Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Time to ice the Christmas cake and time to collapse

I've always been the same, I can keep on going, but as soon as I stop I collapse with some horrible flu like lurgy. Only I wish it wouldn't happen in my holidays. I have plans to see friends who are not seen enough, to visit quaint Devonshire towns and villages packed with seasonal goodies. However, instead I am either in bed or on the sofa with the flu and a chest infection. But I can be thankful for lovely parents-in-law who are taking good care of me and my husband who is also suffering.

My husband and I have been able to take the Christmas break with family in Devon, a chance to get away from the Big Smoke. And now that I am capable at most of typing this, I am glad that I had gotten everything else done and ready for Christmas. The presents were already bought and have since been wrapped, some were homemade foodie gifts, the house has been cleaned and prepared with lots of lovely chocolates to be discovered for when we return before new year and the Grandmother's Christmas Cake has been iced!

I've been looking forward to icing the Grandmother's Christmas Cake from Vanessa Kimbell's recipe book 'Prepped' since I tested the recipe at the beginning of November. Each week I have fed the cake with brandy, and have basked in the clove aroma as I have lifted off the lid. Knowing that we would be in Devon for Christmas and that I could have my fill of my Father's own delicious Christmas cake I decided to ice mine in time to have some friends around before the trip down south. So last Wednesday we enjoyed a nice cup of tea with this (if I don't mind saying so myself) deliciously moist, rich and dark Christmas cake. Now I can't wait for when we return and can have some more.
This was the second cake I have decorated, the first being my Hubba's 30th birthday cake, and it is the first Chirstmas cake I have decorated. I really enjoyed doing this, it wasn't too stressful and didn't take too long either.
As you can probably see from the photo's it is a tall cake (too much mix for the tin!), but this has just meant that there is more cake to each slice - yum! However, it did make it a little tricky to smooth out the excess icing around the edge of the cake -  another reason to use a wide ribbon. I decided to roll the marzipan quite thin as I only wanted the flavour to complement the cake and icing rather than overpowering it.
To create the shooting star and central star motifs I used pastry cutters that I bought the day before, and found that brushing the place to adhere them with just water, rather than Gin or Vodka, was sufficient.

You may remember that I plan on cooking through a book, well I intend on doing this in the new year and I plan on studying through Proverbs 31, to look at what the Truly Good Woman of the 21st century is.

I pray you are all well for the Christmas celebrations, with any preparations still to be done and for time spent with friends and family.

Isaiah 9:6 

6 For to us a child is born, 

   to us a son is given, 
   and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called 
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Fiery Tomato Chutney

My homemade Christmas larder is almost complete. In addition to my Spiced Christmas Pears and the Apple and Mint Jelly I have made Fiery Tomato Chutney.

This chutney goes really nicely with Edam and sliced apple.
I also made this at the end of the summer with green tomatoes. The result with red tomatoes is a deeper brown colour. It is the Cayenne pepper which makes it fiery and although it isn't too hot (i.e. not watery-eyed hot), if you don't like things at all hot, replace the cayenne pepper with coriander and cumin.

This is a recipe by Ghillie James in the August 2010 edition of Woman and Home.

  1. In a food processor, in batches, whizz the tomatoes, omions and apples until pulpy, but still a bit chunky. Transfer to a large preserving pan, add the remaining ingredients apart from the sugar, stir and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the sugar and stir well, then leave to simmer, stirring every 15 minutes, for a further 1 hour, or until the mixture and lost most of its water and leaves a trail when you pull a wooden spoon through it.
  3. Using a jam funnel, ladle the chutney into warm, sterilised jars and seal them.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Slow Roast Pork Belly with Orange and Cloves

I love food, which you may have already guessed from my blog. A big part of what I love though is the planning and preparing food. I find it relaxing to finger through my loved recipe books, gazing at the beautiful photography; possibly but not always with the intention of choosing something for a particular event.

This is what I am found doing at the moment, and the event is Christmas. I do like Turkey but have found this is often on offer at work or church do's so I like to explore other Christmas feasts in my own kitchen. One year I tried Duck a la Orange, I discovered I should not have basted the duck & orange sauce juices over the duck...turned out this was a la horrible. More successful year was Cider Spiced Ham, my Hubba liked it so much it has even made its way to the in-laws Christmas table.
So, what to do this year....?

Well as we all know, Christmas can be hectic which is such a shame and really not the point. So I was delighted to test another recipe for the fabulous Vanessa again. 
Vanessa is following her dream, and in the meantime making many a thankful foodie's dream recipe book. Vanessa has given herself a year to publish a book, and has blogged about it from the beginning. Prepped  www.prepped.co.uk Fabulous recipes for the Time Short Foodie.
Prepped will be out in May 2011, and her publishers are so pleased with the project that they have even pursued Vanessa to write a second book. 
The recipe in question for a time-short Christmas day is Slow Roast Pork Belly with Orange and Cloves. This slowly roasting for 5 to 6 hours, perfect for opening presents, visiting family or going to church.
When I cook this again I will turn the heat up for the last 30min as this is what will make the skin change to tasty crackling. My photo doesn't really do it justice as it tasted fabulous, the Hubba loved it and it gave such a lovely festive smell through the house. See Vanessa's blog for a more scrumcious photo: RECIPE TESTER REQUEST Slow Roast Belly of Pork with Orange and Cloves

Roast pork belly with Orange and Cloves
6 cloves garlic
15 Cloves
Peel from 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick
1.5 kg Pork belly
2 tbs Sea salt
1 glass of orange juice
1tsp sugar
  1. Preheat your oven to full whack, it should be at least 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7
  2. On a roasting tin place the unpeeled garlic cloves, the orange peal, ½ of the cloves and the cinnamon stick under where the pork will be.
  3. Make sure the pork skin is scored (it’s much easier to ask the butcher to do this). Rub the underside with half the salt and rub the other half in to the skin.
  4. Press the remaining 7 / 8 cloves into the skin and pop it into the oven.  Drop the heat to 300/150/ Gas mark 2
  5. Cook for about 5 – 6 hours on this low heat. 
  6. Remove from the heat and take the meat out of the pan, and set to one side to rest.  Strain the juice into a pan and add the orange juice and sugar.  Boil this for 2 / 3 minutes effectually reducing the liquid and concentrating the taste of the sauce.
  7. Slice the pork, drizzle with the sauce and Vanessa loves to serve hers with pan-fried potatoes and rosemary. 
This is the recipe as I tested it, apart from I turned the heat up to about 240 for the last 30min to change the skin to crackling. When the recipe is out in print there may be some changes.

When I tested this recipe I used the spare time to make some Fiery Tomato Chutney as foodie gifts for Christmas. This is delicious with Edam and other cheeses for Christmas. I will blog the recipe next week, as I am going to Fast from all blogging for a week from today.
Hope you are all well and enjoy planning your Christmas menu's!
Liz x

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Ang Sang Suu Kyi

It is with joy, hope and in prayer that I write this post about the release of Ang Sang Suu Kyi.
Ang Sang Suu Kyi is 'The woman who become an international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression.' See BBC news profile. 

I am so joyful that she has been released, that she is safe and that she is prepared to talk with the National groups in Burma. I hope that these talks are made possible and that there is a true and growing democracy in Burma. See BBC link. 

My further hope is for the release of the hundreds of other political prisoners in Burma. I cannot imagine the hardship that they are going through and hope that justice will be done. See BBC news item about Burma's political prisoners. 

Such prisoners are those of the Karen State. Karen people are subject to much abuse by the military Junta in Burma and many flee across the boarder to Thailand. Please see the links for more information on the Karen State and its people, but please note that much of the news is upsetting and some of the reports by the Free Burma Rangers are not appropriate for children.
Karen Human Rights Group
Free Burma Rangers

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Grandmother's Christmas Cake

The words 'Grandmothers Christmas Cake' are evocative for me of family heritage and traditions. 
My father is an artisan baker, with his own bakery where everything is made on the premises, and where so many different types of loaves are baked from 4am every day. Just like it has been in my family since my Great-Great-Grandfather had a bakery in Sussex. 
So when Vanessa put a call out for foodie bloggers to test her recipes for her new book 'Prepped', which is described as Fabulous recipes for the Time Short Foodie, I was interested as it's aim appealed to me. 

Then after several email chats we settled on my testing Vanessa's Grandmother's Christmas Cake - I was ecstatic, as this was something I could chat about with my Dad - he doesn't seem to tire of food or baking! And it is such an apt recipe for this time of year when many of us are preparing for the feasts of Christmas.
Just read Vanessa's blog about finding her Grandmother's recipes, and you know that these are special recipes.

250g  self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
200g  butter
200g  caster sugar
Zest of a lemon
6 eggs
2 tbs black treacle
2 tsp Vanilla essence
500g  sultanas
½ lb raisins
12oz currents, mixed peel and glace cherries
100g chopped nuts
drop of milk to mix

1 Pre heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2.
2 Sieve the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and Spices into a bowl.
3 Cream the butter, lemon zest and sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the treacle, and vanilla essence until light and fluffy.
4 Mix the eggs in just a little at a time into the mixture, to stop the mixture from curdling, add a tablespoon of the flour to the mixture.

Fold in the remaining flour into the mixture. Mix well and then mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, glace cherries and the chopped nuts.
5 Grease a 20cm/8inch round or an 18cm/7inch square cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment (but not grease proof paper).
6 Turn the mixture into the tin and make a slight hollow in the centre – to keep the cake flat on top (you don’t want a domed cake to decorate!)
7 Bake in the oven for 1 hour and then turn the oven down to 110C/275F/Gas mark1 for about 3 ½ to 4 hours. Test with a skewer. If not ready bake for up to another hour testing every 20 minutes or so, until the skewer comes out clean.
Remove from the oven. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes.
8 Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool. Once the cake is cool, poke a few holes in the cake with a skewer and pour over 3-4 tbsp of the Brandy. Let the brandy soak right into the cake.

Keep the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, with the holes top side up and add another few tablespoons of brandy once a week for a couple more weeks.  

Decorate with marzipan and icing a week before Christmas.

I love that , although the recipe wasn't too intimidating, none of the richness you hope for in a great Christmas Cake has been missed. Vanessa's definitely onto a winner with Fabulous recipes for the Time Short Foodie because we are all winners with great food like this. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Reading Blogs, Baking and Running - not all at the same time!

I'm loving the opportunities and challenges that arise from reading the blogs of others.
Tomorrow I will be filling you in on the privilege that I had in testing Vanessa's Grandmothers Christmas Cake for her recipe book 'Prepped'.
This was the first Christmas cake I have ever baked, and I am so pleased to say that although it wasn't too intimidating to bake, it certainly looks and smells impressive.

Tonight I also wanted to fill you in on the book that Naskren is offering on her blog 'Little Things, Big Stuff'. The book is Melissa Fay Greene's 'There is no me without you'. It's about a women's self given work to care for AIDs affected orphans in Ethiopia.
This reminded me of the work of Agape Home in Chang Mai, Thailand. To whom I was taken by a friend when visiting her work with my church from the UK. Another work my good friend Judy is involved in is Hope Home, also in Chang Mai. Please check out their blog, although it's relatively new, it's such a good work they are doing and I know they'd be really encouraged by your visits and comments.

And lastly, I managed to get to running with the Croydon Running Sisters. I'm so glad I actually get to do the things I say I'm doing!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Truly Good Women GIVEAWAY!

Check out my new 'Truly Good Woman Reviews' blog on the right-hand side.

The GIVEAWAY contest ends on Thursday 11th November!

Thanks for playing. x

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Autumn busy-ness

I've made a delicious jelly to add to my other Christmas foodie gifts stocking up in the pantry. I've used Bramley apples but and cooking apple will do.

 Mint and Apple Jelly
900g Bramley apples
granulated sugar
45ml chopped fresh mint

Makes 3 x 450g/1lb jars 

  1. Chop apples roughly and put in pan.
  2. Add enough water and cover, leave to simmer until soft.
  3. Pour all of the apples and water into a jelly bag, being careful not to squeeze the bag. Suspend the bag and place a bowl underneath over night.
  4. Measure the amount of juice that drains from the jelly bag. To every 600ml of juice, add 500g granulated sugar, and stir into the juice.
  5. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil. Test for setting by pouring about 15ml onto a cold plate and allowing it to cool. If a wrinkle forms on the surface when pushed with a fingertip, the jelly is almost set. When a set is reached , leave the jelly to cool.
  6. Stir in the chopped mint and pour into sterilized jars using a jam funnel. 
The jelly will keep unopened for up to a year. Once opened , keep in the fridge and consume within a week.

If you've still got some apples from your own trees because they've kept so well from your wrapping them carefully, please let me know what you used. Thanks.

This was easy to make and while I waited for it to reach setting point I was able to rake the leaves outside!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Preparations for Christmas

Spiced Christmas Pears
It is the time to start preparing for Christmas, and as we have a pear tree in the garden I decided to make this preserve which is apparently very nice served sliced with cold meats and cheese.

Spiced Christmas Pears
900g pears
600ml white wine vinegar
225g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5 star anise
10 whole cloves
Makes 900g
  1. Peel the pears but keep them whole leaving the stalks on. Heat the vinegar and sugar, stirring until the sugar has melted. Pour over the pears, poaching for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the cinnamon, star anise and cloves and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove pears and pack tightly into sterilized jars. Simmer the syrup for a further 15 minutes and then pour over the pears so that the cloves and star anise are packed tightly with the pears. Seal the jars tightly and store in a cool, dark place. 
The pears will keep for up to one year unopened. Once opened, store in the fridge and consume within one week. 

These will make a pretty foodie gift at Christmas, just make sure you have the will power not to gobble them before it's time.

Monday, 18 October 2010

That Monday feeling

It doesn't seem to matter whether the weekend has been relaxing or super busy, Monday is always hard work.
I also have great intentions for Mondays, but should know by now, that I never feel like doing much at all on Monday eve.
Yet, here I was again this Monday evening, trying to do too much.

I came home from work and did some laundry, then I did some research for the cake I'm baking and decorating for my Hubba's 30th on Saturday. I next managed to talk my Hubby into getting the bus to his meeting this eve so that I could purchase said cake items and then join the Monday group of Croydon Running Sisters http://www.croydon-running-sisters.org.uk/ . All was going well, until, I discovered the final stretch of road on my way closed. So, not knowing the area well enough to find another route and without enough time, I decided to head back home.
I did think I might make my kitchen look a darn sight better than it does now...a few pans and plates adorn its counter-tops, I could also fit in a fitness video, as I am after all in the right clothes. However, before any of this I think I will update my blog and make some changes...

Several hours later...and I have totally changed it's layout, template and deleted its old posts.

Time for an early night...the kind that gives you beautiful skin? No, it's past that, however, I do have a blog that is finding it's niche.

How have I been a truly good woman today? I have kind of, as I let the Hubby have the car in the end ;-)