Sunday just past was Stir Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent when traditionally Christmas puddings and cakes would be made. This was because Advent used to be a fasting period much like Lent and Sitr Up Sunday, much like Shrove Tuesday, would be when you used up all the rich food in the house. Only unlike on Shrove Tuesday when you eat loads of pancakes, on Stir Up Sunday you were making food for the Christmas feast in 4 weeks time.
But don't worry, even if you missed making your puddings on Sunday, you still have time to make them before Christmas. The beauty of puddings is that they can be made anytime. Some years myself and my mum have made them as early as the October bank holiday weekend and as late as the 2nd weekend in December.
This recipe for Christmas puddings comes from my Irish grandmother and in my totally biased opinion, it is the best Christmas pudding recipe you'll ever have. The best thing about this recipe is that it makes about 3 - 4 puddings (depending on the size of your basins) which means you only have to make them every second year!
Two notes on the ingredients for this recipe:
I have specified the amounts of raisins, sultanas cherries and peel but then it's up to you for the remaining 400g of fruit. In the original recipe my grandmother stipulated 225g of currants and 225g of muscatels (if you can get them). Interestingly she never used currants as she disliked them so substituted in extra raisins, sultanas and cherries. This year we used a mixed bag of sultanas, cranberries and raisins to make up the difference. The main thing is that you end up with 1100g of fruit (including the peel and cherries) whatever combination you want to make of that is up to you.
I have also specified pale ale, but anything in the ale family works great in this pudding.
This is one of the hardest recipes I've done for the blog, as so much of the recipe is by feel rather than measurements, so please let me know if you have any trouble with it.
Some people soak their fruit before making the pudding, we let our pudding recipe stand over night instead and let the fruit plump up that way instead. Then we add a little more whiskey, if necessary, before the steaming.
Anyway, to the task at hand - making Christmas Pudding!
First peel, core and grate the apple and leave to one side.
Zest the lemon and leave to one side too.
Beat the eggs in a bowl and put to one side also. Doing these little jobs at the start makes putting together the pudding a breeze.
Meaure the sultanas, raisins and other mixed fruit into your largest mixing bowl.
Add the peel, chop up the glacé cherries into quarters with a scissors and pop in the bowl. I like using a mix of red a yellow cherries for a mix in colours.
Mix the fruit around with a wooden spoon, add the breadcrumbs and mix again.
Add the flour and stir in.
Add the sugar and mix in.
Next add the chopped nuts and ground almonds. Stir in well.
Finally add the last of the dry ingredients: the lemon zest and the grated apple. Mix it all up once again. (Starting to become clear why it's called Stir Up Sunday.)
Now for the wet ingredients. First measure out the butter and melt it in a pot or the microwave. Pour into the rest of the mixture and stir in.
Meaure out the beer and mix in. Drink any left over, you wouldn't want to see it go to waste.
Measure in the nutmeg and cinnamon.
Followed by the ginger and mixed spice.
Add the beaten eggs and mix through.
Finally, add about 100 mls of whiskey (though more is totally allowed) and stir through.
Now for the most important step, get everyone in the household to stir the pudding and make a wish. This is being ably demonstrated here by one of the Beau's children.
It used to be that this would be point where you would add the charms to the pudding. Much like with a barm brack these items would indicate your fate for the coming year. The most common thing to add to the pudding would be a silver sixspence (to symbolise wealth), but you could also find a wishbone (good luck) a silver thimble (thrift) or a tiny anchor (safe harbour).
We then leave the mixture to stand overnight. This lets the fruit plump up with the liquid and become moist and rich. It is best to throw a teatowel over the bowl to prevent incursions from local wildlife.
The next day, add the second 100 mls of whiskey and stir in. The mixture will be much thicker than the previous day.
Divide the mixture between your pudding bowls and steam/boil each one for 3½ hours. It is important to place the bowl on a trivet in the saucepan if you are boiling it and be very careful not to let it boil dry. The water should come up half way up the pudding bowl and you can top it up with boiling water along the way.
Alternatively you can steam the pudding using a steaming pot, which is what we do. The pudding bowl sits in the steaming basket inside a larger pot with the boiling water underneath. Both methods need the same amount of time.
Once the pudding has cooked through, remove it from the pot and allow it to cool. It will now keep in the back of a cupboard for several years. You can keep it longer by adding a little whiskey or other alcohol at regular intervals through the year.
When you want to serve the pudding, boil or steam it again for 1 - 1½ hours. Remove it from the pudding bowl onto a plate. For a dramatic presentation, pour warmed whiskey (or brandy, or sherry) on to the pudding and set alight. Serve with cream, custurd or the incredibly indulgent brandy butter.
I have returned from my hiatus after a year of settling into our new house. It is amazing the amount of time that houses take up. However I am now ready to resume my blogging life and share more recipes. I also have a new fancy camera, which I am still getting used to, so apologies for the different size of pictures in the post, I'm still working out what all the buttons do.
To start us off I am sharing the soup recipe that I made for people to try at my talk on Danish cooking at the Savour KilkennyFood Camp. It seemed to go down pretty well with my audience.
This is famous dish in Denmark and is typical of their style of peasant food. My dad used to make this quite a bit when we were younger but I only made it myself for the first time recently. It is a delicious, cheap meal that is easily frozen and reheated for lunches.
The Danes traditionally serve the meat on the side of the dish on a communal platter, which I like to do when I cook it the first night. I then like to chop up any remaining meat and mix it into the leftover soup for another day. A quick note on the sausages; I used big barbeque sausages from my butcher that were about 6 inches long with an inch diametre. Try and use the biggest sausages you can find as they make for a better finished product to slice. It would also be worth experimenting with different types of sausage in the soup, I think a Bratwurst would work quite well.
This soup is thick, rich and nourishing - what more could you want for a winter's evening?
Unfortunately this soup has to be started the night before, so you need to be a little bit organised, but after that it is plain sailing.
Measure out the yellow split peas into a sieve and rinse them under water. Place them into a medium to large sized saucepan.
Add 1 litre of the water to the pot, cover and leave the peas to soak overnight.
The next day, prepare the vegetables. Roughly chop the carrots and parsnip.
Roughly chop the celery retaining the leaves to one side for later. Chop up the leeks the same way and again retain the green tops (washed clean) to use later.
Finally, peel the pearl onions.
Now take the leek greens, the celery, the parsley and thyme and put them into a muslin square or bag. This makes a suppevisk, the Danish equivalent of a bouquet garni. You can also just bind the herbs and greens together with food safe twine but I find the muslin easier for fishing out of the pot later in the cooking process.
Put the ham into a large saucepan and add the rest of the vegetables and the suppevisk.
Just cover the meat in water - this took 2 litres in my giant pot, but may take less in yours. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 2 hours.
Next bring the split peas to a simmer in the water they were soaking in. Skim any scum that appears off the top.
Continue to simmer the peas for an 1 - 1½ hours until all the water has been absorbed and the peas resemble a thick porridge.
Fifteen minutes before the end of the meat cooking, add the sausages to the main pot and cook for 10 - 15 minutes.
Once all the meat is finished cooking remove the suppevisk, sausages and ham from the pot. Dispose of the suppevisk. Keep the meat warm by wrapping in tinfoil or putting in a warm oven.
Add the peas to the vegetables and cooking liquid and bring to the boil for 10 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, slice the sausage and ham and arrange on a platter or side plates, ladle the soup into bowls and enjoy with a good craft beer. Traditionally this dish is served with Danish snaps, a near lethal spirits made from potatoes but beer makes a much nicer accompaniment.
I had hoped to get this posted earlier today so that you could all make this delicious cake for your mothers, but the internet has been conspiring against me here in Denmark and I am only getting a chance to post it now.
But with the bank holiday tomorrow, maybe some of you will make this for your mums as an extra treat for Mothers' Day.
This cake recipe comes from Asda's monthly magazine. A work colleague happened to have a copy of the January issue, which contained this cake and a lot of other delicious orange recipes. Of course I quickly copied out the ones that most appealed to me, including this cake.
The really interesting thing about this cake, apart from being gluten free, is that the sugar is added to the egg whites before they are folded into the main mixture. I have made many no-flour cakes before, but I have never seen this method used. However, I can tell you that the result of this technique is a very light and fluffy cake. Though I would be very interested if someone can explain the science behind this.
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Grease your cake tin thoroughly. If you think it needs it, line the base of the tin with parchment paper, though I didn't bother, I just went heavy on the greasing! A word of advice, don't use a silicone tin for this cake. I did the first time I made it and the cake broke when I turned it out. Stick to metal tin!
Break the chocolate into a glass or otherwise heatproof bowl and add the butter.
Make a bain maire by placing the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure that the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Keep the heat low so that the chocolate melts nice and slowly.
While the chocolate is melting, separate the eggs into the 2 mixing bowls. Add the ground almonds to the yolks. You can watch a video of me separating eggs here.
Zest the two oranges and add to the yolk and almond mixture.
Juice the oranges and add 2 tablespoons of the juice to the mixture. Stir everything up together into a paste.
By this stage the chocolate should be melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute before adding it to the orange mixture.
Mix the chocolate in as thoroughly as possible. Leave the mixture to one side while you work on the egg whites.
Measure out the sugar into a bowl and whisk up the egg whites to soft peaks.
When the egg whites reach perfect peakiness, add the sugar a little at a time, whisking between each addition until it has all been added and you achieve a meringue-like consistency.
Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture a spoonful at a time. Use a gentle figure-of-eight movement to best combine the mixtures. While mixing, try not to tap the edge of the bowl with your spoon or spatula as it will cause some of the air to come out of the mix and you want to keep as much air as possible in it to help it rise.
Pour the combined mixture into the greased cake tin, smooth the top and put into the hot oven to bake for 35 - 40 mins, until a skewer comes out of the mixture clean.
When the cake is cooked, leave it to cool in the tin for 10 mins. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Decorate the cake with either sieved cocoa powder or icing sugar or both.
Happy St. Patrick's Day! This year I am hiding out from the Irish extravaganza in Denmark, visiting relatives, but I still have a (somewhat) patriotic recipe up my sleeve.
We've just come to the end of the Seville orange season and therefore the end of marmalade season. Last year for my first ever attempt to make marmalade and I found this article by Felicity Cloake to be incredibly useful. In fact, it was so useful that it forms the basis of my own Tricolour Marmalade recipe, a three fruit marmalade that contains all the colours of the Irish flag (see the tenuous Paddy's Day link yet?)
In this recipe I've just put in the total weight for the citrus fruit needed. I made up my kilo of fruit with 3 Seville oranges, 3 limes and 4 lemons but you can try a different combination. You also need to add an additional lemon, which I listed separately to the rest of the fruit.
You can also try making a plain Seville marmalade or a three fruit marmalade made with grapefruit or even a ginger and orange marmalade. The choice is endless!
First assemble all your fruit (including the additional lemon) and cut it in half. Squeeze the fruit into your large pot, making sure that you have a sieve in place to catch the pith and pips.
Pull off the rest of the pith using your fingers and a knife, so that you're left with peel that has very little flesh left on it.
Put all the pith and the pips collected in the sieve into your muslin bag or into the centre of your square of muslin and seal up with an elastic band.
Add the water to the large pot and put in the bag of pith and pips. Leave to one side while you prepare the peel.
Using a sharp knife shred the peel of the fruit into the size of pieces that you prefer. Personally, I like a mixture of fine and thick peel.
Add the peel to the pot and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 2 hours until the peel gets soft.
After the 2 hours, remove the muslin bag from the pot and allow to cool in a bowl. It will take a minimum of 30 mins for the bag to cool enough for you to handle, unless you have heatproof gloves or asbestos hands. At this point you can leave the marmalade to stand overnight.
While you're waiting for the bag to cool, prepare the jam jars as in my Apple Butter recipe.
Once the bag is cool enough to handle, squeeze it so that lots of goop comes out. You want to squeeze out as much of this as possible into your marmalade mixture. Do be careful during the squeezing that none of the rough contents of the bag escape.
Once you squeezed lots of goop into the pot, bring the marmalade mixture back to the boil and add the sugar.
Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and bring to the boil. Do be careful during this part, as boiling sugar is dangerous. If you have a sugar thermometer, now is the time to use it.
While the marmalade is coming to the boil but a set of saucers into the fridge, so they get nice and cold. This is to help tell when the marmalade is ready.
When the marmalade reaches 104°C, or, if you don't have a thermometer, after the mixture has vigorously boiled for 15 mins, take a spoonful of the mixture and put it on to one of the cold plates and put it back in the fridge for 5 mins. If the marmalade is ready, the marmalade will wrinkle when you push your finger through it. After the initial boil, try the marmalade every 5 mins until you get the wrinkle.
Once the marmalade is ready, let it stand for 15 mins before ladling it into the warm jam jars you have in the oven.
Clean the jars and seal them. Leave the jars to cool and you can label them. Check out Jamlabelizer for cool labels.
You can eat the marmalade the next day, but it tastes much better if you leave it for a couple of weeks.
I have finally returned from my hiatus due to our house move. I never knew that moving into a new house took up so much time! We are now finally all settled in, though there is still a little sorting to be done in certain corners of the house. Once the kitchen is tidy, I will take some pictures to show it and my muddy garden off.
In the meantime, since today is Valentine's Day, I have a simple steak recipe with a twist for anyone planning to cook for their lover this evening. It is taken from Allegra McEvedy's book Bought, Borrowed & Stolen, which I got as a Christmas present from my friend Shelly, and is one of my new favourite cook books. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as the Beau and I did.
The best thing to do with this recipe is to have your entire prep ready before hand so that you can grab things as you need them. You will also need to have a timer nearby for cooking the steak. Just a note that I used striploin steaks in the pictures below as that is all I could get the other day, however, this recipe is much nicer with really good rib eye steaks.
First take out your steaks to let them get to room temperature and sprinkle with a little salt on each side.
Now prepare your liquids. Put the miso paste into a jug and cover with hot water (you can use cold, but it dissolves better with the hot). Stir until all the paste has been incorporated.
Measure out the sake into another jug. If you can't get sake, I've found that both dry sherry or Chinese rice wine make acceptable substitutes. I had to use the rice wine when I made it last as I could not find sake anywhere local.
The final piece of preparation is to slice your onion. You could do this earlier, but as I'm quite sensitive to onions (even taking the skin off sets my eyes to watering) I leave it till last.
First peel the onion. You then need to slice the onions very finely, so it is best to use a mandolin or the slicing option on a food processor as I did.
Now for the actual cooking. Heat the frying pan over a high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cover with a lid for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the lid and let the onions cook uncover for another minute. Put the cooked onions into a bowl and leave to one side.
Wipe the pan clean with a sheet of kitchen roll and heat up again. Once the pan is blisteringly hot, add the steaks and cook on each side for 1 minute.
Add the sake, followed by the miso and let the steaks cook for another 1 minute on each side.
Remove the steaks from the pan and leave on a board to rest while you finish the sauce. The sauce should be quite thick, but if it has gotten a little too thick or has almost evaporated entirely, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time until you reach a consistency that you're happy with. Turn off the heat under the sauce.
Once the sauce is finished, cut up the steaks and move to warm serving plates. Scrape the juices from the steak into the sauce and stir in.
Drizzle the sauce over the top of the steaks and place the onions on top.
Serve immediately with a green salad on the side. Or my home made chips would also make a great side dish.