A little bit of seasonal pottering in the kitchen and a round up of our favourite Yuletide recipes…..

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I know not everyone likes pottering about in the kitchen but I’ve always enjoyed using my time in there to mark the seasons…we try to eat seasonally with our vegetables and I find my baking or jam making shifts accordingly too…..I’m always happy to try out new recipes but over the past some years I find myself returning to the following tried and trusted recipes, which for us, have become a big part of our seasonal celebrations….I’m currently writing up a selection* of our favourite recipes as part of a Christmas/New Year present for some friends that live a really long way away which means we only get to see them very occaisonally… (I thought they could add to what we send with favourite recipes from their family)….I’ve gone through the things we like the most and thought I’d round them all up and put links to them here tooo which makes it easier to share them with other people too….

Citrussy almond biscuits…..(light and delicate and all citrussy, these aren’t only nice and refreshing but if you get a gippy tummy at all or wake up a bit nauseus due to overindulging rather the night before then they seem to very good at helping to calm down the flutters)

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While you probably won’t see the seville oranges pre Christmas, for some reason I always think of this as a Christmas make…..the smell of those oranges is so wonderful and fresh…just watch out for little bears who may want you to make them a sandwich…..

A slow simmering marmalade…..

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You can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man…sticky and dark or crisp and biscuitty…I love both versions of gingerbread…the spicier the better….

dark and sticky…slowly filling the house with good smells while it bakes….

crisp and biscuitty…good for building houses and cutting little figures from…

homemade mincepies

I love mincemeat, the smell of it wafting up throughout the house while the fruit is simmering away on the stove is such an evocative Christmassy smell….while I have a really silly amount of different recipes for making it, these are the two I find I use more than any other…..

mincemeat made with cider…..

mincemeat made with vegetable suet….

breakfast buns

And I don’t just save mincemeat for the mince pies….. a good old dollop or two of mincemeat makes for an instant fruity loaf if you fancy baking some bread, and if you enrich the dough with butter milk and eggs you can easily make a sort of panettone style mufffin…..I also like adding a heaped spoonful or two of mincemeat into a plum or apple crumble……

It also works well in this recipe for fruity breakfast buns…..so good with salty butter and a smear of dark jam…..but you could also use it in a dough mix for hot cross bun style buns…..

And if you have bits of pastry left after making any mincepies then this recipe for tiny spiced biscuits makes use of every last scrap……

cinnamon swirl biscuits…..

Hope you enjoy baking and cooking these as much as we do……….

*The book will include recipes that we regularly cook and bake such as casseroles and breads, cakes etc but will also include recipes for jams and jellys, furniture polish and hand salves…..

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A calming bake of Christmas spices…..

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One of my most favourite smells in the whole wide world is gingerbread….a big pan of bunn and golden syrup melting on the stove, pouring in a fat swirl of treacle and then slowly stirring in freshly grated gingerbread……even when I’m feeling all fraught and anxious, wondering how what’s in my purse will stretch to gifts or how I can make the hands on the clock slow down so I have enough time to check everything off, taking a few minutes out o potter about in the kitchen seems to restore better than you can imagine….

I love making gingerbread men, or little houses and for those I use the recipe I wrote about a couple of years ago….but our main stove is currently not working so I’m making do with a little one and for  that a tray bake will suit much better……

This was originally a recipe from an old Marguerite Pattern book I received when I left Primary school but over the years I’ve tinkered and added to it and have now perfected a really moist and richly spiced Winter cake……

I whole heartedly advise buying a Japanese ginger grater, I bought mine from a local health food shop but you can pick them up quite easily at Asian food stores and they are about a fiver….they grate up the ginger so well, actually they sort of mush it and allow the juice to be extracted so well, the fibrery part I just squeeze out and then pop into the compost…..

I also make up a batch of spice mix at the start of December and then it’s all there ready to use over the holiday season, I like to grind my own spices so they are more intense flavoured but if you use pre-ground you might want to add a little more to what you are making…..

My gingerbread spice mix (good for sticky cake as well as the biscuits)

4 parts Cinnamon……3 parts Ginger……1 part Clove….I part Mace…1 part Star Anise…..

(I also quite often add a handful of dried edible rose petals in the spice grinder and add that scant powder to the spice blend as well…..)

Ingredients

4 oz butter (doesn’t really matter if it is unsalted but it does need to be butter and not a “I can’t believe…” style spread…trust me, you will taste the difference)

40z dark muscovado sugar

4oz golden syryp

40z black treacle or black strap molasses

8 oz plain flour

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda dissolvedin a tablespoon of warm water

1 1/2 tablespoon of mixed spice mix (or 1 really heaped one…sometimes I just do 2 of these)

2 medium eggs beaten

6 tablespoons milk (full fat or semi skimmed or half cream/half semi skimmed…I’ve tried them all and a little fat does make this taste nicer and lighter…)

an adult thumb size piece of fresh ginger that is freshly grated

A well lined 8 inch square baking tin (I use baking parchment)

 

Method

preheat the oven to gas mark 3, 325 f, 170 c…..tin wants ot bee placed in the middle so arrange your shelf height before hand……

in a heavy bottomed pan put in the butter and dollop in the golden syryp and treacle (wiping the spoon over with a little vegetable oil will mean the sticky syrups slide off easy peasy)…slowly lelt over a low heat…..while this is melting add the sugar, spice mix and grate in the ginger (squeeze the fibres that cling to the grater….)….stir well and just breathe in that wonderful aroma…….

take the pan off the heat and stir in the tablespoons of milk, beat the two eggs and gently stir those in two and finally add in the dissolved bicarbonate of soda……

measure out the flour, sift into a large bowl and then pour in the spicy scented thick and sticky liquid, beat until nicley mixed through….this is quite runny, but fear not……

por the batter into the lined tin and bake for between 45-60 minutes……until the bake is risen and just firm when you gently press down on the top.

place the tin on a cooling rack and allow to cool for a good 15 minutes before removing and allowing to further cool on the rack…..

once the cake is cold you can either eat it (yum) or cover it in a lemon icing  (yum yum) or wrap it in tin foil and leave for a few days………hard work knowing it is there but the flavours mingle and the cake gets stickier…once it is unwrapped you can also ice it, the lemony icing seems to cut through the sweet perfectly.

Lemon Icing

Sift 200g of icing sugar and slowly add the juice of a lemon, you don’t want the icing over runny, drizzle on top of the gingerbread and allow to dry before cutting……enjoy a fat slice with a nice pot of tea.

If you want to substiture 4oz of flour for 4oz of fine oatmeal to make a more traditional parkin (which will want to be kept foil wrapped for a week before cutting) then go ahead…….

(my gingerbread man was made by my friend Sasha)

I love making this so much, like I say, it allows me to switch off, put verything else to one side and just lose myslef in the smells and memories this conjurs up….those all so familiar Tate and Lyle tins which never change and the nose tingling scent of  ginger and spices slowly simmering away on the stove….