Monday, 28 November 2011

Traditional Christmas Pudding

You really can't beat a home-made Christmas Pudding and I have kept the tradition of making one every year for the past 8 years. Factory made puddings sold in shops don't come anywhere near a home-made pud, with it's luscious combination of vine fruits, nuts and citrus peels, laced with stout and rum then slowly steamed into a dark fragrant combination of intense flavours. If you find the thought of making your own Christmas Pudding a daunting task and you are put off by the 8 hours of steaming, I can only encourage you to give it a go. The steaming only requires your attention periodically to top up the water level and the end result is the best ever pud you and your family will have tasted, then like myself you will never go back to a shop bought Christmas pudding.

Traditional Christmas Pudding

110g shredded suet
110g white breadcrumbs
1 level tsp ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
a good pinch of ground cinnamon
225g soft dark brown sugar
110g sultanas
110g raisins
275g currants
25g mix candied peel
25g whole almonds, chopped
1 small cooking apple, cored and finely chopped (no need to peel)
the grated zest of 1/2 large navel orange
the grated zest of 1/2 large lemon
2 tbsp rum
150ml stout
2 eggs
50g self-raising flour, sifted

A 1.2 litre pudding basin, lightly greased, baking parchment, foil and string.

Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet and breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together, then gradually mix in all the dried fruit, peel and nuts followed by the apple and the grated orange and lemon zests. Don't forget to tick everything off as you go to make sure nothing gets left out. Next in a smaller basin, measure out the rum and stout, then add the eggs and beat these thoroughly together. Next pour this over all the other ingredients and begin to mix thoroughly. It's now traditional to gather all the family round, especially the children, and invite everyone to have a really good stir and make a wish! The mixture should have a fairly sloppy consistency - that is, it should fall instantly from the spoon when this is tapped on the side of the bowl. If you think it needs a bit more liquid add a spot more stout. Cover the bowl and leave overnight.

Next day stir in the sifted flour quite thoroughly, then pack the mixture into the lightly greased basin, cover it with a double layer of baking parchment and a sheet of foil and tie it securely with string. It's also a good idea to tie a piece of string across the top to make a handle. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan filled with simmering water and steam the pudding for 8 hours. Do make sure you keep a regular eye on the water underneath and top it up with boiling water straight from the kettleabout halfway through the time. When the pudding is steamed, let it get quite cold, then remove the baking parchment and foil and replace them with some fresh ones, again making a string handle for easy manoeuvring. Now your Christmas pudding is ready for Christmas Day. Keep it in a cool place away from light. Under the bed in an unheated bedroom is an ideal place.

On Christmas Day steam your Christmas Pudding for 2 1/4 hours, checking on the water from time to time and maybe top it up a bit.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

The Christmas build-up has begun and it's my favourite time of the year. I just love everything about Christmas and the first glimmer begins in October with the baking of my Christmas cake, pudding and mincemeat. From here in all my bakes will be Christmas themed, and I have a list of those goodies in mind and can't wait. I decided to start off with these Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins, and for me cranberries scream Christmas! These fluffy and tender muffins studded with chocolate chips and tart cranberries are a match made in heaven! They taste fabulous and will definitely feature again during the month of Christmas.

Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

300g self raising flour, sifted
170g caster sugar (white or golden)
170g butter, melted and cooled a little
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
200ml milk
100g chocolate chips, dark or milk
100g dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Place 12 paper liners in a muffin tin.

Sift flour and mix dry ingredients (flour and sugar) in a bowl.

Beat eggs and milk and vanilla in a jug.

Pour the eggs and milk into the dry ingredients, mix a little and then add the butter and mix briefly.

Add the cranberries and chocolate chips and mix again.

Divide between the cases.

Bake for around 25-30 minutes until golden brown and a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack.

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes

All of us, adults and kids alike can never resist a cupcake; the baking and eating of a cupcake is a blissful experience. For me they evoke fond memories of birthday parties and family celebrations while growing up. Nothing brings me more joy than sharing my passion for baking with my close family members, especially the young ones who may have this as a fond memory of their own in years to come.
Last week we had our nephew come to stay, whenever he visits he loves to bake some goodies with me, his favourite bakes are cookies and cupcakes. After choosing some sprinkles and decorations while at the supermarket we decided on these cupcakes which I have baked many times before. We both had an enjoyable afternoon in the kitchen and even more enjoyable time eating them!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 12

175g (6 oz) self-raising flour
1½ level tsp baking powder
175g (6 oz) butter, softened
175g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
3 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Buttercream Icing
150g (5oz) butter, softened
300g (11 oz) icing (confectioners) sugar, sifted
1 tbsp milk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Sprinkle(s) for decoration of choice

You will also require 12 holed muffin tin lined with 12 paper muffin cases

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Sift the self-raising flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and then add the butter, caster sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Beat together until well mixes, trying not to over mix the mixture. Spoon the mixture equally into the prepared paper cases and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out to completely cool on a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter until soft. Add the icing sugar and stir until it’s just mixed in, then add the milk and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Divide into as many bowls as you want different colour(s) and add edible food colouring (you only require a few drops). Spread the icing on thickly with a palette knife on top of each cupcake or put the icing into a piping back and make a large swirl on top of each cupcake. Decorate each cupcake with your chosen sprinkle(s).

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Creamy Pancetta Pasta with Mushrooms & Parmesan

As most of you know I love cookbooks and own an extensive collection but I haven't had a good splurge in months. Receiving a package with shiny new cookbooks and reading through all those delicious recipes is the best feeling for a cookbook aficionado. I came across this delicious pasta recipe in Lorraine Pascale's new book and made it for a quick-fix weekday dinner. It was everything I expected, easy, comforting and a dish that I will make time and time again!

Creamy Pancetta Pasta with Mushrooms & Parmesan
Serves 4

400g papardelle or tagliatelle
100-200g cubed pancetta
175g chestnut mushrooms, wiped and finely sliced
225ml double cream ( I use half fat creme friache)
75g grated parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, put the pancetta in a medium pan over a medium to high heat. When it starts to go brown, add the mushrooms and cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add the double cream. Once the cream is hot, add the parmesan and stir together well.

Once the pasta is ready, drain and then return it to the pan. Add the creamy mixture and stir through well. Seaon with some pepper and sprinkle over more grated parmesan.

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