Black Forest chocolate brownies

Gooey, fudgy awesome.

Gooey, fudgy, awesome.

So yesterday was my first day back doing BBC Radio Leicester’s Food Friday show with Ben Jackson since my knee operation last month. I’m still wobbly and having to use a crutch or two but by far the most agonising thing has been not being able to stand up to cook. It still hurts but my body feels completely out of kilter and my mind suffers if I can’t spend at least a small amount of time each day creating stuff in my kitchen.

One of the positives of being on crutches is that I’ve had to get a cleaner to come and help me around the house, she’s all kinds of ace and as it turns out an awesome cake maker who was telling me about a Black Forest cheesecake she made recently, a lightbulb flashed on in my mind and these rather kickass fudgy brownies were created.

You can hear me making this, it’s only 11 minutes long, by clicking on this link where you will also find the recipe. We always have a blast in my kitchen and yesterday was no different, although he did edit out my “only special people get to drink out of Lady Diana’s cup” line….

What I also forgot about was the “surprise” that I mentioned in the clip, this is simply to swap the cherries for Cadburys mini eggs, perfect for Easter 🙂

Black Forest Chocolate Brownies (makes 12)

  • 300g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 250g dark chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 1 handful dried cherries
  • 2 handfuls walnut pieces
  • 1 capful vanilla extract
  • Pinch sea salt flakes
  • 80g plain flour
  • 360g caster sugar
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 x 400g can dark cherries in syrup, drained

For the glaze: (optional not essential)

  • 2 heaped spoonfuls morello cherry jam
  • 50ml kirsch or other alcohol such as dark rum

For the topping:

  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 3 heaped tablespoons mascarpone
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180C. Put the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water and melt until silky and thoroughly combined then add the dried cherries and nuts.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder in a separate bowl and stir to mix.
  3.  Add the flour mx to the melted chocolate and gently stir to combine then add the eggs and continue to mix gently with a spatula until it is all thoroughly combined.
  4.  Line a 25cm x 25cm baking tray with greased baking paper that overhangs by a few cm to make it easy to remove the brownie later, and pour in the brownie mix, scatter over half of the cherries and push them into the mix.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes (it will be quite wobbly, it will harden on cooling) then remove from oven and leave to cool completely in the baking tray.
  6. Put the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 4 minutes. Brush over the cold brownie.
  7. Remove the brownie from the tin.
  8. Beat the whipping cream until firm then ad the mascarpone and mix well, put it in a piping bag and pipe over the top of the brownie to cover. Decorate with the remaining cherries and a dusting of coca.

 

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Hazy Breakfast Martini

Get your brunch off to the best of starts with one of these.

Get your brunch off to the best of starts with one of these.

Well it’s been quite some time since my last post as I had to take some time out, I’ve had knee surgery and since coming out of hospital 14 days ago I’ve been so foggy with painkillers and pain that the thought of writing a post was as daunting as writing a novel. I’m  still laid up in bed wearing a knee brace but on Sunday my friend Andy came round, so excited was I to see someone who didn’t work for the NHS that I created this beauty of a cocktail to celebrate.

This gem of a tipple will kick the ass of your hangover out the back door and pep you up a treat, where the traditional Breakfast Martini uses marmalade and gin I’m using a whisky marmalade and vanilla vodka, basically because I’m stuck indoors and can’t get out to buy anything but it turns out it’s WAY nicer to boot.

Ultimate Hazy Breakfast Martini (serves 2)

  • 1 large heaped tablespoon whisky marmalade
  • 70ml vanilla vodka
  • 50ml Cointreau
  • 25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Put a few cubes if ice into 2 martini glasses and top with water to chill down.
  2. Put the marmalade and vodka into a cocktail shaker and stir until dissolved.
  3. Add the Cointreau and lemon juice and fill shaker with ice cubes. Seal and shake until the outside of the metal shaker is frosted then discard the iced water from the martini glasses and strain the cocktail between them. In about 5 minutes you will feel pretty awesome.

Halloween cocktail: Lychee martini

Halloween martini-1So it’s Halloween this week so what better excuse to make some frightfully potent cocktails? This is what I made the gin jelly worms for the other day, because you can never haver too much gin in a martini.

My love for gin knows no bounds

My love for gin knows no bounds

I am not a fan of vodka, I find it boring, give me a gin martini any day. I’ve also only gone and written a piece about how to make your own gin for Metro. DO IT, it’s SO easy and in just 3 days you will have the most deliciously aromatic gin you could imagine!

I use frozen blackberries as they help keep the martini chilled. You can put the blackberries in the lychees in advance then freeze them so they keep your drink super chilled without watering it down.

  • 60ml gin (my homemade one is heavy on the cardamom and works really beautifully)
  • 40ml lychee juice (from a tin of canned lychees)
  • 1 canned lychee
  • 1 blackberry
  • a few gin jelly worms
  1. Put the blackberry inside the lychee and freeze.
  2. Fill a martini glass with ice and water to chill it down
  3. Place the gin and lychee juice in a tumbler filled with ice and stir until thoroughly chilled, do not shake, you will water it down, just gently stir.
  4. Pour away the iced water and put some gin jelly worms in the bottom of the glass, pour over the gin and juice and garnish with the frozen fruit.

 

Wine to drink with dark chocolate

cafe cabernetEaster is on the horizon which for many people means time to gorge on as many chocolate Easter eggs as possible. It’s always at Easter time that I really miss Woolworths, well Easter and the beginning of September, three things Woolies were ace at: back to school stationary, pick n’ mix and Easter eggs, their Easter egg aisles seemed to go on forever…

Wine and chocolate matching divides many people, there is so much snobbery about wine but like any 2 ingredients that vary so much in flavour there are good pairings and bad. When I received an email asking me if I’d like to try out a wine created with the intention of being matched with chocolate my interest was definitely peaked. Linton Park Wines are the team behind the South African Café Cabernet, they set about creating a wine specifically to match well with very dark, bitter high cocoa (70% and above) chocolate and you know what, it’s a good pairing. The wine arrived in a gorgeous box with a bar of 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate that had been blended in Belgium. The matt black bottle was pretty striking and even elicited a “nice bottle” from my wine hating boyfriend Glen, which definitely took me by surprise.

cafe cabernet

I love my reds to be so dark and concentrated that you can’t see light through the glass – the big hitters that reek of tobacco and stain your lips like you’ve been blackberry picking after just one sip.  I also like a really gentle hint of sweetness in there but the general rule of thumb is not to drink a wine thats sweeter than your chocolate, so this dark, brooding cabernet needed to be dry as a bone to compliment the bitter dark chocolate that I was nibbling on, and dry it was.

This is definitely a food pairing wine for me. When food and drink pairs well their sum is so much greater than its parts. Alone the wine, although having plenty of blackcurrant fruit and mocha spice that I love was just too dry for me to drink alone but paired with the bitter dark chocolate it became a much happier, smoother, well rounded creature all together, think really well made Italian espresso. In the name of science I decided to test the wine with a different chocolate and the dark chocolate with a different red…

cafe cabernet

Science in action….

Paired with a sweeter, creamier chocolate it’s a terrible clash, this baby needs the high cocoa bitterness to really shine, the touch of sweetness the bitter chocolate brings completes the pairing. Likewise the bitter chocolate when eaten with a sweeter, jammy Malbec was just plain wrong, the chocolate needs the dry cabernet, it really was quite striking how different the 2 wines were with the same chocolate. The sweeter chocolate and Malbec were equally brilliant together also which goes to show all those people who exclaim that you can’t pair wine and chocolate just haven’t paired the right ones.

Dark, bitter, high cocoa solids chocolate is said to be good for you as is a glass of good red wine (unless of course you read the Daily Mail which basically insists EVERYTHING gives you cancer, seriously stop reading that paper, you will feel all the better for it). When you find a happy couple that compliment each other then surely your entitled to call it medicinal to enjoy a few nibbles and sups….. *doctor face*

Cafe Cabernet also turned out to be a bloody brilliant match with our dinner that night, I’d made a spicy, tomato based creole chicken curry, not an easy wine match but Café Cabernet stepped up and nailed it, more plus points.

When it comes wine I very rarely buy one that needs to be drank alongside anything more than a cigarette but you know what, I’d definitely make an exception for this one as it gives me the perfect excuse to indulge in some really good chocolate too 🙂

You can pick up a bottle for £8.98 from The Drink Shop.

Quince and Vanilla Mulled Wine (the BEST I’ve ever tasted)

quince mulled wine

I’m currently sipping on what is without a doubt the best mulled wine I’ve ever tasted. On Friday night after the Radio Leicester Christmas Food phone-in (you should definitely listen to this on Christmas morning, it’s 2 hours of food chat and festive songs – YES!) we headed back to presenter Ben Jackson’s house for food and drinks. As soon as we arrived he said “right who’s for mulled wine?” ME ME ME!

This was no ordinary British mulled wine though, Ben presented us with a warm glass of Swedish glögg which he had poured over sultanas and whole almonds. I was blown away. It was straight from a bottle bought over from Sweden and it kicked any of our British mulled wines’ asses on flavour without batting a Swedish eyelid.

Ben very kindly gave me a packet of glögg spices that he’s had in the cupboard “for about 4 years”. The Glögg packet contains lots of whole green cardamom pods, loads of cinnamon bark, whole cloves and dried bits of citrus peel. The cardamom is key, lots of it but kept whole in their green pods.

Feeling the need for festive cheer I had a scout for some ingredients in my cupboards to throw in too. Normally I add orange but I didn’t have any, what I did have lots of however was plenty of quinces and lots of vanilla pods. The resulting boozy concoction has blown me away and even Glen, who hates all wine, really likes it (the highest praise indeed). Forget putting sliced oranges in mulled wine, if you can get your hands on the heady scented quince then throw it in there and never look back!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 large quince, thickly sliced
  • 25g Glögg spices (whole green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon bark)
  • 2 vanilla pods, sliced lengthways
  • 1/2 a mug of soft brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sultanas
  • 2 whole pieces of preserved stem ginger
  • Whole blanched almonds and a few more sultanas to serve.

Simply gently warm everything together on the lowest heat (with a lid on) so everything has time to infuse. Ladle through a tea strainer into glasses that have a few sultanas and whole blanched almonds in the bottom.

Bonfire Daiquiris!

Smoky boozy goodness

I love Bonfire Night. When I lived in High Wycombe a group of us used to put on a fire show for thousands of people in Beaconsfield before the huge firework display kicked off. There would be about 20 of us with fire poi, chains, staffs, balls, fire breathing, oh it was ace fun! Last weekend though I spent it in the kitchens, I could hear the thumping boom of the fireworks over the roar of the industrial grill fan and smell the bonfires in the air but I missed the display. Tonight however, I will be making up for all that by making this ace cocktail, standing in my tiny garden and writing my name in the air excitedly with a sparkler – see who needs big firework displays when you can do that instead ehy 🙂

Bonfire Daiquiri

  • 35ml smoked tea rum
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • juice of half a lime
  • cloudy apple juice

 To make the smoked tea rum:

  • 250ml golden rum
  • 12 strands good quality Lapsang Souchong tea (St Martin’s Coffee in Leicester sell a wonderful one)

Simply pop the strands into the rum and leave to infuse for a minimum of 2 days. The smokiness will become more intense over time and the rum will become darker.

 Now to make the cocktail:

Just put everything in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice (or clean jam jar with lid), shake and strain into an ice filled tumbler. I’m calling tonight…Bonfire Of The Daiquiris! Ta-daaa! BOOM 🙂

Cider and Cheese Fondue for BBC Radio Leicester’s Food friday

mmm melty cheesy boozy goodness…

So last Friday was my turn to do BBC Radio Leicester’s Food Friday piece with the fabulous Ben Jackson and what better way to kickstart my morning than cider and cheese. I was a *touch* hungover after an unexpected but very much welcome few glasses of wine the night before and as it turns out, cider cheese fondue is in fact a seriously good hangover cure!

I always have a blast when Ben comes to visit, he is so passionate about food, cooking and particularly local food that we spend most of our time swapping food news, stories, new food finds/cookbooks we’ve found and basically just immersing ourselves in a month’s worth of goings on. Then I cook, we laugh, I usually add lots of booze to something and we eat, good times.

Here we are making cider and cheese fondue (1hr40mins into the show) where I actually use the phrase: “Hey it’s Winter, lets get our booze on”, yeah thats me with a hangover, yeah I have no shame.

Good local cider and ace cheese are the solid foundations to a heavenly gooey dish, fancy giving it a go? Here’s how (you could even cook along to us making it by clicking on the blue link above, totally interactive, so techno hip):

Cheese and Cider Fondue:

Ingredients:

  • 500g grated cheese (I used 100g Emmental, 200g Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, 200g Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher)
  •  1 tablespoon corn flour
  • 450ml cider (I used local Scrambler sparkling cider)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • pinch dried thyme
  • few slivers garlic, fresh or dried
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion granules
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Calvados
  • 1 heaped teaspoon porcini powder
  • pinch dried chilli flakes
Method:
  1. Grate your cheese into a bowl, add the corn flour and mix well.
  2. Combine cider, thyme, garlic and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to boil. When boiling reduce heat and add a handful of cheese. Stir in until its melted.
  3.  Keep adding cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly until all the cheese is used.
  4.  Add your onion granules, nutmeg, black pepper, porcini mushroom powder and chilli flakes then stir in your calvados.
  5. Serve hot with chunks of crusty bread, boiled new potatoes, crisps, chunks of ham, chips, whatever takes your fancy!

Smoked Rum and Ginger Cheesecake for the Domestic Sluttery Pudding Club

This month’s Domestic Sluttery Pudding Club is all about cheesecake (last month was chocolate and I made Sex Pots), my favourite pudding of all! This cheesecake takes a bit of prep in as much as you will need to get things infusing for few days before you make them but that takes pretty much zero effort and once done you can knock this together in minutes, PLUS you get the most incredible smoked rum to use in cocktails 🙂

This recipe uses a fresh unpasturised sheep’s curd made by Homewood Cheese, it’s wonderfully fresh and creamy and therefore perfect for this recipe.  If you can’t get hold of ewe’s curd however you could use ricotta instead.

 To make the smoked tea rum: (5 days before dessert required)

  • 250ml golden rum
  • 12 strands good quality Lapsang Souchong tea

Simply pop the strands into the rum and leave to infuse for a minimum of 2 days. I’ve said use 250ml rum as it keeps forever and just gets better with time so it’s there for the next time, it’s also amazing in cocktails!

Ingredients:

  •  100ml Smoked Tea Rum
  • 50g sultanas (go for the jumbo ones)
  • 100g stem ginger biscuits
  • 30g unsalted butter (melted)
  • 150ml whipping cream
  • 150g fresh sheep’s curd
  • 1 jar stem ginger in syrup
  • 1 big sprig fresh rosemary

Crystallised rosemary (optional)

  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 egg white
  • fine white caster sugar

 3 days before you need you dessert:

  1.  Place your sultanas in a cup and pour over the smoked tea rum making sure all the sultanas are covered.  Cover the cup with cling film and leave to infuse for 3 days.  This may seem a long time but after 3 days the sultanas will be so plump that they pop when you bite into them releasing a burst of flavour.
  2. Take a clean sprig of rosemary and push it into the centre of your jar of stem ginger and syrup in order to infuse.

The day before:

  1. Dip the remaining sprigs of rosemary into the egg white, then using a small sieve (a tea strainer is perfect) gently dust the rosemary with the caster sugar, coating evenly but lightly. Lay the sprigs gently on a baking sheet and leave overnight in an airing cupboard in order for it to crystallise.

On the day:

  1.  Crush the stem ginger biscuits and add the melted butter.  Stir to combine then divide the mixture between 4 glasses and push down gently to even off using the back of a spoon. Pop into the fridge to set whilst you make the next layer.
  2. Whip your cream until it will happily stay stuck to a spoon when held upside down. Stir in in the sheep’s curd and make sure it is evenly mixed then stir in the sultanas and rum. Take your glasses out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them carefully pushing the cream down onto the biscuit base to avoid air gaps and leaving room at the top for a layer of rosemary ginger syrup.
  3. Pour over the syrup then top each dessert with a small sprig of rosemary.  The beauty of making these in glasses is that as your spoon travels through the layers you pick up all the flavours, and its a lot less faff than using dessert rings!

Lychee Limoncello Martini for World Gin Day!

As “World Days” go, World Gin Day has got to be one of the best, well, up there with World Wine Day, Fish & Chips Day, Staying in Bed til 3pm Day (also falls on World Breakfast in Bed Day.) OK so not all of those are actual Days but there should definitely be a world Breakfast in Bed Day.

Lychees are one of my favourite fruits, with their heady scent and tropical flavour they transform this cocktail into an exotic sherbet lemon glass of heaven!  Canned lychees are perfect for this as they are ready prepped and you can use the syrup (much cheaper than buying a lychee liquor. You don’t have to use the popping candy, I know it isn’t the height of sophistication, but then again neither am I!

Ingredients:

  • 50ml of your favourite gin (Sipsmith is perfect)
  • 50ml Lychee syrup (from the can)
  • 25ml Limoncello
  • Lychee to garnish.
  • Popping candy
  • Ice cubes

Put your ice in a cocktail shaker with the gin, syrup and Limoncello.  Shake until the outside of the shaker goes frosty.  Put a couple of pieces of popping candy inside the lychee then put it in a chilled martini glass and pour over your cocktail.

Now if you love gin how about entering a competition to win a bottle?

Toffee Rum

Back in my hedonistic days as the assistant manager of the Bath Hobgoblin pub my drink of choice was “double dark rum, diet coke and a straw”(shouted quickly and loudly over the sound of loud rock music).  For some reason the straw was important, I forget why now, it was probably to help not spill it all over myself as I was generally quite drunk back then.  White rum has never been my thing either, although the guys at the Eldorado Rum stand at last years BBC Good Food Show let me sample one that I really liked (perhaps the exception to my rule).  Anyway, golden rum is my thing these days, its caramel flavours just bring out the best in a lime (and me).  I’ve spent a lot of time in the Philippines where Tanduay rum is king.  It used to be 30 pesos for a bottle of rum and 60 pesos for a can of coke (a beer was 15 pesos) so a rum and coke was 70% rum, 20% ice (also too expensive) and 10% coke.  Even better the Tanduay rum bottles had a lid lottery so when you opened your big bottle of rum you would see on the inside of the lid what your prize would be, it was usually another bottle of rum!

Whenever I visit a food festival there are always lots of people selling toffee vodka, and it’s lovely (most of the time) but for me vodka has always been a spirit that you use to make other drinks/infusions with.  Despite it being the straight drink of choice for every character in Eastenders (seriously WHY?) I would never choose to sip away on a plain vodka, and yet I use it in so many of my concoctions.  Actually there was a brief phase when I was about 13-14 and living in Hong Kong where a karaoke bar used to do 2-4-1 double vodkas with lime cordial for $10 which we drank A LOT of which is probably why I’m not a fan of the spirit now.

So I figured I could easily combine my love for golden rum with toffee as the natural caramel flavours can only enhance the toffee right?

Ingredients:

  • 70cl Golden Rum (I used Appletion Estate)
  • 600g hard toffees (such as Werthers Original)

Just put your rum and toffees in a sterilised jar and leave for about 24 hours (stir every now and then to help the hard toffee dissolve).  I used about 350ml rum and 1 x 200g bag of WO but it could have taken 2 bags easily for a sweeter version.

So there you go, it’s really easy and if you smash up the toffees before adding the rum then it will probably be ready in about 2 hours. Hell yeah!

Roast Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes and Sherry

Roasting a chicken on a Sunday is one of my favourite things in the world. I know many people like to spend as little time as possible cooking but it’s the opposite for me when it comes to Sunday roast dinner.  Once I’ve returned from the boot sale, where I will have bought my veggies and free range rooster (and lots of other less essential treasures, or as Glen puts it: “more bloody plates, glasses and shit”), I will orchestrate it so I can spend hours pottering away in the kitchen – wine open, Radio 4 on and me doing the occasional little happy dance to myself.

This year I grew Jerusalem Artichokes and whilst I adore their taste I am somewhat less fond of their unfortunate and rather explosive side effects, hence their nickname “fartichokes”.  Glen refuses point blank to eat them anymore and I didn’t want them to go to waste so this recipe was born.  It’s a great way of cooking a chicken as you can leave it happily in the oven for a couple of hours (even 3) and it doesn’t dry out. The chicken takes on all of the wonderful flavours and you get THE most amazing gravy ever. I roast my potatoes in a separate tray in the bottom of the oven then move them up later on.  You don’t have to eat the artichokes, the flavours have infused the chicken, but I can never resist and I always regret it later!

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken/rooster/capon whatever you fancy
  • half a lemon
  • bunch of fresh thyme
  • Jerusalem Artichokes peeled and quartered
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 1 heaped tablespoon garlic powder
  • 400ml cream sherry
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to its hottest setting, mine is 230C.
  2. Put your lemon and thyme inside the bird’s cavity and put it into a big roasting tray.
  3. surround the chicken with the artichokes and unpeeled garlic cloves.
  4. season the chicken with salt and pepper then sprinkle the garlic powder over the bird  and artichokes.
  5. Pour the sherry into the roasting tray.
  6. Cover with tinfoil making sure there are no gaps for steam to escape then roast for about 2 hours in the top of the oven.  Put your roasties in the bottom for now.
  7. After 2 hours (or longer is fine) remove the tinfoil, drizzle the bird with olive oil and roast uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the skin is nice and brown.  I like my wing tips crispy so always give them a good rub of oil.
  8. Remove the bird and place it on a plate covered in tin foil and a tea towel to rest.
  9. Take your artichokes out of the tray and add them to your roast potato tray which now moves up to where the chicken was to get them all crispy and lovely (or throw them away if you don’t want to be farting furiously later).
  10. The pan juices will taste amazing, just thicken them slightly by making a Buerre Maniè and whisking it into the juices whilst on the hob.

Rose and Cardamom Membrillo

I finally managed to visit the wonderful Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire the other day, what a great place! Among their fantastically stocked Farm Shop goodies were some of their own Quinces. I’m a huge fan of Membrillo (or Quince Cheese as its also known) but had never got around to making it so bought 3 large and 3 smallish quinces for this very purpose. It was only a flying visit as I was on my way to pick my other half up from hospital so will write more about this amazing place soon. Anyway, back to the Membrillo…

Having had a browse online for the various Membrillo recipes I figured the principle was simple: rinse and chop the quinces (skins, stones and all as this is where the pectin is) and put in a pan and just cover with water. I then added a cinnamon stick and wanting to add a vanilla pod, but finding that way too extravagant for this experiment (and my pocket), I added a cap of really good vanilla extract then brought the concoction to the boil and simmered for about 40mins until everything was mushy.  I tasted a spoonful of the water whilst this was going on- it was amazing so I had a hot cup of that whilst waiting. The smell of this quince mixture simmering away made the house smell far more Christmassy than I was prepared for and immediately prompted a quick Sherry. Once I was happy with the mushiness I got out my trusty stick blender and blended it to within an inch of its sticky life, pushed it through a sieve to get rid of the stones then popped it back in the pan with about a kilo of sugar (I tried weighing the mix as you should add roughly the same amount of sugar but my scales are rubbish,I never use them, so just guessed).

This then bubbled away for about 45mins and reduced until it was quite dense. I also managed to sustain a couple of vicious molten lava spits of sugary quince goo during this so just be aware of this and turn the heat down a bit rather than drinking too much Sherry and coating your hob, walls and self with orange burning splodge.

It was right about this point that I decided I would form a splinter pot of Rose and Cardamom Membrillo as it just seemed to make sense, so put a few ladles of the orange goop into a smaller saucepan, added a capful of rosewater, crushed a few cardamom pods and added the crushed black seeds to the mix. It instantly smelt amazing! I had a Sherry to celebrate my ingenuity.

This Sherry further inspired a third splinter goop pot.  Ages ago I had tried a baked fig ball and decided that this seemed like a great cheese accompaniment so raided the pantry and found figs, pistachios, some flaked almonds, walnuts and a few hazelnuts too.  I chopped up the figs then this all went into the mortar and was pestled until just broken up. Then I found a bottle of Ameretto and a glug of that went in, just because.

Splinter group nut and fig mix

So Quince Goop 1 was reducing and bubbling away nicely, spitting fiery venom around the kitchen, so I took a ladle full of this and mixed it in with the figgy mix and then squashed the mixture into a silicone mould that I had oiled. 1 down.

The Rose and Cardamom mix was getting really sticky so poured that into little silicone moulds too. 2 down. Had a Sherry to congratulate self.

I left the original mix to bubble away a little more. I was on a creative roll now and decided to sprinkle some edible glitter and a few walnut halves in the bottom of a few of the remaining silicone cups as I was feeling oh so Fabulous after all.

Once I thought things seemed OK-ish in went the bubbling quince paste and I left them to set overnight.  I would love to say the following morning that they were all beautifully set but my slapdash sugar antics meant that they were still a bit soft so I decided to just pop them out of their moulds back into the pan, add another half bag of sugar and bubble them away.  This is what I love about stuff like this, if you get it wrong it really doesn’t matter, just fix it. It did mean however, that the edible glitter was now scattered throughout the quince paste which I actually kind of liked.This then carried on gently bubbling for 30minutes then I poured the mix back into the cleaned and oiled moulds and this time they set perfectly. Phew. Sherry?

Mini Membrillos

So, I am left with 3 wonderful batches of quince goodies, The Figgy Quince Amaretto Nut Loaf which is not just great on a cheeseboard but I’m pretty sure you could probably survive on it if ever stuck on a mountain somewhere and its a lot nicer than Kendal Mint Cake.

The wonderful Rose and Cardamon Membrillo:

Figgy goodies and Rose Cardamon Membrillo

And the plain Membrillo ones are staying in their moulds until tomorrow when I wrap them and give them to my neighbours for Christmas. I’m nice like that.

The Plain Membrillo

Smoked Tea

I am currently having an all consuming love affair with Lapsang Souchong tea.  Lapsang tea is smoked over pinewood fires to give it an incredibly beautiful deep smoky flavour. The quality of tea varies massively and it really is worth spending a few quid on an excellent tea as you use it so sparingly it will last for ages. I can highly recommend St Martins Coffee in Leicester for their great tea, also Dragon Fly do a really beautiful organic tea that is worth the extra couple of quid. I have been experimenting with various smoked tea infusions for about 4 weeks now.  One of my favourite quick infusions is to pop a bit of your favourite full bodied red wine into a cup and add a few long strands of tea. Let it infuse for about 30 mins then pour about a tablespoon of the smoky infused wine into a full glass.  I like my red wines deep and full and the addition of a touch of smoke is perfect for a night in front of the fire and  its also a really nice addition to your bonfire night mulled wine.

Rum and smoked tea work really well together.  Just get a bottle of your favourite dark/golden rum and add a few strands to the bottle. I made fantastic Bonfire Night Smokey Spiced Apple Daiquiris a couple of weeks ago – bloody lovely! If you are making a smoked fish kedgeree pop a few strands in the poaching milk, it really does add a new lift to the dish.

I’m currently working on a recipe for a Sheep’s Cheesecake. The sultanas have been swelling in the smoked tea rum for 2 days now and are so plump they pop when you bite them.  Should be ready tomorrow to assemble.

Raspberry Gin

I make a lot of booze infusions, they are stupidly easy to make but very hard to leave long enough to infuse! I make new stuff each year and see how they develop over time. Some only take a few days, some will mature for a couple of years happily. This beautiful Raspberry Gin is at its best right now as the flavour has remained the same for the last 2 months (I have a teaspoon of each booze each month to see how they are getting on).

Recipe

Take 1 sterilised Kilner type jar and put as much white sugar in as you fancy or none at all.  I didn’t want it to be too sweet so as a general rule I put enough sugar in the bottom of the Kilner  so it comes up about 1 1/2 inches from the bottom.  Then add as many raspberries as you fancy inside, I half filled my jar but you could fill it up if you fancy.  Add a few peelings of orange zest (avoiding the pith) and add to jar. Then all you need to do is fill it up with Gin.  For the first week or so gently turn the jar to help the sugar dissolve, once it has you can stop doing this.  Make sure you keep the jar in a cool dark place, light will remove the beautiful pink hue in the alcohol and always a good idea to put its Made On date on it so you know how long it takes until its at its best.  This recipe works for pretty much whatever you fancy.  I have: Blueberry Gin, Summer Fruit Vodka, Pear and Vanilla Vodka, Cherry & Mandarin Gin but to name a few.  Have a go, mix & match, play about with whatever fruits/booze you like in whatever quantities you like until you find what works for you. You don’t have to use Kilner style jars, I have old Hendricks Gin bottles, Whisky bottles etc filled with booze concoctions steeping away.  If you use bottles though you will have to sacrifice the fruit as once it swells you won’t be able to get it out again.