Mulled Wine

IMG_1651It’s the perfect drink for chilly festive evenings and, with just a splash of brandy, it makes a great addition to a cocktail party menu.

For the best flavour, use a slightly fruity red wine.  While red wine and apple cider are the most traditional of the spiced winter warmers, you can also use cranberry juice or white wine to add some variation.  Just don’t let the mixture boil as this will evaporate the alcohol.

How to make …

Step One : Combine a bottle of red wine, a 10cm x 0.5cm (4 in x 1/4 in) slice of orange zest with the white pith removed, 3 orange slices, a thin slice of fresh ginger, 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 2 cardamom pods, 2 cinnamon sticks and 4 whole cloves in a large saucepan.

Step Two : Bring the mixture to just under a simmer over a low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Do not allow the wine to boil.

Step Three : The mulled wine is hot enough when the sugar has dissolved and lifting a spoon from the wine brings up steam.  To serve, add 1-2 teaspoons of brandy to a cup or mug and ladle the mulled wine over it.  Serves 6.

Keep the wine warm in a Mulled Wine Pot Warmer 

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Turkish Delight

turkish delightTurkish Delight is always a favourite at Christmas, and this versatile recipe can be made in minutes. Try different flavours such as lemon, crème de menthe and orange and vary the colours accordingly.

Ingredients:
450g / 1 lb / 2 cups granulated sugar
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups water
25g / 1oz / 2 tblsp powdered gelatine
2.5ml / ½ tsp tartaric acid
30ml / 2 tblsp rose water
Pink food colouring
25g / 1oz / 3 tblsp icing sugar, sifted
15ml / 1 tblsp cornflour

Makes 450g / 1 lb

Step One : Wet the insides of 2 x 18cm (7in) shallow square tins with water. Place the sugar and all but 60ml (4 tblsp) of water into a heavy-based saucepan. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.

Step Two : Blend the gelatine and remaining water in a small bowl and place over a saucepan of hot water. Stir occasionally until dissolved. Bring the sugar syrup to the boil and boil steadily for about 8 minutes, or until the syrup registers 127oC / 260oF on a sugar thermometer. Stir the tartaric acid into the gelatine, then pour into the boiling syrup and stir until well blended. Remove from the heat.

Step Three : Add the rose water and a few drops of pink food colouring and stir, adding a few more drops, as necessary, to tint the mixture pale pink. Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and allow to set for several hours or overnight.

Step Four : Dust a sheet of greaseproof paper with some of the icing sugar and cornflour. Dip the base of the tins in bot water and invert on to the paper. Cut the Turkish Delight into 2.5cm (1 in) squares, using an oiled knife. Toss the squares in icing sugar to coat evenly.

Recipe taken from The Ultimate Christmas Cookbook

Raspberry and Rose Chocolate Wafers

Recipe taken from Gifts from the Kitchen: 100 irresistible homemade presents for every occasion by Annie Rigg and courtesy of Easy Living Magazine.

Makes about 24 wafers

A box of thse chocolate wafers would make an ideal gift for mums – they are easy enough for little hands to make as the only cooking required is to melt the chocolate. Freeze-dried raspberries are available online or from good health food shops. As an alternative you could top the chocolate wafers with candied stem ginger or chopped dried fruit and nuts.

Raspberry and Rose Chocolate wafersIngredients:-
150g (5oz) best-quality dark chocolate (72% cocoa solids)
150g (5oz) best-quality white chocolate
3-4 tblsp freeze-dried raspberry crispies (around 25g / ¾ oz)
3-4 tblsp crystallized rose petals
3-4 tblsp pink sugared rose chips or sugar sprinkles

Step One : Line two large baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment.

Step Two : Break the dark and white chocolate into pieces and melt separately in heatproof bowls set over pans of barely simmering water. Stir until smooth, remove from the heat and cool slightly. Spoon heaped teaspoonfuls of melted chocolate on to the prepared baking sheets, spreading the chocolate into discs with the back of the spoon. Scatter with the raspberry crispies, rose petals and rose chips or sugar sprinkles.

Step Three : Set aside to cool and harden completely before removing from the parchment with a palette knife.

Step Four : Stored in an airtight container, these will keep for four to five days.

Link to book containing recipe can be found here …

Coffee and Cardamom Toffee

Recipe taken from Gifts from the Kitchen: 100 irresistible homemade presents for every occasion by Annie Rigg and courtesy of Easy Living Magazine.

Makes about 20 pieces

There is something quite nostalgic and old-fashioned about toffee, but here it is given a contemporary twist with coffee and a hint of cardamom.

Cardamom Toffee (2)Ingredients:-
Sunflower oil, for brushing the tin
125g (4oz) unsalted butter, diced
200g (6 ½ oz) caster sugar
75g molasses sugar
2 ruonded tblsp golden syrup
2 tsp instant coffee granules
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
5-6 cardamom pods

Step One : Brush the inside of a 17cm (7in) square baking tin with sunflower oil.

Step Two : Place all the ingredients except the cardamom pods in a medium-sized pan and add 75ml (2 ½ fl oz) water. Crack the cardamom pods using a pestle and mortar; remove the green husks and finely grind the little black seeds. Add to the pan and place over a low to medium heat. Stir to melt the butter and completely dissolve the sugars.

Step Three : When the sugars have dissolved, raise the heat slightly and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring from time to time. Continue to cook steadily until the toffee registers 126oC / 260oF (hard ball stage) on a sugar thermometer.

Step Four : Remove the pan from the heat, give the toffee a quick whisk and pour into the greased baking tin. Leave to cool and harden before breaking into pieces and packaging in waxed paper.

Step Five : Stored in an airtight container, the toffee will keep for about a week.

Link to book containing recipe can be found here …

Stained Glass Snowflake Cookies

Recipe taken from Gifts from the Kitchen: 100 irresistible homemade presents for every occasion by Annie Rigg and courtesy of Easy Living Magazine.

Makes: 8-12 Cookies

Festive snowflake cutters are used for these cookies, but the same idea works just as well for almost any shape. They look beautiful hanging at a window, allowing the light to shine through the ‘stained glass’. Or you could give one cookie to each guest as a place setting or table gift for the Christmas dinner table.

Stained glass.jpgIngredients:-
225g (7oz) unsalted butter, softened
150g (5oz) icing sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g (11oz) plain flour, plus extra for rolling
Pinch of salt
Assorted flavoured and coloured boiled sweets

Step One : You will need a selection of snowflake cookie cutters. Cream the softened butter and icing sugar together until pale and light. Add the whole egg and vanilla extract and mix again until thoroughly combined. Sift the flour with the sale, add to the bowl and mixed again until smooth.

Step Two : Gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for a couple of hours, or until firm. Meanwhile divide the boiled sweets into separate colours, place in freezer bags and crush using a rolling pin.

Step Three : Heat the oven to 180oC (Gas Mark 4) and line two solid baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment.

Step Four : Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the dough until it is roughly 3mm ( 1/8 in) thick. Using the snowflake cutters, stamp out snowflakes in assorted sizes and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Carefully and neatly fill the holes in the snowflakes with the crushed boiled sweets.

Step Five : Bake in batches on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are pale golden and the boiled sweets have melted and filled the holes.

Step Six : Cool the cookies on the trays until hardened, and package into boxes lined with greaseproof or waxed paper once completely cold. These will keep for four to five days in an airtight box.

Link to book containing recipe can be found here …

Mince Pies & Mincemeat & Cherry Tarts

A couple of recipes, one for traditional Mince Pies and another recipe using the same pastry recipe for making Mincemeat and Cherry Tarts which have a meringue, cherry and almond topping rather than a pastry top.

MINCE PIES

Cook time: 15 mins;
Makes: 22 pies

Ingredients for the pastry:
225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
25g (1oz) hard margarine
75g (3oz) lard

For the filling: 350g (12oz) mincemeat

Step One : Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the margarine and lard into little pieces. Add the fats to the flour and rub in with your fingertips. Add sufficient cold water to bind the pastry together, then knead lightly.

Step Two : Put half of the pastry on a lightly floured board and roll out thinly. Cut out 11 rounds with a 75cm (3in) pastry cutter and use to line a greased bun tray.

Step Three : Put a heaped teaspoonful of mincemeat into each pastry case. Use the left-over pastry and trimmings to make lids. Cut two little nicks in each lid with a knife, then dampen the edges before securing in place. Press lightly round the edges of each pie to seal.

Step Four : Make 11 more pies in the same way. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180oC/350oF/Gas Mark 4 for about 15 minutes, until lightly coloured.

Tip: Vary these pies by adding 115g (4oz) of cranberries to the filling, and cutting out pastry stars for lids.

MINCEMEAT AND CHERRY TARTS

Cook time: 20 mins
Makes: 24 pies

Ingredients:
Pastry recipe as for Mince Pies.

For the filling:
400g (14oz) mincemeat

For the topping:
2 medium egg whites
115g (4oz) caster sugar
50g (2oz) mixed glace cherries, washed, dried and chopped;
25g (1oz) flaked almonds

Step One : Follow methods 1 and 2 as for Mince pies – but use all of the pastry to make 24 tart cases.

Step Two : Put a heaped teaspoonful of mincement into each tart case. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Gradually whisk in half the sugar, then fold in the rest. Fold in the glace cherries, and pile the meringue on top of the pies. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the meringue.

Step Three : Then bake tarts in a preheated oven at 190oC / 375oF / Gas 5 for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked and the meringue is lightly browned.

You can find alternative Mince Pie recipes in this book ….

Nut and Glace Fruit Ring

The cake can be made two or three weeks before Christmas. Store it in a tin in a cool place until needed.

Ingredients:-
4 tblsp rum, brandy or sherry
115g (4oz) glace cherries, quartered
115g (4oz) cup raisins or sultanas
115g (4oz) dried apricots, quartered
115g (4oz) prunes, stones and quartered
115g (4oz) stoned and chopped dates
115g (4oz) butter
115g (4oz) soft dark brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
2 eggs, beaten
50g (2oz) ground almonds
115g (4oz) coarsely chopped walnuts
225g (8oz) self-raising flour

To finish:-
2 tblsp rum, brandy or sherry
4 tblsp apricot jam
Whole blanched almonds, split
3 glace cherries, halved
Few strips angelica

Makes 1 ring

Step One : The day before you want to bake the cake, put the rum, brandy or sherry in a large mixing bowl and add all the dried fruit. Cover the bowl with clear film and leave overnight in a cool place so that the fruit is well soaked. Meanwhile, grease a 23cm (9in) ring mould, with a 1.5 litre (2 ½ pint) capacity.

Step Two : The next day, preheat the oven to 160oC / 325oF / Gas 3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter, sugar and spices together until they are light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, and then fold in the soaked fruits, with any of the remaining liquid. Mix the ground almonds and chopped walnuts into the bowl and sift in the flour and mix until combined.

Step Three : Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Level the top of the mixture with the back of a spoon and bake in the preheat oven for 1 ½ – 2 hours. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Brush the cake with the rum, brandy or sherry.

Step Four : Put the apricot jam in a small pan and heat it gently to melt it. Sieve the jam. Brush the hot glaze over the top of the cake. Arrange the nuts and fruit in a flower design on top of the cake and brush them liberally with more apricot glaze. The glaze must be used very hot, or the decoration will lift while you are brushing the jam over it.

More sweet Christmas treats can be found in this book …

Victoria Sponge Cake

Victoria Sponge cakeServes : 8-10

Ingredients:-
175g (6oz) butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
175g (6oz) caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g (6oz) self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
3 tblsp raspberry jam
1 tblsp caster sugar or icing sugar, for dusting

Step One : Preheat the oven to 180oC / 350oF / Gas Mark 4.

Step Two : Grease two 20cm (8 inch) sponge tins and line with baking paper.

Step Three : Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl using a wooden spoon or a hand-held mixer until the mixture is pale in colour and light and fluffy.

Step Four : Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition.

Step Five : Sift the flour and salt together and carefully add to the mixture, folding in with a metal spoon or a spatula. Divide the mixture between the tins and smooth over with the spatula.

Step Six : Place the tins on the same shelf in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen, golden brown and beginning to shrink from the sides of the tins.

Step Seven : Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 1 minute.

Step Eight : Loosen the cakes from around the edges of the tins using a palette knife. Turn the cakes out onto a clean tea towel, remove the paper and invert them onto a wire rack (this prevents the wire rack marking the tops of the cakes).

Step Nine : When completely cool, sandwich together with the jam and dust with icing sugar. The cake is delicious when freshly baked, but any remaining cake can be stored in an airtight tin for up to one week.

Devil’s Food Cake

Devils Food CakeServes: 8-10

Sponge Ingredients:-
140g (5oz) plain chocolate
100ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk
2 tblsp cocoa powder
140g (5oz) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
140g (5oz) ligh Muscovado sugar
3 eggs, separated
4 tblsp soured cream or crème fraiche
200g (7oz) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Frosting Ingredients:-
140g (5oz) plain chocolate
40g (1 ½ oz) cocoa powder
4 tblsp soured cream or crème fraiche
1 tblsp golden syrup
40g (1 ½ oz) unsalted butter
4 tblsp water
200g (7oz) icing sugar

Step One : Preheat the oven to 160oC / 325oF / Gas Mark 3. Grease two 20cm (8 inch) sandwich tins and line the bases with baking paper.

Step Two : Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, add the milk and cocoa powder, then heat gently, stirring until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.

Step Three : In a large bowl beat the butter and Muscovado sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, then beat in the soured cream and the melted chocolate mixture.

Step Four : Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda, then fold in evenly. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff enough to hold firm peaks. Fold into the mixture lightly and evenly.

Step Five : Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins, smooth level and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Step Six : To make the frosting, put the chocolate, cocoa powder, soured cream, golden syrup, butter and water in a saucepan and heat gently until melted. Remove from the heat and sift in the sugar, stirring until smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken and hold its shape.

Step Seven : Split the cakes in half horizontally with a sharp knife to make four layers. Sandwich the cakes together with about a third of the frosting. Spread the remainder over the top and side of the cake swirling with a palette knife.

Tip: Use a metal, ceramic or glass bowl when whisking egg whites. Plastic bowls scratch easily, so may not be grease-free, and will prevent the whites from foaming.