Christmas Chocolate

This is one of those recipes I end up making most years around this time, it usually starts out as a chocolate fondue with the left overs turned into chocolate truffles.  We’ve never managed to eat all of the fondue as it’s just so rich so I don’t even both making extra unless I want a lot of truffles.

truffles

Muti purpose chocolate ganache recipe

250g dark chocolate
125ml double cream
Slug of brandy/rum/whisky or other spirit

In a saucepan, gently heat the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate has just melted – do not boil. Add the booze and stir thoroughly.

You can use it still warm as a chocolate fondue or sauce, cool for a while and use as cake filling or covering or cool thoroughly and shape into truffles. A little goes a long way.

For the truffles you need to keep the mixture cold and work quickly, I use a melon baller but you can roll it with spoons if you’re less clumsy than I am.  Roll the finished balls in cocoa powder, chopped nuts or sprinkles and plonk into petit four cases so they look fancy.  Or just scoff them as you make them and then buy a box of chocs for whoever you were making them for 🙂

Feeling fruity

Finally got round to putting together the sloe vodka today.  While I was at it I also made a strawberry vodka and a peach vodka.  It’s probably a bit late now for the sloe vodka to be ready for Christmas, but the fruit ones only take a couple of weeks so they should be good to go.

It’s the same method for all them – just fill a bottle with fruit, a couple of spoons of sugar and top up with vodka or gin or any other clear spirit.  Give them a good shake every day or so until all the sugar is dissolved and the liquid has a good colour and then strain off the now yummy flavoured booze.  If you really want a boozy hit you can eat the fruit too – or throw it in a trifle.

I’ve not tried peaches before but strawberry and sloe are both old favourites.  I have some vodka left over which I am thinking of adding salt and licorice to just for something different.

With the sloes you’re supposed to prick them first, but since I froze mine until I got round to bottling they were splitting anyway so I didn’t need to.  Apparently you get a better flavour if you wait to pick the sloes until after the first frost but freezing them at least overnight is almost as good.

A trick I picked up from a friend recently is to add a few drops of vanilla – it’s the same flavour you get when spirits are aged in oak barrels so it makes cheap booze taste that bit posher.  These are definitely made with cheap booze, I went with Vodka rather than Gin because it was on special offer so this whole lot is only about £12 worth of alcohol – bargain!

I’ll try and remember to come back and add photos of the finished results.

Feeling autumnal

I love this time of year.  There is something so satisfying about picking fruit from the hedgerows.  Free is always my favourite price.

We just stopped the car on the way home from work as I spotted some sloe bushes – these beauties will soon be turning into sloe gin.  There were loads of sloe bushes and all of them had oodles of berries.  I might have to go back for more!

sloes

We’ve already picked a load of apples from the garden.  I had the idea of putting them through the juicer which meant we had loads of pulp which was turned into apple sauce, (add sugar and water, boil and sieve) and the juice is busy turning into apple mead. (I used this apple wine recipe but substituted honey for sugar).

mead

I’m planning on making a load of jams and chutneys over the next few days, I have a huge amount of ginger since we were lucky enough to pick up a small mountain of it from the reduced bin at the supermarket so I’m going to try making crystalised ginger, ginger honey, ginger curd and possibly ginger wine

Some of the jams/chutneys are destined for the Ramsey Crafters Christmas craft fair which is being held on my birthday.  It feels a bit early to be thinking about Christmas but it makes sense to take advantage of all the free food in the hedgerows, we had a busy morning yesterday harvesting willow from Sue’s garden and twisting it into wreath forms, we’ll be having a wreath making and decorating session at one of the Crafters sessions soon , hopefully these will have time to dry out nicely first.

wreaths

We’ve already had one craft session on christmas makes – we made some festive tea light holders from old glasses and jars.  They are really simple – just cover the glass in white pva glue, layer on tissue paper (the white ones are just tissues like you would use for blowing your nose the coloured one is cut up bits of coloured tissue paper) cover in more glue and decorate with sequins and/or glitter.  They don’t look like much until you put a lit tealight inside, but they are really effective when they are lit.

tealights

I have loads of ideas for Christmas makes, the next few months should be fun.

Oh dear

i thought I’d try a recipe I saw on Facebook. Cinnamon and sugar coated sweet potato chips. It didn’t go so well. I was trying to work at the same time as cooking and left them in the oven too long. Even the tasty coating couldn’t save them.

 
At least I was able to eat enough to realise that the idea is worth trying again sometime.

Pico de gallo

I’m having a treat today, loads of pico de gallo to nom on with tortilla chips

It’s a bit on the chunky side, but I like it that way.  If I was making it to share I’d probably make it finer just to be posh.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to make and so flavoursome, it’s even healthy! I don’t know why I don’t have it every day.

All you need is tomatoes, onions, a couple of chillis, a clove of garlic, some fresh coriander and lime juice.  The exact proportions don’t matter, it’s just a case of mixing until you get the balance that works for you. Everyone makes it slightly differently and they all taste great.

Mine has – 12 smallish tomatoes, one small onion, one clove garlic, 2 green chillis, a handful of coriander leaf and the juice of one lime.

Cheeseburger bread


Cut almost all the way through a loaf to make squares about an inch across, stuff cooked seasoned minced beef and grated cheese into the gaps and put in a warm oven until the cheese melts. Yum!  You’d be amazed how quickly a loaf can disappear.
Next time I’m going to use chilli instead of hamburger and top with jalapeños and guacamole.

Cranberry bread

Since I had the oven on for the beer bread anyway I decided to make another favourite – cranberry bread.  This is so sweet it’s more like a cake than a bread but it makes an amazing cheese sandwich

  • Half a cup of sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 and a half cups of self raising flour
  • 1 small jar of cranberry sauce (about 1 cup)

Mix everything together in a bowl. Pour into a buttered loaf pan.  Cook at  175/350 for about an hour.  Remove from the tin to cool – although I’m not very good at that part and end up eating it still warm from the oven.

I’m sure you could swap the cranberry for redcurrant or apple sauce and it would still work.  I’m also planning on trying this with elderberry once I’ve picked some later in the year.

Beer bread

Taking a short break from the essay writing today I decided to have a go at making beer bread.  The result looks rather yummy


It’s so much easier than ordinary bread, only takes a few minutes to mix.

Recipe:

3 cups flour (I used a mix of wholemeal with seeds and self raising)

2 tablespoons sugar

12oz beer

You can also add any flavourings you fancy so mine has some Italian herbs and crushed garlic.  This is completely optional though.

Just stir together – you can even mix in the cooking tin for minimal washing up.   It’s designed to be baked in a regular loaf tin but I wanted mine round so used a cake tin.

Some recipes say to pour over some melted butter, I was running a bit low on butter so used a tablespoon of garlic infused olive oil instead.

Cook for about an hour at 190/375

I’m planning to turn my loaf into a tear apart cheeseburger bread but that won’t be until tomorrow.  It was very hard to resist just tucking in while it was still warm though – I hope it was worth it 🙂

Lemony update

The lemon curd was good.  In fact good doesn’t come close to doing it justice, it was sharp and tangy and rich and silky and everything you’d want a lemon curd to be.  It was so good I will have to restrict myself on how often I can make it.

As well as filling and covering Gary’s birthday cake I had enough left to make a lemon curd cheesecake and a sort of Eton mess.

The cheesecake was dead easy – crush up a pack of ginger nut biscuits for the base and hold together with melted butter.  While that’s chilling whip a large tub of double cream until thick.  Take one tub of marscapone and stir in about 5 tablespoons of lemon curd.  Then stir that into the cream.  Taste and add caster sugar until it’s as sweet as you want it (I like it sharp so only a couple of spoonfulls were needed).  Pile the creamy cheesey lemony mix on top of the biscuit base and squish down.  Keep in the fridge until you are ready to eat.  Easy and yummy!  When I make it again I might add vanilla or melted white chocolate to the marscapone instead and use the lemon curd to make a swirl through the cheesecake instead of blending it in.  Couldn’t taste much better but I think it would be pretty.

The Eton mess was also dead simple – crumble up some meringue nests (I bought them cos I was feeling lazy but you can make your own if you are more of a domestic goddess), whip a small tub of cream, stir together – add blueberries and lemon curd towards the end so they are stirred through but not fully mixed in.  Delicious!

Lemony

Tomorrow is Gary’s birthday, and since he is a wonderful husband I figured it only fair that he should get cake.  So when he went out to work this evening I got busy and made a gin and lemon cake.  (Just a basic sponge but using gin and lemon juice in place of water).

Then I decided it needed a lemony filling so I had my first ever attempt at making lemon curd.  I didn’t have a recipe so had to improvise based on what I’d seen on TV programmes like masterchef.

I had half a bottle of lemon juice to which I added 2 eggs, a cup of caster sugar and about a third a block of butter.  All very approximate as I didn’t have a recipe.

I whisked everything other than the butter together first then cooked it until it had thickened and then melted in the butter before whisking again.

curd

It looks ok, but I guess I’ll find out for sure whether it’s worked when it’s cooled down enough to taste 🙂