Cranberry, orange and almond loaf

I picked up the free Real Food magazine from Tesco last week and one of the recipes that caught my eye was for this cranberry loaf. I love cranberries and am always trying to find recipes to use them in. As a child the only time we had them was my Mum’s homemade cranberry sauce with the Christmas dinner, to me they will always taste of Christmas. Most years I will buy a packet when they appear in the supermarket to use in some kind of cake/ pudding as the tartness works really well with sugary batter.

Ingredients for cranberry, orange and almond loaf

This recipe also has another favourite ingredient- marzipan. I know a lot of people aren’t a fan but I find the grainy smooth texture and strong taste of almonds really pleasing. The loaf proved easy to make: cream together butter and sugar,whiz in some eggs, then fold in self raising flour and ground almonds, finally adding cranberries, cubed marzipan, orange zest and almond essence. Into a lined loaf tin then into the oven. As usual, the cooking time had to be extended for our gas oven. At the recommended 50 mins the mixture was still liquid in the middle! Another half hour later and it was just perfect!

Cranberry Orange and Almond Loaf

Uses for Old Coffee Jars

I’ve been storing up loads of different jars for who knows what reason and decided I needed to use them or recycle them. I’m going to blame my mother for the overwhelming urge to hoard things (especially empty jars) and always feel slightly guilty when I have a purge of the clutter in the house. I do try to keep on top of things – although the charity shop pile has only left the house this weekend after being in the spare room for the last year!

Jars for Food Storage

Back to the jars: smaller ones I keep for the few occasions during the year that I turn my hand to chutney making or mincemeat making at Christmas. A tall, thin passata jar became a vase. And finally all the coffee jars (Douwe Egberts) with fancy glass lids are now being used to store various food stuffs. As you can see from the picture this includes sugar, chopped dates and mini marshmallows! The jars were a bit of a nightmare to clean –  all of them went through the dishwasher, however the sticky gunk from the label never came off. Thus I spent almost a whole afternoon with a green scourer trying to remove it all. I have to confess- some of the jars are still slightly tacky! It was definitely worth it as now my cupboard looks tidier and the food shouldn’t perish as quickly!

Baking Books

I’m a complete sucker for any books on baking, I think it’s the indulgence and the homeliness of baking that draws me in. I actually don’t do much of the cooking (make that none!) but I love making cakes and desserts. Due to their fattening nature I only bake occasionally but I still can’t resist buying a new baking book. Nothing better than sitting down of an evening and drooling over recipes!

Short & Sweet Dan Lepard

The latest book I’ve purchased is ‘Short & Sweet’ by Dan Lepard. I’d read some really good things about the book and saw it for a good price on The Book People website so took the plunge. Also in it’s favour is the gorgeous colours on the cover! So far I’ve read through half the recipes (there are absolutely loads of them!) and already feel like I could do about half of them! At the weekend I made the caramel and hazelnut cake- I forgot to take any pictures but I can say without a doubt that it was as delicious as it sounds. Lovely and moist, nutty and caramelly (what else would you expect?!) Anyway, I’m definitely looking forward to trying out more recipes and will report back in more detail (and with pictures!) when I do!

 

Making Mincemeat

I know it’s probably too late to be starting mincemeat for this year (although I’m sure it would still taste lovely in a pie) but I wanted to show you the the big jar of mincemeat (one of a few) that I made in October. I’ve made it for a couple of years now and it still impresses me how easy it is and how good it tastes! I’m not actually the biggest fan of shop bought mince pies- I find them very filling and too sweet- but making my own mincemeat and pastry provides a much better taste! I usually give a jar to my mum and may get in return a jar of her cranberry sauce.

Mincemeat

The recipe I use is from Nigella Lawson’s Domestic Goddess cookbook. It appealed to me as it uses Bramley apples and not suet. I’m not a vegetarian but the funny bits of white suet never look that nice! I also like the big chunks of almonds that give a bite to the mincemeat. The recipe is found on page 264 of the softbound addition of the book and is very simple. Just peel and chop loads of apples, some glace cherries and almonds. Dissolve sugar and cider in a saucepan and add the apples, cherries, almonds, dried fruit, spices and lemon juice. Everything simmers away until the apples have gone mushy- I love squashing the bits of apples with a wooden spoon! Then stir in a bit of rum. While still hot the mincemeat is spooned into jars. I’m a bit lazy and don’t label mine but I wouldn’t advise this. It looks very similar to the chutney I sometimes make and also don’t label: for some reason chutney pies don’t seem to appeal as much!

Mince Pies and Mulled Wine

Also in the pictures are some mini stollen and one of four different mulled wine mugs we have. This one is from when we went to Berlin during December a few years ago. Nothing better than mulled wine to warm the hands!

Fruits and Nuts

Satsumas and walnuts

Satsumas always remind me of Christmas even though I love to eat them whenever they are in the shops. There was always a satsuma and some gold chocolate coins at the bottom of my stocking on Christmas morning. Any nuts still in their shells screams festive! These walnuts were bought for a salad a few weeks ago and of course will probably still be around by Christmas day! The cakestand, by the way, was a purchase from dotcomgiftshop last year.