Where do you find the time?

20141214_114005[1]

A colleague of mine recently spent some time making her own Christmas cakes with her children.  The very idea of finding the time to buy the ingredients, guide the children through the process of baking and then clean it all up was enough to elicit praise from other colleagues.  Consensus was that with four children, my colleague was a heroine who had attempted and achieved the impossible.  I was in agreement.  The Christmas rush combined with the daily rigor of raising children is surely enough to fill our waking hours.

Upon reflection, I realised something that has always made sense to me:  we all find time to do what we value.  No matter how busy we get, it is possible to carve out time for something that really matters to us.  In baking with her children, my colleague wasn’t doing something extra.  It was part of what was important to her and her family.

Time is no friend at this time of year, but here is a recipe that you could make in minutes and would be easy to try with children too.  Melt all the ingredients in the microwave and then pour into a tray that can be refrigerated.  The outcome?  One of the simplest and most fun chocolate recipes in the universe.  Not convinced?  Take a few minutes out of your evening and step on the path to chocolate heaven.

Chocolate fudge truffles

350g sweetened condensed milk

250g dark chocolate

150g milk chocolate

50g salted butter

cocoa powder for dusting

Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a plastic bowl that fits into your microwave.  Pour over the condensed milk and then add the butter.  Melt in the microwave and stir every minute or so to ensure that the mixture doesn’t get too stiff.

Once the mixture is thoroughly combined and looking glossy, pour it into a small tray lined with baking paper and place on a shelf in the fridge until set.  I usually leave mine overnight to be sure.

Remove from the tray, place on a chopping board and carefully cut into little squares with a sharp knife.  Dust the whole batch with cocoa powder and enjoy!

These truffles will keep in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks and make a great gift!  Enjoy.

20141214_114039[1]

Advertisements

Folklore in the kitchen.

It has been one heck of a Christmas and believe me when I say that it is highly unlikely that anyone in the Northern Hemisphere was the recipient of more chutney than me.  I’m in the enviable position of needing more and more things to put the chutney on.  Spicy tomato chutney vies for my attention with rich, roasted flavours and a chilli kick. Pear and honey chutney jumps out with sweetness and subtlety.  What to do?  Decisions, decisions.  It gets tougher still:  good friends presented me with a chutney packing a real punch.  A chutney simply known as Folklore–  chunky, fruity and full of depth from the dark, yet noble real ale that it is made with.  It is formidable to say the least.

Cast into this fruit-filled arena a newcomer, an unknown from the cupboards of a kitchen in the north of England.  It was time to make my own chutney, one that I would be proud of, one that I could share with you and my family at Christmas.  I’m very happy with what I came up with.  It contains all of the flavours that I love at Christmas with a little chipotle for  fun and goes particularly well with my pork and apricot terrine.  Without further delay, I present to you my Christmas chutney and wish you all the very best for the New Year!

Christmas chutney

250ml red wine vinegar

230g soft light brown sugar

200ml cider vinegar

200g dried apricots (chopped)

1 onion (chopped)

1 chipotle chilli

3 cloves garlic (chopped)

2 tblspoons grated ginger

2 tspoons coriander seeds

zest and juice of 1 orange

1 tspoon salt

Before you begin this recipe, be aware that your kitchen will smell of vinegar from the moment you begin heating the mixture.  You may want to open the windows at the beginning.

Put everything except the coriander seeds into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Meanwhile, heat the coriander seeds in a dry pan until they begin to crackle (but not burn) and then grind them using a pestle and mortar.  Add the powder to the chutney pan.

Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer gently for an hour with the lid on.  Stir the chutney every now and again. Take the chutney off the heat when you are happy with the consistency.  Chunky and tender with not too much liquid is best.  Transfer to a glass jar to cool and thicken and remember to remove the chipotle.  Serve with your favourite meat and cheese.  This chutney is great with pork.  Liven up your sausage sandwiches or pair it with a pork pie!

Oh, you expected a full jar nicely labelled? Sorry, this chutney is in constant use!

Use your loaf (tin).

I trust your Christmas was filled with family, joy and inevitable chaos.  Mine too, hence the late post.  Despite the passing of the big day, I’m going to share the recipe for my very own pork and apricot terrine.  It’s perfect for a buffet and I make one (sometimes two) every Christmas.

You can easily adapt this recipe so that your own Christmas flavours are represented.

Pork & apricot terrine

500g sausage meat

14 slices streaky bacon

14 dried apricots

1 egg

2 tblspoons ground black pepper

1 tblspoon fresh thyme (chopped)

a pinch of ground allspice

a pinch of mace

a pinch of cinnamon

plenty of sea salt for seasoning to taste

olive oil

You have to admire the humble loaf tin.  So useful!  Line one with the bacon so that half of each slice is in the tin and the other half is draping over the sides.  The bacon keeps the terrine together as it cooks and will tighten up as water evaporates from it.

Grind plenty of black pepper into the lined tin.  Next, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients by mashing them together with the back of a fork.  A drop of olive oil into the mixture helps to keep it moist.  Tip half of the sausage mixture into the loaf tin and spread it evenly with the fork.  Gently press the apricots into the meat in pairs.  This will ensure that the apricots form part of each slice as you cut the terrine.

Top the apricots with the remaining sausage meat and once again, use the fork to even out the surface.  Now all you have to do is lift each bacon slice to cover the terrine and overlap them to form a parcel.  You can store the terrine as it is in the fridge until you are ready to cook it, or you can cook it immediately.

Place the terrine in a roasting tin and pour enough hot water into the surrounding tin to reach almost the top of the terrine.  Cover the loaf tin with foil and keep the edges sealed tightly.  Place in the middle of the oven at 180C for an hour.  The water surrounding the loaf tin will ensure even cooking and the foil will trap steam to help cook the meat without drying it out.

After an hour, remove the foil and continue to cook the terrine until the bacon on top is nicely done to your liking.  Using oven gloves, lift the loaf tin out of the water and drain of the excess fat rendered through cooking.  You may want to keep this fat and roast some potatoes in it later!  The meat will have shrunk away from the edges of the tin; this is normal.  Use a pair of tongs to turn the meat over.  Keep the meat in the little loaf tin and return it to the oven to brown and crisp up.

Once done, remove the meat and let it cool for quite some time.  When it is cooled, it will be firm and easy to slice.  Serve the terrine cold with a nice Christmas chutney.  You don’t have any Christmas chutney?  No problem.  Watch this space!

 

Making it mine.

I don’t always feel like blazing a trail.  Every now and again, it’s nice to follow in the footsteps of those who share a passion for similar things and are willing to create and share with the kind of gusto that I secretly hope I have.  My thanks, then, to Nigella Lawson for her commitment to artery-blocking sweet treats and flavours that pack a punch.

Not many Christmas’s ago, the plucky, self-acclaimed domestic goddess shared her recipe for Christmas rocky road bars.  I enjoyed making them and have adapted them each year since to suit my own taste.  This year, I’ve been most happy with the addition of glace ginger.  I knew it would come in handy at some point!  The following recipe is extremely simple, in the same way that the no bake chocolate cake was.  A great one to make with children and so quick to put together.  With only a day or so before the big day, you could easily empty your cupboard of fun stuff and combine it in syrup, butter and chocolate!

Festive rocky road bars (Adapted from Nigella Lawson)

300g dark chocolate

170g butter

125g milk chocolate

100g glace cherrries

100g glace ginger

100g amaretti biscuits

100g almonds

100g marsh mallows

4 tblspoons golden syrup

1 tspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter and chocolate in a deep saucepan over a low heat.  Stir in the vanilla and the syrup.  Pour in the almonds, cherries and ginger and stir until coated.  Next, crush the biscuits, but not too finely, and mix into the chocolate.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the marsh mallows.  Tip the mixture into a tin lined with baking paper and refrigerate for a couple of hours until set.  Cut into bars and dust with icing sugar.  Sneak into the kitchen at every opportunity to stuff one into your mouth.

Tomorrow, my sausage and apricot terrine!