Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins {gluten-free}

These Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins are exactly what you should be treating your family to Christmas morning. They are light, fluffy, moist and full of Christmas spice and cheer.

These gluten-free Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins are exactly what you should be treating your family to Christmas morning. They are light, fluffy, moist and full of Christmas spice and cheer.

I know where I am with a good tradition. Little routines and recipes that let my good conscience know that it’s the festive season. I’ve got my trifle, devils on horseback, stockings at the ready and Christmas Spotify playlist on a constant loop. I am thrown a little cock-a-hoop this year with not spending Christmas at home but with babies surrounding us these days and my sister having moved out of London this year, the family is getting bigger and more spread out so I do understand that I can’t hog Christmas anymore. Even if my inner toddler is throwing a mini tanty.

So that makes it even more important in my mind to solidify our own little family traditions where we can and introduce new ones now we have Cole at the centre of the festivities.

Of the three traditions I am welcoming in this year the first is our family advent calendar. Instead of chocolate hiding behind each window I have little cards with activities or special thoughts that I have carefully written for each day in mind. Cole has had great fun picking out the cards and re-arranging them much to mummy’s constant pleasure. So some days have been a little disappointing with empty air filling the windows and some a little overwhelming with Father Christmas to visit, presents to wrap and mince pies to make. I think I got a bit overambitious though with this tradition and might have hidden the advent calendar after the 10th on the realisation of how much work was involved in actually doing what was written on the cards.

These gluten-free Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins are exactly what you should be treating your family to Christmas morning. They are light, fluffy, moist and full of Christmas spice and cheer.

The second tradition is our new memory box which I read all about on Pinterest. It seems a wonderful idea and I can imagine us all gathered around the Christmas tree, sharing anecdotes and cherished moments of this past year. No matter that I haven’t quite got round to buying the beautiful wooden boxes that are associated with this marvellous tradition. Instead we have a bit of scraggy old tupperware that I’m sure will be just as charming to hold our memories in until next year when I’ll order the wooden box by November at the latest.

The third tradition, which is probably the only one to be actualised, are these Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins. I think the title is pretty clear on when I intend to be making these bad boys. I don’t know why I haven’t made them before though as they are absolutely delicious, a cinch to make, without even requiring a food mixer, and best of all use up all the dregs of mincemeat that I always have hanging around my cupboards.

These gluten-free Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins are exactly what you should be treating your family to Christmas morning. They are light, fluffy, moist and full of Christmas spice and cheer.

They are gluten-free, like all my recipes these days, made with a combination of white rice flour and chestnut flour. These Mince Pie Muffins are light and fluffy, but also deliciously moist thanks to the generous amount of apple puree and mincemeat in the batter. I have tried making them with all kinds of mincemeat, with suet, without suet, with nuts and without and they have all been wonderful. I must confess though, my favourite batch was made with my Cranberry and Cointreau Mincemeat which is so lovely fresh and fruity.

Do whizz up the apple puree the night before if you want to make these on Christmas morning as it saves you a boring job when you’d much rather be opening pressies and quaffing back Bucks Fizz, but apart from that they are very simple and I think an excellent new tradition addition.

These gluten-free Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins are exactly what you should be treating your family to Christmas morning. They are light, fluffy, moist and full of Christmas spice and cheer.

These gluten-free Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins are exactly what you should be treating your family to Christmas morning. They are light, fluffy, moist and full of Christmas spice and cheer.
Print Recipe
Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins (gluten-free)
These Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins are exactly what you should be treating your family to Christmas morning. They are light, fluffy, moist and full of Christmas spice and cheer.
These gluten-free Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins are exactly what you should be treating your family to Christmas morning. They are light, fluffy, moist and full of Christmas spice and cheer.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Servings
12 muffins
Ingredients
For the streusel topping:
  • 35 g white rice flour
  • 30 g chestnut flour
  • 50 g soft light brown sugar
  • 90 g unsalted butter
  • 40 g gluten-free porridge oats
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
For the muffins
  • 200 g mincemeat gluten-free
  • 175 g apple puree about 4-5 apples
  • 120 g soft light brown sugar
  • 80 ml light olive oil not extra virgin
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 g white rice flour
  • 50 g chestnut flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Servings
12 muffins
Ingredients
For the streusel topping:
  • 35 g white rice flour
  • 30 g chestnut flour
  • 50 g soft light brown sugar
  • 90 g unsalted butter
  • 40 g gluten-free porridge oats
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
For the muffins
  • 200 g mincemeat gluten-free
  • 175 g apple puree about 4-5 apples
  • 120 g soft light brown sugar
  • 80 ml light olive oil not extra virgin
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 g white rice flour
  • 50 g chestnut flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
These gluten-free Christmas Morning Mince Pie Muffins are exactly what you should be treating your family to Christmas morning. They are light, fluffy, moist and full of Christmas spice and cheer.
Instructions
  1. First line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases and pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  2. Prepare the streusel by placing the flours, sugar, butter, oats and spice in a large mixing bowl and rubbing together between your fingers. The streusel should come together but still be crumbly. Set aside whilst you prepare the muffin batter.
  3. Pour the mincemeat, apple puree, sugar, eggs and olive oil into a large mixing bowl and beat together until combined.
  4. In another mixing bowl sift together the flours, spice, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl, then tip into the liquid batter.
  5. Beat together for a minute or so until everything is well mixed then evenly distribute between the muffin cases.
  6. Crumble the streusel on top of the muffins then bake in the oven for 22-24 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and immediately remove the muffins from the tin and leave on a rack to cool.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe was very heavily adapted from Alice Medrich’s Banana Muffins in her amazing book ‘Flavor Flours’

Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle {gluten-free}

This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.

This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.

This year for the first year I am not hosting Christmas. I am not pre-ordering a turkey, stockpiling crackers or heaving the Christmas crockery down from the attic. Instead we are spending Christmas at my sister’s with her partner and my brand new niece. Cole has yet to meet his tiny baby cousin and we just can’t wait to get them together.

This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.

It’s going to be a totally different Christmas for me as usually whilst everyone is chilling out with glasses of buck fizz, nibbling on nuts and chocolate and playing pre-lunchtime games, I am in a merry haze in the kitchen juggling brussel sprouts, frantically whisking gravies and wedging the pigs in blankets into an oven bursting at the seams.

This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.

My sister has only made two food-related requests of me this year, that I bring the Christmas pudding and The Trifle. I am not taking my duties lightly either as these two dessert options are non-negotiable in our family. Christmas might as well be cancelled if neither are produced at the end of our midday banquet. No matter that none of us are able to manage one more mouthful after the full on turkey feast let alone a bowlful of two incredibly rich desserts. We struggle on nevertheless and more often than not leap in for seconds. There is enough of both desserts to feed twenty families and by December 27th you can usually find me face deep inside the fridge digging out inroads of leftover trifle on a teaspoon (the diet spoon). It is imperative to gather enough sponge, fruit, custard and cream for each bite, the teaspoon makes it a challenge but I assure you it is possible.

This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.

Every year I tweak my trifle recipe depending on which fruit I am fancying. But this year for extra fun I have also adapted my trifle recipe to be gluten-free. I created a delicious almond sponge for Cole’s first birthday back in June and this has proved to be the perfect base for the trifle. It is a lovely sturdy sponge which it important as it has to soak up rather a lot of limoncello without dissolving into a pile of sog.

This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.

I have also taken inspiration from Nigel Slater’s Lemon Trifle from his Kitchen Diaries cookbook as my love for his recipe knows no bounds. I have mercilessly cribbed the bits I love best from it, namely the use of limoncello as the alcohol soak for the bottom layer of sponge and his idea of a fruit curd for the fruit base. He uses lemon, but here I have used a very easy homemade raspberry curd. Then I copied directly his no-egg lemon custard, which is made from only double cream, caster sugar and lemon juice, to ladle on top of the curd. At this point you leave the trifle to rest overnight and the custard sets like a dream. I usually take the recipe to this stage on Christmas Eve (or even the 23rd if there is room in the fridge to store) and then whip up the double cream for spooning on top of the whole affair just before serving on Christmas Day.

This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.

It is a magnificent way to end the most indulgent meal of the year and in our family Christmas would not be the same without it. We also cannot possibly forget the tradition of exclaiming after the first mouthful how much this year’s trifle is the best one ever. There is no way that my Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle will disappoint us.

This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.

This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.
Print Recipe
Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle
A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge, drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with a dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish. Serves 10-12
This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 8 hours
Servings
10-12 people
Ingredients
For the almond sponge:
  • 160 g caster sugar
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 120 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 90 g gluten-free plain flour
  • 90 g ground almonds
  • ¾ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons limoncello
For the raspberry curd:
  • 150 g raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry powder optional – see notes
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 55 g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
For the lemon custard:
  • 500 ml double cream
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 100 ml lemon juice from about 3 lemons
For the topping:
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 20 g flaked almonds
  • 75 g raspberries
Equipment
  • 20 cm round trifle bowl
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 8 hours
Servings
10-12 people
Ingredients
For the almond sponge:
  • 160 g caster sugar
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 120 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 90 g gluten-free plain flour
  • 90 g ground almonds
  • ¾ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons limoncello
For the raspberry curd:
  • 150 g raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry powder optional – see notes
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 55 g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
For the lemon custard:
  • 500 ml double cream
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 100 ml lemon juice from about 3 lemons
For the topping:
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 20 g flaked almonds
  • 75 g raspberries
Equipment
  • 20 cm round trifle bowl
This Lemon, Almond and Raspberry Trifle is a perfectly special way to end your winter feast. A gluten-free lemon and almond sponge is drizzled with limoncello, cosseted by a thick blanket of raspberry curd and topped with dreamy lemon custard and clouds of double cream. A crunch of toasted almonds and fresh raspberries are scattered to finish.
Instructions
To make the almond sponge
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line and grease a 7 inch square cake tin.
  2. Beat the sugars with the butter until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions.
  4. Add the vanilla extract.
  5. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt then beat into the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Pour the cake batter into the tin and then place in the oven
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about four hours.
  8. Once cool, cut circles out of the sponge which are easier to assemble into the bottom of the trifle bowl. When your sponge is in place then spoon over the limoncello.
To make the raspberry curd
  1. Heat the raspberries in a medium saucepan with a small splash of water until the raspberries have completely softened. Strain, keeping the juice for the curd.
  2. In a medium saucepan combine the strained raspberry juice, raspberry powder, lemon juice, caster sugar and butter and whisk them together whilst bringing to a low boil.
  3. Remove from the heat then pour a splash of the raspberry into the beaten eggs and whisk well, pour a little bit more of the raspberry in and continue whisking, then continue pouring the raspberry liquid into the eggs in a slow stream until combined.
  4. Pour it all back into the saucepan and bring to a boil, still whisking all the time, then continue whisking for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  5. Remove from the heat and strain so the curd is very smooth.
  6. Place the curd in the fridge for an hour to cool.
  7. Once the curd has cooled then spoon over the limoncello soaked sponge in an even layer.
To make the lemon custard
  1. Pour the double cream and the sugar into a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, allowing to simmer for a couple of minutes.
  2. Remove the cream from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  3. Pour the lemon custard over the raspberry curd and place in the fridge, this time to rest overnight so the custard can set.
The final layer:
  1. Whip the double cream until thick then spoon over the top of the trifle. Decorate with toasted almonds and fresh raspberries.
Recipe Notes
  • The raspberry powder is completely optional. It does amp up the raspberry taste but the main reason for using is to improve the colour otherwise the curd can look a little grey.

Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart {gluten-free}

This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.

This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.

The holiday baking starts here. I hadn’t meant to leave it over two weeks in between posts but I have been working on the market stall every weekend for the past few weeks, doing winter fairs and my usual spot at Tottenham Green Market and it’s left little room for anything else. It’s been the best ever season for my stall which I finally transitioned to be 100% gluten-free in October and I have had a brilliant response from it. I am still working on tweaking the recipe for a few of my more popular wheat cakes to taste just as good in their gluten-free form so any spare half hour I have I am flinging cakes in the oven. There is a lot of half eaten cake in our house at the moment.

This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.

I hadn’t even really thought how turning my stall gluten-free would affect my preserves and it was only when looking at my ingredients list that I noticed cheeky gluten hiding in a few of my recipes. The ale in my Boxing Day Ale Chutney has now been swapped for a gluten-free variety, the flour in my Piccalilli has been substituted for cornflour and tapioca starch but doom fell upon my kitchen during the curse-laden end of my Traditional Mincemeat prep. I was ding donging merrily on high along with spotify, happily pouring in boxes of suet to all the other ingredients, when what to my wandering eyes should appear but a treacherous coating of flour on each individual strand of suet. It was way too late by then to salvage the situation so instead of tossing the lot which I couldn’t bring myself to do I now have one thing on my stall that isn’t gluten-free. I still have a lot of love for it despite its tainted status as it’s a pretty fantastic mincemeat, made with real beef along with the suet. Not a veggie fantasy. I am also soothed by the fact that my Cranberry and Cointreau Mincemeat is naturally gluten-free so ingredient intolerant customers do not have to go without.

This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.

One of my favourite preserves at this time of year though is the ubiquitous cranberry sauce and once you have tried a homemade version you will be convinced, like me, to eat it all year round. I make loads of jars of it at the end of November when the supermarkets just begin to stock up and from then on I am pretty much game to serve cranberry sauce with anything. This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart though is where the cranberry sauce really shines. It pairs so well with the stilton and chestnut that you really don’t need to look any further if you are wondering what to do with the rest of your jar after the turkey has been eaten.

My mum, who hates stilton, took an extra slice home with her after visiting this weekend. Luke, who always claims he hates quichey things, was thrilled when I made the tart two days running for supper. Cole though made it clear that he preferred the tart when he was eating it from our plates rather than his, so you might want to take his feedback into consideration when serving it out. Also, if you eat the tart straight out of the oven then you get that melty cheese factor which is so good. By letting it rest out of the oven for a couple of hours the tart will firm up so it’s a bit more stable if you like it that way or if you need to transport it anywhere.

This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.

I have wanted to experiment with gluten-free pastry for a while now but had heard so many crumbly, dry or soggy horror stories that I have been putting it off. However, my happy experiences with the recipes in Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s Alternative Baker encouraged me to give her pastry a go as well. I changed things a little as I wanted to make a savoury tart rather than a sweet tart but I mostly followed her instruction for her buckwheat flaky pastry and I have to say that the pastry tasted great on the very first go. Both the texture with the flaky snap of the tart case, and the buttery taste which is made more complex by the variety of flours, including one of my faves, buckwheat, has left me thoroughly satisfied that this can be my new go-to pastry.

I have since made this tart a few times and except for an extra two minutes to sift the different flours together, this pastry comes together just as quickly as my normal wheat flour version. In fact quicker as you don’t need to work the pastry as much or bother with chilling it every time you go near it as the gluten doesn’t need to rest.

This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.

I am really enjoying my gluten-free experiments these days, it is forcing me to try new things and think about my ingredients in a different way rather than relying on the dominance of wheat flour. It makes every little success in the kitchen that bit more rewarding as careful thought has been put into every ingredient. I know I am opening up my recipes to a wider audience and it doesn’t hurt that I can now eat everything on my stall, give or take a mincemeat.

This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.
Print Recipe
Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart
This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.
This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
For the pastry:
  • 80 g sweet white rice flour
  • 25 g oat flour
  • 45 g buckwheat flour
  • 30 g cornflour
  • 15 g tapioca starch
  • 15 g ground chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 115 g cold unsalted butter cut into very thin slices
  • 1 egg medium, lightly beaten
  • 2-4 tablespoons iced water
  • A few tablespoons of a gluten-free flour blend for rolling
  • 1 egg beaten for the egg wash
For the filling:
  • 15 g salted butter
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 400 ml crème fraiche
  • 175 g Stilton crumbled
  • 100 g vacuum packed chestnuts roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 75 g cranberry sauce
Equipment:
  • 25 cm round tart tin
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
For the pastry:
  • 80 g sweet white rice flour
  • 25 g oat flour
  • 45 g buckwheat flour
  • 30 g cornflour
  • 15 g tapioca starch
  • 15 g ground chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 115 g cold unsalted butter cut into very thin slices
  • 1 egg medium, lightly beaten
  • 2-4 tablespoons iced water
  • A few tablespoons of a gluten-free flour blend for rolling
  • 1 egg beaten for the egg wash
For the filling:
  • 15 g salted butter
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 400 ml crème fraiche
  • 175 g Stilton crumbled
  • 100 g vacuum packed chestnuts roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 75 g cranberry sauce
Equipment:
  • 25 cm round tart tin
This Stilton, Chestnut and Cranberry Tart makes a lovely festive lunch. The richness of the stilton and woodsy notes of the chestnuts are sharpened with the zesty cranberry sauce.
Instructions
To make the pastry
  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the flours, chia seeds and salt.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour in between your fingertips so it resembles very rough breadcrumbs then stir in the beaten egg with a fork.
  3. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time and start to bring the dough together with a pastry scraper. It should start to form quite quickly.
  4. Tip the dough onto the work surface and bring the ball into a round ball. You want the pastry to still be a little sticky.
  5. Wrap the pastry in greaseproof paper and flatten the ball slightly.
  6. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  8. Dust the work surface with a gluten-free flour blend then roll the pastry out into a circle large enough to line a 25cm tart tin.
  9. Once you have lined the pastry in the tin and neatened the edges with a knife, place greaseproof paper over the pastry, so it comes up the sides, then fill the tin with baking beans.
  10. Place the tart tin in the oven for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven then remove the baking beans and parchment and brush the surface of the pastry with the beaten egg.
  11. Place back in the oven for a final five minutes to seal the pastry. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature before adding the filling.
To make the filling
  1. First prepare the onions by adding them into a saucepan along with the salted butter. Cook on a low heat for 25-30 minutes until the onions are completely soft, translucent and just beginning to caramelise around the edges. Leave to cool for half an hour before adding to the other ingredients.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  3. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and crème fraiche together, then add the stilton, chestnuts, caramelised onions, salt and pepper. Do reserve some of the stilton and chestnuts for crumbling onto the top.
  4. Pour the filling into the ready-baked pastry case and then dot the remaining stilton, chestnuts and cranberry sauce on top.
  5. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. You can either eat the tart straightaway hot from the oven or leave to come to room temperature where the tart will firm up a little more.

Piccalilli

Piccalilli is the perfect preserve for your festive table. Bite-sized pieces of Autumn vegetables fragrant with curry spices which is excellent with any kind of cheese or cold cut.

Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.

There was one word with which people always used to describe me; my school teachers, my work colleagues, my family, friends, strangers on the bus, the butcher, the baker, the weirdo on the corner. All of them would mutter a singular word in my direction as I floated past, filofax in one hand, iphone in the other. Organised.

Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.

I never really took kindly to that word, as surely it’s just another way of saying god she’s boring, always making those lists and getting things done. What a teacher’s pet. Boo, let’s all go off down the pub and leave her at home. Ha ha, what a loser.

I would also get the bum job of booking our holidays. This meant researching the itinerary, making a powerpoint with appropriately fun fonts to share with the world on a domain specifically bought for the purpose, taking all the photos on the trip then sorting them into the photobook on our return complete with on point bon mots, then printing them out for Christmas presents, sourcing personalised wrapping paper for every recipient and ribbons to match; finally making sure everything was couriered off a week before to ensure a proper punctual Christmas.

Ah, the good life. The me I knew and loved and now have lost. As then came baby.

Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.

My house keys are currently misplaced. For the third time in the past month. No doubt I will find them in a shoe or the blender in a week or two. I have forgotten numerous vet appointments (sorry Billy Buddy), play dates (sorry Cole). I have been to weddings and sent thank you cards three months after the fact, if at all (sorry all of this year’s newlyweds). I have a multitude of blog posts half finished, mostly for recipes that are now irrelevant with the changing seasons. I haven’t been out for dinner in about four months as I can’t be bothered to find a babysitter and I’m now just about to cancel our anniversary holiday at the end of the month as I haven’t got around to booking the hotel as quite frankly it sounds more hassle than it’s worth. Just the thought of another wrestling match with the travel cot from hell is enough to make me shudder.

Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.

There is one job though that I have forced myself to do, and blimey if I haven’t gone and completed it with weeks to spare. And that is my Piccalilli. To be fair, I had to finish it really as I’m planning on selling it at the Christmas fairs I am attending later this month and empty jars just don’t sell as well.

My Piccalilli is so important to make as it is the most popular preserve on my stall. Without fail it is the first to sell out but I have to make sure I keep a couple of jars back for my family each year, otherwise there will be cheese knives at dawn on Boxing Day if there is no Piccalilli to enjoy with the cold cuts.

For years I would make it just for us, sometimes along with another chutney or jam but the Piccalilli was the break out star and soon became the number one preserve that was clamoured for and I pretty much set my whole preserve stall up around it.

Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.

Now is the best time to make it as although you can eat it freshly bottled and has a lovely bright taste if you do, if you allow the Piccalilli to rest for a few weeks, the vinegar has a chance to mellow and the spices are given room to breathe and really envelop the vegetables.

The only real labour of making a Piccalilli is the chopping of the vegetables which I like to be bite-sized so they can nestle happily in a sandwich or on a cracker without weighing it all down. The vegetables should then be brined overnight which helps them retain their crunch. Then all that’s left to do the next day is to quickly poach them in vinegar and sugar before adding them into your delicately spiced curry dressing. I stick to the traditional vegetables of cauliflower, green beans, cucumber and onions. Although by using romescu and purple cauliflower the Piccalilli is given wonderful texture and a beautiful rich colour.

Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.

If you are thinking of making homemade gifts this year then I don’t think you can ever go wrong with chutneys and pickles, at least that’s what I say whenever I hand a festively wrapped jar over to an unsuspecting recipient. They always give a good show of being appreciative and that’s the main thing. Plus I think if I can pull myself together enough to knock up a few jars then it gives me hope that one day I can be that organised loser so beloved once more.

Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.
Print Recipe
Piccalilli
Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.
Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
10x 300ml jars
Ingredients
  • 1 white cauliflower
  • 1 purple cauliflower
  • 1 romescu cauliflower
  • 800 g small onions
  • 700 g green beans
  • 3 cucumbers
  • 3 red chillies sliced
  • 100 g salt
  • 1500 g malt vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • teaspoons ground allspice
  • 525 g granulated sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 50 g tapioca flour
  • 50 g cornflour
  • teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder I used a Jamaican curry powder blend but any will do
  • 3 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
10x 300ml jars
Ingredients
  • 1 white cauliflower
  • 1 purple cauliflower
  • 1 romescu cauliflower
  • 800 g small onions
  • 700 g green beans
  • 3 cucumbers
  • 3 red chillies sliced
  • 100 g salt
  • 1500 g malt vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • teaspoons ground allspice
  • 525 g granulated sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 50 g tapioca flour
  • 50 g cornflour
  • teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder I used a Jamaican curry powder blend but any will do
  • 3 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Piccalilli is a must-have addition for any festive table. A beautiful trio of purple cauliflower, romescu and white cauliflower preserved with autumn vegetables in delicious curried spices.
Instructions
  1. Cut the cauliflowers, onions, green beans and cucumbers into bite-sized pieces then place in a large bowl, along with the chillies and sprinkle with the salt. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next day drain the vegetables and rinse with cold water to remove the excess salt.
  3. Place the vegetables in a large preserving pan with the malt vinegar, nutmeg, allspice and sugar. Crush the garlic with the salt and add that in too. Bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Take off the heat then remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon leaving the liquid behind. Pour the liquid into a separate jug and set aside for a moment.
  5. Sift together the tapioca flour, cornflour, turmeric, ginger, curry powder, mustard powder and pepper. Add 200ml of the reserved liquid and blend together to make a smooth paste.
  6. Pour the paste into the preserving pan and with the heat on very low, slowly pour the rest of the reserved liquid into the paste, whisking all the while.
  7. Bring to the boil, then cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
  8. Add the vegetables back into the sauce, stirring to coat thoroughly. Turn off the heat.
  9. Decant into sterilised jars and store in a cool dark place until needed.

Turkey, Peanut and Kale Curry with Cucumber and Coriander Raita

Turkey, Peanut and Kale Curry with Cucumber and Coriander Raita

Although the last bauble was plucked from the tree yesterday, carefully bubble wrapped, boxed up and sent back up to the attic for the next eleven months I am still eeking out the last vestiges of Christmas.

Turkey, Peanut and Kale Curry with Cucumber and Coriander Raita

Turkey curry is the only way to usher in the new year. This curry feels so happy, healthy and hearty that it is encouraging me to take a running jump into January. I have been making the same resolution to throw off all my excess baby weight every month since June last year so I refuse to make yet another promise to myself that is let down by exhaustion and lack of time.

Instead I will be focusing on falling back in love with food. It is no secret that I haven’t posted here much, of course I barely have a second to myself but since it is also true that we will always make time for the things we really want to do I have to confess that food has not been my friend of late.

I have been tired and hungry, stopgapping my energy loss with sugar and letting Deliveroo do all my heavy lifting at mealtimes. However times are achanging and I have definitely been feeling a little of my trusty spark back. These past 6 weeks I have begun to wean Cole and he has been taking to food as if he has been waiting for this moment the whole of his tiny little life. His unparalleled enthusiasm is reminding me how excited I used to get about mealtimes. We are doing baby led weaning which basically means we are foregoing purees and diving into the main event, it’s absolutely wonderful to see him polishing off fishcakes, turkey and brussel sprouts and omelette and he is inspiring me to find myself again in my love of food.

Turkey, Peanut and Kale Curry with Cucumber and Coriander Raita

I have cooked from scratch more this past six weeks that the whole of the last seven months put together and I am relishing every minute of it. Thanks to Cole I have finally managed to perfect falafel, houmous and cornbread muffins, rekindle my love of swiss bircher museli and start every meal with a fat wodge of melon (– it’s teething time!)

Turkey, Peanut and Kale Curry with Cucumber and Coriander Raita

However, this curry is not for my little one, there is only so much under seasoned food mummy and daddy can subject themselves to so this is one for us grown-ups. I make a curry every year on Boxing Day and this year’s was so particularly good that I dug out another tupperware of turkey from this year’s stash in our freezer and re-fashioned it slightly for a lighter month (goodbye double cream and roast potatoes!) but I have to say it has lost absolutely nothing in the translation. This turkey, kale and peanut curry is so deeply flavourful and the rough earthy kale which is tucked into the curry at the last minute is not merely a nod to trends but a necessary backdrop to the whole affair.

Turkey, Peanut and Kale Curry with Cucumber and Coriander Raita

The accompanying cucumber and coriander raita is so alive and refreshing that it sparks a complete contrast to the comfort of the curry and the two pair admirably together. If you can take it you must sprinkle on some more chilli, a further crumble of peanuts and a smattering of coriander. This flavour of this curry will knock you for six then pick you up and give you a wonderful cuddle.

Bring it on 2016, I am so excited about the year – and the food- to come!

Turkey, Peanut and Kale Curry with Cucumber and Coriander Raita

Turkey, Peanut and Kale Curry with Cucumber and Coriander Raita

Serves 4 with rice and 2 without rice

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large onion (about 250g), peeled and diced
¾ teaspoon fennel seeds
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
¾ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
¾ teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons curry powder
¾ teaspoon turmeric
½ red chilli, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch ginger peeled and grated
1 teaspoon mango chutney (or any other chutney you have hanging around)
200g tomatoes (about 4), quartered
50g peanuts, roasted and unsalted, roughly chopped
275g leftover turkey
400ml coconut milk
160g kale (I used cavolo nero)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat a large flat bottomed pan with the coconut oil then add the diced onions. Fry on a very low heat for about 30 – 40 minutes until the onions have caramelised.
  2. Pour the fennel, cumin, mustard and coriander seeds into a small frying pan over a low heat for one minute, keeping a close eye so they don’t burn. Tip them into a pestle and mortar and pound until they have completely crushed.
  3. Add the toasted spices into the caramelised onion along with the curry powder, turmeric, chilli, garlic, ginger and mango chutney. Stir in then add the tomatoes.
  4. Cook on a gentle heat for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes have reduced to a pulp.
  5. Add the peanuts, turkey and coconut milk then simmer on a low heat for a further 15 minutes until the curry has thickened.
  6. Meanwhile prepare the kale by removing the stems of the kale and discard, then slice the kale leaves finely.
  7. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil then blanch the kale for a 3 minutes. Drain and squeeze the kale to remove the excess water.
  8. Stir the kale into the curry then remove from the heat and serve with the cucumber and coriander raita.

Cucumber and Coriander Raita

100g cucumber
200ml natural yoghurt – the best you can find
Handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon caster sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. Cut the cucumber in half and remove and discard the seeds by scooping out with a teaspoon. Then grate the cucumber into a medium sized bowl.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined and the sugar and salt has dissolved into the yoghurt.
  3. Leave to chill in the fridge until needed.

Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding

This Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It’s a light and fluffy pudding which won’t weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

This Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It's a light and fluffy pudding which won't weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

I know it’s incredibly late in the day to be posting a Christmas pudding recipe. If you have your wits about you your pudding will have been done and dusted on stir-up Sunday which is traditionally the last Sunday before Advent. This is when the Christmas puddings, mincemeat and Christmas cake would usually have been lovingly prepared by the cook of the family. Each family member would have then taken a turn to stir the Christmas pudding whilst making a wish. It’s all very Mrs Beeton.

Or if you are even more with it then you might have made your pudding back in the spring to give your little guy a chance to mature at his leisure over the course of the year.

This Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It's a light and fluffy pudding which won't weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

Yes, it is lovely to be organised and forward thinking but if still haven’t quite gotten around to making your Christmas pudding and are worried that you have missed the boat and are now contemplating plonking one of Heston’s clementine centred lovelies in your shopping trolley, then please be reassured that it isn’t your only option. There is nothing wrong with making your pudding a few days before the big event. Okay, so it won’t quite have reached the maturation you might have liked if you had done it earlier but I guarantee it will taste better than any made by a supermarket’s factory.

This Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It's a light and fluffy pudding which won't weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

However, if you’re not sure or you have already got your pudding ordered from a local bakery there is nothing stopping you making a Christmas pudding anyway and then saving if for Christmas 2016. If you do, you won’t regret it. A good Christmas pudding will keep and keep and keep and for the first year just get better and better. It is also not necessary to feed your pudding with brandy or rum or whathaveyou during its slumber. A Christmas cake yes but a Christmas pudding no – there is enough fruit, alcohol and sugar going on in there already to keep your pudding nice and moist for at least a year (or possibly two if you’ve really wrapped it up well and kept it somewhere cool, dark and dry).

This Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It's a light and fluffy pudding which won't weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

I love Christmas puddings; making them, watching them for the days, weeks or months they are kept and then the ceremonial eating of them – scorched with brandy and doused in a hefty amount of brandy laced white sauce. I remember the white sauce from school. It wasn’t anything we ever ate at home as I think we always had plain vanilla custard or cream. I can still taste the school’s Christmas pudding and white sauce so acutely though. There was usually a foil wrapped penny nestled within the dark fruits so of course the whole affair was imbued with a metallic flavour which I think rather fondly of.

This Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It's a light and fluffy pudding which won't weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

When I was young my Auntie Lil made every Christmas pudding in the family and hers was unrivalled. When I reached my twenties and would relish any chance to bake I asked my mum if she thought Auntie Lil would mind if I made the Christmas pudding that year. My mum replied that she thought it might be a relief to my ageing Aunt to cater for one less. However, despite my pudding turning out relatively okay, thanks to Delia’s impeccable instruction, a Christmas pudding and a box of mince pies was dropped off anyway from my Aunt whom obviously wasn’t ready to hand over the pudding baton quite yet. We ate quite a lot of pudding that year. Good times.

This Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It's a light and fluffy pudding which won't weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

The Christmas pudding is a bit of a labour of love as you need to mix one set of ingredients one day, add some more the next, steam for a few hours then wrap up and leave until Christmas Day, whereupon you need to steam it for another few hours. Don’t be tempted to whack it in the microwave after you’re stuffed with turkey and sodden with festive wine to bring it up to temperature, it is important that it is steamed once more so all the fruits grow plump and luscious within the pudding again. The finished pudding should be bouncy and light but rich with flavour. The microwave will zap your pud of life and render it a solid lump of claggy fruit. You’ve been told.

This Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It's a light and fluffy pudding which won't weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

I’m particularly proud of my pudding, I’m sure it started off life as a Delia affair as she really is the doyenne of Christmas food prep but over the years I have subtly altered it to make it a little lighter. I added figs at one point as I had them in one year and never looked back and then another year I added a few fresh cranberries and the inclusion of a bit of fresh fruit amongst all the dried delicacies really necessitated their permanent inclusion in the recipe.

This Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It's a light and fluffy pudding which won't weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

This Fig and Cranberry Pudding is bursting with plump luscious fruit. It's a light and fluffy pudding which won't weigh you down at the end of your Christmas banquet.

Fig and Cranberry Christmas Pudding

Makes 1 x 950g pudding to serve 6-8 people plus 1 x 450g pudding to serve 3-4 people or give as a pressie

Day One
175g sultanas
175g raisins or currants
75g dried figs, diced
75g dried cranberries
25g whole almonds, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 apple, peeled and grated
juice and zest of 1 orange
75ml brandy
1 tablespoon apple liqueur (optional – or substitute a seasonal liqueur of your choice)

Day Two
3 eggs
125g shredded suet (for gluten-free alternative see notes below)
1 tablespoon black treacle
175g dark muscovado sugar
125g breadcrumbs (you can use gluten-free breadcrumbs)
85g self-raising flour (you can use a gluten-free blend)
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

      1. Toss all of the ingredients from Day One together in a large mixing bowl then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a corner of the kitchen to marinate overnight.
      2. Add all the ingredients from Day Two to the marinated fruits from Day One. Stirring everything together thoroughly with a wooden spoon. It is tradition to make sure every family member has a turn to stir the pudding and make a wish as they do so.
        Butter two pudding basins, one of 950g and one of 450g then fill each with the pudding mixture leaving at least one inch of room from the top.
      3. Take a piece of greaseproof paper and lie a piece of foil on top, make a fold in the centre of both pieces which allows for more room for the steam to rise. Place these over the top of the large pudding basin, with the foil on top, securing with string around the pudding. Trim off any excess paper and foil, you don’t want them to hanging too low as otherwise they will soak up the water during the steam.
      4. Repeat with the smaller pudding.
      5. Place a wire rack (or a folded up tea towel) into a large lidded pot, deep enough to cover the puddings (you will probably need to use separate pots for each pudding). Then place the puddings on top of the rack.
      6. Fill the pot(s) up with boiling water until halfway up the pudding. The water should not touch the greaseproof paper or foil otherwise they will soak it up and the pudding will go soggy. Place the lid on the pot(s) and turn the heat on so the water is kept at a simmer.
      7. Steam for three and a half hours, checking the water level occasionally and topping up if necessary.
      8. Remove the puddings from their pots then if you wish you can re-wrap the puddings in fresh greaseproof paper and foil and store in a cool dark place until Christmas Day. It is tradition to keep your puddings under the bed but if you have a Billy Buddy like us then you might decide that a kitchen cupboard or larder is a better option.
      9. On Christmas Day the puddings will need a final steam before serving so repeat steps 5, 6 and 7. However the puddings should only need two and half hours this time.
      10. Turn your pudding out onto a plate and serve aflame with brandy butter, custard, ice-cream or my favourite –  brandy laced white sauce – to accompany it.

Notes: Commercial suet is coated in wheat flour. I haven’t found gluten-free suet that easy to come by but if you order fresh suet from the butcher it will come in a block and you can grate it with rice flour to create suet which will evenly distribute throughout the pudding.

Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscotti

Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscotti
My noticeable absence after my last post was not planned at all. In fact last Friday morning I was busy prepping my photos for my chocolate mousse with nary a care in the world. Then mid-save my laptop froze. It’s been doing that more frequently of late and as I turned my laptop off at the power switch after 15 minutes of impatient waiting I told myself again for the thousandth time this month that I must back-up. It had been too long since my last one and it was way overdue.

I puzzled on how I was going to squeeze that into my already jam-packed weekend of newsletters to send, multitudes of cakes to bake and market stalls to attend and turned my laptop back on.

Nothing.

Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscuits

Actually that’s not true, there was something – a very scary message asking me what language I wanted to install my software in. Uh English, like usual. Why are you asking me this, you know me. Hang on, what software?

But it was too late, my laptop no longer knew who I was. I felt like Channing Tatum in The Vow when Rachel McAdams wakes up and has no memory that she’s his wife or that she’s ever seen him before. But we were having a merry laugh with my chocolate mousse photos together not ten minutes ago – how could you have forgotten me?

5Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscuits

Sadly it appears my hard drive was sick of the sight of me, after all we have been joined at the hip the past two years. Or perhaps my laptop was feeling a little touchy that I had dropped it down the stairs that morning. Whatever the gripe it paid me back big style by crashing and dying, sending all my hard work and preserve, cake stall and any other scribbled future recipes, cookbook ideas and the first two chapter of my amazing novel about invading space monkeys straight down the toilet.

6Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscuits

Which is why I have spent the last four days nursing my little machine back to life instead of sharing this amazing chocolate mousse recipe with you. We are still a long ways off from the good ole days as my laptop and I are gradually getting to know each other again. We are just waiting for our shared memories to be posted back from the clever people in Wales who have been working on my old hard drive to frantically rescue all my recipes and cat photos. Once those are safely home then I think I will feel a bit more myself again.

In the meantime I am cheering myself by sharing this long awaited and scrumptious chocolate mousse recipe with you.

Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscuits

My chocolate mousse is extra special as I had planned on making it for a while, specifically to go with my pears which have been mulling away in brandy, red wine and spices for months now. Yes, these are the pears that I supervised growing in my back garden from the safe distance of my kitchen window. The very fact that they survived even this level of my dodgy greenfingery is testament to their awesomeness. Once they were plucked from the tree they deserved to be treated a little bit fancily and I have been itching to try them for an age.

If you don’t happen to have mulled pears lazing around your larder, c’mon what’s wrong with you – you really need to step up your game, then don’t fret as pears poached in a little red wine with some cinnamon and star anise until just tender would also be absolutely delicious here. Or even, if that’s too much effort, some beautifully ripened sweet pears would also work perfectly.

So, I had planned this recipe for weeks and weeks and was all set to make it when I remembered one vitally important thing. Oh shoot, I’m pregnant and can’t eat raw eggs (which is the secondary ingredient of beautifully real chocolate mousse). I nearly turned this recipe into a chocolate cake instead, in fact I did and it was great, but the thought of the chocolate mousse lingered on and if there’s one thing I have noticed about being pregnant is that I only want to eat foods that I am not allowed. Goat’s cheese, rare rib-eye steak and tuna, you will be mine again some day.

So I decided that I would make my mousse after all and set about finding ways to make it safe for me to eat. Lots of alternative chocolate mousse recipes call for no eggs at all and just use whipped cream for the light airy texture but there is something about the eggs which add a richness and fluffiness that cream can’t replicate on its own. Nigella also makes an egg free chocolate mousse using just melted marshmallows with her chocolate in her Nigella Express, but it is a little sweet and a bit too playschool for what I had in mind. A dark dreamily intense pot of cloudlike chocolate.

Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscuits

So I had the idea to include the eggs for the texture I required but resolved to cook them first. To do this I made a swiss meringue which involves heating your egg whites and sugar in a bain marie to 72° – a nice safe temp – and then immediately transferring them to a mixer to whisk until soft peaks have formed. Doing it this way gives a little bit of the texture back to my mousse, however, it does add more sugar than I ideally would have liked. So after a bit of research, instead of simply adding more melted chocolate to compensate I found that BBC Good Food had a great method in their traditional chocolate mousse of adding a tablespoon of cocoa to the chocolate once it had melted. This resulted in giving my mousse more intensity to combat the sweetness of my swiss meringue. It worked like a dream and that could have been that but I couldn’t resist folding in a bit of billowing whipping cream into the final mousse to add some creamy lightness.

Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscuits

This mousse is just as good as any traditional chocolate mousse and to go the extra mile I baked up a batch of cobnut biscotti which really must be one of the simplest biscuits to make. The earthiness of the cobnuts goes deliciously with the indulgent mousse and the heady pears to make an absolutely perfect treat for this time of year, or if you need to console yourself after your laptop has disowned you.

So after I made the mousse and had settled down all ready to dip my biscuits in I suddenly remembered, shoot, I’m probably not really allowed to eat mulled pears either. It lasted a moment before I shrugged and dug in. It’s such a small amount of pear used (and probably only about a teaspoon of the forbidden alcohol) – surely I can’t be branded a bad mother yet – I’m only just starting out. Although I take full credit for the fact that I can’t be trusted to take care of a laptop.

Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscuits

Chocolate Mousse with Mulled Pear and Cobnut Biscotti

Chocolate Mousse
Makes 4 or 5 pots depending on the size of your pots

125g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon instant coffee granules
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons hot water
2 egg whites
100g light soft brown sugar
150g whipping cream
1 mulled pear, halved

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie.
  2. Meanwhile mix the cocoa powder, vanilla extract, coffee, salt and water in a little bowl until it forms a smooth paste.
    Once the chocolate has melted mix in the cocoa paste which will become quite thick. Continue mixing then add the hot water which will thin the chocolate down. Stir until smooth then set aside.
  3. In a clean bain marie heat the egg whites and brown sugar, whisking together all the time until the temperature reaches 72°C and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in a stand mixer until the meringue forms soft peaks.
  4. Fold the meringue into the chocolate until completely incorporated.
  5. In a clean bowl whisk the whipping cream until it forms soft peaks then fold into the chocolate and meringue mixture.
  6. Slice the pear and place 3 slices at the bottom of a teacup, glass or small bowl then spoon the chocolate mousse on top.
  7. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  8. Serve with a few cubes of mulled pear on top and the cobnut biscotti.

Cobnut Biscotti
Makes about 20 biscuits

125g plain flour
100g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
zest of ½ orange
100g cobnuts, roughly chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C and line a baking tray with parchment.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and orange zest.
  3. Then stir in the cobnuts.
  4. Beat the egg into the rest of the ingredients until it forms a dough. Knead together until the dough is no longer sticky.
  5. Roll the dough into a log, about 30cm long and then place the biscotti log onto the baking tray.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the biscotti and leave to cool for about half an hour then slice the biscotti log diagonally to make the individual biscuits.
  8. Place the biscotti back on the baking tray and bake for a further 15 minutes until the biscotti are golden and crisp.

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback
So this week I finalised my Christmas menu for what I’m going to be cooking for all the family when they arrive from Christmas Eve onwards. It wasn’t that hard to be honest, as I took the menu I made for last Christmas and merely changed the header from Christmas 2013 to Christmas 2014. Gone are the days of festive experimentation, that is now what my blog is for.

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Like any family, mine is picky and I have to cater across the board. Some don’t like smoked salmon, some can’t imagine Christmas without it. For those that hate the sight of Christmas Pudding, not to fear, there is trifle on hand. Then of course I have the usual brussel sprout debate, shall I bother with them when only a couple of people eat them? There is no question, unless I want sulks over the lunch table. A couple of years ago I broke from tradition and made a Ham Hock and Chicken Pie on Christmas Eve instead of the usual Honey Glazed Ham and there were definite murmours of discontent despite the pie being one of the best things that has come out of my kitchen. Lo and behold when I visited a certain member of my family over New Year a Baked Christmas Ham was presented for supper. The hint was duly noted.

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

I don’t know how it came to pass that Devils on Horseback have to make an appearance by about 11am on Christmas morning just after we have finished opening our presents, especially since we’ve been stuffing ourselves with bacon rolls all morning. But then, there is always room for more bacon. I hate to admit it but I was getting a little tired of them each year so this time round I have jazzed them up a bit and I have to say that it has reinvigorated my love for them. They were missing a bit of oomph for me so I have mixed in some hot and smoky chipotle in adobo with a generous amount of citrusy marmalade and spread it on the bacon rashers before rolling them up with the prunes. Now, they have bite, a Chrismas kick with the marmalade and to finish it off I have given them a glaze of marmalade after they emerge from the grill to avoid the bacon going dry if they are going to be sat on a plate for a bit. Not that they will as they are usually wolfed down within seconds.

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Just make sure you use good bacon and freshly opened sticky prunes.

The Devils on Horseback go down well with everyone, except of course for Mum who balks at the idea of sweet and savoury things together and wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole. Oh well, you can’t please everyone.

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Hot and Smoky Devils on Horseback

Makes 24

90g marmalade
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo
200g stoned prunes (about 24)
12 rashers smoked streaky bacon, halved widthways

  1. Turn the grill onto its highest setting.
  2. Mash up 60g of the marmalade with the chipotle until evenly mixed.
  3. Spread about ½ teaspoon of the marmalade and chipotle mixture on one side of the bacon rasher.
  4. Place a prune at one end of the bacon rasher and roll up, securing with a cocktail stick.
  5. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Place the devils underneath the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes each side.
  7. Meanwhile melt the remaining 30g of marmalade in a small saucepan until runny.
  8. Once the devils are ready, remove them from the grill and brush with the marmalade to glaze.
  9. Serve immediately.

Bramley Apple and Mincemeat Pudding

Bramley Apple and Mincemeat Pudding
It’s crazy how much I love mincemeat. In fact it’s just as well that it only comes out once a year as not only do I get to thoroughly enjoy mince pie season but it means I am held back from overindulging all year round. I have made close to 100 jars of mincemeat this year, for selling on my preserves stalls, and it hasn’t diminished my love for the stuff at all. Making the mincemeat is one of my very favourite cooking jobs to do, it fills my kitchen with the heady scent of brandy, plump fruits and warming spices and the resulting mixture is so versatile that it would be a shame if you merely confined it to just a mini pie filling.

I love crumbled mince pies stirred through freshly churned ice cream, I devoured Nigel Slater’s Mincemeat trifle which I made a couple of years ago and I seriously heart mincemeat cheesecake which I am sure is also credited to Nigel Slater but I never wrote down the source of my recipe I have on file. Last year though I made this Bramley Apple and Mincemeat Pudding in a bid to clear out my cupboards of Christmas just before the new year kicked in. I never blogged about it as the recipe needed some tweaking and it didn’t look as pretty as it should, plus if I remember correctly I made it about 9pm and was too tired for a photo session. This year though I stumbled across my notes for it and tore open one of my jars of Victorian Mincemeat (which I was supposed to be selling at the weekend) quicker than you could say ‘leftover bramleys in the fruitbowl.’

Bramley Apple and Mincemeat Pudding

I tweaked some of the sugar in my original recipe and took the mincemeat through the sponge topping instead of allowing it to languish at the bottom with the bramleys and suddenly an instant classic was born.

I like the tartness of the bramleys just as they are but here I gave them a kiss of brown sugar to take the edge off. If you need your apples sweeter than do add more sugar but I think the fruity mincemeat in the sponge contrasts deliciously with the natural apple taste.

Of course there will be disagreements on how this should be served. I drowned mine in lashings of custard. And not just any custard, I couldn’t be bothered to make my own own despite having a plentiful amount of double cream and eggs in the fridge and for the first time in my whole life I whisked up some Bird’s custard powder and it turned out quite delicious. So there, those of you that think I’m a food snob. I can get down and dirty with the rest of you any day of the week.

Bramley Apple and Mincemeat Pudding

Some festive desserts have the propensity to be a bit of a faff but this took moments to mix up and bake, perfect for cold nights in front of the fire. I urge you this year to be adventurous with your mincemeat and it would be lovely to hear some of your favourite mincemeat experiments.

Bramley Apple and Mincemeat Pudding

Bramley Apple & Mincemeat Pudding

2 bramley apples, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
150g butter
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons mincemeat
150g plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon caster sugar to sprinkle

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  2. In a large bowl mix the bramley apples with the sugar and lemon zest and juice. Pour into a buttered baking dish and set aside
  3. Cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Stir in the vanilla extract and then the mincemeat.
  6. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt then mix into the rest of the ingredients until just combined.
  7. Finally stir in the milk.
  8. Pour the batter on top of the apples then bake in the oven for around 45 minutes until the sponge has browned on top and an inserted toothpicks comes out clean.
  9. Sprinkle over the teaspoon of caster sugar and serve with lashings of custard.

Cream Baked Roast Potatoes

Cream Baked Roast Potatoes
I first had these potatoes at the old Fire Engine House restaurant in Ely, Cambridgeshire where my in-laws live. It’s a lovely restaurant set in the old fire engine house (the name probably didn’t really need explaining). A small bar is situated in the front of the house in a little sitting room area with a roaring fire and gives the illusion that you are guest in somebody’s house. Somebody who is incredibly lucky with a fully stocked bar in their front room. When your table is ready you are led through the house, past the kitchen so you can have a good old nosy at the chefs and into the back dining room that leads out onto a pretty garden. The food is traditional but not the same old same old that is served boringly in gastropubs. All their produce is local, seasonal and all made in their lovely kitchen from the relishes to the jams that accompany the dishes. However where they really won my heart is when they came round just as we were finishing our mains and asked if we wanted seconds. Not only did that cater for my incredibly greedy nature but it also seconded the feeling that you were round at a friend’s house. A very well to do friend with a really fancy house. The staff could not have been more welcoming and when I said how delicious their roast potatoes were, well they told me the recipe.

I didn’t even realise good old faithful roast potatoes could be improved. I mean, I think they must be the most moreish food in existence, there is always room for another potato. This past year I eschewed all white potato in favour of sweet potato as I was living more or less a paleo lifestyle (that is if you don’t count the cake I was eating on a weekly basis) but recently I have re-introduced it to my diet and nothing is making me currently happier than my Sunday Roasts with a traditional roast white potato, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

This week I came across my scribbled notes that I had taken after dining at old Fire Engine House and was reminded of those flavour busting crisp yet creamy potatoes I had eaten by the truckload at the time.

Cream Baked Roast Potatoes

It turns out that they are even more special than I had remembered and this time of year when we are preparing our most indulgent recipes for the festive season there is no excuse for not accompanying your turkey with these rich little beasts. The potatoes are cooked twice, first baked in cream, milk and garlic until they are soft and have absorbed most of the garlicky cream, then they are tipped into smoking hot fat and roasted for half an hour so that the cream bakes around the potato like a little crisp jacket, trapping all the flavour and soft texture that was captured during its initial bake.

They do take a little longer to cook than your average roast potato as I like to keep these ones whole but really they are no more bother as they pretty much sort themselves out in the oven. The end result is so worth it that I think you’ll have trouble going back to your usual boring roasties. Make sure you choose potatoes of a similar size to ensure even cooking so each one is as creamy to the fork as the next.

Cream Baked Roast Potatoes

Cream Baked Roast Potatoes

serves 4

1 kg potatoes
400ml double cream
400ml whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
3 bay leaves
3 cloves
5 black peppercorns
½ teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, crushed with the back of a knife
1 sprig of thyme
50ml olive oil

      1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
      2. Peel the potatoes the place in a large casserole dish.
      3. Pour in the cream and milk and ensure the potatoes are fully submerged and then add the butter, bay leaves, cloves, black peppercorns, salt, garlic cloves and thyme.
      4. Put the lid on the casserole dish and bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours until the potatoes are cooked all the way through.
      5. Remove the dish from the oven then turn the heat up to 180°C.
      6. Pour the olive oil into a roasting tray and place in the oven for 3 minutes for the oil to heat.
      7. Then remove the potatoes from the cream with a slotted spoon and place gently into the hot oil of the roasting tray. Coat the potatoes with the oil and place in the oven to roast for 30 minutes, turning the potatoes halfway through.
      8. Remove from the oven and serve.

If you would like a handy dandy printable of this recipe to save for later or take to the supermarket to shop for the ingredients or display proudly in your kitchen as you cook up an absolute storm, then don’t delay – you can access the PDF below!

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