Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Nigella's Baked Alaska

This is my last post for a few days, so I thought I would go out with a showstopper, Nigella's baked Alaska.  Surprisingly easy to make and even easier if you buy the sponge cake base ready made. I did make the base and it was lovely.  I have been meaning to give this dessert a try for a while, and Christmas seemed like a good time to give it a go. Thank you to everyone who has supported and followed my blog over the last year. I wish each and everyone of you a very Happy Christmas and a happy and healthy 2014. 

Serves 8 -10
100g butter
6 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour
25g cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Butter and line the bottom of a 25cm springform tin with baking parchment. If using a processor, put yolks (reserve the whites for later), butter, sugar, flour, cornflour, baking powder, lemon zest and vanilla in a bowl and blitz to a thick, smooth yellow batter. Or beat by hand, creaming the butter and sugar and then beating in egg yolks, then vanilla and zest and finally the dry ingredients. 
Spread into the bottom of the prepared tin and bake for 12-15 mins until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the shallow Alaska base cool for a little in the tin on a wire rack before unmoulding, and let it cool completely before the next stage.  

6 egg whites
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar ( I did not have this)
200g caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
2 x 500ml tubs of ice cream

Preheat the oven to the hottest it will go and make sure that the shelf is down low.
Whisk the egg whites until they are foamy, then add the salt and cream of tartar and continue whisking until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating well after each addition by which time you should have a thick and glossy meringue mixture. Fold in the vanilla extract.
Allow the ice cream to soften enough to make round balls with an ice cream scoop. Place the sponge onto a lined baking sheet and using both tubs make a mountain of ice cream in the middle of the sponge. Leave a good edge of sponge around the outside. Pile the meringue over the top of the ice cream and completely cover the sponge top and sides, creating a mountainous swirly effect. Make sure there is no ice cream showing through as it will melt in the oven if not protected by the meringue.
Put the as yet unbaked Alaska on it's baking sheet into the oven for the barest of 5 minutes, don't leave it unattended and do not remove until the meringue has turned a golden colour. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Baked Ham with Delia's Cumberland Sauce

Most meat eaters have a ham over the Christmas period. I cooked one the other night for an impromptu, early festive dinner with my parents, sister and family. I forget how lovely and relatively simple a cooked ham is. This piece was a smoked Wiltshire joint from tesco (half price at the moment) which served 10 - 12. I cooked it for just less than 2½ hours. I served mine with delicious Cumberland sauce, such a wonderful and worthwhile accompaniment. It can be made in advance and warmed up again. I roasted some potatoes, carrots and steamed some sprouts. I also made a lovely dish of braised red cabbage and then forgot to serve it. I have frozen it for future use. 

Cumberland Sauce
Serves 8
1 medium lemon
1 medium orange
4 heaped tablespoons of redcurrant jelly
4 tablespoons port
1 heaped teaspoon of mustard powder
1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger

First, thinly pare off the zest of both the lemon and the orange, using a potato peeler, then cut them into very small strips ½ inch (1 cm) long and as thin as possible. Boil them in water for 5 minutes to extract any bitterness, then drain well. (I didn't do this stage and just used the juices of the lemon and the orange)
Now place the redcurrant jelly in a saucepan with the port and melt, whisking them together over a low heat for about 5 or 10 minutes.
In a serving bowl, mix the mustard and ginger with the juice of half the lemon until smooth, then add the juice of the whole orange, the port and redcurrant mixture, and finally the strips of lemon and orange zest. Mix well and the sauce is ready to use.
Cumberland sauce stores well in a screw-top jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Marzipan fruits

Rachel and I had a productive couple of hours yesterday afternoon with a packet of marzipan and some food colouring. These little fruits are something of a tradition for me ever since I learnt how to make them over 25 years ago on a cookery course. By using cloves and methods for texturing the fruit they do look surprisingly realistic. Roll the strawberries in caster sugar and the oranges and lemons on a small grater to get the pitted look. My intention was to give them for presents, but Rachel has decided we should keep them for ourselves. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Gingerbread Hearts and Stars

How pretty do they look for a very quick and easy, thoughtful gift? I think anything wrapped in cellophane and tied with a ribbon looks good though. I made the dough in the food processor in 3 stages, but I'm sure that I could have put all the ingredients in in one go and the mixture would have formed a dough. A nice gift for the children to make for family members perhaps? The recipe is from an Usbourne book I bought years ago for the children called 'Christmas cooking kit'. It has been a very handy book over the years. The same recipe could be used to make a gingerbread house, if you have the skill and the time. Take a look at this amazing one for inspiration from Elizabeth at Elizabeths Kitchen Diary. I wouldn't know where to start. 

makes approx 20

350g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
100g of butter or margarine
175g soft light brown sugar
1 medium egg
4 tablespoons golden syrup

Sift the flour, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda together. Add the butter or margarine, cut into small chunks.
Rub the butter into the flour until it is like fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.
Break the egg into a bowl, add the syrup, beat well and stir into the flour.
Mix well until it comes together into a ball (add a little more syrup if necessary), then knead thoroughly on a floured surface until you have a smooth dough.
Divide the dough into halves, roll out one half until about 5mm thick, cut into shapes with cookie cutters, and place on a baking sheet, lined with greaseproof paper.
Bake at 190ºC  for 12 to 15 minutes, and cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

TIme to ice

If you haven't already done so, now might be a good time to get the icing on the cake. I covered the cake in marzipan last week and today I applied the icing. Yes, it looks like a duplicate of last years cake, but I do like the snow scene theme. I used Tate and Lyle Royal icing. This proved much less runny and challenging than my icing session last year. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Clementine and Grand Marnier Tiramisu

I love tiramisu and was really intrigued with this recipe which uses clementine juice to soak the sponge fingers in rather than the traditional coffee. I wasn't disappointed, and though I didn't buy enough mascarpone, so the cream was not as thick as it should have been, the dessert was still wonderful. Perfect for a festive dessert with the use of these christmassy fruits. I'm sure the grand mariner could be substituted for other alcohol, such as brandy, Cointreau or perhaps a sweet sherry. I found the recipe on a blog I have mentioned previously called 'Mondomulia'. The following link will take you to the recipe, complete with beautiful photographs. The blog is well worth a visit.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Nigella's Sticky Gingerbread

I wanted to make something Christmassy to take to a friends house for lunch today. This dark, treacly gingerbread certainly fits the bill. I have just lifted the cake tin lid and have been greeted with the most delicious smell. I should have made mine in a slightly bigger tin (I used a square brownie tin) as I felt it was too thick and a little stodgy in the middle. However it still tastes wonderful. The recipe is taken from Nigella's 'Christmas' Cookbook, it's really easy to make and can keep for up to 2 weeks once cooked. A nice homemade Christmas present perhaps?

Makes 20 squares
150g butter
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle or molasses
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 2 x 15ml tablespoons warm water
250ml full-fat milk
2 eggs, beaten to mix
300g plain flour

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a roasting tin or ovenproof dish (approx. 30cm x 20cm x 5cm) with Bake-O-Glide, foil or baking parchment (if using foil, grease it too). In a saucepan, melt the butter over a lowish heat along with the sugar, syrup, treacle, fresh and ground gingers, cinnamon and cloves.
Take off the heat, and add the milk, eggs and dissolved bicarbonate of soda in its water.
Measure the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed. It will be a very liquid batter, so don’t worry. This is part of
what makes it sticky later.
Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 45–60 minutes until risen and firm on top. Try not to overcook, as it is nicer a little stickier, and anyway it will carry on cooking as it cools.
Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the gingerbread cool in the tin before cutting into 20 squares, or however you wish to slice it.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Sweet mince pies with Mary Berry's pastry

My first batch of homemade mince pies this year. Again I used a pastry recipe from Mary Berry. Yesterday, I put all the ingredients in the processor together and the result was perfect. I don't consider myself to be a good pastry maker. I made about 16 mince pies with the amount of pastry the recipe states. I haven't attempted homemade mincemeat yet, but can definitely recommend the specially selected one from Aldi. It's suitable for vegetarians too. 

The pastry recipe can be found on the following link. Tarte au Citron.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Pancetta and asparagus salad with a poached egg

A runnier poached egg would have been preferable in this simple lunch, but otherwise it was quite delicious. I used pancetta pieces, but bacon would work equally as well. Steam the asparagus until tender then mix with the bacon and salad leaves. Lightly poach a boiled egg and place on top of your salad. Dress the salad with your choice of dressing.