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.

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!

Rich fruit cake

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This traditional rich fruit cake has been my favourite for many years. It is packed with a mixture of dried fruits which have been soaked in brandy. This helps the fruit stay moist and the cake will last for ages. I made three of these cakes for my wedding 25 years ago. One layer was eaten at the time, one was kept for the christening of our first child and the top layer is still safely stored away. Every Christmas, I make this cake for our family. It will last until Easter if stored carefully. I normally cover it in marzipan and a lemon butter icing which help stop the cake from drying out.

Apricot and brandy mincemeat

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I have been making my own mincemeat for more than 30 years. It tastes so much better than most of the shop-bought ones and is definitely worth the effort. The fruit becomes glossy and almost jewel like with the addition of the brandy and lime juice. I use it in mince pies and also add a couple of tablespoons to an apple crumble for an interesting twist. It also tastes excellent when used to stuff baked apples – just remember to score the apple to stop it exploding!

It contains dried apricots as well as raisins, sultanas and currants and I use vegetable suet which makes it ok for vegetarians but unfortunately not for those on a gluten-free diet. I can make it gluten-free but that would be using beef suet so not vegetarian. It lasts well (at least 9 months) if kept in the fridge once opened.