28 December 2013

Spiced Flourless Orange Cake

I've been a bit off the radar recently- Christmas has been super busy and the last few weeks have flown by so I apologise for the delay in posts! I hope you've all had a lovely Christmas filled with friends, family and of course delicious food. Ours is always a huge family affair with lots of food and traditional party games. Now that I've got a few days to relax between Christmas and New Year I'm finally sitting down to some new photography books and youtube tutorials to pick apart the features of my camera and brush up on some new tips! It's also time for some of my favourite cooking- when I've got all day to decide what to make, pick out the ingredients and cook at my own pace. This is a very different scene from the pre-Christmas rush when the kitchen was a bomb site and the oven constantly in use.

Now, I'm a big fan of Christmas pudding. My Grandma makes the BEST Christmas pudding ever from a recipe that's been handed down through the generations. Its a heavenly rich dark pudding filled with brandy-soaked fruits and treacle and served with brandy butter (90% brandy, 10% butter!)
However these rich desserts can become a bit too much after Christmas and it's nice to be presented with something sweet but a little lighter.

This spiced orange cake is flourless and light, made with ground almonds and orange puree. The spices still give it that warming Christmassy feel but it's not as rich as your traditional fruit cake. As it's made with ground almonds it's also gluten free as long as you use gluten free baking powder.

It's an adapted version of a Tom Kerridge recipe from his Christmas baking programme.

Ingredients: (for 2 medium sized cakes)

3 oranges
300g ground almonds
300g caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
7 free-range eggs
1tsp vanilla paste
1 dessert spoon runny honey


Put the unpeeled oranges into a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Put a lid on and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1-2 hours until the orange skins are soft and the oranges' insides broken down.

Then drain the oranges and once cool enough to handle, cut them in half, remove the seeds and puree in a food processor until fine (including the skins.) Then weight out 450g of this orange puree and discard the rest.

Then preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (fan.)

Measure out the ground almonds, caster sugar, baking powder and spices. Add the dry ingredients to the food processor along with the 450g orange puree. Blitz to mix it roughly and then add in the vanilla, honey and the eggs, one at a time until you have a smooth cake batter.

Prepare a round cake tin by greasing and lining with baking paper. I used two 20cm round cake tins (depth 4cm) to make 2 medium sized cakes. (This amount of mixture will make 2 medium sized cakes.) I was giving one to my brother as fuel for a coach trip to Paris but you could also freeze the other one once baked for another occasion.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared tins and scatter with flaked almonds. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. You may need to cover the top of the cakes after about 40 minutes with foil to prevent them from burning. Once baked remove the cakes from the tins and cool on a wire cooling rack.

Adapted from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/spiced_orange_cake_with_47262

8 December 2013

Ginger and Brandy Poached Pears

Poached pears are a refreshing, simple yet elegant dessert. Somewhat refreshing, they make a lovely light end to a meal served with spiced ginger biscuits or would be great served for brunch with some soft goats cheese. What's even better is that they can be super quick as you can make these pears in advance and preserve them in the sugar syrup and alcohol, stored away until you need them.


6 small pears (it's better to use harder pears otherwise they will be too soft once poached)
4 tbsp clear honey
4tbsp brown sugar
1 strip each of orange and lemon peel
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 sprigs rosemary
300ml brandy
4tbsp stem ginger syrup (from a jar)


Peel the pears, leaving the stalks and place them into a small pan so that they fit tightly. 

Add enough water to cover the pears and then add the honey, sugar, orange and lemon peel and lemon juice.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes until the pears are tender when tested with a sharp knife. Then leave the pears to cool in the syrup. 

Carefully lift the pears from the pan into a big sterilised jar and add the rosemary and fruit peel to the jar as well. Return the syrup to the heat and bubble over a medium heat until reduced by half. Then allow the syrup to cool again and then stir in the brandy and ginger syrup.

Pour this mixture over the pears in the jar, making sure they're completely covered. 
Seal the jar and keep in a cool dark place or in the fridge until ready to serve.

6 December 2013

Gingerbread Spiced Mince Pies

If you follow me on twitter, you'll see I've been proclaiming my love for the Delia's Complete Cookery Course recipe book- its an absolute must-have over the christmas period. This mincemeat recipe is own of hers and the same recipe I use every year. It makes the festive season so easy if you have some ready-made mincemeat stored away in jars so that you can quickly whip up a batch of mince pies if visitors pop round! This is a different take on your usual mince pies with a stem ginger mincemeat filling and a warming spiced gingerbread pastry. You could also make them in advance and then just reheat them in a hot oven for 5 minutes before serving to your guests along with a few glasses of mulled wine!


For the mincemeat: homemade is SO much better than shop-bought!

450g cooking apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
225g shredded suet ( I used beef suet but you could use vegetarian)
350g raisins
225g sultanas
225g currants
225g mixed peel
350g dark soft brown sugar
Grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
50g whole almonds, cut into slivers (or use flaked almonds)
4tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 nutmeg, grated ( I used 1tsp ground nutmeg)
6tbsp brandy ( I use one small wine glass full as I like it to have a bit of a kick!)

For the mince pies: (makes 12)
The recipe can be easily doubled for more mince pies!

1 jar homemade mincemeat
1 dessert spoon of syrup from a jar of stem ginger
2 small pieces stem ginger

225g plain flour
50g soft brown sugar
1tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
110g soft salted butter
Few drops cold water

1 egg
Splash of milk
1tbsp demerara sugar


Mincemeat is so easy- once you've made it once, you'll never revert back to shop-bought! Just put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl along with the brandy and stir thoroughly. Delia suggests putting all the ingredients apart from the brandy into the bowl and leaving it over night before adding the brandy but if you don't have time then it's fine to do it all at once! (Delia puts her bowl of mincemeat, covered with tin foil into an oven at 120 degrees C for 3 hours to slowly melt the suet and then cools it completely before adding the brandy. I've never done this stage before but you could do if you wanted to.)

Once the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and everything is coated in the delicious zesty sugary brandy mixture, decant it into sterilised jars and seal. Mincemeat will keep for ages sealed in jars- the longer it's left to mature the better so I start my batches of mince pies with the left over mincemeat from last year. 

To make the mincemeat for these gingerbread spiced mince pies, empty one jar of mincemeat into a mixing bowl and stir thoroughly to distribute the liquid again. Add in the stem ginger syrup and the pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped. 

Then, make your pastry. Add the flour, sugar, spices and butter to a large mixing bowl and using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. 

Then add a few drops of cold water and mix with your hands until the dough starts to come together. Gradually add a little more water until you have a ball of dough. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 

At this stage, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (fan). Once the pastry has been chilled, remove it from the fridge and place onto a lightly-floured work surface. 

Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the pastry until it is about the thickness of a one pound coin. Grease a small tart tin with soft butter and then choose a circular cutter that is just a bit bigger than the tart mould. 

Using the cutter, cut out 12 round circles for the base of the mince pies and 12 stars as tops. You may need to re-roll the pastry once or twice. Gently ease each pasty circle into the tart mould and then crimp the edges with your fingertips. Fill the pastry cases with the mincemeat and then top with a pastry star. 

Once you have assembled all the mince pies, whisk together the egg and milk in a small jug and using a pastry brush, brush the tops and edges of the mince pies with the egg wash. 

Then sprinkle a little demerara sugar over each mince pie and bake in the preheat oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and the pastry is crisp. Ease a mince pie from the tin and turn it over to check that the base of the mince pie is cooked. 

Remove them from the oven and cool on a wire cooling rack. However, these are definitely best eaten warm with a big dollop of brandy butter or some icing sugar sifted over the top.