December 2017

Christmas Cake

Posted on December 31, 2017 at 10:09 am in

Christmas cake is best made early in the year. This allows the maximum amount of time for the flavours to mature, as well as allowing the regular sousing with brandy, whisky, whiskey, or bourbon to deepen the flavours.

  • Preheat oven to 325f / 160c
  • 10oz butter
  • 10oz brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black treacle or molasses
  • grated rind 2 lemons
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, rum, or sherry
  • 12oz plain / all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5lb currants
  • 12oz sultanas
  • 12oz raisins
  • 4oz blanched chopped almonds
  • 4oz chopped mixed candied citrus peel
  • 4oz chopped glace cherries
  • Cream the butter, sugar, and treacle with the lemon rind until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and liquid together and slowly beat into the creamed mixture, adding a little of the sifted flour if it looks like it’s curdling. Gently mix in the fruit, nuts, peel, spices, and flour until just incorporated.

    Put mixture into a greased baking pan and bake at 325f/160c for 1.5 hours, then drop the oven temp to 300f / 150c and bake for another 2.5 to 3 hours until a skewer inserted in the middle of cake comes out clean.

    Store the cake in a cool dry place, in a sealed container, until it is Christmas time. If you make this more than a month in advance… which you are doing, right??… souse down the top surface with 1tbsp to 2tbsp of brown liquor (brandy, whisky, whiskey, bourbon) once a month. This will help preserve the cake as well as adding depth and complexity to the flavour.

    You might want to look at my substitutions article, as well as my comments on Christmas Pudding when it comes to tweaking the recipe to taste/allergies.


    Christmas Pudding

    Posted on December 31, 2017 at 9:48 am in

    This is a 1968 recipe, based off many older recipes. I retrieved it from “Marguerite Pattens Every Day Cookbook“, which you can buy from second hand. See * substitutions below.

  • 1lb raisins*
  • 12oz sultanas*
  • 12oz currants*
  • 4oz chopped candied peel*
  • 2oz blanched almonds*
  • 2oz flour
  • 3.5 tsp spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc)
  • 8oz sugar
  • 8oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • grated rind 1 lemon
  • 4oz shredded suet (or freeze and grate 1 stick butter)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 pint whisky OR Old Ale OR Imperial Stout OR milk OR orange juice
  • Mix together all the dried fruit, peel, and almonds. Sieve flour and spices together then add to the fruit mixture along with the sugar, breadcrumbs, rind, and suet (grated butter). Beat eggs and then blend with the 1/2 pint of wet stuff. Stir** the egg/alcohol mixture to incorporate into the dry ingredients.

    Put batter into a pudding basin (or split among several smaller basins), cover with greaseproof paper and foil, then steam for 4 to 8 hours depending on size of pudding basin. After steaming, uncover and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover with fresh greaseproof paper and foil and store in a cool, dry place until Christmas day. Steam for 3 hours to warm through, serve with hard sauce or brandy butter. (You can also souse with heated liquor and then set fire to it at the table. Make sure you have a wet cloth to hand in case it goes wrong!)

    * replace with any similar other dried fruit, such as craisins, cherries, blueberries, chopped apricots, or other such ingredients to allow for allergies and personal tastes. I replace all these ingredients with more dried fruit which works out great for us!

    ** British tradition is “Stir-Up Sunday”. Make the pudding on the first Sunday of Advent, and invite all members of the family to stir the mix at this point – it is supposed to bring luck for the coming year.



    Posted on December 31, 2017 at 9:38 am in

    A note on some basic substitutions you can make to accommodate differences in what is available in stores.

    Some stores in the US are now selling “beef tallow”. Beef tallow is rendered out suet. It also tends to be painfully expensive. is now selling Atora suet, which is cheaper than the tallow, but still somewhat costly. Whether it is worth buying for the sake of flavour is a decision I will leave to you!

    I find that frozen and grated butter works fine as a substitute.

    The ideal situation is to just buy a pudding basin. They are not too expensive, but they are uni-taskers. Any glass or metal container which is roughly twice or thrice as tall as it is wide will make a decent substitute.

    Pumpkin pie spice is fine as a substitute. You can also make your own mixed spice blend to taste, just use the sweet spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, etc.


    Microwave Lemon Curd

    Posted on December 8, 2017 at 10:17 am in

    Lemon curd is delicious, and you need to make some now!

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs (yolks and whites)
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • In a large microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth and thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest and melted butter.

    Cook in the microwave on full power for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute. This process will take about 3-5 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. You will know the lemon curd is done cooking when it coats the back of a metal spoon.

    Remove from the microwave, push through a fine, mesh sieve and pour into sterile jar or container.

    Once the curd has cooled to room temperature, cover it with a lid and store it in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. The curd will thicken as it cools.

    There are recipes out there for shelf stable lemon curd you can hot water bath process. This is not one of them… eat it on toast, crumpets, or with a spoon!


    Fresh custard recipe

    Posted on December 3, 2017 at 4:44 pm in

    It’s funny how you can get a mental block about something. In my case, it was custard. I always saw custard being made from Bird’s powder, and even when I moved to the USA I carried on buying it, albeit at a stupid price.

    Then, recently, I decided to check out how to make custard from scratch.

    Wait… only 5 ingredients?!!? That I already have in my pantry?!! Sign me up!

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons corn (starch)/(flour)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Combine the first 3 ingredients in a pot. Slowly heat while whisking until the milk is “scalded” (just beginning to bubble at the edges, or a little steam coming off). Take milk off the heat while you whisk the eggs and vanilla together.

    Temper the hot milk into the egg mixture – that is, pour a slow stream into the eggs while whisking vigorously. This prevents you making weirdly sweet scrambled eggs, which is not what you are looking for.

    Once you have incorporated about half the milk mix into the eggs, pour the egg mix into the pot and cook for a few minutes until it thickens up and coats the back of the spoon.

    You should mentally stick a * next to each ingredient after the milk. You can increase or decrease the corn starch/flour to make it thicker or thinner. You can make it more or less sweet. You can make it more or less eggy, or swap out the whole eggs for 4 egg yolks which will make it much more rich and indulgent. You can add more or less vanilla, or other flavourings such as almond. Once you have mastered the basic recipe, go ahead and customise it to your heart’s content.


    Instant hot chocolate

    Posted on December 2, 2017 at 9:25 pm in

    Hot chocolate comes in two varieties: the ones worth drinking, and the ones that you can afford.

    With 4 simple ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry, you can make your own!

    3 cups dried non-fat milk powder
    2/3 cup sugar
    2/3 cup baking cocoa
    1/2 tsp salt

    Shake ingredients thoroughly to completely incorporate. Add 1/4 cup of the mix to 1 cup of boiling water and stir. Instant hot chocolate.

    This mix makes a little over a quart of instant hot chocolate powder. The extra mix over the quart? Well… you need to taste test it, don’t you 🙂