zaterdag 31 december 2011

Christmas Pudding - New Year's pudding

I must just share this recipe. Perhaps you are still looking for a dessert for your New Year's day celebration dinner? Did you decide on a non traditional dessert on Christmas day and now regret it?
Well its not too late, you don't have to wait another year- all thanks to the Nan of Jamie Oliver!

This year my son had to prepare dessert for Christmas dinner. He was out on a limb cooking for the family of his girlfriend. He wanted to stay traditional with a Christmas pudding. I told him he was way too late deciding just a week before Christmas to make Christmas pudding. How wrong I was...
He had a helping hand in the kitchen- no other than Jamie Oliver.
My son was planning on making this pudding without a trial run on Christmas eve, how laid back is that? I convinced him to make the pudding a few days before Christmas, so we could approve it.(any kitchen activity in this house by others than myself has to be encouraged, since this is not a frequent occurence!) He halved the ingredients and it and knocked it up in no time. Of course, the only hassle is it needs to steam for three hours!
Jamie Oliver Says: "My Nan spent years perfecting this pudding recipe. It's quick, simple, tasty and it's not too heavy so you can eat more. I love it!"
He does admit to tweaking her recipe though! (don’t tell her!) According to Jamie you can make it the week before or the day before. An idiot can make it......No comment...!
It's the breadcrumbs that keep it light. While a traditional pudding is dense, dark, and heavy like a Jamie so eloquently puts it, this one is much lighter and more popular with kids! One downside of the breadcrumbs is the colour, which is also light. It disturbed me but it did taste good. I did miss the nuts though, I'm just a nutty person. In addition, I would spice it up a bit!

The DVD JAMIE'S CHRISTMAS is a great help in planning Christmas dinner, with lots of tips, ideas, a Christmas countdown, and even a shopping list. Also recipe cards for smoked salmon and watercress salad, classic pork and chestnut stuffing, creamed corn, roast spicy squash, pigs in blankets, mashed veg, roast potatoes with garlic and rosemary and parsnips with thyme and honey, my favourite turkey, cranberry sauce, veg with flavoured butters (sugar snap peas with parsley, garlic and lemon butter. Purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy and rosemary butter. Brussel sprouts with bacon, sage and chestnut butter. Carrots with thyme, cumin and orange butter) the best mince pies and my Nan's Christmas pudding. I would recommend it, I actually have a copy over (a double present) still sealed, interested? 5euro.
The only thing is my son now wants a cheesy jumper just like the one Jamie Oliver got for Christmas! Any knitters out there?

The photographs taken are while using half the ingredients. The impressive part of a Christmas pudding is during the flaming. Heat your brandy (or other liquor) over a flame in a metal soup ladle. Pour carefully over the pudding, normally it begins to ignite itself otherwise help it with a match. Enjoy!

My Nan's Christmas pudding
serves 8 to 10 people
1 teaspoon softened butter, for greasing
1 large egg
150ml of milk
400g dried sultanas and raisins
100g dried cherries and cranberries
125g suet or butter
125g plain flour
125g golden caster sugar
125g breadcrumbs
125 dates, chopped up
2 tablespoons of brandy
a pinch of salt
zest of 1 orange
3 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Firstly rub 1.5 litre pudding bowl with butter.
In a separate bowl beat the egg and milk together and put to one side.
In a third bowl, mix all the other ingredients together.
Pour the egg and milk mixture into this bowl and stir or mix with your hands until everything is combined.
Spoon this mixture into the greased pudding bowl and cover with a layer of buttered greaseproof paper followed by a double layer of aluminium foil.
Tie these layers in place around the rim of the bowl using a piece of string. (we didn’t bother)
Place the pudding bowl in a large saucepan and put cold water in the pan until it comes half way up the side of the bowl.
Bring the water to the boil then cover with a lid and simmer for 3 hours.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t forget to check the water regularly making sure that it doesn’t boil dry or the pan will burn and the bowl will crack.
When serving the pudding simply remove the cloth or the foil and turn it out on a plate.
Serve with brandy butter or nice thick custard.

It was a big hit with the girlfriend’s family.
This year I celebrated Christmas with a good friend. We had a lovely traditional English dinner,2 in 1 turkey AND roast beef! On Boxing day I cooked for my family. My Christmas 2011 menu: A salad with rolled ham with date and goat’s cheese stuffing decorated with a quail’s egg mango dressing and balsamic vinegar. Homemade beetroot and carrot crisps. Red onion and balsamic relish.
Roast sage chicken, roast butternut squash with red onion and fennel, roast potatoes and parsnips, cranberry sauce, Brussel sprouts with sage and orange, sage and onion stuffing, sausage and bacon rolls, cranberry sauce with orange and thyme.
Christmas pudding, with custard. Fruit with meringue and poached pear.

zondag 25 december 2011

Eat, drink and be merry!

Merry Christmas everyone!
And no it's not snowing in Holland. The photograph was taken last year!

donderdag 22 december 2011

Panforte, an Italian (Christmas) treat

This is an Italian cake that looks so appetising I was sold the minute I set my eyes on it!
It kind of looks like nougat, come biscotti, come candybar, come fruitcate. Certainly more confection than cake or bread (translates literally as strong bread) It is almost a luxury nutty flapjack without the oats! It looks deliciously tempting.
I did however have one slight problem:it was not available in the shops, I had never before tasted Panforte, could I make one? I knew I had to try.
Panforte is according to wikipedia, a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembling fruitcake or Lebkuchen....
It contains no butter or eggs, very little flour. This could also easily be substituted for ground almonds, so ideal for those with dietery requirements, eg gluten free. However if you have a nut allergy- forget it!
Apparently, it keeps very well- the chance would be a fine thing in this household!
It is also very easy to make and ideal for those that don't have the time to make a traditional Christmas cake (like me last Christmas). It can be served after dinner (with a glass of sweet dessert wine), or as an accompaniment to cup of frothy cappuccino. Dipped in coffee it is soft and scrumptious. What’s more it is quite acceptable to eat it with your hands!
Originally a Christmas can be enjoyed all year round. I have since discovered it is available at Sligro.
I wanted to make it as part of my Christmas dessert and on standby as necessary. It is very rich so I knew a little bit would go a long way. It is dense and chewy and oh so satisfying. I love it- have you noticed?
Being a chocoholic, I decided chocolate had to be of the party, and cranberries, because they are so festive, as well as having tartness to counteract the sweetness. I liked the idea of using figs, for their well... obvious properties, a bit of ginger (which I adore) and some grated orange- I think I was well on the way to coming up with seventeen ingredients that attribute to making aa authentic Panforte. Of course honey must be present, sugar, nuts. I wanted the full spice mix even a bit of the traditional pepper! I added a bit of Cointreau on a whim- couldn't resist it being the festive season and all that.
I initially searched the internet for a recipe but unable to find one that ticked all my boxes, concocted my own (what's new?) It was bit ominous since I had never tasted/made one before- but what the heck...
Here is what I came up with, feel free to adjust and use different fruits/ and nuts- I know I will. It is very adaptable to what you have available. You don't exactly taste the chocolate/cocoa but it does give it such a lovely dark rich colour. This particular type is referred to as Panforte nero.
You must work very quickly with the mix because it solidifies immediately it starts to cool. A spare pair of hands is a must! I lined my flan case first with a circle of greaseproof paper, oiled. and then with edible rice paper (see photo), and I'm glad I did- I think it otherwise would have been firmly stuck!
I apologise for the bad photos, I had a slight problem with my camera.

265gr toasted nuts ( I used 35gr sunflower seeds, 93gr hazelnuts,27gr brazil nuts,110gr almonds)
225gr dried fruit ( I used 25gr candied ginger peel, 50gr dried cranberries, 150gr dried figs)
75gr dark chocolate
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp all spice, ground
1/4 tsp ginger
5 ground cloves
pinch pepper
grated zest & juice of 1 orange
150gr honey
150gr sugar
75gr plain flour
2 tbsp Cointreau
20cm flan case
Icing sugar for dusting
oops-I exceeded the 17 ingredients! But it is well worth it.
Prepare your 20cm tin see above.
Prepare your nuts.

I prepared my nuts a day or so in advance. I removed the skins from the hazelnuts and almonds. To remove the skins from the hazelnuts I dry roast them in a pan for a few minutes. When they cool slightly rub them. Blanch the almonds- that is, pour boiling water over them and leave them briefly to soak for about 1-2 minutes and 'pop' the skins off. When they are completely dry I dry roast them in a pan
I then dry roasted all the nuts except the brazils. I also roasted the sunflower seeds briefly.
Preheat oven 160°C
Put all the nuts in a bowl. You could roughly chop but I like my nuts whole. I bashed just a few.
Roughly, cut the figs, and finely chop the ginger and add to the nuts with the cranberries. Melt the chocolate (I used a low microwave setting)
Grind the cloves (I used a pestle and mortar)
Remove the orange zest and juice.
Add the spices to the nut/fruit mix. Add the orange zest, flour, cocoa and stir.
Bring the honey and sugar gently to the boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for a few minutes.

Add the melted chocolate and then the sugary mixture to the bowl of fruit/nuts and stir well with a wooden spoon, working quickly to combine all the ingredients..
Stir in the cointreau.
Turn mixture out in the prepared tin and push firmly, flatten with the wooden spoon (or wet hands).
Bake for 40-45 minutes. It should start to bubble but not brown. Allow the cake to cool in the tin because it will be too soft to remove. As it cools slightly you can ease it around the edges and turn out. Dust with icing sugar. It will harden as it cools.
Apparently this cake will store well in an airtight tin. (It just didn't get the chance!)
This really makes make a perfect alternative to Christmas cake or Christmas pudding- I just know it will a regular on my (Christmas) menu.
Update: This is a blog I started writing last year but I never got around to sharing it. This Christmas I have made another Panforte, I used the same basic recipe above. Here and there a few changes in fruit and nuts, a few toasted pine nuts and cocktail cherries. I substituted the alcohol for liquid from the maraschino cherries.

It was a little more sticky this year and less chewy. If anything I would say it was even better! I can't wait to see what I come up with next year!

dinsdag 20 december 2011

Homemade mincemeat

Mince pies and Christmas go hand in hand. I always make my own mince pies but I dont always make my own mincemeat. This year however I did, and I must say it was very easy, the smell was extremely festive and the taste ...quite delicious. When I do buy the jars, at Tuckerbox, Leiden or in the UK, I usually end up adding extra ingredients anyway. Now I know just how simple it is I don’t think I need to, ever again.
Its not too late, hurry into the kitchen, grab your apron! It wont be Christmas without them!
I Kind of based my recipe on a few I found on the internet. I wanted to make mince pies the following day so couldn’t use a recipe that needed to stand for 24 hours. I wanted to use my favourite ingredients. This is what I came up with. It was deliciously moist, therefore the fruit was plump and full of flavour:

2 apples, finely diced, skins on (I only had Royal Gala so that had to do)
110gr suet (I suppose you could use butter)
120gr sultanas
110gr currants
100gr cherries, halved (I only had cocktail cherries but normally I would use glace)
75gr dried cranberries
100gr apricots (or you could be authentic and use candied peel)
175gr brown sugar
grated zest and juice 1 lemon
grated zest and juice 1 orange
1 heaped tbsp mixed spice/ (I used Dutch speculaas spice)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
good pinch nutmeg
50ml cranberry juice
3 tbsp brandy
45gr walnuts, chopped

In a pan combine and mix all (except nuts and brandy) ingredients well. Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the nuts and brandy and stir well. When cooled store in a clean pot in the refrigerator.
I reckon this makes enough for about 40 mince pies. I like to fill mine generously.

I actually made two batches this year. I tried the Jamie Oliver ones that are open but somehow my pastry just wasn't as crisp as it normally is and somehow they didn't look quite like right..My second attempt was with 200gr plain flour, &100gr whole wheat flour etc see recipe here and were so much nicer, and healthier.
Traditionally mince pies are served warm with brandy butter or a dollop of cream.

zondag 18 december 2011

A box of goodies

It's hamper time again! Or kerstpakket as we call it. Is it my imagination or are the Christmas staff hampers getting smaller? The enthusiasm is certainly less than in years gone by..... The Albert Heijn staff hamper 2011 contains the following items:

Sweet goodies: cupcake mix (just add milk, egg, butter, oil....what i exactly is in this packet? flour?) cinnamon meringue, chocolate chip cookies (Fair-trade), strawberry- hazelnut chocolates, bar of mocha chocolate.
Savoury: cheesy biscuits, Pumpkin soup (organic), lemon-olive oil, Balsamic vinegar,
Non food: Two cookery books (clever tactics- encouraging the sale of produce), make-up mirror lip-gloss and nail vanish (for the girls) face wash (for the boys!) serviettes and 'kerst' 'Christmas' candles (very colourful).
That’s all folks.

Cheats plum/ Christmas pudding...when a cake becomes a pudding.

No not a disaster in the kitchen, on the contrary....a recipe to save the day.
It is Christmas related, not even strictly a recipe, more a improvisation of ingredients put together to create an almost authentic dish, but please bear with me- if I don't post it now I know I never will. A plum pudding or as many call it Christmas pudding is a rich fruity English dessert traditionally eaten on Christmas day.
It was December 2010 I was in a dilemma, as what to choose for my Christmas dinner.
While I love a traditional British Christmas dinner, turkey with all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding, because I live in Holland it is not always possible to come by all the ingredients or they are extremely expensive.
Of course many things you can be made completely from scratch, (my mother always makes her own), but when you are dithering about whether to return to the UK for Christmas or not, time is running away...
I had a small Christmas pudding a la mama (if you make a batch you can have them throughout the year- they only improve with age!) but not nearly enough to serve all my guests. I decided on a trio of desserts but I still wasn't happy that each person would get no more than a teaspoon or two of plum pudding. At Tuckerbox, leiden they were asking 17,50euro for Christmas puddings! No way!....I do see cheaper ones on their website this year.
I'm taking you back to Christmas morning and my brain was working over time. Hmm What if.......
Yes and in minutes, I concocted up a cheats pudding- and what is more, no one would ever have noticed the difference!
I had a fairly stale- well pretty dry fruitcake and some mincemeat (left over from my mince pies) I roughly crumbled the cake added the mincemeat and a good dose of whisky. I stamped the mixture into a glass pudding basin, covered it with greaseproof paper and steamed it for two hours in a large saucepan.
I nervously turned it upside down hoping it would flop out, waiting with baited did. Of course, we just had to flame it prior to serving. Part one of my dessert was ready.

The proof of the pudding is in the tasting...
It was amazing...really. Moist and soft. Perhaps I had added a little too much liquor ;-)
So if you have a fruit cake that no one want to eat- mix it together with some mincemeat, a glug of spirit, and you'll have yourself a winner- all year round!
Poached pears were the second part of my trio of desserts. I favour whole pears for a special dessert simply because they look so elegant. The poached water/wine becomes a thick delicious wine sauce packed full of flavour. The pears balance out the heaviness of plum pudding.

Poached pears:

1 kilo cooking pears (try to pick ones out with the stalk intact)
250ml red wine
lemon juice
lemon peel strip x3
Star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp. brown sugar
Scrub the lemon and cut three strips of peel.

Peel the pears and cut the bottom off so they will stand. Rub in lemon juice (to prevent browning- I just squeeze and rub the lemon halves over the pears).
Place in a pan, add the wine and top up with just enough water so they are almost covered. Add the cinnamon, star anise, lemon peel and sugar. Bring up to the boil and simmer for just over one hour. (test the pears for tenderness or continue to simmer until done).
Remove the pears and lemon strips, cinnamon and star anise and boil the remaining liquid until it is substantially reduced. It will be a thick delicious sauce.
Serve the pears warm or cold with the wine sauce.

I wasn't very organised last Christmas (haha am I ever?) and didn't know if I would be here in Holland for Christmas, the thought of making a traditional English Christmas Cake hadn't even crossed my mind. This is a rich fruit cake with lots of dried fruit, nuts and spices, made well in advance (before November) usually stored upside down and regularly moistened or 'fed' with brandy or other liquor before being covered in marzipan and icing.
So there I was a week before Christmas without Turkey, Christmas pudding or Christmas cake- what kind of cook is this you may well ask yourself! I wracked my brains once again and came upon a wonderful idea-
I would make a Panforte, a traditional Italian fruitcake. It is a beautiful spicy, nutty cake. According to wikipedia The original name of panforte was "panpepato" (peppered bread). This was to become the third element in my trio of dessert.

Only a very slight problem- I had never tasted one let alone made one! This would be rather a challenge! One I was prepared to take though.
I don't particularly make things easy for myself either- instead of using an existing recipe- I made one up!
The recipe will follow….soon. HERE!

dinsdag 23 augustus 2011

Caraway seed cake

It is summer- hard to believe I know, as I am writing I can hear thunder and lightning, I see rain and I feel cold! It is not even a summer storm!
Around ten days ago we braved the elements and carried on with the planned BBQ organised by my friend Breda. Dutch weather was not going to spoil our evening!
The theme was Eastern European and I while I wanted to make Dillisk (Irish seaweed) soda bread (recipe to follow) I also wanted to keep within the theme. I did a quick Google search and came up with caraway seeds. Hmmm
The thought of caraway seeds stirred memories- of years ago...of my humble beginnings in Holland. The time of no luxuries, I am not going to tell you I had no running water but I certainly didn’t have a fully equipped kitchen- heck I didn't even have a kitchen! It was a time when it was not common for the average Dutch household to have an oven. I was surprised (and horrified) that almost everything went in a pool of fat in een braadpan on the gas hob! I was, however, lucky enough to get hold of a Tefal mini grill-oven. It kept my sanity. I was able, when urge arose, (remember I am English!) to cook a traditional roast! The oven was small, not everything fitted in at the same time mind, and I remember (now in amusement, then it was pure frustration) how I used to partially cook the food and keep it warm on top of the oven covered in silver foil and then rotate everything! I got it to a T! I also remember having to 'hammer' baking tins to size in order for them to fit in with the oven door closed! I also remember how my baking, on more than one occasion, awoke my sleeping husband! Haha those were the times!
When I had family visitors I also used this oven to bake a cake, I kept it simple, one cake I remember regularly baking is the Seed Cake.
The recipe came out an old Marguarite Patten cookery book: Every Day Cook Book, one I no doubt ´borrowed´ from my mother. It is a book filled with, as it suggests, basic recipes, 1,000 to be exact!
I love caraway seeds and I use them in many dishes savoury (Pak Choi) and sweet alike.
This seed cake is based on the Traditional Madeira cake simply with the addition of caraway seeds. The measurements are lb and oz but I have translated. I used a 20cm cake tin but the recipe calls for a 18cm, in the old days I used a loaf tin which also worked fine.

Seed Cake
Cooking time 1 1/2hours
Oven temperature 325-350F, gas mark 3, 170C
(6 oz) 175gr butter
(6-7 oz) 185gr castor sugar
3 large eggs
(8 oz) 250gr flour, preferably plain
1 teaspoon baking powder with plain flour
approximately 2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (a little more or less according to personal taste)
To decorate: 1 tablespoon sugar. (I find the coarser the better- roughly bashing sugar cubes work well for a crispy top)

Cream the butter and sugar until soft and light, the larger amount of sugar helps to give a very fine texture. Beat the eggs and add gradually to the creamed butter mixture. Should this show signs of curdling, fold in a little sieved flour. Fold in sieved flour and caraway seeds, then the milk. Pour in a greased and floured 7 inch (18cm) cake tin, sprinkle the sugar on top. Bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours in a very moderate oven. Cover if necessary with a piece of greaseproof paper to prevent it becoming dry or burned. Test the cake with a small skewer, if it comes out clean it is ready. Cool on a wire rack. 12- 14 portions.
I served it as a dessert with marinated(Balsamic)strawberries and cream.
This blog is especially for the BBQ guests that requested the recipe- always a sign of success!
Other interesting dishes included Russian 'sunflower' salads, Ukraine Shashlick, pickled tomatoes! Cheers!