Saturday, December 31, 2011


I'm afraid that I'm going to use the "R" word - I know I won't be popular, but it's for your own good!!!  Most of us make resolutions (there I've said it!!) about being more organised - and I'm giving you an easy way to get the warm fuzzy feeling - prepare the fruit for next year's Christmas cake this week, imagine how organised and "Suzie Homemakerish" you'll feel - so what if you don't keep to the healthy eating regime or if you don't manage to hit the gym every day - you still know that your Christmas cake is getting more delicious by the day!

Why am I so evangelical about this year long soak for the fruits -  once again I managed to forget about the fruit that I had left to soak for a whole year (my last find was a jar of raisins that had been soaking in dark rum for a very, very long time - scrumptious)  - and I have to say that the result was the richest moistest cake ever (well equal place with Nigella's chocolate Christmas cake).

I urge you to pop over to The Pink Whisk's recipe for boozy fruit for your Christmas Cake where you will find the directions for this cake elixir.  It makes so much sense to prepare the fruits at this time - you probably have many of the fruits and the booze in the cupboard, what better way could you have to use them up?

 I want to thank you all for your support during 2011 and to wish you the very best for 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011


How long does it take to make a tradition?  Some Christmas traditions come to us through our parents and grandparents, some probably from the idealised versions we see on T.V. (do families really decorate the tree together while humming carols and sipping hot chocolate - or is the general experience more like mine, where I whine about doing it, hint for help but get told that I'm the "artistic one"!!!!!!  Baah Humbug) but what about the traditions we make ourselves?  I reckon that Nigella's Chocolate Christmas Cake is fast becoming a tradition here in Brownieville - Christmas wouldn't be quite the same without it sitting under the dome on the cake stand.  Regular Christmas visitors have been known to ask for it (they don't know about the puddings!!!!!!).

It is really easy to throw together, being what my mother would call a boiled cake - most of the ingredients are heated together in a pot (which means there is no need to soak the fruit) then you add a few more and bake.  I will admit that there is all the faffing about having to line the tin, but other that that is's "wham bam thank you mam"

The cake has a beautifully moist texture, the chocolate and orange flavours are subtle and actually add to the Christmassyness (!) of the cake.  It should be eaten within 2 weeks (no problem I promise!!) so is prefect for the last minute merchants amongst us!!  Please don't worry about all the prunes in there, nobody will notice, and think of all the good it will be doing to their tummies after the Christmas stodge!!

When I saw that Choclette has challenged us to include orange to a chocolate bake for this month's We Should Cocoa, it was a shoe in for this cake!

Chocolate Christmas Cake
adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe                                      
350g            stoned prunes, chopped
250g            raising
175g            currants
175g            butter
175g            dark sugar
225g            honey
75ml            coffee liqueur
50ml            hazelnut liqueur
1                 orange, juiced and zested
3                 mandarin orange, juiced and zested (if large just use 2)
1 tsp            mixed spice
2 tbsp          cocoa powder (sifted)
3                  eggs, beaten
150g            flour
75g              ground hazelnuts (or almonds)
1/2 tsp         baking powder
1/2 tsp         bread (bicarbonate of) soda

Double line and butter a 20cm x 9cm deep round cake tin.  When filled I also tie a couple of layers of newspapers around the outside - belt and braces!! 

Put the flour, ground nuts, baking powder and bread (bicarbonate of) soda in a bowl and set aside.
Put the remaining ingredients (except the eggs) in a large saucepan and gently bring to boiling point, stirring regularly.
Allow to simmer for 10 minutes and set aside for 30 (or longer if it's handier)
While it's cooling I prepare the tin.
Add the beaten egg and the dry ingredients, combine well.
Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for approx 2 hours.
You want a texture less gooey than a  brownie but more so than a normal cake.
Put the cake tin on a wire rack and allow to cool.
Eat immediately if you wish, but it will keep for about 2 weeks, depending on your will power!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I have been missing in action - sorry guys, I'm suffering from a very bad case of "waywaywaytoomuchtodoitis" which along with a chest infection has kinda floored me.  Luckily I managed to make the Christmas puddings before the malaise hit!

I have mentioned the importance of Christmas Puddings in Brownieville on a previous post - every year I make an obscene number (getting larger each year), every year I plan to pass on a couple as presents, and every year a certain person manages to demolish the lot (you are soooo mean - it's NOT me!!!).

Brownieville Man (for it is he!!) is probably the most generous person I know, he is always up first to pay the bill when we go to restaurants with friends, ditto when we go out for drinks (although we don't do that very often any more - old age?) BUT when it comes to my Christmas Puddings, he is just short of weighing them before he heads out, in case I offer some to visitors during the day!!!!!!  It is the truest demonstration of his abiding love for his sons that he allows them (almost)  free access to the pudding tin!!!

This pudding recipe comes from my paternal grandmother, via my mother, with many changes en route.  It is very, very easy - all it needs is time steaming away, and if you have a good sized steamer that holds plenty of water, you can just leave it without a thought!  Actually the shopping is the hardest part - just make sure that you use good fruit and that you don't use the tub of prechopped candied peel - it does make a difference to cut it yourself.

By the way, our resident pudding expert says that all the stuff about puddings maturing is codswallop, and the fresher the better - just in case you have some time to throw this lot together.

Finally, on Christmas day, just reheat by steaming for a couple of hours (do NOT use the micro, my Mum learned that one to her cost!!) then pour some Vodka over and set alight - enjoy the "oohs and aaaghs" - you deserve them! (Vodka gives a longer burning time than Brandy).

It tastes unbeliveably good at this stage - use good eggs and
then pick to your hearts content!!!!

Granny's Christmas Pudding

1 lb            bread crumbs - preferably made from a stale batch (or any good) loaf
1 lb            sultanas
1 lb            raisins
1/2 lb         currants
1 lb            brown sugar
1/4 lb         freshly chopped mixed peel
1/4 lb         chopped glace cherries
1/2 lb         melted butter
1/2 lb         sifted plain flour
2 tbsp        mixed spice
2 tbsp        cinnamon
1/2             nutmeg - grated
5                eggs
200 ml       Guinness (more as needed)
100ml        Whiskey
100ml         Brandy

Combine all the dry ingredients in a very large bowl, and mix.
Add the eggs, butter and alcohol and mix well - get all family members to help.  They can stir clockwise 3 times and on each turn wish for "Health" then "Wealth" and finally "Happiness"
Cover with cling film (touching the mixture) and leave to absorb the flavours for at least 24 hours.
Spoon into your pudding basins - I just use plastic ones with lids, I put some greaseproof paper on top of the mixture and then pop on the lid.
Steam (in a steamer, or in a large pot with an upturned saucer in the bottom) for 7 hours.

This recipe makes one 3lb and one 2lb pudding.

I've made 10 puddings so far - I think that there are 6 left!! But this year I have one aside to give to a wonderful friend - and "himself" will help me wrap it (metaphorically that is!!!)

 I am entering my Pudding recipe for Vanessa's Let's Make Christmas Challenge (her book is at the top of my Christmas List!)