Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

¸.•*''*♥♥*''*•.¸ Merry Christmas One and All ¸.•*''*♥♥*''*•.¸

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Mushroom and Sherry Sauce

Is it a Sauce or is it a Gravy? Who knows …who cares? All I can say with any certainty is it’s damn tasty and will go very nicely with our Nut Roast Wellington on Christmas Day.

I was planning to do my usual gravy on the big day but I happened to see a recipe by Gordon Ramsey (I really can’t stand that man!) on the net recently which was served with a mushroom sauce. It set me thinking and this is the result; a rich, flavoursome sauce or, possibly, gravy which is perfect for those times when you want something a bit more special to complement the centrepiece of a celebratory meal. Actually, this was so gorgeous, it was all I could do not to eat it by the spoonful!

25g dried porcini
25g butter
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
200g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tbsp flour
500ml stock
3 tbsp sherry
1 dsp tomato paste
½ tsp dried thyme

Soak the porcini in 100mls of hot water for 20 minutes, then drain them over a small bowl reserving the soaking liquor; roughly chop the porcini and set aside.

Melt the butter in a largish pan and sauté the onion for five minutes; add the chestnut mushrooms and garlic and cook for another five minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes then pour in the stock and the reserved porcini liquor and stir well then add the sherry, tomato paste, thyme and porcini. If the flour goes lumpy, ignore it; you’ll be blitzing it later, anyway. Bring to the boil, stirring; turn the heat down to a simmer, pop a lid on, and let it bubble gently for fifteen minutes. Blitz with a stick blender until smooth, adding a little more stock if necessary to bring it to a consistency you're happy with.

You can freeze this until needed then defrost and reheat thoroughly before serving.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Decorated Christmas Cake

Here we are…the finished article! As you can see, I decorated my Christmas cake at the weekend and, though I say it myself, I think it looks pretty good.

I’m not very good at Royal icing; in fact, I don't think I've flat iced a cake in my life. (I can do you a rough snow-scene with the obligatory plastic robin to complete the effect, though!) I don’t much like ready-to-roll fondant type icing, it always reminds me of children’s playdoh in both appearance and taste, so I went for a layer of marzipan with a topping of nuts and apricots with an apricot and brandy glaze; easy but effective.

1 18cm square rich fruit cake
white marzipan
a little icing sugar
3 tbsp apricot jam
1 tbsp brandy
soft dried apricots
whole brazils
whole pecans or walnuts

Make the glaze by heating the jam and brandy gently in a small pan until the jam melts, then rub the mixture through a sieve with the back of a spoon. Using a pastry brush, paint the top of your cake generously with the glaze; roll out the marzipan to a depth of about 0.5cm on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and cut to size using the base of your cake tin as a guide. Lay the marzipan on top of the cake and brush with more glaze.

Arrange the fruit and nuts on the marzipan, pressing them in lightly (I’m sure you’ll be more artistic than me!) and brush again with the apricot glaze.

Tie a ribbon around the outside of the cake, stand back and feel dead chuffed with yourself!

Store in an airtight tin until needed.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Vanilla Shortbread

I felt like making a little smackerel of something (as Winnie the Pooh might say!) this morning; the Christmas decorations are up, the lights were twinkling and I was feeling quite festive.

I saw this Good Food recipe on the net and thought it looked interesting. Quite a lot of shortbread recipes seem to have ground rice as one of the ingredients, but I really don’t like the gritty texture it gives, hence the reason I’ve never bothered making it before; this one, however, is rice free and very simple.

I rolled some of the dough out and made a few dinky little stars for us to have with a cuppa; the rest of the dough is wrapped in cling-film in the fridge so we can have some freshly baked biscuits every day next week.

“Freshly baked biscuits every day…” I ask you, now does that make me sound like a Domestic Goddess or what?!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas Red Cabbage

Red cabbage served hot as a vegetable is something that has only found its way onto my food radar in recent years. Seems like I was well behind the curve on this one because it’s evidently quite a popular Christmas side dish, which somehow I’d managed to miss! Anyway, the fact is, whenever I’ve had it in a restaurant I’ve loved it, so I thought it was time I had a go at making it myself.

Obviously, Delia was the first port of call for a recipe and, as ever, I found just the thing I was looking for. Mind you, I was a bit sceptical when I found the cooking time was at least two hours; I wouldn’t even want to imagine what a green cabbage would look like if it was cooked for two hours (don’t go there…!) but the red variety is a lot more robust and is happy to cook long and slow.

Before it was cooked it looked a bit like a winter coleslaw but, once cooked, it transformed into a fragrant, beautifully coloured blend of textures and flavours. We both had a large spoonful with that night’s dinner of sausages and mash with onion gravy…and it went down very well indeed! The rest has been portioned up and put safely in the freezer until the big day.

I changed one thing about Delia’s recipe: I cooked mine on the hob on a very low heat rather than in the oven. It was absolutely fine and the cooking time was the same.

On a different cabbagey note:
Every year, for as long as I can remember, I’ve bought a jar of pickled red cabbage just before Christmas; I always have some on Christmas night when I put out some nibbley bits for us to pick at. Just one jar and I never eat it at any other time of the year. It’s one of those family traditions, the reason for which is lost in the mists of time, a bit like nuts in their shells which always get thrown away the week after New Year (!) or sprouts even though nobody likes them; it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them. What a strange lot we are!