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Tag Archives: glace fruit

Christmas Spruce Cake for the Festive Season

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I first made this unusual cake in 2013. I had just hunted down the all important cake tin on eBay and I was super keen to try out the new acquisition! It’s a Nordic Ware mold called Holiday Tree Bundt Pan, that is shaped like a Christmas spruce tree.

I am re-blogging the recipe as the festive season approaches, and we begin to think about what to cook for all those up-coming celebrations.

The cake is fabulous because of the tin, but really, you can make it in an ordinary cake tin, or in any other fancy tin you have on hand. It’s a Nigella recipe for a rich butter cake, which can be spiced up with anything you like, but Christmas flavours of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg are a wonderful way to go.

The recipe is from Nigella Christmas, a cook book full of exciting Christmas treats. It’s also on Nigella’s website: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/spruced-up-vanilla-cake

But beware – if you do happen to be using this gorgeous spruce mold, you must grease the mold really carefully as the cake is very tricky to remove from the tin. I have experienced the cake sticking and coming out in bits. But when the cake comes out intact, it’s delightful, and can be zhushed with icing, chocolate or glace fruit.

Ingredients
225 gms soft butter (plus more for greasing)
300 gms caster sugar
6 large eggs
350 gms plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250 gms plain fat-free yoghurt
4 tsps vanilla extract and/or
1 tsp each cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
2 tbls icing sugar

Method
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced or 170 degrees C non fan forced and put a baking sheet in at the same time.
Butter or oil the Nordic ware spruce tree mould very thoroughly. Alternatively, you could use a large 2.5 litre capacity tin.
Put all the ingredients except the icing sugar into a food processor and blitz together. Pour and spoon the mixture into the greased tin and spread evenly.
Place the tin on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and cook for 45–60 minutes until well risen and golden.
After 45 minutes, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Rest the cake out of the oven for 15 minutes.
Gently pull away the edges of the cake from the tin with your fingers, then turn out the cake.
Once cool, dust with the icing sugar pushed through a small sieve, or decorate in whatever way inspires you.

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Rocky Road for Adults!

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Everyone loves rocky road. Super sweet, with chocolate, peanuts, marshmallow and maybe cherries or jelly pieces, it’s a nice mix of taste and textures.

It’s pretty easy to make, and I often fling a few ingredients together to make rocky road for friends or family.

This is the version that I make that’s “Adults Only”! It’s got lots of stuff in it that adults will like – dark chocolate and ginger for instance. But it’s still got good old marshmallow. You can’t have rocky road without marshmallow.

So here’s the recipe – or rather, the procedure, since there’ s no cooking involved, and quantities are really a matter of personal preference.

Ingredients

200g good quality dark chocolate

a handful of nuts –  macadamias, hazelnuts and almonds are really good

several pieces of crystallized ginger

a handful of glace cherries and/or any other glace fruit (pineapple and apricot are nice)

several pink and white marshmallows

and anything else you think might go well in the rocky road

50g white chocolate for decorating

Method

Line a rectangular or square baking tin with baking paper. Roughly chop the larger pieces of  glace fruit. It really doesn’t matter that much what size the pieces are, as the rocky road eventually gets broken up.  Scatter the pieces any old how over the baking paper.

Carefully melt the chocolate in a bowl placed over a saucepan of boiling water on the stove, making sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Once the chocolate has melted, pour it into the baking tin, so that it covers the “rubble” of ingredients that will make the rocky road.

Leave to set for a few hours, or stick in the fridge for a faster set or if it’s a hot day.

You can decorate the rocky road if you like. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over simmering water as you did for the dark chocolate. Drizzle over the set chocolate slab, using a skewer or the end of a knife. When the white chocolate is quite set, break up the large chocolate slab into rough pieces or cut with a knife into even or rough pieces. Great to serve with coffee or wrap up as gifts at Christmas.

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Chocolate Bark

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On New Year’s Eve 2015 I was invited to a Spanish themed dinner on the Northern Beaches in Sydney. My friends were celebrating the acquisition of 2 enormous paella pans and had cooked up a storm.

What to bring? Churros? Crema Catalana? Too tricky for the first, too hard to transport for the second. Chocolate Bark was the answer, really easy to make, and you can use glacé fruit and nuts left over from the 25th December.

There are lots of recipes around for this after dinner chocolate treat. But it’s less of a recipe and more of make-it-up as you go along kind of sweet thing.

I recently acquired Nigel Slater’s new book “The Kitchen Diaries Volume iii”. I have long been an admirer of Nigel’s food philosophy, recipes and writing. Among other lovely recipes, Nigel makes his version of this with chocolate, crystallized fruit, rose petals and hazelnuts.

My version has orange blossom flavoured sugar, lots of nuts, fruit and sea salt.

The principle is easy: just melt dark chocolate, pour it into a large tin, then scatter over whatever you feel like, ending with sprinkling of flavoured demerara sugar and sea salt. I have specified varying quantities of glacé fruit and nuts – it really depends on how much you feel like putting in.

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Ingredients

1 tsp demerara sugar

1 or 2 drops orange blossom water (or any flavour you like eg rosewater, vanilla, peppermint)

400 g dark chocolate at least half of which is 70% cocoa solids (or the whole lot)

300-400  glacé fruit (eg apricots, pears, peaches, figs, pineapple, ginger)

100-150 g unsalted nuts (eg macadamia, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds) – toasted or not, up to you

a few grinds of sea salt flakes

Ingredients

A couple of hours before making the bark, or even the day before, prepare the orange blossom cugar. Sprinkle the drop(s) of orange blossom water over the demerera sugar and stir to mix. If the flavour is not strong enough , carefully add another drop. If it’s too strong, add more sugar. Y0u can always us ethe flavoured sugar as decoration for cupcakes, big cakes, pies or biscuits. It’s crunchy and quite delicious!

The sugar needs to be left to dry out – it shouldn’t be too damp.

When you’re ready to make the chocolate bark, heat a glass or china bowl over simmering water in a saucepan. Make sure the bowl does not come into contact with the water. Carefully break up the chocolate into pieces and place in the bowl. With the heat turned down to low, let the chocolate melt slowly. Don’t be tempted to stir it  – gently prod it to move it around the bowl if there are bits that aren’t melting.

While the chocolate is melting, chop the glacé fruit into pieces, some bigger than others for texture and look. Roughly chop the nuts.

Line a baking tin with baking paper. I used a 23cm (9″) x 34cm (13″tin.That allowed for quite a thick bark, as pictured. To make a thinner, more brittle bark, just use a bigger tin – or less chocolate!

When the chocolate has completely melted, pour it carefully into the tin, spreading it out with a palette knife to the corners. Scatter the glacé fruit pieces and nuts over the chocolate. Don’t push them in – they should lie artfully over the chocolate wherever they come to rest.

Finish off by sprinkling over the flavoured sugar, and grinding some sea salt over too. Don’t be tempted to overdo the sea salt – once on, it’s difficult to take off.

Leave to set in a cool place or for an hour or so in the fridge. The chocolate loses its gloss if refrigerated for a long time – but on New Year’s Eve – summer in Sydney – the bark would have been mud if I hadn’t wacked it in the fridge for a couple of hours!

When set, break roughly into bark pieces, or shards, if your chocolate is thinner. Great with coffee and after dinner alcoholic treats!

Oh, and it was a sensational dinner and lovely to be with good friends seeing in 2016.

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Christmas Cake 2015

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I make the same Christmas cake each year. I make it really late in the year and it never stays round for long. It’s a recipe that’s been in my family for ages.

I blogged the recipe this time last year – so why blog it again? Nothing’s changed, except this time I made it round, not square! I love making the cake, so I’ve written about it again and with photos of the process to show how easy the cake is to make. I even make this cake in the food processor, to simplify it further. It’s rich with glace, crystallized and dried fruit and it’s iced with an almond (marzipan) icing topped with royal icing.

While watching a Great British Bakeoff Christmas special, I noticed the similarities between Mary Berry‘s recipe and my cake. The recipe below is our family one but I decided to use Mary’s royal icing recipe with a good result.

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Ingredients

250 gms butter
250 gms brown sugar
315 gms plain flour
375 gms raisins
375 gms sultanas
125 gms  glacé cherries
65 gms glacé peaches
65 gms glacé pears
125 gms glacé apricots
65 gms glacé pineapple
65 gms crystallised ginger
65 gms mixed peel (optional)
6 large free range eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond essence
1/2 tsp glycerine
Juice of half an orange
Finely grated peel of half an orange
1/4 cup of good brandy/whisky – extra 1/4 cup of brandy/whisky to pour over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven.

Method
Grease a cake tin and line with baking paper or aluminum foil. I use an 18cm or 7″ square tin  or a 18cm or 7″ diameter round tin. You may end up with left over mixture with this size, so you could go up a size. I like a high cake and this cake doesn’t rise so you can fill the smaller tins fairly full.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C then turn back to 135 degrees C.  The principle of cooking a rich fruitcake is to put the cake into a preheated oven and cook very slowly. This size cake does take a long time!
The original recipe says to mix by hand in a large basin. This was lots of fun when we were growing up making the family Christmas cake but now I suggest using an electric mixer.
Cream butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time.

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Mix in the sifted flour lightly. Stir in spices, essences, glycerine, fruit juice and brandy/whisky, and finally stir in the fruit the larger varieties of which have previously been cut roughly. There is no need to wash the fruit. If the fruit is wet it tends to sink to the bottom of the cake.

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Bake about 1- 2 hours or until the top is pale brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.  It’s a little hard to be more precise than this as the weather, the quality of the flour and individual ovens have a lot to do with cooking time. You can put a piece of foil over the top of the cake during the last hour of cooking if the cake browns too quickly.
When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and pierce all over with a skewer. Pour 1/2 a cup of brandy/whisky over the hot cake and wrap in a towel till cool.
Turn out of the tin onto a board or large flat plate.

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Almond Icing
250 gms ground almonds
375 gms icing sugar
1 egg white
Juice of  1/2  lemon

Mix all the ingredients to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into sections – one large ball for the top of the cake, the rest for the sides of the cake.
Brush the cake with apricot jam which will help the almond paste to stick. Let the cake rest for a day.

Royal Icing – Mary Berry recipe

Ingredients

675 g icing sugar
3 free range egg whits
3 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp glycerine

Method

Sieve the icing sugar. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they become frothy. Add the icing sugar to the egg whites, a spoonful at a time, and fold in. Add the lemon juice and glycerine and stir. Beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks. Spread over the top and sides of the cake and rough up the icing with a spatula so that it forms peaks.

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A Tale of Two Puddings

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For Christmas lunch  2014 I couldn’t decide between a traditional Christmas pudding and the Jamie Oliver Christmas bombe, see here for his recipe. I made the latter a couple of years ago and Quirky Sister the Elder made a special request for its return this year.  As one Christmas pudding is never enough, I made both!
The hot pudding is a tropical take on the classic as it’s filled with pineapple and rum… yum. The Christmas bombe is pudding shaped and filled with panettone, ice cream and glacé fruit and alcohol, finished with a dark chocolate glaze. Both are delicious!

Pineapple Christmas Pudding

I found this recipe in a little book of pudding recipes published by the Women’s Weekly, which I have had for many years.

Ingredients
450g can of pineapple (crushed or pieces) in syrup – crushed  gives a smoother texture, pieces gives you chunks of pineapple.
250g butter, chopped
200g firmly packed brown sugar
250g sultanas
250g raisins
125g dried currants
100g glace cherries
4 eggs, lightly beaten
110g plain flour
110g self raising flour
35g stale breadcrumbs

Rum Syrup
110g sugar
125 ml rum

Method

Grease a 2 litre pudding bowl.

Drain pineapple well, reserve 125ml of pineapple syrup. Place pineapple on absorbent paper, pat dry. Combine butter and sugar in large pan; stir over medium heat without boiling, until sugar is dissolved.

To make Rum Syrup, add sugar to small saucepan, heat gently, stirring until sugar is dissolved and browned. Carefully add rum and reserved pineapple syrup. Mixture will bubble. Continue stirring until the toffee like mixture dissolves. Stir in half the Rum Syrup to butter and sugar mixture and bring to the boil, then remove from heat. Stir in all the fruit and pineapple; cool to room temperature. The rest of the Rum Syrup can be used to make a sauce for the pudding or added to cakes or muffins as a flavouring.

Place the fruit mixture in a large bowl. Stir in eggs, sifted flours and breadcrumbs. Spoon pudding mixture into greased pudding bowl.

Top with foil-lined baking paper or if you don’t have this, use baking paper plus foil. Make sure you cut a piece large enough to allow the pudding to expand when cooked – you can make a pleat in the paper which will allow this expansion. Secure with string round the top of the pudding bowl.  You can make an easy handling device by simply folding a piece of foil lengthways with 4 thicknesses and placing this under the bowl in the pot rather like a handle. Place pudding bowl in a large pot with boiling water to come halfway up the side of the bowl. Cover with a tight fitting lid; boil for 6 hours. Replenish with hot water from a kettle as needed.

When cool enough to handle, take pudding bowl out of the pot and the pudding out of the bowl. Wrap in cling wrap and store in a cool place – in summer in the fridge.

To reheat, remove the cling wrap and return the pudding to its bowl and the bowl to the pot filled with water as before. Steam for  1/2 – 1 hour as above to gently reheat.

Carefully remove the bowl from the pot and turn out the hot pudding on to a plate. Serve at the table flamed with brandy or whisky and with hard sauce or brandy butter.

Jamie’s Christmas Ice Cream Bombe

Ingredients
• 1 litre good-quality vanilla ice cream
• 1 kg panettone
• 125 ml vin santo or sweet sherry or any nice liqueur ( I used my favourite Pedro Ximinez)
• 3 tbs raspberry jam
• 50g  glacé cherries  whole
• 50g glacé fruit thinly sliced – I used glacé pineapple, apricots and pears to contrast in colour with the cherries
• 200g good-quality dark chocolate, bashed up

Method
Take the ice cream out of the freezer so it can soften a little.  Line a 2 litre pudding bowl with 3 layers of cling film. Using a serrated knife,  cut four 2cm thick rounds off of the panettone then cut them in half. You’ll have some panettone left over, so keep this for another time. Arrange six of the slices in a single layer around the bowl and push them down if they overlap.

Drizzle some of the alcohol around the panettone slices so it soaks in, then use the back of a spoon to smear the jam over the panettone. 

Add 1/2  the ice cream to the bowl and spread it around in a thick layer. Spoon in the cherries and glacé fruit, gently pushing them into the ice cream – some pieces will be submerged and some will sit on the top. Add the rest of the ice cream. Spread it out, working quickly so the ice cream doesn’t completely melt. Put the rest of the panettone slices on top of the ice cream, drizzle over some more alcohol then cover the bowl tightly with the cling film that is overhanging the bowl. Cover with a final layer of cling film. Press a plate down on top to press everything down, then freeze overnight, or longer.

Take out of the freezer, unwrap the bombe and put in the fridge for 1/2 – 1 hour before serving.  Put the bashed-up chocolate in a bowl and melt gently over a pan of simmering water on a  low heat.  Add some grated orange or mandarin zest to the chocolate. Place the bombe on a serving platter or plate.  When the chocolate is melted, pour it over the top of the bombe and serve immediately while the chocolate is still warm.

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Christmas Cake

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This is the recipe for my family’s Christmas cake. I’ve been making it for a number of years and my mother made it for many years before I started making it – it’s been in the family a very long time.

It’s a traditional English Christmas cake, with marzipan or almond icing covered with royal icing. Our version is full of glacé fruit as well as dried fruit. We don’t make the cake very far ahead and we don’t soak the fruit in the alcohol – but doing either of these things is fine if that’s what you’re used to.  The cake has always been sensational without that forward planning.

It sometimes seems incongruous to be making this most traditional of northern hemisphere cakes in the hot summer days of Christmas week in Sydney. The weather is always lovely and the sun shines as I decorate the cake with its “snowy” icing. Making the cake in summer means that the almond paste icing dries quickly and sometimes if pushed for time I can do both icings in one day. However letting the cake rest for a day before you apply the royal icing is recommended.

Over the years of making I have tweaked the basic recipe, adding in things I love. I tend to put more glacé fruit in the mix; I love ginger so it appears in both crystallized form and as a spice in my cake.  I don’t stick to whisky and brandy for alcohol – I often add Grand Marnier and I have sometimes put a couple of tablespoons of Pedro Ximinez sherry as well as whisky into the cake.

This the “mother” of the baby Christmas cakes already featured on this blog – I give the muffin sized cakes to work colleagues every year as little  Christmas gifts.

It’s a VERY big cake. I actually halve the recipe and still end up with a decent sized cake, but if you have a cast of thousands to feed, the big size is the one for you.

Helpfully to save you the calculations I am including the quantities for the halved version!

The photos are of the halved version plus I got enough out of the mixture to make a little one too.

The recipe is SO versatile  – you can make so many different sizes.

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Big Cake Ingredients


500 gms butter
500 gms brown sugar
625 gms plain flour
750 gms raisins
750 gms sultanas
250 gms glace cherries
125 gms glace peaches
125 gms glace pears
250 gms glace apricots
125 gms glace pineapple
125 gms crystallized ginger
125 gms mixed peel (optional)
12 large eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons almond essence
1 teaspoon glycerine
Juice of an orange
Finely grated peel of the orange
1/2 cup of good brandy/whisky – extra 1/2 cup of brandy/whisky to pour over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven.

Medium Cake Ingredients

250 gms butter
250 gms brown sugar
315 gms plain flour
375 gms raisins
375 gms sultanas
125 gms  glacé cherries
65 gms glacé peaches
65 gms glacé pears
125 gms glacé apricots
65 gms glacé pineapple
65 gms crystallised ginger
65 gms mixed peel (optional)
6 large free range eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond essence
1/2 tsp glycerine
Juice of half an orange
Finely grated peel of half an orange
1/4 cup of good brandy/whisky – extra 1/4 cup of brandy/whisky to pour over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven.

Method for both sizes
Grease a cake tin and line with baking paper or aluminum foil. I use a 28cm or 11″ square tin  or a 28cm or 11″ diameter round tin for the big cake. For the medium cake I use a 18cm or 7″ square tin  or a 18cm or 7″ diameter round tin. You may end up with left over mixture with this size, so you could go up a size. I like a high cake and this cake doesn’t rise so you can fill the smaller tins fairly full.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C then turn back to 135 degrees C.  The principle of cooking a rich fruitcake is to put the cake into a preheated oven and cook very slowly. This size cake does take a long time!
The original recipe says to mix by hand in a large basin. This was lots of fun when we were growing up making the family Christmas cake but now I suggest using an electric mixer.
Cream butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the sifted flour lightly. Stir in spices, essences, glycerine, fruit juice and brandy/whisky, and finally stir in the fruit the larger varieties of which have previously been cut roughly. There is no need to wash the fruit. If the fruit is wet it tends to sink to the bottom of the cake.
Bake about 3 – 4 hours (big cake) 1- 2 hours (medium cake) or until the top is pale brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.  It’s a little hard to be more precise than this as the weather, the quality of the flour and individual ovens have a lot to do with cooking time. You can put a piece of foil over the top of the cake during the last hour of cooking if the cake browns too quickly.
When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and pierce all over with a skewer. Pour 1/2 a cup of brandy/whisky over the hot cake and wrap in a towel till cool.
Turn out of the tin onto a board or large flat plate.

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Almond Icing

Big Cake
500 gms ground almonds
750 gms icing sugar
2 egg whites
Juice of a lemon

Medium Cake
250 gms ground almonds
375 gms icing sugar
1 egg white
Juice of  1/2  lemon

Mix all the ingredients to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into sections – one large ball for the top of the cake, the rest for the sides of the cake.
Brush the cake with apricot jam which will help the almond paste to stick. Let the cake rest for a day.

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Royal Icing
 for both cakes

The original recipe says :”2 eggs whites and the juice of a lemon to every pound of icing sugar”. This doesn’t tell you how much of these ingredients you will need.

Having just made the medium cake, it took all of the above quantities, so the big cake would need more. Make up the base recipe and if it isn’t enough – make some more – use your judgement!

2 egg whites
500 gms icing sugar
Juice of a lemon

Beat eggs lightly, add icing sugar and lemon juice.
Apply to cake with a palette knife. Be generous with this icing, to create a “snowy” effect.
Leave to set for at least a couple of hours.
The cake keeps well –  up to a year – although it is at its best when eaten within 3 months.

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Summer Holiday Food

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Here are a few of the summer holiday meals I’ve shared with friends over this Christmas and New Year break.

I am always a big fan of the communal rustic platter, but even this quirky cook has taken “rustic” to new heights!

A broken ankle on my recent trip to Shanghai has meant cooking on crutches or one foot – so near enough has definitely been good enough! My very understanding friends have been great helpers in the serving department and in supplying some lovely Christmas cheer in bubbly form…

Smoked salmon, stuffed eggs and ham, a colourful vegetarian barbecue pizza with “the lot”, Christmas cake and ice-cream babas with meringue and chocolate ganache, were easy options for holiday entertaining.

Smoked Salmon Platter

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Lots of things go well with smoked salmon – this platter is made up of salmon, stuffed eggs with mayonnaise, Christmas ham, sauteed potato salad, cherry tomatoes and greens.

Vegetarian Pizza with “The Lot”

This is my usual grilled pizza recipe from a previous post: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2013/10/20/pear-artichoke-and-blue-cheese-grilled-pizza-with-rose-and-cranberry-dressing/

The toppings for this pizza are: peach, avocado, feta, vintage cheddar, baby beetroot, cherry tomato, spring onion, quince paste and rosemary and basil. After barbecuing the pizza I served it with a dressing of home made mayonnaise.

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Christmas Cake

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This is the recipe from a previous post: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2013/12/08/little-christmas-cakes/

This is the medium size version – the cake quantities are the same as in the post. This cake has marzipan as well as royal icing.

Full recipe for cake plus icing to follow shortly.

Ice-cream Babas

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Take 250 mls of good vanilla bean ice-cream softened and mix in a couple of generous tablespoons of whipped cream.

Add chopped glace fruit to taste and a tablespoon of rum or orange liqueur. Fold in some crushed meringue.

Spoon into rum baba molds – or any decorative individual molds and freeze for at least several hours.

Remove from molds by carefully running base under the hot water tap for a very few seconds.

Serve with more crushed meringue and chocolate ganache as a sauce.

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