Christmas preparations – cranberry and orange compôte

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Some cranberry sauces can be rather sweet. I like to make this compôte as it has a spicy tang and is not full of sugar. The cranberries are cooked with orange juice and zest, some red wine, cinnamon and cloves along with a little sugar and then port is stirred through to give it a rich flavour.

It tastes delicious with Christmas dinner as well as gammon and is equally good with cold meats, especially ham, for a Boxing Day spread. After opening, it should be kept in the fridge, but left unopened, it will last several months. The jars may contain whole cloves.

If you would like to order a jar, they cost £3.50 for 190ml.

It is also available in a 3 jar selection pack – try combining it with a spiced redcurrant jelly and an apple and sage jelly to give you accompaniments for various meats for £10.00.

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Christmas gift ideas

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If you are looking for Christmas gift ideas, here are two selections which I have put together.

They can be tailored to suit your requirements – select 3 jars of the same size and hey presto!

Shown here are two chutneys with one mincemeat which will cost £12.00 and two jellies with one chutney which will cost £10.00. Other combinations can include jams and marmalade – please contact me with your exact requirements and I will let you know the cost.

Christmas preparations – the cake

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Before I make my Christmas cake, I like to soak the fruit in brandy for a few days. This helps to plump up the raisins, currants, sultanas, prunes, dates, apricots, figs, cherries, candied peel, cranberries and stem ginger. I normally make a 9″ or 23cm cake for our family which will last us until next Easter – over 2lb of fruit goes into this cake.

Stir up Sunday is 22 November this year, so this bowl of dried fruit will be perfectly ready to add to the rest of the ingredients and baked. I will then feed it with brandy over the next month before covering it with marzipan and icing it just before Christmas.

Christmas preparations

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I have made my own mincemeat for 30 years. I think the flavour is much better and I know exactly what ingredients have been used – I can reduce the amount of sugar and use good quality dried fruits. I use raisins, sultanas, currants and apricots and lots of brandy! This gives the mincemeat a jewel-like sparkle and gives the kitchen a delicious aroma. I usually use vegetable suet so it is suitable for vegetarians.

As well as using in mince pies, my family like it mixed with the apple in an apple crumble, used to stuff and bake in apples and in a cake. It lasts well if kept in a cool dark cupboard – up to 12 months. I keep the jar in the fridge after opening.

Jars are available to buy for £3.50 each. Please contact me if you would like to order.

Panforte

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This Italian cake is make from dried apricots, figs, candied peel, nuts and spices with honey and sugar. It has a dense consistency with the crunch of whole hazelnuts and almonds. Serve it with coffee or an afternoon treat – a little will go a long way. It also makes a good alternative Christmas cake and a perfect gift!

Thyme oatcakes

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You might ask whether it’s worth the effort making your own oatcakes but I have been converted and it seems so have my family. These are made with fresh thyme leaves and are a great addition to a cheeseboard. They can also be made wheat free. They make a delicious quick lunch when served with a good cheddar from Neals Yard and my damson cheese.

No bake chocolate cake

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This is a rich fruit and nut chocolate cake containing hazelnuts, cherries, stem ginger, raisins, dried apricots and amaretti biscuits all coated in dark chocolate and butter. The dark coloured chocolate contrasts with the colour of the fruit giving this cake a jewelled appearance. It sets in the fridge and can be cut into small squares to use as petit fours with coffee or small slices for a rich dessert. The amaretti are wheat and gluten free making this a useful gluten free alternative.

Orange and olive oil cake

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I was asked to make a cake for a friend’s birthday breakfast and made this as it can be eaten with yoghurt and fruit but is not too sweet. It also has the benefit of being gluten free and having no refined sugar added. It uses unsulphured apricots (the dark ones) and ground almonds together with a boiled orange. The cake is topped with orange slices. This also makes a great pudding.

Take one pumpkin ……

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This year, I decided to make good use of the pumpkin I bought for Halloween. First, I made a pumpkin and corn bread with semolina and chilli flakes – it has a slightly gritty texture and heat from the chilli and goes well with soups. Next I made a sweet pumpkin cake, similar to carrot cake, with grated pumpkin and sultanas and flavoured with orange. I decided not to add the sweet cream cheese topping, although i can see that would make it a delicious pudding. Then I washed the seeds and dried them out in the oven before tossing them with salt, smoked paprika and olive oil. They made a lovely crunchy snack. For supper, I prepared a spicy pumpkin soup with harissa and chickpeas as I had seen an interesting recipe in the weekend newspaper. Finally, I made a pumpkin and raisin chutney with spices and pepper which goes excellently with cheese.