Category Archives: Puddings

Look! It’s been snowing.

Hello there.

As you will undoubtedly be aware, it’s been snowing.  You get many many bonus points if you can tell me where the innocuous phrase in the title came from.

I had to work from home yesterday, as my trains were cancelled, and A Man also worked from the Warminster office as riding 50 miles on a motorbike with snow on its tyres would not have been an especially sensible idea.  This meant we were able to meet up for a lunchtime walk, and take some pretty photos of the park.

Let it Snow

I love this man’s olde-worlde sledge!

WARNING – THIS POST IS ABOUT TO GET CHRISTMASSY 3 AND A HALF WEEKS TOO LATE

Thanks to Charles Dickens, snow in the UK is commonly associated with Christmas, despite it actually hardly ever happening.  The fact of it being snowy outside led me to make a somewhat rash decision.  Bring out the Christmas pudding!

By all rights it should have been flamed, but I was a little too tipsy to be trusted with a ladle full of rum and a match.

By all rights it should have been flamed, but I was a little too tipsy to be trusted with a ladle full of rum and a match.

I made 2 Christmas puds this year in November, both 2 pints and one with a silver sixpence in.  The first we took to our friends’ house for our annual Christmas dinner and as I had no idea which pud had the sixpence, there was no question of microwaving to warm it up (not to mention, it always tastes better when steamed).  Unfortunately, a combination of drunkenness, a too-small pan, boiling dry and stupidity, the plastic pudding basin melted.  The pud was luckily salvageable and very tasty but didn’t even have the sixpence so I knew it was in the one at home.

The sixpence is hiding right in the middle of the wedge, so at least we know where it is now!

The sixpence is hiding right in the middle of the wedge, so at least we know where it is now!

As we were visiting family over Christmas we never got the opportunity to have the second pudding.  I decided that, to be safe, I would reheat the pud in the same way I cooked them: wrapped in a muslin, and steamed in the slow cooker sitting on a saucepan.  It worked really well and the pudding was surprisingly light.

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The recipe was more or less the same as last year’s, but I used the following fruit instead:

4 oz Dried figs
3 oz Prunes
5 oz Apricots
6 oz Currants
1 lb Sultanas

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After last year’s embarrassingly alcoholic pudding, I recorded how much rum I fed the puddings: 1 capful once a week for 5 weeks.  A little more wouldn’t have hurt, but the amount used was pretty good.

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Christmas pudding served with its perfect accompaniment of lots of clotted cream.

I’ve also still got the Christmas cake in the cupboard, without marzipan or icing, again because we didn’t really have an opportunity to eat it.  I’ll save it for another post, but I’m seriously considering keeping it in the cupboard until next year, and having a 13-month matured cake – that’s got to be good, right?!

If you’ve read this far congratulations.  Have a mince pie (yup, I’ve been cooking those too!).

Much love

Gemma x

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Triple Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Brownies

Hullo hullo

It’s a chilly, wet day in the South West today and I’m spending quite a lot of it curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea.  A Man’s gone to a kickboxing competition in Croydon, so it’s just me, the radio and catching up with my blog.  And what better thing when you’re cold and lonely than a slab of something deliciously calorific?

It’s also my youngest brother’s 16th birthday today, and so to celebrate in his absence I’m munching on some brownies I made yesterday.  He’s also at a martial arts competition, though this one is judo, and it’s his first at a senior level, so fingers crossed for him!

I adapted a recipe in Donna Hay’s Chocolate, basically so that I didn’t have to go back to the supermarket and could just use the ingredients I already had.  It’s rich and squidgy and frankly it’s darned delicious.

Hope you’re having a relaxing Sunday!  And good luck to A Man and baby brother!

Love love

Gemma xx

Triple Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Brownies

8oz butter
2 1/2 oz milk chocolate (I used a packet of chocolate buttons!)
2 1/2 oz white chocolate
7 1/4 oz dark brown sugar
4 eggs
3 oz cocoa powder
5 oz plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
Handful of dried fruit (I used figs, cranberries and glacé cherries)
Handful of nuts (I used mixed nuts, including peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts)

I had planned to liberally coat the brownie with icing sugar to make it more appealing to photograph, but it turns out I don’t have any icing sugar in the cupboard.

  1. Preheat the oven to 160OC/320OF/Gas mark 3.  Line a cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Melt the butter and half of the milk chocolate in a bain marie and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs together.  Sift the cocoa, flour and baking powder into the egg mixture and stir until it is well combined.
  4. Add the melted butter to the bowl and stir until it is thoroughly combined.  The mixture should be glossy and reasonably thick.
  5. Chop the remaining chocolate, dried fruit and nuts into small pieces.  I used the mezzaluna.  Sprinkle over the batter and fold in gently, until the pieces are well distributed.
  6. Pour into the prepared baking tin and cook for between 35 minutes and an hour, until set.  This will entirely depend on how thick the brownie is.  Mine was quite thick, and I ended up leaving it in the warm (but switched off) oven while we watched a film so that it would set, but still be deliciously squidgy and moist.  Yum!

Chocolate Chestnut Tart

Hullo

Last night a friend from law school and her husband came over for dinner.  We’d been at A Man’s dad’s for lunch, so I didn’t want to do anything too involved for dinner because I didn’t think I’d have time – roast chicken it was.  However, I was also determined to make something for pudding, and decided upon this simple but classy dessert, which I more or less created on the spot.

I’ve already mentioned the garlic and saucisson sec we brought back from France, but they weren’t the only culinary treats we came home with.  One of the gifts our French friends gave us was a large tin of chestnut purée.  Following a suggestion by my mum, I decided to make a tart using the chestnuts as a base.  I planned to serve it with either cream or ice cream, but had neither so improvised the chocolate brandy sauce, which was pretty successful.  The chocolate I used was in fact left over from the strawberries I decorated my friend’s hen party cake with and seems to have been quite happy to sit in the fridge since then.  Oh, I’m good at dealing with leftovers!

Speaking of which, there’s now half a tin of chestnut purée in my fridge.  Any ideas of what I can do with it?

Love love

Gemma xx

Chocolate Chestnut Tart

150g dark chocolate
200g chestnut purée
2 eggs
Caster sugar to taste
Filo pastry
Melted butter

For the sauce
Dark chocolate
White chocolate
Butter
Milk
Brandy

I served the sauce in the teapot because it was the most appropriate receptacle I could find 🙂

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie.  Whilst it is melting, beat the chestnut purée with the eggs.
  2. Once the chocolate has melted, add it to the chestnut mixture.  Stir in a little sugar.  One of the great things about this pudding is its richness, so don’t add too much.
  3. Unwrap the pastry according to the packet.  Brush each sheet with a little melted butter and layer in a tart tin.  Spoon the chestnut mixture into the pastry case and bake in a medium-hot oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. For the sauce, melt together the chocolate with about 50g butter.  Once it has melted, add enough milk to reach a pouring consistency, and about 4 tablespoons brandy.  The tart and sauce are both very rich, so you only need a tiny slice.

A meal fit to make you explode

Hi there!

Yesterday was A Man and my anniversary.  It’s now 6 years since we’ve been engaged, and our wedding is finally less than a year away! As I had the day off and he was working I decided to cook a yummy 3 course dinner, complete with actually setting the table nicely, with a tablecloth.  I must admit to going a little over the top.  I bought fillet steak when rump would have done the trick, but the steak was short-date so substantially reduced.  There was also no need to make quite such an enormous dessert, but I’ve only got one spring-form tin and it’s that big.  It’ll hopefully get eaten during the week.

I set the table before A Man got home and then banned him from the kitchen 🙂

My menu was:

Starter Home-made duck liver parfait with a side salad and herb ciabatta toasts
Main Peppered fillet steak with baked potato wedges, tomatoes and flat mushrooms, served with a peppercorn sauce
Dessert Vanilla cheesecake with fresh raspberries, blueberries and mango

Yum!  The starter and main turned out very well.  The dessert, though tasty, looked like an absolute unmitigated disaster.  I shan’t be following that recipe again!  And I’m determined not to think about how many weeks’ calories must have been involved in this single meal.

Love love

Gemma xx

I prepped as much as I could before-hand, so the actual cooking primarily consisted of ‘turn oven on’

Duck Liver Parfait with a side salad and herb ciabatta toasts

Duck livers (or chicken livers if you can’t find duck)
Butter
Red onion
Garlic
Brandy
Ciabatta roll
Rocket
Pine nuts
Grana Padano cheese
Pine nuts
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar

We actually shared one ramekin of parfait rather than having one each. I think I succeeded in actually plating up an attractive starter!

  1. I made the parfait more or less like this, but without the port and cranberries and with a splash of brandy to deglaze the pan after cooking everything off.
  2. Take a herb and onion ciabatta roll and slice it as thinly as possible.  Place the slices on an oven tray and bake in a medium-high oven for a few minutes until they are crispy.  Be careful not to overdo it or they’ll burn.
  3. Plate up some rocket leaves.  Toast some pine nuts in a dry frying pan until they start to darken (be careful, they burn very easily) and sprinkle over the leaves.  Use a vegetable peeler to get some shards of cheese and sprinkle over the top.  Dress the salad with a small amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Peppered fillet steak with baked potato wedges, tomatoes and flat mushrooms, served with a peppercorn sauce

Steak
Black peppercorns, salt and sugar
Potatoes
Tomatoes on the vine
Flat mushrooms
Red onion
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Butter
Crème fraîche
Brandy

The peppercorn sauce was in a jug. I decided it would make a better photo before it has been poured on.

  1. Remove the steak from its packaging and dry the surfaces with kitchen roll or a teatowel.  Coat both sides liberally with freshly ground black pepper and season with a little salt.  Leave to come up to room temperature.
  2. Slice the potatoes into wedges (leaving the skin on) and boil until soft.  Remove from the pan and arrange on an oven tray, cut sides facing up.  If you like you can season them with your chosen flavour, an cook them in oil or fat to make the crispier.  I decided that with all the other calories in this dish, just baking them au naturel made the most sense!
  3. Place the tomatoes and mushrooms on an oven tray.  Cut the onion into quarters and add to the veg.  Season well with salt, pepper and a little sugar on the tomatoes.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  4. Cook the potatoes and veg in a hot oven for around 30 minutes, or until the wedges are browned and the veg is soft.  Turn the oven off and place some plates to warm.
  5. Melt some butter in a frying pan on a medium-high heat.  When it is bubbling and starting to brown, add the steaks to the pan with a few peppercorns.  Cook them on both sides until they are cooked as desired.  I only cooked mine for a minute or two on each side, as we like ours very rare.  Scrape some of the pepper off of the steak into the butter and remove the meat from the pan, placing it on the warmed plates.
  6. Deglaze the pan with a couple of tablespoons of brandy, scraping up any crispy bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add a spoon or two of crème fraîche and cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce has reduced.  Serve as quickly as possible, to ensure the steak is still warm.

Vanilla cheesecake with fresh raspberries, blueberries and mango

I used a Jamie Oliver recipe and followed it to the letter.  It ought to have been beautiful but somehow the cream cheese seemed to melt everywhere as soon as I topped the cheesecake with the raspberry sauce.  Sadface.  At least it tasted good!  And I suppose there had to be a disaster somewhere…

Perhaps there was too much raspberry sauce? I don’t know, except that it made a huge mess!

Restaurant Review – The Cellar Door, Edinburgh

Greetings!

I’ve been away for several days (one longer than intended, due to travel issues!)  and have therefore not been cooking.  However, during C’s hen party, we did spend an afternoon at The Cellar Door making chocolate.

We turned up and were immediately ushered downstairs. We were invited to choose a 2 course lunch from the menu, after which we would make our chocolates.  They would be chilled, and lunch would be served after that.  All sounded good so far.

First, the chocolate making.  We were each presented with separate blocks of milk and dark chocolate ganache, and the table was covered in plates and bowls with melted milk, white and dark chocolate, cocoa, nuts, sprinkles, marshmallows, fudge and other treats.  We had to mould the ganache with our hands and fill and cover it as we wished.  It was great fun (though incredibly messy!) and a prize went to C’s bridesmaid I for making the best choccies (apparently they were some of the best they had ever seen on the course – what a teacher’s pet!).  Unfortunately mine suffered significant melting on the journey home, but they nevertheless tasted yummy.

Messy messy chocolatey table. You should have seen our hands…

For lunch I ordered breaded haggis with chutney and salad to start, followed by grilled hake with lemon and herb crushed potatoes.  It had been a toss-up between the fish and a skirt steak sandwich, but I tried a little of the latter from R’s plate.  I was seriously seriously impressed.  The plates were presented beautifully, but there had been no scrimping on the quantity of food.  My haggis was light rather than greasy (which I had feared slightly) and went fantastically with the chutney.  I had never eaten it like that before, and it was delicious.  I would have been really happy with the steak sandwich, as the beef was cooked to rare perfection, was seasoned wonderfully and was served with a delicious-looking homemade coleslaw.  My hake was moist and tender, the potatoes slightly buttery and perfectly herby.

I just had to take a photo of my lunch because it looked so lovely.

I would 100% recommend The Cellar Door.  The staff were friendly and attentive, but not pushy.  The chocolate-making was good fun and perfect for the occasion, but if you don’t fancy it they do cook meals anyway 😉  The thing I found most amazing was the quality of the lunch.  Ordinarily, a 2-course weekday lunch like we had costs only £7.95 per person.  I had to check that price about 15 times because it was some of the best restaurant food I’ve had in a long time, and certainly the best I’ve ever eaten at that price!  I will definitely be revisiting The Cellar Door if I am in Edinburgh again.  My only slight criticism was that the area our table was in could have done with a little more lighting – perhaps a nice standard lamp in the corner.  But all in all it is only a minor thing which by no means affected how impressed I was with the place.

Love love

Gemma xx

Slow Cooker Steamed Almond Pudding

After our epic roast dinner earlier, we were a little full to have pudding immediately.  Luckily, it wasn’t ready so was quite easy to put off until later.  I used my home-made butter in this one.

Steamed puddings can be a thing of beauty.  Light and fluffy and reminiscent of childhood, topped with lots of sweet creamy custard and especially good when the weather’s as crappy as it has been recently.  And the other advantage is that they’re incredibly easy to make.  They can be cooked in minutes in the microwave, but nothing beats a properly steamed pudding – they come out a lot lighter and moister that way.  I’ve used raspberry jam here, but more or less anything saucy can be added to flavour the sponge.

Love love

Gemma xx

Slow Cooker Steamed Almond Pudding

Having grown up as one of 4, I've never made a steamed pud so small! It's sitting dwarfed on a side plate.

2 oz melted butter
2  caster sugar
1 egg
3 oz ground almonds
1 oz self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Milk
Raspberry jam
Custard, to serve

  1. Grease a 1 pint pudding basin.  Mix the caster sugar with the melted butter until dissolved.  Whisk in the egg, almonds, flour, baking powder and vanilla.
  2. The batter will probably be quite thick at this stage.  Add enough milk for it to become just thin enough to pour.
  3. Spoon some jam into the bottom of the pudding basin.  Pour the batter over the top, and cover the basin ready for steaming.
  4. Place an upturned saucer into the base of the slow cooker and place the pudding on top.  Carefully, so as not to get any water into the basin, pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the basin.  Switch the slow cooker onto high.
  5. Cook for a couple of hours, until the pudding has cooked through and risen.  Remove it from the water and turn it up onto a plate.  Serve with lots of hot custard.

Gemma goes mad and makes butter. Buttermilk pancakes are the inevitable result.

Bonjour!

We went out for a meal for A Man’s Aunt’s birthday yesterday evening, and were mooching back home today.  We got back to town just in time to dash into the supermarket to get some bread, which of course meant they were reducing all of the short date produce.  I came back with a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk, 4 packets of 2 “The Best” gammon steaks, a packet of bread rolls, eggs, some biscuity cakey things, a quiche, pork pies and some double cream, all for the grand old price of £2.42.  Huzzah for emergency shopping!  Of course, my freezer is now utterly full again but I had the issue that cream doesn’t freeze all that well.  I decided I’d try out something I’ve been wanting to give a go for a while – homemade butter.

It’s not something that’s going to save you money unless the cream is highly reduced in price but it’s quite interesting to watch it happen.  The way I did it was the jar method, but you can easily use an electric whisk or stand mixer instead.  Pour the cream into a jar twice as big (i.e. for a pint of cream, I poured it into a 2 pint jar) with a tight fitting lid.  Shake the jar (or whip the cream) through the stages of lightly whipped and stiff peaks, right through until it’s overwhipped.  Just keep going.  Eventually, the cream will start to separate and you’ll get little yellowish lumps of butter in the cream.  It’s ready once the butter is sloshing around in a puddle of buttermilk.  Drain the buttermilk and wash the butter under very cold water, until the water runs clear (you need to wash the excess buttermilk from the butter or it’ll go off very quickly).  Shape, wrap and freeze your butter until needed.  From a pint of cream, I got about 200g butter and 200ml buttermilk.

Don’t throw out the buttermilk.  It can be used in place of ordinary milk in more or less any recipe.  I decided to make these yummy apple buttermilk pancakes.

Love love

Gemma xx

Apple Buttermilk Pancakes

200ml buttermilk
1 egg
200g self raising flour
100g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 apples

  1. Whisk the buttermilk and egg together.  Sift the flour, caster sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and whisk the buttermilk into the dry ingredients.
  2. Grate the apples on the coarse side of a grater.  You don’t need to worry about peeling or even coring the apples – just grate the whole lot together.  Mix into the batter.  If possible, leave the batter to sit for a little while so that the dry ingredients soak up the wet ones.
  3. Heat a frying pan to medium-hot.  Add a little oil and spoon in small amounts of batter.  It should start to puff up a little and cook from the outside in.  Turn once the batter has completely set and cook until both sides are brown.  Either eat them as you go or set aside on a warm plate.
  4. Serve with maple syrup or a little butter and jam.  Yummy!