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Christmas Special - Mincemeat

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My mother in law makes the best mince pies, they are these tiny buttery shells filled with juicy, boozy fruit always topped with a small pasty star. The pastry is wonderful and short, but it’s the mincemeat that really makes it. 

I don’t think I will ever be able to replicate her recipe, so the best I can do it to go to good old favorites – Delia and Mary Berry and create my own recipe, my own special recipe that I can pass onto my children. 

Christmas Mince 
Makes 3x0.3l jars 

200g (1 large) bramley apple 
225g raising 
225g currants 
225g sultanas 
130g mixed candied peel, chopped 
225g brown sugar 
50g toasted almond flakes 
3 heaped tsp mixed spice 
½ tsp nutmeg 
1 lemon, juice only 
1 orange, juice only 
150g shredded suet 
50g butter 
2 bay leaves 
250ml brandy 

Core the apple (don’t worry about peeling) and chop into small, fingernail size pieces. Place the apple and the rest of the ingredients – apart from brandy – in a heat proof bowl and stir everything together until everything is well combi…

Christmas special - Cake

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Did you know its only 38 days before Christmas? Its definitely beginning to feel colder and wintery and we might even get snow this Christmas! To be fair, I am hoping for snow every year, and so far I have only seen a white Christmas once in all my years of living in London. 

I love Christmas, I really do, and I love all the traditions and foods that come with it, and no Christmas is complete in our house without a Christmas cake. Now, this is a rather new tradition in our house, I’ve only been making a Christmas cake for the last five years or so. I am not a big fan Christmas cakes (or any fruit cake to be honest) that you buy in the shops. They are too sweet, too sticky, too artificial for my taste, I can taste the sugar grains and preservatives on my teeth. Which is why I decided to try making Christmas cakes at the first place – to see if the real deal is going to be any better, or maybe I am just not a Christmas cake person. 

Well, turns out I am a Christmas cake person, I am a…

Focaccia Baking with WI Ladies

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A few weeks back I was approached by a member of local WI group asking to come to one of their meeting and give a lesson in bread making. Obviously I jumped at the chance and said Yes, but deep inside I was very nervous – come on, it’s the WI ladies, they are the queens of baking and jams and thing (I promise I won’t mention the Jerusalem :) 

To add to the challenge, the class was set up in a pub, with no access to a lot of work bench space or ovens, expecting 20 to 30 members ! What the hell, I love a challenge. I decided to start with two reasonably easy recipes, that are very forgiving in terms on mixing and proving time – a soft focaccia and a milky white loaf. 

Ingredients bought, 10kg of dough pre-made, I was ready to roll ! The evening turned out to be a lot of fun – great to see such a range of personalities and ages, wine glasses in hand, chattering, flour flying everywhere :) I was an amazing experience for me, and I think they have enjoyed it too. 

Focaccia 

500 gstrong whit…

Russian Blini

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This is not strictly a bread recipe, but I was so pleased with the result, I decided to write it down for the future. 
Last weekend we hosted a Russian-themed party, and what a better way to start a party than with a plate of blini and caviar! 
Whenever we have a Russian party - which is once in a blue moon – I get caviar from Caspian Caviar guys – great quality and really speedy delivery. If you are strapped for time, you can get blini from them as well, but they will never be as good as the ones you make yourself. 

Russian Blini 
Makes 30-35 

100 g plain flour 
70 g spelt wholemeal flour (mine is from Shipton Mill
250 ml warm milk 
¼ tsp sugar 
¼ tsp salt 
1 tsp dry yeast 
2 eggs, separated 

Serve with: 
Crème fraise 
Caviar (black or red) or smoked salmon or cooked prawns 
Chive (for decoration) 

Now, traditional blini use buckwheat flour, but I didn’t have any in the house – who does? So I had to improvise a bit. Spelt flour is my favourite flour at the moment – it has a rich and nutty flavour…

Pale Ale Sourdough

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Happy St Patrick’s Day troops! This year I started preparing for it early : green top bought – check, a massive collection of whiskeys at home – check, make a beer bread – check! 

In reality, I was just looking for new flavours to add to my bread, and found a bottle of pale ale left over from a Viking party last summer – that a story for another day. 
I like my beers, but I am more of a larger girl, I’d drink Guinness too, but only in Ireland – it just doesn’t taste the same anywhere else. Ale is not a drink I would ever choose, so using it in bread made perfect sense! 

Pale Ale Sourdough 
220 ml pale ale 
100 ml water 
160g white sourdough starter (100% hydration) 
1 Tbsp barley malt extract 
400g white bread flour 
100g wholemeal four 
1.5 tsp salt 

I used pale ale, but you can use any beer you may have in the house, as long as its not dark beer. 
Pour beer and water in a mixer bowl, measure out starter. I am using my KitchenAid mixer for mixing my bread, but this bread could also be mixed my…

Apple and Cranberry Jelly

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A few weeks back I had a great pleasure of enjoying Vivien Lloyd, Jam Mistress herself, hospitality. We were planning a family trip to Bath and Vivien kindly invited us over to stay with her, and as an additional bonus, she gave me a class in jelly making – I couldn't believe my luck! 
Even though it is my post, I must point out that Vivien did all the work, I just took a lot of pictures, distracted her with my chatter and polished off the finished product :) 

I must say, I am not very friendly with jellies – the whole jelly making, straining and ensuring the right consistency and clarity seems a bit too complicated for me. Plus, I am not quite sure what I’d use jelly for if I did make it. 
Well, I am happy to report that after Vivien’s class I am a jelly-convert. I still need to find more uses for it, but I am definitely more confident making jellies, plus I can’t believe how simple and HOW FAST you can make them – fruit to jelly in TWO hours, yes, really! So here it goes … 

Apple a…

Jamming in London

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Jamming in London
When The jam mistress offers you to write a blog on her site, there is only one thing for it – grab your laptop and go! I first met Vivian a couple of years ago when I was muddling my way through batches and batches of bad marmalade – after one lesson from her, my marmalade is nearly perfect, even won three Silvers at Dalemain Marmalade awards! However, when it comes to jam making, I still have a lot to learn, but it doesn’t stop me from making jam from any fruit I can lay my hands on.
I am very lucky to live in the South East of London where fruit are plentiful and neighbors are friendly – not something I’d expect people associate with any part of London :)  Last year I spotted a number of large wild plum trees and was looking forward to picking some to make it into a jam. After a courtesy check with the neighbors I picked a large bag of plums, leaving plenty for birds and any other jam foragers. On the way back I saw another tree loaded with what assumed were a type…