I have to say I’m cheating a little here with my own rules as I haven’t ever cooked this on my own. In fact my participation has only ever advanced to weighing ingredients and helping fill cake tins. Christmas is my mum’s domain. She’s been doing it for years and she’s on a roll, my interference is not needed! However, I had to share this cake recipe with you as it really is a last minute cake. It doesn’t need to mature and if you’re forgotten to buy a cake and you’re totally desperate, well, start now!
Makes 1×8″ (20cm) cake
500g mixed dried fruits
125g dates, stoned and chopped (or apricots or prunes, big fruits are what you’re after.)
175g brown sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
90g glace cherries, chopped
60g chopped mixed nuts
250g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder
– In a large pan melt the butter and then add the dried mixed fruits, dates (or other fruits), sugar, bicarbonate of soda, water, mixed spice and cinnamon.
– Bring this to the boil and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes.
– Leave the pan, covered, overnight.
– The next day put it in a mixing bowl, or use a machine like a kitchen aid or kenwood chef to do the hard work!
– Add the cherries, nuts and brandy. Mix a little.
– Add the flour and salt and mix in.
– Add the eggs and the baking powder and then mix thoroughly making sire everything is well combined.
– Line an 8″ cake tin with foil, shiny side down, and 2 layers of greaseproof paper.
– Brush lightly with oil.
– Tip in the cake mix and level out the top. Create a small dip in the middle with the back of a spoon to prevent doming.
– Place a small ovenproof dish or tin of water in the bottom of an oven heated to gas mark 2.
– Place the cake in the oven on the middle shelf and cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours covering the top with foil after 1 hour.
– Test with a skewer to see if it’s done.
– Cool in the tin then turn out and pour on a little more brandy before either wrapping and storing or covering with marzipan and icing.
Right, that’s it I declare it to be Christmas time! Today I went out and gathered holly, ivy and teasles from the village, I found holly with berries on it! I’ve lived in this village for 20 years but I never knew that there was a holly tree with berries on the edge of the green until we got the dog and he tied his lead round it! I was after just a few sprigs for a small arrangement but got a bit carried away. I came home with my basket and got on with making the mincemeat in preparation for Christmas. This needs to mature for 2 weeks so this batch will be ready for the 4th, if you fancy having a go I suggest you make it now before it’s too late!
Makes 750ml (ish)
750g mixed dried fruits
a scant 50ml lemon juice
300g shredded suet (I use veggie just in case)
1 large bramley apple, peeled and grated
250g dark brown sugar
1/2 a small nutmeg, grated
– Mix together the dried fruits, brandy and lemon juice in a large bowl.
– Leave to sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
– Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.
– Spoon into sterilised jars. (Putting them through the dishwasher is easiest or wash them in hot soapy water then dry them in the oven for 10 minutes.)
– Press down with the back of the spoon to get all the air out of the jar.
– Put on the lids and leave in a cool dark place (read cupboard!) for 2 weeks then make mince pies! Yum!
This was the main course of our Halloween feast and thus called “Bat Wing Fillets with Poisonous Funghi”. It’s something of a stock recipe for me, I often make it with reduced fat creme fraiche, ordinary mushrooms and minus the brandy but this occasion needed somthing a little bit more special. It was going to be served with spinach gnocchi but that didn’t happen. It’s equally good with regular gnocchi or pasta.
3 chicken breasts cut into strips
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced into quarters
125g oyster mushrooms, sliced
small handful dried porcini mushrooms soaked in 200ml water, finely chopped once soaked
splash of brandy
– Heat a little oil in a large pan then add the chicken and cook until just starting to brown.
– Add the chestnut mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stiring frequently.
– Add the oyster mushrooms and porcini and stir through. Cook for another 5 minutes until all of the mushrooms are cooked.
– Add the brandy and cook for another 5 minutes, stiring frequently.
– Add the cream and season. Cook until the cream is hot and simmer for 5 minutes.
– Serve hot.