Rachel’s Homemade Mincemeat

If you have never made your own mincemeat, then this is the recipe to change your mind about homemade versus shop bought. My lovely friend Rachel makes this every year and sells it at the school Christmas. Children will love mixing this all up and then bottling it. I also think it makes a great gift, I love getting food presents…one of my favourite things!

You will need

350g (12oz) raisins
225g (8oz) sultanas
225g (8oz) currants
115g (4oz) chopped mixed peel
115g (4oz) chopped blanched almonds
225g (8oz) shredded suet (beef or vegetarian)
450g (1 lb) dark muscovado sugar
350g (12oz) apples, cored and chopped (eg Cox’s)
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 orange
115ml (4 fl oz) brandy
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 rounded tsp grated nutmeg
1 rounded tsp ground allspice

To make your Mincemeat

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large, non-metallic bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave for a week, giving the occasional stir.
  2. After a week, pot into cooled, sterilised jars and cover. Keep for a further 2 weeks before using.

Variations – try apricots or red/green glace cherries for a more festive look! You could also add cranberries in place of some of the apple.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

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This is without any doubt the best Sticky Toffee Pudding I have ever made or eaten. I usually cook this for my bonfire night parties, I make huge trays of it and there is rarely any left. This picture was taken by my son Miles, he gave this recipe a go after being unimpressed with the other ones he’d tried. As you can see it turned out perfectly, he now makes it for a restaurant on the Gold Coast, Australia. This is such a wonderful winter dessert, you can’t fail to please your diners with this one.

What you will need for your Sticky Toffee Pudding

For the pudding:

  • 230 ml (8 fl ozs)water
  • 200 g (7ozs) pitted dates
  • 110 g (4ozs) butter, cubed
  • 170 g (6ozs) caster sugar
  • 2½ tsp coffee granules
  • 2 vanilla pods, seeds removed
  • 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200 g (7ozs) self-raising flour
  • Butter for greasing
  • A sprinkling of plain flour

For the sauce:

  • 200 g (7ozs) cubed butter
  • 450 g (16ozs) dark brown sugar
  • 400 ml (14 fl ozs) single cream

How to make your Sticky Toffee Pudding

1. For the pudding, preheat the oven to 160C (or 150C if using a fan oven).
2. Pour the water into a pan, add the pitted dates and place over the heat for 7-9 minutes to allow the dates to break down and fall apart. Watch the dates, don’t boil the water away completely-move the pan away from the heat to avoid this.
3. In another pan, melt the cubed butter. Once the butter is melted add the caster sugar and stir in.
4. Melt the coffee granules in a very small amount of warm water. Add the seeds from the vanilla pod ( or you can use vanilla paste).
5. Whisk the eggs and egg yolk so the whites and the yolks are just combined.
6.Once the dates are cooked, stir in the bicarbonate of soda and take off the heat immediately. Pour the date mixture into a mixing bowl then add the sugar/butter mix followed by the flour, coffee paste and finally the eggs so they are gently presented to the heat (avoiding any curdling).
7. Mix all the ingredients together with a whisk then pour the mixture into a 23cm x 30cm dish. Place in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.
10.10 minutes before the pudding is ready, start to make the sauce. First melt the cubed butter, again bringing it off the heat so it doesn’t burn. Slowly add the dark brown sugar while mixing. Place back on the heat and stir well, not allowing the sauce to sit still. Stir whilst boiling until the sugar crystals have broken down.
8. Take off the heat and keep stirring while you slowly add the cream. Stir until the cream is well-mixed into the sauce. Pour into a jug.
9. Serve the sticky toffee pudding in squares drizzled with the sauce, I like to serve with cream or a good ice-cream.
This freezes and then reheats in the microwave really well. Perfect for nights when you really need a dessert, but haven’t got the time or energy to make one.

Cherry Brandy Christmas Cake

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I think this is the earliest I have ever managed to cook a Christmas cake. Last night, after work I made this one and the only reason I attempted it was because I knew it was going to be quick and easy. Sometimes, I start making things like this only to find it has taken much longer than I thought, it becomes late, I become over tired and well basically I wish I’d gone to M&S! So my friends, I bring you probably the easiest Christmas cake ever and
probably one of the yummiest.

You will need

1 x deep 20cm greased and lined cake tin

175g butter , chopped
200g dark muscovado sugar
750g luxury mixed dried fruits (one that includes mixed peel and glacé cherries)
finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
100ml/3½ fl oz cherry brandy or brandy plus 4tbsp more
85g macadamia nuts
3 large eggs , lightly beaten
85g ground almonds
200g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice

How to make your cake

1.Put the butter, sugar, fruit, zests, juice and 100ml/3½fl oz brandy in a large pan. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the butter has melted. Reduce the heat and bubble for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2.Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

3.Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150C/gas 2/ fan 130C and line the cake tin. Toast the nuts in a dry frying pan, tossing them until evenly browned, or in the oven for 8-10 minutes – keep an eye on them as they burn easily. When they are cool, chop roughly. Stir the eggs, nuts and ground almonds into the fruit mixture and mix well. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into the pan. Stir in gently, until there are no traces of flour left.

4.Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth it down evenly – you will find this is easiest with the back of a metal spoon which has been dipped into boiling water.

5.Bake for 45 minutes, then turn down the heat to 140C/gas 1/ fan120C and cook for a further 1-1¼ hours (about a further 1¾ hours if you have a gas oven) until the cake is dark golden in appearance and firm to the touch. Cover the top of the cake with foil if it starts to darken too much. To check the cake is done, insert a fine skewer into the centre – if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

6.Make holes all over the warm cake with a fine skewer and spoon the extra 4tbsp brandy over the holes until it has all soaked in. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. When it’s cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap first in baking parchment and then in foil. The cake will keep in a cupboard for up to three months or you can freeze it for six months.

This recipe originates from a lady called Mary Cadogan.

Beer Bread

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Photo by Evelin Viikmaa

This recipe has just been given to me by my ‘Beer Cookery Specialist’ Stephen Spaeder. Stephen decided to make his own bread for my ‘Beefy beer and Bread’ recipe, giving this dish a double whammy of beer! This bread takes minutes to prepare, no kneading, no long wait and is a perfect partner for any beef stew. You really need to give this a try and let us know how you liked it. It was an absolute winner in our house.

What you will need

3 cups (1lb 8ozs) plain flour ( I used ½ white and ½ wholemeal)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup(2ozs) sugar
1/2 cup (4ozs) melted butter
1x12oz can of beer

Grease a1lb loaf tin and preheat the oven to 190°c / 375°f / Gas mark 5

How to make Beer Bread
1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

2. Pour the beer and 1/2 of the melted butter into the dry ingredients and mix well.

3. Place the dough into the greased bread tin. Now pour the rest of the melted butter over the top of the dough, which will give the bread a delicious crispy crust.

4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour.

5. Cool on a wire rack.

6. Enjoy :). Please feel free to leave a comment on the blog.

Poached Pears in Red Wine

Photo: Poached Pears in Red Wine...a very simple but gorgeously aromatic dessert. Now available for you to cook at www.bohemianmama.co.uk

This is one of my favourite winter recipes. It smells so good and will leave a really christmassy aroma throughout your home. This recipe is simple and uses very few ingredients. The pears need to be hard which makes things easy as finding ripe pears at this time of year is often difficult. I like to serve these delicious pears with some vanilla flavoured creme fraiche.

You will need

8 large hard pears

1 pint (570ml) red wine

2oz (50g) caster sugar

2 whole cinnamon sticks

1 vanilla pod

1 rounded dessertspoon arrowroot

How to make your red wine pears

1. Preheat oven to gas mark ½, 250°f, 130°c.

2. Using a potato peeler, thinly peel each pair leaving the stalks intact. If your pears dont stand up very well on their own, take a thin slice of the bottom. This  will make them look prettier when serving 😉

3. Lay the pears in a casserole dish on their sides and pour over the wine, add the sugar, cinnamon sticks and vanilla pod.

4.Bring everything to the boil on the hob, then cover and bake on a low shelf in the oven for 1½ hrs. Then take the casserole pot out of the oven and then turn the pears over on their other side. Cover and put the pan back into the oven and cook for a further 1½hrs.

5. Lift the pairs out of the pot and into a serving dish. Remove the cinnamon sticks and vanilla pod.

6. Place the casserole dish with the spiced wine back on the hob. Mix arrowroot and alittle water in acup to make a smooth paste. add this to the liquid whisking as you go. Bring  just up to simmering point. remove from heat.

7. When the syrup is cool, spoon over the pears, basting them well. Cover and place in the fridge to chill.

8. Serve the pears (stood up) in individual bowls with creme fraiche or ice-cream. Enjoy!