cointreau

IMG_3898Can you spot what I forgot in this picture? Thankfully I noticed before I was done and this sauce is very forgiving 😛

Pop your cranberries in the pan with the water. If they are frozen, give them a few minutes until they begin to thaw before moving on to the next step.

Add in the brandy, spice and sugar and mix through. Let it cook on a simmer until the berries are really popping, stirring occasionally.

Beat the mixture to help those berries burst and release all their goodness and remove from the heat. Let sit for a minute an and add the cointreau just before you decant into jars or a bowl. If you want to cook off all the alcohol, then you can cook the sauce for another few minutes instead.

If you need to store, pot up in clear warm jars as for jam. Otherwise you can as easily keep in a bowl in the fridge once cooled and set.

IMG_3902

Seriously, this recipe is just too simple. Cranberries are PACKED with pectin, making the setting process a doodle. They’re some of the easiest fruits to work with when it comes to making jams and jellies because of this. If you want a really simple sauce with no trace of alcohol, just leave it out. You can add some orange juice or extra water to make up for loss of liquid. Also, this sauce is still pretty tart, but if you want it tarter, leave out 50g of the sugar. Whatever you do, the result is super tasty, and the reddest red that ever did red.

Spread this sauce in sandwiches with brie or poultry, stir into gravies and soups for flavour or simple enjoy as is with roast dinners or cold meats and cheeses. Ugh, my mouth is watering.

Enjoy,

sigdraft

Mincemeat

Despite a mixed heritage, I’m British at heart; a fan of the royals, grey skies and our beautiful gentle countryside. I like our crisp winter mornings, and our crazy weather, the disdain of londoners and the rosy-apple folk who sell you apples or take you a-wassailing. I like getting lost in ancient woodlands, tripping on gnarled roots, and spotting the flit of birds or foxes or deer through the slender trunks of trees, dreaming them to be unicorns and spirits of old.

Of our food heritage, I’m proud of a lot of things. Our fruit is wonderful- there’s nothing like a British strawberry, or Cherry, or our versatile, plentiful apples and plums and gages. Our brewing is top notch and real british ale makes the best gravy for pies and stews. My favourite traditional foodstuff, probably, is Mincemeat. Originally containing meat along with the mixed fruit and spice, over the centuries, with the availability of sugars far sweeter than other traditional sweeteners, as well as a change in tastes from the fruit/meat combinations popular in the 15th and 16th centuries to the modern palate, Mincemeat became a dessert item. Traditionally, even today, it contains suet or butter, but some prefer it without, whether they are vegetarian or not. Of course, vegetarian suet is available, but I confess that when it comes to homemade mincemeat, I don’t bother with suet of any sort.

Delicious in pies and tarts, some cakes and other desserts, making my mincemeats is a Christmas tradition. In the past, it filled my old family home with the smell of fruit and booze and spice, but now I get to horde it all to myself. As I type, my fingers smell of brandy and clementine, and my latest batch is cooling on the hob, ready to be jarred up and saved to make mince pies for a party this weekend.

The best thing about Mincemeat is how variable it can be. Shop bought Mincemeat tends to taste the same, and that’s no crime, but when you make it yourself you can choose your favourite fruits to some extent, manage the spices to your taste, and make it as boozy as you like. I have two or three favourite recipes; a Cranberry one (originally by Nigella, and I’ve not changed much) which has converted many Mincemeat haters to the cause, a Bramley Apple and Clementine one of more traditional flavours that is also safe for my Grandparents to eat (Cranberries can play havoc with their medication) and a lighter, sweeter aromatic Sugarplum concoction.

IMG_1082

Cranberry Mincemeat

  • 130ml Ruby port
  • 200g Dark soft brown sugar
  • 600g Cranberries
  • 100g Dried cranberries
  • 125g Dried mixed fruit and peel
  • 1/4 tsp Ground cloves
  • 2tsp Ground ginger
  • 2tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp Mixed Spice
  • 1 Clementine or 6tsp orange juice
  • 6 tbsp Honey
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp Almond extract
  • 50ml brandy
  • Optional: 3 drops Orange extract

Over a low heat, add the sugar and port to your pan and stir gently until the sugar dissolves.

Add the cranberries and coat in the port syrup, stirring as needed until the berries begin to pop. If you are using frozen fruit straight from the freezer, allow a few minutes extra for the fruit to defrost.

Add the spices and dried fruit to the mix and stir in.

If you are using the orange juice, just add and mix it in. If you use a clementine, squeeze the juice into the pan and add the juiced halves of the fruit to the mixture. Stir to combine.

Let the mixture simmer over a low heat for 15-20 minutes until nearly all the berries are popped and the mixture is a deep, dark sultry red. Check it frequently in this time to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Take the pan off the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes. It will become quite jellied.

Beat the honey, extracts and brandy vigorously into the mix until it becomes runnier and pot up, if storing, or pour into a storage bowl if you are going to use it within two weeks, and have fridge space. This recipe makes one good litre of Mincemeat- I filled a Kilner jar, with one pie’s worth left over.

If you are going to give the mincemeat as a gift, or store in jars for more than a month or so, add a splash of brandy to the top of the jar to help keep if preserved.

IMG_1086

This concoction is obscenely red, with a few un-popped berries in this mix glowing like rubies. The flavour is tangy, sweet and spicy and the texture is jammy and delicious. I’ve been making this for several years now, and it makes me grin every time I do; it’s a treat for all the senses and so completely festive. My friends put in requests for pies made with this early in the year. Speaking of, I’d better get on with my pastry.

A full photoset is up on the Tumblr page.